Sunday, July 31, 2011

Invisible Rhythms

Pond with Lily Pads
Placerville, CA

—Tamura Ryuichi

I saw little tracks in the snow.
Looking at them,
I saw for the first time
the world that is governed by small animals,
little birds and beasts in the woods.
Take a squirrel, for instance. 
Its tracks come down an old elm,
cross the trail,
and disappear into the fir woods.
There is no momentary hesitation, no anxiety, no clever question mark.
Or take a fox, for instance.
His tracks go endlessly in a straight line
down the valley road north of the village.
The hunger I know has never drawn
a straight line like his.
My heart has never had
such a resilient, blind, affirmative rhythm as in these tracks.
Or take a bird, for instance.
Its tracks are clearer than its voice,
the print of its claws sharper than its life.
Its wings are printed on the slope of snow.
The fears I've known have never drawn
such a simple pattern.
My heart has never had
such a sensual, heretical, affirmative rhythm as in these wingprints.

Suddenly the huge setting sun hangs on the summit of Mt. Asama.
Something makes forests,
pushes open the mouth of the valley,
rips apart the cold air.
I return to the hut.
I make a fire in the stove.
I am
an invisible tree,
an invisible bird,
an invisible small animal.
I think only
of the invisible rhythms. 

(trans. from the Japanese by Naoshi Koriyama and Edward Lueders)



Saturday, July 30, 2011

Agapanthus Sounds Like...

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Katy Brown

I’m forgetting the common names for things—
the proper name for blue Nile lilies:
agapanthus sounds like angry panthers.

My eyesight isn’t what it was, either.
The newspaper type is getting smaller; yet
I see more bullying and cruelty in the world.

My daughter complains that I can’t hear;
the volume has to be rock-concert high now.
(Tragus is the fleshy part in front of the ear opening.)


Tragus is the fleshy part in front of the ear opening.
My eyesight isn’t what it was, either.
The volume has to be rock-concert high now.

My daughter complains that I can’t hear:
Agapanthus sounds like angry panthers —
the proper name for blue Nile lilies.

I’m forgetting the common names for things.
The newspaper type is getting smaller, yet,
I see more bullying and cruelty in the world.


I see more bullying and cruelty in the world;
my daughter complains that I can’t hear
(my eyesight isn’t what it was, either).

The newspaper type is getting smaller, yet.
The proper name for blue Nile lilies,
agapanthus, sounds like angry panthers.

The volume has to be rock-concert high now.
I’m forgetting the common names for things:
tragus is the fleshy part of the ear opening.


—Katy Brown

We were lost for so long before this;
each of us following meandering paths
through wastelands strewn with bones.

It seems like years that we’ve been together,
working the rigging on a gallant ship,
navigating by stars we each have christened.

We’ve made landfall and set up camp—
huddled on the beach by firelight,
tucked under arms, entwined:

a familiar tangle of bodies and thoughts.
We merge with one another.
Migrating swans follow our progress.

Words pass between us like bread.
They say that language dies
with the last speaker of it.

Language dies before then: words and
syntax slip away— lost, the term for snow,
or owl, or loneliness—

when no one remains to whisper your name.
What would have become of me
had I not been found?


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

The birds fly over this disconnected world.
There is a map in the air
but no candles for the windows.

Time represents our confusion:
how can the birds save us?
Symbols are failing to be truth.

Still, we watch with hope and fear
we are ever at the mercy of . . .
what will become of us . . .


oh, what will become of us:
time represents our confusion
that we are ever at the mercy of.

Still, we watch—with hope—and fear,
with no candles for the windows.
There is a map in the air

and birds fly over this disconnected world,
but how can the birds save us
when symbols are failing to be truth—


symbols—failing to be truth—
yet we watch, with hope and fear.
Time represents our confusion:

how can the birds save us?
There is a map in the air,
but no candles for the windows.

We are ever ‘at-the-mercy-of’ . . .
and birds fly over this disconnected world.
What will become of us?


—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Eucalyptus… the old man.
The old man… eucalyptus.
I can’t make up my mind.
Look at the shape of him.
What do you see,
eucalyptus… or… old man?
Well, of course, you see a
eucalyptus! What else
do you see? Can’t you see
an old man in the shape of him?
Not that old man out in the
field. Let’s walk away farther.
Now? Smell him; he even smells
nice in the arm pits, don’t he?
Just like my grandfather.
I’m gonna call this tree
Grandfather Eucalyptus.


—Carol Louise Moon

That hillside here in the valley
with soil erosion looks like
the Giant gouged it out
with four fingers,
quite unhappy with
the crop dusting planes.

That last go-round
got him so choked up with
crop dust, plus tripping on
a whole stack of irrigation pipes
sent him landing the valley down
ten feet deeper.

You can see where the farmers
have dragged his body away,
and that last rain has left a
shallow lake.


—Carol Louise Moon

These vetchers did such a
good job with their straight lines
and little fence posts sticking up.

And the vintners have strung
narrow black plastic piping and
wires that run in straight lines.
Very young vine plants sit
patiently in rows waiting for water
to sprinkle on them while the
sun shines.

A lovely Salinas Valley patchwork
quilt with browns and greens
and little white patches all sewn
together can be seen from this
small plane view.

A whole mess of crows flying over
looks like someone peppering
a king-sized quilt with ground-up
pepper corns. But… I don’t know
why someone would do that.


Today's LittleNip: 

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Focus shifts so easily.
This morning
I was looking at an iris, newly opened.
It seemed the most beautiful of things.
Now I look up to see you walking into
The garden.
It seems the most beautiful of things.



Happy Birthday, Katy Brown and Steph Schaefer!

—Photo by Katy Brown
For more of Katy's ballerina pictures, see
the Medusa's Kitchen page on Facebook.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Opening Unseen

The "Pillars of Creation" within the Eagle Nebula, 
one of the places where the stars are born.
The longest of the Pillars is seven light years long!
Courtesy of Hubble telescope, NASA/ESA. 
For the Eagle's story, go to

—Jane Blue, Sacramento

Bruises turn the colors of flowers,
and signal the beginning of healing:
purple, indigo, chartreuse and pink.

She broke no bones.
The old heal more slowly.
They are not inured to pain.

The pain of loss can shoot through you
like a folded embryonic plant
opening unseen and piercing the soil.


Opening unseen and piercing the soil,
she broke no bones
like a folded embryonic plant.

The pain of loss can shoot through you,
purple, indigo, chartreuse and pink
and signal the beginning of healing.

Bruises turn the colors of flowers.
The old heal more slowly.
They are not inured to pain.


They are not inured to pain.
The pain of loss can shoot through you.
(She broke no bones.)

The old heal more slowly.
Signal the beginning of healing:
purple, indigo, chartreuse and pink.

Like a folded embryonic plant
bruises turn the colors of flowers
opening unseen and breaking the soil.


art form
—Dawn DiBartolo, Citrus Heights

to puzzle out the meaning of a line, a painting,
their eyes narrow, stare; brows furrow.
the wheels of their minds spinning like a child’s windmill.

and in the African exhibit section, a child’s ancient toy;
presumably played with by dark, small hands
stands unmoving on display for the present to understand

across the distance of time; we’ve now, become one.
this moment of self-discovery ~ our blending.
the brothers, their own abstraction, melding into the art.


the brothers, their own abstraction; melding into the art,
the wheels of their minds spinning like a child’s windmill;
to puzzle out the meaning of a line, a painting,

presumably played with by dark, small hands,
and in the African exhibit section; a child’s ancient toy
stands unmoving on display. for the present to understand,

their eyes narrow, stare. brows furrow
this moment of self-discovery, our blending ~
across the distance of time, we’ve now become one.


across the distance of time; we’ve now become one.
and in the African exhibit section, a child’s ancient toy,
the wheels of their minds spinning; like a child’s windmill,

presumably played with by small, dark hands,
this moment of self-discovery. our blending
stands unmoving, on display for the present to understand.

their eyes narrow, stare. brows furrow
to puzzle out the meaning of a line, a painting.
the brothers, their own abstraction, melding into the art…


—Dawn DiBartolo

I don’t like poetry
that objectively describes
the landscape or a rock…

but can adjust to
the adjectives of
how a tree sways
with the breeze.

even cliché, a dance
is a dance; rhythmic
rustling movements
to a song of wind.

I don’t care
for the verbatim hike
thru mountainous incline,

but much prefer the induction
of smell, the way the rivulet
racing thru the terrain creates
the scent of dirt and wet, the
visceral taste of
it’s raging freedom.

give me the touch
of a star from millions
of miles away that can
still warm-caress my flesh;

give me the mirror-moon,
a reflection of my sorrows
and haunts; give me
blue sky as token of

limitlessness; give me
love in a bird-song


a brideless wedding
(for Danny @ the bar)
—Dawn DiBartolo

with a sense of macabre,
he intoned his tale:
a groom, but no bride
no gown or veil;

no aisle to walk,
no flower girl
no pictures, no laughter,
no bouquet to hurl.

the guests all seated
each table of six,
the mother and father
looking frail and sick.

“we’re gathered today
to say good-bye,”
the mother began
with tears in her eyes,

“to my little angel
who today would be wed;
instead my darling
is sadly, quite dead.

taken before her
age did prevail;
we honor her love,
we feign this regale.

a lovely bride
she would have made,
rejoicing in planning
for this, her wedding day.

instead we toast
to her memory
and wed the sadness
of her taking leave.”

the father sat fidgeting
in a corner, out of sight,
holding back tears
with all of his might.

the groom sobbed openly,
face buried in hands;
not a dry eye remained
in the whole audience.

with each dirge, each dance,
the group’s sadness grew.
in the darkness, mother cried,
whispered sadly, “I do.”

listening to the father
recount this tale
of the brideless wedding
no gown, no veil,

I shudder with wonder,
reliving his pain,
knowing that weddings
will never be the same.


a day of art
—Dawn DiBartolo

heard murmurs
of dissatisfaction
with the way summer
was unfolding, so I

took the boys to the Crocker
on a Sunday afternoon.
no tv, no video games,
no technology or company;
just us three.

the new wing was vast
and pristine ~ so many
exhibits, so many cultures.

the oldest eye was best at
deciphering meaning
from the contemporary,
finding the fall of man
thru sex, tv, and conformity;

the baby eye finds form
in the most abstract shapes,
naming stars in the midst of gray.

what I found was
the art given to their brown
and beautiful faces,
alight with the hope of time,
the brightness of stars

in reflection; hours
spent quietly, contently,
learning that art is in the eye
of the beholder.


Maybe I'd like to be mistaken for a true "red head"
My auburn shades come from organic henna sold in a $6 box
I've colored my hair different hues since I was a teenager
including "new wave" as bright cherry reminiscent of "Raggedy Ann"
Now I just don't want to know if I'm grey already like was my mom
and not to copy Mom's boring shade of brown from her salon
without "highlights" like natural hair and obviously a dye job
(and I wouldn't want to be exposed to the toxic chemicals either)
when she could pick from many others in a spectrum
or even bravely bleach and go "blond"
But alas it’s just as if there were many flavors
and Mom would decide to pick vanilla so as to not get overly simulated
or violate some unspoken rules of modesty…

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

the kitchen nook where Mousie hides his cheese
the river road where Badger says his prayers
the sunset path where Cricket chirps his song

the mountain top where Goatgirl sleeps at night
the poppy field where Horsie romps and plays
the aspen tree where Squirrelly parks his nuts

the sugar hive where Beesie grabs his Queen
the alley-way where Woman plies her trade
the slimy hole where Ratboy screws his wife


the slimy hole where Ratboy screws his wife
the aspen tree where Squirrelly parks his nuts
the sunset path where Cricket chirps his song

the kitchen nook where Mousie hides his cheese
the aspen tree where Squirrelly parks his nuts
the river road where Badger says his prayers

the sugar hive where Beesie grabs his Queen
the mountain top where Goatgirl sleeps at night
the poppy field where Horsie romps and plays


the poppy field where Horsie romps and plays
the mountain top where Goatgirl sleeps at night
the sugar hive where Beesie grabs his Queen

the alley-way where Woman plies her trade
the aspen tree where Squirrelly parks his nuts
the slimy hole where Ratboy screws his wife

the river road where Badger says his prayers
the sunset path where Cricket chirps his song
the kitchen nook where Mousie hides his cheese


—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

I saw a palm tree wave to me
and I was happy.

I saw a snapshot of God
wearing a sweater vest, grey tie and saddle shoes
and I was happy.

I saw a blue jay
chattering up a storm
the land flooded
and he was unflappable.

I saw the rose of sharon
bloom without a blush
the thongs I place on my feet
today are a rust color
and I squirm.

I saw a fish swim backwards
into her lap
a luxury I want myself
gingham and paisley
become the both of us
and I smile and pretend to be happy.


Today's LittleNip: 

White against white
does not work well
especially a touch
of it in hair
blending badly
into white dress shirt.

—Michael Cluff



Some more linvillanelles today (see Seed of the Week on the b-board at the right), along with four from Dawny-D and a riff on the redhead (see Trap of the Week) from Michelle Kunert and two from Michael Cluff, plus photos of the Eagle, where the stars are born. 
And congrats to some local poets for winning prizes in this year's Dancing Poetry contest: Don Feliz, Katy Brown, Laverne Frith, and a Grand Prize to Carol Frith. The Dancing Poetry dance company will set Carol's poem to music and dance on Sept. 24 at their 18th Annual Festival in the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park in SF. See the b-board ("More Than a Week Away") for more, or go to

  A view of the "Spire" within M16, the Eagle Nebula.
Courtesy of NASA/ESA

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Untarnished Spirit

David Iribarne

—David Iribarne, Sacramento

I am from the neighborhood
where people know their neighbors
by name and watch out for them.

I am from a sector that is close
to the fabulous forties
where Reagan lived
but the prices are not as high.

I am from a time when hair was big
colors were loud
and music was recorded
on something called a tape.

Meat and potatoes was a staple
for our diets and not a rarity.
Families ate and talked at the dinner table.

Parks were just down the street.
I played ball until dusk
rather than playing with a controller.

I am from the time we rolled up our jeans,
wore more than one watch
and they were called swatches.
Our hair hung over one eye
and we were called a skater
even if we didn’t skate.
We put a hole in our jeans
not to rebel, but to fit in.

I come from a street that
has painted trees to represent it
and on the street there lived
a man who helped build the undergrounds
of an amusement park named Disneyland.
On my street people have lived there longer
than I have been alive.
It was a place where it is safe to walk at night.

I am from where we jump the tracks
to get to school
and the sound of the train
would be your music to sleep by.


—David Iribarne

Thirty years ago my mother
thought she lost me, my sister.
Screech of brakes
Seven-year-old frame
mother tried to hold me
like all parents do
trying to make their hands and arms
act as an extra human seat belt.
Withstand my body, head
from plummeting to glass.
Not successful.
Front windshield broken

Car window cracked from one end to another.

No bloodshed, just a lot of pain.
The old green station wagon withstood
but not here, my childhood head was too much.

My mother cradled my face with her hands
Her hands were cold
almost as if they had been crying with fear.
She whispered to me and my sister, “I am sorry.”

I was still alive
not a scratch on me
I gritted my teeth like she told me to.
I felt no pain, why was she apologizing.

Wondered as I looked at long crack
on the windshield how I had no cuts, bruises.
My mother stared at both my sister and I
hand over mouth sobbing, trying to catch her breath.

She hugged my sister and I, squeezing us with all her might.

Thirty years has passed
She has since passed.
Think back to that moment
don’t focus on the accident
don’t focus on huge crack on windshield
don’t focus the sound of brakes.

All I remember is her holding us tight.
Never do I want that moment to crack.


—David Iribarne

I've never heard silence quite this loud.
Flashbacks occur, difficult ones.
You hurting me with words and your hands

though these four walls would protect me
from your presence, but in this quiet
your voice become all the more clear:
“You bitch why don’t you ever do anything”
followed by a slap in the face.
Walls vibrate, world ever shaking.
Thought when I left I would be done with you.
Thought life would be more peaceful, more calm.

Lights go off and I could hear you again
circling the room telling me to “shush”
to “shut up!” I cried in fear
thought once I had been gone
you would be too—
those harsh noises in my head
are still there, ever echoing.

You cast a shadow over me that
seems to follow me, haunting my life.
When I was with you, you were very powerful
telling me where to go, telling what to do—
you were in control.
Now, even without you here,
you are still in command.

I have taken the first step,
I did not stay, I left you
left the terror, left your hatred,
left your abuse.
You may have damaged me
but you did not tarnish my spirit
and soon the silence will not be so loud.


—David Iribarne

They used to look big
coarse and little flabby like mine
where you couldn’t
see the definitions of her bones.

Now that’s all you see.

The veins as blue as can be
looking like they want to bulge out.

She prepares the bread
hitting the dough with her fists
slamming it with all her might.
She tosses it up and down.

I ask—“Are you alright?”

She says—“I am fine as always.”

She never complained
but inside I knew she was not well.
I look at how she hits the dough,
I know that’s how she feels.


—David Iribarne

Autumn began with overcast;
already I was looking toward its end.

You died near the end of autumn.
It brought a change of scenery
a solemn end to such a beautiful season.

Standing at your grave, mom’s grave
think of how you were sprinkled
upon her, within her.
Your tombstone weighs on her chest,
as your death still does on mine.

Wondered how much of you was able
to reach your wife’s soul as you
were sprinkled on her 14-year-old corpse.
Sure she harvested every drop
as you are scattered all over her body.

You died just as you wanted
turned everything off
to be with the one you loved, finally.

Ran my hands through the grass
hoping maybe I can find a speckle
a reminiscence of you.
Cradled some dirt in my hand
thinking at least by chance
you will be somewhere in the soil.

Stared at both of you again
memories awakened
sitting on your lap
even to age ten.
Watching you bake pumpkin pie.
So many come to mind.

Rain begins to fall
I wonder are you raining on me.
Open my mouth, hoping to taste you.

Savor the water like I never did.

A change of scenery
was brought that day.


—David Iribarne

Poetry is…
Enjoying the quiet in your arms
finding comfort in solitude
radiance and beauty together.

The muse of music.
A Way to disappear into thoughts and emotions.
A way put you into words.
Keeps me away from me at times
And brings it all back together.

It is the ripples in the water
the rock that skips in the pond.
Nature’s guide and script
A way to capture earth’s moments.

Searching through words to find you.
find memories
find feelings
find our dreams
find the things that most matter.

It can be what happened in that moment
what happened years ago
or years ahead or even what hasn’t happened at all.

Explaining the unexplainable
Bringing into words
Making it clear to you and me.

Makes words into instruments.
Alliteration allows beats and twangs
to come into play.
We tap our feet and we snap our fingers.
We come alive, we are its essence.

Poetry feeds me, allows me feed you.
It nourishes me and nourishes you.
It invites you into my world and me into yours.

It invites me into your world and you into mine.


Thanks for today's poetry, David! David Iribarne graduated from CSUS where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English. He resides in Sacramento, CA where he has lived for 38 years. He works in social services and plans to enter the Masters of Social Work program in fall 2012. He has had several poems published in Poetry Now, Susurrus, Catchword, and won second prize in Sacramento News & Review’s student poetry contest in 2005. Iribarne has a book entitled Bones, Skin, and Soul which covers such subjects as breast and skin cancer. He also recently finished a chapbook entitled The Soul of Love.


Today's LittleNip: 

The tree frog
Rides on a banana leaf—
How it sways!

—Takarai Kikaku



May I call your attention to two of our freshly-refurbed "pages" under SNAKE ON A ROD in the green bulletin-board box to the right of this: Placating the Gorgon, in which many mysteries of Medusa are explicated, and Calliope's Closet: Ideas to Rummage Through While You Wait For the Muse, which has been straightened out and polished and made better ready for company—you! Both pages, by the way, ask that you put your names on every poem you send. I know, I know—'tis a pain. But it would be helpful to poor old Medusa's addled brain...

And happy birthday to our Taylor Graham!

Roller Kite
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Words of the Day

The deer, a doe,
ears forward focused,
wet nosed,
eyes clear,
muscles coiled,
wild fear

—Photo and poem by Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax


(a linvillanelle)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Amy Winehouse is dead and unborn songs
gone the way of Poets Against War.
Too drenched in thigh-level mud to change her life,

drug-addled, eyeliner swooshed up thick with
shadow like snakes-in-the-almonds, like scimitars.
Her serpent eye-glade owned no inner lids,

no screening the gaze from beatblack blues that fueled
her sensuous loss, her resonator mouth,
and sad the love-glint on each Chiclet tooth.


And sad the love-glint on each Chiclet tooth.
Her sensuous loss. Her resonator mouth.
Too drenched in thigh-level mud to change her life,

Amy Winehouse is dead, and unborn songs
her serpent eye-glade owned. No inner lids:
gone the way of Poets Against War,

no screening the gaze from beatblack blues that fueled
drug-addled eyeliner swooshed up thick with
shadow like snakes-in-the-almonds, like scimitars.


Shadow like snakes-in-the-almonds, like scimitars,
drug-addled eyeliner swooshed up thick, with
no screening the gaze from beatblack blues. That fueled

her sensuous loss, her resonator mouth.
Her serpent eye-glade owned no inner lids,
and sad the love-glint on each Chiclet tooth

gone the way of Poets Against War…
Too drenched in thigh-level mud to change her life,
Amy Winehouse is dead—and all those unborn songs.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Myotis murmurs with Pipistrelle
under the high corners and eaves of our
house hushing itself into twilight—

muffled bark of dogs across the canyon—

gibbous moon not yet claiming
the surface of the pond. I listen for our
home-bats nuzzling, chirping, jostling,

ready to slip out into this July

evening. And then, one after another,
they come surging overhead, rushing past
us on waves of air. We keep watch—

32… 83-85… 125 bats tonight—
each dark zig catching its arc, its echo-
vector above a dimming hillside,

over the pond where shadows collect.

Moonrise, earth-spin, a cosmic
hoop. But we'll be lost in sleep unbound
by words, on wheels of memory,

dream, mosquito-hum, bat-shout.


—Taylor Graham

acrylic on the waiting-room wall

A cup, a key, fine children, a dainty house—
strange blossoms in this painted garden,
muted topaz and mauve, a box of secrets.

Girls spent their lives making hats -
I imagine flat-beds, puller-downs, flanges.
As people enter and pass through doors,

I couldn't pick one flower from this frame—
blue-eyes faded to worn denim,
a long way to puzzle out what's given.
A long way to puzzle out what's given:
girls spent their lives making hats,
blue eyes faded to worn denim.

I couldn't pick one flower from this frame—
muted topaz and mauve, a box of secrets,
strange blossoms in this painted garden—

a cup, a key, fine children, a dainty house.
I imagine flat-beds, puller-downs, flanges
as people enter and pass through doors.
As people enter and pass through doors,
I couldn't pick one flower. From this frame,
girls spent their lives making hats;

I imagine flat-beds, puller-downs, flanges,
strange blossoms in this painted garden.
Muted topaz and mauve, a box of secrets:

blue eyes faded to worn denim;
a cup, a key, fine children, a dainty house;
a long way to puzzle out what's given.


—Taylor Graham

Roman-marble pillars sparkle in the sun.
Whose rising eye sees spectacles?
She walks blind through haunted ruins,

reaching with empty hands.
The truth being always something else—
chicken-wire snags after fox got the hens,

brown boots lined up by a muddy door.
How night dims into daylight.
She wakes again to her own life.
She wakes again to her own life
reaching with empty hands.
How night dims into daylight,

brown boots lined up by a muddy door.
She walks blind through haunted ruins
whose rising eye sees spectacles:

Roman-marble pillars; sparkle in the sun;
the truth being always something else;
chicken-wire snags after fox got the hens.
Chicken-wire snags after fox got the hens.
Brown boots lined up by a muddy door
reaching with empty hands.

The truth being always something else
whose rising eye sees spectacles,
she walks blind through haunted ruins.

How night dims into daylight,
Roman-marble pillars sparkle in the sun.
She wakes again to her own life.


inky blue
—charles mariano, sacramento

this morning
while clearing space
found two caps
without pens

found another
under a pile of pages
three more
on the shelf
next to a book
by Steinbeck

caps, without pens

i suppose
as long as i have
the other end
don't need the caps

there they are
sadly collected,

my dearest friend
died yesterday
news learned
while attending a funeral
for another friend

all these pens
without caps
and this
painfully blue

stifled, undone


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

Come, let us wander among
flocks of poppies, watch
a peak's shadow ease over

the meadow like a whisper
heard only by summer
& the prince of wild grass.

Sprawling among wildflowers,
butterflies & lady bugs
we do not separate

petals from wings,
the mountain and meadow
from our bloodstream.


J is throwing ham slices
at E while one of them
is dating R heavily
and M nearly got ran over
because of it.
A just slept away
a result of late nights out
with C who cannot hold
his drink since his accident
involving S who just hates
the freeways after the way
B would drive her to see L
or M or J or B
maybe K who is hung up
too much on C
will start seeing G
who is so involved with F
that K may go back to B after all.

D forever waits for inspiration
while I plans to dream longer
than either H or B or C
or even S can hope for.

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

Grandma was a redhead
I never met her she lived so long ago
she was a brave redhead with ten kids
captured by the Brits in 1780
dragged to a Wyandotte village
lived only to 53
died of ‘dropsy’
says so in the family Bible
I revere her…

doesn’t say anywhere that she was a redhead
but I know it; story’s been handed down
Grandpa was a redhead, too, six foot five
big scary giant of a man
staring bright blue eyes
lived to be 90

their kids were all redheads
that’s what I’m told
it’s probably true
even if I’m a lying bitch of a poet


Today's LittleNip(s): 

(Thanks to Brenda Hillman)
—Claire J. Baker

I must
read more
from the poet
who wrote
of a thrush
& its golden


I sailed ‘cross the ocean blue
To get to the land of green
Home of the new classified ads

But then I found they were
Back where I’d been
Sitting ‘neath the frogs on their pads

—Caschwa, Sacramento


Thanks for the LittleNip, Cashwa (the Poet Formerly Known as Carl Bernard Schwartz)! The “frogs” Carl is referring to are his fanciful interpretation of our green box on the “bulletin board” at the right of this column. Which segues nicely into how I spent quite a bit of time yesterday cleaning up the Kitchen: tightening up various instructions to make them more concise, checking all the links to make sure they still work, updating the Snake on a Rod pages which had fallen behind. In the Ticklers section (Bigger Blue Box at the very bottom of the page) I put poor Charlie Sheen to rest, deleting the poems about him which have become just plain sad. And I added another new feature: Word of the Day, at the bottom of that green box. There are several Word/Day sites on the Web, but I chose this one for its clarity, lack of ads, pronunciation complete with sound—and because yesterday’s word was “porcine”, having to do with pigs, with which I have a great affinity. Enjoy.

In cleaning up the links, I stumbled across some readings and other goodies; you might want to scan the calendar. August 1, for example, is the deadline to sign up for the UC Davis Extension Tomales Bay Workshop, which is pricey but intriguing. They only accept 12 attendees; the deadline applies “until they have enough people”. Keynote speaker: Jamaican poet Kwame Dawes. See for more.

Thanks to today's multitude of contributors, including our two TG’s, Taylor Graham and Tom Goff, for tackling Cynthia Linville’s Linvillanelle. Tom writes: Some poets just have the good luck of surnames that lend themselves perfectly to new forms...and the talent for those forms, too! Here's a linvillanelle (how that rolls off the tongue!). I didn't "intend" to write about the singer. It seems to me like a lament for all the insanity, in her, in Washington, in Norway. Good poems by Cynthia and by Joyce, and I love Ashland, so the Chautauqua bronze is most congenial.

Taylor Graham writes: What a fun new form! I couldn't stop at just one... The first two poems are responses to Katy Brown (7/23) and D.R. Wagner (7/25). What I love about this form is how it makes me rearrange the elements of the poem, and then rearrange them again, so there's no "real" order. Just what I need to get out of my rational, boring thought-rut. Please tell Cynthia how much I like it!

Speaking of D.R., don’t forget that he and Pat Grizzell will be reading TONIGHT at The Shine Café, 24th & E Sts., Sac. See b-board for more.

Finally, Pat Hickerson’s “redhead” poem today was triggered by our Poetry Trap of the Week. I especially like her last line……Maybe THAT should be our next Seed of the Week: Lyin’ bitch of a poet!



I forget sometimes,
Always, it seems,
I think I can, but
I can’t remember through my eyes,
That newness seen
For the first time

—Ronald Edwin Lane

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Lizard Suns Himself

Taos Gorge, New Mexico
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Blue is a dawn word
and a twilight word; at dawn

it sounds like the moment just before
birdsong; at dusk it sounds like a shadow.

Blue is sometimes an alto saxophone
and sometimes a flute sound in the rain.

Blue moves in slow motion to hear itself
move. Blue is heavy with saturation.

Blue is a kind of prayer spoken
by loves who have lost each other.

Blue can dance to its own blue music
to which reunited lovers are slowly dancing.

(first published in Listening To Blue Mini-Chap
by Joyce Odam, 2002)


                   After “Captive to the Song with butterflies…”
                                  —D.R. Wagner
—Joyce Odam

Music bursts through the dark opening—
electrical with energy—
hollow with echo—far away music

remembered now
where white curtains of air-light shred
and butterflies tremble toward the source.

Sounds widen to match the listening;
the musical Rorschach
alters its form.

The butterflies stay in the same flutter of time.
Time slows to one heartbeat,
holds its breath.


—Joyce Odam

It was the looking through time
through the eyes of

the old tree watching me . . .
it was the birds in the tree

with all their sweet ferocity
singing down to me . . .

and the old tree whispered
and flickered its leaves,

and a thin breeze sang through,
carrying thinner memories . . .

and the day let its light go soft,
and I felt myself lift

into the sound,
and the way things moved,

yet stayed where they were . . .
and I was asleep as a child.


—Joyce Odam

Rough, from the hills,
hiding out as knots of wood,
their hats and beards
all pulling from the world,
their eyes grown dark and closing
as they hang in slanted shadows
in a pose of ancient longing,
how they clan-ly, dim-ly,
whisper to the walls . . .
how they clan
and dimly whisper
to the walls.


—Joyce Odam

The midnight bird sings to midnight now,
and to me—his listener—and the
summer window that lets his song in.

And the late cars push through the singing
with their muffled sounds—a block away—
like far-off echoes of the noisy day

or a soft wind,      sighing,
sighing,      for uncluttered wilderness.
And the midnight bird,

perhaps on the moon-lit rail
of my fence, or from the nearby tree,
enjoys his variegated soloing.

And I am in the auditorium
of his life—
an auditorium with perfect acoustics

for his rapturous self-singing,
until even that
moves in and out of my attention.

and I realize I have drifted back into myself.
Such is my loss. Such is the loss
of tone-deaf time that refuses to be stopped.


—Joyce Odam

Upon warm stone
the lizard suns himself—

are lost in time.

The dust of field grass
is living talcum

in the yellow breezes.

I try

There are murmurs here
and sudden burst of meadowlark

and cobweb
singing on the berry vine.

Translation almost

a sigh
breaks from my wistfulness.

The lizard misinterprets
the sound.

(first published in The Above Ground Review, 1969
and The Senior Magazine, Oct. 2004)


—Joyce Odam

I whisper into the telephone.
You whisper back.

We talk of silent things . . .
we talk of silent things . . .

repeating ourselves
and offering questions.

and, Yes?

Dyings are like this.
And waiting for dyings,

which is what we
have no words for,

though we speak and speak
in these whispers.

(first published in Paisley Moon, 1994)


—Cynthia Linville

The July-scented storm invoked thunder,
rain tight like fists.
All our boxes dissolved into wet.

Now the years are slick with surprise
the solace of confession, inadequate
the prayer candles, blown out.

He had absolutely no business looking.
He wasn’t a reliable witness.
We failed to retrace the map.


We failed to retrace the map.
Now the years are slick with surprise—
he wasn’t a reliable witness.

He had absolutely no business looking.
All our boxes dissolved into wet,
rain tight like fists.

The July-scented storm invoked thunder,
the solace of confession. Inadequate—
the prayer candles blown out.


The prayer candles, blown out,
he had absolutely no business looking.
Now the years are slick with surprise—

the solace of confession, inadequate.
Rain tight like fists
all our boxes dissolved into wet.

He wasn’t a reliable witness.
The July-scented storm invoked thunder.
We failed to retrace the map.


Today's LittleNip: 

One learns by doing the thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try.




Thanks to Joyce and to Cynthia for today's offerings. Joyce is no slouch at poetry forms, so it's fitting that our Seed of the Week be a variation on the villanelle that was thunk up by Cynthia Linville: The Linvillanelle. I know some of you break out in hives at the very mention of forms, but heck—as Sophocles says, give it a shot. You might surprise yourself. (Scroll back up to the Snake on a Rod on the b-board and click on Calliope's Closet for "Medusa's Bunched-Up-Panties Rant #1: FORMS?? OMG!!" to see what my opinion is on the subject.)

About her form, Cynthia writes: The Linvillanelle, which bears only a loose connection to a villanelle, is a poem in three parts:

1) The lines in the first part are repeated in the next two parts, but in a (mostly) different order. Different punctuation and capitalization are also allowed.
2) The last line of the first part becomes the first line of the second part, and the last line of the second part becomes the first line of the third part.
3) The last two lines of the third part are comprised of the first line and the last line of the first part. 

No other rules.

Thanks to my writing group (Shawn Aveningo, Lytton Bell, and Jen Jenkins) for midwifing and naming this form.

So check out Cynthia's "Glass Houses" example above and see what you can come up with, and send your results (or poems/photos/artwork of any other ilk—Joyce's lizard, maybe, or whispering into the telephone. Flute sound in the rain? Midnight bird?) to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs.

By the way, Cynthia's writing group mentioned above, known as Poetica Erotica, is now available for readings. Scroll down to our new Medusa's Classifieds section (lower in the blue box on the b-board) for more info.

Detail, Chautauqua Bronze, Ashland, OR
—Photo by Cynthia Linville
(for more of Cynthia's Ashland photos, 
go to the Medusa's Kitchen page on Facebook)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Above Night's Shadows

Café Terrace at Night
—Painting by Vincent Van Gogh

—Jane Blue, Sacramento

All is calm in the Arles café tonight, stars
slashed into a deep blue sky, blurry people

ambling toward the light, clean white tables
on the patio. But the balcony

is out of whack; wrought iron railings
slide over the lit roof's slope; someone

could shoot right down onto the cobblestones.
Van Gogh watches behind a slate-blue lintel

listening to the murmuring with both ears;
more light sneaks under the mullioned door.

A waiter glides among the early crowd;
a black-hooded figure slips into the café;

a tree, the dense green of twilight insinuates itself
over the street, grooved with gutters

to carry off rain; there will be no rain tonight.
I see the source of light, a lamp that swings

maniacally at the end of a frail red pole, casting
yellow onto green walls like paint. Van Gogh

peers down the alley at the big white stars;
orange and green lights wink on in the shops.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Where dogs bark.
Where light changes.
Where one can see dreams.
Where all things are spoken about.
Where birds are always flying.
Where joy comes into the heart.
Were all memories turn into great wheels.
Where you meet people you will never see again.
Where you live.
Where dancing is better than talking.
Where the moon claims the surface of the water.
Where the old stories are remembered.
Where waiting learns to defy both hope and time.
Where one must stay and be seen by others.
Where what we know is changed forever.
Where everything seems impossible.
Where Autumn receives sadness.
Where love finds it is bound by neither time nor space.
Where great sorrows receive the gift of tears.
Where the erotic seems to go on forever.
Where thought and decision are unable to recognize each other.
Where the sea is invited into the palace to dance and tell tales.
Where animals carry greatness in secret.
Where we realize what we believe.
Where music undoes its colored scarves and explains itself.
Where earth, air, fire and water show us their relentless
Where we know the moon recognizes our blood.
Where sleep becomes our master and we long for its embrace
                                        that we may know
All places, unbound by words, imagination and the far barking
                                        of dogs.


—D.R. Wagner

The cities abandoned. I saw you
Walking there long after the others
Had left. It was as if a huge
Truth stretched out in front of you.

It glowed and had teeth, sparkling
Pointed and sure to find flesh
Before feeling. Great winds
Filled with lightning moved
Throughout its body.

Could this be the same place
Where we had made love together?
Could this shower of glow discharging
Ether be the same feelings
That once were tender in our hearts.

Oh poor mankind, to be caught so far
From harbor on this night,
Slouched and desperate far from
Arms that love you.
“Come home,” I said
But none could hear angel music
In this place, save animals
And the pure of heart.


—D.R. Wagner

Death has a beautiful garden.
We all grow in it, strong,
Also beautiful and ever so proud.

Such fine children. I can’t
Remember better, those smiles
Broken hunks of light scattered
Throughout the rooms we walked through.

We remain shaken, constantly falling,
touching the sides of the room
Like a good thigh, a dream in which
the mouth remains moist.

Tree tops. The things we cannot speak of.
The crops left deserted in smashed
Choruses thinking great thoughts of
Girls who never had a name.
The clouds again moving ever
Toward that same garden
We helped death in, planting ourselves
For the perfect harvest.


—Katy Brown, Davis

I tether myself with twine
to the bedpost and
line the doorframe with
St. Benedict’s herb
to ward off evil.

Nothing after dark
looks the same.
Chairs and sofas
turn to wolf and leviathan.
Shadows sneak along the floor,
poisonous mouths
ready to devour any bare foot.
Mirrors capture reverse
images in crinkled silver
and cast them back.

They have found me,
out by the well,
addressing the midnight cat
in a language like
Babylonian or some
obscure Sioux dialect.
I have no memory.

They say sleepwalkers
are changelings
trying to return to their first world.
When stars sigh in the void,
the well, deep with echo,
draws me like a portal . . . .


—Katy Brown

We have been following you
to the edge of this wilderness
for some time, now,
trying to see where you go;
but you move too quickly
beyond the treeline.

You always come back
with the first pewter light of dawn,
no evidence of having walked
dark paths through
thicket and wood.

It is dangerous beyond the light,
you say. Stay here in the compound
where watchdogs sleep by the door.
Trust me, you say,
the world is a dangerous place.

As if to agree, the distant wolves
begin to sing somewhere in the direction
of Stone Mountain,
a giant hunched on the horizon.

When you are gone, we suspect
that you speak with the wind.
You know the dialects of water
and starlight. You hear the owl’s wing.
We wonder who you meet out there.

Tonight, I followed beyond the buck brush
and manzanita, into pine and cedar darkness.
Crouched low on a patch of bear grass,
I watched you look around
as if catching the scent of something
on the silk-light breeze.

In the softest voice, beseeching the stars,
Fly, you said . . .
as if it were that easy.
Then you lifted above night’s shadows. . . .


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Under the mountain's stone,
a meadow, an upland pool

that captures images in reverse:
your face framed by tree-line.

Something draws you
like a portal—two boulders

opening onto light, to wind,
to water speaking in its dialects

of snowmelt and fall. A deep
echo of rushing river.

Follow me. Water makes
changelings of us all.


About her murmurous poem, Jane Blue writes: According to Wikipedia, Van Gogh was very happy that he could paint a night scene that was all colors. He painted it on the spot. This was the first painting in which he used a starry night.

Heads up: The Primal Urge reading series, Poetry With Legs, has moved from the 2nd and 4th Thursdays to the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays, starting this week. That’s at The Shine Café, and the readers this week are Patrick Grizzell and D.R. Wagner, with Bill Gainer hosting. See the b-board for details.

While you’re b-boarding, note our new feature (in the green, lower section, right above Poet-to-Poet): Medusa’s Classifieds. What do we consider classifieds? Well, I don’t rightly know, actually—it just seemed like a good idea, and already we have two posted; check ‘em out, and send us more. One of them involves Cynthia Linville, who’s big in Medusa-news this week: not only is her writing group forming a new reading group, Erotica Poetica, but she has provided us with tomorrow’s Seed of the Week, a form she’s "invented", called a Linvillanelle. She also traveled to Ashland, Oregon recently, and we’ve posted her travel photos in a Facebook album; go to the Medusa’s Kitchen page on Facebook for a peek at that. Cynthia is one of Sacramento's Convergence editors; you can click onto their latest issue on our b-board, as well.


Today's LittleNip: 

If you have a skeleton in your closet, take it out and dance with it.

—Carolyn MacKenzie



Giant Bug Exhibit, Cal. State Fair
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

Sunday, July 24, 2011

You Must Be Ready

Soda Dam, New Mexico
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento


falling in snow beyond the window,
in bread breaking in cracks cut by steam,
because you can't snap your fingers and hold a pencil
even if today you are the best poet in the house.
No one, no one is around to see you stamp on your brain.
No one can swear that the loaf was whole to begin with
when the invisible knife that remained in the ashes
sliced through the bread no longer in the oven.
How do these things happen?  How do fish
enter the flakes of the snow?  How do raindrops
house all the components of a man or a woman?
No one knows, no one is small enough to see it.

I live in a nation that can saw into the Yukon,
that owns the art to rescue whales and wolves
but is helpless before the rat that lives in the street
among the homeless, and cannot bring itself
to leave Central America.  It has learned the lesson
of the schools of little fish, and its armies travel
in raindrops, in the empty chambers of white bread,
in steam opaquing the pane of a window in winter.
Because no one can hold a pencil and snap his fingers,
there are no records, just misprints in the papers
and smudges in the crowd on photographs where
there was trouble.  View the photo the day of repression.
And what will you say of it?  Here is the flat photo.
The image lies in a thin layer of emulsion.
If you write on it, the picture rubs off.  If you tell,
it is thin words, blood carried by abstract breezes.

You must try to absorb the barbed wire left behind
now used to hang laundry, the tank and propeller
and other trophies of war—extra rice, extra beans.
Even if today you are the best poet around,
you must first invite the barbs to penetrate your skin,
there to wring their wire roses in your blood.
And you must wait until the propeller begins to spin
its way into your skull, clearing the chambers as it turns.
And you must wait for the little tanks to start up
in the ghostly shape of lead gasses rising.  Not ready
when needed, now you must not come all the way home
until you can carry your brains in your open hands. 

—Marvin Bell



Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dancing on the Spin

Summer Still
—Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

I saw you, honey
the grey-white wing of your dress
a chiffon drapery
I saw it lift in the wind of your quick motion
as you headed toward the front door
and out of my house

I knew it was you
didn’t see your face
only a fall of long golden hair
the way you wore it as a young woman

I knew it was you
checking on me again
my daughter, murmurous in my heart


—Don Feliz, Sacramento

Murmurs fill the room
when the couple arrives:

one is dark
the other light,

she smiles
he scowls,

her jeans are too tight
he wears a tux,

she’s a very tall
Tallahassee teacher,

he’s from Seattle
shorter than most,

she drinks beer
he has wine.

She’s a woman.
He’s a man.


The rumor
of release
from oppression
found under
heavy boots.

Staying seated
in burqa
the front
of bus
in Tehran.

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA


Children conference
breath held
teacher passes
knuckles saved
imaginations grow

—Michael Cluff


A giggle
tie unknotted
kiss shared
same gender
total love.

—Michael Cluff


—Katy Brown, Davis

Murmurous old barn,
hushed in twilight,
swallows light—
shadows collected
in high corners
slide down walls—
tender in the darkening,
nuzzling, nesting,
so near an earlobe
your breath—
touch without touching.


—Katy Brown

Dusk—the haunting song
of a pod of murmurous whales
echoes through a swish of waves
washing against the hull.

Sometimes we lose one another
even on this block island ketch—
hidden by the sails,
setting and unsetting the sheets,
securing the halyards.

By day, we appear to stand still,
the water rushing past us
to some uncertain destiny—
the sun, slipping along an arc
from edge to edge of the world.

The days and nights pass—
rotations of a cosmic hoop
suspended around the sky;
the boat; the unending water;
and we on the deck: the only certainty.

We take turns at the tiller, feeling
the water dividing underneath us.
We use an old map and navigate by stars:
the edge of the world—turning toward us
just over the twilight horizon.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Just listen to wind against
shutters. Cumulonimbus growing
blacker, a giant pounding on his anvil.
Power-up! he sings his true
name in sky-word.

I'm either lost or free now,
without my lights,
and storm rushing down.

Lightning knights the hilltop,
rocks flare, brightly new.
Shall I huddle indoors
as images arc
and the sky thunders through?


—Taylor Graham

Snowmelt from up-
country churns downriver
below the bridge,
slicking boulders, frothing
how many cubic-feet-
per-second—and there
she stands midstream
where she's walked
out of the night's tall dark—
arms raised in warning?
beckoning? or praying
praise to morning, mists
uplifting like wings
of angels with no time
for a mortal doing word-
steps stone to stone
where no one else may
follow, dancing
on the tilt and spin
of earth.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

Thought I was a seer.
It was astigmatism.

The voices spoke
To me. Got hearing aids.
They’re just murmurs.



Check out the Pig-a-Chopper in the upper green box on our b-board for a couple of new postings about local poets. Earlier this week, we mentioned Brigit Truex and Red Poppy Review; now we've added Susan Kelly-DeWitt's column in Coal Hill Review, in which she says nice things about Martha Ann Blackman. Got anything to add? We're looking for journals in cyberspace to add to our collective repertoire.

Blondes are preferred
By more aphids, gnats and thrips
Than any other color

—Ronald Edwin Lane

Friday, July 22, 2011

Susurrations of the Heart

Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

A careful ear can hear them in that darkness
that falls with sundown: hear those faintest murmurs
of leaves or breeze or owls' feathers stirring,
warm world of day now cooling into night.
These whispers hem the very edge of night,
their agitation growing in the darkness:
breathy voices clearing, sighing, stirring,
susurring, soughing, turning with their murmurs.
A careful ear won't listen to these murmurs,
will close itself to rustlings in the night—
shut out the nervous thrum of spirits stirring
and rising to their lives of thorny darkness—
will deafen to that darkness, with its murmur-
ations softly stirring in the night. . .


—Kathy Kieth

Rubber branches slither through sagging
scotch tape, snake along
faded pink walls; pretend-
plants tangle in chartreuse confusion.

Scotch tape snakes along
around the plain black-and-white clock;
plants tangle in chartreuse confusion
as their tape gives way and loses its hold.

Around the plain black-and-white clock,
a spiderweb has been begun, then abandoned
as the tape gives way and loses its hold,
impotent from waiting.

A spiderweb has been begun, then abandoned.
The magazines are two years old, badly torn.
Impotent from waiting,
an old man slumps in gray Naugahyde.

The magazines are two years old, badly torn.
Down the hall, the sound of approaching footfalls echoes;
an old man slumps in gray Naugahyde,
dozing in the murmurs of nurses.

Down the hall, the sound of approaching footfalls echoes
off faded pink walls which pretend
to doze in the murmurs of nurses.
Rubber branches slither through, sagging…


—Kathy Kieth

mewls and titters behind dirty
hands: mumbles under

mufflers: shadowy murmurs
back of the woodshed that ooze

over your skin just before
the disheveled cat

runs away… Canyons drop
behind darting, feral

eyes: sighs rustle like
the whisper of papery leaves

in gathering autumn. Secrets
mutter in cupboards: smirk

one last time: then skitter
off and away, lodge them-

selves in the dusty
armoire of the heart…



of the Nash: head on Mother’s
lap: clack of wipers on a rainy

road: murmurs mingling with
thrumming motor sounds: father-

mother murmurs: night folding
around wet windows: night-rain

closing its dark curtain around
the grey hunch of a Nash: whispers

of rain and water-flash of passing
cars: sibilant sighs carrying

the ess in cancer: essy hush
of it: night-sounds of slick tires

and road-rumbles: hum of
grown-up voices folding around

her dozing head: all those esses
sliding along in their dark

murmurs: rainy susurrations over
the grumble of an old motor: smell

of those seatcovers: sibilant sound
of this new word, cancer. . .

—Kathy Kieth


                        for Frannie-Alice
—Kathy Kieth

Yellowing windowshades muzzle
a hot summer day: muffle
brassy July sun that slants against
peeling linoleum. Two grey heads

bend over knife nicks in a wooden
table: murmur the worn-out secrets
of old women as stiff fingers curve
around chipped cups: grasp at

the soft flesh of each other's words:
embrace the slim gossip of this
gathering twilight. . . Yellowing
shades fold the room in liquid

amber: wash faded tile bronze, as
the murmurs scatter across crowded
drainboards: bounce with a ping off
the cooling stove: roll along base-

boards and under dented pans: finally
come to rest: curl up in the china
cabinet alongside those few choice
pieces left behind by somebody's

grandmother, somebody's mother,
somebody's aunt. . .

(first published in Nanny Fanny)


Today's LittleNip: 

Vanity: What you feed first.

—Stephen Dobyns



Bill Gainer has a new book coming out August 1; see the Medusa's Kitchen Facebook page for more info and to order it from Amazon.

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fear Poets

Moira Magneson reads at
SPC's Hot Poetry in the Park, July, 2011
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

as it wheezed to a stop
pushing along the crowded car toward the opening doors
she wanted to write something so mean, so vicious
enough to make the hair stand on end

she would be struggling through the crowd
on her way out
just after the transit wheeze echoed in her ears
yearning to write something so mean, so vicious…

here was the start of a poem
now a murmurous thought
enough to make babies cry old people weep
so mean, so vicious…what would it be?

she would step off the car, people pushing from behind
oh, there went her squealing voice of doom
incited by her own murmurous mind
her foot caught in the gap
between step-off and platform

foot caught, she would go down
trampled by the mad murmurous rush
people murmuring mean, vicious thoughts like hers
foot caught, they would flatten her
till there was nothing left of her
that’s what was on her murmurous mind
hustling toward the fetid air of Times Square
to breathe the city’s hidden, murmurous poison


—Patricia Hickerson

a crackle?
at first just a murmur
a murmur of heat
in the narrow passage to the door
a murmurous gathering
smoke a murmur of wisp and curl
not noticed at first
gathering smoke
murmurous smoke
drifts and curls
under the door, down the hall
then comes the crackle

a siren would not be a murmur
it would break through a murmur
a crowded crackle of men with hoses


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

It was bedtime
A moment to wind down
Embrace rest and sleep
Forget the issues of the day

In stomps Mama
Puffing with perfection
Put that toy down!
Why aren’t you in bed yet?

Hidden somewhere
In that furor was a murmur
Of jealousy

I give you toys to distract you
Amuse you, control you
But at the end of the day
The toys take control

All toys should be
in a labor union
Where they only work
Certain hours, certain shifts
And not a moment longer

Then the kid’s toys
Would leave promptly at bedtime
And the adult toys
Could then take over.


—Caschwa (Carl Bernard Schwartz)

Coffee for breakfast and breaks
Iced tea for lunch
Unresolved issues at work
Global tensions and strife
Pathetic political pandering
Traffic tickets to dispute
Debts, debts, debts
Upcoming travel plans

Caffeine is awarded the
Best seats in the house
If one’s gastro-intestinal system
Can be likened to an abode

Slouched on the couch
Feet up, shoes off
Who stole the remote?
Everything revolves around
And around the diva: caffeine.

All night drug store
Choice of drugs
All night coffee shop
The drug of choice.

Back to bed…


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

She moves through rooms where darkness
makes itself comfortable, settled into
corners and crevices, to mimic the shapes
of chairs and sofas. Stepping from shade
to shadow, room to room, she feels
for the form of inner landscape—corridor,
closet, portico—in this dark where she
recognizes nothing, much less herself.
Music as if remembered —l'après-midi
d'un faune, perhaps, afternoon shadows
caught in a sound-box somewhere
down the hall. Hands stretched out before
her, eyes open—who knows how
it will end?—she makes her way across
this world of myth and midnight
without her name.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

A slight reflection noted as sound
Upon water, then an uplifting of wings
That slides into the shadows over some
Reeds the evening had just settled itself in

Gathering its collection of shadows,
Red-violets and wistful birds songs.

“You won’t be going there tonight,” he said
Pointing toward the tallest stand of trees,
“There’s hungry animals out there. We won’t
Take a chance of losing anyone.”


But the moon will be out later.
The breeze is so gentle it feels made
Of dreaming and silk memories.

I pack my small bag and head for
The tall dark. “I’ll try to find out
What’s just over that ridge and be
Back by morning if I am able.”

No one says not to go but no one
Follows at the edge of the light
I discover I am able to fly.


                 ...a manifestation or appearance
                 of God or a god to a person
—D.R. Wagner

Upcountry wind. The sky
Full of cumulus, prides of them,
Then, for a full minute they manifest
In colors, the entire sky a
Maxfield Parrish landscape.
Then the clouds again, only.

I saw this alone. I was higher
Than the foothills but not as high
As the mountains. There was a small
Valley. I had told my friends
I was going there to have something
To say about these places the next
Time we spoke together.

Perhaps I would find or discover
A perfect spot we could all visit
Later in the Summer. Perhaps there
Would be a theophany, no, a real
One, I was saying. Perhaps there could
Even be something of that nature way up there?


—Katy Brown, Davis

Lightning forks into
thunder that turns bones to jelly:
very close.

We know about electricity,
building in a gap
so images can arc
from line to line
and snap the unsuspecting reader.

We know about relativity:
the time before a deadline
is infinitely shorter
than the same number of days
waiting for a response.

Tesla experimented with X-rays,
wanting to look into and through
the human body. He discovered
that radiation does damage to cells.
Poets who pierce hearts leave
scars as deep as Roentgen rays.

We know all about magnetism,
words are attracted to us
like foxtails in sox.

In the end, the same gravity
that Tesla studied pulled him
into the earth where science
and poetry eventually come to peace.


—Katy Brown

They know the true names
of all the winds; the names for water.
They collect and store words
the way button or book collectors
hoard specimens.

They may be slow to anger,
but once unleashed, the words
they choose are lethal in a thousand
different ways. They plant insults
as carefully as they plant trees.

Like virtuosos playing performance pieces,
they name their own reality
with such perfect pitch, that anyone
coming in contact with their words
resonates like the string of a cello.

They step from word to word
across a poem, barely balancing.
Like blackbirds compelled to spin
a filament of song, they would make
poetry without an audience.

They speak of desire and love;
of the breath of an elk in the snow;
the spirits that haunt among moonbeams.
They work alone but live public lives,
exposing every secret emotion.

They know their power is transient.
Truth and lies are notes of the same chord.
Ultimately, when words fail to come
or the image is too obscure, they will
plunge into the deep and be lost forever.


Today's LittleNip: 

Real literature, like travel, is always a surprise.

—Alison Lurie



Just a reminder: Lots of readings tonight, including D.R. Wagner at the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis tonight; see the b-board for details. And thanks to Michelle Kunert for the photos of two recent Sacramento readings; for more of her photos of these events, go to the Medusa's Kitchen Facebook page.

Reader "Hobo Sapiens" and 
Red Night Poetry HostGenelle Chaconas 
as Red Night celebrates
its first birthday, July, 2011
—Photo by Michelle Kunert