Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our Personal Hydes

No swimming in Clear Lake right now!
(Speaking of Jekylls and Hydes...)
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Dualities, dualities, in these Romantic poets:
what atavistic conception in us makes us make
Percy Shelley the Mr. Hyde to John Keats’s Jekyll?
True, Keats studied hard, seems to fit
Henry Jekyll’s benign-grind type; worked up
from the lower classes to be a veritable doctor;
and doctor us his poems do, in the spirit,
seat of our noblest hopes for health…

while Shelley looks bad, egotistical,
as thin as any one of the other Valkyries, all types,
all barbarian cardboard, put next to Brunnhilde:
an actor-out (versus Keats the looker-within);
atheist, if the term is accurate; rebel
archangel, or would-be, in politics;
shatterer of marital convention, and with it,
the lives of actual women…does his dark
ghost infuse the Hyde who kicked
small girls to the curb, then trampled them
for jolly? Yet who assumed Godwin’s debts
heaped atop his own? spent liberally in
social causes? invited Keats, in the darkest hour,
to stay with him in Italy? Who is this
Hyde, this Jekyll, this Percy-John lurking in

each single-occupancy human room, quite cramped
already with double beds and microwaves
and showers that squirt cold and hot as our ideals?
Come out from hiding, my personal Edward Hyde,
my custom-order Henry Jekyll, and explain
again, please, the two of you, just exactly
why I need you both…


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

you know him as Mr. Hyde,
the alter ego of beloved Dr. Jekyll,
began life as a kid on the NY streets
& in the subway where he travelled
the IRT line alone from the age of five
while his parents were following
their secret obsessions

when he was a baby in a pram
Mom thought him so ugly
she kept his face covered
as she walked him in Riverside Park

Mr Hyde was four years old
Mom farmed him out to a NJ nursery boarding school
& when she came to visit him several months later,
he didn’t recognize her; her pride was hurt;
she had thought she was one terrific mother

his grandmother had a big apartment on W. 112th St.
with a long corridor to the front door
she rolled quarters down this corridor
& sent her little monkey
Mr Hyde scurrying after the quarters
as she chanted his name sing-song

age 12 Mr. Hyde was scamming fellow students
out of their 25 cents lunch money
selling them chances punched from a card
this led to betting at the racetrack…
being a very smart guy, a bit of a wise guy full of con
(he sometimes worked for bookies & other mobsters)
Dr. Jekyll became a college professor
adored by his female students,
many of whom he bedded

when his tangled web of secrets came unraveled
he was fired—
Mr. Hyde now 82, a physical and mental wreck
you should see him...
his face


—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

As a camper, my father
Was sanguine, cheerful
Unflappable. Nothing
Seemed to upset him:
Lost in the woods,
Map was wrong;
Collapsed tent, bad
Pegs; unlightable fire,
It was the cheap matches.

It all changed
The night the raccoons
Tried to steal
Next morning’s coffee cake
From the camp icebox.

After he threw
Everything in the tent
That was loose,
He flung his
Wooden leg at them.

Didn’t work,
And my father
Went briefly,
Gibbering mad.
You might say
Hopping mad.

Of course,
My rolling laughter
From the floor
Of the tent
May have had
To do with it.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Anonymous (N. American Indian; 19th Century)

I think over again my small adventures,
My fears,
Those small ones that seemed so big,
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach;
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.



Guardian-Deer at the Ukiah Cemetery
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pleiades Princess?

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

It dates from the Civil War, I'm told,
ten years before my grandmother was born.
That pointed old lady—her needle-sharp
tongue always found fault with me.

But how she treasured this needle
made in Redditch, England. Pointed
on the grindstone by a man
who died young from breathing steel dust;

passed through seventy pairs of hands
before it left the factory—just one
of thirty million needles in a single week
shipped to America, to sew back

together what “bomb, ball, and bayonet”
had torn apart. My grandmother
used this needle to quilt teddies
for little boys and girls in hospital.

Now the needle's mine
to prick a finger, or a memory.
What shall I begin to mend?


Thanks to Katy Brown for the tulips from yesterday's sunny River Park in Sacramento (mine in Pollock Pines are still buried in snow), to Michael Cluff for the timely LittleNip, and to Taylor Graham for the poem about her Jekyll/Hyde-ish grandmother; our Seed of the Week is Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Katy says:  There are times when the sun shines through tulips, especially, that they look like stained glass to me. This was such a day.

Our other poems today are more Pleiades (7 lines, 7 syllables/line, each line starting with the same letter) from Carol Louise Moon and Olga Blu Browne, along with a reminder about their open invitation to anyone interested in writing Pleiades to join a new circle forming with Olga, Carol Louise, Janet Pantoja and others, called the Moon and Stars Pleiades Circle. They'll write Pleiades and send them through the mail to each other for critique, advancing the cause of Pleiades throughout the world. E-mail Carol Louise at if you want to join. Even if you have no intention of becoming the Pleiades King or Queen of the World, Medusa's contention is that working consciously with forms improves the writing of poetry, whether it's advancing to more complex forms like the sonnet, or to free verse—which is, after all, a form of its own.


—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

Jealous Jerry jeopardized
Jena's journalists journey
jealous jargon justifying
juvenile jubilant jeers.
Jokingly jinx Jena's job.
Judge Joanna's jovial
jest jailed Jerry's jingle.


—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Martins ate mosquitoes.
Marsh wrens clung to reeds, and
Meadowlarks sat on posts
Making light melodies.
Many nights large black-billed
Magpies sang while in flight.
Mockingbird crowed more... more...


—Carol Louise Moon

Our tawny little bird,
old world avian is
out on a limb today.
Often see:  peeking face
of angel, or small child,
or demon from knotty
oval hole in a tree.


—Carol Louise Moon

Springtime bird hops and pecks
Seed scattered all around.
Sends him in directions—
Straight up town library
Steps—down again.  He finds
Several more on brick path.
Sings his happy springtime.


—Carol Louise Moon

Yellowish, with brown ribbons,
Your dainty slippers are the
Yellow flower.  A fairy,
You mid-air, invisible—
Yet tippie-toeing near my
Yard on greening stems.  I see
You're tempting me to follow.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

olive green sports coat
grey tie just touches his belt
pink slip on his desk.



Photo by Katy Brown

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

They Needed No Roses

—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Don’t trust anyone.
Don’t touch anything.
Don’t forget to wipe your shoes.
Don’t think you’re better than I am.
Don’t accept gifts from strangers.
Don’t come near me with that cold.
Don’t count your eggs before they’re hatched.
Don’t disturb the occupants.
Don’t fail me again.
Don’t drink and drive.
Don’t tell me, let me guess.
Don’t chew with your mouth open.
Don’t stop now, we’re not there yet.
Don’t leave yet.
Don’t have a cow.
Don’t stare.
Don’t call me before noon.
Don’t ever use that tone with me.
Don’t mind me, I’m just joking.
Don’t believe a word of it.


Got any Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hydes in your life? Your boss, maybe, or parents or spouse or dog or... we've all got a flip side, a dark side—how often do you let yours out? This week's SOW is Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde; write about that monster within you or someone else, whether it pops out as an abuser or just an occasional cranky-pants. Send those musings to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.

And yes, our post office is still in action, despite the fact that the Knotty Pines Lanes roof next door to it sank under the weight of all this %*#&^$* snow (and our bank was evacuated because its ceiling was creaking!) So far no creaking at the Kieth house—other than my joints—but our new dog, Chibi, is definitely a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde!


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

grabbing my elbow, Monica,
with your long fingernails
a pecking bird with skinny hands
couldn’t shake you away
pecking at my arm
telling me all that you hated
your mother clutching her stomach, her head
giddy as a May bird

we walked to and from school, Monica
you my friend I didn’t want
sharpened beak of a friend
clawed like a bird
I couldn’t turn you away
others had, why couldn’t I?

now become the yellow bird of my dreams

your birthday party, your 12th—
I was the only classmate who came
other birds were there
your cousin who sang like a nightingale
your raucous aunts picking over their finds
your red-headed robin of a mother,
your brother speckled as a buzzard
Monica, you little yellow bird
dancing in the dirt
pecking away at my arm
gouging marks in my skin
my skin lately like dried leather
little yellow bird long dead,
your pecks still on my skin
pecking my arm


—Don Feliz

I woke and reached to touch you.
You were in the next room with
hundreds of books sharing words

with poets and authors, where
poems came from sunrise roses
I planted outside your window.

Often poems needed no roses. You
wrote about anything and every time,
images in your mind’s eye. When

you returned to bed after writing four
or five poems, we both could rest—until
Death read your poems and wanted more.



—Don Feliz, Sacramento

Your kitchen window is mine now—
the garden view and our daughter’s
window next door. She signals to me
with a flashlight, invites me to share
a meal with the rest of our family.

Buds explode into scarlet blooms
on the camellia we planted ten years ago.
One floats in your crystal centerpiece bowl
on my table. I hope you still can enjoy it—
from where flowers never wilt.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

When I touch you, all is mystery.
Ripples through the skin
Unlock one thousand doors
Within, stretches a history
Almost too much to pin
Down, to clutch, fingertips
Whorling, whirling, waking to
Knowing angels, breathing in the wind.

When I see you, see you,
See you clearly, really see
You there, before me, morning
Wound round you, nearly
Pushing up, neat as a hemline,
Every time I see you, me, we, thee,
These, together without sound,
Dancing eyes in the field of delight.

When I hear you, speaking,
Singing, loosing the girdle
Of language, untying the verbs
That wind around us
Like the ghosts of kings,
Full and with their million stories
Moving on your lips, alive again.
A music flaunted by time.
Your mouth moving to shape the fields
Where words are the kingdom and sound
The castle keep.

When I smell you, in the room.
Nothing in the room.
Proust tells us that when we find
A memory from smell alone,
It is the most powerful.
It is the one most kind,
The true bone from which
The flesh is grown to grace
Again. Rooms of you fill and fall
Away to empty space.
A chemical disturbance of the mind.
Nothing in the room, in the room,
When I smell you.

When I taste you, mouth to
Mouth or drawing with the tongue
To find the salty landscapes there,
There is suddenly no room for
Sense to be other than the
Slippery buds unveiling where
All love has wrung itself
From pore to pour against
The door of teeth, the core
Pretends at cooling, but melts
Before the lips and celebrates
Such food that is ourselves.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

Take this to your comfort,
homeless friends:
the night too is homeless—
suspended over dawn & day,
using its energy to accept
whatever the stars & moon
give away.


—Medusa (with thanks to today's contributors!)

Michelle Tea at Sister Spit reading
California Stage, March 2011
—Photo by Trina Drotar, Sacramento

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Bears of Harmony

Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

You had just found the fabric—
the airy cloth for your dance;

you described how it would rise in the air
and stay—it was that light—

how it would flutter down,
and rise again, in the hands that held it—

how the hands would sway it up and down
in the sea-waves it would be.

Later I saw the dance,
and yes,

the cloth was that light,
and it held in the air like you said.


—Joyce Odam

Pretty Bird, Pretty Bird, where is your cage—
not this tree of rain, not this room of poem.

Bird of childhood, I found your feather
and saved it. It is purple and blue.

The rain has left it scraggly.
I remember you.


—Joyce Odam

Something waits to be found. I feel it,
slow myself to be ready.

I sense the presence
all around. Whatever lurks

outwaits me. It is
the edge, and I am the center.

I feel it follow,
as if I am a spiral, turning.

How will I know if I am caught?
There is only the idea—

the sensation. It is still,
and I am moving outward—inward.


—Joyce Odam

I have sent
sorrow after sorrow
into memory—and found mirrors
that kept sending them all
back to me.

(From Hidden Oak Poetry Journal, 2003)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

In the book's forest
live the bears of harmony
who dream beneath trees
amid the gold butterflies
and other wraiths of heaven.



Thanks to Joyce Odam and Michelle Kunert for today's contributions. Joyce sends us these "found" poems (our SOW) with the following caveat: I agree with your comment that "all poems are 'found' poems," and send I accordingly. I was going to begin with the same comment, saying: "I proclaim that all poems are found poems and recognized as poems... " (but you beat me to it).

 Photo from the Antiquarian Book Fair
by Michelle Kunert

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Even Less Than Solo

—Wislawa Szymborska

From trapeze to
to trapeze, in the hush that
that follows the drum roll's sudden pause, through
through the startled air, more swiftly than
than his body's weight, which once again
again is late for its own fall.

Solo. Or even less than solo, less, because he's crippled, missing
missing wings, missing them so much
that he can't miss the chance
to soar on shamefully unfeathered
naked vigilance alone.

Arduous ease,
watchful agility,
and calculated inspiration. Do you see
how he waits to pounce in flight; do you know
how he plots from head to toe
against his very being; do you know, do you see
how cunningly he weaves himself through his own former shape
and works to seize this swaying world
by stretching out the arms he has conceived—

beautiful beyond belief at this passing
at this very passing moment that's just passed.



Saturday, March 26, 2011


Photo by D.R. Wagner


Huckleberry heart,
your sketches cartooning life,
playful and diverse,
a silent, stoic artist . . .
my poet extraordinaire.
Love of poetry
brought us together one day.
I enjoyed your verse
and we began a journey . . .
lost in love of poetry.

—Patricia A. Pashby (first verse)
—Richard A. Zimmer (second verse)


NorCal poets will be saddened to hear that Richard Zimmer passed away this week. His friend and fellow poet Pat Pashby wrote us this beautiful letter:

Richard lost his battle a few days ago. He put up a good fight since November 4 when he was admitted to Mercy General with heart failure. He was in and out of the hospital, in rehab at two nursing homes and in an assisted living facility before a series of infections took him. His immune system could not fight them.

I have sent along a Somonka: an epistolary love poem made up of two tankas and written by two authors that was made into one of her "bookmarks" by Joyce Odam back in April 2004. I wrote the first verse and Richard wrote the second those many years ago in Joyce's Wednesday class [at the Hart Center in Sacramento].

Thank you again for doing the Broadside in his honor. It meant so much to him. I miss him so much, such a wonderful friend for eleven years. But his memory remains in his writings on Medusa and Rattlesnake etc. He had a special way of seeing things.

Thank you, Pat, for keeping us informed. Richard's littlesnake broadside, A Bench Called Henry, is available at The Book Collector, or write to me at and I'll send you one, free.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

outside her window
they’re strangers

in Betty’s studio
cerulean sky
cadmium clot of sun:
they land on her canvas
above a burnt sienna tree—
cobalt slipper of leaf
tiptoes across the shaggy grass
little spotted dog stands ready
venetian red tongue forked out
for his bone-shaped biscuit
in a forward-stretched ochre hand
all acquainted
inside Betty’s brush


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Tell me how I look.
Tell me if I’m a car wreck.
Tell me if I’ve paid the price.
Tell me if you hear this.
Tell me if this whole thing is wrong.
Tell me if we’ve made up our minds.
Tell me if we’re only dreaming.
Tell me if we’re out of doors.
Tell me if we’re making love.
Tell me if the plane is going down.
Tell me if we’re drowning.
Tell me if we’re really doing it.
Tell me if there is blood.
Tell me if you can smell this.
Tell me if it is night.
Tell me if we are frozen solid.
Tell me if we are not moving.
Tell me what our half-life is.
Tell me where to put this.
Tell me if this heat is our bodies.
Tell me where the exit is.
Tell me if we are high.
Tell me where the spaces are.
Tell me if we are boys or girls.
Tell me if the lights are on.
Tell me if you believe we can stop it.
Tell me if this is religion.
Tell me if we are traveling.
Tell me we’ve lost our way.
Tell me if it is morning.
Tell me if you speak any language at all.
Tell me if we’ve been poisoned.
Tell me if this is all blurred.
Tell me if this is for here or to go.
Tell me if we are kissing.
Tell me if we are lightning.
Tell me if the pressure is too much.
Tell me if I’ve been lying.

This is as pure as anything.
This is a cloud.
This is not a machine.
Let’s do this again as soon as possible.


(apologies to Elizabeth Bishop)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Across the Google map, storm warnings fling
more radiant colors than any known
to the ancient paper map-makers. Central Coast,
green faintly blued; in one small zone, chartreuse.
Pink pinkens the Sierras, southern Cascades
wildest pink, like seaview flowerbox blooms in Carmel.
But oh! delight to be of the Central Valley: tawny
orange all through our sodden lowlands. More radiant,
yes, than paper colors are the Google Mapmakers’
onscreen colors. More delicate, not so much.
Indelicately, then, come strong rain, hail, snow!
Fling apricot-hued tents over our field floods.
Smother our unbegun rice shoots
with the fakest of virtual fruit leather!


—Tom Goff

Fiddling on Google as usual, I savor, even in silence,
click-fingering the link to the Szymanowski First
Violin Concerto, which I love: especially as Youtubed
with a talented then-sixteen-year-old Scottish fiddler,
Nicola Benedetti. Oh for a bow as adroit
as my mouse, or for the words ipmoic supplies
in the comment-string: I think that Szymanowski's
music is very challenging for the listener. It has
many influences—the lyricism of a Chausson,
the perfume of a Debussy, the harsh realities
of a Bartok. It is troubled and troubling music.

God of poets and musicians, I beseech thee
pound me into perfume, grind me against
the harsh realities, above all stamp me
troubled and troubling; don’t much care
whom I trouble, but someone, quick. Is this
not to be fiddlestring and tightrope, the bow
my inner Wallenda shakily crossing plangent E,
resonant D, A, and nude vibratoless G? Is this
not also to be rosin, cake scraped across
horsehair gradually waferthin unto death?


Today's LittleNip: 

Have you forgotten the way to my hut?
Every evening I wait for the sound of your footsteps,
But you do not appear.

—Ryokan (trans. from the Japanese by John Stevens)



An Evening Sky
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Friday, March 25, 2011

Google Me Up, Boyfriend!

Photo by Jane Blue, Sacramento

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

love actually lives—is causing chaos
love like woe—children sing it
love me if you dare—the dare of dares
love never fails—love or bread
love poems—short and long
love quotes emotions
love quotes life
love quotes—you know it’s love when...
love remains
love song—about falling
love song—write you one
love the way you lie
love under cover—thoughtful and compelling
love verse—love vs lust
love words—abstract
love xanga quotes—love him no matter what you say
love yourself
love your love the most
love you forever
love zen—the tao of love, passion, internet sacred text


Thanks to Jane Blue for the beautiful photo to brighten up this gnarly weather-week, and to today's other contributors. We're still talking about "found"/found on Google poems—or anything else, for that matter. (We poets can't be responsible for what the Muse insists upon...)

Two items of note: You may've noticed Olga Browne's Pleiades poems in yesterday's post. Here's an open invitation to anyone interested in writing Pleiades (the 7-line, same-cap-letter-starting-each-line poems) to join a new circle forming with Olga, Carol Louise Moon, Janet Pantoja and others, called the Moon and Stars Pleiades Circle. They'll write Pleiades and send them through the mail to each other for critique, advancing the cause of Pleiades through-out the world. E-mail Carol Louise at if you want to join.

Second, Kim Rosen, author of Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words from Hay House, will be presenting a poetry concert on Friday, April 29 (7-9pm) and a workshop in Davis on Sat., April 30 (10am-6pm) at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, 27074 Patwin Rd., Davis. Fee of $95 includes both; $75 for students w/ID and sr. 62 and over. $10 discount for reg. postmarked by Apr. 15. Space is limited to 20; Allegra Silberstein thinks there are only a few spaces left. Info/reg: contact Kirk Ridgeway (530-231-5679) or; click on "Programs" then "Saved by a Poem.pdf" For more about Karen Rosen, go to


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

I can quit worrying
I can breathe
I can eat ice cream
I can understand evolution
I can log in
I can find the attachment
I can dance
I can go-go
I can pay everything off
I can hear a thrush
I can look for the golden compass
I can write


—Taylor Graham

island uncharted
island for a shipwreck
island of migratory birds
island with one piece of paper
island paradise
island not yet privately owned
island of endless horizon
island of 52 moons
island of logic slipping to absurd
island of few choices
island without language
island of talking tides
island of infinite words


Today's LittleNip: 

—Robin Gale Odam

riding in silence
staring into separate dreams
words too far away
or too close
it used to be different 

—Photo by Robin Gale Odam



Congrats to Taylor Graham and family for the addition of three spring lambs: Tsuni, daughter of Sophie (born the day of the tsunami); Speckles (daughter of Freckles) and Ms. Rivet (daughter of Rosy).

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Valley Hail
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

why space search predictions
—geoffrey neill, sacramento

why is the sky blue
why is a raven like a writing desk
why did i get married too
why do dogs eat grass
why is my poop green
why do dogs eat poop
why are women like parking spaces
why do cats purr
why am i so tired


—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

Factual and descriptive
fabulous and remarkable.
Fables written for children
feature characteristics
fierce and faithful heros
familiarized in history
facilitating the truth.


Thanks, Geoff Neill, for the "found" poem (see this week's SOW), and thanks to today's other contributors, including Olga Blu Browne, who was born and raised in Colorado, then moved to California in 1967. Both her sons were born here, but moved to Colorado. She did go to college for a short time; now she has taken some workshop classes with Joyce Odam and Norma Kohout at the Hart Center for over a year. Her poetry has appeared in Brevities and DADs DESK. She also enjoys doing her poetry at Luna’s Café (Poetry Unplugged) open mics, and we’ve seen her at The Book Collector readings, too. She says she has been writing for over 40 years, and loves it as much now as she did in the beginning.

—Olga Blu Browne

Love in limelight, heart wrapped in cellophane.
Blood flows backwards, my breath comes harsh.
Touch is faux, memories mere tokens.
Death is welcome. My tomorrow is gone.


—Olga Blu Browne

Kindle the fire, once was the heart.
Kinship alliance no more.
Keepsake a mere token of what was.
Knowledge of when to walk away.
Key may be the solution.
Kindled the fire, once was my heart.


—Olga Blu Browne

Nefariously wicked
native is primevil
natural characteristics
negligent and careless
name unknown
nasty quite roguish
notorious reputation


—Olga Blu Browne

Sensuous and exciting,
sensitive yet unruffled
single females unite.
Sophisticated and worldly,
spectacular and striking.
Strength is unmeasurable.
Subservience?—NO! No more.


—Olga Blu Browne

A rose, a rose, beautiful to see
A true delight to your eyes
yet not easy to possess.

The thorns of that stem that
brace the velvet petals are
unbearable to hold.

Still, most women dream of getting
their first rose. It matters not the
blood drawn for that rose,

only that they got their first rose.
Perhaps an omen will unfold. For
love points like a cut rose,

with blood drawn for that first


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Take a word, and bless the word alive.
Make it sing, and never let it hide.
Wear it like a talisman—wear it
all your life.  And when it binds—
ah, when it binds—cut it with a knife.



Olga Blu Browne

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

They Could Be Canaries

Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

bare tree
hung with — what?
— yellow post-its
from Spring announcing
I’ve been detained this year.


—Katy Brown

They could be yellow ribbons
or post-it notes —
these tags among the limbs.

They could be canaries
or yellow budgies
— everyone knows a flowering tree

is white or pink or magenta
— never yellow — never yellow tulips:
but there it is

like a blue rose or purple daffodil —
a little yellow tulip tree
on an unremarkable street in River Park.


—Katy Brown

While all around the other trees
shed white and pale pink petals
like snow or parade confetti

the little yellow tulip tree
casts slips of gold across the lawn
turning River Park into El Dorado.


Thanks, Katy Brown, for the pic and the riff on the wee yellow tulip tree! Retirement seems to suit you! Actually, I recommend it for everyone...

And thanks to today's other contributors, including Pat Hickerson and Michelle Kunert for continuing to celebrate spring, and to Mike Cluff for a "found" poem (see Seed of the Week). Also our thanks to Chris Piper for our very first Charlie Sheen poem; Chris, fearing for his reputation, seems to think his poem doesn't rate a real Medusa posting—maybe in the "Ticklers", he says. So we've set up a whole section of Ticklers (see the VERY BOTTOM floor of the Kitchen) for an on-going section of Charlie Sheen poems—and feel free to contribute! What better way to pay tribute to a bad boy in the throes of making an ass of himself? We'll leave 'em up 'til he comes to his senses...


FOUND POEM: Bargain Books, March 11, 2011 Catalog Pages 36-7
—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

The idea that most of medicine is based on sound
secrets of creating realistic-looking portraits of your favorite
The Upper Mississippi River Valley swamps
hard work, strong values and a genuine care for both employees
to establish the truth of what happened
standards ensure instant success:
a deceased president and 140 of the most
carpeted Oregon's high plains with hundreds of dead sheep.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

rainy March morning
ripens for the birth of April
poppies and mustard will crest the fields
she and her dog Lily bound along the road
dew-speckled, mud-spat
running to meet the new dawn
a robin twits past them, chirps
Lily stops—
digs in to sniff the tender air


—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

Not just Shel Silverstein can tell you so—
about how trees can give and inspire,
trees being earth's greatest creations,
cycling photosynthesis for air to breathe.

Trees throughout cultures symbolize life
retold in the leaves of pages trees make,
such as the legend of the first people
eating the fruit of a "tree of knowledge".
Their choice awakened them to new reality,
creating a fall from their dreamish existence
(for a whole different beginning).

Other things trees are about
include love, wisdom,
rebirth, strength, redemption,
friendship, bounty and encouragement,
branching out for the heavens of "Father Sky",
their roots linking into "Mother Earth"
and connecting as if all are one.

If trees could talk
each would have its own story
in songs with poetry.


Today's LittleNip:


Born in a glass room
Sheltered and groomed

—Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Volti Subito

—Illustration by N.C. Wyeth

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

(for Kathy Kieth)

What is loving the sea? To go to her
Whenever she called, mount her huge body,
Ride her huge body into forever?

Dreaming or not dreaming, arguing with
Its winds, sliding into the water when it
Was full of Summer and her denizens
Full around us, swimming with her
Dolphins and puffer fish, with her whales
White and right and blue, her graceful rays
All light slanted, speech rumbled through
Their body as grunts deep whistling,
As elephants rumble and whistle.

Her monsters great and small, the angler
Fish with its long and piercing teeth
Dangling a luminous worm before it
In the blackest of her depths. The sharks
Never still but for moments discovered
In sea caves where they loiter,
Their teeth unfolding constantly like
Pocket knives opening continuously.
The long muscles of eels and tentacles
Of squid and octopuses twisting and
Unfolding, guardians of secrets.

We can never stay long. We must breathe
The air above the sea, beneath the realm
Where she keeps birds and forms the waves
That have as many forms as all else.

To love the sea. To go down to her.
To watch her. To be transformed by her.
To travel around the earth upon her.
To be the thrall of her endlessness.
To be enthralled of her presence and
Insistent voices, the heaping of waves,
Her terrors and her glassy eye against
Our fair sun such a beautiful blue.

We lose our names in her crashing.
We lose our lives in her liquid body
And still we love her, for she
Is more than all of land to us,
Mother, goddess, bringer of dreams,
Harbinger of all things.
All things safe in you dear sea.


(A Google Poem)
—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

lost art
lost bets
lost city of Atlantis
lost driver’s license
lost ending
lost friendship
lost golf balls
lost horizon
lost indoor cat
lost jury summons
lost kingdom and keys
lost luggage and love poems
lost memory
lost news
lost opportunity
lost planet and passport
lost questions
lost river
lost sinners
lost tribe
lost unemployment check
lost valentine
lost wallet
lost Xbox
lost years
lost zipper pull


Thanks to today's contributors, including D.R. Wagner for his poem based on my comment last week that, despite her recent behavior, I still love the sea. And to Cynthia Linville for this "found" poem with a repeated word at the beginning. Heck, let's make that our Seed of the Week: A "Google" Poem, as she called it. After all, ALL poems are "found" poems, and it puts a fun twist on it to start every line with the same word. So Google up your Muse and send the results to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726—or dig around in the back of Calliope's Closet (see b-board on the right) and come up with a SOW of your own—no deadline on these puppies.

While you're scrolling around on the b-board, check out the new issue of Canary; a very topical poem about the 50 workers at the nuclear plant in Fukushima by Linda Watanabe McFerrin leads off the issue. Many of Medusa's recent contributors of tsunami poems have mentioned, by the way, that their thoughts were begun by Michelle Kunert's poem last week. Thanks, Michelle!

And now for something completely different... Here's hoping the Japanese will be able to turn these awful pages quickly.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

VS (Volti Subito) as those
schooled in music know
means turn the page quickly,
you mustn’t be too slow.

Since it was simply not
practicable to put VS on
each and every page of a
flip book, a sort of
“Well, you know”
mentality developed that
left it up to the reader to
figure that out on their own.

Then there are some other
“Do I have to say it?”
moments that may actually
be enhanced by a VS:

It is time for your TV show
to begin while you are still
looking for the listing. VS

The teacher approaches as
you look at the test answers
on the back of your “blank”
scratch paper. VS

The choir and congregation
have begun singing while
you are still halfway
through the prayer. VS

Your minor child strolls by
as you are perusing some
reading material you have
forbidden them to touch. VS

You would rather be enjoying
some verse with meter and
rhyme. VS


My Dad notices, while jogging around Cresta Park,
that the same lone heron once again appears
as he often did last year
on rainy days on the soccer field
The bird gazes into muddy lawn puddles
acting as if wishing fish will suddenly appear
instead of just those drowning worms
Perhaps he is too hopeful in his persistence

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


Today's LittleNip: 

They say spring has come
and the sky is filled with mist,
yet on the mountains, no flowers, only snow.

—Ryokan (trans. from the Japanese by John Stevens)



Please welcome Chibi-San to the Kieth household; 
that blur is where his tail is supposed to be.
We got the one-year-old Chibi at the Placerville Shelter 
last Saturday. Why the Japanese name 
(Cheebee-Sahn: Mr. Cute Little Thing) 
for a Mexican (Chihuahua)/Scottish (Jack Russell) cross? 
It just seemed like a small-but-appropriate way to 
commemorate all those animals that must've been 
swept out to sea last week.
So far Chibi is a very bright spot in what is the largest 
snow dump we've ever had in the four years 
we've lived up here.
(See "Life in Pollock Pines" on the b-board for 
another dreary photo.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Subtle Shiftings

Red Wing Blackbird
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Detail from "The Magpie"—Claude Monet, ca. 1868-1869
—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

What is winter
if not

one lone bird
sitting on

an icy gate
surrounded by bare trees

and blue snow
under dead white skies—

and waiting there,
perhaps to sing,

of find a crumb—or,
life willing—signs of spring . . .


—Joyce Odam

Now feel
the balancings—
all the subtle
shiftings—the changing light,
shadows quickening—music
of the rain.


—Joyce Odam

I will be the source of your discovery.
Come find me:

I am sitting at a small round table
with a white tablecloth.

I am waiting for a white cup
of house-blend coffee to cool.

I inhale its steam
and close my eyes.

I drift away from the moment
and wait for you.


THE TURNING HOUR: 5:00 a.m. Vernal Equinox
—Joyce Odam

In the full-moon night of morning
of this first full-day of spring,
I feel the moon ignite the
dark with a fierce quiet
as I rise from my dream
and go to the window
to find the powerful
square of light—
so near—out-shining
the street lamps, and the
porch lights, and the first few
headlights of the morning, and I
stand there awhile in the stillness
and begin to map my day which, in
this clear, shimmering moment, I own.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

Spring says
Look, I will play a trick on you:

I will make you love.
And when you have loved,

I will make you regret your love.
See how powerful I am.


—Medusa (with congrats to Joyce Odam, Danyen Powell, Carol Frith and Judy Halebsky for wins in the Berkeley Poets Contest last Saturday. By the way, Judy was recently nominated for a California Book Award for her most recent book of poetry.)

—Photo by Katy Brown

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nyi Roro Kidul

A popular story in Java tells of a queen, Nyi Roro Kidul,
who from time to time sends ashore a large wave that carries
people out to sea. Occasionally the queen returns a few of them
alive to tell of her existence.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Did the Greeks mistake, was Atlas born giant
in order to shoulder, not heaven or earth
or firmament, but the vast underneath?
Can one shrug—his—let slip such dogs
of subcontinental drift?

What part of this Japan-wounding havoc,
in Cerberus-speak, means these exact
savage barks? What three-headed whelp’s
chain-jerk from Avernus
must each anguished seismic yelp be like,
to so hurt us?

Rift after rift in the people-crested crust:
from quake to tsunami to meltdown,
a last gargantuan aim stun
vents atomic cloud steam,
sent jet-stream;
and all this from the slip
of an underworld’s inch,
what amounts, in earth-terms,
to an understammer.

As with Atlas’ drink (was his fumble
a drunk one?), is hubris the cup slipped us
on the abysmal lip? Does our ledge,
or our no-ledge, crumble?

What must our next worst lapse
cost us? To our sorrow,
cost fallible us our error (perhaps) must,
but in fate, love, or rubble?


—Tom Goff

This is the smoke that doesn’t burn the eye,
except the internal one (“where the meanings are”)?
—this forest fire no forest ranger spies.

A burning dark, invisible as lies,
can scorch a wilderness of rods like stars.
This is the smoke that doesn’t burn the eye,

exposing cores no pool can soothe or quiet
though chill as glacial Himalayan airs.
No forest ranger spies this forest fire

high in a tower, neighbored by tree-sighs.
Long alarms waft on soft steam: distant shofars.
This is the smoke that doesn’t sting like lye,

that bloods no cloth or liquid with its dye,
nor spots the dyer’s hand with instant scars.
Such fires, passing tracelessly forest-wide,

with hurricanes and firestorms will not vie:
yet this thing burgeons like Dresdens, boiling not far
offshore, this fire whereby folk slowly, subtly die.
The news of it smoke-reddens the eye.

with sorrow and respect for the Japanese people, 3/18/11


—Chris Piper, Napa

(“. . . preceding a tsunami strike, the sea often
recedes temporarily from the coast. Around
the Indian Ocean, this rare sight reportedly
induced people, especially children, to visit the
coast to investigate and collect stranded fish
on as much as 2.5 km (1.6 mi) of exposed
beach, with fatal results.” Article: 2004 Indian
Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami, Wikipedia)

Soft morning light on softer waves
that lazily caress the shore,
the island and embracing sea
at drowsy lover’s play,
the sunrise birds cacophony
like children’s happy laughter . . .

Dull morning lingers on the strand
declining to become the day;
quick sprites of light dance pirouettes
across a blue-gray becalmed sea;
warm, humid breeze plays in the trees,
and then, the birds are silent.

A rustling of wings, the birds
take flight for harbor inland,
a hush breathes from the sea
and falls across the pastel beach—
the sounds like faintly whispered words
survivors will recall in dreams
that wake them with night terrors.

The sea recedes, the sea recedes,
the sea recedes by feet and yards,
and only that low haunting hush
tells of its cruel withdrawal.
The sea recedes two thousand yards
and gathers in reflection.

Bright colored fish bereft aground
in harsh unfiltered sunlight glare,
they spasm gasping in the air,
and village boys rush eagerly
to grab them up to sell or eat—
an unexpected bounty on
an unexpected sunlit morn.

The scene is painted in the mind,
a still life of a mystery—
the sun, the shore, bare ocean floor,
astonished faces wondering
has somewhere Moses raised his staff
and God displaced the waters.

And in the distance waits the sea,
beneath white clouds and hazy sky
dispassionately gathering.
The mind would hold this image still,
but no amount of human will
could slow the forces working there.

Not sound but shadow makes them pause—
a shape, a movement barely glimpsed.
The sea, as if an edifice
of shimmering translucent stone,
appears to rise and rise some more,
and then it starts to move to shore;
with growing speed, it moves to shore.

There should be sound, some dreadful sound—
a rumbling, a crack of doom,
or Gabriel’s bright golden horn
resounding with the end of days;
but there is none until the cries
of those unlikely fisher boys.

They scramble, scuttling like crabs
across a rocky wet terrain,
still struggling with squirming fish
as if they cling to hope itself;
some stumble headlong, trip and fall,
none makes a pace to match the sea.

There should be sound, horrendous sound,
not terrifying silent calm
through which the sea, not like a wave
but like a growing wall, comes on;
and then there’s sound, but not the kind
the mind would conjure for the scene.

The moving wall displaces air,
an exhalation loud and long,
as if God sighs with grief to see
such things played out in providence.
The wall of water climbs the coast,
reclaiming its domain and more.

The fish grabbers are overcome,
submerged and tumbled helplessly;
they spasm gasping in the sea,
and all their hope, released, swims free.
The ocean surges onto land,
a crestless unrelenting force.


The dead are mute; the living grieve
with wailing or with quiet tears
or cursing God for what He did
or didn’t do or should have done;
and others speak of miracles
they witnessed or experienced.

A story makes the evening news
in cities far around the world
about a boy found in a tree
some thirty feet above the ground,
alive, but just, and clinging to
an uhu fish as big as he.

Among the plots of loose-packed soil,
small plain white stones mark unturned earth—
the empty graves of landlubbers
who, at their daily enterprise
and solidly on stable ground,
disappeared, went lost at sea.

A low and careless morning surf
beneath a yawning cloudless sky
rolls unremarkably along
a distant peaceful pastel coast,
and even landlocked Iowa
knows the guilt of survival.

(Written in 2005 in response to the
Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami
of December 2004.)


Today's LittleNip: 

Jets tic-tac-toeing
over the nuclear plant
fear should be grounded

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA



Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Collection of Shadows

Fallen Petals
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

I crane my neck and pretend
I understand the quiet
In the night. The empty
Rooms stretching out toward
Dawn but somehow never catching it
As it turns on its heels,
Changing clothing as it declares
Its surprise at being afraid to open
The packages left in the fields
Of six a.m. and five a.m.

Trained to do so by example,
Crouched over a journal
Writing furiously to keep it
Always searching for sleep
In roles of broken promises
Never verbalized until it is
Too late to stop the half
Dreams unloading themselves
To great sighing,

Shoulders bruised from the weight,
From moving through every blessed day
Reminded constantly that
One must not journey,
One must sleep, one must listen
To how the soul tells one
What the body needs, the
Body laughing, lighting candles,
Forcing books open and leaning
Over the hissing of thought
As it passes by dragons,
Its collection of shadows,
Trees waving in the wind,
Tears without cessation,
Glasses full of the moon.


—D.R. Wagner

A wandering of the spirit
Clothed like an idiot
In the worst weather, issuing
Sounds that take the heart
Away slowly so one can watch
It leaving through the filtered
Light of the jungle,
Past a small clearing then
Disappearing for a lifetime.

One becomes attached to
Living this way only because
There is little else one can call
Life but the high cries
From the canopy of night.
A Rustling of wings, some beast
Coughing into an even darker
Front where everything must
Be carried away by strangers.

We call loudly for our family,
Our brothers and sisters and the dark
Answers with measured howls and shrieking
They move the soul away from the body,

Expand everything we know toward
A false dawn or a golden moment late
In the day, evening in the mouth
Like rust, teeth clenched trying
To wake the moon to see
If it makes any sense at all;

Elemental traveling such as this,
The things we never get used to doing.


—D.R. Wagner

My uncle Elmo caught gas
in him, North of France 1914
and came home a year later
tiny fires in the top
of his head, when we would
rouse him in the morning he
would say that he was dead.

And he would sit smiling
thumbing through the pages
of a Sear’s catalog and
carefully scratching out the eyes
of all the models with a pearl-
tipped hat pin singing:

Over there, where the
woods are open and the
shells are shining in the snow

Over there, where the
stars are shining I wish
to bend the bow of mighty
Aries, soft and low,
watch his dog and black
bird flow.

As to some tune
learned in the north
of France, my uncle Elmo goes.


—D.R. Wagner

Sweet lady of death
in her colored balloon
was touched on the heart
by the breath of the moon.

She took it to harbor
and gave it away,
She took it to Satan
to name it a day;
She took it to heaven
to give it a mind,
She wrapped it in heather
and left it behind.

Oh sing, do da day
all parade and dreaming,
O sing, do da, day
My sweet heart she is screaming.

While most quietly the little dog
laughs to see such spite, and as
if from the last view of a great
city, the dish noiselessly lifts
its painted face and taking
the tiniest of hands in its,
runs away with the spoon.


—D.R. Wagner
           (for Joseph Raffael)

Frog sounds
in the early morning.
They have voices, move
together to form a great
voice, voice, in the air
we who listen, those who
care, lifting like the spirit
departing the body wearing
six colors and forming
an attitude of giving
with the hands. All this
falling, lifting me
up from the morning coffee
wiping the sleep from my face,
listening to the frogs
and thinking they are other
voices, children moving
in their dreams, those who
don’t come back from sleep
tonight, the breath of a lover
moving in my ears, departing.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

Dark clouds stretch,
as rain pours convulsively,
greening jaded lawns,
scrubbing brick walls and walkways,
nudging camellia blossoms to the ground,
freshening the breath of spring.
Inside—fresh brown ceiling stains.



—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Friday, March 18, 2011

Can't Help Myself

With the passion of tides
A palette of life
A canvas of sand

—Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

you and I
in the sand
like children at play
with pails and shovels
digging through beads of benign water
an ocean waiting at our feet
shells float through the puddles
under the sift of toes
the heat and damp of buried grains
waved in pools of summertime salt
sea in the nose, throat
hiss of saline weather
splash and spread
winking at the brim
steal it against a distant day’s roar
sun at our backs
we finger the foam of a laid back hour
bubble and shine

and I will be there again
to measure the tides—
with you, yes


—Shawn Aveningo, Rescue

I suppose it was a Friday,
just as every other Friday before.
She picked up fresh fish at the market.
The children walked, holding hands, to school.
He took the train into the city.
Grandmother folded the laundry.
Grandfather smoked his pipe.
A young couple argued over money.
A teenage girl discovered she was pregnant.
A boy broke up with a girl.
A girl broke up with a boy.
Two girls kissed for the first time.
A boy kept his secret hidden.
An arborist trimmed the bonsai.
A fisherman tied off his boat.
Forbidden lovers met in the shadows.
A child was born.
A loved one was buried.

And then…
the earth shook.

And for three minutes of eternity
the molecules of all existence
danced their tarantella.
And the people, all people,
young and old,
strong and feeble,
rich and poor,
simply fell to their knees
unable to detect their own trembling
from the shakings of Gaea.

“It’s the End of Days.”
“It’s God’s Wrath.”
“Serves ‘em right.”
“Mother Earth is pissed off now.”
But in reality,
she knows no other way.

And as the wall of water surged,
engulfing everything in its path,
the normalcy of the day merely washed away.

The fish market was gone.
The school was gone.
The train station—gone.
Arguments were forgotten.
Secrets no longer worth guarding.
Bodies floated out to sea.
The baby never learned to crawl.

And one tiny bonsai tree
stood still,
for tomorrow.


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

She sat at her table
After several gray rainy days
Sunshine had finally returned
Sipping her Sunday morning coffee
She gloried in the reflected warmth
Now from her hopeful planting last fall
In the beginning of the dark days
In the brave little box outside the window
Yellow buds of daffodils were swelling
Soon to bring new gold
To her mornings


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Sly and lightsome
as any trickster
nobody likes March
which takes us
in spring by force,
with catatonic winds
in a long month cycle
earth overturns earth
full of dead branches
leafless in sunshine,
though you may drowse
or disbelieve
March will entwine you
on greensward paths
once luminous with snow.


—B.Z. Niditch

on back roads
motors wrench over
noisy minefields
from rushed and happy hours
bewildered from the mirror
as your slippery schitzsu
tears up the back seat
on the mangy rug
you skimmed
off the last shelf
of the soup kitchen
by the charity bazaar.

You can't believe
it's another crazy March
and lost inside Boston
from icy directions
on a nicked map
this full moon night
at a falst prophet's corner
somewhere on A Street
you listen on the ham
to a helpless prediction
of on incoming tornado.


Today's LittleNip: 

—B.Z. Niditch

Off the coast
a pure wind waters,
liquid and silent
as the rain,
you can trust
as the last goodbye
from the dock.


—Medusa (who still can't help loving the sea, despite its recent destruction...)

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pigeons Of The Seven Woods

—Allegra Silberstein, Davis

The robins have come
they are everywhere:
on the lawn
in the trees
on the bushes
feasting on firethorn.

Full and fat
they defy our tom
who slinks away
from ruffled feathers…
so many
ruddy breasts.


Thanks to today's contributors, and the top o' the morning to ye on this St. Patrick's Day! Lots of readings to go to today and tonight, including Irish lass Lauren Norton with her folk trio, The Souterrain, at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis—see the b-board for details.

And what better way to celebrate the Green than by heralding spring (which officially starts this Sunday) with our poetry? Our Seed of the Week is Poppies, Robins, and Other Signs of Spring; send your springy poems to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No time like the present....!


—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

“I love this time of year,”
Says Neal, “Sun’s shining,
It’s getting warmer. I can
Drive faster and not worry
About getting stuck
In a snowdrift.”

Jack: “But you always
Drive fast. And I’m
The one who
Has to push out
Of the snowdrifts.”

“Somebody’s gotta
Drive. And just look
Around: trees budding,
Flowers blooming. You
Can even see cool
Stuff in the ditches.”

“Mostly trash and
Bottles in the ditches,”
Frowns Jack.

“Not all the bottles
Are empty,” says Neal.

“There’s that.”


Uncounted thousands; body toll from a Tsunami in Japan
many survivors left homeless in the snowing cold,
hoping to find lost loved ones alive
and trying to figure out how to bury their dead
Meanwhile as the reflux hit the coast of Santa Cruz
its residents showed their concern for the Japanese
by whining "OMG, my yacht is totally ruined..."

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

Having outlived
ecstatic sparks which explode
into fire, our elder distills
her libido into golden capsules,
scatters them in gardens,
parks, near ponds and meadows,
on hilltops, at seashore,
wherever lovers embrace.

Believing the capsules hold
exotic seeds or sensual
honey of the gods,
lovers swallow her elixir.
She smiles,
leans back, hopes
their orgasmic peaks will feel
fantastically like forever.


—William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

I have heard the pigeons of the Seven Woods
Make their faint thunder, and the garden bees
Hum in the lime-tree flowers; and put away
The unavailing outcries and the old bitterness
That empty the heart. I have forgot awhile
Tara uprooted, and new commonness
Upon the throne and crying about the streets
And hanging its paper flowers from post to post,
Because it is alone of all things happy.
I am contented, for I know that Quiet
Wanders laughing and eating her wild heart
Among pigeons and bees, while that Great Archer,
Who but awaits His hour to shoot, still hangs
A cloudy quiver over Pairc-na-lee.


Today's LittleNip: 

Sunday March 13 while opening my car door
cold wind blew in some brown dried leaves
from the yard in front of a church
so close to Spring with flowers blooming
yet so many places seem stuck in the Fall

—Michelle Kunert



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Lambs And Four-O'clocks

A new apricot tree flexes its muscles in spring
—Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

You gave no sign—
grazed all morning with the others.
Then, four sheep
instead of five. You were gone.
Among rocks, back-side
of the hill, I found you
with your newborn—nudged
into a cubby of stone
mossed with rain.

Such a tiny thing, wrapped
in nubbins of wool.
Shall I call her Tsu,
for Tsunami? That's
the news I was watching—
terrible news
from the far side of the globe—
so I almost missed
your small news,

this lamb with knobs
of ankle and knee,
and legs much too long
to manage.
But look, she's
to her feet, she's
nursing. Better late
than no good news at all.


—Taylor Graham

Windows open all by themselves,
breezing out the winter's depression stew.

Wild-plum bursts into white petal,
miners-lettuce a loaded gun of tiny blooms.

The new lamb concentrates on a blade
of grass. Soon he'll be a robber of roses.

Rain-spatters rattle against the garden spade.
Daffodils golden on the old dogs' graves.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

In our house hangs a poppy painting,
Nora’s watercolor of Jamestown,
Wildflower Train town. In the grass, watery
threads pass needle’s-eye through pools,
licks, puddles: pieces of water, just like
the idiom in Proust. Nourished

on these liquid morsels, poppies, purple
lupine, baby’s breath; countless unpaintable
blossoms too come forth, stain the paper
metaphysical. Memory reawakes now:

near Jamestown, all the country over,
tors, upshoots, outcroppings of rock,
granite, gneiss, and who knows what,
stone-blooms all but guaranteeing this land
inviolate by strip mall forever. Bless
the spring that issues in such running
stalagmites out of cave.

How many times in this life may we return
to this Edenic enclave? Flower and rock,
is this the right instant to invoke
James Wright, step free of body
and into boulder blossom?


—minhocao, Austin, TX

My mornings
change, a second
cup of coffee and
then, I am on my
knees, clearing weeds.
Pulling them one by one
from the garden's fabric,
weaving seed and bulb
and herb into the pattern.

My fingers sort and
pull and plant, numbed
by frost-chilled dew,
while I breathe the
sweet robin-song scent of
white jasmine blooms.
Dreaming already of
summer mornings stitched
neat with the love calls of
doves, of moth-laced
evenings hemmed with
fragrance of four-o'clocks.


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

She walked hesitantly down the steps
Chiding herself for her fears
Struggling to keep her game face in place
She repeated her mantra for these rides
I am safe, I have nothing to worry about
She hated taking the train this late
Especially by herself
Without the comforting bustle of people
The platfom for her train was empty
She sighed
Small noises kept getting her to look around
She felt like a deer in the head lights
Finally her train pulled up
She got into a car
Saw someone and almost fled
Looking again, she saw another woman
Thank God she said


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Faded signs would never name the towns. It always rained, and there was no one to give directions. The sole café was sad—like in the movies—or in the Hopper paintings.

A child always stood in the road behind us, bouncing a red ball in the shadows between the few thin trees that stretched toward each other across the lane. A woman always appeared in an open doorway, watching us leave.



We are sad to report that Piper, one of Hatch and Judy [Taylor] Graham's German shepherds, has passed away after a long and rich life as a rescue dog. Piper was very helpful in the search-and-rescue movement, and he will be sorely missed.

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Want Bead Curtains

Egret, Yolo Bypass
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

In the Theatre’s dark rows, they move like
tuning violins through a stun of dark, their
bodies vibrating to identifying edges. Perhaps
they’ll find a seat and stare with the rest of
us at a screen where figures move and mood-
music leads us along. Perhaps their innocent
knees will touch in the dark, and perhaps
their hands will grope. And perhaps the fig-
ures on the screen will turn from their lines
and watch while the usher kneels down by a
back aisle seat and strokes the arm of a girl.
And perhaps the dark is made for this—drama
and need—and the music filling the settling
dark. And some will settle back and sleep,
and some will kiss, and some will twist a handker-
chief that is made for tears. And outside, the
daylight will wait for them to come back out
and be stunned back into the flow. Or perhaps
it will be night, and the mood will be retained
for awhile, and the soft-focus world will re-
cede to a blur around them—even the stars;
and the violins will end on a note of articulate
pain; and already a ladder will be placed
against the marquee where a man will be
changing the letters for the next attraction.


—Joyce Odam

It was only a dime to get in if you were
under twelve. And I could pass if I
hunched in, round-shouldered, to conceal
the breast-development I always hid
self-consciously. Then I would go
to the ladies’ room to put the lipstick on
and mascara from the small red box
with the small black wand. And I would
pose into the flattery of the mirrors
until I found my movie face. Then I’d
go in to the gilt interior of the theatre,
ornate—plush-dark—and velvet-hung,
where drama led my thoughts away
and yearning took my heart along
for all my star-touched life—in love
with love—and Charles Boyer.

(First published in Pearl, 1997)


—Joyce Odam

who cared
what old melodrama
what farce

my life was
black and white movies
spliced and edited
half-hearted chase scenes

some lecherous form
settling beside me

but I watched
that young and handsome
behind the flashlight
who could have been
a movie star

he showed the way
to loge seats
plush and deep

who cared
what plot

laugh through some scenes
weep for others

any sham of a reason
to be here
aching to be discovered

chewing on ticket stubs
instead of
in the adolescent dark

(First appeared in Slant, 1991)


—Joyce Odam

I go to the movies, come out an actress,
in love with leading man after leading man.

Too shy to be myself, I become a composite
of leading ladies, sultry and mysterious.

Happy endings wait for me; the school boys
I’ve had crushes on never disdain me,

but yearn after me with regret in their eyes.
I am on the stage of my life, in role after role,

rehearsing, anticipating, waiting to be who I am,
wondering when life’s perfect love will find me.


—Joyce Odam

Natural redheads. Natural
response. Mirrors confirm.

All eyes go toward. Admire.
Hair of fiery look.

Audacity of self-assurance.
Hair that lifts to light.

Has sheen. Pulls self and
others in same distraction.

Admiration: Hey, Red… !
Target for helpless hearts.

love that look. Movies, too.

Little Egyptian bottle.

Promise to cure dullness,
ignite with sexy color.


—Joyce Odam

She looks at us through painted eyes,
her dark hair ornately styled.

She speaks with a slight accent
and seems to have a secret
she wants to tell, but seems afraid.

She moves through the gift shop,
pointing to this-or-that antique,
as if to dissuade our questions.

But we want to know where we are—
why we are lost in this movie—
what the plot is.

She warns with her eyes.
But we persist. A curtain parts slightly.
The beads rustle—

we need to get back into the audience,
learning forward
to see what we will do—

she picks up a tiny jeweled box
with a secret compartment (we know this
from the surreptitious note she slips inside).

We buy, and hurry out the exit
and are back in our seats in the theatre—
dark and empty now—

she has warned us not to open the box.


—Joyce Odam

Long ago,
             when life was new,

trains came through
             with ghostly sound

and easy distance.
             Nights were long

with listening
             and what I knew

was whole and strong
             —not like illusion.

Where this goes
             is just as far

as nowhere is—
             I’ve been there, too.


—Joyce Odam

Hooray for the
fine wind and time
for old movies on TV
James Cagney young
a feather-hatted blonde by his side.

And meanwhile
back at the window and
the brisk Canadian wind
in the frantic poplar tree
my mother getting drunk and sad…
her hurts and pains…
with pills for each…
she takes them all.

Oh, Canada,
my strange and native land…
she’ll never cook tonight,
she’s sad.
She talks and weeps…
so many yesterdays to grieve…
to worry for…
she does them all.
She’ll never cook tonight.
She’s sad.

(First published in Red Start, 1987)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

I want bead curtains to hang in my doorway
like those in old movies, tinkling softly
when someone brushes through.

(First published in Brevities, 2009)



Three items of note:

1) Thanks to (the prolific!) Joyce Odam for her contributions to last week's Seed of the Week: Strangers on a Train, and to Katy Brown for her stealthily-caught egret;
2) Our apologies to Chris Piper for some early formatting difficulties with his poems on yesterday's post—if you read it yesterday before 10am, you might want to check back for the corrections; and
3) Heads up: this week's SOW is Poppies, Robins, and Other Signs of Spring. Send your spring signs (or any other poems and pix) to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadlines on SOWs.

(Generic but 'way cool photo I found on the Web)