Saturday, April 30, 2011

Arguing With The Padlock

Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

These churches are a paradox in stone
with light distilled to elevate the soul,
and incense climbing shadows like a ghost.

Scalloped stairs are worn from pilgrims’ tread,
the scent of lilies heavy in the air:
the paradox of churches made of stone,
filled with light to elevate the soul.

Rock and light and pilgrims seeking God;
aves rise and echo in the halls.
Shadowed figures round the cloistered walks.
These churches are a paradox in stone:
fractured light illuminates the dark
and aves climb the shadows like a soul.


—Marie J. Ross, Stockton

Was she the reflection
in its onyx breath?

Did her smiles curve downward,
from heartache 

and burning questions?

Did she live in valleys of destruction,
where green withered 

from her many tears?

Each inhalation taken
choked the atmosphere of her search. 

Each road wound on paths
she envisioned of herself.

Where was the sky of inner storm
to enrage her unwanted reflection?

Exhalation retrieved the sun…
each ray refreshing her skin,
as air infused

with a smokeless fire and fulfilling glow.

Destruction turned to renewal,
her thoughts reached through the haze…

An onyx breath enlivened by light.


—Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929)

My cheeks still feel their breath: how can it be
That these most recent days, these days just past,
Are gone, forever gone, gone totally.

Here is a thing no one can wholly grasp,
Too terrible for tears or for complaint:
That all goes by, that all goes flowing past,

And that this Self of mine, all unconstrained,
Came gliding straight to me from a small child,
Came like a dog uncanny mute and strange,

And: that a hundred years ago, I was,
And my ancestors in their death-shrouds are
As close to me as my own hair is close,

As much a part of me as my own hair.

(trans. from the German by Naomi Replansky)


—Hugo von Hofmannsthal

And children still grow up with longing eyes,
That know of nothing, still grow tall and perish,
And no new traveler treads a better way;

And fruits grow ripe and delicate to cherish
And still shall fall like dead birds from the skies,
And where they fell grow rotten in a day.

And still we feel cool winds on limbs still glowing,
That shudder westward; and we turn to say
Words, and we hear words; and cool winds are blowing

Our wilted hands through autumns of unclutching.
What use is all our tampering and touching?
Why laughter, that must soon turn pale and cry?

Who quarantined our lives in separate homes?
Our souls are trapped in lofts without a skylight;
We argue with a padlock till we die

In games we never meant to play for keeps.
And yet how much we say in saying: "twilight,"
A word from which man's grief and wisdom seeps

Like heavy honey out of swollen combs.

(trans. by Peter Viereck)


—Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Water pours down in order to swallow us,
Rocks are rolling to smash us,
Shortly on their powerful wings
Birds will come to carry us off.

However beneath us there is a country;
Fruit is always reflected
In its ageless waters.

Marble foreheads and lips of springs
Rise from the flowery acres,
And the easy winds blow.

(trans. by Robert Bly)


Today's LittleNip: 

Bombarded by dwelling newness
the kangaroo rat nap takes
as dirt is pushed by machine
into chasms
God, erosions

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA



You can’t ditch the beast hidden in the fog
—Photo by Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax

Friday, April 29, 2011

Valuable Things

Green Eyes
—Photo by Robin Gale Odam

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

bird twines a strand of delicate yarn
into its sturdy nest

cat settles quietly into the morning

bird scolds at the cat, for its cat shape,
for its long tail curling, for its whiskers,
for its green eyes watching

cat stares at a fluttering in the trees


Thanks to Robin Odam for the pic and poem, and to today's other contributors: Ron Lane, Kevin Jones, and Taylor Graham, who writes: Here's an unrhymed rondel inspired by Katy's (and also by Elihu's description of a stranger in Salisbury cathedral). [See yesterday's post.]

Speaking of yesterday's post, if you checked on the Kitchen before 10:45 yesterday morning, you saw Michael Cluff credited for two poems that Tom Goff actually wrote. Oopsie. I fixed it, but sorry for the gaff.

See our Ticklers section at the very bottom of the Kitchen for another Charlie Sheen poem, this one by Michelle Kunert.

And welcome to today's two other contributors, Nicole Yang and Dillon Shaw, students of D.R. Wagner in UCD's "Poetry by Design" class. I attended their class yesterday and they've been encouraged to submit to our Seed of the Week: Where there's smoke... It's always great to hear from new writers!


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

What has he come for, bearing pilgrimage
as a dark habit? His face unearthly
pale, he stands in vaulted shadow. You'd say
a ghost made flesh, as light streams through windows

blue, rose, amber. What ancient tales have brought
him here? Stained glass mysterious as faith.
What has he come for, bearing pilgrimage
as a dark habit, his face unearthly?

How the colors change with shifting daylight.
Will he stay to watch time fade, then strangely
shimmer as moon climbs up the spire of grace?
Will he wear that vision like the bright cowl
he must have come for, bearing pilgrimage?


—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

It was a parochial school,
So there was always smoke,
From the incense in the church,
And from the eternally
Smoldering little milk cartons
Out behind the shed.

But if you wanted
Real smoke, dangerous
Smoke, outlaw smoke,
You’d have to find
Lenny the janitor
In his room in the cellar
Of the abandoned
High school building.

He’d teach you to smoke,
Teach you to roll your
Own, cowboy-like,
One handed. He’d tell
You how to make
A sleeper wet the bed
By dipping their
Finger tips in
A bowl of warm water.

Valuable things that
Sister Virgilius and
Father Crowley never
Dreamed of. I never
Had much use for
The rolling part,
But have always
Been curious
About the wetting
The bed thing.

Water’s handy.
And there’s a bowl
Over there.


Where there's smoke
there are children
whose mothers left nothing
but asthma and tears 

—Dillon Shaw, Davis


—Nicole Yang, Davis

From bare hands
wood or flint
can smoke arise

fierce determination
rapid movements
some sweat and some force

You work away
in quiet fascination
with tiring muscles
but a hopeful heart

in the midst of a forest
saved from human intervention
thriving hand in hand
with mother nature

And that
is the only place
where you can find


Today's LittleNip: 

I sat in amazement, the translucence that comes when life hardens into a bead of such cruel perfection you see it with the purest clarity. Everything suddenly there—life as it truly is, enormous, appalling, devastating. You see the great sinkholes it makes in people and the harrowing lengths to which love will go to fill them.

—Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair



While the moon sets
I awake in the biggest little city
That never sleeps

—Photo and poem by Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Smoke, Alchemy & Charlie Sheen

Light Painting 2
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

Ancient tales in fractured light
painted on the vaulted halls—
angels in the key of amber,
dropping notes on shadowed floors.

Notice how the glass has shifted:
flowing downward, pulled by time;
fractured glyphs in ancient light
painted on the vaulted walls.

Jewels of light set in the windows:
paths of light flow in the aisles;
shades of faith and of redemption
swirl in alchemy of light.
Fractured light tells ancient stories
painted in the vaulted halls.


Thanks to today's contributors, including Katy Brown for the pix and poem, continuing her "conversation" with Taylor Graham with an unrhymed Rondel; Pat Hickerson's take on our SOW: Where there's smoke... and Allegra Silberstein for the LittleNip, about which she says: I'm taking off on Tom Goff's "white plume of a womb" which I love and "in the hollow of the night" which may be too much borrowing for this short haiku but wanted to share it with you...

And Michael Cluff. If you scroll down to the Ticklers at the very, very bottom of the Kitchen, you'll see that he has sent us a Charlie Sheen poem, which now makes two that we have down there. Feel free to add to them!

BTW, if you checked on the Kitchen earlier today, you saw Michael Cluff credited for two poems that Tom Goff actually wrote. Oopsie.  I fixed it.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

kid named Pete kissed me
at a high school dance
he grabbed me, kissed me
inside his mouth
taste of a stale cigarette
smoke drift
rotted out tobacco
shreds lingered between his teeth
kissed me
never said a word
kissed me behind a curtain
smoke rising

Pete grabbed me
gave me a cigarette kiss
more smoke
no one saw us
that was it, a kiss
he later married a girl named Lynn

I picture them together
Pete in his skivvies
sits on the couch
watches the fights on TV
pulls on a cigarette
grabs Lynn, kisses her
smoke whirls blue above them


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

My blood, essential to me,
yet travels in me unknown,
introvert, withdrawn—
and I thought myself alone.

Now the Blood Source man
suavely inserts a needle,
so lightly I scarcely feel
my red fellow traveler detrain:

like throwing a big switch
and shunting the blood
to an offbranching lane.

In its now-red bag it lies
like the rail mail of old,
to be hooked and haled aboard
some other fleeting train,

to be snatched
for Saskatchewan or Kansas
asleep in its bag of canvas.

To ride soon within what stranger
needing blood like a weird friend passenger,
some taciturn federal marshal,
for escort out of danger?


—Tom Goff

“A man may write at any time,
if he will set himself doggedly to it.”

Doctor Johnson, did you never
write with that liquid sweet sense
of numbers in flow like comb honey?
Was it always toil for hard money?
Come, come; as surely as ever
you turned valiantly medicinal
prose for the weekly Rambler,
you were no mere backbent laborer
assigned a brute, bitter task
and pushing foggily through it.


Today's LittleNip: 

Moon flower blossoms
in the the hollow of the night
white plume of a womb



Exeter Rose
—Photo by Katy Brown

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Where All The Ladders Start

Some petals
Beckon for more attention
Than others

—Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax



fewer strange events than one might expect:
yes, we inhabit a revolving snow globe, or rather,
a rain globe, rinsing the everlasting cars, trees, dogs.
Stephen King has it wrong; the Dome does not
come down of a sudden, lopping naive limbs
on the blade of its obdurate unseen force field.

Yet it’s hard to get a sense of the rainglobe Dome,
holding it as we do, inside us and, by
telekinesis, tentlike over us, warm as moonshadow.
But we sense rain conspiracy, hatched overnight;
at dusk, the sky was clear and clean with no
need of water, the skyblood appeared to have done
the ablution. In the hollow of night, the bone-hollow
moon, holding Cyrano de Bergerac’s panache
suspended in its infinitely transparent marrow,

beamed on until intercepted by the familiar wet
wisps becoming the same old daymare laundry load.
Bring the slow-dry spin-cycle of May
and then we’ll see how clean earthly things
really look. Under a phosphor moon at full,

deformities, old spots and stains reveal themselves
breadcrumb along a Hansel and Gretel trail,
while Cyrano, again fetally tucked into
a lunar placenta fathoms under moonsea
craters, awaits rebirth, as a mocking smile
tugs at his Starchild lip corners. He shifts
mid-float, sharply so even the Mother can feel it,
then resettles, curled inside a dream inside
her white plume of a womb…

—Tom Goff, Carmichael


Thanks to Tom Goff for his riff on last week's SOW. Tom will be reading at Folsom Lake College on Thursday; see the b-board for details. And thanks to our other contributors today: Ron Lane, for pix and poems to go with them; Carl Bernard Schwartz for his poem about this week's SOW: Where there's smoke...; and Taylor Graham, for her SOW poem and two more, continuing the "conversation" she and Katy Brown and some others have been having.

Bob Stanley sent us a note announcing that Sac. Poetry Center's "Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker" program that was scheduled for this Sunday has been CANCELLED. Take note—and don't forget to attend the Tag Team Poetry event with Annie Menebroker and Paul Fericano at SPC on Saturday.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

(After “Mother Brings Me the News of Her Death”
                                        —Joyce Odam)


tea blends
old memories

Paying the price
for refreshments
for not sharing one’s love

Calling out
ready orders
for one who’s lost



—Taylor Graham, Placerville

for Elihu Burritt, 1841

Five months at the anvil
with only two days off—and suddenly
no work at all. No one wants
a pruning hook, or a key to fit a lock.

Two days ago, you worked
eleven hours at the shop; Congress
passed the Bankruptcy Bill.
You studied Armenian.

Today you have no mind for books.
Who can study when he worries
how he'll pay his board?
You haunt the empty smithy,

a shadow that fades
like smoke from a cold forge.
You could fill the penniless time
with words—Ethiopic, Gaelic,

Old Norse—while waiting
to hear from publishers who never
write back. Words don't pay.
You're out of work and money.

Can a man be truly bankrupt
with fifty languages
and a map of the heavens
with uncountable names of stars?


—Taylor Graham

Green-striped tree frog, graceful
as three brushstrokes—lies crushed
in the road. Caught in flight.

Remember spring evenings,
frogs filling their throats with jubilee,
their mouths with golden moons.

Bullfrog bass, his lady's tremolo
response—the pulse
of song vanishing into air and scant

water. Is it only in memory
or imagination
they fill the dark with spring?

Pond, leaf, frog—three-point
suspension, one green moment
shattered by a leap.


—Taylor Graham

Inside vaulted stone, light comes
suffused with old histories,
their symbols inscribed
in colored glass leaded into place.

Sometimes a new idea, a new
regime comes through
like Civil War, smashing
those stories into fractured light.

Shall we look through windows,
however stained or clear,
for a key to the heavens? Walk
outside tonight. Here's

Aurora Borealis dancing
with her angel-scarves,
colors never caught in glass,
her alchemy of light.


Today's LittleNip: 

...Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start,
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.

—W.B. Yeats, "The Circus Animals' Desertion"



Stripped of your flowery exterior
With only your heart to attract another
How would you fare?

—Ronald Edwin Lane

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Like A Possibility

Where there's smoke...

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

mammoth friend
I didn’t know you in person
nor do I think you had a proper burial
you died at sea, floundering
an accident
nothing planned
caught under a ship in the Gulf of Mexico
during a gigantic spill

I saw your great body there, heaving
under the oil-soaked waves
I wept to see my distant animal cousin
helpless, dying
fighting to breathe, trapped
like one with lung cancer
cavities filled, no choice, no chance

sink deep …
rest in peace


Thanks, Pat, for the poem. She writes: I was inspired to write the attached poem "Funeral for a Whale" by Joyce Odam's comment [Monday] on Medusa that she was "heartbroken" for the treatment of our animal relatives. See below for more Joyce Odam, as she rounds off last week's Seed of the Week: In the Hollow of Night (people are writing back and forth to each other with a fury in the Kitchen right now—see Joyce's first poem below!).

And see the photo above for our new Seed of the Week: Where there's smoke... Send your smoulderings to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs; go to Calliope's Closet page on the b-board (under the Snake on a Rod) for a plenitude of seeds as we cruise into spring.


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

(After “Captive to the Song with butterflies…”
                                   —D.R. Wagner)

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

that is 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

far away dogs
who start softly
and you don’t really hear them
and then become urgent and
and soon the echoes of night
carry and distort with the
ragged complaint of the dogs
who answer and answer
from everywhere
and the night is hollow
and lets itself fill
with this chorus of telling
and then
when your listening is
most strained
you feel the abrupt silence . . .

at once
in unison they have signaled
and the absence hangs suspended
with shuddering echoes
before it swallows back
along the air
back over the miles of city
back to the cocked listening
of the dogs


—Joyce Odam

Like any childhood ghost story
told over candlelight:

the bones of the face
the eyes burning
with the flame
the pressing forward
to listen
as the voice of the story teller
taking on a hollow tone
just when
the candle
wavered in a draft
and just when
the breath
grew tight—
and just then the pause—
the melodramatic hesitation
of the story—
and then the expected
punch line
and the nervous laughter

More, we shouted; more!


—Joyce Odam

I flood the night with my sorrow.
I didn’t mean to say that.
I sleep and wake

and repeat
the pattern. Now
I am dreaming. Now I am not.


—Joyce Odam

It is the night of penetrant dark—deep lapses into
sorrow—that old state of being, vague and distant.
How to reach the self?

The mirror does not help—does not know the eyes.
There is no light for the mind which is delving into
known depths for the old deliverance.

The window swallows the night—allows sounds
to magnify—sounds to diminish. There is such
an ache in the universe. Fiction does not allow

one to tamper with reality: one becomes the other,
just as the face becomes the mirror-face, which
becomes the real face, which becomes glass-flesh.


—Joyce Odam

Off the edge of my distance I quarrel with light—
all the ribbons of darkness—
to mark the last detail,
before night comes down, before my eyes
must take the words of night into my mind
as one takes any darkness in.

Here is where I yield, as when
the electricity goes off—
even the street lights—
and the signal lights on the corner,
when eyes collect the totality of dark,
and the flashlight must be found,
and the candles.
Here is where distance fails,
and everything becomes
the here and now—the way time is,
and the conception of time—
the conception of space
if all the stars went out.

Haste is what you use here:
the dark is the dark;
light exists somewhere as a possibility,
or a memory—or a release into fear
when one is alone to grope through everything
suddenly dimensionless—like falling.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

Torn again, the curtains of night. How many stars
pass through, become dreams, sweet and lonely.

Yet it is bitterness that always claims you—
wanting those second chances to solve.

How loosely life holds you now in its mind-cradle,
lullaby after lullaby, till sleep lets you in.



—Photo by Katy Brown

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mercy Is A Dry Day

Photo by Katy Brown

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

On the higher slopes, sheep
move sun-wise, white and charcoal
clouds in a sky of grass.

A man with hay-rake
moves from sun to cloud-shadow,
pauses to check the sky

as he turns windrows
of mown grasses, clover, vetch,
and filaree—

flowers and seed-heads
full for a summer’s hay. In April,
Mercy is a dry day.


—Taylor Graham

On this date, Shakespeare was born
and died, they say, Wordsworth expired,
and Bobby Burns sold his copyright.

But Time falls away as I travel
through a book, where Herdwicks
graze the Cumbrian hills,

and old Scotch curl-horns grace
the Highlands, white
with their faces spattered black,

a checkerboard of distance
burred as the ploughman-poet’s
verse. And what is Time

but this season of grass
or snow, of sheep at pasture,
and the grace of words?


—Katy Brown, Davis

The sheep looks over a rock wall
from a thicket of blackthorn and bracken,
night pooling in the hollows.

This creature appears alone,
having grazed, a step at a time,
away from its flock.

Now with the sun sliding down the sky,
the sheep is alert to sounds of danger;
a scent of fox lingers in the air.

Today, only a screen of bracken
separates the one from the many.
This sheep will slip through

a break in the shadowed hedge,
stepping into evening, and a cloud
of others moving across the grass.


—Katy Brown

Alchemists devised 46 recipes
for stained glass—
replicating the miracle of grass
and stars and tears in molten sand.

Copper and iron, lead and sulfur,
tin, silver, and gold—
keys to sevenfold perfection:
pigments for light to paint creation.

In dark and secret workrooms,
in cellars and attics, they boiled acid
and combined metals, trying
to forge the key to life.

All around them, in fields
and meadows, simple farmers,
milkmaids, and shepherds knew more
of the magic of a moth-wing;

knew more of the turning
of the seasons and the mystery
of a new-born lamb scampering
in vetch than they could ever divine.


Here's what's going on today: Taylor Graham and Katy Brown have been having a conversation in poetry, which is continued today, including the sheep photo Katy took in England [see last week's posts]. D.R. Wagner has now jumped in, saying: Taylor got to me. Here is what happened. Then Joyce Odam jumped in, too, saying: I have—deeper and deeper—this great sensitivity for animal life, as connected to planet life, as connected to human life. My 'animal' heart breaks so many times, over the plight and indignity shown the animals, domestic and otherwise...

If you'd like to join this conversation with your own work, feel free! As you can see, the topic is wide and rich. Send 'em to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No, it's not the Seed of the Week—just something spontaneous that's sprung up here, poets talking to poets. Enjoy.

D.R. also writes: Robin Gale Odam's sky photo Saturday prompted me to send these: "The Streetlights Just Coming On" and "Wind Tearing Clouds". Hope you like them. Hope Robin does as well.

The Streetlights Just Coming On
—Photo by D.R. Wagner


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

We walk among the glimmer
Of the cocoons of dreamers,
The pulsations of fractured light
Right at their calm, the high
Notes of the harmonies.

Now come the distances
Where the morning is miles away
But it too glows and draws us.
Even if it be fire,
Unrelenting as light to moths,
We will travel to get here.
I will exclaim. We are able
To gather like this once again

And I will sing the praises
And I will bow before you,
And you will hold me and touch
Me with your hands and I
Will weep so deeply that freedom
Will seem like like a thought of
Bells upon a mountain top.

Will soon discover
That we indeed are those dreamers,
That there is no understanding.

We spin our way toward waking
Once again and we use our
Memories to do so, the flashing
Northern Lights are our very
Breath, even as we touch one
Another. If this has held
Your attention thank your own
Precious soul and the dancing
It does across this sorry page.


—D.R. Wagner

Far below the melody a street
Lined with clarinets and the metallic
Click of strings, made to speak
Directly with you without guile or
Presence of mind. They will instead
Be birds flying high above the flood.

We will not recognize this until you sing
To us. Up and down the streets
Waiting for the sounds that mean
We will no longer be bewildered.

The straits will open.
I will remember nothing until
Tomorrow. We will disappear.

You will know these words
No longer. The crown of understanding
Will be lost to the dark.

I will still reach to you,
I will still make love to you.
It will be time to go once
Again. The street lights
Seem to be making sense,
Giving us instructions,
Winds upon the deepest of oceans,
Claiming they know where
There is land.


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

We hear of frogs that are missing,
that are deformed,
that are thinking new thoughts,

there in their bog of language and evolution
strange to themselves—
or not even strange,

but different—
green-smelling and iridescent,
like spells cast by witches in fairy tales.

But, here, they are real—enormous-throated
with warning, with trepidation,
the world around them bristling with doom.

They freeze, then leap
into known environments—the shallow green of murk,
the thickening shadow of extinction.


—Joyce Odam

swimming into the mouth
           of locked water
                     a young whale

                            finding the
                                shallow beach
                            at the end

                     and rocking itself
           to death
against our helplessness

(first published in Parting Gifts, 1997)


Today's LittleNip: 

Sometimes I experience God like this Beautiful Nothing, and it seems then as though the whole point of life is just to rest in it. To contemplate it and love it and eventually disappear into it. And then other times it's just the opposite. God feels like a presence that engorges everything. It seems the divine is running rampant...that the whole of Creation is some dance God is doing, and we're meant to step into it, that's all...

—Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair 



Wind Tearing Clouds
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bring On The World!

Bunny Rock
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

memory of Grandma’s Easter sailor hat
and someone else’s I saw the other day

in 1930s black and white film footage:
a Haitian woman
you’d think she’d be sad
to live on that hungry island
but no, she yanks a sailor hat
smartly down over one eye
struts across the street into a dance hall,
grabs a partner
takes over the floor with her cocky moves

like Grandma’s hard-brimmed straw sailor hat
tilted over one eye
with a wisp of knotted veil to add mystery
and a giggle,
to shout, as any salty sailor would
as he hustles off his ship for shore leave:
Bring on the world, ye landlubbers!



Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eternal Music

Herdwick Sheep
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

Charcoal sheep graze
along the hillside where owl clover
and wild ginger grow among fire-thorn.

The sheep, heads down,
make their careful way
toward the easterly crown of granite.

Shadows sweep the brilliant hill,
under clouds gathering into a storm
up in the far mountains.

Time falls away here.
Droning bees mumble among the lupine.
All that matters is the sun,

the patient progress of charcoal sheep,
and the bees, softly reciting
every word for mercy.


Katy Brown and Taylor Graham are having a conversation in poetry via Medusa. Today Katy writes: Reading Taylor's poem [on Friday's post], I couldn't get the image out of my head of the Herdwick sheep grazing on the hills in the Lake District [in England]. They start life as black lambs and then turn charcoal in young adulthood, then white after a couple of years. They are used there because they are the only breed that can winter-over in the snowy hills, eating whatever. The farmers don't care much for them because they break down the nice stone fences to go from one place to another. They have wild glyphs spray-painted on their backs so the helicopters can round up as many as they can find and separate them into the right flocks for shearing. The wool is so oily and rough, they can't really use it for clothing, although it makes a good carpet or wool insulation for housing. You can't dye it, though, because of the oil. They are used mostly for meat. (And I suspect tourism.) I loved those sheep. I know Taylor's sheep are much more practical...

Michelle Kunert has a much more prosaic approach to the whole animal thing, though:

Now that so many city dwellers have a "victory garden"
to especially grow their own organic veggies
Stores all conspire to play
"How much can we charge for a bag of dirt?"
(Oh yeah they've got plenty of cheap cattle manure
that could be infected with e coli that can kill you)
Apparently the price of soil now must demand extortion—
perhaps with farming land at such a premium
it’s a luxury like designer jeans or gourmet coffee,
some brands costing up to $15 for a few pounds!

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

Watch me fly;
I can soar with eagles.
I need no wings
Not even feathers.
I pass over mountain peaks,
and volcanos, too.
I glide over oceans and
Then I rest upon the highest trees
and when I wake, I find it was
all a dream.


—Olga Blu Browne

I lived ever so high in a grand
oak tree, the branches thick and

Strong enough to hold us all,
my family and me. Yet it never
felt safe for me.

Hard as I tried, it was never a home
to me. I was not the
same as them, even if I looked like

When I did leave, I didn’t fly away,
I was carried away. And still I never
felt at home, and never really fit.
Then one day, all alone, I decided
to try on my own. I spread
my wings and walked to the very edge
of this branch I didn’t call home.

My wings began to flap and I felt
the air beneath my wings—and suddenly
I found I could fly on my own. And
“safe”, I knew, was up to me.

I’ve healed wings that were never


Today's LittleNip: 

And it sometimes seems to me, when I watch
the heavens in the silence of the night, as if the stars,
in the profound silence of space,
were listening to the eternal music of the Divine.

—Swami Ananda Acharaya


—Medusa (with thanks to today's contributors, including Pat Pashby for the LittleNip, and this photo and poem by Robin Odam, who writes: I was feeling a little put out because I had to go out for dog food this evening and this wonderful sky appeared beyond the airport by Mama’s [Joyce Odam's] house. Like the white sun setting through the clouds, I just wanted to settle into the quiet darkness.)


sun settles into evening,
envious for hollow of night 

—Photo and poem by Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

Friday, April 22, 2011

Listen For The Night-Bird

Planet Earth
—NASA photo

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Through an open window,
ion-scent of coming rain. Anything
can change in the dark.
I count my sheep of yesterday

and listen for the night-bird—
for the break-heart bleating of a ewe
who lost her lamb.
Owls make no sound in flight.

Without my counting, sun
finds its way up Stone Mountain.
Sheep will appear
in the hedge we can't fence off.

New lambs learn to love
the taste of fire-thorn and holly,
of heavenly bamboo.
I'll count my sheep like blessings.


Taylor Graham writes: Thanks to Katy Brown for keeping a poetic conversation going. Here's mine back to her. [See Weds. and Thurs. posts.]

Today is Earth Day, and here are some websites about it that you can check out:

I decided to celebrate Earth Day with critter poems. Think about the other critters—the ones who can't change the future of this planet...


—Anonymous (c. 850)

Each of us pursues his trade,
I and Pangur my comrade,
His whole fancy on the hunt,
And mine for learning ardent.

More than fame I love to be
Among my books and study,
Pangur does not grudge me it,
Content with his own merit.

When—heavenly time!—we are
In our small room together
Each of us has his own sport
And asks no greater comfort.

While he sets his round sharp eye
On the walls of my study
I turn mine, though lost its edge
On the great wall of knowledge.

Now a mouse drops in his net
After some might onset
While into my bag I cram
Some difficult darksome problem.

When a mouse comes to the kill
Pangur exults, a marvel!
I have when some secret's won
My hour of exaltation.

Though we work for days and years
Neither the other hinders;
Each is competent and hence
Enjoys his skill in silence.

Master of the death of mice,
He keeps in daily practice,
I too, making dark things clear,
Am of my trade a master.

(trans. from the Irish Gaelic by Frank O'Connor)


—Takamura Kotaro (1883-1956)

When May entered the Black Current of Kinkazan Island
the sea suddenly blossomed,
shimmered like a dome of blue cellophane.
The waves, brilliantly flowing, were wincing under the midday
coursing ever closer to the land.
The sperm whale, after spouting once, dived deep again,
pillowed the giant weight of his head on the waters.
Enraptured by this warm current, salt-rich and silky,
he now lets his mind flow free, losing himself in boundless
That I am not a dolphin, not a grampus,
but my very self, a sperm whale,
makes me the happiest creature in the world, the whale thinks.
Ah, it's no use fighting against the present.
The whale knows nothing beyond the moment.
He is always reveling on the crest of existence.
He doesn't bother about hypothesis, he doesn't get into
The whale, intoxicated with dreams on the brink of slumber,
has intimations of unknown territory approaching,
is half frightened, half relieved.
Once more he reared up, and into the May sky
spouted his bellyful of the Current, almost a rainbow.
The lookout siren is hooting at Ayukawa Port on the Oshika
but this colossal optimist is blissfully unaware of it.

(trans. from the Japanese by James Kirkup and Akiko Takemoto)


—George Oppen (1908-1984)
                                  Veritas sequitur...

In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down—
That they are there!

                      Their eyes
Effortless, the soft lips
Nuzzle and the alien small teeth
Tear at the grass.

                      The roots of it
Dangle from their mouths
Scattering earth in the strange woods.
They who are there.

                      Their paths
Nibbled thru the fields, the leaves that shade them
Hang in the distances
Of sun.

                      The small nouns
Crying faith
In this in which the wild deer
Startle, and stare out.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Euenos (c. A.D. 50)

Relish honey. If you please
Regale yourself on Attic bees.
But spare, O airy chatterer,

Spare the chattering grasshopper!

Winging, spare his gilded wings,
Chatterer, his chatterings.
Summer's child, do not molest
Him the summer's humblest guest.

Snatch not for your hungry young
One who like yourself has sung—
For it is neither just nor fit
That poets should each other eat.

(trans. from the Greek by John Peale Bishop)



Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Hate To Sleep Alone

Spring Moon 2
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

The moon burns a cold hole
in the sky tonight,
igniting the shredding clouds

in shades of rust and sulfur.
Sleep won’t come
under such a sky as this,

thick with portent:
somewhere a night bird cries.
The ghostly owl sways

in the top of the slender cypress.
A distant train whistle calls twice.
No, sleep won’t come,

no matter how many times
you count sheep, or blessings,
or all the words for wonder.


Thanks, Katy Brown, for the poem and pix. Katy says: I loved that Taylor Graham wrote a poem connected to mine [see Wednesday's post]. Here is an offering to keep the exchange going... Our Seed of the Week is still In the Hollow of Night; here are some poems from the tenth century about that:


—Lady Izumi Shikibu (Japan, c. 970-1030)

From one darkness
     into another darkness
          I soon must go.
Light the long way before me,
moon on the mountain rim!

Being a person
     whom no one will mourn when gone,
I should perhaps
     say for myself while still here—
"Ah, the pity, the pity."

So forlorn am I
     that when I see a firefly
          out on the marshes
it looks like my soul rising
     from my body in longing.

(trans. from the Japanese by Steven D. Carter)


—Lady Izumi Shikibu

If someone would come,
I could show, and have him listen—
evening light shining
     on bush clover in full bloom
          as crickets bring on the night.

(trans. by Steven D. Carter)


—Lady Izumi Shikibu

In my idleness
     I turn to look at the sky—
though it's not as if
     the man I'm waiting for
          will descend from the heavens.

(trans. by Steven D. Carter)


—Lady Izumi Shikibu

With not a thought
     for my black hair's disarray,
I lay myself down—
soon longing for the one whose hands
     have so often brushed it smooth.

(trans. by Steven D. Carter)


—Lady Izumi Shikibu

On nights when hail
falls noisily
on bamboo leaves
I completely hate
to sleep alone.

You told me it was
because of me
you gazed at the moon.
I've come to see
if this is true.

If you love me,
come. The road
I live on
is not forbidden
by impetuous gods.

(trans. by Willis Barnstone)


—Lady Izumi Shikibu

Although I try
to hold the single thought
of Buddha's teaching in my heart,
I cannot help but hear
the many crickets' voices calling as well.

(trans. by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani)


Today's LittleNip:

—Lady Izumi Shikibu

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

(trans. by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani)



 Midnight Butterfly
—Photo by Katy Brown

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Stars Are In A Hurry

 Kinny Cloud of Cloud's Pottery
plays the Hurdy-gurdy at Folsom Antique Fair
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

I used to think everything happened
in daylight. I loved to walk
past the outskirts, the clapboard
houses drenched with weather
where a truck rested up on blocks
and chickens puttered 'round
and underneath, pecking
with chicken hysteria at what
for all I knew might be
ball bearings, as minivans sped
by, headed for the city.
I'd keep walking the other way
as things got more and more
derelict until human signs
disappeared beyond the gravel
shoulder littered with glass.
If I saw a twitch of sun-made-bird
I'd say yellow warbler for lack
of better things to call it,
never wondering what the birds
inside their thickets
became in the hollows of night,
or what happened in the
clapboard insides of lives.


—Taylor Graham

The body at last asleep, the rest is free
to roam among the rooms
where fifty words for “wonder”
are stored like study-skins in a museum.

In the hollow of night, Moon gazes
at his/her reflection in the window,
suffusing Earth in a red
forged-metal, a silver-fairy glow.

In the hollow of night, those sleepless
selves slip from the sheets
to sing praises the body
could not repeat. Look, there it sleeps.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

The stars are in a hurry. The sky winds
Around them and tells the moon a slick
Story about how they used to have to explain
Themselves every morning when the night
Folded itself like a handkerchief and went back
To waiting, white ships struggling at anchor
In a dream.

While we are not terribly thirsty, the water
From the well tasted refreshing, reminding us
Of a lovely room just off the kitchen in a quiet
Cottage, near the edge of a small river, cookies
Were baking in the next room. We watched
The stars. It wasn’t an easy moment.
Nothing was make-believe. It may have been
beautiful but it had teeth that could bring a horse
To the ground had it wanted to.

There was obviously too much to lose here.
Night was arranging its shiny coat again. Leaves
Looked for directions from the wind. The moment
Was not our own, nor was it that of the stars.

This will come to you in dreams. It will seem
So real. You will be able to put on your glasses
And it will still seem real, a massive room of stone
Filled with the world flickering like bats leaving a cave.
We will want to go back. We will want a good bed.
We will want to see our loved ones again.

Let us change our clothes and wash the blood
From our hands, listen to the sleepy sound
The trains make at the far side of the landscape.
Perhaps they will not see us here. Pretend you
Are sleeping. A gentle breeze stirring the leaves.
The wide sweep of the heavens. It is so strange
And wonderful to be alive. Why does no one come here?


—D.R. Wagner

Just beyond here there isn’t much
Water at all. It is a desert but we don’t
Think of it as such. It is
Just a place we don’t visit often, no
One we know very well lives there.

South of that there are mountains.
They have a lovely blue-green hue to
Them in the mornings sometimes and when
It rains they seem to float just off the ground,
Catch clouds in their shadows and glow evenings.

You can travel toward the lake for hours
Without seeing a thing but the greens
Will give it away. The greens and the way
The air replaces everything we were worried about.
It is like magic I guess. What do you know of magic?

I am going to point to the place we will try
To attain before this evening comes upon us.
You will know the place. You’ve been there
Before. Just before you get there children
Will line the sides of the roads with flowers
In their arms and toss them to you. You will
Know this and still be surprised that it happens.

I’m going to try to get there myself before
Any more news reaches us, so we can see
What is happening rather than just hear about it.
Let’s plan to meet where the highway bends
Back toward the village. I’ll wait for you if
You discover you are having a hard time
with all the directions or are having car trouble.


Today's LittleNip: 

His moments of solitude were the paving stones on the road to his vanishing.

—Stephen Dobyns



 Old Edison phonograph, Folsom Antique Fair
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In The Hollow Of Night

Spring Moon
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Katy Brown

Plant poems under the cover of stars:
the dark of the moon is best;
a full moon will do, if you cannot wait.

A metaphor develops under the surface,
the subterranean alchemy
of meaning and memory.

Dark earth more readily accepts
dark purpose. The subconscious
wants shadows and torch light.

Poets know this well:
plant verse in the hollow of night.


Thanks to Katy Brown and Joyce Odam for today's contributions to the potluck that is Medusa's Kitchen. Katy is off to the "Fog and Woodsmoke" reading in Chico tonight; see b-board for details.

Katy writes: I remember what one of the oldsters told me when I was a child. He said his onions were the best because he always planted them in the dark of the moon at night. He said that root crops should be planted at night and flowering crops planted in daylight. He was an old lumberjack from Tennessee. As I was thinking of the moon pictures, I thought that poems are rather like the crops . . . they ripen in the dark places of the mind.

So we're stealing the end of Katy's poem for the Seed of the Week: In the Hollow of Night. What happens at night in the busy season of spring? Cat burglars? Frantic love-making? Or is that, as Katy says, where our poems come from? Let's rattle the dark a little this week, see what we can shake out of it. Send your darklings to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.

Meanwhile, Joyce is finishing off our SOW for this week: I saw in the news... Speaking of which, Benicia has taken the same cue and is presenting an exhibit called The Heart Roused: The News Through The Artist's Eye. 28 poets and visual artists from the Bay Area and Central Coast have been paired to select a news article and translate that story into art and poetry. Sponsored by Benicia Poet Laureate Ronna Leon, Benicia Public Library, Marilyn O'Rourke Gallery, 150 L St., Benicia. Exhibit runs June 22-July 29; opening reception/poetry reading is June 30.


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

There is something avidly curious
about a death made of violence:
The watching of the news.
The mystery.
The clues.
The innuendo of suspicion.
The voyeuristic thrill of solving:
The how.
The who.
The little pools of dread that feel like shadows.
You read the news—want an update—more
information. But other happenings are there
with their importance—political or otherwise
and this death lingers in your curiosity—
as if next door—or down the street—
or is about to happen—
always imminent.
Like any death.


—Joyce Odam

The rain has lessened. Everything subsides.
The winds. The sirens. All the dreary news
the day began with. All that’s whole divides.
The silences stay silent to confuse.
We don’t know how to read each other’s clues
or all these pendings—not just if but when.
It rained. It stopped. And it will rain again.


—Joyce Odam

Bringing me the news of her own death
with old sadness and praise, all in one breath,
of all she meant to say before she left . . .

like notes she put upon her calendar,
those day-to-days she marked, reminding her
of each small matter that the swift days were.


—Joyce Odam

The news
came down this morning
like a dark gull-
shadow over me,
like a wide sweep
of dread . . .

I had to
let it tell me,
detail after detail,
until all the heaviness was mine,
and the news


—Joyce Odam

Fortunes touch
on the edges of our hands.
Our eyes quicken to see.

We are poor.
We lean into everything as if we were
good at finding.

How can we be
so lonely?
We are many.
Thee is love between us.

We walk among the
windows and look in.
Doors are closing.

The small portion of sky above us
is changing color.
Shadows scrape brick walls.
Birds are falling into suicides.

We live on the edges of
other people’s fame:
movie stars and politicians
murderers and victims.

At home we watch the screen
for coming attractions.


—Joyce Odam

clock faces
tips of blue flame on the stove burner
your face when I tell you the news


—Joyce Odam

Today is not the day for luck.
For rage, perhaps;
for staring at the rain.

But today has come too swiftly,
on borrowed news, with static
and wet shoes.

And with today comes
those two proper sisters,
Grim and Lonely,

who sit
on my two chairs. I feed them
whiskey and dirty blues.

They blur and whisper.
The man I am holding
is half unholy—

the half I’m telling—
the other half
is heavy with mute clues.

Today is not
the day I choose
for dim remember.

The sisters are sleeping now:
I follow
the secret smile and meaning.


—Joyce Odam

took the rain down
from my long wet wall

time to change the season
I declared

hung up the gray wet fog
to shroud

things don’t change much
around here

(first published in Acorn, 1996)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

Sound and light.
A long afternoon.
A hovering of news.
Old and futile.
Like a sunset at the horizon.
Gone as you see it.



Danyen Powell and Joyce Odam
—Photo by Katy Brown
Katy says: This picture of Danyen and Joyce 
was taken at the Crocker on the stair landing. 
The lights sway like vines in a breeze. 
The installation is called "Rapunzel."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bamboo Dreams

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Don Feliz, Sacramento

Walking out after April rain
I take a new path past beds
of yellow and red tulps,
you liked to call them,
to show how different you were:

interested in everything:
every person, every time,
a renaissance woman, poet,
activist, leader, friend to anyone
who needed you.

I discover new yards of
purple pansies, exploding azaleas,
white clouds of laurustinus blossoms,
scarlet photinia leaves, redbud
and dogwood trees showing off.

I’ll take your spirit to Holland
on May Day to see fields of tulps



and sunset beaches, sea-scented
Waves in motion, splash cliffs in
Skies meet the oceans, ripples of
the seas separate the two.
Sands that glisten white and gold
move with currents.
Motions of our earth’s emotions,
and bamboo dreams.

—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento


—Olga Blu Browne

Looking glass, looking glass past or presnt
which will it be.
Ghosts of my past, or tell of the future. Who
is it I see?
Is that mama or me? Gray hair and wrinkles,
who can that be?
Is it yesterday, or my today? Looking glass
looking glass, look away.


—Olga Blu Browne

Vanishing history, wrapped in the arms of
memory’s shadows.
Breath escapes like someone lost or once
Ghosts are the only reflection in time,
hidden in the mirror.
Essence of ebony, night lingers here.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

There it was slapping at my face
I clearly saw and felt its wrath
A challenge had been made
Sealed with a dare

It is all about honor
I must defend my family name
Bowing out is not an option
Stones, blades, guts, honor

I cut into your tough side
You just laugh at me
It is my blood spilling
Not yours

Higher, higher I reach and cut,
Reach, cut, reach, cut
Until I lose my footing
You laugh at me again

Arisen and refreshed I return
determined this time to finish
Defeat you utterly

You have all the time
To stymie my efforts
Endless hours
To outlast me

It’s not over between us
Victory will be mine
You cannot hide from me

The changing seasons
Melted the white glove away
Leaving a frightened, naked


Today's LittleNip: 

Tule fog rampant
no edge between sky and ground
life limbo lingers

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA



Some of the merry-makers at last Thursday's reading at 
Luna's Cafe, including Crystal Lee-Fernandez, Josh Fernandez, 
Annie Menebroker, Bill Gainer, and Giuliana Vita-Gabrielli.
Josh, Annie and Bill read to celebrate the release of
Josh's new book from R.L. Crow Press.
—Photo by Sandy Thomas, Sacramento

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Slow Passion

Banded White Snail

—Thom Gunn

The snail pushes through a green
night, for the grass is heavy
with water and meets over
the bright path he makes, where rain
has darkened the earth's dark. He
moves in a wood of desire,

pale antlers barely stirring
as he hums. I cannot tell
what power is at work, drenched there
with purpose, knowing nothing.
What is a snail's fury? All
I think is that if later

I parted the blades above
the tunnel and saw the thin
trail of broken white across
litter, I would never have
imagined the slow passion
to that deliberate progress.



Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fish With Legs

Deborah Ramos

—Deborah Ramos, Santee, CA

Determined tires grip the road,
no breaking for nature’s speed bumps.
Zigzagging squirrels, cheeks stuffed,
never reach the other side,
crumpled by two tons of moving metal.
Crows pick at flesh and shattered bones
only to become victims to the unyielding chariots.
Bloody entrails spread like minced meat,
feathers flapping like a fancy-dancers headdress.
Diamondback tangled in orange road netting,
mouth stretched open, fixed in a frozen attack.
Bitumen painted with the carnage of irrelevant animals,
crisping to leather along asphalt edges.
No witness, no justice, no honorable interment.
Is this the way a warrior dies?

A good samaritan calls 9-1-1
There’s been a hit and run on 125 South,
a mountain lion has lost her way.
No sirens, no lights, no rescue,
for the fallen messengers.
Let me scrape up the pieces,
and return them to the universe.
I will make offerings of cornmeal and tobacco
so they may finish their journey.

Bovines herd through the canyon.
Heavy hooves kick up clouds of dirt and flies,
trampling whatever crosses their path.
No stopping for children zigzagging on bicycles.
They keep traveling, shoulder to shoulder,
They keep mooing, noses to beefy rumps,
leaving the innocent with scrapes and contusions.
Joggers flattened by one ton of Black Angus.
Spandex appendages tattered and abandoned in the dust.
The homeless swoop in with cardboard signs
picking through pockets and backpacks.
It’s not like they’re endangered,
it’s just another fish with legs.


Thanks, Deborah! Deborah Ramos writes: I grew up in Ocean Beach, a small beach community in San Diego, California. I am an artist, poet, teacher, lover, mother, grandmother, and recycler. I am a graduate of San Diego State University where I studied art, textiles, costume design and history of theatre. My poetry has appeared in SageWoman Magazine, The League of Laboring Poets Spring 2008, the San Diego Anthology 2010, and will soon be appearing in the Blue Light Press Anthology 2011. In June 2010, my collection of ten poems, entitled Road Warriors, was awarded the Best Unpublished Poetry Chapbook 2010 by the San Diego Book Awards Association. When I’m not writing or painting, I work as a Special Education Instructional Assistant with high school students. My astrological sign is Cancer and I was born in the year of the Tiger, an interesting combination of forces. The search for balance continues.


—Deborah Ramos

bathed in crimson,
i sit, facing the east
my third eye opens.
silent waves of dawn
rinse the sinewy chasm of my beginnings,
my endings,
and all that has been.

soaked in golden smoke,
ancient hide stretches wet,
and tightly shrinks,
laced taut around a hoop of fire.
the faint, rhythmic pulse
circles our naked alter.
sacred honey-ripe vulva
drums you from the Elk-cave.

serpentine bodies press close.
skin fuses to skin.
primal desires ignite
within smoldering walls.
the canal fills,
and my river becomes yours.


—Deborah Ramos

We call ours Coalition for the Homeless.
Transients enjoy dinner, a Clint Eastwood movie,
and leave with scarves, socks, and loaves of bread.
They call theirs Famine-Relief Centers.
Refugees get de-wormed, rations for the 2-week walk
back home and seeds for planting.

Posted on her sedulous blog,
the plump bleached-lady complains.
Too many applications to fill out,
too many phone calls to return,
and fuel assistance is a bureaucratic nightmare.
But, her fluffy bleached-children win
scholarships to summer camp and the Y.
It's a full-time job being poor.

A black satin sleep mask
keeps her circadian clock in check
as the western world folds into foreclosure.
Send the kids to boarding school
and check into a homeless shelter
until the Affordable Housing application is approved.

If only those hungry Ethiopians had
the internet, they might learn something
about being poor.

Street-remnants bear forgotten scars,
childhood pox bubble into septic sores
beneath emaciated rags.
Clusters of flies dance in eye sockets
to black out sizzling shards of light.
Nature's sleeping mask.
Rejoice, it's summer camp all year round.

Ghostly orphans pile into sewer pipes
like a tribe of abandoned puppies,
nudging for an empty, withering teat,
as the night weeps a sad note
on a one-stringed African violin.


Today's LittleNip: 

     My Zen is in the slow swinging tops of sixteen pine trees.
     One long thin pole of a tree fifty feet high swings in a wider arc than all the others and swings even when they are still.
     Hundreds of little elms springing up out of the dry ground under the pines.
     My watch lies among oak leaves. My tee shirt hangs on the barbed wire fence, and the wind sings in the bare wood.

—Thomas Merton, from When the Trees Say Nothing, ed. by Kathleen Deignan



Poison oak is beautiful
I love everything about it
Except the itch

—Photo and Caption by Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax

Friday, April 15, 2011

64 And Other Dinosaurs

Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Paul Lojeski, Port Jefferson, NY

Envy is my best friend.
She laughs in my ear,
tugs at my heart,

pulls me under big,
blue waves.
Look at his gold teeth

his halo of pearls, she
coos. Hear the crowd
call his name and lust

drag him down.
She makes my heart
ache, tells me to covet

till it hurts, till pain
becomes joy. She
teaches and cares,

my envy, my shelter
and warmth, my best


—Paul Lojeski

Well, today I’m 64.
When I was 20, living
in a little house in Oberlin,
I played When I’m Sixty-
Four the day Pepper
came out and I was
high and there was war,
of course, and injustice,
naturally, and my youth,
coincidently, and that
house rocked as we all
sang along, wondering
what the hell sixty-four
was. Well, today I’m
64 and now I know,
now I don’t have to play
that damn song anymore.


—Paul Lojeski

For years, the old man wrote letters to the worlds’ most famous
newspaper. Mostly about economics and the failure of policies,
they were never published. He’d call family and read them, his
voice booming and righteous, the pain of rejection flaring over
the line. How could he be so ignored? Isn’t my analysis correct?
No answer assuaged his rage. He’d sit in that desert house at 
the table piled high with letters, staring at the blue sky for
weeks, while others played golf or wove baskets and, then,
another idea would hit and he’d begin writing again with a true
and steady hand. He couldn’t help himself. It was all he had.
They had to see he was worthy, that he was one of them.
Before I die, he thought. Before I die.


—Paul Lojeski

I heard the sirens last
night. Seems there're
always more in the dark.

Fleets of cars crashed,
a guy gunned down
his family, a neighbor

plugged a neighbor over
some wandering roses
and on it went till dawn

rescued the rest of us.
Funny how we're
always going on about

the beauty of life while
working so hard to end it.


—Paul Lojeski

I’m reading William Stafford,
listening to Trixie Whitley sing,
I wanna live where love lives.

My daughter’s on the couch,
eating a sandwich and Seinfeld’s
on TV. My last breath’s outside,

playing with the children next
door, sure I don’t know it’s
there but I’ve seen it coming

for a long time, that and the sun
gone black in the blink-of-an-eye.
You understand?


Today's LittleNip: 

When you're through changing, you're through.

—Bruce Barton


—Medusa (with kudos to Stephen Colbert for reading poetry on last night's show with Caroline Kennedy to promote the new anthology she has edited, She Walks in Beauty. See for the complete show; their moments together are at the end. Poetry on TV? Yikes—what a concept!)

 D.R. Wagner and his daughter, Annalesa, at 
The Book Collector for the Rattlesnake Birthday Bash.
That's Maggie Frost in the background.
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis