Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two Drunk Suns

Photo by mkatenev

When we are two drunk suns
in the quiet of the figs
when clammy night crumbles far
over dead cities
when we hear
the compact cry of hidden seeds
under the thickness of the earth
we will make a great fire of mint
to announce the wedding
of the rivers' dark souls
and our multiple thirsts.


Night opens like an almond
Suns explode on the walls
Stars of healthy flesh
hang from our chests
Wounds drill into sand
The wild grass of our gaze
descends down to the heart
But in our blood we keep
the smell of rain in a forest
In our cold beds we pursue
the endless fall of silences.


Child of silence and shadow
you lay in great beds
of wild nettles and mint
You dreamt on the immense river
devoured by a flame of moon
Your hands flowed into the wind
of oceans and forests
Where are your nights lost angel
Dawn Listen to the blood too heavy
throbbing in the castings of steel
Do you feel the fear entering you
like a knife into your chest
You pass through our lands
vessel lost in the mists
You don't see the sun shining
like the first morning on earth


I come to you with the vertigoes of the source
numbed into stone
Standing up to death entwined in the grasses
we penetrate into an empire without contours
wide open to our disproportion
Silence holds its breath
in the midst of a motionless wind
and the riotings of mirrors
High walls patiently conquered by our rites
keep watch over our movements
We are monotonous stars
astonished insects in worlds of feathers


The limb of forests rises up
behind the foliage stirring
Ghost people gravitate beneath the bark
assail your castles of nutmeg
Sublime thorn planted in scarlet time
Winged heel of the stary arcanum
House of sulfur and mercury
held spellbound by a feather
increased by what weight
on the scales of dreams
Logic at the triple stage
of this bleeding communion

It made the white rose of winds revolve
Nothing can ever cloud
its incorruptible retina


Today's poetry is by (Francesca) Yvonne Caroutch, born in Paris in 1937, and was translated from the French by Willis Barnstone, Elene Kolb, and David Cloutier.

This week's Seed of the Week is Off the Beaten Path. What happens when you leave the straight-and-narrow, venturing off into the weeds and finding the road not taken? Do you come to a dead end, or the end of the rainbow? Are there dragons or pots of gold? What happens when you, at the age of 65 and against all logic, rescue a noisy, active little dog from the shelter, or go back to school, or embark on a new romance? Send your maps for Off the Beaten Path to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs.


Today's LittleNip:

—Robin Gale Odam

eternal water
breath surrendered
rise to acclamation
living droplets of pardon
stream from my hair



—Photo by Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dragons And Keepsakes

Egret, Yolo Bypass
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Dewell Byrd, Ft. Bragg

Number 36 came rolling down
the Rock Island Line
hissing steam, belching black smoke.
Every window drew in Ozark Spring.
Smooth-faced farm boys in
khaki shirts leaned out the windows,
laughed, yelled, called
to us kids squatting on the berm.

One day Rock Island took my big brother away.
Later it brought his letters from France.

Day after day Rock Island came,
dropped off mail, took the boys away.

Rock Island never brought my big brother home.
It brought a black-edged telegram to my mom.


—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento

One case holds military memorabilia:
medals, canteens, posters, neatly folded
tan uniform, a faded flag. In a nearby
cabinet, protected behind thick glass,
“Authentic Indian-Made Birdhouse.”
Bark sides curve inward with age, faded
green paint outlines some unknown
motif, perhaps a thin reed, frog, or water lily.

I think about Northern Minnesota,
the local Chief. We always looked
for him in late August as he danced
in the annual pow-wow, easy to spot
in the crowd of bright feathers.
The faded Army shirt, starched, pressed,
a sharp crease down each side, stood out
from the rest. Back straight,
cheeks with tired lines, he often pulled
spectators to the women’s circle.
Deerskin feet traced out a dusty nebula
that lasted three days.
Our eyes burned from a mixture
of cedar ash, roasted meats, tears
of hot resin spitting from pine logs—
a dense, smoky haze,
even too strong for stars to appear.

In early December, an unexpected
package arrived—our birdhouse carefully
wrapped in a large Del Monte box.
We stared at the stark white birch bark, wet
wood violets, dark elfin birds, one slender
fir branch over the door. Underneath,
simply the name—James Cloud, Chippewa.


—Jeanine Stevens

A Maidu site along the Sacramento River,
surrounded by tomato and cornfields.
We grasp wooden trays: a back and forth
motion reveals trade beads, fish bones—
pollen grains lost, like all sorting, winnowing.

We sift, separate, what floats to the top,
identify remains in ink on small note cards—
a shell bracelet, bone amulet.
Like conversation beyond what is said.
What myth, old story, are you giving me?

What I keep is memory: a worn belt
buckle from gravel beds along
the Feather River, two silver hearts once
attached to a friendship ring, inexpensive
perfume bottle with pansy flower top.

By afternoon, delta breezes coat
my face with rich loam as I continue to rub
earth through metal for clues to my
old trade routes. Some particles, like words,
too distant to catch in this finer mesh.

(these two poems first appeared in Jeanine's chapbook, 
The Keeping Room, from Rattlesnake Press)


—Dillon Shaw, Davis

Hand-bound poetry book
not meant to be read by many
but filled with love for those who do
cardboard cover
colored in crayon
sealed with staples
to fading pages
looking like/ it came/ straight
                              out of a
just for you


I open the book
find a blade of grass
gasp/ it's gone
sigh/ it's back!
how did you get?
in a book/ that
never leaves/ the
I put it back
where I found it
a secret bookmark
I wouldn't want nature
to lose its place


—Trina Drotar, Sacramento

Six poets, sans egos, speak of
airplanes without pilots, flights
that never took off, being searched
by airport personnel non-poets,
tattoos of bruises, tattoos of poems,
Chernobyl, writing plays, musicians,
and whatever did happen to that guy
they all had heard of, some had dined
with once, but all had lost track of, as
they sit round a table provided in a
bookstore for writers.

Six poets, sans egos, speak of
driving trucks, unions, union busting,
teamsters, one’s distaste for celery and
another’s enjoyment of the same, fish
in a tank and that no poet should stand
on the furniture, weddings, divorces,
motorcycles and their care, harassing
new motorcycle riders’ girlfriends, milk,
hauling beef from Texas to Chicago for
Obama’s dinner, as they sit round a
table in a restaurant.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Put your ear against
the heart of this old cedar
fallen in the woods,
its body weathered pale
as the longbone of a deer
that once picked paths
through this thicket of east-
slope ridge
and lay down beside
the tree. The dead
tree humming the length
of its life,
its travels from root
to crown, earth to sky,
water that lived
within its body. A thrum
like cranes
at edge of river-bottom,
stones in the current,
marrow of bones.
It sings.


—Taylor Graham

The cabin is filled with books
of the old poet—the ones he wrote,
and the ones in languages he never learned,
the ones not written in his life.
At night the windows blaze like a forge,
but it's only his remaining light.

Someone cast brass bells
that hang from weathered timbers
above shore—storm-bells
or to summon a breath of inspiration
on the wind.

You could search for him inside,
but you'll find him on the cliff-top
looking out to sea. His brow the cliff-
top, gaze expressed in stone.
A little fishing boat sleeps on gravel
above the highwater line,

dreaming of where sky
and ocean meet
like the kiss of poets and lovers.
No more storms.
The name of the shore is Paz.


Today's LittleNip: 

Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.

—Carol Lynn Pearson



Piper, Yolo Bypass
—Photo by Katy Brown

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Cabin

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

A cabin perched on the edge
Of a view that overlooked forever.
One could see from a great
Distance for no man made structure
Was anywhere near it.   We used to

Sit in our camp in the valley below,
Gazing up at it every night.   The
Light from this place was like a beacon
Over acres of nothing, forest, watercourses,
Wildlife and weather.   No one knew

Who owned it or why it was
Located in such an unusual place.
As children we made up stories
Concerning its history and thrall.

Now, we know this cabin more
Intimately.  The events of our lives
Are connected with it almost
Like a fable or an old, embroidered
Folk tale.  All our being has been in reference
To this cabin.   At times it does not seem
Real at all, but a wayward star or distant
Fire, a spirit or a messenger of some kind.

Soon we will leave here and go
To this cabin.   Our grandparents and
Our parents have done this before us.
We have been told that we might meet
Them there again.   These stories are
Like a religion to us.   We will go
When it is our time to do so; when
We are too old for other tasks.

How strange that a simple cabin
Should have such power over our lives.
We feel that our beliefs may be mysterious
To others.   Perhaps different yet similar
Events may have such swap in other places.
We ask this only as fancy.   Our hearts
Delight in such a fine mystery.



Saturday, May 28, 2011

Banging On The Walls Of Mortality

Sue McElligott

—Sue McElligott, Nevada City

Way past her passiveness in lacey underwear
she sways to a melody she remembers
hearing a few days ago

With the room lit up by moonlight
she crawls under the covers
and falls into a light dream
about old houses and
cob webs of memories
impossible to decipher
once she opens her eyes

It all made sense while sleeping

Standing in the shower
she tries to remember if she
was ever really dreaming
or just recalling a memory

But the water washes away all signs
that she was ever in bed at all

Taking a comb to her hair
she feels the tangles that had
woven into her sleep
and smooths them out
slowly and methodically
as though each strand
knows a secret
that only the nighttime
can give back to her

It never makes sense when she’s awake


Northern California has some mother/daughter teams of poets and artists who are both excellent in their own rights; recently we've been posting work from Joyce Odam and her daughter, Robin Gale Odam, poet and photographer. Today we feature Sue McElligott, a poet and artist who lives in Nevada City. Sue had her first poem published in Pearl Magazine at the age of 8. She enjoys music, art and dance, and has had one of her paintings used on the cover of Ann Menebroker’s poetry chapbook, Small Crimes, which was published by Rattlesnake Press in 2008 (see below). Thanks for stopping by the Kitchen, Sue!


—Sue McElligott

The diary lay still
as the night became stirred
whistling those last notes
of some worn out song
made from old pages that
couldn't be sung anymore

Hung up
Tears run down a ticking clock
stranding water in a hole dug
up a lifetime ago
where nuts and bolts
don't put things together
like they used to
and chimes don't seem
to sound the same at night

The breeze gently blows
the bottle across the street
sending waves of ringing
in the ears of those
who are deaf to the silence
of shattered glass
and broken feet.


—Sue McElligott

In the time it took
to pull a petal off a purple flower,
life looked different from the inside;
While standing shadows addressed
all that was familiar,
something woke up the volcano
purring in the chest walls
of an anecdotal time
when songs sounded more like
stories and words crept in
after the fact; and the dawdling of
young children playing
began a feast of innocence
and a deafening laughter
that all felt too far away.

Banging on the walls of
mortality and the time that was
creeping away, a ghost within the crevices
whispered Its way through
passing thoughts and fears
of change, borrowing empty magnets
left behind on a wall
carefully placed in a treasure chest
of "hope-so's" and "maybe's"
feeding an aching
mind for too long.
Purple petals fell down
covering all paths
leading to a village of misfits
and socially unacceptable mimes
only trying to get their dreams out
without sounding crazy
while watching purple petals
fall like silent rain.


—Sue McElligott

The scene played out in her head over and over again
and for too many days she wondered how she could
manage this stage and Its actors running her life over
and over again.

Backstage, she watched as the actors in her head moved
from one place to another; never actually going anywhere
Like catching the same fish and throwing it back time
and time again only for it to grab hold of that same hook once more

Steadily, she finally moved the motion of that scene and took it in
willingly and fully without remorse, and began to dance her way
from thought to thought, song to song, whisper to whisper
until she caught that light from the corner of her mind
saying, ‘don’t fight me.’

Letting go, letting be; the road seemed passable now.
She walks it slowly, but not so cautiously
Weaving in and out of the narrowing paths
Grabbing on to all there is to feel
even when it seems too colorful
for her comfort.

Staring down upon the beating heart
that continues to beat
she breathes out the final truth
and smiles.


—Today's LittleNip: 

Art is a shutting in in order to shut out. Art is a ritualistic binding of the perpetual motion machine that is nature. ...Art is spellbinding. Art fixes the audience in its seat, stops the feet before a painting, fixes a book in the hand. Contemplation is a magic act.

—Camille Paglia



Cover art by Sue McElligott for
Annie Menebroker's book, Small Crimes, 2008

Friday, May 27, 2011

Poet Land

Clowning Around
—Photo by Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax

—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Outside the front door
sat the limousine.

Its shiny wheels were
top of the line
state of the art
We are the best!
they shouted

Made for high speed
all season tires
factory guaranteed
ABS, of course

The epitome of mobility
What more could one want?

Inside the master bedroom
sat the king-size bed.

No casters here,
its brassy bed posts
met the floor with large,
heavy, steady feet.

Made for deep sleep
only the finest thread
would adorn this bed
feather pillows, of course

“Save the limo for later,
I’ll be in bed, thank you.”


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Tom was totally drunk
a good portion of each day
He could easily fail a breathalyzer test
from 50 yards away

At Christmastime he would drive his car,
singing a traditional carol
oblivious to the fact that
he put everyone in peril

Tina was a super careful,
attentive, fastidious girl
She was like a proud, grand flag
the community was about to unfurl

Then Tina had a few sips of wine
before driving her father’s car,
lost control in a fatal collision
while Tom was still sitting in a bar.


              (in response to Joyce Odam’s several poems)
—Carl Bernard Schwartz

The fearless young couple
teasingly splashed in and out of love
like a paddle wheel touching water.

Let’s do that again!

Then they grew older,
got a little rusty and
became hesitant to take the big plunge.

Something might break.


Thanks, Carl, and thanks to today's other contributors.

Last weekend, Charles Plymell met with some NorCal poets on his way to read in SF and Santa Cruz. Plymell was among the "Beat" poets and publishers, running Cherry Valley Editions and establishing Zap Comics, among other things. (Wiki him up at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Plymell.) Sacramento's Sandy Thomas was among the poets who visited with him and attended the reading in SF, and she sent me this jaunty review of the experience. (See her photos on our new Facebook page, under Medusa's Kitchen/Rattlesnake Press.) Here is Sandy's review:

At Sunday's reading, Charles Plymell read his tributes to past times, places, and people—a walk through a poet's memory. He filled the room with nostalgia. Great reading; though for me, the prior and after reading conversations can hold their own.

I drove my trusty steed while Ann Menebroker rode in front and Trina Drotar in the stagecoach. I believe the ride went well. No bandits on the road. Paul Fericano met up with us at the Farmer's Market just a few paces away from the Readers Cafe. Soon, Bill Gainer and Dave Boles were on the scene. Trina brought her lunch, and Bill fed the pigeons (in a bright pink shirt I might add). Bill didn't get my humor, the color goes with his red Brautigan nose. Paul sported his high school letter jacket (in track) that still fits him nicely. Dave mentioned his son's wrestling, interesting segueway into sports. Bill was silent, of course. The hour was getting near, and A.D. Winans was in the house with his Nikon, a formidable lens. Charles Plymell came through the doors; the reading was being set up as he arrived. You can only imagine.

Ah, I'll stay away from the details. Will Staple came in and was welcomed with hugs and smiles. Meade, Ann Menebroker's friend, as well as many others (I do not know their names) were in attendance. Probably fifty or so with a no-host reading and unlimited time limit.

After the reading we headed to The Greens Restaurant, except for Charles, who was off and running to surf in Santa Cruz or ride the wooden roller coaster before his next reading.

Good times: Paul, A.D., Ann, Dave, Trina, Bill and myself, creating a cacophony in the restaurant facing the pier where the sailboats docked. A fellow and his wife were a few tables in front of us. Bill spotted him (sometimes I think I'm in Poet Land). Bill whispers, "He is very famous." Bill hollered over the conversation at the table. He finally got the man's attention as well as the entire staff's attention at this posh restaurant. Without skipping a beat, Bill introduced him as he approached the table—Latif Harris. Latif asked how many of us had a copy of Beatitude; he exited and returned with two copies of the Beatitude Golden Anniversary 1959-2009 and copies of his book, A Bodhisattva's Busted Truth: Selected Poems And Dohas of an American Buddhist, for everyone. He signed all copies. Latif, like so many editors and publishers I meet, contributed his works, always expanding and creating generocity and kindness that extends beyond the pages as one hand reaches another, passing on the printed word.

—Sandy Thomas, Sacramento


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

So small, the day, standing slightly
Bow-legged, hand on its collection
Of hours, a goofy grin on its face.
I walk with you down a street
Bright with all the tea in China.
There is wild music in the signs and colors.
There are perfect clouds a-roil above.
The buildings giving everything a just
Washed look, like the way your eyes do.
And sun, leaning into the street,
Scattering the cars before it comes
Swooping into your face. I cannot
Tell it from you or you from it.
Here it seems as if every day looks
This way. We watch it hitch its
Thumbs in its belt and follow
It from bookstore to school yard
As if it really could go on into tomorrow.


—D.R. Wagner

The little palace where the
Children stop to drink.

Gabrielle understands the
Splashing noises of water
As language and tells us the stories
Water tells her as we sit along
The grasslands of the creek banks.

Annalesa knows the secret
Names of every cloud and can
Sing all the songs of the winds.

Many of us have seen dragons
In their far places.

The nameless rooms of sleep.

The great halls where dreams
Wind themselves into the long
Hair of the night.

Sylvan hollows where twilight assembles
Its cloak of whispered colors.

The feathered courts the birds maintain.

Highways in the air.
The curve of the seasons.

Symphonies of fish, garments
For the waters of lakes and rivers,
Jewels of the streams and ponds.
Living within the body of water
As water lives within our bodies.


—D.R. Wagner

There they are again,
Bleached bones of a young
Deer on the edge of a meadow
Just below some low branches.

I pick up a small bone
That used to be part of a leg.
I blow my breath across it at an angle.
Music comes out that is very
Lovely and can carry the heart
With it quickly like a deer
Easing itself into the filtered light
Through broken foliage at midday.

One hardly notices when the music
Is gone. It becomes so still
Like the bones of a young deer
Discovered at the edge of a meadow
Just below some low branches.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

Hours of searching
By the
Whole family
But we
Finally found it—
Grandma’s good
Glass eye.

I wanted it
As a souvenir
After the funeral
But the undertaker
Informed me there
Are certain things
You take with you.



Bars for Cars
—Photo by Ronald Edwin Lane

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wind-Chimes of Time

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Don Feliz, Sacramento

We part in an airport parking lot;
you drive off to resume your life.

We stand, I with my carry-on bag,
wanting more than just goodbye.

Quickly as a photoflash, I glimpse
your smile, sense you hugging me,

feel or imagine lips brushing my cheek.
I turn to stone while you drive away.


Thanks to today's contributors: Don Feliz and Charles Mariano for some poems on tough subjects; n.ciano and Taylor Graham for continuing the poetic conversation that's been going on, as well as musing about love and time and foxes; and Katy Brown for some beautiful photographs to complement it all. By the way, Katy and Joyce Odam will be reading at the Central Library next Wednesday night, June 1, 6pm, sponsored by Sac. Poetry Center and hosted by Bob Stanley. That's 828 I St., Sacramento.

Speaking of Katy Brown, check out Medusa's new Facebook page for her album of photos of more than 30 poets who were captured in their lair by Katy at The Book Collector over the past few months, plus another "album" of pix from here and there that were taken by Sandy Thomas. The blog that you're looking at doesn't really allow for huge numbers of photos to be displayed on an on-going basis the way Facebook does, so we expanded over that direction—though of course they don't accept lots of words, so this site will remain our home base. Type in Medusa's Kitchen or Rattlesnake Press or Medusa's Kitchen/Rattlesnake Press! (I know some of our readers haven't signed up for Facebook, but maybe you can peek at it on a friend's computer...)

If you have photos of poetry events, especially NorCal ones, that you'd like to post on our Facebook page, you can either do it directly (thanks, Mo Hurley, for today's!) or send 'em to me at kathykieth@hotmail.com. Or you can even snail mail them and I'll scan them (P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95826—SASE if you want them back). As you know, the snakes of Medusa are always hungry!


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Who climbs to the attic
to listen for chiming of a broken
clock? The oaks leaf out,
bending their canopies over the roof,
laundry claps on the line, shirts
and trousers fleshed out by wind
shimmying the transparent air,
skirts and blouses dancing
with the sky. And then
the trees let their leaves fly
in a resignation
like November, seasons
being so elastic, belonging to
past and future. The present
is not a broken clock, possession
of someone who was
once alive. Time is its own

(Continuing the conversation with DR Wagner, and an echo of Tom Goff's on Weds.)


           (in response to D.R. Wagner's "Two Foxes")
—n.ciano, Davis

The two foxes you see
are quite the obscurity.
A brother and a sister
named Tom and Blaire,
searching for a place to be.

The air is crisp
and the snow is cold
devising a plan
to enter your house
before the weather enfolds.

For upon their entrance
Tom will take your best coat
and a top hat to wear with his monocle;
Next he’ll enter the kitchen to light up a smoke
but only to find Blaire sitting there

Sipping on her tea
Wearing high-waisted pants
a green vest, and some brown boots to match,
Then he’ll say, “Sister you look fine,
but it's time to go—we have a place to be.”



On Sunday afternoons we use to fight,
No one was ever wrong or right.
You and I: the lovers plight
Waiting for something to take flight
but it was always out of sight
maybe we lost it that dreadful night
the one where you took our love
and said it no longer represented a dove
something so pure and true.
I really had love for you
but that didn’t last and in the moonlight,
you symbolically let go of the kite.
I understood our love was trite
cheap and worthless nearly dead
but it’s not like I haven’t already bled
Our love had fallen from the greatest height
but nothing was worse than our final fight
the one we had that Sunday afternoon.


—Don Feliz

You left my heart in pieces,
but said I’d find a healer.

Most women I know help
with hugs, a few platonic kisses,

poetry, long conversations,
and waves of caring, but none

seems like the one to seal the seams
leaking love from my heart.



your outer-clothes given
to daughters, friends,
the needy.

Your underclothes, second skin
seen only by me at home…
I add them to the flames—

one at a time, in the hibachi
we bought fifty years ago
on our Japanese honeymoon.

I scatter the ashes with tears
among roses you described
with your sunrise poems.

—Don Feliz


—Don Feliz

I hug your body pillow at midnight.
You lie in our bed where Morpheus
defends you from pain, but agitates

blood, guts, your attempts to sleep.
You moan, gasp, convulse, and twitch—
babble in German and Russian,

summon Death in English, see
Babunya, your parents, four aunts
calling you to join them—to rest.

Exhausted for days, breathing slows,
pulse weakens, you slumber.
Drugs continue to keep you that way

until evening, and you seem enchanted,
serene, barely inhaling and sighing until
Death finds time, answers your call.


the artist
—charles mariano, sacramento

for the phone to ring,
hot coffee
steams from my cup

the phone call
from my dear friend
who’s dying,
and refuses to go
without a fight

it’s become
clear to me though,
he’s leaving

tried to believe
he’d make
this miracle comeback
believe, like he believed,

but i knew

his dazzling
framed on my walls

“orale hermano!”
his voice scratchy, barely there,
“can only talk a few minutes…tired”

we argued,
got all worked up,
then laughed,
about these two
pitiful, old dudes,

like babies


Today's LittleNip: 


we almost made
crudely taken
then thrown away
completely broken
I’ll find another
fifty times better
then I will say
love—I gave it all.



—Photo by Katy Brown

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lovers And Other Foxes

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

warm water plunge
Domina, the whale shark—
her free fall
to the sea floor
one mile down she goes
then upsurge
warm water
surge through
open mouth
surge of plankton
free fall
warm water and a caress
free fall to love
majesty of pupping
mystery and majesty
pupping and plunge
surge of love this pupping
plunge of Domina
warm water Domina


—Patricia Hickerson

that he loved her that she loved him that they would
be together forever that they would be married and
have kids that he would get drunk and go after other
women that she would go to the racetrack and they
would go into debt that their kids would flunk out
of school and do drugs and go into rehab or get
married and have sick kids and die—that the couple
who fell in love well, they would grow old and look
at each other and wonder how they got to this place


—Dillon Shaw, Davis

I need to be alone, you see
Some time to explore why I'm me
For too long I've relied on you
On my own I don't know what's true
That's why when you approach I flee
I need some time for discovery
It's time I made a recovery
So please don't be so sad and blue
I need to be
I once thought we fit to a tee
I know now that I was crazy
We both need to find something new
Where to go next I have no clue
All I know is that I'm lonely
I need to be


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

I saw two of them walking nearly
parallel in the field behind my mother’s
House on the edge of the woods.

Winter had not everything white yet
But it was trying hard to do so.
The foxes were certainly helping.

Noses down, tails flicking they
Made their way from the edge of
The trees almost to the house.

Their business was voles and mice,
Being red with the quiet of a bucket
Full of water reflecting the sky.


—D.R. Wagner

Here in these places above
The sea, it is often possible
To hear the many messages
Borne upon the winds.

While all wind is only air
Passing across a surface,
Without regard for consciousness,
On occasion one may discern
Certain sonic vibrations that may
Evidence themselves as language.

On a given day, there may be
Songs of Summer, or a telling
How trees came to have such
Irresistible glamour and presence.
At other times, long, mournful
Exclamations that drill into
The heart. Great winds may

Force one indoors where
Exclamations find voice in woodwork,
Door jambs, spaces between window
And sash, between shingles or loose
Pieces of metal flashing upon a roof.

Some would not consider this to be
Language. Consider then, how music
Changes through the ages, how certain
Sounds become part of its making.
Also how all words come and go in
Our discourse from age to age and are
Renewed or lost as time becomes its
Own wind. Then listen once again

To a description of a Summer night
As proclaimed by breezes in the screen,
How certain periods of silence may
Change the meaning of the moment
Again and then again, how these
Words whirl through your mind,
A fluttering like a flame in air,
A language seeking understanding there.


              (for Elihu Burritt)
—Taylor Graham, Placerville

How does it happen that a thing
means more—or differently—
than you supposed?

Take that old watch. You carried it
like a prize possession 120 miles on foot
to Boston, though it didn't work.

And then, footsore from the walk,
soul-sore because your hopes wore out,
you turned back, another way;

but too tired to keep on walking.
And a boy came along driving a wagon
just that way; offered you a ride.

You gave him the watch in return.
Was it the broken time-piece
of your father who died so young?

You watched over his long sickness.
And now half-broke yourself,
you've given the watch away.

How many stars tonight?
What do they say of chances—the boy
will fix the watch and find you,

after years, as if time could fix
itself in hands, in loss and forgetting,
in remembrance.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

The wind shakes the transparent air
clothespinned to a line of light. The ash
and cherry trees beat sifts of dust
from the clear thin sheet. A dragonfly
shuttles here and there, stitching up
every rent in the fabric, humming
the melismas and flourishes of a Tagore song:
I had no idea dragonflies were Bengali.
Oh for a dragonfly seamstress or tailor
equipped with invisible packthread
to fix the rips and rendings in my life,
in my heart. In my one photo album,
where fading Kodachromes fall from
their black stick-on bracket corners, or tear
and peel from the heat of long possession,
we boys are throwing a baseball in the backyard,
a dog no longer living is affectionate
fluff in young Robert’s arms, and, oddly, here
is a man standing in sepia, one foot edging forth
as if about to step off in cadence, a neat
straw hat on head, a summerweight suit
and a gaze into the band-shell harmonies
of the future. He is my grandfather, young
and cornet-handed, the bend at the back
of the trumpet-cousin the loop of an ankh.
As he lifts the horn brimming to his lip,
I hear the dragonfly sheening, skimming along
in its Tagore song, stitching air to air,
distilling the light in a croon of heat.
I had no idea dragonflies
were Bengali, but then, I never knew
dragonflies were grandfathers,


Today's LittleNip: 

—Dillon Shaw, Davis

as i melt
i grasp
for Something

It must be Firm
for i am falling

i am saved
by the Consistency
of my

at least
It's Dependable


—Medusa (with thanks to today's contributors as they continue on-going conversations about lovers and foxes and keepsakes and whatever else pops into their Muse-minds—including whale sharks! Thanks, Pat, for the photo of Domina. And to Sandy Thomas for the photo of Charles Plymell and Richard Hansen, taken at The Book Collector this past weekend. Plymell was in our area prior to his reading in SF this past weekend, and some of our intrepid poets visited with him here, then traveled the Great Distance to see him before he headed off to surf and read and ride the roller coaster in Santa Cruz.)

Richard Hansen and Charles Plymell, 5/19/11
—Photo by Sandy Thomas, Sacramento

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lovers And Keepsakes

A buckskin jacket worn by Modoc chief "Captain Jack" 
during the Modoc Indian Wars of 1872-73,
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

How beautifully they share themselves,
in shyness and in grace:

two from another time
and place, as if foreseeable.

So they believe in fate.
Sweet fate.

He plays for her on a quiet violin,
adoring and sincere.

She sits listening, hands in her lap,
eyes down, and properly demure.

Her hair is permed. She wears
a simple dress. Her feet are bare.

He wears a ruffled shirt, knee pants,
has silver buttons on his shoes.

Oh, lovers, love yourselves for ever
and each other. Never mind

what cannot be. You have time
confused. You need no answer.


Thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poetry, and to Michelle Kunert for the photographs she took at the California Museum. Joyce's poems are about last week's Seed of the Week, Magritte's painting, Les Amants, and Michelle's photos tie into our SOW for this coming week: Keepsakes—a theme fitting for museums or for Memorial Day, yes? (Not to mention Carol Frith's new book, Keepsake Houses: Crooked Streets.) Send your poems about Keepsakes to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726; for previous SOWs, see our "Calliope's Closet" page (click on it under the Snake on a Rod over at the right of this column). No deadline on SOWs.

Yesterday I reckoned as how we'd never gotten a poem about armadillos before Brigit Truex's—turns out one of the wee critters showed up in Taylor Graham's poem, "Memory," on May 11. I'll be darned. TG is a member of Red Fox Underground, and, as I pointed out, the end of winter has brought the RFU out of the woods, with readings last night and this coming Friday (see the b-board). I should've also pointed out that another Red Fox, Moira Magneson, is organizing this year's Squaw Valley Community of Writers Poetry Benefit (20th Anniversary!) to endow scholarships and work study position for poets accepted into Squaw Valley's Summer Poetry Workshop. The benefit will take place at the Crocker Art Museum on Friday, July 15, and readers will be Robert Hass, Cathy Park Hong, Major Jackson, Galway Kinnell, and Sharon Olds. That's at the Crocker's Setzer Auditorium, 216 O St., Sac. Tix: $20; $15 students; purchase at www.brownpapertickets.com. More info: www.squawvalleywriters.org/readings.html


—Joyce Odam

They were so pure love lifted them into clouds where
violins could celebrate their love.  They were so pure
they floated years after that—oblivious to gravity—to
height of probabilities.  They were so pure they stayed—
no need to fall from such a state of being—his arm
supporting them in his embrace—her dress floating
behind her in poetic gracefulness.


—Joyce Odam

We are full of that furor
known as love.  We are not to be
trusted.   We are always bereft.
We are always without conclusion.

You should not respond to us—
who among us can be constant
and never change
our stage-setting or conditions:

the light is never enough;
the dark is always too much;
we have the temperament
of the weather.

You cannot hold us—
you can only regret us.
When we abandon you—
you can only tell us goodbye.


—Joyce Odam

In the wet and shining world where summer
rain falls through the light and spatters to the
ground, droplets splashing on the thirsty day,

and they’re in love,    in love,    in love, as they
go slowly walking—side by each—their faces
happy and their sorrows told—those first

confessions lovers have to tell when sharing
secrets—bonding—bonding, and the light rain
falls between them and they know that they

can trust each other all their lives.  And then
the rain falls harder and the clouds grow thick
above them and they start to run—they laugh

and start to run toward a shelter.   The shelter
takes them in.  They watch the rain, and one
goes moody, and the other grow uneasy.  The

rain falls harder.  A bolt of lightning flashes
all around them like a warning.  They laugh
and count the seconds toward the thunder

that breaks the air, and breaks the tension,
the rain a downpour now.  They hold each other.
Rain puddles form.   It is the last of summer.


—Joyce Odam

Oh arms
Oh face
Oh body fused to body
Oh perfect moment
Oh love     Oh love     Oh love
We curve and curve and become closer
How can we be real.
You glow and I suffer your beauty.
I glow and you speak of the agony of joy.
Oh hold me as I hold you.
We are burning with energy.
Waves of color absorb us.
We are altered beyond reality.
How can we ever be more?
How can we ever be less than this?


—Joyce Odam

He had a face so sad
he made her love him.

Each was a child to the other.
Each had a mystery to solve.

Each told a solemn story
and allowed one word of pity.

They turned away together
into their gentle misery—

they turned away as one and
blended till they disappeared.

We heard them, underneath the
darkness, softly crying ever after.


—Joyce Odam

The lovers move forever
toward their happiness.

A field of flowers
surrounds them.

Their faces lean together,

and their words escape
into promises.


—Joyce Odam

What of the room of longing
that holds no lovers now.

Sad curtains tear the
dusty sunlight.

All day the old room-shadows
search for what is gone.

At night the voyeured window
brings it all back,

when the closed room fills
with ancient moonlight.


Today's LittleNip: 

Love is unqualified. His dislikes live in his qualifications.

—Stephen Dobyns



Bearclaw pattern basket by 
Washoe Indian tribeswoman Dat So La Lee
—Photo by Michelle Kunert
California Museum

Monday, May 23, 2011

Is It The Rapture, Or Is It Poetry?

—Brigit Truex, Placerville

Manipulate this sliver of glass

     lens held close. Open your eye

          to a constricted view, a peep-show

of persuasion:

     Observe the delicate etchings,

          the scored bands of this

impossibly ancient survivor,

     each parallel flex revealing

          leagues of labyrinthine

darkness spiraling back over eons,

     to a slow turn of seething

          earth, the trumpet of a thunder-lizard,

the chill sweep of leathered wings

     scribing the dawn of early azure

          beneath a freshly-made sky.


Thanks to Brigit Truex for these musings on an armadillo, prompted by a "word-can" exercise at the Tuesday at Two workshop she shares with Taylor Graham and some other lucky Placervillians. (Some of you may remember the word-can exercises from Taylor Graham's column of the past in Rattlesnake Review: drawing five words at random from a tin can, then using them in a poem. I'll leave it a mystery as to what the five words actually were in Brigit's case.) After she wrote the poem, Brigit discovered our armadillo on our "Local Presses That Want You" page under the Snake on a Rod in the green box over at the right on our bulletin board, so she sent us her poem—I believe it's our first armadillo poem, ever. For more about Brigit, go to rattlesnakepress.com/brigit_truex.html; for more about Tues@2, go to "Workshops/Retreats", also under the Snake on a Rod. If you're ever in the Placerville area on a Tuesday at 2pm, drop in and join the hilarity.

Brigit and Taylor are part of the Red Fox Underground group of poets, which will be out in full force for two events this week: one tonight (Poetry in Motion) and one this Friday, when they co-sponsor (with El Dorado Arts Council) Berkeley poets Judy Wells and Dale Jensen. See our b-board for more about both events.

Also tonight, closer to home, Laverne and Carol Frith will be reading at Sacramento Poetry Center, 7:30pm. Both of these prolific poets are celebrating the release of new books: Imagining the Self by Laverne Frith (Cherry Grove Collections), and Keepsake Houses: Crooked Streets by Carol Frith (Finishing Line Press). These are two of Sacramento's poetry heavy-hitters; come join the celebration tonight.

Thanks to our other contributors today, too, including Carl Schwartz, as well as newcomer Max Soucia (welcome!) and Robin Odam for their takes on the world that didn't end. (Or did it?)

Meanwhile, D.R. Wagner and Taylor Graham continue their conversation. TG writes: As DR says, this is so much fun. Here are some riffs on his recent, and on n.ciano's from a few days back. By the way, Medusa screwed up again: last Saturday's post listed D.R.'s poem, "Reflections Dissolving," as being by TG. She wrote to say she didn't remember writing that poem—a graceful, kind way of pointing out my error. The poem THAT day was written by D.R., but I can guarantee that today's "Reflections Dissolving" is by Taylor Graham.........almost guarantee, that is, given my recent decrepitude. Hopefully these recent snafus have been mostly the product of my poor health, which is, fortunately, improving. If dementia is setting in, though, the future of Medusa's Kitchen might be very interesting, indeed. Just imagine all the ways I could get things wrong/confused/snafu'ed!

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

California condor on a power-
pole, warming its wings
outstretched ten feet wide—
it flaps once
to wake the wind,
then a glide out of sight.
Storm clouds
could not be so dark, alive
and dying, silver
lining the underside,
taking the wind for a ride.


—Taylor Graham

At dawn I walked out to see
what night had done to the world.
A grass-trail across the pasture,
down to the creek, the rocky stairs
where a deer once left the world.
Only her bones stayed behind
to mark her beauty, reflections
dissolving in riffles. Clouds
left no imprint on the grass.
The creek's now dry. A wake
of vultures followed her
back to sky.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

The accountancy firm of
Couth, Kempt & Der Wear
was given the enormous task
of balancing the budget

Using its old, yellowed,
hardbound Book of Analogies
CK&DW chose to pair these
disparate scenarios:

S-1: A camera on a tripod
S-2: The 3 branches of government

The key in both scenarios
is of course maintaining a
steady balance by carefully
adjusting 3 supporting entities

One tripod leg could not be
raised or lowered without
matching adjustments to the others

Nor could one branch of
government be diminished
or enlarged just by itself

CK&DW turned in its report
and was shortly fired because
all the legs were unequal and none
of the branches could agree to agree…

which is exactly what CK&DW
said in their report.


—Max Soucia, Citrus Heights

No whimpers, no whoops, no driverless cars.
Unwashed sleep in alleys,
on park benches, church stoops,
and neighborhood bars.

No rapture, no salvation: pols argue about life,
yet Big Oil, Big Drugs stand in ovation.
Nowhere at all they acknowledge
the strife.

We died last decade—maybe last week.
Cerberus waits while
Saint Peter spreads incense
to cover the reek.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

My heart soared into the clouds—the wind
had layered them above the setting sun
and then had become motionless.
I prayed as the last day passed.
I am still here—not remembered, not taken.
The sky is clear today.



The Last Day
—Photo by Robin Gale Odam

Sunday, May 22, 2011

When The Sky Falls...Or Doesn't...

Pondering Chickens
—Photo by n.ciano, Davis


Sometimes I say to a poem,

"Not now,
Can't you see I am bathing!"

But the poem usually doesn't care
And quips,

"Too bad, Hafiz,
No getting lazy—

You promised God you would help out

And He just came up with this
New tune."

Sometimes I say to a poem,

"I don't have the strength
To wring out another drop
Of the Sun."

And the poem will often

By climbing onto a barroom table:

Then lifts its skirt, winks,
Causing the whole sky to

(trans. from the Persian by Daniel Landinsky)



Saturday, May 21, 2011

With The Wind

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—Charles Mariano, Sacramento

i went over
all the half-assed pages
on this screen,
in “limbo land”

the Last Chance Station
death by deletion

one by one
twenty-eight docs
stumbled to the light
to plead their case

“i was grand illusion,
by possibility…”
one said

“i was born
from deepest, darkest pain
and suffering…”
said another

“i was inspired
a wild, dizzying blur
of arms an legs…”
it cried

i surveyed the field
of piss-poor writing,
with steely-eyed glare
raised the gleaming blade,

“off with their heads!”


—Charles Mariano

i see you there
hovering, lingering
peeling back
the outer edges

with all those
other faces
to the front

so i play along
find voices,
to fit faces
endless conversations
to pass the time

you’re not real,
i say,
least you weren’t

so quit arguing


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The fox is a brush-stroke through leaves
and grasses moving with the evening
breeze—this bit of sky caught briefly
in twigs and awns, crevices of bark.
The trees remember what sky smells like,
ionized; their canopies crowning
clouds before rain. The fox pauses
at a metal bucket left out to catch sky
when it falls, as it did last week,
and will again tonight. Metal galvanized
silver, so morning finds it full of silver
reflecting rippled blue. Is this what you
mean by chalice, every thing blessed?
A fox makes no sound in passing.
Praise in that stillness of the sky.


—D.R. Wagner

It was as if you had just left the room.
If I looked hard enough I swear I could
See the imprint of your heel on the carpet.

The door was slightly ajar, being held
By a breeze for a few moments, sunlight
Leaking into the room to dress the walls.

I stood up next to the bed waiting to hear
A voice, any voice that would indicate you
Had actually been there. I must have been
Sleeping, holding the ribbons of dreams
In my hands like precious myrrh or water.

When I looked across the room to the mirror
I could see you dissolving into its surface.
I must have been wrong. Such a thing is not



—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

In this valley the clouds seem confused.
And not knowing which way to turn
Finally give up their burden and disperse.

They don't do this without consideration.
They know, as any god-fearing cloud would
What is required of them and rain
Is not always the answer, although more often
Than not it seems to be.

The small streams gorge themselves
On these recent clouds and soon the roads
Are flooded. The carefully cultivated
Fields are gutted of their patterns

And sent awry in a weltering of gray rain,
On gray days, in gray landscapes
Until all feel the decision of the clouds
Not to hold their position in the air,
Not to spell out the weather but rather
Be it in eddying puddles surrounded
By squalls of European starlings making
Their crazy suggestions to the atmosphere.

One could do worse than be a cloud,
Voice of thunder, voice of rain,
Often challenged but never blamed
For their roil of wet which came
As a surprise to us tonight, watching the
Clouds in flight. The hills caress
Their last remains and set them free
To form again.


—D.R. Wagner

Sun went off
To a quiet
Place where
No one would
See her.
She covered her body with chalk.
She had seven children.

One was blinded by the rain.
One was the lover of the wind
One was she who danced with life.
One ate the world and everything
In it.
One became the morning.
One was the queen of dreaming.
One was my lover.


—n.ciano, Davis

Blinded from all of your faults
love brought us here
and love tore us apart.
First laughs and smiles,
now fists and fights,
you reduce me to tears.
I’ll stab you in the heart.
Watch you bleed.
How satirical is this?
I watched our love blossom and bloom
then decay and hang
my Spanish rose
we could have made it
we were almost lovers
I almost shared.


—Dillon Shaw, Davis

To My Muse,
     Thank you for guarding my dreams,
vigilantly keeping dark thoughts at bay.
You bring me insight
into parts of my heart
I dare not venture alone.
Your sympathetic gaze
is my only source of warmth.
I apologize for my crudeness,
my unrefined hand is unfit
for your celestial beauty.
You do not love me.
Yet you grant me more than I deserve,
you grace me with your presence
and your tireless wisdom.
It is more than enough.
Thank you.
Without you I could not dream.
Forever yours,
     The Fool


Today's LittleNip: 

—D.R. Wagner

Why would the
Wind care to
Be so beautiful?



With the Wind
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Friday, May 20, 2011

Glass-Eyed Canaries

Photo by Ronald Edwin Lane

—Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax

Two, glass-eyed, canary yellow
birds with royal blue striped sides,
and outstretched wing tips, winking
green and white right, to leeward

white and red, circle in a white to
slate gray mottled sky, to tilt, dip,
and dive, billowing belly fog, a wing’s
width above a patch of sea green

waves of blades yet to break grain,
flowing to a ditch of coffee
brown rich soil cut along the road,

to rise into rain, skipping drooping
power lines, three at a time, to turn,

turn, turn, turn and do it again, always
on opposite sides, singing like rag-dung
trumpets accompanied by a thousand
Tibetan monks chanting, “Om ah hum,”

with pitch and pulse in this score
rhythmically varying from meditative
to frantic ear throbbing roars. Eventually
one sails south, beyond the sea, over a

pinkish-white almond blossom bluff, to
disappear into mist. The remaining bird

circles left, right, belly skirts the sea, fogs,
rises, skips, peeks south and cries,

then rushes after its mate.


—William S. Gainer, Grass Valley

The old man
is trying to die.
He's never done it
it's taking

He's finding death
to be a friendly sort,
likes to visit,
hangout with the living
longer than he should,
what he's here for.

In the hallway,
Someone whispers,
"God will be here
soon enough."
No one prays.

The old man
stares at the ceiling,
tells me
where he hid
his wedding ring...


—William S. Gainer

He was that close.
That close,
we all know
how close

He was trying to die,
it was his first time,
he needed
more practice.

Then he changed his mind,
made a comeback,
a miraculous

He sat up,
said, “Hell
ain’t half bad.
Of course,
I was only
in the lobby.”

Asked for an

We buried him
seven days later.


—William S. Gainer

He had a thing about
having enough flowers
at a memorial

I don’t know
how many times
I sat with him
as he glanced around
the chapel
and mumbled,
“Cheap bastards.”

We had plenty at his.
Made sure
it smelled
like a funeral.


—Ronald Edwin Lane

It’s gray and it’s raining out and
the daisies are in disarray. Chains
ching upon the passes in May,
slip, slap and grip. Below rivers

run full and reckless, like the
tailgating highway traffic fool
hydroplaning in the two-lane, or
the mom in one putting her

makeup on, one slip and she’s
a rodeo clown, or kissing dash,
or imprinting her face upon an
airbag. And will the levees break?

What’s the legislature’s take?
Who’s on the dole?
Don’t want to tax the wealthy,
no siree, gotta layoff, stifle demand,

that’s the plan, preserve the wealth
of the man who sits on his butt
watching his stock portfolio grow,
while complaining about the

common man and his lack of
productivity. It would be great to
go to a park and escape the
rat race, but the parks are closing

down and so why the hell would
anyone want to come visit this state?
For Mickey Mouse and SFO? Sure,
but that’s not California’s gold, its treasure,

that’s not what brings in the bulk
of the butts, the tourists bucks. So
we save one and lose ten on the other end.
And this earth still spins, but it’s spinning

off its axis, and when was the last time
you stuck your head out of your butt?
‘Cause I’m telling you it’s gray

and it’s raining out and the
daisies are in disarray.


Today's LittleNip:

Butched, flaired
A lighted match of hair screaming
For attention

—Photo and poem by Ronald Edwin Lane


Thursday, May 19, 2011

El Tango del Misterio

Roller Clouds Announcing Something
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Lost in the waltz, the wind skirls briefly,
Opening the morning hours toward ten
O’clock and examines the branches of the trees
Almost as if it were inspecting every leaf.
The trees shutter and toss their crowns
Back and forth across what may be real
Music after all.

There have been the clouds every day
For weeks now, mountains of them,
Never tired, constantly flying by, excited
By the air and how the sky holds them,
Letting them be free, but still, in its blue
Dream of atmosphere.

There was a chalice suspended
In the air tonight. It glowed with
Silver light and the moon rose
Just above it and centered itself
Over the cup. The animals dropped
To their knees and the barnyard
Was still for a time except for crickets
Singing to one another. It was lovely
And had never happened before.

Now, wandering the hills in this moonlight,
I find myself at the base of an oak tree.
The grass in this place has been cropped
By sheep for one hundred years.

Except for the hiss and pop of the night
As it rises to the moonlight in an erotic
Dance, I can remember little except
For saying, “Hello hills. Hello moon.
Hello trees and hello,” to this huge
Stillness as I press myself deep into
The earth pretending I too am planted
Here, hard against this night, able only
To give praise, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

How could you know we had a history,
paella and I? A local eatery in Valencia;
spring-break before I ever met you.
Spanish delight—paella is a long-time
savoring, like lovers.
Years later, you came to visit.
I was fixing paella mixta—sautéed
chicken with mariscos in a bed
of saffron rice; a bottle of cheap
white Spanish wine.
In you walked, bearing as a gift
the mother of all paella-pans,
fit to pan a mother-lode of golden
chicken, clams and mussels
opening their shells
to sing the bounty
of land and sea. What serendipity,
to catch the same thought-wave
on air—how could you know
I loved paella?


—Taylor Graham

Tackle box of shiny lures and all
the line in the world. Play of current
over stones, musical with stories
like moving water. Tricky eddies,
faint nibbles hinting at another chance,
the mysteries of underwater hungers.
On a sandbar-beach, the skull
of some small creature, its bleached
beautiful secrets. What's certain
is sunset passing over riffles,
reflections dissolving into dark.


–C. Piper, Napa

Some loves burn with a passion
like powdered lead igniting—
a spit of sound, a pungent smell,
the briefest flash of lightning.

Some loves burn with cold fury
like steely cables rusting—
relentlessly condemned to fail,
possessive and untrusting.

But some, like Moses’ burning bush,
on fire but not consumed,
ignite before the lovers’ births
and blaze beyond the tomb.


–C. Piper

Across my heart
I have a blue tattoo

a woman’s form
reclining innocently

It’s not a work of hand
and ink and blade

an image picked

It is a birth mark
or a natal scar

of injury forgotten
far too poignant
far too far

She has been with me
all my days

beneath my skin
across my heart
upon my ways

and I have never shown
my blue tattoo

but stand before the mirror
she is visible
in you


–C. Piper

Across the room
bejeweled, perfumed
champagne flute kissed with lipstick

She flips her hair
and meets his stare
with well-rehearsed dispassion

She looks away
and none can say
what latent want her eyes belie

A measured pace
and panther grace
he circles and advances

He grasps her arm
she feigns alarm
but follows to the dance floor

The music swells
and none can tell
exactly when their dance began

In tango pose
their bodies close
each step and swirl seems fated

Walls fall away
the ceiling fades
warm wind, cold stars surround them

Their hearts entranced
they dance and dance
El Tango del Misterio

They twirl in time
their legs entwine
precise improvisation

They move as if
each spent a life
of secret preparation

How is it so
that they should know
El Tango del Misterio

The tango turns
the tango burns
with sudden strident movement

He spins her out
she spins about
he does not follow after

No fault is hers
nor is it his
both souls are darkly wounded

The thing to blame
it has a name
El Tango del Misterio


—C. Piper

You reply as if
we were speaking
to one another, and
I can hear you
from where I stand
across the room as if
I was listening.
I go to you as if
that closes the distance, and
you let me touch
your persona.
We kiss as if
we were kissing, but
when I open my eyes
I see you beautiful
and so near and
you look back
at me so far away.


–C. Piper

I don’t recall if the glass
was half empty or half full
when it fell.

I only remember
the shattering and
water flowing
finding its way down
always down
to the lowest points,

where love and water go
when they run off.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Back when photography was still
dabbling in black and white

Faces came out ghostly gray
sharp contrasts of colors were just stripes
subtle shades, textures, and tones were
not captured by the lens

Artists, though, with brush in hand
could bring out those true colors
textures, shades, and tones
to depict true people
even if only showing minor parts of them.



Chris Olander and Todd Cirillo 
grin about their new publications from Rattlesnake Press
at The Book Collector, May 2011
—Photo by Trina Drotar, Sacramento