Thursday, June 30, 2011

Of Paisley And Other Neckwear

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

The freeway traffic
is sporadic and happy
for once
and the possum in the back
is safe from the laughter of crows
the beta fish is angry
it is alone.

My feet curl with joyness
when the coffee maker clicks on,
the strong scent
drags me out of
my nightmare
of never-ending papers to grade
poems to revise
weeds to be pulled
the reality
that all these dreads and drudgeries
are still there
but in the daytime
can I put them off?

Just like I do
in my nocturnal reflections
on the real world.


Thanks to Michael Cluff for the riff on our Seed of the Week: Early in the Morning. Got any thoughts of your own on that subject—or on any other? Send 'em to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs.

Michael sends us lots of poems; I keep the overflow in a folder for future posting, as I do with some of our other more prolific poets. The other day I noticed that he writes about neckties a lot. So the rest of today's Kitchen fare are Michael Cluff's necktie poems—sort of our soup du jour.

Cynthia Linville sends us this submissions tip: "You carry your weight well" art project is accepting submissions on an ongoing basis: 100 words of poetry or prose on the topic, "What is the weight that you carry?" along with a 600-pixel photo or art-piece. Your image can be as simple as an iPhone or webcam self-portrait. You might want to browse the site to gain inspiration from the ways that others have interpreted their own weight within:   Send your submissions to


—Michael Cluff

Bow-ties are too snotty
I have been informed
by those in the fashion-know
I will wear them
because they encircle my neck
a tracking collar
for society to keep me
under control and restraint
just because....

I wear gartered socks and suspenders
for the same reasons

but flag lapels on my suit
or sports coat jacket
just because...


—Michael Cluff

Dapper enough
a Canadian goose stance
center of the Milky Way look
he stands, then struts
in cuffless light tan dress slacks,
now oh so the fashion,
brown tassled loafers
and no tie.

It mainly works for him
but this time

He is dead already
just doesn't know it
she does

or lets him
think she is too.

Purple- and black-striped neckwear
goes on
and she concurs
he is a little less dead
but not nearly as much so
as he
and she
might be
sooner than tomorrow.


College professor
vested suit and paisley tie
peace unfulfilling

—Michael Cluff


Paisley tie intrigues
the young toddler to grab tight
Pop dead from neck up

—Michael Cluff


—Michael Cluff

Not nearly so
as bits would indicate,
getting by
by implications
wash out
in the alkaline-
draining sky.

Only a something
which adds up towards
less than what
no body
could possibly hold.

His hair neat
and gray,
pants sharp-creased
and placidly pleated
shirt starched stiff
a tie never undone.

The wind one May
decide to blow right
by him,

he was not there.


—Michael Cluff

Tugging at the traditional
trying to open it up
to new adventures

I throw the rock
of rage wracking
its face to response

The khakis are stained
the knit tie frayed
the cataclysm concluded.


Today's LittleNip: 

Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops,
Pale in the saffron mist and seem to die,
And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet,
Stand before a glass and tie my tie.

—Conrad Aiken



—Photo by Brandy Kemp

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Day Becomes

 —Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Allegra Silberstein, Davis

Gradually I emerge from sleep
search for place
in unfolding nothingness.
Above my narrow bed
knotted redwood boards
of the high cathedral ceiling
cross over four heavy beams—

soft brown eyes seem
to look down on me—no
they are too scattered,
more like dark stars.
They form constellations:
unicorn, cow, bear. They
keep their ordered space.

I begin the orbit of my day:
turn on the teakettle,
feed the cats, replace lenses
that wake me to all the lines
on my face…
then steal a moment
to lie down again.

The knots are clearer now
darker and more luminous,
their rings with varying degrees
of dark, some with deep flaws
cry for notice.
The constellations of my waking
no longer seem as clear.

Beneath this dream place
these old bones of mine
threaded together with muscle
and sinew need to come upright
against the pull of gravity
toward the pull of light

to ancestry deeper than membrane
or molecule, to the dust of stars
from which we come.
I stand again to find the morning.


—Allegra Silberstein

This day
in the
blessed by light
streaming through clouds
on the high peaks
of morning.

This morning
tells the sky
secrets of soul
stored within
stone halls
waiting for song...
to sing
this day.


—Allegra Silberstein, Davis

Quietly I come to this day
warmed in wooly-soft morning robe,
the brown caress of earth
beneath my feet.

Above me a white road
crossing a bottle-blue sky
paved with clouds,
a nimbus of early light
wrapping the storage-
shed facing east.

Dark peace of the night’s rest
left behind separate…
the unlettered silence
still holding in this quiet dawn.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Give me a morning canyon, where
the light, “the glorious Sun” not quite
“uprist,” mimics twilight but can’t
for a moment fool: this orb’s
headed up! and draws with it mist,
as a poultice iron-hot draws poison…
is this the reason of the myth
decreeing marsh mist a danger?
But the strong vapor makes of this
morning ravine a vessel. How many
calderas, daring elliptical bowls
rimmed with lemongrass, what old old
archetypes of soup simmer in the superb
essence, roux of shadow in Kettle
Canyon? Let’s bow our heads, folks, over
the dawn broth, in a slowspoken grace.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

No grandfather clock chimes
to wake this day.
It's radio alarm and anthrax,
possible dangers of mountain laurel;
a money-lord gunned down
in his island hideout;
a royal snub.

I'm out of driftwood sleep
and moving on transistors. 8:00 date
with a mechanic, brakes sound
like gravel in a pewter bowl.
To ease me through
the wait, I'll take a walk
with Morning.


—Taylor Graham

AC not working/window wide to
headlights on the interstate
grind of 18-wheelers all
night voices shoes slamming doors—

At last it's morning early. Bright.

Let me not be that woman
hauling her Great Dane gripped
like a purse by its collar
from deadbolt room to car.

Let my poor animal run

on a delta breeze.
Let my daylight spirit roam
between painted lines.
There's poetry on the road.


—Taylor Graham

Who would guess what rich
illuminations can be disguised
in black type on white paper?
A secret script in a tongue
whose code is metaphor, and meter
its breath and punctuation.
Imagine written lines that twine
invisibly with roses; mythical
beasts running in harmony
with common backyard-dogs, or
taking wing with gutter-sparrows.
A fox peers from the hollow
of an O. There's a haunting
of luminous spirits
in a half-rhyme; and by sleight
of phrase, the watchwords
of marketplace and war
become a canticle of peace.
Can these scrolls survive
an audit—these words
that translate English
into poetry?


Today's LittleNip: 

I like pushing the form, over-reaching, going a little too far, just on the edge, sometimes getting your fingers burned. It's good to do that.

—Gay Talese



 Last Monday's readers at Sac. Poetry Center
From right to left: Josh Fernandez, Aschala Edwards, 
Josh McKinney, Elison Alconvendez, Teresa Silvagni
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Innocent Morning

DAYLILY: Waited a year for you, 
enjoyed the day.
—Photo by Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Ice in the moonlight—
the stars breaking like glass.

Old, cold moonlight—
old rooster of the neighborhood.

Seven words left to say
in the protesting mouth of silence:

Innocent morning—
once more stricken with eyes.


Thanks to Joyce, Robin and D.R. for today's contributions! Joyce's "innocent morning" takes us right into our new Seed of the Week: Early in the Morning. Recently I had occasion to be at McDonald's very early, gripping my decaf and watching blackbirds harass a crow. I also saw how busy the world is on a summer morning before breakfast: construction workers, landscapers, vacationers with cars piled high, traveling salesmen with shirts hanging in the back seat, others grudgingly on their way to work. Sounds of traffic, lawnmowers, sprinklers—and that exasperated crow trying to shake those determined birds. What does your muse have to say about Early in the Morning? Hangovers or hope? Flip-flops or high heels? Country-early or city? Send your Early Morning poems to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs, either; go up to our Snake on a Rod on our bulletin-board and click it for a whole passel of SOWs from the past.

Cleo Griffith sends us word of a new reading series in Modesto at the St. Clair Theater, 417 7th St., to be held on the third Thursday each month as part of the city's Third Thursday Art Walk. Gary Thomas will read in July, and Cleo in August, but Sept. and October are still open. If you'd like to be a featured reader, contact Olivia Malekos at 209-531-3571 or 209-558-2562 or


—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

Dingy tee-shirts, smudgy
make-up, last night’s manners
clouded over by sleep: lovers
(and even maiden aunts)
bring surprising secrets
to the breakfast table.

Cities, too: San Francisco
in her bleary bathrobe of fog
performs a hasty toilette
with garbage trucks
before tourists arrive. . .


—Joyce Odam

This rain
turns to a sleep-man’s eye
who looks and looks
but he is dreaming.

The sunlight is under the wind.
It is morning.
All the roosters of the neighborhood
are mechanically crowing.

All that is rained upon this night
is washed innocent and clean.
The world is gone.
The sleep is done.

The dream is the drowned fish
cut open on the table.


(After “Morning” —Gregory Kondos)
—Joyce Odam

The paint has not dried—will never dry
under the layer upon layer

of the artist’s revisions;
there is only the wide green land

with the suggestion of a house
among trees—after half a century

the house still there, pulled back
in a frame of time—around it,

the unpopulated fields
with the gold splashes of sunshine,

the wide clear sky drifting over,
the day’s shadows taking their time.


—Joyce Odam

Now is the time for the other knowing,
wherever the slumbering moan and turn—
fathoming—when they most discern
some distant lowing . . .

some uttered sound in a distance, drifting,
bearing a tone that is near and far,
bringing itself to where they are,
their sleep-veils lifting—

some other presence out of the somewhere,
when the awakening turn and moan,
sensing the unknown and the known.
Whatever’s there.

Did they imagine they were forsaken—
out of their transient wilderness,
that something would reach them now and bless—
their old souls taken?


—Joyce Odam

So it’s midnight now
a hot July night
neighborhood sounds
fading in and out the window,

the noisy fan making wobbly circles
the two crows
hanging from it
trembling with vibration,

so much is loud in summer
the sleepless
the dead
their thoughts fusing,

so much is spilled across a sheet
of white paper: the fact of midnight—
a hot July night—neighborhood
sounds fading in and out the window.


—Joyce Odam

Out in the muted daylight, a bed is waiting
for my sleep—a soft sky floating like a
dream about to happen. I note one pillow,
plumped, and a small end-table with nothing
on it. I lie down and drift—a sense of gray
beginning and a solitude so deep I want to
enter it. I feel the lack of walls like a
relief and think past the thought of ceiling
to this vast and perfect stillness that pulls
to the stillness that I bring out of all my
chaos— that tempts me out of insomnia to the
safe and promising comfort of this bed.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

In stippled air,
the butterfly dances toward the pen...

write me, it says . . . draw me, it pleads;
I am all I am.



Morning Sky
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Monday, June 27, 2011

How We Live On Fringes

Bad Hair Day
—Photo by Janet L. Pantoja

—Janet L. Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

Toby extracted his front
Tooth—hoping for a coin or
Two—placed it with care under
The pillow. Distracted Mom
Thought not of dental duty.
Trouble was averted by
Technological email.


—Janet L. Pantoja

The boy wants Daddy to fix his computer,
but his daddy is indisposed at the moment—
he is in the process of dying.

Laptop under his arm, the boy approaches.
Daddy is agitated, confused, heavily medicated—
in pain in the process of dying.

“Dad, can you fix my computer?”
he asks while adults scurry to tend to his daddy
who is in the process of dying.

The boy pleads with his mother:
“Mom, all he has to do is log on . . .”
“Can’t you see your daddy is in the process of dying?”

Crushed and brokenhearted the boy walks away,
Laptop clutched tightly under his arm . . .
tears well up, spill over for his daddy who is dying.


—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

Dancing down the wind again
dust realigns cervices
roiling the mass
the simple taste
water rolling into cubelets
the wastrel in you
addresses the waves
gerunds with no place to go.


—Michael Cluff

The wind bites the hills
into straight drop-downs that rattle
the creek beds below
kangaroo rats
never should see the equinox light
it would boil their brains
to a sloppy mess.

And in the umbra
of the arrowhead
a defining lacuna
of geological import
above San Bernardino
a heated soul
shoots buckshot
at lizards of no account.


I could keep the key
for all eternity
I could hold the cup
'til man's time is up,
I could tell the story
of a saint's singular glory.

I must hold the words
or sing them only to the birds,
I can maintain a confidence
and never cross the repressive fence.

I will look always at you
up til one of our lives is through
you should worry about me
now who is the one who is somewhat more free.

—Michael Cluff


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

These roses in a row were planted
So long ago it is almost impossible
To tell there was once a house here.

I came upon them while traipsing
Through the drying fields and wondering
At the open space close to the creek.

They seemed out of place. Why would
roses choose to be here red, yellow
And a fiery orange, rangy but quite
Lovely? I paced the area and realized
A house had been there about a hundred
Or so years previously. This was the back
Garden. Then, at creek edge
A lilac full of the season.
This was a home, no doubt.

I sat on a rock for the afternoon
Watching the slow turning of the turkey
Vultures, listening to the landscape,
Imaging the seasons, a dry rock
Staircase leading to a dancing floor
Once full of life, now brushed
By ghosts and the fine voices of insects
Tidying up the Summer as their own house.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

For now, the vultures
have left off their heyday spiraling
above a rock staircase built
into hill; up to a house too recent
for the memory of buzzards.
Late afternoon, approaching dark.
Patio party. Listen to the zing-zitzing
of insects tidying up the summer,
and deeper—pond not yet
dozed over—a basso bullfrog
singing bugs down this
high-season's gullet. This is how
to live on fringes thin and edgy
as a leaf, a frog's tongue.



at the edge of afternoon,
three hooded figures
draw scrolls from sleeves—
pass codes and secrets
in a land that cares more
for the art of war
than the poetry of art.

They pass information quickly,
aware of watchers in the shadows.
They’ve come from lands of
meadows and orchards,
from the land of foxes and voles.
They speak in the old language
of equinox and stars.
They name the winds.

Before they vanish again,
in hushed voices, they plot
to wage peace;
murmur a canticle
in a dialect of adoration.
They share the hope
of enlightenment
one stanza at a time . . . .

—Katy Brown, Davis


Today's LittleNip: 

Today we are afraid of simple words like
goodness and mercy and kindness. We don't
believe in the good old words because we
don't believe in good old values anymore.
     And that's why the world is sick.

—Lin Yutang


—Medusa (with gratitude to today's contributors, including Pat Pashby for finding us the LittleNip that she says seems to fit with yesterday's burro poem.)

Taylor Graham, D.R. Wagner and Katy Brown read 
from their on-going Kitchen table conversation at
A Starry Night Poetry Series in Lodi yesterday.
For more photos of them and 
some of the other readers, see our Facebook page:
just type in "Medusa's Kitchen".
For more about A Starry Night, go to

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Love Does That

—Meister Eckhart

All day long a little burro labors, sometimes
with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries
about things that bother only

And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting
than physical labor.

Once in a while a kind monk comes
to her stable and brings
a pear, but more 
than that,

he looks into the burro's eyes and touches her ears

and for a few seconds the burro is free
and even seems to laugh,

because love does

Love frees.

(translated from the Latin by Alfio Grasso)


—Medusa (with apologies to the Starry Night folks
for neglecting to post their open mic that's happening 
in Lodi TODAY—see the b-board)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Making Marmalade

Ariel Giacobbe

—Ariel Giacobbe, El Dorado Hills

the sound of the rustling breeze
the feel of the wind through my hair
the whisper of the grass bowing to the earth
the roar of the waves crashing into the shore
the shadow of the dark and clouded sky
the chill of my feet hitting the cold sand

the way you move so carefully
the grace of the your strong hands
the intensity of your stare
the touch that makes me melt
the kiss you place on my wet lips
the curve of your smile meant only for me

the lingering tingle you leave on my skin
the way my knees buckle when you’re here
the loving arms that wrap me up as I fall
the icy waters that swallow us up in a second
the salt that burns my eyes as I look at you
the smoothness of your skin

the moment I freeze as you hold me in your embrace
the gasp as we emerge for a breath of air
the sharpness of the outside world as we rise
the brightness away from the depths
the awareness of each shiver up my spine
the warmth of being here against you

the comfort of knowing where you are
the smell the ocean against your bare chest
the way you hold me that lets me know I’m safe
the knowledge that this is forever
the power of knowing you’re near
the strength you lend me to battle the day

the beat of your heart against mine
the sensation of the sand against my back
the image of your hair falling into your eyes
the picture of the perfect day
the pressure of your body on mine
the pounding of my heart getting faster

the ringing in my ears when you move an inch away
the slant of your body as you move with me
the heat of your hands tangled with mine
the beauty of the way you are
the passion of our love
the joyful feeling of living for a moment

the sorrow for the end of the day
the anticipation to know many more await
the stretch of forever before us
the understanding that we’ll face it all together
the never-ending shores of the beach
the endless love of you and me


Thanks, Ariel, who writes: I am twenty years old, and currently working on a degree in Creative Writing. My dream has always been to become a published author, and I love writing poetry, as well as fiction, short stories, screenplays, novels, lyrics, and much more. I have completed one novel, which I am seeking to get published, and I am almost finished co-authoring a second novel with my boyfriend. Most of my free time is spent writing, reading, or making up stories with my little sister.


—Ariel Giacobbe

There have been some days passed in wisdom
and others in disgrace.
Each day has seemed harder to overcome,
leaving me wanting nothing more than to leave this place.
At times it feels as though I’m numb-
yet all these days I manage to keep sight of my true face.

There have been some days overtaken by war
when I know I won’t live if I don’t try.
All I can do is hold on and wait to see what’s in store
because it’s too early now to say goodbye.
Whatever I do it feels has though everyone still wants more-
yet all these days I hold tight to my will so I have the strength left to defy.

There have been some days blanketed in sorrow,
throwing me face down into ground.
But I crawl on with my dreams of tomorrow,
following the whispers of the life I hope can be found.
Many continue to plead for me to steal and borrow-
yet all these days I make sure I never turn around.


—Ariel Giacobbe

Stretching little arms out straight
Soft, warm sleeves of a puffy pink jacket
Eyes peeking out over a violet scarf
Leaping into a mound of fluffy white
Flakes gliding silently down
Blowing balls of foggy cold
Sharp taste of lingering peppermint
Lights poke through the trees
Signaling Christmas is here


—Ariel Giacobbe

she was so beautiful
hair cascaded down her back
golden waves dancing in the sun
eyes sparkled like crystals
time slowed down
cheeks so pink and flushed
music notes slipped from her mouth
I couldn’t help but stare
it was hard to breathe
the world faded into the background
all I could see was her
like nothing I’d ever seen before
her every movement made my heart pound louder
my legs gave out beneath me
she rushed to my side
her eyes filled with concern
her hand resting on my arm
as I looked into her eyes I knew
I knew exactly what to do
our lips brushed
our hands touched
and in that moment I knew
it’d be more than enough


—Ariel Giacobbe

glassy surface
silver pools of light
the glow of an invisible sun
ripples make their way farther and farther out
her long golden hair
spinning around her like a halo
as she floats immobile
her eyes shut as she sleeps
long blue dress as pale as her snow white skin
fingers clamped so tightly around a tiny flower
its pink petals as smooth as silk
her crimson lips
red with the blood of her last kiss


—Ariel Giacobbe

quietly skim the surface
softly state your purpose
words floating up like a melody
endlessly filling up you and me

sitting on the last step
waiting for me to digest and accept
throwing your guitar over your shoulder
telling me this has yet to be over

starting your trip on the highway
taking off your hat at the end of each day
walking in one constant direction
towards a part of town far from this section

beating a song out on your knee
dreaming of the life that could be
sighing each time you think of something sweet
frowning as you’re handed each receipt

singing for a large crowd
hearing the music pound fast and loud
smiling as you watch the audience cheer
whispering that you’ll soon be here

watching the seconds tick
imagining you in my reflection is a trick
thinking of you passes the time
closing my eyes to listen to the wind chime

turning around as I hear a bang
catching the noise of the screen door clang
suddenly you’re right in front of my eyes
never could I have imagined this day held such a surprise

swinging me in your arms
telling me there’s no need for alarm
letting me know what has occurred
asking you if your dream is to what you refer

whispering you’ve made it so far
joyfully talking about how you’ve become a star
promising me you have taken care of everything
smiling as I listen to you sing

gasping as I see the house you’ve bought for us
laughing as you make each detail such a fuss
snuggling into the life you’ve created
tilting my head as you watch fixated

lying down as I wait for the result
watching you pacing as the doctors consult
being informed of the little time left
holding you as your cries awaken even the deaf

sadly looking at you beneath the sheet
listening to your story of how there is nothing love can’t defeat
nodding as I pretend to believe the words you say
kissing you on the lips as I fade slowly away


Today's LittleNip: 

I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.

—D.H. Lawrence



 —Photo by D.R. Wagner

Friday, June 24, 2011

Don't Torture My Abalone

Photo by Ann Privateer


said you should
become more tolerant

loose with a smile
and forfeit your turn?

sailor’s cloud warnings
could issue in a delightful day

conversations sometimes realize
what’s boring so, unfriend me—

have a good life, then click---
dead          air. I won’t

mind your frailties
if you don’t, sip

life or gulp it down
cuddle discontentment

sleep in your own tortoise shell
but don’t torture my abalone

and mother-of-pearl
with diverse divers.

—Ann Privateer, Davis


—Ann Privateer

My room accordions
with other rooms
rooms muffled by right angles
like earworms gushing
down the drainpipe.
Sounds expand my concentration
while I fumble with eyeglasses
watch reflections in the mirror
that seem earnest, that seem
intelligible, that have no
agenda, only the sound
of muddy people talking.


—Ann Privateer

Made up of those

who drive while folding

and refolding their road

map perfectly.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Carefully spinning tales
that voters will embrace
suggesting our entire ship of state
our lives, our treasures, our fate
hang in balance on the next race.

Every sagging limb
on each imperfect tree
becomes the highlight of display
the news focus of the day
a ragged economy.

Ciphers, codes, enigmas
form the heart of each campaign
semicolons, semaphore
nothing you haven’t seen before
blanket us like rain.

War chests spill to the media
as the candidates paint their spins
what cannot be explained
is portrayed as something stained
it is all about who wins.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Looking for a lost sheep, I can lose
myself on five familiar acres, this local
landscape of oak and rock.
I could sit under wild plum by the creek
and weave brittling grasses
as if to make a basket, willow-ribbed,
holding nothing but sky.
This garden I never planted—
annual grasses bent by wind, and
poison-oak climbing fences
meant to shut things out. What evidence
under leaf-litter and loam, under
a summer's fall of thistledown,
of who once lived here?
Bedrock mortar, feather of a red-tail
hawk, a fern enclosed in stone?
Did Miwok grind their acorns
on this hillside? And what of the
lady who planted garden-roses
behind the house? Each rose a star
burning itself out in crimson.
And the creek that every winter runs
away with our fences, off to sea;
in this season, a dry rock stair-
case down this landscape
we for a time call home.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Don Feliz, Sacramento

Love thrives in sunshine
until cumulous cancer clouds
obscure the sun.

Love finds solace on its borders
in fences of poets’ phrases
and compassionate words.

Love surveys its boundaries, finds
an open gate to a meadow
drenched in sunshine.



—Photo courtesy of Ann Privateer

Thursday, June 23, 2011

By The Wind's Twelve Quarters

—Photo by Chris Moon, Sacramento

—Tartoum by Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Emerald grass, cool with dew—
I pretend this open field is mine
to share with you between feasts.

I pretend this open field is mine,
an inheritance from my father
from Wales, traveling with their trunks.

An inheritance from my father
of silver coins could not buy
what God has given us.

Silver coins could not buy
this golden new beginning
right here in our new land.

Traveling with our trunks
I share with you between feasts
what God has given us,
right here in our new land.


—James Lee Jobe, Davis

A rumor races down the freeway,
faster than any of the vehicles.

Cars whisper this rumor to trucks,
and so on.

is coming!

The long trucks move to the far right.
The foreign cars all move to far left.

In the middle lanes, moderate Californians
wonder what to do.

Wait for Jesus to pick His own lane?
Exit and genuflect from the frontage road?

Ascend into Heaven body, soul,
and Ford F-150?

Far to the rear, just at the horizon,
a light is growing.

Yes, a beautiful Heavenly light,
growing fast.

Then Jesus tops the rise at 80 miles per hour
in a rag top cherry-red 1957 Chevy Bel Air.

He has a muscled out 454 engine with dual carbs,
Hooker headers, and a Hurst shifter.

A rumble like thunder
shakes the freeway.

Jesus downshifts, gooses it, and starts passing everyone,
switching from lane to lane, smooth, perfect.

The Allman Brothers' Statesboro Blues
blasts out through His windows.

Jesus nods His head
to the Southern beat.


—James Lee Jobe

Red tomatoes grow sweet in the warm,
glowing sun.

The magpie, with a pretty yellow bill, steals
the catfood one piece at a time.

Cool winds wander up through the Delta,
lightening July's concerns.

Tell me, why do we make war
when there is so much to do?

Why do we go on killing
when there is so much to see?

Daylight returns over the heights of the Sierra everyday,
just when we need it.


—James Lee Jobe

Limestone and granite,

and pools of perfectly clear,

cold water.

A sky worthy of Van Gogh.

The sweet singing

of birds; a hummingbird

that drops out of nowhere,

A red-tail hawk

circling low, hunting.

Raccoon droppings.

A sister of a river,

full of fun, full of spirit.

Snow melt trickling

across the clean trail.

A medicine wheel

of pebbles on a flat, gray boulder

by the edge of the noisy river.

Praying alone

at the dog end of winter.


—James Lee Jobe

I have spent some time
with that river.

Walking the trails
of all three branches.

on gigantic granite boulders.

Swimming deep
in the cold pools.

Watching red-tail hawks
and turkey vultures.

Listening to the wind
through the jack pines.

And I was never alone,
never afraid.

Rattlesnakes, bears;

Falling, drowning;
it could happen.

But nothing ever
touched me.

God was there, guiding my feet, my hands,
leading me on.

Pulling me up from the deep, cold water into the fresh air,
into the light of the kind, warm sun.


—James Lee Jobe

One foot in the grave
and one foot on the pedal,
I was born a rebel      —Tom Petty

I like to listen to Tom Petty

with a Sacramento freeway rolling

underneath me and the sun herself

singing along    —hey hey hey!

I was born a rebel! The city unwinds

around me, a snake coiled and built

with sweat, steel, concrete, asphalt,

and more than a few complaints.

Even the skyscrapers rock back

and forth in time with music—

down in Dixie on a Sunday morning!

My old station wagon throbs and pulses

with the beat, then finally gives up, stands

on its hind wheels and dances! I dance, too!

Look at the middle-aged man, dancing

with his car on Interstate 80!

Finally, even the other commuters join in!—

I've got one foot in the grave, one foot

on the pedal, I was born a rebel!

I like to listen to Tom Petty

with a Sacramento freeway flowing

underneath me. I was born a rebel.

I was born a rebel.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Look, here's a footprint—
proof in sand that someone passed
this way, toe pointed north,

honeycomb-tread so worn
it must be one of those friend-
adventurers crossing paths in the dark

with me, between the common
landmarks—a cairn; a monolith; a beam
of light on a rock-eroding coast;

at high-water line, a message
in a bottle; a new star full of shine.
They say, bottle-messages

are useless, pure poetry.
But here's an ancient tale I hold up
to the light, and twist until I can

discern my path inside. Every
shoreline is a threshold.
Should I leave the message

as a sign, and save the bottle, or
toss it back to sea? Or might I sail it
with our story on the universal waves?


—Katy Brown, Davis

The weaving of this poem began
with naming the stars in a yard at night;
with planting wild roses from cuttings:

local landscapes of a larger world.
The almond tree outside a window
became the ladder to a crow’s nest

on the pitching roof of a post-war house;
a trip to the basement to fetch jelly,
a raid on a pirate’s cave.

The landscape of this poem
is a complex web of several childhoods,
several hauntings by luminous spirits.

We’ve each learned the language of rock
and tree. We chart our separate courses
by the wind’s twelve quarters.

We share a common star, lost
out beyond Arcturus: our most personal
beliefs, shared between us like a song. . . .


Today's LittleNip: 

Art: vehicle and destination.

—Stephen Dobyns


—Medusa (who hopes you got a chance to see yesterday's photos by D.R. Wagner, which were posted late due to a Blogspot iss-ee-yoo...)

—Photo by Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax

—Ronald Edwin Lane

This snow will pass
The landscape will change
Even that etched in glass
Won’t remain the same

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Like A New Star

—Photo by D.R. Wagner


three adventurers—leaving messages
corked in old rum bottles,
tying notes to Medusa’s snaky curls,
tapping out codes with granite boulders.

They cross paths by starlight, take their
bearings by Cygnus in the Northern Cross,
sail close to the wind, looking
for landfall along the rocky coast—

somewhere to build a cairn.
They move in synchronous paths—
never quite arriving at the same place,
but leaving dispatches along the way:

prepare to fly the spinnaker;
look here for lost sheep;
search the mine for treasure.
They leave fires banked at campsites

near egret roosts where
cottonwood shadows swallow light and sound.
They pass along compass bearings:
look, an owl’s feather points north. . . . 

—Katy Brown, Davis


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

At day's end she'd walk
the grassy ridge above a lake
where the world lies upside down
in reflection—to a western
overlook, to watch the sun descend
toward sleep. How strange,
that it sails west, across swell
after swell, to reach the eastern
shore of her own naming. Perhaps
she loved this one spot
to be alone—if she could love any-
thing so far from home.
This is where they buried her,
so her spirit could look
forever west. But
now there is no view.
Native oaks—live and blue—
have rooted into her hill, grown
huge, a sweep of dark
clustered canopies. Deep green
leafy sea she dwells
within. How could she sleep?


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Finding the poem unable to contain
Anything of real value it moves
To tell an ancient tale, a Lady
Greensleeves or a forum open to
The air that fills with error
So exquisite it reflects the morning
Just as we drop off to sleep
In order to catch a dream
Still hungry and difficult
To understand. How lovely to
Be born in such a place even if
One robbed it of all its marks
Of creation and the possibility
The people, others, could visit here.

Logically perfect with its random
Knowledge of how to proceed
From the specific to the universal
And dumbfounded that such a
Thing as this poem could exist
Without the probability of it ever
Losing traction and depositing us
On the edge of a sea,
Trousers creased, totally without
Awareness and yet driven
Beyond all reason to stay
With the whole thing until
It becomes some kind of prepared
Seagoing vessel that will carry
Us home so we may explain
To all, why we came to be here
In the first place, high and full
Of shine and able to present delicious
Food in the form of fantasy. Desire itself.
Opens and finally allows us to drop
Off to sleep completely exhausted
Twinkling like a new star at wonder.


in memoriam R.L.K.C.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael

I am thinking of a beach and a young woman today,
young woman I never met who knew well that beach,
that seaside that may be landscape or seascape,
really strictly neither, more capeswirl afloat in a liminal
zone, a threshold place of drift and mist, where the sun
if it comes, comes filtered, gentling over the bathers
and dog-walkers and frisbee-chasers, where feet
as they tread pick up a pulsebeat of lightness
from the soft wet give of the tidal sand.

I never knew the young woman, and she is gone;
but I know such beats of the sun and caresses of mist
as she knew, and I know beaches not this very beach,
yet this light-washed basin the salt ocean fingers
is universal & nests near a monolith of green-tufted,
bird-settled rock, three times higher than a human,
making as if to lift utterly out of the water soon:
whenever it last will comfort or terrify or beckon.
Its name is Haystack Rock, a thing existing to paint

obsessively, as Monet painted actual haystacks
outdoors in the teeming wind and oilpaint-resistant
grit, each day a different race at a different hour to catch
the quality of the light in paint that can never equal
light, but works by strenuous heroic brushflicks of evocation…
this rock, as you came to see it, sixteen times and more,
did it rear up just to impose its indomitable shadow
on your slow-bronzing skin, your mist-susceptible mind?

I sorrow for the rock archetype that paints
the back walls of our minds with its shadow,
asking us to lie down with oblivion long before
our hour; I wonder at Robert Frost’s reminder we all
obsessively look out at a sea we’ll never possess;
I ask you too late, Turn back and look at the town
that wishes to receive you! its geometry of roof
and church steeple, the occasional eccentric

pepperpot turret atop a length of shingle,
all these humanshaped lengths of board under
heights of dark green living tree, wanting you
to stay and be cradled, and rise again from cradled
sleep refreshed and engaged with us
in the fresh young fog-clad morning,
our backs to the ocean for now.


—Taylor Graham

With a whole great summer-world outside,
what honest man would sit here,
wandering the local landscape of his mouth?

I don't belong in the traffic of tiny metal
vehicles across my teeth. Or is it
errant imagination—those muffled clicks

from down the hall, as if knives
or pistols being tucked away in drawers,
who knows? Everything's so steel

and scrubbed, devoid of purrs and whiskers.
I was never meant to be so clean.
Instruments probe my floss-faults—for

what? traces of candy? caviar? I can't
afford this. I confide nothing.
In another hour I'll be out the door.


Today's LittleNip: 

Libido: the body's happy charioteer.

—Stephen Dobyns


—Medusa (with regrets that today's pix are late—Blogspot apparently had a problem)

Photo by D.R. Wagner

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

All Shapes And Sizes

 Families come in all shapes and sizes....
Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Eve wept through a planned darkness
going though the tangles of guilt
that filled up[ the exit like trees;

she suffered as long as she could
then tattooed her left hip
with an apple and became a belly dancer.

celebrating the birth of all her daughters
who would be born
to mothers of the future.

(first published in Potpourri, 1996)


—Joyce Odam

One by one we lose ourselves in the shadows.
How many of us are there?

We bunch together and try to belong.
We learn to love each other.
We learn the movement of stealth,
migrating over the night
until we reach
more shadow.

Ah, family!
Ah, reunion!

(first published in Cotyledon 22, 2001)


—Joyce Odam

The man with the pony was generations old and would
coax the reluctant mothers with his camera and smile.
The pony would turn its red and dangerous eyes toward
the children who wanted to ride in the shy and creaking
cowboy circle. It was always summer for ponies and
children and the dusty man with the camera—the man they
would never see again—who would take all their names
and their mamas’ household money to pay for their
pictures. The pony would stand listless after the
children were lifted from the saddle. Its sleepy eyes
would close and the children would fade small and far
away—into their memory of this—into the sepia snapshots
in their mamas’ albums.


—Joyce Odam

Standing pretty against the shiny blackness of
the family car, she holds still for the focus; the
curved window of the car throws back the view.
Her anonymous features vanish under sunlight’s
glare—her hands full of flowers—her foolish hat
askew—a soft wind rumpling against her skirt.
She is caught in that captured moment eternity
loves. Time is hers—and she belongs to time.

(first published in Poets' Forum Magazine)



the sad stranger in the portrait
with the accusing eyes

and I who love strangers
feel the eyes follow

my eyes
that try to look away

and the portrait pulls me back
and I almost weep with regret

for what I may have done
and I accept my guilt

and the gold frame shudders
in a burn of hard light to brand me

—Joyce Odam


—Joyce Odam

what evolution this—the
grinning figure at the edge of

love like some old granny rememberer
pointing her finger and laughing

and we all twined together
in generations of delicate shift

as though we were painted thinly
on crepe paper—

we bleed—
the least touch of anything

and we are changed—
and though the poses are the same

the dye is run between us
like a change of mind

(first published in Ark River Review, 1972)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

The doll is left in sacrifice—
arms raised and staring at the door
the child goes through as childhood’s price;
of all such stories there is more—
but that’s what mystery is for.

(first published in Poets' Forum Magazine)


—Medusa (with thanks to D.R. and Joyce for today's contributions! Time for another Seed of the Week: Local Landscapes. Do with it what you will—landscapes outside us, inside us, backgrounds or foregrounds, country mouse or city mouse. Send your poetic, artistic or photographic SOWs to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. If landscaping doesn't tickle you, try any of the SOWs listed on our Calliope's Closet page (under the Snake on a Rod on the b-board)—or send us any subject whatsoever! No deadlines on SOWs.)

Photo by D.R. Wagner

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lining Our Faces...

Photo by Janet L. Pantoja

—Janet L. Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

Wandered Alki Beach in
Winter sunshine with
Wind-chilled Jessi
Wrapped in a blanket—
We witnessed, enraptured:
Wind-whipped white caps . . .
Waves crashing, spraying rainbows into icy sunlight.


—Janet L. Pantoja

Decade of twists and turns of caregiving that

            Encompassed senior citizens and grandchildren,
                                       one plus twins . . .

                        Tremendous loss of loved

                        Ones . . . parents, aunts, cousin, poet-in-law,
                                       son-in-law, pets too:

            Unusually sad, yet happy my life—on hold then—now

Returns to a new normal, whatever that is.


I never really knew an aunt I once had from Germany
who married my uncle in about 1967 when he was in the Air Force
No he didn't get to fly
as he originally intended when he dropped out of high school to join
But fortunate for him he wasn't ever stationed in Vietnam
he got to be with the security at the Iron Curtain border
where, among other things, he learned quickly how to speak German and Russian
as well as the fine points of bribing Soviet soldiers
who exchanged information for liquor or Pall Malls from "the free world"
I have no ideas or sentiments about how Uncle Jim and "Elka" met
Yet he proudly sent photos home of being with his new "trophy" wife
traveling around Europe with whom he thought was the love of his life
But apparently she wasn't who he thought
After his service was over he went to work for the Pepsi Corporation
In the photos in the family's album dated around '72 or '73
when they came to visit my parents home in L.A.
I was still a baby being held in my mother's arms
so maybe it’s a "blessing" that I don't remember her at all
and have only known my uncle's American second wife as "Auntie"
(whom my uncle had somehow known before he married Elka)
It happened on one day as my mom babysat their adopted four-year-old son, Jeffery;
she didn't know Elka was getting a divorce
When Mom found out
Elka just simply said she never actually loved her brother
Apparently her German friends and she had already planned to do this:
they'd hook up with American servicemen
so as to get into the U.S. to live and earn some money
and when they were tired of it they'd just file for divorce and leave
My own parents and family of course were furious
they'd never before conceived of such an "absurdity"
(though indeed it was a sign that, after all, this was the ‘70s)
Before my uncle could plead for shared custody rights
she took their son back to her native country
and therefore out of U.S. jurisdiction
being the first woman who truly broke his heart
Yet Jeffery got to work with the airline industry
and chooses to live today in the U.S.
Apparently his mother went on to have many different men as he grew up
but he still calls my Uncle the only real Dad he ever knew

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

The wounded soldier’s young, limp body
was put on a gurney and whisked


from the top spot on the leader board.
This hole, a par 3, will be his toughest challenge


his family got the news they always dreaded,
leaving them staggering in their


over striking out on a pitch
he normally would have


the urn of ashes at sea,
every second, every little particle triggering a


gain on the surprise quarterback sneak.
That was a true team


to preserve memories that should have
been allowed to get much, much


weather systems have died out,
leaving us with a bright, sunny day



—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Little Ken, grown up now,
went fishing with friends
and caught a humongous,
tremendous, trout

that he brought home and
presented with a shout,
“Look, Mama, we are blessed with food!”

His mother quickly replied,
The last time you said that,
it was left entirely to me
to handle the blessed chore
of cleaning the fish,
cooking the fish,
and watching you eat it
while I did the dishes.

This time I will let you enjoy
those blessings yourself, Ken.
You’ve certainly earned it!


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Dad’s dad changed his name and
left the country to avoid being drafted…
…into the German army, circa WWI.

Dad’s mom was born and raised in America,
but after marrying Granddad, had to
petition the government under the
Repatriotization Act in order to restore her
full rights and privileges of citizenship.

Dad served as a signalman in the Seabees
in WWII, waving flags on the deck of a ship
that was involved in the D-Day events at
Normandy. He returned with a keen disfavor
for anything French and, would not, could not
discuss the war, only to say that he wanted
his sons to experience war no closer than
the classroom.

Mom, whose ancestors hailed from Poland and
Russia, wrote poetry in the years between
the War to End All Wars and the next of several
more wars. The theme of her poetry was later
echoed by Rodney King of the Watts Riots era:
“Why can’t we all just get along?”


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

I’ll tell her story again
though you may not believe it,
the story of Christina, my grandmother
she lived more than two centuries ago
during the Revolutionary War…

in 1780 she and her children
were captured at Martin’s Station
a log fort on the Ohio River
captured by the British and native Wyandottes
while her husband Charles,
my grandfather,
a dedicated Indian-killer
was in the forest hunting for food

Christina was taken to a Wyandotte village;
she and her children were kept there
for three and a half years
her oldest son Speed was somehow lost
in the war for the wilderness;
surviving were Christina,
her sons James, Cornelius, and Reese
her daughter, a baby girl known as “Sis”
conceived with a Wyandotte brave

war ended
Christina and her children
traveled to Staunton Virginia
where they met up with Charles—
he took one look at the Indian baby
seized her, dashed her head against a tree
and again…
until she was dead


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

We too are sailors who seize
Upon the idea of the unknown.

It comes to us as a naming,
As siren songs in the willowy depths.
We think the salt spray our tears,
The shoreline, the edge that keeps
Us from loving the rise and fall
Of swell after swell, the shift
The stars take along the twinkling path
To night.

Here we can truly be alone.
Touched by the wind, the slash
Rain makes upon us, lining
Our faces with season upon
Season, the circling of morning
After morning, the way we embrace
These great seas we can only
Live upon and never dwell within.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

This abandoned place
where she lives longing to be
somewhere else—on a path of wind
and stars to where she came from.

A six-prong buck gazes as she
walks, very much alone
along the lake-edge. Water reflecting
trees upside-down. Oak trees,

not the trees of home. This
abandoned place all upside-down,
in spite of the egret—tall,
thin S-curve on the opposite shore—

and then it lifts, unfurling its white
silk sleeves, to fly away
as she would, from this place
abandoned. So far from her harbor

of home. Evenings, she hears
remembered voices more than music.
But if she follows, she finds
it’s bullfrogs in the green-scum pond,

or bats chirping from the eaves
at almost-sundown. Lilacs with
their hanging hearts of leaves, and
something waiting in the dark.


—Photo by Janet L. Pantoja

—Janet L. Pantoja

Allie rides alone this time.
We watch him roll peacefully away . . .
on a journey only he can take
to parts unknown to humankind.

This is Allie’s last ride.
We wish him Godspeed . . .
with tears, hugs and goodbyes.
In the dust of memories, all are left behind.

No mortal suffering remains.
Allie freewheels in eternity . . .
our love fills his saddle bag,
companions him . . . wipes away all pain.

Allie rides alone now.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Carl Bernard Schwartz

The patient looked anxious and perplexed
“I’ve got your back” said the young nurse.
“That explains this missing material on my gown,”
piped the patient, suspecting a conspiracy.


—Medusa (with thanks to today's many contributors, including D.R. Wagner, who sends us this article defending the use of upper case at the beginning of every line: )


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father, Son

The Lady in the Clouds
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Ted Kooser

It is Sunday afternoon,
and I suddenly miss
my distant son, who at ten
has just this instant buzzed
my house in a flying
cardboard box, dipping
one wing to look down over
my shimmering roof, the yard,
the car in the drive. In his room
three hundred miles from me,
he tightens his helmet,
grips the controls, turns
loops and rolls. My windows
rattle. On days like this,
the least quick shadow crossing
the page makes me look up
at the sky like a goose,
squinting to see that flash
that I dream is his thought of me
daring to fall through the distance,
then climbing, full throttle, away.



Saturday, June 18, 2011

This Floating World

Pushing up, pushing up
Sometimes it seems
Pushing up, pushing up
Is but a dream

—Photo and poem by Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax


—Carol Louis Moon, Sacramento

The night is short. Her royal
blue gown hangs as pillar cover
over her Greek athletic. Patent-leather
shoes of black crocodile peek out
from under. Gem and pearl earrings
dangle from a face so lit by moonlight
that her Valiant squints his blue-gray
eyes of delight. A creamy wrist
orchid megaphones their proper
names. Penguined musicians play
in an alcove of this cool, stone-lined
cellar. A dream is unfolding; its
memory is sealed.


—Carol Louise Moon

For weeks I heard, in my mind, the bagpipes playing.
I wondered if I would see or really hear them.
Then my dream came true in early autumn
as I waded, pants rolled up, across a stream.
In summer stream were many children playing, and
two elbow bagpipe players, on a log in sand.
They played some jigs for me, at my request.
The Welsh and Irish tunes I’d always known—
till now, heard only on my granddad’s gramophone.


—Carol Louise Moon

A dark man smiles through
a sculpted brass picture frame
which rests on polished maple.

This brass-framed picture sits
near a triangular spot of light
reflected from the mirror behind.

This triangular spot of light glows
beside a small flower-painted urn
which holds a blue carnation.

The small flower-painted urn
is companion to a white teapot
which wears a gold-rimmed hat.

For company, she pours the teapot
which, dressed in white, tips his
gold-rimmed hat and whispers,

“Good day, Ma’am, whose
son shines through glass.”


—Katy Brown, Davis

She beckons to me from the middle
of the stream, jumping and balancing,
graceful as an Alpine Ibex,
from one perfectly smooth stone to another.

She was born to a family of adventurers,
like mythic explorers of the deep earth and air.
She ignores the churning water, rising
in the streambed from afternoon snowmelt.

There’s a mine halfway up the ridge
that her grandfather told her about—
walls lined with candle nooks—
a mine that calls to her in his voice

like some hypnotic, dark lullaby.
She wants to share this world,
carved from living granite—
then abandoned years ago.

The miners saw something waiting
in the dark. They climbed back out
and kept on walking—
heading for the open—for the path

of wind and stars. Beeswax candles,
in melted suspension await a match.
The sable breath of the mine
still tries to speak its name;

still swallows shadows;
still exhales a plume of bats;
waits for someone brave enough
to light the candles once again.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

You left a desk behind, to cruise
its 9-to-5 without you; sold your house,
and bought a motor-sailor.

This new love rocks you to sleep.
In Greek her name means “Freedom.”
In her galley, provisions

for a season, or the next port-of-call.
This winter morning, the sea
screams like a cold gray fish-wife.

A sailor will never be free
of weather. It's the sting of salt-spray
that smarts, and keens the eye.

Fifty years, a receding shore.
Your heart's a stone
with wind and ocean beating.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

She filled the evening
With a quiet song that
Made me put my head
Against the earth and close
My eyes as if I were very much
In love and very much alone
At the same time.

Soon other voices joined hers
And the sky grew darker.
I could hear kalimbas being
Played far away. They sounded
Like birds might sound when they
Realize they are dancing.


—D.R. Wagner

The song breaks open,
Spills on the floor,
Looking for something
That will become the bells
Of the morning, your smile,
Or water making magic
As it falls from a great height.

I still long to see you
On the mountain path,
The fire opening up the night
To where your eyes glow
Once again against the lines
Strings make when they are played.

The footsteps move so quickly
Away. These are not the winds.
They are notes of crystal and
Moments flabbergasted to even
Be here, caught in the voice,
More than music, more than song.


—D.R. Wagner

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

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

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

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


Today's LittleNip: 

Thinking about the people in this floating world
far into the night—
my sleeve is wet with tears.




A white sun hung in the gray beyond

—Photo by Ronald Edwin Lane

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hang On To Those Bags!

Kate Campbell

      (For Ashley’s 13th Birthday)
—Kate Campbell, Sacramento

My mother kept buds on rose bushes in her front yard.
She snipped and sprayed, planted sweet alyssum
at their feet, and never gathered a bouquet.

Considering that a waste, when I grew up
I picked buds in their prime and put them in
a vase on the window sill above my sink.

She told me I was wrong to take the sweet,
tight buds from my yard and press them into
service for my own selfish whims.

My mother said she liked to watch her buds open
in the sun, spread into full bloom, because
unfolding is the purpose of a rose.

Buds are like young girls, I said, just before their
first period, pink and curled, innocent of the
push to womanhood that will come.

I told her I could not stand fragrant virginity,
waving vulgarly at strangers on the street.
I cut buds for the sake of modesty.

Before spent blooms formed knobby hips,
my mother would slice them cleanly from their
thorny stems. She said roses like it rough for
flowering and I shouldn’t fear for the vulnerable.


Thanks, Kate! Kate Campbell is a journalist, photographer, editor and creative writer. She grew up in San Francisco, but has lived throughout California and the West. She is the single mother of two sons and has supported her family for more than 30 years through her writing and art. She is the recipient of many awards for writing and reporting. Her work has appeared in major daily newspapers and in regional magazines. Her photography has been widely published and exhibited. She lives in Sacramento and is grudgingly coming to grips with the clay soil in her garden and the ever-present dust on her furniture. See more of Kate's work in the current issue of Rattlesnake Press's WTF, available free at The Book Collector in Sacramento.


—Kate Campbell

I’m always there, tough and chewy,
gristle against the bone, narrow eyes
trained for radial sight, seeing all—
the spittle spray, salsa dribble down
your clothes, hanging threads, runny
nose, dangling hairs from frayed lapels,
scabby ankles in torn hose.

I watch you floundering in the foam,
you who cannot swim. I find pleasure
in your struggle, smirk, stroke the notches
of my sternum, as you’re sucked into the
hole, where my righteousness need not go.

You see the surface of my face, my very
skin and bones. From my outward glinting
light you think you guess my turn of mind,
the workings of my soul.

You do not get too deep with me, down
to where my judgment makes its bones,
where your every flaw is analyzed
and cataloged, tallied against my norm.

I’m always watching with my lizard eyes,
smiling, licking my teeth, cracking my knuckles,
popping my back, clacking my ivory bones
like dominoes and keeping score.


—Kate Campbell

Due to moments beyond our
control, your life is not secure.
White zones are for loading
and unloading passengers.
Unattended vehicles will be
Towed without notice.

This is a security announcement:
Keep your bags with you at all times.
Report all suspicious activities.
Use the white security phones.

No scissors,
no clippers,
no lighters,
no knives

Talking about bombs is not a joke,
it’s a federal crime. You will be
prosecuted. Have your ID ready.

Shoes off.
Step forward.
Arms up.
Arms down.
Please exit.

Now loading at Gate 14A,
show your boarding pass.
Find a seat, enjoy
100-calorie snack packs.
Cocktails $4 and we’ll
keep the change.

Put trays in the upright, locked position.
Turn off electronic devices.
Don’t stand in the forward portion
of the aircraft. Fasten seat belts.

El asiento es para flotar,
use for a water landing.

Flying on September 11, waiting, bottoms
cupped in plastic seats, legs cross, uncross.
News headlines offer: “Seared Memories,”
“3,000 lives lost and all we’ve got is a hole in the ground.”

Names of the dead read out loud. Drop by drop,
on airport monitors. Crying kids, wilted flowers, bells toll,
rain spatters. Cross winds. Rough landing.
Welcome to Baltimore!

Check overhead bins.
Take all your belongings.
Women and children first.

Don’t push.
Don’t shove.
Don’t forget your umbrellas.

We know you have many choices
when you fly. Thanks for choosing us.
Have a nice day and see you—next time.

This is a security announcement:
White zones are for the loading
and unloading of passengers.
Keep your bags with you at all times.


—Kate Campbell

The waffle press of summer heat
crisped the edges in my yard. Now
singed leaves dangle and drop,
on syrupy breezes. Parched
blossoms shrivel and withdraw.

I watch sweet summer turn to fall
From my kitchen window,
Above the steam of washing dishes,
I sense the season’s battle draw.

Powdery mildew chokes Mexican sage,
Its purple flowers defeated. Fruit
rats raid my pomegranate tree, gnaw
tough flesh to suck hot, red juice.

Mushrooms push aside green blades
of grass, sprout fleshy helmets filled with
spores. Puffs on dandelions release
dainty bombs for next year’s scourge

while aphids huddle on the cherry tree.
They pucker leaves, damp the shoots.
Tent caterpillars set up in the oranges,
prepare for winter's siege.

Soldier ants begin to march, wild grapes
tighten their grip and berry canes, they
brandish thorns. Wild grasses spread evil
seed to ambush spring—when it arrives.

Insidious, deceitful season.
Cusp of death on velvet breeze,
transition on an egg-dried fork.
I scrub the tines, hungry for this garden fight.
I fling wide my kitchen door, gird myself with
rubber gloves, spray gun by my side,
spoiling for a fight with fall.


i don’ like my dad
—Kate Campbell

From a child’s lost homework
found in the bushes in my front yard:

i’m malaysia, malaysia malone, an
i don’ like when my dad don’ call
to see if we’re doin’ good in school.

my dad he gived me my name,
he said i’m smooth like china sea
but he hurts my feelin’s a lot.
my dad is a dead b dad.

on fridays he don’ call.
fridays is the day my dad’s
sposed to come, but
he don’ no more.

my sister, we sit outside.
we wait. we tie kicks. we sing songs.
i’m almost six. my dad don’ come
no more.

my dad make me feel like i don’
wanna to talk to my dad no more.

my mom she yell. she say
my daddy a fool. i don’ know
bout that stuff. bout how he
do his time and mess with
rocks an other wimens.

i don’ like when my dad
don’ want me and my sister.
she’s burmese.
she’s littler an me.
my dad he’d say she
Burmese if y’all please.
he squeezed her knees.

i don’ like when my dad
don’ want us in his house.
i don’ like when my
dad don’ have a house.

i don’ like when
i don’ like my dad.


—Kate Campbell

Four walls could not hold you,
         could not keep you in the nest.
                 You walked away and left us,
                            your room a major mess.

The door is closed, like my heart
         but sometimes, it opens, just a crack.
                 The smell of you is there, your dirty
                            clothes piled on a chair, waiting.

Run-down sneakers, baseball cards,
         twisted gum wrappers on the floor,
                 posters of Al Pacino and Bob Marley,
                            guardians of memories behind the door.

Things of your childhood clutter
        the room from which you fledged
                 and I go in sometimes to feel the
                            downy feathers shed before your flight.


—Kate Campbell

In morning frost before coffee brews
and orange trees warm their blossoms
we speak of Nisei, of generations come to stay
in a land breathing bees and broccoli, analyze

red cherries and parasols, the whole empire,
before breakfast, before sun. And whisper
the pebbled patio smooth with talk about
implied racism, about Enola Gay, about the day

and we resolve this glimpse of war that blasted our
morning with memories of scorched seeds, burnt skin,
powdered bones, seared fields, a target selected for
maximum cruelty, to force a nation’s surrender

and, we part then to speak no more of Hiroshima,
a quarter million people gone, while here our Nisei
farmers had tilled fields and suffered internment.
Such a bitter taste this mourning frost.


Today's LittleNip: 

...inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.

—Brenda Ueland



Photo by D.R. Wagner