Monday, October 31, 2011

Bumpings In The Night

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Caschwa, Sacramento

It was shortly before 3:00 a.m.
And a stranger was knocking
Not on the door, more like the roof

Could be some critter
Who thinks we are the strangers
Imperialist invaders
Confiscating their territory

Goodbye trees
Hello parking lots
Many remain unlit
Cozy home to criminal activity

Highest and best use of the land
So say the real estate agents
Build, build, build some more
Where the buffalo roam

Used to roam, we killed them off
So we could level forests and build
huge houses,  put in shopping malls
Because that is what people really value

Knock knock, knock knock
I was getting ready to reach for my gun
House rules: no buffalo on the roof
Then the knocking faded away.

Let’s see if there’s anything on TV…


Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove


We grew up in a house that had
Two streams running alongside it:
Pride, made up entirely of money,
And Shame, 100% ridicule

Only top-notch results admitted one
To wiggle their toes in Pride,
All performance below the level where
Parents could brag soaked one in Shame

It wasn’t just our family
Practicing this level of polarization
Winners and losers, sinners and saved,
Pass or fail, kill or be killed

And then along came Medusa
With that most unruly hairdo
Laughing at perfection
Wiggling her toes in Poetry.


Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

Please don't blame your dog
if he or she "hates" holidays
and suddenly acts crazy
including Halloween,
just like the 4th of July:
strange visitors to the home as well as noises
which might be frightening
and might cause them to freak out
or even in self defense to mistakenly bite
If people must come
then put dogs in their own room or place
especially if there are going to be children
who might think it's funny to tease
So considering a festive costume for a dog
to "show it off"
may not be a good idea either
They may chew it to pieces
feeling their dignity taken away
But at all costs
Don't poison a dog by giving them chocolate!

—Michelle Kunert


Photo by Katy Brown

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

The school intrudes too much
into the habitat
nature is disturbed
native diets are replaced
by what is available.

The elder mountain lion
still maraudes the pathway
from the Humanities Building
down to the parking lot
displaces the mocking crows
that never feared
its mighty form.

Yet now they laugh
at the apparition
evermore lean
and with lolling tongue
pacing the concrete
in sad never-
ending discontent.

Lost terrain
equates to lost lives
animal can haunt man
like pumas were hunted
the earth
received their feline bones
with a
mankind never shows


—Michael Cluff

Little Delores
almost exactly a decade ago
between the ATEC and CACT builidings

into the drainage system below.
But never and nary a bit of her
is ever noted and negated and null
by numerous Norcoians near
and not so.

Every now and then
during the dusk
she sometimes arises
above the ground
through the two heavy
clotted egg-white colored cylinders
drilled with air holes
from what I have heard told
are just right to accommodate
what she seems to need.

She delivers a dirge-like ditty
declares it was a cruel mother
that mashed her up at work and then
through the ducts
in the metal
into the enveloping earth.

Delores' duenna
is now the dirt and radioactive dust;
a death not delayed
her blood and soul ever seeping
right below
the student center
of a college here
in Norco.


—Michael Cluff

The curious coyote
still visits the campus
on clear nights
moon-ridden and intense
near the turn of October
into November
close to eight or eleven
never more
never less.

Its path pulverized
many days
nay years ago
back to the bottomlands
yet the animal spirit runs on
as does the sluggish Santa Ana
above Norco College shores.

Some see the brute
fall or stay in sulky shadow still;
it is no more of hair
of teeth
of trot

it flows
between body and myth
as do many natural things
right around this nook
of the new world
getting older
and uglier
with each micro-eon past,
some long ago.


Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

It was only the mask of a bird

There was but a whisper of music,
A tempting scent of wild thing.

We could never remain inside.
A gleaming spell fashioned of mahogany
Seemed to pull us just beyond.

We felt we were but sweet captives of night
The mask would draw us down.

We studied the shape of the bench
Just below the mask. We wouldn’t
Let these shapes desert us, that his

Was a persistent thing, a wing a bird,
A shape of madrone but still forming

Itself, unfolding itself like a song.
We could not explain the piercing eyes as carving
Rather as a truth that we could know

Spreading toward us, opening a perfect emptiness
The point where imagination is as pure black,

Over the edge of understanding we watched
Or seemed to watch the way wood
Can find form as would bone.

We heard it sing this bird,
This mass of twigs, this truth, this mask.


Thanks to today's spooky poets and photogs! Carl Schwartz says his "Poetry Trap" was inspired by our current Poetry Trap of the Week, "The Perfects". D.R. Wagner says his poem today was inspired by Taylor Graham's Birdman; he writes, I took Taylor's title MASK-MAKER'S BIRD, used her last line as my first line, then counted the number of words in each line and used the last word of her lines, keeping the word count intact, starting at the end of the poem and working backwards to the first line. This is the result.

Got that?


Today's LittleNip(s): 

There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery. 
—Joseph Conrad

True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about but few have seen.
—Author Unknown

Look, there's no metaphysics on earth like chocolates. —Fernando Pessoa



Miranda's Punkin
—Photo by Katy Brown
(Medusa's Facebook page has a new photo album, 
this one of Katy Brown's photos of the reading last Weds. 
at Cosumnes River College. Check it out!)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Who is the Traveller, and Who is Listening?

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Walter De La Mare

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
   Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
   Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
   That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
   To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
   That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
   By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
   Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
   Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
   That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
   Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
   From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
   And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.


—Medusa (with thanks to one of my favorite poets, though he be dead lo these many years. Be sure to read this poem out loud!)

 Photo by Katy Brown

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Has Your Grammar Gotten Loose?

Lisa's Pumpkins
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

The air was thick with clouds of gnats.
'Twas Halloween, and very soon
the harvest would be put to vats.
The air was thick with clouds of gnats,
the fruit hung on the vine.  The bats
flew silhouetted 'gainst the moon.
The air was thick with clouds of gnats.
'Twas Halloween, and very soon.


—Carol Louise Moon

She calls them ghost moths, white
nearly see-through moths, bobbing
on ghost airstreams, silent in their 
calling out the names of the many
flowers they visit—flowers that
drown in over-watered gardens.
Or weeds that dry out from neglect,
which perish before they can be
named or loved by a butterfly.
These, the ghost moths visit in their
fading, even the cabbage in its

(first pub. in Brevities, 2010)

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

High on the workshop wall hung a mask
of carved madrone—a beaked bird.

Raven, eagle, hawk? Hollower than bone
behind its red muscle-grain of wood,
it never spoke, but kept its watch.

A lady opened the door, saw the black-
hole gaze of bird-mask with emptiness

for eyes. How much? she wanted to know.
Not for sale. It was only a family carving.
An instrument chiseled out of song

that begged for lips and fingers forming
sound. No, it was only a wooden bird,

spirit-totem, mankind before he filled his
marrow up with flesh. She wouldn't
understand. The boy at the work-bench

couldn't explain how it looked down
from so high up, so far away. At night,

did it circle above rooftops, beyond
city towers? People locked their mahogany
drawers, keeping things safe inside

their forms. So how could this thing
fly free, its emptiness making sky-music?

It was only the mask of bird.


Today's LittleNip: 

A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night.

—J.M. Barrie



Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for finding this...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ghost Rats and October Blues

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

You play sax
under a lambent sun
leaves as tremulous
in a nervous wind
opulently totter
from aspens and maple
along indifferent roads
in first light Vermont
hitting arpeggios
in unexpected harmony
on nature's landscape
as an unknown bass player
dashes from her scooter
into the cool-headed woods
to perform artlessly
with flowing notes and hair
like Rapunzel
letting go.


—B.Z. Niditch

In my ninth year
of Autumns
no worries suffice
a bulletproof childhood
though sized up
on tawny heights
of our library
an ageless butterfly
takes over
in the weary leaf
of an adventure book
losing sight
of a momentary stir
touching sunlight
as brief nostalgia
scatters my memory
covering the glare
of phantoms
that chapter and verse
a world away.


—B.Z. Niditch

One wonders
on an empty hour
of an ingrown day
at home
what risk
will words take you
passing through
sleepless and buried
as images that concede
on the grounds
of your nature,
and left to live.


—B.Z. Niditch

Sonorous clouds
in a phantom sky
with your pale first light
when thrushes murmur
with quickened wings
on aspen and poplar
covers an unknown dawn
a poet overlooks
blue hills
between two oceans
opens his life-jacket
to sail amid a swirl
of winds
and gull voices
folds his mellow notes
slowly pronounces
his last sentence
in a foreign tongue
expecting to be translated.


—B.Z. Niditch

A poet on fields
by thin stalks
and shrubs
on grassland
a landscape
of small songbirds
as first frost
covers the oak
with sparse leaves
the wind crackles
by limbs
with phantoms
shot though
a clearing
of dark red foliage
all feelings
like branches
are cut off
only the poet
with his initials
carved in the wood.


—B.Z. Niditch

First light
made an apearance
on the listless window
and whispered
to a child,
''Rule the unconquerable
with love''
distant memory
unfolds down by docks
to venture out
by a stranger's words
asleep under sunrise
of an undiscovered dawn
by the sea and ships
on fervent waves
toward a poet's voyage.


—David Iribarne, Sacramento

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It invites me into your world and me into yours.


—David Iribarne

He dwells in my heart
I draw energy to get through
to the next day
his kisses taste like they
were meant to be there.
Licking my lips I can still feel them.

Laying in the darkness
Envisioning your body
You take me away
Kidnap my soul
your shadow warm
makes my body tingle
my hairs stand on their end.

I try to paint a picture
imagine you next to me
touching my body
comfortable, at ease suddenly
I feel smiles come over me.

You trace my face
with your fingers
can feel your grace around my cheeks
your presence around me
your impression surrounds me.

I stroke my arms, cross them
hug my body as if I am hugging you.
hold tight trying to hold on forever
almost want to ingest you
take your breath with me.

The sensation I feel when you are near me
somehow everything comes together
when you are around
no broken lines
every point seems to meet perfectly.

My portrait is complete
I said you dwell within my heart
but that means you stay with me
you live with me, you reside with me
you complete me.


(a sampling of protest signs outside Trinity Church)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael

No Books in Will’s Will!
Not One Letter Written!
O Pity: His Daughters,
Left Aimless with Quill!

Will’s “Shak” Has No Shake!
His “Spur’s” Without Spear!
Whose Plays Did He Take?
Give De Vere’s to De Vere!

Six Signatures Writ
With a Feather of Lead!
What “Will in the World”
Leaves His Anne the Worst Bed?


(The story is Oxford’s,
long-drawn painful breaths
in the School of Hard-Knocks-Lords:
Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth.)

—in response to the new movie, Anonymous, opening 10/28/11; see


Today's LittleNip: 

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.

—George Carlin


—Medusa (with thanks to today's contributors, including B.Z. Niditch, who hasn't been around for awhile, and David Iribarne, who reminds us he will be reading at The Show tomorrow, Sat., 10/29)

Ghost Rats
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Still Spookin'

Pumpkin Patch, Half Moon Bay
(Note shark on bounce house and
wee spook in the pink hat in front)
—Photo by Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

Grandma was a druid priestess
scratching her poems
with a pointed stick
dipped in her hearts blood
digging Gaelic symbols
into the rough dirt of the Salisbury Plain
hard life she survived
did what she was told
chanted her poems,
grew into witchdom
awarded her tall, pointy black hat
came down through the ages
voiding time
tunneling space
channeling voices

now, with her black cat Johnson
black cat like a dark mountain
bigger than life
stripes like white waterfalls
furring his back
mounted behind on her broom
reptilian tail wrapped around Grandma
holding her fast as they travel the night sky
sharp silhouette on the golden moon
sail into my kitchen
‘wake up!’ Grandma screeches;
‘it’s Halloween’!

Johnson paces the floor,
grooms his wall-wide whiskers for the feast
while we boil up a patch of pralines
sugary spreads appeasing pecans
bubbling brown on a plainsong platter
Johnson wants one…o yeah…

Johnson, f’god’s sake,
get your paws off the stove
you can’t have all the pralines!


—Patricia Hickerson

the icy breeze on my ankle hey, icy breeze, Pam, what do you make of it? the house in Sonoma I’m usually alone sitting alone watching TV icy breeze on my ankles oooo what’s that? never felt that before invited my friend Pam for an overnight Pam loves Sonoma wants to live here I invite her for an overnight we split a bottle of wine, grownup pajama party eat Fritos and Cheesits watch scary Dracula movie I tell Pam my ghost story: after my mom died I was staying in her house for the funeral; that night I walked down the hall to turn off a living room light I felt a hand pressing my left shoulder very hard from behind. Is that you, Mom? Anyway Pam is here for an overnight big comfortable house an old lady died here people say she weighed 300 pounds all her life ate junk food I live alone invite Pam for an overnight just an ordinary house at the end of the road, cows graze by the barn, horses wander in the pasture beyond we sip wine watch scary movie, finally go to bed Pam in the guest room; much later what time is it? Four a.m.? I hear footsteps go down the hall past my closed door… I’m thinking those are heavy footsteps for Pam; too many Cheesits? she’s getting more Cheesits? I wait for return footsteps it doesn’t happen next morning Pam says she didn’t go down the hall in the middle of the night. Then who was going for Cheesits? Or maybe it was the Fritos?


—Lily Viek, Davis

From a small town far far away
To a major city with frightening creatures
Taken from my home with many others
Forced to change my name and my form

Clustered together waiting for the inevitable
Tossed and turned without a care
In a huge building of many noises
With dangerously dark narrow corners

So easy to be lost and forgotten
Giant cobwebs stretched across the ceiling
What is this dungeon, this factory of terror?
I can feel my soul fleeing my body

I’m forced into the scorching heat
My figure melting, dripping, gone
What’s left of me? Nothing. Just my essence
My soul lingering in its new form

Wrapped up and packaged to be sent away
Traveling from one place to another
I’ve been trapped since birth with no hope of escape
This is my destiny, my purpose, my fate

I’m one in a million and no longer me
No one notices, no one remembers
My new self is grabbed and gathered
Displaced and distorted. Lost and confused

In a deep dark hole with no way out
Constantly being crushed and shaken, unable to move
Trapped and blinded by darkness
Screams and laughter filling the air

When I thought it was all over and all had settled down
I’m freed from the cave and from my colorful mask
Only to enter a new dark and damp torture chamber
Of which I’ll never return


—Sestina by Lily Viek

Watch as the world is drowned by the sky’s tears
Listen to the beat as they pound the ground
Surrounded by endless and cold darkness
With only the shining light of the moon
Illuminating a couples first kiss
Creating everlasting memories

Oh, how bittersweet are those memories
As they flood your mind and force out the tears
While you think of the final goodbye kiss
Your knees shake and you fall to the ground
Not even the bright light of the night’s moon
Can shield you from the eternal darkness

Liquid bullets attacking in the dark
Causing you to drown in your memories
Carried by the tidal wave of the moon
Crashing and breaking into shards of tears
The undertow sweeping you off the ground
Pulling you in toward the sea’s deadly kiss

Wishing for just one final true love’s kiss
Before your life fades into the darkness
And all else fails and crashes to the ground
When all you have left are those memories
That cause you to drown in those painful tears
Under the reflection of the bright moon

Trying to hide from the cruel, taunting moon
Trying to avoid the sea’s murderous kiss
Trying to hold back the persistent tears
Trying to run from the growing darkness
Trying to block out the sad memories
Trying to keep both feet on the ground

Hear the rhythm as the rain hits the ground
Searching for your reflection in the moon
As you silently recall memories
Of those bittersweet first and last kisses
Before you disappear in the darkness
And all that is left are those final tears

Memories resurfacing to the ground
Tears of rain fall and compliment the moon
Filling the air, rain kisses the darkness



Rings hollow
On All Hallows Eve

Trick or treat!
What are you?

A babe in the woods
In my formative years
Cute enough to fetch
A haul of candy

A mommy and a flashlight
Hold off all the fears
With a costume bold as
Yankee Doodle Dandy

Here is some candy. Enjoy!

Trick or treat!
What are you?

I am the ghost of promises
That were made and never kept
By leaders who betrayed our trust
And cared not with whom they slept

Here’s an IOU. Good Luck!

—Caschwa, Sacramento


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

She always loved the wind
The way it disappeared when
The milk of clouds moved the dragons
From their dim and purple lairs.

They seemed to be awake, part of
That world, but showed only the froth
Of bone, the skeletons of birds
Showing through all the frozen liquid
Flesh demands of any kind of knowledge.

Then too wind might be God’s falcon or just
The turning of a face away from light
For the smallest of moments and then

The peaks of the mountains growing before one,
The thermals carrying one higher and higher
No barriers to flight but our own bones,
Not hollow like those of birds quarried
So long ago that time has made them

Play a fine music as they move across
The sky. She always loved them, thought
Them part of wind when they were not, thought them
Perhaps part of clouds, when they were not.

They were the seasons joined the way they are,
Moving round and round as ducks do on a pond
An enchantment not the property of time or skill,
A simple pairing of a rhyme, moving line to line,
Almost invisible to everyone but her, caught as
She was in her own skeleton, sipping its pure wine.


—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

In the year
of celebrating
as the "Backwards Lady"
in the north part
of the county
just before the wildfires
settled in
as usual,

Appleton shot out
all the fake flamingos
in Mrs. Bannister's sideyard,

and Dad never came home
for a very long time
every other weekend evening
or so it seemed.

A cousin
nearly divorced
her husband
after he was held hostage
half a week
and almost died----
the way one normally does.

Appleton hurt too much,
love tastes a bit
too close to sour salt

when the wet season
and November 2nd
rolls in

sand spikes
in the neutral air.


—Michael Cluff

Bruce Palmer and I saw
drive-in movies on the sly
down beyond the south fence
of the Baseline Drive-in.

Cheap fare
shoddy seventies
quick rip-offs
of horror movies
and teen comedies,
they never are so good
when cable resurrects
their sorry souls.

With our girls,
Mary and Robin,
in the back
of the Impala
life was good then,
maybe better now,
but not too often so.

Foggy mornings came too soon
as did the leave-taking
of a between high school
and college summer.


Thanks to today's contributors, including Lily Viek, a student of D.R. Wagner's, who's posting for the first time today. A Sestina, nonetheless! I can't believe that you're not getting enough Halloween poems (the Kitchen overfloweth!), but if you're still looking for more, go to

We've got another new photo album on Medusa, this one of the American River Parkway by Carl Schwartz (Caschwa). Check it out!

NorCal poets will be saddened to hear that Richard Hansen's mother passed away on Tuesday. Here's what he posted on Facebook: My mom passed away quietly on Tuesday afternoon after spending a little over a week in the exceptional care of the nurses and staff of St. Columba's Hospice in Edinburgh. We were blessed to have two months in which she was active and happy. We travelled, we ate good food, we laughed and cried, Rachel and Ru were able to visit. The end came quickly, and thankfully, with very little pain. Thank you to everyone for all of your support and positive thoughts.

The Occupy Sacramento folks at Cesar Chavez Park are talking about poetry workshops/teach-ins. The first one was on Monday Oct. 24 at 3 pm with a teach-in on the Revolutionary Poets' Brigade (founded last year in SF). Greg Adams, who is the OS education person and is co-ordinating the schedule at the occupation, suggested that we have a weekly poetry teach-in at the park at 3 pm every Monday (presumably weather permitting...)! Clearly, this is a great opportunity for poets in Sacramento to get out their most "engaged" work. If there is any interest in this in the Sacramento Poetry community, please e-mail Greg at or call Cathleen Williams (before next week) at 916-801-4672 and 916-442-7327. (In addition, poets can have a spot between 6:30 and 8pm to speak, almost any day.)


Today's LittleNip(s): 

One need not be a chamber to be haunted;
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.

—Emily Dickinson

Just like a ghost, you've been a-hauntin' my dreams,
So I'll propose on Halloween.
Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you.

—“Spooky Little Girl Like You” —Classics IV, 1968



 Photo by Kathy Kieth

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where Do The Missing Go?

La Raza Galeria Posada
Dia De Los Muertos Exhibit
Sacramento, 2011
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—n.ciano, Davis

Walking on the streets of Nuremberg
the cemetery gates were open,
they are never open at eleven pm.
this was some sort of obscure invitation
that welcomed me in.

Walking along the uprooted path,
I tripped and fell face-flat,
upon a ditch.
fresh dirt.
it was cold.
alongside a tombstone,
not rightly placed.
It had today’s date with an epithet that read:
“John Michaels Is Never Far Off”



The sun had fallen into the depths of his hands
the fog induced mask hid the face of the demon.

he walked alone.

A voice called out to him.
“I’ve been waiting for you, it is cold,”
A woman nearby cried.
The monotonous howl of the wind confused the two sounds.
he had an appointment.
he never made it.


—Katy Brown, Davis

He watches the city from the roof of his palazzo.
Always at night. Always alone.
His servants seldom see the bird-faced man.

He’s locked his rooms along the eastern wall,
windows overlooking the oncoming night.
He waits on the roof for a hint of dawn.

This architectural ambition made of limestone
belonged to his father who left it to him.
A handful of servants survive to care for him.

When he was a child, his mother locked him
in a mahogany wardrobe for protection.
He grew to prefer the sky to the company of man.

In an age of masks, he wears his all the time:
mascherari study his face for the artistry of it
on those few days the bird-faced man walks the streets.

He is the mask. No other face. Invisible during carnival,
he lives apart the rest of the year: the only congruent man.
His servants avoid the bird-faced man
watching from his rooftop aerie.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

The night is still clean feeling.
The moon crisp as a rice cracker
Full of the flavor of the season.

Her boots were buttoned with fireflies
And she wore them in her hair.
She came down the silver shafts of moonlight
Should magic find her there.

For she was fair, the whisper
Of the wind through barley
Just as its beard is catching
Edges of the breeze where
Dark can own a moment, the hour
When bats can rule the landscape
With their sharp and angled flight.
We find them coursing just above the meadows
Collecting tiny pieces of the night.

I have stood in that forest
Next to the great stag and listened
To the blood talk of the wolf pack,
Heard the sawing of the crickets song,
Seen the shadows making dances
Near the edges of the fire place.

“This is the night,” she said,
“When strange and wicked things can come.
When voices too can move through dead men
And clouds gain power over
Harvest moon to hide its light
That darker things might come
And walk the earth for hours,
Freed to twisted dreamings,
Potions made for madness,
Souls that have no home
But roam both the forests and the sea
Making moans and groans

That chill the blood, frighten
The children, still the prowling
Of the cats across the yards.

Lock your doors this night. Do not go
To see them. Answer no knock
That comes this night,
For it has Hallows Eve
Written all upon it
And will not rest
Till light,
Till morning light,
Dear child,
Pray for the morning light.


—D.R. Wagner

It is dark, but not the dark that carries
Only night, but dark, the dark that moves
Itself to dreaming and we are too long
On the road as she comes around us

Bringing her own air, her own beasts,
Horses unlike horses that we’ve known
Who stand at the corner of the streets

Where we can see their large eyes. They
Seem to know us and make horse sounds
To one another, leaning toward the fog,
The coolness of the evening and blow
Steam that seems to glow from their great
Nostrils. They paw the ground as if in waiting.

Then bats, as if the night had tongues,
Course just above our heads with squeaks
And clicks and sudden flash of reddish eyes.
They too have a sense of purpose to detain
Us on this night and swirl in flocks and bunches
Keeping us to the sidewalks, weaving light and shadow.

We have heard that it is Halloween. The
Jack-o-lanterns with their grimaced faces
Flicker from the porches of the neighborhood.
The cats of no color but the night move too
Around us in this night as if they wait for something.

Perhaps they think that we are creatures like themselves
Acquainted with the night and ready for its fierce
Devices, the howling of the wolves, the mocking
Face the moon makes to our wandering, looking
For a house we are not sure will be there, close
We hope, but hope is not a part of what we are.

Tonight is Halloween, a witches' night. The roads,
The streets are for the ghosts and half-seen children
Of the night whose music has been foretold, who
Gather toward us as the spider weaves his web
And calls us in the only haven left in this damp cold.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

I dress in bones

for the boy who somersaulted
into the quarry pond
to plumb its depths, and found them,

and the fisherman who cast himself
into the South Fork, to be
landed at last on a grappling hook,

and the palsied old lady
who shook herself to dead leaves
in a bramble of berries.

This morning, the sun rises eye-level,
lighting oak-leaf candles
as I descend the trail. I'm following

my dog, who's so adept
at trailing any quarry. He leads
through mountain-misery

to a clearing made for spirits—
a stone at the edge of this living
world. Quarry of wind

and sunset over ridge
and canyon, river out of sight.
What lies above and under

farther than I can see.


—Taylor Graham

Where do the missing go, easy
as a child from room to room, to sleep?
easy as landscape turns to water hurrying
down; frozen glint of sun; a wing that
might be God's falcon, or just the wind.

An old man disappeared
in twining-creeper, a forest of fall-bare
wrists of trees, bark stretched brittle
as bone; is he lying behind a punky log,
still waiting to be discovered?

In a waking world, where is the boy
whose breath crystallized as snowflake?
The woman who left no footprint—
did she drink milk of a Dragon Moon?
Is she hiding under lake or sky?

No need to believe in ghosts, to know
what's haunted. A boulder-garden,
crevice between birdsongs, a fault
in the ages of rock. On the wind,
shadow-scent of the ones not found.


—Taylor Graham

Even in a mask, who can escape
this maze of hours, roots and fingers,

entanglement of bones and twigs
weaving themselves with days and soil,

with breeze and leaves about to fall?
Seasons. My dog's a skeleton

in fur, a nose to search the dead
where they lie waiting, a spark to be

found. Tonight the membrane
between live and dead so thin, porous—

what am I, invisible behind the fabric,
being of bone and wind in the dark?


—Taylor Graham

To sonnet or not? The Muse is swelling
to display her skill. She's no timid twit.
Poetry-in-form is like rappelling:

you hang off cliffs on rhyme, breath expelling
a prayer your line won't fail above the pit…
To pantoum, or not… the Muse is swelling.

Practice safe redundancies. Rondel-ing
tests your mettle. Octaves might be a hit.
Poetry in form is like rappelling:

you brave the heights—soldier under shelling.
As discipline, it's excellent. Get fit
for a sonnet-crown. Your Muse is swelling,

so learn the rules—is there no rebelling
lest you break your neck? And what benefit?
Poetry in form is like rappelling

for the grand-vista, your fear dispelling:
for daring-do, adrenalin, and wit.
Villanelle or not, the Muse is swelling—
poetry-in-form is like rappelling....


Today's LittleNip: 

I'll bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween.

—Author Unknown


—Medusa (can you guess what our Seed of the Week is?)

 Michelle Kunert in her Fly On A Wall costume
—Photo by Annie Menebroker, Sacramento

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Like Some Child's Lost Balloon

Silk Tree in Wind
—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

These trees of white bend in the surrealistic
motions of their dance
where pale women

move in memory—their tethered forms
soul-caught against the

for now they dance
together—the women and the trees—
interchanging in the light which startles them.


—Joyce Odam

They say a tree of stone grows
on a wall. I’d like to see that—

touch its leaves and trunk—
find the reason for its stillness.

They say it blends against
the light-struck landscape of the wall.

They say its colors blaze in sunlight’s
window and contains them still

in moon’s soft light.
And does it suffer, or rejoice?

What cryptic mind could understood,
and then personify, a tree of stone?


(Unrhymed Villanelle)
—Joyce Odam

Walking outside to another caustic evening,
stifling edges of the night close in.
We and our shadows slowly lose importance.

The red moon climbs another smoky sky.
Is summer really over, we ask, derisive,
checking outdoors on another fire-scorched evening.

We smell the stubborn fires of a nearby county,
estimate the distance—sniff the air—
we and our shadows losing our importance

to the larger tragedies we try to fathom.
When do you think it will rain, we ask, wishing
for overdue relief on this fire-thick evening,

our house now a vague, dark shape behind us.
It’s cooling down a bit, we say, for comfort
as we and our shadows gradually lose importance.

Small breezes start to build. The hard day softens.
Let’s not go in just yet, we say, and shiver,
walking outside through another smoke-filled evening
where we and our shadows slowly lose importance.


—Joyce Odam

Love me, the moon is late tonight,
the moon is late in the sky
and the clouds are restless,
and it looks like rain
again, and October has passed us by,
and we are falling
into time
and time’s own shadow.

Love me,
the candles
are flickering on the sill
of waiting,
the candles are flickering down
and there is no time
to cry.
Let’s watch the waiting.


—Joyce Odam

Going as far as pity
they come to the torn place in the earth
look for the seed in the drop of water
see it there
look upward and give thanks.
They are religious now.
Fanatics with a cause.
They have taken
all the death and forgiven it.

At night they go out
on rituals of loneliness
and choose up sinners.
(They are not perfect.)
They are ragged from living
her old red dress
with sequined hem dragging
making sparks against the stones
he carrying the old weapons he used to use
left over from wars and murders
and self defenses.

Going as far as remorse
they tear at the earth with their fingers
dig up
the seed and the drop of water
to give to the ravenous bird
with the amputated wings.
And having done with it all again
they kneel
in the red moonlight.
Thank you for sorrow, they whisper.

(first pub. in Cellar Door, 1979)


—Joyce Odam

So what if I should write one sonnet more—
one further song of loss, or joy, or praise,
a trail of words to settle one more score
with one more message full of useless rage.

What reader wants what time cannot assuage,
nor I—not even I—still wont to pour
my sweet deliriums upon the page,
or old laments no one has pity for?

Life would be better served to just let go—
release it all like some child’s lost balloon
drifting away into an upward flow
the sky can use—become tonight’s red moon.

Well, here’s this sonnet—scribbled on and torn;
these culminated words, well-bled, well-worn.


Tomorrow is the 25th (can you believe it??) anniversary of Sac. Poetry Day; what more fitting way to spend it than by starting a day early with a Kitchen offering by Sac. Poetry Doyenne Joyce Odam, then by going to the new issue of Poetry Now at (wow! quite a change—and so lovely, Trina, for your final issue!). Then tomorrow it's off to hear Trina Drotar and Sandy Thomas read at Cosumnes River College, followed by a ‘way cool evening at Poetry With Legs featuring Sac. Poet Laureate Bob Stanley and Eskimo Pie Girl Rebecca Morrison! See the blue board at the right of this column for details. (Actually, the Wrangler-in-Chief proclaimed the entire month of October Sac. Poetry Month several years ago, but I guess that doesn’t make it official.)

Unfortunately, another of our Sac. Poetry Doyennes, Jane Blue, has hurt her hip. Think good thoughts for her, and if you’re “on” Facebook, drop a note on her wall. Also recuperating at home is Laverne Frith, who had thyroid surgery at Kaiser, followed by some complications, a couple of weeks ago.

The Modesto Poets had great success with their order-a-thon of their new book, More Than Soil, More Than Sky, on Amazon last weekend. Sales rankings put them #1 in Best Sellers in Poetry, Hot New Releases in Poetry, and Movers & Shakers in Books. They were in the top 100 for books overall, too. Way to go, Modesto (and all those who ordered books from them)!

For Halloween I am going to pull a trailer with an outhouse on it and call it “The horseless headman”. —Caschwa  Yes, it’s Halloween, and we’ve been getting H-Ween poems for weeks now in the Kitchen, so let’s make it official and call our Seed of the Week All Hallows Eve. Send your musings, ghostly or otherwise, to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs, either—see Calliope’s Closet (under the Snake on a Rod in the green box) for past SOWs, forms, and other poet-phernalia.

Speaking of forms, we’ve had villanelles on the mind and in the Kitchen recently. Judy Taylor Graham visited D.R. Wagner’s class at UCD recently and assigned them the villanelle; yesterday Dillon Shaw sent one, and here’s Joyce sending us an unrhymed one without even knowing about all these goings-on! (Carol Frith and Joyce Odam are quite fond of writing unrhymed villanelles, but I suppose that’s a story for another day….) So pop over to the “Forms to Fiddle With” in the green column for a few sites to get you rolling. I like that the second site,, says, “Do you have a feeling or idea that haunts you? Then the Villanelle may be the form you need.” Great for Halloween! And the third site,, has some of my favorite poems on it, all of which happen to be villanelles. “The art of losing isn’t hard to master…”


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

Blue bird, sky bird, fiery-winged
against the lowering sun,
causing the horizon to catch fire

and the moon to rise—
blood red—
and near—

and the fierce bird
soars into the red moon
with a cry that is a prayer.



 Silk Tree in Stillness
—Photo by Joyce Odam

Monday, October 24, 2011

Heading Into Now-Noir Nights

Trying Again
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Not even understanding why
There should be such a wind,
If it were a wind, or if it were a
Breath into an ear just before
Sleeping, too late to come back
To the a waking world, too late to think
Someone might be talking to us,
Asking a question. I could see

Something in your eyes that
Was important, a sheen of white
Upon the tail of a mermaid or snow
Blinding us just as we reached
The edge of the ice field, the highest
Pass and it is noon time and it is wind.

I will, I promise, follow you as
Far as I am able just to know
What you might say next, like waiting
For Basho to reach the frog pond,
Or Whitman the dooryard, or noticing
From the corner of my eye the Windhover.

It will propel me into a new mind,
Some place I had not expected to find
Myself. I will be unarmed, afraid and still
Somehow fearless knowing I can use
All of this to touch you deeply for an instant,
Than vanish back into the page, maybe
Even truly falling asleep next to you.


THE JOURNEY (a Villanelle)
—Dillon Shaw, Davis

.the smoke might have foretold the blaze
,i suppose then that i had not the mood
,entered unseen ,to escape from this maze

.broken ,beleaguered ,i set down to graze
;twisting the cud, i swallowed and chewed
.the smoke might have foretold the blaze

.struggle to find ,as my eyes glaze
-with way lost ,my hands do brood
-entered unseen ,to escape from this maze

and if i must ,this whole field i shall raze
!fuck this whole place ;don't care if it's crude
!the smoke might have foretold the blaze

...heading forward and torward for days and more daze
while polarized nymphs offered me bells in the nude
;entered unseen ,to escape from this maze

.livations are needed, so grant me your gaze
!grant me salvation -my sins are renewed
-the smoke might have foretold the blaze
;entered unseen, to escape from this maze


cold blood
(after reading “The Split” by Alice Anderson)
—charles mariano

it seems like
i find,
or discover,
another writer
who blows me away

i’m struck
by skillful phrasing
precise weaving
the power
of her words,
and wonder

what the hell
am i doing?

it’s not just sheer
but what they’ve all got
to say,
so damn important,

while i
trudge aimlessly
through layers
of thickening
murky swamp

i mean
how could i?

twenty, thirty years ago
i suffered greatly
from this gigantic
inferiority complex

that continues to rear
its ugly head,
kills me

(Ed. Note: Alice Anderson will be reading at Luna's Cafe 
this Thursday; see b-board for details.)


—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

Tim always
hides it away
before his office
is entered
by those
who do not understand
or won't
by innocence
or intent.

The picture frames
Roy at work
in his professor garb
of brown herringbone sports coat
black tie, brown khaki-like dress pants
and button-down blue and white-striped
dress shirt, probably long-sleeved
and Tim admires the small shock
of greying hair
that divides Roy's brow in two
but only in the photo
taken four months before his death.

A man loving
another as thoroughly
as they did
is still frowned upon
by some of his colleagues
in the liberal arts college
they have taught at
for more than a half-century


I will bounce
the red empty moon for you
twirl the dynamite stick
until sparks of purple
splash into the frozen bay.....

The waggle of the waffles
hopping hot out of the toaster
in retro avocado green
will never coincide
with the shift
I will do under the earthly cover
to shake the fallout
off your rust-riddled hair.

Once the slippage of water
is confounded by my in-held breath
monasteries will chant
your name
and lost books of antiquity
and religious lore
will descend into libraries
where data bases will shimmer
with a batch of light
once seen long ago
and not again
until now-noir nights.

—Michael Cluff


Today's LittleNip: 

—Caschwa, Sacramento

In Persian the poetry of Omar Khayyam
Resembled the gait of a woods-savvy lamb
Then came the TransLations of Edward FitzGerald
Not truly preserves, but more of a jam.



 A fella named "Keith" shows his mettle at
Red Night Poetry last Wednesday night
—Photo by Annie Menebroker, Sacramento
(For more of Annie's Red Night photos, 
go to our latest album on Medusa's Facebook page:
Red Night Poetry, Take Two)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Last Sweetness

A sea nymph blackjack dealer tries to get a winning hand 
in the California Delta region for Lady Salmonin 
"The Gold Fish", an environmental drama 
by Water Underground production,
performed at the Crocker Art Museum 
for Water Day, Oct 16.
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Stretch out your shadow on the sundial's face,
and on the meadows let the winds go loose.

Command the last fruits to be full in time;
grant them even two more southerly days,
press them toward fulfillment soon and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will build none.
Who is alone now, will stay long alone,
will lie awake, read, get long letters written,
and through the streets that follow up and down
will wander restless, when the leaves are driven.

(trans. from the German by John Felsteiner)


—Rainer Maria Rilke

We never knew his head and all the light
that ripened in his fabled eyes. But
his torso still glows like a candelabra,
in which his gazing, turned down low,

holds fast and shines. Otherwise the surge
of the breast could not blind you, nor a smile
run through the slight twist of the loins
toward that center where procreation thrived.

Otherwise this stone would stand deformed and curt
under the shoulders' invisible plunge
and not glisten just like wild beasts' fur;

and not burst forth from all its contours 
like a star; for there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

(trans. from the German by Edward Snow)


—Rainer Maria Rilke

(Im Jardin des Plantes, Paris)

Always passing bars has dulled
His sight so, it will hold no more.
For him, there are a thousand bars;
Behind the thousand bars, no world.

The soft walk of his strong, lithe strides
Turns in the smallest of all orbits
Like the dance of force around an axis
Where a great will stands stupefied.

Only sometimes, the curtain of his eye
Lifts, noiselessly—an image enters,
That runs through his tense, arrested members
In the heart, to die.

(trans. from the German by W.D. Snodgrass)

—Rainer Maria Rilke

All at once something 
from the green world's gone;
something . . . the park comes right up
to the window—without a sound.

A plover whistles in the wood,
grave and urgent, like Jerome,
desert saint poised to translate
out of whiteness, skulls and bones,

whose effort the rain will echo.
The chateau walls, as if oppressed
by the brooding paintings in their frames,
recede; reluctant to hear our words betray us.

And the worn tapestries are strewn 
with the off light of childhood
afternoons you feared would never end.

(trans. from the German by Mark Rudman)


—Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring has returned. The earth is
like a child who knows poems.
Many, many . . . She gets the prize
from the hardship of extensive learning.

Her teacher was strict.
We like the white in the old man's beard.
Now, as to what the blue is, the green,
we can ask her: She knows, she knows.

Earth, off from work, lucky one, play now
with us children. We want to catch you,
jubilant earth. The most joyouse succeeds.

Ah, what the old man taught her—the manifold
and what is written in roots and in long,
difficult stems: She sings it. She sings.

(trans. from the German by Charles Haseloff)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Philip Larkin

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.

They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.



Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moonshine, or Is It Monkeyshines?

Photo by Janet L. Pantoja

—Jane Blue, Sacramento

Each night the harvest moon
pours in, up all night with me
lopsided, crumpled
and scaly. My dragon moon
drunk in the quiet night, nothing
so quiet as 4 a.m. as we
contemplate each other, no one
between us, drinking
the night and its wonders, the silent
colorless trees, the empty streets,
no explosions
or chants of complaint, even the dogs
are asleep; night after night,
rectangles of light on the floor
and shadows of the mullioned windows,
the mysterious craters making faces,
stars drowned by the liquid moon
even as parts of the full moon fall of
and it's the gibbous moon
still bright, not quite halved.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

As easy as going to sleep allows
The dragons to slip into the room,
Out of the drains, out of those spaces
In your room that only the dark defines,

As easy, a tears find their roads
To the center of the heart where
Our relatives, long gone now, still
Are able to be seen in their earthy
Dress and fine turns of phrase,

As easily as a landscape can turn
From blasted sand and scrub to pines,
Oak and ernest streams hurrying
Down the mountain side intent on descending
As far down them as they are able.

Yes, as easily as all this I find myself
Caught in the scarves, the history of war,
The descent to the shore, where that moon,
Moon, moon, too soon so red, so ruined
Illuminates the wave tops, opens sleep,

Tears its gardens apart, the dragons
Furious with it all, flying all over the place,
Searching for the realms where they are
Still real, still honored, still part of any real world.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

They say the very hills are haunted.
The seacoast's known for Bogies and Ghosts;
Knockers warn miners in the depths.

The seacoast's known for Bogies and Ghosts,
they walk the landscape and the stair.
A lovelorn girl of mists and a murdered lady—

they walk the landscape and the stair
and disappear before your eyes.
Headless Horses draw the Devil's coach

that disappears before your eyes.
The church-stones get moved every night.
Black-cloaked, who rushes into the sea?

The church-stones get moved every night—
is the man-of-god really a smuggler?
Here, only the living wear masks.

Black-cloaked—who rushes into the sea?
Headless Horses draw the Devil's coach,
Knockers warn miners in the depths.
A lovelorn girl of mists and a murdered lady—
here, only the living wear masks.


(take-off on a legend)
—Taylor Graham

I'm angry-blood-orange wattles
and comb. The rest of me is black
as the heart of that flawed human egg
I tore out of it with beak and talon
to be free—

that rector who pitched himself down
the cellar stairs as he went
for dark wine. Jealousy did it. He died;
I was born full-feathered. Black
so they call me

a demon. They say a kitchen-maid
caught me in her oven,
slammed the oven-door, and
there I'm trapped for all

Not true. Just walk out on a spirit-
night. Watch the sun set angry
blood-orange into black; wind a mad-
cockerel-waltz over rooftop
and lea.

Just look what men do
to themselves and each other.
They're fighting-cocks.
Caught? I'm still
flying free.


Thanks to today's contributors—Medusa shall refrain from making jokes about Blue moons [see Jane Blue's SOW poem above]...

Email is still an inexact science; in Michael Cluff's case, it screwed up the spaces between lines in one of his poems which was posted yesterday. Herewith is the correct (we hope!) version:

Yard mist turns to Bronte
sonnets are not as thick
hegiras will scout out forward as far as
orgone booths will permit,
mastadoons shirk their collective duties
jinxing fireballs falling to earth
comet cleansers wallow in pits
tallow is never allowed to penetrate
impetigo left behind after
leiderhosen and legatos balance each other out
vicunas wait on the rancho
marabous abandoned in the annual
flight to Kilamanjaro and Mauritius
winnowing out the weak
Uruguian twinberry transplants
nimble enough to avoid shibboleths
poised to anchor the world's whimsical
girdle to an escarpment
diluted and dilated by saturnalic
argot swaying to a New Orleans beat
xenobiotic to a Strauss waltz
bilious to a Yorkshire moor
zoned to indulge the cambering fog,
egalitarian in its loutish
quietus of a Heathcliff and his forever
Kathy he helped to quash
under a dry bloodied moon.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Janet L. Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

Magical, mystical, mesmerizing
Orb of reflected sunlight
Occupies night sky to our delight:
New, full or waned—inebriating!



Photo by Janet L. Pantoja

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Paul Fericano, Annie Menebroker, B.L. Kennedy, 
and Genelle Chaconas
at last night's final Red Night Poetry reading 
at Beatnik Studios in Sacramento
—Photo by Michelle Kunert
(For more photos of last night's reading, go to
Medusa's Kitchen's Facebook page)

—charles mariano, sacramento

gathered everything
all my painful,
dirty secrets

of traumatizing misery,
embarrassing failures

bad writings,
that go way back

locked it all
in a lead-lined box,

so Superman
and his damn x-ray vision,

can’t find it


Yard mist turns to Brontë
sonnets are not as thick
hegiras will scout out forward as far as
orgone booths will permit,
mastadoons shirk their collective duties
jinxing fireballs falling to earth
comet cleansers wallow in pits
tallow is never allowed to penetrate
impetigo left behind after
leiderhosen and legatos balance each other out
vicunas wait on the rancho
marabous abandoned in the annual
flight to Kilamanjaro and Mauritius
winnowing out the weak
Uruguian twinberry transplants
nimble enough to avoid shibboleths
poised to anchor the world's whimsical
girdle to an escarpment
diluted and dilated by saturnalic
argot swaying to a New Orleans beat
xenobiotic to a Strauss waltz
bilious to a Yorkshire moor
zoned to indulge the cambering fog,
egalitarian in its loutish
quietus of a Heathcliff and his forever

Kathy he helped to quash

under a dry bloodied moon.

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA


Valerie has been engaged
for five years to dear old Chester,
she did hook up with once
with Wally
at a desert rave,
she a girl child by him
it did not bother Chester

They may get married or May
or March or September.

It may depend on the weather.

—Michael Cluff


—Michael Cluff

I am willing
with fervor
to kiss her ardently
even though
smoke is on her breath
clothes and

Some things are
as addicting as another.


—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

Midnight on calm water: quiet creaking of
Seahorse II as she marks time under

a full moon: warm night—but still
a mistake to leave the hatches open, risk

clear passage for pirates and other trouble-
makers: foolhardy invitation for ghosts

to climb aboard, steal over the stanchions,
crawl into my cabin—not those prissy

white ghosts of Halloween, tiptoeing over
from the five-and-dime, but dark monsters

dripping blood of my victims: hunks of flesh
hanging from crooked teeth: massive boots

on hardwood as the ghosts clomp and palaver:
take over the helm: drown out the gentle

creaking of my cradle on the sea…


—Kathy Kieth

Silvermoon waterfall
shimmers along the edges
of silhouetted evergreens.

Nightbirds wait silently
for the leaf-rustle of
busy tiny prey.

Bandit-eyed raccoons
knock over the birdfeeder—

Young man in love
slips secretly back into
his parents’ dark home…


Connie Post writes: I am happy to announce that my poem, “Tree Sitters in Berkeley”, was in the top three of the 2011 Jack Kerouac Poetry Contest [which was held in conjunction with the Jazz and Beat Festival in Davis this weekend]. I’ll be reading the poem sometime between 8-10pm on Friday, Oct. 21 in Davis at the John Natsoulas Gallery. If you get a chance, please “come on down” to 521 1st St. in Davis. Also reading at 7pm at the gallery is Neeli Cherkovski; see   For a complete schedule, go to


Today's LittleNip: 

—Janet L. Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

trees rust: cedars shed
burnt orange, maple leaves flutter
form amber carpet



Photo by Janet L. Pantoja

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Words Hang Like Breath

Dusty Bottles
—Photo by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

—James Lee Jobe, Davis

Blood Moon; the onslaught of winter is coming,
it won't be long now. The dog end
of autumn is treacherous; bleak, windy days,
each one shorter and faster than the one before,
giving life the illusion of being out of control. Really,
the universe unfolds exactly as it will,
as it always has. Look! Do the stars not shine
through the frigid angels of space? Is the Blood Moon
not the face of love? An iceberg the size of Dayton
breaks off of Antarctica. Schools close, libraries close,
and prisons are full. A soul lives inside a shadow
like a hat in a hatbox. Voices are hushed
and lost deep inside a winter storm.
Words hang like breath in the bitter air,
frozen and alone.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

churning the harbor waves
our ship rides out toward the burnt orange moon
watch sleepily from my cushioned deck chair
curls of wispy fog wreathe the railings
ocean full of feisty salt
remember another cruise
drunks tried to throw a girl overboard
I shudder, look around
anyone sneaking up on me?
shouldn’t have had that last martini at the bar
but the ship’s captain was there
smiling and tall and dark

snuggling into my deck chair
I am drawn to the moon
seems to get larger and rounder
swift flight into its dripping hollow
the inside of a pumpkin
garish strings hanging wet full of rumpus

oh here’s a guy tall and smiling
must be the Man in the Moon
he leads me along a candlelit hallway
the bright orange walls pillowed, sheltering
others in mask and costume
lined up lifting their glasses to me
don’t know who they are
doesn’t matter now I can sleep
living inside the Halloween moon, best place


—Caschwa, Sacramento

The book I have not written
Is flying off the shelves
Now in its 23rd printing
Worldwide distribution
In 19 languages
None of which I understand
Authored by another’s hand.

The boat I have not sailed
Is halfway ‘round the globe
Common law married to the sea
Beyond that misty horizon
Discovering different cultures,
Creatures, and culinary delights
That would astound us urbanites.

The solo I have not played
Elevates the trombone to
Another speaking person
Discarding the words on the floor
And expressing just the emotions
A most captivating vibrato
Exciting as winning the lotto.

The moment I have not enjoyed
Is that odd warp in time
When one is well stocked
With verbal ammunition
To completely put down
That cocky speaker of lies
Until he or she just cries.

There will come a time
Very soon I do hope
When fantasies dictate
The real shape of this Earth
Looking from a perspective
Closer to the dreams one sees
Below ground with the roots of tall trees.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

They called it a “Blood Moon” on the news,
to coincide with Halloween and the mess
in Palestine and other places on the globe.

That got us going on politics, mankind's
lust for blood. How about stars and planets,
the lunar eclipse? You said it's a question

of us human frontal-lobists casting our
big black shadow over everything, even
the Moon. Earth gets in the way of the Sun.

The coming dark is our own fault, you said.
Was the heavenly event upon us yet?
We walked out to stare at a sky as black

as the evening news. No Moon. Just talk.
Some time later, that uncanny light returned
from the shadow we threw over its eclipse.

(first pub. in Poetry Super Highway, 2006)


—Taylor Graham

What's behind the door? Nothing,
he said. Then why is it locked?
It isn't, it's just stuck shut.

For her, it opened by star-wish.
Light-switch didn't work. Stairs.
As if pulled by strings in the dark

she ascended past ceiling with its
promise of safe-haven,
past joists and rafters to the roof.

Tarpaper underfoot. A parapet.
Stars! She'd never seen
so many bright pinpricks winged

as angels. No choirs, no questions.
Only silence of dark oceans tiding,
a blood-moon riding overhead.


—Taylor Graham

Your mother loved to talk about Heaven—
the All-Knowing's inscrutable leaven
in your soul's dough. Or not. Could you be saved?
What went through your mind, a boy of seven,

the devil's quarry? To the cellar; caved
among blind potatoes—when all you craved
was the Lord's sunshine. Apples blamed for sin
were your companions. Above, preachers raved,

your mother prayed. It made a pious din
that echoed through floor, into sack and bin,
upon you. Then, you crept back up. The sky
was full of light. Shadows slipped out and in,

invited you to ask the question, Why
hide in the dark? Here's God's blue dragonfly.
In the elm, a robin finds its haven.
The world lies open to your hand and eye.


—Taylor Graham

Where is that city of serene waves?

Dragons live in drains, inhabit
the drone of news rehashing history
that happens 24/7. Water
dammed or poisoned, earth dredged
and dozed. Histories of war.

Who can trust a locked door?

In dream you enter a room worlds
away. Good-luck dragons—silken lady
like a flowered river that no longer
flows, her hair a poppy closed
at end of day, feet stilled in a dance

beautiful as sleep. Gardens'

departing aroma, blossom of a red
scarf covering the crimson
sword-slash across her throat.
History of war, of water dammed,
earth smashed. Our world.

City of dark waves in your dream.


Thanks to today's contributors! Judy Taylor Graham says her “Inside Dragons” harks back to n.ciano's latest and D.R. Wagner's “Transforming Angel,” and her "Predestined?" rubaiyat is in response to Katy Brown's “Quarrying Mitzvahs.” Right now we're working on rubaiyats and our Seed of the Week: Blood Moon (see the green board for details), but of course anything your muse comes up with is more than welcome on the Kitchen table.

Davis is also well-represented today, and there will be lots going on there this weekend, as I mentioned before. Please take a look at the calendar on the blue board by the way—there are some new items, including Luna's and Grass Valley for tomorrow (Thursday).


Today's LittleNip: 

My favorite season:
fresh blood runs through
that looming autumn moon.

—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines



Photo by Katy Brown, Davis