Monday, July 16, 2012

In This House of Yearning

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The landscape is burning—flames on the news,
smoke racing down canyon at night, by noon
up the slopes drawn by a hidden sun. This
is the place of lost men, lost stars dead so long
ago. Dry grass. The fire is now. Landscape
and fire have their ways with/make their own
weather. Under it all, the river keeps flowing.
The fire is now. Traffic slowed for smoke keeps
going, headed for the cities, libraries full of
memory not yet burning. Helicopters make water
drops; we can't see them for the smoke. And you
who live here—do you have a home? Are you
gone down smoky passages with your children,
your dogs, your horses dipping their muzzles
as if for water? And the frogs and foxes, where
will they go? What can we do for them but ask?
Fire has its own thirst, its language of magic
and shadows left over; the long story of this
place, landscape of water, rock, fire, spirits.
Breathe if you can.


—Taylor Graham

July, August—time-stream flowing away
like summer campers down-mountain to cities
that beg for stars, for water.
Up here, the stream is a bare trickle
between rock and columbine, a shady spot.
Waiting, all this time: a bonfire-
farewell for the ones who are leaving.
An iron pot's suspended above flame. Its surface
roils with visions: dogs—or are they wolves—
over-loping dark waters; a galleon sailing
between horse-islands. It's all illusion, magic.
Witches Brew. Cola at a boil. Drink it
and you're changed. Campers packed, leaving
crumbs of language for the wind
to sweep away. They won't be back.
Is it lonely? This infinite domain, granite
dreaming termination-dust, ghosts of campers
sleeping under snow under stars.


—Taylor Graham

At the point
where fluted ribs give
up turning
death-fast to the lungs, the heart—
and by trick of light

blinds cast shades against
wall, their ribs
turned outward—
see how they become feather-
shafts in changing light—

shades shifting
as fast as chaos
can turn in-
to music,
ribs tuned as wind instruments
to the breath of light.

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—Katy Brown

alone in the woods—night, blinking in underbrush—

been lost for months—confused

storm-scattered branches everywhere—

a giant maze of deadwood and cataclysm

banking fires at night—

stirring the bones of dawn—

where have they all gone?


they’ve moved-on ahead

without me

building signal fires

pitching suns into bonfires

rumors of squalls

toss the trees

we started out

sometime last year

moving from different directions

meeting in camps

we were connected

before I vanished in darkness. . . .



the fractured willow,
after a lightning strike;

the clown fish,
wounded by a depth-charge;

the smoldering trough,
torn by a bit of fallen star—

try to make sense in the aftermath
of any cataclysm—try.

The fractured willow may survive;
the clown fish may live;
the earth may heal a burning gouge.

They do not heal through compassion—
though this may ease suffering—
or casseroles delivered to the door.

Only time—infinite quantities of time,
will make the scars manageable.

Even then, the fish will cower
when thunder penetrates the deep;

the willow will never regain
its symmetry;

and a trace of scorched-earth
will mark the land.

Regarding survivors:  I need to believe  
the once-broken can somehow mend.

—Katy Brown, Davis


(after the painting by Roberto Matta)
—Katy Brown

In this house of yearning
all desire is stripped—exposed—
secret places throb for touch.

Open-mouthed and jelly-boned,
in this house of yearning,
we fear and long for company.

Intensity cannot survive
for more than just one night
in this house of yearning.

All desire: stripped—exposed—
without a mask to hide behind:
any touch can leave a bruise.

Love can look a lot like hating with
all desire stripped, exposed—
tangled in the clouded mind—

approach? avoid? attack instead?
There’s no peace in constant strife—
all desire—stripped, exposed.

Secret places throb for touch:
those places that the heart protects—
anguish given and received

know the longing for release:
secret places throb for touch,
but fear the trust that touch admits.

Nothing wounds like trust betrayed;
nothing heals like tenderness:
secret places throb for touch.


—Michael Cluff, Corona

On the day
of sealing
the job down

the crotch
of the suit pants
get stained with

You mismatch
your shoes:
put on a tennis
to the left
and wingtip
on the other.

Your belt breaks into
two from over-stress
and cheapness
after you have gone long
past the three-quarters point
to the interview.

Then the car breaks down
in the exact center
of a deep and odiferous puddle
of gutter water and puse-purple-rust oil from
a ill-serviced tumbledown semi
and you slip badly.

When you reach the receptionist's desk
you realize you dumped her
at the fourth-rate mall
on that debacled triple date
last September
and her memory
like her girth
is now like an elephant's
and this thought has
slipped out of your mouth
right into her wrinkled ear.

Luck comes and goes
for you like blackouts
which usually occur
right at this point
of your diminishing day
even if you are lucky
or even eventually not.


—Michael Cluff

Born at the thirteenth second
of the thirteenth minute
of the thirteenth hour
on that Friday, the thirteenth,
Jennifer was bidden to be
unlucky by all in Tarring town,
yet she was mute and deaf
to the warnings
and muffled faces,
upturned hands
and slammed cottage doors
in her beauty-marked cheeks
that occurred when she ambled by.

She lived an average span
of placid evenness
a life with nothing more
than what she worked
and wandered towards
while winking
all along her chosen path,
taking no heed
of what was
not inside
and those factions, fissures
beyond her own

Life on an island
leads to contentment
in such cases.

Thanks to today's poets and to Taylor Graham for her photos (check out the Shadorma poetry form she did). A reminder: Katy Brown will be reading at Sac. Poetry Center tonight with Claire J. Baker from Pinole. Katy currently has a photo album on Medusa's Facebook page, and her other albums from the past can be seen there, too.

Medusa has added another feature: More Food for the Brain: Awesomely Optimal Opportunities for Cranial Nutrition, which will list one-time workshops (as opposed to the on-going ones up in the FUCHSIA LINKS) and other items (such as articles) that will hopefully further stimulate your poetry brain. Look for it on the green "board" at the right of this.

Trina Drotar sends us some news items: (1) check out Poetry Wall online at; (2) Shine Cafe will be having flash fiction readings on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays, alternating with their poetry readings on the 2nd and 4th Weds.; and (3) there's another open mic opportunity for poets, musicians, et al. at Chic for Change, 2633 El Camino Avenue (near Fulton), hosted by David Goodwin (916-993-8233). Thanks for the info, Trina, and don't forget that the Crossroads Reading Series which is hosted by Trina along with Sandy Thomas, meets this Saturday and features Shawn Pittard and Danyen Powell. Scroll down to the blue board (below the green board) for details about that and the other fine readings happening this week.


Today's LongerNip:

—Caschwa, Sacramento

From a suburb of L.A.
I rode my bicycle all over
Visiting other towns
And communities

Drawn quite more often
To the ocean front areas of
Malibu, Santa Monica,
Venice, Marina del Rey

One day at the beach
I came across an encampment
Of nudists, none new to the sun
Nary a disheveled in the dishabille

Nearby were imitators, posers,
Sunburned city folk
I declined to join them
And pedaled away

Past the bivouacs and pavilions
Past Muscle Beach, past newspaper
Displays with flat photos that could
Never portray what I saw that day



—Photo by Taylor Graham