Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So Much Depends...


Do you mind if I sit here on this wall
awhile with you?  I’m feeling a bit
fragile and a bit blue.

And I have this touch of vertigo
I hope will pass. Sometimes
I feel like I’m made of glass

about to shatter.
But you’re so cute,
though you do seem apprehensive—

not quite steady;
and you do seem to wobble
quite a bit.

Do I make you nervous
with my chatter?
I’d like to just sit here

while my anxieties pass—
feel the breeze—
watch the view

while I gather back my indecisions.
How about you?
You look about as out-of-kilter as I feel



Will you just kiss her, as though
she breathes under her death-sleep
and will merely waken at your kiss?

Will her lips remember
what a moan is for—or how to open
for a word? Will her dead eyes open?

Beware such mourning—
the old tales are true—you,
the hero of her dreamed darkness,

there at last:
how long she has waited . . .
how deeply she loves you . . .



What does this have to do with memory,
this little love,
this heroic sacrifice—
time into time—lost before it is taken—
two meetings that recognize, then suffer loss . . .
what has this to do with memory?


So much begins . . .
but what is so, and what is much?
Say what you will—
there is no difference
between here and gone. They are the same.
The difference is time,
but there is no difference, so there is no time.
We are back to much. That much I know.

Accusation and Defense:

Love is so difficult of meaning.
Innocent at first.
It has no guilt.
It is not in danger of being changed
or changing.
So much for influence.
What happens is always at fault.
Blame is born of situation—
love the victim of both—
the innocence and the blame.


What is circular that so much fits—
only that it’s round and therefore
No hard edges, meaning corners—
and one can continue endlessly
round and round
on endless measurement of arrival,
though you never leave where you are.
So much depends.



Under his laugh—under
his white costume—his  black
skull cap—Pierrot scoffs at his tears.


In a stance of ease,
one hand gestured at foolishness,
Pierrot hunches his shoulders.


On the empty stage, bracing against
the encroaching bare wall,
Pierrot loses his shadow.


In a pithy spiel,
Pierrot angles his head, sharpens his
eyes and hints at their secret.


In his white voluminous costume of
wrinkles and folds, Pierrot turns and
flutters his hand—just so: Pierrot is Pierrot.


Today's LittleNip:


How we wish for love
—even after loss.
As stubborn as fools.
Soon the sorrow?

Risk the old regrets?
Never mind the cost
—discover new tools.
Once more    we’ll love.

(first pub. in
Poets' Forum Magazine, 2004)


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix! Thankfully, Joyce is home again and able to send us these, despite fracturing her hip only a little more than a week ago!

—Photo by Kathy Kieth
For more photos of San Francisco, see
the new album on Medusa's Facebook page!
And hopefully that will inspire you for our new 
Seed of the Week: San Francisco.
Send your thoughts about Baghdad by the Bay, 
past, present, or future, 
to kathykieth@hotmail.com

Monday, April 29, 2013

Finding Aldebaran

Nesting Dove
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

She holds me hostage
with her wild vulnerability—
her shyness—a barrier
to my human routines.
She’s out there now,
the rose-grey dove
sitting on her hasty nest
in the empty bird feeder.

She brought strands of dry grass,
weaving them into an oval
in the hanging square
of the mesh feeder by my door.

She softly croons, a song heard
only by the wind and stars—
and waits in feathered patience
for what will come.


—Katy Brown
The crows look disgruntled this afternoon,
the feathers around their necks in disarray from wind
that sprung up ahead of an in-coming storm.

They strut on the lawn across the street,
leaning back in that stiff commandant-stance
they assume when claiming territory.

No cat today to notice their slow patrol;
no mockingbirds or magpies to intimidate.
It’s hard to say what draws them here.

They tilt their heads at the distant rumble of thunder;
and all five lift off at once—like a gang of thugs
exiting a motorcycle bar.

They circle the street, climbing steeply,
cawing displeasure, and flap toward the row
of tossing eucalyptus trees down the block.

The whoosh of wind sweeps the sound
of the retreating crows down the street.
The sun appears a little brighter

on the lawn where five crows congregated
to plot some new, unfriendly mischief
in the quiet neighborhood below a row of blue gum trees.


—Katy Brown
Rock me in the rigging
rock me, rock me
up near the crow’s nest
and northern star—tied
in a hammock of salt-stiff jute
where the boson’s lute drizzles
a song through
the swaying spars.

Well-patched sails luff in the wind;
it’s enough up here—now—rocking
rocking, rocking in the salt-stiff jute
—the notes of a lute drifting
up from the bow in a tune
like a lullaby: rock me, rock me.

The crow’s nest swaying
the sound of the lute—
salt-stiff jute forms a creaking nest
grant me rest, grant me rest
rocking    rocking    rocking  
up in the rigging with luffing sails
while the boson’s lute plays a lullaby.


—Katy Brown
Today the word is limits
—well, maybe it was flower or follower.
Brace for the intense hum of bees boiling out
—or the hollow silence of an empty hive.

I’ve depended on routine and ritual
to keep me grounded.

Someone is cooking bacon and onions
down the street.
I think of ringing their bell
and asking myself to dinner.

Colors shift toward orange
in the evening light.
I’ve walked this concrete route
all hours of the day
in all seasons
looking for the white crow
that lives in a neighborhood flock.

Orphans come in all ages.

I’m working on letting go—
not the closing-doors and opening-windows kind.
I’ve seen too many windows open onto brick walls
and doors that lead into cellars.
Letting go of the ephemeral:
things I thought I could count on
but were only mine on loan;
mine only on loan.

I’m learning odd facts, new ways of thinking.
How to cope with shadows.
How to find Aldebaran.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Today they let me go.
I can't wait for the forest to catch up with me.
Past the old railroad grade
for hauling logs out of the woods
to be mechanically turned into walls and doors
that long ago became kindling for a fire.
When did the trees give out?
Berries upgrade everything with their dusty
sweet black breath, their voices.
Coyotes eat them in the dusky dark, and leave
their sign full of seeds and fur.
I taste one berry close to the thorn, to the bone.
Game-trails beckon through the green
eternity of bramble. Old sleeping-bag
adobe'd into clay, someone found
a hidden space to sleep among sweet berries
by the pond, where they put a cyclone-
fence around anything so wild,
but maybe that's just my amnesia. Clouds
of pond-water when my pup emerged to shake
her joy all over me. Today
they let me go, issued me fresh batteries.
I didn't tell them about the pond,
out beyond the bridge, quietly slipping away.
They'd've said I'm crazy.


—Richard Hansen, Sacramento

Dr Kay was a Civil Engineer
for the city of Cupertino or Sunnyvale
around there
in the mid 70s
and he taught a course at De Anza Jr College
“Deductive Logic”
promoting greater knowledge
in the Humanities
in the Dept of Philosophy
I thought
we’d be discussing John Locke
Or Plato, perhaps Alexander Pope who wrote:
“what is is right”
And a learned Professor
  with intellect and insight
Could demonstrate the greater meaning
   of such lofty thinking
Comprising the lyrics
  of songs musicians sing
oooooWeeeee this was heady!
I bought the textbook by Copi
  and was horrified to see
Mathematics on every page, like:
A implies B
B implies C
then of course
A implies C don’t you know
Well Fuck! I didn’t and so
Everyone failed the mid-term
  except two who got As
  being engineering students
  they didn’t have much to say
and Dr Kay’s expression dropped
  not being at all stern 
    sharing some thoughts
talked about his doctoral pursuits
and all that he had so easily learned
  with one notable struggle:
A course in metal fatigue
  when one builds with railroad trussels
And being the man in charge
    of so much public safety
Taking very seriously his responsibility
Dr Kay spent many extra hours researching
knowledge of metal fatigue was vital
  and essentially
was assumed to be a part of his mastery
But now
  he’s charged with increasing our knowledge
He adopted new modalities of instruction Plus:
   extended his office hours
   re-wrote the course syllabus
   got those engineering students to tutor us
And one of his lectures included
  a slide show of The Parthenon too
Mentioning the creativity and beauty
  of elegant Greek engineering including
The logic and math so tightly wrapped
The Parthenon IS right and true
Isn’t that a fact!
  just look at it man!

for deductive reasoning
 was the logical result
that which was supposed
 earlier in the semester
Long story short: I got a B
 learning conditions in logic
 that combined with validity
a truth implies a truth
“hey that’s easy”
a nontruth implies a nontruth too
  and it valid!
“Oh Really?”
Just thumb through so many pages and look
  at the true table provided in Copi’s book
  and lookit:  
We can make a premise negative
   with statements such as:
   “it isn’t the case that”
  but in notation we use a squiggle that
  looks like a drunk minus sign
  placed in front of a premise
  to oppose what’s originally defined
And transferring language to symbols
  takes time
But with practice you’ll do fine

A nontruth can never validly imply
Something that’s true
  in logic or in life
So I never worry while driving
  in the south bay
  in and around San Jose
Was it Cupertino? or Sunnyvale?
Well, anyway
I know the overpasses will never fail


—Katy Brown
No phrases or stunning words or forms;
no sentiments that I desire to share:
the muse has left for good this time.

Language has its limits, here—
no term for this creative void;
no phrase or moving word or form.

Words are an imperfect bridge
from heart to heart when meaning counts.
My fickle muse has left for good.

There is no language for a stranded soul
caught between expression and desire—
no catchy word, no form, no phrase.

The syntax of the heart, the lexicon of charm:
there’ll be no poetry today.
The muse has packed her trunk and fled.

No term for dread that causes such distress—
no crumb of inspiration or incentive;
no phrase or form or thought-provoking word.
My muse has flown and left no forwarding address.


Today's LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

What's riffling
the quiet of cedar pond
this hot spring
day? No breeze—
just puppy splashing dog-joy
like it was heaven.


—Medusa, suggesting you click on today's pix to see enlarged versions of them, including the shadow of the head of Loki, Taylor Graham's dog, lurking near the pond...

    —Photo by Katy Brown

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Story We Tell

—Photo by Richard Hansen, Sacramento

—William Bronk

We are so set on making stories, asleep
even, only the mind moving, lying intent
to stroke whatever comes to it, awake
while the body sleeps, identifying sounds
with events, feelings with faces, picking out
from the day's debris whatever will make do.

Awake, our invention finds more room to move,
sets up itself in three dimensions as if
it were there, assigns us almost consistent roles
to hold from day to day, necessitates
a past we must have had, and a time to come
where, even now, the story begins to be true.

What may, in fact, go on, if indeed it does,
has nothing at all to take from the story we tell.




Saturday, April 27, 2013

What Do You Hold On To This Morning?

Elk Grove Blvd., Elk Grove


The great white heron, its body a knife
In the delta air, above the marshy flats,
Above the rice fields and the dreaming
The trees protect in the Summer of the year,

Carves the wind into a thing that speaks.
We fill baskets with the finest fruits,
Find berries that have been told of in tales,
So sweet and blue and black and red and green
As we would have them be, that lead us through
The dust of day to the banks of the sloughs,
The voices of the hidden places so soothing
In the heat of noon, and draw us down beside
The hiding places of the crayfish and the perch,
The lordly sturgeon, the striped bass in its grassy reeds.

We are the children of the delta, mother.
We have dwelt here in the true magic of its
Charms and can hold the very colors of the evening
In our hands and track our way among the hidden
Islands where no one lives but beaver and the kingfisher,
The quail and the starlings, the darkest voices of the crows.

This is our place and we will tell no one of the place
This is.  Not that they would remember if we did,
For those not of this cloth will not remember the soft
And silent flapping of the heron’s wings.  The White,
The Great blue, the joyous fireworks of egrets, wrens and smaller
Birds.  The quiet of the owls in flight is ours as well.
Our blood vessels are as the sloughs, their color
That of sunset and the twilight, our voices, the singing
Frogs and crickets, katydids charming the cattle,
The chickens in their night coops and the rising
Breeze that only comes at night here, in this place.



A mouth that worked like flames.
She had a Transylvanian horse
With soft silver trappings and a blue
Flamingo that spit pure gold.  She
Would sit in the alley and wait for
The forest to catch up to her.
At least, that’s what she preferred.

And her mother had told me not
To draw attention to those beautiful
Fires that could be seen on the hills.
Memories could be had one hell of a lot
Cheaper and you could pay for them
With your childhood and pills.

There was a broken-down railroad
That once ran to Texas or someplace
That looked like Texas in New York.
And a man with a fracture that he called
A smile who ran freight on both sides
Right through the middle of the park.

At three AM on Saturdays we would go to
The theater.  They gave away roles to those hungry
For fame.  And the aisles were always crowded
And the lights were always flickering and there wasn’t
One person who would admit it was a game.

We live far from the heartland, we live close to the bone.
The children who come visit, they come always alone.
They tell us we are crazy to live lives in these places;
They tell us it will cripple us and we will live in fear.

But the sun here, it does something that looks like a morning
And there’s coffee if you don’t mind waiting in line.
They make fires out of old doors and they keep them burning.
They have never once, never once, asked us our names.



The conversation could have gone anywhere.
By the time it became conscious, there were
Life buoys of many different colors floating
All around the room.  It was quite amusing.

Someone, I forget now who it was, kept picking
Up the loose ends, trying to use them to form
A warp.  The argument was that there was a fabric
To the entire situation and that there was nowhere
To go but up.  These things do not always go so easily.

Someone began constructing what looked like light-
Houses on any point that looked as if something could
Be made of it, as if someone would actually want to listen
To where the whole thing was going.  No one really knew.

Cars were prepared and packed with provisions that
Could easily last for weeks in a climate like this.
Someone else checked for batteries.  They insisted
We would need them.  “One can never have enough,”
They said.  It was clear we were the only ones
Who knew where this was going.  They had built a solid
Framework that would survive a lot of travel and abuse.

When we saw that the entire crew was involved with the project,
We quietly slipped away.  There was a beautiful lake not too
Far from here.  The water was clear and the moon seemed to
Enjoy being there as often as possible.  And no one ever spoke.

The Attempt at Higher


So what do you hold on to this morning?
Amnesia clouds ticking into the room,
Leaving stains on the floor.  One can hear
Whispers collecting in the hall.  Someone is out there
Trying to put them into battles.  They have such
Intriguing colors and run close to the cars,
Arranging themselves in patterns that could
Easily be mistaken for someone trying
To speak.  The floor becomes sticky.

A language begins, accompanied by dreams
And a furious breathing.  The eyes
And mouth begin to bleed.  Insects
Start their metallic humming.  It may
Be easier right now to open up a vein.

The red air is filled with the transparent
Wings of large dragonflies.  They perch
On the ends of my fingers and cluster
Close to my mouth when I begin speaking.

Tell me, can you see this room?
Can you still tell where the doors are?
Is that light coming from under them
Or just a fire coming closer?
We quickly begin singing a chant-like song.
We are overrun by horses.  Their riders,
The color of an ancient yellow chalk.



They lean against the windows unwrapping
Whatever is left of the day and setting
It loose to run headlong toward the night,
Transmuting what were the waking dreams
Into the colorless liquid of the sleeping
Dream, blurring the green eternity.

Robbing it of its mysteriousness and installing
The horses that can never find their way
To morning.  They flow without end,
Piercing all the mirrors of sanity.

How could we have forgotten that they
Would come with their blood and agony,
The true trappings of time dressed in
Those hours time embraces as its own.

This is no way accident and death,
Never interested in any particular story,
Allow them to open as a great strangeness,
Unknown to memory.

They remain circular but take
What could be revelation, transmuting
The sweetness sleep might be into an elegy,
Ancient, full of consuming confusion,
That, full of objects, fountains,
Statues, their songs with their dust,
Murders with the power of tigers,
Again and again all of shadows
Except their own.



When he found her she was covered

With that silver etch-a-sketch stuff.

She was unable to talk,
Surprised and out

Of breath.  He began to write on her body,

An idiosyncratic scribbling that looked
As if a spider were writing in Arabic
Using the old Kufic form of the language
With its lovely shoulders and abrupt turns.

He wrote harbors and views of the Bosphorus
From the early nineteenth century, the wind
Over the fens, a seagull's eye over the deeply
Hidden places for the river delta,
A chant heard in the early morning from a monastery
High above a village in Western Tibet, the veldt
Covered with a silver-blue moonlight and the sounds
Of grazing.  Things that would end the dumbness,
Open her body to a unique language that one
Might hold the world in this way, sliding behind
The eyes with the assurance of a map that contained
More than maps are asked to contain, rivers, towns,
Great cities, the largest and smallest of roadways,
Railroad routes and points of interest and somewhere
Deep inside it all, requiring coordinates, a heart.


Today's LittleNip: 


I know no state that is not your lips
Upon my own or my arms enfolding you.
You are the childhood of all my dreaming,
Where soft, the fell of the morning comes
To touch us where we touch one another.
Where I know these jewels that are your eyes
And, finding angels in our bed, beg them gaze
Into them as I do and know the raiments of heaven
That are music, more than music, water more than
Water and more than this, the softness of the streets
With rain, the muted caprices of the early evening
With the sun tending to the affairs of lateness,
Returning home to where, once again I am able
To pronounce magic in your name and once again
Am able to release my soul to that which is holy,
As the prayers of the earth are holy to the sun.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix!


Friday, April 26, 2013

Bad Machines and Good Baseball

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Mary Zeppa, Sacramento

The widow’s white skin snags like parchment.
Still, the widow’s impetuous arms

find the shriveled old man in the corner
slumped in his old, battered dreams.


The girl she was stands at her window:
a spring day, 1961.  All the light there is snags

on the blossoming plum, on the red in
her hair, her white arms.  She wants

all of it.  Now.  In the room with her.
She repents every sound-asleep hour.


—Annie Menebroker, Sacramento

for a long time baseball has been a boy's
dream and spring his time to be kissed awake
because the grass smells good, is tall enough
to cut down, his mitt is oiled and fits him
like a pattern of his leanest need
something he starves for, but the regulators
for a busy life tell him the game's too slow
the heroes are no longer on the mound, at bases
or in the field.  you could build a small village
by the top of the ninth inning and extra
innings are torture.  but he still believes
in the game.  he still believes in the pitcher's
magic, the hitter's power, the catcher's technique.
the umpire's call.  in his dream it's the seventh
inning and the crowd knows all the words to the song.
the bat boy is so full of joy he trips over home plate.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The weed-eater wouldn't start
so with garden shears I cut some vetch
and clover for the sheep, and took a couple
pictures with my cellphone and then
the camera quit. So I went down to the garden
and of course the soaker-hose had blown
out its connections

and still the clover and the vetch and grasses
kept on growing, two geese flew
honking overhead, and swarms of bugs
were humming to the meadow, and my sheep
moved counterclockwise with the sun.                                                 

Clover and Vetch
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

Shadows of shame stain the night
with sounds that wound.

Broken rocks, silent rivers and
noiseless wings listen to sullen winds.

(first pub. in Brevities)


—Olga Blu Browne

I, at the edge of my mind, am

to the scent of this knowable

between evergreens and

(first pub. in Brevities)


—Olga Blu Browne

Following in the trail of moonlight,
toward the sacred fountain of

Vera Cocha. Where the wind
sings through the falling

leaves of the forest. We wait
for the cycle of the

Dawn Star, and the arrival of
Wakea, pale God of wind and


—Olga Blu Browne

Memory, wisdom or a little ray
of myth,

this raven soars on restless

waiting for a fool's last breath
and saying no to echoes.

(first pub. in Brevities)

More Clover and Vetch
("...and still the clover and vetch...")
—Photo by Taylor Graham

Today's LittleNip(s):
—Caschwa, Sacramento


First Speaker:  Well, obviously...
Second Speaker:  Say no more.



Give us this day our daily bread.



Loan me a leaf


Leave me alone



What was that?
Wha' happened?



I wouldn't buy any
diabetes supplies
from vendors whose
salesmen have
little beady eyes


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors and reminding you that Mary Zeppa and Annie Menebroker will be reading, along with special musical guest Cynthia Speakman, at Sac. Poetry Center this coming Monday, April 29, 7:30pm. For more info, see www.sacramentopoetrycenter.com

—Photo by Taylor Graham

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Take My Words

B.Z. Niditch and his kayak

—B.Z. Niditch

Life suddenly seizes us
surprising our intellects
on a great spring dawn
when a demonstration
of peaceful inquiry
suddenly causes
dad's lab
to go awry
with another human
illusion scrapped for,
that even a Ph.D. dad
does not know best,
we unexpectedly realize
every project
has its no-faults.

There could be
a worse scenario
in our universe
when water rises
at the home harbor
and a poet forgets
to fully anchor his kayak
on the small island
from a quiet peninsula
we give way to doubt
even after the floods  
when the all clear sounds
along the beach.

When recording
a new music composition
and a raspy mechanical flaw
on the tape is effaced
by my human error
we cannot believe it.

Or when bad memory
clogs our computer
or something
from a residue of opacity
overloads by not thinking
of fixing the hard drive.

By not clicking
the camera off
left out in the back yard
eaten up by sunshine
now with only dark lines
as scintillations emerge
on my photos
is not in black or white
but a grey camouflage
defying all our conceptions
simply by our flaws.


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Every error
can create terror
every mistake
may produce
a human earthquake,
even in a crowd
one may spin
your motor scooter
out of control,
you vent
with natural fervor
not making
your life very proud
when as an adolescent
you plowed over the gazebo
near a fireworks display,
with too much speed
in a James Dean way
puncturing your tires
after a wildly dumb deed,
in a pool of spray
at the footbridge bay
I need a human touch
to control my auto desires
on a holiday.

—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—B.Z. Niditch

Rounding these words
in a memory of solitude
we discover a universe
in our graffiti scratches
on a city's unclenched walls
throbbing with a kid glove
of half speech
unfolding what answers
and renews
in our absences
those thousand voices
in a palette's drawing
of an indifferent time
forfeiting every exile's
green identity card
with our prose exhuming
in our alphabet appearances.


—B.Z. Niditch

Nightmares held Poe
on the bed for hours
in an amnesia of frost
expecting a wellspring
of snow not dead flowers
that he needed to share
with boll weevils now lost
in a beetle juice of fear,

he suspected evil
to take over his despair
and cover his chest
yet awakens in the morning
on his writing chair,
from his long rest,

with his notebook
he composes by heart
a harvest of verse
as he departs
from his closet door,
like his beloved raven birds
with a wordsmith nest
of unrehearsed poet lore.


—B.Z. Niditch

Just as you are
waiting for me
at the port of call
after a night
of James Dean films
a sea gull catches
our red eyes
which fail us
at the usual
home harbor
at first vessel light
crumbling in
our wearied faces
in dawn's sunshine
we taking off
our motorcycle jackets
near the shore drive
our black boots
on gluey seaweed
by the open waters
unlocking the kayak
over the bridge
soon to be absorbed
by ripened shadows
of waves' undertow
in the tidal basin
watching the fish
nose dive below us
near the cargo ships
bringing in pink salmon,
Maine lobsters and squid
launched on schedule
hearing sailor sounds
by the sea voices
from the mainland
cry out between meshes
of the waves frenzy
veined with shade
from the light house
encircled by shore birds.


Today's LittleNip:

—B.Z. Niditch

Take my words,
the angel said
during a retreat
and then your solitude
will be forever
in a wellspring stupor
of consuming creativity
over alphabet zones
on a hundred horizons
with a fiery fever
unmatched by any image
as a countless witness
to favor and fervor
more perfect
than a forever stamp
sent on time
and then the angel
with coiled white hair
waved and departed
in the cool night air.



—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fire-Fangled Feathers

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Wallace Stevens

Not less because in purple I descended
The western day through what you called
The loneliest air, not less was I myself.

What was the ointment sprinkled on my beard?
What were the hymns that buzzed beside my ears?
What was the sea whose tide swept through me there?

Out of my mind the golden ointment rained,
And my ears made the blowing hymns they heard.
I was myself the compass of that sea:

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.


—Wallace Stevens

The lines are straight and swift between the stars.
The night is not the cradle that they cry,
The criers, undulating the deep-oceaned phrase.
The lines are much too dark and much too sharp.

The mind herein attains simplicity.
There is no moon, on single, silvered leaf.
The body is no body to be seen
But is an eye that studies its black lid.

Let these be your delight, secretive hunter,
Wading the sea-lines, moist and ever-mingling,
Mounting the earth-lines, long and lax, lethargic.
These lines are swift and fall without diverging.

The melon-flower nor dew nor web of either
Is like to these.  But in yourself is like:
A sheaf of brilliant arrows flying straight,
Flying and falling straightway for their pleasure,

Their pleasure that is all bright-edged and cold,
Or, if not arrows, then the nimblest motions,
Making recoveries of young nakedness
And the lost vehemence the midnights hold.


—Wallace Stevens

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings.  Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The birds' fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

—Photo by Katy Brown

—William Carlos Williams

We cannot go to the country
for the country will bring us no peace
What can the small violets tell us
that grow on furry stem in
the long grass among lance-shaped leaves?

Though you praise us
and call to mind the poets
who sung of our loveliness
it was long ago!
long ago! when country people
would plow and sow with
flowering minds and pockets at ease—
if ever this were true.

Not now.  Love itself a flower
with roots in a parched ground.
Empty pockets make empty heads.
Cure it if you can but
do not believe that we can live
today in the country
for the country will bring us no peace.


—William Carlos Williams

Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
—through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things.) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.


—William Carlos Williams

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,—
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks,
against the yellow drawn shades,—

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?


Today's LittleNips:

Sipping persian tea,
toes buried in warm white sand,
balmy winds abound.

Little blue pillow
teeters by the tall bed post
as we play footsies.

Swift fingers now slow,
frostbitten in the snowy
sunless evening.

Cold blue-green waves curl
softly break through the pinkish
pastel horizon.

—Samira R. Noorali, Houston, TX



Watch for more of former Sacramentan Samira's work to be coming soon. She has a new book, A Simple Rebirth (see uniqebuy.com/a-simple-rebirth.html) and will be reading at the Sacramento Poetry Center in June.

Update: Joyce Odam is home from the hospital! That was quick! She broke her hip Friday, surgery Saturday, and now home—with a child-sized walker.

—Photo by Katy Brown

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mary's Bears and Charles's Bloody Knuckles

Arthur Gonzalez, UCD Library, Davis
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

(In the style of Mary Oliver)
—Jordan Costello, Davis

I discovered today
while walking alone that the path
I was taking was not my own. It pulled at
my heartstrings and drew my face near,
telling me not to go. The deeper I went,
the more unlike me I got.
It consumed me, that path it did. Until I was so deep
that I could not turn around. I pulled
at the weeds that grew behind me and yanked
at the branches that had twisted around me.
But the more I struggled,
the worse I got.
And the worse I
got, the more I struggled.
My hands began to shake
and my voice began
to crack.
But I kept pulling and shoving,
finding strength that was not my own
the weeds began to
weaken and the branches ceased to resist
my blistered hands
that tugged at their heartless roots
until I could take a step
and another
out of those woods and
onto my own unknown


(in the style of Mary Oliver)
—Jordan Costello

Time doesn’t stop when you want it to.
Time does not answer to any master
that controls its actions, thoughts and worries.
Time only listens to time, not to your pleas
or wishes or what time should be.
Tell time what you want and it will disregard all that you say.
Time stops for no one.
Time turns the leaves green to orange to brown
and moves them away when their time comes,
to places you cannot see
through lakes and forests.
Time tells the bears when to find shelter, hibernate
and fill their bellies until its warm once again.
No matter how important you think you are
the world is at the mercy of time
ruling over you like it does those bears, scary but reassuring
that the burden of normality is on time
and you just have to listen to it.

 Black Hands
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

(in the style of Charles Bukowski)
—Phillip Tan, Davis

It was on the 3rd floor of Malcolm Hall
I used to get livid
And punch giant holes in the wall
While I was screaming, and, obviously
My punch would indent the wall
And my fist would fit perfectly
Still bleeding
And I'd tell my roommate,
“Hah, what a soft wall!”

The next moment I'd take my hand
Out of the wall
And walk out of my room
To the one person
Who could wrap my knuckles.
I kept punching that hole in the wall
Each time I got livid
And it would leave a hole
Still gaping—
A bleeding fist
An indented wall,
And each time I'd take my hand
Back to that one person.
I don't understand when I exactly stopped
Although I do recall
I was forced to move out.
There was a man down the hall who worked for
The school in a suit and tie,
He really fixed holes well
And put all his tools out on the table
And I would stand right behind him
And watch him do his thing
While my knuckles bled.


(in the style of Charles Bukowski)
—Phillip Tan

I see you smiling at me with deep
Round dimples, wait, your dimples are not deep.
They are dents, and you are in New York
Where you wrote that last letter to me and
I responded but never got a response back.
You used to pen the best letters about
Me, myself, and I, all in reference, and you
Knew me quite well and mostly
I was your one love, and I wrote back, but it's okay,
Sure, go do your thing, don't worry about me
Because we won't meet. We were in love once back
In the day, for about two years, but we parted, pausing
What we had. Then you went east with the smart and studied
About the smarter, and obviously, what you realized
Is that the smarter only care about
Their knowing instead of the west coast girl in school
With them, who gives them her all, but then realizes
In sporadic moments to write letters about
Me, myself, and I. We know we're done, We talked about
It, but listening to your words I reconsidered. Possibly
It was your diction or syntax. You were one of the
Best writers I've known and I used to tell myself,
Us, You may be a worrier, but me, I am
A warrior. There is no lie in my lines. I loved you
Like the ocean tide's refusal to stop kissing the shorelines
Even though time after time, it is always sent away. I would've
Loved you even more if I was all alone in a room watching
My nails grow and hearing you count the seconds from one to done,
But that will never happen. Your letters got saddening,
My love felt unappreciated. Babe, I wrote back but I guess every
Love becomes underappreciated. It didn't help that you said
You are enjoying and having the time of your life, but
I realized that is both the worst and the best part, knowing
You are doing fine without me and moving on with your life but
Remember I haven't forgotten you. I wrote back, it's not a question, but
I wish I got an answer. A friend of yours told me of your doing
A couple months after our pause. If I had met you
It probably would have been unfair to both you and I
To press play. It is best like this.


Our thanks to today's cooks for the final "in the style of" poems from D.R. Wagner's students at UC Davis. Tuesday is normally the day we post poems from Joyce Odam, but as some of you may know, she fell and broke her hip on Friday and had surgery on Saturday, from which she is recovering well, but we'll have to wait a bit for more poems from her.

And it's time for a new Seed of the Week. Let's take a cue from Joyce (either see the LittleNip or her recent mishap) and write about "Oops". Is this about mistakes you've made in the past, or regrets of some sort, or just banana peels... Or maybe it's not about you at all, but something you've seen somebody else do, or in the news. Tell us about oopses at kathykieth@hotmail.com, but as usual, no deadlines on SOWs. Heck—write about anything! Photos and art, too. Medusa is, well, an easy gal..........


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

A stone dislodged from a path,
a butterfly torn by wind,
a voice-echo as it fades:
oh to reclaim what is said,
oh, to restore what is harmed,
oh, to return what is moved
—symbols of all I regret.



—Art by Gavin Cheng, Davis

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pocket Dreams of Future Poets

California Poppies
—Photo by Taylor Graham

The earth is no more fragile

than a baby, or an old winter leaf
or no more fragile
than a thin spun web.
But babies survive
their newness and
the cracked brown
leaf makes rich soil
to grow things.
The web is often broken
yet when we turn around
it's always whole again.
A good song is sung
over and over again
until the needle dulls
or the tape warps
or the charge goes out.
But we don't forget
the words and we hum
the melody.  You have
to turn us all out, sweep
us into the next galaxy
to finally be rid of us.
No remnants.
No Morris Code from
the universe.
Your ears are ringing.
"Stop, hey, what's that sound?"*

—Ann Menebroker, Sacramento

*Buffalo Springfield, song:
"For What It's Worth"


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Love-seat—cheaper than a couch or Davenport.
It sat in the living room facing the front window
and, later, the TV; across from the Federal mirror
reflecting the love-seat with child pretending to
be a lost prince riding a bay horse to Montana,
land of exploration. That old piece of furniture
accompanied every move from house to house in
a city that grew vague as child came to know it.

At last child escaped its childhood, running thru
many years; and found, in the newspaper of a
foreign place, a smiling photo: “four friends over
40 years.” Fifth grade, high school, college—did
the grown child know names of its own class-
mates from so long ago? What became of that
faithful old dog, the love-seat?


—Taylor Graham

The one with the broken mouth
can speak, but only of ruins,
and neither dances nor sings.
When she told about the cat
it was with her hands, a gesture
for that certain earth-fur hue
of a creature curled in the hollow
wood-chipped alluvial-till
alongside parking lot, broken
mouth of storm-drain. The cat's
eyes did not look directly but
beyond, at its tenth life, perhaps,
or feigning dying hoping for
a mouse, a lizard, even joy a bird.
By the time the broken mouth
could tell us, the cat was gone.

Calla Lilies
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—B.Z. Niditich, Brookline, MA

A crocus in the clear glass
of nana's Parisian vase
along the sunshine's vibrancy
of an opened earth day
shaming the low clouds
trying to form
its dizziness of rainfalls
on an inkwell sky,
we are hiding children
outside the French blinds
of the moistened window,
soon we will trek down
the airy white mountains
of our former ski lodge
to reach a flower bed
where a runaway poet
once camped out on
to escape a parental storm
sliding over porous blue hills
with an unformed shadow
held by boulders
deep in ravine crags
near the ditch water pond,
where gulls corner us
with salient sea voices,
it is all nature's fragility
for a four-seasoned refugee
living between life's solitude
near trembling evergreen trees
with its April mistiness
of enveloped light
and scraps of survival,
under a moon's eye
after dark.


—B.Z. Niditch

At noonday
here by the Concord River
in a revolutionary day
a new emerging nature
will always caress us
for future snapshots
as we take cover
on new blankets
from the still rain
bringing out our memory
like a water on walls
of a landscape painting
bring us back to life
from a sleepless night
in the cozy Colonial inn
after a self reliant visit
to Emerson's house,
we warming to every sensation
of history's time
with our fragile curiosity
longing to spring out
from all night showers,
with many lined verses
awakening on my lap
on huge beds of daffodils
and everywhere clover
as new buds glisten
on bright flagstones
in a colossal sunshine
like the stained glass
reflected by light
along a cathedral ceiling
in the Fine Art rooms
at the little reader inn
near the Alcott's,
as two of us on the walk
over the endless
Concord bridge
covering our mossy clothes
face dancing waters,
a tranquility forms us
in one natural body
as anonymous nameless
waves still rise up
on the shore's edge
in a continuous ripple
from April floods,
and miraculously
all the earth,
unseen blinding rocks,
pocket dreams
of future poets
joys of gold butterflies,
swans pass by
with slight shadows
on their upturned voyage,
bells strike the noon hours,
we retire on the tall grass
on green sleeves ourselves
being together with birdsong
whispering by the trees.

Dandelion Seed-puff
—Photo by Richard Hansen, Sacramento

—B.Z. Niditch

(To William Shakespeare for his birthday, April 23)

Once in fervor
of speech discovering
a poet's favor and wit
no equal in lines
cast at loving
of a colossal writ,
occupying a place
in language's ear
agreed by skill
in every age's audience
who will hear,
we offer two minutes
of silence to fulfill
on our shattered earth 
and drifted sea and bay
to plant us by roses
in every thicket's way,
we can't know
what trace or part
fate discloses art's gift
for Shakespeare's birthday.


—B.Z. Niditch

In the bluest air
with a gesture
that opens an alphabet
of appearing words
on a shadowy page
obliterates any suspension
in a solo passage
of subterranean fire
within a time zone
as quickly collapsing light
emerges from our spirit
as unlimited phrases
our exercising voice
mysteriously hits
the right tone
of an alembic silence,
phrases are all lined up
as in a doll's house
of sister's small furniture
we sit on the kitchen chair
marveling at the Muse
of unknown codas
at the prophetic utterance
from the Medusa.


Our thanks to today's many contributors for this, our Earth Day posting, in the Kitchen. NorCal poets will be alarmed to hear, however, that Joyce Odam fell when she was at the Cal. Federation of Chaparral Poets Convention in Modesto last Saturday, fracturing her hip. She had surgery yesterday and is doing very well with the three shiny new brass screws on board, and should be back home soon, after a stint in rehab.

Speaking of CFCP, area poets did VERY well in the annual contest there: Laverne Frith won both top prizes (Golden Pegasus and Roadrunnerup); Joyce Odam won a Roadrunnerup also; Katy Brown won the Theme poem; and scads of prizes were scooped up by other names you might recognize: Carol Frith, Lynn Hansen, Claire J. Baker, Patricia L. Nichol, Allegra Silberstein, Norma Kohout, Nancy Haskett, and Betty Temple. Congrats to all of them! To read the winning poems, go to www.californiapoets.org/winners.html and click "read the poems" for Laverne's winning work and some info about him and his writing.

The latest issue of Convergence is online at www.convergence-journal.com/spring13/. Look for work by Andrew Aulino, Jane Blue, Myles Boisen, Darren C. Demaree, James Ducat, Grant Flint, Bill Freedman, A.J. Huffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Erren Geraud Kelly,  Kirby Light, Ann Privateer, Fabio Sassi, Allyson Seconds, and Brenda Yamen. In addition, Editors' Choice pages and photos throughout the website are updated monthly or bimonthly, so stop by often. Linda Collins is Editor Cynthia Linville's featured poet this month.
Friends of Roseville Poet Cleo Kocol will be saddened to hear that Cleo's husband, Hank, passed away on Saturday. And recently we heard about the death of Sacramento poet/Deftone musician Chi Cheng; Chris Macias did a wonderful article about him in The Sacramento Bee yesterday; see www.sacbee.com/2013/04/21/5354181/remembering-the-loudly-quiet-life.html


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Now feel
the balancings—
all the subtle
shiftings—the changing light,
shadows quickening—music
of the rain.



 This Fragile Earth
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Life: Wild, Precious...

—Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?



Saturday, April 20, 2013

Like a Lost Prince

Retreating Storm


The air is filled with dust
And still these angels will not abandon
Us.  They dress us in jeweled and embroidered
Coronets and speak to us as you have
Heard them speak when gathered
At the mirror pools, unwinding
The wind from our hair and opening
Us up so that we may know
The beat of the labyrinth that courses
Round these battlegrounds.  We might
See Hector.  We might see
The great fleets loading course after course
Of soldiers into the oil lamps
We can hardly recognize as the
Exact same clothing dreams
Wear when they feel they will win.

When they can see us slipping, slipping,
As if everything were glass; all the mirrors
Our bodies dissolving into them
Even as we speak,  Do you care? 
Do you care?
we ask one another.

From across the fields the men are bringing
Their dogs.  We search for items
That might mean endearment
But it is much too late, my darlings.

The sky cracks open.  An eye that
Has known murder gazes down at
Us.  We forget we even know
How to speak.  The bones of our
Bodies are numbered.  Trumpets
Begin to make melodies about
The breath; how it ranges,
Where it finally might be going.



The one with the broken mouth.
The one who used to put her hands
In the water, lift them  back to her mouth,
Speak into it and put it back in the stream.

She was the one.  We saw her many times.
Once she was a hill just outside of a small town.
Once she was a squabble of birds in a tree.
It was summer.  It was almost dark, but it was her.

Those bay-colored horses with the darker spots
On their sides and their perfect eyes.
We saw them standing in the moonlight.
There was barely a breeze.  We were waiting.
It was her, no doubt.  She was the one.

It was her too that time we were driving
Through the jungle at night, trying to get
Matt to a hospital.  He had mangled his leg
While cutting wood.  It was a bad cut.
We passed about a half-mile-wide fire
That ran almost to the edge of the road.
We knew it was her.  Ramon said, “It’s her.”

Once there was a ship leaving the harbor,
Easing through the morning mist.  The trees
On the far side of the river, all pink and wonder.
It groaned and creaked and moved into the river.
She was called The Little Star of China.

Back-flow Preventer


They had slipped past each other in their relationship so that what one of them said to the other never made much sense if it addressed anything beside food or what to watch on the tube.  The bed didn’t get made some days but only because one of them was sleeping in it.

That dog knew this wasn’t right and asked for walks more often than ever, just to get one or the other of them outside where the world was very much different and there was something to be noticed, perhaps explored.  He hoped things would improve.  But this didn’t work very well either.

Finally that dog decided to leave the house.  He loved the house.  He loved both of them, but perhaps if he were gone, they could find their way back to each other.  So he left.  Didn’t tell anyone anything at all.  Went out to the backyard one evening and never came in.

He wound up in Montana eventually.  He found a job on a cattle ranch and spent three very nice years there working cattle and getting excited when anyone came to visit, which was not very often.  It was good work for a dog but it wasn’t his people and he thought about them constantly; were they together? were there still evenings in the parlor, the street sounds, their low conversations?

One day the rancher came out to the big barn, where he stayed and told him that he had finally found his owners and that one of them was coming to collect him within a week.  He was surprised.  He didn’t think anyone was looking for him.

When the lady got there he did not recognize her at all.  This wasn’t his person.  He pretended to know her and she seemed to believe that he was her dog and he left with her and they drove all the way back to near the city he was from.  It was a small town with a short name.  She had children, teenagers, and a husband and they all were very happy to see that dog.  It was pleasant enough to live there.  Still, he kept thinking about his people and after about eighteen months he decided to go back to his house and see about his people.  So, once again he left.

It only took about two weeks to get there.  They lived in the city and he recognized the streets and the people who lived near the house.

When he found the house, he went up to the low front windows and looked in. There was a sweet-looking Mexican lady cleaning the kitchen.  He didn’t recognize any of the furniture but it still smelled like his house.  He walked around the neighborhood for a few hours and then came back.  The Mexican lady had left but there was still no one home.  The house lights came on automatically as it grew dark.  That was right.  The sky was more lovely than he remembered it.  He found his place on the front stair and fell asleep.  He had a dream.  It was the first time he had ever had a dream. When he woke up he knew he was not going anywhere again and that they would just have to deal with him, even after all this time.  He circled three times and lay back down to await the streetlights. He loved the streetlights.



Look what comes in here.
Who do these ships belong to?
Who do these things belong to?
They seem secret, as if a hidden
Garden or a temple.  There is no
Stopping them from finding a way in.

They look like your friends.  You are
Credulous, like a lost prince
In a children’s fairy tale,
Sliding on the vast slopes of
Night.  All has golden shadows.

Watch how things become vague
As soon as one grows used to them.
Holding a book, one can see when
It ends.  The pages simply stop.

But here the chairs move, back
And forth and through the mirror, so one

Cannot taste the grapes or read
The miscellaneous books which
Hold the iron of secrets,
Which hold the dresses of the man.

These chairs continue their fevered rounds.
They weight upon the heart like
Dynasties that have ruled so long
Few can remember when they were
Not bound by flesh to a sameness
That consumes the body, quells
The whispers of the seeker,
Slips eternity into these chairs.

The labyrinth opens once again
And there is no sleep.  Insomnia
Of the spirit, lured into a dream
As into water, dissolving the soul
With voices of promises.

We shall not stop for one thousand
Seasons.  We are the captives of
These moving chairs, our bodies still
And stinking of eternity.  Our eyes
Begging for a dignity that will
Help perfect all of the lines
Spoken, the pictures of ancient crafts,
The constant shifting of the night and light.

Red Sky


She spoke with the elegance of brocade
And bobbin lace, pale pink modifiers
And beautiful curving adjectives, a Spring
Rain across a flower garden.  This is a pure thing.
Perfect as anything.
A few stars remain checking things out,
Almost drifting by, but attentive to the
Tides, the regular spinning of the planets,
The pulse of all living things.
She had come down the years
To see her children, how they
Had grown, what their names
Were now, what they had done
To the place.  What about those stars?
We had an entire panel of lights and switches
Before us, all lit up like a Christmas tree.
Ramon had found the room deep
Inside the center.  The whole board
Was functioning but it was impossible
To read the language written on the gear.
‘This is a big deal,’ Ramon said.
‘This device is omniscient like the dogs,
The rabbits, the cats, the tiny mouse,
The birds across this entire valley.’
‘But we do not know how to use this,’
I insisted.
‘True,’ he said, ‘Very true.  But let us try.’
Sometimes we come down the corridors
To find ourselves looking out from the windows.
The whole place is made of looking
From these high windows and this
Asks everything of us.  It is a tremendous
Responsibility for each of us.
We must live our lives this way.
Tonight I will stand on the end of
The pier on the lake and regard the moon
Just as so many of us have already done.



They were waiting by the table.
The lights had just come on,
Tearing little holes in the night
Around the park.  One could see other
Light, shifting slightly below the tree
Tops.  We didn’t know what was
Making them.  Too large for fireflies.

Ramon said they were souls.  That
They came here when gatherings
At the table were held.

They made very unusual patterns.
Their lights were beautiful; soft
Changes approaching color but never
Committing  to it.  Occasionally they made
Patterns that might have been recognizable
As other creatures, bats, dragonflies,
Hummingbirds, even attempts at words
In some archaic language.
I could read these patterns but
It seemed no one else could do so.

When the meal began, so did a very
Unique music.  It came from within
Our bodies and brought inaudible
Serenity to everyone, exquisite melodies
That became tied to our breathing.

These meals went late into the night.
The conversation was far-reaching.
It was full of dreaming that moved
Through and around us.  We became
Unable to know if we were dreaming
Or not.  We did not question anything.
We held to our bodies as if we were
Attached to them by the finest
Of threads.  We could watch them dance
Before us.  They became our own literature.

We could see the stars beginning
To address us in the way that only
Stars are able to do.  We could
Only remember we would meet again
Like this and it would be even
More than our imaginations could manage.


Today's LittleNip:

Is there anything holy on earth,
Or anything that is not?

—Jorge Luis Borges


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems, pix, and quote from Jorge Luis Borges