Friday, May 31, 2013

Walt's Birthday

—Photo by Richard Hansen, Sacramento

—Samira Noorali, Sacramento

Yummy muddy puddle:
A seasonal dessert.
A creamy fudge oasis
In a bumpy soil bowl.
A pupilless, dark umber eye
Always open
And never discriminating
As all things reflected are
A shade of brown.

I want to dive into
This messy mixture of
Earth and rain water
And roll like a marshmallow
In chocolate fondue
And then...

Give someone a
Memorable hug.


—Samira Noorali

There’s something about Yesterday…
… that implores me to return.
Through my porthole, I see a herald holding a scroll,
an olive branch, and rich fleeting dreams.
He proffers his soft hands to console my blistered heels
and beseeches me to burn the escape ladder from the past.

A twisted desperation for Yesterday…
… makes bitter love to me in my nightmares.

Yesterday, in an upsurge of jealousy,
scampers a league ahead of me only to
capture Time and Reason before I can
welcome them or even whimper a quick “hello.”

The ever-warm corpse of Yesterday…
… holds Midnight in a romantic embrace and delays it for fear of Tomorrow.

Yesterday promises me one last kiss,
one last dance and an everlasting rose.
There’s something about Yesterday
that seizes the peaceful moments before my wars,

before my scars,

and before my love…

for you.

—Photo by Richard Hansen

(Born on May 31, 1819)
—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
Here I am in Whitman
really nowhere,
with my bare head
covered in snow kisses
you always humoring me
with your pulsating
half photo in my mind
on fragrant fields
at cranberry harvest
playing around with words
full of unsettled life,
rounding out
an eyelashed history
under a chimera
and beggar sky
no one can explain
that I your adopted nephew
from a lost city
without a green card
from the underground,
washed in fires
of the limestone Beats
at fervid awakenings,
we do hear you sing
here Uncle Walt,
in Whitman
all the way to the cities
of down-and-out angels
where one stops
to read you
blinded in love
on bus stops
and cable cars
covering scarlet letters
from graffiti walls
amid every sex and sect
no longer hidden
from burning bushes
your kind words, Walt
swatting our brows
even in the middle
of nowhere.


—B.Z. Niditch

That big bear man
we cannot forget
around a luminous fire
with a black beret
resembling a pirate
turbaned in a covering
wrapped around his head
to keep him dry
from the May showers
on Memorial Day
bought at layaway
we saw in the windows
from the Salvation Army
store in town,
with a full grey beard
in a sky-purple sweat shirt,
sister and I discover
at the riverside wilderness
playing a wicked clarinet
crowned over his lips
in the Blue Hill woods
engraving in yellow
his hairy nailed
"BBM" signature
above our heads
on the Royal Oak
would not frighten us off
though still wintry out
here in New England
next to a first light
with an advancing flame
where franks and beans
in front of green bottles
as a gust of wind
picks up,
we are unevenly lost
near a mountain crag
until we hesitantly speak
and he roars with syllables
in an unknown language
slowing down his solo gig
in voices and fragments
of high E notes
and with blinding laughter
at his young spectators
directs us safely home.


—B.Z. Niditch

Picture him, Tex
six foot six
with a bandit tattoo
in green opal
with a quote from
a horror flick
saying 666
on his large chicken neck
out of his mind
and element
listening to my soft
heartbreaking alto sax
playing about
a lost love
with a country road beat,
and customers starting
to leave the club
because of matching fears
of this heavy dude
when he suddenly
bounces up
in a grandiose manner
on the old granite stage
and grabs the keyboard
looking like a child
shackled by an open fire
and his vagabond chords
match my acrobatic
unsettled music lines
even in improvisations of high "D"
which is hard to reach
he jams to an amazing duo
and he was not
what we expected
playing solo here
on the night's hairy edge
around me a guy in denim
with drunken spasms
as in a mouth-spewing stud
who entered the club
named "The Underworld"
with fisticuffs
aiming for a fight
but was tamed by a poet
like an Ovid or David
as in a metamorphoses
by my refrains
and got hired on the spot
for another season.


—B.Z. Niditch

Near the movie theater
and marquis
playing High Noon,
the forlorn bouncer
former weight lifter
and heavy-weight boxer
backs away
from the parking lot
in the darkness
with rough-hewn arms
loaded with
green bottles
and retributive
Texas style justice
decides to intimidate
a semi-circle of kids
disturbing the peace
who try to smash
all his glasses
after being ticketed
for parking
near the high school prom
in front of the colonnade
covering their faces
with war paint,
he recognizes his own boy
in the shadows
whom he abandoned
and his night
is transformed
by telling his junior
he is not forgotten.

Today's LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

There were giants
In those days—or so they would
Have had us believe.  My graduate
Advisor rumbled (or would have
Liked to).  Imagine instead Orson
Welles body, Truman Capote’s
Voice: “I believe the dear boy
Has caught on earlier than most
That we are all charlatans and
Mountebanks in this place.”
The department chair, almost
As massive, and much tweedier,
Tried to grunt an “Alas” worthy
Of John Falstaff, but a Midwest
Twang caught him up. I smiled,
Kept my silence.  And have,
Till just now.


—Medusa, reminding you that Sacramento Poetry Center's summer Hot Poetry in the Park series begins this coming Monday night, hosted by Rebecca Moos. Samira Noorali will read with Heera Kulkami; today's post has two of Samira's poems from her book, A Simple Rebirth. For more about Samira, go to; or; or

—Photo by Richard Hansen

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Doors, Trails, and Hairy Hands

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

the door I hear
—Evan Myquest, Rancho Murieta

what is it with anxious mortals
and their fascination with the unrigid portals
is it a function of declining hourglass time
fear at the tintinnabulation of the doorbell chime

who or what is behind our airy door
nothing we want and more
are we so sure we are worthy players
expiring super marios of multiple reality layers

the doors knocked are identical to the bells’ toll
no one needs remind we populate the call of that roll
of joyous birth and death’s ferried castaways
that hinged door’s passage opposing ways
while we are at such musing
I say I consider voices beyond the doors confusing
alive or dead or in between
I never know what they mean
rather I would not hear them at all
damn my heart pounds backed to this side of that wall

this business of going to the light
well I am washing my hair so not this night
and the morrow’s night after that
and sure the night after that—someone must put out the cat
say cowl’d stranger suppose you let me call you
until then do what you do
and pick other doors to do it to


the trail
        (for D.R. Wagner)
—Evan Myquest

they hung on to me as if I knew more than they
they to a man asked to be remembered to her
none of them cared who I was
from where I had come
and how

in the villages between many rainforests
where rivers met
I saw her traces in their spices
in their art
in their speech
in their dance

the sheer amount of newness
in the old villages

people hum songs now as their own
from places they would never see

they said there was a sign
a foretelling in the fire
then she was there among them

celebrations ensued
spirits lifted as she carved the wood into stories
painted the murals which took in the rain
how she called the animals
and how productive the animals became

but then as she had come
and as she had said she would to no believer
she was gone
there was much ado about her absence
singling out and blaming

realization as other villages’ dance drums
spread word of her arrival there
and those other greater celebrations commenced

I told them about her wanderlust many times
in an attempt to quiet concerns
that she had come to harm
that other villages had imprisoned her
other villages would not let her leave
over this I said
no village could have such power

your visitor is not of the same
ground or aging path
or even the same air you breathe

but those visiting knew they'd been lifted
through the heavy clouds of change
never to fall back to what went before

after my words they danced and celebrated
bade me remember them to her
should I see her on my journey

to which I gave assurance
of every believable sort
before they would let me take their leave
and fully supplied I followed those other drums’ sound

let me recount—
the songs were getting less happy
her stay per village shorter
the murals less detailed

it was as if
she knew she must hurry now
that I was gaining on her
my camera ready
for a miracle a magic akin to what some call science
but me
I wanted to record those feathers

The Falls at the South Fork Eagle Falls Hike

        near Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Eagle Falls, clear snow, white snow,
opal-laden feather duster,
shake off mystic flecks of luster.
Icy horsehair, harsh downbow.

Wheeling eagles above glide slow
next to your essential bluster.
Carve from that essence the shapes I know,
wet smoke, wet face, wet flower cluster.

Glassblower, shatter the bells you outblow.
Jostle the crystal of the encruster,
load up your opal feather duster.
Eagle Falls, white snow, clear snow:
carve into my essence the shapes you know.


—Tom Goff

Big bearlike men have the hairiest hands.
Hair-handed bearlike men don’t understand.
Beethoven’s wrists grew thick black hair.
Patrons threw their hands up in despair:
the Ludwig-upbraided ones wanted him banned,
that black-haired, big-handed man of a bear.

When Tonie Brentano, immortal and fair,
knew her own husband unable to share
the loss she was reeling from, at her fair hand
pressed the gesture, the silence of one big hand.
One hand, then two: as if pressing the air,
cajoling strange notes soft as Tonie’s fine hair.

Brentano’s piano, not one touch too grand.
Through Tonie’s own windows rushed soft air
to lend help in the hairy-hand’s fight with despair.
His hands were thick with the blackest of hair.
Big bearlike men have the hairiest hands.
Hair-handed silent men do understand.


Thanks to today's contributors, including Robert Lee Haycock for more shadow photos from his Socrates' Daemons series. About his Brentano's poem, Tom Goff says: Tonie is a strong claimant to the identity of the "Immortal Beloved." Years ago, I filed this story away in mind, but securely enough that I "know" the story, don't have to re-consult. A touching moment in Beethoven's history. And Mikey West (Evan Myquest) reminds us that he will be reading at Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe in Sacramento on July 11. About which he says:

Today's LittleNip:

open mic
—Evan Myquest

after practicing bravura tears for days
with every confidence in the world
he took the podium and
dried every eye in the house


—Medusa, who thanks all the Snakepals who wished her a happy eighth birthday yesterday!

And don't forget to check out Medusa's Facebook page for Michelle Kunert's new photo album of Bob Stanley's Book Release at SPC!

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Medusa's Birthday!

Tygh-Bo before shearing
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The neighbors said she never had guests. Not
even family. No elephant in the parlor. See-
through walls proved no skeletons in the closet.
But where was she? A child caught a glimpse
of her from desk to hearth, lighting a fire with
written pages as if, once imagined, an image
survived the paper on which it was written.
The house hollow—neighbors say—empty
except for the sound of wings and hooves,
wolves in the hall, crows above the hearth. Or
is that just the mirror effect of glass? Such
a house will never burn but brighter, more
transparent, molten sand-crystal. Neighbors
fear it could spread. Wolf and crow watch
the perimeter.


—Taylor Graham

In corpse-pose she considers
dissolution of the body into nothing.
Disparate cells and atoms with no interest
in reunion. Free of ought-to's, no
fiat of social bonding. Birdsong becomes
white noise, or dead
silence. Surrender to chaos. Sweet release. But
wait. There's
an itch in the middle of her forehead.
Irritating. Small but, in the
vacuum of nothingness, huge. How many
eons by time unmeasured before
she can scratch?


        for Elihu Burritt at Ashburton, 1864
—Taylor Graham
You left your Civil War behind,
and sailed back to England, your second home.
Even there, you found America at odds;

your countrymen signing tourist guestbooks
“CSA” on the same page with “USA.”
What a thrill, then, to see proudly suspended

over the street of a little Devon town
the Stars and Stripes. Who unfurled it there
from a cottage window? The stars

of every State before Secession. Pondering,
you heard metal on metal. Soldiers
at battle? No. Click of a blacksmith's hammer.

Soul-fellow of another land. You kept on
walking, into the wilds of Dartmoor,
its myths and monsters, its tales of travelers

who never made it out the other side.

Freckles gets the salon treatment
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Here comes
the shearer. Clip off that dingy
wool coat, it's much too hot.
Ewe'll feel so cool,
so clean.

eyes in a stone skull; mellow, for
a ram. Shorn, does he look
safer? Don't turn
your back.

as big, now, as its mom sans her
winter fleece, the lamb bleats,
are you still my

Spring grass
is mowed, wind-rowed, put up as hay.
The sheep are shorn. Low sun
shadows, puppy
at play.


—Taylor Graham

I pushed the door ajar—buckram
brown as earth, bound with a warm light
from inside. Not warm—bright. Chilling,
almost. The room full of breathing.
So many animals, each with a look of—
what? intelligence behind the eyes.
The Crow, the Rat, the Bear—or was that
the Man himself who, with his words,
brought each one here? Did he speak
so many languages, or just the one?
All those hungers. How could he tame
the beasts, abiding as host or guest?
Opening wide its mouth as if to speak,
the Bear swallowed whole the Man.
Or was that metaphor? Whose world
was it outside these walls? Within?
This breathing cabin, can it survive
in the woods forever?


Today's LittleNip:

I open a patio cupboard for magazines in front of Sunny
Instantly the old orange tiger cat gets up from his napping in a sunbeam
   just to stare, wide-eyed
   he acts as if there is another world to explore inside the cupboard
   just like when I am going to walk through the patio's screen door
   and then he has to be shooed back   
   because he's an "indoor cat" who would be in danger if slipping outside
He's over fifteen years old and still doesn't get it—
   that in a cupboard he'd just get shut in and trapped
Perhaps he doesn't get that there is no alternate universe to travel to
   where he can see cats other than his brother and adopted younger sister
   maybe play with friends who've already passed away

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


Our thanks to today's contributors: Taylor Graham for the pix and poems (including her sheep-shearing cinquinos, her reply to Katy Brown's photos last Sunday, and her riff on our Seed of the Week: That Big Bear of a Man), and Michelle Kunert for her poignant cat poem. See Medusa's Facebook page today for Michelle's fine fotos of Bob Stanley's book release, which took place at Sac. Poetry Center last Monday night!

Today is the eighth birthday of Medusa's Kitchen, and it's fitting that Taylor Graham be posted here, since she was one of the earliest poets to appear in the Kitchen. First was Don Feliz, then Carol Frith, then Judy Taylor Graham sent in a poem in response to Carol's. Happy Birthday, MK, Gorgoness Extraordinaire! Thousands of fine poets and artists have crossed your pages over these eight years. (To see the earliest posts, scroll down almost to the bottom of the blue box at the right of this column, to "Medusa's Rap Sheet", and click on the bottom month: May, 2005. If you click on the arrow, you'll see the list of posts for that month, and we started on May 29.)



Shorn mother and unshorn lamb
—Photo by Taylor Graham

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Where There's Smoke...


O welcome to me now.
You have remembered me
and are here.

Come close to the fire.
I am cold.

Hold my hands.
They are shaking to touch you.

Dry the rain from my body.
I have been standing outside
looking for you.

The bottle is only half empty.
Pour the wine.

Tell me why you have come.
Never mind the real truth,
tell me the lie.

What have you brought me
to make me love you?

Let me tell you why
I leave the door
and the windows open:

The wind is afraid to enter!

Did you know
you are braver than the wind?

(prev. pub. in Nocturnes by Frith Press, 1995)



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, derisively,
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.


(After cover painting: “The Falcon” by Michael P. Berman
from Groom Falconer Poems by Norman Dubie)

holding the white moon to his genitals,
the mute savant wishes a look could reach…


holding a white dove to her heart,
a loveless woman wishes her heart could cure…


holding a white fire to its mind
a stillborn soul wishes its life could melt…


I speak to the suffering of dying
animals which is to the deliberate
cruelty of those who kill or maim
to satisfy some vanity of power.
What force within allows
such killing . . . ? 

Oh watchers of your own contempt,
how stay your minds from this . . . ?

I cannot
my mind,
how the cat
with no
simply waits
for its death—
that  I, for it, must grieve
and grieve with such anger.



We squander the light with our dull eyes.
How can we bear the result of shadows?

Shadows are part of the ruse: you at the window
with your cape on—with your spread arms.

Arms hold and carry, now convey weariness
by hanging limp—have their own messages.

Messages rustle—they whisper—they nag,
so smug with being right, what they believe.

Belief is where there’s smoke, there’s fire—
fire of truth—in the smoky air of the believers.


Today's LittleNip:


burnt offerings
the potatoes
the hamburger
even the water
today my heart’s not in it


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix on our Seed of the Week from last week, Fire! Time to launch into our new SOW: That Big Bear of a Man. Who is he? Your dad? Boss? Neighbor? Or is he more metaphoric: Neptune, or Zeus, or even Father Time? Tell us about that big man in poem or artwork and send us your musings at; no deadline on SOWs.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Eager to Dance

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

It doesn't have to be May for me
to find the color Pea Green.
In the dead of winter I brave the
outer edge of open door, venture
into icy blue, walk on white and
frosty brown, breathe in steel gray,
close my eyes...

and there on the inside of
eyelids is Pea Green, and where
I saw her earlier this morning
in warm kitchen in a mug of soup.


—Carol Louise Moon

When looking up past trees
you wonder how the painted sky
remains so see-through blue.

You wonder how the painted sky
was painted, whether by brush
or splash of periwinkle tear.

Painted, whether by brush
of angel wings or stroke of
luck, or luck-of-Welsh blue.

Angel wings or stroke of
hand on the Eternal Clock
all play a part in how

the sky remains so see-through blue
with splash of periwinkle,
teardrop paint, and luck-of-Welsh.

Blue plays all the parts.


—Carol Louise Moon

     "Think how I am lost
     in the tiniest violet..."

... blue hue
overtaking me.

Take leave, Ruby,
and come to me quickly.
Leave behind your jealousy.

Rust, if you must come,
help me, 'though your
ground brown dilutes me.

The Poinsettia knows
of those foes—
those mutters and intruders.

She alone
must come to me
in my flowering hour.

 —Photo by Ann Privateer


skirts the land
swallows it whole
surfs bumpy roads

shines where darkness lives
streams past rush hour
saddles up the boundless sea

swigs mouthfuls of homes to
savor this last moment before
sprays of night star blanket us.

—Ann Privateer, Davis


—Ann Privateer
my last confession
eliminated all body fluids
polished my aura
and reclined to die

until I heard a voice—
was it Patti Page singing
Cross Over the Bridge?
Oh no, not today!


Today's LittleNip:

—Carol Louise Moon

obliged to coo
nicely, I’m
eager to dance, to
reach for the sky
obliterating death
unaware, under the
stars with you.



—Photo by Ann Privateer

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Casting For A Myth

American Flag, St. Andrew's Church
Collumpton, Devon, England
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

If I close my eyes I can see my brother
patiently casting
—the fragile line—
see the fly land on the water—

slide down the riffles
toward the shadowed pool
below where I sit.
A large lichen-covered boulder

rises on the inside curve
of Cherry Creek—several hundred yards
above the old bridge.  It is warm under me.
Clumps of elephant ears and snake grass

grow in the sandy gravel upstream.
Water-skippers glide
on the smooth surface
just below where I perch.

He always cuts me a large green pixie-hat,
washes it in the cold stream,
puts it, dripping, on my head
to keep the sun off.

I smell the scent of mountain water,
the granite rock beneath me,
the pines and alders that grow along the bank.
My brother believes a monster brown trout

lives in the deep pool under the shadow
of this rock.  He tries showing me:
but I can’t see it.  Putting me,
fidgeting, on this rock,

guarantees that any fish
will dive for cover.
I finally understand:
it isn’t a fish that he’s after. . . .

—Medusa, with thanks to Katy Brown, who writes: Robert and I went into a lot of little parish churches and more than our share of cathedrals in England.  In almost every one, there was a section devoted to the war dead.  Lots of regimental flags (long turned to tatters)—lots of British flags in various states of decay.  Then in the little church where Coleridge's father was the minister—in Cullompton, off in a little corner chapel—one of the women who was changing flowers pointed out the American flag.  She said that in Cullompton, they were especially grateful to "our boys" because there was a big airfield nearby and they flew so many missions out of there, but so few of them came back.  I was touched by the presence of this "alien" flag in such a place of honor. 

—Photo by Katy Brown
[Click once to enlarge]

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Crow Made of Light

Ceramic Lion


A crow made of light
Came to our house today.
It sat upon the swing set
And would not let the children play.

It was so very bright.
We could not look away
And when it cawed, sparks flew
From its mouth all day.

We have never seen a thing like this
Before or ever since.
It must have come from heaven
To give us a little glimpse.

But Ramon said, "No.  It came from hell."
Of that he was quite sure,
For it burned a sulfur yellow
And it smelled like nothing pure.



At some point he had reached the limit.
He still had his sword.
There was something ordinary about his dreams.
It seemed as if the seasons changed every day.
He dreamed all of the primary colors.
His faith got a loan from the morning.
He promised to repay it in bird songs.
Insomnia began to have a particular diameter.
Twice he saw the original Adam.
He was driving a car.
His body became rhetorical.
He could see dynasties in the faces of strangers.
Suddenly he knew the names of every dog he saw.
He realized how the pyramids were built.

A terrible fear that being would never cease
Overwhelmed him.
He realized there was a mistake in
The making of every afternoon.
He could see the wolves inside of every building.
Nostalgia had a boat in the harbor
But it had serious holes in its hull.
There were flags flying over every city
That were the color of skin.
He saw great tapestries celebrating wars
That had yet to happen.
Viking ships could be seen on all the horizons.
There were many clouds but none of them
Were recognizable in any way.



That her marriage was failing
And it wasn’t her fault.

That the kids were almost grown
And they hardly said anything
To her anymore.

That the car was breaking down all
The time and it was a darn shame.

That she had forgotten her doctor’s
Appointment but that she didn’t
Hurt any longer, anyway.

That it wasn’t her that her girlfriend
Saw at the store buying that big
Bottle of vodka.

That she was disappointed they
Could no longer afford to belong
To the swim club.

That life was becoming impossible
And things could not get worse.

Dead Tulips


You may not open that door.
This is why we put numbers
On years; so you cannot return,
Even if you are owed a great debt.

No one will answer.  They do know
Your voice.  The dungeons
Are not empty.  The cells
Are sealed.  There are indeed
Limits on these things.

Run your tongue around the inside
Of your mouth.  Feel the wetness.
See, this is a separate dream.
This is not your own at all.

From this window you can see
The Ganges.  Those are the burning
Ghats.  You have forgotten
That you had solitude at one time,
That you are still alive,
That you can extend your hand.
Raise it in greeting.  We will watch.

Now, say something divine.
It will soon be forgotten, my dear.



I had forgotten that he lived
In a hollow house.  It was close
To the sea and one could hear
The waves breaking in every room
Of the place.  There was an insistence
About it that one become sand once again.

I walked into the place half-
Expecting the doors to be magic,
For it to be a dream no matter
If I was in sleep or wakefulness.

I listened to the songs being sung
From the upstairs rooms in Arabic,
In Latin, in a drifting Portuguese that
Spun across the tongue like prayers.

I do not know why I am here.
I had no map.  I recognized the primary
Colors but they explained nothing.
Everything had been emptied from the place
Where I stood.  I could see
The great wave come, so much higher
Than any house, so much more dense
Than any faith.



One light, only one.  It was too
Far away to say if it was a talismanic
Caress, one that could protect swords,
Govern destiny, decipher labyrinths
And question all alchemy.

We try to recall if we have seen this
Kind of light, a glimmer within a lemon
Grove just as evening abandoned
Its apartments for the coming of the moon.

It seemed so melancholy, almost shy,
As if it might be the last time it would
Be seen.  Perhaps the only time.

When we spoke together later,
Some recalled things they had lost,
The fine sense of standing by the sea,
The memory of looking at the garden,
The taste of grapes, something that does
Not obey order.  We are troubled by these
Feelings, all because of a light.

Years later, when visiting a temple,
I saw a tapestry in an alcove that commemorated
This event exactly as we had seen it so long ago.
My heart filled with thoughts of that evening.

When I left the place, night was already here.
I looked to the far distance, searching for that light.
Of course, there was nothing of the sort.
Something that does not obey order.


Today's LittleNip:


Saint Francis spoke to the birds.
He called them brothers.  They spoke
Of the preciousness of the night.
Praised be the love.  Praised be the surrender,
Said Francis.  Praised be this moment,
They said together.  They resumed dreaming.


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

Yellow Calla

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cheat The Flesh, Baby

How to Color an Elephant
—Artwork by Dave Boles

—Dave Boles, Grass Valley

when you run with evil
shifting through gears with
your fingers
in the sockets of a skull
you learn a bit
about demons

not the fantasy demons
of hollywood fame
disney cute
and ending up
or horror movie
spewing blood
and gore
as they tear through
in their

i mean real demons

not the
slayer of Josiah
or some

i mean the demons
that grab hold
from deep within

the ones that
cause you to
your lover
over a glass
of spilled

the ones that come from
the deeply entrenched
that festers
over a lifetime
with the

i know
a thing or two
about demons

it’s why i avoid
the taste
of gin
or the smooth
of a needle
against my vein

i’ve learned to tread

once you run
with evil
you are never
without its company

the best you can hope for
is to avoid
all known triggers
and to keep
a god killer
for when the demons


the day you left
the sun was rising

it illuminated you
as you walked towards it
not once turning to tell me

there was no need
we both knew

the sun set that night
it rose the next morning

your illumination replaced
with memories

i made coffee
as i do
every day.

—Dave Boles

—Artwork by Dave Boles

—Dave Boles

4 hallucinations outside of Bakersfield
the backbone of California rises
a twisting, turning concrete serpent
plunging its savage head deep
into my solar plexus
freeing the bonds
of this tenuous body

the journey began
a handful of pharmaceuticals
brightly colored painkillers
to get me through
the backbone of California
minimal suffering
maximum analgesic
the order of the day

compilation CD
of Monte Cazazza
created by the master himself
playing in the rental car
the serpent's savage head
ignites the demons
within the CD
it skips and trolls
in an eery chant

"cheat the flesh"

"cheat the flesh"

i partake of this mantra
driving through the dust fields
of our once golden state
endless rows of produce
now replaced by dirt
and grit

a sign along the road
screams "SAVE JOBS"

i scream back
"he’s dead, you fucking idiots"
wondering how long the sign
has been taunting hapless motorists

is the point

Cazazza is still murmuring

the serpent has taken refuge
from the bright
mid-day sun

my trusty hash pipe calls to me
as i crest the mountain

inhaling deeply
holding in the sweet, oily smoke
colored lights begin dancing
before me

the universe explodes
into a canvas of color

Jackson Pollack meets
Patrick Connally

a rather large, pink-haired
middle-aged suburban housewife
smiles at me
within the confines
of her SUV

"cheat the flesh"

"cheat the flesh"

the CD is still skipping
perhaps it is not playing at all

a renegade water bottle appears

the City Of Angels
looms before me

i notice no pain
in my once mangled foot

it was an awesome ride

cheat the flesh, baby

cheat the flesh.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

(Political spokesmen and pundits
gather to package their principles
and explain to the populace
what the "true" issues are)

Two office workers lock hands and leap
from high in the Twin Towers
to escape unimaginable heat as
others climb stairs to rescue more

when an EF5 tornado approaches
a school teacher uses her own body
to provide lifesaving cover to
children while the roof caves in

with no apparent motive
gunmen open fire on a parade
or inside a movie theater
or wherever they feel like it

an Asian clothesmaker who sells to American
markets adds more floors to the plant than
permitted, an industrial accident ensues, many die
this is business as usual for them

a young man feels fire in his heart
rapes his girlfriend, whose family and clergy
insist she have the baby or die trying
again and again and again


Today's LittleNip:


Look up "fire" to find it is
a form of oxidation, then
look up "oxygen" to find it wasn't
even discovered until ~1774.

So for most of human history
anyone talking about fire
couldn't have really known
what they were talking about.



Buddha at Sunrise
—Artwork by Dave Boles

Thursday, May 23, 2013

From An Earth-Wise Voice

(May 21, 1265 & May 12, 1828)
—B.Z. Niditch

I read you, Dante
in Latin
while at a school
in Manhattan
Then met
another May birthday
poet and artist
Dante Gabriel Rosetti,
all hats off to them
with cake,
and floats of confetti.


—B.Z. Niditch

After a four-mile drive
with an old map
a student in a buzz cut
leads us to the podium
in the small college
sound-proof studio
where you are speaking
wishing to record
for all time
your nomadic voice
at the end of night
the poet in spring gear
of a searsucker suit,
here at your open reading
your ripened cadences
reaching us
in the back row
a voice touching us
like melted bonbons
before hours ripen
for the luminous sun
with Venetian blinds closed
we also shut windows
of our now sandy eyes
to listen intently
to your still life verse
drift as puff balls
as your hypnotic images
like Japanese paper flowers
flow like crossword puzzles
onto our note pads
stamped with the memory
at your birthday appearance.


(In memory
Robert Creeley)

—B.Z. Niditch

The moon
fell so low beside
your shadow
lower than the clear
leafy eyes
along the pier
descending to the depth
of a webbed gaze
that night greeting us
in a few words
to piece together
our lives
when the single praise
of taciturn language
of your minimalism
featured the attention
of a footloose vagabond
a jazz fiddler, sax player
and rogue poet
looking down
from a nimbus of thought
of a Juan Gris painting
in blue abstract
wishing to be anonymous
like pale scintillations
at the ocean's depth
carrying the hand
of peace
from an earth-wise voice.

The Basket of Pears
—Painting by Juan Gris


—B.Z. Niditch

Night fades

and the lost sunset

from voiceless clouds

enters history of you,

Yukio and Yufuko

there a departure

in neon flame of fire

between earth and sky

and you both

painting in ashes 

of your own sorrows

are masking the air

in the shade of the past

who are my neighbors.

—B.Z. Niditch

Running my right
into bushels of hay
with a hurting hand
from overwork
at this stage of my life
yet feeling like a rake
after playing Falstaff
in Shakespeare's play
Henry the Fourth
at the town theater
to rounds of applause,
now doing outside work
all alone,
being kept busy
in this abnegated time
as a poet approaches
here between the peat
along the two barns
refusing to be afraid
of the fire this time
or of the hay fever
that curls us up in May
on leave among blankets
of orange, yellow, reds
among bright flames
along tall grasses
to sweep the lawn.


—B.Z. Niditch

It's May outside
your doors and windows
with burning books
in huge piles
this a civilized society
Heine, Freud, Einstein,
Brecht, Beckmann
no, don't turn away
general public,
try to be objective
now it's only temporary,
but a poet says
don't take your eyes
away from the ashes,
five years later
bodies will be burnt
after the books
in huge piles.


Today's LittleNip:

Only poetry is able to describe the ineffable.

—B.Z. Niditch



View from the Train
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
[Be sure to check Medusa's Facebook page
for a new photo album from
Cynthia Linville!]

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tempus Fugit!

Fire in the Wall
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Thick smoke invests the air for miles around.
But “miles around” supposes a pleasing distance.
This intimate gray presumes upon the ground;
it mimics fog—no moisture, just the dimness.
Tongues register a copper-savored spray.
No starts or jolts to scan for the motion sensor:
my workroom darkens. Outdoors, no birds fly:
just smoke, swung rich and repellent from the church censer.
You’re just like this new California, touched with such fire;
perennial as these fumes. Each summer’s return
I time your arrival to whiffs of that fey gray bloom.
For you are my trance-bearing needle, my wrongful desire.
Will this black pandemic recur? Then speed the doom.
Like you, it must come back once it learns where to burn.

(prev. posted on James Lee Jobe’s blog, Pulverized Diamonds)


—Tom Goff

She came to us like a flame-spirit after the Fire,
a honey-haired wonder of poetry and desire,
and rooted her delicate feet in the field of the quake.
Her instants of rippled stillness were never a lake,
but a pond brushed by gusts, as are hearts in those who’ve sinned.
Her love was all whorls of blossom downbent by wind.
So seldom in contact with the mud-bitter earth,
her ocean-flung ashes seem swirled into a new birth…


—Tom Goff

(for the victims

Today, a twister no stormchaser pursues
with his household jury-rigged swirls-per-hour
windspeed recorder. No computer-model tornado
core processor will capture these thrashing agonies
at the heart of the blender in a beater doing
75 80 85 down a paperswirl highway. This raptor
opens one black eye two towns’ width across,
lizard or salamander whose double helix
folds, not DNA, but hailstones into spirals:
this titanium paintmixer’s an autowrecker
where many more things than cars are, and
stomps regardless. Why must this thing’s
one patent be how to flatten? And what
have we done to this wonderful orb, turning it
already so Friedman-flat any allosaur can
batter it pancake or crêpe? Have you ever seen
fire run up its own fuse, one thin gasoline serum
worming all the way to the big barrel?
That’s our red matter: watch it seep silent
across the last flat mat.

 More Plugs
—Photo by Katy Brown

FROM THE URALS TO GENOA: A Fiction from the Crosswords
—Jane Blue, Sacramento

A physician left his hotel to follow the logical
grid of the city, through the alphabet, looking
for Y St. But after X, alphabet streets disappeared.

There was a jog across Broadway. He went
with it, turning into a maze of housing projects
at the back of the old cemetery. The streets

had names like "Revere" and "Muir." Apparently
he was in the 2700 block, as though the alphabet
was moving into previously unknown letters.

He was Italian. His family had mapped a route
through the Urals to Genoa. Then they swung
down into the cove at Pisa. In Pisa you can walk

straight to the sea from anywhere in the city.
A city built on a hub, or nexus, surrounding
the baptistery, where he once saw a dove circling

high inside the dome. A city built on a grid
is like the English language, he thought.
There are confusing exceptions for strangers.

The latitude here seemed about the same as Tuscany
where a long plain crisscrossed by railroad tracks
lies between Pisa and the airport outside Florence.

Locusts bloom beside the tracks in spring
and into summer. Columbus, a man from Genoa
never asked for directions. The physician did

at this point, at a bus stop. The woman there
said he should turn around. But he decided not to.
He kept driving south until he discovered something.
           —Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”

and not to yield. He shut the book. That line,
which used to fire his gumption, struck him
bilious. Strive—code word for sweat, for
things going wrong. Out the window, a merlin
swooped out of sky to seek a pigeon. How
sweet to be a bird, fired by simple hunger. Not
to yield? to a rattletrap that wouldn't start
for all his tinkering. Tennyson was no help.
No aging heroes here, no mythic worlds left
to explore. He put his jacket on and walked
outside. No adventure. Just to tackle the mind
of rust and everlasting metal fatigue. One eye
cast to the heavens for a mortal sign of rain.

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

—Taylor Graham

1) red sun on a snow-scarf;
2) the dead thing;
3) word as ephemera.

Each of them vivid but shifting
in my dream: fire-opal sun of morning
turning violet moon as she folded

refolded the scarf (or was it
a flag), colors shimmer-changing
to clothing of the soul, (who was she?)

or the dead thing, focus
of every eye: vegetable, mineral, or
polished skull of an animal extinct?

perhaps a crazy silver planet made
of the three kingdoms; globed
as a crystal ball but opaque as brain.

And the word: losing and gaining
syllables like breath, switching
vowels, its meaning mythologized.

The scarf, the word, the dead thing:
three translations of the same figure. Our
concept of the dead refolded to life.


—Taylor Graham

Nothing's what it seems.
Instead of keys, the words lock us
inside our mirrors.

If I turn a latch, walk out the door,
I'm dive-bombed by real
live birds wing-shadowing my steps

lest I watch their eggs break
into birdlings; wind-shadows on
maneuvers beyond my syntax.

A man, in search of Heiligenschein
on city sidewalks, stepped
into the mirror of a plate-glass wall.


Our thanks to today's contributors! Be sure to check out Medusa's blue box at the right of this column for all the events taking place in our area this week and this weekend. Also: The new Poetry Now from Sac. Poetry Center is out, with the perky Tom Goff and his wife, Nora Laila Staklis, on the cover.

Also out is the new DADs DESK (dedicated to yours truly, kk—thanks, Carol Louise!). Order a copy of Sacramento's only large-print journal from Editor Carol Louise Moon for $2 at 537 41st St., #6, Sacramento. As it says on its cover, Tempus Fugit…!


Today's LittleNip:

A poet aims for a perfect inflection as a reflection and revelation of silver in a mine.

—B.Z. Niditch



Fire in the Sky
—Photo by Katy Brown

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

If It Ain't Broke...


After the moment has closed the hour
there will be no other.

The clock will close time
as we close a finished book.

We shall be caught
in some foolish moment of our doing:

raising a hand to strike,
breathing, chewing.

All the ticking in life
will stop

and the eyes of the mind
have a final knowing:

no more metric feel, or sound,
or measure will be—

no deadline to hurry to, or miss—
except this one.

(first pub. in Cape Rock Quarterly, 1967)



One man
cannot sit in front of a machine
to stop it from killing the ground.

The machine is not alive.
It can outwait him.

The machine cannot feel the
grass break
underneath its huge body;
the machine cannot breathe the
endangered flowers.

It waits like a law
for someone to take the man away.

The machine cannot weep with rage
like the man
who would use his life
to protect the field.

It may be
the only field left to love.
The machine cannot love.

One man
cannot, with the whole world’s voice,
make any warning.

               *          *          *

If you put one bird in front of
many mirrors that reflect it endlessly
it is still only one bird.

(first pub. in Prairie Schooner, 1971)


(After "The Alarm Clock, 1940" by Dora Maar)

Time leans on its shadow
on a shadow-dial—measures
nothing but the word we give it.

Time is a question mark—
a yellow rule—a dot in a circle
—a shark-fin circling the mind.

Time, we call it, and it
keeps unwinding—this nothing
that we give so much credence to.

We give it clocks and clocks
and clocks of hurry,
but it stays—or moves—

which, is not known,
nor of relevance. We fear it,
mostly—waste it, always.

(After "The Black Marble Clock" by Cezanne)
The clock has numbers
but no hands,
so time is unimportant.
Light is bigger than the dark,
the trappings heavy.
What’s there is there, useful to depict.

Nothing breaks: the cup that teeters
at the edge,
the vase,
the shell,
the folds of cloth
that rumple to the floor.

The future is crowded into a lifetime,
the gold light thick and heavy,
layered to oblit the background
crowding forward,
past the clock—
the silence that is caught.

Everything is stalled,
the future given
everything it needs
from symbols of the past,
everything meticulously layered—
the subtle layers built to permanence.

(first pub. in Tiger’s Eye, 2009)



A wide, red staircase, three men choreo-
graphed, seven stairs apart. They glide

toward the top as if in a dream. The dreamer
watches them ascend. The dreamed men

do not deign to see her bracing against a
handrail. The stairs become an escalator,

moving away from her. She stays in one
place. The men file past—identical and

mute in dapper harmony, hands behind their
backs. She places one foot on the next

moving step. The men turn their heads in
her direction. The escalator turns into a

staircase—red-carpeted and steep—no top
and no bottom to be reached.



This wheel to this sound.
Intense vibrations. A borrowed word.

How slow the day
through its traffic of souls,

its absences,
its magnifying glass upon the silences.

This clock has stopped upon
an important moment,

as if all our lives
were made of stone.

I have kept the secret clean,
polished it into its variousness.

O poem of words that fall where they fall.
It is only the beginning.


Today's LittleNip:


When it came time to love I took its machine
apart and checked for lies, which were vague
with disillusionment, but I believed them.

The machine lay disassembled,
in methodical order: the heart at the center,
surrounded by all the other parts.

I studied them for accuracy:
the nerve-endings raw and the mind
not clearly instructed.

Still, I knew it was reliable:
if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,
came the old reminder.


—Medusa, with thanks to the healing Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix! Our new Seed of the Week is Fire! What's on fire? Is it a structure, or the forest? Or is it you: love and desire, anger, poison oak? Send your combustible poems to, or go to Calliope's Closet at the top of this page for older Seeds of the Week; no deadlines there.

Monday, May 20, 2013

You Da' Boss!

Eva West reading last Saturday at the
Foam at the Mouth poetry series
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—evan myquest, rancho murieta

such a reasonable city
only when traveling north
is it i before e
south of c
m is for missing
when naming off streets
with x tough to cross
y street a questionable broad way
at least j ends west and then goes east
r is for pirate talk at the pub fox n goose
but s has no curves
fast or loose
so that ‘tween boulevard and street
avenue and way
as perplexing as intersecting fifth and first
all i can say
is zelda’s and pete’s must change places
several times a day
if you get up on a levee to look around
careful not to step back or you could drown
k street turns into a no car walking mall
(and back again)
with a statue to rose of lima for the birds
and btw shouldn't a broadway be two words
mind the light winding rail and heavy north south tracks
the heart of the city maps look stitched as a monster
love it or don’t go near
it’s a wonder of art and commerce it’s clear
but don't expect anything in the fridge
at your friends on poverty ridge
straight scoop
you can't even eat where they make campbell’s soup
for a misspent life you’re probably headed out folsom
but near 80 and el camino there's the bread factory called holsum
tenth hits eighth which is previous
which is ultimately so devious
sacramento once had its share of towers
and gave shakey’s its name
we get an arithmetic lesson going east and west
numbers not letters this time so give it a rest
with movies on 12th at the crest
but watch as second rounds and turns into s
luckily it's front not zero
or zero and O would loop and be eight
the funnest thing to do
is ask if anyone's parked on u or i
wouldn't abbot and costello have fun with watt and howe
no u and first
not watt—howe
neverrrrr mind
no y at all just broadway
no not going there again
ah sacramento
such a reasonable city
for flying over
wondering what i said
that you stopped at x and left off zed


—Caschwa, Sacramento

The environment applied constant
pressure from the shiny examples
set by superstars, certified experts
and run of the mill high achievers

so to keep up I built a robot around
my frail, faulty frame and programmed
it with a few choice words:
"I do", "yes dear", "no thank you"

emotions are pretty much
a lost, alien art form, though
my robot can feel empathy
for booster rockets and landfills

like a snake shedding its skin
my robot will autmatically upgrade,
download, update, and reconfigure
itself to conform to a higher purpose

which shall remain forever unknown
to me, the spectator inside
watching events miraculously unfold
without leaving any creases.

 Josh McKinney at Foam at the Mouth
—Photo by Michelle Kunert


Eyes getting older
need an updated prescription
got an exam
new trifocals

I can see clearly now:
the past
the present
the future

the history channel
breaking news
traffic and weather
all one needs to see

alcohol solution
and a clean cloth
wipe away the
plu-perfect stain

read my bank balance
happy to have one
a flood of bills
in biblical proportion

tired of politics
so far from the truth
a media circus
alienating voters

elections conducted
like parimutual lotto
where who wins what
depends on how many vote

car problems
by design
not user serviceable


(after Alice Walker's "I Said to Poetry")

Paper is for
folding and flying
where the wind takes it

pens are for
clicking, clicking
annoyingly ccclicking

poetry is the wailing wall
get there by whatever means
express yourself with any tools

it can be skipping a stone on the water
preening your teen for a wedding
laughing uncontrollably

posting comments on the Internet
regarding issues that concern you
that the high court would not address

memories demand to be shared
broadcast like radio programs
even if they are awful

"Think about that."

go scrawl on the wall
vent some fumes
rearrange rocks

there ain't no god of poetry to serve
you da' boss!
get that shit out there


Today's LittleNip:

—evan myquest

the old dawn and yawn

bent over for the newspaper on the lawn

ass scratching back arching greeting old Mrs. Braun

here I am, no shorts and maybe one shoe

ruining her day, too



 Stan Zumbiel at Foam at the Mouth
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bullshit, Said Poetry

—Photo by Richard Hansen, Sacramento

—Alice Walker

I said to Poetry: "I'm finished
with you."
Having to almost die
before some weird light
comes creeping through
is no fun.
"No thank you, Creation,
no muse need apply.
I'm out for good times—
at the very least,
some painless convention."

Poetry laid back
and played dead
until this morning.
I wasn't sad or anything,
only restless.

Poetry said: "You remember
the desert, and how glad you were
that you have an eye
to see it with? You remember
that, if ever so slightly?"
I said: "I didn't hear that.
Besides, it's five o'clock in the a.m.
I'm not getting up
in the dark
to talk to you."

Poetry said: "But think about the time
you saw the moon
over that small canyon
that you liked much better
than the grand one—and how surprised you were
that the moonlight was green
and you still had
one good eye
to see it with.

Think of that!"

"I'll join the church!" I said,
huffily, turning my face to the wall.
"I'll learn how to pray again!"

"Let me ask you," said Poetry.
"When you pray, what do you think
you'll see?"
Poetry had me.

"There's no paper
in this room," I said.
"And that new pen I bought
makes a funny noise."

"Bullshit," said Poetry.
"Bullshit," said I.