Saturday, November 30, 2013

Believe the Wind

—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke


I have told the children that it was still raining.
I asked them to come to the window and see how this is.

Look at these cards I have been given.  They are neither
Playing cards or Tarot.  They may be a marked deck.
This one has an image of a coyote on it.

While we were speaking, a bird with a wren-like sound
Landed on my head and tapped my head lightly.
It came as a surprise.  I suspected this for the bird as well.

It wasn’t like it never happened that I saw you
Out on the trail, just at the ridge top.  You had binoculars.
You were looking toward the fire.  It was still a mile or so away.

I knew I could never reach you.  I asked the angels for help.
They told me to keep walking.  I wavered in my belief.

Later, I set up a crêche decorated with bright candles.
Something was moving in the corner of my eye.

I could no longer understand why I had to be on this
Road all alone.  It was the wrong season.  The weather made
Travel nearly impassable.  The rain streaked the windows.
I continued to stand with the children and watch it.



Your ship came by.
I could see it at the edge
Of the harbor.  I thought
I could forget that it was yours.

I sat upon the hill and watched
The colored sails unfurl and lose
This port.  I thought
I could forget that it was yours.

The masts flashed strobe light
White into the cool of evening.
I thought
I could forget that it was yours.

Sunset orange-red glowed
Through the gun ports on
The gun deck.  I thought
I could forget that it was yours.

The bowsprit was a dragon.
The dolphin striker electric
Blue.  I thought
I could forget that it was yours.

I came apart at twilight.
I rose like vapor in the air.
I can still see the depths
In your eyes, their trails
Across the seas.  The albatross,
The glaucous gull, the pelican.
I thought I could forget all these
But never was this true,
Not for a moment was it true.
I am your wake, I am your star.
I never could forget that you
Were the ship, the frigate,
The barque, the clipper,
The ward of the sea so blue.


At the end of the gardens, a pomegranate tree
Still holds tightly to its fruit.  Red balls hanging
Above the fence, the garden guarding just-planted
Cold weather crops.  A lemon tree stands close by.

At the other end of the fence, a fig tree, finished
With its fruit for the season, begins to work on
Its Winter dress, a display of branches anxious
To please any passing wind with its leaves.

A woman with a bucket searches for the last
Figs around the tree.  The wind flutters her scarf,
Unleashes a few more leaves.

The sky is a brilliant blue.  It too has cleaned up
For the new cotton of cumulus clouds.  The
Sun, a late Autumn clear light.  Our own star.
I watch from my window, read a poem about sheep.



Pours in through the window this afternoon
To where I am working; painting watercolors
Of wild-grape vines, criss-crossing that same light,
Trying to catch it before it slips across the rock tailings.
I look back towards the light.  There are people moving
In it but they are vague shadows.  I think “Perhaps
They are making maps for someone to guide them
To this place.”  But by the time they arrive
All of this will be gone.

The buzzards will circle in, carrying away the last
Chunks of anything resembling an evening.
I’ll keep painting as long as I am able.
The wind has given me the idea that this is possible.
I always believe the wind.



He was unable to pull his arm
Out of the wall of his dream.
The tigers sat near the end
Of his bed.  Their eyes fixed
On his struggle.
“Like a goat,” he thought.
“They will come for me soon.”

It’s when things get this transparent
That so much else manifests itself.
The tigers were paintings created
By an old Chinese monk who
Lived in the fifth century.
He laughed seeing his tigers
Could still frighten after all this time.

His arm in the wall held a vajra.
The perfect weapon.  It would
Always do the job and always return
To the hand.

The weary traveler begins to see
The lights of the village
Flicker in the distance,
But it is long until morning.
Treading through dream after dream
Once can occasionally observe him
Moving through our own dreams,
Lifting his lantern to gaze at us
And offering a moment of clarity.



We cannot move any closer
To the edge of this pool.
We have seen what kinds
Of things are possible.  They lurk
Around the edges of understanding,
Almost blind, but without a plan.

The reality of the situation
Becomes too clear.

“He felt a dull pain in his chest,
not exactly pain, but more
like a difference in air pressure
at the point where the material
and the immaterial meet.”
            —Haruki Murahami

I dive into the pool.
My heartbeats consume my hearing.
I go deeper and deeper.
I should come out the other side.

“Well, what will you sell me?”’
“I have nothing to sell.”
Yellow caught in the twist of the air
Above me.

You think you are different
Than all men.  Look at
Your hands.  That red stuff
Is blood.  Scabs of war
Form on them.

This place was once so beautiful.
Now a sickness infects men.
They stand around and shoot
One another as easily as asking
What they think of the weather.

Let’s look for the king.
We slip closer and closer.
Soon we are going to sleep
And our bodies will call
To the angels.  We will be
Their bells.

A pretty village.
Let us not go mad again.


Today's LittleNip:


Does the kestrel always turn like that
When it passes over the pond?

The clouds are water looking at water
Below them.  Is there always wishing for
A constant transformation of form?

We stand between the sky and pond.
The water is both the commonality
And the mirror.  I look up.  I look down.
I have strange power of speech.
It is totally without words. Hear it.



Friday, November 29, 2013

Stay With the Caravan

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

A hummingbird flits
along nursing home
sliding-door glass
as if a new kind of air
may be penetrated
with patience.


The whiz-kid whirrs

up, down, side to side
plying the thick glass.

Not knowing what to say
to a friend too young for here
I tell her a hummingbird
wants to zoom rainbows
all through
these sterile rooms.

—Claire J. Baker

—Claire J. Baker

                (for K.S.)

I made you into a fantasy,
my song's counterpoint,
my handy epiphany,

Thankfully you rebelled.
Now I am back on earth
where we both can grow.


—Claire J. Baker

Stay with the caravan
yet be yourself; notice what
others do, what wise ways
they take, yet follow your own ways.

Whether you ride, walk,
limp, run or stumble,
you are your significant other,
a worshipper of sun and stars,

reader of faces, hands,
emotions, a predictor of rain,
lover of oceans, dune grass,
moonglow, a granter of wishes.

When alone, may you be
your own best companion,
sensitive to little things
for the big things are forever.


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
A shout-out and chat-up
to you, Chuck Mangione
today is a brown leafless
Nov. 29, your pure-tongued
vibrating birthday
frozen in fur to celebrate in a line
though we can't get in
to the club as yet
too many other music lovers,
yet we hear the trumpet
rousing us from a deep train
of thought, it starts to rain
above us on city streets
after a burst water main
rakes us in brackish ditch waters
but we came to the club anyway
confessing to a golden hundred notes,
needling us in a silver age
to feel absolutely good
after a brawl bar fight
of two embracing cats
in the dark nothingness
at a two A.M. Autumn trip
accompanied by solo dreams
of unrealized transparency.


Today's LittleNip:

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph. 

—Shirley Temple



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Somewhere In The Labyrinth

Church and Tree, Bolinas
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Locke

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

What advice would you give the children?
Watch flocks of bright birds like shuffling cards.

What kind of cards?
Ideograms, photos of yourself in past places.
What coyotes deal in the dark.

What kind of birds?
Bushtits tinkling like Christmas bells
in the scrubby oak trees.

Tell me about your history?
Truck breakdowns, wings. Some things
never happened.

What do you believe deep inside?
Birds and angels seem closest when you’re lost.
Keep walking.

What’s next?
Every garden doorway is a lit candle,
something moving in the corner of your eye.

How will you know the right direction?
Isn’t it enough to be somewhere in the labyrinth?

—Photo by Taylor Graham


I can’t catch with a camera. They keep
moving. Sun’s autumn-yellow
cottonwood leaves falling against
the dark of oak trees holding fast in ravines
between rock ridges. Golden nets
of wild-grape. One deer—cautious-alert—
crossing the dry flats. From this high
watch-post I see it quick as a flick of ears;
then gone. A man moving west
without a map, maybe calling for strength
to climb one more uncounted hill—
tailings of ball-bearing rock. Now he’s
gone too. One buzzard circling, spiraling,
sketching air currents my lens
won’t capture. Nothing but light, this
light we can’t keep. And the wind!    

—Taylor Graham

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Such a long drive, so much traffic, everyone
in such a hurry. So we pull off behind a Quik-
Stop just short of the 99. Here’s a patch of grass,
grapevine on a chain-link fence, two fig trees.

Bird-pecked figs litter the ground, so much waste
of fruit. Here’s an empty KFC bucket that never
found a trash-can. My dogs go snuffling scents
while I fill the bucket with figs. Back home,

my sheep will make thanksgiving of the wind-
fall. And here comes a man with dog. He nods,
begins reciting a poem he wrote in his bad-old-
days. He speaks the lines too fast, as if they

load him down, he’s glad to get rid of them.
But when he’s finished, in his eyes more light
than they can hold. Might we read our poems
in return? Never too much of a good thing.

Wild Grape
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Here’s the pond. Look down
at your reflection full of cloud-wings
and the kestrel passing overhead.
Even the cheat-grass waves upside-down
about your ankles in the overwhelm
of seeps and recollected rain, the chant
as if from pond-mud, or from earth:
I have strange power of speech.
Is this the true alchemy? What were
the words and in what language,
spoken only for yourself?


Today's LittleNip:

—Michael Cluff, Corona

This is the day when turkeys
give thanks as well
for making it through
a pernicious, perilous period
with neck attached
and feathers unplucked.

Yet tomorrow
is their Black Friday too
when they wake up
from aviary dreams
and realize Christmas
is just thirty-one days
lurking with a plate
reserved just
for them


—Medusa, wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


—Poems and Photos by Ann Privateer, Davis

The trail angles toward a ridge
where wind tinsels leaves
and Eucalyptus trees sway.
A quick lunch then we
take a last view from the top
before heading back.

Crabs gather on the beach
purple and orange shells
bits of refuse, empty, immobile.
A claw, a leg strewn by gulls
on wet sand as clouds
roll fast overhead.


Before        depends
on the picture                a close crop
modified thanks to the library
who only prints
black and white
who reduces it
because I like
to crop it.
Who attaches a photo
who thinks this place
looks great
who wants you
to have a look
at bikini-bike photos
from this tiny beach
100m from our house.
The Isle does not look like this
when it is cloudy, which is often
in April and May, but the photos
by the local town drunk
who operates the bike rental
and laundry are quite alluring.


We traveled to the shrine
some Sunday afternoons
us females, mother, grand-
mother, aunt, and me where
their friend, a nun, sister
Mary Thomasine lives.  In
summer we say the rosary
climb rough-honed steps
through the woods, prayer
sounds drown like fog
above us, I follow the praying
chain of women, long to stop
for a flower, an insect, my kind
of prayer.

Other seasons we carry a flickering
candle, sing songs to Mary.  In
spring the shrine is ringed yellow
with daffodils.  Our visit always ends
the same, with the ample nun and
candy before sending us on our way.


there is racism all sides
it has always existed
this obsessive hatred
of Islam, of suburbs,
of sectarian speech.
How can you speak
with impunity on behalf
of the majority, who will be
the minority?


Today's LittleNip:


blessed are those who take out the garbage
blessed are those who speak with children
blessed are those who breathe deeply
blessed are those who eat vegetables
blessed are those who feel compassion

(excerpted from "do or rot a me")


—Medusa, with thanks to Ann Privateer for today's fine bouillabaisse!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


I have survived one day without you.
I am strong.

Today the sun is real.
The wind is not rising.
The cries of the crow are sharp
and my ears are deep.
I do not hunger for you and this
surprises me.
Whatever name you were
I do not speak.

I make one tally
on the calendar.

(first pub. in Negative Capability's
Life on the Line Anthology, 1992)



         “Life and time are a spiral, then, rather than
           merely a circle with its endless repetitions”
                                            –Roger Housden

To Be a spiral then—Be the turning—
the entering and evolving—Be the
going and arriving in the
spiralous motion—
Be the
and the staying
since one is the other and it
is you in your own momentum
of existence... I knew this spiral when
falling asleep as a child—I knew it then
and it frightened me. Now I know it as the
journey of the moment into nothing—all is
one sensation—a dot on the map.



That day there was a storm—a quarrel
of sky and sea—a division of force.

The clouds broke, the rain blew down,
churned under, and belonged to the sea.

The sea gathered and rose into the sky,
but there was no taming of either.

We walked along that shore to feel the
fury—answer our moods—our silence,

building now to the clash of power:
one fed the other, the whole winter of us,

daring—and uncaring of outcome.
This was a love to the finish.

After "Wild Swans" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

It was not swans, but the dark birds of
misery that went over—over the wild sky,
claiming themselves lost.

What could we do
but listen
till they faded.

Such were the storms of winter,
arriving and arriving
till we were wildly crying—

through them
and beyond them,
winter after winter.

Thus love was broken, at the heart—
at the heart and mind,
and all the habits of forgiving.

the error.

Dearest—not a fault—but a failure.
This day is but another, and another
sad reminder—

the way we are long parted.
Death and living.
Memory and forgetting.

And, oh, these birds of sorrow
bearing everything through
the terrible skies, finding their way.



The young man from River City
arrives with his pencil
full of signatures
to the desk
to receive his shipment:
bones of love
sent broken to his arms.

They, too, are useless.
He will lay them
on a water bed and watch them
gleam beneath his distant looking.
On the walls are others.
It took years.
All over his life he found them,
first as habit      then obsession.

(first pub. in Vignettes Mini-Chap, 2002)



I, too, dread light
with its indifference
though I offer it my dark future,
my expendable suffering.

I am the one with hungers,
insatiate and unnourished,
as one who starves for love,
for beauty.

And you, my old addiction—
foe or friend—
we kept each other alive
by our mutual torment,

each dependent on the other,
made of such need.


Today's LittleNip:


We are so difficult today,
caught up in more domestic fray  
than we can handle though we love.
Dare we leave, or dare we stay—
old battles lost, old battles won—
their truce—their same old killing done
with not much more we’re guilty of?


—Medusa, with thanks and thanksgiving to Joyce Odam for today's tasty fare!

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Shopping, traffic, family... or overwhelmed with gratitude (shopping, traffic, family...) This week's Seed of the Week is Overwhelmed. Good or bad, it's a season with a "groaning board" of things to overwhelm us—hopefully in mostly a good way. Write about those people, places and things which you are overwhelming you and send them (plus photos and artwork) to  No deadline, though, on SOWs—or on being overwhelmed!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Unexpected Angels

—Photos by Denise Flanigan

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

My meeting with Greg
who wanders the beach sands
picking up cans
who was going to
a twelve-step program
tells me
he was in Narcotics Anonymous
and AA
now he goes to a love addict
he was the brain child
and star athlete
of the high school
but quit and joined the navy,
feeling embarrassed,
I told him life itself
can be an embarrassment
even with his five marriages
which didn't work
or his kids in six counties
he was under the skin
of a tough economy,
no one is perfect
in our life's cold treatment,
just to enjoy the sea air
and Autumn leaves today
not to expect an easy answer
to find your unexpected
road on the highway.


—B.Z. Niditch

Sam, a construction worker
I met while fishing on the Bay
had to listen, read or watch news
every hour
while I want to escape it
by adventures which move me
or an adventure in language
of self-building phrases
that last in memory,
circle others' imaginations,
liberate anything retrograde
or reactionary
where words agitate
to free us from grief,
grow mysteriously like dandelions
and glow like planets
finally I read Sam a poem
and played a song
on my alto sax,
he turned off the news
and to my relief
we caught our fish
for the day.

—B.Z. Niditch

He was obsessed
with drawing dragons at four
riding a bike at five,
watching cartoons at six,
juggling at seven
clam digger at eight
card tricks at nine
sheltering birds at ten
folk dancing at eleven,
fortune telling at thirteen
then decided to be a monk
but was told he had to be silent,
watched films at Hollywood playhouse
at fourteen
secretly sky diving at fifteen
peace marching at sixteen
fishing for cod at seventeen
without much expectation
at eighteen,
obsessed with his travel case
even to outer space
at nineteen
wrote a novel at twenty
then he became a Beat poet
and ran his first marathon race.


—B.Z. Niditch

My teacher called me captain
in French
on the skiff and boats
in my sailor suit
he enraptured us with joy
by letting me row
when the sky moves higher
by a bird cloud horizon
soaring from silken water
its breath beyond gull voices
resounding over a silvery Seine
from a procession of Parisian light
asking the moon's exiled laugh
not to forget the face
of a deeply blue chilled adolescent
enjoying wildly the winds
half-kidded by older sailors
backside at the dock
this poet takes shelter
from his sleepy weariness
contemplating the night's air
like a newborn embracing
these decomposing notes
of a daydream world
releasing his silky thoughts
on board with words
that will survive this voyage.

—B.Z. Niditch

In the sea my body
pushes its limits
feeling weightless
as mermen, nymphs, angry nereids
address me as a hidden Medusa
a great goddess of the old world
still moves our imagination
where breath still has a chance
to survive another day
with sonic cosmic signs of life
on a tropical pacific paradise
below an earth full of haze
filled with vipers of pollution
earthquakes, cyclones, hurricanes
along all coastal islands
with theirs sudden volcanic eruptions,
among all voracious wars
more common than a bar fight
or any shore's wild edge of roses,
here I swim, discarding
my own modest warmth
far from any sad news at home
along the emerald undertow
waves won't miss me
nor my composed poems
in skin deep waters,
enjoying less rife contacts
unknown to anyone
in the blue surface glimmering
near crayfish, minnows,
even white whales and sharks
on the run from blinding hooks
evoking my nature's desire
in the unwinding suspicions
that move us every day
here far away
from shellshocked hours
in this transparency, rising early
when time freezes our tensions
and a once-smooth beachcomber
convinces himself
to stay exposed but silent
on the ocean floor until he rises
casting shadows with wonder.


—B.Z. Niditch

Just the sound of the words
stares at you on the first draft
by fresh white paper
or at your computer
with expectations to achieve
the frenzied wonder of language
when phrases suddenly flow
homeward from your past,
when an unexpected angel
climbs in your imaginative ear
by the family piano
in this furnished music room
and quietly reminds you
that nearby a self-analyst
tries to understand
my creative gift
and within a quarter hour
of a Mamas and the Papas song
around me
the poem emerges
in correct precision
hoping it will inspire others.


Today's LittleNip:

When I have a creative insight, there is a high. I think back in the day, I made music as much as I did because it made me feel so good. I think you could argue that there is a creative addiction—but, you know, the healthy kind.

—Lauren Hill



Sunday, November 24, 2013

November's Need

Stuart's House at Twilight
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Locke

—Rolfe Humphries

Not now the oil-black shimmer of summer on the road,
But a gray glare, still glare, though, and still bright
Enough to narrow eyes against. We smell
The smoke, again, of burning leaves—how trite
A thing to say, or notice!—and the car
Swings to the left-hand lane, and on our right
We pass a truck, two kids in the back, and one
A towhead, with a casque of shining white.
The road-side stands have rows of pumpkins, late,
Too late for Hallowe'en, too small for suns,
But huge for pumpkins, seamed and orange, burning
Beside the smoother cider—jars, whose light
Flashes an amber dazzle, lamps in day-time.
With the leaves gone, or almost, sunlight blinds,
Reflected from smooth bark or bough, and sky
Is quiet gray-blue lake, or bay, as far as eye
Can see, or tell. Less color, to be sure,
Less warmth, no heavy shade, less green, but still
Not yet enough of sharpness nor of chill
To shiver for, or wind the windows tight.
So far, November's need supplies its answer—
More light, more light.



Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Furniture of Eternity

Beach Art, Bolinas
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke


Tears from wounds.  The sound
Too many stars make when they catch
In our dreams, harvesting the pain
We were unable to express in a way
That would soothe the orchestrations
The heart had damaged in the name of love.

I never abandoned you.  I could not
Take the depth of the drama that consumed
The very air I was trying to breathe.  I
Needed to see myself, the mirrors wrinkling
As I gazed into them.  I had forgotten my name.

Later in the day there were great mists.
They cleared for moments at a time
And each time a different view came upon us.

When they showed us the garden with its
Strangely shaped fountains and the surrounding
Labyrinth, we hesitated for a long moment.  Wasn’t
Just being here enough?  We were handed fistfuls
Of photographs of places we could not identify.
“These places are in your heart,” they said.
Many of them showed brutality and police activity.
“We are locking you in your car for your own safety.”

Finally we were each given a deck of cards.
Each card showed a particular doorway on it.
As we played them on the table, we came farther
Apart from one another.  Looking up, there were
flocks of brightly-colored birds.  Someone began
Reading a list of names.  We continued to walk
As we listened.  I never abandoned you,
Even as my breath began to catch fire
And made me speak in this strange way.



While we were talking
A tree began to grow out
Of his mouth but he could
Still make words.  There was
Rain in him as well.

I didn’t mind; I liked
The rain.  I wanted it muddy.
I wanted to be walking
And talking.

I could see other figures
Moving in the dark. 
I knew they could not see me.

The morning gone, like little
Red boats illustrating
A children’s story.  Its architecture
Forgotten as soon as anyone
Sees a tree and knows
What it is for.

There were lights at the gate,
Thank goodness.  We were given
Robes and whistles and a candle
By which I could see your baby
Just inside the tent.  You were naked,
Warm and full of light.

I could not believe my eyes.
Everything looked as if it could
Never perish, not even before
Flames or the great walking
Of the beast across our
Acres of flowers, trampling
Everything it touched.

I followed the sun down
There to see if we might
Travel any further this way.
“Wait for morning.’, they said, using
The pinkest of their words.

Somewhere deep inside
This poem there are children
Hidden away from the most
Horrifying of circumstances.

 Stain One


Some things never happened
But this wasn’t like that.
It was like one could still hear
The engine sounds but it had been
Years since the car had flat-out quit
Right on the edge of the desert

Where the road ran out.
You could see two or three coyotes
On the top of the next ridge.
One was sitting and the other two
Were walking around, looking
In his direction.

The dream kept coming back
And kept coming back,
As if it got lost and had no idea
Of where to go next,
So it went back and found him again,
While he was still in bed,
While dawn was only an idea.

It wanted him to know
Something...that it was always
Going to be like this out here,
That the wind had a job to do
And here one could watch it.

The wind knew his face.
It knew when he was sleeping.
It was those damn coyotes who told  the wind
When to come.
When they were sure he was asleep
And could do nothing about
Such a visitation.


He bolted awake,
Sitting straight up.
The dream was already at the window
Sill.  It didn’t even look
Back at him when it jumped.

I would be years before it
Hit the ground, yet he could
Always hear it falling.
He learned that song it sang.

Someone had told him
It was crickets that made
That sound, but it wasn’t
Crickets.  It always sounded
Like something that never
Happened.  The car not
Starting but he was able
To drive it away anyway,
The starter bendix clicking
Madly like an unanswered telephone.



Little winged insects
Would touch his lips.
They would fly around
His head and eventually
Shatter against his face
As if made of fine flameworked

When they did so, they would reveal
Flowers of a most exotic kind,
Colors and shapes that defied description.

He knew he was being watched
As he moved through the long corridor.
He could see the ships signal
To one another using flashes of light.

“He is coming this way,” they would say.
“Look how his garments shine,”
Said another.  The air seemed
To thicken, become almost solid
Enough to bear some weight.
The ceiling cracking, a leg sticking
Through.  Not enough to think about.

Someone kissed his hands.
The flying insects continued
To shatter, making his feet
Bleed to walk upon their tiny bodies.
“God help me,” he whispered.
But he was always alone.
This was the furniture of eternity.



That curl on the side of your neck,
When I put my mouth next to it,
It wrapped itself around me and I
Was transported, required to be in
The court of birds and angels. I saw
Them rise, I did.  I saw them rise higher
And higher, each bearing a name I
Wanted to call you, a word I wanted
To use to tell you how this is, kissing
Your neck, the slight hollow of the neck,
The soft bulge of an artery, my mouth
On your bloodstream, just below the skin.

“Did you see the birds?” I said.  You
Looking to the sky, sparrows, starlings,
Mockingbirds and jays.  “Oh yes, I did,”
You said.  “They flew out of your mouth
Didn’t they?"  “Yes, yes, they did.  I thought
It was something I imagined.  Kiss me again.”

 Stain Two

            for Eduardo Carrillo

“I’m going to have to get past light,”
Ed told me, his hands moving across
The table, holding, making tiny curves.
“That was the trouble with the
Impressionists.  Just light, nothing else.”


Golden nets descend.  Long lines
Of children move by, silken winds of
Voices rising through ice:

    “There were some really rough characters
    In them woods back in eighty seven.
    Nobody lives near there now, just
    That barn.”

Icicles catch the moon.  The children become
Snowflakes.  Ed’s hands move back to his side.
I look into his left eye and watch the fires.


Words pass me.  I talk about
A cold I caught getting
Angry.  He smiles.
I take a photograph.  Golden
Nets flow by.  The neighborhood
Becomes voices of children.
December runs her fingers up my back.



They are busing everyone
With new ideas to a single
Room.  It is huge.  They are
Assigned a single letter of the
Alphabet and are told to
Explain themselves.
I don’t go.  I am able only
To speak in numbers.
Some of them are significant.

I recall there used to be
Noises coming from the sun.
I thought it was music.

A single wave breaks in
The collective imagination.

The room of ideas is opened.
It is filled with the sea.
Language floats upon it
Like garbage.

I am asked to explain this in numbers.
These are visual calculations.
They are made with language.

Painted Metal


When I listen to music—
A welter of strings
From some far time sliding
Into the moment, the conventions,
An understanding of the light
At a precise few instants,
Draped in cellos, skirting an elusive
Figure in the bass viol—
I like to think some secret
Is being told, not just to me,
But spoken in this way, that
One may understand it implicitly.
Not in eras or a period,
Historians do that,
But by arpeggios to bring
Oration on, a speaking voice.

Instrumental music, totally devoid
Of words, alive again, moving
In my own life as I work,
Listening, recognizing particular
Patterns, essays, discussions, pronouncements,
Lodged in the present again.

Pictures, plain as any painting.
And I too am marking time,
Stitch by stitch, my visual images
Emerging into this conversation,
Fueled by the same desire
That draws the pulse of time,
As music, across the mystery
Consciousness delights us with
In its manifestations—dance after
Dance.  These words collecting themselves
Here.  The room filling with light,
Assured that this too is speech,
Anchored in poetry, so one may find it
Completely engaged, while merely reading.



The Bolinas Rose

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bitten By The Bug

Maggie Frost reading at the release party for
Rattlesnake Press's latest issue of WTF
last night, Thurs. Nov. 21,
Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


I am addicted to light and shadow—
to watching sunlight pass through leaves,
rest under trees,
surround children at play.

With camera in hand,
I block out sound, ignore movement,
can’t see the big picture.
My world compresses to two dimensions.

Behind the camera, it’s hard to tell
where the light is coming from—
above, around, or deep within
or somewhere from behind the lens.

I chase the source of radiance.
It’s a sickness I can’t control—
this need to reinterpret the living world.
Sure, I’ll tell you I could quit any time.

I don’t capture images all the time.
I’ll tell you that.  But it isn’t true.
Hi, my name is Katy
and I take pictures.

—Katy Brown, Davis


—Michael Cluff, Corona

He liked his intense desire:
Basil's need to be
correctly dressed
from dusk
long beyond
the dawn
was expensive
when the tie dimple
was perfect
the shine on his black loafers immaculate,
the cuff buttons the most pearlist white
the seams unfrayed
and breast pocket
unstained on the inside
hidden from non-understanders'
viewings just that one moment
out of a hundred, hundred thousand.


—Michael Cluff

Only by
Internet surfing
could Harriette catch up
on her latest fad-
watching earwax removal
videos basically from India
it made her feel so clean
living here
and the unplugging of the aural canal
equates to some sort of exalted release
in her front parlor single woman
of a certain age post-twentieth-century
morals and mentally unmoldable mind.


—Michael Cluff

Omar obsesses
over the depth
of the juice
in an olive,
or pickled okra
or beet jar
many minutes
on end.
The amount
must be just enough
to slightly cover
the top of the dark vegetables
for him
to even consider
swallowing them
which can be done
for eleven seconds
no more
nor less

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Two stars on a dead leaf have come to rest on my deck.
Once I found a leaf with five dead stars; I put it aside,
forgot until it disappeared. I lack the name for this
excrescence. Is it an insect-gall in star-form? How shall
I google it? Must I walk with eyes on the ground looking
for stars among fallen leaves? or skyward, to catch the
next one as it falls?
—Taylor Graham

Window-shopping behind Main Street
stores still closed in early-morning light
shop-front glass like lakes of sky blue

reflective without wave or cloud
pressed sleek and shining as if to grant
free passage for sailing ship or bird—

here on the sidewalk
a chestnut-feathered dark-eyed junco
who flew for sky against the glass.

—Taylor Graham

Forget what I said about a cry for help.
A sunny day, the lake flat blue with only
the wakes of pleasure boats. Water forgets
what we say, swallowing without a trace.
Laughter of children playing on shore, couples
sharing wine at sidewalk cafés. The lake took
fragrance of garlic sizzling in a pan; rippled it
with red-tile reflections under stucco’d walls.
Forget what I might have heard—that cry
in a language I couldn’t grasp. As if someone
drifting in a boat had slipped away, dropped
to the bottom—surfaced once, twice, crying
for help. Maybe it was just wind on water,
its long memory of cries. Try to forget.


—Taylor Graham

How many life-altering choices
she’s passed by since coming here, as if
abandon inhabited trumpet and violin.
Mariachi and something older. She hardly
remembers leaving behind
a language binding her in its familiar
mimicry. What she understands is wordless,
addictive. Goosebumps. Pulse, rattle,
breath A burn like habanero in the heart.

I keep a garden plot at a Lutheran Church in Carmichael
The warm weather keeps it giving me vegetables
But when the winter frost comes
I figure that will be the end of the "summer" squash
One morning I will find the tomato and zucchini vines
twinkling like glass with ice
and I will have to uproot the dead plants 
then plant new seeds that will hopefully grow out in Spring

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


Today's LittleNip:

Birds come out to sing after a fall rain
They fly from trees down to leaf-coated lawns 
pecking out worms flooding has washed out
they tweet and cheep happily
as if to celebrate a feast 
—Michelle Kunert


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors, and a note that the latest issue of Rattlesnake Press's quarterly journal, WTF!!, is now available from ($2) or The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sac. (free, while they last). 

Also—Medusa's Facebook page has photos of last night's release party at Luna's Cafe, taken by Michelle Kunert (look for the photo of Maggie Frost). We also have a new Facebook album of Katy Brown's recent trip to Michigan—check that out while you're on our Facebook page! Two new albums!

—Photo by Katy Brown

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pianos On Fire

Featured Reader Rebecca Foust, reading at
Sac. Poetry Center Monday, Nov. 18
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Jane Blue, Sacramento
(On a painting by Andrew Ferez)

The piano is on fire.
I am setting the house on fire.
I am floating
barefoot out to sea, pounding
like the rhythms of the sea,
wearing nothing but my slip.
Mesmerized by the sheet of music
in front of me; she calls downstairs:
"Stop that banging!" Beethoven
demands some banging, deaf as he was.
She has a migraine.
Oh, how I must be torturing her.
I don't care.
I want to slice through the silence
of this house; be an arsonist
of music. Music is my accelerant,
my sweet gasoline. Beethoven
my accomplice. "Stop! Stop!"
she cries. I won't stop.
I am an evil child.


—Jane Blue

Death has slipped in before us, into
the sandwich shop. Death in a black
hooded sweatshirt. Skinny death. Sprawls

on the glass counter, over the lettuce
and tomatoes, his jeans barely held up
on his hips. Exhausted Death. He keeps

falling asleep, then waking to choose
the meat for his sandwiches, shaking
his head, no, no. No to the vegetables.

The counter server looks startled
and impatient, as are any of us
in the face of Death. Addicted Death

withdrawing from the obsession, tired
of taking so many souls. Death
moves down to the cash register

and pays the price. He manages to balance
a soda and stumble to a table; slumped
in a chair he falls asleep once more.

I can see a sliver of dark face behind
the hood. Death wakes twice, sobbing
in big gulps, never touching his food.

—Jane Blue

An azure sky, not a cloud anywhere,
yet it is bitter, bitter
to think of the crumpled people beneath it
huddled in camps like Canada geese,
wearing their odd hand-me down clothes.

Here in the shade
of the California Bank & Trust
moss spreads between bonsai.
There is an open bottle of malt liquor
not even emptied where a man
fell into oblivion

after the periscope of his
hypervigilance swiveled as he sat
splayed, begging for change
from people exiting the bank. The Bank

and Trust. I am only imagining him there,
feeling the visceral
feeling you get
when the one you love lies bleeding.

—Jane Blue

The smell of a dryer sheet in the air.
A female jay hunting spiders
in the cobwebbed roses. A white plastic bag
limps across the street in the wind
like a sick cat; then lies down in the gutter
and dies. Assignment: draw your pain. Draw
a thorny rose out of a Jack-O’Lantern head.
I scare myself with that flat, in-holding mouth.
Rose blooms, pain blooms. Jack-O’Lantern
rots, frightening the children. A “dark demon,”
my sister says. A jay squawks. I’ve got to get to it:
Mike’s dying. Thirty-seven years old. Addicts
are not what you think. They can be gentle people,
people in mourning. His father died when he was ten.
His mother never gave up. Wrote his obituary.

 Featured Reader John Oliver Simon at SPC last Monday
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—James Lee Jobe, Davis

In your ears, the darkness that tames me into silence.
In your eyes, daggers. So I lose quickly.
Outside the trees are very still, in a way
That tells me a storm is approaching.
How can I bear it alone?
Through the long night wet, bare limbs slap against the roof
And I sit inside mourning the sister I lost so long ago.


—James Lee Jobe

Look, there's Death in Sister's face,
especially in her eyes—that's the poison.

she eats more poison.

For a moment she is alive again, young,
then Death moves a little closer.

Dorothy lives close to death
and lies.

I cannot see any truth in her eyes
or in her face anymore.

The poison eats the truth
and changes her face.

And though I love my sister, my Dottie,
I also feel pulled to bury her.

I wonder now if I, her brother,
ever knew her true face at all.

Oh, Sister—why do you love that liar,

Why do you love that one brief moment
more than you love your own life?

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

We stand together in a bath of light,
the glass rotunda. Summer, slaying all shade,
deep-dyed in the whitest blue, like day for night,
so rinsed in full-moon nocturne is this shrine
to the daystar. Absolute luster, absolute bright
and heat in one speaking moment kept at bay
or silenced in us. Stay with me, the stars align;
they’re bending you now to dangerously linger.
Dark lady of the clear moon and of the rose,
crown me the ancient mirror of the day.
Bloom on nettled ground in the stolen light,
blossom where beauty almost never grows.
Weird is the midday twilight on display:
the black orb cores the rose and sharpens its rays.
Let me comb your dark hair with moonlight fingers.


—Tom Goff

Graymalkin days.
Everything broods.
Mud on the walkways.
All hangman, all hood,
trees’ sinister screen
bare-branching, mean.
Over our talk, haze
clusters like migraine.
Downfall: more rain.
Oppressive prelude
to words of high spleen.
Suppress your dark moods.
I’m sullen, I’m wordless.
Raindripping, birdless
musings, black interludes.
The fruit gold, the leaf green
weather denudes.
When were we last
free-kissing, skin-baring,
lavish-limbed, sin-daring?
Shut out the blast.
Our lost summer blaze.
Graymalkin days.

Today's LittleNip:

We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking. 

—Santosh Kalwar, Quote Me Everyday



Anna Marie reading at SPC last Monday night
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Yelling at the Sky

Pizza Clock
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—William S. Gainer, Grass Valley


on the porch

yelling at the sky.

The thunder


She has no idea 

she's done.


—William S. Gainer
Been using
the magazine
from a .45 automatic
for a bookmark.
A little bulky
but it works.


—William S. Gainer

If I decide to
my first choice
would probably be
chrome sunglasses—
maybe a new hat
and a pair of red shoes.

I’ve always liked
red shoes.
I’m thinking they’d
go good
with a new hat
and chrome

Ashland Wood Sculpture
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Lyric is still running, says the quickly
punctured e-balloon on my office computer:
It’s desired that we use this damn great
new instant messaging setup for god
knows what which I will blithely ignore
thankyouverymuch. Oh if you, Lyric,
were a woman, if you, Lyric, were a poem,
could I utter such contemptuous words
about you or to you? Lyric, you are a poem,
you are the barksprouting, leafshooting
bareassed demigoddess the sun god
worried into a dead green crown and still
never captured, never understood, forever
making music from the bafflement of his
rut wish. Lyric, you are the one woman
whose flowing brown hair I’m aching to caress,
run my hands through as the god skims
his fingers through the rippling strings
of his invention, liquid made structure.
Oh how I could structure and stress your
exquisite skin into a rippling lyric. Your
sweet-scented hair, your strong warm hands,
your small breasts all passing through my hands:
A Daphne unlaurelling, I muse as my dog
sleeps between my legs in bed, or as
the pop-up snaps right up & perky to tell me
Lyric is still running…


Today's LittleNip:

—Max West, Sacramento

When no song is right
Because you’ve never heard it,
Don’t know
The name of the band
Or can’t remember
What album it’s on
You either sing your own
Or suffer the silence

I’m currently of the opinion
That it’s equally important
And satisfying
To do both


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors, all of whom will be in the new issue of Rattlesnake Press's
WTF which will be released tomorrow night at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sac., 8pm, hosted by Editor Frank Andrick. Be there!

Ashland Unicorn
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Like An Addiction

 —Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


their subtle
their perfect size
and roundness.
(Aslant of perfect
for the word’s sake).

How they
unusual and singular
So many candy-fans
have no taste for them.
(I’m glad.)

It makes me part of
a minority—
epicurean and selective.
Halloween treat-bags always got me
plenty of black jelly beans
from the generosity of children.



The daughter of the mad woman
is an arm-wrestler.
She gives away boxes of candy
to visitors who
come to test her strength
against their own.

She wins, of course.

She is the child of brilliance
and pain,
the one who knows how to be
the one who has inherited
all this talent from her mother.

(first pub. in Small Press News, 1988)



Sweet cups of brimming light—and should we drink
from all the goblet-flowers of this place,
would we, like Alice,  grow in size—or shrink—
lose our senses—feel ourselves erase . . . ?
Oh, careful one, how pale you turn to think
I’d poison you by urging you to taste  
such heady light—intoxicate your soul—
risk some addiction you could not control.

(first pub. in Hidden Oak, 2003)



Old as children, they
come touching at all my candy,
leaving uneaten bruises upon
my fruit and spilling the
cheap fermenting wine of Sunday.

They sit close together in one
chair, his long beard greying
into her long blue hair.

She wears a flea market coat of
real fur.  He wears a ruined hat.
They are dressed for winter.

He tells her
what to do with her mind.
She adores
and gives him the purest sighs
while he looks at her
in his brooding manner.

And they cry when I laugh
and they laugh when I cry.
They are restless and lonely,
afraid to go
and unwilling to stay
where the rooms are long and
the hours are many.

(first pub. in Chaminade Literary Review, 1991)

     (after “Tree Rhythm” – Klee)

lollipop trees dot the landscape
a child’s depiction\
dimensionless with simplicity
the far ones           the same size
as the ones in the foreground
round-topped      with trunks
straight as arms and legs of
stick-figure people going
tilt…     tilt…
over rolling ground-lines
no birds     no sky
this orchard is too abstract
has no relative significance
to the logic of
the mind’s perspective
is simply      there
plunk…   plunk…
artless     but somehow art
each round tree
leaning at a slightly
different angle
about to fall     or dance
strut…   strut…
to a child’s horizon
happy as candy


(in amphibrach dimeter)

She’s smiling, she’s smiling.
Best watch her, she’s smiling.
Her eyes are not turning
away from your face; and

she seems to be touching
the sleeve of your sweater—
as if to delay you.
You’ve waited too long now.

You find her beguiling.
She offers a drink, and
you take it—a teacup,
too tiny and fragile,

with rosebuds—real china.
It’s empty. (You try not
to spill it.) She pours you
another, and offers

a candy. She chatters
and chatters, insisting
you answer the same way—

to afternoon tea that
she pours, and you share
with Teddy, the Bear, and
the doll named Marie.



I ate my life like a starvation.
It was not enough.

I was hungry for sorrow.
It was good.

Now hunger lives in me
like an addiction.

I taste the edges of tomorrow
and am obese with yearning.

(first pub. in Thorny Locust, 2007)



Yes, it is true. I am in the loss—spaced far
between it; my hands cannot find the edge.
I housekeep, but the dust wins. Balances
surround me. I accept my gravity, fall
through the television where the silence is.
I reward myself with candy, stuffed in
my starving mouth. I ignore the bottle—
my last strength, drown among cups of
coffee and diet Pepsi. I cannot mend the
holes in my love, though I praise it with
birds that can sing. Ah, season, full of the
right weather, fill me with maps.


Today's LittleNip:


I’m even now—my life and I in rhyme—
I’ve climbed life’s lonely mountain. What a climb.
My birth and death lie balanced on the scale.
I’ve satisfied the gods that gave me time.

(first pub. in
Poets’ Forum Magazine, 2003)


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's photos and Seed of the Week poems that are like jelly beans—you can't eat just one! Let's take our new SOW from her, too: Like An Addiction. What is it that you can't leave alone? Candy? Love? Writing? Send us your thoughts about those things to No deadline on SOWs.