Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Smile That Won't Come Off

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

I'm driving past Devil's Panorama— 
boulder heaps and thorny scrub.
Down there, I'd be out of radio-reach
in a granite wasteland lost to technology.
I could listen to the stones for their alone-
song. I'd quit just short of insight; thinking
of broken ankles, lightning strike. Human
in temporary trespass; an impostor.
Enlightenment? Hallucination of high
altitude; trick of the imagination. Instead
I'm driving east. Who can be alone
with four good tires, satellites overhead,
cell-phone in the pocket? At a mountain
spring I fill my water bottle and watch
my dog range head-high up the ridge.
Always searching—for what? Guided
by unaccountable senses, she's sure
to find something. And I, with my high-
tech gadgets, out of range. Disconnected.


—Taylor Graham

This is no fairytale land.
But beneath the corvid-latin of ravens
in the tops of pines, the gnawing
of chipmunks,
                       desires can change rocks
into snowbirds, a whole scree-slope
erupting in nine shades of
paintbrush saffron to vermillion.
          A group of campers
had baked their expectations and their
painkillers in a pie;
and after the charred ribs
and chips,
          a girl walked her carefully
schooled puppy on leash up the trail.
Across a creek and out of sight she stopped,
                       unclipped the leash.
The suddenly released dogbody glistened
in mountain-bright
                       sunlight igniting
inside as if blackbirds from a king's pie,
the puppy fledging into
its own story ecstatically wagging
               its fairy-tail.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

This is the deal: if you’re going to be
my main painbringer, better start being
my one painkiller. Killer, answer me now:
why do you have to stay shelved? No,
you’re supposed to be the liniment on my skin,
you’re meant to sting and heal at the same time.
Antiseptic, smelling of the sweetest clearest
unscented alcohol this side of Gray Goose,
bring your flagrant nonperfume to the party.
Get slapped like Burt’s Bee Balm on me with every
smear of your sensuous mouth. You are the Balm.
Or, as my dad used to say, Make me feel better
while I’m gettin’ better. Oh makeupless
honey, I’ve seen you wear Vaseline for
lipstick, slather it all over your embouchure
clear up the philtrum. Never mind whether
the weather peels your lipskin. Come be my
chapstick addiction. You’re the A & D Ointment
who keeps me in good trumpet. Be forever
my lovely one true analgesic. Slayer
and creator of dragon aches, only you can get
rubbed out wherever I choose to rub you in.


—Tom Goff

(for Laverne Frith, Carol Frith, and Joyce Odam)

Most of my readers will have perceived a small water-insect
on the surface of rivulets, which throws a cinque-spotted shadow
fringed with prismatic colours on the bottom of the brook…
                                                —Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Tip-deep in dimple, will no needle stand?
Submit that skin-surface to your toothpick test,
prod the raw shapeless cake that comes out best
minus a baker, minus an oven. Pinprick strands,

all color, stipple each footpoint. Spectral bands
in muffled, austerely unruffled gray impress
on you just what and where for non-feet to caress.
A drumhead. Stretched thin yet slack. On deck, no-hands;

keep plucking, plectra, that stringless lute. Go stride
your compromise electric slide. The fastest
pair of your rowing six out-oar the slow four.

Together, now, outboard your plywood shadow. Glide
headlong downstream to dinner. Pounce, gulp, digest:
Skindrifter, indentured to miracle, keeping the offshore. 

(first pub. in Poet’s Guild, 1995; rev. 2013)

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

It was on the river
smarting from my words
by my city bench
conjugating silvers
of Latin and French
in my early days
along the Charles
that kept me
from going overboard
in the canals
even in the rain
among gulls and birds
poetry was my bacchanal
from any quiver of pain
it kept me in motion
from all notions of death
in volcanoes around me
with Ariadne's thread
wound upon me
letting my tongue run out
with a marathoner's breath
here by the water
reading about
King Minos' daughter
in my own built labyrinth.


—B.Z. Niditch

Stop, relax
open the windows
bebop is in play
Kerouac is listening
to "Yardbird" on sax
while writing
his experimental novel
On the Road
at the same moment
in time when new tongues
of poetry and music
in one mind get together
from the Big Apple
to the West Coast
move on the Beats.


—B.Z. Niditch

In my surreal yellow
rain gear
a mistiness stares
over our lemon juice
my red eye opens
in search of art
there is a hush
at Rothko, Kline and Still
the color field painters
awakening us in summer days
that won't return
to enjoy the posters
from France
and Degas' miniatures
of girls at dance
and Dutch boys,
the curator telling all
not to touch
the flower paintings
from Japanese prints
our lecturer from Lintz
trying to explain
the murals of Warhol
and as a fine teacher
of the use of charcoal,
on indigo,
we enjoy Monet
and his great precursor
J.M.W. Turner,
with the high price
of admission
not wanting to go
as muted learners of art
with a few postcards
in our suit pocket
to show and then depart.


Our thanks to today's contributors, two of whom have birthdays this week (Taylor Graham and Katy Brown), and Kevin Jones has a new book out, entitled Robinson Jeffers Builds an Outhouse, from Several of those poems first appeared in Medusa’s Kitchen. And Kevin says "most of the poems confused and/or frightened attendees at last fall’s Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House Beach Walk & Reading." Check it out.


Today's LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

My hometown brewery,
Prairie Chicken Beer,
Had a slogan: “The beer
That makes the smile that
Won’t come off.”
Some said it was
Great beer. Others
Thought it was the
High concentration
Of formaldehyde
In the mix. Either
Will do it though.



—Photo by Katy Brown
[Check out Katy's new album,
"Fruits of the Earth", 
on Medusa's Facebook page!]

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Roses of Twilight


It was not for the real,
melting as two reflections

in the tall
unwavering glass

of a dark street

where we connected
as real and unreal—

one of us safe,
one of us in danger—

our eyes in dark receiving
of the glance.

You almost touched my shoulder.
I almost brushed your sleeve.

How can we ever forget each other now,
we who, for a moment, were so intimate?


The room I left was empty
except for the memory of sorrow.

Sorrow lived in the shadow
that existed in the mirror.
The glass shifted and I shrank back.

The room had six walls if you count
the ceiling and the floor.

The window belonged to
the doorway and the doorway
belonged to the hall.

I belonged to the shadow
but the shadow no longer loved me.

I broke the mirror and let the shadow go.
The window broke my face
into shards of reflection.

I left the room and entered the hallway
which had an exit.



These winter lines, full of cold fact and anguish,
the new word—made out of stone, that old word;
and still we make it through another season
of abject difficulty.

Transition.—that’s what you say to the questions
I would ask—only transitions. And I am one,
and you another. We are replicas of
the dark meanings we inflict upon ourselves.

I will go with the third distance, I tell you,
leaving you with your roses of twilight—
that new image, scent surrounding you;
birds singing in time’s cold light.

The glass walls of the years break softly
around us as we go through them—leave shards
and shards of each other floating away.
There is no before and there is no after.


Now is the our of tight arms holding on
to the falling. Nothing is plumb. There is
no direction to consider. The floor is far
away. The ceiling even farther. The dream
is urging you to step inside. But you are
reeling inward. There is no one watching
to prove this. Time is about to non-exist,
though it owns the dark. The clock opens
its face to meet your cry. The room tilts
accordingly, and every instinct resists.
You are replicated where you meet the
advancing mirror. Escape here, says the
glass. Your image steps inside—turns—
and helps you through. This is not possible,
you think, but a long hallway leads you to
a door—a slowly opening door—where
someone inside is turning toward you with
open arms, urging you to remember.


                                “Girl at a window”
         Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski),
French, b. 1908, Oil on Canvas, 1957

a window,
look out upon
the moonlit hour—
wish you were not stricken
with mundane obligations . . . 
the night floods in with sympathies.
You are released . . . into what power?



The blue wives stand by the open window
listening to the rain, welcoming
the cold night air that agitates the curtains.

They shiver,
but wait for the sound—
or the absent voice—or the recollection.

They stand in the moonlight
and wait for whatever they are waiting for.
And they will consider, opening toward decision.

An owl, maybe,
will answer.  They won’t be sure, but
want it to be so, for they have never heard an owl.

They feel the moon pull over the sky—
taking time with it over the slow night where
they stand by the open window—listening to the rain.


Today's LittleNip:


its great leaves moving through sunlight
            glinting in a green dance
                         between air and light,

a mystery of birds hidden there.
            I hear them.  I feel the dance
                         from inside the window.


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix, finishing up our current Seed of the Week, Opening the Window. Our new SOW is My Favorite Painkiller. Think literally, or think metaphorically. What takes away your pain? Send SOWs to; no deadline.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Frames of Reference

Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Smokers habitually toss butts
Where a pond used to be…
Now its bottom too dry
To snuff them out

Under the canopy of a mature forest nearby
Hotel guests strip naked or nearly
And gently slip into carefully manicured pools
Seeking relief from the rat race

At the former pond an ember lay
From that a spark, then a stinky burning
While the ground cover ripples with heat
As more and more dry plants ignite

Bonding as if clasping hands
Each a small account holder
Investing in the greater flame
That lashes out beyond the pond
Brutally assaulting the forest
Stripping the trees naked, or nearly
Violently invading the perfectly sculptured hotel
Dragging scorching smoke and exploding branches

Into the carefully manicured pools
Where the guests run out like rats
Holding hands, seeking relief
Where a pond used to be…



As a child, my teachers regarded
My left-handedness nonjudgmentally
as a quality

My left-handed mother-in-law faced
The schoolmaster’s hard, swift, wooden
Stick repeatedly striking her wrist to
Drive out the evil

My father served in the Sea-Bees
Near Normandy in World War II

He came back alive and well,
Liked the military, hated the war,
Lived long and died an old man

Can people who die with hate in their heart,
Whether soldiers while fighting
Or veterans in a parade
Go to Heaven?

My wife and I went to the optometrist
To be tested and fitted for contact lenses
Turns out our prescriptions were
exactly the same, which was rare

Almost as rare as when we interpret
What we see
Exactly the same

Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

You are the bravest woman I’ll ever know.
Why else do I couple you with Socrates
in David’s painting, readying to swallow
the hemlock cup? His right hand about to seize
this is Adam’s electric hand, and I love hands
decisive and warm and active, like your pair.
His left hand thrusts a forefinger: he withstands
—by pointing upward to the Beyond—despair.
Pinwheel-lively seated on his last couch,
he’s so like you, my truthful one, I blanch
just thinking of how I’d crumble inside your kiss.
But suicidal dissolves are what cowards miss.
A Flaxman Socrates, drinking as if to quench
his thirst, not life, ignores the sloppy debauch:

His followers, convulsively hugging, weeping.
Warped willows, roots undermined by the bitter seeping…


—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

What is a window, but a frame.
The existence of a frame on a wall.
I exist, therefore I am a window;
a window to my soul, and the souls of others
and their windows.

What is a window, but a frame.
I’ve been framed into existence by my parents,
God rest ‘em. They too were windows,
beautiful souls, a cool breeze and two colorful birds
flying by and into my window…
my frame of reference.

That’s why I refer to them now, in this poem…
Yes, I was framed… a silver lining
around two beautiful Birds of Paradise
in my forever garden. God rest ‘em.
I was framed.


Today's LittleNip:

—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

Whispered over oceans, echoing
off mountains, calling out to the

In a voice that breathes, silence
is softly spoken. Ecstasy and

Love escapes; poetry's sadness
is intimate. Chemistry expired.



Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

Sunday, July 28, 2013


—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis



This night there are no limits to what may be given.
This is not a night but a marriage,
a couple whispering in bed in unison the same words.
Darkness simply lets down a curtain for that.


A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held-back secrets: Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do.


Night comes so people can sleep like fish
in black water. Then day.

Some people pick up their tools.
Others become the making itself.


Inside water, a waterwheel turns.
A star circulates with the moon.

We live in the night ocean wondering,
What are these lights?

(trans. by John Moyne and Coleman Barks)



Saturday, July 27, 2013

Gentling the Pony



The larvae were moving into a serenade
Just outside the window.  It sounded
Like chewing but it was much more terrifying.
A gnawing  that  sounded like it had been extracted
From a fairy tale by pulling on its horror,
Detaching the parts with the claws and
The voice of the prince from anything that
Could be imagined as carrying a narrative,
That required one to wear the same clothes
As those in the tale who were the defenders
Of the faith or the lovely maiden or the old witch
Who thought she knew what motivated everyone
Within ear shot, but was trapped by her own
Carnal desires and tore birds from the sky,
Changed people into animals and beat them
With sticks, baked them in pies which she served
To demon kings and those lost souls still struggling
To get back to their own stories but were interrupted
By a sudden spike of power and found themselves
Outside their own stories, bound to do the will of these
Larvae, these witches, these pretenders to the clothing
Demanded of fairy tales.  A fate worse than that not being read
At all, discarded at the bottom of a pile of reference books
Tossed into a yard during the search of an apartment
During war time, the sound of the screaming and gunshots
Bouncing off the walls even as the prince donned his
Beautiful clothes and feathered hat and bowed to the princess
Still drugged from an imagination that would never allow
Her to be happy, tearing at her own clothing to see
The white of her body glisten in the bright, bright sunlight.



They stayed on the horizon
For six days.
Day and night we could see them.
They pulsed as if they were breathing.

Many tried to reach them
But when one drew closer
They would wink out, leaving
A blue glow in the evenings.
They were not visible from the air.

It was on day five that the music began.
At first we thought it was
A hallucination of some kind.
Such beautiful melodies
Just inside our ears.

Our hearts lifted to the sound
And a feeling of good will
Came though our bodies.
It was easy to wake up.
It became a surprise every day
That we could see them.

They began to appear in other places,
Not just near us but all over the world.
They were part of the news reports.

People began to organize expeditions
Just to see them.
Cats would sit for a long time
Staring at them and listening.

Armies began to fund research
Into what the lights could be.

On the night of July 24, 2013
The record of their presence ceases.
People begin to occupy rooms
To hear poetry.
It was decided these lights were
A trick of the imagination.



He pulled the IV out of his arm
And began to suck the solution
With his lips on the needle,
Blood spilling from his mouth.

There is this morning, then,
There is this one,
And this one, as this one, but he
Cannot tell one from the other.
Better to leave the body than
To feel anything any longer?

We can say your name,
Hoping you will answer.
A flurry of restraints
Insuring you will not get up
From the bed until at least morning.

We are trying to gentle the pony.
It still starts and bangs against
The fences when we come to him
Too quickly.  I think he is beginning
To recognize us.  Yesterday he came
To Ramon to take some oats
From his hand but would throw
His head back when Ramon tried
To stroke him.  He is a lovely clouded

            for Captain Matthew Webb
                (19 January 1848 – 24 July 1883)

Glassine film over the eyes.
So much runs away from the heart
When love complicates itself
With demanding that there be
Performances of the rituals
Paraded past the podium
Where the colors and weapons
Emotion uses for clothing
Are brought to the foreground
To say I love you.
I love you.  I love you.

Thin strips of light
Through venetian blinds
Stripe the room with afternoon.

Napping on the sofa one awakens
In a room suddenly too small
To contain the great trains dreaming
Will use to haul feeling into the place.

So it gets complicated
As social media will have it.

Here, I’ll show you a video clip
With a kitten chasing a laser beam
Across the floor.  Isn’t it darling?

One shadow, then two, three,
Four, five, fill the room.
No one notices but it becomes
Difficult to speak any language.

Is this named "being alone?"
Or is it being at all?
Perhaps this is an image of a man
Who thought he could swim
Through the most fierce rapids
A river could throw at him.

Our last view: his head and his right
Arm lifting above the water
Just as he hits a fifty-foot standing wave.



“Our woal life is a idear we dint think of
nor we don’t know what it is.  What a way to live.”
                        —Riddley Walker

The eye lights blinked out.
The fire still reflected on them.

Larrin had caught a spear in him
Just before we got there and was
Mostly gone when we came to his place.

He saw them in the black wood and
He threw a rock at them to scare
Them, but they didn’t scare.
They stopped and one of them threw
The spear.  It went right through
Him and he was mostly dead before
He hit the ground, except for his eyes.

Just outside the door
Two men were whispering together.
“This wouldn’t have happened
If there was a wing.
This was a disappearing and nothing
Alive could twist the blood
And put it back into a man.”

“Something out there is feeding on us,
Making a soup of the homeless
And the whores and the bones
Of the poor.”

We began to listen to the stars.
They were like beating hearts.
It was somehow wondrous as
Our heads began to talk and we spoke
Of fiery kingdoms and things of
Wonder we could not comprehend.

The sky moved so slowly above us
It seemed that it had forgotten
Something, something gentle that
Could no longer be gentle,
That made the hands bleed
When touched by our perfection.

We watched the wind form
Around us, pushing us as the night
Does a branch.

The spear had been cleaned
And was intent of resuming its life
As a tree.  Oh where shall
We go now?  Where shall we go?

We sat down at the table.
We too were clean.
We too had a place in the mystery.

The woods bristled with the shells,
Thick as ignorance, cracking
As we huddled near that door.

We could smell the sea.
The ancient islands.  We could
See the luminous heads
Begin to rise above the trees.

We cannot stay here any longer.
Leave his body with the children.
They will lift it with their white
And pale little hands.

Give it to the rain.
Give it to whatever holds the world

It is quiet here for a moment.
There is no longer any room for us.
Oh love, turn your star on,
Just for a moment.
The secret will be in its radiance.



I believe that I am living in
A state of grace.

I believe that I am guided
By angels who have protected
Me since I was a very small child.

My grandmother told me when I got here
There were more than a dozen angels
Surrounding me.  She said they carried
Swords and their eyes could change
To fire instantly.

When I got here, there was the letter
"V" imprinted on my forehead.
There was a war on when I got here.
I was called a "victory" baby.
They put my photograph in the military
Newspaper Stars and Stripes because I had
This mark on my forehead.

I have never thought that mark
Was meant to be victory.
I thought it was a sign of peace.
I continue to make that sign
With my hands even to this day.

What I elect to do here on this planet
I consider very carefully.
It is not always pleasant.
It is not always correct.
It is not always the smartest
Thing I could be doing.

Yet everything I do, I do from
A state of grace.  I have angels
Who protect me.  On some nights
I can see them clearly,
On others, I wonder where they are.

I will not judge whatever it is
You do in this place until it
Is proven to me that you are not
Acting from a state of grace.
This means I love too much,
Too often and too deeply.
Some nights I am able to love the entire
Earth.  Other nights I struggle
To tell you that I love you. 

I think it is better if you understand
That I am this way.  I pray that
I may remain in a state of grace
All my life and in all my affairs.


Today's LittleNip:

There is an hour of the afternoon when the plain is on the verge of saying something. It never says, or perhaps it says it infinitely, or perhaps we do not understand it, or we understand it and it is [as] untranslatable as music.

—Jorge Luis Borges


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix! His new book, Breaking and Entering, has been released from Lummox Press;  See to get a 40-page sample.

D.R. was born with a V on his forehead.     

Friday, July 26, 2013

Incredulities of Summer

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—B.Z. Niditch

(After one of my favorite abstract paintings
by the Italian Sandro Chia, 1982)

It's a hot blue dawn
by open windows
on the Bay's edge,
running men
sure of their laps
as in the painting by
Sandro Chia
here for the marathon
in perpetual heat.


—B.Z. Niditch

On a sunny afternoon

in an easy chair

imagining by windows

our pre air-conditioned

precursors centuries before

is to answer nature

back with Wordsworth
and Coleridge
in a Romantic way,

or hearing Fingal's Cave

an overture

is to feel safe

from earth tremors,

and all-absorbing news

here to fathom nature,

human or otherwise, leads

me back to fix the window.



—B.Z. Niditch

To make up

for any time lost

by a cafe with a cup

Monet blue

reach out by the wharf

to the home harbor,

turning my camera lens
toward the lucky gazebo

along an impressionist sea

a painter brushes

past the tourist stop

near my parked bicycle,
offering me a free lunch.


—B.Z. Niditch

You sit in the Zen garden

like Rodin

without explanation

or how the day
is mild,
the sun, glorious
as gardenias

and you, speechless

close to yellow roses

near a window to nature

reaching out for words.


—B.Z. Niditch

Morning fades from sunrise

along Hockney's pool

by art's full window

there is no departure

in neon rapture

between earth and sky

as Hockney on the Coast

paints in the shade

his own gestures

opening up 

for eternity's exhibition.

 Dry Thistles
—Photo by Katy Brown


—B.Z. Niditch

In the retreat

it's about time 
to explore Merton

by ripened morning glories

and tune out the night,

on a green sleeve window

from storehoused memory

and sing sightless

from silent meditation.


—B.Z. Niditch

In your absence
at the stained glass
windows for a visit
to a glazed new light
in a remote town
afire with fullness
of the prophets' words
in midst of olive groves
recalling the Zen garden's
first-blown breezes
on your sweated brow.


—B.Z. Niditch

Words jump at you

by lakeside windows

putting my time on hold

where larks light on

all the aspen trees

here by a Monet shore line

of wild flowers, sitting violets

hyacinth and honeysuckle,

celebrating in liquid quiet

every incredulity of summer.



—B.Z. Niditch

Leaning from my window

a noonday sun motions

at the beginning of dawn 

by birches

anchored nearby

leaves and sparrows,

now dancing over branches

through dazzled whirlwinds,

even the pond and sky

are in a blue jay flutter,

astonished to be glimpsed

by a daybreak poet.


—B.Z. Niditch

In the public library
immensities of words
underline our solitary time
of windowed nature
only your own mask
is never taken off
or renewed
nor does the sea beckon
for the city street lamps
enlightening beyond
your own desk
in a dark corner
without a muse or echo
only the hidden eyes
drop shadows
on little alembic screens.


Today's LittleNip:


—B.Z. Niditch

Passing a night ambulance

hearing Coltrane's riffs,

those lively fragments

making life on the asphalt

more than posthumous

for a city poet lost in traffic.



John Dorsey featured at a recent 
Foam at the Mouth reading in Sacramento
—Photo by Michelle Kunert
[For more of Michelle's photos, see 
Medusa's most recent Facebook album]

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Secrets Yet To Be Told

Gualala Beach
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Tim Bellows, Sacramento

Springtime, come wrap us in maple green,
sun-bake us – just to bring on our easy breathing.
We have been frantic too long

in sifting-down snow, or hurrying through the days,
looking down at frozen mud, ruts
dusted with cold white.

If we don’t go up in smoke
over the thrilling fragrance of your daffodil patches,
we’ll pen words that blossom-burst

into singing notes, giddy as children.
We’ll take in light green weather;
and be words that feather, shake,

untuck wings and fly off as melody.
It will dissolve all commentary, grief and opinion.
Heart-helping April poets’ words can scatter wide,

cover the globe, evoke all - from quartets in white tie
to trekkers in the bitterness of exile
to princes in their emerald empires

to the glints of a hard-won serenity
lasting a gemstone minute.
So come on, springtime, convince us

you’ll caress us a thousand years.


—Tim Bellows

A poem should go the way
of an ocean, an orchestra,
tuned up, steaming up
from chaos and ready
to pour Mahlerian largos
cargoed heavy, ordered, yet
aching like the dirt, granite and
gold of this hard-wired world.

Poems intone till the stereo in my study
fairly disappears and I’m left
taking a deeper breath,
throwing my arms back, then
talking on these rattling buttons,
going on like any fool,
turning everything over
to the slow-rushing tunefulness
where I’m born as a word, where I
die and I’m all the water, all the air.

It doesn’t make any sense.
I’m desperate to simulate the white
rose of the Ave Verum, to be
the very fact of its clear-eyed lake,
calling out leafy words all
during my tea and typing,
my buoyancy, my flooding-out
major chord like phosphorescence.

Or should I be addressing you,
my typewrit Sanctus of lines
made in this mild hilarity
of clickclacks in the a.m. Made
on the dirt, granite and gold
of this drop-forged world
where blind poems can only long
to be heaving water-swells loaded
with vital salt.

 Sebastopol Cemetery
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Tim Bellows


Count yourself among the faithful and find out
   the fifth, last, highest substance that waits
above fire, air, water, earth. You’re this
   swimming-up desire finning its way
through wildland winds and upland grasses.
    Over the spirit-crowns of all visible bodies
lie finer water droplets or ice particles held
    in skies untold leagues above the sea.


Empty desire swims the memories in your eyes,
    pours through all celestial bodies you’ve met. With
faith and the god-honesty of salt meadow cord grass
   as it catches the intensions of ocean breezes,
take on the living perceptions of glasswort and common reed;
   You’ll see all sorts of immaterial fires rise up.


Moving air agrees with the whistlings of osprey and willet.
    These you must never deny – as you give yourself up, give in
to the blue heron’s hazy sound, her comprehensive mind
    that surrounds the sky-peaks suggested
in slate-blue eyes and wings. How they open like slight-of-hand
    and seem to spread across your seeing, vibrant
as flames down in iron-sided ovens.


Now a nudge forward to your own surprised flight that,
    it turns out, waits for you in distances above all
you have questioned, denied, charted out – and loved well.
    Still, the heron’s quiet whistles beyond flutes, lifts the air,
penetrating all the affection your mind could say. Ever.
    Clear down to your departed lives, down to bits of rock,
clay and dark sediment. Now for the wings of essence, like
    beginners’ lessons, mapped with your own spindly pencils,
squinted eyes and stubby hands, creased and
    crisscrossed this way and that.


But now your teachers come – great, wing-creaking
   flocks of songbirds settling down, flapping the air
blue and white. And so they’ve landed, devoted,
    out of all degrees of weather; they
tread the sea grass meadows. Count yourself
   among the faithful; find out how you’re
secretly held in skies miles above sea and sun.
    Which we once called God—but now these gracile birds,
in the countless leagues, have taught us a finer largo.


—Tim Bellows

The sun crept upward.
Day one.
I made resolutions,
prayers toward
being a better man for her.

Trembling noon
next day,
we’re painted red for war –
battles over how
to clean a paint brush off –
our close-held fine points
on proper
cleanup of water-base paint.

Late day, we droop in chairs,
we notice the old sun’s
inching downward.
We sigh, thinking of day three,
where I hope,
by many strands of miracles,
that we’ll arrive – together –
at a dinner-time dessert
of halved strawberries and honey.

I’ll eat and sigh,
my slow gaze
taking up residence
in her sweet eyes.


Today's LittleNip:

—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

I listen to the wind,
it whispers in my ears.

I will tell you no lies, I
will always return.

I hold secrets from
the past.

Ready to embrace
secrets yet to be

Listen to what I say
I will tell you no lies.



Sebastopol Cemetery
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Forever Into Yesterday

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis

I wake up and there’s all this dead hair
clinging to alive, growing hair still on my head
so I thread my fingers through it all
trying to capture strands that fall
and release them to the dust bin.
One or two always fly free
landing on eye lashes to annoy me.
I know it’s there, I can feel its ever so light
weight where gravity stopped its flight
like a ledge on a mountain
safe enough for hiking
and maybe for sleeping
but still, not a home.



has a son called Gargantuan
because the days are long and full.
The Dream Queen breathed him
into being one night under a full moon
that was bigger than the fastest snake
and softer than a tarantula.
She taught him a new dance,
pasted pictures to his finger tips,
rescued a lock of his hair, and called it
love.  As the Cicadas sang softly—
she rocked him to sleep. 

—Ann Privateer 

—Photo by Ann Privateer

a yummy
dog biscuit
a rock hopping
creek side day
a skateboard
with friends
a swim party
with ice cream
it’s lazy mornings
and an afternoon nap
or alone—summer
where did it go?
—Ann Privateer

Still Life With Burning Candle by Pieter Claesz

—Ann Privateer

The wings of life ravish my solitude
a preview to shadows burning off glare
gone are the days we used to call lewd
gone like the plum tree I know not where
its fruit-colored background painting returns
so silent now without a soul to tell
umbrella branches generously yearn
as the flame reflected in glass flickers
a mighty life force takes both friend and foe
a meteorite might fall to earth slow
with accuracy, nobody will know
the alpha and the omega both bend
wine, books, and spectacles are our friend.
Trim the taper, I seek that which is mine
all things created surely are divine.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Venetian blinds keep out mid-
summer sun, admitting just
a glow on the polished semi-gloss
of hardwood floors and metal folding
chairs. The poetry is gone. Not dead
but to be mourned. Someone
left the window just a touch ajar.
No breeze would come inside.
The poetry has flown. Too many
notions of how the words should sound,
and what they ought to mean.
It's too stuffy for a poem, too sober
for a breeze. Raise the window wider;
come outside. Let's see if we can
track those poems without the meter
of their feet, just the echo
of their passing, their heart's beat.


—Taylor Graham

Up the ridge under Sirius—glimpses
of black sky through incense-cedar.
You could compose a star-map in your head,
distant silver lights named for heroes
of myth, the acts of the long dead. Meteor-
shower that night, we were hiking
to the canyon overlook. Solitude to inspire
a poet or—a saxophone? softly
from the south, not too distant. Just by
instants, blues as if jazz garnished
the natural woods like thrush-song on a day
especially blest. Notes drifting
cool-then-warm-then-cool-again, like
walking a forest verge in the dark
where tree-line segues into open swale.
No meteors that we could see, just
the changing alphabet of an August sky,
showers of music by bits and stars.

—Taylor Graham

The people on shore—a couple—knelt down
beside the river. They had no faces
as we floated by. My dog's face was set
on search. One bird flew lengthwise
up the current. What kind of bird? Just
a shadow on moving water; muddy mirror
reflecting nothing, everything;
concealing what it stole upstream to carry
away, away. The couple lit a votive
candle, but we were already past its light.
We were searching for a boy
in the water. We'd know him if we found
him, the only water-child today.
His parents had no faces anymore. We were
too far down the water moving
in the present tense forever into yesterday.


Today's LittleNip:


wants to play
to measure shadows
and calculate your height
to believe
the unbelievable
to sometimes vanish
like seasons do
then reappear
to return and rewrite
a sleepy poem
waiting in the wings
and to dream
to always dream.

—Ann Privateer



 —Photo by Ann Privateer

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Oh Camera Summers


Time is but the/stream I go a-fishing in./Robust art.
     —Henry David Thoreau (1817-1852)

Shall we remember what was, or what we almost
recall, out of nostalgia,

or the old comfort of boredom.
We had no edge.

We had not lived beyond the now—
the cinema of our minds

made of movie-lore and imagination.
We should have noticed

more detail.
Everything was smaller then.

We were never dramatic.
Everything was enough.

Even the yearning.
Practice proved nothing.

There was always enough day
to go around:

the calm horizon—the rippleless blue water
—the small, floating boats we trusted,

the yellow, gathering sky—
the easy silences that stayed unbroken all this time.

(After "Calm Morning, 1904" by Frank Weston Benson)

(first pub. in Ekphrasis, 2008)



The women are coming toward me in a dream.
They have been arriving all afternoon.

A tone of twilight begins
as the hour gathers us together.

We are the arrival,

We are
anointed by a softness.

We stand
and look at each other.

The tone of twilight never changes
in the dream,

but there is no hurry.
We are the reason and we are here.

(first pub. in Tight, 1996)



those summers
you stood under tall corn
laughing in your pride
a golden man in golden corn

and the soft mysteries
of the corn talking . . .
talking . . . as we walked under
almost cool there

those summers
you grew sunflowers
rivaling Jack’s beanstalk height
so towering . . .

their huge faces
bending down
heavy with light
your arm reaching upward, but

they were
even taller than that . . .
you smiling at me . . .
oh camera summers

(first pub. in One Trick Pony)


These women, of such secrets, lounge in luminous white
chairs in the twilight and speak softly among themselves
and gesture with quickened lyrical motions of their hands.

Their features grow dim and their voices continue under
the slanting and changing of the hours.  Their houses are
waiting but their houses are only the shells of their lives.

The women shine softer as random flickerings find them
laughing and talking in the shivery dusk.  How long they
will stay depends on how much more they have to say.



This is a waltz.  How faintly
the music plays for the dancers
whirling on the veranda,

how the late summer curtains
blow in and out the open windows.
How timeless the night is.

How far away the morning.
From where does the music come,
so flawless and perfectly timed?

The night has been silent too long.
Tears have been shed for the memories.
Words have failed.

What dancers are these
who seem so involved
with the intricacies of the dance?

They have no faces and do not belong here.
There is no one but us,
and even you are conjured.


Quick Impressions (After Frank O’Hara)
I sink back into tall green grasses.
A soft breeze bends the grasses over me.

Sky-clouds form,
and reform. Voices call my name—

my name that I do not want to hear.
I will not remember my name.

I am in my dreaming.
Awake. Floating in the sea of grasses,

I, and the motioning green shadows,
borne upon the width of forever.

I will never come out.
I am green grass and green shadow.

Even the sky makes room for me—
all energy—one wide presence

without form—
everything alive in my thinking.

A child wants to be alone with child-self. 
No voice. No calling.



What ornate gesture—maestro hand—the old man
holding his cigarette with such ceremony, like some
old-time movie actor—European—French perhaps,
one leg crossed over—one hand resting on his cane.

How cultured the angle of his head in regal profile,
the twilight sun softening around him, the pigeons
strutting their iridescent dance of evening, cooing.

The city dims for a moment, etching his silhouette
against the hour as the sun lowers. His eyes burn
low. Blue shadow moves in with a quick flutter
against his old fashioned trousers, enclosing him
now in cold shadow.


Today's LittleNip:


is the soul
of the long day.
It is lost
for awhile
in half dark
and half light.
It moves through a time
of forget and remember.
The sound that it makes
is shadow.
The place where it goes
is night.

(first pub. in
The Human Voice Quarterly, 1968)


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix around our Seed of the Week, Shadows on a Summer's Eve. Our new SOW is Opening the Window. Send your poems and other musings on that theme (or any other!) to, but there are no deadlines on SOWs. To see all the themes we've worked with over the years—and maybe one will trigger the World's Greatest Poem in you—go to the top of the Kitchen and click on Calliope's Closet

And stay cool!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Speak To Me Through Shadow

Medusa Cactus
—Photo Courtesy of Katy Brown, Davis

—Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Tehama 
A full moon
the midnight sky
beaded with stars
each individual
shimmering light
snatching back
the darkness
They cluster
delectable forms
streak and cartwheel
through endless indigo
pile in a golden tangle
beyond the horizon


—Patricia Wellingham-Jones         

In the summer dark
a candle flickers,
permanent as a firefly
flitting through the woods,
beckons us to penetrate deeper.

In needle-slivers of moon’s lesser light
branches hang like strapping,
weave hemlock and cedar
over the mucky bog
of a draining pond.

Our feet stumble
over fallen limbs, upthrust rocks,
hillocks of moss.
Our eyes strain
to follow the faltering light.


—Patricia Wellingham-Jones  

Across the whole leaf-strewn
lawn not a whisper
of air moves
in one small circle
near the orange tree
Sycamore leaves rustle
upward in the mini-
cyclone by the fence
The black cat
slits her yellow
ready to pounce
She creeps
toward the whirlwind
then retreats, as the wind
sideways through
an unseen door,

Was that a cat I saw?

—Claire J. Baker

Summer miracle
a wild bird hops
into my apartment
pecks grit
from hallway rug

slips into bathroom
doesn't flush toilet
or turn on tub water

dances into kitchen
where when I peek
sure to find it
washing dishes
preparing lunch

only the memory
the compliment


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

I've a baby-sized doll
with a fixed expression.
But her look changes
to match my mood.
Today she was "smiling"
and she doesn't have
a smile.


                  —After I Take a Nap
—Caschwa, Sacramento

June this year was a bit
For me:

Old friend’s birthday
Close relative’s anniversary
Flag Day
Pay loss from furlough day (14)
Son graduated college (15)
Father’s Day (16)
Summoned for jury duty (24)
Mother died (25)
Anniversary of day I went into a coma (26)
Learned that brother had cancer
(This line intentionally left blank)
End of fiscal year

Add to that the daily screaming headlines,
Inflationary demands on recessionary funds,
Countless distractions and their sweet detours,
And those nagging reminders that old tasks remain undone

I wouldn’t be too unhappy
If next year’s calendar
Skipped June altogether…

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento
                   (For V.)

You will
run through summer shadows
with me, yes?
An orchard:  its rows of wood
stand against the winds of apathy.
Opinion branches:
Arms full of supply,
leaves whose shade happens daily.
We’ll run together,
never tripping on shadow,
never going our separate ways.

Today's LittleNip:

—Carol Louise Moon

Some who walk this alley say
silence closes in, sometimes.
So, speak to me through shadow—
street light hope of you. As I
see you strolling past my house,
shadows caress the Honey-
Suckled fence at seven bells.



 —Photo by Kathy Kieth, Diamond Springs
(Safeway, Sacramento; 
Poetry in Safeway—Who'd'a thought...?)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

In The Tiniest House Of Time

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis


Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms,
    nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your
    own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me, you will see me instantly—
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.

(trans. from the Hindi by Robert Bly)



Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Days Pour Out Their Poetry

Graphitti at Bolinas Lagoon
in Poets' Corner, the space reserved for poetry


You know,
Death was asleep
When the children
Found his coat
Lying next to him
In the leaves.

They took it down
To the ocean shore
And tossed it high
In the air.  Watched
It settle like a bird
Floating down.
They thought it looked
Like a bird.

But soon death awoke
And saw the children playing.
“Give me back my coat!”
Shouted Death.  “Give me back
My coat.”

But the children could not
Hear death because of laughing
And because of the sea
And because the day was big
And because of the fluttering
Coat.  So death walked up
To where they were and smiled
At the children.  “My coat,”
He said reaching into the sky
Where it fluttered, and drew
It down about his shoulders.

The children thought the bird
Had flown away, so cold was
The air of a sudden.  The coat
Rising higher and higher.  “This is
Some bird,” said one of them.
“It can be so big and soft but
When it rides on the wind it becomes
Small and rises up
To where we cannot see it at all.”



As strange as it seems, there was no one
Waiting for him on the other side.
There had been no edges, nothing that would
Frighten anyone.  True, he could see
The pendulum swing back and forth
Behind him.  He looked at it for awhile
Nearly hypnotized by its slow sway.

It seemed like this place was the present tense
But it was yesterday.  It had a gentle
Slap to it that was comforting.
There were other people, but they had
No faces and they did not harm him.

Echoes were much more prominent.
One could hear Dante as clear
As if he were in the room or a famous
Sword.  The acts of the dead slide
Away without any mirror at all,
Without reflection.  Knowledge
Comes with its own price.
One forgets what brought one
Here in the first place.

I like to think it was a vague speculation
That led me here to what I will call
The Magical.  I can speak to others
But one’s voice gathers all the things
King David did as he grew old.

The days pour out their poetry.
It might be in any language.
Anyone might appear at any moment:
Goethe or Browning, Whitman or Blake
Rise up from the end of the end of the pen
And allow me to echo them,
Trim my sails that my lines
Be smart, that reality be just that
Much closer to any reader.

I am no longer afraid of the moon.
I encourage others to be the same.
I can imagine morning but it is more
Beautiful than anything I have previously

There are dreams. 
They are like the rain.
It is a remarkable rain. 
Each rain like no other
Before it.
Every drop fitted
To its own dream.

I will walk to that seat
By the corner of the road
And it will be more than enough
To drive the poetry out of the place.

The blue of the sky.  The changing
Alphabet of the clouds.
The singing, always the singing,
Coming over the patio as we sit
And listen to the fountain
At the edge of the garden.

We have our myths.  The smooth stones
Our solitude seeks out and populates
With stars, some of which we
Know the names of and so many
Of which we will never hear more
Than this fleeting evening presents to us.

I will drink the water from my cup
And walk you past any door—
Even suicide if you would like to
Meet yourself again very quickly.

I can offer my rememberings.
I could teach you about prayer,
But you have proven you know
All the words.



Occasionally tiny blue creatures
Glide across its surface,
Heads down, skimming for
Black algae.

The sun was flickering
Electric blue.

We were sitting by the side
Of the roads, smoking.

“The sun was never
That color,” you said.
“It’s all the fires,”
I replied.

“We always think it’s something
Else,” you said.

During the playback the image
Fluttered a lot and we
Couldn’t see the parts
With the gunfire clearly.

They advanced our ages
Very quickly.  We could say

“Can we see it again?” you said.
“The tiny blue creatures
Look so different now.
Skimming, skimming.”

They led us away.
It was like being blind.

(first pub. in Star Line, 2012)



The other night, I was thinking who
Would understand these words as they
Blew by you, into the space just past
What I knew a moment ago, when everything
I thought was true, unleashed itself and drew
A new venue for my feelings; rooms full of ways
Of feeling, full of methods to blast through the
Gestures and emotions that we use to clue one
Another as to how we might believe in any
Given situation, phasing of the moon—to try,
At least, to try and understand ourselves
Together, bound by words and promises made
Each to each.  We choose this way to teach
Each other what we know of love and its uncharted
Roads.  No one ever told us that a special light
Might suddenly announce itself and stand before
Us, friends from long ago, suddenly here, unannounced,
Clear as a summer’s day, our name upon its lips,
A message held in the hand saying:  "Hello, it is us, those who
Have known you throughout time.  We have seen you standing here
This evening, full of concern for one and another, love depending on
Your very shirtsleeves, and came here to envelop you, a kind of
Cloak, if you will.  You need not say our names.  They are your own,
Transformed by touch and speaking so simply
Even rocks may understand.  Look at this.”

A gull flies past us.  It is so close we can hear its wing
Lifting above our heads.  The another and another, a
Circle and procession toward the center of the lake.  Sound
Bouncing on the rocks, our footfalls, moving toward the parking
Lot, and the car, quiet and protected, a place to watch the wind.

Graphitti, Bolinas Lagoon


We were taken to the site
Of Fars where we would study
The Jumping phenomena

Everyday hundreds of people
Jumped from the towers
Of Fars and became smears
On the face of time.

The whole place
Had been burned out
Years earlier.  A flaw
Of the imagination
Caused the towers to rise
Again and no one
Could stop the flow
Of those who came to Fars.

As we drew near,
Our skin filmed over
And we could see the city
With new eyes.  It appeared
Heart-shaped in the distance,
Covered with fingermarks
And on the verge of breaking.

Once inside a tower
We knew why the city
Was mad.  From here
And through the film
We could see as through the eyes
Of a Far.  The whole of
The city seemed to be
In flames.

We left at once.
It took weeks
For the redness
To leave our skin.

 Graphitti, Bolinas Lagoon


The final archetypes are no longer
The fabric we have come to know
So well: the morning, the afternoon,
They have been eclipsed by other shadows.

Fractured by mirrors, pleasing
To the eyes as a marble curve
Over a bower hiding an entrance
To a labyrinth paved with black sand,
Punctuated by the scent of jasmine.

Let us not go there.  Rather
Let us embrace the evening as a thing
Most mysterious, eternal, fragile,
And as clear as any melancholy
Is to the heart.  No matter.

We will embrace this time,
Bleed its colors, look to its end
As the ransom paid for colors
For the some remote future we
May deserve, dust and the dreams of dust.

We will stand at the battlements
With this one thing, an evening,
Perhaps this very one.

Forgive me.
I will open my hand.
I will find my way back
To the black sands, enter
That labyrinth, practice
Each moment, imagine
There is some captain I may
Report to, claiming a great
Knowledge of all that has happened
On the earth.



The lights are coming on.
We are finally able to see
All the way to the mountains.

A sense of wonder has invaded
Us again and we marvel at red-violets,
The softest of purples, the honeyed air
The evening brings to this place.

We can wait no longer.  We have been
Waiting for this moment all of the day.
The moths begin to take the air once again.
The night birds prepare the songs they will
Sing all night.

Now, I will hold you close to me and kiss
Your lips and feel those feelings that I have not
Found anywhere else in the world today.

Let this be a song of praise for the valley
Where we can see the lights of the farmhouses
From miles away, hear the lowing of the cattle
As they too know this moment, believing as
We do, that they are singing the most beautiful
Of songs.


Today's LittleNip:


Teardrops like hot rockets.
They slice lines into
The face but the bones
Don’t show.
The skin becomes thin
Like uncooked eggs.
A low dry noise escapes
From its place.  It coats
The air.
It is full of superlatives.
When we feel, the membrane
Pulses.  For this we are called

This is the perfect place.
No footprints anywhere.
Things like these cool
The blood slightly.

They are beyond remembering.
They are called kites.
We watch their silky
Tails flashing.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix! Click on any picture to expand it.

For more about poetry in Bolinas, see for Kevin Opstedal's article, "A Literary History of the San Andreas Fault: Bolinas Section".

 Chair Sculpture at UC Davis
by Dept. of Design
Bob Morgan and Students
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove