Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Edge of the New Year

—Photo by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

(after the Art Work of Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith
in “A Breeze Swept Through” by Luci Tapahonso)

I - She Enters The Ritual

It is windy.
She must fly or fall.

She holds two bouquets of black flowers
in her upraised hands.

She wears two feathers
in her hair.

A black moon rolls under her feet
like a playful ball.

The Energies fly beside—
lifting all:

her,    the horse,    the dog,
the moon—

all—fly with the startled birds.
The first scribble forms. 

II – She Becomes Artist

Great Circular Scribble
on the edges of art—as if to deny
her angry part of what she loves.
Stick figures cavort,
with random asterisks for stars,
and a border—
black and dense as suppression.
Who is she—with so many angers
and so much need?

Little black rows of dots proceed . . .
from figures to border . . . back and forth,
as if a map; and always, her finishing touch
imposed—those circular scribbles.

III – She Leaves Herself

One of her runs away.
One of her stays to suffer.

She is a love poem to herself.
She runs past a dark doorway.

The curved moon laughs when she weeps.
Little mountains climb under her feet.

She floats in the tired sky until she is healed.
Of what, she cannot say.

IV – She Revises Her Absence
The horse has been taught to climb the stairs.
A fallen rider chases the horse up the stairs to
The jagged night is full of dreaming.

The poor moon is caught in another scribble.
The small horse neighs.
Everything turns to explanation.

V – She Becomes Who She Is

Now the dance—
     only she and the scribbled sky.

She throws everything to memory
     with its restrictions.

The horse sleeps as she leaps in freedom 
     from all restraint.
The black sun whirls out of control.
     Stars and ancestors whirl with it.

She calls on the colors, Orange and Blue,
     to complete the drawing.

They scribble like a child:
     Free Spirit…    Free Spirit…

two blue moons and elongated orange—
     ghost of black sky.

She leaps into the scribbled energy
     with all her love.


Today's LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner, Locke

We feign a surprise that the end
Of the year has slipped itself
Into the calendar and has
Made a terrible ruckus about
Acknowledging the fact that its reign
Must come to an end.

It seems there is nothing we can do
To stop this from happening.
We choose to make loud noises,
Display fireworks, drink and sing
And make all manner of fiesta
To encourage the year to end
And for another to begin.

But what really happens
Is that the sun appears to go down
For a night and then comes back
As it always has, in the morning.

We enjoy this deception, wish each
Other a Happy New Year
And build another room for our past.


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce and D.R. for today's Kitchen fare. Joyce is home now after her ordeal of hip surgery! All of us, in fact will be back to work this week after all the holiday froo-froo—including even the birds whose activity has increased in my neighborhood as they anticipate another year of nesting. So that's our Seed of the Week: Back to Work. Give it a shot and send the results of your work to kathykieth@hotmail.com (no deadline on SOWs). Hope it "works" for you...

And Happy New Year!

Dala Horse from Sweden
—Photo by Joyce Odam

Monday, December 30, 2013

Party Hearty!

Winter Oaks
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

It hid up in the foothills that drew trees about
them against cold, preparing for a mountain
winter. What was left of ancient village lay
moldering into landscape or visions of a city.
I went that way once, not paying attention, only
wishing for a vista; kept climbing to a lookout
over the world, too high at its crown for trees.
After the forest, unbearable light of sky.
Everyone who reaches the summit at last
comes down. A loss, a sadness
the village collects like a tax in its coffers
and stores in its cellars. I never
climbed that way again.


—Taylor Graham

Layers of tiding time
like steps to inner door to belfry,
like climbing up from river
up the eons of rock that water erodes;
rising toward night sky that bargains
among the stars for our dreams—stars
that have a different birth
the closer you get, the longer you
look, waking, at who you used to be;
the moon a cat’s eye waning
over high-land as dark dims
to dawn, the solstice balanced
as a soul is, as you are, not daring
to look down.

F Line, San Francisco
—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

—Caschwa, Sacramento

When Sen. Ted Cruz
Read Dr. Seuss in Congress
I pictured him transported
To the Superbowl game

At halftime, sitting out
On the 50-yard line
Displacing dozens of
Pretty bare-legged girls

Oblivious to the anger
Of people sitting in the
Stands, booing loudly
About to take mob action


Have you seen my glasses?
I set them down somewhere
Not in my coat pocket, where I
Found a couple other missing items

Ironically they are for distance only
And the mere act of putting them
Down seems to impose a gap and
Then exaggerate its dimensions

Until they become somehow
Worlds apart from where I last
Remember putting them
I checked all the usual places

I am very sure they are not on the
Floor or anywhere one might sit,
not since a family member left hers
poolside and they got smashed

So they are in a safe place
Maybe forever
Please keep looking
Bless you!



I quit
Because I know
I won’t keep them
It is like really, really
Proper grammar that one
Rarely puts to use except for
Show in the company of certain
Persons who are known to place a
High value on matching number, case,
Gender, etc. and by the way, wrapping up
The old year, you wouldn’t happened to have
Seen my glasses sitting somewhere, would you?

Today's LittleNip:

—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento
(inspired by Joy Harjo)

Find us only in the shadows of

This is what we thought we
deserved, left longing and fear.

Still our spirits called out in prayer,
now, today, we stand in the lightness

of being and welcome you here.


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors, and a reminder to check out the new Canary (hippocketpress.org/canary) and the Winter 2013 issue of convergence (www.convergence-journal.com/winter13), the next deadline for which is January 5. 

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blessed Hope

Hermit Thrush

—Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
    When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
    The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
    Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

Listen To The Heart

The Wall
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Locke

—D.R. Wagner

In the broad daylight, the ships are shifted
Port to port and from their masts we see
All of sleep’s delicacy of cities,
Their kirks and their graveyards.

So much seems familiar, and still
We are afraid to waken and find
Only the night touching us, making
Bargains for our dreams.  We can

See who we used to be.  They will
Let us have all of the cities of our past.
They will allow us all the rivers except
Those crossed by the soul only.

And we do not know of what they speak.
The offer us rooms full of the most beautiful
Candlelight and the most perfect of ships
With which to sail... but we may not awaken.

We can intend to find our awakening
But it shall be as a high land, far above
Any sea.  And we may not touch it
Or let it come to be in more than
Dream.  “You shall be happy,”  
They say and “You may roam here
Forever and its day.”

Do not give them what they came for.
You are the Opal they desire.  Do not stay.
You are the sacred one who has
A home and can return to tell
The others.  Theirs is a blackthorn
Plum, the sloe, made into a drink
That coats the throat and makes
A siren-like music as we struggle
To move from these ships of sleep
To a dawn in which we may find speech.


—D.R. Wagner

The moon—it sells its silvered light
To shadows that they may be bright.
It bargains for their mystery and clouds
In which to hide as it pulls the ocean's tides.

We were out upon the strand
To watch the ships up close, first hand
And we saw her toss her light away
Till only half a moon she did display.

Still we will have her back again
Full round about the night
And the shadows will be darker then
And chase her in her flight.

 —Drawing by Tatiana Toronto, Davis

—D.R. Wagner

The long voices of water.
The sky speaks to the mountains.
The mountains mumble back.

When I came into the house
All the floors were covered
With broken and crushed animal
Crackers.  People were lounging in chairs,
On the floor.  Animal
Crackers were everywhere.

I noticed the house has no walls
And adjoined a gas station.
People were looking into the living
Space as they walked by.

I was trying to clean up the mess
When I began to realize that my
Musical instruments were gone.
Some had been stolen.
Some were being stolen.
There were no walls.

A few people were concerned for me,
But most just wanted to grab
Something and split.

I began to panic.
A wave of great loss spread
Over me.  A sadness followed.

I could not shut out the noise
Of the street.  There was nowhere
To hide.  I began to write everything
I could remember about this down.
The words invented their own
Geometries and formed strange algorithms.


—D.R. Wagner

They eat oranges and wait for the sky
To clear, for the black silhouettes of crows
To crowd the early morning over the Dorfstrasse.

They have been coming here since
1634 when that woodcarver returned
To the Ammergau Alps with buboes that hurt,
High fever and muscle aches.  It was too
Late.  There were huge ships in the bloodstream.
They moved out of port.  Twenty-five per cent
Of the population died.  The rats were dancing.

We could see people walking on the paths
Through the forest.  Most of them wore
White and sang songs in an ancient
Tongue.  At night there were candle
Lights and voices of such softness
One would think the clothing of angels
Had been changed into sound.

It rained most of the afternoon yet the light
Was unbearably bright, a mystery indeed.
Christ was scourged and made to carry
A cross through the streets, crowned with thorns,
Finally crucified and died before the wooden
Wagons stopped moving through the streets,
Silent in the morning, full of terms and orders.
Direction was certain but it had no sense.

Today the air is cleaner, so it seems, and thousands
Throng the streets to see the labors of the Christ.
Daily poor Jesus undergoes his terrible swift sword.
For two thousand dollars one can walk over the graves
Where once the stage was built and feel the power
Come down, people carrying the pain over centuries.

They eat oranges and wait for the sky
To clear, for the black silhouettes of crows
The early morning over the Dorfstrasse.

—Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

Poetry squats in the corner
Waiting for something to do.  It
Expects to see angels nuzzling
Time as if it were a furry
Pet beloved by all.  It waits
For God to smooth its strange
Clothing and talk of how good
And beautiful everything is,
The evening full of that light
God gives it to entertain himself.

Out on the brown rocks and the tan
Rocks the soldiers are looking
For something to kill, for the mistakes
The spirit makes when dogs are
Eating their hearts and their dear
Friends are blown to tiny parts
Across valleys with no names.
The death chop of helicopters
Making their false music to the dust.

Oh it does have something to do.
That it could be a lovely girl
Going to meet her lover, that they
Could caress one another and
Make love in a quiet room with
A fire in the fireplace.  Oh that kindling;
There wasn’t all that bleeding.
The lovely fires.


—D.R. Wagner

The kettle finds the fire.  It always does.
There are thick conversations swirling
Around it.  Steam is breath, the evening
Is cool, cool as the edges of dreams are
Cool, twisting as they do through our veins.

We have nothing to confirm the way
The day changed since the dark that
Ate into the earth at three hours after
Noon, moved its nails and spear points
To the top of the hill.  Just a clamoring
That rises and falls and sometimes seems
Close to weeping, sometimes close to singing.

We realize that we are supposed
To know how all of this happened.
We make our way down the center aisle,
Procession around to the back, through green
Wooden doors to a dark room nearly devoid
Of furniture and more so of speech.

Here we begin to wait in silence.  The candle flame
Plays along the walls in an ancient fashion.
We are well equipped for all of this.
We choose places to sit on the floor,
Listen to someone tell tales well into the dark night.

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

This room of bright morning,
Full of the drift come down from
The ways we have learned to speak with one
And another.  Oh yes, there were times
When one could stand upon the ramparts,
Whistling the rain down the windows, not
Caring what might be blown in to our
Sad feet.  Now, it seems, things are different.

The cat crosses the alley.  It has no mind
For the dealings of man.  It has
Seen the light of oceans of fish.  They pour
Past its nose and fill the doorways of the piers
With a kind of knowledge you and I can only
Dream of, a wishing for the smells of our ancestors.

Oh sweet burden of standing this way
Before the morning.  Full of each other, the way
We want to be.  I look out past the rain and its pools,
Past the drift of song caught in the puddles.  I am
Here with you once again.  We seem to understand
The language all this world noise makes.
It has a clarity known only to those who have
Loved a long time.  I do not recall any time ever
Being like this one.  Perhaps I am mistaken.
Perhaps this music is only the sound of being
Ignorantly profound.  Listen to the heart.


Today's LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner

Tte traveling t.
Tht traveling t.
The traveling t.
The ttaveling t.
The trtveling t.
The trateling t.
The travtling t.
The traveting t.
The traveltng t.
The travelitg t.
The travelint t.
The traveling t.



Opuntia Cactus
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Friday, December 27, 2013

That Poetry By Which We Live

—Galway Kinnell


In late winter
I sometims glimpse bits of steam
coming up from
some fault in the old snow
and bend close and see it is lung-colored
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear.


I take a wolf's rib and whittle
it sharp at both ends
and coil it up
and freeze it in blubber and place it out
on the fairway of the bears.

And when it has vanished
I move out on the bear tracks,
roaming in circles
until I come to the first, tentative, dark
splash on the earth.

And I set out
running, following the splashes
of blood wandering over the world.
At the cut, gashed resting places
I stop and rest,
at the crawl-marks
where he lay out on his belly
to overpass some stretch of bauchy ice
I lie out
dragging myself forward with bear-knives in my fists.


On the third day I begin to starve,
at nightfall I bend down as I knew I would
at a turd sopped in blood,
and hesitate, and pick it up,
and thrust it in my mouth, and gnash it down,
and rise
and go on running.


On the seventh day,
living by now on bear blood alone,
I can see his upturned carcass far out ahead, a scraggled,
steamy hulk,
the heavy fur riffling in the wind.

I come up to him
and stare at the narrow-spaced, petty eyes,
the dismayed
face laid back on the shoulder, the nostrils
flared, catching
perhaps the first taint of me as he

I hack a ravine in his thigh, and eat and drink,
and tear him down his whole length
and open him and climb in
and close him up after me, against the wind,
and sleep.


And dream
of lumbering flatfooted
over the tundra,
stabbed twice from within,
splattering a trail behind me,
splattering it out no matter which way I lurch,
no matter which parabola of bear-transcendence,
which dance of solitude I attempt,
which gravity-clutched leap,
which trudge, which groan.


Until one day I totter and fall—
fall on this
stomach that has tried so hard to keep up,
to digest the blood as it leaked in,
to break up
and digest the bone itself: and now the breeze
blows over me, blows off
the hideous belches of ill-digested bear blood
and rotted stomach
and the ordinary, wretched odor of bear,

blows across
my sore, lolled tongue a song
or screech, until I think I must rise up
and dance. And I lie still.


I awaken I think. Marshlights
reappear, geese
come trailing again up the flyway.
In her ravine under old snow the dam-bear
lies, licking
lumps of smeared fur
and drizzly eyes into shapes
with her tongue. And one
hairy-soled trudge stuck out before me,
the next groaned out,
the next,
the next,
the rest of my days I spend
wandering: wondering
what, anyway,
was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that
     poetry, by which I lived?


—Medusa, with apologies to Michael Cluff for not including him yesterday in our "thank-yous". The error in yesterday's post has been remedied.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Unexpected Gifts

Christmas, born on Christmas
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

I unwrapped the mystery package I’d puzzled
over—its golden sheen, its iridescent bow. Inside
was nothing I needed or wanted, nor had a place
for in the kitchen.

Outside, morning dawned. I walked to the barn.
And there was Christmas, nubbly gray newborn
lamb with Freckles his mother standing guard.

I’ll bring them alfalfa hay, warm water, grain.
I’ll let them free to join the flock as sun lifts
over the frozen mountain. The best gifts come


—Michael Cluff, Corona

"It is not half-
selfish to give
back a present
you never really wanted,"
Marina thought
when she returned
Basil's son
to his maker.

Christmas Morning
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Johnathan Herold, Lodi

Do you want a piece of paper? Will it make you sound?
Do you want to rouse the people, make the world go 'round?
You can buy the bleeding banks and fill them up with gold.
You can buy elixirs that will claim to keep you old.
You can buy their harried tales, hide behind facades.
You don’t need to offer much to gluttonize their gods.

The truth rests in your own eyes,
To be seen by all but you.
Claim content tomorrow;
Rise and live anew.

If you had a wordsmith’s hammer, would you make a sound?
Will you spread this desperate message, ‘fore your hands are bound?


—Johnathan Herold

For an old soul learning of a new day’s lore,
For a slumbering demon roused for one day more,
There might be some who wish it all away.
There may be some who wish
They never woke up at all.

When the morning sun rises in the sky,
Nostalgic eyes will only leave us blind.
Embrace the light that grows beneath your feet,
Let it make a new day.

For a slowing man who sees his steps are few,
For a woman’s heart to meet a death that’s true,
There might be some who wish it all away.
They will be some who wish
They never woke up at all.

When the evening moon comes along to spy,
Nostalgic eyes will loosen up your bind.
Do not fear the darkness that you must meet,
Hold onto the old way.

So look, look away if it helps you.
Wish, wish away, the days that you are in.
Yearn, yearn for a newfound yesterday,
But never fail to ask the weary traveler in your mirror,
Would it be worth the risk to start again?


—Johnathan Herold

Past the furthest place you’ve gone,
Or any place you’ll never see,

There is a grove of single tree,
And that is what you gave to me.

It is open, it is green,

Without noise or things unclean.
There the wind blows through the grass,
Past a love that tried to last,

To a branch which hangs a swing,

A place I long to sing again.

In the colors made for me,

There is a grove of single tree.
And as I lie here on this bed,
With lonely heart and somber head,
Waiting still to join the dead,

This is our grove of single tree,

A place that few will live to see.
Tis where you first laid eyes on me.
And that is what you gave to me.


Today's LittleNip:

—Johnathan Herold

Forever’s a season when the heart is still new,
Naming it treason feigns rational view.
But Time is a bastard when it comes to red blooms,
Picking few winners, the others it dooms.
They aren’t sent a letter, informed of their fate,
Instead they sit blinded in stupor and wait.
The end of forever can sneak like a breeze,
Blowing apart fragile bonds that it sees.

—Medusa, with thanks to Johnathan Herold of Lodi and Michael Cluff of Corona for the poems, and to shepherdess Taylor Graham for the poem and the photos of Christmas, born to the Graham clan on Christmas Day!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Hush After The Rush

—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Locke


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

the city of bread was busy
preparing for the child
in a cave's dusty manger
not knowing the wise men
from faraway Persia
would soon be welcomed
as strangers with gifts,
it just seems like yesterday
when people like us
were watching for such signs
on red-veiled sunset skies
with lights over town
and all the angels,
dreams by children,
lines of verse by poets
and visiting trumpet players
came to us to announce
a birth.

 —Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

She fetches me a stick, then sports it
out of reach. I watch the shadow
of her leaps
as sun leaves purple splotches under pines.

She brings a tennis ball. I throw
it away, she prances it back. I refuse
to taste its history of serves and volleys;
tight-sprung strings; its flights.

She shares her panting, dog-words
I only partly understand.
But I know the peculiar amber focus
of her eyes.

Without a calendar, her tongue exults
in solstice. This new
winter morning, her gift is dances     

on the tilt of earth.

(prev. pub. in What the Wind Says by Taylor Graham)

Carolers in Nevada City
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


Oh Chuck Berry's "Run-Run Rudolph"
For the girl who wants the doll that "wets"
Don't be a sexist bigot
Get her instead also an electric guitar
'Cause girls can "rock" too

—Michelle Kunert

—Michael Cluff, Corona

Instead of giving me new underwear
let me understand Obamacare.
Instead of a new coffeemaker
gift me with a pepper shaker
made from your loving hands
not one of those Walmart rip-off brands.
Surprise with a recipe for lasting world peace
in lieu of a Milanese fashion valise.
In the end, I only want
no one ever to be gaunt.


Today's LittleNip:

First the rush before Christmas, then the hush...

—B.Z. Niditch


—Medusa, wishing you a most poetic holiday season!

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Thinner Than The Rain

Swim Around the Shadows
—Photo by Robin Odam, Sacramento

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento


This is a long poem
I must write on a
continuous roll of paper.
I will roll it and roll it
under my thought
until I get the thing said.


there is a broken stanza of despair
to say.
If you call it life 
or love
you will be right.
I will not tell you.
It is your stanza, too.


Once I thought love was complete and
the saving of me.
Now I laugh bitterly when
I realize how complex
I have become.
I do not know myself or you.


What shall we do
when death comes to us
and says, “Which one?”
Shall we flip a heart
or a dark coin
before we answer?
What will we do?


Let us go do something we have never done.
Walk naked in the rain.
Nobody will see us,
for we are invisible to others
and thinner


Let us stand and look at each other’s eyes
for a long time
in the rain-light
and really learn each other.
Are you afraid?
I am.


Well, then, no matter who tears us apart,
let us break softly
and without pain
and lie in our tangled ruin
and call
our names.


What I really want to say is
I love you.
Say it simply
and have you know it is true.
And so I say
all the other things instead
and we bewilder
and grow too quiet.


About the rain,
next time it rains
let us do
walk in it
and become silver and green
beautiful children of ourselves.
Let us start again.
Love is such a long summer.


When I call you in my sleep,
do not answer.
I will tell you my dream
and you will not know me.
I live so many terrible lives in sleep.


Once you came home like a stranger
and I turned into another person, too.
And we accused each other
for our
single desperation.


The last stanza, too, is despair.
For those who love,
or think they love,
there is always another danger.
When love is wounded
love makes an angry sound.


Three times I lifted my broken wings
and flew silently away,
limping and falling deeper than
my climbing.
Have you ever seen the eyes of love
when they were beyond crying?


I came back to your sadness with my own.
It is no good to be alone,
we assured ourselves.
But we are often alone,
with so much emptiness to fill
and lost in all that danger.


Promise me
that when the fog comes
you will not be dark to me,
for that is the direst time of all,
when I am most porous
and susceptible to
my various madnesses.


Those gray gulls know
how I am destroyed by winter.
They know!  They know!
for they feel my gray eyes trying to find them.
They cry,
Sea,      sea,       sea,
when I am drowning.


I shall survive the fog.  I always do.
I will drink red wine
and fill the sponge of myself with rosy words
and turn on all the lights
and play fluorescent music
and last till spring.  You’ll see.


Our children will not know us
in the spring.
We shall throw secrets to each other
with our eyes.
And our hands will remember
how we were,
and how we are will be
the same.


All the stanzas are honest.
I’m sorry.
I am so many knives
and so many cut surfaces.
But, my wounded darling,
so are you.


Did I tell you that love would be easy?
I don’t remember.
But if I did,
let me tell you something further.
It will never be easy,
but sometimes we will think it is.


You have told me everything you are
and I believe you.
See?  I do love you.
It took me all my lives,
but I love you.


There are other things to say, of course,
but no one has written words
for all the feelings people have.
Language makes a poor salve
to cover what the senses know.
And healing
is not in the mind.


Tell me once more
how real we are.
I am made of cloth and wind,
and you are made of reflection and rain.
Tell me how that makes us real.
We are not old scarecrows
in somebody’s pitiful garden.


The crows are not afraid of us.
They sweep about
like beautiful, black witches,
sending their ragged song
into the stillnesses.
I feel weeds rustle within me,
but I hold out my hand to you
and it is filled with green flowers.
If you accept them
I’ll know where we are
and who.


Oh my love, it is raining.
Feel the beautiful, streaming rain
all over our bodies.
I can see the wonder, silver rain in you.
I cannot take my eyes from
so much wonder.


The rain is a promise you kept.
You look at me strangely.
I am filling with
bright knives of rain.
I am divided endlessly.
When I move
I move in wholeness.


So when I tell you mysterious things
you cannot fathom,
pretend to understand.
It is only
that I love
from a deep complexity.
The gulls know
and the rain,
but never the woman and the man.


If you can sign your name
with mine
to this
we are not beyond our pledge.
We have lived the most terrible stanzas
of a desperate poem.
At least we are honestly written.
And we are not really alone. 


Our thanks to Robin Odam for sending us these photos to go with this poem of her mother's, bringing Joyce Odam back into the Kitchen after a couple of rough weeks of hip surgery. Robin writes:

I’m sending this to you on behalf of my mother, hopefully for this coming Tuesday’s column—she wrote this poem when I was a young teenager, probably more than 50 years ago. I remember when she first read it to the poetry group that met at her home (Ann Menebroker was probably there that evening, she may remember it). The group was the result of an adult education poetry class—when the class was over they didn’t want it to end so they continued to meet and eventually went on to form the El Camino Chapter of the California Federation of Chaparral Poets. There was a running joke about how someone would almost always end their turn at reading and then add “I have just one more short poem….” That night I remember Mama reading her selections and then playfully announcing, “I have just one more short poem” and rolling out this very long roll of paper. At first they thought she was joking, until she began reading it.  Please see attached, "The Rain Walkers". It really does belong on a continuous roll of paper, but six pages will have to do for this sending.

I am happy to report that she is much improved after a difficult surgery and a very rough week. She is gaining strength quickly and beginning to write. She so longs to get back to her poetry and her poetry people!
Robin is referring to the fact that Annie Menebroker and Joyce began their journeys in poetry together here in Sacramento at an adult education poetry class back in the '60's, which is where they met. And now, all these years later, they both remain Forces in Poetry, having expanded their writings and publishings far beyond Sacramento and back again.

Oh—and our Seed of the Week is That Special Gift


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

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



 Waited for You
—Photo by Robin Odam


Monday, December 23, 2013

A Street Called Tranquility

—Photo by Ann Privateer, Davis

I live in a house on a street called Tranquility.  No one yells
there or stamps their feet.  When searching for a spoon, we
never pour the silverware into our metallic sink, what would
the neighbors think of the mighty din that act would make
and probably wake the dead.  Our six-hour work day feels
right, the other worker bees huddle over their wares sun-up
to sundown, no time to sing  or laugh, their spine slips into
itself, no relief for their pain, where's the gain when the
overseers take bigger bites from the steak?  The gardens on
my street serve all who happen by, insects, two- and four-
legged friends, all may partake of what sun and rain provide.
—Ann Privateer


—Ann Privateer

One French deck of playing cards contains
no small numbers, only royalty and tens through sevens.

Designed for big thinkers who wish to
play this game without shame or disagreements.

What fainthearted player shows his hand,
what sharpy doesn't lead the band to slaughter

if they can, isn't winning in each plan?

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Caschwa, Sacramento


Scientists, of all people
Really, really don’t like to
Have to cope with failure

So they invented a method
Called experimentation
Which tests ideas

Experiments then may
Yield a range of outcomes
Subject to interpretation

If they test a crash dummy
And the dummy is destroyed
The experiment did not fail

Rather, it may have served
To prove what the limits are
Of crashes on dummies

Very good teachers use
Tests as teaching tools
Where providing a wrong

Answer takes a student
Along the path to
Getting it right, because

If everyone could get it
Right the first time
We wouldn’t need teachers

Or tests, or schools
Or classrooms
Or erasers




(It’s the economy, stupid!)

All those poor little elves
Put out of seasonal work by a
Robotic mega-warehouse
Philosophy that displaces
Hand-made artifacts with
Online catalogs, free shipping
With orders of $150.00 or more

“He went to North Pole!”
But he had forgotten to visit
The corner drug store, exclaim
Multitudes of broadly smiling expectant
Brides who had paired up with guys
Who failed to pick up some condoms
Before sharing the family jewels

I am ready to join the NRA once it
Changes its name to “A Well-Ordered
Militia” in strict compliance with the
Second Amendment.  Till then, it is
All about profits from the manufacture,
Distribution, and sale of guns, parts,
And service.  Everything else is puff.

And then there are the esteemed
Members of our beloved Congress who
Themselves enjoy all the perks a head of
Household could hope to have, accepting
Money from the super rich while claiming 
To reach the far corners of our great society:
Unemployed, Hispanic, black, ailing, poor

This line for sale, just $20.00
Terms are cash only until I amass
Enough funds to open a special
Account designed to receive tiny
Deposits from millions of weblog users
Happy Holidays!

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

That rush of wings. Remembered, it takes him
back somewhere he’s never mentioned. Dark
woods above the slough, unnatural glow
through oak, cottonwood, and willow. Past
nightfall, tricky walking without a light.
He should have gone home with his buddies.
Unlucky, gray weather. He was exhausted,
ready to vacate the place. What kept him?
A wish to reconcile, redeem the day. Then,
in the dark, those mystery lights that drew
him down toward water. No one—no flash-
light beam, no butane flare of lighter. Just that
unexpected, muted brilliance. He crept closer.
The phosphorescence faded when he moved,
illumined when he lay still. He fired a shot.
That rush of wings. Not angels. Birds lifting
from broken water to black sky. Then silence.
On shore, a dead heron. Its glow was gone.


—Taylor Graham

What forces operated on this land-
scape—toppled, chipped before recorded time—
and now a boy is lost on granite-sand.
From bluff to game-trail’s end, compass in hand,
which way? My dog must lead me on the climb.
But forces operated on this land
to block our progress. Outside Man’s command
its dins and doubts, its stony pantomime
where now a boy is lost. On granite, sand,
stone, stone, and more stone, my dog leaps to stand
atop a boulder, snatch the brusque wind’s rhyme.

What forces operated on this land
my dog might sense, or dimly understand:
for balance, she goes switch-tail on a dime
to seek a boy who’s lost in granite-sand.
She’ll tack and shift, regain her course, her stride
We’re searching deeper into layered time,
the forces operated on this land
where now a boy is lost on granite-sand.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

Today's LittleNip:

—Emily Dickinson

The Savior must have been
A docile Gentleman—
To come so far so cold a Day
For little Fellowmen—

The Road to Bethlehem
Since He and I were Boys
Was leveled, but for that 'twould be
A rugged Billion Miles—



Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Angel's Hand

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—James Merrill
Hans, there are moments when the whole mind
Resolves into a pair of brimming eyes, or lips
Parting to drink from the deep spring of a death
That freshness they do not yet need to understand.
These are the moments, if ever, an angel steps
Into the mind, as kings into the dress
Of a poor goatherd, for their acts of charity.
There are moments when speech is but a mouth pressed
Lightly and humbly against the angel's hand.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

What Does Not Come Back

Angels Fall. They Are Towers...
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke


A small flock of crows lifted close
As breathing is to speaking, from the edge
Of the oak grove, startling three deer.

A thin line of light traced the winter
Cumulus and made what was left
Of the garden seem even more forlorn.

We were leaning on the rail fence,
Coats pulled up against our throats
Looking out toward the slough.

We had been talking of the Winter light,
The quality it had of indicating every minute
With sharp outlines and unexpected brilliance.

You lifted your right arm and pointed
Toward a point where the sunlit clouds
Nearly touched the top of the oaks.

“That’s where the angels come on days
Like this,” you said.  “They know very few
People are out in such gray weather looking
At the sky.  Just watch, you’ll see them.”

I don’t know if it was light, or the chill, or the clouds
Themselves, but the air seemed troubled for a moment
And I could have sworn I saw these angels rise

And roil, a transubstantiation of all the airy matter.
There were angels moving on that edge, flurries
Of wings and tall forms.  Their music was the daylight.



In the late 1990’s Fan Lin Gyo, a 17-year-old Mongolian
female was identified as possessing a natural bio-
luminescence, a phenomenon found in nature in both
invertebrates and vertebrates.  It may also be found in
particular plants.

Most familiar to a general audience in micro-organisms
inhabiting tropical seas, the phenomenon is noted when
the surface of the water is broken or disturbed.  The
location where the disturbance occurs seems to flash or
glow brightly for a second or so with a florescent quality. 
Rowing across a lagoon containing these organisms
will reveal this quality each time an oar breaks the surface
of the water.  It is a striking occurrence to observe and
seems almost magical when encountered.  In the insect
world it is probably most familiar as the ‘lightning’ of
lightning bugs or fireflies.

Fan Lin Gyo exhibited the peculiar property quite early in
life.  Her mother noted that as a baby, when roused from
sleep, her skin seemed to illuminate momentarily.  Her
mother thought she was imagining things until the child
was about two years old and incidents of the ability
became more frequent and would evidence themselves
when the child was upset or emotionally stimulated.

 Toward the Slough


This silence, broken only by an occasional
Voice from somewhere in the neighborhood,
Is disconcerting.  Usually there are at least
Birds or the noises of cars moving through
The veins of streets and alleyways.

Today there is none of this.  The sun blows
Through the day contained by its usual
Concerns and too far away to have to do
With sound and its eccentricities.

I find myself trying to speak. The words
Begin to come out then stop, confused
That they might be mispronounced or tired

From the effort.  I know they want to tell
You so much, how much I really care.

But they are absorbed like alcohol in an alcoholic.



I have been thinking all day
About words that I enjoy seeing in a poem.
For some reason they help me move
Whatever it is I am talking about
From one level to another.

Fire is one of those words.
It has so many connotations,
Associations and has enough
Flexibility for changing things
That whenever I see the word
I know that inevitable change
Is there.  The poem can’t help
Itself to transmute because
Fire has all the correct permissions
To affect any change.

There may be only ash left
After it appears, or it may
Illuminate for only an instant
And something is able to be seen.

It may be landscape or
Have a life inside a deeper
Narrative and move where
It will from eyes to a camp
Near the top of a pass, high
In the Sierra.  It can live
In eyes and spill from the mouth
With words attached to it.

I’m always happy to see it anywhere
In a poem, even if its mission
Is to devour the entire thing.



What does not come back
Is the night.  Not the same night,
Not the blood pulsing through us
In the same way we pass
Through the rooms of a palace
Singlemindedly searching for
The corridors we have slept in.

All these are gone, every night.
That tree is never ours.
These victories are never ours.
That blue wall where the child
With that hat is sitting, not ours.

I dream of being another man
And finding this exact night once
Again that I had travelled previously.

The darkness cuts into the dream
Bringing horsemen and
Provinces I have never known.

I run toward the missing mirrors
The night wishes to form around me.
I am staring at myself as I ride
By, quickly, like a knife
Plunging deep into the heart.

Drawing by Tatiana Toronto, Davis

        for E. R. Baxter III

Critical mass seems to have rented
A room in my neighborhood.  There
Are moments when I find myself
(always a good thing to do early on)
Standing at the doorway feeling like
The end of a Bergman film, pacing
Back and forth and wondering what
The decision is supposed to be, if any.

I would visit Coulson’s Pharmacy on a
Sunday evening and buy Science Fiction
Magazines.  If, Worlds of Science Fiction,
Amazing Stories
, because there was a world
Spinning just beyond my chronological age
That needed doors and I could almost
See through them and had no idea
What was coming.

When the door closes at night
I find myself sitting on the edge of the bed
Wondering where the song is hiding and knowing
Full well it lives just before the whole thing goes

Up in a flash of light and recollection
Of a cold Winter walk up over the
Hyde Park bridge, magazine in my shirt,
Next to my body and my neighborhood
Sitting just over the railroad tracks
Surrounded by mercury vapor lamps and covered
With the smell of factories making steel
And Glo-bars and car batteries forever.



Stones and stones and more stones.
We dissolve in bones, the days
Looking on as we climb up
From dreaming.  We gather
The trappings of each morning
To our bodies and realize we are
Still full of memory, that waking
Will pursue us until time excuses
Us and we walk in the garden
Once again, totally free of our
Names and what we have been.

Still we remain composed,
Not knowing what is imaginary,
What is eternal, how to measure
Our time or what these shades
Might be that we encounter
Each and every day.

One morning, Durer.
One morning, Cervantes.
The next, Dante
Or Rembrandt grinding
Pigments in a cold room
In Amsterdam just as the sun
Is rising, asking us in old
Dutch if we are ready
For today’s sitting?
His back still turned toward us
As the morning light leaks into
The studio.
We are always about to answer.


Today's LittleNip:

(9th century Irish)

I have news for you:

The stag bells, winter snows, summer has gone

Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course

The sea running high.

Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;

The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,

cold has seized the birds' wings;

season of ice, this is my news.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner and Tatiana Toronto for helping us celebrate the Winter Solstice!

Druids celebrating the Solstice at Stonehenge

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Broader View of Dreams

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis

Animals meet and greet in the street where they sometimes
share the shade or shave suave sheaves of leaves to fashion
a canoe wanting to depart into unknown lands for reasons
yet unclear to them, or bodily bold will hold a swagger sure
that the opposite sex is watching, then snatch a switch for
keeping the kids in line, sweet life on the street.


—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

Oh tennis ball oh tennis ball—
it is the greatest ball of all!
I love the fuzzy feel in my mouth
oh tennis ball I want roll around and play
then leave you sloppy wet on the couch
Oh tennis ball oh tennis ball—
it's all I want for Christmas!

Not a silent night
It's a loud scary night
Can't keep calm tonight
Around a decorated tree
Who are these strange people in the house?
My co-habiting humans with others I sure didn't invite
Alas there're also some children who want to tease a cat!
Heavens, I've got to hide out of sight
Then they laugh as they go try to find me
Oh please, I just want to sleep in my fleece bed
Oh Jesus let them please let me sleep in peace! 


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Incense of summer, a basket of fresh-picked
purple plums. Pressure-cooker waiting on the
stove in a sun-yellow rented kitchen. Mason jars
filled with plums. The niece, who never spoke,
reading in the pebbled courtyard just outside
the kitchen door, when
something blew. Purple-plum preserves erupted
from the pressure-cooker. Purple festoons from
yellow ceiling. Purple icicles from windowsill
and cabinets. Niece standing mouth wide open,
as always speechless as the open kitchen door.
You’d think she might have found a word
for such a show.


—Taylor Graham

I sat listening as he outlined his findings on the
chalkboard, new methods for inculcating desired
response from our dogs—which, according to his
studies, share too close kinship with wild beasts,
at odds with their devotion/undivided attention to
Man, that giant-brain CEO of the animal king-
dom. He stressed that dogs are “which” not
“who,” as the session lengthened shadows
outside the room and his chalk skreecked across
the board, my mind blistered, and my eyes
blurred. I walked outside to find you, best friend
in dog suit, who’d been waiting like a prophet
all these hours. How you leaped to see me,
then dashed across meadow pursuing
a sparkle who floated from dusk into dark,
an earth-shooting star never landing.
The two of us ran happily after fireflies
as if we understood
nothing of instruction.

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

                 for a friend 
When I remember you, I will think of dark:
dark hair, dark eyes, subdued clothes, a low fire.
Your loud tone, burgundy. I could pretend some choir’d
sing vocalises outdoors, you slashing park
air’s atoms in red-leafed autumn. But concert B
was your tonic chord, tuned quieter than C major’s
bristling triumphs. Oh you had your measures,
but never brash: you always did sing in key.
Never our shared Thanksgiving you weren’t there,
gazing out from underneath those bangs
brushed willowy down your brow. What pangs
were birds to hide in that covert of soft hair?
Behind your subtler moods, what brooding fear?
We are the poorer for not knowing why.

What truth, what talent with you must disappear 
in the murmured encyclopedia of the shy?
I thought you happily doomed to many a dawn:
my avatar, in a way, of the autumn going
—but going on to something: quiet, but flowing.
Now you live with the goddesses and the gone.

—Tom Goff, Carmichael


Profuse apologies to Caschwa (Carl Bernard Schwartz) for posting only part of his poem last Monday! It was a cut-and-paste thing... Anyway, here's the complete poem:

—Caschwa, Sacramento
I dreamt I was having a dream
And inside this dream within a dream
I was at a parking lot looking for
My friend’s car to get a ride home

However my friend and I had exited
The building from 2 different places
And I wasn’t sure I was in the right
Portion of the parking area

And there was another problem:
I couldn’t remember what kind of car
My friend was driving, but I kept looking
And confounding myself over and over

Then in a brief waking moment
A shred of memory came back to me
That put things in a different perspective:
This particular friend doesn’t have a car

More waking moments brought more confusion
Was I going to have to read thousands of pages
Of scientific research about the meanings of dreams
To begin to understand what was going on?

Was any part of this dream a valid comment
About what is happening in my life or about
What approaches I choose in order to cope
With a variety of unsolvable dilemmas?

I tried turning the pillow over
To get a broader view of my dream
And was greeted by rude sunlight
Sneaking through the blinds

Hoping to buy myself more REM time
I reached over to press the snooze button
On my digital electric alarm clock
But it was Sunday and the alarm wasn’t on

So I got up
Dressed for bed
And went on to
Have a normal day.


Today's LittleNip:

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store.

—Dr. Seuss



—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Like Molten Chocolate

Laura Baumann Otsubo

—Laura Baumann Otsubo, Sacramento

I was feeling
but remembered

how you seemed
with me

So I became
at you.

Thinking you
were mad
at me

I began to
hate you
but decided

you probably
were indifferent.

So I boxed
you up
and moved on


—Laura Baumann Otsubo

I’m sorry, but
I didn’t bring a poem.

I kept meaning to
write one, but ran
out of time.

I just couldn’t
come up with a topic.

Well, I guess
that’s not true --
I had some ideas

but I didn’t really
have anything to say.

I mean, I didn’t know
how to say it—
what to write down.

Its not like I know
how to write poetry.


—Laura Baumann Otsubo

Bright red—
I want you
with me

A present
I reach for
and again

of puff

I breathe
you in


—Laura Baumann Otsubo

You must have been a fright
in your bird-like mask,
canvas gown from neck to ankle,
gloves, boots , and brim hat.

That cone beak nose, stuffed
with camphor, cloves, myrrh,
rose petals and straw to
save you from the putrid air.

A wooden can, to touch
the buboes in the groins and
armpits of patients, who saw
only death in your glassy eyes.


—Laura Baumann Otsubo

I don’t remember

the feeling I had when I realized my lisp was gone

the classmates who liked me even when I had no friends

the name of a teacher who offered kindness
I was too embarrassed to receive


Today's LittleNip:

—Laura Baumann Otsubo

molten chocolate
flowing from

a warm
lava cake,
I wanted you.

But you were
not on the
dessert menu.


—Medusa, with thanks to Laura Baumann Otsubo for today's poems! Laura writes: I was a regular at the Sacramento Poetry Center’s (SPC) Tuesday Night Poetry Workshop and am now a member of the EGGs (Elk Grove Group) with Katy Brown.  A former board member of the SPC, I also served as Secretary and as a Poetry Editor of Poetry Now.  I live in Fair Oaks.

And take note that there are three poetry events in our area today and tonight: Third Thursdays at the Library at noon today; Straight Out Scribes at Luna's tonight; and a new issue of The Blue Moon Literary and Art Review in Davis tonight also. Scroll down to the blue board (below the green board) at the right of this column for all the details.

Laura Baumann Otsubo
—Photo by Frank Dixon Graham, Sacramento