Wednesday, February 12, 2014

All This Juice

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

When I think I’m the Philip Seymour Hoffman
of my own inner rage and misery,
when I find myself stuck with the needle self-accusation,
or anxiety blooms (apocalypse! catastrophe!),
when learning seems miles removed from administration,
or a precious young life imposes adamant
pressures on me to straighten and improve her,
and I take pains not to bend to be her remover,
comes a message from you, as from a new galaxy
(says cummings, there’s a hell of a good universe
next door: let’s go). You speak of anything: artistry!
New plume of success, one peacock portrait. Curse
lifts, breath fills, lungs soften. Soften me
forever with your laugh, your imagined eyes

I’ll know for real and gaze into at home.
Float me a while longer on your warm freedom foam.


—Tom Goff

We pace old paintings. Near her, silent,
I feel her fire, reach out—pull back
singed, mime-dumb. Sullen, not strident.
We pace old paintings. Near her, I’m silent.
A nude green Poseidon, fisting a trident.
If ever I spoke, whose bronze would crack?
We pace old paintings. Near her, I’m silent.
Just feel her fire: Reach out. (Pull back.)


—Michael Cluff, Corona

Shelley and Jordy met
over a tiger lily.
Their lives were equally spotted
and flamboyant
but never came near
the splendor of the natural
and easy to the eye
hot-housed flora
not even vetch, lobelia,
swan -neck or cattleya.

Amos and Delia
were content
with chrysanthemums and gladiolas
and geraniums

Mariposa Lily
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Below the summit, on this bare slope
of pulverized granite and lava ash hardened
by eons of weather, in this brief
spring, why have you brought me here
to see two fragile flowers clinging together?


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Among all possible rainbows, you hand
me this swatch of neither purple nor pink.
It’s called Glorious Orchid. What shall I
do with this hothouse flush of windowsill-
house-ridden bloom? A gift to bring the ill
in hospital bed, cut off from the sky.
A flowering that needs more care than ink
to rhyme lines on paper and make it grand.

Glorious Orchid? No, Shooting-Star
that bursts out of our cold Sierra spring;
a shade of Indian Paintbrush, unnamed hue
not quite magenta under summit-blue.
In burned-out forest—if a plant could sing—
this is Fireweed, pushing up through char.


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

At my faraway eye
remembering your reading
at the Harvard meetings
of the New England poetry club,
you remained a voice
teaching us to love
nature and horses,
a friend of Anne Sexton
at her Boston University courses;
when you had your accident
on the thoroughbred
knowing you, Maxine
you would recover
from your bed,
and again share
hours of words
as any poetry lover,
now gone from earth
in pale anonymity
just under green cover
world without end
of sky, birds and equestrian,
may this encomium
of devotion
sustain with long memory
setting on the wintry sun.


Our thanks to today's contributors, including our photographers, Taylor Graham and Katy Brown. Katy caught a series of photos of a blue jay bathing in a puddle in her back yard during last weekend's storm, so we've made a Facebook album of it. Check that out on Medusa's Facebook page! 

Tom Goff notes that the peacock portrait referred to in his poem is a watercolor by Nora Staklis, soon to be on view at the "Animal House" exhibit at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center (on Gibbons Drive in Carmichael) February 18th through March 8th; this will be a prelude to an evening event (March 22nd), also at the Fine Arts Center, of poetry, jazz, and art.

New England and poetry lovers lost well-known poet Maxine Kumin, a devotee of poetry who will be greatly missed, and our thanks to B.Z. Niditch for his tribute to her. For more about Maxine and her work, see

And be sure to stay on top of all the poetry happenings in our area starting tonight—there are a whole passel of 'em, including several tonight, Luna's tomorrow, Nevada City Friday, and so on! Scroll down to the blue board (under the green board) at the right of this column to see what's going on.


Today's LittleNip:

—Maxine Kumin

"A devout but highly imaginative Jesuit,"
Untermeyer says in my yellowed 
college omnibus of modern poets,
perhaps intending an oxymoron, but is it?
Shook foil, sharp rivers start to flow.
Landscape plotted and pierced, gray-blue, snow-pocked
begins to show its margins. Speeding back
down the interstate into my own hills
I see them fickle, freckled, mounded fully
and softened by millennia into pillows.
The priest's sprung metronome tick-tocks,
repeating how old winter is. It asks
each mile, snow fog battening the valleys,
what is all this juice and all this joy?



—Photo by Taylor Graham