Monday, March 31, 2014

Without Rhyme or Reason

Red Feathers
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA, with 
Photos by Katy Brown, Davis


Without rhyme or reason
our dusty eyes
on mating grounds
for tourists and friends
we hear a humming
from love birds of paradise
with nature's own amends
and mature games
by bird nests and stones
on loan to surprise
near dry winter's bones,
leading some to rushing
or blushing pink
in covers of lusty shame
at pleasurable hunting
it makes you think,
like punting manikins
in the open boat sea
by the home harbors
or our cousin monkeys
up high on arbors of trees,
and we also expect
the leisure
of alpha males
invigorated by spring
searching by meters
for some interested females
liberated from anguish
wishing to be free
together with a distance
running mate
all sequestered by winter
tired of spring cleaning
and wood working
inspired by aviaries
from all poet schools
there are golden words
and rules to date
in many an astrology sign
may overrate,
it's almost April's fools day
where biology rules
by design.


Making a bird house
even in this near-wintry air
walking down my staircase
almost dated or legendary
looking out on the Bay
thirsty from running down
my old steps
needing a good repair job
using cedar and pine wood
to build an aviary
and keep the rain out
drilling holes
for ventilation
in a breathless March
as the early sun unfolds
on my shoulders
and now new neighbors
with benevolent suggestions
for a wildlife habitat
pounce on the snowy lawn
to watch over
my creative nesting box
now mounted on high trees.



It's not easy
to work on a chimney
ask your former inlaws
or Santa Claus
in these spring lofts
and nests
you find jackdaws
taking a rest
sleeping on wool
fur, soft paper
and padding hair,
gulls escape
the winter's air
on moss and grass,
peregrines prefer
window sills of feathers
any time of year
with a weather pass,
house martins in holes
his beautiful wings
follow under leaves
then swallows arrive
in balls of eaves,
trying once up here
to teach a snowbird
a lesson in how to sing
it seems to know
how to swing.

 Rufous-sided Towhee


We never forgot you
sun bear in tree branches
nesting in the four corners
in a mandala-like circle
with a crescent fingerprint
marking on your chest
rising as the sun rings
over your slow breathing
from a powerhouse of a jaw
in limbs and shadows,
sometimes we think of
you or in day dreams
or reading Faulkner
about Big Ben,
you were even visible
in darkness of mirages
from lengths
climbing silent steps
of a weighty voice
that time will not efface.


A relatively new neighbor
smothered by
a post-tourist ski season
of snow
just picked up
her suitcase
going cross-country
leaving me in the lurch
with two parakeets
one green, the other blue
now building a nest
with two perches
for sister and brother
with cuttlebone
and mineral blocks
of iodine salt spool
by pieces of soft wood
near in the bird box
for the female budgie
to finely chew on
there may be singing
for future babies to drool
in the free-flight cage
these siblings may fly
away like my neighbor
with open wings any day.


In the open woodland
wanting to hear
a melodious sound
in the sunrise of tourists
upon me
taking the early bus
and onto grainy fields
entertained by a clatter
of a stuttering song
unraveling my day
in a shrubbery horizon
wanting to give
you a name
in the sounding leaves
your tiny russet face
infinitely soft
by the narrow tree escape
crazed by tuft of grass
among the dust
in the floating tune.


At Frost's clearing
in a glimmering sunshine
as the last snowfall listens
to the grey squirrel nests
listening for memory
of those rooted
and captured
like signs of nature
when spring's music
dawns from a first robin
in a branch of light
over an earth-wise bare tree
wishes to play melodies
off the woods
in a quivering tone
with new metaphors
resembling your own.


 Today's LittleNip:


On your day
awake with ease
just relax, forget taxes
do you as please,

inhale peace
by the Bay and write on
under a bird-covered sky
move words as a swan.



Two Black Swans

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Climb the Wind

—Rosario Ferré

                                   I hear you've let go
                                   now listen
when you walk down the street
everyone points a finger at your craning head
as if they wanted to floor you
and squeeze the trigger and bop!
your forehead crunches like a beer can

don't say hello to anyone
don't comb your hair or shine your shoes
cross the street on your own arm
shake your own hand, stiffen your neck
and watch out
                         there goes the looney, they say
you wobble by, your head dusty
like a wooden saint sticking up in a parade
its feet nailed to worm-eaten boards,
gazing far off
don't let your flesh blossom
let yourself be chewed up
                         I hear you've finally let go
                         listen carefully
rope yourself to a mast
tie yourself to the Polestar
don't take down the old planks
don't pry the oars out of their locks
nail your best eye to the star
keep the faith
don't wink too often
sleep quietly on your fists
don't worry about remembering
shut your glass-cutting teeth
cage your tongue
don't swallow anything
                                   I hear you've let go, friend
                                   the time has come
                                   now cut the cord
                                   climb the wind
                                   toughen your heart

(trans. from the Spanish by Willis Barnstone)


—Medusa, with birthday greetings to Sacramento's Annie Menebroker!

Joyce Odam and Annie Menebroker
—Photo by Sandy Thomas, Sacramento

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lucid Dreaming

Abandoned Shell Sign
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke


It was a clarity that had
Nowhere to go, the perfect
Word held on the lips
Just a moment too long,
So that its meaning was changed.
A second or third definition
Would be implied as the word
Was spoken.  I had no objection
To this.  In fact, I treasured
This when it happened.

It was, as Stevens said.
“Beyond the genius of the sea”
And I would unwind myself
From any logical thought
I may have had and allow
Myself to understand the world
In an entirely new way.

I would lean out into the meaning
Not knowing what I was going
To say next and I’d feel really
Good about it as if I were on
A journey to a spectacular canyon land
Where there was a natural bridge
Reaching over my head, forming
The perfect frame for a stunning
View of a valley filled with
Red columns of red rocks
And a slip of a river reflecting
Just at the edge of sight.

"I wonder what that means?"
I would think, but by then
There was a wind, or a bird coasting
On the high current,
Or the advent of yet another
Question lodged in my breath,
Trying to make me understand
What all of language truly meant.

 Alley, Locke

                                         —Haruki Murakami

I was not, of course.
It was the world, to be sure.
I could feel my childhood
Within it in a most unusual manner.

It had its own stage, nearly
Drained of color, like living,
Before the War II, in a field
Across from factory smoke. 
The sound of a rag man
Pushing a cart through the streets,
Barely asphalted and gently sloped.

At night one could see
The factory fires through the
Thin woods.  Whose woods
These were, I thought I knew,
But they did not live here any longer.

They simply drained the feeling
From me as if formed
By an artisan using porcelain
Careful against mistakes,
Shaping and un-shaping with his hands—
Consciousness that only the furnace
Fires in the distance were red,
Red-orange and sometimes blue.

The slag wagons at night stumbled
Right through open fields,
Looking like stars moving over ground.

They were too far away to make a sound
That could not carry any meaning
But was still significant,
Like knowing how to breathe using
Underwater equipment,
Yet never entering the sea.

The edges of this place were crisp
But details were impossible
To focus on, as when one
No longer has pain, yet can recollect it.
The body no longer uses the nerves
To describe sensation, or like opening
One’s hand to find a glowing coal
In its palm; a cartoon
Bit of video, mostly there,
But incapable of causing
Anything but a visual sensation.

Everything in its place,
Waiting for the rising of the sun.
Noises from a railroad yard
In the near distance.

 At Gozion's


The guns cough up their
Blue seed into our cities.
We recognize so many faces
Drifting in and out of Preta
Realms.  Sometimes they
Are our children.  Sometimes
They are our lovers, our priests,
Our finest dancers, column
After column of hungry faces.

We will play them sweet music
And perform before the throne.
We will tell the stories to chambers
Filled with red ghosts and glistening
Strangers who claim they want
Nothing from us.  “We come
In peace,” they say.

We devour our own hearts.
We hide our hands beneath
Our lovely clothing.  Still they
Come toward us.  We sit upon
The ground and begin these stories.
We hear the guns snapping
Like twigs in a storm made of ice.

 Emergency Room


Dressed in fetish clothing
And hearing uncomfortably clearly,
I stretch a membrane of understanding
Across my eyes.

I will have no doubt the next time
I see your face.
I will find it easy to recognize the grace
Of misunderstanding you.
It will be like a perfectly sharpened
My principles will fracture
Revealing all their petty foundations.
I will shake within the wall of language,
Waiting for a single pause where I might catch
My breath and identify my feeling
For you just this once.

There is no use.
I am smeared upon the words,
Barely able to buckle the straps
Around my body, barely able to attenuate
The vulnerable parts so they will gleam,
Terrifying, romantic in pure discourse.



It was that dreams were seamless,
A silken bag with one end open.

The possibility of birds just
On the edge of waves, long bills
And long legs, scurrying the shapes
Of each wave’s foam just as night
Undid her gowns and stepped
Into a particular set of changes.

But no, there were tears where
Things could move in and out
And big bands of riders on their
White camels and flightless birds
Could move freely on black sand,
Command the moon for an hour
Or more and change the mouth
Of a bag into a door.

I woke holding ravens in both
My hands.  They had yellow eyes
And were perfectly calm.
I could feel their hearts beating
Even as I opened my hands
To watch them turn violet,
Then red, across the sky.

There were still millions of lights.
"So many of them," I thought,
"This could be lucid dreaming."

Now is the time for that.
Stand close beside me.
We will watch all the seams
Disappear once more.
We will see with our entire bodies.



The slow high step of the cranes
May seem of little consequence.
This is the beautiful.  It lives
In the simplest of things.

We are listening to love songs.
They fill the mouths of birds.
They fit our ears perfectly.

The river gets very wide east of here,
Doesn’t seem like a river at all.
Eventually it isn’t.  It becomes the
Great Lake that it is and finds
Its way through a thousand islands,
Rapids and gains intent to find the sea.

Here no one seems to notice.  It’s a
Difficult place to live.  Things like
Those cranes are a fine dessert that
Is too seldom found.  Still we
Wait here watching.  We are listening
To their love songs.  They fit our ears perfectly.


Today's LittleNip:


Just like a lighthouse, he thought.
First his clothes caught fire
Then the rest of him.


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


Friday, March 28, 2014

Life Creates Life

Ann Keniston, reading at Sac. Poetry Center
last Monday night, March 24
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

I got a video from email "How to train your cat"
They've got to be kidding—
The majority of cats instead "train" their owners—
getting their people to serve them
even if it means waking up their owners at 4 AM
telling them when they want to be fed
and where and how they want their litter box 
which they've probably done since ancient Egypt
If one wants an animal that enjoys doing tricks and jumps on command
(as this video claimed a human can spend time doing)—
get a dog... 
—Michelle Kunert


For my March cat photo calendar I got at a dollar store
There's a striped kitten that seems to be kissing the beak of a duckling
It's as if the duckling doesn't know he or she is with a little carnivore
and for a grown, bigger cat the duckling could be food instead of a potential friend
—Michelle Kunert

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Come quick!
Grab a powerful
Telescope and

Train the lens on
That fuzzy area
Out beyond Pluto

Orbiting the sun
But not really
Part of our system

Can you see them?
Busy, energized
Swarms of adverbs

Those parts of speech
They only teach
In grammar school

And then when we
Grow up they are
Jettisoned to

The farthest dark
Corners of our
Solar system

So how does one
Get corners in an
Orbit? Don’t agonize

About it. The
Answer is found
Among the adverbs

Now put that
Telescope down
Delicate and ginger



Good morning!
A cup of coffee
Please with sugar

One lump or two?

Well, how many
Humps are there
In hump day?

I lost count.

Perfect. Just keep
Adding lumps until
You lose count

David Koehn at Sac. Poetry Center
Monday, March 24
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

again, spring
—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

slow, sad, heavy
thunderstorm broods
spring reveals herself
budding, lush, fragrant
wet, soft air
storm passes over
rain will not fall today
maybe tonight
earth craves rain
sad, expectant
like the gaze
of a shy, sixty-year-old
woman in love

life creates life
—Ann Wehrman

smooth white ovals
eggs drop newly laid
inside each a world of soul
unique     life unknown

escalating heights pleasure, pain
destiny, great accomplishment
birthmark, sixth digit
your laugh, her willfulness

eggs impersonal opaque
thin shells, dense blinds
hide multifaceted inhabitants

which order will they take?
which goes with which?
if I break this one into the pan,
will mayhem or peace result?

in her great imagination
life creates life, bubbles, eggs
inside each, Wonderland
outside, just another egg

bubbles floating on air currents
floating away


—Ann Wehrman

at my desk tonight
working late, alone
hazy with exhaustion
late dinner fails to blunt my loneliness

I am chided
to count my blessings
by a stranger’s words
in a horoscope

I remember
feeling completely safe
feeling relaxed
feeling infinite wild love

standing in a field
under vast stars
fireflies all around
muggy Midwestern night

sleeping cherished
poor, hungry
warm in my lover’s embrace
fire of our wordless bond

losing, then finding myself
kindred souls
favorite authors’ minds
through reading their books

Christmas Eve too excited to sleep
my sister and I
Nutcracker Suite on the stereo
still believing in Santa

each day a
brave act, tense against fear
loins girded for battle
foes real, perhaps not

let it go, breathe
let it go, cry
then remember
warm with gratitude


Today's LittleNip:

—Ann Wehrman

race through eating

food without taste, smell
appetite not hunger
like a machine
food tastes like nothing
like cardboard, air
dribbles down my chin
starving, I reach for more 



 Brother Hypnotic's daughter Ayinana Antwine
reads her published poem at Sac. Poetry Center
on March 17
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Wind's a Coyote

—Photo by Christopher Moon

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

All I did all afternoon
with all those hot pink beads
was make hot pink bead necklace
after hot pink bead bracelet,
until my mind is pink.
At least, I think my mind is pink.

I close my eyes, my hot pink eyes,
and see all those hot pink beads
and feel the necklace around my neck.
The hot pink bead necklace
is not a necklace I should be wearing,
at least not wearing to bed.

 —Photo by Christopher Moon

—Carol Louise Moon

On Noah’s Ark are many daffodils.
And daffy still, are rainbow arcs
which shower the sky with mini-
flowers.  This fella Noah
only knows to grow a daffodil
a day, then two, till there are four—
then plenty more.  Daffy still,
are roses rising trellis-high.

Other lonely fellas sigh for rose
and rainbow, too.  Beaus—
who know their daffodils (with
taffy-colored frills) will thrill
when daffy doves and loves
at last come home.

(first pub. in Brevities, Vol 128)

—Photo by Christopher Moon

—Carol Louise Moon

The palm, she sees the clouds float by
in hues of blue.  The seas, they roll
in this slow dawn on Honolulu’s shore.

What’s more is now the birds
have joined the tree to sit and see
the show of early sunset’s rustic glow—

before the nighttime closes in,
when all the stars shine
not so bright as moon,
later on tonight… but not so soon.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The wind’s a coyote,
ranging down the arroyos to hunt
the dark, then skulking off at daybreak,
disappearing like convection
over the ridge.
If you listen in your broken sleep,
you’ll hear the song—
the howling of wind, and pull
a comforter closer against
your dreams, small creatures fleeing
from under the bed over sand
studded with skulls
worn smooth as stone.
And yet, on other evenings
after you walk the dry creek to its
beginning, and let the wind
hollow your head and blow it clean,
your dreams will beat
with angel wings
sweeping the chimney
like coyote breath, like the wind.


—Taylor Graham

The sky ignites with firebrands
the ravens gathered in black hoods,
as sun subsides in scarlet bands
to dark beyond the edge of woods.

Lone traveler to the borderlands,
a peddler cinches up his goods
and turns his step as dusk remands
to dark beyond the edge of woods.

So many unfulfilled demands!
Old lovers put away their “should”s
until the daylight, give their hands
to dark beyond the edge of woods.   


—Taylor Graham

She nests in the wire
dog-crate, temporary safe haven.
But her amber eyes—
pupils dilated rail-spike dark—
speak fear.

On the scales, 60 pounds—
dog-fur over muscle, bone, spirit—

Her tongue flicks soft
against the vet-tech’s hand.
The probing starts:
thermometer. Stethoscope.
“Beautiful heart.”


—Taylor Graham

              for an old search-dog partner

On a fresh spring morning
you picked one egg from a wild-turkey nest,
carried it gently in your jaws
and placed it in my hand—
jaws that could shake a rope-tug toy
like it was a rag-doll.

Through dark November woods
you led me as if on tiptoe, as if walking
on eggs, to show me the lost woman
you found, barely alive.

After decades, you still
return sometimes, ranging into dream-
sight. I reach
for your leash and release it,
follow your lead into the midnight woods.


Today's LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

My parents dropped me off
At college.  I picked up my bag,
Turned to wave, but they
Were gone.  Didn’t go home
Though.  Put the house
Up for sale and moved
To Florida.  Took me
Most of Christmas break
To find them.  Then
They moved again.



Sheep in Spring Pasture
(Christmas and Adri in foreground)
—Photo by Taylor Graham

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Busy Days

—Poems by William S. Gainer, Grass Valley and 
Photos by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch


Saw the squirrel
walking across
the shed roof.
I waved.
He looked busy,
too busy
to wave back.



Out on the porch
we keep a flower pot
with a little patch of grass
growing in it.
No, not that stuff,
the kind kids play on.
Every once in a while
I take the shears
and give it a mow…
spend a little time
cleaning up
the mess,
stand out in the drive
and admire my work.



Saw a guy
walking downtown
carrying a chair
a kitchen chair
he was carrying it
like a surfboard,
except with legs
you know...
I imagine
he's ordering them,
the chairs
one at a time



I wish my legs were longer,
my back didn’t hurt
so much
and the dogs
would be quiet
when I asked them.

With the first list
I asked for
money, fame and women.
It didn’t happen that way.

So let’s just
let it go—
the wishes:

Let the back ache
when bending
for a found dime,
the dogs bark
when the postman delivers
and the neighbor lady
keep waving
when she’s on the porch—

We’ll leave the wishes
to the little things
that’s where they seem
to be found—
with the little things.


To find the monsters,
see if they need

Her bed,
to smell her pillow
hope she feels the breeze
of your breath…
wonder if she’ll remember you
in the morning.

To the cliff where everyone falls,
be the first to push the curious,
lie about who did it…

A new-mowed lawn,
look for the dead in the cutting,
beetles, worms, lizards, snakes,
a toad maybe.
Ask why their lives didn’t count.

The place where blind dogs live
and see things you wouldn’t believe
thank them for barking
in the odd moments.

To where heroes go,
where they have a name for you,
but it’s secret, it means more than god.
You get to have a sword, a saber, a wand,
a pistol.
And whatever hat you wear,
A place where evil knows your voice
and trembles…

To the Hall of Good—
where wishes get answered.
Where the Commissioner
knows your list,
says, “This is a good one.
We’ll do it first…”

Seven places,
there are more, lots more
but these are the ones
that call
my name
when sleep
needs a friend…



All my life
all I've ever wanted
was to be like you...
You'll never know
how hard a heart aches
trying to make that happen
knowing it never will...

Some of us go years
without the feeling
then it comes,
one day—
every day
one word
from one person
driving you back to the child
who spent the long hours
watching a cold world
a cracked window
knowing all time does
is push
all you want
farther away...

The ones like me
have learned to hold back
knowing each day,
each push
makes the reaching
for the pistol
that much easier…
but we don’t.

Others are able to let go
become hushed in their loneliness.
get lost in empty dreams
wander beyond rescue,
melt in hurt
until time calls
no more—

and you
one of the beautiful,
harbored in privilege
keeping the gates secure
no harm


Today's LittleNip:


black, white,
something else,
just kids...
don't make them
they have to be
let them become
they want to be...
let them be us...
one of us...


—Medusa, with thanks to Bill Gainer and to Robert Lee Haycock for today's sumptuous fare! And a reminder that Bill will be hosting a Red Alice's Poetry Emporium reading at Shine tonight featuring Cynthia Linville and Kelly Freeman plus open mic. That's 14th & E Sts., Sac., 8pm. Be there!

[Click on photos once to enlarge]

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Contentment of Promise

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


I heard the birds singing today
under my sadness
and I said,
Should I believe in spring?
Permit feeling?

And the birds were oblivious
to my thought
and they sang in the tree
by my house
where I hung clothes
under a cloudy sky
and I said,
Should I believe
in possibility?
This singing is so pleasurable.

And the birds
sang through my reluctance
to permit joy to enter my heart
and I said,
Should I permit my heart to
open to anything again?

And the birds
continued singing
in the tree by  my house
and I said,
Should I linger at this chore
and enjoy the singing?
And the birds continued,
oh, continued, singing.

(first pub in Acorn, 1996 and Senior Magazine, 2002)



The solstice now.
Weak light of winter.

The year turning heavily over,
like a bear in a cave,
the days of linger past beginnings.

Strange words lining up in the mirror.
A faceless day,
an old yearning—

yearned once again.
We approach the new
and turn a bit sadder.

What a weary thought to think,
so we sleep the harder.
An old bear in a cave has dreams like ours.



we assure ourselves of that,
warmed by the thought.

The CD is slowly mourning its music
like an introduction to an ending.

Only the shy say things like this with
hesitation and uncertainty,

which are both true.
It is a sad now—

a dim realization—like hope,
unwrapped once again inside the heart.

Something will be, something waited for
and loved for its promise. Meanwhile,

winter strikes back with a fierce shadow
that blots out the cold sunshine.

I’ll take what I get from this strange
little scenario: a contentment of promise.


hidden behind foliage
emergent as with wings

partly featured
partly shape
without shadow
light and
slippery dark
one hand clutched to a tendril
leaves breathing around you—

how you push into being
revealing your arrival
into mood
and restlessness
conveyer of energy
and love—

oh, you are ready for all of that
best hurry through your phases
made by water and color to create you

(After "Spring", Watercolor by Claude Ponsot)

(first pub. in
Living in the West, March/April 2014)



It was for you I wore this heavy gown
and brought this gift.

It was for you I grew this thin
and tough as the resisting, jealous wind.

It was for you that now
I grip your hand with such a grip.

Don’t fall away.
Don’t turn aside.

It was for you I learned
to control the erosion of my face.

You’ll not learn who I am until
you look with fear and love into my eyes.

I am the power now. It is for you I touch
your weakness with my claim:

it was you who called me,
and I came.


Today's LittleNip:


twirp twirp    twirp twirp
chitter  chitter  chitter
chip     chirp
twirp  twirp    twirp  twirp
thrun- n  thrun-n  thrun-n
chitter  chitter  chitter
chrrrr   chrrrr   chrrrr
chirp     chirp
chee-er  chee-er  chee-er
chir-r   chir-r   chir-r     chir-r
chip     chirp
twirp  twirp    twirp twirp


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's delectable fare in the Kitchen, toothsome goodies based on our Seed of the Week: Sure Signs of Spring. Our new SOW continues the theme; this one is She's Nesting! Could be about birds, or bears, or babies of any ilk. Could also be about humans—those urges we get around this time of year for gardening, spring housecleaning—or enticing a mate. Send your poems/photos/artwork about nesting of any kind to No deadlines on SOWs, though; ferret around through "Calliope's Closet" at the top of this column for SOWs of the past. Poems and visuals sent to Medusa's Kitchen do NOT have to be about the SOW.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Covered by Bird Song

Summer Garden Spirit
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA and 
Artwork by Jennifer O'Neill Pickering, Sacramento


Staring at Warhol prints
on my branch of a calendar
purchased from the Village
on spring's first day
kids with hoops
have an off-Broadway brunch
of kosher hot dogs
with Easter bunny chocolates
in Central Park,
others slip behind the trees
to be locked together
from a stranded winter,
even the first light
featuring my one-act
has stuck out its tongue
for the matinee,
it's still too cold
in the Big Apple
to play alto sax
or do a cool routine
of stand-up on this bench
even for lunch money,
anyway two buttons
on my old navy jacket
have fallen
like white pigeons
on the moldy pavement,
near passerby tourists
holding magnolias
from a wedding
run by my bicycle
and a mumbling soul
named "Cat" on her coat
with a foreign tongue
and worn-out sneakers
holding a first-aid kit
on her shoulder
takes out a needle
from her backpack
offers to put on my buttons
and suddenly laughs
with a new-found joy
at my Warhol prints
telling me she escaped
a half-hour ago
from a stern lecture
and parental storm
takes us in a taxi uptown.



A melody alarms me
from an iconic
glass bird clock
and it is first light
with an early
maternal sun
visiting to take away
the pollen chill
at the open window
my transitory memory
erodes my running time
hearing the practice
in a breathless march
of marathon runners
embrace onto a field
of sky angel kites
unexpectedly floating by
over a transparent Bay
my hands reach out
to an aviary of sparrows
with water and bread
on this insurgent dawn.

Miller Park, Sacramento


On Bay road to the water
meeting two runners
practicing for the marathon
a woman in immortal optimism
wearing a leg brace
tells me she is in recovery
from last year's tragedy
the man is silent
on the hostile dunes
his arm in a cast
a tiny cross on his chest
in an anemic accent
asks me for the time
hands in his pocket
with little emotion
as if a shore bird
plucked at his right eye
rests on the woman,
then with a shortened wind
and not a little trepidation
visit my orange kayak
with a homeless runaway
dozing in the open boat
at first light,
undo the few ropes
by the turbid streams
near recondite flasks
of a cheap wine
near his sweatshirt
feeling the dawn air
nestled like a grackle
near my skin
and embrace landscapes
on my living tongue.



You want to take
your Harley
out to the Coast,
feeling vertigo
yet hypnotized
by new affection
and scented
by jocund laughter
for the new century
rolling rock tunes
over your keyboard
after supplanting
yourself by the ocean's
kayak store guys
wanting to check out
any wintry damages
to your boat
from the home harbor's
northeastern storms
only rightly armed
with a deposit
of fresh verse
covered by bird song.

Georgia, Freda, Emily and Me


Teen hysteria in the light
of bottled-up wintry voices
in the ripened part
of a sporting life's noonday
taking their free hours
with whirlwind resonances
longing for attentive love
losing themselves
in green sleeves
along the riverbeds
outlining their bodies
first sighting
cool acquaintances
taking their shapeless leaves
on tender harvest pillows
by the new vineyards
in the frosty sunlight
like Adam and Eve.



Hearing myself say
in whispers "earthquake"
to my Russian geology friend
through his frequented
sunbelt moves
on his cold wrestling mat
knocking down worries
of all climate changes
in a threatened earth
but giving it no mind
a hyperactive minute later
trying to hold on to
my own mind body problems
on this solstice noon
punching out
my own worries
ready for another round
of nature's unrevealed
left-out surprises.

 Three Faces

Today's LittleNip:


Taking a piggy bank
by the river
above our woodland,
a couple of runaways
with new tattoos
and eyes like blue fish
pack their belongings
as sunshine trembles
at the edge's shore,
as a gutsy jogger
not losing much time
eager for spring's
whispers some advice
yet gets into his cop car.


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today's poems, and to Jennifer O'Neill Pickering for today's artwork!

Mandala from St. Jean de Luz
—Jennifer O'Neill Pickering

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Like the Truth on Fire

—Photo by James Lee Jobe

—James Lee Jobe, Davis

I pray that the stars in heaven might be laid on velvet before Your feet, like jewels, like the wish that follows the dream, diamonds that speak in a whisper of living.

I pray that the ocean might be a threshold for all that You love to cross, wave after wave of beauty passing in time, stepping through to drumbeats, sanctuary, a new home, a new place.

I pray that the finest canopy of the forest might welcome the brightly plumed birds of Your soul; a wooded choir, close and safe, the flower of song to greet You at the blossom of each day.

I pray that the mountains might be Your snow-peaked door, and pushing through, a universe spins like a pinwheel on the wind sliding off of the river, like the truth on fire, calling You outside to pray.

And what of us, the people who worship before You, bent knees sore on hard stone, the open hearts and hopes that brought us spring out of the cruel, bare winter?

I pray that we might learn to love You for what You are, not that which we would have You to be; mother, father, keeper of the great empty void.



Saturday, March 22, 2014

Devouring Our Own Hearts

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


This poem may contain
Depictions of suicide
Or describe medical procedures,
Skulls or skeletons.

It may contain the words
Dumb or stupid.
It may describe illness,
Death and dying,
Spiders eating into the heart.

Insects may be involved here,
As may snakes and blood.
It may suddenly concern
Itself with intrusive thoughts
Or cause serious injury.

It may recall childbirth
And pregnancy.  Perhaps
Discussions of particular
Behaviors that are repellent
To certain animals or groups
Of people who cannot bear
The thought of slimy things.

All of this may happen here
And you are advised not
To read this poem or consume
Anything that may harm your mind,
Health, psyche, or religious beliefs.



What makes the tears that part the flesh?
What makes the song in wind?
What blinds the eye that it never may see?
What thickens the blood that thins?

From far out the North, a beating of angel wings.
At first I thought it was snow.
It came down for days and covered our homes;
There was no place we could go.

The wolves came down to stand on our roofs
And they breathed down the chimney flue
And they smelled the flesh of us who lived there,
And they wanted it all, red and blue.

Our crew had never meant to stay here.
We thought we would be gone by Spring.
But the Winter held us as tight as death.
It snapped our plans, broke the songs we sing.

And still we hear the wolves outside;
We shall hear them evermore,
Until the Spring breaks through the snow
And the flowers bloom once more.

 Russell's Truck, Locke


The ease in discovering hands in the air
Lifting the body high above the waters.
A dance of puppets walking above nothing.
I can offer you an eternity for a very reasonable price.

We enjoy the bar, swinging us higher and higher,
Its begging us to let go, completely let go.
From the fly bar, a shooting star, an uprise shoot.
Double over, Flexus and the Pirouette.
The angels return with one or both legs.

We twist however we are able to gain the bar.
We do the suicide without a catcher; just the flyer,
A suicide or a reverse suicide.  Does it matter,
Once we have remounted the board and are returned
From the catch trap?

Finally, we have no history.  We were there, high
Above the ring, dressed in white, and finally we are ready.
Listo.  We watch the trapeze swing before us.  We become
A perfect wind, force out to gain height, always to gain height.



Night descends.  It sets up its little
Tents across the valley.  From one or another
Location someone lights a lamp within a tent
And a soft and comforting light glows through
The cloth structure.

Individual and quiet music escapes from
A harmonica or concertina and drifts like
Woodsmoke above the valley, beneath
The vernal moon.  There is no kinder quiet.

Slowly the veils come down to swaddle
The land.  Peace comes slowly too but it
Does come, in flocks of birds landing in
Trees as dark as their wings appear.

The river remembers and slaps the sides
Of its banks as it moves past, a burden
Packed with dreams, part of its surface and its
Depth.  We can watch from here, listen
To the quiet, pretend things will always
Be this way, the breeze swearing this is true.

 Statuette at Gozion's


The guns cough up their
Blue seed into our cities.
We recognize so many faces
Drifting in and out of Preta
Realms.  Sometimes they
Are our children.  Sometimes
They are our lovers, our priests,
Our finest dancers, column
After column of hungry faces.

We will play them sweet music
And perform before the throne.
We will tell the stories to chambers
Filled with red ghosts and glistening
Strangers who claim they want
Nothing from us.  “We come
In peace,” they say.

We devour our own hearts.
We hide our hands beneath
Our lovely clothing.  Still they
Come toward us.  We sit upon
The ground and begin these stories.
We hear the guns snapping
Like twigs in a storm made of ice.



The floor littered with weapons,
Ancient weapons with edges that
Speak to the teeth of dogs, even tigers.
It is impossible that they should be there.

This book has no descriptions.
Remarkable that these weapons should glitter
So.  Sons kill fathers in these books, but it seems
A little thing.  The edges of these objects are
The real dialogue.  It is a very old interaction.

Language is a rigid system.  It allows nouns
Free reign and we must move among embedded
Verbs, stumbling and staggering from the edges
Of these weapons.  We will never know them as other.

These are your brothers and sisters, your family,
The uncle from Argentina who was never seen
After 1942, but was famous in obscure newspapers.
These provide colorless roads and we thread them together.

Finding the book open in the morning, on the floor
Next to the couch where I fell asleep, I close it.
All of its dancing is now within me, still glittering.
It spills from me, like salt on dark ground, mysterious,
Full of reflections in mirrors we may never encounter again.

 Down from the Levee

Today's LittleNips:


It looked like a pear orchard
That had just come into bloom.
As I got closer I realized it was her eyes.


Is that a new kimono
You are wearing tonight?
In this light it looks like a tattoo.

It is, she replied.


That is one huge flock of birds, he said.
They aren't birds, they are broken hearts, she said.
Oh shit, he said, Here we go again.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's ambrosial fare!

Sculpture at Gozion's

Friday, March 21, 2014

Olympic Gestures

Donal Mahoney

—Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO

If I met the same women now
I probably wouldn't know them.
They're missing teeth, I bet,
and have gray Medusa hair.

Their eyes no longer dance, I'm sure,
and they have liver spots everywhere.
They likely wobble in their flats
and haven't worn heels

since adding fifty pounds.
Some of them, I'm certain,
wouldn't recognize me, either,
despite thick spectacles.

They can't recall the picnics
we enjoyed with wine and caviar
under oak trees in Grant Park,
never mind the nights that followed.

Who needs a woman that forgetful?
I need a younger woman now,
someone I can finally marry,
a girl with a figure like Monroe,

Hepburn's eyes and Hayworth's hair,
someone lithe, slim and graceful,
someone strong enough to push
my wheelchair up the ramp.


—Donal Mahoney

On their 50th anniversary
Sammy gave Dolly a necklace 
and told his darling wife that
if they lived long enough
one of them would wake 
to find the other one had died.
"That's life," said Sammy.

And so it came to pass
Dolly rose one day
and found old Sammy
on the bathroom floor,
face blue, body cold,
arms outstretched,
an old man crucified.

This wasn't the first time
in 50 years Sammy had
ruined Dolly's day but now
free of fear, Dolly spoke:
"I never thought you'd die.
I'll have your ashes in an urn
and under dirt by end of day."


—Donal Mahoney

Saturday afternoon.
He's watching the Olympics
and she calls to say
she's still at the store.
Would he like to go
to a movie this afternoon?

He says he's watching
the Olympics and the U.S.
is on the verge of winning
a gold medal against Russia,
which is no small feat,
he reminds her nicely.

He asks the name of the movie
and discovers it's a chick flick
two men in the world
might like to see.

In an Olympic gesture
he agrees to go with her
if they can sit in the balcony.
He's amazed when she agrees.

When they get to the theatre
it's practically empty.
Everyone's at home, he says,
watching the Olympics.
They sit in the balcony,
the last row.

After an hour she admits
she doesn't like the movie
so they kiss a little.
He nibbles her ear and
puts a hand on her thigh.

He kisses her again
and whispers he's going
for the gold.
She's still his bride,
beautiful and new,
after 34 years.


—Donal Mahoney
You're standing on a window ledge
on the 50th floor of your building.
It's Valentine's Day in Manhattan,
clouds cruising, sun everywhere,

a nice breeze tossing your hair,
the taste of that woman always there.
Do you wonder what happens after
you jump or do you simply not care?

Does God meet you halfway down
and say "What a foolish thing to do."
Or does Satan appear and shout
"Here's the Magnus Doofus of my day."

Do you begin to wonder when
you're a foot above the asphalt
whether you'll hear the splat or
do you jump and simply not care?


—Donal Mahoney

Did I forgive her, you ask?
What a silly question.
Why wouldn't I forgive her?
The mother of my children,

she's been dead for years.
Our long war died with her.
Did I attend her funeral?
I'd have been a distraction.

But I pray for her,
the repose of her soul.
She belongs in Heaven,
no denying that, up front

in a box seat after all
she's been through.
If I'm lucky, I'll find
the side door to

Heaven unlocked.
I'll sneak in quietly
and if Peter doesn't 
throw me out, I'll sit

in the bleachers.
The question is,
will I wave if she
turns around?


Today's LittleNip:

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.

—Rainer Maria Rilke


—Medusa, with thanks to Donal Mahoney for today's delectable poems. Donal, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His poetry and fiction have appeared in print and online publications in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his earliest work can be found at  Welcome to the Kitchen, Donal, and don't be a stranger!

—Anonymous 'Way Cool Photo

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Dandelion of Easy Plains

Blink Admires the Bushtit
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville


The thinnest glass between cat
and bird; between bushtit and his own
reflection in the window.
Tiny bird I’ve only seen in gossipy
flocks—but spring changes
everything. All afternoon that little
nondescript bird
peck-pecks solo/lovelorn at the glass
by my computer as I
tap-tap words for spring
and Blink our cat lusts to grab him
beak and feathers—this bird
gone mad to kill the enemy/himself.
The thinnest glass holds them
invisibly apart, and safe from spring’s
raw passion to spring.



Four sky-blue eggs
in a nestbox on field-fence; I note
WEBL (Western Bluebird) in the logbook.
We move on. Swallow babies
have fledged from box #5. While you
watch them soaring for bugs above the green,
I sit down in deep spring grasses.
Purple brodiaea and golden fiddle-neck
in bloom—a lovely, hazy-warm
morning. I open the binder to make my
notes. Feel something odd
between shorts-cuff and gaiters.
I’m sitting on a small
snake. You come to look.
“Let’s take it home, put it in our garden.
Gopher snakes are good.”
“What about these tiny rattles?
and the pit-viper head?”
It’s just a baby, and didn’t seem to take
offense—not like the other rattlers
I’ve met on this bluebird-trail. We leave it
to its lovely warm spring morning.



That land’s stunted in its womb, pressing
out rock like shell casings, eroded
by floods down the tilted creek; thin-skin
soil for unthrifty oaks on twisted roots.
Man’s no more than the dandelion
of easy plains, a break of willow.
I seek the borderland gap for coyote
dark before dawn, and night
looses its imperfect span of silence.
Now the small hawk screams low,
chasing plumes of sky. Reality’s angel-
choir, invisible birds start singing
from the wind’s scroll. Bone, rock, sinew,
and soul hold what the flesh won’t.   



It started out by hammering. Hard, aching
work with a sing-song refrain.
His arms developed rhythm like an urge
to speak; each hammer-stroke a syllable
wishing to become a word. The ache
moved muscle to brain, accents colliding
with each other, German with Spanish,
Latin, Old Provençal. His head throbbed
gibberish, nursery-rhymes in tongues
he’d never heard, playing leapfrog
with English. Sleep came hard, broken by
hypnagogic startles. One morning he
woke, hair at attention, reaching for sky-
messages, words out of dream, the hammer-
stroke rhythm demanding dance and
song. No matter the words, call it a poem.



what they call the sterility
of winter, someone lit a thousand
white candles on the rhubarb we planted
last summer. And o the green
contours of clover covering the ground!
In this garden there is no fall
from good graces.
No more gunshy at the crack of dead
branches—now I must rifle
through a thesaurus
just for the words of this morning.


Today's LittleNip:

Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!"

—Robin Williams


—Medusa, thanking Taylor Graham for today's sumptuous fare, and wishing us all the best of the Vernal Equinox!

Rhubarb at the Graham's

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Is This Another Ghost Tour?

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis

Recess, a break from formulas
and books, hanging out with teacher.
Going back I rode my bike
flying on the bicycle lane
all going the same direction.
A tunnel up ahead so I
left the pack, pulled into a lot
where old vehicles set, stored.

From that low place, I could see
the street, a traffic light, signs.
If I climbed with my bike
we could cross, I thought, but once
at that place, water swirled below
abandoned trains created
another barrier
like a trapeze artist, I was

alone on the brink with my bike.


—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

As soon as the snow finally melted
In Northern Illinois,
My grandfather decided it was time
To hike the three miles
West of town,
Out to the Hollow
To look for Indian bones, arrowheads,
Whatever we could find.
We never saw any artifacts,
Though I remember
Budweiser cans in the ditch,
And not a few dead dogs.
And pussy willows.
Lots of pussy willows,
Which we’d cut and
Put in our bag. Nobody
Appreciates your
Bringing home a dead dog
Any way.


—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

He is untethered
beaten up by the night.
Dropping pennies all over the house
he asks, Is this another ghost tour?
He is between a hard rock and a place
with the Angel of Death breathing down his neck.
He is bound together at wrists and ankles
with a raging demon.
Our thumbs bleed
from breaking down steel doors.
He has stitched my stocking toe to the carpet
so I won’t leave.
In the clove-scented white light
the serpent’s tongue stings my eye.
With the twist of a molecule
the moon flies beneath the clouds.

*  *  *

The moon flies beneath the clouds.
Our thumbs bleed.
He is bound together at wrists and ankles
beaten up by the night,
by a raging demon.
He asks, Is this another ghost tour?
Dropping pennies all over the house
so I won’t leave,
he has stitched my stocking toe to the carpet.
In the clove-scented white light
he is untethered,
breaking down steel doors.
With the Angel of Death breathing down his neck
he is between a hard rock and a place.
With the twist of a molecule
the serpent’s tongue stings my eye.

*  *  *

The serpent’s tongue stings my eye
so I won’t leave.
In the clove-scented white light
our thumbs bleed.
With a raging demon
and the Angel of Death breathing down his neck,
he is between a hard rock and a place,
beaten up by the night.
Dropping pennies all over the house
he asks, Is this another ghost tour?
He has stitched my stocking toe to the carpet.
He is breaking down steel doors
with the twist of a molecule.
He is bound together at wrists and ankles.
He is untethered.
The moon flies beneath the clouds.


 —Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Cynthia Linville

What are the years
but drops of water on the palm
five—just a handful
ten—a small mouthful
that is gone
the throat already parched
before she says
I'm leaving.


—James Lee Jobe, Davis

The mud on my work boots is as thick as the walls of Jericho. maybe thicker. The raw, black sky whispers to me that it will rain again, at any moment. The air is heavy, and my breathing is difficult, as though I were breathing through a warm, wet blanket. I wash a large mushroom with water from my thermos, and eat it right there. Lightening flashes, followed by a long, low roll of thunder. I settled under a huge willow tree, my back to the trunk. In no time at all the beautiful show begins.

—James Lee Jobe

All the long morning I walk
through the harbor front
in the slow, steady drizzle.
There is a wildness to the city.
Pigeons, mice, spiders.
Opossum on Federal Hill.
An oak with an Oriole nest.
In the water, who knows what?
Fish, oysters, crab.
Overhead, geese returning to Canada.
From the cracks in the concrete
blades of grass and weeds poke through.
Even with skyscrapers above me,
the wilds of nature are everywhere.


—James Lee Jobe

It is only March,
but there are signs of spring,
and although I enjoy winter,
I find some hope in that.
All four seasons are fine with me,
it is change itself that I like.
The three redwoods in my front yard
where just taller than a man
when we moved into this house,
and now they are well above the roof.
In that same time our family has also grown.
The three children are now adults
and there is a lovely grandchild.
My wife and I have gone grey
and the yard work is getting difficult.
Some things that used to matter
now don't matter at all,
and I find myself giving thought
to things that once I did not care about.
My season is changing, too.
I can feel spring coming.
It isn't here yet, but it's coming,
and I like that.


Today's LittleNip:

—Cynthia Linville

pressed to the wall like
an Yves Klein painting

crying at breakfast
teetering just this side of crazy

out the window:
tiny green heart-shaped leaves

with the blink of an eye
the sky shouts

the cage door is open—
fly out



—Photo by Cynthia Linville