Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Unzipping Our Stapled Souls

If Pigs Can Fly, Why Not Sheep?
—Photo taken in Berkeley by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The wind came up, a wind as chilly as a
plaster bust of Keats. It blew into the mind
of sheep—our sheep, confined by labor
of stockwire fencing, but they found a gap
and out they slipped from misty field, in
search of who knows what green pastures
in the mind of sheep. Past the cattail pond,
onto grassy verge of two-lane—whoosh
of traffic and there goes the paramedic van
with a siren wail to startle even sheep along
the road of loss and finding. Who knows
what wind blows in the mind of sheep?


—Taylor Graham
Incredible to be cut free
from life, and sewn back as if whole;
my thoughts still scattered as they be—
how to unzip my stapled soul?

The sky so brighter, blue as sea
and blessing like a bough of tree
the old body inert as coal.
How I’d unzip my stapled soul

and let it loose, if it might see
what I’ve been blind to; a peep-hole
beyond my reach; now hopefully—
help me unzip my stapled soul!

 —Photo taken in Ashland, OR by Cynthia Linville

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
Was Bloomington Illinois,
Was the seventies,
Was a tiny house
But it didn’t matter:
Our first place, first
Home together.

We wanted plants, inside
And out
(Don’t we all?).  Was
At a service club yard sale.
Saw the weeping fig
I’d always dreamed of.

Huge, appropriately, even
Healthy.  The one I needed,
Wanted, had to have.  Five
Gallon pot, recently
Dampened.  Heavy, they
Said, need help?

Nah, I said, I’ll carry it;
Friends will see me,
Help me out.  Two miles,
Grunting, sweating later,
I realized, I didn’t
Have any.

 —Photo taken in Ashland by Cynthia Linville

—Caschwa, Sacramento
Approval rating
Best choice
Boot gun
Broken promises
Buyer’s remorse
Can’t sink
Carnival game
Compromised data
Covered blemishes
Dark alley
Data pool
False advertising
Fear not
Fifth Amendment
Fool’s gold
Genuine article
Glass eye
Hot goods
“I know”
Instant replay
Just kidding
“Not guilty”
Optical illusion
Parole violator
Phony baloney
Photo finish
Printed word
Red herring
Solemn oath
Studio prop
Sure fire
Trap door
Trip wire
Wooden nickels
Yellow journalism

 —Photo taken at Joshua Tree, CA by Cynthia Linville


—Lelania Arlene, Sacramento

The party laughter and the rasp of lighters, always lighters… from outside my window and from down the hallway.

Waking to the dusty soft pine floors.

I’d stick my free Brush Bus toothbrush into the box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda and go huddle by the wall heater.

That heater bit if you weren’t cautious.

I always had tiny lines of scabbing, because I was always cold.

Everything was too real in those a.m.’s.

The smell of the coffee can of lard that lived on the stove. Sharp, rancid.

The pull of the community Goody Hair Brush.


You have cotton candy hair.

Tips of my ears and eyes stinging. 

The walk of shame was my wheelhouse when I was a child.

Dirty cuffs and shoelaces.

Scurrying off with rings of dirt around my neck, to the steamy cafeteria for my free breakfast.

I always gave my milk to my brother.

Maybe today a sticker, a bit of praise from the librarian where I hid during recess.


—Lelania Arlene

Krony the Jackalope kicks the sphere of time while slack-eyed dreaming.
He drools from curled rictus lips past the two fer of his gap teeth.
The garden burns whilst Bernie Terrapin fiddles mad songs, butterflies singed and screaming.
He Johns the tricks with tricksy licks jigging amongst the heath.
The longest night of the year and the critters are beaming.
While the sandman and moon watch sloe-eyed and scheming.
Horus alone waits for Set and tales of eye and testicle funerary unwreath.


—Lelania Arlene

Diddle-dawdling with Kuno the love-lapper,

Crossing fields of new grass and ancient ploughs.

Found things, Mud Slide Slim located exotic,

Skirt the dresser drawers that line up like gravestones.

Hives where brother trespassed, paid in swell.

Turtle shell recently vacated, peering I feel trespass.

Don waist deep in crick, flogs his hairless head with stinging nettle.

Toads as witness, they jump off the bridge, mortified,

Alarmed by man’s aberrant scourge, nature's degradation.

Wild rhubarb blushes as if abashed, they have no word for blasphemy.


Today's LittleNip:
—Lelania Arlene

A little bit gentle now,

a little bit drizzly and black.

I ride a becalmed horse,

with jujube hooves on licorice streets.

Street clouds follow in my wake,

Lighted snapshots the scenery.


Our thanks to today's diverse artists for this New Year's Eve champagne and caviar, and a note from the Bay Area's Jannie DresserI would like to let you and your community know a couple of things that I'll be launching on New Year's Eve: 

—a new "California Poets" website to share and celebrate poems and poets of our state (
—a poem-of-day class for the month of January hosted through Nicenet (it is free)

If anyone wishes to be notified about either, feel free to contact me at or link up on Facebook's new California Poets page that I created. Thanks!



—Photo (with good advice) taken at 
the Berkeley Pier by Cynthia Linville

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Now You Can Sleep...

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


How do I not give you rhyme now—
suspend in the moment—a direction.

I guide you : words—time between
words—attendants attending.

I, at the measurement of this,
write slowly now : do not waste

or lose a word.
Word,    Word,     Come to me.

Love permeates—spills over—
fills itself with going—grief

before grieving, farewell refused
—Oh, Love,    help us,    help us,

lead us out of this. You—focal point—
receiver and giver of yourself,

hold my hand now as I am holding yours.


Muse with me while we gather light for a poem.
We will read it later—

tell each other what it means,
then reminisce awhile,

compare amazements—how much our lives
are parallel—

how many years
we’ve known each other,

while we confess,
or commiserate—

let down the burden of our cares
to hold each other’s dark—

find some new/old words
to fill our many silences with explication,

then laugh—
or cry—

whichever is needed. 
Old friend, as close and separate as we are,

I muse these thoughts for you
from this old, well-worn and reliable, loving heart. 


Come rescue me.
I am going insane in the city.
The madnesses are all around me,
drawing me to them.

I have swallowed
all the aspirin
my throat will hold.
I laugh too many hours of the night.
My friends undo my hands
from endless suicides.
We save each other daily.

Thank-god for
kindly telephones
with long emergency numbers
I keep on hand to use;
thank-god for
all the work I never finish.

If I had time to
write the letters
I might tell you what there is
to fear about me.

Come for a day or two
and bring your news.
Meet the complicated people
who confuse me with their pleasures.
Come for the fun of it
and bring your envy.


And we were young and bent on suicide, but friends
dissuaded us—took our hands and ran us along the
beaches—all summer, teasing the waves and watching
the white gulls come down among us as if they were
tame. But these are lies, of course. I need your attention.
I need you to hold me from what might have been true—
if I had known you. Is that why we had no faces—only
those white masks—stark and featureless so no one would
know us, though we cried to be known; is that how we
became anonymous? Where were you then, my imaginary
one; were you on your way to important appointments—
famous and aloof—could I have touched you?


Her kiss was soft against my face—
elegant as a turn toward the next piece of music.

Her arms around me pressed and pulled away.
Mine did the same.
Our faces moved apart.

Our greeting was quick, but tender.
There was joy in our hello. Our embrace
was brief, but dancer-slow.

Our few words got scattered
in the choreography-talk of others—
that smooth camaraderie—that soft din—

that coming together of friends
on some occasion in honor of itself.
We worked the room. All evening

we would be here—mutual and warm—
part of  the performance. And when
the evening ended, we would embrace again.



Your words splat at the window—like rain
that stops at glass; and even so, some words

get through—not quite intact—blurrings of
message, or complaint—your last mouthings

that fall, as futile as ever, telling where you
have been, and what you no longer need or

love; words without context now, fragments,
half-words, that still argue the old points—

your old reasonings—returning to speak
as rain, torn by wind and distance—too far

to imagine now—even though your words
blur in, and run down the glass, like weeping.


Who do you think I am in the moonlight every night
by the dreaming window, watching stars leap
above ghostly cows,
the moon growing dizzy with love?

Who do you think dries the bones of light
that shudder the curtains?

And who do you think howls the dogs to sleep?

Who do you think is in love with impossible sounds
from the mouths of flowers,
those moans of dying in unfamiliar vases
on moon-dusted surfaces?

Watch with me—help me remember—since you
are the one who started all this with your sighing
and crying—refusing to enter
the terrible dreams.

There is only one more hour before light
comes swaying over the distance that is night . . .
Say this again to yourself: only the distance
of the night . . .   Now you can sleep . . .


Today's LittleNip:


“To you I send a single snowflake, beautiful,
complex and delicate: different from all the others.”
             —Louis Jenkins ("Too Much Snow")

I wish to steal—
so beautiful in that
poem I read by another—
mine now.


—Medusa, noting that this week's Seed of the Week is Caught by Surprise: send poems, photos and artwork about that subject (or any other!) to No deadline on SOWs, though...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wachet Auf!

Distant Domains
—Artwork by Patricia Wentzel, Sacramento

—Allegra Silberstein, Davis

Weathered driftwood
tossed up on Bolinas Beach
lines of the tree it once was
an eye where a branch
once reached out...
but this is only
outward description...

driftwood chance
ocean weathered
enters the soul...
the inward...
and you have found me. 

I am here.


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, Ca

I order
at the P.O.

clerk hands me
or credit?
she asks.


—Claire J. Baker

I don't
officially pray
don't thud down
on my knees
beside a bed
or altar.

But, hey
I whisper
helpful words
or monologues
into the air
most anywhere.

Celtic Cross
—Art by Patricia Wentzel 

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The one whose
smile I feel across
foggy miles
like sunrise.
The one who makes me grin clear
out of hospital.

When my voice
gets tight, the one who
opens her bag
and there’s a
spotted filly taking her
first step. The one who

brings me a
dried-up tuber to
care for, to
see how it
disappears into the earth
then magically blooms—

who brings me
this lesson to learn.
The one who
wakes before
dawn to weave us all like yarn
together, snakeskin,

oak leaf, swan’s
eye and Celtic harp,
and fairy
cadence; one click of the mouse
and here’s a coat of

so many
poems! So many
names, they would
run right off 
the page. But friends will find them-
selves in the music.   


—Taylor Graham

On the kitchen counter, a carafe of marsala—
too deep to drink, but dip a paintbrush
and swash it across an old brick wall, see
how it recalls the color of soil and autumn vines
that might twine verses against a window;
play of sun across fields at treeline. Follow.
Into the woods, a trail beaten into clay. Three
brushstrokes, look, a fox peers ruddy-dark
of shadow. Here’s animal-scat dotted red
with seeds of berry, at the base of a skeleton-
tree—gray storm-struck cedar pocked
with acorn holes and crevices where a density
of insect life goes on. Cricket-strings
and frog percussion. Higher up the trunk,
a cavity glows with eyes. What creature? One
dead tree becomes baroque intensity of life.
Move on. Splurge with your red brush,
the color-wash forms itself to river pounding
over falls, dropping into pools marsala-red
with sunrise. Clarity of air and water
with a brushtip incarnadine.


—Taylor Graham

You’ve been looking at the wallpaper too long. A kind of striped floral pattern deep and intricate as Victoriana, like the chandelier that used to hang overhead. Once, you had gumption to get rid of all those crystal tears, and paint over the florid paper—document of somebody else’s life. But now it’s showing through again. You imagine flowers twining themselves together on their striped bars, pushing roots deep into wallboard. You stare at it like discarded newspaper that blew against the bedroom wall. As if it bore a message: Lie down, just go to sleep. At night the pattern thickens into dream. This wall-paper could go on forever. Open the curtains. Wake up, out the door.

—Art by Patricia Wentzel

—James Lee Jobe, Davis

I want to turn and see you there in the field,
Among the even rows of corn and tomatoes.
I want for you to become like a vegetable,
Rooted in our rich soil, and growing stronger
From the sun and the earth and the showers.
In the roots I will know the gentleness of your hair,
And in the stalks I will feel your firm, ripe body.
When the harvest comes I will release you
With my easy touch and with my lightest kiss.
I will then take into my home, into the kitchen
To be prepared for the feast. And dear one,
You will know that you have lived when I eat you.


—James Lee Jobe

The sound of bullets in the air, the knowledge
That more bodies are but a second from falling.
Bits of lead that cut through the air like rockets.
Death meets life as life meets death. 
The sunlight needs the darkness as much
As the darkness needs the new sun.
Blood sprayed on the trees and the ground.
Bodies. Parts of bodies. The screams and cries
Of those whose lives are now shattered, mixed
With the screams of those who are dying.
The trees dance in the dawn breeze.
That which is green still grows, beautiful,
Complete and perfect, untouched by death.
A terrified dog hides behind a parked car,
Then the car explodes and both are gone.
Somewhere nearby a child is crying.
What have I done? What am I a part of?
I will stand up once more and feel
The morning air on my face.
The end of this life might be moments away
And there is only one thing I can say,
"Forgive me." And only one thing I can do,
To spend my last seconds simply walking away
From this.


—James Lee Jobe

When the sun comes up again, I won't be with you.
Don't look for me in the world, look for me
Where the world is not. In your thoughts, in your breath.
Look for me in your dreams, in those paintings
Made of memory. It doesn't matter, you know. This
Isn't even close to being all that there is.

When the sun comes up again, I won't be with you.
The door is open, and I intend to walk through.
The window was left up, and I am ready now
To fly away. The ocean is calm, warm, and the time
Is ripe to wade out, then swim into the deep water.
Far past the buoys, out where the water is dark.

When the sun comes up again, I won't be with you.
I have cleaned the tools, and put them all away,
Each one in its proper place. I brought in the linen
From the line. I fed the pets and gave them my love.
And I give you my love, too. For in the end, at
The finish, what else is there to give or receive?


—James Lee Jobe

Please let me rest now. My soul
Is a tired and worn-out muscle,
Overused, and somewhat broken with time.

I need to close these eyes
For a very long time, eons, and then wake
In another life, in another world.

I have exhausted my voice, for I spoke
Far too much. I have ruined my heart
Because I beat it like a drum.

No, don't be sad for me. No need.
I never wanted to live here
Forever. A beginning and an end.

And no, don't be sad when I am gone.
Life is a wheel, rolling in and
Rolling back out again. And again.

And again.

Today's LittleNip:

wachet auf
—Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

Just here 
Between aborning day 
And decrepit night 

There is 
Music in the sky 
In the teeming light 

That would 
Suage deluge of dreams 
Set all things aright



Pyramid of the Sun
—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

Sunday, December 28, 2014


—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Henry David Thoreau

Within the circuit of this plodding life,

There enter moments of an azure hue,

Untarnished fair as is the violet

Or anemone, when the spring strews them

By some meandering rivulet, which make

The best philosophy untrue that aims

But to console man for his grievances.

I have remembered when the winter came,

High in my chamber in the frosty nights,

When in the still light of the cheerful moon,

On every twig and rail and jutting spout,

The icy spears were adding to their length

Against the arrows of the coming sun,

How in the shimmering noon of summer past

Some unrecorded beam slanted across

The upland pastures where the Johnswort grew;

Or heard, amid the verdure of my mind,

The bee’s long smothered hum, on the blue flag

Loitering amidst the mead; or busy rill,

Which now through all its course stands still and dumb

Its own memorial,—purling at its play

Along the slopes, and through the meadows next,

Until its youthful sound was hushed at last

In the staid current of the lowland stream;

Or seen the furrows shine but late upturned,

And where the fieldfare followed in the rear,

When all the fields around lay bound and hoar

Beneath a thick integument of snow.

So by God’s cheap economy made rich

To go upon my winter’s task again.



Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Carafe of Possibilities

—Drawing by Alexis Alberine
—Poems by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


A poem like this can only get you into trouble.

I’ve found gold in the language that cannot be extracted.
The demons are on its streets warning people to disperse.
The flocks of dark birds have begun to gather under the house eaves.
Somewhere in there, someone is playing a saxophone unmelodiously.
What look like verses are merely windows.  Someone will be watching.

The streets seem to wind on forever with shop after shop full
Of wonderful things.  The smells could drive you to madness.
They are of the things of dreams and are carried by fair children.
But they stop suddenly at a line's end and one can go no farther.

How about you just stop involving yourself here soon
While you can still go tell your friends and family what
It is you were doing when this happened to you.
They will understand after awhile and offer prayers and novenas.
There will be ceremonies with candle bearers in white surplices.

A great steam locomotive may be heard a couple of streets over.
Behind it, one can still hear the river pounding over a great hidden waterfall.
We will keep going upriver.  Like before.  We wouldn’t want to lose
Contact at this point, would we?  That would be quite a predicament.

The clarity of the air is absolute.  It seems it has been night now
For such a long time.  It is like those shadows the sea keeps to itself.
I know this poem is not going to be very reliable much longer.
It seems to serve as a kind of warehouse, but majestic and constantly moving.
You may ride in the purser's cabin until we reach the next port.
We seem to have come very, very far without understanding a single word.

 Tule Fog Through a Screen
—Photo by D.R. Wagner


As I remember it, there wasn’t much
Mystery to the entire thing.  I was more
Than surprised when you began to remove
Your clothing, telling me this was so I would
Not forget you.  As I remember it, the light
Was coming into the room from the streetlight,
Cutting across the end of the bed and across
Your breasts and thighs.  I couldn’t see your face
For the shadow.  I wasn’t unwilling.  I did want you.

I recall hoping I could wake up the moon
Just so it could have a look at you with that blue
Skin and the way your hair moved when you shook
Your head.  It glimmered and caught tiny ghosts
That half-lit your mouth when you kissed me.

As I remember it, there wasn’t any time at all.
You would be gone before I knew you were there.
I guess I wanted a baroque density of experience
That had nothing to do with any pretext for
Staying in the room with you as long as possible.

Later, I would go down to the bar feeling I had
Been miraculously saved from some terrible danger.
The night giving up its secrets in cricket sounds
And frog voices.  And incarnation of circumstances.

We never talked about it.  We never talked about it.
Your skin felt like dark earth.  I thought I had come home.

—Drawing by Zendra Hines


Once, when we were traveling,
When we realized there wasn’t anyplace
We wanted to spend the rest of our lives,
When what we had was the pleasure
Of our bodies and a carafe of possibilities
We could not explain or react to without
Feeling we had been occupied with some tropical disease
That was like a Delphic vision whenever we fucked,
I tried to explain how it was we had discovered the world.

And you told me to shut my mouth.
“You may not have consequences from this,
No matter how hard you work that whispering
Brain of yours.  I will not allow it.  This is fortune’s
Net.  It will be gone before we reach the next port."

I opened you up like an electric current,
Like I would never see you again.
I don’t even want to talk about it like this.
To make matters worse, we did not know
Where we were, and it was the rainy season.

Weeks later, I was watching the rains wash
The roots of the trees right away from the earth.
"Don’t take any chances," I remember saying
As we became caught across the current
Of the river.  I thought I kept hearing your voice,
That we were moaning together as the flood
Swept us downriver.  How could I have been
So wrong.  On a steamy Sunday morning
I found myself awakening from a thick dream.
You were nowhere to be seen.  The captain
Said I had been in fever for three days and that you
Had left the ship with a Danish man yesterday, to explore
Some caves that could only be entered at very high water.  

 Surfers at Bolinas
—Photo by D.R. Wagner


When I boarded the barge
The climate was already changing.
Something was drifting in my eyes
That made me feel like I was trying to outrun
A storm, left me thinking that notes,
Torn signs on buildings and on discarded newspapers
Had some kind of message for me.  It was like
Neglect had something powerful to say to me.
Deny all shores, it said, stay aboard as long
As possible.  Disregard all gestures to explain.

 Beach Debris, Bolinas
—Photo by D.R. Wagner


Punching up the night.
The wait seemed interminable.
The first stars began to appear.
I was pulling on the rope,
Hauling myself up from
The glow of the headlights
Into a place where you could see me
Once again, like it was when I first loved you.

The blur was phosphorescent.
Everyone seemed to be saying
Things in passing, as if difficulty
Was a special kind of clothing
Used only when one was in despair.

I changed my own clothing quickly and left
Anything that might look like a room.
Documents blew across the lawns.

I have someone who watches everything.
I no longer have to worry about who is good
Or bad.  She keeps a list.  She says it changes
Minute by minute, despite overwhelming odds
And superior weapons.  “I’ll take care of everything,”
Said my savior.  I never thought to ask for a name.


Today's LittleNip:


The whole world
is a cemetery.
Some people dig
The holes.
Other people
Fill them back


 —Drawing by Alexis Alberine

Friday, December 26, 2014

Inspirations That Transform

Starry Goddess
—Poems and Artwork by Patricia Wentzel, Sacramento


The mental health technician sits in the hallway
Outside the group room where the TV is blaring.
One person is taking up an entire couch,
Swaddled in blankets,
Only his face showing.
They won’t let him sleep in his bed during the day,
So he comes here.
Amid the noise and busyness
Of a dozen bored and crazy psych patients,
He tries to sleep.

Every few minutes the tech gets up and makes the rounds,
Checking each room for trouble.
Some patients are allowed to lie down during the day,
Some are not.
Some are allowed to stay in their rooms during the day,
Some are not.
Some are allowed to close their doors most of the way,
Some are not.
Some are allowed art supplies,
Most are not.

Today the tech is looking for one person in particular.
An Eyes On Every 5 minutes patient seems to be eluding her.
She finds the patient and calls for help.
He has stolen a plastic knife and cut himself.
Since it’s a plastic knife, and a dull one at that, the wounds are superficial.
But this means a transfer and no utensils,
Finger foods only from now on.

The phone in the hallway rings.
No one answers it.
Finally I reach out and pick up the receiver,
waiting for the click that means the call has connected.
A flood of Spanish pours forth
and I hastily ask for the name, what’s the name?
Being conscientious I call the name out loudly,
then walk down the hall halfway to call out the name again.
I finally return and tell them to call back.
I know they don’t understand but it’s the best I can do.
They’re lucky I’m well enough to answer the phone today.

I return to my room to swaddle myself in blankets
and sit on a chair in the corner,
(being one of those who’s not allowed to lie down during the day)
having spent my small supply of sanity
on a phone call for someone else.

 Florentine Miniature


I am a closeted consumer of mental health services.
What’s with the closet you say?
You may not realize it but
this world is not a safe place for us.
We get shot and tazed and beaten and robbed.
We lose our jobs, our children,
our homes and our lives
every day.
We are incarcerated and condemned
to eat bologna sandwiches for years.
If we are lucky, we are confined,
only briefly, to a psychiatric facility
in a time of crisis and
no one finds out.

For, to come out of the closet is to risk everything.
To come out of the closet is to have your whole world change.

In whispers just a little too loud,
family, friends and co-workers
now confer over your every moody moment
or sleepless night.
Sometimes you wind up bullied
by some well-meaning person
who just can’t leave you alone,
so committed are they to their
self-appointed role of rescuer.
Friends begin re-examining your history together,
looking for signs of your illness.
Some friends and family start blowing and
showing the whites of their eyes
like horses startled by a snake.
How are you supposed to cope with that?
Bosses now have an explanation for
all your little quirks and
they too begin reviewing the recent past
looking for clues, symptoms,
handwriting on the wall.
Lovers are the hardest ones to tell.
so much to lose,
rejection practically guaranteed.
So now you know why
I am a closeted consumer of mental health services.
It’s clearly the safest place to be.

Green Christmas Tree


The wolf peers out from between the sheets and the elaborate cap
pulled down over her ears.
Grandmother’s cap—puffy and soft
like a delicate pastry with fanciful lace and tiny flowers
piped in place by a master baker

Was grandmother a delicacy?
A sweet spicy cupcake topped with scented icing,
her cap a leftover liner meant to be discarded
but used once more by a wolf
for whom baking is an irrelevant art,
an absurdity in a world of fast food, no leftovers?

Curly Chai


How could I have been so stupid?
I knew better but I opened the door anyway.
Sure enough, there she was.
Teeth dripping gore,
eyes red in the firelight,
claws ready to rip and tear.
It was all over in a few moments:
The cordial greetings,
the tea poured,
cream and sugar and iced cookies eaten.
Preliminaries out of the way,
she killed me
and took my cap for her own.

 Black-and-White Star


I should pick it up, she thought,
gazing at the dark red cloak
puddled on the floor.
Granny had made it for her
and she ached with the pain of that loss.
But she couldn’t bear to touch it,
not right now.
Fury rode her, revenge obsessed her.
But the woodsman had stolen her revenge.
He had killed the wolf with one stroke,
when she hungered to strike it over and over
until the cap and gown disappeared in a pool of dark red blood. 

 Bold and Beautiful


I crooned to the pups when I found them.
I regretted killing the wolf.
It was only a wild thing doing what wild things do.
She had sealed her fate when she killed the old woman
and I could not have saved her.
Better an easy death, a single blow that cleaved her skull in two,
leaving the fanciful nightcap in two bloody halves.



I am a terrible poet.

My phrases are blunt like a leather mallet
    or the last knife in the drawer.
I use pretentious words of four syllables or more,
    words like exuvium, penultimate and interstices.
My poems lack the allusions and metaphors that catch your breath
    and fling you helter-skelter into new ways of seeing.
Instead of an enchanting path that meanders through gardens of words,
    my poetry is like an arrow-straight walkway, laid perpendicular to the street,
    surrounded by green lawns and shrubbery.

When I read my poetry to my wife she sometimes gets a slightly pained expression on her face.
    She was an English major.
At moments like that I feel mildly embarrassed.
At moments like that I find myself wishing my poetry were different.

I dream of phrases that flow more smoothly,
    cut more cleanly to the heart of the matter.
I long for the inspiration that transforms simple words
    into passages of quiet power and unexpected depth.
I crave the ability to turn metaphors to my hand,
    to use them to inspire and provoke.
I aspire to great skill with poetic forms,
    to impose my will on the landscape of my words.

But my mind doesn’t seem to work like that.

So I write poetry that doesn’t rhyme,
may require the use of a dictionary
and tends to go straight to the point.

The fact is I’m a terrible poet.
But I decided not to let that stop me.


Poet/Artist Patricia Wentzel (who is NOT a terrible poet!) is new to poetry but not to art. After many years as a visual artist, she took up poetry in October 2014 and enjoys the particular challenges of this medium. She takes great pleasure in reading for her friends at the Sacramento Poetry Center. Welcome to the Kitchen, Patricia!

And convergence Editor Cynthia Linville writes: The Winter 14 Issue of convergence is Online at January 5 the deadline for the next two issues.


Today's LittleNip:

Kwanzaa isn't a replacement for Christmas or even Hanukkah. Kwanzaa has nothing to do with religion and while some may twist it to be political, in its nature it is not. Kwanzaa is not the tool of its creator. Kwanzaa has a life of its own. Kwanzaa is about the spirit of people—all people, regardless of color or race. Kwanzaa is a holiday of the human spirit—not the divine. The two were meant to co-exist peacefully.

—Author Unknown

We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.

—Maya Angelou


—Medusa, wishing you Heri za Kwanzaa (Happy Kwanzaa). For more about Kwanzaa, see

Patricia Wentzel

Thursday, December 25, 2014

December Treats

Lobster-Trap Tree
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Denise Flanigan


Clinging onto a town's lottery ticket
a poet finds on the road
which gets him into
"The Gingerbread House"
for a wonderful contented
meal of fish chowder
red wine and filet of lemon sole
the hot ginger Chinese tea
now between my fingers
and after a hearty meal
feeling as a French troubadour
play my sax by the Bay's mouth
against the woodland birches
talking to the ferryman
on the dock who oil paints
now drawing horse hoof prints
the light over the Bay
with an old fashioned carriage
having the snow fringe on top.



What renews a poet
and sax player
is playing riffs by the window
in a sprawling life forever
by sand, dock, shell of the sea
ever-changing as an echo
from the home harbor
snowflakes on the crossroad elm
outside my walled-in rooms
of a sound-proof studio
in a December dawn
wishing for contentment
by this elephant lamp
that I built by hand
in woodworking class
seasons ago
taken from an album photo
of a Mumbai, India's tent
that time makes clearer
in a wrapped-up memory,
outside, a few last sparrows
are at last in their feeder
where sunshine may arise
birds wishing to sing
over the moors and birches
by the fearless sparkles
and white sprinkles
of tiny snowflakes
off the dark rainy Bay
losing myself in laughter,
now leaving my rooms
to run down green hills
in bated breath
after spying the fabulous turtle
looming on muddy stones
by newly eaten tall grass
culled from the watery dunes
mirrored by the ocean
who needs rescue
in a simple life of nature
from phrases held back
until now
in my Thursday diary
at 10 A.M.


The chess bums
as they call themselves
yet very literate
ask me to play a game
on the park lunch bench
where they hang out
listening to jazz radio
wanting contentment here
even as lightning flashes
by the lighthouse and tower
here is Rapunzel, with long hair
with a shrubby Christmas tree
in her Volvo
who leads the house, ice,
round and barn
town's dance company,
offering us the best coffee
on this cold morning,
jelly donuts, Danish
or her oatmeal cookies
for the others
and a croissant for the poet
she knowing of my diet
and opens a new dream vision
of blending tasty words
with a cordial
for my fans and friends.



In a feverish home town tour
of Christmas choirs
singing "Hark, the Angels Sing"
to Hanukkah in the Temple
by a Chagall painting
with angels, rabbis, lovers, beggars
in the blue and white of Vitebsk
your hometown of the poor
in Russia's village pale
an Armenian with a Greek cross
sells her radiant perfumes
and necklaces from Yerevan,
as Chinese dance on sidewalks
with so much ancient love
and contented reassurance
near a tambourine band of scouts
in the bluster of December.

 The Road to Giverny in Winter 
—Painting by Claude Monet, 1885


Chilled by the pink sunset
the silence of the snow
that slides down
the obscure leaves and branches
of trees nestled near us,
that watches us
reassured and contented
by still life and art
even on nippy noon days
in cold impenetrable embankments
face to nature's breath of winter
fading in white.


STUART DAVIS (1892-1964):

The shortest roads
by Cape houses,
everyone wants rest,
sleep and contentment
as gulls fly upward,
a poet wants
to release bread on wings
intertwined in a cloudy sky
over black roofs,
living joy is everywhere
an artist paints it
by the rain's slippery
doorways and windows
which once held
geraniums and wild roses.

 —Sketch by Stuart Davis, 1932

KENNETH PATCHEN (1911-1972):

Jazz poet
shine your light
on another Beat
with your whisper
coming alive
without pretension
we are tasting your Blakean-
Whitman chords of love
smashing false images,
icons in your horizon
breaking all tablets
and raging conventions
in the tension of our age
with your sensational words
and underground lines
for the subterranean
survivors of literary wars
from your visionary dreams.


KENNETH REXROTH (1905-1882):

Though Time called
you Father of the Beats
and you were of the San Francisco
your love poems helped
this wayfaring smooth jazz guy
in his travels and reflections
those silent days of his existence
in his pea jacket
by the snowy white shadows
of city life
always returning to you
Kenneth Rexroth
for the elemental music
in your lyrics
from my tiny wounds
healed in wrapped cloth
from your descendants
all original, some marginal,
mineral, animal or aboriginal
embracing the transcendent peace
as a pacifist will word
and encircle the world.


MODIGLIANI (1884-1920)

Here are your prints
in my old trunk
from France
poor and tubercular
with no place to settle
yet you draw portraits
of Picasso and Soutine
reading the poet Baudelaire,
Carducci, Nietzsche
or the wild prose poet
Comte de Lautreamont
needing to breathe a radiance
of the sea air port of Capri
devouring a can of sardines
with little support
when art from sorrows,
your gaunt yet cool face
rapt lids for eyes
a sad smile by overcast stress
has given us a space
striking us with a way
to know ourselves.


Today's LittleNip:

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

—Dr. Seuss


—Medusa, wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas!

B.Z. Niditch

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmastime in America

—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


You see the oddest things
at Christmastime in America.
The bigger the city,
the stranger the sights.
I was driving downtown
to buy gifts for the family
and enjoying bouquets
of beautiful people
bundled in big coats
and colorful scarves
clustered on corners,
shopping in good cheer
amid petals of snow
dancing in the sun.

One of them, however,
a beautiful young lady,
had stopped to take issue
with an old woman in a shawl
picketing Planned Parenthood.
The old woman was riding
on a motor scooter
designed for the elderly.
She held a sign bigger
than she was and kept
motoring back and forth
as resolute as my aunt
who had been renowned
for protesting any injustice.
Saving seals in the Antarctic
had been very important to her.

On this day, however,
the beautiful young lady
who had taken issue
with the old woman
was livid and screaming.
She marched behind
the motor scooter and
yelled at the old woman
who appeared oblivious
to all the commotion.
Maybe she was deaf,
I thought, like my aunt.
That can be an advantage
at a time like this.

The letters on the sign were huge
but I couldn't read them
so I drove around the block
and found a spot at the curb.

It turned out the sign said,
"What might have happened
if Mary of Nazareth
had been pro-choice?"
Now I understood
why the young lady
was ranting and raving
and why the old woman
kept motoring to and fro.
At Christmastime in America
people get excited,
more so than usual.

When I got home
I hid my packages
and told my wife at supper
what I had seen.
I also told her that if Mary
had chosen otherwise,
I wouldn't have had
to go shopping today.
That's obvious, she said. 

 Cookie Fixin's


This year Teddy phoned me
from who knows where
instead of one of our siblings.
This year I’m the honoree
but it’s only a matter of time
before he gets angry again.
He’s stifling his anger
because of the holidays.
He wants a place to eat
and a share in the family glee.

But Sissy is right about Teddy
being nice when he reaches out
after going away for months.
He likes to fly in for a holiday,
enjoy a bountiful repast,
fall back in his chair and
issue the old accusations
recited whenever he visits.

He’s the youngest of seven
and swears every time he comes
that Mom and Pop treated us better,
that he got the hand-me-downs.
I’m afraid if he’s not on his meds,
there’ll be an encore this year.

Right after coffee and dessert
and several snorts of brandy,
Teddy will become a blowtorch
and burn for at least an hour,
scorching us with memories.
The siblings will go up in flames
along with Mom and Pop
gasping in their graves.

If it happens again this year,
I’ll take the floor after him
and point out that Gertrude Stein
said a rose is a rose is a rose
but failed to point out that
a twit is a twit is a twit.
And if reincarnation awaits us,
as Teddy says it does,
he’ll return as salmonella.



My boss has a problem with God
or rather a problem with me
because I believe in God
and he doesn’t.
Or so we discover
while taking a break
at a big convention.
I hope I don’t lose my job.

We’re in a bar with Lady Gaga
pouring from the juke box.
My boss has a whiskey sour
and I’m nursing a Coke.
God help me.

He doesn’t believe
faith is a gift no one’s
guaranteed but knows
some folks have it
and others don’t.
Why is that, he asks,
finishing his sour,
signaling for another.

I tap into memories
from philosophy class
and recite the proofs
for the existence of God
some folks accept
and others deny.
My boss sees the logic
but still doesn’t believe.
So I sip my Coke and say
faith is a gift logic can't buy.

A few more drinks and he asks
what a man must do
if he wants to believe.
Ominous, I think, but here goes.
My wife, after all, has a job
with benefits.

I tell him to ask the God
he doesn’t believe in
to grant him faith.
Ask Him more than once
and if he receives it
he will be amazed
that someone
like me believes. 


Would the death in Ferguson
have been as black and white
as many seem to think it is

if the victim had been
white as anthrax,
and the shooter

black as tar?
Would the aftermath
have been the same?

Would Pastor Sharpton
have flown to Ferguson
to address the masses

while the President
spoke gravely from afar?
Would businesses

have burned as bright
long into the night while
frozen cops watched?

I watched it on TV
with a cup of hot cocoa.
I’m the one to ask.



Alice, a mother and housewife,
watches her husband, the doctor,

out in the garden on weekends
weeding with a speed and ferocity

she can't muster, her energy spent
taking care of the kids.

They never discuss his work
at the clinic where he digs

bulbs out of wombs, snuffing 
any chance for blooms.



They had to operate,
remove the one,
and from the other
take a nugget.
Later in the hall
they said they got it all.
They said how well
she’d be with rest.
Her first night home,
as we prepared for bed,
she turned to show me.
In my mind the cinema of fleet
but fecund years
ran through another time.

 Fixin' Cookies!


Granny wants to go to a movie
back in the old neighborhood
where she and Gramps used to
neck in high school but Gramps

doesn't want to drive that far 
and tells Granny he’ll go if she sits
in the balcony and wears a skirt
he can slide his hand under

during the Coming Attractions.
Granny asks Gramps if he isn’t
a little old for that kind of thing
and Gramps says he’d rather put

his head under there and let Granny
box his ears with her thighs
and listen to his sighs as he harvests
fruit still ripe in the orchard.



Pastor Homer is a jealous man
and Opal gives him fits
through 40 years of marriage
dancing, laughing
kissing other men
on New Year’s Eve 
when midnight strikes.

And every year when Opal
kisses other men
Pastor Homer in his party hat
toots his party horn
and hollers from his wheelchair,
“If Judas had a sister,
Opal, you'd be it.”


Today's LittleNip:


On the white lily,
wings of the Monarch
open and close.

Over coffee this morning
lips of Miranda
open and close.

Soon the Monarch
will take to the air.
Autumn is here.

As will Miranda
when Bill goes to work.
Nothing now to disclose.



Capitol Christmas Tree in Sacramento

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Blessing of Gratitude

Charlotte's Flowers
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


How may we go—slow
as mules—soft as sorrow,
singing our night songs
to each other?

How long must we travel
when the way is grief—
and I, your thief of happiness,
you, praising your emptiness?
I saw a flash of bird so rare . . .
and you disbelieved me. 
Here is its song.
I have learned it for you.



All night the freed bird sings of the empty cage
while I—bereft of song—press hands to ears.
Though shadow comforts me, I close my heart,
will not believe the touch I cannot feel.
My eyes are hot with sorrow, tears refused.
What do I want? I do not seem to know.
Now rain beats at the window. Ah, that’s good;
I understand the rain, the streaming glass,
where something begs at memory like a wing;
I am the glass—I am the beating wing
that tests illusion. Now the rain has stopped.
The shadow has not left me. It is love.
At last I cry. I ask love where it’s been.
Am I the cage that love finds comfort in?

(first pub. by Poets' Forum Magazine, 2006)

 Dandelion, Half-Hidden


Come, then, Sadness,
let me take you to my bed.
I will rock you like a child.
I will hold you like a lover.

You know me, too.
You have
not forgotten where I lived,
though I have moved and moved
to lose you.

You come out of these new shadows
to be near me.
We are both so cold
we are
beginning to look like winter.
If we
are all there is,
must we love?

Sometimes I tried to run off
with that sweet child Happiness.
But you hung around with your
pained look
till I was yours again.

Come, then, Sadness.
I will tell you all my news.
I will put on my dark-gown-mood
you love me to wear,
while you
with your faithful touch
stroke your happy tears
into my wet hair. 



Today the fog
takes on that shade of blue
that makes me feel a little sad—

softened by a tone
of happiness
that takes me back

to the dusty blue
of my mother’s shiny
evening dress that I envied so. 

Pink and Grey Rock on Red


Here is where it begins—the room with its familiar things; I
suddenly discover—see for the first time—how things connect
in a pattern: I stare at the blue cat in its blue-cat pose on top
of the TV and note how its very roundness solves the room, how
its enigmatic face with its closed eyes and its paws tucked under
seem a grace of contentment.

I bought it because it was blue.  I note how often it pulls my eye
to it; how easily it belongs where it is—under its dust—under
the slow creep of time that drifts everywhere.  I connect it now
to other blue things of the room: shifts of color to emulate the
mood. Even the shadows are blue and grow round.  And I think
how blue is a comfort, and a blue cat, however rare, is perfectly

(first pub. in Red Owl, 2003)



I am just the rain, come to waken you from your dry-
eyed dreaming. Wake easy. I am at your window—
streaming like summer tears, erasing the grime that time
likes to leave. Look how I shine as you peer through—
our transparent reflection in mirrored rivulets between.
If you wonder why I am so familiar—why you love me—
let me lure you outside. Leave your umbrella. Let it be as
it was the first time we walked together—all wet and
glistening—in mutual happiness. 

 Shale Rock, Leaf


patient tree
the narrow openness
of the lattice work
wending its way
its leaves
taking in the light and
fluttering in old happiness.


Today's LittleNip:


Where we are rich is where some happiness
fills a particular moment without reason or
specialty—only its little change of light
that makes its point at some lift of darkness—
and allows the blessing of gratitude . . . .


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's delights in the Kitchen, and a reminder to check Medusa's Facebook page for our new photo album from Katy Brown. Also checkable are some new items on our green board at the right, including a Webilicious link to Krampus (something to scare your kids into behaving). And our Seed of the Week is something for the season: Friendship. Send poems about that or any other subject to—no deadline on SOWs, though.


Orange Petals