Monday, June 30, 2014

Finding Seashells Like Peace

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Denise Flanigan


Your poetry lines
my bookcase
near German lieder
from Schubert
as I have my bagel
and dessert,
you wrote about Hegel,
and you were Jewish
in exile at Paris
with quotes and words
that embarrass,
in dark hallways
you compose
art songs and music
with the universal critic
deeply inside of you,
hating war as a curse
your verses, Heinrich
I always reach for.



Who wants those sands
or rocks in a soldier's boot
by sending again
our troops
to foreign lands
when our voices
cry out for the poor
the last thing we need
is another war,
here at the ocean
we teach swimming as fun
and to care for others
under the first light sun,
we need an intervention
a mention of social justice
not to be betrayed
by standing armies,
as we eat our oranges
and sleep here
on our sands' beach
we are finding sea shells
like peace in our hands
within our reach.

(St. John of the Cross, born June 1542)
I cannot sleep
as I toss and turn
even with red wine
last night before bed
only the pure words
in Spanish translation
of St. John of the Cross,
with his ineffable poetry
gives me peace
and divine elation,
awakening by dawn
with a perpetual dream
of my rowing on a kayak
and my face floating on
jumbled waves
on the lake
by baby Anabella
the new baby swan.


By the sea's white earth
writing off the Cape
the sea wind
rips your blanket
along the water's surf,
with the volume on
you twitter
like shore birds
in a foreign tongue
combing the beach
seeing ideas
at first light
and sway at the breeze
trying to read
your last revision,
when sounds as air waves
encourage the language
of the tides
which floats and rises
in dawning imagination
by the gulls' silence.


With a childhood path
to an island
of memory opening
from secretive eyes
known to shadows
entrapped by earth,
sky and ocean,
deserted from questions
and forgotten answers,
wanting to live again
along the shore's solitude
confessing the past
mesmerized by absence
of this surrounding nature
of exotic birds and fauna
a paradise without clouds
listening to a sea
of my own voice.


Waiting to jam
on Joy Street
where I once hid
after recovering
from the Red Scare
at the Garrison school
and marched for peace
with Denise Levertov
here to play
first jazz violin
yet feeling like
history is in my hand
as I meet a survivor
of the Lincoln Brigade
who fixes
the sound system
when a sudden rain
like pawns
on the chessboard
of my life invades
its liquid drops
during my
vaporous solo
over a wave
of sensation
at an open space
by revolutionary graves
on Boston's Esplanade
though my flesh murmurs,
the fiddle is ready
for a firestorm of song
music moves my life
involving my past.


Today's LittleNip:

A poet may be both God's rebel and saint.

—B.Z. Niditch



B.Z. Niditch

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Unexpected

Summer Wave Action
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

I got my last pay check
for teaching
last May Day
at our annual Bean picnic
when the students
called me in the yearbook
the beautiful beatnik
who opens our poetry door
and best guy
on the rowing team
the super art director
for our theater company
behind the scenes,
having the best for our future,
for bz the teacher we adore
signed class of 2013-14,
it seemed a happy hour
for all of us
until the clock stopped
then all my enormous dreams
for the summer suddenly
dashed against a big rock
on the Cape Cod sea
with my orange kayak
torn up
by a series of winter's blasts
breathing down on us
as windy Northeaster storms hit
and I was out of luck,
then faced a catastrophe
of a health worry and surgery
in so much trauma
with two of my close family
thousands of miles away
lecturing in the Holy Land,
yet I learnt a handy lesson
out of school
in a few doctors' hours,
how many friends rushed
to my bedside,
with cards, a singing bird,
red flowers, kind words
from all over the country
even money orders for a cab
being barely to get around
or pay the tab
and a restored boat
resting quietly
on the home harbor,
I knew the kind expressions
of love for me from friends
toward this teacher
on my timeless journey
now on hold,
realizing love will reach
and occur to us unexpectedly,
as we struggle with trials
as they suck us down or enfold
that giving from the heart
as the prophets or King Jesus
preached so many years ago,
is more precious,
if it be told,
than a loss of ego
or part-time income
silver dollars or gold.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Happiness Does Not Wait

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


This face the evening gives me
Seems a sad toy that once belonged
To a dresser of altars who has forgotten
All but the ashes of mystery, a beautiful
Laughter that echoes into the dark hemisphere
Where the dawn is considered useless.

We strive, knowing that we are being mocked
By roomfuls of mirrors, the light merely bouncing
From one to another.  Here you may see my face.
There you may see your own but you are able
To hold little but your ancestors. 

Perhaps one of them is just outside these words,
No longer a ghost, no longer built upon the stilts
Dreams bristle with, that they may poke our lives.
Come, let us stand outside ourselves and look
At the moon with him.  He has been there
Waiting.  We can give him our loneliness and something
Of the hunger that drove us here in the first place.

Perhaps I am reading this from a book of which
I know nothing of its beginning and less of its ending.
I am a labyrinth in myself and in every encounter
With every evening.  Most of the time I do not know
To whom I am speaking.  I love that you are still,
That your smile is kind, that you too enjoy these
Few moments of the evening, perhaps believing
That these are my dreams or that you could make
Them your dreams as well.  They may well be dreamt
By yet another and we are standing upon a plain,
Within a garden where the world is about to be created.

Elephant and Hippo


It has a place at the table.
I open the window and frighten
An owl but it does not fly away.

I remember the names of children
Who disappeared during the wars.
I saw a pile of children’s shoes
Heaped against a fence post
In late autumn just before
The light failed completely.

Through the window I could see
The floor was covered with broken
Glass.  She was sitting at the table
Holding her head with her hands.
She was sobbing but there was no sound.

Later in the evening, while walking,
I could hear a viola begin to lead
A quartet.  The music was coming
From a room high up in a building
Built in the middle seventeen hundreds.
Birds sat on the roof of the place.

I had no idea how long my hand
Had been bleeding.  Only that it had been
A long time.  I was still in the room.
The evening sun looked like an egg
Filled with blood.  It must have been
My imagination.  The phone began ringing.

After they showed me the photographs,
I knew they were lying.  Things could
Never have reached that state.  The
Taller man took a broken glass
From out of a canvas bag.
He placed it on the table.

I remembered I had heard her say
What I thought was my name.
But now, that hardly seems possible.
It has been years since the fire.
I turned off the lights, deciding
The dark was truly going to kill me.



There was a repeated figure
In the bass.  It evoked a huge
Sadness I had never heard
Expressed this way before.

“Please do not lie to me,” I begged.
She began to play the cello.
I couldn’t understand her sadness.
“I must,” she said, “otherwise
Everything will have been in vain.”

The destinations kept changing.
This was supposed to mean something
But we were no longer allowed to understand
Any of the images shown to us.

“I can’t waste my time on this crap,” I said.
“Please,” she said.  There were other people
In the room.  I knew one of them was a prince.
But even knowing this didn’t help me.
I could see he was caressing either a weapon
Or some kind of golden animal that could be
Used in only one way.  I prayed for the cello
To continue to try to explain everything.

Now... there are only three or four people
In the room.  One of them has taken up
The repeated figure I first heard.
“Try dreaming for a few minutes,” she said.

“Is this the right word?”
I began to weep softly.
The possibilities seemed endless.
I forgot we were only making music.

Happiness does not wait.  The prince
Allowed the cat to come very close
To me.  I was struggling to escape
An imagined importance in every action.

“Relax,” the prince said.
“My home is your home.
This is a perfect way to escape
Everything.”  I heard the gun discharge.

 Side of Stuart's House


The cup bearer was forced
To carry hearts into the moonlight.
There was nothing but a loneliness around him.

The binder of the Night was given
Reins to lead the nightmares
Into the dreams, but became so cold
The great windows of the dream
House crazed over with ice.
His breath exhaling turned to snow

The apprentice from the home of wings
Began to tear red paper and hurl
It to the wind.  He felt this was
Boring, heavy with repetition
And constantly becoming too dry.

Six men using truncheons
Lifted the body high over
The bed of paradise, freeing
The flesh from the bone.

Below the bones of the white deer
Before you and I could begin to cry.

It is so silent here.
The inside of an algebra problem.
A ring of parakeets
Seemed flaming of some deep truth.

They began to walk the desert
Disguised as gray and gray-black clouds,
Full of rain.



History lines up its endless legions of men.
The caves and sepulchers.  Millions and
Millions of skulls have been abandoned
By the spirit, the boats turned
Away in senseless battle and forgotten
Empires.  All of the cities have left
This earth long ago.  There are a few
Stories on distant islands.

What constant has a caress?
What does eternity forget?
The rain always continues, somehow,
Much as a dream choses to function.

An amorphous light begins weathering
Our bones.  It is full of gold and
Silver.  Wonders all, as are these
Sunsets, these early epics.

I reach out to touch your hair,
Your skin, your rings of desire.
I too am surrounded by tigers.


Today's LittleNip:

Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is only the bemused spectator.

—Charles Simic



Orchid 2

Friday, June 27, 2014

Poetry from Venus

—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

(a poem of the '70s)
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

She sweetens like a cherry
waiting for a tender tongue,
sours like a bowl of milk
pushed over on the moon;
finds love too late

or too soon; takes a fling
between star two billion
three & four on orbit 22,
chucks passion when she can't
see herself in you or you.

Mary wears holey jeans,
wanders thru malls & dreams.
She christens her womb a rose—
no maybe. Yet no immaculate
miracle—no baby.


—Claire J. Baker

Sometimes we create
a Tower of Babel—you
babbling I don't answer
your crucial questions,
I babbling back, "I answer
but you don't listen!"

on the one word "love"
we are bound in clarity
at the top of the tower—
a nifty, swifty
full-circle view.

—Photo by Cynthia Linville

               —Arnold Bax (1883-1953)

              All through the storm the heedless blackbird trills;
              While thunder rocks and tears the coppery sky
              And lightning splinters fleck the curtained hills
              Persists his melody.

              So when your body pitches in the trough
              Of bitter tides of longing may you know
              Some solace of the careless lilt of love
              I sang you long ago.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

   (for the poets of Tough Old Broads: Viola Weinberg Spencer,
   Ann Menebroker, Victoria Dalkey, and Kathryn Hohlwein


Arnold Bax, neglected musical master
caught amid extramarital mistressy bigamy,
could summon up twin arts, entwined creativities
plucked from the Bishopy (write it!) kind of disaster.
English composer, English poet too,
he indites—when wrenched almost in halves by love
or the suctioning dread of disappearing soon;
he jots, when nearly drained of his marvelous trove
of chromatic tempest, Magellanic surge
of orchestral song—this wistful little thing:
Bax notes a small blackbird whose heart’s-brimful flings
faraway tinwhistle flutings all through a storm,
past sharp electric talons, spurred by an urge
that, till he finds his listener, takes no form.

Who is the Baxian blackbird? Who’s the she-listener?
For Arnold, she could be “Tania,” Harriet Cohen
the concert pianist. Tania isn’t alone,
though. Could he mean Mary Gleaves? Is even he sure?
Bax may not get to decide. Blackbird and longing:
are they not one? Symbolic, the fluted tune
piercing the absent lovewoman on the dune
of wet and salt that lashes and lifts and strongwings
the desirer, the rider of that discordant roll.
Yet for how many eons have the throats of birds,
the women, the wantings, mingled and sunk in the din?
Ah, promise-breaker, sing to the girl in your soul,
your silent stray gamine core, all feminine.
Tempt her to come back, this time with honest words.


Women at the podium, Annie, Viola,
Kathryn, and Victoria, let me never live alien
from my woman soul. Life’s dull lived

in a man-cave of bluff, beer, and bullshit. In the choir,
Schubert and Bach and I first were sopranos,
we were all Vienna-boy sailor suits before

our arias broke on testosterone waves,
puberty reefs. In how many Bach cantatas
is the big-voiced deep-voiced man

the cavern & tavern sinner in body; the graceful
boy figuration the floating female soul? She’s down there
inside us guys: Ellen DeGeneres, can you maybe find

Her inside me, though I forget Her as often as
Nemo’s Dory outswims the memory that flickered
just five gallons ago? Remember what we once knew,

buried in the unread runes at our forebears’
graves: girl is Anglo-Saxon for child female
or male, if either’s prepubescent. I want

to live again girl as I did, while dreading girls as I
dreaded myself in the grasp of the sexual dream,
fortissimos from the pipe organ in the soft bed.


Poetry from Victoria on the jagged impact
of cancer, the mastectomy scars, the bitterness
lingering through and long after the pain

—and what she speaks of is heroism.
I have no cancer scars to finger when alone,
probingly, resentfully, ruefully, oddly cherishingly.

Spared the ordeal of the cancer amputation
or visible outgrowth or wasting disfiguration,
too often a bitterly female ordeal (but see

Tony Gwynn, Ulysses S. Grant, et al.), I have
only known the indignity of prostate cancer,
the insertion into that nutlike organ, while knocked out,

of those grains, All-Bran slivers, filaments, tiny
incised and sealed control rods seething
inside with roentgens like little rodent tridents.

Forgive the hyperbole. Thank you, Madame
Skłodowska-Curie, without whom, no dosage,
ergo no me, in some short or long order.

What don’t we owe to the brilliant woman in us,
testing the masculine limits of science, thrusting
aside the self’s skin-boundaries towards interiority?

So, with Kathryn Hohlwein, I could wish myself
a stone, cool to the stranger’s, friend’s, even
family member’s touch, but far down within

the silence, what? Oceanic feelings, whole
Parthenons, Pantheons of spirit and amplitude.
How to know, perplexed as William Yeats

with Maud Gonne, how to know the dancer
from the dance? What matter? cries
the man freshly liberated from cancer…


Three months radioactive, I attend the school
poetry reading, listening, listening, where a young
woman student, fluorescent with sweet potential,

cradles her English professor’s new baby. Seeing
the student so absorbed in her five minutes’ adoption,
nestling the new pink creation in pink velour,

I mull whether Gamma-Man moi may or may not
properly take up the infant weight once she’s
proffered. To hell with it: the soft infant, high

up in my arm-boughs, surely isn’t overexposed.
And so, making ourselves infant in our
prattlings and flirtings over the newborn,

my student and I dance a slow Yeatsian céilí,
dandling or handing back and forth our
armful of tiny maiden till we might be

Torvill and Dean, bearing aloft before
strangers the live soft-glowing orb 
over the darkened white floor

to the tune of Holst’s Venus,
in all the naked femininity
of our ice-glide…


Today's LittleNip:

Listen, real poetry doesn't say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through any one that suits you. 

—Jim Morrison



—Photo by Cynthia Linville

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Old Woman

—Poems and Photos by Katy Brown, Davis


The Old Woman gathered wind and starlight, mixing
them with water from the Great Oasis and a handful
of sand — creating the first human in her image.
What she named her has been lost in the storms of
time— we will call her Badra, The Full Moon.

She was glorious — part light, part song.  She
moved around the Great Oasis with grace and
purpose, tending the plants and animals there. 
Over time, Badra grew lonely and called upon
the Old Woman more often to keep her company.

Like a distracted parent, the Old Woman became
concerned that she was neglecting her other

One night, while Badra slept, the Old Woman took
a lock of hair from the sleeping woman and wound
it around a willow branch.  Taking a spark from
the dying fire, the Old Woman breathed the flame
of being into the First Man.

He was glorious, too.  Vibrant.  Resilient.  In
gratitude for life, he wrapped himself in joy and
danced a whirling dance, spinning and spinning. 
Thus was the First Woman the source of all
mankind.  Thus did the whirling dance of the
desert people become a prayer of ecstasy and


The Great Oasis formed around a spring
among rocks in the sand — a wadi.

You might have thought her fragile, Badra,
slipping among the olive trees in the Great Oasis

— may have thought her brittle like porcelain,
as she slumbered in the light of the full moon.

But she was created by The Old Woman:
made of gathered light and the desert wind.

What you might take for fragility was really
the resilience of uncomplicated life in desolate lands.

The Old Woman created her to tend the garden,
to care for the leopard and the nightingale

when they came to drink from the same spring;
to heal their injuries and give them shelter.

You might mistake tenderness and caring
for weakness, if you weren’t paying attention.

When Badra grew lonely, The Old Woman created
the first man from a lock of her hair and a willow branch.

The man, overjoyed to be alive, whirled in a spinning dance,
praising The Old Woman, declaring his love for Badra.

They lived together peacefully for a while,
in the shade of willow and olive trees beside the spring.

The man grew aware of his strength and vigor, delighting
in the differences between man and woman

until he encountered a viper in the dunes one hot afternoon
— but that is another story, for another time. . . . . 


For a time around the Great Oasis, all creatures
lived in harmony.  Badra tamed the timid quail
and let Panther sleep on her rug.  Her mate, having
listened to the sibilant whispers of the desert serpent,
believed in the strength of his arms and denounced
Badra’s meekness.

He responded to The Viper, who drew his power
from ambush and terror.  The serpent convinced
the man that Badra’s cooperation with the desert
creatures was a sign of weakness.  Teamwork
and trust required time that brutal force never
waited for.

Gradually, the first man sought to control all life
around the wadi.  He sought to control Badra,
made of starlight and desert wind.

When the crescent moon drifted across a field of
brilliant stars, Badra’s panther came from the wilds.
The mighty cat took the treacherous man by his neck,
carried him far across the dunes, and abandoned him
to the company of scorpions and the Viper that he

Water still trickles from the desert spring, calling
wildlife from shifting dunes to the hidden wadi. 
Can you hear it?


It is not written where Badra went after she left
the wadi.  It is not known if she tried to follow
her mate or if she struck out on her own.  It is
possible she felt the sour regret that parting brings.

She had been alone before:  a solitary shadow on
the moving sand.  She knew she could survive
alone again.  She could be like the fox or the desert
eagle.  She did not need the man to provide for her

It is not written how the man survived alone in the
desert after the panther dropped him there.  He was,
after all, the second human.  He had never known
solitude.  Followers of the Viper insist that the man
felt nothing. 

They say the serpent found the Scarlet Djinn at the
edge of the world and joined the two in a vortex of
twisting sand.  What became of this union is a story
for another campfire. . . . .   


In her home, an open cave— high on a rocky
cliff-face, Badra found peace.  Sheltered from the
scouring desert sun, open to the nighttime stars,
with a small spring in the back for water, she felt no
more desire to wander.

Her children had long since grown and moved on. 
Her mate had paired with the Scarlet Djinn, source
of much chaos in the desolate lands.  The Old Woman,
who created her, seldom visited any more — having
more world to tend than just this cave. 

Dawn touched lightly on her stone floor, gilding her
walls and bringing reassurance of order.  Night to day,
moon to sun: a progression of days and seasons. 
Badra gathered the light, mixing it with colors from
the desert:  silver-green of olive leaves, azure from
the morning sky, coral of the leopard’s nose, and red of
the poppy flower. 

She gathered hair shed from the lion’s mane and bound
it to a myrrh branch, making the first paint brush.  This
she used to reflect the spirits she found in the world around
her.  She painted the desert hawk and big-eared fox, the
silver trout and the tawny antelope. 

Badra sang as she painted.  Sang of the spiny flowers and
the round black bees that pollinated them.  She sang of the
river of stars and the shifting dunes. 

On quiet nights, under the dark of the moon, you can hear
this song, a faint tumbling like far-off water.


Today's LittleNip:


can’t draw
can’t sing
never learned piano

no ear
for the correct

couldn’t spell it, anyway
no patience
ah — but for light —

for the lift of wings
— for the slow
step of the

into its own image
on still water—

for the fractured second
for these:
an infinity

under the slow-rolling
a scroll of infinities


Our thanks to Katy Brown for today's poem cycle which she calls "The Old Woman". About her work, Katy writes: I imagine the universe was created by "The Old Woman" — the over-arching creative force.  She can take any form she wants, but in my poems has appeared in human form,  although I have a poem set along an Asian-appearing coast in which she appears as a child playing by the shore.  I have poems about the creation of horses and the fox, among other things.

When it came time to create humans, she created the first one in her image. . . .

I hope that no one takes offense at this slightly-different take on a more well-known creation story.



Pi in the Sky

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Seekers of Doors

Henry Cowell Redwoods 
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Never alone—I always travel
with my partner, seaman of the fluid
dynamics of air, seeker of doors
that dissolve against leavings.
He’s his own kind of language, following
songs of angels to the overlook.
Those angels fierce as August that grants
no rain, and then without warning
they sprinkle the air, a mist-
spray to moisten the scents of every
season. Again my dog
has opened a journey, his nose
a compass at crossroads
that lack a posted sign. He’s found
the portage, the boat;
from shore a rhythmic rowing,
a pulse between water and sky.


—Taylor Graham

There appeared to be no door.
Not true. We climbed stairs to a landing,
and a door, but it was jammed.
Minor de-construct of earthquake,
its rhythmic pulse that knocked down half
a building here, dissolved some walls,
left others standing—disconnect of
highrise labyrinth—and jammed this door.
Beyond, a long bare corridor with
countless open doors. The secret lives
of offices past closing time,
one night watchman making his rounds.
Where was he? We had no leave,
no prybar to open that door. But a dog
is license and language
of her own. Open sesame, she wriggled
through. Door by door—a slat
of light let us watch her—mirrors on
mirrors she disappeared; back
into view, diminishing, progressing.
Finally, returned. No one there,
she said. But so much more labyrinth
beyond what might not be a door.   


—Taylor Graham
Endless passageways of nameless doors
where a person could go insane with numbers;
wilderness of diagrams labeled “You Are Here.”
Stuck for hours. Impact of soles on marble;
the stone will always win. In the old days, there
was a quitting-whistle, a bell from the tower,
duet of metal and breeze. Today the world
is 24/7. At last you find the outer door, past a man
staring blankly at his paycheck, which will never
be enough. Everyone else is gazing skyward
at a peregrine, raptor of city-birds,
hoping to watch him dive.

 Gualala Beach
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Caschwa, Sacramento

I    Glory, Gory, Gone

From 1774 to 1782 our Revolutionary
War cost us about 50 thousand lives
200 years later traffic deaths reached
About that sum each year

II    Open the Floodgates

I used to play in quiet La Ballona Creek
Admire the pollywogs and tiny frogs
Sniff the less than palatable mix of algae,
Wastewater, and who knows what else

Then the powers that be decided
To manipulate its course and they
Brought in tons of cement to convert
The creek into a flood control channel

Another such channel nearby
Lay bone dry most of the year so
Some people thought surely it could
Be converted into a major highway

That would have worked just fine if
Only automobiles could survive the
Several feet of rapidly gushing water
The channel withstood each winter

Now I look at our elaborate freeway
System so many people rely on and
Die on each year and cannot fail to see
Each highway as a flood control channel

III    Loser Take All

Our forefathers sprayed mace in the eyes of
A brutal monarchy and kept it at a safe distance

Meanwhile, the very temptations of hierarchy that
Created and sustained the monarchy embedded
Themselves into our culture and stained our history


Today's LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

Worked for years, thought
It was a career, maybe
Even a vocation.

Turns out,
Just another job.


—Medusa, with a reminder that Cynthia Linville will be celebrating the release of her new book of poetry, Out of Reach (Cold River Press) with a book release party at Shine, 14th & E Sts., Sac. this coming Saturday from 2-4pm. Be there!

Duncan's Landing
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

With a Buzz of Gold

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

BEE STUNG       

all the bees are golden
for they make honey
and it is summer
and the fine hair on my arm
is as gold as they are
raised as it is
between my eyes and the buzzing.
the bee has not stung me this year
though I have gone where it goes
among the vegetables and the flowers
when the days were as heavy as honey.
all my fear of the bees is still there
for they make a dark and constant sound
where I am standing
and I flinch when I should hold still
and my hand wants to slap
at my knowledge of them.
I still go among
the vegetables and the flowers
which are mine for I put them there
with my plans and hunger when it
was winter or at least cold spring
and I did not remember
the bee or the honey or the stinging.
it is an old fear anyhow
dark as childhood
and it has been forgiven
that I stood naked in the sun
in the woods of summer
loving my life
then stung to crying
by a bee that died upon me.

(first pub. in Permafrost, 1980)



Life’s confusions.
Its insults and injuries.
Its honey.

I loved
a bee-man once.
But I was afraid of
his bees . . .
oh he would cover himself
with them
and stand in the
sunlight humming . . .
at night
I would pull out stings
from his words,
his suffered love,
his golden injuries.


The Bee Man strokes the swarm
with  his golden hands.
See how soft they are, he says
to the clustered children
who, inch by inch, move closer
to believe their eyes . . .

a man who touches bees . . .

at dusk
they’ve filled the box
that he placed beneath the swarm
with bait of honey-smear
to start them in,
and he carries the new hive home
on his humming shoulders.

(first pub. in Poet News, 1989)



I did not kill the Bee said the flower
I did not kill the Bee said the
     housewife afraid of bees
I did not kill the Bee said the
     advertisement for pesticides

But the Bee goes from blossom to blossom
     for the poisoned pollen
His golden legs are shining in the sun
His heavy life is falling
I did not kill the Bee said everyone

(first pub. in Watching From The Sky, 
Piñon Pine Press, 1988
Edited by Ann Menebroker and
Martha Ann Blackman
© 1988 Menebroker and Blackman)



I am the black honey for your soul
sticky and sweet
I have been brought
by old bees
that died long ago

I came from all source
in tiny portions
until I was here

you taste me
crave me
smear me all over yourself
with starving words and motions

we are bread and honey
oozing over edges

(first pub. in Berkeley Poets Cooperative/11, 1997)


He is pulling away now
from the mother force.

In the diminishing center
she stares out at him.

Their minds pass
twice in time.

There is a frail echo
of sadness in the air.

Words become weary between them,
even as

their endless continuation of eyes
from the long conversation.

    *    *    *

In the monogrammed

her sheer gray roses
flounder on the stem;

the crocheted pieces under them
die thread by thread.

Outside, in the flowered yard,
old perfumes rise.

Far back
where she can’t fear them

bee hives in the tenant distance
wait for the bees.



my old neighbor buys
eggs from me—we always share
one slow glass of wine
dancing—out there—those
midnight scarecrows—who by day
sleep among the crows
with a buzz of gold
bees turn sunlight to honey—
life is generous

(first pub. in The Poet's Guild, 1995)


Today's LittleNip:


in a cloud of sleepiness
a poem occurred to me
and stung me fully awake
with a strange word
not of my vocabulary . . .

it urged me to
follow a trail of thinking
not my own. I was curious.
I was slow. I had to let
the illusory poem go . . .


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix. Our new Seed of the Week is Payday; I'm sure you must have something to say about that, either in poetry, photos, or artwork—though you're always encouraged to think metaphorically, of course. Send it all to No deadline on SOWs.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Butterfly Over the Waters

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch, CA


Bees, bees,
everywhere a buzz
in Central Park
birds birds
leaving a mark
and a mess,
and as the rappers say, man
in their own words
call in the fuzz,
a lad named Tommy
is trying to clean up
the bench before going
to worship
at mass or the temple
trying to keep the Big Apple
nice for the tourists,
a local reporter spies the kid
even takes his picture
for the Times and Post
and guess what,
in this reality time
he receives a scholarship
for school and is on T.V.
from Coast to Coast
and Tommy becomes
an instant celebrity
and eventually in his life
a famous talk host
but rarely remembers
the birds and bees,
except that he's married
and now boasts his own
extended fans and family.



He's a football twink
and she in a blood-red dress
thinking of summer romance
spread their legs
under the classroom seats
maybe trying
to turn each other on
not wearing socks or shoes
pass love letters
and signs
the guy writes his paper
on navy tattoos
and she about vampires
I test them on Keats
and they both fail
neglecting the ode's text
but ask me
for an intervention
to help their memory
but they admit
that they told
their math professor
next door
that they were on meth,
and here I am silent
but ask them to go
and seek help
needing breathing space
I'm being re-educated
for another generation.



The young student
all in black garb
named Nora
driving a bicycle
carries hyacinth
in her full arms
unlaces her shoe
tells me
she is late for class
because she broke up
with her boyfriend
after two weeks,
now she is pregnant
from another guy
who moved to Vermont
to start a maple syrup business
in her term paper
she writes her philosophy
is like the birds and bees
here during summer school
opening her green eyes
as a ripple of grackles
pass by us.


By a public park bench
in a cellophane tent
a poor soul of a guy
maybe twenty
overgrown with anxiety
in an ex-army uniform
with big pockets
stands by a revolutionary statue
on the Common, stares at me
a poet with writer's block
tells me he's Billy the Kid
takes out a broken radio
fixed for his daily routine
and attempts to play
some rock tunes
on the KISS station,
his left leg seems wooden
like a neglected doll,
holding mouthfuls of rags
and pawning things
like dishes and coffee cups,
tells me he's originally from
Los Angeles
who wants to play soccer,
proceeds to take out a ball
he carries in a suitcase,
now brushes his sandals
with the tyrant of hornet
checking me out
for a stash of food
or cash on delivery
asks me for a ten-spot
wanting a pizza slice,
Billy has not shaved
for over a year
tells me he lives by our river
under the Charles St. Bridge
like the birds and bees
and here I am alone
preparing for my lecture
reading Wordsworth
who once said that nature
should be our guide.



Insomniac at Boston's
in the South End
near the jazz clubs
the Hi Hat, Scullers
and Walley's Cafe
where Ella and Sarah
created a sensation,
sleeping on this poem
at my friend's space
needing a month's rest
and watching
post-war German
movies by Fassbinder
in black and white,
and Hitchcock's
expressionist film noirs
like Vertigo or Detour
listening to Marlene Dietrich
sing "falling in love again"
putting on Armstrong's, "When
the saints go marching in"
catching some action
after drinking brandy
from my buddy's wrestling
with me for another match,
prepping up on Arthur Miller
in Death of a Salesman
for my week-end audition
never missing a chance
at a good line or wine.



In dad's old Navy shirt

with a lost memory fever

very concerned at my loss

on board with vistas

from new sunglasses

bought for a song

by a Rockport fishing port

as you recall on your kayak

the great winds

and aromatic waves

blowing that hurricane,

my life flirting with death

by deserted islands

at an unexpected storm
your logs

still detailed

in your mind's eye

as you take

one more voyage

from beachhead squalls

feeling like Melville

with his tidal journal

seeing five dimensions

by every seacoast harbor

swallowing my conscience 

in recollection and remorse.     

 New Sac


The earth and the sea are one
with the sound of color
here on an open boat
as I read
from my own tongue
my Russian poems
mouths widen on deck
on board the SS Pushkin
we claw on deck
for first light
as sunflowers
are presented to me
in the scattered dusk
on the open deck
of the Siberian home harbor
with early birdsong,
now a hearty kvas
in a long glass
is drunk
with a youth's energy.



I wish I were King David
composing psalms
and singing poems
on his harp
dancing naked
before the Lord of Zion
not embarrassed
being a muscle guy
yet loving his cousin Jonathan
more than any woman
he had yet known
killing the bully Goliath
and any bears or lions
around Israel's parched desert
known as the Negev,
taking on the Philistines
and hiding from Saul
who knew that David
had received an oil anointing
from Samuel the prophet
to become king.


Today's LittleNip:


A butterfly over the waters
on the first day of summer
now on the slate roofs
on the daughter islands
its neon-colored wings rise
without unconscious hesitation
soon its gestures and shadow
cover the transit of the sky
like a poet passing
a love song's own soliloquy
by a third heaven window,
yet how we quickly forget her
over the seashore dunes.




Sunday, June 22, 2014

I Want Strong Peace

—Photo by Jane Blue, Sacramento

—Muriel Rukeyser
Waking this morning,
a violent woman in the violent day
Past the line of memory
along the long body of your life
in which move childhood, youth, your lifetime of touch,
eyes, lips, chest, belly, sex, legs, to the waves of the sheet.
I look past the little plant
on the city windowsill
to the tall towers bookshaped, crushed together in greed,
the river flashing flowing corroded,
the intricate harbor and the sea, the wars, the moon, the
planets, all who people space
in the sun visible invisible.
African violets in the light
breathing, in a breathing universe.      I want strong peace,
and delight,
the wild good.
I want to make my touch poems:
to find my morning, to find you entire
alive moving among the anti-touch people.

   I say across the waves of the air to you:
today once more
I will try to be non-violent
one more day
this morning, waking the world away
in the violent day.


—Medusa, with a belated happy birthday to Jane Blue (6/20).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

From the Pockets of Time

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


I had a small handful of lights.
They were to used to transport
Me into any space but I was never
Okay with that condition.

I was sitting in a small room with a single lamp.
There were a lot a rabbits on the floor of the room.
Outside I could people coughing.  The noise was
Much like one would hear in a theater before the show
Was to begin.  The room appeared not to have a door.

A rhythmic pulse begins.  I find it more difficult than ever
To begin.  I begin to imagine the smell.
I look hard at the palm of my hand.
One wall of the room begins to dissolve.
I am before a host of angels.

The rabbits move to the edges the room.
There is a red weeping before them.
The Angels appear to be drunk.
Some of them are smoking.
They begin to sing that blue chalk song of theirs.

Animals emerge from the palm of my hand,
Snakes, elephants, dogs, lemurs,
A flock of red birds.  My hand becomes
Detached.  I realize these lights,
These animals are a kind of language.

I will attempt to use this language.
The Angels form a circle and begin to move
Around and around me.  Perhaps something
Here will prompt you to construct a secret life,
One that is full of things like these.

Come closer. These are terrible and majestic
Beliefs I am asking of you.  You’ll need a boat.
Remember what I told you.  Travel alone.

 Beaucamea recurvata


I have the sole treasure.
It is greater than solitude.
It is pierced with music.
It has nothing to do with the moon.
It exalts as only the soul can exalt.
It magnifies both the twilight and the dawn.
It has a memory greater than that of trees.
It is more welcome than water to the thirsty.
It is as vain as death and commands all its courtesies.

I offer it to you as Abraham would offer it.
It is the book and the reader of the book.
It is the blind directing us to the light.
It does not recognize dreams as dreams.
It does not recognize you as yourself
But embraces you nevertheless.

It strokes the skin of pleasure,
Believing it is saving the world.
But does so without justification.
It returns to us as day and night returns.
It opens a library of endless streets.

It marries the sea to decipher it
And holds vigil before all mirrors.
It wearies of eternity and waits
At other crossroads weaving beyond language.
It becomes lost irreparably, spilling from our hands
As fire and salt, as all who have loved us.

 The Garden in Morning


We were talking about how happy
The new snow made us feel.
That whiteness on white and the world
White as well.  No wind and the light,
The magic light that made all things

When we lived in Kenmore, New
York, the winter had to line
Up across the lake in Canada
And march down the winds
To do its lovely trick.

Out here in California, the lens
Tends to cloud over like a windshield
On a car driving in the mud,
Rain and dust.  Two curved
Views of the world never quite
In agreement with each other,
As we drive through whatever
Season it declares itself to be.

We will gather all we can of white,
In sugar, teeth, cake icing,
Clean paper, plastic forks, gym
sock and soap bubbles and try
To tell others about this loveliness.

Only the babies will understand
What we have to say.  But
We will say it anyway.

Sometimes the pain screams
Such a brilliant white light across
Our brains we forget everything
We were going to do or say.
So much for that sway snow
Had for carrying us away.  Quietly.

 Blue Orchid


I was stroking her back while she slept.
She is like a compass, an ancient device
That shows direction.  Not as seasons show
Direction.  A compass has no agenda.
It is not a map and does not show the weather,
Only a direction.  Perhaps the deities follow
The compass finger, never counting anything
Except a specific direction to open a journey.

But let me speak of Summer for a moment.
I was stroking her back while she slept.
There are contours to the season even
When her face is turned away from the light
As she sleeps.  I can call angels to my fingertips.
There are kingdoms in the bones of her back.
I have found temples there in which one may
Approach sleep, knowing the night has our breathing
And gathers the late evenings of Summer,
A respite from the grasping one does
In the mouth of Winter.  Everything becomes
Secret as I push against the muscles of her back
And yes, she continues to sleep and I build
Columns, pylons, the silence of centuries
Long past, barely able to find themselves
Still alive, still moving in our own brief window.

I will have magic of all this caressing, of this
Lovely vessel for the dreaming that is not death
But another eternity, mirror resting upon mirror,
Converting that which may never be remembered
With the delicate breezes destiny provides
For strangers such as ourselves.  One sleeping,
House by house in the smooth hours of the night,
One stroking the dreamer as she sleeps,
Vertiginous in being able to touch such an eternity.



There were hundreds of people on the bridge.
This wasn't something we could prepare for.

I felt I couldn't get back, that the road was broken,
Part of the sky caught in a double-long spring trap
And I was traveling that sky, careening back and forth
Between wisdom and insanity, afraid to say
What I meant, afraid of sounding stupid,
Filling a vacancy in my soul that made noise
Like a tornado.  I was a debris field.

This is no way to make a poem.
This is no way to understand emotion.
This is barely a way to communicate.
I have taken leave of all events.
Nothing is conclusive anymore.
I can only perform specific acts such as these.

I walk through the garden and admire
The balustrades, the vicissitudes of the labyrinth.
I will haunt the memories of others
Without their suspecting it.

I try to imagine myself as the wheel, the rose.
I believe I can hear souls departing,
Things of no importance, objects from the pockets
Of time that have deserted all but the most ancient
Of histories.  My voice is heaped upon
These things which do not have a name.

I stir in my dream
Believing I have influenced
Every clock. I desert myself
And watch from a red hill.  



A murmur of birds.
They are taking down the stars one by one.
Like coins they tumble Into the lake, forgotten,
Unforgotten.  Unburdening themselves
From an incalculable mythology.

Erasing symbols, nurturing and needless
As sirens are to nightingales,
As drunk is to the moon.

I wait by the water.  Little by little
I begin to no longer recognize myself,
Except as tigers and tigers and tigers
Searching the streets where forever has been lost
Irreparably.  Things become transparent.
People slip away or escape
Deep into the waters of the bay.

They have forgotten their form.
They have forgotten what sparse language they owned.
They have forgotten the weight of consciousness,
The unrelenting memory, the petite charm of the garden,
The mirrored pool below the fountain,
So secret and necessary.

The flowers, silent now.  The stars beneath the water,
Wavering, now vermilion, now yellow.
I recall the vague dreams of children,
Sights along the road.

I decide this must be a journey.
I dive into the water to be with the stars.
I will wash this dust from me
And begin another universe.


Thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and photos on this day of the summer solstice. D.R. writes: Crisis Chronicles Press is fully funded to go ahead with production on my book, The Night Market, with cover and artwork by ReBecca Gozion. Some of the work is over 20 years old and other is very recent. The press is taking pre-orders at 

D.R. will be reading at Sac. Poetry Center with Sue Staats today at 4:30, as part of the Sacramento Voices series hosted by Phillip Larrea. That's 25th & R Sts., Sacramento. Be there!


Today's LittleNip:

If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty.

—Rainer Maria Rilke



Al Winans and D.R. at Shine, June, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Concealed Ballots & Moonless Nights

Paul Fericano reading at Shine June 11, 2014
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Caschwa, Sacramento

I was admiring the bucolic
Beauty of all the wonderful
Flours growing in my pantry

I know what you are thinking
That’s actually mold
But cheese is mold and

You love pizza don’t you?
Add some mushrooms, Yum!
Mold and fungus, hot and ready

Oh my, you can’t just go and
Leave that sitting there
Kids are starving in Europe.

 Meri St. Mary reading at Shine June 11, 2014
—Photo by Michelle Kunert


Yep, I was charged with that and
Sentenced to 2 presidential terms
Of hearing unfounded comparisons

Assuring a caring nation and those who
Couldn’t care less that a man of color
Must have the brain of a peacock

I voted for that man, back when
Polling places were set up so that
Ballots could be cast in secret

Times have sure changed
Now the darkened ballot booths
In polling places are under the

Harsh spotlights of the news media
Which purports to know every little
Detail about voters and their choices

It is now public record which
Candidates I favor and which
Hand I use to wipe my ass

To keep up with the voting, persons
Applying for citizenship will not only
Have to prove literacy skills

But now they will have to show
That they are computer literate
(I misspelled that the first time)

A.D. Winans reading at Shine June 11, 2014 
—Photo by Michelle Kunert


I live in a land where
Everyone owns a gun
And all the traffic lights
Are green, imagine the fun

For each and every concern
That takes emotion to new heights
A Minister of Explanation (MOE)
Consoles us with sound bites

MOE in high office
MOE in the public square
MOE on the radio
MOE everywhere

Some gunmen went into schools
And shot the kids dead
Everything’s going to be okay
Is what MOE simply said

Gone are the hardy folk
Who build bridges and trust
MOE has taken their place
And left us with dust

Recession, war
Global warming and crime
Let’s take some action
But not on my dime

 Trina Drotar reading at Shine June 11, 2014
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

(of the works of Tom Goff, D.R. Wagner, et al.)


There is a creek near my office building
That rarely flows like a meandering stream
But the water rather gathers in lagoons
Which attract various ducks, geese, and egrets

One can stare at the water for hours
And entirely miss whatever spectacle
Is enjoyed by the ducks bobbing their
Heads under, or the geese swooping down

And then Summer approaches like a grassfire
Putting the whole ecosystem In the dryer cycle
And the water vanishes, as do the waterfowl
Leaving a crusty bottom of earth with no purpose


Some poems, just to eyeball them for form,
Look like a still pond, or that crusty bottom
Of earth with no purpose:  there is no movement
Apparent on the surface to excite the readers

But if the byline is Tom or D.R., keep on reading
Because they will swoop you down for a closer look
And bob your head under the still water
Revealing mysteries the crusty bottom tries to hide


A poem is movement, whether by rhyme or alliteration,
Or by the event of connecting ideas in a new or
Modified way.  It is the ripple on still water,
It is your foot sinking in the crust.  Enjoy!


—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis


 Eva West reading at Shine June 11, 2014
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Ann Privateer

when automatic sprinklers go off
when store floors are scrubbed
when babies take liquid aspirin
when lovers cling to promises
when airplanes take flight
when clouds become cotton candy

when the sun enters
when the moon disappears
when rainbows encircle our image
when we are the center

a giant breast pin
with wisps of wonder
buoys up all things
at night for one
brief moment.

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer

I slept with a spider—
all night long, we fought
for the bed

sheets, and blankets slung
we trying to sleep

each in our own web
strangers at first, later
no worse, crushed,

then cursed with eyes
open, eight legs
unaccustomed to stillness.

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer

curls of ebony, miniatures at play
before being seen
after a beam
ignites sheen
dissolving to gray.

a moonless night
elongates flight
before lift off
slips away
to lighten shape

on a moonless night.


Today's LittleNip:


Met this blushing German fellow
With dangling umlauts
A member of the tortured tildes
Crooning about the stain
Of a question mark
Ending with a tax
On your apostrophe


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors and wishing Michelle Kunert a happy belated birthday (yesterday). Note also that this is a very busy weekend, reading-wise, in our area. Scroll down to the blue box below the green one at the right of this column for all the skinny.

Martha Ann Blackman reading at Shine June 11, 2014
—Photo by Michelle Kunert