Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Time Is Like That

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


in the city
the animals finally came

with their glinting eyes
and their quiet walking

with their adaptable hands
and their appetites

great furry shapes
and curdling cries

passing among the people
like pets

no death

going everywhere on
flimsy leashes and chains

looking in windows
and disappearing

coming out
on the other side of buildings

they even knew how to obey
the traffic signals

no one was ready
for their danger

no one was wary
except the

one imaginary child
in the motionless swing

who was raising a whistle
to his lips and smiling



At dark of morning
he prepares my lunch;

how he surprises me

unusual bread,
creative combinations,

a sandwich
of such taste . . .

and I, at work,
unwrap it slowly

on my half-hour,
to see

what delicacy,
or what plain fare,

is there.
Today—this bread:

Whole wheat.
Buttered meat.

Some carrot strips.
An apple, quartered.


Such a long way to the house which recedes
one distance for every step toward it.
Time is like that.

On this late afternoon she marks the familiar way toward
the house with no windows, perhaps one door
through which to enter and disappear.

All her life she has been walking toward her childhood
which is a toy house. Inside are her innocent dreams
and toys. She will stay there.

On this late afternoon she practices more gray,
the wet things she will say
when she reaches the house.

The mud shines deep with after-light. It has been raining.
She carries groceries in a heavy sack past the chickens.
Her shadow lags behind her. And the old dog.

The house shrinks back against the flat day.
It cannot help her arrive. It is a toy house.
It holds onto this reality for as long as it can.

She follows the curved ruts.
The weak sunlight upon winter is almost warm.
The chickens float in the light above their small shadows.

The dog looks off toward the left. 
She shifts her sack
from one hip to the other.

Now the house has grown large against the last light.
All else is unimportant—pulled away—like the sky
which is turning its own page to let the slow darkness in.


I remember that you looked something awful, sitting across
from me at the breakfast table in the late morning light from
the harsh windows. It was awful to see you this way—sitting
across from me at the breakfast table, talking rapidly and
making nervous gestures. It was awful. To see you this way.
Manically distraught. Not caring how you looked, talking rapidly
and making nervous gestures as if the room’s light would
hold you together—manically distraught—not caring how you
looked—washed out by the white glare of the tablecloth as if
the room’s light would hold you together, though you were
coming apart in front of my eyes, washed out by the white
glare of the tablecloth.

What happened to you last night? What happened? Though
you were coming apart before my eyes, I dared not ask the
question. You were talking. What happened to you last night?
What happened? I kept quiet, watching you spill out in all
directions. I dared not ask the question. You were talking.
In the late morning light of the harsh windows I kept watching
you spill out in all directions. I remember that you looked
something awful.


DAY’S LAST REACH                    

We face the twilight with generosity:
you at the door feeding the chickens,
I back in the shadows counting how much more.

We turn the distinction into new diffusion:
you in the lowering light becoming less absorbed;
I wearing the dark garment of the house.

We grow as separate as any difference:
you at the door that goes both in or out,
I drawing back into the doorless room of self.

We use the lessening hour for our old commentary:
you at your deflective silence,
I at my usual remark.

We face the twilight that grows swifter than
before: you staring at the sunset that outlines you,
and I out of day’s last reach just inside the door.

(first pub. in Acorn, 1999)


In the back yard the rabbit cages have slowly fallen in, leaning
now against the fence which leans on them, their stilt-legs
sprawled, the wire doors stuck or hanging open, the water bowls
still inside. And the chicken-wire fence is gone, removed for
access.  But the hen-roost still stands, sturdy; its layered rungs
still span the sheltered darkness where the emptiness is deep.
The nest boxes are no more; no more the gathered eggs, the
funny clucking choruses . . . that space is used for tools and
junk that must be kept, though Lord knows why.  Well, that was
then . . . all that was then . . . and this is now . . . this abstract
glance across the recent years.  And you are gone now, too.
The last time you bought the heavy sacks of feed, I had to help
you lift them from the trunk of the car where I climbed in and
strained from the opposite end to shove them out. You held the
wheelbarrow steady and we finally got them loaded and wheeled
them to the back, slit down the sides, and emptied them, half-
way, from the two-pound coffee can till they were light enough
for both of us to heft and empty out into the storage garbage
cans. Well, that was when we decided to give the rabbits and
the hens away, and the pampered rooster who so eloquently
proclaimed himself upon the certain admiration of the neighbor-
hood. And when we found a taker, it was I who had to ease up,
after dark, into the cramped interior of the chicken roost and
grab the feet of the settled hens and hand them, squawking, out
to you, while you held the flashlight—all that you could do.


Today I sit down to my table and eat your food,
your small portion of fish, and your hard roll,
your mixed vegetables that need salt.  I re-
member to say a small grace in your honor. 
I remember to chew slowly—to savor.  I allow
time for conversation.  A whole day has passed
under your absence, and I find myself folding
a red cloth napkin when I am through, and
remembering to say thank you for your hospitality.
                      The table is but a metaphor, but
the fish and the roll and the vegetables are real. 
My refrigerator was an accommodation to your
leftover thrift and meagerness of appetite.  I am
sorry you forgot your take-home carton.  I know
how you like to portion and savor, letting the
too-expensive banquet dinner parcel-out to three
more meals.


Today's LongerNip:


Ghosts in costume sit
at the sunny window
of the dark café.

They will not move
from the sunshine.
They are cold.

I think they want
to pray for
new beginnings.

One of them
is at the jukebox
reading the names of music.

Another hides his face
in the shadow he has brought
beneath his hat.

I will not stay.
I will go through the door
and enter the brimming day.

I will not glance
at them
as I pass their table.


—Medusa, thanking Joyce Odam for a hearty breakfast of poems and pix, and noting that our new Seed of the Week is in keeping with the weather: In This Brutal Heat. Send your thoughts and visuals about this (or any other subject) to kathykieth@hotmail.com; there is no deadline on SOWS.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Gurvinder Kaur and Rhony Bhopla, Amritsar, India

—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento

Sacred banyan tree, adhesive sap
You seal the fragments of my incoherence

Bohar, vast twisted bearded bark is essence,
your reaching growth calls for Amritsar’s pundits

Oh, Great Teacher! India belies common mantras—
a shaman in the temple at your roots attempts the havan

No sparks fit in your crags, none can ever alight
except away, in the wanton darkness of solitary pain

I touch your nakedness.
Your aerial roots bind the braid of the deity within me

She speaks of what you have done, cleaning teeth
of poor children with your twigs

She whispers the letters of slaves, written
on paper made from your bark

The sun, drips along the sides of your trunk
as I fall prostrate, knowing that you exist

Sensuality scatters during a meditative reverie
I drift into the soil that nourishes you

Word Key:

Baba Bohar:  A tree that has not been touched for centuries, and the surrounding buildings have actually been built around it. 

Amritsar:  City in Northern India, Punjab.  It is most known for the Golden Temple.

havan:  a consecrated fire


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Don’t ever lose your accent: it’s a detail
different in you from me, as any one leaf
is its own essence, distinct, aloof from the sheaf,
alive in the lone. Category’s no holy grail.
Do you speak Thai or Greek, Swahili or Hmong?
Inquiring minds want to know, not really to hurt;
we’re your kind audience, we’d rather you blurt
your beauty, your smidge or smudge. It’s friends you’re among.

I don’t know why, I think of Yeats the poet
and how he celebrated his Nobel Prize,
by scrambling some eggs. I would devoutly learn
how gold or pale those eggs, and if he’d throw at
the cooking mass much peppercorn while it fries.
Does he add bacon? Eggs toughen, or simply burn?

Details for him to keep Irish and live inside,
as coats come herringbone-accented, Irish in pride.
He sang as much as he spoke his verse, with lilt
he could chant around and above his Maud Gonne guilt.
The salt to his egg-feast of song, a musical psaltery.
Umbilical, Delphic, each chord, not one whit paltry. 

 Donner Lake
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

By the fresh water at Donner Lake there is just rocks, no sand on its beach
There were people who nevertheless put down their towels to lay on the rocks in the sun
To do so was probably as uncomfortable as it looks
Me, I didn’t even want to take off my shoes to stick my feet in the water
Not only did I fear I would cut my bare feet
I knew there would be no “foot massage” like you get while walking along the ocean shores
On June 20, 2015, though the weather was cooler by Donner Lake than in Sacramento
I enjoyed the sunshine and a breeze on a picnic bench with a female friend named Marie I had originally met in my Russian classes

—Michelle Kunert


‪My parents' Santa Ana plum tree fruited early this year‬
‪   which it usually does in July‬
‪   but this time, for my June birthday‬
‪   I tried to give away some for free at vegan potluck and church‬
  ‪ but they have somewhat of a bitter taste and therefore not to all’s liking‬
  ‪ and I think they will taste sweeter dried in my dehydrator to become prunes ‬

—Michelle Kunert


—Caschwa, Sacramento

“A man’s home is his castle”
Until he puts a moat around it
Filled with critters that will tear
Intruders to shreds

Then he is reminded ever so
Harshly that local laws and
Ordinances were drafted in terms
Of the home being a domicile

And if he is a member of a
Homeowner’s association
The moat must resemble all
Other neighborhood moats

And the sounds coming from
Captives in the tower, or visitors
Falling into the moat and being
Eaten alive must be muted

So as not to be a disruption
That would tend to lower
The market value of
Surrounding properties



—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

Normally dour and grim
As a Grant Wood portrait,
Once a year, the citizens
Allow themselves
To pig out, to go hog wild.

Everywhere, a celebration
Of sheer pigginess: the
High school band, fighting
To play through the slippage
Of their rubber pig noses
In the early September heat.

On Main Street—the World’s
Largest Pork Chop Barbeque.
In the lagoon, the Hoggata
Regatta boat race.  For
Bikers, the Tour de
Pork.  Out in the cemetery,
The Hog Jog: no stopping,
No pigs allowed.

Over near the Burlington
Tracks, the Pork Chop
Sculpture Contest.  Think
Stonehenge, but with
Gristle.  The mud volleyball
Tournament.  Can you
Spike?  Can you wallow?

Once again this year, no
Entries for the Miss Pork
Pageant.  Ditto for
The Hog Calling Competition.
Are you surprised?

On the carnival midway,
Whole families, seen just
This once a year, stroll,
Resplendent, sort of,
In hog ears, ham-themed
Aloha shirts, and yes, in
A daring fashion statement
For the heartland, bacon-
Patterned boxers.  It’s
A special time after all
And just once a year.
Flaunt it.

By Monday, it’ll all
Be gone but the flies.
It’s a fifties sort of
Thing, yes, and not
A little tacky.  But that’s
The point.  Eggsactly.

Today's LittleNip:

I dread a future
     where the only way anyone in America will see once-wild animals at all
     will be taxidermied specimens in museums
     or with their heads mounted on walls
—Michelle Kunert

—Medusa, with thanks to today's many contributors, and a note that we have a new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page—hopefully Michelle Kunert's vacation photos will help you cool off a little!

 Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge, South Lake Tahoe, CA

Sunday, June 28, 2015


—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Admit glory to the sunshine dawn
covering the green water falls
here between the ocean and sky
our shadows live in silence
this early morning hour
on the home harbor hulls
anchored in a shade of serenity
motioning for our summer journey
unsealing our kayak memories
along a sailing Atlantic venture
wanting to sleep on the beach
with the sun to our outback
or go along with a procession
of a middle-aged fisher king
unable to move on his mission
until Arthur locates the Grail
or like Melville's Ahab
searches for the white whale
named Moby Dick
all in stories of exiles scouting
for a forsaken world
as Ishmael wanders
amid a once cloudy nimbus
from a passing compass of time
my words follow an apparition
in a poet's now-shrouded trek
along the horizontal shore
waves rise to four winds
to outer reaches of the sea
by the lighthouse of exiles
near unborn waves of riverbeds
a sudden thunder brushes by us
covering the church window praise
as black- or red-winged songbirds
over wonderful distant voices
exalt heaven from an azure sky.


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors. Katy's photo first appeared in The Quality of Light from Rattlesnake Press, 2004.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Whispering of Songs

The Chicken Coop—A Caravan
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


It smelled like the waiting room
In a train station
Where the train would be two hours late.

Nobody wanted to talk
To anybody.  Two hours late
Was a long time.

After awhile the flies
Began to look like stars.
The children began to fall asleep.

It wasn’t even a train station any longer.
I was standing outside a castle
Arguing about how long a horse ride
Actually took.
“Fuck you,” the guy I was talking to said.
“You don’t even live around here.
Why did you come here anyway?”

 Evening Light


Tonight there were mountains
To the South of Locke.
I could do nothing but watch
Them rise higher and higher
In the night air, massive
As a plan to overrun a country.

And gathered so gently
They lifted past the thunder
Like snow on the quietest of mornings.

I lay on my bed looking out the window.
What would I see at the darkened
Limits of my life?

I will forget the order of things.
Breathing will become inaccessible
And gallop with a strangeness
That is beyond accident.

I must be more modest at my dreams.
It is foolish to tell one of such mountains.

Even as I watch as the streams
Pouring from the precipices
Run with a dark water, darker
Than blood, even while the strangeness
Of this vision returns, night after night
And tears cloud my eyes,
As every stream is golden.
As I rush to the window,
It becomes a patient mirror
Blazing past all the heavens
Fitting each piece together
As if it were to be a great ship.

 Gourds on Fence


On the stony road
the whispering of songs
beneath the breath.

In the cool air of the coach
the weapons ride, jostling
each other, chewing huge
quids of tobacco.  No
one can see inside to them
so there is no touching.

They squint their eyes
like old-time bandidos
and let their hand
sweat upon the blue metal.

Soon the trains will stop
in European cities and
the fire priests, the soldiers,
will leave, puzzled by
the rain on their sombreros
the chill that makes
their skin steam and
the absence of horses
with their dusty hooves.

(first pub. in Kaleidoscope Newspaper, 1969)



across the room
a dog is sitting
on top of the couch
holding a man
in his mouth.

The dog thinks
it is a bird
for the man wears
feathers around
his waist.

The dog is very proud
of himself.  His eyes
are proud, ears straight,
walking on through an
endless flower field
holding a man, a
limp doll of a man
so as not to damage it.

(first pub. in Kaleidoscope Newspaper, 1969)



In Mark's room there is
                 this little box
                 with a man in it
                 and the man is
                 screaming and
sometimes you can see his mouth or his eye
through the little hole   
                        nothing else
                  just his mouth
                  or his eye
Mark says:
        ‘There is nobody
                In that little box
         and it must be your

And all the while he’s talking, this little
man is pressing his eye up to that hole
and I listen to him
              and sometimes I can hear him

Mark says:
          THAT LITTLE BOX.
          THAT LITTLE BOX.’

but there is.

(first pub. in Kaleidoscope Newspaper, 1969)

  Russell Ooms in the Garden


A tent once lived in my house.
It found some space in the back
Bedroom and refused to leave.

You have good food here
And it doesn’t rain, it said.

This is no place for a tent.

Maybe not, the tent replied
But at least here I can wear
A fedora and no one will
Laugh at me because of my poles.



The tallest structure
In the Sacramento valley,
The Walnut Grove transmission tower
Hasn’t had a single light
On at night for over
A week now.

I think someone is trying
To hide it.


Today's LittleNip:


I can’t spell
Said the which.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for this morning's poems and pix to kickstart our weekend!   

The Sentinel

Friday, June 26, 2015

Three Letters

Michael Ceraolo, Willoughby, Ohio


To the Posters and Boasters,

It is the day of the big game
and many can't wait for the game to start

And others of you,
in honor of Groundhog Day,
poke your heads out to proclaim
your lack of interest in the game,
which would be fine had you stopped there

But your sense of pseudo-superiority
oozes through your remarks,
saying that you know nothing of the game,
that you care to know nothing of it

More evidence that
Ignorant and Proud of It
is America's new motto




Dear Almost Everyone,

Donald Sterling has long been
a bigoted piece of feces with feet,
has a considerable record establishing that fact
Yet sports and non-sports media,
his commercial sponsors,
basketball players and coaches,
all manner of fans,
even an anti-bigotry organization
saw no evil because they heard no evil

when some evil was heard publicly,
the professionally offended were outraged,
as though this was somehow news,
then the hypocrisy began in earnest:
players and coaches who chose to work for him,
or had considered working for him,
and had no excuse for not knowing what he was,
now condemned him from the safety of the herd

And the anti-bigotry organization
planning to honor him despite his record
because he had made a donation to them
quickly backtracked trying to save face

And the worst were some of his fellow malefactors,
such as the one whose predatory lending practices
did far more actual damage than Sterling's remarks,
and other assorted malefactors with a list
of crimes too long to list individually;
they spoke out to deflect attention from them

And everyone felt better about themselves




Dear Daniel Snyder,

Perhaps it's the proximity to politicians
that leads the promoters of Washington sports team
to make the extreme statements that they do
Your recent statement that the name Redskins
will be changed over your dead body
is a prime example
                              Here's a prediction:
fifty years from now your position
will be regarded the same way,
and be as accurate as,
one of your predecessor's statements
that blacks would play for the team
over his dead body



This has been a travelin' week on Medusa's Kitchen, starting with Neil Fulwood from England, then B.Z. Niditch from Massachusetts, and today our thanks to Michael Ceraolo from Willoughby Hills, Ohio, a 57-year old retired firefighter/paramedic and active poet who has had one full-length book (Euclid Creek, from Deep Cleveland Press) published and a second (Euclid Creek Book Two) forthcoming later this year, plus a few shorter-length books and numerous magazine publications. Welcome to the Kitchen, Michael, and don't be a stranger!

NorCal poets should note also that poet Shawn Aveningo is back in our area from Portland for a visit, and will be reading with Poetica Erotica tonight at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sac. Then next Monday she and her contributors will be releasing Poeming Pigeons, the anthology of bird poems, at Sac. Poetry Center. For details about these and other area readings, scroll down to the blue box (under the green box) at the right of this column.


Today's LittleNip:

Ordinary Guy: "Where are you from?"

Harvard Grad: "I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with prepositions."

Ordinary Guy: "OK—Where are you from, jackass?"



 Michael Ceraolo

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wings, Winds and Arpeggios

Nubble Lighthouse, Maine
—Photo by Denise Flanagan
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MI


We're reading the Amherst poet
in her finest words
from an old edition
as blurred threads in a shawl
worn by Emily Dickinson
along an academic hall,
after my semester break
in a morning brick of space
a tiny windowless room
staring at a Van Gogh painting
of a Dutch landscape
shining at the thick edge
of the museum's back wall,
now the sun briefly shines
through Central Park
after the watery dark rain,
we are under umbrellas
on the park bandstand's edge
by a city street's drain,
a chorus of small birds intones
each in their own voices
along a dusty road's ledge
remembering the Cape
every Father's Day in June
draped with ivy
along the river beds and dunes
in summer squalls of thunder
as my lyrical laughing ear
expects to share my lecture,
now he suddenly prepares
for the next swimmer's race
with clocks in half-time
over the dock
trying to save face
takes the plunge
and lunges into the pool
glad to take an hour
from teaching summer school
playing by the gazebo
all the highest musical notes
of Coltrane's saxophone's wonder.



Outside it is raining
intimacy is only a bar away
on my sax notes
sinking a sound B-flat
over my left arm
in the underground
riverbed off the ports
of a breathless recital
swimming by
an aimless fate
by fleeing a night
of parental storms
muffling my weekend
waking up matching faces
to break up in pieces
of a musician's life
caught like a spider
in a web of others
supported by an outsider's mess
of song and dance
in a fortress on the coast
from solitary rooms
we cannot host
nine to five
in a routine like this
of my metamorphosis
by piled records
near a broken sofa
a prodigal son gnashed
in his own wilderness
reaching on the beach
for seashells and stones
emerges with a musical wave
abandoned at the sea's edge
by his sightless sore hands
he stumbles as his bones
smashed by wine glasses
love is an incoherent echo
of unintended smooth jazz
abstracted as an hour passes
as unforgiving as his rights
to an extended shore gig.



Summer's silence
only a Bach solo
plays from my hands
in a radiant bow
of the Mediterranean carob
and the Evergreen,
sounds of water move me
at the windows
a few cardinals suddenly fly
along the Cape's shore
overlapping dunes and trees
by the Bay's shore
a few sailing boats journey by,
all is quiet and tranquil
in the azure June breeze,
my still life hangs
on the drawing board
leaves its eternal image
walled in my own world
Bach swells to flood
the sound-proof studio
as sun offers warmth
now sitting by the piano
shadowed as muted light
on a welcomed new bookcase
and awakened threshold
discloses my musical memory
as mirrors of a childhood dawn
emerges by summer bird voices
by the beach whale watchers
tourists board
a sea sail of ships
as illusions of innocence
travel to the deck and port
near the voices of songbirds
attached to Jacob's ladders
growing in the back yard
near the pale phlox
by burdock and hemlocks
surround our rock garden
near Acacia's thorny trees
which seem to burgeon
as green leaves
newly born to blossom
by the swing's cool breeze
waken to my lyrical arpeggios.



There is a moment
in some forgotten
fragment of time
anchored on the sea
making a chapter
of collecting rhythms
in a standstill of drums
that break out of silence
a thunder making us
in a defenseless mood
circling out uncertain steps
to recapture our past
involved in art's interlude
through a labyrinth
of my diary's investigation
two thumbs down
all over our expressions
in different European tongues
in a cosmic log of memory
without a noted trace
of a mercenary disappearance
drummed out of a vacancy
or any place to live
among wandering stars
or calling on St. Jude
closing the good book
curled up in dreamed-
of still life's miracles
remembering madrigals
grandmother taught you
on the piano in her voice
now lost to oblivion
with 1940's absent nails
to even cross your mind
that not even a bird on the deck
or a card shark hears us
distressed from the four winds
in a cloudy map of navigation
lost as any exile
with gentle waves to anyone
on the satin blue high sea
who will rescue us
in exile on a flag ship
as any Odysseus or Jonah
of the stateless wind
keeping a vigil for our history
or just reading a memorized Virgil
as a guide in Latin script
translated on ink-stained words
of the original scribe
with passages lost in the fog
boarded up on the St. Louis
bound for a far-city off shore.

 Ogunquit Bay, Maine
—Photo by Denise Flanagan


Eight stories
below my heights
feeling like a songbird
constantly above buildings
on skydived flights
needing water on occasion
nature accommodates
even in high elevation
by electric wires
providing for a city
during a fasting's duration
in feast or whitened famine
exploring every sensation
to examine each night
a poetic novel's sensation
reaching from his sheet
and scenic proofs
at his sleepless sedation
keeping a business watch
outside of space and time
offering us a narration
of verse as an angel
in a planetary separation
as we race like astronauts
through the spider-webbed air
in exaltation gliding
over fourteen metro stations
recovering our life's salvation
with a bright cloud
on a blurred longitude
mapping out our lyrics
overlooking knots of stars
as invoice for our trios
as night falls and follows
the wings, winds and arpeggios
to play along on scales
and encircle through moons
over music notes and high bars
not to mimic our mood mimes
over the timeless tunes of Pillar
with her Spanish guitar
from a June's passer-by, Joe,
an entrepreneur and impresario,
who discovers her arias
and makes her dreams a reality
in Paradise, California
then vanishes behind her eyes.



Like James Joyce
in the city night
sheets to a kindled fireplace
of unwarranted imagination
collapsed into pitiless thought
for a guest in languor of a liquor
from an old bottle of brandy's
unbridled sweetness
in a bandy of winding phrases
at the ultimate pettifog night air
being in a repast of memory
yet wholly aware as any bird
lost like him in a forest's nest
in an exile's surroundings
hanging on the banister
you jest in low-voiced riddles
here in Trieste
among unbridled knapsacks
of oboes, clarinet and fiddles
by lasting vittles on the stove
for a moratorium of survival
exhausted from lacuna's
banter of Irish drama's verse
squandered in a selfish meal
exploding on a quarrel's trauma
of disentangled mindfulness
turned loose in informality
in a modicum of a traveler's wit
and a reveler's lonely music
in valid congeniality
hidden in magic Gaelic tongues
without a balanced sheet
of dwindled cash
from debit and debt
in a magnetic potpourri
under a future laurel wreath
a hidden stash of words
beneath the snowy rungs
of a painter's ladder
you wonder
if it will matter
when Ulysses becomes
a classic.



It is not possible
for two to have
the same dream
on the same night
in the same bed
and to dread
waking up
to the waning sun
as the sea weaves
its rushing waves
from live South winds
fading as a gull in the dawn
over the veranda
as new-born songsters
from the port call out
to other shivering sparrows
wrapped in weekend sheets
of musical notes
living in a murmur of harmony
with the resonance in words
of moving alive in the breeze
in a dance of your choice
hearing sounds of a bee hive
and birds floating on trees
each in their own voice.


(In memory of Sylvia Plath,

Near the narrow bird bath
feeding the sparrow
who takes a scented bath
as an adolescent poet
returns from his jazz lesson
to the sun of the Esplanade
reads the words of Sylvia Plath.



Songbirds over the train
by wellsprings of memory
from darkness to light
sleepless for ages
stopping my insomnia
from a long night
trembling on winding roads
with dusky eyelids
of thirst and hunger
simmering with nerves
ending in afterthoughts
for the past ventures
a late poet emerges
wishing to laugh again
after a lifetime
of reaching for justice
in a spring's lassitude
of setting aside
my second lapidary thoughts
brushing on stones
as we pass by wisteria bushes
wishing for a visionary nature
fortified by an insightful lens
among polished colorful words
connected in a day break
bridge near sea and sky
in watch for the morning
waves enlightening toward me
by a forgiving sunshine
the birds fly over winds
near a waterfall of voices
blanket the welcome dunes.


Today's LittleNip:

(In Memory of T.S Eliot,

On St. Louis's stones
a visionary
will follow his calling
in a flame of grace
initialed on rose wood
by greensward grass
the Evergreen trees rustle
in the neighborhood wind
his voice atones
and sways in the breeze
speaking to us
between poetry, prose
plays and hymns.


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch and Denise Flanagan for today's poems and pix!

Perkins Cove Bridge, Maine
—Photo by Denise Flanagan

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On the Ninth Day...

Neil Fulwood at Teviot Water Gardens
Kelso, Borders, Scotland
—Poems by Neil Fulwood, Nottingham, England


Hail to the team leader
Hail to the supervisor
Hail to the manager
Hail to the boss

Hail to the scourge
Of bad timekeeping
Hail the god emperor
Of the early swerve

Hail to the clamourer
For responsibility
Hail to the dodger
Of escalated problems

Hail to the judgementalist
Who conducts appraisals
All hail the office’s
Moodiest bastard

Hail to the cynic
Who questions sick leave
Hail the opportunist
Working from home

Hail to the networker
Grapevining departments
Hail to the bully
Demotivating staff

Hail to the backstabber
Hail to the profile-shower
Hail the boardroom sycophant

Hail, O hail to the chief

Raven, Tower of London
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


Strong and lukewarm and you unleash
a small avalanche of sugar into the mug,
stir till the spoon’s about to dissolve.

Coffee. It gets the taste of the precinct
out of your mouth. It’s a substitute for food.
It keeps you sharp, keeps you awake.

It’s a black hole, staring back at you
like that thing the fella who died mad
said about the abyss. It’s cheaper than heroin.


(for Jodie)

And more than anything, her ease
of movement: graceful, confident,
lithe as a ballerina. But in her eyes

and the challenge of her smile,
the earthy experience of a girl
practiced at the bar, not the barré.

No pirouette or pas de deux,
the wall-stretched shadows
of red shoes and black swan

erased in a puff of chalk dust,
a grubby, much-applied blue
staining fingers, baize, tip of cue.

 —Photo by Katy Brown

(after the film by John Sayles)

“Welcome to Matewan. This here’s
a company town, and the company
is your benefactor and your god,
your pious mother and stern father.
Boys, think of yourselves as tools,
implements for the extraction of coal.

“We pay ninety cents per ton of coal,
but listen up: your train ride here,
your housing and clothing and tools—
them’s a debt you owe the company:
honour it like you honour your father,
pay it from your first wages, by God!

“There’s a meeting house for God
and prayer. But hear me, boys: coal’s
your cathedral, coal’s Your Father
who art in the mine, ninety cents, here
in the darkness as it is in the company,
ours is the profit and thou art the tools.”

You son of a bitch! Men ain’t tools,
doesn’t matter if they’re lost to God
or chosen to sit in His company
come the day this dark pit of coal
and all the corruption that’s here
on earth is the fuel for Our Father’s

prophecy: the last shall be first. Father,
deliver us. That, or give us the tools
to do the job ourselves: now, here,
in the face of men whose only god
is the ledger book written in coal-
black ink and tallied by the company

accountant. Deliver us from company
enforcers with clubs and guns. Father,
deliver us from the price of coal.
Or shelve forgiveness, give us the tools
and look away. In some places God
and man work differently. Like here,

in this company town. Down tools.
stand with father and brother. God’s
absent where coal is. In Matewan. Here.

 Sudbury Market Tower
—Photo by Katy Brown


On the seventh day, he rested.
In the cold light of the eighth
he compared the finished product
to the original plans, ran through
the snagging list, wondered
about sustainability. Had his doubts.
Best trash it now: insurance
write-off. But think it through;
make it look like an accident.

A vision: war and hunger, ruined
landscapes, brother against
brother in a climate of hate;
austerity in peacetime, nothing
to strive for. Make it look
like he’d left them to it; blame
the screw-up on the human condition.

On the ninth day, he created politicians.

 Big Ben, Parliament, London
—Photo by Katy Brown

Today's LittleNip:


I would like to take your hashtag
and use it as a cheese grater
until I’ve flaked away everything
that’s trending. I would like to
reshape your hashtag, make a TV aerial of it

and see if I can find an arts documentary.
I would like to snap off one upright
from your hashtag and use it
to air-conduct next time I listen to Wagner.
Then snap off the others to leave a square

and use it as a frame for a photograph,
in black and white, of someone
surveying a landscape where fields
and horizon have their own idea of distance.
The kind of place where there’s no signal.


Our thanks to Neil Fulwood from across the pond for today's poems, and to Katy Brown for her pix which were taken on one of her trips to England. Neil was born in (and still lives in) Nottingham, UK, in 1972. His poetry has been featured in
Art Decades, Nib, Uneven Floor, Section 8, Full of Crow Poetry and Dissident Voice. He's married, holds down a day job, and divides his time between the pub and the cinema. Welcome to the Kitchen, Neil, and don't be a stranger!   


Neil with Funky Statue

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Burst of Bird Song

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

(after “To My Father” by Diane DiPrima, 
from Pieces of a Song)

I think you were on your way to me . . .
and then you were gone.  Goodbye, Father.

I remember rumors of you, but not you—not
the real you.  You were only a photograph.

Then a passing-through one late, far year.
Beyond the possibility, Father.  I was a child beyond

my childhood.  I sat on your lap and tried to return
to you,  but you were not there.  You could not

hold me.  We missed each other by one lifetime.
No, two.  We missed each other by two.

Better the myth than the reality after all—
I am a myth, too, to you.  I mourned you too long—

a mythical daughter with an abandonment phobia.
Yours, Father—yours that filtered through

all others.  I turned off my emotions for them.
I would not love anyone who left me.



My father is an old rumor.
Where is he now,

his lifelong disappearance
still disappearing?

Life goes one way by itself.
What if my life had held him?

Father, I name you ghost.
Ghost-Father.  Haunt.  Haunt.



All night he lives with his imaginary wife and child, and is
both happy and not happy.  He does not know how deep
to believe.  He does not let himself answer.  He does not
know whether to stay, or to abandon them.  He ponders
their bewilderment and imagines himself in some other
arms and feels guilty.  How could he be so unfaithful. 
Chastened, he returns to them until he feels redeemed
then loses himself to the sleep that always overtakes him.



My father
who was Adam
had one weakness;
he was acquiescent.
And he died
blaming my mother
for his chronic
(first pub. in The Muse, 1961)


My father didn’t love me
so I broke his mirror.

Now he hides
in broken glass

and still does not love me.
I forgive the mirror.



It will be all right;
I have had this premonition
in a burst of bird song
on a bright day
which had been overcast
a moment before
and no bird had been visible
or heard all season.

You may approach your father
as your self;
he will approve now;
he will be changed,
and you can love him again.
He will say,
“Bless you, bless you.”
It will be okay.

(first pub. in Poetry Now, 2005)


oh the boat with its endless people
goes forth to drown

goes forth to tip over and spill them
gasping and thrashing down

all the children and fathers and
mothers and friends who cannot swim

look how they dazzle the water
with their startled eyes

and there the boat lies
upside down      looking for them

and the water stares quietly back
growing sleepy in the sun

(first pub. in The Wormwood Review, 1973)



My father in a soft moonlight,
waiting for some dream to waken him . . .

I listen to him crying
but he doesn’t know I am his daughter.

He suffers from failure—that, and some
lost love. My imagination cannot save him.

He stares at a small gray river.
The water-moon quivers his face.

He thinks that love has abandoned him.
My mother stands watching from

her own sad distance—I look
from one to the other and cry out to them.


At once I know them
—by their weeping.

Voices abandoned by souls,   
by fathers—by time itself .

Why do I love them—still   
—patiently—in spite of—

these haunted voices.
And I listen,    whisper.  Answer?


Today's LittleNip:


The Architect
of madness and confusion

fathers the embittered mind,
still following some well-worn

trail as stale as the crumbs
it left behind . . .


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for her fine poems and pix, and a note that our new Seed of the Week is Bacon and Eggs. Send your poetic and/or visual thoughts about this (or any other subject) to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Parrots & Wooden Legs

Halo, Citrus Heights, CA
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Caschwa, Sacramento

When I visited the dentist first they told me
I needed some work…lots and lots of work
Then they quoted me a figure that was
Completely more than I could ever handle

So I thought maybe I could take out a loan
You know, one of those collateral loans
Using the very teeth they were going to correct
As the collateral

If their work was as fine as they claimed
And worth even half of what they charged
That would give a much greater value to my teeth
So why not?

Of course I could get a loan against my house
But if I had trouble with the payments
I couldn’t will the house to my heirs, and none of them
Seem to want my teeth when I’m through using them

Piggyback, Napa

        (Kirill Gerstein’s restoration   
        of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto)

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Tchaikovsky shouts vibrations onto a cylinder,
discloses a voice both pungent and high-pitched.
Sardonic and shy, almost as if it itched:
strain speech, or God forbid, music through a colander?
This Edison sieve retains all that coarse fiber
and loses the juice. He feigns the rugged Russian,
but suavity comes first. A thuggish, Prussian
crudeness would be to him a musical viper,
as happens when our twenty-fingered fists
pummel the opening chords of his first concerto.
Roll them with your most subtle touch, those chords,
don’t wreak unnatural shocks no ear should flare to.
Since his death, much as needles lance our cysts,
we ballpeen those same notes, thick spikes through boards.

This restoration, as through a time warp brightly,
brings back his piano, like a fine harp, sprightly.


—Tom Goff

“Being an anonymous human being can be…a very great satisfaction…”
                —One of the “moles” who rescued people trapped
                   in the rubble of the Mexico City earthquake

What would it be like to live without a name?
Or if you have a name, not have a voice
to volley the same in every handball court?
I think of it—my name an echolocator
so every passing bat could glide its choice
of ricochet through dark caves into the frame
of trees as easy and soft as escalators!
Then I hear tall stentorians distort:

their doings go all over town, and that town small;
reptiles grown scaly with brag, they puff their dragons
eagle, their stomachs beaks attached to flagons.

I love a sly telepath who won’t amaze or appall
with any neural-networking self-referential fable.
Her silent mind speaks magic wands,
         each wand a sable clear cable.

 Cannery Light, San Francisco

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

My father was a boilermaker by day,
And usually got many layers dirty.
But he cleaned up well—exceptionally
Well: he was the dandy of a small
Blue-collar Midwest town.

When he was turned out, which
Was usually after 4:30 pm, his
Cordovan wing-tips glowed like
Old fire beneath carefully
Tailored dark suits: charcoal, navy,
Ink black, the occasional pinstripe
If he were going away on union
Or political business.

He kept a running tab at
The local men’s store (Remember
Those?), a closet door hung
With carefully chosen ties.
It was sixty years ago, but
He liked to push: polka dots
With stripes, muted plaids.  And
He could bring off a pink shirt
With a black knit tie, a black
Shirt with white, or a black-on-
Black combination, all while
So not looking like a small
Town gangster.  No, he looked
Towards Chicago for his
Sartorial inspiration.

His shirts might have made
Gatsby himself weep: soft
Collars, fabrics that had the
Hand of flannel, but weren’t.
And seldom just white—those
Were for funerals, going in
A body to view the body; he
And his union or party cronies
Never tired of the joke.

Besides, the white shirts would
Always somehow disappear
In time with Uncle Bernard’s
Visits and departures.  “He may
Need them for court,” my
Father would sigh.  Bernard
Played even closer to the edge
Than the rest of the family.
But never, never, a blue Oxford
Cloth shirt.  Never.  “Do I look
Like some local television
News anchor?”  His inevitable
Response.  Well, yes, sort of.

He’d finish off the look with
Cashmere topcoats, kid (Yes!
Kid!) gloves.  And he wore fedoras
Even when people stopped
Wearing fedoras.  And a watch.
Just a watch, small, elegant, white
Gold, understated, versatile.

I still have the watch.  It still
Runs, but I can seldom bring myself
To wear it.  Not yet.  “But I notice
You usually wear some sort of watch,”
She observed.  “My father always
Wore one.  I wear it for him.”
“But he also wore a wooden leg.”
“Working on that.  The parrot too.”

Placerville Gargoyle

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

They didn’t come dressed for this—
shorts, bare shins, sneakers. But the man’s
got a new puppy, and his young son in tow.
Boy and pup are game if dad is.
The June morning’s a wind full of questions.
A playing-field narrows to dirt-trail
into the woods. Without knowing this place,
the pup leads a way, sniffing pine duff,
brambles, a feather. Where are we going?
the boy wants to know. What
can a father say? Somewhere a lily pond.
Blackberries not ripe yet. Indians
summered here but now they’re gone.
Where does anyone go? A father knows
on the wings of his children.  


—Taylor Graham

He’s been here too long already.

So young to be caught inside bare walls.

No whirligig above his head

to replicate purple cloud, dragonflies, shadow

of the hawk—tribal fear, a wish for wings,

imagining rooftop escapes.

His floor is littered with years-old

newsprint. Is a larger world calling him

by name? What is his name?
No syllable. And the heart beyond

its functional four chambers? a cathedral

fertile with fresh cut fields

and meadows blooming awake at dawn.

Can he see? Curiosity

astronomical as a shepherd gazing

at the stars. Where is his sun?

Dim translucence through six square

inches of pane. Mind opening

its moonglow eyes.  

Flowers at Darling House, Santa Cruz

Today's LittleNip:

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.

—Carl Sandburg


—Medusa, with thanks to today's fine contributors!

Clear Lake, Ukiah

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Something to Keep

—Li-Young Lee

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he'd removed
the iron sliver I thought I'd die from.

I can't remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy's palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife's right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he's given something to keep.
I kissed my father.


—Medusa, wishing you a happy Father's Day and noting that today is the Summer Solstice. May it be a long and edifying day for you.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cathedral of the Heart

Glad 2
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


The agents of red reminded us
That we only had a short time
Left.  We knew these agents refused
To have any discussion beyond "a few minutes".

They would always say that we only
Had a short time.  They would not listen
For any footsteps on the staircase.

Every time I move I am
Filled up with years tied
To a history I am unable
To imagine.  This is unfortunate.
It is my own history.  I can tell
By the way my wrists are bound,
By room after room that
Smell of stars and freshly cut fields.

“Who are you talking to, boy?”
“You have no idea of yourself.”

I see the bees forming lines.
They fly 'round and 'round the house.

I hear the hollow roar of the blood
Rushing through its veins and arteries
Constantly searching for
Chemical information
That once was plants or animals.

There remain only streets
In a darkened
And closed system,
Ruled by breathing
And the chambered
Cathedral of the heart.



He replaced his fingers with bullets.
His head was a cobalt blue.
Through the big windows he could see
The huge insects moving closer to the houses.

They looked as if they couldn’t be real,
As if their exoskeletons covered masses
Of circuits and flashing lights.  He wasn’t
Going to stay in this house any longer.

They had called the aircraft in.
Soon there would be fires below the ridge.
They thought it was possible to stop
The changes in the land.  Purple clouds,
Full of unknowing, a ruby gas leaking into
All their bodies, men standing in front of one
Another killing each other in the most obscene
Ways possible.  He packed up what little food
He had and climbed to the rooftop.
He could already feel the heat of the fires.

His wings felt comfortable on his body.
They glistened as he raised and lowered them
With his back muscles.  This was the time,
This was the last moment.  He leapt
From the edge of the roof.  He began to fly. 

 Stuart's Porch


We saw it going down
From the bedroom
Where we had been making love.

You looked out over the trees
As you sat on the edge of the bed.

“The ship is going down,” you said.
“Look, its lights are rising
To the vertical, and the trees
Have white shadows.”

“This is terrible,” I say.
“Yes,” you say, “but it is very



I’ve burned all the maps
Telling others how to get here.
I want you to know that not even
The horses can find us.

No matter what direction
I look, I can’t see
Anything but you.


Something broke downstairs.
I got out of bed and went downstairs
To have a look around.

There must have been
Seven or eight cats
Just sitting around
Taking bets on what
They thought I might
Be doing there.



I made up these phantoms
And now they haunt me like
Coastal redwoods lifting from dark
Ravines and billowing high above
Our heads.  Oh, that dreams should
Wear such garments, that the wind
Should be hollow and play flute
Music on our bones.

The beautiful marks teeth make
On the dimmest of lamps,
Always calling for more light, another
Way to know the mother of it all.
The spinning of the days, the warp
And wefts opened up to reveal
The weaving, a random assemblage
Of parts pulled from the sea edge
And old magazine photos, from patterns
Of shells gathered between tides,
Mixed with plastic and that unmeasured
Sound the wind makes as it drags
Everything behind it, pretending
To be a parade of boiled stars and dawn.

 Buddha in a Window


An infinity of misery.
It has its own landscape and is bereft
Of people.  Cricket sounds,
A part of the night thrown
Across a plain.  Parts of the plain
Were dark, while others had light.

Haphazard contradictions.  A house
With its lights blazing and, four feet
Away, children swimming in a sunlit
Pond.  To inhabit this kind of place.

Imagination seems higher than anything.
Come here.  Sit beside me.  We shall talk
Of the shifting of the light
In this manner.  Imagine
An ultimate good.
We will call this our lives.


Today's LittleNip:


How about some chips
And a cold beer?  It will
Make this poem go by
That much quicker.
The little brunette
With the cute rear end
Will help too.
We have things to do.
We can’t sit around
All day reading poetry.
The next thing you know
You’ll be expecting the moon
To rise over an abalone shell.


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