Wednesday, September 30, 2015

White Silk

—Poems by Li Po
—Anonymous Artwork


The moon shimmers in green water.
White herons fly through the moonlight.

The young man hears a girl gathering water-chestnuts:
into the night, singing, they paddle home together.



In the land of Wu the mulberry leaves are green,
And thrice the silkworms have gone to sleep.
In East Luh where my family stay,
I wonder who is sowing those fields of ours.
I cannot be back in time for the spring doings,
Yet I can help nothing, traveling on the river.
The south wind blowing wafts my homesick spirit
And carries it up to the front of our familiar tavern.
There I see a peach tree on the east side of the house
With thick leaves and branches waving in the blue mist.
It is the tree I planted before my parting three years ago.
The peach tree has grown now as tall as the tavern roof,
While I have wandered about without returning.
Ping-yang, my pretty daughter, I see you stand
By the peach tree and pluck a flowering branch.
You pluck the flowers, but I am not there
How your tears flow like a stream of water!
My little son, Po-chin, grown up to your sister's shoulders,
You come out with her under the peach tree,
But who is there to pat you on the back?
When I think of these things, my senses fail,
And a sharp pain cuts my heart every day.
Now I tear off a piece of white silk to write this letter,
And send it to you with my love a long way up the river. 


Amongst the flowers I
am alone with my pot of wine
drinking by myself; then lifting
my cup I asked the moon
to drink with me, its reflection
and mine in the wine cup, just
the three of us; then I sigh
for the moon cannot drink,
and my shadow goes emptily along
with me never saying a word;
with no other friends here, I can
but use these two for company;
in the time of happiness, I
too must be happy with all
around me; I sit and sing
and it is as if the moon
accompanies me; then if I
dance, it is my shadow that
dances along with me; while
still not drunk, I am glad
to make the moon and my shadow
into friends, but then when
I have drunk too much, we
all part; yet these are
friends I can always count on
these who have no emotion
whatsoever; I hope that one day
we three will meet again,
deep in the Milky Way.



My friend is lodging high in the Eastern Range,
Dearly loving the beauty of valleys and hills.
At green Spring he lies in the empty woods,
And is still asleep when the sun shines on igh.
A pine-tree wind dusts his sleeves and coat;
A peebly stream cleans his heart and ears.
I envy you, who far from strife and talk
Are high-propped on a pillow of blue cloud.


There are lots of poetry books and chapbooks appearing these days, one of which is The Grit in Her Mouth by Ann Menebroker from Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press (, with cover art by Henry Denander of Kamini Press in Stockholm, Sweden ( This is a fine little book; both Ann and Henry have been good friends to Rattlesnake Press over the years. Check it out!

On Friday there will be a book release for Rhony Bhopla's new book, Ceremony, at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sac., 7:30pm, hosted by Carol Louise Moon. Cover art is by Susan Kelly-DeWitt, layout and design by Robert Grossklaus.

Be sure to let me know if you have a book coming out, and I'll post it here. It's hard for me to keep track of them all unless you send me a shout-out at

Still speaking of small presses (as we have lately), this coming Monday, Sac. Poetry Center will feature Patricia Caspers of West Trestle Review (, plus Katherine Case of the letterpress shop, Meridian Press (, hosted by Wendy Williams. Should be a very interesting evening.

For more info about Li Po (701-762), see


Today’s LittleNip:


met Tu Fu on a mountaintop
in August when the sun was hot.

Under the shade of his big straw hat
his face was sad--

in the years since we last parted,
he'd grown wan, exhausted.

Poor old Tu Fu, I thought then,
he must be agonizing over poetry again.



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Ornamental Rages

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


The ornamental rages are hiding in our lives.
We give them names like love and duty.
We hang our pictures straight upon them;
the Indian praying toward the sky as if
there were no ceiling . . . the wolf that howls
toward the cobweb swaying in the corner.

Our crooked years are forever falling,
lacking nails.
Our strings are never wide enough to guard the halls
which we creep down
in search of substance for our shadows.

The other day the mailbox blew apart
and in it all our letters,
forever dated to our search for meaning.
I need to tell you this before it rains, before
the streaming mirrors disappear with all our faces.

(first pub. in Kindred Spirit, 1988-89)



Remember when love was the dream
that clung to our sweet morning
like Sunday-sleep,
a nether-state of languor
that held us long and loving,
and we struggled not to waken…

Remember how sunlight
and mockingbirds
held us breathless
in such pure listening
that Time was a sad white face
ticking ruefully
against our exquisite rhythm

Remember the beauty we found
in each other
(we would not mirror
the world’s disillusion)
we could not believe
the serpent-lies
of sad-eyed lovers who said
we could not create an Eden…

Remember the lyric of rain
and the humming winds
that we heard urging, Feel.  Feel.
And our wholes selves
answered, We do.  We do.
And we were a song entire.

Remember the candle we burned
for a fervent symbol,
the wick a vein for the fire
that melted the slow wax
down the bottle
that once held the white wine
of our tasting…

Remember how long
the season of lilacs
and how much of springtime
is spent in that first finding.
O we were foolish
to think love a constant season.
When did it happen
that loss of petals
did not matter?


I would love you
but love is not enough.
Love is a pain to memorize,
a long guilt to remember,
no matter who declares it.

Love is not what you want it to be.
It is not a perfection.
It grows lonesome
and cruel.
It is always half-child.

I would love you,
but we are the wrong two.
We are from the wrong arrogance
and pride.
We could never be completed in time.

I would love you anyway,
but you would leave me
even if you stayed;
and I would leave you
at every disillusion and every regret.

I would love you,
but we are dark inside—
two lights gone out as if they were candles,
the soft-scented smoke of effort
fading out like a spent breath,

and that is all of us . . .
this sigh . . . this drifting silence . . .



She lit a candle—watched its flame       
toy with the shadows that it made.        
The air sucked in.  Almost afraid—      
she sprinkled salt and wrote her name—
a superstitious game she played.            

The candle flickered.  She erased           
the salt and wrote the name of one         
who did not love her; then she placed    
the candle where the wax would run      
into the name her finger traced.              

The candle flared, burning her hand      
that dared not risk one favor more         
of sprinkled salt—this either/or             
of her demand.  In reprimand,               
she swept the salt onto the floor.     


After Cover Picture: Erica Jong, At the Edge of the Body

A candle floating on the river in a small boat—
a child’s boat—or the soul of a dreamer—

an unwavering candle, taking up the whole boat,
while the watcher from the shore watches the candle.

Or no one is watching. Who put it there? The sun is
lowering—is changing the look of the sky, which also

is watching the burning white candle in the boat on the
small river—small enough to be a pond. And maybe

the child has just been called away by a worried voice—
a match-playing child who stole the match—who stole

the candle for the makeshift boat that floats with its
burning passenger on the little sun-drenched river.

After Shawn Colvin/A Few Small Repairs (CD Cover Art)
You strike a small flame from the red horizon
—hold the matchstick to your doubled eye,
speak of dusk—the slow receding sky
stealing all the light that love relies on.

You say that love is not a promise broken.
The match flame flickers, but does not burn down.
You say this proves the truth that you have spoken
—truth not even tears, or rain, can drown.

The land and sky connect. Your eyes burn red.
The match flares up. Your face absorbs the light.
What will you do with power made of fire?

You speak of Faith—Fire as an awesome thread
—a metaphor for what can re-ignite.
You say all love is made of such desire.



touching your face
weeping for you
her eyes old
her body afloat
in the shadows
her white neckline
melting away from you
her mouth with its words

your face flickers
you glow in the lateness
flesh like melted wax
your hands lost
in their strangeness
reaching for
the love you are promised

why is there no music
entered into this silence
welling between you
needing filled

why is there no hypnosis
releasing you
bringing you into focus

she is bending her face down
her lit hair
is falling into your hands
which have lifted
as if to fill with tears

(first pub. in Paisley Moon, 1991)


feeling black about certain things
(though not as big as wars,
or famine, or something
as small as bee stings)
but more like the broken heart
love has
or a bad hair day
or any irksome
that ruins a day,
And I,
truly morbid now,
am building to
a mood
for dark music,
low lights,
and doors closed
against everything
when all I can think of (grateful
for the comic relief it seems)
is down to cobwebby shadows,
strong black coffee
and black jelly beans.


Today’s LittleNip:


Sad music filled night’s rain-charged air
and faded there—
blue sound
that seemed to make the candled-brim
of light go dim
around our mood

And then it rained.
The light
flared once and sputtered out. We wept
awhile. Then slept.
All night.


Speaking of local journals (as we were yesterday), convergence editor Cynthia Linville announces that the new issue is available at

Don’t forget that the dedication of the new Poet Laureate Park will take place tomorrow (Weds.) from 4:30-6:30pm at the South Natomas Community Center, 2921 Truxel Rd., Sac. See the green box at the left of this column for details.

Our new Seed of the Week is Wolf at the Door. Send your poems, artwork and photos on this (or any other) subject to No deadline on SOWs.

And also note that Medusa’s Kitchen has a new Facebook album: Recent Readings by Katy Brown. Check it out—Katy has been busy lately!


Monday, September 28, 2015

Blood Moon Rising

Blood Moon in Trees
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it.
                     —Carl Nielsen, Danish composer

Do silences have surfaces? Oh, yes.
But yours is not the surface of silent ice,
the Danish ice-note of Nielsen’s we might guess.
Every time you arrive like wedding rice
or manna or sparkler sparks, I feel a mess
alongside you the lovely, you the so nice
despite a childhood destined to unbless:
yet here you come unblemished, without vice.

Oh, this is me breaking silence, telling you
that if I were to demand your aching clasp
in spring-thaw surrender, tender aggression, few
would register the held-breath iceburst gasp
that races my blood and runs my symphonic clock.
You would, sweet key: my far-northern cryptic lock.


—Tom Goff

I gave away the book a dear young friend
inspired me to buy, named for the Castle of Heaven
where JS Bach indited his poet’s blend
of contrapuntal breadstuff mixed with fine leaven,
the yeastily dancing galant. She gave me joy
of the lissome or densely dramatic choral art
called Passion, raising Suffering to a ploy
for darkening, then lifting the errant heart.

And all in one book. And I just gave it away,
lazily, cravenly yielding to the social,
feeling it gently urged from hand by a new friend.
How asslike, me when I’m led on some ethereal
thread, yet strung by the nose, to make a brute end
of deep care and remembrance, light as in play!

What does it imply, when far from her as never
I surrender the stuff of her soul—and she’s nearer than ever?

Daisy Cup
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Jimmy was the Junior
Assistant Scout Master
For Troop 80.  He took
His job, with its many-
Syllabled titles, very seriously.
He was always impeccably
Turned out in an A uniform,
Long sleeves, patches
Badges and sashes,
Whatever the occasion, whatever
The weather.  And always,
Always, with the odious
Green Pea Soup tie
Tight to the neck.

We all knew he did at least
Several extra good turns
A day, probably to make up
For us slackers who found
It difficult to get even one
Old lady across the street
(Curiously, they never wanted
To go).  And we all
Knew he was always
Prepared for everything:
Second coming, tsunami,
Zombie riot, Nuclear winter,
Rabid missionaries—
Anything.  And he would tell
You that, with a smirk that said
He knew you were a lesser
Being, an inferior scout.

He could also play a bugle
Beautifully, if such a thing
Can be said.  At camp, Taps.
Six in the morning, Reveille.
Truth is, everyone hated
Jimmy, camp staff, scoutmasters
And assistants. Grunt scouts.
He never got
A single vote for Order
Of the Arrow.*  We older scouts
Counted votes.  Sometimes
Things somehow got lost.

But there was one thing
About Jimmy that he did
Admirably, and well.
At the Boy Scout Courts
Of Honor (We were all about
That, in those days), he would
Light the candles—
And intone:
The Spirit of
Scouting, the sentences
Of the Oath, the Twelve
Points of the Scout Law
(Don’t make me repeat
Them, no.  Because I could).
And at the end of the ceremony,
Go back through it all backward,
Clipping the candles to darkness,
With forefinger and thumb, all
But one.  The Spirit of Scouting
Burns on.  Well, maybe.

Asked Jimmy once how he
Did it.  Said, eventually you
Built up enough wax
On your fingers, and
Nothing hurt.  “But doesn’t
That mean you never, never
Wash your hands?”
“You have to
Give up something
For the magic to work.”

*The Order of the Arrow is the Boy Scout Society
Of Honor Campers.  White sashes with Red Arrows.
It’s a Big Deal.  Think Fraternities before
You have to take the SATs.

 —Photo by Katy Brown

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

She came home to her house
disastered. Cascades of blood-red candle-
wax hardened on the long-stemmed crystal
vase, wedding gift from her mother-
in-law. Festoons of cobwebs in every corner
(her mother-in-law loathed spiders).
Walls singed as if a dragon brigade marched
through the rooms before flying out
every flung-open window. What to do?
Inform her mother-in-law
the Pied Piper had arrived, playing
the most enchanted flute, and she was
following him out the door.
And please don’t come this Sunday.


—Taylor Graham

Brooms and dustpans, feather dusters.
Scrape the candlewax from floor and table,
melt it in the old brass pot to make more
candles. Nothing shall be lost but every atom
salvaged as if it were a soul. Sweep cobwebs
from the corners—but only dusty webs,
and spare the living homes of spiders, eight-leg
creatures of God who feast on ephemeral
wings. Dance your brooms across these tiles
laid down by hands so long ago, and twirl
your dusters in the crevices that hold
each window so it lets in light. Be intimate
with wax of bee and silk of spider, wood
and stone; for everything is holy.

 Claire J. Baker
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

Curled Viennese cat,
what language can I use
to have you know me—
a homesick American poet?

Your fur feels the same soft
as California feline.
Tail snaps like Bay Area
tom cat prowling the hills.

Marie Antoinette, doomed
daughter of Maria Theresa;
the Schonbrun palace/gardens.

Lacking your language
I stroke your ears,
translate Austrian purring
into California dialect.


—Claire J. Baker

If I keep still
and listen
maybe some poet
in the crowd
called Life will speak
or write
the tenderest
phrases I might
ever hope to hear.
Then I  will express
my own words,
brought near.


 Santa Cruz Boardwalk at Night
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

Our thanks to our potpourri of contributors this morning! Watch Medusa's Facebook page for a new album, coming later today, of all the readings Katy Brown has attended of late.

News of several area poetry journals has crossed my desk recently:

Ekphrasis is a long-running journal of ekphrastic writing which has been published since 1997 by Sacramento poets Laverne and Carol Frith. (If you don’t know what ekphrastic writing is, check out this journal!) The latest issue is just out, and may be purchased at

DADs DESK is the region’s only large print poetry journal and is edited by Carol Louise Moon, who also edits Sac. Poetry Center’s Poetry Now. The latest issue of DADs DESK is available at The Book Collector (1008 24th St., Sac.) as well as by subscription (4 times/year for $8). Info:

The latest issue of Canary, the Bay Area’s online environment poetry journal, is available at

In order to tempt back readers and entice new ones, Song of the San Joaquin Quarterly is offering a special price for the rest of 2015: a year’s subscription (4 copies) for the price of three: $15. After that, the cost will return to $18 a year (still a bargain). Subscriptions would make lovely Christmas gifts. Checks may be written to Song of the San Joaquin and mailed to PO Box 1161, Modesto, CA 95353-1161. More about SSJ at

Scroll 'WAY down in Medusa’s blue box (under the green box) at the right of this column for a list of other journals in our area, such as convergence, Poetry Now, Tule Review, WTF, Gingko, Brevities and many more. Small press journals are the lifeblood of poetry!


Today’s LittleNip:

—Claire J. Baker

Imagination opens us wide;
we believe hope
will inherit the earth.

As magicians
of beginning again,
we pull fresh starts

out of our hats
like pulling
pure white rabbits.



Dieters' Utensils
—Anonymous Photo

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Will Coyotes Howl?

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Will coyotes howl

before the moon eclipses?

And must that blood moon 

rise as round, rich and golden

as a lamp lit for harvest?

Have you listened to

the language of wasps and bees?

What do their wings say,

and the waves of air among

carts and trellises

for all the climbing flowers?

Is the night sky full

of ships’ sails or sailing clouds?

Can you see pure light,

how it presses the moment

to a star’s unmined silence?

Have you heard the wind

curl up and swirl on the deck?

and three coyotes

in the dark distance calling

and a young dog answering?

In sunlight slanting

do twigs map the crooked road

that leads who-knows-where?    


—Medusa, thanking today's superb chefs in the Kitchen! For more info on the Super Blood Moon eclipse tonight, see 

Saturday, September 26, 2015


The Foot of the American Falls, Niagara
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


I have no idea why they would let us
Remain on the boat.
It is very beautiful and we love it
But that is not a reason.

It could be because we are magic
Or that our hands can touch things
More gently then anyone else’s.

Or that we understand the dead
Pain of losing everything.  Some of us
Cannot see.  Others cannot hear.
We do understand profound silence
And yes, the late water still comes
Lapping.  And we can open up
The dreams like oranges and pass
Them around.  Press them to your
Lips.  They are sweet, sweet, sweet.

And just here, where we are,
The wind curves up and swirls
Upon the deck.  It knows
The journey.  I close my eyes.
I kiss your lips as you have always
Wanted someone to kiss your lips.

We feel the anchor being hauled up.
Those who could not hear, hear.
Those who could not see, see.
Those of us who can speak
Begin to talk of being survivors.

We link hands, wrapping them
With fine scarves.
The wind unwinds and moves
To fill the great sails.
The sails have become pure light.

We become the definition
Of every moment where longing
Changes the heart to find compassion.

No one has seen anything
Like this before.

 In the Oakes Garden, Canadian Side
Niagara Falls


Shhhh!  The gold lamp is lit.
Our memories look like
They were birthed in a snow globe.

Light collapses in a corner
Unable to continue any further.
We observe a language composed
Entirely of wasps and glowing
Rooms in ancient castles.

The acts of the dead are discovered
In these dreams of snow and waves
Freezing in mid-air
As they rise toward
Carts of flowers pushed up against
The walls the soul uses
To tilt its ladders against
In order to ascend snd see the moon. 

 The Horseshoe or Canadian Falls,
Looking Toward the U.S.


The languid daffodils
With their splendid cars
Full of flames and small block
Engines, forced to drink the Spring
Through lines of nitrous oxide,
Gather in concrete block buildings,
Shuttering, to be dragged into the sunlight
As part of a conspiracy of continents
Relied upon by the stars, immune
To these flower-headed postulants
Popping and exploding into the ring
Where a pure singing calls from the
Schoolhouses and exposes them to fumes
Thought to be a gift of Orpheus
And are now spat from the mouth
By every season as it laughs
Its own particular slant of sunlight
Its own particular idea of this
Absurd fray.

 Oakes Garden, Canada

(The following two poems are from the forthcoming book, Finding Our Lives Full of People, by T.L. Kryss and D.R. Wagner)


It was years before we returned
To the site.  A bunch of rotted

Lace, the shaft of the feather,
A small bit of glass that could

Have been part of a smile.  There was
Little left of charm about the place.

A fireplace could be seen through
The window.  It had its own language.

Twigs could have been wishes, branches could
Have been road maps but probably were not.

"Hello,” we said as we came closer.
We could see their eyes glowing, warmer

Than any fire.  "We have been here before,”
She says holding up a medal of the Virgin.

Ah yes, we remember that evening, honey
Poured like dictionaries into our hands.
"We love it like this.  We never thought
We would return here.  Are you our parents?"



As I crested the hill
I found the moon asleep
In a small hollow, nestled
Just below the tops of a grove
Of oak trees.  The moon was
To have been up an hour ago.
The light coming through the branches,
That quiet music the moon always makes.

Tonight your skin tasted like
Lime juice and orange blossoms.
I have moments like this where
Everything seems possible for an instant.

I wasn’t supposed to tell
You about the moon, but I had
To.  I thought maybe you would
go there with me sometime.

I know the exact place it was
Resting.  I could hold you there.
We could pretend we have always
Known things like this.
We could sing a moon song.

 The Moon Over the Horseshoe 
Or Canadian Falls, Niagara

                 for Tom Kryss

There is a moment when the lights
Become dull memories and the territories
We have come to understand in our travels
Begin to unwind and contrive their own kind
Of knowing, one coupled with the notion that

Soon an emptiness will sidle up to us and clasp
Our hand, explaining the while that we will have
Little chance of understanding emptiness and the
Damp that descends with the evening, even here

On these mountains or in this desert or along these
Trails still dusty with the echoes of elephants, ostriches,
Creatures of mystery.  They will crumble, we are told
And in that moment, we believe that we are hearing
The truth rather than the banging of cymbals played
By deaf men who sold their imaginations long ago.

The multi-colored lamps make this place seem dreamed,
Not found on maps we carry, nothing promised here,
Only the trail of words that leads us on.  We will recognize
Nothing but will continue so that we might see these places,
So that we may fall into the mouth of fables breathed
Over fires on some future night when the Nightjar’s wings
Begin their tale and summon us from the dust once again.

I will see you there, crossing the winter night just ahead,
Betting destinies on seasons, correcting the optics
So all may see mythical beasts and believe in them
If only for the telling.  Make in your mouth a story now

While you walk and breathe here, that it may be told
Again at some set date far beyond these landscapes.
Favor mystery and what is lovely.  Avoid the invisible
That I may feel your hand and together we will build
Toward the favoring winds, tell the dates, catch the
Glint of light on our words as they dance away from us.

(first pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 2010)


Today’s LittleNip:

HO NE GORTHA—Dreamtalk

We are workers
In the star mines,
Tremors of delight
For the eyes and imagination.

These are songs pulled from
Our remembered dreaming
As used as a counterpane
With wild, clear lament.

 Ingrid Swanberg, a former Sacramentan 
who also read in Cleveland

On the Road With D.R.

D.R. is on a trip back East, and last Saturday he read at BeatStreet Cleveland, a reading which was held at the Barking Spider to celebrate The National Beat Poetry Festival. (For more info about the reading, see BeatStreet Cleveland 2015 - The National Beat Poetry Festival on Facebook.) Here’s what D.R. had to say about the experience:

The wealth of good poetry presented at BeatStreet Cleveland was incredible.  Cleveland's poets are excellent.  John Burroughs, writer, editor, musician, and composer is the author of The Eater of the Absurd and numerous poetry chapbooks; his poem “Lens” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His poems include “Cannot Believe William S. Burroughs Is Dead” and “Allen Ginsberg Wants You.”  Since 2008 he has been editor/publisher for Crisis Chronicles Press. Burroughs performs his dynamic poetry across the rust and coal belts. His new book, Beat Attitude (from Night Ballet Press), debuted at BeatStreet Cleveland.

John is a performer par excellence of his work.  I was totally knocked out to listen and watch Burroughs perform a poem. Here is a clip of him performing one of his works:, John Burroughs and Étienne Massicotte performing "Way Erred Scenes Inside a Jazz Mine" on September 19.   

Thanks, D.R.! Stay tuned next week for more photos of his trip.


John Burroughs

Friday, September 25, 2015

Writing in Caves

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


I was beautiful once,
the homeless lady tells
the young worker

who’s filling out forms
before assigning the lady
a bed for the night.

She’s been homeless
for months since
arriving from Dallas.

She's looking for a job
and maybe a husband
but hasn’t found either.

The worse thing, she says,
is the weather in Nome.
It’s nothing like Dallas.

With snow in the winter
and rain in the summer
in Nome she needs

something to crawl under.
Often it’s a man, she says,
with no home either.



The author tells the reporter
from The New Yorker he has
no electrical power in his cave
and that’s why he writes

with quills on parchment
stopping for a couple of hours
of sleep and a couple of bats 
from the ceiling to eat.

He writes in a cave, he says,
to avoid the world and lives
in stories to forget the cave
unless the stories are bleak

then he writes poems about
long-legged ladies with smiles
like angels, eyes like suns
and waterfall hair, ladies who
won’t visit because he’s a gnome.


Very late in life bullets answered jeers
Paul once used to tease a little boy
coming home from school.

Little boy grew up and found Paul
and put a bullet in his temple
as the sun danced on the barrel.

Friends brought flowers, built a shrine,
gathered in a circle and prayed 
after the ambulance took Paul away.



Better a nation
have a demagogue
step into the sun

and tell its people
what a sleepy man
discovers flicking

on the bathroom light
and there's a roach
running in the tub 

shiny as a silver dollar
but still a roach
despite the sheen.



In camps in Hungary
Syrian refugees squat in mud.
Let them board trains

and go to Germany
where old camps
need dusting but

the bunk beds are there
along with ovens to light
if winter comes.


We often fall short,
say the dwarfs.
It’s the way we are.

Don’t make a big deal
of it, say the giants.
Happens to us too.

Can’t see the problem,
say the blind.
What do you mean?

Please repeat that,
say the deaf.
Get to the point.

Have nothing to add,
say the mute.
Can't comment.

But each candidate
brings answers for all
every four years.



Some say none.
Others say one.
Some say three

in one and then say
one of the three
is two in one,

divine and human.
Every day it seems
more say none.

Easier to talk
with those who say
one but those who

say three in one
and one of the three
is two in one,

divine and human,
they confirm a truth
none will understand here.



There are pockets
of them everywhere,
quiet and discreet.

Usually they meet
once a week
in private homes

in basements
some call catacombs.
Depending on the group

a minister will preach,
a priest say Mass
a rabbi teach.

Elsewhere you will find
a mosque on almost
every street.



Phil doesn’t go to church
but after midnight he enjoys
watching preachers on TV
swing their Bibles in the air,

march across the stage, yell
about the joys of heaven and
louder about the pains of hell.
He likes to see believers sing,

raise their arms and dance
in ecstasy down the aisles.
They might be on to something,
Midnight Phil thinks, clicking

his remote and wondering
if they could be right and if
they are, what about his bones.
Where will they lie after midnight.

Winery Window


A drunk comes into McDonald’s
staggers to the counter
is waited on by a young lady

who looks like his wife
years ago when he proposed.
Drunk says nothing, just stares,

mouth agape, until the
manager hustles forward,
sensing a sale

leans over the counter
says to the drunk,
“Want fries with her?”


Today’s LittleNip(s):


A row of lilacs
covered with a summer snow.
Ten white butterflies.


Blooming for one day
a lily welcomes the sun.
Bumblebees drop in.


Cardinals bicker
and knock seed from the feeder.
Doves parade below.


—Medusa, thanking Donal Mahoney and Katy Brown for this morning's fine fare (Katy will be one of the readers at 100,000 Voices For Change tomorrow; see the notices in our green box and our blue box), and reminding you to check out the photos on Medusa's latest Facebook album—Joshua Tree, CA with Cynthia Linville!


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Big Apple, Next Stop

—Photo by Denise Flanagan, Newton, MA
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


At California's entrance
here we depart
Omaha all aboard
with John Denver
even Lord Baltimore's here
get up kid, he tells me
in my blue beret
take off your Gogol overcoat
Big Apple, next stop
your urban read
is ready for first announcing
in his buzz
bz, you are on call
for this stand-up appearance
no ride is as tentative
as shadowy figures
as a poetry in the underground
translated to film nostalgia
the quicker to get there
to recompose
in a song of writing
my insecurities not shown
at the microphone
with a refugee script
about war and peace
a poet wanders in a tumult
of compelling crowds
my audience applauds
in vagrant curiosity.


(Birthday September 30)

Spliced with life's comma
through a coma of warfare
rife with a clasp of hilltop wind
you hand over hours of speculation
in a provocative expression
giving your voice to us
on a thousand sands and words
lifted in praise on grounds
of your chosen field
over an eternal fiery flame
by thistles, names of stones
over a poet's sky-diving
on limbs of a city and sea
next to leaves of laurels
anointed as a visitor arrives
with Autumn's birthday gifts.

 Car Wash
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


Radiance in the eyes
of landscaped sea-waters
in postcards sent by a poet
who finds duplicate shells
to salvage in a darkness hull
embracing the morning beach
and all who walk by the Coast
acknowledging your time here
by the long-suffering waves
and eventide of hands
hidden in lapsed memory
in the mist and fog
out of first-light lanterns
of miscarried dialogue
reaching out to rolling angels
cast as a newly reborn Hamlet
knowing only the speech
which whispers in the west wind
kilometers away
by you on park bench
near a two-lane rose garden
among lapidary fields
the ocean at his back
reaching out for words
in a maze of stones
granting a watchman
of ships and lifeboats
has entered the wharf
by the tall grass dunes
along the home harbor
T.S. standing there alone
weaving his whispered voice
near the flock of swans
who follow his shadow
will not be lost
in a soliloquy in French.



Paz is passing by
his voice remembers
when city streets
would welcome words
of civility
and humanity
your thoughts
a repast of taste
with the intimate
reprimanded recurrences
and sentences
of your stranded past
you speak and sing to me
over names that slept
a thousand days
in rose blossoming
over deserts
of thirst of watering holes
from Mexico's sounds
ascending in the dawn
even now
his gated shadows are here
enough reported
and said by your cortege.

 Car Wash 2
—Photo by Katy Brown


At the Berlin Jewish museum
a poet writing turns toward me
embracing signs of history
and art from California
from your yellow studio
at those days R.B. Kitaj once
traced back in Berkeley
in drawn paints on screen
of wet silhouettes
remembering his tribute
to Creeley and Duncan
who visit you, Kitaj
in London, 1977
with unrelenting brushstrokes
from outdoor cafes of lovers.



In your living room
of entrance, entr'acte
and departure
from crystal goblets
you drink and draw in
from blinds and awnings
of a fallen crossword abyss
in your answered mind
from a metamorphosis
of a quest on boulevards
overlooking the sea
flowers found on roads
you pick up rose petals
near the fountain water
wrapped in quiet silences.

—Photo by Katy Brown


A crisp tongue rolled
over the lawn mower
by Paris green
at dawn's walk of the dog
moving to leaves on fire
alive as September songs
from Connecticut's lone
astonished figure in the sun
waving only to the wind
in all directions to Hartford
with a post-war cut poem
pasted from the vessels
of his outlook opened
at a blind optimistic notebook
his crystal pocket watch
in his trembling hands
remembering how Whitman
entered and left our world
as a well-known influence
now here is another cortege
where uninhabited ants
live in a coffin
of unknown tantrums
who move over
to hear a drum roll and tantara
all the way to Santa Barbara
while you, Wallace Stevens
await to have others
in the academy remake you
from your own image
of renewed language
from square-toed critics
who have gone before you
with their own petulance
love, prejudice or parlance.



You crashed against
the careful landscapes
in an avalanche of paint
as a tenant of breathless
wall art
scents of a kindled hand
knowing your signature
will not remain suspended
in watershed reputations
along the Hudson
from a raining downpour
of hypnotic spellbound drawings,
in a lightness of a viaduct
of being connected.

 Notre Dame de Reims 
—Window Designs by Marc Chagall


Chant to me Lautreamont with love
for the transmuted words
to make everyone's phrases
as one limitless lexicon
in a Pascal dictionary
of quoted fervent meditations
over third-chronicled graces
from mangled mirrors
in your ambulatory quotes
on trespassed made-up faces
where destiny waits us
as exiles over islands,
continents and archipelagos
in deserts thirsting
for lost traces of your verses
in disappointed excavations
or dug-up horizons
impervious records
of updated trials of sentences
even in the gulag's snow
there is a copy
of your verses everywhere
in Las Vegas motels
of second chances
and Los Angeles comings
in illustrations
reading you quietly
in corners of gated
Potemkin villages
spies on library shelves
there under moldy blinds
by housetops crowds
under seven stories
of a friendless memory
hearing a singing canary
sing of you, Lautreamont
outside a Paris church
with Chagall windows
hearing your voice, Lautreamont
by paintings stolen in Vichy
during the watershed year, '43
you are located
even in a used bookstore
in old beautiful Jerusalem
at an archaeological dig.



We waved as grackles rose
on Cambridge Common
standing near the Charles River
a young poet on the corner
near the news stand
by the first rays of the sun
his alto sax blown near
the bicycle racks
waiting under every limb
of a hundred years of Evergreen
holding Virgil as a guide
by the law faculty
at a Mass. Avenue sighting
needing your company
as you returned from Brazil
refreshed and vetted
I'm palpitating by a hornets’ nest
from an allergic reaction
after attending religious session
on meditation
about St. John of the Cross
you show her a new poem
and abracadabra,
the dead wind of September
becomes alive.


Today’s LittleNip:


Baudelaire's guy
Constantin Guy
a Dutchman drawing us in
who painted landscapes
who would pay him much
attention of his sketches
or "Three women in
a Carriage"
if you were not killed yourself
by a horse-drawn carriage
or loved by the Fleur du Mal
Parisian poet on my shelf.


—Medusa, thanking today's contributors for their fine work, and noting that there is a new photo album, Joshua Tree, CA with Cynthia Linville, on Medusa's Facebook page. Also note that this is another busy weekend in NorCal poetry; be sure to check the blue box (under the green box) at the right of this column for all the goings-on!

B.Z. Niditch, wishing you a Happy Fall
—Photo by Denise Flanagan


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Seeing All the Secrets

The Fool
—Poems are Cynthia Linville's 
Excerpts from Luna Blanca's Tarot Book
—Paintings are from the Tranquil Willows Tarot Deck 
by Rowen Saille and Tranquillity Fearn

The Fool

Bungee jump
free fall:
embrace the sky

The Magician

In the wake of his stardust smile
every head turns
says yes

The High Priestess

Riffling through
your soul’s cache:
seeing all the secrets


The Empress

Teeth sink
into warm bread:
olive oil glistens on lips

The Emperor

A whiff of Clive Christian No. 1
the silent purr of his
Bentley Continental

The Hierophant

closing the door
turning the lock

The Lovers

Bacon and dark chocolate
on the tongue

The Chariot

1950 Mercury Eight:
hydraulic lift
pearlescent flames



Oakland, New York
Miami, Detroit:
out in the streets

The Hermit

No wifi, no signal:
the forest breathes
deep silence

The Wheel

Vanna White
gracefully turning
the winning letter


One-armed woman
over 200 pounds

The Hanged One

Loose change
out of soul’s pockets



Marble monument
granite headstone
brass plaque: sprinkling of ash


Dancing parallel
on tightropes:
Cirque du Soleil

The Devil

Snooping his phone:
secret sexts

The Tower

Housing Market

The Star

Scores of Giselles:
the audition line

 The Moon

The Moon

Climbing the cliff path
at midnight:
flashlight goes out

The Sun

Emerging from
air conditioned darkness:
full glare in face



Green shoots
dead wood

The World

Apollo 17
the big blue marble


—Medusa, wishing you a happy and productive solstice, and thanking today's contributors for showing us their fine work in this upcoming book.  For more info about it, see

 The World

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hope Wears a Blindfold

—Poems and Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


Why were the children in this dream?
There is a wilderness to the domestic silence.
The last thing we drew was a dragon with no eyes.    
Poor dragon. It flew into a mirror and died.
Your ship finally came in. You were still poor.
Little boys like to color boats dark blue
in generic coloring books.
Our fingers were heavy with red crayon. Yours
were the same as mine—little red finger points.
Next time, let’s trade, I said.
But your crayon-blue eyes were refusing.
Little girls are very particular about which colors
they want to use.
The dragon stared toward us in the mirror.

Let us love dragons forever, you said.
We drew pity for a flag.
We painted it bright red. Ships sink every day.
Little toy sailboats
wobble safely in gentle ponds and streams.
Some days the dragon dreams back to our ruined page.
We draw it again, this time with eyes.



the rush of wings
through a fast mirror
made of air;

as if I am the waiting glass
for the escape of
something wounded—

a word of long ago,
finding me here for its use,
and I am blessed—

as if I am the certainty
of wisdom . . .
to let all this happen,

even as I hold my breath
through the forgetfulness of others.


The breath of sleep is upon her and the shadow
in the bedroom hides in the curtain. The mirror
stares deeply into all the angles of the room
that breathes with her sleeping.

The ceiling fan whirrs softly. It is summer
and the small noise the fan makes
barely disturbs all the complex, curious listenings.
Inside her sleep, the dream stalks her.

The mirror contains it all—like a far memory—
all the shiftings and edgings and motions
of the night. The shadow in the curtain
ripples and wishes it were real.

Inside the grip of the dream, she is struggling.
The sheet pulls from her and tangles to the floor.
She cries out and half-awakens.
The shadow in the curtain goes motionless.

The fan shudders in its turning. The mirror
closes its eye lest she see what is truly there.
If she were to waken now, she would become
another self—would have to choose.

But she does not waken; and the shadow
relaxes, and the mirror resumes
its watching, and the fan whirrs
and stirs the slow night in its humidity.


(After "Nude with Dove", 1928, by Tamara de Lampicka)
Lady with a dove—
each by each, startled,

or else sharing

the simple myth
of message.

She raises a hand
against a wing.

The dove flutters still
at her shoulder.

She whispers—
whispers her thoughts.

The dove’s coo is soft—

and the woman relents—
alters her heart which was closed.

 Crows in Field


Going under water she breathes now—takes on the el-
ement of resistance to what is not possible—thus she is
able to stay under for long periods of watching and

listening—the lightness and heaviness of her body—a
strange contradiction—a matter of choice now, the look
of the sunlight at the surface even more dazzling and

beautiful—passing her hands under it for an even more
spectacular pattern of light-glitters. She begins to feel
separate from all the others who have not missed her,

their bodies dangling without heads or moving in a
slow horizontal skim above her. For awhile she follows
beneath them—mocking their directions. Tiring of this,

she begins to marvel at her new perspective : she is in a
leisurely ballet of new movement; she is beginning to
feel like a fish; with the merest of movements, she

quickens and changes directions at whim. Soon she is in
an unfamiliar current.    Swifter.   Darker.     She has no
desire to leave this altered environment. She fits herself

to the motion and wonders whether she will ever return
to the glaring surface—that heavy world—receding so
soundlessly above her.



Now that the cat
has come to
live with us
in our tame house,

from my red rug
I vacuum
all such things

wren feathers
and dragonfly

and the red
felt nose
from the catnip


From the breath of cities comes the old dark
and its favorite night bird that
chittters once outside my window
and is gone—gone to what other darknesses

there are between it and its swift reflection,
that myth of substance—and I feel the night

close over where the night bird was
and erase the memory of itself—and now
the porch light shifts back into place,
and I turn back from that sound that I imagined.



Hope wears a blindfold so you can grope
toward the brightness of your desire.

It is the only way to earn what you want.
It is its own guarded secret.

It will tell you, and tell you to follow—
follow. And you will follow

and not stumble,
though there are pitfalls everywhere.

Your heart is pure and your
want is sacred.

You will never fail yourself,
and someday hope may reward you.

Today’s LittleNip:


Something as joyful as
a sheer-winged dragonfly,
a butterfly, a moth—
a humming bird in flight . . .

all these can still the heart.
All these can still the heart

which grieves the smallest loss:
the damage that befalls,
the happenstance of death—
all life too swift for love.


—Medusa, thinking Joyce Odam for today's fine poems, Zentangles and photos, and noting that our new Seed of the Week is Cobwebs and Candlewax. Send your poems, photos and artwork on that (or any other subject) to No deadline on SOWs.

Two Red Roses