Monday, November 30, 2015

Undoing the Dark

Borage Officinalis
—Anonymous Photo

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

I made the mistake of closing my
drapes at bedtime. I shut out

the full moon light, its imagination
wild-lovely as creatures of all outdoors
learning to howl moon-high.

My dreams grew
upside-down, leaves rooted
in cement. And worse, I dreamed
the dreams were true.

At 5:30 a.m. my dog saved me,
pushing her cold nose against my face
waking me to moonlit

earth. Trees rustled to meet dawn,
a dance undoing dark, loosing it to color.


—Taylor Graham

A puzzle you had me solve—such a gift to give—
jigsaw pieces fit together to a song of praise,
light-dark fragments revealing sun on grass with
a split-rail shadow across rutty dirt road; the
three horses grazing in a field under immense
sky, its cloud-shadows; a stringer of oaks, and
unbridged creek. Puzzling almost as peaceful
as silence. Earth spirits with the winds’ sigh.

(a Golden Shovel poem on Anne Porter’s “A List of Praises”)

 Star of India Seed
—Anonymous Photo

—Charles Mariano, Sacramento

what’s interesting
to me
when writing
about a particular topic
is how something else
totally unrelated
pops up
in the middle
of frantic scribbling
and i think,

there’s a story here too

so i jot side notes
on a post-it
just in case

of course
there can’t be
a story
in everything
that’s just crazy

but that’s how it feels
rambling, tingling, everything

then again
this line
feels like…

another story


Today's LittleNip:

Before the sun goes down

I'll lay my wildflower hand
in your hand's white wicker basket

and bold—tender—shy I'll encircle you
as day and night would encircle
the trees of the day and night

and my kisses will live like birds on your shoulder

 —Astrid Hjertenaes Andersen (trans. from the Norwegian by Nadia Christensen)


—Medusa, with thanks to today's fine contributors, including our shy photographer. For more info about the Golden Shovel poetic form, see or

—Anonymous Photo

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Then Suddenly—

Painted Lady
—Anonymous Photo

—Stephen Dunn

Relax. This won't last long.
Or if it does, or if the lines
make you sleepy or bored,
give in to sleep, turn on
the T.V., deal the cards.
This poem is built to withstand
such things. Its feelings
cannot be hurt. They exist
somewhere in the poet,
and I am far away.
Pick it up anytime. Start it
in the middle if you wish.
It is as approachable as melodrama,
and can offer you violence
if it is violence you like. Look,
there's a man on a sidewalk;
the way his leg is quivering
he'll never be the same again.
This is your poem
and I know you're busy at the office
or the kids are into your last nerve.
Maybe it's sex you've always wanted.
Well, they lie together
like the party's unbuttoned coats,
slumped on the bed
waiting for drunken arms to move them.
I don't think you want me to go on;
everyone has his expectations, but this
is a poem for the entire family.
Right now, Budweiser
is dripping from a waterfall,
deodorants are hissing into armpits
of people you resemble,
and the two lovers are dressing now,
saying farewell.
I don't know what music this poem
can come up with, but clearly
it's needed. For it's apparent
they will never see each other again
and we need music for this
because there was never music when he or she
left you standing on the corner.
You see, I want this poem to be nicer
than life. I want you to look at it
when anxiety zigzags your stomach
and the last tranquilizer is gone
and you need someone to tell you
I'll be here when you want me
like the sound inside a shell.
The poem is saying that to you now.
But don't give anything for this poem.
It doesn't expect much. It will never say more
than listening can explain.
Just keep it in your attache case
or in your house. And if you're not asleep
by now, or bored beyond sense,
the poem wants you to laugh. Laugh at
yourself, laugh at this poem, at all poetry.
Come on:

Good. Now here's what poetry can do.

Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There's an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You're beautiful for as long as you live.


—Medusa, noting that if you would like to hear today's poem read aloud, go to

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Small Place in Heaven

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


This morning the trees

Were all growing upside down.

I thought it was my 


But it was the trees.

They got it sorted out

By 5:30 AM so hardly

Anyone noticed.


The sun keeps messing about

With the leaves of the oaks

Around the garden.  The trees

Flutter their leaves, birds preening.

I have left some of the sunflowers standing

In the garden to entertain the birds,

The field mice.  To let the winds tickle

The faces of the nodding flower heads.

Something simple, I tell myself.

The way rain keeps changing its name.

The sun becomes preoccupied

With some clouds and starts making

Promises that the day will get better,

Warmer.  The last marigold flowers using

Everything they have to keep from 

Becoming memories.  The shortened days

Competing to end the season.


It looks like a lock

But it is a dance.

Chimes undone

By color.

Moons of them

Sliding down a

Greasy slope.

The gates tremble.

One can hear the sea

But it is too dark

To see the water,
The complaining waves.

A red lion suddenly
Lost near our door.


We go down to the rooms

Where the seasons wait,

Combing their trees

And plague moons.

Our trousers damp

To the knees.  Blood

Once again.  None of

This clothing will

Ever fit us after this.

We gather on the top

Of the hill.  We will stay 

Here until we have

Learned to howl.

We will find a small

Place in heaven.


No longer just a couple

Of stone gnomes

Posed with stone dreams.

There are households

In the late part of Autumn.

We walk toward the sunset.

The car is waiting

Just after a copse of old trees.

No one lives here any longer.

No one wants magic

Like this any longer.

On many evenings

The windows glowed with

Golden light and the most

Beautiful of music rose

From the old house.

There were now only hooded

Men, ‘Genii Cucullati’.

They wore short cloaks

With hoods.  So they

Were invisible.

Standing on the stone bridge

Over the creek, the water

Did sound like voices

Telling tales of something…

Earth spirits, brownies.

We have all the stories.

You never should have come here. 


A trance of buildings 

Suckled in stone, made mostly

In fog and the detritus of yet another

Year spread across this field of mud,

Then pulled toward the end of the year,

Sometimes nearly blind, sometimes

So full of the smallest of details.

One could be left on the edge of a small

Village, standing just inside an open door

Looking out at the rain, believing it is the self.

For a moment, we own the shadows,

A pine tree across hard granite, a leaf

Shadow reflected upon a puddle of bright 

Water.  A lightning flash in a momentary

Quiet.  A crow sitting on a fence post

Surrounded by the last of the morning glories.

The year begs to come to a close.  

Its trees are leafless.  I can hear a breathing

Beneath this November moon, such a cold

Sphere, it could be perfect beauty.

I realize it is my own breath.

And whose world is this, friend?

We have been here before?

Long, long ago?


Today’s LittleNip:


And now that I am 72

I’ll try to find out

What to do.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner, who celebrated his birthday last week.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Is There Any Cake Left?

—Poems and Photos by 
Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch, CA

In defense of xmas
Across the street this afternoon
Santa was inflated or ought I say deployed
Dressed in camouflage save for his hat.
Who the hell is he trying to sneak up on?
I’ve never seen Santa for all his red and white
On a Christmas Eve ever and I’ve tried.

The boss is off for his birthday
God bless him
Now I have the helm
(They tremble)
Not a whiff of open mutiny
But I’ve had the entire crew
Keelhauled after afternoon coffee
Drowned in rope in the hope
That they would enjoy the weekend
All the more for it
I was born to lead

There was a reason that we never made it to the funeral.
No, that’s not true.  There was a choir of reasons.
Your eyes like fish drowning in air.
That tattoo gone with my arm.
Too, too many stars.
Not enough water.
Or whiskey.
We couldn’t stop laughing.
We tried.
We didn’t try very hard.
I for one am glad she’s dead.
We both hope things stay that way.
You haven’t been yourself lately.
Me, never.
And on a Tuesday for Christ’s sake.
No matter.
Is there any cake left?

She swam to where we two lay
At the edge of the tip of the mine
Watching the fauns play
But when I asked him
How this could be
He took a handful of thorns
And I marveled at the answer
Flowing from his fingers

The sky tires of holding itself aloft, threatens to come crashing down on our rusted caboose of a theater, on the masked ones standing aloof.  Night after night we hope against hope that Iocaste will stay alive, that the sphinx will win.  I only ever wanted to be a cowboy.  Or an astronaut but that was several dreams ago.


Today’s LittleNip:

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

—Dr. Seuss


—Medusa, thanking Robert Lee Haycock for today's fine poems and pix!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Holding Hands of Language

Quilt by Peggy Robles
River City Quilt Show
Scottish Rite Center, Sacramento
—Photos by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


The ships are exiled
for it is that Thursday day
November 26
with this poet chained
to a rock in Plymouth
amid Mayflower air
gliding on waves to hymns
transfixed in a home harbor
with a lone love letter
from a distant relative
between oceans
swamped by history's plan
holding an alto sax
in his open hand
by a percolating coffee
under a faded Pilgrim poster
between whale sightings
reciting by a porthole's heart
a Melville poem
offering Thanksgiving dinner
to anyone at table
from morning to nightfall.



In the moon's solitude
waiting for the hand-outs
of my new poem sequences
among the last red leaf
in the whistled leaves
waiting to play sax
in the breathing of waves
from a montage of pages
in my impatient mind
and outside are November stars
grieving for the silent woman
Allegra a long-time friend
who has family in Paris
telling her the only answer
is to love a heart that is light
and she asks me to play
a lucid French tune
of her childhood
before she left for America
and the evil-doers invaded
her luminous memory.

 O Holy Night
—Quilt by Kelllie Wiley


The wind of the blue hills
drinks in my Fall morning
in a landscape I'm drawing
full of liquid horizons
in a vapor of life's shade
to make up for a poet's
lost Monet blue sky time
missing my Paris days
when parking my bicycle
near the iridescent Seine
when I was an extra
in a student film on 1968
induced a smile
playing the auditioned part
of a student of Sartre
and Simone de Beauvoir
talking to the camera
in two languages
from a documentary fashion
about Derrida, Julia Kristeva
and other deconstructionists
whose daring moments
update my poet's diary
of a zig-zag life
as liquid raindrops fall
on my cool drowned sax
with my music of smooth jazz
used in the sound track
was also recorded
from an absent street
deep of conflicted dialogue
by awaiting to be interviewed
from a group of reporters.



Smooth jazz playing
from now-shut mouth organs
at a natural good night
for my last gig
buried over quarter-notes
drowning in pockets of sax
bellowing over the townhouse
asked to play at a birthday party
by a warm bombed-out menu
warmed by wood stoves
in a November midnight hour
watching a bird through windows
chirping under trembling oaks
in the soft showery rain
the whole length of hours
remembering French onion soup
and vanilla pancakes
on the fire near the floorboards
to watch dancing and propose
a toast that persuades you
that the thirst and hunger
of our menu wheelhouse
is perfectly arranged.

Flower Fairies
—Quilt by Judy Riddle


On the Concord River
we sail my kayak in denims
by a swarming nest of hornets
over us by a fawn rustling by trees
we're spreading lines of Thoreau
at my students’ orientation
wishing to hold hands of language
flashing love and nature
by first circles of light
with a glow in companions
breathing hard in a marathon
from grassy hills and dunes
under dry orange leaves
as new Fall acorns drop
we run into shadowy strides
as a horseback rider waves
to us down hills of open songs
over Walden Pond trails
by breezy gestures of the wind.



Words fall on me
on length of days
with the same pulse
of verse as on my kayak
rolling on the bluest sea
on unexpected hours
or trekking over back roads
watching cardinals sing
over Jacob's ladders
in an open language
of seasonal herons
climbing on mountains
a woman in red high heels
tells me she has lost
her tourist visa and passport
on the last ship at eventide
holds my matches
on the sandy coast
for a neon campfire
near my hammock
out in the neighborhood
under the town's light
hearing my sax sonata
in the white deserted sand
my words wash over you
with a butterfly net
at the freshly painted gazebo
by the lighthouse luminosity
in wonder of woodwinds
over blanket quilts of love
on my peace arm band.

 Bicycle Quilt
—Nancy Elliot MacDonald


Early at my untied rope
from my anchor on my boat
lent to me by woodcutters
from the Azores
who enjoy singing
amid a rainy dampness
searching for blue fish
oysters or salmon
passing the heavy dunes
and sleeping rocks
in a sunlight landscape
on ports of call
by sea-voiced shore birds
in a chorus by pine trees
chirping on boundless Oak
touching the tall greensward woods
as acorns fall over green hills
crawling by white sands
my sax sings by the waters
off the Cape hidden by leaves
birds take off for the South
in an unusual consuming sun
at a November's noonday
with a Marathon companion
as a few deer run by us
in a flash of first light
of red and orange dry leaves.



Six outgrown petals
in a corsage
of last summer roses
three Valentines
not forgotten by time
a first woodland love
by wandering days
over my album leafs
page of my poems
in mute muse and stone by
the waiting hedges of vines
by yellow hyacinth groves
I'm in a Fall blue blazer
with apple scents
in faint trills from my sax
playing in my backyard
along wind-swept trees
along the home harbor Bay
by dangling shadows
of now ripened raspberries
on my walking path
holding my life within.

 Spring Through Summer
—Quilt by Sharon Moos


Alone in the arthouse movie theater
eating popcorn and M & M's
for three days of a blizzard
with my college Uncle Nat
a student at the New School
and projectionist
who became a director
and executive in L.A.
when he was older
watching accompanied
by Tuesday Weld
and Frankie Avalon in
I'll take Sweden
then remembering being
transfixed by the sunshine
after the storm was over
and outside the waterfront
eating at a French café
filet of sole and fries
hearing fog horns and tugboats
harboring coasting rocks
the ocean literally
started to sing
and for being a boy
without complaints
was taken to Sweden
by Uncle Nat as a gift
at that time for Christmas.


Born November 21, 1898

Who knew
that Magritte
would inspire
the sky sound of bells
in the spit of an exhibition
and an eyelid of the moon
for a surrealist poet
living before a gesture
of endless words of love
in all that is dusk
and ink learned pencil shadows
as an outside observer
whitened seashells and harbor
marble stone and rocks
etched in your drawing
with me in a helpless November
overgrown with elder flowers
and heavy dream songs
of my own sadness
would fill the night
to admit me to your gallery
holding onto your colors
shouting for green
do let me in your drawings
not caring to sleep again
on burning caresses
or sailing permafrost
full of forsaken awe
from shaken cranberry bogs
with my sheep dog on all fours
by mildew suburban roads
in nobody lands
kindling a thin haven
of your sculpted sinews
of overdue memory
with martins over me
open to hear your voice
in your etchings
of light magical figures
from trembling fingers
in the corner of my eyelid.



Butterflies at the exhibit
out of breath
from a marathon run
and enjoying Kokoschka's art
his painting of himself
and Alma Mahler
gathering into the parlor light
from pumice skyscrapers
in the lasso of adolescence
indurate with no sleep
and an assignment
for my class on my last lap
before final exams
mixing colors of bougainvillea
by my November's umbrella
my eyes transfixed
in the enclosures of phonics
on the highest range
of slamming on paint
with infinite strokes
brushing my sensations
and a day-old mustache
making everything persuasive
hanging out in a museum corner
with a first love
thinking everything to be new.


Today’s LittleNip:

Best of all is it to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song.

—Konrad von Gegner


—Medusa, thanking B.Z. Niditch and Michelle Kunert for today's sumptuous holiday breakfast (remember that photos in this column may be enlarged with a single click), and wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving—for every breath a song...

 Girl Dreaming of Kaleidoscopes and Tumbling
—Quilt by Sharon Moos


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Feeding Us All

London, Early 1900's
—Anonymous Photos

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

If you were a good
And faithful altar boy
For three years, from
Sixth to eighth grade,
In the early sixties,
Mumbled your Latin
Passably, stayed out
Of the sacramental
Wine, and didn’t
Drop anything large,
Mid-altar, at high mass,
Father Crowley
Would reward you
With a train trip
To Chicago from
Kewanee, Illinois,
And a night at the
LaSalle Hotel.

Heady stuff for
God-fearing pre-
Vatican II lads,
Especially when
The good father
Was last seen having
Traded his Roman collar
For a black Ban-Lon,
And heading into
The hotel bar.

But no matter: the
Hotel television had
Six channels.  We had
An unlimited
Room service tab.
Third cheeseburger,
Second chocolate
Malt, and Orion
Samuelson, whom I now
Realize was Garrison
Keillor’s evil uncle
With the morning farm
Report on WGN.

Just after news of
The April porkbellies,
It was Father Crowley
At the door,
Surprisingly chipper,
And back in full black
Cassock.  We marched
To St Patrick’s Cathedral
For early mass.  They
Say the Chicago Bears’
Owner, coach, icon,
George Halas never
Missed the 7am there.
Usually didn’t help, but
You never know.  We
Didn’t see him.

Then off to the inevitable
Chicago museums: Art
Institute.  “Don’t fuckin’
Touch nothin’,” our
Advice from the guard.
The Museum of Science
And Industry:  Impressively
Clean coal mine.  Field
Museum:  Natural History.
Bones.  Lots of them.
Big stuffed Elephant. 
On the Lake Michigan
Side of the Shedd
Aquarium, a bloated, headless
Body had washed up.  A retching
Daily News photographer
Offered Stevie Krumtinger use
Of his Speed-Graphic, and
Five dollars to get the shot.
“Forget it, boys, it’s Chicago,”
Father Crowley counseling.

Corpse was a woman, we
Decided, first naked one
We’d ever seen.  Drowned,
Yes, and headless, but still.

Time for a ride on the EL.
Speeding through the city,
One floor up, seeing things
Obviously unintended.
And I remember the wicker
Seats, the soft silver gray
Leather of the Chicago
Transit Authority
Drivers’ jackets. I didn’t
Know about my friends, but
I knew I’d be back.  Eventually.


I dreamed of being in a bleak “haunted” house
   Upon entry I just saw white walls without furniture or furnishings
   Next I went into a room where everywhere was covered with scrap paper
   Paper was taped all over the walls as well as laying around on the floor
   Among the papers there were childishly written words as if they were discarded writing lessons
   Others had drawings and some were like many different adults' written letters, journals, or poetry ideas
   In the middle it had a stairway that went to an upstairs
   I took the stairway to find it led to a rather large white-walled bedroom 
   Then the room with two snow-white double beds turned out to be full of frighting “ghosts”
   The smoke-like ghosts flickered and clacked as if coming out of a loud old movie projector
   I frighteningly ran back down the stairs but slipped and fell
   I fell upon a cloud of wadded scrap paper like I was in a big waste-paper basket

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


A few years ago going while going to the house of a friend outside Sacramento close to Thanksgiving Day
   My Dad driving his Buick Century, with Mom along with him, accidentally hit a wild turkey
   The turkey was instantly killed and left a dent in the front fender
   Dad and Mom decided to pick up the bird’s carcass and put it in a sack they had in the trunk
   And then tell a highway patrol cop they found it, so as to report the damage done to the car for insurance purposes
   They would regret that, though, because the officer would not let them keep a “free” turkey to dress and eat
   (I can bet that cop probably enjoyed having that turkey himself on his barbecue grill for Thanksgiving!)

—Michelle Kunert


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

As if you wandered that city by a creed
outworn and long forgotten, as if you walked
through the mud to get there and away
again. One more milestone of a student’s
novel-of-awakening. A beggar with one leg
crutched himself across the market square
where you dickered for field-lettuce and lentils.
The cathedral stood brusque and bare,
no matter its gargoyles—pagan goatlings,
fanciful creatures suckled in stone they seemed,
leering down from their gutterings. A year
can stretch a single winter fog as the spherical
moon passed month by month, never peering
down through cloud. The beggar lifting
his face toward that cathedral. As if
you might wake at night and feel the ache
of something gone; a limb, a year.


—Taylor Graham

In this vast city, midway on our journey
from where to there, can we find
a patch of weedy grass where our dog might lift
his ritual praises to the earth?
Off freeway, behind gas pumps, a cheap motel,

a strip of unkempt green. And here’s
a traveler on two legs with his own tall dog.
The man recites to us an ode
to his dog unshaven as he is; tells us how
he came here, no wheels, no rent,

no door to welcome his dog, not even
the homeless shelter. Just this strip of ragged
green. All he needs, he carries
on his back and in his hand a clothesline leash
attached to everything that loves him.

—Taylor Graham

He asked her to move to the left
just a smidge, to get
a better angle from his spot
on shore, a sweeter composition—
his beloved on the rock like a castle
above its moat, the river
running bright as tiger teeth,
as fast. She edged
to the left, open space—
then she was clutching toward
a flurry of air above rapids
as land fell away
from whatever his lens saw.


—Taylor Graham

From asphalt parking through this building-
complex—walls ramps stairs corridors.
My dog stops to sniff, mapping a concrete
landscape as wind from the east
rushes over roofs, shoots passageways, eddies
in alcoves. I follow my dog who charts
scent-trails dispersing, fermenting leaves blown
from ornamentals. Out the other side, more
asphalt. A gap in chainlink fence;
vacant lot. Beyond. If the forest has a door,
it might be this scuff worn in dirt
through underbrush in the shelter of oaks—
a rough path over roots, a window open to sky.


—Taylor Graham

It’s dark as woods out the window, we’re waiting for a storm. I fill the hanging feeder for titmouse to peck, to scatter sunflower, cracked corn, millet seed on the deck for towhee, junco, white-crowned sparrow. Before the first raindrops I pick garden-greens for the hens. For the dogs, I’ll measure out generic kibble and puppy chow for Trek. Something simple for us humans at table.

winds are gathering,

oaks lift their branches, waiting—

rain will feed us all


—Taylor Graham

We came as strangers to the forest, its doors

open if forests have a door. We meant to leave

the morning news behind. A trail beckoned

trekkers on foot through pine and fir and then

the aspen. Listen, its leaf tongues a-quiver,

song for improv winds and warbler-section;

its bark a parchment for Basque shepherds

remembering homes and sweethearts

half a globe away. One aspen tree so many

trees together rooted. Is the border open

yet from Kehl to Strasbourg, sisters spanning

the many-nationed Rhine? The world

a war unto itself on Flanders Field.

Today Brussels hides inside its walls. 

We come to aspen like a promised peace.

So many trees of one tree, roots in earth.   


Today's LittleNip:

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.

—Louis L'Amour



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Brooding Into a Mirage

Birds on Wires at Treetops
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


You are brooding into a mirage
of broken images—the oblivious city
through a café window—
an idle glance in aftermath—
as from a future: you make out
the details—is that a dance or struggle—
she is blurring into fragmentation;
she cannot hold herself; her features
are terrible; he is reaching out to her.
Change the reality:
you have poured through the glass; 
you are the one in fragile distance;
you are both self, and image of self;
let the blue arm of his gesture
reach through the sorrow and console you.
Dusk now. Lights come on. It changes
everything. Sounds press in. The blue arm
has caught the one who is you,
but you are still falling. The waiter
is coming toward you: They are all out
of tears. Do you care to substitute?



Fragmentary. This old light out of older light. Repetitions.
Believe in it. Let it lead you into its farther self. You can
go as deep as you dare. Its name is night. It has many stars.
Count them. Take forever. A child sits watching you,
blowing soap bubbles into planets. Wings without angels
fly everywhere. Oh, this is such a night. Go with joy, that
old foe of sorrow. Tell the child not to cry. The child
does not listen. The child rubs an old tear into its eye,
watching you for pity. You are both lost and at home in
this night-city which has opened up its wing for you. Do
not try to understand this—you are not here. The child has
dreamed you. Hold the child until you die.

(first pub. in Blue Violin, 1999)

 Crow on Pole

“And the monkey said, this is not my city…”
                                 —Mansoreh Moramedi

On the border of light is a place I know—
a valley that deepens every year,
or the mountains rise,
or the sky lowers.
Sunshine finds it
again and again
with spokes of light
and fading brightness
at night.
Clouds feel drawn
as they drift over and try to stay
but fog can be trapped for days,
for weeks. Birds
are becoming
the people know not of—
they live
in tight little houses,
rooftops touching
where buildings rise into
a crowded future and flash
their extensive windows and
crush their shadows between.
Roads lead in—
and out—
and in again.
Restless streets and cars
play chances with each other
and the valley stretches out, and up,
to make room for more.



Sirens full of loss, looking through streets
for addresses that hide in their brief
tragedies, how the city swallows up

such sounds as a small indifference,
or the passing interruption of
irritation and curiosity,

or the listening—
to see if the sound is going
in the direction of loved ones

before turning back
to self-involvements
and connections.

It is
There should be no sirens.

 Sidewalk Cracks

After In the Rain, 1912, by Franz Marc

In the complexity of rain-light,
a city of distortion:

color upon color,
movement upon movement,

sound upon sound
as sirens bore through.

Red and green street lights
become a collage of confusion.

A faceless woman under a red umbrella
hurries through blurry faces

of misdirection—
a force after force of opposite-going.

And in a puddle of drowning light
a shivering white animal

looks back in trust,
then slips into oblivion to get out of the rain.



Wearing some thin garment
on her thin body
with the slip-
ping shoulder straps—

singing her scarf and
sandal song in the city,
deep-eyed lady
with a face so long there is

not enough sadness for it,
turning her head
just when I
want to touch out to her

and ask if she is real,
knowing she will
put her hand
between us

to emphasize her non-being;
and how, when it is winter,
she will wrap herself
in lost-soul clothing

so I cannot find her—
passing by me and
averting her eyes, though I stand
on corners—begging—looking for her.

 Rainy Sidewalk


The woman shopper
cuts through
the city’s graveyard,
a wheeled cart,
pulling her daily meaning
through the finished
leaves that beak
beneath the mourn
of old, dark trees.
She does not look
at death
or its inscriptions—
she is too imminent
for that.
She walks in her own
in the cold and stippled
thinking of supper.


After Street Scene, 1936/1937 by Mark Rothko

She has become increasingly lonely,
her frail shadow follows her
on yellow city walls,

trying to retain connection,
her inner self cajoling:
Let me out.

take little note of her.
She is inward-bound,

her eyes a little wild,
her face
suspiciously closed.

The buildings
closing in
entrap the crescent moon.

Poor city moon—
as lost as she is—casting no light—
claiming no direction.

 Red Leaves on Lawn


i in my little black dress
went mourning

went sea-sickly
down to the sand

went neon-griefed mourning
down to the city

took everybody’s hand

told them where
i was going tomorrow
when the sun came over the sky

told them where i had been today
with my deep-looking eye

then i winked when they
opened their mouth
for a pity

told them midnight was waiting

and I must run forth
to deathlessly marry

(first pub. in The Hearkeners Chapbook, 1973, Charas Press)

Today’s LittleNip:


Unable to breathe
city man
longs for deep woods

for green silences
for snap of little sounds in
night’s sharp cold

for long hill to climb
to find
a virgin place

in which to plant
the acorn that he carries
in his pocket.

(first pub. in
Driftwood, 1972)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix, and a note that our new Seed of the Week is Family Dinners. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other subject) to No deadline on SOWS.

Also note that there is a new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page: "Busy Weekend in Sac. Poetry" by Michelle Kunert. Check it out!


Sparrow on Fence

Monday, November 23, 2015

November Roses

November Rose
—Photo by Jane Blue, Sacramento

—Jane Blue, Sacramento

A tall cane scratching at the window in a gale
bows down as if calling help me.
The rose with its green arms stretched up

wears a pink turban. During the 13th century crusades,
St. Francis trudged in his dirty brown robe
to Egypt, to have a talk with the sultan al-Kamir.

He meant to convert the heathen, but came away
marveling and chastened. At another time, St. Francis
trudged to Rome in his one dirty brown robe

to have a talk with the Pope. Squatting
in a brocade-draped niche, he waited to be noticed.
The elfin brown saint like a winter-damaged rose

owned nothing. “If you own anything,” he said,
“you will be compelled to defend it.” Slack rays
of autumn tilt through the denuded trees.

The wind increases. The rose
bows and scrapes, low, low, in a salaam,
then springs up, pleading,

bobbing and bowing, pleading for its life.
A drift of leaves in the gutter
rises up, eddying in the street, playing

ring around the rosie all fall down. The wind
abrades your face, pink as the still-supple rose
and you must bend to it.

(first pub. in The Way of St. Francis, published by the Franciscan Friars of California. Also in Turf Daisies and Dandelions, Jane Blue, Rattlesnake Press)

 Port Costa café
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

                For Antoine Leiris of Paris

So powerful the urge to hit out at
whatever makes the world (our world) ugly,
raw feeling seems to will the spheroid flat
under fist. Yet to pound the round rug bug-free
un-lumps the dark fabric, but ephemerally;
how often it scatters noxious pests and larvae
as far as the horizon's baseboard willy-nilly,
seeds all our environs with rank strews and sprays.

Today, a young Frenchman speaks, hurt fresh at heart,
his wife forever torn from him by hateful
jihadists hopped up on rage’s unslayable Captagon.
Yet this man uncovers his core: the nuanced, grateful
mind joins the soul’s innate forbearing part,
can dismiss without spite the profoundly lost
            in wrath and wrong.

Captagon is the powerful little pill, illegal in the US, that can drug a terrorist, or anyone, into feeling immortal, invulnerable...whatever the expression for that exact high. It's everywhere in Syria, we're told.


(Sacramento Bee, 11/16/15)
—Tom Goff

If your life has been lived in board and care,
your days consisting of pawn-moves from that
house to the next house-square, each home a spare
since no set hovel kings you as its heir
—what then, if now the house burns, thermostat
or unattended space heater or cig,
your living room incinerated flat,
your couch both roasted and melted? Jury-rig

foundation shaved to burnt cement beginning,
charred as you are yourself, do you praise life
without your innocence, and yet not sinning?
Or lie squashed as in Paris, miming bread
dough under a corpse who, husband-embedding-wife,
bequeaths you the blood to masquerade as dead?  


Wishing Tree, Port Costa, CA
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Stand back
This poem has a cold
Sore throat
Typical symptoms

Came home early form work
Skipped lunch
Straight to bed
Challenging crossword puzzles

I challenged them
To keep me awake
They were not up to it
Sleep prevailed

Dozed a while
Got up hungry
Throat no better
Enjoyed some left-overs

Hope I am better
In the morning
When my alarm rings
Time to start the regimen…


Our thanks to today's fine contributors, and a note that there will be a new album later today on Medusa's Facebook page, thanks to Michelle Kunert, who has been busy with the all-seeing eye of her camera. Michelle attended both Sacramento Voices and Mosaic of Voices this weekend—plus the River City Quilt Show! A big thank-you to Michelle and to all the other poets who add so much to Medusa's Kitchen with their visuals—including the photographer at the bottom of this post who chooses to remain anonymous...

Manzanita Writers Press has also been busy. This weekend, those folks in Angels Camp opened Manzanita Arts Emporium, featuring art, books, jewelry, and gifts in addition to offering seminars and publishing. On Facebook ("Manzanita Arts Emporium"), download their workshop schedule poster, or see Congrats, MWP, on an ambitious project!


Today’s LittleNip:


What she picked kind
Kind sells a of
Of sea peck noise
Wood shells of annoys

Would down pickling an
A by peppers oyster
Wood the bumpers a
Chuck sea black noisy

Chuck shore baby noise
If black buggy annoys
A baby Peter an
Wood buggy Piper oyster

Chuck bumpers picked what
Could black a kind
Chuck baby peck of
Wood buggy of noise




Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wrap Me in Your Folds...

—Anonymous Photo

—John Gould Fletcher (1886-1950)
          (To the Memory of Edgar Allan Poe)

City of night,
Wrap me in your folds of shadow.

City of twilight,
City that projects into the west,
City whose columns rest upon the sunset, city of square,
     threatening masses blocking out the light:
City of twilight,
Wrap me in your folds of shadow.

City of midnight, city that the full moon overflows, city where
     the cats prowl and the closed iron dust-carts go rattling
     through the shadows:
City of midnight,
Wrap me in your folds of shadow.

City of early morning, cool fresh-sprinkled city, city whose
    sharp roof peaks are splintered against the stars, city that
    unbars tall haggard gates in pity,
City of midnight,
Wrap me in your folds of shadow.

City of rain, city where the bleak wind batters the hard drops
    once and again, sousing a shivering, cursing beggar who
    clings amid the stiff Apostles on the cathedral portico;
City where the glare is dull and lowering, city where the
    clouds flare and flicker as they pass upwards, where
    sputtering lamps stare into the muddy pools beneath them;
City where the winds shriek up the streets and tear into the
    squares, city whose cobbles quiver and whose pinnacles
    waver before the buzzing chatter of raindrops in their flight;
City of midnight,
Drench me with your rain of sorrow.

City of vermilion curtains, city whose windows drip with
    crimson, tawdry, tinselled, sensual city, throw me pitilessly
    into your crowds.
City filled with women’s faces leering at the passers-by,
City with doorways always open, city of silks and swishing
    laces, city where bands bray dance music all night in the plaza,
City where the overscented light hangs tepidly, stabbed with
    jabber of the crowd, city where the stars stare coldly,
    falsely smiling through the smoke-filled air,
City of midnight,
Smite me with your despair.

City of emptiness, city of the white façades, city where one
    lonely dangling lantern wavers aloft like a taper before a
    marble sarcophagus, frightening away the ghosts;
City where a single white-lit window in a motionless blackened
    house-front swallows the hosts of darkness that stream down
    the street towards it;
City above whose dark tree-tangled park emerges suddenly,
    unlit, uncannily, a grey ghostly tower whose base is lost in
    the fog, and whose summit has no end.
City of midnight,
Bury me in your silence.

City of night,
Wrap me in your folds of shadow.

City of restlessness, city where I have tramped and wandered,
City where the herded crowds glance at me suspiciously, city
    where the churches are locked, the shops unopened, the
    houses without hospitality,
City of restlessness,
Wrap me in your folds of shadow.

City of sleeplessness, city of cheap airless rooms, where in the
    gloom are heard snores through the partition, lovers that
    struggle, couples that squabble, cabs that rattle, cats that
City of sleeplessness,
Wrap me in your folds of shadow.

City of feverish dreams, city that is being besieged by all the
    demons of darkness, city of innumerable shadowy vaults and
    towers, city where passion flowers desperately and treachery
    ends in death the strong:
City of night,
Wrap me in your folds of shadow.


For more about poetry of the city, see this article in The Guardian: "Poster Poems: Songs of the city"  (


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Clutching Toward Forever

Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


There was a room in which we took shelter.

It had a door much like a forest

Would have a door, had a forest a door,

And a single window that looked upon

Whatever one must look upon

When one thinks of the sky as shelter

Or the heart as a roan horse

That enjoyed stepping in a particular

Manner, believing someone might

Be enjoying its prance and circuit

Of that visible space below the window.

I will give you a castle and the

Moat filled with diamonds and the

Drawbridge fixed with the reddest

Rubies, bright as a tiger’s eye,

Walls as white as its teeth.

We will stand there clutching

Toward forever, gathering colored

Stars in an oaken bucket, then

Leave all of this as a sailor 

Does any port, intent only

On what the sea might bring

Once all the land has

Fallen from view.



I will move to the left 

And there will be room for you. 

A thin wall of letters you can see around,

But no.  Just another flurry of words.

When we were children it was all so

Much easier to see.  The words had


They carried a lot of information,

(e.g.) that HEY back there two lines ago…

That was us looking up toward

That open space

Where I moved left.

I’m asking for a little help with this.

Come on over and have a look.

If you are seeing anything 

Like I’m seeing, we’re off

To a good start.   I’ll plan

On seeing you here often.

Just look how much room 

We have, just because

One moved to the left

Of the page.




I knew the moon before

It had a home.

I would meet him or her

(Depending on the season)

And we would have a drink

Together.  The moon always

Laughed when I would

Order moonshine.

 Green River, Utah


Why would the edge

Keep him from falling?

Having purple skin could

Just as well count for as much

In any dream.

But here, he could lean

Extremely far forward

And the tips of his fingers

Somehow aligned with the edge

And things did not seem

As much of a nightmare

As he was used to having:

A big slab of nightmare

Dense like a side of bacon,

Yet transparent.

It was close to morning.

Certainly much closer to morning

Than to, say, a changing 

Of the tide, which would 

Have made more sense,

A reason to have a cup of coffee

And look for someone to talk to

So the confusion about the edge

Might have some real part of it.

No one in the room seemed

To notice his purple skin.

It did have a soft glow to it.

His pores were very small

Which made his skin glisten slightly

So, perhaps, it didn’t look

All that purple

And it was smooth.

He could feel the words 

Touch his skin like cat tongues,

But softer.  When the words

Touched him, he

Could hear them breathe,

Almost like spurring

A wound so comfortably

That when the edge gave way

He didn’t vomit.

His mind wasn’t filled

With the rooms of possibilities

Nightmares carried

In their trunk of devices:

Car keys

The upward glance of a child

A moonlit road running

Much too close to a river
A litany of forms

Backlit by a string of

Rectangular-shaped light,

A glowering sky, by open hearth,

Steel-making furnaces.

This will be your childhood,

The rag man had told

Him when he brought out

The empty soup cans and

Broken bicycle chains.

He pointed to the horizon.

Much too close to any edge.

It was gray.  All shades of gray.

The last thing he recalled

Was a little dog with

White tufts on the ends

Of its ears.

It yapped twice.

Perhaps that is what

Woke him up

So completely.

Fingernails dug into

His palms so deeply

His hands began to bleed.

“That’s no nightmare,”

His grandmother said.

“That’s just a bad dream.

I’ll go make some coffee.

You wait right here.

The sun will rise shortly.”


In November, the new moon

In the arms of the old.

This season doesn’t welcome

Travelers.  It has things it must do.

I’ve brought some gray and black clouds

As an offering, a plea for rain, but it is red

Berries on golden leaves the season wants

Today and the attendants of the sun

Do as bidden.  Every day they have

A new master.  I will wait with these gifts.

The time will come when the day wears deep

Shadows for clothing.  Even now they carry

The sun to the edge of the horizon.

The small creatures scurry away from night.

The wind mumbles instructions, then swathes

Itself in bamboo leaves and branches, bowing

And greeting the middle of November as if

It hadn’t expected it until a few minutes ago.

Where I live, the moon has its own café.

We have one paved street and just where 

Main Street starts to rise to the levees the

Café glows yellow and green with moon songs,

The planing of the mornings. 

From the high

Towers the first birds announce their sightings.

The crows hurry to the East to prepare the treetops.

Tits and wrens and doves and thrushes line

The electrical wires.  Glean what you may,

They say.  There is already snow in the mountains.


Today’s LittleNip:


This poem is not

As empty as it might


There are mysteries

Contained here

And a truth, a terrible truth.


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

D.R. Wagner