Thursday, December 31, 2015

No Regrets

Felix the Cat
—Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol (1984-85)


Under the daylight elm
wanting to touch the weave
and hem of His garment
or the robe of love
after reading the psalms
at the warm frontier gate
or listen to laughter
like old St. John
on the island of Patmos
to know God understands us
under these stormy caravans
or to sit like Jeremiah
under a carob of green
by wreaths of Christmas trees
up from Vermont
you sent down to us
crowned with apricots
wrapped in fallen leaves
beneath the desired ledges
dusted with snow drops of candy
by the high leafy hedges
with gum drops
or to stand on Plymouth Rock
or land-ride by Jerusalem Road
or to feel secure
without hunger or war
in any part of the globe
if only to find our roots
by lonely lyrical vines
wanting my first fruits
before it is too late,
or walk by white cold sand
alone on the beach
longing to hear the echo
of the sea at Galilee
or hear the Rabbi teach
under a glittering dawn sun
to reach out at the Mercy Gate
at an emergency open door.



No regrets for the past year
when all we want is to gaze
at the Green Mountains
and remember those brave souls
by the fountain of the catacombs
or in the cave's secret passages
in monasteries
of our younger days
up here in Vermont
now we want to help
those bent and doubled-over
who cannot speak
for the love in us
helping others across the road
and offering them my hand
to reach out to the brothers
read as the lector
and play on my guitar
with a vacant Beat poem,
or cheer up others
with maple syrup
or to serve the divine cup
of the monastery wine.

Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump, 1987
—Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat


The last of the Christmas trees
is brought out under the stars
as the directors check
tall piles of plywood and nails
near a Vermont stage and deck
on all fours by arranged bars
as actors prepare their lines
caught in a cool breeze
a few thespians worry if they are
a little wanting at their age
to rehearse the miracle plays
with tales of medieval songs,
chants, madrigals and dance
as throngs revel by the wreaths
of poinsettias, flowers, by floral
orbs and cherub's ornaments
where tiny bear cubs hide
and prance near evergreen branches
beneath the presiding manse,
we hail the mythical cast pageant
in a musical announcement
as musical parts are given out
for high soprano and alto voices
in a lyrical singing chorale
by open-garden ranches
a few gentlemen put on costumes
ready to sing carols or to chain dance
with lonely courtly ladies
in newly worn creased garments
as the art director takes on
a poet's assignment
feeling like a priest in confinement
to save souls from Hades,
here is the prodigal son
in his brand-new sandals
brought to a reconciled father
from out of a family scandal
between a time of resentment
of a father and son trial,
now behold, all the actors
have arrived on stage
at the cold riverside's edge
with a show-off-and-tell loyalty
by their skill to know
of God's love
in their middle-age roles
with a free-will offering
to newly baptized souls
as lay brothers and nuns
play their parts
with exemplary fun,
these that escaped
any mortal punishment
at an age of accountability
because of what is done
to all humanity
as is the theater's responsibility,
dramatic St. Elmo’s fires are lit
on either side of the stage
along the thespian aisles pit
everyone reads
from their own page
as if it were holy writ
in satire, comedy and wit
by the now newly reconciled
where nearly everyone smiled
here is a missionary stranger
playing an Italian contessa
bowing at the manger
recalling her Marian vision
who had repented from her sins
to her handsome confessor
another sister has a dream
and dresses up in capes for a Queen
who is her praying intercessor
by a mounted horse of the duke
hearing woodwinds
played by a St. Luke brother
with a holiday music sing-along
sharing all of love's wonder
who is wearing a scapula
and fresh stockings
who acts as an Arthurian king
who had once done a wrong
in mid-life
to his own wife Guinevere,
the chorus now sings for us
in a mood of understood belief
with perfect confident loyalty,
as a suited lover crosses over
a chocolate heart's box of Royalty
giving a kiss of peace to a knight
in a shining armor shield
made of solid gold
hearing reigning thunder
so brightly across the bay field
on top of a cold mountain hill height
there is an old rood and nailed cross
with guardians of the grail
a tale told with so much good will
which manages to thrill us,
now all covered in the dark
hailing the past reigned monarch
with poet visions of Joan of Arc
even the power elite weeps
with the martyred St. Stephen
who bows down with red flowers
at the feet of the crèche's bed
desiring to worship baby Jesus
with a bright red costumed choir
rejoicing here in the wood's
open shed,
as our Beloved is with us
sparring with the storybook
of a young Robin Hood
who took from the rich
to give to the poor
for the cause of brotherhood.

 Untitled (History of the Black People), 1983
—Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat

(December 22)

We both had part of the street
when an originally aligned
poet and artist
meet in the dark night
of the late Eightys
in Thomkins Square Park
Basquiat not yet renowned
in a weighty art history
nor was adopted by any school
or by any theorists or critics
nor yet promoted by the elite
of Manhattan
here he was alone
half-dressed in a nude shadow
drawing in people of all kinds
intellectuals and dorks
nor were we comprehending
what your great gifts were
scribbling patterns of expression,
yet Basquiat still creatively rules
lending you my fur hat
shining in the gaslight
uncombed by recognition
with your cool spark impression
of your drawing boxing gloves
to take on the world
with your gritty graffiti
you will make your mark
in a marginal world of infinity
not forgetting to be a younger star
with his enlarged almond eyes
in a human-shaped memory
of our own hunger stint
in art's own circus sideshow
with a high-five handshake
over a surprised lost miracle
from a Basquiat business
bas-relief narrative break
of his drawings of a cat
and then he was found out
to be really an original mint
making our life delicious
as we choose to honor you
for us to take your part
beyond all staging belief
in a reference frame
of an authentic genius
vetting about fame
that the popular art news
will only hint at your name.

 Untitled (Boxing Ring), 1981
—Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat

(born January 2)

"The Child of our Time"
those poetic words
by Sir Michael Tippett
embraced my baton
are heard in my retreat
up at the high podium
when my once-critical uncle
leads me (as he is director here)
as I am humming
and jamming the notes
up on the stage's pit
aware not to skip the pages
nor apologize
for my nascent enthusiasm
as the adjacent music inspector
has selected to record it
with discipline, obedience
and a miracle of goodness
I was rewarded with a chance
and assigned
to be a guest conductor
and resigned to be in a black vest
with short pants
in my Sunday best
into a rabbit-white-coat trail
with loafers on my feet
near the wise concert master
in a recital for an hour
displaying the virtuosity power
of strings, drums and choir
with a bell's peal of motioning
the orchestral mimetic beat
apparently without any flaws
or notes out of line or demise
raising my arms to applause
as the patrons rise
handing me a carnation flower
for my lapel
though I still have butterflies
in my bones for two hours
dwelling within my own conceit
in a miracle appearance for me
before my red eyes
and given a cup
of stone-cold French wine
a ways up from the bench
as a ten-year-old's surprise.


(born January 5)

Silence when only love
is what remained
of my Sorbonne horizon
on my restless search
here in Paris
in the Fifth Arrondissement
lonely by the bridge
in late dusk,
hoping like any voyant
or vagrant poet
with a prophecy of desire
at the museum window
art realized its dream zenith
in Tanguy's underground shade
of burning blue surrealism
in a pure siren glade
rescues his speculative lights
of undercurrent prism's reflection
as a light angel
of numeral design
pens his new art made
for my class advancement
in my shadowy direction lines
until the days of my commencement.

 Basquiat Under the Stars
—Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat

(for W.D. Snodgrass,
born January 5)

When the new year
submerges our dreams
I turn to you, W.D.
to on-line poetry
with an eye rhyme
realizing there is a discovery
in which time
has not passed away
but you have grafted in
and discovered us
from our livelihoods
bordering on the edge
of night and day
bordering words rising in us
all from the ice blocks
of your past confessional
in the live form of denial
when old conventions lock us in
yet steers your time
while out of breath and smile
we are trying to reach out
to companions and poets
by teaching the lesson
that our long-suffering
is only a trial of abstention
that we will survive
in our poetic recovery
from an exiled attention.


Today’s LittleNip:

I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.

—Jean-Michel Basquiat


—Medusa, with many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for ending 2015 with these fine poems, and hoping that there are none of us have any regrets floating around out there at the end of this year.

For more about artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, go to or For info about the movie, J
ean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, see

 Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1960-1988


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Leaving the Garden

Afternoon Patchwork
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

Birds fled from me, and night invaded me with her powerful force.
                                                       —Pablo Neruda

Earthworms dug deeper when I walked by.
The storm changed course and went around me.
I was an earthquake with two legs, a nameless fear,
a death mask with a leering smile.
Dark. Stark. Dangerous.

Let me tell you a couple of things.
Not every dark cloud has a silver lining;
sometimes you just get rained on,
sometimes it is just another storm.
And those things that don't kill you?
Not all of them make you stronger.
Some things in this life can just shatter you,
rip out your soul, and leave you in its wake,
shriveled and suffering.

It happens.

Go ahead, bite the goddamn forbidden fruit.
Then glance down; you're naked.
Soon god will come looking for you, calling your name.
Be ashamed. Run. Hide. Cover yourself.
No matter what you do,
sooner or later we all leave the garden.

—James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA

(The title is from a line in Pablo Neruda's
20 Love Poems.)

The monstrous factories thrive upon the markets of the war.
                                                         —Robert Duncan

Go to the time-clock and punch in; it is time to go
to work again. There is blood yet to spill and profit
yet to glean from the torn limbs and broken bodies.

We placed the children's souls on the assembly line,
soon they will be packaged up for marketing. Don't cry.
After all, there's plenty more where they came from.

Days and nights of blood. Shattered families. Horror.
There is profit in peace, too. (There is always profit,
no matter what.) But there is far more of it in war

and death. Sorrow will feed new cars to the wealthy.
Agony will put fat into the bank accounts. Load
the weapons, friend; death is writing a really big check.

—James Lee Jobe

(The title is a line from Robert Duncan's poem, 'Passages 26: The Soldiers.' )


He felt his brain floating in a vinegar sea.
                                   —Walter Pavlich

Waves of vinegar, pulled by the moon. Pulled
By hands beyond our ability to see.

The sound of whales singing far below the surface,
And from the white shore, the noise of gunfire,
Bullets like a bonfire, bullets like moonlight,
Bullets like wind.

Time is nothing. Driftwood. Empty shells.
The tide is coming in, and it is vinegar, not the sea.

Out on the breakers, a brain bobs up and down.
Somewhere, somehow, another one of us
Has just let go.

—James Lee Jobe

(The title is a line from Walter Pavlich's poem, 'Killing The Man Who Wanted To Die.’)

 Wedding Shoes

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento
torn ragged
tossed away
can be reborn
even as the ocean
transforms itself
each new morning

angel aqua
silver soft
from inside
Earth womb
water pours
most clean

is it blasphemy
to say
that Earth and

is it possible
for a regular woman
to understand?


—Ann Wehrman

the air glows and shimmers
hawks cry overhead
angry ravens chatter
within maroon-leafed oaks
and pines laced with frost
he sits in a dream
by the misty forest pool
his hand stirs its elements

a magnificent black stallion
gallops into his mind—
mounting, he rides
to the feet of his beloved
she takes her seat, leans back against him
and the world opens around them

they race on
then pull up, laughing
and come to a walk
beside the misty pool
under the trees
their horse’s breath steaming
in the fully-risen sun


—Ann Wehrman
I used to love walking outside
autumn turning leaves
burnt orange, red, brown
fallen decay, nature’s mulch
fragrant, rich dissolution

with our Weimaraner bitch
St. Barnabas, Barney,
I hiked from my parents’ warm house
frost-stiffened stalks crisscrossed
in harvested fields surrounding
our rented Victorian
though Dad worked a desk job in town

in a crevice between
soybean and cornfields
small pond, not yet frozen over
mud ruts around it
my boots mounted
carefully crossed
mud would wash off

stepping intuitively
gulping deep, clean cold
under sky lowering gray
finally trailed home
cheeks flushed red
that fierce joy, empty mind

naiveté in the face of constant
betrayal, their need to control, to break
my recognition compromised by
desire for survival
locked the words in my room
in my chest, in a tiny corner of memory
blacked them out
it might never have happened
but it did

decades later, my vision clears, yet also dims
today’s pre-dawn rain soaks russet, soft gold leaves
my feet still touch earth, stand as a mountain
yet even mountains crumble over time

 Crush Time (Leaf on Grapes)

—Ann Wehrman

Cold sets leaves aflame—
ripe olives smash under feet.
Relentless nightfall
pauses as gilt edges clouds.
November’s drama equals 
Sacramento’s summer heat.


—Ann Wehrman

tender breeze, mild midwinter
evening after rain
sun melts in scarlet
swirls at the horizon
above float voluminous, timeless
rose and gray-blue clouds
slowly drifting 
opening multiple dimensions
as your eyes widen, you grin
and your generous mind leaps
you utter the most provocative
comment at hand
a smile lights my heart
like the crimson sun
slipping slowly into night

 Neon Tree

—Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch, CA

Having drawn the curtains against the glaze
We scumbled down a spiral staircase
Flanked by nudes descending two abreast
Younger than we ever were


—Robert Lee Haycock

Mother follows us
Through doors we can not close
Chiding us for empty plates
And the young ones are too apt
To blame us for a world
We had little hand in making


—Robert Lee Haycock

Crowd me ‘round, you too, too many ghosts
In this last deepening of the dark
And kiss my eyes beneath a golden bough
As I light candles for you in my heart


Today’s LittleNip:

—Robert Lee Haycock

The second time she's blossomed in one year, our quince. It's quite a queer oqurence.


—Medusa, with many thanks for today’s fine poems from James Lee Jobe, Ann Wehrman, and Robert Lee Haycock, and for Katy Brown’s beautiful photos!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Month of Turning

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


The new year is coming and I
am still in the curve of the old—

dragging myself backward—
holding on to autumn

with its soft linger of sunshine,
aching against winter—

already feeling December
devour itself.    Oh, I am not

ready—am never ready
for the turning off of time—

until I am plummeted again
into the new, which comes—

with so much feeling of relief
—relief and anticipation.



The year comes trailing in like an innocent
bystander and finds me in the first hour
and we size each other up and take some
sort of stance to suggest intention,

so we greet each other carefully and ask
direction of one another,
and here we are at the same beginning—
dependent on one another, somehow,

to make it work—whatever we say
and mean. And we wander off together—
down the days—and become destined—
though the particulars are yet to be realized.

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 2005)


Here it is winter, cold January,
month of turning,

month of slow counting,
birth year   death year

days without leaves,
numbers pulling.

Cold—cold—gray and cold.
Hurry…   Hurry…   February.



She knew what it was to sorrow by degrees,
the thin extending shadows of her years,

the blank look in the mirror of her eyes.
Oh, she was sad enough to specialize

in winter’s puny light—that tone of gray
that January brings.  Each year she vowed

to lift the house with light—to have it
glow and penetrate the winter—still—

she hangs onto her angers like a duty.
She knows what it is to sorrow by degrees.

The Year Turning, 1999-2000

The white moon shone, its glowing light so near that we
glowed back and touched it with our eyes. The dark sky
listened with intense cold stillness the way that admiration
does. The lost cry in the universe became found. It was
round and thin, and sometimes hard to bear, the way pain
or love is. We were driving in a car—then we were standing
in a driveway—but all the while we watched the moon and
remarked on it: Like white neon—Like shell—Like skim milk—
Like a moon that clung to us with its light—Like a skin. We
shivered , but we praised winter for its mildness. We became
vague with praise. We wanted more light. We mesmerized
the sky with our watching. We took the moon down for our
strangeness—touched it, held it, let it go—our cold balloon
that drifted back into place while we mourned the effect it
had on us—last moon of the century. For the rest of our lives
its light stayed on our hands. We touched each other.


(Sestina Sonnet after “A Colloquy of Silences”
by Michael Heffernan)

Forgive the wanderlust of stones.  They move
like shadows over unrelenting years.
They settle against dim light and barely breathe.
Be patient like the stones.  They do not know
you grieve.  Nor care.  They do not even know
you study them for patience when you move
from loss to loss, and even forget to breathe
till numbness wears off.  Do not count the years
as many or few.  Time will count the years
for you.  There’s healing in the way you know
how stones do not consider how they breathe—
nor do they know that shadows make them move
in moving time.  They do not gauge the years
that breathe through them. Time is what they know.


When she looks down the long trail of the world
—or only of this place, and the road dwindles,
and she feels abandoned—when did she hesi-
tate? And where is better than here? And
why must decision fail, or seem to fail?
The road is a test, as staying is a test.
But she has such a yearning, for all
things wondered, for answers
without question. What traps
her now in this pose of rest-
less wondering: The road
she is on is the road she
was always on, but it
narrows now into a
tiny horizon, as if
it ends there.



In this recall, I am drifting through a year of somebody’s
black and white garden. The land stretches out from a
white two-story house. Clouds hang in soft clumps against
a bright gray sky that is held in the distant slowness of my
eyes. If there are others in the world I am removed from
them by this sparse mood of junctured time, though someone
held the camera.

My serious face is caught in an expression that I cannot read.
I have just returned from walking through fields where I went
to see the cows, of which I was afraid. I remember the cows,
how they would turn, each one, to look at me; and I was
small—smaller than my fears, which were many. Someone has
abandoned me to my life with only this remnant to find and hold
me here, waiting for myself to come out of me, but I never do.


I must have wrongly-dated
my letter,
for you complain
that time moves backward now.
I’ve noticed, too,
that you answer questions
before I ask.
And friends who died
drop by to say hello.
What can I say to them?
That I am sorry?
(Forgive me,
my bewildered ghosts.
Just go!
And do not come again…)

My letter came to you
and your reply
came through a warp of time
with its sinister prediction.
And I
have not even lived that lie!
I cannot change
my new direction.
My thoughts fly
over the clocks and calendars
as I live backwards
past all those turning
heads and astonished eyes.

(first pub. in Quoin, 1968)


ONE MORE YEAR                                        

That was the year when things went wrong. We made rules
that never lasted. We invented rages. We wrote pages and
pages of promises and never mailed them. We drew eyes
upon our closing faces and looked into the dark; for that was
the year we broke each other’s heart. But we were young
and full of dramatic desperation.

Each way we took was wrong. We rued it later, in long
and violent confessions to some other listener who did not
care, who turned away and made us look to anyone who
might pretend to listen. Once after that—or more than once—
or maybe only some intention, drew us toward the magnet
of an answer: It seemed so clear. All we had to do was love
each other a little longer.

(first pub. in ONE(DOG)PRESS March, 1999) 

Today’s LittleNip:

YEARS LATER           

Years later
I took my arrow from the wall
and wondered, which way now, old traveler,
where must I send you now
that I must follow?


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for her beautiful poems about the turning of the year, and for her fine photos. Note that our new Seed of the Week is Creatures of the Night. Send your thoughts about that (or any other subject!) to No deadline on SOWS.

Joyce Odam has hundreds, probably thousands of poems published throughout the world. Use her as an inspiration to get more of your poems out into the world as well. Medusa’s green bulletin board ("Submit, I say!") at the right of this column lists just a tiny fraction of the possible venues out there. Make it your New Year’s Resolution to do more research about where to submit, to do more submitting, and to toughen up so rejections don’t discourage you. The more submitting you do, the more acceptances you have, and that’s a fact.

One place to start is Medusa’s Kitchen: if you’ve never submitted to the Kitchen, do it today! (That’s If you already have submitted, send more!!! The snakes of Medusa are always hungry………

And this Friday, New Year’s Day, check out the first Spoken Word Night (Jazz-Beat) of 2016 at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First St., Davis, 7pm, including Marque Azrael Emil Cass, John Natsoulas, Ted Fontaine, and CJ Borges. Seating is limited, though, so get there early.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Improvidence of Light

Dark of the Year, I
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Morning fog’s settled in with rain.
Can’t tell where we’re going or where we’ve
come from.
Rain’s settled in to soil, muddying footprints
till earth can hold no more. The rain still raining
hustles down creek that’s been dry
since March.
A watershed knows directions, carrying
everything down, running away to sea.


—Taylor Graham

I wake to cold, dry wind, shiver
of bird-wings through the room, a dark
mistral—the master wind—
from another world. We’re improvident
of light this time of year, dawn late
and dim, gone too soon.
The old dog’s asleep in front of the dark
TV. Will he stir to the morning
report? Imported gifts for a passing season;
traffic and weather so far from
the trails of his life. All those years
he’d push nose-first into the wind
to catch its news on the fly.
Now he chases rabbits in his sleep.
Before she died, the mother-dog
floated through the house in my dream,
searching—for what?
The old dog rouses, the bright
of his brown gaze softened by years.
I stroke his furred crown,
wonder if he hears the master-wind
calling him weightless
as a homing bird to another land.

 Christmas Eve Hail
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Bread rises, and fat of the steer is rendering
to tallow on the wood-burning stove. Morning’s
assembled dim as winter dawn. Its song spills
on the floor. Must she mop it up? Outside
it’s snowing, the black colt’s broken loose
again. She leaves water making magic steam
in the kettle. No time for close-to-the-fire.
Black skirts whipping her out the door—she
leans into it. The wind’s a quirt. Hoof- and boot-
steps tangling lines in snow. Where are
the men? On mountain paths, stones symbolize
journey, each obstacle a bookmark. That colt
will be a good horse someday. So many
unforeseens. The best striding out to meet them.


—Taylor Graham
Midnight comes in the open door.
Its crows speak: The guts of mortality are
kept in place by membranes
shimmery as leaf-fat that wishes to become
candles burning into a new year.
Syllable by syllable, one beloved name
after another becomes loss
surrounded by silence; disappeared
into the mysterious beckoning of sky.
That baroque of wind and storm clouds
reveals loose scree underfoot,
chance of a broken ankle; earth opening
like clouds. A scalpel-shaft of sun
lets light pour down.
Can the hand that severs
also replace the lost, shiny new as
January, as a titanium joint?
In gown and goggles Midnight leans over,
explaining how good slips into bad
and back again. You’ll wake up
somehow mended. Count blessings,
not asking how they turn out in the end.

 Dark of the Year, II
—Photo by Taylor Graham

We Nod God

—Sharon Mahany, Roseville, CA

      After Gwendolyn Brooks’ "We Real Cool"

We hang lights.  We
See sights.  We

Bake cakes.  We
Wrap gifts.  We

Buy tree.  We
Hurry.  We

Sing tune.  We
Pray soon.

 Birds, I
—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis, CA

Flying feathers preened to go
no hairless look for this bird
nor color clashing reds
staying powerfully jolly
and alert to gaze out the window
at pink wafts of sky ribbons
at perfect circles on the earth below
and not know the origins
of ruler-straight lines.


—Ann Privateer
recently, free flying
recalling feathered friends
propelled by jaunty winds
at the window and me
who sleeps and gazes
there at erosion, at rivers
beyond the cliffs, at circles
on the coffee table, and wonders
if landings are more intense.

 Birds, II
—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

My grandfather would
Take us children
Out Christmas eve
Just before midnight
Just before the animals
Spoke.  Never heard
Them, but still.

He’d point out
The North Star, Orion’s
Belt, like we cared.
Though just before
We’d go inside, there’d
Be others: Skunk’s Tail,
Failed Mortarboard,
Napoleon’s Other Hand.

None exactly on the list,
But certainly vivid.  My
Grandfather looked
Resigned: he’d tried.

I looked
Between the hedges.
Annie, our neighbor,
The Stay-at-Home
Sister of the Cole Brothers’
Flying Circus, flashing
Up there, signs,
Myths, and constellations
That never were, but probably
Should have been.

I grinned at her, through
The bushes, as we often did.
She nodded, switched off
Her light and went inside.

I love astronomy, the things,
The potential, we can find
Up there.  It’s a beautiful starry
Night.  But the most beautiful—
What you see on your own.

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

The song “Let it Snow” plays on the radio where I work
    I live in Sacramento where the closest thing to snow is the frost that appears on lawns
    I hate snow and like it that way
    My parents grew up where they had to shovel snow
    and they don’t want to ever shovel it again either
    Their jobs as adults took them to L.A. where I was born
    and I do not ever want the chore of shoveling snow in my life
    I’m fine with just “visiting” snow in the mountains or other states
    My parents never got any “rewards" for shoveling snow
    People would sometimes offer them something for shoveling it
    but often passed up jobs doing it because people wouldn’t offer enough for the hard work
    People thought they could hire a kid to dig out their car
    and dig a path for it for only like a quarter
    With those my parents couldn’t negotiate with for better pay 
    they’d say something like, “Do it yourself, I’ll stay in where it’s warm…”
    They weren’t that desperate, even though there were probably kids who were
    Besides, a kid (in the ’50’s) could earn more either
    babysitting, housekeeping, delivering papers, mowing lawns, clerking in a
    store, or working on a farm   
    Picking crops at harvest time would get you more than shoveling snow in December and January
    You could get enough from other jobs the rest of the
    year, enough money in the bank to not have to settle for the lowly pay of snowing snow

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


A couple of years ago at Christmastime
    My Dad had his home-filmed footage of his mom put on a DVD
    However, much apparently didn’t survive the transfer
    All my nephews saw that Christmas of Grandma Lydia Swandt Kunert
    whom they never saw live in person
    was footage of a rather eccentric elderly woman in her homemade housedress
    who lived with her six cats whom she talked to like people
    and of her carefully picking at a gift package so as to not rip the wrapping paper
    a habit she had gotten into with her reusing and saving
    There was no footage of the former music teacher playing the piano and singing
    Those recordings must have decayed from sitting around too long in a box somewhere
    or perhaps much of it got lost in our family's move from Los Angeles to Sacramento
    It would have been so precious to show Grandma's playing of Christmas songs to my brother’s sons
    and I wish that I could pull the memories out of my head of Grandma and put it on a television screen
—Michelle Kunert


They asked at work, “Are you ready for Santa Claus?”
    I answered “No I have to be ready for Jesus to return at any time, all year ‘round.
    But as much as I want Jesus to come back
    I guess that friends of mine who don’t believe in him will have to go to hell…”

—Michelle Kunert

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

A violin note
so long, so sweet
sounds like the
first ring of
a yearned-for
phone call.

(first pub. in Brevities, 2014)


—Claire J. Baker

Here's to all
personal, universal

that after they
peak and pass
live on as stardust.


—Claire J. Baker

In the changing skies
of circumstance
let us be
like flocks of birds
guiding each other
by touching wings.


Many thanks to today's contributors (including Roseville newcomer Sharon Mahany!) for today’s great diversity of poems  and photos! Some other notes:

•••The Bay Area’s Hip Pocket Press has a new issue of its fine journal, Canary, online at

•••There will be no Sac. Poetry Center reading tonight (12/28); instead, head on up to Placerville for the Poetry In Motion read-around at 6pm at the Placerville Sr. Ctr., 937 Spring St. (off Tunnel). Bring your own poems to share; read from your favorite poets; or just come to listen. Free; all ages welcome.

•••And also note that Sacramento will start the new year off with a new reading series, Poetry at Einstein, on the first Sunday of each month from 2-4pm at the Albert Einstein Residence Center, 1935 Wright St., Sac. (between Cottage and Wyda Way). Jan. 3 will feature JoAnn Anglin, Rhony Bhopla and Ellen Yamshon plus open mic. Watch Medusa's blue "board" (under the green section at the right of this column) for news of the many readings in our area.

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

The geese flew over.
They were headed your way,
singing that song, Ah? Ah? Ah?
Did you hear them? It’s winter.
Tomorrow will be longer.

(first pub. in
Brevities, 2015)



 —Anonymous Photo

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Creation Mist

Raven Talking His Tale
—Anonymous Photo

—Smith, Cleveland, OH

Whole bunch of what-if maybe theories
on the how what why where when
of us, this, that, everything, nothing,
imaginary numbers, what's normal,
what's warm, what's real, what's what.

Such as we're all holograms
pre-programmed and pre-tuned
and proof lies in the low rumble static
left over from the enchantment.

Or we crawled from mud to sea to land
to be one in evolution
to which I say
"Are we not men?"

Then there's the six-day magic act
creating questionable design
which in the beginning was word
but now's just plain weird
and really not working all that well.

Of course there's the no-causers
with their no beginning
and no end in explanation.

Some say we fell from the sun
as we reached for the moon
slowly eaten month by month
then regurgitated into three kingdoms
each with its own bell
which oozes into sometimes heaven
sometimes hell.

Raven talks one tale,
coyote cons another,
trickster and night ever close
with one swallowing the other.

Add in the earth divers,
chaos creation,
the black hole spark stars,
random adaption,
the purposeful fade,
the ever expanding or soon to collapse,
men as birds and women as water,
plus the endless mirror worlds,
parallel dimensions,
alternate escalations,
the mobius becomes Sisyphus bound,
and zounds we go round again.

Yet what the why don't matter fly
cuz we still gotta try
to pay the rent
change the diaper
see what's spent
avoid the crapper
take next step
and next and next and nexter
until final chapter.

Blood still drips
tears still fall
babies always stumble
adults often appall.

So background screed matters
not at all.


—Medusa, with thanks to Smith (Steven B. Smith) for today's fine poem.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bells of the Morning

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


The song breaks open,

Spills on the floor,

Looking for something

That will become the bells

Of the morning, your smile,

Or water making magic

As it falls from a great height.

I still long to see you

On the mountain path,

The fire opening up the night

To where your eyes glow

Once again against the lines

Strings make when they are played.

The footsteps move so quickly

Away.  These are not the winds.

They are notes of crystal and

Moments flabbergasted to even

Be here, caught in the voice,

More than music, more than song.


“It is,” I said

And the blue pines

Aimed straight to heaven,

Wordless and powerful

As thrones.

I could walk in the shadows

And feel the ranging threads

On the backs of the tapestries.

These seem to be things but

Are not things at all,

Just as paint is not painting

Or clouds the story 

Of the sky.

I crouch close to the fire

Somewhere in this night

And find myself looking

Across all of history

With its missing pieces.

Even the planets spinning

Stupidly as I toss more

Wood on the fire

To more clearly hear

The cough of the loon

Through night’s doors,

Each door with its Autumn,

Winter, and nervous Spring

Humming away, working in

These darks to convince me

Of prayer, when every step

Makes an error and tacks

Itself to my life.

“It’s your mirror,” it says,

Splashing water before me.

“Make of it what you will.”

I leave to fish, thinking 

Things such as fish

Could feed me better

Or at least suffice until

The rising of the moon.


She filled the evening

With a quiet song that

Made me put my head

Against the earth and close

My eyes as if I were very much

In love and very much alone

At the same time.

Soon other voices joined hers

And the sky grew darker.

I could hear kalimbas being

Played far away.  They sounded

Like birds might sound when they

Realize they are dancing.



I meant to say something

Completely different

But I kept thinking of your eyes

And what your neck must

Feel like if I found the right

Place to place my lips upon

It, so you could recognize

What I was doing was kissing you.

I could have thought of the puritanical sky

But you would not have 

Recognized any sky.

I had to imagine our tongues

Intertwining and fields and streams

Coming to tell you that

I was loving you.

That all these words

Were not fireflies.


A thick quietness of heart

Like a mouth burned

By curses and chased

From a country where no music

Came and only thick

Smoke rose to cloud the sun

And bring dark mischief 

That still cannot be named.

Such horror fell

That comes from clouds

Standing still over

A country composed of islands,

Struggling to keep its blood

Within a body split

By seas loud as 

Herds of stampeding horses.

Its shores thirsting to wash themselves

Of such blood and old curses

That make even the trees weep.

There shall be no sound

Like this again on earth,

For it is a sound born

Of hero kings and dragons,

Of such loves that 

Even doom cannot close

Words down upon them

And where the breath of birds

Be made as hurricanes

As we fall beneath

The screaming of the hawks.



She, at the end of mercy

Had heard a song

And it came to have 

A meaning.

A vacant loss surrounded

By a silence that could

Not move closer to my lips.

It would not have words.

Rather, it would be a membrane

That keeps the guts

In their place while 

We walk the planet,

Then touches us, insisting

That we must answer some

Kind of call.

Tonight, the rain continues

Softly, opening the earth.

Thus disappears the words
Syllable by syllable,

Vowel by vowel,

Consonant by consonant,

Until, standing near

Midnight at my open door,

I can hear the coyotes

Explaining such mercy

To their hungry cubs.


And the crows flew.

There were ten or twelve,

But one came back toward me

And I became afraid.

But it circled me slowly

And made me still.

Then, landing on my shoulder

While I quivered in fear,

Spoke in a crow voice

We saw your face below the ice,

Looking at us as we gathered

For the night.  And then you

Walked across the frozen

Field and we saw you

As starlight, but closer,

And knew you could hear 

Us talking of masks

And flaming ropes

And the precise qualities

Of the wind this drear

Evening, and wondered why

You chose to come to us now?

Are you a portent?

What have you seen?

I have known you all my life,

I said, and have found

It unbearable that you crows

Still feel I am less a bird,

Perhaps a madness, to you.

For I am trees and weather

And feathers and spine.

But now I am not 

Alarmed, no, not at all.

I do gaze up at you

From below the ice

And now unfold as leaves

To you and your clan.

And in the morning

I will be gone again.

Lying in my bed, waking,

Gazing across the winter gardens,

Listening to you talk.  But I

Shall no longer know the 

Language of the crows.

Yes, this is so, he said, and lifted

His wings and became

The night once more.


Today’s LittleNip:


“It’s just a moment,

Isn’t it?” she said,

As the child she held

So close to her breast

Stopped breathing.

The night looked exactly

The same.


Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for a sumptuous breakfast at today's beginning of Kwanzaa, which runs through Jan. 1. See for more about this yearly celebration of family, community and culture. And be sure to head over to GOS” Art Gallery today at 2pm (1825 Del Paso Blvd. in Sac.) for Straight Out ScribesSenior Readers Speak, featuring Dr. David Covin.


Friday, December 25, 2015

New Yo-Yos and Giant Sombreros

—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
—Photos by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA


I took grandson Jack
for a walk in the park
high noon on Christmas Day.
He wanted to see
his yo-yo dance
but his parents said
no yo-yo tricks
in a crowded house
with a Christmas tree.

So after Mass
they wrapped Jack up
in a snowsuit worn
by the Michelin Man
when he was a child.
And Jack and I
strolled off, laughing
through the snow.

The park was empty
when I showed Jack
yo-yo tricks I’d learned
many decades ago.
I told him he would
soon be tall enough
to do these tricks
on his own.

Jack laughed and asked
if we could come back
to the park that night
and watch the comets.
I asked him why.
That’s when I learned
comets are yo-yos and
God swings their strings
on the other side
of the moon.



Not a leaf left on the crabapple tree,
instead little red apples hang
like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

Little red apples that spend
most of the winter covered with snow
waiting for the robins of spring

to fly back for a feast
so little pink flowers can bloom
and become little red apples again.

 Lazy Dog Chocolateria, Grass Valley


The older he gets
the darker the bedroom
and the brighter the light
streaming under the door

when he wakes up again
in the middle of the night
with pain and thinks about
what's on the other side.

Far better than the gifts piled
under his parents' Christmas tree
when he was a boy laughing down
three flights of stairs to see.



The last hummingbird
arrives at the feeder

all aflutter
in late September,

a final sip before flying
home for the winter.

Carl watches the bird
as he has all summer

through the fog of age.
He now calls Cassandra

after all these years
and asks her to dinner.

Cassandra says yes
and wears the red dress

he gave her one Christmas
when they were together.

Gracious as ever
Cassandra understands.

She feeds hummingbirds too
and takes Carl home.

  Lazy Dog Chocolateria, Grass Valley


Pedro swings a mop all night
on the 30th floor of Castle Towers
just off Michigan Avenue
not far from the foaming Lake.
The floor is his, all his,
to swab and wax till dawn.

The sun comes up and Pedro's
on the subway snoring,
roaring home to a plate
of huevos rancheros,
six eggs swimming
in a lake of salsa verde,
hot tortillas stacked
beside them.

After breakfast,
Pedro writes a poem
for Esperanza,
the wife who waits
in Nuevo Leon.
He mails the poem
that night, going back
to his bucket and mop.

Pedro's proud
of three small sons,
soccer stars
in the making.
On Christmas Eve
the boys wait up
in Nuevo Leon
and peek out the window.
Papa's coming home
for Christmas!

Pedro arrives at midnight
on a neighbor's donkey,
laughing beneath
a giant sombrero.
He has a red serape
over his shoulder,
and he's juggling
sacks of gifts.

When the donkey stops,
the boys dash out and clap
and dance in circles.
Esperanza stands
in the doorway
and sings
Feliz Navidad.


Father spoke in code
Mother understood.
She would cry
once he went to bed.
I never understood the code.
My sister didn't either.
As we got older, we quit
asking Mother what he said.

A feral cat claimed our yard.
It would leap the fence
when anyone appeared.
Except, of course, Father.
When he came out to walk
around the garden after supper,
the cat would sit straight up,
then rub against his leg
and look at him as if it understood
what others never could.

My sister used to say
the two of us were proof
Father and Mother
got together twice.
I told her I wasn't so certain.
I looked a lot like Mr. Brompton,
the next-door neighbor.
He used to buy us sugar cones
from the ice cream truck.

My sister, by the way, didn't look
like anyone in the family either,
but that was 40 years ago
when I last saw her.
I went away to college
and she got married.
We were never close after that.
Not even Christmas cards.

Forty years is a long time.
Now, we plan to get together
for a weekend this summer
before one of us dies.
I suggested we wait
till one of us is terminal.
What's the rush, I said.
But my wife told her
I was only kidding,
that we'll be coming
and not to make a fuss.
Burgers and hot dogs
will do just fine.

I know what Sis and I
will talk about that weekend,
the two people we'll always
have in common, no matter
how many years and miles
may lie between us.
Father and Mother have been
dead for decades now
but they're still alive in us.
I talk in code, my wife says,
and my sister cries a lot,
now that her husband's dead.
The one thing I want to know
is if my sister knows
what happened to the cat.
It knew the code,
may have had some answers.

  Lazy Dog Chocolateria, Grass Valley


Willie has mixed emotions
about homeless Syrians
coming to America but
his wife Millie says we
should take them in.

Willie says his wife is right
but says America has its problems.
It’s not able to house its own,
some of whom sleep in parks,
against buildings and under bridges.

He tells Millie if America can't
house its homeless why should
the country take in Syrians.
He admits Bosnians who came
in 1995 are doing very well.

But Willie has reservations
as do many American Indians
who live on reservations.
Indians have homes and services,
nothing to celebrate, but better
than the homeless in America.

Willie points this out to Millie
when they sit down to a pair
of Cornish hens on Christmas Day.
Willie grabs a drumstick
and says maybe the Syrians
should have reservations
about coming here until
America finds a way
to house and feed its own.

Millie works on a wing
and tries to figure out how
America can do both.



Paddy stops at Rosen's Deli
and orders brisket
on a Kaiser roll, a dab
of horseradish, a new
pickle on the side.

"Latke, too, Sol. Coffee later.
No dinner tonight.
Maggie's not feeling well.
I'll eat here and take a tub
of noodle soup to go."

Paddy eats and meets Sol
wrestling with his register.
"How's Mrs. Rosen, Sol?
Haven't seen her in
a month of Sundays."

"Could be cancer, Paddy.
They operate next week.
Things don't look good.
Doc says everything depends
on what they find inside."

Paddy has no idea what to say.
He knows Minerva Rosen better
than he knows old Sol.
Years ago she handed him
his first new pickle.

"At church tomorrow, Sol,
Maggie and I will pray hard.
I hope to God it works.
At times, praying's all
anyone can do."


Today’s LittleNip:


All lives matter now
unless they're inconvenient.
No room in the womb.


—Medusa, thanking today's fine contributors, and wishing them and everyone else a Merry Christmas and a season full of peace and good cheer!

 Revelers at the Cornish Christmas Fest
Grass Valley, CA, Dec. 2015