Monday, March 14, 2016

Kumquats and Tamborines

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis, CA

Flying over the Rockies
We taste the wine
When thunder cracks
Good times...
Screams as we drop.
Awareness of life,
The best delay.


—Ann Privateer

I arrive between
The sky's dark clouds
And a red ring band...
Unaware car lights
And houses dot
The land beneath
Vast beauty.


—Ann Privateer

Earth sends sweet and dismal
Poison from its bowels
Leafing out in all directions
Ivy or Oak, seen or unseen
Brush sweet sweat to mingle
And clog delicate pores
Producing pink pearls
That dance over inner
Appendages, inflaming arms.
Colonies infect other bodies
With a red fire itch dance.
Hooked by poison.

—Photo by Ann Privateer 

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Joshua gave us many good years
Chased and ate vigorously
Purred on our laps
Welcomed our newborn son as his own

Then he became too ill to cure
So now his ashes tell us
No more than Joshua told us
His secret remains unspoken

Lively people everywhere talking
TV, radio, phones, public address,
Lecture halls, cozy chambers
Saying no more than Joshua’s ashes

Shaky interludes between freight trains,
Jumbo jet planes, riots, rock concerts,
Battle cries, severed body parts,
Even tongues, all of it is a diversion

We must lend our ear instead to the
Delicate balance of what Beethoven
Penned when deaf if we are to hear
The voice of the ashes left to us by a cat

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento, CA

Happiness rolls along
through the shade of an old sycamore.
The sun shines
only on the western wall
where happy daffodils with
cups outstretched have lined up
to receive their fair share of sunshine,
an abundant golden honey.
Crow's eye stops to seek another path,
wanting no part in the day's celebration,
joy being more than his dark heart
can endure.  Dried weeds
at the wall's corner wave him over,
close enough for him
to share in their complaint.
Eating their seeds of contempt,
he kicks pebbles at a lone,
shaded daffodil—thin and pale,
but uncrow-like.

 Between Storms
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Tree limbs torn down by the wind,
they mingle with a rush of leaf decay
on torrent with twigs, planks, and a pink ball
from somewhere upstream to clog
our culvert. Creek foam
curls in eddy-curves. What was dry sandy-
wash a month ago is now a pond
rising to lake, overflowing. That roar
is river language with a mumble undertone,
a voice pretending to be human—
someone I knew who waded out of his
body years ago. A man brings a rake
and thinks it will anchor him
to solid ground. Storm water gathers
slick and gray as mercury
with mind of quicksilver, liquid spheres
coalescing raindrops to a body
of its own forever changing forms. How
we wander off into memory.
Tonight there will be more rain.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Somewhere between French Camp
and Tanglefoot, my dog and I started up
the trail, climbing hairpins
through dusty hot—ceanothus, manzanita—
up to a sudden
midst of silent green community.
Family of aspen all of a root,
relations without words.
The language confusing at first.
My dog stopped in the trail,
sniffed breeze, cocked her ears.
Every aspen leaf a-tremble, origami—
if paper could be so delicate.
Skin of paper, as if
someone had written a history of snow
over rock over snow. Center-
piece of one living tree
with so many minds; a net of roots
to hold the mountain together.
Whispers I couldn’t quite hear, angels
on the breeze
of a half-moon day. My dog
stood listening. Shiver-cool of noon.

from Uplift (Cold River Press, 2016)

 Creek Lichen and Moss
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

We pace the river parkway trail, but puzzle
on reaching sight of a bend, a group of five
or six rapt hikers paused to gaze stock-still
at what we can’t yet see. Young deer? A beehive?

We round the bend: Easter-basket green, but thick
with ripe spring violet, blooms tipped with white.
Crawling, the scene, alive with flittering black.
The dancing crepe comes into focus. Butterfly flights,

but we soon see double—shimmering rare earth
made star-passageway, where planet-souls undergo birth.

After the rains, a self-serve wet bar, green
and tall, for pipevine swallowtails to sip from,
a floribundance of spring vetch, dripping sheen
everywhere these winged shuttlebugs can zip from

and to: their bendy-straw tongues can meteor-pierce
the violet curtains, draining the nectarine
ecstasy into their thoraxes something fiercely
outer-space, comets mid-orbit dropped in to glean

the last of the radio-waves, the last of the stars,
then swelling raw throats on the iciest cosmic spars

as drunken ones lap the dregs between barrel-staves,
then seek out crevasses not yet sucked in old kegs.
The crowd of them, thick as monarchs in enclaves
at Santa Cruz, tickling out droplets with dozens of legs,

tongues dipsticked in astronaut-glove fingertips,
then flit go the pipevines, licking their butterfly lips…

 Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
—Anonymous Photo

—Tom Goff

The clouds have split asunder, and the east
divulges in snowbright frankness its delicate secrets,
displaying like the wing-fanning, courting great egrets
a renewal in mountain satin: the prompting yeast
so tactfully puffs or plumps the fresh batter to rise;
so Sierra storms whitely insinuate, simply present
the frozen conundrum rock cannot truly resent,
for the snow blessing comes as it drives or again as it sighs.

And this lady vista of snow, direct as are you,
aims its gaze with a millionfold eyes of soft drift,
yet still your subtle stingray of leveling calm
comes of earthly sloe-eyes whose lilt and lift
are the gleam of your body, breast and shoulder snow-new,
that I ache to, yet never shall, spring-thaw with one palm…

 Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Eating Snow
—Anonymous Photo

—Tom Goff
         for a new acquaintance

Why continue to roll in the entrails of the martyred?
           —Tom Bissell,
Atlantic article on Saint Bartholomew

My ears ache every time you feel you must
exhume a case in your case history.
Detail upon painful detail, none of it dust,
each incident a lingering toe-tag on mystery,
taming it to your tune of litany,
crusade against the bad thing done you young.
So sorely and so circumstantially sung,
it might be an herbal cure, your dittany
of Crete, against old evils pressed in albums
like stinging nettles prized for their venom stain.
Not hyperthymesia, not exactly; the brain
with absolute memory cannot reject life’s talcum
substance, that soft thing which for bitter you’ve bartered.
Which entrails are these you still wish to roll in, my martyred?


—Tom Goff

Movement Two of Symphony One means war,
Civil War within all who ache as does Arnold Bax,
lashed to twin horses themselves lashed to gallop afar
in opposite rending routes: neither beast towards Pax.
Worse than that, anarchy loosed, as William Yeats
has already sung: drunk Lords of Misrule in Ireland,
kicking over all barrels restraining old Fates
in gasoline gallons whose spilth, touched off by firebrand,

flares into storm.  Mute films loom, shades of heroes
all wind-whipped silhouette. Superimposed, this war
on scrims of old civil wars. Uproot wet corpses
ripe from the boneyard: D flat minor forces
its crowbar into C major. Discords like scars
(a hotel where Bax stays retains its bullet-scored zeros):

All ancient green magic, immanent Sidhe of Eire,
defaced: quintessentially British, the Ruined Monastery.

 —Anonymous Photo

—Tom Goff

In Spring Fire, we hear Bax’s tambourine-
beat click on what sharp rocks redound goat hooves
under the sweet young but thin grass of groves,
for here be Swinburne satyrs trampling the green
hot for nude nymphs, their heartbeats heathen drums.
This Dionysiac gypsy-sistrum thrills,
as over smooth dales, under thick brakes, it thrums.
Implacable sex: these pagan silvery zils
berattle the tensest membrane: coin of all sin.
That rainstick-seedpod dryness echoes riper
for shrilling through small steel abacus-counters
that ape the rattlesnake yet evoke the viper.
Bax’s note-spangles entwine both song and shin,
entangle the mounted girls and the goatish mounters…


Today’s LittleNip:

deep silence—
the shrill of cicadas
seeps into rocks

—Matsuo Basho


Our thanks to today’s fine contributors for their many poems and pix! Today’s Medusa is jam-packed with treats, as you can see, and we have lots of new poets coming into the Kitchen in coming weeks. Jam-packed with action, we are!

Taylor Graham has a new book out, Uplift, from Cold River Press (, and she will be reading this Friday at The Other Voice in Davis and Sunday at Nello Olivo Wine Cellar—plus at Sacramento Voices on April 16.

Be sure to take advantage of some of the many area readings this week, starting tonight with Lisa Abraham and Denise Lichtig at Sac. Poetry Center, and then we have a busy weekend: celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday with Poetry at the Library at noon, then with Kate Ashe and Jan Haag at Poetry Night Reading Series in Davis that evening; on Friday The Other Voice in Davis presents Taylor Graham plus a celebration of the life and work of Ray Coppock by readers James Lee Jobe, Robert Ramming and Carlena Wike. Then on Saturday, the Poetic License read-around takes place at 2pm in Placerville, and Luna’s Café will present poetry and music at 8pm in Sacramento. And on Sunday, Nello Olivo Wine Cellar in Placerville will feature Taylor Graham and SPC President Bob Stanley. For details on these and future readings which are more than a week away, scroll down to the blue box (under the green box) at the right of this column.

Last Saturday, the Sacramento Bee published an article about the Sacramento Area Youth Speaks program. Check it out at


 Quicksilver 2
—Photo by Taylor Graham