Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Compassionate Grasses

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


In your garden, I am lost soil.
I am unplanted flower.
I am pressed stone.

               .     .     .

I am in the side shadow of light
waiting for you to turn and say, “Oh”.
But you are bending and looking
into the discovery that is everywhere.

               .     .     .

The grapes that you hold are beautiful.
The tiny tomatoes are sweet.
The lemons are full of sunlight.

               .     .     .

I move through the spaces after you
but they close around me even as I speak.

               .     .     .

You move toward the dogs,
laughing and calling their names.
Each of them in turn runs up to you
for the rough touch of your affection.

(first pub. in Chaminade Literary Review, 1990)


I come upon a Welcome sign: a single house set
back among the trees; green, stretching to a hill-
line that curves into a cloudless sky; here and
there clumps of flowers, no sign of anyone about,
although an old dirt road goes slowly by to signify
that someone comes and goes here.  

Day is captured in the lack of any sound: no bark
of dog—no song of bird—not even wind in trees
—and yet, this Welcome sign, turned just enough
into shadow that I cannot make out its words.

And where am I in all of this—but somewhere
just as far—somewhere just as deep—as hidden
from the world as seems this cryptic place—the
white frame house sunk deeper now into the trees,
the other shadows releasing over the ground; and
I receding back into the now—the Welcome sign
all but blurred—and still, no car or person—and
still, no dog or bird.

(first pub. in The Poet’s Forum, 1998/1999)


We are down to
our nitty gritty now
hands deep in the soil of decision
crumbling the earth
and saying it is
good soil
suitable for our avid weeds and
bitter radishes.

We work the stones
to where we want them:
I leave mine where they are
to conduct sun-warmth;
you throw yours in a path
to walk upon.

We are difficult farmers
ever at odds with
the methods of each other,
never in rhythm with the crop,
watering when it rains,
harrowing the cracks in drought.

(first pub. in Coffee and Chicory, 1994)



I wonder if I’ll ever learn the way.
I wonder if the way will ever change.
Just fold the map. It might be fun to stray—
not know if I’ll get lost, if night will fall
on wilderness, the landscape dark and strange,
with underbrush through which no one can crawl,

through dirt roads with no signs—no center line.
I guess I’m not a wanderer after all,
content now with a place already  mine:
my wants all settled for, if not exact:
windows, roof, and door—and on the wall,
a Blessings Sampler. Everything intact . . .

yet wonder if I’ll ever learn the way
through dirt roads with no signs—no center line.

(for Lisa)

Today I washed the round bone that we
argued about—that I would not let you keep,
though you were the one who found it
in my yard. 

It reminds me of something I love, I said,
to win the argument; 
I want to wear it
on a chain, or keep it in my jewelry box.

Today I washed it with the dishes. It was dirty
from just sitting around so long, unworn. Now
it is clean and priceless once again, and next time
you come to visit I think I’ll give it to you.

(first pub. in the first issue of Rattlesnake Review, 2004)


Know this of me, that I will search the wind for
your last touch. I will become a scavenger of
every breeze for something of you I have known.

Often I hear compassionate grass lean to a sound
and mourn against the soil in ravaged listening,
then sigh against my legs and tell me you are here.

Our energies converge. Nothing of what we are to
one another is spent, but borne through all the filters
of awareness.

My hands enclose the living emptiness to treasure
you; the bending of my fingers makes a sound of
love upon the wind for you to hear. My pulse works

The chasm of our distance storms with angry love,
and I can feel you miss me in the lashing of all grow-
ing things. There is a wailing in the air when love
shreds on the pangs of loneliness.

Nothing is lost. I answer with a yielding you will feel
upon the wind’s return.


Today’s LittleNip:


I weave rags for the air. Great hands come
wiping, fill them with soil for my washing. 
I am their weaver.

Without me, they would have no purpose—
without them, I would have no art.


Many, many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and photos, including the small blue, wild chicory she found in the field just down the block. Joyce was writing today to the Seed of the Week: New Soil.

Our new SOW is Wild Horses. Send your poetry, photos and artwork about this (or any other!) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs; for SOWs from the past, click on Calliope’s Closet at the top of this column.


Great Egret
(Anonymous Photo) 
 Celebrate poetry today!

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Listening With The Brown Bear

Wren's Nest
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Ramshackle heap of twigs
with bits of moss, dirt, doghair.
She’s settled on new soil,
nest-box on a deck-post outside
the window. There she is
landing on the roof, another twig
in her bill, hopping this way & that,
maneuvering twig into entrance-
hole that’s practically blocked
already by a jumble
of twigs—and then pop!
she disappears inside
to make her rubble-heap just
perfect. Pop!
out she flies again. More twigs.
What predator could
find her dainty mottled eggs?
She doesn’t like me peeking in.
From a nearby oak
her song comes loud and bubbling.
She sings “get out of here,
you can’t come in!”

 Wren's Welcome
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

He faded as if vanishing into the brittling
of late summer leaves about to fall
to the making of new soil; his slightest foot-
fall raising dust to settle on tailings
outside the mine’s mouth—
adit, they call that aperture, the ones
who know names for all the ways under-
ground. Drift, raise, and shaft, stope
and winze…
In a wince, a daylight vision,
I saw him beyond the breath and footsteps
of countless humans caught as if
in photo-stop. The ones who worked
their way farther and farther underground,
and came back out, or not. As if
they could never quite escape the draw
of gold. And this ghost-figure—
no breath but the mineshaft’s cool
emptiness of rough-hewn walls,
the secrets in deep stone. 

Gold Mine Entrance
Gold Bug Park, Placerville
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Morning sun is cloaked in cloud.
Sky music’s dissonanced
by two stout men in black with a weight
of dead stars: Have I seen
anything suspicious? A flash of blue
through the brush. The birds
under interrogation have vanished
with their songs.
I’ve been questioning the hill
for its gold—its story. Above what once
was hospital for the indigent,
a drift into innards of ridge. The dead
are buried under spokes
of rusting iron, periwinkle twining green
in drought. The mine’s cordoned-
off, loose crystal scattered
like transient litter. The politics
of homelessness is beyond be. This hill
has been forever, all
directions disappearing in coyote-
bush and manzanita. I point the stars
west the way the sun goes.

 Mine Entrance
Gold Bug Park, Placerville
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

My puppy’s vanished in the garden
hunting bugs. He’s nosing
into thickets of overwintered mint
we never got around to weeding,
and the first blossoms on blackberry
vine. He’s herding gnats.
Moths and butterflies.
Enchanted by bees, their music
like stringed instruments gone crazy,
he’s taunted by anything
that flies, that rises on the bridges
of breeze. He marks
no distinction in species or
class, they all lift him
from a dog’s-life. Later, inside
the sliding glass door of home, he’s
prince of wings in his dreams.

Gold Panning Demonstration
Gold Bug Park, Placerville
—Photo by Taylor Graham

Right in the midst of May in Sacramento, where fruit season is peaches, nectarines, apricots and cherries
     I found apples at a booth at the Carmichael farmer’s market held on Sundays
     I wasn’t told what variety are these greenish-yellow apples sold in $3 plastic bags—
     But I was assured they were grown locally and not imported from Chili like those in supermarkets 
     Also being organic and therefore not coated with poisonous pesticides or shellack—
     I wouldn’t have to scrub them off, not have to peel them
     Nevertheless naturally grown apples, even out of season, are “nature’s toothbrush”  
     The apples emitted a sweet aroma that made me taste them right after purchasing
     They were more tart in flavor than sweet like the varieties that come to ripeness in the Fall season
     But they were apples good enough take to work—
     Apples that don't get smashed and bleed onto paper things like peaches tend to do in a knapsack

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

  Nut Tree Carousel 
Vacaville, CA
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Was the Sixties,
And we heard it
On the radio: “I am
A duck.  I cannot wear
White Levi’s. You
Are probably a person,
And you can.”  Quack.
Ken Nordine set me
Up for both my apparel
Model and voice-
Over model for
Almost a decade.

Thing is, even with
The best of times,
The most careful
Behavior, you
Come home with new
Grass stains,
New soil, on your
White Levi’s
Every night.

Gave it all up
After college (Don’t
We all?) for blue denim
From Goodwill,
But remembered:
So cool, such a summer
Thing.  White Levi’s.
Or so
We thought.

Years on, got a job
As a hospital orderly.
Light blue smock
On top, and,
Yes, White Levi’s
Below.  New stains,
New soil, every day.
Not much of it
Actual dirt.

  Nut Tree Carousel 
Vacaville, CA
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—David Wright, Sacramento

I picked up Bukowski at the Sacramento Greyhound Station, 7th & L, 1974.
He told me who he was when he saw my copy of
Mockingbird Wish Me Luck by my trip sheet on the front seat.

He had the address of a West Sac motel written on a match book cover from a
Los Angeles strip joint, The El Rancho.
We headed over the Capital Bridge to the West side.

I handed him my spiral notebook of poems and
he read a few on the way.

"Not bad kid, I've seen worse.  But quit trying so hard to write the poem, let the poem write you.  You've got some fire, don't let THEM teach that out of you."

And with that he left me.
I watched him knock on the motel room door,
Saw a woman open it and he walked on in.


—David Wright

After science severed the cord it was
Move on, move back, or ignore the
Mushroom cloud in the room.

By moving on it has been necessary to look back.
(And to strap ourselves to chairs watching smut for days straight on speed.)

By moving on, all our road maps ran to nowhere and we knew there was no way to
Look "up" anymore.
No safe harbor.

Just an endless wide-open universe and the same
Fundamental riddles.
(We were free.)

It's all the elephant in the room to you, isn't it?
No terror, but
No wonder!
You let the Sunday School lessons under your skin.
You think paying your cell phone bill brings you
Back to earth.
You can count your money but it's
Your days that are numbered.
You then offer up laughter,
A better card but...


—David Wright

Resist and hold out.
Hole up.
Knowing gravity,
Atrophy and the
Perpetual second hand always
Wins out.

Hammer on while you can, the blows
Echo across the canyon where the Brown Bear
Lifts his head to better hear the sweet sound of it,
Before going back to lapping water lakeside.

Vultures circle.
They make a game of the winds today,
Riding, spotting an almost dead meal below
Basting in the sun.

A hundred years of life or just
Moments of summer breeze
Rustling the leaves just so.

Still, we would like to
Gift-wrap the whole show, have it
Safe and warm in some sterile box.
When they can't, they invent Gods and
Kill those infidels.

Resist and hold out.
Hole up.

 Nut Tree Carousel 
Vacaville, CA
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Many thanks to these poets and photographers for our fine selection of poets today!

Let me call your attention to a new photo album on Medusa’s Facebook page, this one of the Davis release party at Logos Books on May 26 of Pat Hickerson’s new posthumous poetry collection, Outcry: A Last Goodbye (Red Alice Books), photos taken by Katy Brown. Sac. Poetry Center will host another reading from Pat’s book tonight at 7:30pm.

Also this week: on Thursday, UCD’s Katie Peterson and her students will read at Poetry in Davis, John Natsoulas Gallery, 8pm, and of course Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento will also take place on Thursday at 8pm. Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) for info about these and other upcoming readings in our area.

Note also that the new issue of Convergence can now be viewed at www.convergence-journal.com/summer16

 Nut Tree Carousel 
Vacaville, CA
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Today’s LittleNip:
—David Wright

The ocean breeze
has come again
She speaks to us
not as a friend
She has spoken long before our arrival
and will speak again
long after our departure
She will glance at those at the revival
and at the end
of the tedious torture she will whisper
And she will scream



 “Marigold”, cover photo by Ruben Briseno Reveles 
for the latest issue of the online journal, Convergence.
Celebrate poetry today by clicking on 
to read this new issue.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa. 


Sunday, May 29, 2016

From the Hedgerows

(Anonymous Photo)

—Jorie Graham, 1950

To bring back a time and place.
A feeling. As in “we are all in this
together.” Or “the United States and her allies

fought for Freedom.” To bring back.
The experience of killing and getting killed.
Get missed. Get hit. Sun—is it with us. Holiday,

are you with us on this beach today.
Hemisphere of one, my soul, paratrooper,
greatness I house in my body, deepset, my

hands on these triggers—who once could outrun
his brother—consumed with fellow-feeling like a madness that does not
                                must not,
lower its pitch—going to the meeting place,

the spire of the church in Vierville, seen on aerial maps, visible from
                                                  eighteen miles out,
if it weren’t for fog, and smoke, and groundmist,
the meeting place, the appointed time surging in me,

needing to be pierced—but not me—not me—

only those to the left and right of me—

permit me to let you see me—

Me. Driven half mad but still in biography.
By the shared misery of. Hatred. Training. Trust. Fear.
Listening to the chatter each night of those who survived the day.

There is no other human relationship like it.
At its heart comradeship is an ecstasy.
You will die for an other. You will not consider it a personal

loss. Private Kurt Gabel, 513 Parachute Infantry Regiment—
“The three of us Jake, Joe and I became an entity.
An entity—never to be relinquished, never to be

repeated. An entity is where a man literally insists
on going hungry for another. A man insists on dying for
an other. Protect. Bail out. No regard to

consequence. A mystical concoction.” A last piece
of bread. And gladly. You must understand what is meant by
gladly. All armies throughout history have tried

to create this bond among their men. Few succeeded as well
as the paratroop infantry of the U.S. Army,
Rifle Company E, 506th.

Fussell: It can’t happen to me. It can happen to me. It is
going to happen to me. Nothing
is going to prevent it.

Webster (to his parents): I am living on borrowed time—
I do not think I shall live through the next jump.
If I don’t come back, try not to take it too hard.

I wish I could persuade you to regard death
as casually as we do over here. In the heat of it
you expect it, you are expecting it, you are not surprised

by anything anymore, not surprised when your friend
is machine-gunned in the face. It’s not like your life, at home,
where death is so unexpected. (And to mother):

would you prefer for someone else’s son to die in the mud?
And there is no way out short of the end of war or the loss
of limb. Any other wound is patched up and you’re sent back

to the front. This wound which almost killed him
healed up as well and he went back.
He never volunteered. One cannot volunteer.

If death comes, friend, let it come quick.
And don’t play the hero, there is no past or future. Don’t play
the hero. Ok. Let’s go. Move out. Say goodbye.


—Medusa, wishing you a thoughtful Memorial Day.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bring Us Roses And Awe

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


A sky music
From children who have never
Known morning.  Birds explain
Things to us but all they speak
Of has vanished, leaving
Only shadows reflected
On gray stone, first green,
Then a dull red, repeated
Like accidents of dawn
Then dark.  We feel this agony.

The house burned and here we
Are gazing after the dead.

Bring us roses and awe.
The dreams of children
Blind since birth reciting
Milton as they begin to speak.

I will sit here with you awhile.
We will watch for unusual birds.
There will be honey in their voices.
Landscapes will appear as endless spaces.



There are horse bells tonight.

Somewhere below their sounding
I can hear stringed instruments
Moving through the herd, searching
For something left here long ago.

Crystal moonlight.
The barking of a fox.
I will trust you to help
Find the paradise here, although
I am able to see it clearly
As precisely as dreams.

From my fiction I can
Build flourishes that might
Reveal the dawn, were they not
Made of words.  Perhaps something to stay
With you to the end.

Something that makes a difference,
Like a crucified Jesus
Or the birth of three mice
In a wheat field.

 The Remains of the Day


There are sparkles of rain
In your hair.
And there is, of course, the sea.
There is this strand of beach
Which manages to be mystic
No matter what the weather.

It is all for love, isn’t it?
The horse running along the edge
Of the water, the light rain,
The moonlight, the indecipherable
Bridge of the breeze found and lost
Time and time again.

All of this happens on a island
So we can have a ring of flame
On a hill in the middle distance.
A blue-washed wall of a cliff
Reaching toward a silhouette of trees.

I invoke an eternity that comes
To greet us as we leave the shore,
See the soft light in the cottage window
And head toward it, delivered
Of any particular history,
Outnumbered by the stars
Busy deciphering the clouds,
As if they were silver manuscripts.



I am glad you brought nothing
With you.  I can hear the birds
Tugging on the edge of the night
Wanting to pull it closer to them.

The days have become like flowers.
Opening and closing, wearing
Colored hoods, their blooms.
Then showers of seeds, hardly
Recognized as desire
But as sure as place and age.

A force as luminous as prayer
Yet still driven by muscles
Nerves and what may be
Everlasting even as it dices
Moments into secrets and
Glitters with the glass of
Instants pieced together like bits
Of a film we cannot understand
But will discuss well into the night
Over wine and lovemaking, finding them
As necessary as these fleeting icons.

 Russell's Truck

    “…the harp in a crystal discord.”   —K. Rexroth

The deep is bottomless here,
Yet there are campfires.
Coyote listening to a seashell?

The baby falling asleep dreaming
Of the seashell as perfection
Without knowing the perfect.

A flurry of keys rattled
Through seashells.
All things not knowing
What it is they do.
Blurred pages with images
Of these keys.

Time has a memory of the shells
But cannot give it up, or time
Will lose its way.

I bet the oceans blue that the
Seashells can speak.

I forget all history.



She was teaching the butterflies
As if the Summer would always
Be there, just as full of eternity
As three days of the dandelion
Bloom.  The butterflies all sip
The pollen of the dandelion.
Surely she speaks the truth.

The river uses its eye to show
Us everything that gathers to its banks:
Hawks and house wrens, and kites,
Robins, great owls and the gulls
Who follow the river into the sloughs.
All reflected in the river’s eye.

This shore is far away now.
No matter how beautiful
This becomes, someone will say
This is not a poem.  It is only
Some vanished garden
On the other side of evening.
Much like lovers with their dreaming.

 Garden Scuplture

Today’s LittleNip:


They have found the hands of the moon
And hold them tight
So it is unable to rise.

You do not remember this.
It happened beyond human memory.

This tale is told in the darkened
Night to a small group
Who gather only occasionally
Every hundred years or so.

I swear this is true.
You may call it the dark
Of the moon if you prefer.


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


Dancers, Locke Festival

Celebrate poetry today by heading over to 
the final reading of the Senior Readers Speak 
Reading Series, presenting Straight Out Scribes 
(Dr. V.S. Chochezi and Staajabu) plus 
GOS" Gallery owner Gerry Simpson, as well as open mic. 
1825 Del Paso Blvd., #2, Sac. Free; all ages welcome. 
Info: GOS” (916-245-0711); gosart54@gmail.com or 
Staajabu (916-601-5980); grandmomstaajabu@gmail.com;

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Feelin' Good

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


Some say when
daffodils shoot up
Spring is here.
It’s safe to put away
your boots and shovels.
Maybe somewhere
but not where I live.

I’ve seen daffodils
on Monday peeking
out of snow on Tuesday
giving me a wink as if to say
we fooled you, didn’t we.
And I say yes you did!

When it comes to Spring
I know it’s here when I see
what I saw this morning
long before the dawn.

The first moth
happy and delirious
dancing to calypso
all around the porch light
waiting for his friends to come
and shout hurrah for Spring
and Harry Belafonte.



This morning I woke up early
feelin' good, feelin' the way
I felt 50 years ago, no aches,
no pains, can’t wait to shower,
hop on the El, go back to work,
get the magazine out on time
then dance all night in a bar
to the music of James Brown.

I feel good like James today.
Wonder what my problem is.
Fifty years ago I felt good every day
but never wanted to go to work.
I must be sick so I called the doctor

and described my symptoms.
I told him I felt like James Brown.
Anything he could do to help?
He said take two aspirin and
call him when the music stops
and I'm my old self again. 


Leaves on a Japanese Maple
dance auburn in the wind
remind me of that mother

crossing Michigan Avenue
before the light changes
one hand on her buggy

the other on her little boy
wind in her auburn hair
a long pennant flaring

telling all of Chicago
it's Spring, by gosh!
it’s finally here



I will no longer feed the birds
on the front porch as I do daily
autumn through winter when
I go out at dawn to get the paper
on the lawn and spread seed on 
the railing in a serpentine feast.

As soon as I start spreading seed
the birds in the trees chortle
but that ends now because spring
is here and my wife is putting up
red feeders for the hummers
who will arrive any day to dance
a ballet on the porch all summer.

Seedeaters don’t mix with hummers.
They mean no harm but they’re
blue-collar birds not into ballet.
They’re gobble their food like men
in overalls in a bar for lunch
eating cheeseburgers in a rush.

Hummers don’t dance for grackles
and starlings devouring their seed.
So I will announce the change today
to all the birds chortling in the trees.
No more seed on the porch till autumn.
See our backyard buffet until then.


"You live long enough
and bad stuff happens,"
Harry told Stella,
slurping his coffee.
“I’m 94 next week."

And Stella told Harry,
“They got pills for this
and pills for that
and finally you get
something they ain’t
got no pills for yet.
I’m 92 next month."

“We’re up there,"
said Harry, slurping
the last of his coffee.
"You live long enough
and you can be certain
you won’t live much longer.
What’re you doing tonight?”



Solid middle class he is
always has been
always will be

until tomorrow
on the highway
in the rain this bus

topples over
on his Dodge Durango.
He will never walk

or work again.
In six months or a year
his savings will be gone.

He will be for life
a ward of the state
and people will

forever feed
and bathe him for
the minimum wage

a sum he always said
folks like these
were worth.


Something’s still bright
when a widow dies
and her son flies in

gives her body to science
has the movers
pack all the valuables

he wants shipped home
gives the rest to Goodwill
puts the house up for sale

takes a late night flight
leaves nothing behind
to say who the lady was

except for her garden
brilliantly in bloom
with roses and lilies

and phlox all applauding
and the sun ear to ear
a big smile in the sky.



Roscoe and two cousins rented a van
and drove to Mississippi for the funeral
of another cousin they grew up with.

It took six hours to get where
three old men didn’t want to go
but they had to bury their cousin.

Roscoe’s grandma raised all of them.
His grandpa, a preacher, always
had the four boys recite a verse

of scripture before every meal.
That helped the day they heard
Emmett Till, a town away, was dead.


Let’s stop the crying, Millie.
It’s true our friends are dying.
They’re old like you and me.

Why not celebrate instead
that 80 years ago you and I
came into the world.

No doctor pulled us
from the womb and
tore us limb from limb.



I like to watch master chefs
on television do their thing.
My favorite is Jacques Pépin
when he has to chop an onion.
No one chops an onion faster.
At 80, the man’s a guillotine.

When I saw him chop one today
I thought of every state in America
that has halted the death penalty
because they haven’t found a way
to execute the condemned
humanely and efficiently.
I say hire Jacques Pépin.

Shave the head of the condemned
and lay the fellow on his belly with
his head up like a Spanish onion
and let Jacques do his thing.
Unless you think there might be
something wrong with that.

Today’s LittleNip:


So many of us
feed the birds even
though we know birds

can make it on their own
in any weather,
sun or rain or snow.

But those who feed the birds
rarely feed the poor.
Perhaps the reason’s clear.

The poor unlike the birds
aren’t that much fun
to watch, are they?


—Medusa, with thanks to Donal Mahoney and Katy Brown for today’s fine presentation!

 Celebrate poetry by making better—and better—mistakes!
(Anonymous Photo)

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
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Thursday, May 26, 2016

America Whistles

America Whistles, 1975
—Today's Paintings are by Edward Ruscha
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


Your language draws us
into your personality
to make us travel with you
recollecting some
of your stories
shining in a recall
of memory
embraced in a diary
reflected summarily
in Dharma Bums faces
disclosed vocally
and directed
from your country's
unlocked prose pieces
of novel intimacy
or in momentary
poetic creation
on the roads,
beach and docks
or on the city steps
off Kerouac's
lost highway
crossing by
City Lights alley
reaching for
your writing chair
in hollow coffee houses
returning from
the 1950's cafes
empowering words
of scat melodies
sing on spontaneously
at the Red Drum memory
where his sacks
of grief fills up
huge beer cups
joined to share
on Kerouac's
summoned hour
as a sublime solo sax
riffs over
his chapter of notes
offering jazz's relief
at a changing scene
as a Beat poet escapes
to a new reality
fully extends
his unfolding brief
in an encounter of pop art
from Edward Ruscha
now at the L.A.'s
Hammer museum
remains a guardian
angel for him
at the Sixties surreal season
of a likely pedestrian
imparting correspondence
offering an uneasy
clearing line
between two newly
discovered talents
recalling when Jack
is clearing Frisco
as his motorcycle handle
falls off
on the road
between local cars
nearing a departure
of his taxing life
and nature
of his waxing ego
not ready for
the stars in heaven
words transfer
to the another body
by Jack's
transmigrating soul
from the century's
cultural dust
still bites him
as a visionary must
to span
forty-seven candles
to be created whole.

 Sponge Puddle, 2015


When slowly meditating
on arpeggios
before a recital
on Debussy's
solo flight
over the Atlantic Ocean
taking me
away to France
an orphan of promise
sky-dream notes
as classical
miracles alight
from St. Thomas
motioning my hand
on a half-violin
and rosin
art reaching me
in childhood
as laughter
from an impressionist
a romantic score
curls after
my fingering exercise
floats as
whirling winds depart
to Debussy's
Bohemian Dance.

 Music, 2014


In an old bookshop
perusing on a shelf
near an English pavilion
meeting Jane Kenyon
Stevie Smith
and Bishop
and for a cold shilling
to willingly bet
from that cold day on
there was more wealth
to thank their wisdom for
than any on earth's billing
or in the bank
with any coupon
sold in a time
of killing melancholy
for an exile
who spoke to us
at Oxford
with motioning lips
that war
hypnotized a crime
realized for our humanity
in the Seventies
political folly
that poetry
could in our time
be recognized
to share vocally
in a misunderstood time
of radical Apocalypse.

 Hey, 1969

(May, 2016)

In stone you shape
your geometric bodies
from hands shaped
like clay and bronze forms
connected for posterity
what is smartly shown
in a salon and studio
as flesh and bone
into a directed show
of dancers
transforming our day
on a chain of being humanity
that only art answers.

 Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas, 1963


She wrote as a guide
eye-lashed with a glimpse
of her final step on stones
from uncharted scenes
through verbal undertones
departing to slide away
as outlaw poetry weights rise
now fall as words leave
gone now from her chest
and atoning poetic heart,
may the last wings flow
out of Arkansas
and you critically depart
covering as the river grieves
for the white singing bird
by last January snow
cause you, C.D. Wright
to be delivered and at rest.

 Sea of Desire, 1983

(PARIS, 1970)

Overturned ships
along the Seine
concealed by
the rainy sands’ darkness
revealed expressionism
draped on my bare canvas
under this painted gazebo
as geometric
lines shape us
by learning
how art witnesses
to events one year ago
and returns to haunt us
in a stone tableau,
my prolific nightmare
like the figurine
of Poe on my piano
rotates its own
part of an axis
continues to sustain my ego
recovering my maps
graphic universe
of those Russians
not saved at sea
when those signaled pirates
on the waves of darkness
say on the wireless
"no or nyet"
yet mean "da or yes,"
like clever critics
who part our words
without using
a writing brush
or a jazz soloist
on the roof
riffs on a solo saxophone
tracing imaginary notes
attempting the alto tone,
or a gardener
by this orchard
this green fern
until sunshine
listens at the wellspring
on grounds and learn
or when sunshine
day breaks
when morning
birch branches kiss
the May wind shakes me
in my own circled abyss,
as I wake by riverbeds
near a sponge
of my ink drawing
my statue turns
into a fawn's head
by a pavilion with pigeons
under wild flowers
awning by the shade
likened by nana
to a prisoner's door
at my den
devoted to thinking
in my library's corridor
hearing music's
contrary cadences
of images,
rhythms, mirages
amid sequins,
prints, sequences
of sharing
my poet lore's way
in perpetual apocalypse
of motion
delivering barges
nature offering
me deliverance
here by a
kingfisher’s gathering
of salamanders
in the swimming harbors
amid the surging
waves of ocean
from spring
to summer arbors
delivering us to salvage
motioning to salmon,
cod by jelly wings,
those fish
in higher waters
with a behaving
divining rod
sighting a huge bird
flying in the ocean air
embracing an
albatross's wings
like Coleridge's
or Baudelaire's knowledge
upon bench work words
in an embarrassing
of better practicing
on my French love letter
for the Paris theater
in this praxis and parenthesis
with good wishes out
by signing
as a witness
of romance
as a son of David
and Ovid sings out
his metamorphosis.

 Ballerina, 1988

Today’s LittleNip:

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.

—Jack Kerouac,
The Dharma Bums


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s fine poems!

To hear Merina Gordon play Debussy’s “Bohemian Dance", go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vzyuw_gZm1c
For more about contemporary artist Ed Rushcha, go to www.gagosian.com/artists/ed-ruscha or www.artsy.net/artist/ed-ruscha

 That Was Then This Is Now
—Painting by Edward Ruscha, 2014

Celebrate poetry today by heading over to Davis for a
release party by Red Alice Books of Patricia Hickerson’s 
posthumous poetry collection, Outcry (ed. by 
Cynthia Linville) at Logos Books, 7pm. Or go down to 
 Old Sac. for T-Mo Entertainment’s The Kings and Queens 
of Poetry at Laughs Unlimited, 8pm. Scroll down to the 
blue box (under the green box at the right) for info about 
these and other upcoming readings in our area.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dreaming of Fernando

—Poems and Photos by Martie Odell-Ingebretsen, 
Meadow Vista, CA



He looked like my first love, from Avila,
dark eyes with something behind them that was hard.

He pulled me from a boat licking against a pier
far away from my home,
although the sound of the old wood
was like my grandmother’s rocking chair.

I was sent to be watchful
pero asustado realmente y solamente,
I remember drinking something pink
that made me dizzy;
and later driving with him
down streets filled with snow.
It was night far too long when I realized
that in this place there was no day.

I was wearing hiking boots and full skirt,
the knife that they gave me cold and hard
against my ankle.
The shawl he put around me was soft and black
like his eyes as he told me it was his mother’s.

I knew trust wasn’t a word any longer
but I did it anyway.

Everything was from the time before,
except I knew that in the layers of my shirt
I still carried my cell phone.
So, in the back room out of sight of the mirrors
I watched Fernando make a deal with some gringo
(all the time that song, “Hernando’s Hideaway” playing).

And I wanted to dance close with someone
no, that’s not true          with him,
because his eyes looked into me and saw
that I was really not me at all,
but someone else,
and I wanted to tell him to be careful,
he was the only one that knew.

Then I dialed your number
and it rang and rang and rang

and no one answered.


Pink Mimosa shades like umbrella over yard
Spilling memory of the dig of youth’s slender arms
Feathered and fragile reminders of the cost of time
And my curved anticipation waiting to be rhyme

Where does one go to hear the hymn of a chorus
Of neighborhoods where memory is buried in a forest
Where blackberry brambles hold the tattered paperback
With pages turned down next to a bottle in a paper sack

We slid into the culvert with honey hungry thoughts
And touched the satin place of friends' forget me not
Even bled into each other’s wounded brotherhood
You said though I was just a girl I was still pretty good

The culvert’s still a cut of land all filled in redwood trees
And blackberries are the jungle land of children still I see
And the sweet taste of the fruit of youth lingers on my tongue
Where you and I made promises that could never be undone


I will dance the room around
turn my toes on dusty wood
skinny my hips in closet cloth
to beguile awhile in silken should

The minutes have cheated my day long
torn to pieces afternoon's ebb
and Friday night is turning on
a light that's made for dance instead

I'll find a hand that knows the way
With a soft touch made of maps
that breathes my hair across the glass
and knows the secret of my lack

Bright as air 'round summer stars
on sky still holding dusk in pink
the telescope will find my name
written with Friday's dancing ink


Within the holy tome of breath
open to the sky's watch,
the dropping-down stars
consort with the bubblegum
and comic books of my old belief.

Under this cloth of pink air,
who listens as I dream,
beating my thoughts into words,
while not even birds awake?

Time takes me forward
as I come screeching back,
my talons whipping clouds into rain
and my innocent eyes alive.

Fragile, like a leaf the paper tears,
darned to the fabric of time
with ancient, wizened, invisible hands
that gather pages I will write, new.

Today’s LittleNip:

Her cheeks like blossoms
suddenly bloom from the chill
ending afternoon

—Martie Odell-Ingebretsen


—Medusa, with thanks to Martie Odell-Ingebretsen for today’s fine poems and pix!

Celebrate poetry today and every day!

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Healing From The Center

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

Let us now remember
the city
which is dying
amid its streets and buildings,
its glinting glass and broken shadows.

Its lost humanities
are still trying to survive
their suffocations.

Let us undo the begetting of walls
and the paranoia of closed doors.

Music still blares where silence cringes.
Faces still glare toward each other.
Sirens still rush to emergencies.

Mannequins break out of store windows
and cars run into each other.
Authority signs still twist everywhere.

Let us now seek
the impoverished of spirit
the ill of mind,
the money-minders,
and ask them to give us back
our mercy
and give them our fear
in return.

Let us now have
from the center.

After "Art Cheval (Horse Art)" by Bénédicte Gelé

: a frantic old horse’s head
in this pouring of color—its eye
a desperate pleading to be released
from this pastel swirl from which it
once more emerges—a great wave of blue
pulling it under again,
the rendered skies
a wild cacophony of daubings
roiling together in final effort
to resist the madness of the world
in its throes of dying.
How is it that I am
the only one to see
this meaning past portent—
and to whom do I relate
this image of pity that I feel—
and from what state of being
if everything is already gone,
and I
and I grieve,
over this image
of a trapped horse, innocent of everything,
except the angst that remains after so much devastation . . .



The road ends here
In unkempt fields
Where weeds grow tall.
They twist and wind
About my legs
Until I fall.
Trapped, like the road,
In tangled grass,
I see the sky.
It darkens, night
Is shutting down,
And birds can fly.

(first pub. in Oakland Tribune, 1960)


This is a far sad cry to all sad distance.  I do not want
to go there again—to come back to room after empty
room.  Did I really live there—anonymous—surreal,
a child trapped in childhood?

This is not about rooms.
This is not about distance.
This is not about childhood.
It is about this passing moment,

already made of forgetfulness.

I saw a woman with tears on her face.
Her face was a mask.  It looked at
me, and I could see how
out-of-life she was.

It was the ice in her eyes; it was the gray shadow
of her face, and her voice that was a hollow.  It was
the empty mirror that she held.  I backed away,
pretending I never saw, I closed the door to her room.



It’s in the under-meanings—not the ones
you must interpret from the careful voice
that covers what is said. Eyes can guard
a secret—or intention—deeper than
the surface—as impassable as a look.
You know the look I mean, the one that probes
right through you like a stare—unreadable
as stone. The easy smile is there, persuasive.
But you know something’s wrong: The hackle at
the neck. The crawl of skin. The way space shrinks
between you. The way you sense a trap and seek     
an exit with your mind—that sense that knows
the tone of glib sincerity that fails—
discomfiture that makes you feel like bait.

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 2007)


It is the saddest story,
this ordinary one made of
unattractive lonely people,

made of distorting time
and its theft of energy,
simple tragedies

made unreal
by the lack of care.
Who blunders here,

cry the ones in their traps,
forever at home
in their captured selves…

who makes this up
if not the ordinary and
extraordinary forces . . . ?



How far is it to Sorrow,
I had a dream of light in a windy rain.

I left the doors open for love
and no one came.

I took down Love’s photograph
and hung a skeleton in its stead.

I watched its white bones gleam
against the wall.

I wanted your embrace.
You said your name was Death.

And you laughed. I burned your eyes
with mine, and the light shifted.
You turned into white shadow.
How real you are today,

not knowing what I think.
I will change you into a flower

and trap you in a crystal vase.
I will paint you over and over.

You will turn into plastic for revenge.
This is what love has done to us.


wish gone dry—fallen flat against
a cliff—held by trapped
wind there—

howling last urge
to invent

come true at last

energy pulls,
but is less than
enough—this is as far as it gets

Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s poems and pix exploring our Seed of the Week: Traps. Our new SOW is New Soil. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other subject) to kathykieth@hotmail.com. No deadline on SOWs; for more of these, go to Calliope’s Closet in the links at the top of this column, or see the “Need More SOWs?” section in the green board at the right.

Canary Editor and former Grass Valley-ite Gail Entrekin writes: "Fellow poets:  Charles and I are very excited that this interview with me about our new book, The Art of Healing, appeared Monday morning at PBS NewsHour.  Here is the link, and thanks for perusing: www.pbs.org/newshour/poetry/when-cancer-changed-everything-writing-poems-was-an-act-of-healing/."


Today’s LittleNip:


It is here—
the hidden trap.
Why go near?

Others have failed
to go safely past.
Their eyes stay veiled.

The innocent map
can’t warn you away,
nor mention the trap.

It’s a choice, not a clue:
to recognize and avoid,
or learn what teaches you.

It is here—
the hidden trap.
Why go near?




Étude 149 by Bénédicte Gelé
Celebrate poetry by exploring the nuances of horses 
as drawn by Bénédicte Gelé.
For more about Gelé, see 

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.