Monday, May 23, 2016

Breath Across the Page

—Photo by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

The old dog lies in the hallway
guarding squeaky-ball and fuzzy-bone.
He doesn’t much care for them, but possession
is nine-tenths of the law in dog and human terms.
He guards against the upstart puppy—
the one who still possesses balls of his own,
too young for neutering. The old dog feels
neglected, written off, already forgotten.
He sleeps in the hallway blocking every corner
of the house. We trip over him in the dark.
He hardly moves anymore, won’t get up to eat
his breakfast till it’s dinnertime. Time
means nothing and everything to an old dog.
Time has us all trapped. And now
the old dog growls at the pup, he’s got that
whippersnapper trapped; but watches us
from the glassy corner of his eye,
afraid we don’t still love him.


—Taylor Graham

She watches him—sitting on granite boulder,
pantlegs rolled up, bare feet in the water—intent
on what’s in his pan. It’s a Gravity Trap,
green as hope to show the glint of gold.
The afternoon’s getting old, sun-slant shadowing
rocks on the opposite side of canyon.
That light—is it honey-amber or tarnish?
Past the bend, the river vanishes in dark as he
scoops and swirls gravel in his pan.
Ripples trap the light, stir and broadcast it
for just a moment before it’s buried in stone.

 Alligator Lizard
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

A girl woke up without her voice.
And so the words left her too,
the greatest loneliness. And hunger.

Bereaved of her tongue
she refused to eat. With the words
went all her wishes.

A wren perched with a twig
in its mouth, balancing
its clever tail against the wind.

The girl couldn’t describe it— 
a million wings, a day of clouds
rumoring—she’d lost her words.

The wren wove its twig into a maze
of twigs that was its nest,
cocked its tail at the girl who thought

the world must end without a word.
On dark mazes of air the clouds spoke.
What words does thunder need?


—Taylor Graham

Put the thought together phrase by phrase
as if translating a foreign language,
trying to figure out its nuances, elusive
etymologies, history and permutations—
suspecting the feelings that birthed it
are getting lost in black on white.
Technique is a trap. Let the wind blow
its breath across the page.

 Sunset II
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Whenever I think of selling off my books,
I meditate upon the Isham slaughter:
Colonel Ralph Isham, he who got his hooks
into Boswell’s papers: cunning, beguiling plotter,
hunter of tigers, Irish rebels, women:
all raconteur, yet thoughtful scholar-collector.
The Great Depression turned gold touches lemon;
puckering acid permeated the nectar

of his vast Boswell discovery at a castle.
He sold rare books and letters at rock bottom,
whence, “Isham slaughter.” I too will disintegrate
someday as all must, but won’t be a vassal
to Isham chaos and vapor. The sere autumn
may yellow but never up-render my tomes to fate.


—Tom Goff

            (Choral-orchestral setting of Prometheus Unbound,
            Act Two, Scene Two, by Bax)

As Richard Holmes interprets it, ancient Rome,
expressed in the looming ruined Baths of Caracalla,
stirs Shelley to envision a cranial dome,
inside which case the butterfly, la farfalla,
flits in a luminous gauze of air dawn-bright;
at bottom, perfumes, against toxins from the swamp
and fevers empire alone can deposit, fight
like unyielding gods of poverty or pomp.
So goes Prometheus Unbound: all winter
revolts, metamorphosing into most musical summer.
No jabs from the poison-beaked eagle or accipiter.
The Captive’s chains have sloughed off, and Shelley refuses
to pit him (what need) against virulent Jupiter.
Let Freedom be led by the hand of bare-armed Asia,
his guide to unjealous love, wherever she chooses:
Panthea too nestles mid-glide as they stride from Caucasia.
Behind them, ice-cajoled boulders come down in a din.
Revolution so often must soften for things to begin.

 House Frog
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
Usually one of the
Smaller ones, the
Ones the comic asks
You to hit a rimshot
On when the joke
Goes bad.  I know
About these things.

I think about
The drummer,
And drumming
A lot, as I don’t
Hear well, have
Never heard well
(Huh?), Yeah,
And where’s my
Parking sticker?

But I hear the drums:
Especially when they
Stop in the B movies
Of my youth, and
We wait—when
They’ve stopped,
And the attack begins.

But I hear them: not
Booth’s Big Bass Drum,
Vachel, but the smaller
Ones in the kit—tom-toms
Traps, mostly: their
Subtlety, the intensity
Mostly, the insinuating
Potential that backs,
Sometimes leads the band.

The traps—I hear them,
Or at least think I do:
Chick Webb, hunched
Over the kit, knocking
Out a delicate,
Nuanced rhythm (Dare
We say lace
About drumming?).

And I hear,
In my imagined
Percussive ear,
Two of the many
Bad boys of the drum,
Gene Krupa and Buddy
Rich, who probably
Needed new drumheads
Every second night,
Kerouac, no doubt
Approving every hit.

And Louis Bellson, smooth
Charmer, and one of
The last of that age
Of great skin men.
Born just a few miles,
Just a few years, from
My hometown in
Central Illinois, who
Could take you to
A dreamland that
Never was, and have
You marching, come
Morning, behind his
Spouse Pearl Bailey,
In Moline, Illinois,
For breakfasts
For the kids.

A drum, a drum.
No, Macbeth doth
Not come.  It’s
The traps, the smaller
Ones, that get you,
That haunt you.

—Photo by Katy Brown 

Our thanks to our swell poet-pals for today’s dandy poems and pix, including Kevin Jones’ usual take on the Seed of the Week, Traps. (Who’d’thought he’d come up with a drum set??)

Poetry in our area this week includes Poetry in Motion in Placerville tonight at 6pm, followed by Danny Romero (plus open mic) at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm. Thursday night brings another release party in Davis at Logos Books for Patricia Hickerson’s posthumous poetry collection,
Outcry, from Red Alice Books, 7pm, plus Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, 8pm.

On Saturday, May 28 (2pm), Straight Out Scribes will host the final reading in the Senior Readers Speak series at GOS” Gallery in Sacramento. The Scribes will be the featured readers, along with Gallery Owner Gerry Simpson, plus open mic. It’s unfortunate when a series closes, but thank you, Scribes Staajabu and Dr. V.S. Chochezi, for making this monthly event happen for our community for awhile—and thanks to Gerry Simpson for providing space!

Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box) on the right for details of these and other upcoming readings in our area. And watch Medusa for last-minute entries, too—not every reading around here gets much advance warning! Ya gotta be on yer toes….


Today’s LittleNip:

this Poem
—Angelica Fuse, Los Angeles, CA

I'm going to send
this Poem
to everyone I know

just to see who
will give it Love
and let it take root

just to see
where my words
can sprout

how green
they can be
how well watered
in this world.



 Mikey West celebrated poetry by taking this photo of 
frank andrick reading at Luna’s Cafe last Thursday, 
May 19, at the release of the final issue of 
Rattlesnake Press’s WTF. If you’d like a free copy 
of our final issue, just let me know at 
and I’ll send you one. That’s right—Medusa’ll pop for postage!

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.