Monday, May 09, 2016

The Language of Roses

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Curiosity brought me. I heard there was magic—
a sorcery shop—on Main Street. What use
have I for bought magic? But my dog pulled me
down the alley, across traffic, up sidewalk,
one storefront after another, window displays
that transformed kettles and crocks into ceramic
rainbows; a skeleton in straw hat and “Compost
Happens” T-shirt. The military surplus store
featured a mannequin turned into magician,
head-to-toe in flowing gray beard; no, he was
a shrub, camouflaged in shreds of lichen, lying
in wait to hunt his prey. A customer walked in.
We moved on. I was looking for a real dinosaur,
fabric store that sells remnants so I could patch
what’s torn, give an old shirt new life. No
such shop anymore, nor black arts either, just
commerce, imagination, everyday magic.


—Taylor Graham

A desperado bird cries from the edge of woods,
invisible but loud, and in the marshes
and the black lagoon frogs boom in discord
with incessant bleatings rung around
the hills that tangle wildly growing green.
Thistle, rushes, bugs and bog.
Nothing is imperceptible, nothing patent
or contained.
Sorcery? Spring. Rhyme it as you may.

—Photo by Taylor Graham 

—Taylor Graham

You brought the mountain range to me,
trusting there’s a drop-dead vista
and we could survive it.
Remember the Donner Party?
But this was mid-June, just some snow
lingering in the high country.
Just that bank of white slowly melting
into creek on a jeep road half a mile
from the cow-camp meadow. Just that one
frozen drift. You rocked the wheels
back and forth, deeper into screaming ice.
Remember? It can snow any time
of the year. It could snow this very night.
Shovel out in the morning.
Can of stew for supper, heated over a tiny
fire that mocked the stars.
Too many stars to count. No moon, no
nightingale. Only coyote howl.
At dawn we found our camp
upended, stew-can crunched by teeth.
From a near distance,
coyotes sang their mock-song.



quiets all the broken pieces. No wind,
just motionless gray weather.
I follow my dog down a dirt road
toward river, what must be
rushing water if I could hear it.
Someone has carved a hundred rooms
into brambles, leaving footprints,
but no one’s home. Deepening gray—
silent, carrying the mountain
down and away. Twilight thickening
toward dark, except
without a sound it’s morning. Static.
By the river, eleven stones
placed as a marker. No wading birds,
no birds flying. Everything’s
waiting. Follow my dog. There must
be a blessing here if I can find it.

—Taylor Graham

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Went in for the former, once
Upon a time, when younger.
Not bad with saber and épée,
But I’m left-handed. Perhaps
One of the few advantages
Of that: your right-handed
Opponent is wide open right.
But after a while, people
Realize (and as with Trivial
Pursuit), nobody wants
To buckle swash with you.

So moved on to the next.
Left-handedness not so
Much an advantage in
Traditional magic.  (Pick a
Card!  No, this one, over
Here, the one on the bottom!)

But magik, sorcery, maybe,
Just maybe.  Found a wand,
A real one, or so the package
Said, at Borders.  It promised
To be powerful and authentic,
And unless you took wanding
Seriously, Bad, Bad Things
Would happen.  Found the
Wand in the Toys and Humor
Section of Borders.  And you
Know what happened to them.

 —Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

(“Shakespeare” image painted over a portrait of 
Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

Not satisfied with the great First Folio’s
egg of a Shakespeare face? Or how that’s perched
atop a starched collar, Mighty Brain in ovo
unhatched on a wrongway playing-card doublet? Search
no more. The Ashbourne portrait gives us a man:

His customary suit is solemn black.
His secret thoughts, those firm-pressed lips retain.
So piercing his eyes—before you can wish them back,
he’ll scan your desires, alchemize what he’s read
into the antic gold of comedy,
or else the silver of evil, every dread.

How do we receive this portrait, we so slack
to register greatness facing us? It comes
unpoached, unfenced, but by conveyance through
the De Vere line, from Wentworth Woodhouse. Tomes
known to the family list it twice: a view
done of the “Duke” of Oxford, and, in a later
inventory, it’s styled a “Shakespeare” picture.

Our fair-skinned fellow smacks of the creator:
he fingers, what, a pocket Psalms, or strictures
of dark philosophy? A bookmark dangles
blood-red ribbons—it’s his inserted index
that holds his place. Along his middle digit,
strong current runs as oftentimes connects
black print to touch, a magic surge up the arm.
Here stands a somber Prospero, whose charm
suspends forever Time’s oblivion.

Those eyes, those skeptical eyebrows: looked upon
too long, the viewer recoils, avoids that gaze,
eager for something to calm that naked blaze.
Oh: next to his book hand, yes, without its hull
of mortal flesh and feature, note the skull.
What chance a grain-dealer in the shire of Warwick
would keep so distinct an emblem of poor Yorick?


—Tom Goff

I’m well acquainted with strange sorceries:
have played the well-known scherzo by Dukas,
and kindred necromances, mysteries
such as Holst’s wizard ballet without a flaw,
writ for The Perfect Fool just after The Planets’
parthenogenesis: Mars red, Venus blue-green,
Saturn sheer ice in orange-yellow. Gannets
on wing while they cry their concentrics may careen;
or spirals fly from musicians’ wands in the throes
of composing. My enchantments cast no sheen
like these—or yours: I immerse in your mistful glows.
Light clings to you treading the maze of spring’s kermesse.
From skin you were born to you spin your witch’s dress.

 —Photo by Katy Brown

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

She bitter sweet tongue
Until it was hanging on
Like a threadbare hug

He found true love
Sick poems in odd
Places everyone

My car won’t start
Line out house of

A coin is worth less
Talk more work
Never hurt anyone

I’ve half a mind
Games people play
Money pit

Brother can you
Spare a rod n’ reel
Deal me in

I ate too much
Ado about face
Palm oil rag

 —Photo by Katy Brown

Paul McCartney, you sang in 1967 on the Sergeant Pepper Beatles album,
“Will you still need me, Will you still feed me when I’m sixty-four…”
You also sang “Say live and let die…”
Please at age 74 try not to die—
at least not until after you play in Sacramento’s new arena on Oct. 4
A guy who’s a fan of yours where I work paid almost $200 online for one ticket
He regularly takes poor kids in our community with him to see sports games,
so he deserves to be treated with possibly your last concert tour
Oh yeah, keep smoking marijuana since it may help treat your possible Alzheimer's disease…
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Photo by Katy Brown

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

We elders live a half-hour
at a time,
take it easier
hoping not to exit
suddenly and too soon.

We've survived kids,
partners, nutty bosses,
weird finances, rusty pipes,
moves cross country—
now we encounter each other
in all our frailties/encumbrances—
chairs with wheels/baskets,
plugged ears, weak eyes,
knees, memories.
When will the grandkids visit?
Lifelong friends not coming back...

On our quiet island of
wrap-it-all-up-and-prepare for
a landing, we "cliffhangers"
frequent our building's library—

 —Photo by Katy Brown

—Claire J. Baker

Yes, exclamation point:
whoever you are,
stole or lost my book
donated to local library,
A thin volume of poems.
The library wants
"Local Writers."
Do you dislike me,/my work
so zap me from circulation?

On positive side, you will
enshrine my book in your
personal collection??
Then tell me.

But, for now, anonymous,
there's this little poem
in protest!

 Wheelbarrows (blue, not red, but still 
so much depends…)
—Photo by Katy Brown

Our gratitude for today’s potpourri of poets and photography! Celebrate poetry tonight at 7:30pm with Marcene Gandolfo and Shawn Pittard at Sac. Poetry Center. Then, on Wednesday, head up to Placerville for the Poetry Off-the-Shelves read-around from 5-6pm, then back to Avid Reader in Davis at 7:30pm for Wendy Barker and Kevin Clark. Thursday at Luna’s is the Sacramento release party for Patricia Hickerson’s posthumous poetry collection, Outcry, as well as a reading at Time Tested Books at 7pm by Nevada poet/author/translator Shaun Griffin, introducing his memoir, Anthem for a Burnished Land. On Sunday, Wendy Patrice Williams and Jennifer O’Neill Pickering will read at Nello Olive Tasting Room Wine Cellar in Placerville at 2pm, then Frank Dixon Graham will interview Julia Levine about the creative process for the monthly, live recorded podcast at Naked Lounge in Sacramento, 5pm. Another fine week in NorCal poetry! Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) for details about these readings and all sorts of other things.

We also have a new photo album on Medusa’s Facebook page, with our thanks to Katy Brown for photos of The Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony Farm in the Placerville area; today's photos are a sample from the album. Est. in 1869 by 22 Japanese samurai, including a 17-year-old girl, Okei, these farmers fled from Japan and purchased the Gold Hill Ranch to establish their farm. For more info about them, see Founding Red Fox Underground poet Brigit Truex also wrote a wonderful book of poetry and prose about the subject, Strong as Silk, which can be purchased on Amazon.

 Blackberry (see the spider?)
—Photo by Katy Brown

Today’s LittleNip:

—Claire J. Baker

May we lean



 Nature’s Sorcery: 
Is there anything more poetic (or magical) than this?
(Anonymous Photo)

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.