Monday, August 22, 2016

Lorsque les Chats Étude Française

—Anonymous Photos

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Anselm Hollo was
A Finnish poet,
Translator, BBC news writer,
At the Iowa Writers
A foreign exchange
Student who
Refused to go home.

I studied with him
Briefly, just before
Legal issues—herbal
Substances found
In his car—
Might have sent
Him away.

Was in his Gypsy
Bell bottoms period
Back then, and didn’t
Have a whole
Lot of teeth—

Among the last
Beats?  First Hipsters?
He was a Cool Cat.

Still, his Finnish
Accent, tempered with
A somehow
Midwest drawl,
Made his speech
Sound like delicate
Animals from
A Disney movie
(And I mean this as a

I’d tape our sessions,
And after, go to a park—
There are lots
In Iowa City—and
Transcribe our
Talks before
I lost the sense

Inevitably, people
Would come up
Asking, “Are you
Hurting some
Small animal under
That table?”
Mais non!

A couple of years ago a French woman walking her poodle dog in Belfort claimed to be attacked by feral cats
     She told the media six feral cats pounced on her and her dog
     saying they dragged her to the ground and mauled her (yeah right!)
     Despite how ridiculous it sounded, French police apparently believed this woman’s story
     and they issued a warning to beware of France’s stray and feral cats
     They warned, “Tourists from countries like Britain should certainly be wary.“
     The French perhaps figured their free-roaming cats do not like the English, most of whom they might also perceive as “dogs”
     However cat lovers like author and poet T.S. Eliot need not fear any terror attacks from the cats of France

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA


On there is a book listed called French for Cats: All the French Your Cat Will Ever Need by Gary Zamchick
     The 1991-published book was of course a humor book
     In people’s reviews they say they actually used this book along with using French phrases such as
    "Je crois que je vais cracher une boule de poils"
     (I think I am going to cough up a fur ball)       
     It’s written pretty much, though, how French cats, if they talked, what kind of things they’d say
     American cats of course would use English because that is the majority language they hear
     Once, I swear, my mother’s cat Hurley spoke to me when I was sleeping over at my parents’
     She woke me up with saying “I want to go out now!” to be let out on the enclosed patio (catio) 
     Apparently if cats can speak our human language, it’s only to get something they really want
     While cats can look into our eyes as dogs do, they don’t want to or are likely to possess the skill to “chat” with us
     Also if one is going to give “commands” to a cat, such as “off"
     just like dogs, it would be best in America to give them in English
     A dog or cat spoken to only in French in America might cause a problem for someone else who has to take care of them
     For instance a pet sitter or boarder-kennel worker may only talk to a cat in English
     A cat who is talked to only in French just might look at an English-speaking person in confusion or fear

—Michelle Kunert

 Playing Cat and Mouse

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

I named her Mouse,
hoping she’d rid the basement’s
every nook of vermin, and
then go on to clean the house.
So keen her eye;
each claw a clever hook.
I’d tiptoe down at dawn to see—
and look! under the bath-
mat, a tiny form tucked gently
to eternal sleep;
still warm.
But maybe that wasn’t
Kitty Souris the backwoods
tree-top aerobat,
but Possum the box-springs
guerrilla shelter-cat?
Neither shared a word
with me; tongue too busy
grooming her own
cat-French. A swarm of purring
syllables, mouse-dirge sweetly sung.


—Taylor Graham

Felicette spends her time in the French
section, a volume of the illustrated world
open before her. She flicks her ringed tail
through the pages, symmetries of margin
and text. A zodiac of beasts (her favorite,
the two Poissons) and constellations,
le Cygne trumpeting silently just for her.
She watches as through a periscope,
waiting for the fish to swim, the swan to
fly. They never do. At times she catnaps
on the shelf, looking down from her one
lonely cloud on the world displayed for
her alone, cat francophone who cannot
speak a single word aloud.

 [Note Book Title]

—Taylor Graham

Al says, It’s hard to hear myself, what with
the guitar, bass and drums, and Susie singing,
everybody blending. I never did take
lessons, just listened to Crazy Unc blowing
into his harp so it sounded like no instrument
at all but himself, it disappeared between
mouth and fingers into pure song. No words
to get in the way. A man tried to teach me
what they call theory, inversions and all those
terms sounded like blowing through
the brains instead of the heart. I want to hear
the soul-tone solitude, music you make
that no one else hears exactly as you hear it
below the other voices, touching bottom-rock
then rising, a fish in wine-dark river,
drifting with time which is the music. Moon’s
inverted and riffed in the river’s reflection.
I just try to keep my breath afloat
in the immersion. That’s how I play,
thinking about Crazy Unc. They always
said he was high on moonshine. Only moon-
shine he ever knew was full moon on the river,
his harp a river flowing under the moon.

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento, CA

The winter of ’76 was one of the colder on record,
even for Minnesota, where they’re used to weather;
100 below with the wind chill—
we were sent to fundraise door-to-door.

The evening was gray-shrouded, light snow fell;
I trudged silently, whistled holy songs.
The cottages were well separated,
room for a garden in summer, personal and family space,
soft lights burned in the windows.

I approached each door as if making an altar call,
opened the cardboard box in which nestled
scented candles Church members had made—
fragrances of pine, blueberry, cherry
captured in cheap, thick, glass carafes.

The box too heavy on my hip;
my fingers, double gloved, clutched its edges tightly;
the box gradually disintegrating
under the persistent wet snowstorm.

Bills folded in my pocket,
face freezing despite scarf’s swaddling,
heart like a votive flame in burgundy glass,
out alone in the night,
tiny Minnesota hamlet, cruel winter of ’76.


—Ann Wehrman

You say you liked me better
before, when I danced all night,
drank and got stoned with you,
was always somebody’s lover.

Maybe if I’d stayed
in that Illinois town—
instead, I ran from comfortable abuse,
tried to climb a mountain
without a rope,
fell down into darkness—
eyes sealed, I slept.

Today waking in bright sunlight,
I gulp sweet, cold air,
admire my delicate, glistening
wings of cobalt and violet,
beat them, gathering myself to fly.


—Ann Wherman

all that mattered was
your hand holding mine
walking home in the dark
your long legs, tender belly
spooning me as we slept
your joyful morning smile

decades later, I realize
I’ve always had your back
in the twilit, rented room
for a breath, I seem to see
your twenty-year-old face superimposed

then it dissolves
I touch your shoulder lightly
afraid you will vanish completely
feel your fingers brush mine

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

If just one person comes to our workshop
on writing as an instrument to heal
or comfort sickness, even the desperate drop
toward ever-plummeting death, if it anneals
that one to the pain sewn coarse against refined
and sweet stuff in a life, this will have shown
how closely lung and stomach, heart and mind
can team in sympathy, so may atone
for whatever failings at least in my life
lead me to stray from vision, stray from plan,
and even this straggling verse, come catch-as-can,
I hope distills the urgency, the strife
that doubles relief in utterance-shared release
—as once I convinced a violist to try an Arnold Bax piece.

For Mary Hansen and Dipali Buch on the college workshop “Writing Your Way to Wellness” (poem written just before a professional development teleconference at Folsom Lake College)

 C'est trop difficile...

Today’s LittleNip(s):

—Ann Wehrman

imagine meeting again
in space somewhere, your eyes are stars
mouth’s generous curve now a lilting comet’s tail

our bodies fed worms decades before
yet here we are, still living
I recognize your laugh, your warmth
we still love each other without reservation
outside of death, outside of mind, outside of time

* * *

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Ulysses Boykin
is a judge of the 3rd Circuit Court
in Wayne County, Michigan


Our thanks to today’s fine contributors, and to our readers for their patience with these cat photos celebrating our absurdist Seed of the Week: When Cats Learn French, including our first-ever (however crude) animation!

Our new week in area poetry begins with the poetry read-around in Placerville, Poetry In Motion, 6pm, as well as Josh McKinney’s Eco-Poetic Readers at Sac. Poetry Center in Sacramento, 7:30pm. Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento features readers every Thursday night at 8pm. Next Saturday, SPC’s Thursday Night Poetry Workshop, led by Rhony Bhopla, will hold a celebratory reading at the Valley Hi-North Laguna Library in Sacramento, 2pm, and there will be another poetry read-around in Placerville, Poetic License, also 2pm, at the Placerville Sr. Center. Then on Sunday at 5:30pm, friends and area poets will hold a tribute at California Stage, Sacramento, to Ann Menebroker, who passed away in July. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right of this) for info about these and other upcoming readings in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

The Sacramento Bee published a lovely obituary for Sacramento Poet Pat Pashby this past Sunday; see

There’s definitely a change in the air as the new season approaches: watch the green box at the right of this column for workshops and submissions opportunities, beginning with Manzanita Writers Press in Angels Camp (Calaveras County). MWP is a lively enterprise featuring Writers Unlimited, Manzanita Arts Emporium (bookstore/gallery/giftshop/publishing house), and periodic workshops and seminars. On Oct. 14-16, for example, they will bring the Writers Roundup Retreat to the Mark Twain Wild West Fest in Angels Camp, featuring three days of writers' workshops on a variety of topics. See for info, schedule, early-bird tickets (by Sept. 1).

Manzanita Writers Press's also has a new online anthology/blog which accepts poetry/art/photography/prose:

Save the date of Sunday, Sept. 18 for the annual Petaluma Poetry Walk: see 

Advanced Dancing by Laverne Frith, 
who also did the cover art

And congratulations to Laverne Frith, who has a new book out,
Advanced Dancing, from AuthorsPress. Go to or to Amazon: for information and to order. We are very happy to announce new publications here in the Kitchen; send info to




Celebrate poetry! 
—Illustration by Edward Gorey
For more about illustrator Edward Gorey, go to
For more silly photos of cats on a variety of subjects, 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.