Monday, September 12, 2016

At the Edge of Shadows

—Photo by Sue Crisp, Shingle Springs, CA

—Sue Crisp

The old haunt of the carnival
still stood at the edge of the wood.
Cold, empty, shrouded in mystery.

A Ferris wheel with wind swung seats,
the carousel of pumpkin butter and
cocoa-colored horses, rearing, eager

to race to the tinkling tune of da-ta-ta-
tadda-ta-ta-tada, now frozen in silence.
An empty flapping tent, in a kaleidoscope
of colors, where Madam Bizzare would
analyze your past, present and future.

And, of course, images of demons who
cower in, unshaven, rooms of the House
of Horrors.  The frightening screams, now stilled.

All waiting, waiting, waiting, for a new master.

 —Photo by Sue Crisp

—Sue Crisp

They strut about on silent, splayed, webbed feet,
as though completely in the wild.
Mindless of vehicles, dogs behind fences,
gardeners watering their fall-hued flowers.

Their attention solely on what they can find hidden
in the golden brown grass. This season’s Blue Oaks have been fruitful
and shared their bounty. Spent fall-flecked golden leaves
and acorns litter the slumbering ground.

Early autumn sun
glints off their bands of feathers.
Long black necks, with beards of white, arch,
eyes intent, in the search for the oaks’ fallen treasures.

The small platoon of Canada Geese,
focused on their find, settle into a rhythm of hierarchy
 and feeding. Sated, the birds rest in a pool of grey-brown,
beneath the nurturing trees.

At this moment
Man and Nature
are in autumn’s
Perfect Harmony.

 —Photo by Sue Crisp

—Sue Crisp

They had slumbered beneath winter’s frozen soil,
tulips waiting patiently for warming spring.
They had slumbered beneath winter’s frozen soil.

Days and nights collected into months.
Still there is no stirring,
tiny seeds wait patiently for warming spring,

waiting, waiting, waiting,
suspended and dreamless,
still there is no stirring.

Now, a feeling deep inside
tells of a new beginning.
Suspended and dreamless

a slow awakening brought by spring’s warm breath.
A tingling, a stretching, a pushing upward
tells of a new beginning.

A reach for the sun,
they had slumbered beneath winter’s frozen soil,
a tingling, a stretch, a pushing upward,
they had slumbered beneath winter’s frozen soil.

—Photo by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

    The Wild Night is calling.
        —Van Morrison

At dusk, the wooly worm
Begins the venture across
The American River Bike
Trail (I Crawled all night.
Confess: we’ve all had those).
At dawn, the wooly reaches
The other side, just as a first
Morning jogger slogs past,
Just before a bike tire
Trims the edge. Wild nights.
Wild nights.

 Fire Truck
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

That chirping
must be something electronic in the house.
You’d stumble if you tried to find it in the dark.
Intruders do not chirp.
Adjustable blinds can’t keep out moonlight
casting shadows of things you never
saw in daylight. Go to sleep. That
scream—might be the peacock down the road.
Ignore it. A cry for help? Go back
to sleep, to dream.

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Windows open to the screens
through summer evenings heavy-
sweet with cricket strummings.
Since spring we haven’t heard the owl.

Tonight, something shears the dark,
a chill, a rough-torn edge.
Screech Owl’s calling
down a longer dark, the break, the fall.

 Welcome Post
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

He knew what kinds of things lurk
at the edge of shadows,
lure of light that blinds the edges
of understanding. He knew
how to keep quiet. He’d been
wounded. All of us in our
different ways. The pain keeps
moving, a seam
where material and immaterial
meet. He wouldn’t tell
how he soothed it with pigment.
I saw the stains
on his hands, colors like a garden.
They seemed to go deeper
and deeper. What was growing?
I didn’t dare ask. Walking
past the gallery, I recognized him
in faces on the wall, how
he would say such things in paint.

Nisenan Village
—Photo by Taylor Graham

At your funeral, your youngest son stood up to say

My mother was a woman who
fought for our survival.
When the government worker told her
free shoes were not for our kind
she rose up in a fury
taller than her 4'9”
poked him in the chest
put him in line.
If you didn't know her,
she was Tom Joad's mother.

—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento, CA

(for Anna May Linville, d. Aug. 3, 1999)

 Behind the Veil
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Cynthia Linville

We should be years beyond this
yet we are still here
in this fire

His ruined mouth
his ruined face—
I can’t chase them away

I can’t unmix
aliens from angels
blood from oil

My lips are leathery
burned by sun and sand—
my confessions are toothless

 Which Way
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Cynthia Linville

White haze on the horizon
hawks and quail
tie dye and cowboy boots

Gold dust sparkles in the water
Flames of sun surround you
spiral up like smoke

I just want to slide back to center
I just want to climb back into
the cool, dark chambers of your heart


Our thanks to all these fine contributors to our Monday open mic here around the Kitchen table! Cynthia Linville will be reading in Placerville this coming Saturday at Fausel House Gallery, 3-5pm. She also edits convergence, and there’s a new issue out at

Taylor Graham’s photos are from the Divide Gold Rush Days last weekend, at which she read some of her poetry; see the Facebook page at One of her photos is of the Nisenan village; the Nisenan are part of the Maidu group in East Central California (see Also going on up here on the Hillside right now are the 2016 World Gold Panning Championships (Sept. 11-18); see

Poetry in our area this week begins tonight at the Sac. Poetry Center with Nick LeForce and Terry a O’Neal plus open mic, 7:30pm. Travel up to Placerville on Weds., 5-7pm, for the Poetry Off-The-Shelves read-around at the El Dorado County Library; then on Thursday at noon, go to another library, the Central Library in Sac., for another read-around (watch for this month’s theme). That evening, Richard Loranger will read at Poetry in Davis, John Natsoulas Gallery, 8pm (plus open mic).

Also on Thursday, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe will celebrate its 21-year anniversary with “21 Years Young”: poetry, prose, songs and stories by Poetry Unplugged Founder Joe Montoya with musical interplay by Vinnie Montoya, plus open mic. 8pm, 1414 16th St., Sac, hosted by frank andrick. More at

Friday will also feature poetry in Davis, as Danyen Powell, Roberto Knorr and Patricia Wentzel read at The Other Voice (Unitarian Universalist Church library), 7:30pm. Saturday will feature Cynthia Linville and Chris Olander (plus open mic) at the new monthly Placerville event, the Third Sat. Art Walk at the Fausel House Gallery.

And don’t miss out on the fun Petaluma Poetry Walk on Sunday, starting at 11am and featuring readings at multiple venues, all within walking distance of each other—and free! See for scheduled readers, times, venues, map.

Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming readings in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

The car is trip ready
All systems checked
Passes with flying colors

Shortly out of town
There are nails in the roadway
Flat tire, spare in trunk
Ready to proceed

More nails
As far as the eye can see
Such is the road to put
A woman in the White House



 Celebrate poetry and fun with words by taking a look 
at Mental Floss online (; 

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.