Monday, September 19, 2016

Lessons of Bone

Shootout on Main Street
Opening Ceremonies, World Gold Panning Championships,
Placerville, CA, Sept., 2016
—Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

Way back in history before we
Had devised a word for “ancient”
We had become the chosen

An enterprising group of
Entrepreneurial extraterrestrials
Saw a nice, flat place to set up

Their giant RV and 5th wheel
Once a millennia sales spectacular
Right here on Earth

They advertised this big event
With all kinds of lights in the sky
And even let their kids bring

Flying saucers and leave
messages in the rocks and fields
It was all for fun

When the notions of 5th wheel
And flat place had bounced off
The humans for a while

Brain logic took over and the
Concept of flat earth cosmology
Would dominate for centuries 

—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento, CA

       after a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke

Severed fruitfulness, disregarded
fragility.  Fuzz fallen, like little wing
hairs.  My lips tight, dared by
prospect of the dullish bruise
squeezing brown juice onto my
tongue; a sort of madness—
unable to eat a whole peach
because           a small dark patch has
evolved on what I love in purity, gifted
by the brown creased hands of the farm
laborer, who promises to pluck each
tidy yellow ball with concern and care,
and does so.  Yet, maybe, something
squeezed it, bumped, or heaven forbid,
it was thrown against a crate, jammed
in the corner, and now, I face this
little fruit.  But, all at once, as if awakened,
I see the flesh—clean and light, with
tiny tart red lines, peeled, cut, and sliced. 
I see my mother’s hands at work as I
save the peach.

 Wells Fargo Wagon

—Tom Goff

, Carmichael, CA      

       The University of Missouri is defending its research
       practices after a national pet-adoption group publicly
       decried an experiment that led to six female beagles
       being euthanized.
                    —Associated Press

Their eyes, restored from the needle-stab and the acid,
gaze brownly benign at the naked mage laid flaccid,
the bringer of fire and wire and microchip
clamped wrist and ankle to the stonelike slab
where man-loosened gusts perform their unstable lab
test on skin: the knout of tornado, each windwhip a steel tip.
Mid-lightning, tricolor and lemon tails wag; they nose
the one who once mutilated their gazes, flung
them euthanized to their gehennas in kennelless rows.
One laps the human’s god-mask; the others’ tongues
peep from dewlapped mouths that salivate
at a banquet relinquishing eagles’ beaks and fate
have bequeathed them: feasts of man-liver the dogs gulp down,
their gusto appareling in a draining gown
of lappable red the frame of the torturer,
basting with love and appetite the skin-bronze
of doctor her, the ivory of scientist him. Great yawns
full-throated, full-bellied, almost satiate;
till revival comes dark-eyed and licking, the gut of the warder
supplying the pack’s communion, sweet limitless larder… 

 South Africa

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Did I come to hear songs of the dead?
Crow rattled from a cottonwood losing its leaves.
Tarnished coin, it sounded like a handful
of buttons. On the fringes, a camp in a landscape
of saffron, ochre, scarlet of fall, a makeshift
home. Humans busy about their everyday
but somehow proud, beautiful. Always moving,
you humans, Crow said, reciting a long history
of migrations, the myth as bedrock of history.
Centuries of dust over bone to find where
you came from. Lessons of bone. Legend makes
fools of you all, he said in Crow, taking joy
in mimicking the guttural Raven. Where you
came from. Where will you go? These campers
gone by morning, the impermanence of all.
Cottonwood losing its leaves. Wind made wood-
song of their fall. Crow flew off to a piney
ridge, the green that stays. From the wander-
camp a recorder’s wavering song.


—Taylor Graham

From a distance it looks like smoke
under clear autumn sky. A sound of bells
keeping rhythm with wind through the trees
like fluting. Who’s dancing? But
you weren’t answering.
You’d turned a different track 
out of sight, your mind curving away
to last night’s dream: a cabin
on hillside that kept running down to sea.
Everyone you’d ever known
was there but no one talking. Beware
of dreams. Just follow
the bells and flute, the silver rising
of smoke over a feast of singing dance.

—Taylor Graham

He went to hunt the Grizzly, found it,
fought it; he was left for dead.
Horrifically clawed. But carrying the bear’s
hide, he returned to his village.
This is legend, tribal chief making friends
with all but the slave traders
who crossed the river; saving his people
from the pox, alcohol, and war.
This is legend. He kept his bear scars
to the end of life. He lives in the meadow
still, wandering among cedar tepee
replicas. I come in the quiet after crowds
to listen. He’s talking with ravens,
the creek, the wind, ripples on the pond.
They teach him healing with secrets
of air, water, rocks and stars
which go on falling and rising forever.


—Taylor Graham

It isn’t illegal
this penchant for pilfering
another poet’s
words even phrases
calling it influence/being
inspired by
borrowing playing with
not petty theft but word-lifting
a line-dance of sounds & meanings
a game of words dancing
with another poet
as near as
2 friends trading verses
or distant as sailing Homer's
wine-dark sea
this communal dance of 1
trying a new step
to songs of the ages of
this morning

(after “Poaching” by Loch Henson; see Medusa’s Kitchen 9/11/16)

—Taylor Graham

The river keeps remaking its banks, revising 

its map, eroding away; releasing gold.

You’ve come to dip your pan in the current, 

snowmelt from upcountry, its till of bedrock.

Gold-rush river reflects in your eyes 

as you move upstream. Shovel and bucket,

pry-bar, sluice-box and pan. Your dog 

splashes in the waves, finds a way through

blackberry, alder and willow to a secret 

the river knows. You learn to read

the water, where it slows, how sand gathers 

downstream of boulders. You’ll spend

hours. Shake, dip, and swirl, until you’re 

getting down to color. Past mica’s glitter,

garnets and lead—and at the bottom, 

heavy gold specks in black sand. At last,

the color that settles in your pan is sunset, 

ripples moving down-current to find

a dark door the river cuts through granite. 

You’ll say to sundown, It was a good day.

Pack your gear, load up—wet dog and all. 

Head home under gold flecks of stars.

(in honor of the World Gold Panning Championships, 2016,
held in Placerville, CA Sept. 11-18)


Today’s LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

By February
It covered all of Illinois—
Glare ice, black ice.
Everyone fell.  Though
Two things to keep
In mind: tuck palms and
Elbows as you went down;
Roll.  The other, try
To fall with grace, as though
You intended it, as though
Balanchine choreographed
It.  Most people
Achieved Pinky Lee


Our thanks to today’s poets for their fine Monday brunch in the Kitchen—including some musings on our Seed of the Week, Falling—and to Taylor Graham for her photos of the opening ceremony for last week’s World Gold Panning Championships which were held in Placerville ( This year’s theme: Parade of Nations. For her description of the ceremony, at which she read a poem as El Dorado County Poet Laureate, go to  And see Medusa’s Facebook page for a new photo album by TG, pictures of the actual Championship events themselves at

Thanks also to Tom Goff for his heart-wrenching poem about experimental animals. Last week I was talking about writing poems that scare you, and poems about animal suffering are definitely that for me. (Tom says this poem surprised him with its intensity!) Don Feliz’s poem posted last Friday about the death of his partner is another example. l It’s not easy to write about the hard stuff—thanks, guys.

This week’s poetry in our area begins at Sac. Poetry Center tonight, 7:30pm, with Martha Ann Blackman releasing her new book,
The Memory Within, plus a reading by Jeffrey Kingman and an open mic. Wednesday will introduce the “First Edition” of Sac State of Poetry, readings from the CSUS poetry community, this one featuring Jason Shapiro, Stuart Canton, Phillip Barron plus open mic, 6-7pm in the Writing Center (Calaveras 128) at CSUS. Thursday will be Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, of course, with its features and open mic, 8pm. On Friday, Sac. Poetry Center presents a book launch reading/celebration for Stanley Zumbiel’s new book, Standing Watch. On Saturday, Sacramento Voices will mark its fifth anniversary from 10am-4pm by celebrating the international event, 100K Poets for Change, and on Sunday, Mosaic of Voices will feature Reyna Grande and Maceo Montoya at 3pm (instead of the usual 2pm). For more about 100K Poets for Change, go to

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.

And congratulations to Sacramento’s Laverne Frith and to Allegra Silberstein of Davis for winning book awards this past Saturday from Artists Embassy International at Dancing Poetry in San Francisco!



Celebrate new books, including Martha Ann Blackman’s 
latest, The Memory Within, a collaboration with designer 
Laura Jane Coats—a prose poem about the importance of 
knowing our connection to all things.


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