Monday, October 31, 2016

From Fiddles Bewitched

Ghosts in Arden Park
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Woodsmoke hazes the canyon. On this
long ridge, leaf-trees are in full-blaze amber
goldrush yellow ember-red among
dark forever-green of conifer, live oak.
No ice, yet, on shallows
in a basin—reflections after rain.
A small red pickup’s parked
outside the bark-beetle research lab.
Beetles are killing our trees, these years
of drought. Last night it rained.
Everything’s quiet except a whisper-
breeze. Everything in its steady progress
through fall. Except my dog, charged
to follow human scent this morning,
meanders off on something
wild beyond his ken; leads me again
to what I might have missed. Here,
fresh black scat full of berry seeds—
a fox? Seeds gut-scarified to germinate
next spring come rain.
Age-old trail through fall, moving ever
toward winter and back to life.

 —Anonymous Photo

—Taylor Graham

One-eyed Charley Parkhurst, stage driver—
fearless, guiding a four- or six in hand
over rough Gold Rush roads—used a whip
to blow the warning-horn, on account
of cancer of the mouth; got the best
of that burlap-wrapped bandit, Sugarfoot,
who died for trying to rob the same stage
twice. Wore a patch over the eye kicked
by a horse; listed in California voter rolls
in 1867, before women had the vote.
At last, her autopsy revealed tobacco-
chewing Charley in guise of a stage-drivin’

 —Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Taylor Graham

They kept the waiting room close with muffled
clauses for roasting patience over the coals.
Venturing back out was not part of the design.
But somehow, a slip into invisibility-
guise, you slid from the way-too-cushioned
chair. Gone into the warp and woof of messy
streets, traffic garnished by sirens, honks,
a rock-slide of rip-rap from the open window
of an ancient VW speeding as fast as it could,
anywhere, away.

 —Photo by Katy Brown

—Taylor Graham
A vast grey sky said nothing.
I went down to the historic mine

but wouldn’t pay the bill to go underground,
to haunts of tommyknockers

smuggled by Cornish miners
across the sea in legend-trunks and boxes,

to trick them in the depths of dark and knock
the tunnel walls when only spirits sense

a cave-in coming. I thought
of you far asleep in your vast grey dreams.

The door to the mine was locked to me.
I found a secret drift into hillside

past litter left to decompose like bones.
It was almost Halloween.

 —Photo by Katy Brown

—Taylor Graham
It’s quiet now, the ditch that Gold
Rush miners dug to carry mountain water
to the mines, to separate gold
from native rock. Shall the water now
be piped underground? Once
you saw a buck lift his muzzle dripping
from the flow, dribbling ditch-water
onto forest floor. You saw
a river otter playing in the current.
It was not a dream, you swore,
nor reflection in the water.
Along the banks, you found bear scat,
and met a man who’d seen
a cougar there. Shall they tame
the water in a pipe? At last our ditch-
walk leads us back. Wild-grape in fall
tarnish before it turns to gold.

 —Anonymous Photo

—Donal Mahoney, St. Louise, MO
The others, of course,
are more rabid than he
but less apt to show it.
Whenever he strikes,
he never romps off.
He stands with the wrist
that he's snatched
from the lady
tight in his teeth
as he waits with a smile
for the wagon.
He's one of the few
wrist-snatchers still
on the streets of Chicago,
and he makes his rounds
in old tennies.
His technique is simple:
He dives for the purse hand,
gives it a whack, and severs
the wrist without slobber,  
then stands like a Vatican Guard
with the wrist in his teeth
until he is certain
he has no pursuers.
At night in his dreams he sees
the women whose wrists
he has held in his teeth.
They stand at the bus stop
like Statues of Liberty,
shrieking and waving
their stumps like flares.
He prays their screams
will bring to a frieze
the patrol cars glowing
in the middle of the street. 

—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento, CA
Nadutec dips
crown, arching thick
body over clement
ignoring the scant
desirous sky, the tangled
marble limbs
hedges torn
without warning.

I will cut this
not with words, but
with the arc of my blade,
the ramming
motorized steel teeth
I have inherited.

When will the sun
penetrate rigidity,
branch after
branch, plume in a gather
with plumes?
Stiffly, feet walk.

 —Photo by Rhony Bhopla

—Rhony Bhopla

I want from love only the beginning—
            —Agha Shahid Ali

In the beginning we bent light
until the flash surrendered
over our bare shoulders,
something gone, that something gained
between hours of suffering, yet
nothing is missed—
warmth in rapture, in peace.

When you spill into my arms,
you slide into exodus
called ocean.  What color never fades?

Temperament remains
as the moon's illustrious shine,
stars in their dance send me
a scribe who wets the canvas
with hand-marks of a love story,
something gained past departure
passion seeks solitude
in the beginning.

 Minion Michelle (Kunert)

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

One grain of sand
In the eye of the beholder
Makes the Rock of Gibraltar
Impossible to view

One tiny hand
In the arms of a new mother
Directs rivers of hormones
Each with no clue

An enthusiastic band
Plays the fight song over and over
The bounce of the football
Leaves them losing 45 to 2


Our thanks to today’s contributors on Halloween 2016! There will be no reading at Sac. Poetry Center tonight; readings resume next Monday, 7:30pm. Tomorrow, Poetry Off-the-Shelves poetry read-around in El Dorado Hills meets from 5-7pm. On Thursday, Poetry Unplugged presents features and open mic at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento, 8pm; T-Mo Entertainment presents The Love Jones Experience at Laughs Unltd. in Old Sacramento, 8pm; and Poetry in Davis presents Arturo Mantecón, Gilberto Rodríguez plus open mic at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, 8pm. And Saturday night will be the release party for the new issue of Sac. Poetry Center’s latest Tule Review, beginning at 5pm with the gallery exhibit of Tule art plus music and refreshments, then contributors will read beginning at 7pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


Today’s LittleNip:

—William H. Simpson

Are you not weary,

O desert dust witches?

I cannot see who waltzes with you

In close embrace—
But your lips meet hotly in kisses,

Your hair is disheveled,

Your ribbons are flying,

Your skirts are in tatters.

The music you dance to--

It comes from fiddles bewitched.


—Medusa, wishing you a bucketful of treats on this Halloween, 2016!

—Anonymous Photo
Celebrate the bewitched poetry that is Halloween!

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.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Hecate's Cauldron

—Anonymous Painting

—Loch Henson, Diamond Springs, CA

“Welcome to The Crossroads, child,

I have been waiting.

What will it be?”

I stared at her long flowing hair,

and nimble fingers as she sifted through

strands of something I wasn’t sure I wanted

to see clearly.

“Well, dearie, what’ll it be?”

On the side table next to her sat a

small mirror, a book, and a key. The

cauldron before her rumbled and burbled.

At first blush, the mirror was tempting.

What to see, though?   I was tired of seeing

myself in the daily reflections of others…

surely the mirror was not the answer.

The book?  Again, difficult to imagine.  

Would I be expected to read it?

Would I be expected to write it?

And the key…was that for locking

something up or letting something out?
I began to feel uneasy.

The steam from the witches brew

curled her hair into ringlets.  She waited.
After a moment, feeling the coin in my

pocket, and still unsure, I watched as her

eyes met mine.
She plucked the mirror from the table, and

with one swift motion, it was into the brew.

I could hear the screams of a thousand tiny voices.

None of them mine.

Her eyebrow arched.

“Which shall it be, child?  We haven’t

all the time in the world just now, you know.”

The thought of the book dissolving was

unsettling, and the thought of the key in

my custody was equally uncomfortable.

She shrugged, and with a wet plop, the

book was in the brew.  On its way in, I could

see the pages were stained, and no words were


With hardly a pause, the key was in her hand.

Ringed in garnets, glowing

over the fire, it was a lovely, frightening thing.

I looked closely; it had a face, with tiny glistening teeth.
She offered it to me.  I sat, as though frozen,

heart racing and hands still.
Dangling from her bracelet was a locket,

with a bleeding, open key hole.

“So it comes to this?” she asked.  “I thought

it might.”

The key dropped into the brew, and the

locket’s wound was cauterized.

The steam from the cauldron clouded my eyes,

and the hair from my head was stretched

and pulled into long, dark strands.  My nails

grew longer, and she grasped my neck

lightly in her teeth before leaving.

I never heard such 

music as when she laughed.

In my cauldron, a mirror, a book, and a key.

In my pocket, my coin.
At The Crossroads, I stand.


—Medusa, with thanks to Loch Henson for today’s tale!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Horns Full of Starlight

D.R.'s Halloween Mask
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


Can’t look at the barn any longer.
Loves me.  Loves me not.  Loves me.
I’ve been having dreams I had to borrow
From others.  Must not have paid my bill.
The lights were getting dim.  I tripped
Over my own feet trying to see where
I was going.

There was a fire on the bridge.  So many
Were claiming to have started it, it was impossible
To determine who it may have been.
The barn was built very close to the bridge.
If it caught fire, it could burn for days, weeks.

We found the trumpets and began to flow.
Horns full of starlight and sparks from the fire.
Keep your heart well in hand.  We still have a lot
To walk through.  Pray you do not lose your memory.

 Sunflowers in Locke, CA


What makes you recognize the moment?
Did your dreams come true?
Do you have all the cards so you can see
The landscape?  Is this like reading
A broken promise?

This is your home town.  Can you
See any of the streets?  All these words
Bleeding out behind batons and tasers.
And even right now, the rain has started
To really pour down.  I can’t see the streets
Any longer.  My mouth is filled with ditch water
And blood.  Can you remember any of this at all?

Is this room always filled with such gems?
Can you feel the sun upon your back,
Moving across your hands as they make
Cat’s cradles.  We are brighter than all stones.
Don’t let this fade before we are able to dance.

It has been most of our lives since we have
Seen each other.  This is that song you never
Quite remembered.  The vibrato of the strings
Moves out across the evening.  The sound lifts
From the choir, exits the building and becomes
The night air.

Look down to your feet.  You can see the ruts
The wheels made when we came across the plains.
We no longer hold the hand of fear or the hand of
Loneliness.  There is a rolling peace easing
Itself across our bodies.  Let it hold us like this.
There is nothing more important than this moment.



Floating around the room
Waiting to be attached
To something substantial.
Something never said aloud.

Tears erupting from my eyes
Even as I speak to you.
I see myself seeing so many of you.
You do not know you are dreaming.

I sit on the seawall and sing
A special song to you.
The words wander from line
To line, forever searching for a way
To morning, but distracted
By mirrors or reflections
In the water.  Fish swim through
Here, shadows in the water. 



The madonna might appear anywhere
In the house before dawn.

There, for instance, upon the cliff edge
Populated by ghosts who can only
Echo the past.  The future
Is built without ever looking
At the foundations.  Even
Our hands, small, clean, just washed.

Sometimes we drag our players
Right into the nightmare.
We act as if we know
Who comes here, but we
Do not.  It is like the carving
The wind does to the canyons.
Grotesque shapes, some of them
With the ability to move,
Speak and make figures of all.

Lately people have begun to arm
Themselves with guns to defend
The edges of what one might endure.  

 Morning Glories in D.R.'s Back Yard


We’ve never seen them like this,
Coursing high above the stadiums
Crying loudly and enchanting
The landscape as if it were
Possible to raise hills and
Yes, even peaks into the early air
That would elicit cries of amazement
As the dawn trooped down the
Clouds and reached the earth
As sun, and hail and tossing
Clouds trying to describe snow
Or sleet as things not of the
Weather at all, but rather how
Love would look, splayed out
In the gray afternoon, expecting a lover.



The cities abandoned.  I saw you
Walking there long after the others
Had left.  It was as if a huge
Truth stretched out in front of you.

It glowed and had teeth, sparkling
Pointed and sure to find flesh
Before feeling.  Great winds
Filled with lightning moved
Throughout its body.

Could this be the same place
Where we had made love together?
Could this shower of glow discharging
Ether be the same feelings
That once were tender in our hearts?

Oh poor mankind, to be caught so far
From harbor on this night,
Slouched and desperate, far from
Arms that love you.
“Come home,” I said.
But none could hear angel music
In this place, save animals
And the pure of heart.




So we must return to tell
The others what it is we
Have seen or heard or tasted.

We could just stay "there" on
The bridges forever while the planets
Whirl and stars explode and the glory

That is our language flares and burns

Enough to light up any horizon.
“Maybe they will see it from
The other side and send us signals...”

It never happens.  We unhook
Our bolts and pull the seven
League boots from our feet,
Reach for a beverage, try to sit
If only for a verse or two,

To say, to tell the tale, to pull
Stones and bright bits of glass
From our pockets, singing songs
We have heard about these places.

Then, we get up and gaze from the doorway
Upon the night outside the house
And the mystery floods in again
And it is as if we have not
Been anywhere at all.  The best
We can do is tell what we’ve dreamt.


Today’s LittleNip:

Writing poetry is a state of free float.

—Margaret Atwood


Speaking of Pat Grizzell (see below), all these years, I've been announcing that Sacramento Poetry Day is October 24. Turns out it is October 26, a correction that was made by Poet Patrick Grizzell, who was there when it was proclaimed (I was not). For a wonderful article about the history of that day, see his post at Thanks for clearing this up, Pat! By the way, if you see errors on Medusa's Kitchen, please don't be shy about sending me corrections!

—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's wonderful poems and pix!

 Alice Anderson, Patrick Grizzell, Patrick Q. Minor
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Celebrate poetry—and music—with your friends! 
And if you feel like a day trip, head on down to 
Modesto for a reading at the Stanislaus County 
 Library with Rosa Lane, Nina Lindsay, Stella Meratlis, 
Gillian Wegener reading from their 16 Rivers Press 
chapbooks, 2pm. Scroll down to the blue column 
(under the green column at the right) for info about 
this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—
and note that more may be added at the last minute.

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.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Those Ghosts In Between

Green Me
—Poems and Visuals by Smith (Steven B. Smith),
Cleveland, OH


Remember the French Kiss?
I don’t think the French
invented it, do you?

I think it was that
little snake
in the Garden of Eden,
that little
slither tongue.

Ohh, come hither
come hither

that little snake
that little snake

 Particle Wave


The banker says,
Okay let's get this show on the road.
I've got places to do, people to screw.

The politician replies,
There's lies to tell, votes to sell, before I go to hell.

The priest smacks his lips at the little boyships.



The capitalist in the hatcheck bar
suggested to the coatroom girl insofar
as tips were concerned she could go far,
for flirting brought her twenty-five cents,
while cleavage shown was a dollar,
and sharing her tits would pay the rent
and get her a fox-fur collar,
while I think if she had any sense
his nuts with her knee she should clobber.

 Blue-eyed She-squash


Somewhere down the mountain
in the narrow valley of night
truck tires whine
train whistle moans
while up here
nine years old in grandma's bed
rain stains on ancient wallpaper
show shapes of never was
places of never will

There's the here
there's the getting here
and there's the ghosts in between



The high-water rustle of wind
in palm tree leaves
hanging in pre-rain sky
soothe as I walk
toward cloud shroud mountain
mañana and morrow
mixing in my mind



I follow smoke signals to higher ground
sit on mesa long and alone
eat the sky
learn valley below holds healing
peaks plunge
lights cry night
might never right
I look to Coyote within



Burros in streets tied up outside houses.
Live chickens on seat next to me.
Small pig farther up, by the dog.
Back of bus bouncing.
Seats hard.
Wife sick.
Pregnant woman vomits out window again.
Same overwrought CD plays for five hours.
Baby wails.
Children on road in rain hold up bags of fruit for sale.
Rest stops are asking the driver to stop to piss on road.
Waterfalls cascade down mountain.
Mist rises from clouds below.
Road half-washed away.
Passing on blind curves.
At each curve a shrine for those who missed.

 Log Divide


On roof in shade
under blue sky
sun hot
wife asleep in chair
with empty beer
me buzzed
white rose petals
once pink
slip from bud
fall to floor
woodsmoke in air
mountains surround
clouds in between
opium seem

 Op Art


Well, I got a small brain, no social skill
frequently off aim, caused a lot of ill
dog's in the pound, my gal with better fella
I totter around trying not to teeter
but the one thing I can claim as my crown
I got the longest short-term memory gap in town

The liquor cuts a hole in my pocket
while packing pounds on my frame
people whispering I've lost it
chasing high instead of game
and they're right, I'm going down
on the longest short-term memory gap in town

Oh I’ve mastered the stumble in tumble and fall
and I’m extra expert at messing it all
but to tell you true I ain't got no clue
‘bout these back-breaking booze lose blues

That thing I said that I can't remember
came back to haunt my future en masse
my misses I cover, the rest reassemble
I stink of self and resemble an ass
my sins replicate clones of their own
in long-term short memory grasp of the groan

Got holes in my knees from concrete crawling
weepy cheeks from tear-beer crying
it's hard to walk cuz I keep falling
if I said this was fun I'd be lying
but I keep losing truth like a clown
living in long-time short-term memory gap town

... here's some troll roll (wife says I sound like an old troll coming up from the basement after eating the kids), with music by Peter Ball (1949-2015), and words & voices by Smith:


Today’s LittleNip:—Smith

Someone's in the kitchen with Medusa
Someone's in the kitchen I know
Someone's in the kitchen with Medusa
Strumming on the old get-go


—Medusa, with thanks and lots of get-go to Smith for today’s fine poetry and pix (from one old troll to another)!

One Way Wrong
Celebrate poetry—and watch which way you’re going! 
If you’re in the mood for a road trip, drive down to 
Angels Camp for Scary Story and Poem Night at 
Manzanita Arts Emporium. The action starts at 5:30pm, 
and I hear there will be cool refreshments. Scroll down to 
the blue column (under the green column at the right) for 
info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—
and note that more may be added at the last minute.

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.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

An Age of Dry Bones

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Denise Flanagan


My free ticket to the loft
for a party
is waiting for me
in the attic
of my old studio
in upper Manhattan
excited by my invitation
for an exhibition
of Roy's pop art
knowing his surprise
of his birthday celebration
soon to be
at this Autumn night
as the soft leaves fall
by chestnut vendors
in corridors' familiar patterns
taking the underground,
my riffs breathing aloud
inside my mind
getting off at the right stop
as the doors open
at this green light
along the Red Apple station
traversing the hour's watch
at the big city's charm
by brownstones
on this rainy journey
and meeting a friend
with an armful of flowers
who speaks to me
of my poetry on Coltrane.



We met to chat in the sun
about poetry and literature
ten minutes from
Boston University's
Sherman Union
cultural center years ago
when the flashing lights shone
on the Charles River
in the early Fall snow
your wife Alice asks us
to pray for his exiled soul
having an after-life in Jesus
and to light a candle for him
who was a believer,
as the Elm trees shiver
on the campus
where you read and lectured
with understanding compassion
for the holocaust victims
those interval of thoughts
are not lost
in your poet's compassion
at the itinerant wars over
Biafra or Ruanda
or the Catholic martyrs
like the championed poets
Robert Southwell
or Edmund Campion
for you knowing the cost
of being a Christian
and those who
merely use religion
only as in a politician's fashion,
goodbye my friend, Geoffrey
except for your words
as I see three bluebirds
over the Atlantic surge
to the third heaven.


Pablo Neruda's voice of justice
rises as tall greensward grass
in Santiago
with moving and embracing love
you pass by the trees
now with the rubbed-out initials
and names of the Resistance
after writing a correspondence
of poems, letters, essays
in your voting-out
the reactionary choice
of politicians
with your contrary cry
for the miners
and workers’ rights
from the strikes of a poet
splitting the nails
of the crucified
with the spikes
of an invention's interference
in free speech
wanting a space on earth
for the poor
with a hopeful tomorrow
for those who are ignored
inscribed on your lips
from revolutionary words
not to be silent slaves
of any feared system
even called Christian
when words flame
into an apocalypse
which borrows from
when state fascism
carries us through
the nights
of the disappeared.



When in love
we turn to Lermontov
a charismatic poet
and authentic critic
here we remember you
by the laughing cliffs
by the Volga or Neva river
as constant waves roll by
we play a zenith
of jazz riffs
in an American way
this metaphoric afternoon
by three sprays of leaves
the winds on our ships
in a burning Autumn sun
of exiles who overshadow us
and make us believe
in our dramatic soon return.


Peter Oresick an icon-maker
poet and painter
from the working class
of steel and iron and glass
background in Pittsburgh
sounding over bailiwicks
of a dramatic universal appeal
from the Charles to the Neva
has passed as a swan
into first light
on the Public Gardens
drawing in Marina Tsvetayeva
Milosz, Sterne, Adrienne Rich
with innate knowledge
privately without fanfare
and in a charismatic way
translated more than
a few letters of learned words
to better share with us
recently had his last meal,
had studied in Boston
at Emerson College
where we commiserated
as many an iconic
language wrapped itself
around our glue and pitch.



While reading Ovid's
love elegies
Christopher Marlowe
hid his manuscripts
above his alcove drawers
with his kept secrets
and friendship letters
poems and plays
to share his better days
with the beautifully black-haired
Sephardic Amelia Bassano
the  “Dark Lady"
in the worshipful sonnets
attributed to Shakespeare
yet we did not know who read
their secret texts
some of which refer
to a forbidden sexuality,
as Chris was threatened
by the royal court
for being an enemy
and not loyal to the Queen
as an atheist of sorts
and urged not to consort
with this wonderful jewel
as he kissed Amelia Bassano
a thespian clever Marrano
yet brought up by conversos
and four lesbian moms
she who came hidden at his door
originally from Morocco,
behind her doubled masks,
yet you ask me for the secret
that she kept in her religious
sect forever
we ask if she was a Jewess,
Christian or a Moor
behind her mask
that history cannot
any longer ignore
yet she was an emerging
and wise poetess for sure,
for Christopher Marlowe
had so many troubles
like Amelia Bessano
being lured in and baited
by an evil nation-state
yet he waited at his age
to make a living
upon the Elizabethan stage
from his poet lore
hoping the London stage
would at least have
an offering for him
or a yearly position
that he could deposit
his mind's dramatic greatness
upon the theater would fall
from his traumatic soul
worried that an inquisition
or investigation would ensue,
that his whole genius identity
would be lost or discovered
in the tempest-tossed
medieval age
from his hours of procrastination
over the stage
at his fulfilled state of mind
which insured him a double life
yet he preferred
to have a kind benefactor
and to write plays and poetry
as a dramatic actor
to give out the wonderful lines
which will rhyme and reason
as a charismatic performer
in the theatrical season
yet others thought of him
only in connection with sin
in the dark visage of crime
from history's time bombs
yet it was he who reasoned
that he was always in danger
to be critically double-crossed
by his stranger assassin
at this metamorphosis of time
Chris hiding in his hallways
to take away his life and liberty
by the powers that be.



How you kept those days
to yourself in luminosity
wrapped around shelters
from the wind and rain sounds
in the silent shades
from the warmth of words
in a fathomless memoir
of effigy and memory
hidden in lexicons
of reading gouged language
in a potent healing space
from a compassing occupation
circling its venerable watch
in time of fresh engagement
discovering a twilight
and solitude on a park bench
audited by secret voices
in bird echoes of inhaled hours
of nature's translated words
in unrequited French syntax
by a faraway sculpture
created from stone
by a rustle of first light
on a visionary hour
in a philosopher's gesture
of waiting-room verse.



Just to achieve
an experimental design
into enigmatic shapes
on the Fall thickest night
or to paint in images
before geometric mirrors
as an open-air somnambulist
walks along night corridors
with insightful dreams
in an early aloof Autumn
leaving the Spanish starry air
in a revolutionary flight
vanishes as an underground exile
to draw near a light's canvas
by his four soundproof walls
listening to a guitar recital
in his Parisian studio.



A shadow photo
of David Jones
reveals him
as an innovator
poet, painter
we hailed in our century,
missing him
readily as an original creator
with more than a momentary
confirmation as a philosopher
a fine literary commentator
we spoke of the Aboriginals
from my brother-in-law
and Dylan Thomas'
"Christmas in Wales"
he offered us an invitation
which never failed
our imagination
in a dawn's conflagration
of burning a candle's flame
scanning our language
of words and thought
in a matured vision of light
embracing the Name
in the self-effacing midnight
for grace on his lips
from animated night
where we pray
for a sonorous dawn
in an age of dry bones
from the abyss
of a future apocalypse.


Today’s LittleNip:

I do not know which to prefer, The beauty of inflections, Or the beauty of innuendoes, The blackbird whistling, Or just after.

—Wallace Stevens


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch and Denise Flanagan for today's fine poems and pix!

 Celebrate poetry tonight with features and open mic 
at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento for Poetry Unplugged, 9pm! 
Scroll down to the blue column (under the green 
column at the right) for info about this and other 
upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that 
more may be added at the last minute.

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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Call It Magic

—Poems by JD DeHart, Chattanooga, TN
(Anonymous Photos)


We could call it a magic
age, but that's all trite,
the age where gesticulating
becomes more meaningful,
plastic figures are put away,
where adulthood and mortality
is heard echoing just beyond
childhood's window, a bird
chirping disaster on the porch
rail, and I remember how
the smartest girl I knew in
school spelled it tweleve,
misunderstanding the magic
of growing a little older.



There is a curled-up
baby inside my mind, I am
sure of it.
I can be the king
of silent tantrums.
When I hear a negative
report or a delay in my
well-pressed schedule
I want to wail and cry.
That's the baby talking.
Though I have worn work
boots and tried to commit
mighty acts of masculine
valor (just last week installing
a new vent for the dryer),
that infant still coos inside,
threatening a mortal fit.


Pull one thread,
the woven unravels, the character
begins to show signs of wear.
Which is why I hardly ever
reread novels.
Which is why I almost never
view films again.
I see the loose threads
and like a cavity in my tooth,
want to run my tongue over,
want to pull and tug
until there's nothing left,
the attention deficit side of me
nagging and tapping
until the narrative erodes,
even if it costs me chewing,
words becoming voices
walking on the shells
of a shattered yarn, protagonists
now homeless wander
along the sidewalk, shuffling,
looking for a new draft
to duck under in the rain.



We used to touch
love and reason, though I have been
told the atoms around us
protect our fingers from actual
contact with reality

There are force fields
all around us

There is nothing beautiful
about the word membrane,
but sensation changes the word,
we don’t think about it

When learning to feel again.


sense of rolling
on the tongue
extracting juice and meaning

sense of taste
the body absorbs
what is taken in becomes
part of the blood
a particle inside us

pulses all the way
through us
to the very center of heart
and brain

our loving savor
translates to electricity

engaging movement.



like the teeth
chew, moving molars
like the brain
reads, breaking apart

I saw

what I took in
curve and image
and light
distraction cacophonous

I still carry somewhere


A vision to the future
I gather from digital streams
letting me know what
voices in dark rooms will
look like a year from now.

What does the celluloid
purport to offer, what
music and art and image
arrives soon?

How deep does the screen
really go?



I imagine a dark shades
enemy out to get me,
but it's all just my usual

I imagine the whispers
are arrangements of stars
and teeth out to strike me
but it's all probably about
fantasy football

I conceive of a foe
so hidden as to not be
really real at all.


Oh, but look at how
he can sing and dance
in one movie
then kick tail and take
names in the next
Oh, but look how he
brought the class character
to life, dear Hugh J,
making a joke in one
scene, then slicing through
the next one.


Today’s LittleNip:

—JD DeHart

Refusing the stand in
line, really wanting the sticker,
never mind civic duty,
we wait to press the red button
that we having been waiting
to press for the last year.


—Medusa, with thanks to JD DeHart for sending us poetic messages, all the way from Chattanooga!

 —Celebrate poetry tonight at Time Tested Books 
in Sacramento, with readers Arturo Mantecón and 
Gilberto Rodriguez, and musical accompaniment by 
Arturo Valderrama, 7pm. Scroll down to the blue 
column (under the green column at the right) for 
info about this and other upcoming poetry events 
in our area—and note that more may be added 
at the last minute.

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. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What Did We Leave Behind?

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Lately we find ourselves amid the ruins;
evidence carries little to admire:
some skeletons, some echoes, and a wide,

accusing silence—which we must decipher.
Wrinkles in the air suggest a winter
that has lingered past the season, and we shiver.

Even the shadows struggle, caught in cobwebs;
nothing shall free them from neglected corners.
Such are the memories of stones and mirrors.

You argue one, and I suggest the other.
Shatters of light still glare and blind the eyes.
Shatters of love still seem to lead the way.

The dust is heavy and the way is narrow.
Even the darkness has a certain shimmer
as it settles down and bids us stay, or go.

It is enough, we say, and wonder why
we poke around through all this spill and clutter.
What did we leave behind that needs us now?

(first pub. in Sow’s Ear, 2000)


(After “Orrery” by L.S. Bassen)

Not memories, but something clearer, like ghost-thoughts
out of oblivion—that guise—that promise. How we would
wait for them, recognize their power over mere words that
praise truth and nothing more.

At what angle was I, situated to be so relevant at being
both part and separate, refusing the inflow that moved me.
Surely a dream held me out of my own evolving scenario.

Color had texture as well as nomenclature. It was not a
geography of skies, these vast subtleties of color and
distance—my face an eager release—that expression.

Nothing is describable to the inarticulation of desire. No
want is answered—only the discussion of it—serious and
sad, the mind at hunger.

I knew it was time to withdraw if I had any such power,
away... away... out of one moment into another—another
here and now to examine, for mystery, or idle notice as of
noting time on a clock.

Sounds were movements, textile and audible to the touch.
I should have been afraid. My mind was awed and curious.
I was in privilege. Not memories, but something clearer,
like ghost-thoughts of oblivion. That guise. That promise.


They stand around
in a random grace,
each silent face staring at
another face.

Some of them
fill a dark doorway,
others the harsh light
of the courtyard.

The children among them
wait to play,
but this is a day
for staring and waiting.
Someone is going to come.

Is it the one they know?
Is it the one who was once
their own?

Will his name be spoken?
Will he say to them,
“I am glad I am home?”

(first pub. in Poetry Depth Quarterly, 1998)


After “Thursday” by John Moore

What is so empty as
a day
after the day that is spent?

An empty room implies as much.
Old light gone.
New light slanting in.

The view is the same—the chairs
askew—vague emptiness
that waits for the new occupant.

The high windows keep the view
to themselves—the city—huge
outside the bird-height windows.

Thursday—another day between
two others—few clues—except for
the well-kept memories of the walls.


Oh, lonely town, with no one in it, only the shifting
glass of lonely windows to reflect each other; only

                                   the wail of hollow music, a

lonely conductor in an empty hall, conducting no 

one, only the one recording he keeps playing, for

                               its echoes, for its lasting, day-

light turning into night with the far-away sirens, lost
and failing . . . how do the native memories fare,

                                       staring in and out of staring
windows, with only the abandoned shadows listen-
ing, oh, still listening.


Never mind the ghosts
of this town. They stay
for themselves—per-
fecting and protecting

        their memories. If you had
        lived here you would remem-
        ber with them—but not as
        endlessly. They would resent

    your presence now.
    Nothing impedes them—
    they are many, as true
    as one is one. A place

is loyal if you loved it. Here is where the
elements move freely and ruin takes its
time. We have time and guard it from
intrusion—here we have no need to haunt—

                  here is a blueness that we love—                     
                  shadows of light to keep us real                      
                  in the unbroken windows. True,
                  we are vain. We help each other

    watch the years—how they
    recede and stay and there is
    no difference, and we never
    have to leave.

The old inhabitants left us to
the loneliness that they
no longer wanted…
Go away.


in the guise love always takes. So good to look upon
with eyes that you can’t refuse. And the mouth, the
mouth with its lies, so beautiful to hear, like comple-
tions of the self. And the hands, the hands with their
tremble. How you loved those hands. And remember
how you danced together, body to body, perfectly.
The music loved you. Oh, it was wonderful, this
beginning, the competition, the surrender—which
to which. Where draw the line that is an answer.
True, love had its moments—love, the survivor of
itself—and even when it’s finished—all those



Nights are filled with such sorrow now, and are
so long. And I write lines to match what they take

of my attention. And I consult windows and walls
for the little sounds of things that shift and rustle

and tap my fears. And I create holes of thought
to sink into instead of sleep and there find dreams

I cannot waken from. And you are not the cause;
you are just gone. And I write memories to this—

real or not real. I have pretended my life long enough.
How can I relinquish this . . . ?

(Asilomar, 2004)

Gnarled tree, I fell in love with you today
—the glowing way you held the
morning moon in the structured curve

of your rough branches
—the tender way you waited
for her to slowly dim and vanish

—the sharpened way the quiet
morning light outlined you against
the wilderness setting of Asilomar

—among the hundreds more
like you—but of them all,
you are the one I love

—the way you simply
compel my look to linger
as I walk past—tenacious there

—against all forces,
shaped by the sea-winds,
bent in their one direction

—on this October day,
I love you with such a reverence
that I want to address you as Thou

—though you are beyond
such affectation. Old tortured tree,  
You,   Thou,   have altered me.



Joyful, we rise like a cloud of angels
flying a straight line;
like geese in their true direction—

too high to be seen.
Like all the agonies of the world
we are released into forgotten dreams

like a scattering of soft white clouds
that trail like dresses
made of moonlight.

Joyful, we are released
from dreams of the troubled.
We are the solutions of sleep.

Children admire us,
then forget us.
We do not look back.

We are the sensations that come
before weeping.
The sky trembles to receive us.

We penetrate the lining of grief
until we are no longer needed.
When called back

we suffer with disappointment.
We thought we were free,
but we return

through the echoes
that never fade. We separate
and return to the memories we trust.


Today’s LittleNip:


that drift of memory
catching on snags of thought

dissolving in
thought’s intensity

no longer what it was
no longer true

something to lose
the way it loses you


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s musings on our most recent Seed of the Week, Memories I Can’t Shake. To read L.S. Bassen’s poem, “Orrery”, to which Joyce refers, go to

Now it’s time to kick off the week of Halloween, so our new SOW is Guising (see Of course this, like any other SOW, can be taken loosely, such as the disguises we wear on an everyday basis. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to (Don’t be shy about sending Halloween poems of all types, either!) No deadline on SOWs, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for more SOWs than you can shake your jack-o’-lantern at.

Yesterday I posted a poem by William H. Simpson, but I can’t find much about him on the internet, other than that Harriet Monroe published quite a few of his poems while she was editing
Poetry back in the '20s. If you know something else about him, send it along to



 Celebrate your own poetry by sending poems about Guising 
or other themes of Halloween this week to And scroll down to the blue column 
(under the green column at the right) for info about upcoming 
poetry events in our area—and note that more may 
be added at the last minute.

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. 


Monday, October 24, 2016

Shooting at Silhouettes on Sacramento Poetry Day

Unwanted View
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

(There is something I
Really need to forget
But my memory refuses
To open that door)

Almost 50 years ago
I awoke from a coma
Did not recognize family
Or the logic of bandages

I remember the encounters
Trying to peel away layers of
Gauze, then the nurse would
Smile and rewrap it

There was one meeting with a brain
Doctor who said that if I actually did see
What had hit me, my mind would have
Blocked out the memory to protect me

So today I am the proud owner
Of an abundantly clear memory
Of reconstructed images:
Rumors, hearsay, innuendo

Riding my motorcycle in traffic
Struck by a car, airborne 15 yards
Skidded on my helmeted head
Knocked out for 10 days

There is still a small chance
That I continue to hold that memory
And that something unpredictable
Will trigger it…..??

Meanwhile I am limited to shooting
At silhouettes where I can quantify the
Number and paths of ricochets
But no more than that

 Three Fish
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

A piece of the sky
presses my spine
hard against memory.
I fend off tomorrow
refusing to walk
that trail of dead thorns.
I want to fall out bright,
revert to empty.
Hope is a luxury I can’t remember.
I want to be ruined by rain.

*   *   *

Wanting to be ruined by rain,
I walk a piece of the sky
in a trail of thunder.
I can’t remember
ever being this empty.
My thoughts fall brightly
among the stars;
my spine becomes the Milky Way.
This is what I want to remember
as I turn towards tomorrow.

*   *   *

I turn towards tomorrow,
tears falling brightly as stars
on dead thorns.
No longer walking against memory,
I stretch towards hope.
I carry a piece of the sky
pressed soft
against my spine.
I have been ruined by rain.

—Photo by Katy Brown

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

I’m reading a biography of him
whose works go scarce-played in Mother Russia’s self
for mainly the usual reasons: he earned pelf
as one whose keyboard colossus hands could limn
imaginings that thundered or could skim;
despised, rose from a low-bourgeois start, to wealth
and, gossiped of as Jewish—not always in stealth—
fought hard for musicianship, this was his hymn,

to build a conservatory, build compositions,
the former advanced, the latter behind the times
because not of the radical Five. And yet
some Rubinstein gems get past that inquisition
Music History 101, like rhymes
impregnable—still, who’ll catch him in eons’ net?

[This one Tchaikovsky, Brahms would borrow notes from:
once we cease idolizing the new-at-all-cost,
once we deign to disinter names lost,
to love the dust-lowly ones—will his time come?]


—Tom Goff

   The last page or two [of Bax’s First Sonata] reduced
   that Chappell [piano] to a mass of clanging ironmongery,
   and you to a Harmonious Blacksmith. These piano fights
   are exhilarating, but they are not musical pianism.

        —George Bernard Shaw, to pianist Harriet Cohen

How many know Bernard Shaw knew Arnold Bax?
Shaw reviewed music in tandem with Bax’s uncle.
Here’s Shaw, that man of Irishry in facts
and fanciful wit, this suavest of oracles
for Fabian socialism, rebarbative drama
sand-arid in drollery. Perfect in Wagnerism.
Pronouncing like a sequestered Dalai Lama
on worldly, passionate song split as by schism

off far from Shavian realms of footlight glare.
Oh, this is no anvil-clangor, black notes or white.
These keys ring priestly gold from an iron frame:
such carillons might’ve cathedraled for the fair
Natalya* and Arnold, all through the fabled white nights.
What’s Russia for Shaw, to Bax’s Slavonic dream?

*Natalya Skarginska, pursued to Russia and Ukraine 
by ardent young Arnold Bax


—Tom Goff

  The denunciation by academicians of any deviation from
  [the orthodox story of] Shakespeare’s works reminds me of 

  the scorn heaped on Alfred Wegener, the German geologist 
  who sought to explain surface features of the earth by what 
  he called “continental drift.”

        —Charlton Ogburn, Jr.,
The Mysterious William

I’m about to read Wegener’s biography.
This is the man mentioned when the amateur’s
great role as forerunner, as discoverer,
serves us to justify our insurgency:
unorthodox Shakespeare scholars—we’ve found our man,
the Earl of Oxford Shakespeare, contra belief.
Yes, Wegener, not unlike us, scorned by the chief
among geologists of his day, was banned

for depicting how continents drift plate by plate,
when tear-apart Africa, South America, soft-
baked snickerdoodle halves, float off on fate.
But, Oxfordians, behave as he did when scoffed:
proud amateurs, be many-sided like Wegener:
astronomer, physicist, balloon pilot, ice-trekker:

we aim at this man’s art and scope; far thinner
our resumés, juxtaposed with this hero “beginner.”


—Tom Goff

   [Unlike the teenaged Alfred Wegener,] modern children
   miss the beautiful colors produced by mixing reagents
   almost at random, as well as the mystery of combining 

   two colorless liquids at room temperature to produce a 
   violent geyser that renders the beaker holding them too
   hot to handle.

          —Mott T. Greene, Alfred Wegener: Science,
              Exploration, and the Theory of Continental Drift

How shielding we are, of others and ourselves,
our offspring small selves we must think versions of us,
or why on earth else this parental copter fuss?
As if tide pools equaled continental shelves:
one slip in your wade is to fade in the sucking of waves.
So armored by survivalist bunkering down,
walking through life part bubble, part Kevlar gown,
when will we throw open our safety-sealed enclaves?

I’m pouring poetic danger into this flask,
to witness the upshot with Alfred, pressing close,
unworried for face, for fingers and hands, as long
as the flask vibrates a tattoo, innocuous
limp liquids transformed to fizzing abandon-songs
of risk. With “fumes and booms”—real world, unmask!

—Photo by Katy Brown

—Tom Goff

And after the debate-spears flung, each warrior aiming
for the other’s head in fiery single combat,
each would have brought out the stabbing short sword
of statistics, accurate or misleading, but that
the herald strode between the two combatants
parting them and in a loud voice thanked all,
contenders and audience alike for their part
in this rousing or enraging civic contention.
And Hillary’s partisans gave a great stir and cheer
like the thousand-voiced migratory vocalise
of south-winging geese in autumn, their handshakes
and wide-mouthed acclaim presaging a hopeful welcome
to the Capital City, also signaling their vast relief
that their chief of women had come away unhurt
at the hacks of the small-handed* antagonist;
not only this, but her followers breathed joy
that he had not escaped altogether unscarred
from the thrusts of her short yet acute stabbing sword…

*In Greek, the term, μικρό-χέρι, also signifies “underhanded.”
(Loeb Edition, vol. 1, pg. 75)

 Peeking Piggie
—Photo by Katy Brown

Unlike with Christmas, there are rarely ever “cute” Halloween house displays
Some Halloween displays on front lawns are in fact kind of “gory”—
For instance, a guy I know portrayed hacked-up human body parts being picked by buzzards
Others decorate with bad, cheap and ugly Halloween decorations made in Chinese sweatshops—
including the “cob-webbing” that can entangle birds when used outside 
Besides the skeletons and skulls are definitely not the arty “Dia de los Muertos” kind
and fake-looking plastic gravestones never mention any notable names
along with “zombies” or other creatures that just look like dummies 
When people try to make “ghosts” using white sheets, it just looks corny
Among the best Halloween decorations are just homemade carved Jack-o’-lanterns                  
and harvest-themed wreaths that Martha Stewart would recommend for your door or front window

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

 Medusa Visits the Alpacas
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Where do they store all the old histories—
the color of each purple sunset, the violet-red
flame consuming a dawn I saw coming
over a ridge whose name I’ve long forgotten?
Each moment in the building and fall
of the Palace of Shapur. The wild animal eyes
watching me from forest thicket. Towers
destroyed by war, and looters coming after.
The briefest dreams are recorded there,
and who dreamed them. Voices of winds,
lost mountains that followed their rivers.
All the falls of rain, its voices calling
to windows and walls. Even considering
the shrinkage of age, how many stories,
shelves and drawers? Who could
capture every moment; who has time
to sort and catalog, numbering each spine?

 Trek, So Tired
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Taylor Graham

We’ve hung our slickers to drip
on linoleum. The dogs—wild spirits
of weather—came in shaking storm
from their fur, rolling on carpet
and couch, shedding rain-joy on every
fiber of the house. Rain surrounds
our world complete tonight, talking
through walls, writing its history down
windowpanes, beating its pulse
against the roof. Will the creek rise,
overflow culverts, ravage the road?
And wind—break-dancing our old oaks.
In the morning, will we have a drive-
way? Turn off the TV, internet—rain’s
washed the satellite dish clean of any
signal from outside except the rain.
Our news is rain, the voice of poets;
most beautiful music. Just listen.

Strawberry Bush
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Everything we needed in our Kelty packs—
mummy bags and three-day rations, canteens
replenished at every creek. I lost track of time
except miles trekked, sun down, sun up, moving
shadows, glare off granite. Gradually emptied
provisions from our packs. Emptied my mind to
flycatchers in willow, meadow hush; lizard track
across trail, wind in lodgepole, water song over
rock. Until, our packs so light, we ended back at
trailhead. Click of key in lock. I startled at the
crack of closing door, tires crushing gravel. Too
fast down chipseal, everybody in a hurry. Radio
clash of music—I wasn’t ready for the brash of
city. A concrete overpass I knew would crush us
if it fell; concrete river below.

listen deep within
the mountains’ song still full of
gravity and flow.

 Camellias with Bees
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Five Russian men chatter in Russian
at a restaurant table, gingham cloth,
silverware and napkins neatly placed.

At a restaurant table, gingham cloth
aprons of waitresses welcome us
as we sit down to dinner.

Aprons of waitresses say VELKOMMEN
but I hear a French greeting and I smile,
responding with, Muy bien, gracias.

I hear another French greeting and smile.
My husband holds one of my hands.  Then
suddenly a sugar packet appears.

My husband holds one of my hands, then
suddenly the sugar packet disappears,
reappearing from behind his left ear.

The sugar packet disappears again,
reappearing from behind his right ear.
I love this place.  I love his way.

Responding with Muy bien gracias
we remain seated and finish our dinner,
silverware and napkins neatly replaced.
With sugar suddenly appearing
and reappearing from behind his ears
I love this place, his way with sugar.


LIMONIUM (a Pleaides)
—Carol Louise Moon

Landscape of salt marsh.  At times
like these, wool-bundled, I walk
looking for my favorite flower—
Lavender of the Sea which
lives and thrives in salty breeze;
lovely blend of purple-blue.
Life is good here by the sea.


—Carol Louise Moon
Horses prance around our park;
we hear them clopping down the street.
It’s hometown Pioneer Day, once again.

We hear the clopping in the street
as leathered mountain men on steeds
wave to families lined along the park.

Leathered mountain men on steeds
and Spanish ladies, high in stride
on horses decked with yellow roses, wave.

Spanish ladies high in stride
have practiced all  year long for this,
along with clowns and
           high school marching bands.

We’ve waited all year long for this—
it’s Pioneer Day, once again!
We wave to families in the park
along with high school marching bands.
In our hands our yellow roses wave.


Today’s LittleNip(s):

—Carol Louise Moon

Around our hometown park the horses prance.
Gazebos gaily decked in boughs of green—
where ageless couples of the town had danced

to banjo bands—a blithe romantic scene.
They looked for love throughout the timeless years
and raised a glass to glories they had seen.

* * *

You, the neutral pronoun
Wash up, drink down stuff
Unknown sexuality

We, another neutered note
Holds good promises
For everyone

They, the people over there
Not us, they're them
Stretching in between

Ours knows us best
Moved to be here now
How doesn't matter at all.

—Ann Privateer, Davis, CA


Our thanks to today’s many contributors on this, Sacramento Poetry Day! Celebrate tonight at Sac. Poetry Center with poets Sarah Pape and Michael Spring at 7:30pm, or go up to Placerville for Poetry in Motion at the Placerville Sr. Center, 6-7pm. On Weds., Time Tested Books in Sacramento presents Arturo Mantecón and Gilberto Rodriquez, with musical accompaniment by Arturo Balderrama, 7pm. As always, Poetry Unplugged will meet at Luna’s Cafe Thursday night, 8pm. Then ride over to Angels Camp on Friday, 5:30pm, for Hallow Words: Scary Story and Poem Night with Blanche Abrams (bring scary stories and poems of your own choosing; she’ll provide the Poe). Also down south, this time in Modesto on Saturday, poets Rosa Lane, Nina Lindsay, Stella Meratlis and Gillian Wegener will read at the Stansilaus County Library, 2pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.



 (Anonymous Photo)
—Celebrate poetry!

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.