Sunday, January 31, 2016

Suddener Than We Fancy

—Anonymous Photo

—Louis MacNeice (1907-1963)

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes—
On the tongue and the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses. 



Saturday, January 30, 2016

In the Mouth of Love

In St. Francis of Assisi, Sacramento
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


This morning my beliefs

Infest the day like mud gods

Painted to resemble things

I thought of when I was six

Years old and still believed stories

Of talking trees that could grant wishes.

Still, this cold January morning

I notice those same trees grouped

Once again near the edge of the oaks

At the far end of the garden.

They know my name.

When I woke up both my arms 

Were tornados.  Not huge tornados,

They were the same size as my regular

Arms but they behaved like tornados.

Birds were migrating through my arms.

A huge barn exploded at the end of my

Index finger and a flying board cut my cheek.

I had an entire string of traffic signal lights

Wind up into my shoulder and enter my body,

Still flashing and sparking.  Rain came from 

My elbows and the floor was littered with small boats.

My mother noticed what was happening.

“Don’t touch the mud gods.  They could mess

Everything up.  You’ll wind up with islands 

On your back and they are hard to get rid of.”

Multi-colored strings began to pour from my mouth.

It was bewildering.  “Stop dancing,” my mother said.

Chortling, screeching, squeaking, wheezing, wailing,

Whooping, rattling, hooting, gnashing, bleating, calling,

Squealing, whimpering, yelling, crashing, clucking.

“But I am six years old, my mother and I have 

Just become a tornado for the first time.”

My mother yelled at the trees and scattered 

The mud gods all over the kitchen floor.

“Now eat your cereal and get ready for school.”



Just because there is a door

Does not mean one must use it.

Gray or mouse white.  We are all one.

A weariness has come for me.

It saw me sitting at my desk

Trying to be sly, to remember 

Any number of waterfalls,

Even waterfalls from story books.

All I could visualize were abandoned

Factories, boarded-up school buildings,

Pools with beautiful oil slicks being

Pummeled by rain just as the sun

Was rising.  

I began looking for lines of trees

In the middle of alfalfa fields.

That created a longing in me that

Had no center but for the season.

It made me want to bake bread.

I couldn’t believe I was still alive.

I began to think songs were parasites.

Dreams have their own cars.  They 

Were available from rental agencies

If you were an exile or a promoter.

I climbed the tower just to get to the top.

By the time I got there, it was already night.

What had I promised my body?  That I would

Always love you or that I would remember

Everything I could lose?  I don’t think

I missed a single step.  Except for a few

Moths, only an empty mind.

 Quince Tree, Winter, Locke


The bamboo begins to tell of the coming rain.

The song of the rain still hangs above the valley.

It has been near to the moon all day now, and there

Has been no sun, whispers on the wavelets in the river.

Now, at five o’clock in the evening, the day has decided

To gather a large collection of grays and brings them

Close over the fallow winter gardens. 

Near the end of January, color seems almost too much

Trouble for the evening.  There are only two yellow quinces

Left on the tree near the long table.  Orange, barely worth

The effort for a sunset.  This poem might as well be silence

For such a day.  I will listen for the late rain while I await

Sleep.  Tonight, I will know the voices of her daughters, rain,

While they embrace the roof and the gravel road past my house.



Between this world and the next one

I ask you to accept these words.

Blood runs from my mouth and I hold

An apple in my hand as an offering.

It too is red and sweeter than my mouth.

I too am a figment.  I dress myself in clouds.

I have no voice but the earth herself.

She teaches me to speak in this manner.

Carry me with you as you would your shadow.

I will come and go with the changing of the light.

I have come to understand fire and desire.

People on this earth tell me many things.

What should I believe about you then?

Often I am a fog or a frost upon leaves.

I will drift into your thoughts on occasion.

You may think you have heard my voice.

I will implore you to dress yourself in love

That I may know you and intuit your footsteps

In all the centuries.  I will never pretend to you.

 In St. Francis of Assisi, Sacramento


I met three men carrying stones.

“We have come to stop the tides.

Each day it disappears and then

Comes back, or sends its sons,

Small and great or its daughters,

Who make love to the moon and make

It too disappear.  We will wait for no one.”

I showed them the drowned cities,

Let them speak to the lost souls

Owned by nothing, not even time.

“Time is blind,” they said.

Their voices were like bells
Sparkling below the stars.

“It has no substance.  It can

Only pursue.  It shows us only

Massive particles and tries 

To explain creation as if it owned it."

I will tell you nothing more 

My sweet friends of the horizon, 

Until you sleep beside me 

That we may know the awe 

Of each other’s breathing.

There will be other ways to say

These things.  Perhaps birds 

Know something we may never 

Know and yet they speak of it 

Constantly, acrobats of fireworks.

I have been standing in the cave

At the edge of the sea for days 

Now.  The stones are tossed

Into the ocean.  They are of

Many sizes.  Every question

I have asked these men has

Been answered by the most glorious

Gestures of their hands and their smiles.

 In St. Francis of Assisi, Sacramento


All I have known has been the making.
And while I was not making, I was loving
You forever and ever and none of that
Has changed.  Does one thing preclude
The other?

I used to think not, but now
I can feel your skin and your muscles
Through your body and the smell of your hair.
The way you touched my body when you loved me.
But none of that has changed, has it?
Except that you are no longer there
When I reach into the words.

They have other jobs now.
I never would have thought they would
Weary of the travel and the cool nights
That held them together and brought
Joy to the morning and peace to the evening.

There are so many steps.  There are so many
Makings.  All of them remember much more than
I am able to drive to the dance, the heart open
And then open and then open again and again.
Always full of the making and your warmth
Next to my body and all the half-hidden laughter
Delighted moment by moment to be such a being.

 Succulent Garden, Winter, Locke


The body spins through space.
The rain has gathered above
The house.  I can hear it whispering.

Tonight my little town will be its chair.
I will listen to the glory it brings from the throne
To this wandering room my body has become.

I stutter.  I try to make my words of the most
Precious of things, tree sap to amber, clear
Water to opals, pushing stars into rubies
That one can gather to themselves while they sleep.

All that is radiant awakens within me again every
Moment.  I will wait here for you, on my knees,
Just to see you take my heart from moment
To moment.  I will sing in the choir, all the secrets,
All thoughts brought down to your breathing
Through me and with me and in me.  The light
Will direct me away from all of nightmare and darkness.

Let these words be once again in the mouth of love.


Today’s LittleNip:

Most people read poetry listening for echoes because the echoes are familiar to them. They wade through it the way a boy wades through water, feeling with his toes for the bottom: The echoes are the bottom.

—Wallace Stevens


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's fine fare!


Friday, January 29, 2016

Hieroglyphics in the Snow

—Photos by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO


Dreams I can’t remember
cause a conflagration

fire hoses can’t put out.
Dreams I can recall

arrive in technicolor.
They’re no problem.

I call my buddy Clint
who mounts his palomino,

gallops into the room,
aims and makes my day.



Underneath the feeder
black juncos write
hieroglyphics in the snow.

Two cardinals arrive
In a flash of red. They add
a message of their own.

Over the fence comes Tom,
an old calico. In seconds
he erases everything.

 Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, NM


Fifty years ago
Jane got on a plane
and flew away
without saying good-bye.
Her parents took her, I know.
She was only 14 but she
could have said good-bye

to me, the swain
who saw her through
our last three years
of grammar school
when she wore braces,
the only girl who had them.

Fifty years later
at our class reunion
she didn’t come
but I did in a new suit.
Charlie showed me
a class photo of all of us
smiling except for Jane.
The braces, I guess.
Charlie asked how many kids
I could name and I named
every one except for Jane.

Charlie said with mock surprise,
“You don’t remember Jane?
You two were pretty tight,
going to the movies and
sitting in the balcony,
buttered popcorn and all,
a pretty big deal back then.
Someone told the nuns
and they were furious."

I smiled and said
“Well, Jane flew away
the summer after eighth grade
without saying good-bye.
I heard ten years later
she got rid of the braces
and married some Swede
who likes sardines.
He makes his own lutefisk.
I wish Jane and Ole well.
She was only 14 but she
could have said good-bye.”

Albuquerque Airport


When my neighbor told me
over the fence
a month ago
the doctor said
she had two years to live,
I took her at her word.

Then two weeks later
her daughter calls
and says the funeral
is Saturday.
What to make of this?

I look out the window
over to her yard
as I have for 30 years and see
the garage door’s down.
Not something I’d expect
on a summer day like this.

She should be on her mower,
a buckaroo riding,
or on her knees weeding
but I see nothing over there
except grass growing.

This winter, tell me
who will I sit across from
doing jigsaw puzzles 
while sipping Earl Grey tea
and pining aloud for spring.

She told me once
life’s a jigsaw puzzle
that doesn’t end until
the last piece is in place.
This time she found
the last piece before
the others were in place.

 Ojo Caliente


Unlike his peers
his office holds
no photo of a wife
no indication that he has
fathered five
and probably
will father more.
There’s a silver ashtray, though,
and a tinkling chandelier
and carpeting
his wife would like
soars across the floor.



Ruth's at an age
where she's happy
to sit in the sun
under a patio umbrella
and watch a line of ants
curve across a path
carrying seed
to their burrow.

She and her husband
watched ants
parade each summer
for forty years.
Always the same burrow,
Ruben would stress.
But different ants,
life being what it is.

Ruben didn't like the ants.
They reminded him,
he said, of his parents
in line at Dachau,
waiting to find out
if there's a heaven,
wanting to know
if God was watching.

 Santa Fe


When the President
speaks from the podium
and mentions the 20 children

shot to death at Sandy Hook
by a lunatic with a rifle,
he often wipes away a tear

and who can blame him?
But he doesn’t shed a tear
when he speaks about

Planned Parenthood
and the thousands of children
mothers leave behind there.



What will she do with him?
That is, if she’s elected.
She’ll have to take him

with her to the White House
after keeping him in the doghouse.
Maybe the FBI can put

the doghouse out on the lawn.
He shouldn’t be a problem there.
Only men jump over the fence.



Let’s check the terminal and see
what jobs might be available
to match your skill set,
the interviewer said.
The young man
sitting next to the desk
was wearing a plaid shirt
and his first tie.

I know you'll take any job
but let’s see what we can find.
A young man like you, Deon,
just starting out, has his
entire life ahead of him.

Here’s the personal stuff
you gave me so let’s go over it
and you tell me if I have
everything right.

Your father left your mother
when you were two and then
your mother died when
you were four and your granny
took you and your brothers in.
But she died in an auto accident
when you were ten.

An uncle took you after that
and he had trouble finding work.
Food was scarce and you
kept moving place to place.
He tried hard, you said.

An aunt in another city
took your little sister and
she sounds fine on the phone
when you get a chance to talk.
Your brothers went to foster homes
and you see them now and then.
Things aren't going too well for them.

You graduated from grammar school,
then dropped out of high school
and went back to get your GED.
You’re 18 now and have never
worked anywhere before.
You have no car, no driver’s license,
and no record with the police.

You live deep in the city but
are willing to work in the suburbs.
Transportation’s not a problem
because your church has
bus passes for anyone who
needs them to get to work.
Let’s hope that’s you, Deon.

Bus passes are important because
most jobs you qualify for are
out in the suburbs, a long trip,
but our city buses do go there.
From your address I’d say
it will take an hour or more
each way, maybe a little longer
in winter weather with
the snow plows and all.

Now here's a restaurant chain
with seven outlets in the suburbs
looking for young workers
with a GED and no experience
to wash dishes and bus tables.

It’s minimum wage but no benefits
and you'd start on the third shift,
apply for the second shift when
an opening occurs, and then apply
for the first shift after you’ve
been there at least a year.

Then you'd wait for an opening
on the salad bar and after a year
with the veggies you’d want to
look for an opening on the grill
but that’s third shift again.

I’d be happy to set up an interview
but that’s all I have at the moment.
You want me to call now, Deon?
Or do you want to sleep on it.
This is America. It’s your choice.


Today’s LittleNip:


Robin on the lawn.
Three hops and stops to listen.
Somewhere must be spring.


Many thanks to Donal Mahoney and Cynthia Linville for such a hearty breakfast today! A couple of notes on upcoming events: this Sunday, join host Frank Andrick for his radio show, Pomo Literati, featuring Spontaneous Sunday! with Beth Lisick, Neeli Cherkovski and his tribute to Francisco Alarcón, plus drop-ins and other surprises. Tune in at

Also note that next Thursday (2/4), there will be a benefit reading for Squaw Valley Community of Writers which will feature Natalie Baszile, Meg Waite Clayton, Frances Dinkelspiel, Marian Palaia and Josh Wells. Sierra 2 Center for the Arts, 2791 24th St., Sacramento. See for tickets ($20 in advance; $25 at the door) and for bios.


 Ojo Caliente

Thursday, January 28, 2016

There May Be An Angel

—Paintings by Jackson Pollock
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


The gull that snatches
fish from the ocean
as Arctic winds blow
pulls on our imagination
at the edge of the waters
by a frozen horizon
when here in Vermont
weapons sharpened in its origin
are wanted by fishermen
for an aboriginal spear
to survive the winter
as several guys hide
inside a coral rock
motion to me to glimpse
what is on the other side
of the docks and boats
as an eagle flies
over rusty roofs of the dock
in the feathery home harbor
among barges of Cod
upon a good haul today
by the lobster nets floating
upon green drifting waters
of an ice fishing moment
for these long-armed souls
in dark lemon tattered clothes
trying to provide a living
we share bread and chowder
though we are lonely
concealed in the neighborhood
whether in alleys, galleries
or hallways of public libraries
wishing that louder waves
would speak to us aloud musically
with sunshine and not despair
in odes of Blakean poetry
through a piano's musical notes
for it is very cold on our fingers
to emote a lyrical song
there may be angel,
God knows, unaware.

 The Deep, 1953


Remember this Beat poet
in slow motion
with a radio
walking for a mile
along this ocean sand
when trees will not go
into exile being white
until winter's amnesty
packs up his close-packed gear
after a short run and hike
his flat feet exhausted
standing in a shower
of hot water
after talking a student out
of being a runaway
by hiding out
on Longfellow Bridge
asking her to keep writing
her body of poems
telling her not to quit or stop
that it will take away
her gift of creativity
without reason
in gravity and time
or when she will surrender
to the dark side
of her Cambridge ancestors
as she tells me
one of her literary children
is an imaginary daughter
in her arbitrary imagery
of she who speaks to her freely
and dictates her lyrical words
that weigh on my memory,
telling her of Lazarus
who was in his life all new
as Jesus took to him
in a miracle of love and rescue
from an earlier captivity.

 Autumn-Rhythm, 1950


Displaying my arpeggios
on the keyboard
playing notes of Bach
in the first chords of dawn
trying to be exempt
from worry and anxiety
weighing in this cadence
and watching leaves fall
from the large Oak tree
knowing I'm merely a guest
at Elizabeth's piano lesson
with a musical memory
so much clearer after
dozing into a troubled sleep
from a contrapuntal melody
taking out my album photos
to smile at my theatricals
with my actor's shadows
before my double mirrors
of my plants
exposed in the frigid air
of a sub-zero windowsill
housing my geranium
taking off my kid gloves
from frozen hands
into suspended breath
on thrilling remembrances
at opaque January days
along Boston's Beacon Hill
as a devotee of Emily Dickinson
no longer seeing
the swan boats moving off
on the green of Public Gardens
in my Jamesian childhood
but now viewing tourist ships
in the home harbor
gliding to a magical realism
in my Cape Cod neighborhood
unfastened and sequestered
like a hibernating bear
behind a closed winter door
waiting anxiously to be warm
by the wood stove
as snow caresses the yews
hovering outside my shadows
asking the spirit of the deep
to redeem, shape and renew me
when time will not keep
by watching a fly-high bird
hiding in woodsy grassland
near a once-greensward field
where a poet walks
slowly but deliberately
near the whitened gazebo
sharing a labored high wind
with rising waves
on overlapped grey waters
as an arbiter and judge
of music and poetry
reads stunning verses
of Homer's oracles
for his own daily odyssey
about running rumors
when suddenly a childhood
hymn about miracles
emerges from a pastoral past
now anchored with friends
back at his inspected kayak
asking God for a blessing
of a lasting sun's protection
from storm and stress
as he waits for the catch
and carry of a local fisherman
who hands me a salmon filet.

 Reflection of the Big Dipper, 1947


With only minutes to go
until the Christmas show
proud of my latest play
in three far-out acts
the audience is excited
to fulfill a fourfold stage
the young actor and star
reacts with a no-fault excuse
sets himself loose
and starts to dance
sounding out
on the floorboards
bringing in the crowds
just hanging around.



Diego Velasquez
asks only for a royal seal
not masking his astonishing
transparent several years
of service to his country
by finally climbing up
to watch his pictures
leaving his memories behind
with an artist's recognition
as he leans on his canvas
passing kingly family portraits
gleaming on the walls
and high ceilings
though well known at court
yet his plea almost fell short
of any hopeful support
though the good word is sent
by ecclesiastical authority
of Pope Innocent
and Phillip, the Spanish monarch
offering their dark cask of wine
and fearfully good letters
will open few doors for him,
who finally recommend
to give Diego his miracle
of a memorial regent award
with a better offering
of the royal seal over his chest
to be awarded when he is dead
and buried at his final rest
for his great art showing
and purchasing paintings
for the king while in Rome
and by showing great loyalty
at home at the Escorial,
surely his Sephardic past
stood in his way,
that's what prejudice
does to genius
even in our day.

 Portrait and a Dream, 1953

(Born January 28)

Juxtaposed in his age
with a modern art's dexterity
covering over
a new portfolio page
Jackson colors in
an artistic phase
of red, green and lemon
splashing on a thick canvas
as if waving to us
from his studio
to wait for an attic of critics
who wait to see him
in a visit with my uncle
for only a poetic moment's ardor
watching Jackson's
oil-spotted hands
from Freudian slips of mind
he even greets us behind doors
toiling with his palms
in his hip-wide ability
of illustrating art's modernity
by taking a stance
at reshaping geometry
and art as expressionist poetry
shaded in by free expression
of a post-war traumatic time
with all the toiled dynamics
of a one-act and life chance
into high dramatics
on a wheelhouse commission
for a small meditated spell
of his antics in a confessional art
upon another overly medicated day
doing his critical part
while standing over a canvas
of drip-dry whitened sheets
in a newly painted mural
at a hallway wall
under noisy open streets
sunk with a desired awareness
by listening to jazz radio
without any critic's permission
to dictate his sponge brush
and explore connections
inspiring the spot-on
of a pattern and surface
covering over orange paint
as if his rush-on life directions
would ease his worst inhibitions
and undesired anxiety
exposing five faces and senses
hidden in an attic of Manhattan
we follow his lively inspections
as these uptown critics desire
to unfold an imposing
part of a reputation
by praising his first exhibition
of colorful illustrations
with Jackson as a live wire
carves a bas-relief
amid patterns of a furnace fire.

 The Flame, 1938

(born January 23)

Whether Manet perceives
extraordinary pitiable souls
on the streets of Paris
he still has time
to rush out
and buy new brushes
and meet his wife
by the Tuileries garden
as he paints life's discoveries
by exposing literary genius
in a portrait of Proust's
exemplary greatness
from his Swann’s Way or
The Guermantes Way
in a sacred poetic face
by a lunary day
for us watching on his city stay,
or catching naked poses of Olympia
too embarrassed for the gallery
not to pardon a legendary mantra
of a luminary nature's parley
at adorning figures on the floor
by blushing gritty roses
and tulips in a glass vase
or at a museum showing
of Tama, the Japanese Dog
slips on all fours
we suddenly remember
these portraits on Manet Lane
in Simi Valley, California
Boston or in New York City
no matter what rotten critics
say in the press to harass you,
they are soon forgotten
in our vicinity.

 The She-Wolf, 1943

(January 19th birthday)

Cézanne wrote to his son: "Obviously, one must succeed
in feeling for oneself and in expressing oneself sufficiently."

In Provence, Cézanne walks
out of the doors of bards,
troubadours, painted bathers,
nudes, walking over
rude white stones
where you will paint
men playing cards,
dogs on all fours,
for a rendezvous with Zola
who encourages you
in your assiduous endeavor
for a lively clever adventure,
and academic critics write
about your art's flat surfaces
or your sensory perception;
Cézanne remains serene,
departing for Paris,
cautious in raising doubt
in embarrassed receptions
without his art's showing
great wealth in its visitation
from many monetary purchases
as he captures The Bathers
in their censor's direction
by a visionary impression,
living often in willing isolation
of a Sistine-like still life,
knowing art lives on itself
by its own recreation.

 Out of the Web, 1949


Leaving endless snow
in the backyard
to play in chamber musicals
a bard will recite ballads
and play guitar
for all invited to my recital
and to toast a new year
nearby at the harbor bar
along the white-flaked Bay
now scenting the sea air
from vaporous windows
with waves rippling
over silken breaking waves
until we awaken the shadows
at the first light of day
as sunshine opens our eyes
quickly covering over
a sand’s rocky coast
to share an evening's hypnosis
mesmerized as water slips in
to feed our porch plants
revealing a winter's irony
that we ourselves are by nature
praising a visionary solo
raising my musical fingers
over the piano
we mistaking quiet breaths
to sway the assembled guests
or those who wish to stay alone
amid silent verses
or wish to hear an alto sax
as we view parking signs
the windmill shatters
our matter-of-fact ways
at my flaming Blakean lips
with a human map to mirror
our swaying dance of notes
from nameless thresholds
in clarity of shadowy words
putting our hands out
and within to reach the length
of Martha Vineyard's beach
as drifting sky flakes
fall on the evening darkness
a poet watches the branches lift
at the last small white bird
heading South while hearing
an AM radio stormy forecast
of a gusty Canadian avalanche
on a fleeting mid-January day
welcoming you to waken
on fields of endless praise,
as an infinite warmth
wakes us out of any daydream
in my mouth's praise is sung
as a poem and melody emerge
joined as one lyrical phrase
from a universal tongue.


Today’s LittleNip:


When surfing
for that French film
through tunnel vision
of a bad dream
it seems to have caught you
surfing on the sea
in San Diego, 1970
by a clenched board
holding on in slow motion
that you swim with the current
and channel a new song melody
with metaphysical words
and red wine
that make you alive
drinking in poetry
in pursuit of the sunshine.


—Medusa, with thanks to today's fine contributors!


Convergence, 1952
[For more about Jackson Pollock, go to 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Davy Crockett & Stone Soup

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


A day without rain.
Under a spindle-tree, five puppies
on a patch of weeds.
The old woman said they’d grown
inside the dark of her garage
until this afternoon she brought them out
under sky.
She was sitting on a child’s seat—
a woman on a green plastic mushroom,
you might say a toad’s stool.
One tiny pup, curled
around the stool’s base, looked up at me
like a forest imp, born
to create himself a world with
only his eyes, nose, his
tongue lapping air and light.
This morning I feared the world
was shrinking for our young. But they
grow out of the dark and learn
to dance around plastic
mushrooms and pretend forest
from a single tree.

 It's alive! (Cowboy)

          Rain through the windows endlessly
                              —D.R. Wagner

You walked in tired as a new year
and stood between window and mirror
not meaning, for once, anything permanent.
The lion roaring outside was not earth
but storm rushing down a dry creek bed. Sheen
on hair from rain, eye a puddle of blue
repeating sky between clouds—this life of
repetition, opening windows to weather
as if the heart needed to look out.
You just got up from lying on the floor,
feeling earth through the boards as dogs lie
earthwise—come in from roaming
the dark before light. Silent. A portrait speaks
in signs and symbols. Wrinkles between
mercury and glass. Memory-lines
of the swing of limbs tethered by tendons,
joints creaking like the playground
chains you’d pump at recess, feet aimed
for sky. Tomorrow
you’ll cook down the turkey carcass
till bones rise clean and vaulted. Even this
part of the picture.


The child with sore throat might wake, enter
the kitchen, find Father holding a knife—
a large bread knife. He asks, how do you feel

this morning? The knife is at the center
of his grip as if with dire portent rife.
The child’s sore throat wakes, she enters

a dawning of light, sun a burn-center
through glass shatter. Hands of the Mother-wife
buttering bread. He asks, how do you feel?

Thoughts of her hens, once-clucking dissenters
headless and gutted in the sink. No fife
the child’s sore throat wakes; drums enter

her, pounding her pulse like the inventor
of terror. The quick solution to life,
a sharpened blade. He asks, how do you feel?

All misunderstanding. No tormentor
but kitchen helper with a bread knife.
Still, the child with sore throat has entered
the world of knives knowing how it must feel.

 Unstill Life


The horned owl flew off with our new-
born lamb, small stuff. Nothing
hungrier than an owl, look at its eyes
blinking off in daylight.
One morning your neighbor
found that horned owl beak-tearing into
his goose too heavy for an owl
to carry away. Owl grounded by its
hunger, talon-locked to a dead burden.
But why the coyotes
that killed our lamb and left her
uneaten in dry rocky creek-
bed so far from blue water, not even
a trickster’s stone soup?

 Creek, Jan. 24, with Trek and Loki


After school, in spring of a vacant lot,
we tended a paint pony grazing in the midst
of small-town USA, taste of sourgrass
to kids who didn’t gather greens for supper
but only words; Davy Crockett riding
west the way the sun went;
then a big black mare hoofprinting dry
arroyos while school taught more words,
Pony Express over the mountains into history,
the study we learned to mount instead
of horses. Hoofbeats diminishing; arroyo
now a highway; unfenced vacant lots distant
as legend, bygones, childhood.



Distant lights flicker and ignite. Reflect.
What’s reflection if not the lights of mind
that still can’t penetrate black-lights of earth—
lights we hang to draw insects to their doom.
At lights-out, listen for the frenzied buzz….
its longing lights the mind of God? Reflect.
Or were you speaking then of fairies’ lights
or maybe fireflies, those lights that lead
us in blind circles of vanishing lights?
Will-o-wisp lights hover over marshy
ground, luring astray the lightstruck traveler.
Tiger’s a fearsome lightshow to amaze
while day-lights dim to dark and stars suffuse
the sky with other lights—magic or muse.


Today’s LittleNip:

Write it. Just write it. Write it on receipts in the car while you wait for your kid to finish their piano lessons, scribble on napkins at lunch with friends. Type on crappy typewriters or borrow computers if you have to. Fill notebooks with ink. Write inside your head while you’re in traffic and when you’re sitting in the doctor’s office. Write the truth, write lies. Write the perfect spouse. Write your dreams. Write your nightmares. Write while you cry about what you’re writing, write while you laugh out loud at your own words. Write until your fingers hurt, then keep writing more. Don’t ever stop writing. Don’t ever give up on your story, no matter what “they” say. Don’t ever let anybody take away your voice. You have something to say, your soul has a story to tell. Write it. There is never any reason to be afraid. Just write it and then put it out there for the world. Shove it up a flag pole and see who salutes it. Somebody will say it’s crap. So what? Somebody else will love it. And that’s what writing’s about. Love. Love of the art, love of the story, and love for and from the people who really understand your work. Nobody else matters. Love yourself. Love your work. Be brave. Just write.

—Melodie Ramone


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine poems and pix! She writes, “I went kind of crazy with poems, bits of Jane Blue and Rhony Bhopla along with DR [Wagner] of course, and I tried Carol Louise {Moon]'s Assumption form, all mixed in with a PAD or three….” Dave Boles of Cold River Press is taking pre-orders for Taylor’s new book, Uplift, at


 Cover to Taylor Graham's new book
from Cold River Press

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Edge of Winter

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


I wait for spring at this sad edge of winter, wait like a
leaf that has no metaphor but me.  I am the thought that
made it real.  It was never there.  I needed its symbolic
presence, saved from what I knew, which was not enough,

just some thought to chew upon.  This is the time of year
such thoughts intrude.  Insomnia.  Regret.  All those reasons.
I wait for birds to sing at my dark window; wait for the
light to lengthen; wait for signs that all is well with me.

This is the stubborn edge of one more winter—counted,
and hoped upon, and gotten through.  And spring is what
I want to transfer to, as if I too deserved another crack
at life’s old metaphor that I have yet to figure out.

But still I watch for signs: first swellings on the trees;
first blossoms; first sigh not a sigh of sadness; regrets
to lay aside and not sort through.  I feel the slow year turn
in my direction—bud by bud—and clue by subtle clue.


We are half hungry
all the time,
not for the food, but for
the unknown taste.

The peach is in
the orchard of the mind.
We cannot find that
dark, unreachable tree;
but if we could,

the fruit
that gathered ripeness
for our taste
would never
taste the way
we thought it should.

(first pub. in The Third Leaf Has Fallen,
Mini Chapbook by Joyce Odam, 1968)



never again
the chewed place on the bone
the old contention
teeth held tight from grinding

anger hurts the jaw
and anger splits the mind
like a rage from reason
and only one is right

crack down on this fact
like the last shape of the taste
with a cleansing tongue

even the gristle can double-mean
suck forth the marrow

(first pub. in Red Cedar Review of Colorado)


At first, you resonate the way a roar
of silence feels against a loss so new
there’s nothing more to feel. Resist it, or
surrender. Climb the wall, or walk the floor;
take up the grieving as what you must do
from one rage to another. If you place
your trust in time, time will be kind,
or not. You’ll have to wait on that—face
what you face, and watch the sorrows place
themselves before you with no reprimand.

(Oh, griever, you are still alone in this.)
The sorrows are but shadows known to stay
forever, as you need them, with their kiss,
so harmless, you will not send them away.

(first pub. in The Lyric, 2003)


Signs that will take you
in wrong directions—

if you follow them
you will become lost;

the signs keep pointing out
places that have no destination,

like a town that is not there—
that was never there—

that was only a town of
your own making—and you

laid out the signs
you are trying to follow,

and the signs keep pointing
to the town that is not there.

OF AMBITI0N              

this bright !     this dark !
this cool circle of moonlight
you standing there,

singing your love song,
i standing at the rim
composing my applause

i admire you,   shining,   singing,    
aware of my admiration,
unaware of me.

i would burst my hands
for you
making stars of applause

for you to see.
how dare i
call such envy love . . . !

(Acknowledgement: Albany Review)


Today’s LittleNip:


As if love wears a halo,
and it binds.

It’s not so much the aura
as the need.

What passes for love
is always

or never
what passes for love.

(first pub. in The Lilliput Review, 2006)


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and pix! Her “What to Expect” is in the form of an Asian Sonnet: a, b, a, a, b, c, d, c, c, d (can space) e, f, e, f.

Expanding on Joyce’s first poem about the edge of winter, our new Seed of the Week is Roses in the Snow. Send your poems, photos and artwork on this (or any other) subject to No deadline on SOWs.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Public Art

—Anonymous Photo

            —Han Solo

Critics often said
Of Henry James:
“He chewed more
Than he bit off.”
Not a bad thing,
Really. No choking
On big bites.
First dinner hour
On a first night I was
The orderly, woman
Began choking.  Did
The Heimlich, got
Her pork cutlet
Back up, though
The patient
Was pissed. Head
Nurse explained,
“It’s just her way
Of meeting cute
You aren’t.”
Was said, back then,
If you choked on
A piece of meat
On a Friday, well,
That was all for you.
Dentist asked: “How
Do you chew, with
Teeth like that?”
“I try not to use
Them much.”
Amazing, the
Creative things
That can be done
With gristle. But
Who’d want to?
Dentist said:
“Unless, unless.
You’ll be eating
Soup and yogurt
For the rest
Of your life.”
Like that was
A bad thing.
Father of our country
Was said to have
Wooden dentures.
He did, but two
Other pairs as well:
Bone, for that light
Bright smile that
Won’t come off, and
One more—actual
Human teeth.
Somebody else’s.
Horace Fletcher,
Noted dietician of
The late 19th century
Claimed (after chewing
40 times),mouth
Closed, of course,
It was the way to
Health. Early
Slow foods?  Maybe.
I don’t want
To floss much
On this, but one
Of his adherents
Was Henry James,
Which may explain
A lot about
Literary history.

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

 —Anonymous Photo

—Michael Ceraolo, Willoughby Hills, OH


It looks like graffiti but isn't,
it has official approval,
was painted on the north half
of a bridge over the creek
in 2013 by students
from the nearby high school;
it's titled Walks of Life I,
the title is nowhere on the work

At the high points on the ends of the bridge
are painted the following:
an adult kneeling next to a child,
a boy dragging a bag,
bending over to catch a bouncing ball,
someone whose back is turned

On the low parts
under the railing in the middle
are painted several ways
of moving other than walking,
only legs and lower body showing:
                                   roller skating
using a wheelchair (no one shown pushing it)
pushing a small tricycle
                                     riding a small tricycle
riding a scooter,
                         along with
some walking carrying bags,
someone using a walker,
someone walking a dog,
someone doing ballet,
someone in high heels lifting a bag off the ground by a strap,
someone playing soccer,
someone kneeling to tie shoes

There was to be a companion piece
painted by students in 2015
titled Walks of Wild Life,
the homeowner at 4692 Mayfield Road,
on whose property was the south half
of the bridge over the creek,
somehow allowed to refuse
the proposed public art,
the students painted the animals
on a series of boards,
             the search began
for a permanent home for the work


Ugly red brick barriers
designed to dampen noise from the freeway,
those going over the creek,
dirtier every day from the ambient air,
they have their ugliness partly relieved
by a series of concrete reliefs
set in some of the barriers,
said sculptures showing various scenes
(the city's name periodically appears also):
a train
             sailboats on the lake
a cluster of buildings indicating downtown
the former Terminal Tower,
the arch over the entrance
of the former nearby amusement park

As you go east into the suburbs
the scenes depicted change
along with the city names


Some might not consider them art,
but just a little west
of where the creek goes under the freeway
sits a series of sculptures:
five giant capital Is in concrete,
an unintentional work that,
it can be said to have a creator,
is the product of a collaboration
between a driver who didn't get the concept of clearance
and so rammed into the pedestrian bridge over the freeway
and the powers that be,
                                   who decided
that the damaged bridge was beyond repair
and ordered it to be taken down
and a new one built a little farther west,
leaving the columns standing

                                             They also left
the spiral ramps on each side standing,
did fence them off at the top in hopes
of preventing people from walking off.

 —Anonymous Photo

Today’s LitteNip:

Homer has taught all other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.


Poets lie.

—Dennis Schmitz


Our thanks to today’s fine contributors, including our photographer who is a local who wishes to remain anonymous. Note also that we have another photo album on Medusa’s Facebook page from Michelle Kunert, this one of last Monday’s The DREAM at Sac. Poetry Center. Check it out!

If you’re not up in Elko at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering this week, there are poetry events here in the Valley and foothills for you. Tonight is Poetry in Motion in Placerville in addition to Pat Lynch and Penny Kline at SPC; on Thurs., Time Tested Books will have a reading to celebrate “The Women of Tule Review”; and on Saturday, Straight Out Scribes’ new Senior Readers Speak reading series will host Heera Kulkarni plus their Senior (over 55) open mic. Find the details to these and other future readings in our blue box (under the green box) at the right of this column.

Another intriguing event is coming up this Saturday (1/30) in Auburn: The Winter Storytelling Festival, hosted by Placer County’s Foothill Storytelling Guild from 10:30am to 9pm on 808 Lincoln Way in Aubumn. It’s free, and will include storytellers’ workshops, an open mic, and a lying contest offering an actual trophy (or is that just a lie?). Info, schedule, etc.: I couldn’t resist the LittleNip quotes about poets lying, because of course we are very accomplished at that. But we’re also storytellers, so check it out.



Bob Stanley, Abe Sass Memorial
Clunie Community Center, Jan. 23
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Black-Footed Albatross
—Anonymous Photo

To stand on a high place, a cliff over the ocean, seeing pelicans circle, at first ungainly, then plunging like flung stones—this was what he loved under a gray sky with a rough sea, no beach, a rocky coast and the distant sound of the surf, a rumble and crash and hissing away.  He felt sure that when he died his specific light would flick out, no more than that, and at times he looked forward to its dark repose.  But at other times he thought that if he had had a previous life, he must have been an albatross, one of the smaller ones, nothing regal.  That would have given him joy, instead of today’s to-ing and fro-ing, its altercations and constricting chambers.  And no matter how much he believed in the coming dark, at times he wished the other might lie ahead—riding the air currents with nothing to hinder his vision of the horizon, that gray line between shifting cloud and unsettled water.

—Stephen Dobyns