Thursday, March 31, 2016

Stillness for Insomniacs

Loggerhead Turtle Beaching Itself
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Anonymous Photos of First Encounter Beach, Cape Cod


Off Cape Cod
near Wellfleet Bay
on a bitterly windy cold day
with high tide seen
at First Encounter Beach
where native Americans
first met the Pilgrims
who reached out to them
offering food
as they sang their hymns
today hundreds of turtles
have lost their way
from the Gulf of Mexico
moving north to New England
over the gulf stream
and close to a death trap
by the cold waters
have washed along the shore
as a couple of good souls
local sons and daughters
are on a mercy mission
to spare them in a triage
from frozen extinction
and dehydration
who travel to the Boston
Aquarium facility
in a miraculous airlift
in helicopters
in giant banana boxes
of emergency care
as a poet dreams this night
of young endangered creatures
not in despair on the beach
but within our hands
with difficulty to reach
the many turtles who survive
being buried in the sea
riding the blue waves
to rise among the reeds.

 First Encounter Beach


Sleepless sitting in a studio
with my mind racing
toward all the news
in a resignation of life
watching Akira Kurosawa's
No Regrets For Our Youth
it is the night stillness
for insomniacs in the city
through a dim bedroom
with a shuddering light bulb
that won't turn off
or a fire of evening words
driving my diary narrative
which compels me
to put my embers of thoughts
taking my leave on the riverbed
by a voyage along the Hudson
near hot-spotted painted easels
by a metamorphosed
left on Thursday at Central Park
as an easy bottled water burns
from a lemony light flame
in a kettle for green tea
needing a hand for a bath
away from idle conversation
from the swelling coldness
in my mortal open blanket
on the outer blackness
except for the quarter-moon
hearing another half-dreamed
nocturnal voice in person
on the spot of my memory
of Beat phrases from my hand
upon a daisy chain of the parting
soul of the concert pianist
wounded by life next door
for whom we left flowers
in a shroud
of youthful appearance
of embracing respect in long lines,
I'm hushed in respite of mystery
glimpsing slightly on my telescope
the sweeping shadowy stars,
the transparent sky will bare
her own fervid witness
that a poet lived here alone
in a hot host of student housing
at a Manhattan brownstone attic
in an age of hope and comity
we furtively rush to figure out
with a skeptical penmanship
what's with
this adolescent time
of weary metamorphosis
wanting a mathematical proof
that we are living to fight
against headlines to war
to challenge
my pacifist horizon
in my undisclosed diary
near my stationed sunglasses,
communal phone,
and soprano sax
at my soundproof room.


An international poet
takes his niece
on school vacation
up to the Metropolitan
to view Gauguin,
Rothko and Matisse,
outside are March winds
as flakes of white have fallen
with a fringed snow resting
upon trees to be unveiled for us
but this twilight
we are fugitives
walking by long aisles
of fine landscapes and statues
along walls of contained art
with a wise style and structure
certain as we ourselves brush by
a Michelangelo drawing or a fresco
curtained for us as an accomplice
in the sculptured intelligence
and depth at each intriguing station
situated in our minds
reaching upon
pedestals of civilization
created and incarnated forever
from outlined
thresholds of culture
we find explanations
of the painters
and their elements
of recognition
communicating from
our enlightened past
granted to us
this exploration's night
as formidable color
development rises
to shape
a parting explanation
through our honorable
watch list
in a universe
through others' eyes.

 Horseshoe Crab


Watching David and Lisa
in an all-night movie theater
from an ice-glittering evening
outside Manhattan
when teaching a late spring
course which surprised me
in a cry aloud in the balcony
reaching to hear out
to a patron so effected by the film
after a semester of human voices
from those ephemeral days
meeting live-in poetic souls
who still clench my hand
in a pastoral setting
of the late Sixties
thinking of those past poets
whose images of mortal clay
in spent time
of selected anguish
like John Clare
or Sylvia Plath
wishing for a time
to be isolated
from their public
in an asylum
of the suffering
with an endless tongue
rolling on their mouths
of unfinished brilliance
from wise trembling lips
of assorted medications
seeking to express
from the class stupor
of bloodshot eyes
meeting those students
with the retention of genius
as regents to reign over words
and constituents for us,
they taught me.

 No sense in clamming up, now, is there...?


Never to open your eyes
and not remember
the Cedar Tavern
when daring laughter
gets lighter to flare up
our vetting after midnight
with a wrestler from Madrid
burning into a torch song
outside the Big Apple stars
walking as if in an erased dream
consented by
our transparencies
continues its music
of regrets
in shadowy poetic emergencies
from a bachelor-button pad
where all mirrors die
in the critical back corridors
where politics resides
behind closed doors
surprised to shine
by morning glory
in his light-headed lunch poem
Frank, avoiding all obstacles
out of the words written
on napkin, tablecloths
in an unseen direction
we sing on an unarmed guitar
a tune of the Spanish Civil War
with chiming in glasses of wines
attrition into a miracle cup
of reflective readings
up to the dark watery rain
outside an awakening
in the full waves
in my intermittent reign of words
writing them in my diary
at wandering by traffic stops
with Larry Rivers
getting on a brother's motorcycle
left on the Whitman threshold
in sunshine-warmed Manhattan
where the same shadows
return to my memory
never fading at the colors
of the trees from Central Park.

 47 Series, No. 4, 1947
—Painting by Franz Kline (1910-1962)


With drawings of a Bohemian
Franz Kline's world
enters into his studio paintings
aspiring in a last candle flame
crashing the studio gates
from a discreet insight
of engulfed lamplight mystery
exposing art's insomniac
vision to dusty morning life
in confronted exposition
nonconforming under painting
engaged in unknown pastiches
of abstract inventiveness
unconcerned in daybreak
at unfinished silence of dawns
emerging in
post-war Manhattan
at a creative apprehensive time
as if you in
constant flow of thought
from an abstracted disappearance
with the assured continuity
in black-and-white patterns
from outnumbered watches
of accented signatures
shuddering in a sheltered night
circling his animated savor
of furtive photo of imprecations
resonating along
a safe linked space
of connected vulnerabilities
leading you
in momentary silences
opening up a leaking window
of rain from shaping your life's
many canvas patterns
on mapped
schemas at a portico
to shoot
your attached art sorties
upon a punitive
aesthetic expression
with unformed
colorful inclinations
along your
moving wrist and fingers
from a modern
consented journey
of new
disposable techniques
coagulated in your still lives.

 Provincetown II, 1959
—Painting by Franz Kline


Sunshine threads
us as dandelions appear
intoxicated by the new season
on the high fields
over the grassland golf course
at my daily walk
down blue hills
carrying my notebook
and archive diary
with a Rouault clown cover
in a border of remembrance
observing the clouds departure
as morning birds bend down
over branches of birches
wishing my patch of earth
heeding a new
embroidered spring
to console and absorb us
hearing the waves
off the Cape
splashed by
new rain at waterfalls
in the distance to be destined
to stay alive as a wordsmith
as flower petals may be awaking
erasing our light
lost insomnia
on edge at our loneliness
waiting for nature
to disguised itself
with quivering
ripened oranges
curled and tangled on a tree
bordered by tiny squirrels
near a reunion of leaves, twigs
and witnessing woodland ferns
taking my oars in my hands
on my anchored kayak
by the house iron fence
to my germinating
singular voice
guided by blushing
rose bushes
under the first
wounding light.


Today’s LittleNip:

Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.

—Bruce Feller


Many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s fine poetry! It's a pleasure to hear weekly news and reminders about our friends on the Other Coast, such as B.Z.'s reminders about the saving of loggerhead turtles on Cape Cod (see

Speaking of weekly, Rod Miller of El Dorado, CA recommends Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Off the Shelf, a weekly podcast at Thanks, Rod!

For more about the American artist, Franz Kline, and his work, go to


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Opportunities Like Seagulls

—Poems by Louis Kasatkin, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England
—Photos Courtesy of Louis Kasatkin


mythic streets evaporate at dawn,

leaving only complacent memory

to recall imperfectly those scraps

and oddities of ephemera that

defy rational explanation;
a pristine franked letter posted

in Folkestone 1841; several ornate

glass marbles that were a birthday

present to some Rhineland princeling;

the signature of Thomas Alva Edison

on a page awkwardly torn from a

Hotel register omitting its name,

the building itself demolished long ago;

a skeletal frame of a Penny Farthing

half buried amid the inconsequential

detritus of the communal refuse tip;

a yellowing poster of a once well known

brand of cough syrup, the discernible lines

of a now defunct city tram route;

And somewhere, the presence of an

inveterate aesthete and poet of civic

renown struggling to evoke a nostalgia

amongst those who had not read Borges

nor knew of his blindness.

June 2008, The Right Honourable Walter Harrison 
(former Member of Parliament for Wakefield), Mary Creagh 
(current M.P. for Wakefield), and Louis. A formal inauguration 
of Mary as Official Patron of the Black Horse Poets of Wakefield.


There’s a face in the Picture,
there’s a face in the picture that’s just faded out;
there was a face in the picture that you could clearly see
there was a face in the picture that was standing next to you and me;
the face in the picture was smiling, laughing, grinning,
the face was doing what most faces do;
the face in the picture had a name, had a life, had a home, had a child
but the face in the picture doesn’t “have” any of these anymore;
it’s another face in a newspaper
a face that’s a story,
a face we won’t see anymore;
“4 buckets of vodka and red bull,
20 bottles of lager,
shots of Sambuca and Jack Daniels
during a 36-hour binge”.
The report concluded:
452 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine
death from alcohol toxicity are expected at 350 microgrammes.
But the face in the Picture didn’t know that.



Smoke wreathed distant battlements,

skies flecked with iridescent amber,

fluttering banners and icons held aloft;

in the foreground

clad in burnished breastplate,

circumferenced by a scarlet sash

a warrior’s imposing stature unfeigned,

lacking the air of braggadocio

conveyed in earlier portraits,

pensive eyes glower from

the bearded visage

its contours grown greyer;

his right hand grasps the

ostentatiously plumed helmet,

in his gauntless left hand a

crumpled map torn at one corner,

overhead crows circle,

to his right riderless horses

are being led away,

his own steed lost amidst

the onslaught that some would

of necessity deem glorious,

lest they unlike the artist

cause posterity to question.

 September 2002, launch of the Cathedral Poets at 
Wakefield Cathedral. The man in the clerical collar was 
the Dean of the Cathedral.


lemonade on the verandah after supper,

discussing Rousseau and Voltaire

before retiring to the soft embrace

of an easy langour;

expecting tomorrow and its harvest

of promise, the lush savannah

the tall sheaves and sturdy horses;

and yet that tomorrow never came,

no matter how much we believed

and what we believed was enough,

but what they believed was much more;
so we recall with wounding monotony

the men of honour whose sabres broke

too soon, the chivalric figures whose

steeds wearied in the long campaign;

we recall shards of splendour smashed

held captive in museum-cased aspic,

marble, ballroom, chandelier, satin, lace, and

a haunting echo of terpsichorean melody

vanished and gone into The Wilderness;

“mene mene tekel upharsin” those heirs

of promise, weighted in the balance those

inheritors of substance and found wanting;

the vision of Daniel, the words of Ezekiel,

prophetic and predestined, and…

lemonade on the verandah after supper,

discussing Rousseau and Voltaire

before awakening to the dawn of

a day resplendent,


and grey.



Shall we fail or shall we
try to achieve a little before
we fail in any case;
If we forget the words
to a song won’t it
get sung ever again?
Putting our hand up first
with the answer
we invariably incur the wrath
of the dullards behind us,
who wait in perpetual dread that
they might be called upon to think;
Do we try to extinguish the candles
on our birthday cake one by one
or all at once?
what gain is there if one is left
to flicker flicker alone and serene
amid the encroaching gloom.

 April 2005 Official launch of "Poetry Wakefield" magazine, 
a quarterly publication for all schools in the city and district 
and Diocese schools. Deputy mayor and mayoress 
in attendance, together with the Dean and 
an official of the local Council's 
education department.


Did they offer you a thought
for all your pennies?
did they want your gold
in exchange for a goose’s egg?
did they swap your silver linings
for a sky full of clouds?
Would you trade your last dollar
for their word of honour?
Do you keep all of their promises
in a jar ready to use on a rainy day?
and all of these things
they saw but they did not see,
they heard but they did not hear,
and they knew,
they knew it all
but still they tried not to know.



Opportunities like seagulls in flocks
have flown by,
precious moments and chances
whipped away suddenly from our grasp,
sent whirling skyward
into ethereal anonymity,
revealing an emptiness
of purpose
exposing a hollow shell
cracking at the seams;
whispers shall be our deliverance
but not for a while yet,
and the mists of morning
accompany us with their dull cadences
which we often mistake for unwarranted approbation;
there is neither failure nor success,
neither defeat nor triumph;
our gilded shields and splendid spears
have rendered nought
but an inheritance of tears;
Somewhere in the drowning stream
as the Sun sets and encroaching night
begins its long slow asphyxiation
of what we thought was our day,
a solitary flower is placed carefully
on an unmarked grave in a church yard
at the edge of the coming Storm.

Louis with an Honorary Civic reward made by 
the Mayor of the City of Wakefield at a Civic Reception 
hosted in honour of his Black Horse Poets group in March 2008.


There is a ticking sound
and it is the slow ticking
ticking away of our lives;
each day is a ticking bomb
which we need to defuse,
and having accomplished that
the very next bomb starts ticking;
What life actually is,
is not about dealing with
one bomb at a time,
but rather
we are confronted by,
and find ourselves
in the midst of,
a whole room full
of ticking bombs;
and theirs is the slow
ticking away…


Today’s LittleNip:


A drop is rainfall

Rainfall is a drop,
A leaf is windfall

Windfall is a leaf,
A grain is harvest

Harvest is a grain,
Lack is plenty

Plenty is lack,
Absence is attendance

Attendance is absence,
Happiness is suffering

Suffering is happiness,
Achievement is failure

Failure is achievement,
All is nothing

Nothing is all.


This morning’s poetry brunch is from England, clear across the pond! Welcome to the Kitchen, Louis Kasatkin, who writes: in my spare time I am a civic, community, and political activist, a blogger and general nuisance to the status quo! I’m currently Editorial Administrator at, which is the growing and successful website of Destiny Poets UK, of which I'm also the Founder. This particular groundbreaking project/undertaking comes in the wake of and as a qualitative development from all my previous successful works and promotions. I was the very first Poet-in-Residence to be appointed to such a post anywhere in the World of Professional Rugby (both Union and League) in November 1999 at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. As a follow-up to that, in April 2001 Wakefield Cathedral appointed me the very first Poet-in-Residence at any Church community in the UK. In 2002 with private sector corporate funding, I founded the The Cathedral Poets at Wakefield. I'm proud to be serving currently on the Board of Senior Editors at episteme, the online academic journal of Bharat College, Mumbai.

Thanks, Louis, for the poems and for the snapshots of poetry life in Wakefield, England—and don’t be a stranger!

—Medusa, noting also that NorCal's Paco Marquez Reyes announces that the fifth issue of OccuPoetry is now available online at

  Louis, inaugurating a dedicated Poets' Corner exhibition space 
at Destiny Christian Church, Wakefield, January 2012  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

So Many Stars

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


I dance with the ghost of my sister
she is me
I am one

it is summer
and childhood again

we play catch
we play hide and hide
in seeking twilights

we laugh together at secrets
we sleep together in dreams

when I am angry at her
she disappears
I cannot punish her

only I am punished
by my envy
by my only-childedness
by our tearful mother
who lives only for me

I twirl in the fates of my sister
who is featureless
and has no existence
except what I give her

I pull her after me
in homesick years
in worlds where I am a stranger
and she has outgrown  me

(first pub. in Calliope, 1990)


Put me here, put me there,
lift me, place me
where you want me.

Partner me in loveless dancing,
through impassioned violin
and shadows in a rage.

Let me lure you—
to and from you,
bending to you, then away.

Lift me, twirl me
through the blending of dismay,
of have and wanting.

Never let the closing kiss
be real,
never let the eyes convey.

(Earlean Sonnet)

Tonight they’ll dance again the dance of pain
and twirl their dresses till their dresses tear
and loose the pins and ribbons from their hair
and flail among the shadows in the air.

It’s not so much that they are mad, or vain,
the way they love to dance with wind and rain,
and rend themselves to grief, and not explain
the ruin of stillness they leave everywhere.

It’s that they can’t remember, when they wake,
that they are not as fragile as they seem—
that they must ever resurrect a theme
that dreams of ghostly partners to forsake—
who never understand the empty ache
that they are but the remnants of a dream.


(after Girl with Still Life, 1919 by Alexander Tischler)

A balancing act, this wearing of a hat as wide as a
tray on which are placed the things of the day:
reminders of toil, or the waste of time, or only
the fancied weight of flowers—

wilting now. She is poised and steady—her long
hair ribboning down her back, her face expressionless
—part of the still, a prop for the hat which almost
weighs too much.

But she supports the teetering hat with its two goblets,
three knives, three apples, and half-empty wine carafe—
Tischler’s object-meaning for the Girl with Still Life.

(after Rainy Night by Childe Hassam)

Here is a man in a scratched-out opening,
a stick figure only—but there,

in a clump of despair. How is it
he has affected me so?

I care for him—
trapped in the crosshatch darkness.

I want the artist to release him—
captive to misery—unable

to back-out of the opening
or step forward into a positive

dimension. What do I recognize
in him? Is it myself? Did I do this—

give him this hopeless suffering—why do
I linger at this page—as if only I can free him?


(after Rainy Night by Childe Hassam)

All we know is the rain now.
It streams over the umbrellas
into the street reflections
which splash back.
Everything is stalled.
Something has delayed
the people in the rain—
a sound maybe—
or a mass memory.
The rain pours the harder.
The umbrellas bob and tilt for space.
The creaking sound of a carriage
moves slowly through.
Someone inside the carriage
weeps silently behind curtains
The people part to let it pass.
The night encloses.
Whatever was decided this day
is not what happens. The streets
waver with upside-down umbrellas.
More and more umbrellas crowd in
among the others—
moving like an undulation of distress.
What rumor has brought them here
to stand under the relentlessly
pouring rain?


(After Evening Rain on Shinobazu Pond
                     by Shio Kasamatsu, 1938)

old blue shadows
lone figure in the rain
orange street lamp
upside down
lone figure
silent    lonely 
only a revenant to memory
blue trees whisper
rain    rain

the small bridge crossing
the same wet night
the narrow railing
for leaning
for looking into
the shimmering water
the wet umbrella
still bobbing
in the shrinking distance
the slow blue night
still murmuring,
rain     rain


In a puddle of water—the sky—
clouds confined to this small rain lake,

the brief flight of gulls
that do not stir the surface,

that do not seem displaced or strange
though they fly upside down;

and vertigo is not the point of this—
that such a shifting vastness

can be caught—fragmentary
and deep—if one looks down to see—

and does not break
the image with their own reflected feet.

(In slight revision from publication in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 1996)


I remember stars in the black night . . . but
who can count the memory of that many stars?

I use the abstract words : millions :
billions : but do not  know how many this is.

I am that tiny child-speck . . . dizzy from
looking up into the sky from the sidewalk,

sounds hushed, the chanting of the other
children fading into a thin ringing of voices.

I am lifting into the sky . . . dizzy with seeing.
I am a slow twirl of wonder . . . so many stars.


Today’s LittleNip:


Anywhere there is rain after a dry day of
long hot hours, with the slow clock
turning on its upside-down numerals,
as if time made no sense at all
and has forgotten
how to read or hold onto its private reasons
for winding around like that.

I would like to fill the town with rain,
for I like that sound,
and the wetness and the coolness,
and how it suits my thought of it
in summer, which has grown
long and tiresome, and I feel heavy as a stone
at the edge of watering, and all the
trees are dusty and whispering for rain.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for this morning's fine poetry breakfast! Our new Seed of the Week is April—whether it's April showers, April Fool's Day, National Poetry Month... take your own take on April and send poems, photos or artwork on this (or any other subject) to No deadline on SOWs.


Monday, March 28, 2016


Rain Ripples
(Today's Photos are by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA)

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

“Circus zebras run loose in Oakland,
After similar escape in Philly.”
The headline in the San Francisco
Chronicle gives the facts,
As a good paper should,
But not the why.
Does the media even
Do that anymore?

Zebras are notoriously
Ill-tempered beasts, and
Why not?—beautifully
Striped, you’d want
Shoes, leggings, hats,
Bags, and a bag for
Your school lunch.

Doesn’t work.  They don’t
Like you. Won’t serve you,
Won’t be trained.
And will most likely
Kick you, and also
Spit in your eye.
You were warned.

If they really wanted to
Be an animal in a peaceful
Poem (The lion will lie down
With the lamb, but the lamb
Will keep his phone on),
There would be
Teams named the Zebras,
Elegantly striped boats.
Won’t even mention
Bowling teams.

Zebra has its own agenda,
And is far different from yours.
As Bukowski says about
Something else entirely,
Or maybe not:
“Don’t even try.”

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

(for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, forced to renounce
all title to the authorship of the Shakespeare plays)

                “Sometimes the title is the last to come.”
                —observation often stated by poet James Merrill

Sometimes the title is the last to come.
What need have you of title? Every day,
from lightning lines you gave us our ears hum.

Just think: “To the manner born,” “Husband, I come.”
Snatches, like “things nothing worth”; “give o’er the play.”
Sometimes the title is the last to come

or the first to go. So intricately dumb,
you dispensed with lands and power as one sells plate,
but you gave us those lightning lines, and our ears hum.

Your rod can reach still darker, deeper to plumb
than world exists to be thrust through while time remains.
Sometimes the title is the last to come,

but come it must someday, as truth must enter, sun
stunningly crowbar the grate of the dungeon brain.
The ears you gave those lightning lines still hum

and buzz: mad King Lear with self-knowledge numb,
that old busybody by the Dane’s sword slain,
yet sometimes the title is the last to come.

The everlasting title taken from
you, we would restore—but that, you did convey.
Though lightning lines of yours make our ears hum,
sometimes the title is the last to come.

(from the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Newsletter, Winter 2016; previously posted on Medusa’s Kitchen)

—Tom Goff
                  for Katherine Chiljan, Oxfordian Shakespeare scholar

For they must all be mask'd and vizarded…
The Merry Wives of Windsor

The real Shakespeare, De Vere, the Earl of Oxford,
sees Queen Elizabeth, elderly, just as she is;
capricious and vain, disarming in turn each lord
so none can yet pry the realm from her slackening fist.

Yet he deems himself loyal, the overlooked unrewarded:
proposes to rent her Cornish tin mines, to serve
as her ever-vigilant middleman, check tricks and swerves
and dodges wherever the merchant scoundrels have darted;

in short, to recover her riches skimmed in small rivers,
where the smelting and coining has puddled in leftovers
plucked up just-cooled before the Queen’s comptrollers
can seize what’s the Crown’s by right, and not the free-livers’.

Hard to tell if Oxford’s projected sums are correct.
What truth, like Lear’s hard-won truth, in his promises?
He’ll employ more poor Cornish workmen: does this ring echt
or counterfeit? Deep as Her Majesty’s tin-stamp presses,

these offhand pen-strokes convince. Not mere Elizabethan.
Are these rough notes, or laborsome petitions?
They’re clearly Shakespeare. Oxford jots instant visions
as they take wing, bundling in one little reason

clusters of Bardspeak. Vivid: his pen has caught
underhand merchants who waylay slabs of tin,
stamped with England’s Lion expressly to be bought
abroad, now bartered for household wine and like sins.

Or listen to Oxford speak of the melting of metal,
evoking the fiery tin running into the mold,
and how that liquid, red-hot as becomes fresh gold,
pours into the subject of the tin-suits, the “little,”

the “great,” and how from these suits “many rivers run.”
How “the wealth of the prince is the riches of the commonwealth”
(the vowel-shapes build up a Shakespeare-like arch of expression),
then hear the outsider Earl describe courtly stealth:

how crafty (Iago-type?) schemers and malingerers
can “carry it”—the tin suit—“so cunningly that they will juggle
it so clean out of Her Majesty’s fingers
as she shall never have any sense or feeling thereof.”
                                                                        No struggle

so great as the Earl’s to urge a queen to her own profit,
to strip the kingdom of pickpockets. No luck,
save what we now get, Shakespeare’s letters. Prophet
scorned venturing out of his word-kingdom. We’re struck,

though, when Oxford describes the tin-mines suit
in Hamlet’s-Gravedigger terms: it has “three branches.”
(An “act” and an “argal” would clinch the resemblance.)
Most startling of all the convergences, to boot:

“These branches then are only to be set
afoot, masked, and visored so that they in nowise
seem children of the first [suit] whereof I have spoken.”
When last did we hear such masked words? Below guise

of what visors have we previously met such tokens
of mischief?  Is it not Shakespeare’s child-players set
afoot in pursuit of a worthy stage/stooge, and all laugh?
Is not the Merry Unwife of Windsor, Queen Bess,

translated into her prime comic butt, Sir John Falstaff?
More somber details the Earl has to express:
he relates, with a dash of mystery, perhaps a slight shame,
his misfortune (like “Shake-speare’s”): he’s lately grown lame…

—Taylor Graham

Imagine the intricate maneuverings,
the balance of bodies—wings for the moment
useless—as the two of them, ladybug
and her gentleman-bug, red-robed with their
clan’s ancestral black insignia (don’t
call it polka-dots!), perform their prehistoric
dance, joined together on a trefoil leaf
of blackberry-bramble almost lost in spring
green, then moving still in unison
up a neighboring stalk and onto a finger-leaf
of lupine, all in the service of perpetuation
of species through the ages, the future,
the luck of ladybugs.

—Taylor Graham

By night he becomes time-lapse philosopher
of the alley just off Main, convergence
of realms known chiefly to cats, pigeons, owls,
those of the swivel vision who leave their spoor
and follow their hungers from treetops
down the stoops, off fire escapes, parapets
and windowsills the cockeyed way. He squints
to read messages in the precise angle of Polaris
with gold-rush cobble and backwards neon H
of the town’s 3-star hotel reflected, topsy-turvy
geometry construed to make sense of it all.


—Taylor Graham

Afterimages keep developing
in the mind. Click off the TV, another
blast turning everything black on white, light
shivered through glass. Suicide
bomb or quake
gas explosion the earth keeps shaking.
All the speechless words the death count.
Concrete—stuff we walk and trust and build
on—shards in terror-tells. Living rooms
smell of concrete dust sifting as the mind
takes pictures, focus shattering
arms grasping for air—
floors dangling from a ceiling—a mirrored
face in smithereens. Like memory
the camera lies. A hand reaching for another
hand is hard to keep in focus
after the shutter the light changes.

—Taylor Graham

Dark ascent into air. How long before
you learned the slow cycle of lights and shades
in this oddly differentiating universe, its
stops, starts, strictures, separations.
Its diminishing dawn into noon and after,
into the next evening. You, a being of always-
light, abruptly gnawed by thought
needing words in a language so foreign.
Hunger. Howls. Human
more tangled than Coyote or Fox. Thoughts
themselves skittering away. You let your
self be sung to sleep; born-blood,
breath echoing from inside yourself
the rush of world beyond you, its life-long
longing to find your self again whole.

 Creekside Flowers

—Taylor Graham

Gather mustard greens for supper
and digital flowers to take back home.
Industrial-lace thistle
still glitters silver with dew.
Make music on a golden fiddle’s neck,
each tiny trumpet
imprisoning the light. Listen
for secrets of silence above the water’s
flow. Catch a clump of elf-
umbrellas. Eat one, savoring how
it saves from scurvy and the daily-do.
Can there ever be
too much sun, too much rain?


—Taylor Graham

The geese are flying wild circles above this
derelict place, calling like the ghosts of the attic
above what used to be dance floor. Dead
now. The geese are alive, weaving their cries
a loud breeze through grasses crazy with spring.
The building’s held together by bits of mortar,
bats that haunt the eaves. A room webbed
by its own spider. Bricks give up to mosses.
The whole world’s wet with green.
My dog pulls me across sodden meadow,
she’s grounded in grass pulling me airborne
above the creek. Alive the geese hold the whole
place together. As the oak leafs out it sings.

Today’s LittleNip:

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I've tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great
And would suffice. 

—Robert Frost


Thanks to this morning’s contributors for their fine breakfast buffet, including Taylor Graham for the pics as she continues to stalk those wild, fleeting fungi and, as a bonus, catches a little ladybug sex. 

This week brings us several readings, as always: tonight we have Poetry in Motion in Placerville and Phillip Barron and Jane Gregory at Sac. Poetry Center; on Weds., SPC hosts a lecture by Jonas Cope on Shelley; on Thurs., travel down to Stockton for a book launch by David Waldon. Then on Sunday you have a choice between Poetry at Einstein in Sac. (Bethanie Humphreys, Heather Judy, and Bob Stanley) or Carol and Laverne Frith reading at Mosaic of Voices in Sac. and releasing Carol's new book, Early Echoes (FutureCycle Press). Our poetry life is great—so many choices! Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box) at the right of this column for all the details.

April is National Poetry Month, which begins this coming Friday. There are lots of resources for NPM which are listed in the top of the green box. Have a peek at ‘em! (And let me know if you find any more.)

And also check the red Webilicious section at the bottom of the green box This You-tube video is of the Medusa thrill ride at Six Flags. Click on the web and be ready for the rolly-coaster that is Medusa!



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Chaos or Order

—Anonymous Photo

—Donald R. Anderson, Stockton, CA

In between the letters
where the card stock is olive beige
trees look at us from over the balcony
birds sing to us in playful enthusiasm.

Behind the colorful print-out photos
stapled in little pages
that fit in the palm of the hand
faces ask us do you remember
and emotions sing like colors,
colors not seen except in dreams
or by angels.

The water is cool and inviting
and I am beginning to forget
the taste of my favorite ice cream
the sidewalk sundae Good Humor bars.
And the best warm spicy hot dogs
at the VIP bar at University of Pacific football games.

San Francisco is calling,
a life wanting to be lived,
but it is closer than I think,
right here behind my eyelids,
close them and listen to the water,
the ocean waves in the fountain
from across the street.
The ocean shore waves in the breeze
between gently swaying,
sea-sighing tree boughs.

I am enjoying every spiritual moment,
every experience, be it chaos or
order, each sacrifice when chosen
becomes a reversal of suffering,
a benefit from the absences of benefit,
a giving to God and others
in place of to one's self,
and it all makes me so much more joyful.



Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Special Punctuation

—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


(a Celtic tale)

I have brought the first living thing

To this page and it well knows your name

And it can stand in your shoes

And show the dance that invents the land.

We stand upon floods bursting from

Our jubilation.

We’ve brought with us a silence

Upon your shoulders and a quiet

To your mind, be it only for Tydain

That we can sing such a song.

We have our secrets here in poetry.

This is as good as blood and bread.

You’ve joined the song.  Make it 

The first the world has heard

As we gained the height of the sun.

And here we are no longer imprisoners 

Of the light.



Your dogs hold your land together for you.

It is they who know where you live, not you.

A bark can sound like an angel voice; 

Their breathing holds the whole place together.

The silver of aspens in the late morning

Having their way with you.  You can listen to it writing

Each step of the trail, the half-moon

Just above the ridge in the full daylight.

A special punctuation your dog understands

So much better than you shall ever be able.

 Side of the Moon Café Gallery


A man with a silver rake shivered past me,

Barely holding his pink body, covered with leaves.

Spinning a private ballet to the music of too much

Rainwater and cascades of grey, bubbles and clicking rocks.

I try to join the chorus but he has escaped into mottled shadows

Before I can get my umbrella open enough to stop the rain from

Rattling my head.  I was told of ghosts here, but these are

Not ghosts, just quick choruses of splashes and rain falling

So hard even the rock stairway looks to be an illusion.

Soon I am wading up the staircase, calling just to hear 

A human voice above the torrent.  I’m glad I did not wear boots.
There is too much water of a sudden.  The trees explode in

Receiving it and I lose my own body.  I chose a direction

And decide to keep headed that way.  Within fifteen minutes

The sun is dazzling billions of fine raindrops as the storm 

Moves over the hill, trailing puffs of wind in its silvery train.

 Mowing the Chinese Demonstration Garden, Locke


In the suicide, you will be waiting

On the other side for yourself.

Again and again, able to recognize

The curve of your lip.  The perfect stillness

Of recognition, the taste of one’s

Own mouth in the kiss of greeting

Required no matter what the hour

Of the chosen death.

The extended tongue of hanging.

The shattered skull of a bullet.

The ozone in the burnt hairs of

The electrocuted body.

The slope of endless drugs

Shafting through the body, not knowing

What it is doing, staring once

Again into one’s own eyes.

Hoping there was another who would

Be the lover.

The flight of a single bird

Above the same ocean.

An unheard flap of wings.

The idea of trying to leave

Such a bad joke; the body

Vomits the suicide into

One small cup which must

Be drunk again and again

So great is the thirst.


                                   —Robert Duncan

I have no idea of my destination.

The waves the sea throws up against

My ivory house quiver and shake.

The waves continue to grow,
Push over the sills, spilling
Into the room.  And there is no
Sound but the sea lifting and crashing
Into these labyrinths.  Able to rise
Above its walls and dwarf whatever
Building the city had allowed
To be be built this far out in the
Tidal plain.  The water always rises.
No one could form
A question on any subject.

I’m calling you out.  It may look

Like sex from within these waves

But nothing can touch you quite this way.

This is how I speak from inside what

You currently call yourself.

My Front Yard


The serpent of form.

The spirit of form.

For I, at one time a madman,

Had learned to wait and now

Could hear the gathering of sounds

From far away as they came at me.

Closer, come to me, I say.

I have heard your voice

And the wave of the tides.

This is not imagination or a

Coincidence of place.  Open them.

I am silence here and can find a room

With its own spider.

Please, these are places filled with power

And had I word or claws or a circle

Of ice to tear this apart and

To take whatever form I will,

What would you call the color of power?

A sealed door, known only to doorkeepers?

I will make a sound in you as the first-

Time trees know wind.  And your body

Shall lie upon mine and the opening 

Shall appear.


 Corner by Kate's House


We have some rules around here.

I don’t own anything.  We have fluid

Halos and it doesn’t matter what

Sex you are.  Whatever we choose,

Someone will see it as betrayal.

A star tries to hide.

It only wants to hold you, but

As you can see, there is no place

This is possible.

Some of us watch our parents forget

Our names.  The mind dilates

And by chance you have found

A weapon inside a poem.

Go ahead, use it.

Misunderstand.  You can fondle

The words here without fear

That any of this is fake.  There are

Cities of this stuff right here.

Remove your shoes.  Get your legs

Involved.  Here, press this against yourself.

Feels better than anything you’ve ever

Owned, doesn’t it?


Today's LittleNip:

A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.

—Robert Frost


Many thanks to D.R. Wagner for our fine breakfast of poems and pix this morning!


 Chinese Demonstration Garden Before Mowing

Friday, March 25, 2016

Status Report

—Poems and Photos by Smith 
(Steven B. Smith), Cleveland, OH


The beat of blood
the flick of flame
the slap of feet
the circled tribe around the fire
in dancing shadow
demons dungeon dark
held by heat of heart
throat rasping
how Fox buried egg in day
how Coyote stole
and broke it
scrambling dusk and dawn 

 Quantum Wave


I worked my ass off and now my pants won't fit.
Kissed so much behind my lips are starting to stick.
This working class hero bit's just another bag of it.

I'd eat the rich, but their taste is so bad. I'd serve
the poor, but too many already have. I'd play with myself
but I'm not all here. So I ask God, is She still there?

Reason drips in dropped disguise red through white
through blues departing in the night, the never right
hype the Man, his chicken stripe, and his doo doo do.

We worship Amway, Scientology too. As long as it's
Brand Named we play the fool, pay first born foreskin,
a nipple or two. So break out your dead deal dust due.

Ghosts of gone before host our yet to be. No
flowers for the finished, no hour for their song.
Ground zero works in theory only when you're wrong.

Weren't for Monk, I'd catch Coltrane. Weren't for TV
I'd have a brain. Heart and soul sold for junk. If I'm
the rat, best step back cuz I'm not the one gonna jump.

8-ball boogie gets you every time. Tried to fax the
factors in, they made me stand in line. Try to share
my truth with them, they stamp my life a lie.

8-ball boogie, get you every time.

(hear as song at

 Dark Ascend


Walk stone steps forever
you cut a groove

Sit on wood often enough
it smooths in ass shine

Drip water on rock over centuries
it wears a hole

Irritate an oyster with sand
it covers it in pearl

Sometimes you need
to stay outside the lines

 Dividing Line


If I still knew
all I've known
I'd no a lot more.

Or maybe yes.

Had past lessons earned
remained learned
a corner I'd have turned.

Or at least have a better guess.

I plot and plow
to get through now
honoring Tao.

And all with which I'm blessed.

But red is not blue
all is not none
zero is not score.

Life is still very often a mess.



Blood orange cream seeps up sky
as night creeps off dark pause

I wait for an honest coffee
to salvage my soul without prayer

Unsure if need of known
is after effect or cause

The light leaks in
burning moths for flavor

 Door Number


There’s a walking bag on the telly
filled with talking meat
calorie counting down to defeat
repeat . . . repeat . . . repeat . . .

We return belly to button, button to beast
add some new jism, raise with old yeast
throw here for now, round then for there
wear where naked clothes on King hang bare
so belly in bold shows its sad sag sink
despite philosopher's ink

Some say
return the belly to jolly of jelly
to rose when ready when ruddy on rise
better we sit and turn to the telly
than sally forth for destruction of lies

We sink in eat and weight of gain
play hunter gatherer game
where if it moves, kill it to eat
else if green grown, cook it with meat
we eat the trees, we eat the land
we eat ourselves out of hand

Our bellies bloat and gloat at glands
we roam like locusts over sand
we eat the air, we eat the seas
we beat the land until it bleeds

You know it ain't too wise to this way bow
cuz Mother Earth new path will plow
food will shrink, water unwet
unnatural flow will be upset
so we can help - or - eat and go
flame out fast, live day slow

Calorie accounting courting feet
or fast-talking minced-meat sweet jelly weep?

It’s out there, gonna happen
we can help, we can hurt
sit and yelp, or get to work

(recitation with music at


Today’s LittleNip(s):


Break a leg, they said
so I did.

Wouldn't recommend it.

~ ~ ~


Pain whispers
"You are still alive,
it's not too late."

~ ~ ~


Running after nothing
trying to catch the ring.

Good dog.


Many, many thanks to Smith (Steven B. Smith) for his poems and pix today, sharing his unique voice and his rocking sense of rhythm and rhyme, all the way from Cleveland (on the southern shore of Lake Erie), home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—hence the Rock and Roll Capital of the World!

In our area, please note that the newest issue of the online journal, convergence, is viewable at  Cynthia Linville is one of the editors. Cynthia also writes that she has finished up Patricia Hickerson’s posthumous poetry collection, Outcry, which is about to be released from R.L. Crow Publications. Release parties are scheduled for May 12 at Luna’s; May 22 at Mosaic of Voices (Avid Reader); and May 30 at Sac. Poetry Center. (More about those readings later.)
Rattlesnake Press published Pat's first chapbook, Dawn and Dirty, in 2011. She was a fine poet—another rock 'n roller—and a great friend, and we all miss her. Congratulations to Bill Gainer and R.L. Crow for making more of her poetry available to the world!



 Mind Over Matter

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Counting Tears in a Bottle

Glad Day, c. 1794
—Paintings by William Blake
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


Hearing, like me
seagulls off the sea
by window gardens
opening in springtime
from secret signs
that only nature disguises
from sparrows over branches
once filled with ice
from March's muffled breeze
flooded by scintillated light
when our early clouds
of shrill loudspeakers
from bird feeders rise
in sky-bright reports rejoicing
when anticipation
of the time moving
forward with a lost line
of an unnoticed seasonal change.

Ancient of Days, 1794


On the March wind
bonded on a memory train
full of recollected words
to hear ringing chapel bells
above all roofs
and people's barricades
to make a faint way
near the rainy branches
with a kinfolk of lovebirds
who wish like me to soar
whistling for us in a chorus
above a chirping mundane earth
in space of a motorcade
to be welcomed by angels
in tents as combatants at war
have spoken on Blakean wings
in an Apocalypse of revelations
upon islands of outer space
from his telescopic observations
as an observer in his Southern sky
scatters about chattering
as Orion's constellations race
from its huge monster brightness
we are sensing the eternity
of his watercolor paintings
as thousands are enlightened
and waking to watch at attendance
his crayoned red dragon pictures
from his Songs of Innocence
and Experience
archive plates
in this sorely dissonant time
over his muted melancholic lips
as rouge faints and fades
on a transparent creative face
in coverage of a bard's forgetfulness
along tumbling towers of the sun
existing on a showering metamorphosis
of a token cultural blessedness
as attendant spirits and pundits
breathing out from Blake's
cowering and captured gorgons
dramatic demons and epic dragons
in a narrative of courageous poets
from our Jacob's ladders' surveillance
of dark blue pigeon-clouds
over a stars’ air traffic third heaven
as poets miraculously sing out
on white tufts of clouds
replacing all those who run
across the bells of sky and shade
to swing at all shrouded nights
of many-sainted hours
under a famous eternal light
of a king of whom you have heard
from the presence of a flamed sun
flowering from citadels and pits
in the absence of day and night
not ashamed of these few hours
having lost your repentant name
to chant for a wonderful new one.

 Cover, Songs of Innocence


Orange dancing chaos
of fingerprints from a painter
in the tuft of a visionary
from a sunlit studio
trampling colors
with wounds of hands
in images of spotted language
from angles sleeping
in his fiery eyes
about an abandoned history
besmirched with wounds
of war-dirtied faces weeping
in a sponged cauldron
from a mortuary of the voices
in an iconic shadow
recognizing the spells
of elemental rootless journeys.



Fifteen centuries
go by Andrei Rublev's paint
the lashes of art watering
in yellow, blue and red
to scrub your Russian icons
with wounds of exhaustion
on back breaking long ago
in the fifteenth century
with the suffering God
buried in prison camps
with angels alighting
on their windy
wings on riverbeds
of the people's penury
awakened blood of snows
with an artist heaving echoes
to answer the breathless
river at the monastery's dust
in the nights of panic
and pain at the steeples
of the church's sun's glow
saints still on gold ceilings
wander by forever
counting tears in a bottle.

 The Giant Albion from Jerusalem, 1804


Listening to the opera
of Donizetti
not to part
with The Elixir of Love
which I was acquainted with
since taken to the Met
as a child relives his joy there
thrilled with the combination
of a staged play,
music from an orchestra
with voices from a libretto
the elixir has not aged
drinking in every melody
of my young daydreams
linked by time, eye gaze
tongue and trembling notes
knowing there is someone
young in the audience
taken by the hand today
to the balcony of the house,
who will experience
a glimmer of artistic vision
for her or his memory
which will last in silence
every time they drink
from a resonant glass
of ethereal depths of fun.


You breathe salty lines
of portraits of your era
rubbing paints
in a visionary chamber
exposing photographic colors
from a terrifying fate
out of an astonished painter
of the modern era
as an improvising revolutionary
of a poetic expatriate
in later sanity of expressionism
changing the stolen years
among the immortality
of banishment and sorrow
squeezing out in exile
behind the iron doors
with tomorrow's pure flashing
in red fingers and footprints
of disconnected times
covering interconnected images
surprising a deranged flame
of light dilated in his studio
staring on a pale canvas
which lingers ’til our time
into the night's signature
when storms are raging
in a destined discovery
from resentment of madness
transfiguring our flesh
into disobliging disguises
from memory's adventure.

The Angels Hovering Over the Body of Christ
in the Sepulchre, 1805


No one expects Cain
here in the land of Nod
for Abel is slain
but all realize now
it is more than a fable
to be in exile from God
not even honorable Abel
expects a good sacrifice
as far as one can tell
who speaks to angel Michael
in this chapel and neighborhood
as religion passes to Nimrod
now in a tower of Babel
each telling their story
in their suspected private Hell
full of purgatory and trial
waiting for His glory
and the rising of the dead.

 The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve, c. 1826


Embracing tomorrow
after reading parts
of Julius Caesar
on the Ides of March
remembering in Italy
the newly baptized red sky
turning blue
going beyond time
as several birds in columns
arriving like Pasolini's
opening words to greet us
who after all is our brother too
as laughing tourists by the gates
and student princes
now starry-eyed
read you out loud
at a Roman bookstall
remembering my first Latin lessons
in recognizing the roots
of these ancestral pockets
in a thin paper mâché collection
from your knotted
own post-war faces
those poetry pictures
from a rejected childhood
as tiny snowflakes
appear on the beach
rippling into a diary
of writing Thursday on a page
my hand stretched out
to touch the branches
now white with much joy
that the long winter
may be over my palm
in a third-month finger of fate
from the stormy Bay rain
which drenches the Coast
walking on the sand
the sun flickers
its first light of sailing
and intoxicates the day
which shapes our tongue
of verse's vulnerability
asking for wisdom
to make it through.


Today’s LittleNip:

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

—Wm. Blake, from
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


If a thing loves, it is infinite.

—Wm. Blake


Our thanks to B.Z. Niditch for his fine poems today! For more about poet/painter William Blake and his angels, go to


William Blake, 1757-1827