Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cape Shores in Summer

Shark in Cape Cod!
—Photo by Wayne Davis
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Paintings by Paul Gauguin, 1848-1903


An Atlantic great white shark
off sunny Cape Cod
wanders in the dark
a shadow of an old movie
sighted at a distance
on a beach day
playing hide-and-seek
most leave the shore
after a wandering peek.

 Papa Moe Aka
(Mysterious Water)


We stared at the calm sea
over the Cape balcony
when we were eleven
hearing us play a Brahms
Sonata #1 for Violin in G Major
(“Rain Sonata”) at our debut
as you played a grande piano
to accompany me
staring at my fingers of agility
Natasha too had a grin of pain
with living signs
of a heavenly adolescent love
whispering in a Russian accent
an encouraging translation
of a commanding Psalm 91
feeling the sun shine again
to forgive my nascent ability
as a gust of cutting wind
by a mourning dove
and scent of incoming wave
from the demanding crowd
of Boston symphonic critics
or Romantic word lovers
by bowing chestnut trees
who hear birds and crickets
sighing through thick Oak
a hymn-singing spoken sound
making the stand-up poet proud
and knowing it was spring
by the dim Atlantic ocean
this very hour a brushed breeze
motioned to him upon the apron
upon their chorus of redwings
that even the seedlings
under ground opened
at this hour along the river bed
to a new yellow crocus flower
by the wooden music shed.

 Tahitian Landscape


You took off your shades
watching may-flies, honeybees
and tropical birds
reminding me of Gauguin's
paintings of Tangiers
the umbrella on the beach
kept us from the wide sun
and jelly fish on the shore waters
had us thinking of dangers
so many close calls
we sometimes felt
by our manager
to have a metamorphosis of words
we are reaching out of fears
but hearing only silence
here in the desert of sand
we are like pirates in an oasis
or compliant strangers
waiting on the strand.

 Tahitian Landscape 2


Near the marina at Cape Ann
T.S. Eliot after
a short morning malaise
takes a constitutional
by the Atlantic
near a wide pendulum
of shadowy waves
sits on his favorite bench
by the beach of the blue island's
waterways along sand shells
with the sea and rocks
holding him aside
to reading a French poem
by Baudelaire
with the birds about him
feeding from Elms
fallen in a sunshine vision
reaching a staircase
where daydreams
become real in his finer words
he slowly walks into a church
there are granite cobblestones
and a crisscrossed ceiling
in a shadow eyeing the God
over the long hallways
covering bone china
of white seraphic angels
on the gleaming windows
near the port-of-call garden
with the language indecision
of own future poems
in his back pocket
like Messiah’s hidden secrets
revealing a pardon.

 la Orana Maria Aka
(Hail Mary)


Your hand-to-tongue colors
with acrobatic disguises
implode as telescopes
hung under a silent liquid
of the full-mirror moon
with a painted appearance
rung from enigmatic tropes
on geometric canvas boards
over the sea’s geographic ropes
with ambrosial cosmic currents
on the other side of the Seine
peaks over your wide lyricism
fading over crowning answers
of imaginative appearances
reins in a city knowing prism
for our swooning landscape
of his psychiatric wounded past
by acoustic sounds discovery
from a significant dramatic
in Tanguy's surreal analysis
that a fainted idle personality
may remake your regained fingers
to enigmatically override us
in your newly arrived
ground to an American journey
by an unreal metamorphosis
out of a new-found surrealism
washing out cinematic colors
drowned on your canvas
with your floating lines
yet lodges in secrets
of a past nemesis
in the attic anteroom
from the absinthe of melancholy
that burns your war wounds
into your own caustic tapestry
knowing your intuitive escapes
from chances of a deep sun.

 Mahana No Atua Aka
(Day of the Gods)


No one is collateral
or sequential in an audition
at our outdoor shock theater
to play this Hamlet scene
with Cordelia's lover's part
in mixed gender factors
as if we are performing artists
or had been occupational actors
waiting until summer stock
transfixed on those bummer words
to fulfill our lines with emotion
from an influential Antigonish coach
wishes from us
his distinguished devotion
and wish for a revolutionary concept
transforming the poetic script
we view a Browning's delineation
of several assured monologues
in modernity's writ
and review his primary portraits
of our waiting disguises at heart
in the matured dialogues of plays
both comic, historical and tragic
performed at Boston, Oxford
Nova Scotia or Stratford-upon-Avon
we are all here to suit or crown
the desires to pivot soliloquy of art
that inspires and follows a poet
to a museum, gig or symphony
for we are not merely granted
a wise postscript and sound board
to supplant or quote literally
but to dig up notes from memory
in rehearsal to control
sharing our lines’ rendition
over the director's choice
to deliver a rival yet universal
divine voice in every soul
but sending out shining words
on grounds to be tomorrow's
contemporary stars of the age
with the flare in camouflage
of a bright laurel crown
in silver filigree bars
for a language of renown
that will inspire, assuage,
quarrel, curse, but not silence us
as a chorus up on stage
as we are fired up
we recall an enlightened
verse, page, chapter
or to analyze the insight
and factors in Twelfth Night
for the molten-high critics
taking in the music and language
of Illyrian dreams envisioned
at our Shakespearean company.

 Woman Holding a Fruit


A brother is doing
deep breathing on the island
as his good friend Peter
a French teacher
is stammering on the beach
with the words of Baudelaire
puts away his playing cards
on the park bench
after reading a chapter
from Melville's Pierre
tells me my cat is missing
on the shore of the Cape
as Igor, our neighborhood
jazz drummer on a blanket
under a lemony umbrella
and former scat singer
and child wonder from Russia
is contemplating upon
a favorite drawing of Vermeer
with his son Gregory
over the June sand castle
while feeling airy
like a vessel out of shape
as a vendor is spreading
peanut butter on a cracker
for his daughter, Maria
but she wants a condiment
of mustard on her hamburger
as any wild teenager
who brings a lipstick mirror
with her to the beach,
as a life guard boyfriend waves
at her smiling by the corner
of his eye
to come into the water,
and a poet says a quick prayer
in a silent contemplative way
to prevent the sky diver
from having an accident
on this Father's summer day
as my cat shows up
on my checkerboard
eager to play.

 Still Life With Teapot And Fruit

Today’s LittleNip:
—B.Z. Niditch

               for Leon Baskt

whether a painter
or an illustrator
with all the data
of an innovator
water colorist
a photographer
a famous book illustrator
passionate fashion designer
for the Russian ballet
after 150 years of your birth
and on your anniversary
you are still missed.


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s fine poetry, and of course Paul Gauguin for his sensuous paintings of life by the sea!

To read about the tagging of the shark, go to's-First-Shark-Tagged.htm

To hear Mirela Capata play the Brahms violin sonata, go to

 Where Do We Come From? What Are We?
Where Are We Going?
—Painting by Paul Gauguin

Celebrate poetry by heading over to 
Luna’s Cafe to hear Eva West and Lee Foust (plus open mic)! 
Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) 
for info about this and other upcoming readings in our area—
and note that other readings may be added at the last minute.


Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Round Moon Among Silver Stones

—Photo Enhancements by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan, Fair Oaks, CA

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

You’ve brought me where the nearly solstice sun
Junes it over the granite-bearing red
wilds above Folsom Lake whose waters are one
with this night’s necromancy, where rapids, instead
of spill, turn saltimbanque salmon leaps up heights.
Dusk, nuzzling the mane of the river, paints the breast
of mountain-holdfast orange, and though twilight
hums russet notes, the rapture spreads unrest
wherever prevailing orange strikes vibrancy.
The monkeyflowers ring crystal insurgency.
See, love, how clouds connive in your solstice theme.
Their salmon and rose commingle in a vast stream
pebbled with silver and purple cloud-gravel tones.
Look at what rises: round moon, among sister stones.


—Tom Goff

Take me with you next climb up-pyramid;
you’ve clambered those steps, enthralling thin perils,
like me,
up both Sun and Moon, oh justified fear amid
the dizziness, sweet mysticism’s small fee.
My ascent, three decades ago, mere days ago
for you: and bravo the young, of a lither timber.
I fancy—no, rather I know—you rose alone
in fineness of frame. Your topmost fitmost limber
rapture scramble outdoes what I did those days.
At summits of mudbrick sheathed with tezontle surface
crumbling, and mica and mercury in the glaze,
did you find vendors on top? What might you purchase?
Here’s my lost turtle-shaped vessel, a sacred clay flute;
I pass it to sprites on heights. To all beauty, from brute.

—Tom Goff

       for Michael Endres on his Bax piano sonata cycle

A sympathetic tic, insistent, throbs
in my right player-piano hand while you
brushfire clean through these masterworks like Bob’s
your uncle. Nor are you simply burning through.
Oh yes, the end-to-end breathspending sprints
that leave no keystone key untapped: the racing
scales, Bax triplet-against-duplet handprints,
counterpoint brimming to climax, beyond bracing.

But also those agonized languors, delicate
tinges. Masterful pedal sustains, erases
dream subtleties. White-shouldered Tania, tasting of fate,
dissolves upon Mary of Marlow waters, leaf-traces…
Your Bax might be Ravel elegance running parkour,
all obstacles whimsical. Lightning tongues oddly darker. 


—Tom Goff

        for pianist Margaret Fingerhut

Bax’s best Enigmatic, his most Elgar
obsequy for the profoundly lost:
for Easter Rising clangors known to bell far
through twilit Ireland ravines? For Robert Frost’s
emerging poet friend, kind Edward Thomas,
or for all those scythed by windrows at the Somme,
those Pals and Pals in pursuit of glorious prowess
ambling as howitzers drowned the Doomsday shawm
—some lads kicked footballs—into barbed wire and fire?

Bax burns into this score conviction that transcends
even these “deep matters,” ivories, gut strings
made agents of inquirings, answerings
to echo down decades not yet lived, in blends
of ecstatically anguished, earthly Miserere
to foreshadow Rachmaninoff’s every Dies Irae.

—Tom Goff

        for Gerald H. Thomas (1945-2016)

Whenever Eric Hoffer comes to mind,
the longshoreman philosopher I read
in my teen years, I think of Jerry. Blind
to just what I’d picked up, better-dead-than-Red
John Birch bumper-sticker wisdoms proud,
I needed Jerry’s book about the fanatic
mind, The True Believer, to uncloud
my cerebellum, rainy from its dogmatic
soak in the brain basin. Hoffer worked:
since what did I know then? That President Dwight
D. was a secret Communist who’d lurked
years recruiting the world’s best sleeper cell
—the United States Army? Someone had to tell
me I was a tad off key, to flash a light
on mental cockroach eggs. Hoffer, the very
remedy—and for that cure, thank you, Jerry. 

—Michael Estabrook, Acton, MA

He married his high school sweetheart
40 years ago. Yet whenever
an old classmate wants
to “friend” her on Facebook
and not him
his hackles rise concerning
this guy’s motives and suddenly
he’s 17 again
insecure jealous possessive protective
making sure he walks her
to class carrying her books
so all the other guys
can see that she
belongs to him.


—Michael Estabrook

He hates
having to take down
the splendid giant maple reigning over
the corner of their front yard
but the carpenter ants
have gotten to it so if he
doesn’t take it down
Mother Nature will along with
the telephone poll and power lines
a fence and half the house next door.

—Michael Estabrook

Even He’s had enough finally
and decides to intercede directly
in our affairs
by setting up a system whereby
thunderbolts strike from the Firmament
instantly killing whoever
touches any gun
for any reason whatsoever
in order to once-and-for-all
the relentless insane bloodshed
but it doesn’t.


—Michael Estabrook

“Now that you’re retired
I’d counsel you to change the overall mix
of stocks and bonds
in your portfolio from 70/30
to a more conservative 60/40
in order to help ameliorate
the vicissitudes of an ever more unpredictable
stock market” Danielle
my pretty young
financial advisor advises me adding
“You’re in that season
of your life after all.”

—Michael Estabrook

It could have all
played out differently he thinks
while waiting for the grandchildren
to get ready for school.

She could have said no,
no I don’t want to go steady with you
turned and sauntered away
or dumped him on his ass
when they went off to college
or when she found someone better
while dating in college or . . .

And then he wouldn’t
be sitting here waiting
for the grandchildren to get ready
for school at least not these
particular grandchildren.


Our thanks to today’s contributors to the Kitchen, including Stacey Morgan for her gorgeous "Solstice" cycle of photos, and prodigal poet Michael Estabrook, who returns to us after a long hiatus. Michael was featured on Medusa on 7/10/07.

And thanks to Tom Goff, who continues his Arnold Bax cycle of poems, as well as taking us on a visit to Latvia. (Tom Goff’s artist/poet wife, Nora Laila Staklis, is of Latvian descent.) For more about Jāņuvakars, go to; to hear traditional Latvian folk songs, go to


Today’s LittleNip:

Summer night—

even the stars

are whispering to each other.




Celebrate poetry!

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fugues of Effort, Brambles of Desire

—Poems and Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


She carries
a glass of water
on a balancing-stick
and moves
very slowly across the room
which is
as wide as the
slow expanse of day
and the shimmery passage of
the sunlight.
The water glass
is made of heavy crystal
with a small, translucent fish
captured in it.
She is becoming a fugue of effort
but she must not show
her weariness or limitation.
The fish has a patient eye
and a dark speck of heart
which can be seen
through its tiny body
and she knows
she must not let
the water move
or the fish will die.
The fish watches her
with its great pity
and balances, with itself, the
careful motion of her walking.

first pub. in CQ (Cal. State Poetry Quarterly),
1996 (the “Odam” issue)


Stop and go. Anther grind of traffic. And there is the open
sky. Up high, a wavering black strand of geese. Almost a
reward for the finished errand I tried to avoid—all I can do
to drive and not keep looking through the windshield at the
geese—so high I can not hear—their passage slow enough
for my timed glances. I feel redeemed that the mission of
my errand has put me in the here-and-now of this very
moment the geese pass overhead and fill me with such a
deep and reverent joy—a blessing I had not counted on—
and did not know I needed.



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.

(first appeared in slightly revised form in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 1996)


“The row of chairs, ingenious passage above the
flooded streets in Paris, 1924” —Photo by Henry Manuel

The long line of people step from one rickety chair
to another—(Jack be nimble)—a bit of humor from
some to bolster the others—the drawn-out line of
chairs extending the long slow reach across the
flooding water—(Jack be quick)—just the perfect
solution—(Jack jump over the candlestick).



Through a bramble of desire
the life enters and absorbs
the shape and color of the need.

The distance through, lengthens.
Space separates and closes.
The air breathes through.

There is more to be. The question forms.
The bramble feels the passage of the other.
Force against force.

There is a parting as something yields
and something resists. From the outside,
all is the same and feels no effect from

this common tableau . . .
where a bramble of desire enters
and absorbs the shape and color of the need.      


After Polish Road by Jerzy Malicki

this yellow path through green woods
these pure surroundings not yet entered

the going
the arriving

the sky continuing
the world turning its timeless measuring

the way in

the way through

the way out

the entering and closing after, seamless

After Temple Garden, 1920 by Paul Klee

I find me in some Temple Garden made of
memory’s own shadow. I am not my own.
I know these paths and turnings in this time
that is long ago—triptych panels that lead

into deeper panels—voices that fade as I listen.
The orange light is pouring through the late-
ness of the day. How long have I been here?
Memory is only shadow now. Voices ring

with prayer, with lament. The orange light
burns. Footsteps fade into doorways and
passageways. The hour throbs. I have no
voice. My eyes search and my old heart aches.



(1) why number
these passages of thought
as if to dissect words
from themselves,
as if to portion them
into comprehensibilities . . .

(2) like rooms of the mind
entered and left,
roamed for their strangeness,
for the differences of their moods,
for the sharp pungencies of memories,
for the doors between images
that open and open like inspiration . . .

(3) why number these stanzas
of words
that fumble with effort
or flow into eloquence,
like silken birds
that leave their cages
and brighten the containment
of your mind-house

(4) why number such meanings
of little speeches
so they can return, in sequence,
grief after grief
since they are repetitions
looking for their own beginnings?

(5) will they remember themselves?
the shadows
have hardened into reality,
the cages
ring with lost singing.

(6) you are your own mirror
placed on every wall
reflecting and reflecting
your effort to know yourself
as you will always do
for you are never completed

(first pub. in Poets’ Guild, 1997)


These poems wrapped in tissue paper and folded
away, these faces in your mirror, these arrangements
of light, the swift passage through the room of some
cold shadow, touching you as it passes.

Whose power is it that interferes with your direction
and is it loud or mute and why must you answer any
of these questions?

No one waits for answers, least of all an explanation
one can understand or put in a saving box. The poem
is at home in its misery.

The mirror is empty; the shadow does not belong
here, and the curious will leave on cue. Come here
and help me gather up these breakings, the wrinkled
balloons and faded confetti, the particular soft in-
sinuations that rehearse themselves to death.


Our heartfelt thanks to SnakePal and Master Chef Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and pix, riffing on our current Seed of the Week: Passages. Our new SOW is This Murky Pond, inspired by the upcoming cleaning of McKinley Park pond in Sacramento. Who knows what lurks there? Or in your own “pond”, for that matter! Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for more than you can shake a pencil at! (At which you can shake a pencil…)

Today’s LittleNip(s):

I keep sailing on in this middle passage. I am sailing into the wind and the dark. But I am doing my best to keep my boat steady and my sails full.

—Arthur Ashe


We have to be able to grow up. Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.

—Lauren Hutton



 Pond Turtles, McKinley Park
—Anonymous Photo

Celebrate poetry by writing about our wildlife 
sisters and brothers! Then head over to Davis tonight to hear 
Yuyutsu Sharma and Allegra Silberstein read at the 
Universalist Church of Davis, 7:30pm. Scroll down to 
the blue box (under the green box at the right) 
for info about this and other upcoming 
readings in our area—and note that other readings 
may be added at the last minute.

For info about wildlife rescue efforts while
the McKinley pond is being cleaned (want to adopt a turtle?), 
go to

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Midsummer Night Passages

Oakscape with Deer
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Up the highway, through hills
rehabbed from wildfires we remember
all too well, through dynasties
of Ponderosa Pine and Incense Cedar;
horizons of sunrise and sunset
too far to sight on; a ridge of misplaced
hunters, of backpackers surprised
by summer snow; canyon of the boy
who tried to carve a river. We
play serious hide-and-seek with our
dogs, then peel off boots and socks,
soak our feet in some nameless creek
on the map whose scale we’ll
never fathom. A breeze might piccolo
through willow like the voice
of a friend we couldn’t save; it sounds
like the river whispering to stars
in a language not human, however
it tempts us to understand. And that
great shadow passing across
the afternoon, above us—is it the Bald
Eagle who nests by the lake?
Or that other, forest-brown garbed,
a king unrecognized yet not
in exile among us strangers in this
mountain kingdom, the Golden?

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Taylor Graham

When a full moon rises out of solstice
almost anything can happen.
I tried to cleanse house and mind

of remnants but the vacuum gave up
and still the old dog grumbled.
Will he last

till equinox? He’s lost
his equanimity, his balance,
he’s at the cusp of gone.

Give up on the house, it’s a cage,
a tinderbox.
Let the wild turkey quill guide me.

The dogs lead the way,
up the hill. Full moon rising from its
cage of branches

behind the eastern hill, that wilderness
of oak beyond so many fences.
As I climb

it rises to a perfect
Already the dogs are flying.

—Photo by Katy Brown 

—Taylor Graham

Replenish water bottle. Buckle my dog
in harness, clip-in the long line. Scent article:
“Check Mary! Track Mary!” and we’re off.
Trail through dense manzanita not far
from the Environmental Center, where city-
kids come to learn about Nature.
A child could get lost here.
Not Mary. She knows these woods,
to lead my dog a merry chase.
Uphill, we break out into clearing—porthole
on an ocean of trees to the south horizon.
And here’s a bunch of little blind girls
feeling their way…. Not blind, blindfolded.
“Around and around,” Teacher says, “in circles
till you don’t know where you came from.”
My dog threads his way through.
By scent he knows, not one is Mary.
The blindfold girls are giddy.
“Now reach out and touch something.
What is it? Can you tell without seeing?”
One girl strokes the mahogany-slick
trunk of a manzanita, its bark peeling in crisp
curls. She giggles, “It’s the apple-bush
with the pretty pink bells!” Teacher releases
her again to sight.
My dog casts among milling children,
he’s unraveling Mary’s outbound scent.
What can I do but follow
on blind trust, believing what I can’t see?

 Trek at Nine Weeks
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

(Carl says he read D.R. Wagner’s “Awakening” on Medusa's Kitchen last Saturday as a metaphor for old television commercials; Carl’s words are in italics:)

The snow crunches beneath my feet.
I had to walk over to the TV to adjust focus

I have come from the far cities;

Broadcast from major metropolitan areas

Behind my steps dreams

Cluster toward me.

Too good to be true adverstising

I have never spoken of this

Before.  Behind every door

I speak of, there is nothing.

Information presented as facts, but impossible to confirm or deny

I came to you this way.

Black and white television

It is all I have.

The same ad, over and over again 


The broadcast studio raises the volume

There is only emptiness.

It is just a commercial

The sword.  The morning.

There is only my memory.

Razor blade saturation advertising

Can you help me?
Would someone please add color, make screens bigger, and invent the remote?

Is this how we shall

Always be?

The eternal question

Keep ‘em comin’

 —Anonymous Photo

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Old Doc Terry and his
Large family lived In a house
Just off Main Street,
Middle of town, convenient for
Back door visits from patients
Who would rather not have
Their medical needs be known.

House was said
To have been designed by
A Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice
Doing a little moonlighting.
Long and low,
It certainly looked
like a Prairie School
Sort of place.

Was friends with most of Doc’s
Kids.  Even Doc and his wife
Tolerated still another precocious,
Undoubtedly pretentious
Teen about the house.

I’d explored the place fairly
Thoroughly over time—everything
Except the basement.  But
Midwestern basements
Are special places: where you
Put things never to be
Seen again; your last best
Shelter when the tornado
Came whistling down.

You had to ask to go there.
And finally my wheedling
Got to old Doc Terry, and got
Me a tour.  “I tell you, Kevin,
There’s not much down here.”
“But I’ve heard stories.”  “Yeah,
Sure.”  “Tunnels! Secret rooms!
Passages.”  “Gonna be disappointed,
Kev.”  “What’s that then?”  “Old
Coal bin.  Switched to gas long
Time ago.”  “Over there?”  I swung
The flashlight towards a promising-
Looking dark declivity.  “Ironing
Room.  See the board there?”
So disappointed not to see
An ancient catafalque, I had
To agree.  “And that passage way?”
“Just a laundry room.  No mystery.”

“And over there?  That’s a passage
Somewhere, sure.”  “Deeper, yeah,
Because it’s the old pantry.”
“And that thing on the shelf.  Are
Those fingers in there?”  Old
Doc Terry examined it carefully.
“It’s an old dill pickle jar.”
A pickle jar.


Our thanks to today’s Monday-morning chefs for some fine cookin’ in the Kitchen!

Another hot week in NorCal poetry begins today at 6pm in Placerville with a Poetry in Motion read-around, then continues at 7:30pm at Sac. Poetry Center with a reading by Himalayan Poet/Translator Yuyutsu Sharma plus our own Arturo Mantecón and open mic. On Tuesday, Yuyutsu Sharma will read with Allegra Silberstein at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Davis (7:30pm), also with open mic. Thursday is Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café in Sacramento, this week with Eva West reading Evan Myquest, plus Lee Foust and open mic (8pm). Yuyutsu Sharma reads again on Thursday, this time with Dr. Andy Jones and Allegra Silberstein at Avid Reader at the Tower, 7pm. Then he will read again at SPC’s “Asian Diaspora” on Saturday at 2pm, this time with Jassi Bassi, Rhony Bhopla, Meera Klein, and Heera Kulkarni. Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) for info about this and other upcoming readings in our area—and note that other readings may be added at the last minute.


Today’s LittleNip:

But all art is sensual and poetry particularly so. It is directly, that is, of the senses, and since the senses do not exist without an object for their employment all art is necessarily objective. It doesn’t declaim or explain, it presents.

—William Carlos Williams



Live Oak Shade
—Photo by Taylor Graham
  Celebrate poetry, and the shade it brings us 
from the summer heat!!

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Second-Hand Gloves

(Anonymous Photo)

—Galway Kinnell, 1927-2014 

Wait, for now.

Distrust everything if you have to.

But trust the hours. Haven’t they

carried you everywhere, up to now?

Personal events will become interesting again.

Hair will become interesting.

Pain will become interesting.

Buds that open out of season will become interesting.

Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;

their memories are what give them

the need for other hands. The desolation

of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness

carved out of such tiny beings as we are

asks to be filled; the need

for the new love is faithfulness to the old.


Don’t go too early.

You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.

But no one is tired enough.

Only wait a little and listen:

music of hair,

music of pain,

music of looms weaving our loves again.

Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,

most of all to hear your whole existence,

rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.


—Medusa, reminding you that California's Poet Laureate Dana Gioia and Poetry Out Loud winner Chigozie Maduchukwu will be reading at Crocker Art Museum tonight from 6-8pm as part of its Remarkable Artists series. Info and reg.:

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mornings Filled With Swords

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


I threw my heart ahead
Of me into the night,
Hoping it would light the way.

The light was very narrow.
It is, however, inscrutable.

I wasn’t born to understand
How nothing leaves and how
We are never dismissed.

I have a special verb for you
But you must wear it on your lips.

The closer we come to the center
The more unapproachable the center

A talisman, a father, one
Of your own children might
Provide light.  Please hurry before
All that can be explained
Is destroyed.



The snow crunches beneath my feet.
I have come from the far cities;
Behind my steps dreams
Cluster toward me.

I have never spoken of this
Before.  Behind every door
I speak of, there is nothing.

I came to you this way.
It is all I have.
There is only emptiness.

The sword.  The morning.
There is only my memory.

Can you help me?
Is this how we shall
Always be?

 My Finger


I have a small kingdom I would
Like to give to you.

I ask only that you read
A little further.

Please be careful.  The horizon
Waits in ambush for you.
It knows how to make words
You may recognize all too well.

I’ve used pain to build a mountain
And to be possessed by the sea.

Try not to meet too many
Others once you decide you
Want this kingdom.

It is as substantial as waking in
The middle of the night upon
The insistences of what your body

I’ll try not to let you down.
Here, I’ve carved a river
And a simple God.

 Mermaids by Brock Alexander


You may never be my lover
But I am constantly your lover.
This is as unending as gardens
Constructed in dreams, except
That I can feel your skin exactly.

My face recedes from me.
It is a caprice of tales
Begging forgiveness that they
Must be told this again and again.

I did not do this on purpose.
I supposed it would always be this way.

This feeling is huge, like Mexico
Or a carload of mirrors
Tumbling from a cliffside truck because
The road was too acute, the track muddy.

Why must you want everything?



No one speaks like this.
The dragon turns his head
To look back at the burning village.
Miles of broken mirrors.

Lions crouch around pools
Of Mercury, drinking as quickly
As they are able.

We are the last ones to remain.

There, over there, that man
Is the son of heaven.

People continue to kill
One another.

I dreamed I was correct
About everything.
I dreamed all of your fathers
And all of your mothers
At one time.

They all loved you.

 Dream Beast Garlic


They charge me money to enter them,
To learn what my body is doing.

They seem like islands and each one
Has songs unlike any other.

Even now I see Shere Kahn
Whenever I walk the streets.

My uncle Cristobal
Has promised me a ship.
Then we will visit empires.

I have been given sunrise and sunset.
I must find a place to use them.

If you join me at the top of the Red Hill
We can watch the ignorant armies
Clash by night.

How I wish we were not exiles.

 Leaf Skeleton


These dead eyes were once those
Of a king.  He would watch
The coming of the evening and hold
His queen in his arms, singing
Softly to her.  She would smile.

I know you every night that I dream.
Sometime you are the most beautiful
Of creatures.
Sometimes you are the nightmare.

You probably will never speak
My name.

Right now my skin burns
Like a morning filled with swords.

An infinity of things finds its way
Into my mouth and I am asked
To make a song of such stains.

I find myself wandering the ruins
Of Persepolis, marveling at the
Capitals of the columns.  Hearing
The roars of the the desert lion.

 Deep Dream Skull


These metal images used to
Be people long ago
Or so they tell me.

I tried stitching images of them
So time would think they were
Still among us.

Time doesn’t care about this
Kind of thing at all.  Both my
Mother and my Father are dead.

Is it always the same birds
That cross the evening after all
These centuries?  They sound
Exactly alike.

Every day I write words other poets
Have spoken and make them in my mouth.

Someone has gone into a nightclub
And has killed people for no reason but
To make them die at his hand.

Please never name the dark.  Leave it
Without any name at all.


Today’s LittleNip: 

After dream,

how real

the iris 

—Ome Shushiki (1668-1725)


—Medusa, with deep thanks to D.R. Wagner for his poems and photos today!

 Politics driving you nuts? 
Celebrate poetry today by reading Jay Parini’s article 
on the antidote to campaign madness at 

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Truth Du Jour

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


Get the truth
Get your red hot truths
Truths du jour
Truths of the day
Today's truth today
Your style of while
Your version emergin’
Too truths
Truce truths
Which truth you want
We got ‘em all
Today’s truth at today’s price
For today’s people
Step right up
Step right in it
Kleenex xtra

we are the fine print)

 The Dark Divide


Like love and money
We weave about the focus
A melody of maybe
In silent forest ritual
Growth duration flesh essence

We stand in the snow
Embrace the cold
And leave no tracks
Though we stumble
Frosted amidst redemption

I need a dollar like a dead man
Needs a coffin
Old women stare at my crotch
Suck sun in summer
Seek sin in fall

 Rainbow Coffee


Kenneth Rexroth found his muse
a floating petal in slow stream
running gentle Asian arc
between his woman's thighs.

Wallace Stevens rose unwilling
from unloving woman
to actuarial tables, champagne,
painting philosopher dust.

Bob Dylan mixed amphetamine,
coal dust, winter cold
lean and mean and bold.

Leonard Cohen went for love,
Zen guitar, droll wine women
in funeral parlor tone.

William Carlos Williams' prescription:
red wheelbarrow, dusky attic,
dancing daily in the dark.

Lady K slipstreams with All,
glad book in hand,
flux and flows with glow.

I take when and what and why I get,
grateful for any voice at all,
scramble for the word.

 Proof of Purchase


My younger brother called me One-more Smith
He said
"Every time we get ready to leave
You say
One more toke
One more line
One more glass of wine."

Now I'm 25 years sober
And he's 29 years dead.



This skeleton—
a bridge which carries flesh
from birth to death

 Safety Net


The lone train wail going somewhere whistle call
once filled my want with anywhere but here
anyone but me

This was in my youth
before military
before marriage
before prison
before divorce
before death and death and death
before sobriety and travel
and Lady and marriage
and bright sun adventure in far shadowed land
filled me with fuel and fed me with fine
made me meld me mold me mine

So now rail wail six decade down the line
no call of yearning but passing hail
from one going to done been gone

 The Man in Me


An old plow hand, I play acoustic
foreskin, hairy palms, white cane
puberty, the fish and the fingers.
Old acids etch anew my brain.
The old wants?  They still imply
unoffered breasts, often rejected.

Original sin is condition given
so the knee bores say.
Yet dark ripples still unstill light.
Small deaths linger lightly on sheets
no longer washed nor nightly scented
with reason wrinkled or raw.

 X-ray Gogs Smith


They say there's closure in the hole
but until I take that crossing
there're cobwebs in the closet
with catching flies their goal,
fine print's corrosive hint
of lies within the towers,
power's hour decaying slow
with the whole thing going sour.

Cobwebs in the closet
No closure in the hole
Past sins should first be offset
Before we slave our soul

So please soul say it isn't so
provide a more positive posit
give heart a chance to sing
eye a ruddy red rose
and ayes deeper development.

For as my wife disclosed
"Now is the flower."

We each our own self owe.

(hear “werewolf rock” by “Mutant” Smith at


Many thanks to Super-Chef Smith (Steven B. Smith) for serving us this fine poetry breakfast this morning!

Note that Himalayan Poet and Translator Yuyutsu RD Sharma will take part in a series of readings here and in the Bay Area next week. Yuyutsu Sharma is currently the Visiting Poet at Columbia University in New York, and he recently visited Argentina to participate in the Indian Poetry Festival in Buenos Aires ( In our area, he will read with Arturo Mantecón at Sac. Poetry Center on June 27, with Allegra Silberstein at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis on June 28, San Francisco and Berkeley on June 29-30, with Dr. Andy Jones, Allegra Silberstein at Avid Reader at the Tower in Sacramento on July 1, and with Jassi Bassi, Rhony Bhopal, Meera Klein, Heera Kulkarni at “Asian Diaspora” at the Sac. Poetry Center on Sat., July 2. For more info on Sharma and on these readings (and to read some of his poems), go to  See also

Interested in Int’l Poetry Festivals? Check out this list at the interesting site, World Poetry Movement:


Today’s LittleNip:


I blacken the paper
with smoke

take broken twig
scratch letters in line

hold to sun
let poem through



And celebrate poetry!
—Photo by Smith 

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Treasure Trove

 The Cat of La Méditeranée
—Today's Paintings by Balthus
(Baltusz Kłossowski de Rola, 1908-2001)
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


A tableau of color
filled in my sequences
of a Balthus dream
knowing of the artistic relationship
of Rilke's friendship as a poet
between these critical innovators
elicited in the Swiss mountains
his paintings grow in demand
in credited creator's portraits
of Alice in Wonderland
this cat or kabuki
only few acknowledging
his matured genius
or understand you
like Giacometti,
Bataille or Camus
with a mind's eye to capture
what his later celebrity brings
in his divine nurtured rapture
from the nature of things.

 The King of Cats (Self-Portrait), 1935


At old orchard
a Beat bard visiting Maine
tosses on his enfolded blanket
covering me at dawn
until the last sunset host
puts on the classical radio
next to the last
remainder-book bench
listens to a musical interlude
of an audible French soprano
as the poet reaches into the bin's
lower depth to search for ideas
in the deposit of a musical score
finding my right lyrical voice
of sheet music in a choice
of chromatic chord and time
setting for my poem
to a harmonic mood of feeling
from a context revealing
a jazz rhyme and rhythm
pledging to record a sonata
for my new composition
about Edgar Allen Poe
playing solo riffs on my sax
as we follow the hourly rising tide
on a mile-wide isle of beach
as sunshine loses direction
under the veil of a Raphael blue
pale ceiling hovering above
as dawn's clouds pass over me
in pure reflections reconciled
from all of natural creation
when Debussy is stirred
in the background
when plaudits of heavenly sound
take over a poet's words
as a small singing bluebird
sounds on beech trees
some of the wise poetry notes
in phrases of John Milton, Dryden
and Dante's paradise reach me
which welcomes my eye motes
at early sunrise as Poseidon waves
above from her passionate myth
at my laughter's attention
covering a daydream's voice
at my intention
of La Mer by Debussy
after the clarinet's echoes
leave my temperament
newly reborn out of love
with a French horn and strings
pass over violin, viola, cello
on their bridges
motioning our brave contentment
to acknowledge the sea-knowledge
without any singular boundary
along scales of a gorgeous ocean
in its tempo of colorful shapes
of humpbacked whales
as in open chorus of stars
praising creativity
in a dancing ovation of ingenuity
for all of us by an enthusiastic
five-star drum-roll rave
as the symphony's conductor
from our harmonies’ choice
of phrasing and melody
in moving the G staff and bars
of dissonance to console
in a cacophony that moves
our soul's capacity
more and more.

 The Street, 1933


We sat in the parlor
while on the piano
we played the sonata
of Mozart in D major
for two parts
and from wayfarer songs
of Gustave Mahler
composed from his heart
after being caught
by the Bay's spring rains
played some alto sax riffs
and tried my best
even as a romantic
on the sofa to relax
we sang melodies
against Sturm und Drang
and sought refrains
while we enjoy bluebirds
hanging by a hedge
near a cherry tree
knowing life is a gift
this June night
we rehearse Chekhov
of the Orchard
and in my own poetry words
of a bard's night verse
we acknowledge a kept love
even the cat slept tight.

 Still Life, 1937


June showers in a heat
fall into our picnic basket
it must have taken hours
when the barbecue flames
rose on the lawn
in the smoke by the gate
under the tent of crickets
this Sunday
we heard a Beat poet's
parched voice
fading from view
on the street between rains
reading of his experiences
in locating the names
of orphans from the Argentine
called "the disappeared"
of whom Jesus was one
were hunted and rounded up
by the military state
almost vanished
whom he saved
as a jazz brother invited
a young man who was famished
for a Spanish meal and wine
offered a kiss of peace
and we passed the plate
and he stayed overnight
until dawn.

 Girl and Cat, 1937


Paint exchanges phrases
as a poet of future tense
to deposit ready-made art
in an uninvited exhibit
from our language's sense
for society does not welcome
Duchamp's à la carte variety
thinking it shadowed solely
for faint fools or a joke
on their delighted part
as a Nude Descending a Staircase
once upon a tabled bench of rumor
arranged behind the stage
he defying all fabled ring of rules
in our century of cinematic scenes
or what is labeled a commodity
in stardust charismatic schemes
by denying all old drawing laws
with a new dramatic charter
amid the underground of humanity
of once a treasury toxic cause
in a barter sold for a modernity
from Marcel's strange
pleasure sounding manifesto
the calls of a hidden artist spoken
as if in a metaphor of dreams
until his wondrous exhibition
awoke to hit us mightier
than it seems anyone's ego
with a departing leisure of
good humorous glow
in the French neighborhood
on the cold walls of museums
only part of the viewing public
nervously understood the show.

Thérèse Dreaming


Sylvia walked in a hallway
of pained light
through the window
it was always night
living for words
always in the shadow
of living out the hour
in her poetic insight
from an already blemished day
astonished at her nerve
at a man's wrath
Sylvia moved giving flight
on her own contemporary path
from a finely shaped mind
in a new confessional school
that others hardly would find
bared to be understood
and cast out with an icy cry
of harassed laughter
wishing to write her name Plath
on the encased blackboard
rejecting all chalk sounds
that would be erased
to reinvent her past,
no one knew who
was stalked after
such was her lot and rule
recognizing her own fame
she composed by the mirror
taking out her lipstick
not realizing any blame
and shut the door.

 The Room, 1952


In a treasure trove
of living words
there is no border
to love or to define forgiving
it is already done
yet here we are in the sun
listening to Charlie Parker
deciding to explore nature
and reach a nest of birds
caught in dark branches
or here at the beach
we assure that inside
of a shell and rock
that a hurting turtle
is well protected,
we make our ways
through Platonic caves
until we motion
with a divine measure
that we will be connected
in a snorkel of wishes
through the ocean waves
to find and save the fish
from man's leaving plastic
and all sorts of nets and metal
to save part of our planet
below our earth's
geological shadow
we let go
from the diving board
and swim in our words
in a dramatic mile below
like Jacques Cousteau
surfing with
an environmental smile.


Today’s LittleNip:

I kill an ant

and realize my three children

have been watching.

—Kato Shuson (1905-1993)


—Medusa, with many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for his poetry and inspirations today.

For more about the Polish-French modern classical artist Balthus (Baltusz Kłossowski de Rola, 1908-2001), cats, and Rilke, see

To hear Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Cleveland Orchestra play Debussy’s La Mer, go to

 Celebrate Poetry!

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.