Sunday, July 31, 2016

Some Gentler Passion

—Anonymous Photo

—Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

I grieve and dare not show my discontent;

I love, and yet am forced to seem to hate;

I do, yet dare not say I ever meant;

I seem stark mute, but inwardly do prate.

I am, and not; I freeze and yet am burned,

Since from myself another self I turned.

My care is like my shadow in the sun—

Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,

Stands, and lies by me, doth what I have done;

His too familiar care doth make me rue it.

No means I find to rid him from my breast,

Till by the end of things it be suppressed.

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,

For I am soft and made of melting snow;

Or be more cruel, Love, and so be kind.

Let me or float or sink, be high or low;

Or let me live with some more sweet content,

Or die, and so forget what love e'er meant.



For more about Queen Elizabeth I and her writing, go to

 Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s Current Poet Laureate 

Celebrate Poetry!


Saturday, July 30, 2016

As Fire and Salt

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


I have the sole treasure.
It is greater than solitude.
It is pierced with music.
It has nothing to do with the moon.
It exalts as only the soul can exalt.
It magnifies both the twilight and the dawn.
It has a memory greater than that of trees.
It is more welcome than water to the thirsty.
It is as vain as death and commands all its courtesies.

I offer it to you as Abraham would offer it.
It is the book and the reader of the book.
It is the blind directing us to the light.
It does not recognize dreams as dreams.
It does not recognize you as yourself
But embraces you nevertheless.

It strokes the skin of pleasure,
Believing it is saving the world.
But does so without justification.
It returns to us as day and night return.
It opens a library of endless streets.

It marries the sea to decipher it.
And holds vigil before all mirrors.
It wearies of eternity and waits
At other crossroads, weaving beyond language.
It becomes lost irreparably, spilling from our hands
As fire and salt, as all who have loved us.

 Bitter Melon
Chinese Demonstration Garden, Locke
Cultivated by D.R. Wagner and Stuart Walthall


We have swans.  It is soon
After midnight.  They are restless,
Rustling their huge white wings
In the moonlight.  The stars are doing
Things we do not expect, like pebbles
Blowing against a bell.

Fireflies trail in the sky.  They spill
Across the night like noise but
Do not carry sound for their dances.
We can barely see the mountains.
We decide to build our own fire.

The swans begin making patterns
In their swimming.  I begin to hope
For rain.  You said you would return
During the rains.  It has been much too
Long.  A sadness sits on the edge
Of the pool where the swans keep
Their secrets.  The city lights bounce
In the water’s reflection.  There are
Rock shadows across my hands.
I can pick tears from my cheeks.

I will tell myself this is some kind
Of photograph, a mouth that can
No longer speak like the farewells
The tempest allows us as it passes
Through our bloodstream attracting
Flock after flock of these white swans. 



The whole house was a room.
It had walls but there were never doors.
Someone was singing in Gaelic,
Dan Nar Narbh, with a dry stringed instrument
Walking behind the lyric, helping the words
To mean.  I could see people moving inside
The place through the windows.  The glass
Looked like skin that had just begun to grow
Back after a terrible injury to the body, not quite
Transparent, but enough so that one could see
The blood moving just below the surface.

Lights in the dark.  When she spoke she
Sounded like the Twelfth century.  No one
Spoke like that today.  It sounded like
Clay and handfuls of salt except for the lament
And the Alleluia she repeated every so often.
Others mumbled it under their breath.
They were armed with decorated knives.

We had a request when we came here.
The women understood perfectly our need
For paper but the men feared we might
Bring spirits down if we made any marks
On the stuff.  They would not meet our eyes.

We placed ladders straight up in an open
Field and began to climb them.  The ones
Who reached the top disappeared from view
Completely.  They asked if we were angels.
We were not.  We explained we spoke
Using clouds and could make Duan Chroi Losi,
A little song to the heart.  They understood the Gaelic.

We began to ring the hand and finger bells.
The birds came to the edge of the clearing
To listen to us.  The house seemed to pulse
As if it were a place one could actually live in.

We waited until it was all dark around us.
Then we rained, slowly at first but finally
A long cold downpour that lasted for days.
By the time the sun returned we had left
That country.  It is said we can be found
In particular tales that have nothing to do
With our purpose.  None have been translated
From the Gaelic, but they are often sung.

 Hulu Gwa (gourd)


Strings dance in the air.  There is a blur
In the heart.  It is as if the night had a skull
And eyes to see approaching ships.

A book of engravings, lost in a room,
In a great house.  It carries on conversations
With the dead.  We become witnesses
Without knowing why anything other
Than dreams would have such a language
Attached to it.  We resolve to make dust of it.

Still, I will stop to listen to a few more birds
Caught here in this universe where strings
Twist and interlace, seemingly without purpose.
I will consider all enigmas, all wandering spirits,
Without purpose except to put us on the very edge
Of some mythology that prompts us to speak
In hells such as this, looking for an intricate
Fire, left to be used by nightingales.

This will be an exultation of memory,
The fault of words not used previously
By the dark, never heard by Keats, a liquid
Song, straining to be heard, then a breeze,
Then, strain as we may, nothing.



The rider locked on the carousel.
The inability to show motion
While the whole of the day
Remains overcast and gray.

Night not so much coming
As it is attached to the moments
With an adhesive tape
Not found in the imagination at all.

The voices come together like parentheses
Gathered into a bag along with peppers,
Cauliflower, containers of tofu,
Cat food and paper products
Separated from each other
In yet smaller bags, chapters
Of a novel, the folds are screens
Set up to divide a room
Or perform a service that proclaims
The imagination while showing us
Images of the old Battersea Bridge,
Architectural drawings, collections
Of West Indian bird skins and hundreds
Of picture postcards decoupaged
To pretend a language of exploration.

We find ourselves opening and closing
Our mouths, obstructing what
Might be seen clearly
As a collection of jars and wheelbarrows,
West-running brooks and songs
Of the self.  Changes of melody
Attaching themselves to any object
They may choose, hoping the song
Will still be understood
After the parties have fled the room.

 D.R. Wagner and John Dorsey
July, 2016


A murmur of birds.
They are taking down the stars one by one.
Like coins they tumble into the lake, forgotten,
Unforgotten.  Unburdening themselves
From an incalculable mythology.

Erasing symbols, nurturing and needless
As sirens are to nightingales,
As drunk is to the moon.

I wait by the water.  Little by little
I begin to no longer recognize myself,
Except as tigers and tigers and tigers
Searching the streets where forever has been lost
Irreparably.  Things become transparent.
People slip away or escape
Deep into the waters of the bay.

They have forgotten their form.
They have forgotten what sparse language they owned.
They have forgotten the weight of consciousness,
The unrelenting memory, the petite charm of the garden,
The mirrored pool below the fountain,
So secret and necessary.

The flowers, silent now.  The stars beneath the water,
Wavering, now vermilion, now yellow.
I recall the vague dreams of children,
Sights along the road.

I decide this must be a journey.
I dive into the water to be with the stars.
I will wash this dust from me
And begin another universe.


Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine work, despite his illness. He writes: "I have been in the ER twice this week and will undergo surgery on Tuesday with a rather long recovery (6-7 weeks). They have to rebuild my urethra. I'll be at UC Davis Med Center in Sacramento. This last week has been mostly extreme pain and lots of blood. I am sending you work from A Punctuated Equilibrium that was published earlier this year online in Canada. Some of these appeared in the Kitchen. This will have to do, as I have not been well enough to write much… I should be back within a month or so." We'll be thinking about you, D.R.!


Today’s LittleNip:

I hung the moon on various
branches of the pine




(a little urethra humor for D.R.)

Celebrate poetry today by heading over to the 
Three Penny Emporium in Sac., 7:30pm, for 
the theatrical release of Gene Avery’s Death by Deer Rifle
or by driving down to Pacifica to help Katy Brown 
and Sandy Thomas read and celebrate Katy’s birthday at 
Florey’s Book Co., 7:30pm. Scroll down to the blue box 
(under the green box at the right) for info about these and other 
 upcoming readings in our area—and note that other events
 may be added at the last minute.

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

Friday, July 29, 2016

Finding Poke-Poem-On

Lilith by Kiki Smith
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
—Poems by Neil Fulwood, Nottingham, UK
—Photos by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento, CA



I haven’t slept. My watch has stopped.
I found Keats at the bottom of someone’s garden.
Their dog made a challenge
for rights of capture. I’m not sure
when I ate last. I found Clare in a wood
where the bluebells were like pixels.
There’s a map on my iPhone screen
that doesn’t tell me where I am. I found Shelley
under a pile of mulch in a small allotment.
A fox made itself scarce in a motion blur of auburn
and I thought I might find Hughes. But
I was disappointed. I can’t remember
where I found Wordsworth and Tennyson.
It might have been near water. It’s cold
and there are clouds that look like dark angels.
I found Auden in a lay-by, crouched
behind an articulated truck. My battery life
is diminishing. I found Larkin in a library.
The “silence please” Nazis hounded me
with their ssshhh ssshhh ssshhh even though
I was only talking to myself. Flaps of leather
have peeled back from my shoes. I think my feet
are bleeding. I haven’t eaten. I haven’t slept.

 Two Windows, Point Arena, California


Things are better now. The last shred
of white entitlement gone
with the outgoing tide.

An end to the two-man class system,
the strutting ownership
of a shipwrecked Englishman.

Palm leaves no longer double
as parasols over outdoor tables
at an imaginary gentleman’s club.

This island has been purged of gentlemen.

 Twin Tails, San Francisco


The guy on the Alaska railroad show
squeezes between hundred-ton freight cars,
freeing the handbrakes, ready
for three diesel locos to take up the strain
and inch a few million dollars of cargo
out of the rail yard. Snow’s coming down
like powder-coated razorblades
and he takes a moment to grin at the camera:
“I like to go home with everything I came with”
is what he offers by way of risk assessment.

My job is unmanly. The best I could give
to a film crew slavering for gory details
is “I like to go home without a paper cut”,
or “yuh, a day without my pen
leaking into the breast pocket of my shirt,
that’s a good day”. I need a career change.
I’m wondering about ground floor opportunities,
how much I’d have to bulk up,
where to send my CV.

 Gualala Beach Trail, Gualala, CA


WMD—that's a nice acronym
I'll be with you whatever
Saddam Hussein—let's topple him
I'll be with you whatever

Fill the news with rhetoric about I-raq
I'll be with you whatever
We've got the guns and each other's back
I'll be with you whatever

We've got the missiles, the tanks, the planes
I'll be with you whatever
All those oilfields waiting to be drained
I'll be with you whatever

The ground troops are ready to be deployed
I'll be with you whatever
We'll sort the dead from the men and the boys
I'll be with you whatever

For God and country and Lockheed Martin
I'll be with you whatever
For approval ratings and profit margins
I'll be with you whatever

 End of Trail, Gualala, CA


Our thanks and welcome back to Neil Fulwood from over the pond, who writes that he is sending us poems, “including a couple inspired by recent events in the media. I find I’m writing in a very satirical vein at the moment, but with the world seeming to get crazy and more unstable every day, maybe humour is the best response.” Ma-doo-zee hears ya, bro… And congrats on being the first to send in a poem about the Pokemon Go craze! Neil was featured in the Kitchen on June 24, 2015.


Today’s LittleNip:

Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidly to pure wind.

—George Orwell



 —Celebrate poetry by heading down to the 
Three Penny Theater, 1723 25th St., Sacramento 
tonight and/or tomorrow, 7:30pm, for the theatrical 
release of Gene Avery’s new book, Death by Deer 
Rifle (a love story from the fringe), hosted by 
Red Alice’s Poetry Emporium/Bill Gainer and 
 starring Martha Omiyo Kight, JT O’Dochartaigh, 
Kellie Yvonne Raines & Dean Shellenberger. Free. 
(Sorry, Gene, that I didn’t know about this sooner.) 
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 
events may be added at the last minute.

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Remants of Our Risk and Hope

Tuna-Fishing, 1967
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Paintings by Salvador Dali, 1904-1989


Along the promenade
there is a Sunday band
and prominent parade
yet a poet sits alone hidden
on a bench amid the July air
in the gazebo's shade of breeze
reading Baudelaire in French
alongside the sandy beach
near the park's well and spouts
hearing the boys play bocce
reaching for the ball
with overwhelming shouts
he's wondering about
the chorus of singing birds
feeding on daily bread
their wings open near
tree leaves and branches
wondering what is it all about
while the pigeons in the sun
by the riverbed follow
with only a shadow in the shade
of the coiling pavilion
as sparrows drink in
without any lonely sorrowful words
or vision of doubt for tomorrow.

 Landscape with Butterflies, 1956


We played a trio and quartets
every weekend in adolescence
with Mozart and Beethoven
in our own obedience of notes
of brisk con brio
then with a slower movement
interwoven in our parts
as our own advertisement
of getting a musical share
in the remnants of our risk and hope
with a memory of being taught
knowing our musical history
as sought to be lyrically aware
from an older world of Europe's
lyrically aware as we played
under a nightshade shed
by the hot oak trees
near the cold riverbed
then we spoke in poetry
of Keats, Yeats,
Eliot and Pound's words
or we were said to be reborn
by the innocent bird sounds
which we heard by morn
we learn of nature's
rheumatic and romantic notes
from the magic lantern
of innumerable meteors
recollecting our fiery quotes
yearning to be a composer
discerning in our own rights to jazz
sub rosa under the sharp and flat bars
as playing our new sax riffs
under the flowering lights
a wind stirs over green grass
as we drink tea from a samovar
reaching for our tall glass
staring at the full moon and stars
transfixed under the breeze
having a mixture of salad
with vanilla
and Russian kvass
thinking of those few nights
visiting at Akhmatova's dacha
we are the devotion for nature,
it seems in these night hours
that only our unspoken dreams
will pass pardon and shimmer
from unbroken memory
in our culture
as the garden flowers.

 Lobster Telephone, 1938


We always wrote
manifestos in the snow
the now was always Beat
invading the hallways
of our photos of verse
noted in the underground
willing to be wondrously free
from Frisco to Manhattan
in the sounds of our feet
we danced in the countryside
in a free-spirited pattern
and endured by our poetic words
not selling our commodity
of our unquoted surplus
but to be human memory
playing our cool sax riffs
with smooth jazz of reverie
or in the sunflower garden
reading Pierre Reverdy
relaxed amid the chorus of birds.

 Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around
a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, 1944


in jazz
with animated tempo
as a boy
in the setting sun
marching with his aunt
of lines in a row
carrying fresh croissants
to a gig at the Savoy
as I'm asked to play piano
though only seven
with notes shaped
in colorful rhyme
and logarithm's rhythm
play my blue heaven.

 Bacchanale, 1939


Brown, brown on a wounded elm
once tangled with dried leaves
wrapping you in garden hours
amid days of snowy shadows
spawned with Spanish whiteness
enduring as the winter's sun
shadows accumulate
your mustache and blue beret
then vanish in the soft night air
reminding ourselves
by earthy flamenco
that art captures circling dunes
with dancing grotesque indifference
hunchbacked by a canvas-light flare
immobile from sleeplessness
staring at stems of paper flowers
Dali's day combing though
metamorphoses of green.

 Salvador Dali and his Mustache


Connecting landscape
in a time of change
you resolve to take part
into images of the initiate
where you mentor in your folio
an ageless generation or more
intense to transfigure the silence
with the spirit of an awakened dream
for your hands paint anew
on a canvas and conscience
enlightened as if light appears
after the faint silent snow
living by a sky's blue window
waking him as if you were a poet
by a language's surprise shadow
at his century's art to insure
with a span at the risk of sorrow
expanding of old forms
having formulas of a manifesto
the way words in language do.

 Head Exploding, 1951


By way of exile
you think beyond borders
of secret machinations
in your many scarred lives
until you reach us
with rolled-up art sleeves
in new canvas experimentation
for art is not mistaken
in a futurist new world
to be taken only as abstract
as you revolutionized
your speckled visions
of music-scattered language
hovering inside five acts
birth, talent, color fields,
a fringed travel map, new horizon
your voice expanding
to make us human
if our memory holds up
beneath a dark historical time
breathing in astral justice
of a four-seasoned trial
a frozen stranger to America
without second howl of guessing
enters your icy moonstone directions
in a moment's gaze to thrive
for our modern art reflections
as now your chosen destination
from your ironic era archives
eyes chimeras of light
masks a solitary wind
of a visionary kind
as an owl of the night.

 The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, 1954


The empty-space canvas
invites a silence of the surreal
as you travel through Dada eyes
in a multi-colored venture
from stone-cold hands
in geometric hallucinations
dreams, formulas, alchemy
with only paint as love
admitting the sky
as the Seine colors him
from a child in a sailor suit
time keeps moving wishes
with an exiled passport
the sea becomes earthy
to the shore waves
the boy climbs
over laughing cuttlefish
of a silken screen
only by another light
at this open-art echo.


Today’s LittleNip(s):

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

—Edgar Degas


Art is a step from what is obvious and well-know toward what is arcane and concealed.

—Khalil Gibran


My role in society, or any artist or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.

—John Lennon


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s fine poems!

For more about Salvadore Dali, go to

 Celebrate poetry tonight by heading down to Luna’s Cafe to
hear Cynthia Linville reading, 8pm. 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 events 
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, July 27, 2016

Moon Imaginings and the Grunion Run

—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan, Fair Oaks, CA

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

The Poet-Sage of moon reflected on the water
had me wondering, how many dreams
does it take to lubricate the friction of the moon?

Instead, you drove us up the mountain.
You promised me a rare and endangered bird.
The moon disappeared behind a ridge.

We made camp, rolled out sleeping bags,
and waited dusk till dawn. It was Sierra-cold.
At first light, you pointed high up a tree,

a massive bundle of sticks and branches—
nest of the Bald Eagle. Already two fishermen
were casting across the lake, and the great

bird herself grabbing fish-snacks to feed
her young. I looked through your binoculars.
In the midst of sticks and leaves, could I

see a fuzz-feathered head peeking over the nest’s
edge? I thought about the poet’s moon
reflected on reservoir; low-energy light but

still electric as the maybe-sighting of a rare,
endangered eaglet about to take wing—
one of these days—and fly. It’s what poets do.

 First Watermelon
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

—Taylor Graham

That year I fell in love
with Middle High German, Minnesang
under the heart-shaped leaves
of Linden, Tandaradei!
Was it blue-flame eyes of the singer
or the name of the man who
composed the song, medieval poet
of the bird-meadow?
The shadow of fifty years
has passed between, a Jugend-
meadow with its stream
dancing through, singing
of a September that would fade
in Rhenish fog and the ancient halls
of Literaturkritik. Shall I
translate its music, its Bach to “stream”
or “brook”? Meadow-
words in a language unchanged
by centuries. Tandaradei!
Minnesang under the Linden is love.

—Photo by Taylor Graham 

—Taylor Graham

Dregs of sunset red as cabernet;
then dark. The phone rang. “You still have
those hens? I’ll be right over.” So late?
Our chickens had gone to bed. Easier
to catch now, I guess. Rhode Island Reds
who quit laying quite awhile ago.
You had no gumption for beheading, nor
I for plucking three old stewing hens.
We put up ads at the feed stores. And now,
a pair of headlights wavered up the last stage
of our tricky drive. Old battered pickup.
A man no longer young climbed out
in rancher’s hay-pitch suit, fetched a big
cardboard box from the bed. I led the way
to the dark barnyard, he carried the box.
Our old hens, fast asleep. He deftly lifted one
out; into the box. Then another.
Searched under cobwebs, found the third.
All loaded in his truck. He thanked us,
promised a good home for our girls.
Praised the beauty of chickens in a yard,
reminders of his childhood home.
Quoted the clever Beecher limerick.
Handed us his card. A banker? How often
I’ve dissed them. But even bankers
can be homesick for an old feathered hen.

 Barn Self-Portrait
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

The same old sun rises—
does it matter if it’s just climbed mountains,
or sailed across an ocean to get here?
The same moon looks down on loneliness
or wonder. Our red-flag wind is cousin
to the brickfielder, and well-water in a new
place may taste a little strange, but she
gets used to it; it slakes a dry throat
just the same. Homesick?
She’ll tell you, only for the once-
long stride of two good legs,
and how her fingers used to fly,
tying a bowline, or touching the reins
just so—and now they can’t
thread a needle, so she lets the sewing lie.

 Sun on Thistle
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—David Wright, Sacramento

Childhood was both ideal and a
Living nightmare.
The task of selfhood escaped me so that instead of
Saying I was a shy kid or loud kid or a mean kid or a nice kid,
I was all of them on different days and places, from
Hour to hour or minute to minute.
In middle school when I encountered six periods,
Six different teachers and different groups of students,
I presented a different personality to each class.
As an adult too, unity of self, of a social self, eludes me.
This makes it tough for others who never know what they'll get.
What made me laugh yesterday now pisses me off.
You get my friendly smile, get up for a beer, come back to my scowl.
Who likes that?  I know I don't.
People like that are jerks.

 Serious Ed's Tomatoes
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

—David Wright

He said all chess players are artists.  
Then he presented a urinal as art.
I love chess but am very average.
I like to think my writing is better, but...

As a kid my father took the family out to the beach to see
The "grunion run."
It's a pretty good show, have you been?
Iridescent little fishes on the beach.
Big waves cracking and you wonder how these
Delicate-looking fish survive in that world.
We'd scoop some up and have a fish fry.

When the fourth quarter began they'd let us in for free.
A few hundred of us kids would charge into the L.A. Coliseum to watch the
Rams.  My hero was
David "Deacon" Jones, #75.
I loved his "head slap" and used it myself in my own games, but that's
Like saying saying I loved Ali's jab, and used it in my own fights.
Ya, right!
They get called "the greats" for a reason.

My father was a sports writer.
He covered boxing, and so I got to see some pretty big fights.
I'd hang around the gyms where I picked up some skills.
I had a good straight-right.
"A puncher's chance", they'd say.
Skilled fighters would carve me up pretty good.
If they'd put us both in a phone booth instead of a ring...
I fought amateur, won four, lost four, with two draws.  Heavyweight.
My father wanted me to turn pro but....
That was the Oedipus Complex talking.

 Mt. Tamalpais Moss
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

—David Wright

The machinery of this micro society was going full tilt,
No let-up due to rashes, gashes, punctures, or crushed egos.
Death was always right around every corner.

A day off.  A box full of the sweetest candies.

Back at work, behind the walls, under the guns.
I find bloody shoes in a bucket in a cell.
That cell's inmate (think of the helmet's head),
Had by now left the cell block for his job in the wood shop.
I see a trail of blood from the shoes that leads out of the cell to the tier.
The trail leads down the stairs to the first tier, then to a cell.
Inside the cell I find a dead man and a scene of horror.
I blow my whistle to sound the alarm, and dash in as if I might save him.
Later the docs said he was stabbed seventy-seven times.
He's carted off on a steel gurney, obviously dead, damned near decapitated.
From inside his cell you could see a sign he hung above his cell door,
"God Bless All Who Enter Here."

Being a rookie guard, the sergeant ordered me to clean the cell.
Said "Welcome to SQ", and handed me a mop.
Inmate block workers do the cleaning in cell blocks, but
State regs won't allow them to have to clean a crime scene.
No argument from me with that, but still, it was tough duty.
Lost my lunch.  Blood on every wall, and I had to get a
Step-stool for the ceiling.
That was San Quentin in the ’80's.
That was my first week on the job.

 —Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

—David Wright

If asked what movie best depicts
Jesus, I'd say go watch Nicholson as
Randle Patrick "Mac" McMurphy.
And I'd add that Louse Fletcher as
Nurse Mildred Ratched is as good a
Satan as you'll find.
Having said this, having offered this qualification, I
Am almost ready to admit to you that
I am a Christian.
Let me add though that to me,
Those who say the earth is 6,000 years old, or that
Man walked with the dinosaurs, are close to psychotic.

I believe in science.

I wear a cross, always tucked inside.
One of the first uses of the cross as symbol was when
Constantine had crosses melded onto the Roman spear-heads.
Much innocent blood was spilled.
Unthinkable carnage and sin has been done from behind the cross.
In wearing one you must own that, you must bear the darker shadows of history
To be worthy to also feel the life loving, the eternal hope it also stands for.

Let it be known that "Jefferson's Bible" will suffice for me in place of the
New Testament, and that I call the older book the Jewish Bible.
Jesus was a Jew.
Paul was a Jew.
Poor Paul, he never read the instruction of Jesus to first
Purify your self before judging others.
Know that with his writings.

Let it be known that I nominate Charles Bukowski,
Sylvia Plath, and David Lerner for sainthood!

I could go on but the
Snake is only asked to shed one skin at a time.
With what I have said, let me finally confess, painfully so,
I am a Christian.
(Keep this between us.)

 Mt. Tamalpais
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

Today’s LittleNip:

The end of spring—
the poet is brooding
about editors.

—Yosa Buson


—Medusa, with our thanks to today’s fine contributors!

 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, July 26, 2016

Oh, My House...

—Poems and Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


House woman smiles
through her heart which is
worn on the outside of her dress.

The lines of her dark merge with
the yellow walls of her home,
all in a pleasant vertigo.

She is falling slow.  She leans
to catch her hand against the air.
Just in time.  She changes her mind

and begins to hum.
The hours glide by on a reel.
She is nowhere new.

She is just there
in the midst of her collections—
letting them be her reason to not go.

(first pub. in The Confluence [Broadside], 1997,
from One Dog Press)


I am the deaf woman in the House of the Bell, the
one who can no longer hear the old reverberating
tones, but must feel the bell’s un-tolling with every
nerve of my body and in the sensation of my bones. 
I am positioned here like a martyr to tell you when
the very airwaves grow back to their own relief. 
And even as my silence reaches you, you must find
your own.  I am the glare when you look up to see
what you suddenly notice is gone.  I am the stoic
one in blinding silhouette, standing in wrinkled white
against the flat white sky that goes birdless and lonely. 
No longer the one who screams for silence, I am the
spectre of silence now.  The dependency of the bell
will prove that over and over.  The bell is the mute
one here.  I give it its voice—the clangorous music
it utters when I honor my old contracts of doom at
certain hours of certain religious or fatal notifications.



in her front yard
the flock flew down
and listened to her singing

and when she stopped
they flew away
she cried

(first pub. in No Name Newsletter for Poets,

(for Anna—1929)

The scene is wide-dimensioned—a-tilt, the sidewalk
curving past the lawn back to the house, the house
shock-white—the top floor window open and the
record flying out of it to land at the feet of the child.

Just that—no voices come down through the stark-
white memory—the house sharp-white against a pale
blue heaven—the monotonous song of the record bro-
ken, and the shocked house drawing back its tantrum.

(first pub. in Bogg)


Oh my house,

with your
black staircase
and mute windows

your supplicant roof 
and walls that squeeze in—
your doors that open and close


I love the way you float in the sky
at night
when the stars surround you

and anchor to earth
by day
with the secrets you tell yourself.

I know how old you are
in your comfort and strain—
in all your containment, oh, my house.


I took to the sorrow like a love,
gave it my illegible promises,
went with it to its loneliness,
where I stayed.

It built a house for me,
made of old wounds,
made of windows filled with tears,
brimming with distortion.

How I loved those views: great refractive
sunrises and sunsets.  But it refused me
a door, locked me in with it, to hold
each other as though only we existed.

One day the sorrow abandoned me,
took the windows with it—left me
nothing.  There was a small note
on a dissolving table.  It said goodbye.

Each night the waves come up
and cover my house, corrode it with salt,
pull back what they want of it, leaving me
this dry beach of combed sand.

(first pub. in Thorny Locust, 2003)


Lazy, the dog-ghost, lay in the violet garden for years
while time moved on and left him dreaming whatever
dogs dream.  The lawn chairs wavered in the dream-light
as shadows played themselves along the blue ground
and tugged at their legs and lifted into the shallow
breathing of the dog.

The trees manipulated themselves into whispers, so
private you knew you were eavesdropping.  Blue came
to rest against some quiet rendering of darkness—some
stable image that could hold itself captured outside of
time—that nothing to return to.

And you wondered what you were doing there—
painted-in by some dead artist who put you in as an
afterthought, who you had reminded of someone—
perhaps the owner of the dog, though you were not
even sure of your presence there.

The old dog dreamed all this into place: the soft blue
whispering in the trees; the false solidity of light;
the creeping texture of shadow where you began to
softly vanish and the startled leaves caught in the air
in blue daubs of motion.


I will leave the house to its music
knowing how the house will love

to have music all to itself
how it will settle back and listen

—all day if I am gone that long
how the rooms will fill

with soft reverberations
and crescendo.

And if I could, I would stay
in the house with the music today.

(first pub. in Rattlesnake Review, 2007)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s poems and pix about the Secrets in the Attic (our last Seed of the Week)—and elsewhere in her house. Our new Seed of the Week is Homesick, taking a clue from this next poem by Joyce. 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 SOWs than at which you can shake a pencil.

Unfortunately, another poet, Pat Pashby, has passed away. Don Feliz writes: "The Pashby family asked me to inform poet-friends of Pat Pashby that she died in her sleep on 7/21/2016. Until about 3 days prior to death, she had a comfortable and active life quality for eleven months, thanks to hospice, No memorial services are planned."

Our condolences to you, Don, and to Pat’s family, for her passing.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

the way to hold against sunshine
no matter how real the
passing of hours

old beaks pecking in the rain
not that we have ever lost the sea
we keep the hunger clean

(first pub. in Contemporary Quarterly, 1980)



 Celebrate poetry—and libraries!

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, July 25, 2016

Poems in the Attic

"Blue Eyes" by Elyse Marinos
Honorable Mention, Cal. State Fair, 2016
—Photos today are by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Cynthia Linville

Send me dead flowers by the mail
Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I won't forget to put roses on your grave
      —The Rolling Stones, “Dead Flowers”

This is what happens
when all our exes start dying:

we lose track of the truth
we slip out of the consequences

Shall we open the door for these ghosts
let them speak?

Leave it to me

Turn out the lights

Hold my hands

We won’t give in to any unreasonable demands


—Cynthia Linville
the only thing he ever learned
from his father

He doesn’t want to pray that prayer

He thinks maybe he can just be a hermit

He thinks maybe he can hold still enough
to listen to the rain
to the chant of tires on the freeway

Still enough to stop nibbling on these bitter seeds

He wants to give away nothing—
not one glimpse
not one peep

 "Wizard of Oz" by Johanna Borrelli
Third Place, Cal. State Fair, 2016

—Cynthia Linville
There is a tire swing tied to an old Eucalyptus in the backyard

I swing on that swing till my feet are higher than the sand dunes, higher than the branches

Then I let go

I sail into the sky like a human airplane

I fly over the dunes, over the beach

My feet softy touch water

I glide

I walk on the waves out far, far, far to a distant rock in the sea

I knock on a small door in that rock

A witch with long white hair answers the door,
invites me inside for fragrant tea

*   *   *

Today I’m out driving around, looking for that house

I think maybe I can find it

 "Happypotomus" by Kathy Naughton
First Place, Cal. State Fair, 2016

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

It was an old house,
And probably haunted.
There had been
A murder/suicide
In the cellar,
So no one was anxious
To really look in the attic.
Just before we moved
I decided to check.
Only a water tank
And one tiger eye button.
Didn’t think to look
In the water tank.
Discretion is often best.

Guitar by Brittany Brazil
2nd Place, Cal. State Fair, 2016

Regarding the Eagle 96.9 station they play where I workwith no apologies to Bob Seager:
“I wanna hear some new rock and roll—
not to put down “old” rock music of you baby boomers—
but I’m sick of hearing those same songs you play repeatedly over and over
Today there are those who know how to play the good old-school style blues or funky soul
but I won’t hear them on your radio station
oh yeah, that's because you only play what you're paid to
but a lot of these musicians for your commercial promotion likely don’t have the bankroll
I wanna hear some new rock and roll
because I’m a Generation X’er whose not a relic, old-fashioned, nor over the hill
I prefer to live in the present instead of reminisce on the past
I constantly wanna find some new artists to listen to
much like I always want experience new tastes with my tongue
only, like food, to feed my ears and stimulate my brain 
I want songs I can possibly store on the memory of my MP3 player or my phone
I wanna hear some new rock and roll in this 21st century
For that I wish I knew better some cool places in town to go
I’d like to be a regular at such venues
I also really have no sentiments when listening to scratched-up vinyl
I’ll listen to the sounds of the oldies digitally remastered 

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

 "Eve" by Geoffrey Nelson
Best of Show, Cal. State Fair, 2016

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

Should I have wanted you pragmatic, nay, glum
as students tend to think their chances are?
Then have warned you anti-idealistic, numb
to all those poems, that music, the distant stars,
those brilliant numbers, crowding your mind with spins?
I wish you not to lose one lunar orb.
I hope your impetuous head won’t swim with sins,
gigantic bold fantasies you can’t reabsorb.

Right here I’m supposed to clinch my prior thought,
remind you, ambassador: when you proclaim intent
to lead your generation, help all Earth,
you’re courting grandiosity, you ought
to dream far less. My horizon, my event,
you’re starshine in skin. I witness your human birth.

 "Puttin' On the Ritz" by Judy Sheets
First Place, Cal. State Fair, 2016

—Tom Goff

What is it about the dad of the lovely daughter
who lit the bright flame he insists is ugly mud?
Can father slime defile clear filial waters?

What makes the daughter of this not unique father
bruise under hand-me-down word-fists from dad?
What is it about the dad of the lovely daughter?

The vulnerable ones, all emery men sand softer.
His blunt speech connects with her lip: it tastes of dread.
Can father slime defile clear filial waters?

He spurns his own amazon package—has he bought her?
Rejection venom inflicted, who’s infected?
What is it about the dad of the lovely daughter?

Didn’t the father slime who shames her beget her?
What spring runs unmixed with dirt, salt, sulfur, lead?
How do vile rivers father the clearest water?

Will she break free the honey vein lost in the boulder?
The dad she loved dove into a pit for dead.
No father slime poisons, forever, her pure water.
How is it a cruel dad fathers a lovely daughter?


—Tom Goff
What if my fear of mounting to the attic
means chain-mail denial, subconscious enigmatic?
What is it I dread? The ladder to the Attic,
to trauma, deed by deed to eyes pierced tragic?
Or does my life stack up as non-Socratic
snapshots, my epic these mildewed Geographics?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Phil Weidman

One of the brightest lights
of our community of poets
just went out, leaving the
rest of us to grope for
stability in the darkness.

I'll be joining you before
too long where the light
remains bright forever
and forever, dear friend.


Our thanks to today’s Monday Morning Chefs in the Kitchen; it’s good to hear from Phil Weidman, who has been ill of late. Check out Cynthia Linville’s “Calif. State Fair at Night” photo album on Medusa’s Kitchen’s Facebook page, and note that she will be reading at Luna’s Cafe this coming Thursday, July 28, and at Avid Reader at Tower on Sunday, Aug. 7.

Got a reading coming up? Send poems to and we’ll use them to advertise your event in Medusa’s Kitchen! Or send poems for posting just for the heck of it—the Kitchen door is always open. Someone mentioned that they didn’t know where to send poems; in case you didn’t see it in the blue box at the very top of this column (and elsewhere), Medusa’s secretary is

This week’s festivities begin with Molly Fisk and Randy White at Sac. Poetry Center tonight, 7:30pm, or the Poetry in Motion read-around in Placerville from 6-7pm. On Thursday, Cynthia Linville will read (on Taylor Graham’s birthday) at Luna’s Cafe, 8pm, and Saturday will feature Sandy Thomas and Katy Brown (on Katy’s birthday) in Pacifica by the sea at Florey’s Book Co., 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 events may be added at the last minute.

About our Seed of the Week, Secrets in the Attic, Kevin Jones comments about Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House, writing: "Jeffers & family, by the way, slept in what could be considered Tor House’s attic. Hmm. Could be a poem there..."

Yes, Kevin—there is a poem EVERYwhere. All we have to do is find it...



 Celebrate poetry by checking out “50 Best Poetry Books for Kids”  
See also “Serious Play: Reading Poetry with Children” 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.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Secret

—Anonymous Photo

—Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

Secrets, you said, would hold us two apart;
You'd have me know of you your least transgression,
And so the intimate places of your heart,
Kneeling, you bared to me, as in confession.
Softly you told of loves that went before—
Of clinging arms, of kisses gladly given;
Luxuriously clean of heart once more,
You rose up, then, and stood before me, shriven.

When this, my day of happiness, is through,
And love, that bloomed so fair, turns brown and brittle,
There is a thing that I shall ask of you—
I, who have given so much, and asked so little.
Some day, when there's another in my stead,
Again you'll feel the need of absolution,
And you will go to her, and bow your head,
And offer her your past, as contribution.

When with your list of loves you overcome her,
For Heaven's sake, keep this one secret from her!




Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Friction of the Moon

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


The boys played the fire game all night.
They would crowd in close to the fire,
Catching their hair on fire and then trying
To beat the fire out before it ran down
Their back and became blue flames
Of electrical energy which sprayed
From their bodies.  They were quite
Good at the game and kept it up for hours.

I noticed the game attracted tigers.
They thought it was holy and that it
Soothed anguish for them.  I can still
See the blood on their teeth as they circled
‘Round and ‘round the boys, making soft noises
And taking the form of dreams.  They would
Try to catch the blue flames that endured
Around their circle for hours and then vanished.

I don’t sleep much with you in my blood.
I wish to hold you close to me, sleep
With my arm around you, listen to your breathing.

All eight dharmapals stand guard around me.
They tell me that I am a temple and that I
Am making songs that sound like temple
Bells.  Eventually, you will come to me.

The evening reflects the dawn in its special
Mirrors.  All kinds of things endure beyond
Our own lives that never knew we existed.

 Corn at Dusk, Locke


Your heart in all its splendor.
Your soul magnifies the perfection
Given to it by the children of the angels.

Mayhem departing by train,
Bound for fire in the high mountains
Where few know its name, can identify
The curious clothing it wears on its way
To destruction, a dissolution of purgatory.

What do we eat that calls John of the Cross
Through time atop Mount Carmel?  What allows
Us to speak in all these tongues and still be
Understood completely and then not at all?

A wild lament, the friction of the moon across
The starry sky assembled for the touch of your
Hand, your heart without boundaries beating
Out the spinning of the planets.  A song that
Is the dawn and day and evening and then night.

Oh my love, I look into your eyes and I no longer
Know the vale of bitter tears that is this earth.
I draw my sword and spin before the gates
Of your dear heart.  None shall defile such
A place as this.  No evil comes to us.
I am the guard.

 Japanese Box


I am caught in the darkness
Near light but still unable to see
Where it is I am.  The blear of night
Stumbling close by my footsteps.

If I put my hand on the wall,  I know
I am near light but there is no light.
The illuminated globe of the world glows
Just beyond the door, should there be a door,
And, of course, we always hope for a door.

I saw you standing at the back of the room.
We had just finished playing the song about
The dawn during the snowstorm and how
The sun had moved through the falling snow.
Everything became a kind of gold that we did not
Know how to describe, so we made the music
Within it.  There was one bird, he had a damaged
Wing and flew in circles around us making a wonderful
Sound.  The lyrics were based on those circles.

I found my hands upon your shoulders.
I thought I was still in the music.  Golden
Lights flew along the edges of my vision
Inside my eyes, yet still high above it.
I walked all the way to the end of the road
Where the waterfall began.  It was nearly
Twilight and the waterfall was a lilac and hyacinth,
The color of heartbreak or someone you love
Walking away and you knowing you will not
Be seeing them again.  I suppose there is
A music there but it is stolen by cellos and keyboards.
Given to a corner where we notice the quality
Of the light, the people crossing the room,
The way their conversation had its own agenda
And there we were, together once again, waiting
As we are now.  I lean close.  Listening to your breathing.

 Chair Back


             for Kathy Kieth

We found the bones
    In a perfect circle.
    Each had been painted black
    With red ends.  In the center,
    A small pile of bright red sand.

 Sometimes in the morning
     The mist rising toward dawn,
     The lake looked choreographed
     With great black shapes floating
     In the air.

 They began to disappear
     For no apparent reason.
     It is said they can tell
     Where the wet will last the longest.

 Kathy called them The Stations
     Of The Cross.  “But there are
     Only fourteen stations,” someone
     Said.  “Yes, I know,” she answered.

 They look like prayers floating
     With their wings held fluffed and high.
     Prayers sealed with red wax.

 When I remember the Autumn
      I was in the kitchen looking
      Out the window at the lake.
      The sun was going down
      Across the red and gold trees.
      Black swans, exactly seventeen of them.

  The heart abandons
      The shadows for the sun.
      Swans coming into the sunlight
      Trying to surprise it as they did.

 I dragged a chair down
     To the lake of an afternoon and sat
     Reading William Butler Yeats.
     When I looked up, all of the swans
     Had gathered close to where I was.
     They made no sound as if waiting for something.

 During a thunderstorm one Summer
     Day, a lightning strike very near to me
     Made them seem bright red
     With black beaks
     For half a breath, inhaling.

 When I asked how dark
       It was outside, you said,
       “As dark as the black swans.”

 “Do you have any idea
       Why there are fewer and fewer
       Each year?”  I ask.
       “They know about places we don’t.”

 I showed my daughter
      The constellation Cygnus, the Swan.
       “Except for the stars it is a black swan,”
      She said.

 I had a dream I was going
       To see a famous wizard.
       I was traveling in a small
       Chariot-like vehicle, bright red.
       It was being pulled across the sky
       By seventeen black swans.

 The day totally blank
       And just before sunset
       Seventeen black swans
       Landing on the lake.

 I had just pulled into the drive
       And could see the lake clearly.
       The swans made a perfect line,
       One behind the other.

 “Cobs and pens.  That’s what they
       Are properly called,” she said.
       “Pens?  Like what I write with?”  I asked.
       “Yes, exactly.  What else would they be?”

 Black swans in the snow on the edge
       Of the lake.  Their red beaks.

 —Painting by Pascal Campion


I had a brook in the corner of the room.
It was guarded by a swan who
Sang a heart song in medieval German.

The song was of a destroying sea.
It was scored, as Borges said,
With “the ash of which oblivion is made”.

And here the poem comes to I love you.
It has bad habits and longing
That causes fires that seem
To hover just above the waters.

I find it hard to put my arm
Around your waist.  I feel as if
I am a verger when I would
Be a lover.  I am looking finally
At what I suppose to be your soul,
Yet might be sharp shadows
That may reflect time, but may be
Just me with my hands
In my pockets, falling in love
With something that has nothing
To do with me at all.

I take that place
Beneath the moon
Where I actually walk into
The room with the brook,
Invite you in, touch your hair.

You understand more than I do,
But that will not stand in my way.
The fireflies have come to the windows.

I press my lips against the pane.
My body fills with light.
The universe moves through me.

 Two Madelines
—Anonymous Photo


               for Annie Menebroker

The fairy of the heart.
The fairy of memories.
The fairy of autumn nights.
The fairy of the end of childhood.
The fairy guarding the feet of travelers.
The fairy who can speak the spells of olden times.
The fairy who can know when love is true.
The fairy of the evening summer grass.
The fairy of the fireflies.
The fairy of secret places.
The fairy who is seen but once.
The fairy who watches sleep descend.
The fairy of the Spring dances.
The fairy of long friendships.
The fairy who chases loneliness.
The fairy who appoints the stars.
The fairy who reveals what was hidden.
The fairy who can see lost things.
The fairy who protects the smallest breezes.
The frost fairy.
The fairy of winter windows.
The fairy who protects enchantment.
The fairy of distant music.
The fairy at the doors of dreaming.
The fairy called "delight of the newborn."
The fairy who attends the songbirds.
The fairy who can weave with music.
The fairy of the garments of the seasons.
The fairy lit by moonlight alone.
The fairy of the storm.
The fairy from the bows of ships.
The fairy of the starlit meadows.
The fairy of the grace in language.


Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s most fine poetry and photos. Sadly, his brother Bobby passed away this week. Regarding this week's work, D.R. mentions that Annie Menebroker often requested at poetry events that he read his poem, “Some Fairies”, which appeared in Where the Stars Are Kept from Rattlesnake Press. As for “17 Swans”, I live by a lake which has black swans; occasionally we have snowfall, and the white landscape makes a stark contrast between black swans and white snow. Thank you, D.R., for the wonderful poem and the immortalization of our lovely swans.

Don’t forget that today is the deadline for Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest; go to for details.


Today’s LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner

July fills up fast.
Sunflowers notice ‘way too much.
Midsummer crowds in.



 Celebrate Poetry today with a trip up to Placerville 
for the poetry read-around, Poetic License, 2-4pm. 
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 events 
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.