Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Phoenix Botanical Gardens, Phoenix, AZ
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento, CA

—Michael Marrotti, Pittsburg, PA

They might

as well
start digging

the ditch

The inevitable

has arrived

leaving me 


This time 

of peace



white clouds

have fled 

from above

I'm in the 

wrong zip code

The storm 

I've had to 

pardon myself

of this 

chemical smile

a shutoff notice

Out to make 
a connection

when the WiFi

is turned off 

it starts from 

the legs 

working its

way up 

If all it took 

was a switch

I'd turn it on high

I've always


the future

now I'm

left with 

nothing but 



—Michael Marrotti

I see you 





you from

the depths 

of my 



Feel you 

as the one 

worthy of 

this urine


We share


that are


through the


of chemistry

We'll run 

this course

down to the 

last line 

Then sleep

in harmony


is ours

It's a 



that keeps 


on high 

Until that

fateful day 

when the



those words



 Berkeley Pier, Berkeley, CA
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

naked heart in solitude, wordless, empty of deeds, devoid of fear, devoid of hatred. invisible in the garden of the soul, invisible to night rain that drops from heaven like monkeys scampering down from the sacred trees. yes, on the sharp slice of the pine woods the waiting was long and hard. wind and storm. what dedication just to be still and empty, and fully present. and then the sound of someone walking slowly through the wet twigs and the fallen leaves. go ahead, say the names of god out loud. one at a time. say them over again.

—james lee jobe, davis, ca


there it is, the star of you and me. look, my wife, at how tired that little star seems. far away, it winks at us so weakly on this cold, windy night. like us, it needs some rest. and although it is tired and getting older, like us, it still manages to shine a little. like the light from the two of us.

—james lee jobe


the day passed like the old man who died in his ragged gray underwear. no one was watching. yesterday's chicken was reheated for dinner. and no one was there to speak to the old man, so the meal was silent. bland chicken and bland peas. then the sun slipped down and slowly the room grew dark. that happens a tiny bit at a time, like old age creeping in. he did not reach for the light switch. he closed his eyes, put his head down on the table, and let out one long and final breath. then it was night, and the day had passed like the old man who died in his ragged gray underwear. who knows now what was in his heart? no one knows that.

—james lee jobe 

 Pt. Arena, CA
—Photo by Cynthia Linville 

we stop to look upon the corpse in the snow. blue skin and an open mouth. open eyes. moonlight across the frozen face. moonlight that plays a soft music that entertains the snow. and we say a prayer for soul of the deceased. and we say a prayer for the ones who grieve. and we say a prayer for ourselves, for our lives. we stop to look upon the corpse in the snow. and around us gather the ghosts of many others who died alone, without even their names. we stop. we speak the words. and we move on. but before we move on, we cover the body with snow, using our cold and wet hands like shovels.

—james lee jobe


in her eyes, a field of wheat. and in her heart, the head waters of the yangtze river. wheat and river. her hands can be as strong as iron, or as gentle as the birthday wish of a child. often, when she tells me some long story that doesn't seem to have an end, i float downstream, past the wheat, past the iron forges, and past the birthday parties where the children run and laugh. her heart, her eyes, and her hands, my friend, are here with me. wheat and river. here. 

—james lee jobe

 Pt. Arena, CA
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—J.D. DeHart, Chattanooga, TN

My father used to have a talking
crow named Jack; at least, that’s
what he told me.
Maybe that’s why I have an affinity
with black birds, “The Raven” being
a favorite read.
He used to tell me many fragments
of evidence about him in his quiet
voice.  How he used to raise chickens,
used to walk to the store,
always owned a wristwatch.
He taught me how to fire a gun and tried
to teach me how to change oil, but it
never stuck.
I dream sometimes about his talking
crow, perched on our mantle,
telling me secrets I cannot hear.


—J.D. DeHart

The way she says rubbish,
it makes you believe that rubbish
wears a long robe and recites
Latin, that rubbish owns a yacht,
ceramic busts of famous thinkers,
and rests between marble pillars
while discussing Spinoza and HBO.
Rubbish has read all the latest
authors I have never heard of,
attends readings, is fashionable,
so much better than trash,
who simply loiters about, begging
for change, spitting on the sidewalk.

 Phoenix Moon
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—J.D. DeHart

He is now climbing the tree, tasting
the sky, and now edging sideways
out onto the slick rock, held up only
by a single twig, asking about origins
of waterfalls, and now reading
about Dresden, now reciting Lilith myths,
now standing, clapping, pontificating
measuring the content of young minds,
lapping the stream of consciousness
like a well-dressed canine.


—J.D. DeHart

They can be observed, suspended in air
for miles around, the tiny figures
dancing across a wire, poised between
the bulbous royal blue spheres
(a man told me once how he moved on
from the loss of his wife by writing
her name on a balloon and letting it go)
All is fine and well for walkers until
a sheer wind rose through, the barest
turn and, seconds later, chutes opened
skydancers dropping to some safety.


Today’s LittleNip:

—J.D. DeHart

It was early morning
when he noticed the translucent
bubble, the swimming ink inside,
and by lunch, the size had increased,
the sense of hope and light
giving way to an unfortunate shadow,
his fuse a little shorter,
a resisting but ultimately yielding
personal metamorphosis.

 Michael Marrotti, Pittsburgh, PA

Our thanks to our Master Chefs in the Kitchen today: two from far away and two from close by. James Lee Jobe is working with prose poems right now; Cynthia Linville sends us cameras-full of photos today; and J.D. DeHart pops in from Chattanooga every so often.

New to the Kitchen is Michael Marrotti, an author from Pittsburgh who says he is “using words instead of violence to mitigate the suffering of life in a callous world of redundancy. His primary goal is to help other people. He considers poetry to be a form of philanthropy. When he's not writing, he's volunteering at the Light Of Life homeless shelter on a weekly basis. If you appreciate the man's work, please check out his blog at for his latest poetry and short stories.” Welcome to the Kitchen, Michael, and don’t be a stranger!



Charlotte’s Web illustration by Garth Williams, 1952

 Celebrate poetry!
Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column 
at the right) for info about upcoming readings in our area—
and note that more may be added at the last minute.

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Wilderness of Quiet Land

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Now that she is nearly blind

she looks to life’s distortion

for relief. She drives

her car through shiny fog,

humming her driving song,

a bottle of champagne on her lap,

a tipsy glass on the dash.

In half-inch specs

she laughs and ‘sees’,

passing the Monet-cows in fields

and the boulevard stops

for other cars. She blurs past

the trees and wishes the road

were longer than it is.

She is on her way to grief,

but never arrives. She always

detours toward some little bar

where laughing and dancing people

are. She joins their fun,

putting her money in the

music-machine and singing along.

She orders wine and looks

through her half-inch glass

at the stars in the glass.

Her panting car waits in the

gravelly dusk. When she’s ready

to go, she leaves a large tip

for the stranger there, and she

clings to her champagne bottle for

a prop. And now she can see so well…

so well… she makes it home in style.

(first pub. in Among the Others (chapbook), 1999
Talent House Press, Talent, Oregon)



In the wilderness of quiet land,
you in your stalled car, woman of
phobias, shrink now to action. Two
strangers offer to help. You refuse.
You are the goal, yourself the
direction. All by yourself you have
put oil in the car, the service station
boarded up again, as though it never
existed. The Samaritans lose their
chance and return to their invisibility,
their chivalry wasted. The fog is a
dream; it cannot find you, though it
closes all the roads with earliness.
The roads and the day obliterate. Time
has no map for this land without
landmarks—this eye-shielding space
between farms—and you have no
wilderness-key. Adrift in
directionless gray, you have learned
three things to do: Sift through
the barbed wire threat of wrong directions;
escape the misleading sounds of the cows
with their ghost-bells ringing;
enter the instinctive window of the birds.
You find your way home.
Your children do not know you get lost.
They come home and find you…
they pull their day around you,
and your husband, the sad drinker,
finally says he loves you.

(first pub. in One Trick Pony, 1998)


Word by word, by bitter word
of grievances with which they play
on sympathy—although we gird
ourselves against the endless way

they list their wrongs—which is to say,
we cannot listen any more.
We try avoiding them. But they
recount their tallies—score by score.

There’s no way we can get the floor.
They are relentless with their woe.
No use to fake appointments or
make some excuse. We are too slow.

I guess, at least, it’s good to know
we help by listening. They leave—
unburdened for awhile—although
they’ve now become our own pet peeve.

Now we complain in such a weave
that seems to go from birth to grave.
Time lost. Time wasted. Life a grieve
that beats us down—wave after wave.



And when they go—down to the wild places where they
    go—the ancient crow and the old dog who are friends—
    they smile in the moonlight.

I have tried to follow them—under the wet trees, my shoes
    making no sounds, but they know I am behind them; they
    turn and look at me.

Now they are going there again, the half-blind crow on the
    gray shoulder of the limping dog, the crow guiding them
    along by the stars in brief-lit openings.

When they return I hear them brushing the walls with their
     torn shadows that mend by morning—

poor old creatures, tame and napping—one at my feet, the
     other on the coat rack by the door.


Tongue-in-cheek, you understood—it was
about the little things—it was the insignificant,

the unimportant things—that darkened the mind.
You somberly agreed.  We faced the night

full of our darkness. We noted the absence
of stars, the pollute of color that still hung.

We sucked the old wounds clean with our 
continuance of words. Our laughs were harsh

upon the harshness of each other. Our broken hearts
poured and poured their love upon the floor.

We stood in bloody shadows of commiseration
holding each other in our cynical desperation.



Old men, sitting on
Park benches  . . . I wonder what
They are thinking of  . . .
With their strong faces, and eyes
That stare into yesterday.


Did we take the heart out of
your Sunday?  So loudly did we
come to you on our fast motorcycle,

shaking the laughter of our cold ride
all over your quiet living room.
You went so deep in your chair

we thought we might have lost you
to the weariness and music that had
claimed your shrinking day.

We stayed just long enough
to eat your oranges and drink your beer
and watch your children fill the after-

noon with their gold energy.
Behind your glass-framed chair, through
pulling window-space, we watched the

wind say something to the grasses.
You were so quiet, we could hardly lift
your smile to its goodbye.  We

gathered-up ourselves to go; then
we waved back, as loudly as we could
to you, standing so small against

your house, before the swift cold blue
of five o’clock could freeze us
to your landscape, too.

(first pub. in Half Tones to Jubilee, 1998)


The country she has moved to

knows her better now

than the city that she left.

It has made her as quiet as a

cow munching on sweet grass;

it has wrapped her in its loose spaces

and when night domes down

it tells her how far the roads are

from town to town.

We keep waiting for her

in the noisy rooms

with wine in our eyes

and wounds of poetry in our hands.

I will be there, she smiles at us,

from the twelve page calendar,

and we know she will…

it’s just that

the spaces within her are wider now

and filled with dark,

and the house is a toy box

her children have put her away in

for the night,

and her husband comes home

an hour late to give her the car…

but by then she has listened to

the unfillable distance between us

that says too far.

(first pub. in Among the Others (chapbook), 1999
Talent House Press, Talent, Oregon)

 Annie Menebroker and Joyce Odam

Today’s LittleNip:


and they tumble by so fast . . .

  and I grab them . . .

     and they fall away . . .

        and they find me, 


           “Let me be poem . . .”

              and they stay . . .

                 and they play

                   with sense and 

                    arrangement until 

                    they like themselves,

                   one way or another . . .


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine photos and poems, all on the subject of Pals, our Seed of the Week. Her “Complainers” is a poetry form called a “carbon”. If you’ve a mind to, give the form a shot: abab, bcbc, cdcd, dede, efef.

Our new Seed of the Week is Skydiving Without a Parachute. 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 you can shake a pencil at.

Katy Brown sent me a note that she stumbled across the website for United Poets Laureate International and discovered that Davis Poet Laureate Emeritus Allegra Silberstein was their featured poet for July. See Thanks, Katy!


Celebrate poetry, and our poetry pals within it!

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, August 29, 2016

Chicken Pox and VD

Venus in the Fall
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Katy Brown

Mountain sun brands memories
of sunlit streams and sapphire dragonflies
darning summer hours onto

a hatless child, chasing joy
beside a high mountain stream,
dazzling the lazy August.

Those sunburns cumulate to scorch
the very DNA and sow seeds
of cancer through the years.

Dazzling streams give way to
the bright glare of doctors’ offices
arrayed with steel and needles.

They cut away my summer face
one patch of damage at a time
leaving divots on a wrinkled memory.


—Katy Brown

A hidden owl, a gibbous moon,
a black cat moving between the stones.
The abandoned monastery shifts from
light to shadow as clouds obscure the moon.

You might think this is a fantasy—
but no – observe the patch of rhubarb
gone wild beside the western wall.

The clouds grow thick, blot
the light. Sprinkles dot the
old gravestones. A rumble
of thunder, then fat drops
bounce off weathered granite—

fractured words emerge:


—Katy Brown

Maza resented the move to Paris.
Her human didn’t ask her if she’d
mind flying in the cargo hold
of the big airliner.  She minded moving.

The closed doors were the worst part.
She couldn’t come and go as she
had done in Sacramento.  She missed
sprawling on the grass.

Her human didn’t ask her how she
felt about being an inside cat.
From the street, the snooty French felines
made fun of her when she sat

on the little frilly balcony.  They
sneered up at her, Américain chat!
They paraded their half-dead mice.
—Maza had her pride, after all.

She sat for hours, her back
to the apartment interior, listening
to language on the street,
absorbing insults and retorts.

She found she knew more French than
she thought.  When the ginger cat taunted
her from the curb, she bristled and growled,
Stupide Français bigot!  Sucer fromage!

 Venus 2
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Was the summer of love,
Or thereabouts.  Folks
Who felt certain symptoms
Would meet Old Doc
Terry out at the garage
Behind the house
After office hours.  There
Was a shot, instructions,
A rueful shake
Of the head, along
With a tube of blue
Shampoo to treat things
That often went along
With the shot.  “Nice
Friends you have,”
Old Doc Terry
Would intone:
“Good pals.”


—Kevin Jones

Once a month,
First of the month,
For the ten years
My father owned
The liquor store,
County Judge Julian
P. Willamoski would
Order two cases
Of Heileman’s Old
Style Lager, cans,
To be delivered to
A little house where
The Burlington tracks
And the strip mine
Road came together.
Nothing was beyond
That.  No questions. 
And I never asked.
Once a month, pulled
Into the dusty drive.
Delivered the cases
To a little man who
Always seemed surprised,
Delighted: “Aw. Isn’t
He a Pal?”
Yes, I guess he was.

 Wood Duck
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

I dropped a little pebble
Into the water
And observed
The ripples

Larger at first
Then fading quickly
Like a very short
Love affair

Then I took a larger pebble
Added some wrist action
And plunked it
Into the water

It just sank
Disrobed itself of dirt
And lay idle

A rock was next
Hurled from the balcony
Direct hit!
Sorry about your water glass



Retirement is my
To make some changes
Around this place

Out with the ionic columns
Bring on the gossip columns
Curtain call for the venetian blinds
Segue to hands-free solar lighting

Get a full 8 hours of sleep
Especially when others are
Talking about portion control
Read the label, drink from the bottle

Carefully review DIY projects
Talk about them
Over and over
Until someone helps

For years I thought VD stood for
Venereal Disease, bad stuff,
Now it’s Viewer Discretion (is advised)
Can’t get enough

The “we shall overcome” sheep
Have stolen my energy
Eyelids as heavy as schoolbooks
PJs appear on me like chicken pox



Our thanks to today’s fine Master Chefs in the Kitchen! Tonight’s Sac. Poetry Center reading will be held at 3414 4th Avenue, Sac., as SPC presents a benefit reading for Wellspring Women’s Center, featuring Jeff Knorr, Sean King, and Straight Out Scribes, 7pm. Note the different location—and time.

Thursday will bring three choices to our area: Terry Moore’s Showstopper Spoken Word Competition will be held in Old Sac., at Laughs Unlimited, 8pm; Nina Lindsay and Rosa Lane will read in Davis at John Natsoulas Gallery, 8pm; and there’s always Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sac., also 8pm. Then on Friday, Kate Asche will host poet Sarah A. Chavez in midtown Sac., 7pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming readings in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

I managed to make it to the memorial reading for Annie Menebroker last night; a swell event it was, with many thanks to Mary Zeppa and Patrick Grizzell for putting it together. Annie’s daughter, Sue McElligott, sent me a link to a recording that was made of the Tough Old Broads reading that Annie was part of two years ago, as part of the Crossroads Reading Series. Sue’s husband uploaded it to youtube (see, and many thanks to him for his work!

B.Z. Niditch has sent us a link to this article about the recent death of Argentinian Poet Activist Juan Gelman: Thanks, BZ!


Today’s LittleNip:

Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.

—Octavia Butler



 Celebrate poetry!
Griffin Tofler and Wendy Williams, reading a poem 
they co-composed, Sacramento Voices, Aug. 20.

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, August 28, 2016

Between Eternity and Time

—Photo by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

—Taylor Graham

This time, you’ll come along.
So many kinds of gardens up here
where foothills rise toward mountains.
I’ll show you ridges of orchard
fringed by cedar grove dark, roses
on a field-fence. If we do it in October,
we can get ourselves a pumpkin
for the ghosting time—when spirits
who aren’t as everyday lively as you
slip through the cracks between
eternity and time to walk among us.
Bet you’d make that pumpkin
crack a grin just by looking at it,
how you look at a stranger
and everything inside bursts outward.
Yet you retain your cool shy
brand of being—the way you were,
even in this life. Lulled
by tire hum on chipseal, we might
speak of poetry, transformation
by way of symbol: I’d suggest
life as a coiled-up slither, a noose
metaphoring to infinity’s circle-snake;
a halo. Such a lively tour,
imagining you still with us. As you are.
I’ll pick up the tab; your plastic
credit’s dead. All I ask is a small piece,
please, of your forever living smile.


—Medusa, with thanks to Taylor Graham for today's fine poem and photo dedicated to Annie Menebroker, who passed away in July. Celebrate poetry today by attending the memorial reading for Annie to be held at California Stage, 25th & R Sts., Sac., 5:30-8:30pm. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Warriors of the Light

Magical Creature
—Poems by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


Ramon brought the book with the outside
In it to the twilight chamber this evening.
We had not seen the book in many years.
It is kept with the night library in the cliff tower.

When it is opened, it shows the places
Around our far islands as if they were real.
The waves crash, the birds fly, smoke rises
From the villages, animals run in the streets.

The glow produced by the book fills the room
With a light so soft it seems made of the light
Sails dream-ships hold to the wind when they speak
To us in our hearts at the gates of the twilight
Beyond the woods of Ichy where we stole rods.

I began one of the old songs as we watched
The enchantment of magical places begin
To occupy our blood once again.  It was a balm
That made the images seem more than alive.

“Our conversations this night must not include
Anything that will advise the others that we are here.
Tonight we are as cats in the changing of the world.”

We are bound to the book by dreaming.  It is brought
That we may find our ways across unknown lands,
The wild and the hostile.  We are warriors of the light.
With the book we can see the deep pools in the river.

Ramon kept us at the book for most of the night.
Then, he took a handful of pebbles and threw
Them with great force at a small bush just outside
The glow.  A beautiful music came from the bush.
Then a woman in white came forth and toward us.

Ramon bowed to her and handed her the book
Which she closed and she went ‘round the bush
Faster and faster until all was a blur.

“We know enough now to continue,” Ramon said.
We felt well-armed and guarded by an unknown
Presence when we left for the islands in the morning.

 Magical Forest Creature


Near the end of the story
We could see that here was fire
On the mountains.  The air itself
Was a gray-blue shroud tossed
Over our heads, a demon,
A full-rigged ship of clouds and smoke.

We struggled to complete the story
Before it was too late.  I was not brave.
I could see my shadow on the ground.
It too looks like smoke.  I thought of killing
Myself but I could not leave my shadow
Here alone.  The waters began to overtake
Me.  I would not wait for the end of the story.

The whole story is dripping with blood,
A mythology canonized by yesterdays,
Hints of nothingness, whispered over
And over again without end.  Only
The fire persists as the ashes fall
From the sky, as the ocean too
Becomes a gray mask, its own oblivion.

 Magical Flying Creature


Leaning over the abyss,
Part of some divine wind,
A kamikazi, the voice
Lifting above the Grand
Canyon, the brink of Niagara
Falls.  For a second or two,
A clear moment of understanding.

An ability to watch the suicide,
Exiting the body and confronting
The emptiness as it careens
Into a view of a race car
Disappearing from sight
As one stands on that edge.
Then a silver-blue oblivion.

What can we talk about
While we dance?  Would
You prefer that we make love?
Or will a nice neckrub suffice?

Over here, it feels like the
Screws are being removed
One by by, placed in a pan,
Until one can see the mechanism
That makes it all work.  Each lovely

I open the curtain too early
In the morning.  The entire sky
Filled to capacity with swirling
Stars, galaxies in a billion colors,
You whispering in my ear
Just before I find sleep.

 Girl Holding Moon


I awake in a red room.
It is packed to the walls
With Schumann’s Opus 15.*
I could not stop crying.
My mouth was still very sore.
I had nothing left to remember.

I could see the drawers
Where it was all kept.
I could see my friends looking
Through the drawers, but was unable
To make a sound, except, maybe,
That of a field of crickets
Under a full moon.

When I broke, I swore
I would never write another poem.
This is the one after that promise.

I will look for something to put
Me back to sleep that does
Not include your face, your hands,
Your eyes, your smile, anything about you.

A flight of fighter jets begins to perform
Acrobatics just above my bed.

*Scenes From Childhood



The sun finds silly places to look
For things, across a cat’s fur
While it walks across the gravel
Just as evening is repairing itself
For its show.

It got mixed up with the garden.
I look down on it from my second-
Story window and watch it move
In and out of trees, showing secret
Places in them for a few precious

This evening the breeze
Will have nothing
To do with anything.

It has found something to do
“Later,” it says, “When it starts to get dark,
Just before the moon comes up.”

Maybe, but it usually lies
About important things like this.



Take, take the light,
Who blows out the stars
At night?  Give you dreamlines,
Give you footsteps, give you
The voices walking in things.

Stand at the top, where the wind
Jumps and hops, where the nerves
Crackle and pop, where the bells
Mop the morning, then they stop.

Stars hiding in the trees while it rains.
Natural objects tempting the language
To behave in ways we have not seen.
The voices of insects becoming angel songs.

I’ve waited a long time to be here with you
Like this.  I feel your eyes upon my vestigial
Scribbling as I try to speak to you across
A body barely holding on to the paper.

 Ladder to the Moon

                             for d.a. levy

Thousands of lights begin to discover us.
We had been hidden for nearly a week.
These lights were of the forest, not of man.

I begged for the original silence, no space,
No time.  I asked that oblivion protect us,
That all of history invent other than ourselves.

There are fireflies who remind me of particular
Persons I know.  I do not speak their names.
They are as singular as silences.  No longer
Confused by oblivion, they are as real as dreams
Carrying a dagger into the rooms of sleeping.

Shadows of tigers appear on the walls.
They have come for the hurricane,
To trap the horizon where we cannot see it,
That they may approach us in blue and vermillion.
They own our consciousness like nightmares.

On the other side of this, there is morning.
Even as we are discovered, it is dressing
Itself before the mirror in a shower of birdsong.
We will wait to be kissed by morning.

We will stare uselessly from within this dream.
We will hear the breathing of the tigers.
A great wind labors to push us onward.
We strive to be near nothingness,
Hoping to be senseless in the gold of illusion.

 For D.R.—Garden Hose, Opium, and Only Love
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan, Fair Oaks, CA

Today’s LittleNip:

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

—Ray Bradbury


Our thanks to D.R. Wagner today for soldiering on in the cause of poetry despite his difficult recovery from surgery. By the way, his new book,
Love Poems, is now available from Cold River Press (

Also available from Cold River Press is Wendy Patrice Williams’ new book,
In Chaparral: Life on the Georgetown Divide, 74pp, soft cover, perfect-bound, $14.95, free shipping within contiguous United States. For shipping outside of United States, contact them before ordering.


The Cover of Wendy's New Book
Celebrate poetry today by heading up to Placerville 
for the Poetic License read-around at 2pm, 
or going to the Thursday Night Poetry Workshop 
Celebratory Reading in the Valley Hi-North Laguna 
Library, Sac., also 2pm. Scroll down to the blue 
column (under the green column at the right) 
for info about this and other upcoming readings 
in our area—and note that more 
may be added at the last minute.

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

Looking for the Nice in the Nasty

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


My life’s dog food for do gooders
Hot dodgers dogging God’s zone
Fur sure of itself
Per path and position
Point portion pursued

We who rise in heat from dream
Lick recollection loose
From cold fire’s template
Futility’s fog
We bleed in abandon
Dance dawn’s dapple light

 Worry Farm


320 million years ago
a meteor dug a five-mile crater
raising a rock ridge one thousand feet
in southern Ohio
where five thousand years ago
or one thousand years ago
or both
or neither
the Adena Culture
or the Ancient Fort Culture
or both
or neither
built an earthwork serpent
1,348 feet long 3 feet high 17 feet wide
laying rock for foundation
covering rock with yellow clay
clay with soil
and soil in sod
from coiled tail undulation
through sinuous body
to the 3rd cosmic eye of the art deco head
where the great serpent Uktena
swallows the setting solstice sun.



Your nipple
Though we've yet to meet
Must surely seek to touch
My tongue's erectile tissue
Which seeks south to nether musk
Past inward-looking navel
Which wise in eastern ways
When rocked in western rhythm
Knows what in maya may
Be only sleek illusion
Wonders reaped and sown
In peaks before the valley
Down treasure's traveled road
Where promise wraps forgiven
Its penis-premised trap
Where truth in life is hidden
And minor deaths enact
Their furtive nightly burden
When joy it should be danced
And future fear forgiven
Like past purveyed by chance  

Your eyes so solemn watching
Your lips promised pursuit
Your soul silent searching
Your heart no kindness fused
To form for wanting giving
To life its lift and shine
My love it spurts in wanting
Your flesh your spirit wine
Within your skin whenever
Blessings cross my brow
Profane in sacred wanting
Pure light enough for now
But o o unknown nipple
O mind of supple bliss
O soul unsullied, simple
On me bestow your kiss



Looking for the nice in the nasty
the quiet in the chaos
the kind in the mean

Trying to miss the mud
seeking happy in midst of sad
the still in rush of stream


Open freezer looking for nibbles
find none

Open fridge yet again for immediate eats
find none

Closing door I see wife's note:



Grab apple
bite into spoiled pulp
spit it out

No Eve she


Got no money but I got good luck
it keeps me going when things get stuck
or break or broke or leak or lose
good luck beats betting on the blues

though I bet on life and times and such
it seems to work cuz I got right much
got wool slippers on feet from loving wife
and wormhole tales of adventurous life

    art on walls, books on shelf
    music seeping self to self
    one or two tokes to ease my mind
    cowboy coffee to kick my behind

Stocking cap that fits my head
eases me from cold of dread
words and images swarm in and out
seem quite happy to stop awhile hang out

cat and couch and rug on floor
kinda greedy to ask for more
just glad the days pop along so strong
and weaving word in deed and song

[. . . bouncy bit of faux reggae with music by Peter Ball (1949-2015), word & voice by Smith at]

 Circle Unbroken


Rats sing.
Rats laugh.
Rats line their nests
with gnawed American money.

The rich sing.
The rich laugh.
The rich also line their nests
with money not their own.

I prefer rats.
They do it for love.

 Night Into Day


San Francisco 1966
done sailing sea
I search the streets
for drugs and sex
two Asian beauties quip
“Hey sailor, wanna get higher?"
Short story short
to temple depart
chant and ching the Buddha thing
in incensed air
I bought their wares
chose $6 chant
and they took me back
the old bait and switch
I go for sex
get enlightenment.


Today’s LittleNip:

A flock of phlox
outside our door
bursting into sun



—Medusa, with thanks to Smith (Steven B. Smith) for today’s fine artwork and poetry, all the way from Cleveland!

Celebrate poetry, appearance and emptiness as you
scroll down to the blue column (under the green 
column at the right) for info about upcoming readings in 
our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Caravaggio Nights

Footprints in the Sand
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


On Caravaggio nights
believing I'm in the fury
of Fall sudden shudder
taking my leaves
amid nomad navy waves
and hearing the last siren
as a castaway sailor
getting wisdom to be stronger
with a Homeric poetic song
from Sappho's distance on earth
to outlast on the earth's belly
by the equator's corner
hidden on top deck quarters
by first light with a memory
caught under the iron ropes
and clapping masts
of another century's ways
without much good hope
lost at sea when trills of images
doodle on my canvas
shut off from a photo's light
in tenebrous thoughts
and dark-screened visions
illumined my human shape
from homemade sunglasses
chasing away a weekend
from any loveless afternoon
in an obscured puzzled time
of a subterranean retrospective
wishing to paint as a refugee
in a new signal of modernity
by recreating electric bas reliefs.
my face passes over continents
on my small kayak
by flying gulls in this day dream
as if on a grey cloudy moon
in distances welcome my shadows
dusting off blue balloons
over my drawing boards
at bay from nature's pleasure,
bright colors hurry to rush in
backing me along this fjord
brushing up my canvas
and lost green knapsacks
to greet me and embrace
breathing in a savor of ocean air
by motioning my camera landscape
in a Mediterranean transparency
over the floating river's lagoons
draping my belief in peace
without facing a rapier or sword
taken in by art's chance lottery
from a wandering phantasmagoria
by a living lesson in another century
over a leisured refuge
taught only by nature's deliverance.

 New Growth


The seabirds hear an odyssey
from my green guitar
sent to me from Venice Beach
to get me off the hook
from parental storms back East
putting on rosin for my strings
over the crosswise weft
in a warm red cloth
recounting those raft days
of the Sixties
facing the surfing waves
searching for starfish
by the clefts of solid rocks
now like my overcast memory
melting away
in the sea's blue shade
by leaves of olive and redwood
fading as back to back sand dunes
blacked out near red bird-trees
bending over the last light
of an August dog day
playing chess, checkers
and solitaire
while eating jam crackers
feeding the fish, salamander, birds
while reading Rimbaud
and Fleurs du mal by Baudelaire
this Beat poet with his guitar
playing smooth riffs
not knowing who we really are
standing by windmills
by the terror
with so much adolescent pain
by a furnace in the airless heat
wishing for an after-holiday shower
or at least a gentle rain
returning from camping it up
in the dark rehearsing my plays
under tents with my fellow actor
preparing to go on
with a fistful of first acts
to off-off-Broadway
with red sunburnt eyes
while searching in my temperament.

 Natural Petroglyph


Playing my alto sax sonata
for "Hart Crane's Memory"
in refrains of riffs A. E. G. D.
at a Big Apple club solo
lost in abandoned Rimbaud
wishing could be back with us
from Casablanca
but you are near shipwrecked cliffs
by a chorus of sandpiper birds
over the keys of my piano
watching a thunderous hurricane
as swallows rise
here under thundering rains
wishing       a sunrise on your backs
          for epiphanies
against mad voices in your head
falling on your hurting knees
after a brooding distress
recollecting all your daydreams
above your searches      and cruising
in underground shelters
hiding alcohol, drugs and booze
feeling like a castaway from Beelzebub
playing hands of solitary poker
without jokers or an ace of clubs
wanting a fast-fading Muse of love,
sleep now, Hart Crane, Rimbaud
by the poplar shade of shutters
on your trembling thin arms
knowing soon the bittersweet scent
off every crooked-staff tree
will waft to outlast the waves
engulfing the last sea's epitaph
amid humid windows
in the portholes of your ship
weeping and laughing
at the last hour
not asking to save face
by seeking any pardon
at the fountain of perennial youth
when no one behaves,
Hart, may you find haven
on these island encantadas,
now rest in peace, in the weft
of a wind-fallen sea
Rimbaud among a release
of a million millennial sunflowers
walking by evening primrose gardens
near parting leaves of a Juniper tree.

 Rose Edges

(for Bella Akhmadulina

Gathering blueberries
on a random November day
even as it showers old gales
squalls and fierce gusts
will signal us, Bella
                   nearby our snorkels
on the ocean floor
in the arctic and forest
where alighting grackles rest
near carrera fountains
near the edge of the shore
by my face-down rock garden,
and all the commotion of nature
the birds, the fronds and fauna
near the crystal twigs
of woodlands
my camera on hungry shades
                               carefully watches
miracles of piercing thorns
as the last summer evening
primroses offer us
a touch of laughter
or discreet pardons
as the wharf's winds
ruffle on Evergreen trees
near the garden's rhododendron
as stemming a court of storms,
we do a late run by the shore
in a flaxen call of gestures
as a still life paints our picture
in our own domain
                       brushes away a wasp nest
as images from our palate
pass over art's procedures
near the giant pomegranate
my alto sax makes riffs
in glimpsed notes of fragments
in your bird-valorous back yard
by catching all of nature's ventures
the full lemon tree
of sunshine sustains us
by a chorus of mouthing herons
under Elms with wispy leaves
start to rapidly fall as apples
as an early Autumn grieves
by our mirrored Narcissus
over the luminous pools
at tendril corners with jonquils
near a bending philodendron
yet rising bees start to hum
in the heather and brushwood
showers begin to singe our gate
by the bean and corn fields
everyone speaks from our eyes
over the bright weather vane
as if only reborn when love yields
being anxious for the cirrus clouds
covering the nomad-shaped sky
counting clusters to disappear
passing by us as puffy shrouds
near moths and dragonflies
as rays with its late mist guard
nature's precious shield
helping memorial poppies of earth
to sustain our bardic poet wishes
in a near or far country of Bella
from a loving Russian voice
with lashed umbrellas waving
as flags on waterproof cloths
near hospital ships at sea
the captain calling for a rescue
by home harbor fishing boats
bodies float as brave Ulysses
on tomes and myths of eternity.


(For Juan Gelman, 1930-2014)

All these earthy things,
the small myrtle at the edge
of the ponds tall grass
         as orange Mexican fruit falls
sponging Juan's sandaled feet
near the pomegranates,
a nomad poet in solitude
on his hammock rocks
senses an allergic hay fever
by an Argentine raspberry stalk
where an exile from the Ukraine
by the hunched valley
locates carpenter bees
by the woodland sounds
of alto   soprano    sax
while students search for turtles
taking a photo of their carapaces
for their nature class
by scales and nets of fishermen
in a sky wall of early blue gauze
over the hospital ship's docking
with its odor of cold milk
in the early rain's horizon
by an open barnyard field
of slender curled tendrils
the poet collects, she loves
        to hear echoes
of this gentleman's words
at his notebook's blank paper
near the ocean's grove
watching the hauling of lobsters
in undulant waves
near the docks of the shore
as this time is suddenly realized
on muzzled raindrops
for a November greeting word
with so many crying gulls
at the noonday
next to one another
with hidden wings
of tiny birds curled on branches
who sing of Juan Gelman
in the eventide searching
for his missing daughter
by a harpoon found
from the ditch waters
at a distance
along the country road
in early December
wary of the dog days
but invigorated by a run
after the scorched silence
on the Cape empties out
a few wary tourists
        heading for the waves
or home harbor boats,
here in the pure mist
of scattering hyacinth
my brush slowly shapes
cirrus cloud-like patterns
though a gorgeous labyrinth
drawn from the dark blue sky
under once shackled
                     painted gold leaves
now fallen from nearby oak
opening my shining album
of discreet poem and photo
hearing sounds from lovebird nests
sprouting weathered wings
of departing grackles
wishing to sing of Whitman
this brier-sweet Autumn
near a fawn's footfall
as memories slowly walk away
from trembling thorns
on this last summer rosebush
near shifting beehives
newly born as metamorphosis
on branches of Evergreen
from another generation
with extended memories
now gone from a counterfeit
time in the city,
I'm collecting blueberries
under poplars
wanting to play Mozart
in the open woodland
on a self-made magic flute
to transport me though time
by another blossoming island
without boundaries
in a chimera of daydreams
hearing wary hunters depart
in the light of day
to walk early on the beach
under summer's sun
of defenseless heat
reaching for a backpack
green with expectation
of my own traveled past
wishing to grow up
to live on a kayak
with a waterlogged existence
carrying a blue bottle
tossed to reach eventide
a century later
with this poem inside
on the ocean's spectrum
reaching the bitter drought
and humdrum sounds
of blackbirds swept by waves
as the light strikes my face
by heavy currents
motioning off-shore
the waves admit me
to their rounds
a dog avoids my tracks
remembering my navy cap
with a twanged voice
in a white shell's echo
alerting me
there are fresh bluefish around
daylight rescues
a sharpened skeptical pen
from a laundered
morning's open shirt
my pea jacket is pawned
yet ready for pick-up
my starlit eyelashes
rehearse my new play
staring at a print
of Modigliani
by the jalousie windows
where the cat slips
inside my pocket poetry
delays my November holiday
of abstracted absences
a portrait in blue
from a styptic face
in crayon of a sated pale hour
crashing on a distracted time.


Today’s LittleNip:

A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.

—Percy Bysshe Shelley


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch and Katy Brown for this morning’s fine poetry and photography!

 Celebrate poetry! And scroll down to the blue column 
(under the green column at the right) for info about 
upcoming readings in our area—and note that 
more may be added at the last minute.


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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Heaven Is...

Dog Days
—Photos by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan, Fair Oaks, CA

—David Wright, Sacramento

It was an August Sacramento day,
Nineteen hundred and seventy five.
One-hundred-eight degrees.
Our Yellow Cabs were not air conditioned back then.
I had too few fares and few tips and
Two flat tires that day.
Had my fill.
Shift finally ended, and I
Bummed a "Black Beauty" and a "J"
From a cab driver buddy and I
Went home to my apartment.
Popped the pill, smoked the "J", and
Dived into the apartment swimming pool.
Forty years later and I can remember how that felt and I smile.
Don't even try to catch up.


—David Wright

The wind moved the leaves
To laugh
And the stars were a
Twinkle in an eye

The beauty of ocean
Went on forever
Under the moods of
Sacred sky

The leaves are moved again
Wind begins to weep
Clouds cover sky
Moon goes to sleep

 Edward's Crossing

—David Wright

We always liked looking through the big window, the one
Facing the sea, the one we had the telescope set up by to sometimes
Bring a distant boat or whale close.  Close.  Nearer.
Once I swear I saw a mermaid in the surf, golden tail, she
Beckoned me to follow with her finger.
A kind of wakeful dream.
Was it a dream?

Often the view won't do, the
View won't do at all.
Compelled to,
I head out the door,
Slam it, run across the sand,
Now getting wet with sea-spray, the
Smell is intoxicating, the
Breakers jolt me awake, my feet on the
Slime of kelp.
Gulls dance.
Bubbles on the wet sand
Where the sand crabs dig in.

A frantic desire, straining to be
Ever closer, ever one with the wild essence.
No matter how close we get we want to be even
Nearer the source, ever more enveloped by it.

And then, even here, after a series of breakers, there comes a
Mystical calm, it turns so quiet one hears the peeping of the
Tiny sandpipers.
The surf seems to take a rest, seems to breathe deeply before again
Cracking the quiet wide-open with a fresh set of breakers.

After awhile I head back, heat up some chowder, and sit
Inside now content again to gaze out the big window.
Of course the day would always come to
Painfully pack the car and head home.

Sometimes I recall the vision of that mermaid and I wish I had followed her out
Past the breakers, farther into the open sea than anyone has ever gone.


—David Wright

Always just as I've languished too long on
Glass seas, the stink of death in my nostrils, first comes a
Light breeze, and then, again, the
Mistral wind blows me!
Deeper than skin my
Sails sing out, no
Compass can
Encompass me now.
The stars are eschew, the
Howling is deafening, the
Sea unchained.
Yet again I crash onto some unknown island,
Unconfined by their dreary maps.
Drums pound on as never heard, then a
Thunderous song from a tiny sea bird...
a piper...
Before whom the
Great whales flee.

Again I convalesce on wet sands,
Painfully alone but
Gloriously free.

 The Third Tit

—Scott Thomas Outlar, Atlanta, GA
The vastness of your scope
as I stare into the sky
reveals itself here and there
with glimpses into the absolute glimmer,
yet the mystery remains ineffable
in a context beyond that which
my primitive consciousness can grasp,
and I’m beginning to understand
that the seduction of your existential aloofness
is part and parcel
to the inherent romance in this experience of life.

I cannot come to know you fully
in the spaces of my mind,
but I can feel you in my guts,
in my heart, in my veins,
through my blood, in my bones,
down to the marrow.

These two open eyes
cannot gleam your greatness,
but when they are closed
I can see dimensions
beyond this physical plane of existence,
and I can sense the raw power
which pulses from your source
as it radiates outward
to be divined by those who truly seek.

The names which you have been called by
throughout the ages
mean nothing to me at this point—
simple words babbled from broken tongues
cannot capture the purity of your meaning;
it is your essence
to which I am addicted,
and I will never cease
reaching toward your unconditional love
until every urgent craving in my soul
has been satiated by your presence.

(Originally appeared in The Song Is…)


—Scott Thomas Outlar

A yellow buzz from the sky
torches the center of my third eye,
stroking the membrane softly
and sending shock waves through neuron pathways
which have laid dormant for ages.

An electric hum throbs like thunder
as the storm builds to a crescendo
and rains down with vibrations of fire
to sing in the silent space
between my ears in the back of my mind.

Oxygen tastes like emptiness
when I breathe in the void
of entropy,
seeking to inhale the present moment fully
so I can exhale the past
and spark a fresh path toward tomorrow.

Pour down on my tired head
with a symphony from the stars
so I can sense the frequency of heaven
that pulls my consciousness back to source
where the primal truth bursts
all the bubbles of illusion
that hold me back from higher karma.

One more step, one more day, one more thought,
zeroed-in on reaching the inherent destiny
that was writ upon my DNA code
when I burst forth from the womb
and entered this world of mortal flesh
where nothing seems to make sense…until it finally does.

 Artichokes, Late Summer

—Scott Thomas Outlar

A heart full of Christ’s blood
A liver saturated with the piss of Dionysus

A mind that flashes back and forth
between a faithful love of light
and the temptations calling from the darkness

There are angels soaring in the heavens
but there are snakes down here in the grass

A desperate search for higher truth
A crashing tide of little white lies

A body with legs that can walk
all day and night toward the siren
A body with a bruised and broken back
lacking the strength to rise out of bed

A womb with promises of new karma
A grave that yawns with a final seduction

A silent meditation on the path toward peace
A violent world that cannibalizes its own flesh

A fiery halo adorning the crown of ascended masters
A rag of salt for thieves with wounded hands

There is always a fresh hope in the next step
but there are always new challenges that lie ahead


—Scott Thomas Outlar

A summer storm,
of a sudden,
begins to fall
heavily from the sky.

Furious rumblings of thunder
in the heavens
mirror the wild sound
my pounding heart makes
as it screams out your name.

A flash of lightning
zigzags through the air,
igniting the atmosphere
with bolts of electricity
that send shivers up my spine
at the enticing thought
of holding your hands in mine.

I close my eyes
and listen to the rain
as it pitter-patters
into the nearby puddle,
and I imagine
that each drop of water
represents a divine kiss
landing on your precious lips
with a promise sent from mine
to love you infinitely and eternally
even beyond the end of time.


—Scott Thomas Outlar

The Harbinger of Hallelujah
has arrived in his hour,
and she is adorned
with the smile of an angel
that sends my heart swooning
into a deeper state of happiness
than it has ever known.

Ascending me upward through the sky
in a chariot of glistening gold,
she shines a thousand rays of light
from the reflection of a holy halo,
and my eyes are mesmerized
by the sight of her divine presence.

Who am I to deserve
such a gift of utter bliss?
And how can I return her kindness
other than with a thousand kisses of pure love?

Through the heavens we soar
with our two souls entangled as one
while the clouds spread apart
and open a portal to cosmic realms
where the goddess makes her home,
and now I, also, thanks to the fortune
granted from every star ever wished upon,
can sleep soundly in her safe arms forever.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Scott Thomas Outlar

Your love is like a wave sent from God,
crashing over me,
taking my breath away,
pulling me under
where the flames of my heart
can be quenched
in deep waters
that I’ve never
quite learned how to swim.

 Cover, Happy Hour Hallelujah
by Scott Thomas Outlar


Our thanks today to Photographer Stacey Jaclyn Morgan, always intriguing, to David Wright, a Sacramento poet who has been around our poetry community for many years and who has just returned to the fold, and to Scott Thomas Outlar from Atlanta, GA, whose poems, "Revelations in the Marrow," "Schism," and "Undertow" are included in his new book,
Happy Hour Hallelujah, which was released in August of 2016 through CTU Publishing. Go to for info/.

Friends, students and admirers of Sacramento Poet Laureate Emeritus Dennis Schmitz will be saddened to learn that his wife, Loretta, passed away on August 15. Her obituary in
The Sacramento Bee may be seen at


Celebrate Poetry—our connection 
to the world around us!

Scroll down to the blue column (under the green 
column at the right) for info about upcoming 
readings in our area—and note that 
more may be added at the last minute.

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