Friday, September 30, 2016

This Garden Uneven

Soul Fire
—Poems and Artwork/Photos by Smith 
(Steven B. Smith), Cleveland, OH


Meandering through Mammon
in search of moral tampons

Gotta clothe the surface
to make us worth us

Can't be down and dirty
climbing up the well

Ain't I purty?
Ain't I swell?

 Light Rider


Music and word long been wed
in tribal fire dark
with drum and bone of flute
and hum and thrum of throat
as shaman sang the people's song
in measured rhythmed tone,
beat keeping story going,
rhyme for mind to pass along.

Hunting chant and victory wail
with drum and tune of bone prevail.



She sands sound into shape
of mood and pale moon,
the voice of casting calling,
says belief grows like weather,
that near and far are one,
a baseline spun by all,
for all,
that rock's a heavy place
since thought escapes discerning
and unused ambits spirit way away
until we say there may be splendor
with neither artifice nor anger,
just leaf of life on tree untendered
in this garden uneven.

 Not This Way


Going into the forest she said
We need to find a way to find our way
back where we've been

Easy he replied
we'll drop bread crumbs to follow

That won't work she sighed
the birds will eat our trail

Then we'll use poisoned crumbs
and follow the dead birds back

 Flower Dance


Turning on the gas
to heat pre-dawn pan coffee
a small beige moth
frantically darts about the stove.

Just as I warn
"Be careful little girl
you're heading for the heat"
she flies into the flame
adding fuel to fire.

Coffee tastes the same.

 Cool Shades


O Great Cog
release me from this wheel
I'm but broken bit
neither tooth nor flair
save me from this pace
before I wreck the place
for I am wrench in works
will impede the flow
jam the am
and scram Your precious plan
You should offer me some slack
put me on the beach
coated with soothing oils
a book in hand
pen and paper near
grass in pipe
strong black coffee dear
food units to imbibe
the occasional magic mushroom
to color reason
and I will season tone
while You work the other drones



There's truth in the dark
in the hours before dawn
if I could find the inner light to see

It whispers "I'm here"
soft and seductive
just outside my human
in the hour of the wolf
when sleep won't come
and wake ain't here

No baby being born
no madness lurking
so I light some nag champa
and om a hum job for the soul
while making coffee for mind and flesh

The truth is there
playing hide and seek
offering wee peaks
like an old stripper with wrinkled skin
hiding behind pastel scarves



This outside-the-liner slunk from his package
escaping the system as such
proving full well the old-timer's adage
best helpful avoiding the clutch.
Three parts vermillion four hour twenty
you want it I'll match you some lies
tailor your running the con in the cunning
even provide your replies.
Ain't no reason nor season ensuing
these sounds are just wandering wry
tongue torque-type teasing easily slewing
aiming to igloo the lie.
Come sign my mime for more or less legion
returning blue sky to the why
forget these foolish fuel fossil religions
let's earn us some hot apple pie.
Oh jump for joy, employ jubilation        
express all your ritual wry                      
in laughter leading relaxing nation       
reducing stress levels too high.            

. . . more growl howl groan moan werewolf rock—music by Peter Ball (1949-2015), words & voices by Smith—at


Our thanks to Smith (Steven B. Smith) for checking in from Parts East. We’ve had several guests in the Kitchen this week from thataway: Michael Marrotti from Pittsburgh, BZ Niditch from Massachusetts, Smith from Cleveland. It’s good to hear from our faraway SnakePals.


Today’s LittleNip:


The rise up
sometimes weighs down

The ever dark diminishes day

Seems lessons always cost
in time or money or climb

Just keeps going
this it it is

One step in step of the other

Savor some yesterday
keep hope for tomorrow

It's the bait that sets the trap



—Photo by Smith

Celebrate poetry, East coast, West Coast—celebrate 
words dancing across the universe! 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. 


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Inside Secret Shadows

Stagecoach, Old Sturbridge Village
—Anonymous Photos
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


The day started off
with static on the radio
trying to hear music
of a Bach solo
trying to be nonchalant
yet the time turned
more dramatic
as an operatic choir
played a thrilling Fidelio
then a Bach cantata,
a Dutch friend in his kayak
phoned me who got
my airmail letter
to tell me to watch my back
if I go on the ocean
there is too much commotion
on this touch-and-go day
better exercise
on the treadmill
and not to practice
Tartini's frightful
“Devil's Trill Sonata”
in G minor,
as I stare lyrically
at a lonely geranium
on the window sill,
so I decided to ride
up to Vermont to relax
and snatch up
a cheese croissant
with a hot cup of java
and my tenor sax.

 Scene from White Mountains


September's skywriting
resembles sheets
of clouds whitening stars
as Nana Mendes makes
our breakfast treats
of puffed-potato pancakes
heavily full of bulgur wheat
we children wish to eat
as she puts on sour cream
which she will swish
with a large spoon
over a covered Spanish dish
in ceramic jars
with tiny doubloons
of fallen angels on them,
as I wake from a dream
about Edgar Allen Poe
guiding me
through Purgatory
as Virgil did to Dante
to tell his Divine Comedy
skillfully through
the third heaven
shrouded in mystery
of Jesus' last seven words
when holy angel feet
glide by us in the history
from a Roman forum
of a poetry slam by Levy
in a marathon of dry runs
drunk by urns of ecstasy
as Poe's yearning spirit
greets us upon
lively golden Blakean streets
in this new Jerusalem,
the poet makes a U-Turn
from a destiny of words
at a dawn's song time
of a flock of birds
from a morning port of call
he discovers as if
in a daydream
these luffing white sails
on a small naval Danish haul
of a fishing vessel
near humpbacked whales
as Hamlet's ghosts are prating
along the planks of the ship
holding up a cross and skull
and then are lost and vanish
over the somnambulist earth
as red Fall leaves rise
by the riverbed winds
delivering a lost missing kite,
as Nana grieves in Spanish
kissing a rosary
and yet remembering
all of man's regretted sins,
yet we trio of musicians
also look up and live
in our jazz solo
as cool cats jam with drums
and chops in all conditions
we who play on strings
the allegro with con brio
in stops, sharps and flats
hoping our memories
will lock us
into new riffs and concepts
to connect us
as lyrically spoken politicians
here at a breaking complex dawn
by tall oaks and ilex
as our sexy hosts
are waking up Derek Walcott
aboard this starry island
of pirate ships to boycott,
other folks wave to us
at an early hour's opening air
over the high towers of Babel
as Rapunzel with the long hair
watches the runaways
catching nets of butterflies
while playing at soccer
her parents play canasta
monopoly or scrabble
on the shore's sandy rocks
to shape their furtive days
while hearing sea voices
in a passing of nature
from manifold fugitive sounds
among choice lodgings
on Common grounds
near branches of birch and ivy
as lively love scenes play out
by the Golden Bowl café
near All Saints monastery
by a small church home
as French tourists sit along
on public park benches
eating spinach croissants
as a breezy shade takes us
for a ride on our harbor boats
by these shipping docks
where tripping teen lovers
of misjudged affection
hang out for a last swim
on the season's afternoon
as Whitman's sons and daughters
are discovered in a poetic pose
swaying in the cooling waters,
others imagine a time soon
when snow-wrapped gifts
are given outside
these burdock woods
as Evergreen Christmas trees
are lifted up for us in Vermont
and brought by river banks
we will reach out to decorate
being thrilled at the Pine
and Evergreens
we want to give thanks
like the giving of a Magi's gifts
of frankincense, gold and myrrh
to celebrate a Child's birth
under a lens of enfolded stars
as a snow ski lift
is ready for us
at the White Mountains
we are all wrapped up
amid a chamber of fir trees
hidden by a light in caverns
of a midnight bazaar grill
as white cupcakes are sold
by spouting fountains
we break bread
with cups and jars of wine
by Marian roses intertwined.


September first
is realized in a genius
whom we praise
on the calendar
from the stars as a conduit
with a vexing invitation
from Blaise Cendrars' pulpit
we join with him to celebrate
his poetry, film, and prose
quoting human cooperation
we remember as you disclose
your permanent trajectory
for peace and democracy
in literature and history
from the culture's wilderness
you leave us the politeness
of a rose in your memory
as your time of it is success
when fascism closes down
and war is obscene
as Roualt's clown
rewards you with a crown
now enveloping humanity.


When the leaves turn
orange and red
as I discern the print
of Mondrian's sponged colors
which greets me this morning
with a spider
adorning the wall
when I spin
outside of my bed
by my windy curtains
at sunshine shadows
of the dawn
watching from my Bay windows
at the woodshed
Tom, a young runner
and Sylvia his bride
backed up
in a winding marathon
we know
that our wishing season
(for warmth, swim and garden)
has changed for certain
for a pardon
of September Blues
yet looking back
at the lined-up fishing rods
near my own kayak
from a shadow of anchored
home harbor boats
with many steady visitors
already lined up
as an ocean of tourists waves
to me
from rigs of the ship
some of whom heard me
read my verse at gigs
or jam on riffs
on my tenor sax
on those summer poetry days
relaxing over greensward grass
as these Cape Cod guests
and crowds make their way
for distant places
who pass by me
with luggage and pictures
dueling at gossip and news
of culture celebrities and icons
in their suitcases,
a memory returns to me
in the rays of sun
thinking of
Fort Sewall, Marblehead
with my Aunt Sarah
and Uncle Linwood
as we practiced violin
for Tanglewood,
as we go to the yacht races
speed boats move us along
with great commotion
from noise of loud motors
and vaporized carburetors
which float in the reeds
as fuel
in a lotion of mixtures
on the ocean
when giving us time
to petition for a renewal.


Her birthday is September
on the seventh day,
we marvel at Creation
and at Edith Sitwell's
party invitation for us
in the wave of her hand
from musical vibrations
as she reads her lyrical verse
summed up in an evocative
universe of undulation,
Edith never landlocked
in rooms or hallways
for those who visit this poet
from a thousand realms
of brides and grooms
to a world which opens
for all of us in England
on the sands of the sea
(like John at Patmos
on an island
where he is sees
as a visionary
a woman clothed
by revelations in the sun
and the twelfth of stars
in charismatic velocity)
near the shore
are wellspring boxes
of blueberries
by riverbeds of roses
which outlast like phlox
in a garden of rocks
as a phoenix rises,
Edith walks by
mirrors, corridors
from an English garden
to deliver these roses
we recall her
in a choir of love
in a memoir of verse
still hearing her invocation
on musical sharps and harps
in contented long passages
which trill and thrill
with remarkable Sitwell quatrains
(for Edith you always amuse us
even being serious
as would good Jesus
who was not understood
asks us to love and rejoice
in wonder
from his cross of wood
at the final thunder
of his reign
your vocal parallels
that of the bishops
in gospel chapter and verse)
from tercet villanelle
we can tell of Sitwell
giving us pleasure
of channeling words
by wishing wells
in your parlor
as gentlemen and ladies
are set free
from Hades and Hell
by saucer dinner settings
trading in old England's dishes
of Shakespeare and Chaucer
to vetting our interiors
from London to Boston
sounding from the underground
wishing your arbitrary phrases
will always be soulfully alive
invented as Edith resets
her area of poetry
fixing our masks
on wrong
which will survive
in our leisure to pick out
her legendary words
from our living libraries
and to ask for an asterisk
as a prize prick song
measure to measure
at our own pleasure.


On a Chilean balcony
in the Thursday dawn
of September
holding onto her verse
Mistral's memory returns
in her luminous reflection
of a numberless poetry
over the trackless lawn
she recites out loud
to a student fan
by full mangroves
who then settles down
to play études of Chopin
for her on the grand piano
at an early dawn in slumber
Mistral breaks into a lyric
as a black-necked swan
appears in the river below
at the open window's
silk blinds
as the small alley cat purrs
yet eludes us
inside secret shadows
which unwind
from a night of darkness
searching for her milk
in the tall meadow grass.

(in Memoriam)

Zoo Story
and Who's Afraid
of Virginia Woolf

cast me into the writer
in lieu of my own plays
featured in one-acts
in BZ's Original Theatre
at his company with jazz music
featuring sax riffs
and chants of Beat poetry
held at St. Peter's,
as this undercover professor
in a literary guided confession
critically reacts with patience
at his student audience
with the converted language
of his provided profession
about the classical arts
to lovers of the spoken Word
who gives a shout-out
by offering a lively meeting
of literary analysis
for creative minds
during intermission
at this gig of participation,
for bz wishes everyone
to have the parts of an actor
(as written
in his proctor's thesis)
and isn't art partly
an oral discussion
to culturally celebrate,
as when Albee's language
discloses the sum of life's reality
or bz plays
a host of instruments
a musical drum, violin
cello, piano, fife
and percussion,
emerging with a poet's
energy and imagery
as he lectures on Albee's
The Play About the Baby
and Breakfast at Tiffany's,
at this matinee
that made Albee
have fulfilling grades for me
and for all who participate
under a doctor's
critical discussion
of different resolutions,
as Edwin Albee still makes
his way of appearance today
even in his translated state
for a poet there is no death
in his or her cleverly riled lines
at a tragic-comedy boast
reflecting a starry-eyed host
of Oscar Wilde's past glory
in the keen, clever
and campy on the stage
was to a sunny creative bliss
at an early age
even in Albee's designed abyss
now an everlasting playwright
who passed away on this date
we will always remember
and miss him on September 16
and be grateful he was alive
for his fine contributions
to our breathless language
on the living stage
and to survive the age.


You in your summer bier
(borne in an English way)
always with
a heartening laugh
even as a July 's
funereal guest
and well bred gentleman
is passing away
as a lifelong death column
in a solemn obituary is read
today at bookstore hallways
or at the library shelves
of London or Oxford
your good-wishing fans
held out to reward
ourselves who read you
your achievement
taking in a full breath
at your bereavement
after the hearse rode by
others were thinking
how you were
always interpreting
and cheering amid the curse
for Shakespeare's
sly Falstaff
as if you were his muse
or nurse,
we who wish
not to lose you
as if there was no parting
from your span
in what's best in life
for a man's man
with a muscular
ribald but often ghostly humor
but it was more than
what was called
an artsy softened pose
but mostly of a rumor
that more than hinted
before the war
you favored poetry
more than your novel ways
for your own personal métier,
even as T.S. Eliot
sought you out
in his didactic words
and taught to allay us
all our small arbitrary fears
and yet you sought fame
more as a poet
of pacifist estrangement
in your conduit's arrangement
at the tenure of your years
for serving an an objector
to the horror of war,
with proof of a poetry lover
(as you adored Beowulf
at the Welsh, Scotch
and Celtic folio
which made you a poet
to discover
and a critic not aloof from us
from your accorded verse
in your wondrous libretto
from a universal literary career
which has stood up to time,
yet now you are rewarded
in my own rhyme
for your clever starring years
never to be undercover
but rather we drink
from your cup)
not forsaking
any didactic proof
that an enacted poet
is not aloof
for Robert Nye has wished
to be known and to express
that his cherished soul
will enlist
for a wise poet's goal
not as a dry-boned novelist,
if the truth be told
(he is not gone
like a swan on a lake
nor anonymous any more)
but we awake today
to feed
over his vast collection
of literary notes and stories
though you had to leave us
in regret from quotes
with a famous pose
in all its glories
with your wonderful signature
making us to believe
that your critical prose
was definitely part
of our culture
for we will grieve
yet retrieve
your signature memory
from in a lonely paragraph
in the popular press
which unravels to confess
the inimical truth
of your bio
with a passing dissent
to know the clarity
and discover in your folio
your secret sentiment of words
and lifelong wish to be a poet
as heard in your libretto
was no laughing matter
for now we know it
as in a new demographic reported
in today's Daily Telegraph
that such an epitaph
was spotted
and printed for the public
to openly express
as they chatter.

 Massachusetts Pumpkins


You ask what is conditioned
in a kind of accuracy
when you meander
to know the wandering words
for a poem in mind
are hidden in your spirit
until then we unwind
we are forbidden masks
until we become legendary
as jazz poets of the legible
rising in my search for riffs
while critics for language
create their own corner
by receiving ideas
from Homer, Pessoa or Basho
in aged library shadows,
on the church stained windows,
sunny basilica or porticoes,
or from our soundproof studios,
we are always eligible to write
in our own press alley's web
whether by first hallways light
writing binary notes in Vermont
or speaking to a Russian ballerina
or a sailor from Atlanta, Georgia
our history is not in question
whether we watch flashes
of cormorants on the water
or a future snow is envisaged
from my sunny back yard
or on the Atlantic ocean
in my once anchored kayak
on a smashing vacation up North
with my Melville-like travelogue
while my white island sailboat
crashes on the ocean floor
looking for salamanders
a bard hears the wonder of sounds
motioning us to more voices
of W.H. Auden
in an evocation of Iceland
or a playwright of modern dialogue
we have a permanent island
of a kind of music underground.


Today’s LittleNip:

A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.

—Salman Rushdie


Medusa, with many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s fine poetry! Today's photos are of New England by my old friend, Anonymous.

Celebrate (and create!) poetry today, and then go down to 
Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe tonight, 8pm, for features 
and open mic. 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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Relationships on Life Support

—Poems and Photos by Michael Marrotti, Pittsburgh, PA

—Michael Marrotti

She used to
reward me
for tolerating
her belligerent
behavior with
gifts to contradict
her malevolent nature

Shrinks could not
rectify her glitch
pills didn't make
a difference
alcohol only fueled
her contempt
and orgasms
were the only things
we had in common

She had a sexy figure
that would not stop
neurotic thoughts
we both would gather

I voluntarily
walked out on her
numerous times
only to come back
to a disorder
that could not
be conquered

Those crazy
green eyes
haunt me
to this day

I picked up the
pill-shaped pieces
of a life that was


420 is the stoner
holiday for most
who enjoy bong hits
Pepsi and pizza delivery

For others it’s the day
that spawned a monster
or a malicious school
shooting by those
who refused to take
what they were offered

It's a day of remembrance
it's a day to forget
for me it’s one
of the most memorable
days of the year

So for someone
with a bad memory
and contempt
for clichés
I thought the day
after would be
an ideal date
for a loving


I make sure
I'm equipped
with two ice
cold beers

It's going
to be awhile
her self-obsessed
monologue is

I listen as she
rambles on
about everything
from what she
claims to be her
latest achievements
to family gossip
it all goes back
to her

After an hour
I attempt to
the publication
of one of my

It's dismissed
like a misbehaving
child in the
principal’s office

I casually finish
my cold beer
raise my
body to my feet
and say goodbye
to apathy

I know I'm an author
but this was supposed
to be a day of leisure
I didn't come here
to write your


Placing a phone call
to a disconnected number
ear on the receiver
that familiar voice
is the insistent voice
fading into days
when attention
was welcomed
as it devolved
into trespass

A relationship
on life support
The futility
of hanging on
when all
the fingers
are fractured
and the Viagra
has expired

The vagina
to face the truth
when they are at one
with the truth
the truth
is also unwanted

 At Warhol's Grave


The amount of
I've shown
to you
would make
a priest blush

The kindness
you've received
from me
was a page
ripped out of
the Bible

I know
if anything
this sexual
could stop
at a four-way

If you think for
one fleeting
I'll bite that bullet
again which has
chipped my teeth
and altered
my way of living
you're wrong

I'll tear down
everything I've
toiled to build

I'll pay for sex
to contract

I'll drag my
last name
through the
most vile shit
just to get even

You've stabbed me
in the past bitch
this time around
my fingerprints
will be on the


Our thanks to Michael Marrotti of Pittsburgh, PA for his fine poems and photos of Pittsburgh! Michael is the author of F.D.A. Approved Poetry, available at Amazon.

Interested in copyright law for artists? Cal. Lawyers for the Arts will present a workshop in Sacramento tonight, 6:30pm, by Steve Davis on all sorts of copyright definitions and issues. County Bar Assoc., 425 University Av,, Suite 120, Sac. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming events for poets in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

The Poeming Pigeon is pleased to announce the release of its fourth issue, and pre-orders may be had at a 20% discount from now until Oct. 15. See


Today’s LittleNip:

To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.

—Allen Ginsberg



—Anonymous Photo 
Celebrate poetry, wherever you find 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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Birds of Miraculous Flight

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


In the birdcage of death
the bird sits preening its flightless wing
it does not feed and
it does not look in the little mirror

sometimes it sings its sudden song
and the whole air shatters
when it stops the bars twang still
and the bird looks out of its sharpened eye

sunbeams drift through it from the window
its feathers gleam
it clenches its feet in a little dance
and a voice from somewhere says: pretty, pretty.


After Georgia O’Keefe (blue woman)

There are many like you:
woman without strings,
woman estranged
from the old notions of ownership.

You move in feather-light
and blaze of color,
twisting yourself into a dance
free of metric direction.

Color swirls around you,
alive with your power.
You are becoming new shape
and song—your own.

Stillness waits,
watching your intensity
like a mirror waiting to catch you,
though you are beyond mirrors.

After “Landscape from a Dream, 1936-38" by Paul Nash 

It’s not that I love this dream, but I can’t get through the
mirror to the sea. The sky is a flat and painted blue, and a
huge white cloud is in the way. A pane of glass becomes
a cage. A boulder of fire creates a second, retributive
sky—blood red and near—and a lone dark gull is flying
right at me.

A frame of fear surrounds it all and I don’t know what
to do—I can’t awake, and I cannot sleep. Mirrored in
metamorphosis, I am turning to a fear myself: My own
face holds my feathered face. My arms have turned to
wings. My shoulders hurt, and my mouth is cruel. My
frozen eyes do not believe this metaphor, of which I am
both abstract mystery and indefinable clue.



Hooray for the
fine wind and time
for old movies on TV
James Cagney young
a feather-hatted blonde by his side.

And meanwhile
back at the window and
the brisk Canadian wind
in the frantic poplar tree
my mother getting drunk and sad…
her hurts and pains…
with pills for each…
she takes them all.

Oh, Canada,
my strange and native land…
she’ll never cook tonight,
she’s sad.
She talks and weeps…
so many yesterdays to grieve…
to worry for…
she does them all.
She’ll never cook tonight.
She’s sad.

(first pub. in Red Start)


Now that the cat
has come to
live with us
in our tame house,

from my red rug
I vacuum
all such things

wren feathers
and dragonfly

and the red
felt nose
from the catnip



It was a far-fetched thing, this lonely love,
made of feathers and cold moonlight,
distant moans from old woes.

How easily they conjured
something to use
for reasons:
Every ruse!
Early blames! New contagions!

Tawdry cynics—needing
something simple to believe in—falling
into old patterns because they were familiar.


let me become the fragment—you—the one I remember as
collage—the one made of this and that of life.

Let me be that texture, that wing, that disappearing thought.
Feather.   String.   Worry-stone.   Cloth.


After "Clockwork Jay" by Riusuke Fuahori

Tickety-tock , tickety-tock
goes the cute little

It has two wheels
and sturdy metallic feathers,
and a steely eye and beak.

It has a little arrow on its neck
and a winding-circle
fastened where its wings

can open when it’s wound.
It is painted seven lovely colors.
It blends into everything.

It is expensive.
It is beautiful
It can even sing.


Let us comprehend the light, 

the long range of shadows, 

the benefits of doubt, 

the lack of glory.



do words 

count that are as 

the brief measurement 

of birds in miraculous flight—

our ache of envy?

Let us hide our wings 

beneath our cloaks

and cling together 

in a dance of exhaustion,

feather to feather, and beak to beak.




we release 

our abstract singing—

circular and tinged with a sad color—


psalms, so 

ignorant of doubt . . .

that praise in spite of us . . . 

that comfort and yearn . . .

even after finding the silence unreceptive.

Today’s LittleNip:


At first it was feathers that pulled from
her arms and she wondered if she
would ever fly again.

    ~ ~ ~

Her shoulders remembered and old
weight which she ignored.
It felt like rain.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her fine poetic and photographic musings on our Seed of the Week: Feathers! Our new Seed of the Week is Turning the Key. 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 feather at.




 And 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.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Burned Out, Yet Shining

—Photo by Ann Privateer, Davis, CA

We wrote a few words
It came together
Like the trifle you see here

    * * *

A full moon and stars
Burned out yet shining
Teach the value of silence

    * * *

Traveled to islands
Transformative? Yes
but ghost towns without you there

    * * *

Hot fudge Sunday with some nuts
My hot weather lunch
Yum, I'm to the moon

—Ann Privateer

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

One feather—
Molting season.


Two feathers,
Mating season.


Three feathers:
Rough sex.


Four feathers,
An unread
British novel.


Five feathers—
Have you seen
A cat around
The back yard?


Six feathers;
Your pillow
Has a leak.


Seven feathers.
That Icarus.
Kid never did


—Kevin Jones

Sister Virgilius liked
To teach with parables.
It worked for one
Of her role models.

“Now class, gossip
Is like going to the top
Of the tallest building
In town, opening
A pillow and flinging
The feathers to the wind.
What’s my point here,

“Littering is bad?”
“You need a taller building?”
“You need a new pillow?”
“Foam is better?”

Sister Virgilius rolled
Her eyes.  Retired.

—Photo by Ann Privateer 

           a mythical dream-haunted, fog-shrouded island…
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

Something to link both Shakespeare and Arnold Bax:
Ortelius, Shakespeare’s cartographer, maps an island
just off west Ireland, surely miles distant, lax-
lying as a brine-softened starfish, misted lie-land,
exposed to entice, across unwarily eyescanned
sea-reaches, lost ships, crow’s-nests and all, to wracks
on trident-sharp rocks. And is it from here that sly Fand

allures hero Cuchulain? Where the near-capsized boat
sags with waterlogged warriors, shedding salt streams,
yet makes landfall on these Tempest-gold sands? What shapes
does this sea-goddess take? Now bird, now bream,
when does she assume the lonely-woman coat
of fine-tuned dreamsong, this Ariel lady of capes?

—Tom Goff

I envision your glorious hair grown long again
and how wondrously askew it lies up-piled
on your perfect head. It’s not at all a strain
to pierce your lumberjack green-black plaid worn wild,
see to the clear you ornamentless, erotic
and, poised just short of the midway, seeming still teen;
tough of mouth when you want, you still waft vatic
yet soft-lipped essence, your aura angel-clean
as winter breath-vapor. What have I under this
my outward savanna of rags but bone? Yet summer
reclothes me in youth, you’ve brought the time back. All dawn
warming to hot. If we should hear Bax’s piece,
Enchanted Summer, the Shelley play-poem made glimmer
in music, us clinging to listen, faun against faun…


—Tom Goff

When Vernon Handley sands down skirling edges
in Bax’s November Woods, the shrill subdued,
and slows the tempest’s reel around the hedges;
calms sword-on-buckler screeches through the broods
of snapping, crackling branches which strew twigs
or topple the tough-barked birches—yet such gentle-
meticulous orchestra balance; the phrases figs
at summer’s peak (who says, “Not elemental?”)—

now daresay we feel Arnold and Tania here:
not groping bowed through bluster to a bed
of illicit thrills, but reminiscing storm,
willing the drench, the soul-torment to clear
then gather again its high-piled thunderhead,
blackberry-hued reverie, passionate wrong’s dreamform…

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Radio, TV, or books, it didn’t matter
as long as there was a clatter of hooves,
the occasional whicker or neigh
under murmurous cottonwoods at the edge
of desert, a guy in buckskins and bandanna,
the image of insouciance, holding
the reins in a desultory manner until—
whoop there was trouble, he was airborne
for saddle ready to involve his horse
in imbroglio (word I’d ask the grownups).
Background music evocative of thunder,
stampede, shoot-em-up. Southern border-
lands, badlands, canyon lands, Wells Fargo
stagecoach or main street, warpaint
and feathers, a skinny kid riding Pony
Express evanescent as dust. Imagination
filled the gaps, made it real right-now
efflorescence of wishing.


—Taylor Graham
From the rubble that is your dream backyard,
my dog retrieved a tiny shoe (in its package
never opened). One shoe for a left-footed doll
or else a baby. Do you keep elves in your yard?


A stranger’s ginger poodle found you where you
were hiding for my dog to find. You protested,
you were fine, you hadn’t fallen, please don’t
help. Your cane was in case of sinking cities;
for fending off the owners of ginger poodles.


—Taylor Graham

The Barred Rock pullets dash around
their yard crying the sky is falling
but I assure them, it never is—just twigs
and dead oak leaves catching
on chicken-wire roof above their heads.

But this morning
a pile of soft barred feathers
on the ground beside their feeder,
more feathers against the fence
on the side were the sun goes down;

and a small depression under flap
of fence—a gap we hadn’t noticed—
where some lithe night creature crawled
in and carried off one
of their flock. This morning

I count eight pullets
where yesterday were nine.
Eight barred dashes around their
yard, crying the sky
is falling. It fell on number nine.

 The Grounds at Wakamatsu
—Photo by Taylor Graham 

—Taylor Graham

I looked for you in the lilac’s leaves, green
hanging hearts, the blossoms withered, gone.

The garden’s Royal Empress in full bloom,
and two ladies in kimonos crimson as dawn.

The Taiko drums beat loud enough to rouse
grave-spirits, a pulse so deep, long-drawn.

Must home be always another place and time,
far from alien grasses brittling to the awn?

I couldn’t stay to follow shadows down
among the feet that press a watered lawn.

Mulberry will know your name, your face
as in the pond reflecting a doe with fawn.


—Taylor Graham

This landscape I know so well—
an aerial view on my screen. If I keep on
enlarging, I get a maze of out-of-focus
colors. It’s like that old film, Blow Up.
Can I solve a death, a love, a life?
Here’s the gravesite of that girl
so many people come to visit, who died,
they say, of grief; homesick
for a place forever unattainably west
across an ocean. I focus
on oak trees that over-shade the grave—
so many green squares for a single
tree—and a dot of white, the headstone?
Like history, the closer in I get
the farther off it seems.
Click back now, move to barn
and farmhouse reduced to woodgrain.
And these squares of dark—
what can bits of an old gate mean?
To north and east, thousands of blue
pixels compose the pond, ripples
of variegated colors. White of egret
lifting off from wetlands, how many
shards of bright feathers creating flight.


Our thanks to today’s handy chefs for fine photos and poems! Taylor Graham’s first poem was a response to last week’s “bonus” Seed of the Week, that box containing lots of less-seen words, and the challenge to use as many of them as possible. Her poems and pic of Wakamatsu in Placerville remind us that she and Katy Brown will be leading a workshop at Wakamatsu, the first Japanese colony in North America, on Sunday, Oct. 9 from 1-3pm. For more information, scroll down to “More Food for the Brain” in the green column at the right of this one. Fall is workshop season, so be sure to keep an eye on that section for, well, more food for the brain.

Note also, while you’re in the green box, that today is the deadline for Davis’s Jack Kerouac Poetry Contest; see

Then keep scrolling down to the blue column underneath for all the readings in our area, starting tonight at Sac. Poetry Center with Susan Kelly-DeWitt and Susan Cohen, plus open mic, 7:30pm, or go to Davis to see the documentary, Flowers and Roots: James Ragan, Ambassador of the Arts, at The Pence Gallery, 7pm. Wednesday brings a workshop by Steve Davis of Cal. Lawyers for the Arts at the Sac. County Bar Assoc. on copyright law, 6:30pm. Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe meets on Thursday, 8pm, with features and open mic. And Saturday night, 7pm, Luna’s will host poetry again, this time with An Eclectic Night at Luna’s Cafe: original music/spoken word from songwriter Mike Pickering with guitarist Chris Mackey, instrumentalist George Sheldon, poet/singer Jennifer Pickering. Sunday brings Mosaic of Voices, with Natalia Trevino and Norma Liliana Valdez at Avid Reader in Sac., 2pm. 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.

For more about the James Ragan documentary, see


Today’s LittleNip:

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.

—Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums




Oh!—and celebrate poetry, too!

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, September 25, 2016

The Lovely Hours

Double Alaskan Rainbow
—Anonymous Photo

—Trumbull Stickney (1874-1904) 

Live blindly and upon the hour. The Lord,
Who was the Future, died full long ago.
Knowledge which is the Past is folly. Go,
Poor child, and be not to thyself abhorred.
Around thine earth sun-wingèd winds do blow
And planets roll; a meteor draws his sword;
The rainbow breaks his seven-coloured chord
And the long strips of river-silver flow:
Awake! Give thyself to the lovely hours.
Drinking their lips, catch thou the dream in flight
About their fragile hairs’ aërial gold.
Thou art divine, thou livest,—as of old
Apollo springing naked to the light,
And all his island shivered into flowers.


—Medusa, reminding you that Reyna Grande and Maceo Montoya will read today at the Avid Reader, 1600 Broadway, Sac., 3pm. 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.

For more about Trumbull Stickney, go to

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.
(Do click on this rainbow and let it fill your screen—
it's glorious!)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

More Than Meets the Eye

—Poems and Photos by 
Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch, CA


There are listeners crawling in the walls.

There are unknown uncles in your face.

There are massive machines.

There are wooden shoes.


She had a mouth full of no

Pins spilled on a shag rug

Pushing cars in the mud

She cared only for my effigy


Bells were crying finally as it was inevitable that the choir would have to rehearse wearing their gas masks but why this ginger poodle should follow me home hectoring my hands all the while is beyond my ability to offer my brother-in-law any proof about where the tequila reposes.


And then there was the matter of those two coins nailed to your letter and a clover leaf and overcrossings and underpasses but I am getting ahead of myself again and it is harder and harder to keep up appearances since the city began to sink beneath the noise of parades and the piss-cold sleep of sidewalk dreamers between your towers of binary code where I find myself lost another time that might have existed if I cared to notice but a forgotten side of this hill tells me that more meets the eye than is here.

I am so sorry.


Our thanks to Robert Lee Haycock for stepping in today with these fine poems and photos as D.R. Wagner takes a well-deserved vacation while continuing his recovery. The pix are from Robert's series, “Getting My Mind Straight”. 

Gail Entrekin, editor of Canary, writers that “A very special longer issue of Canary was posted yesterday for the Autumn equinox. Dorianne Laux, Ted Kooser, Alicia Ostriker, Jane Hirshfield, Linda Watanabe McFerrin, Bob Hass, Jeanne Wagner, and many other arguably less known but certainly equally gifted writers have work in the issue. Enjoy. And welcome to Autumn!” See

For poetry in our area today, either go up to Placerville for the Poetic License read-around at the Placerville Sr. Center, 2-4pm, or help celebrate the fifth anniversary of Sacramento Voices and the international 100,000 Poets for Change at the Sac. Poetry Center as high school students read from 10am-12, then 22 featured readers from past Sac. Voices read from 12-4pm. 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.


Today’s LittleNip:

The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.

—Jean Cocteau



Celebrate the poetry that is our fellow creatures!

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, September 23, 2016

"Author! Author!"

 —Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
—Photos of the Fair Oaks Chicken Festival 
by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA


Every day
the same play.
The moment I rise,
the first act begins,
the same plot
all over again.
Only the characters,
only the scenery,
vary. Act after act,
no intermission,
no denouement,
it never ends.
Every night,
in the front row,
the same lady
in a plumed hat
stands and shouts,
“Author, Author!”
I smile, I bow,
what else can I do?
Finally I pull the curtain
and turn in.



When a bullet goes in
and doesn’t come out
you read about it
in the paper, hear
about it on TV.

A person takes a bullet
near the heart and learns
a surgeon can't remove it.
It's part of him forever.
Happens like a drive-by

shooting when a loved one
makes a comment no
apology can remove.
The loved one doesn't
know there’s a problem,

doesn’t realize lightning
through the cerebellum 
is by far a better option.
Doesn't let the victim linger.
Makes forever shorter.

 Space Chicken Sculpture


Each morning
I step from the train
and march with the others

leaving the station.
The weatherman's warned of rain
so we're armed

with umbrellas,
our briefcases swinging.
Across from the station

there's an old hotel
high in the sky. King Kong,
everyone calls it.

In tall windows
old men appear,
disappear, reappear.

It is August in Chicago
and the old men wear
overcoats and homburgs

so no one can steal them.
They light cigarettes,
mumble and curse

at the daily parade
leaving the station.
Traffic is thick

but even in winter
no one looks up
since no one can hear them.



There's nothing wrong with you.
We both know this is true

but there's something wrong with me
and you know what that is.

It's the elephant in the room
standing on our mantel

trumpeting "I'm here!"
I'll call when I find out

what's wrong with me
and then I'll buy a yo-yo

a shiny one with rhinestones
the kind we had as kids

and we can try that trick
"walking the dog" again.

 Dancing Chickens at the Children's Pavilion


Two men tall,
one from here
and one from there,

in raincoats
at a bus stop,
pace and stare.

One of them
is soaked in tea,
brisk man from Jaipur

who semaphores
an anthracitic glare.
To barter for a smile

an alien’s obeisance
he, no fawn,

The other man,
white cane and dog,
doesn’t seem to care.



Great victories in youth,
some of them remarkable,
are recorded in a scrapbook

lost for many years
only to emerge decades later
when age affords the leisure

to rustle through a dresser drawer
and find a scrapbook underneath
an ancient uniform, some jocks and socks.

Cheers from games spring off the page
as do tall teammates dead for years,
their jump shots perfect, their laughter loud.

This will be the last reunion,
he knows that for certain.
The scrapbook will become

a game of none on none.
A doctor told him yesterday
he's dribbling out the clock.

 Gulliver's Pet Sculpture


Tornadoes in the parlor,
in the kitchen, in the bathroom, too,
churned every hour Dad was home.
He never worked
and with good reason.
Sis could tell you more.
She'd help Ma board up the house
when I'd walk out the door
and ride my bike around the block.
If you find Sis today,
she’ll tell you funnels
tore the basement, too.
So what, you say?
Well, Dad’s been gone
for seven years
and Sis is somewhere.
She needs to know
good weather here
is still a squall.



Sleet on the turnpike
in the middle of the night
but I keep driving,
both hands on the wheel,
nowhere to pull off,
and a yellow bus
comes over the line
and kisses my truck.
That's all I remember.
Now I'm in bed,
wired to things,
unable to move,
listening to a doctor
telling my wife,
"It's been two weeks,
no improvement."
He asks her nicely
if we should let him go,
the dimwit bastard.
If I could, I'd scream
but I can't even
wiggle my toes.


My wife likes to garden.
She’s crazy about roses,
lilies and daisies.
She says I should get out
in the garden and weed.
The roses, lilies and daisies
need more room to grow.

She says her garden would be
better if I would help out.
I’m tempted to tell her I’m not
fond of roses, lilies and daisies
but then I remember before
I met her 50 years ago
I spent some time with
a Rose, a Lily and a Daisy,
not all at once, of course.

Like my wife, they were
nice ladies and I hope they
didn’t marry those guys
they weeded me out for.
Their gardens were lovely
but none had gardens
as beautiful as my wife’s.
On a cool summer morning
I still like to sprinkle her garden
once she adjusts the nozzle
on this old hose.



Walking very slowly, ancient Wally's
right behind his ancient Molly who's
stepping down the garden path,
her first time out in weeks,

wobbly still on her new knee.
She's been housebound far too long,
leg propped up, reading books, gazing out
the window for some sign of Spring.

She wants to trust her Wally when
she sends him out to check her garden
and he comes back bubbling to say
"Spring has sprung, my dear"

but Molly needs to see that for herself.
Wally may have missed a sprig or sprout
and it would not be the first time.
On a lovely day, many years ago

when they were young, didn't Wally claim
a patch of dandelions were crocuses?
So now Molly hobbles out on a silver cane
and leans slowly down the path

toward the first of seven gardens with
Wally right behind her, arms outstretched,
ready to catch her if she slips, a man 
wearied now by many weeks as caregiver.

He's a man of many years, most of them 
spent in a hurry until his stroke, a factor
that's a hallmark of their lengthy marriage.
Molly's always careful, Wally not so much.

In fact, he still roars into everything,
a second stroke waiting to happen.
But for the moment he forgets the present
as his memory darts into their happy past

and he whispers over Molly's shoulder,
"Let's take our time, my dear. 
Let's make Robert Frost a prophet.
Let's have many miles to go before we sleep."

Today’s LittleNip:


—Donal Mahoney

Pistols in holsters
very early this morning.
She’s wearing a bra


—Medusa, with many thanks to Donal Mahoney and Michelle Kunert for this fine morning repast of poetry and photos! For more about this year’s Chicken Festival in Fair Oaks, go to

(Anonymous Photo)
 Celebrate the garden that is poetry—and those who work at
both! Don't forget that tonight is the release of Stan Zumbiel's 
new book, Standing Watch, at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm. 
And scroll down to the blue column (under the green 
column at the right) for info about this and 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.