Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Time To Change Liquor Stores Again...

John Grochalski
 —Poems by John Grochalski, Brooklyn, NY

poem in which i wonder why
i’m not more upset about the death of my cat

maybe it’s because
she was seventeen years old
and blind and deaf
still i can’t figure out why
i’m not more upset about the death of my cat
i know people who’ve been mourning
their pet for a year
people who call their pets their children
get tattoos of them on their back
maybe it’s because
the cat used to spend hours
walking around the apartment in circles
meowing and caterwauling so loud
i thought the neighbors would complain
or how the minute i came home from work
and sat on the couch with a drink
the animal was all over me like a horny teenaged boy
yet i can’t figure out why
i’m not more upset about the death of my cat
aren’t writers supposed to love cats?
t.s. eliot with his plays
hemingway with his key west brood
and bukowski with all of those poems?
maybe it’s because my cat pissed on my couch
and it still smells faintly of urine
and cat piss poems don’t have a lot of traction
or because i have a vet-sized hole in my savings account
but the money complaints just makes me feel selfish and petty
yet here it is only three weeks
since i put her down into eternal rest
and some days it doesn’t even feel like she was ever here
i even took her picture off my facebook account
i’m not trying to suggest this says a lot about me as a person
i can be sensitive to a fault and people heal at their own rate
but hell, not even a gloomy thought on the walk to work?
i’ve tried making myself upset
i’ve tried thinking and thinking about her
how sick and sad and clueless her end was
but all i end up doing is thinking about how nice it is
to have a drink on the couch
without pushing some animal off of me
again and again like it’s some sisyphean task
or watching her walk in circles
driving us both to a complete and total madness
oh, maybe i am a heartless defective
a man without empathy, devoid of soul
because i’m really not more upset
about the death of my cat
all i can think about right now sitting here
is how unbelievably quiet it is
about the two hundred dollars in boarding money
i’ll save now when the wife and i go away
or how when i wake up tonight to take a piss
how i’ll no longer have to dodge all the piles of shit
that she used to leave for me to step in
right by the toilet or somewhere else close by
on the liter-strewn bathroom floor


time to change liquor stores again

these are temporary loves
you should know this by now, i think

but dusting off the embers of these trysts
gets harder and harder with each separation

on any block i pass the dusty visages
of old dalliances gone bad in a sudden twist of fate

an indiscretion here that become too intimate
anger and judgement pushed too far

a price that became too expensive
for my loyalty and trust

or really just hanging around
much longer than i realized
my welcome was wanted

today he wants to discuss rebates
all next week eight dollars off smirnoff

an inane pillow talk that i’ve suffered before
for the sake of the relationship

the drill is to smile and act interested
the way that old couples do
when they tell each other the same story yet again

interject an oh yes, and hmmmm, there and there
while keeping hold of that familiar plastic bottle
as if he were waiting to grip ol’ faithful from my hands

i think of how it used to be when this all started

silent judgment that was easy to tolerate
the cold cash exchange at the register
not unlike a backseat transaction with a whore

how i long for those days
the ones before the hellos and goodbyes
the good afternoons and how was your day, honey

those extra hits from pourer girls
on wine and whiskey tasting fridays
that we never made mention of by monday

but we’ll never get back to that now
we’ve come too far with this

all my relationships have died
the minute they expect me to change

yet like a fool he’ll expect me here all next week

obedient and dedicated like the most beaten of dogs
the way the others have done in the past

but i’m nobody’s slave

i’ve left bigger and better in the dust
over as little as a crossed eye and a torn plastic bag

and there’s this new kid on the block
only five minutes out of my way

a giant grand opening sign in the window
and a face behind the register

blank and unfamiliar, an empty vessel
who knows nothing about me

with whom i can be free
or anyone i want to be…for now.


Our thanks to John Grochalski for popping into the Kitchen this morning, all the way from Brooklyn! John is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016).  Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he says the garbage can smell like roses if you wish on it hard enough. John’s poem, “upon seeing my first book of poetry deleted from the library’s online card catalog” appeared on Medusa’s Kitchen last Sunday, Nov. 27, and you can read more about him at Welcome to the Kitchen, John, and don't be a stranger!


Today’s LittleNip:




Celebrate words, wherever they come from—
Celebrate poetry! 

And don’t forget that tonight is the annual 
Sac. Poetry Center Annual Fundraiser 
at the home of Mimi and Burnett Miller
1224 40th St., Sacramento. Food and drink, plus
 music by the Golden State Brass (with Tom Goff), 
and poetry by Susan Kelly-DeWitt
General admission is $35; SPC Members $30. 
Scroll down to the blue column (under the 
green column at the right) for info about this 
and other upcoming poetry events 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, November 29, 2016

Happiness Bubbles

Zentangle Bubbles by Joyce Odam
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Happiness bubbles
are being thrown to the startled sky,
lowering to catch them . . .

It is the children,
blowing from wands of soapy water
to make more happiness. . . .

the dusty afternoon sunlight turns
the drifting bubbles
into little jeweled mirrors . . .

the children laugh and grab the floating
bubbles from the grabbing sky,
making even more happiness . . . .

After Bubble Maker,
Painting by Amanda Dunbar, 1999

The innocence
of light
in soap bubbles—

floated against
the dark that tries
to absorb them—

the light shimmers
and releases energy
of color;

the bubbles connect
and separate,
rising into thinness

before the dark
can break them;
the bubble-maker

releases them
like dreams—
they cling a moment

to the wand,
then break away—
almost with a gladness.


Watch her oil the skillet. Wait for a drop of water 

to sizzle in the skillet. See how carefully she pours 

three spoons of batter in. 

Watch them spread. Sometimes, 

if you have an apple, she will put tiny slices 

on top of the forming bubbles.

Watch the bubbles form into beautiful 

brown patterns. Watch as she shows you when 

to turn the pancakes over : admire the patterns.

After "Aquarium" by Remedios Varp, 1961
A Child’s Journal of Fairy Tale Forests

Of all the forests I have worried
the water forest
is the deepest one to fathom.

The children there
live without gravity or sky
and make their way past
floating stems with prickly pods
that give off an eminence
of light when they are touched

—unless it be the
deep-lit eyes of the water-guide
who leads the hidden children
away from evil step-mothers
and other perils of their lot
toward the magic place
of no more fears—

One by one,
the guide conceals them
in a cloak that keeps them
from being seen
and uses a long gold key
for a walking stick
that knows the way
to unlock
all the dangers and fears
that frighten children who sleep-walk
through their nightmare conjurings.


this jar full of sadness
shimmering between us
hypnotic to our grieving eyes
quivering with the movement
of invisible sad fish
in tedium
evaporation is slow
a terrible hum
is hanging around us
under it we stay
with our arms resting on
the wet table
watching and saying nothing
waiting for daylight to
fall past the windows
words that were spoken
and the silences they caused
are everywhere like drowning

After a drawing by Angela Mark inRed Owl Magazine, XXIII

element of water
element of dream

of movement

bubbles of light
bubbles of air

of being

element of spiral
nothing at either end

only the upward

holding your breath


The stanzas held the pose, not real, unreal, nor yet
imagined. Time panned by with its swift glimpse
of something barely held—all that was stopped—
would never move, but for repair : two children
who were Me and Me—a black-cloaked boy and
girl—entranced by celestial globes upon a table—
star bubbles that broke across the floor.

The props were set—the speeding days—the
nervous dogs—the dancing shadow ghost. Iconic
fairy-tale-creations stared and simply waited. Night-
Blooming Cereus climbed the posts and grew
toward the lowering clouds—like new life from the
floor and through the nonexistent ceiling.

And now that I look back to now, the sky flows in
with clouds that lower slowly into the private room
of sleep. The ghost still dances. The shy dogs sleep
and the missing bird that was in the hidden cage
where the nightly spell was cast now sings in sweet


Today’s LittleNip:


Blowing bubbles on a summer night,
iridescent tremble in the air—
fragile circles of transparent light
form and break and are not anywhere.

Lovely to her, how they pour and rise
from her soapy wand, night’s musing child,
filling darkness—and her solemn eyes—
learning how some things cannot be held.

(first pub. in
Poets’ Forum Magazine, 2006)


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for “fishing around” in her archives to find us some fine words and photos about our recent Seed of the Week, Bubbles. Her aquarium photos were taken at Hart Sr. Center in downtown Sacramento.

Our new Seed of the Week is After the Rain. 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 plenty to choose from.

 Celebrate the rain, and the sun that comes afterward!

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, November 28, 2016

Everyone's Sky is Different

—Photo by Ann Privateer, Davis, CA

—Ann Privateer, Davis, CA

accept or reject
pomegranate seeds
a sweet pandemonium

an eating war miasma
so sweet, so crunchy
we unmask beauty

delight up to our elbows
and if it's yes then
how much and how high

can we fly over mountains
kill all of our prey
then make another

on another day
left to dig in the garden
until next season

catch a river in our claw
to confess it all
fearlessly falling

one seed at a time.

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
You might think we each live in a bubble
of our own thoughts.
I was just remembering your old felt Stetson
that I borrowed for Gold Rush Days—
when you broke
in. What was your favorite hat doing
on the bathroom floor with teeth marks—
that blasted puppy Trek!

So permeable our bubbles,
I guess Trek ran away with the thoughts
I kept inside mine. My
thoughts let loose on thin air
for anyone to snatch—like an old felt hat—
and share.


—Taylor Graham

“It’s all I have to bring today,” but he held his
jacket close about him. Some whopping
story full of nothing—the kid who never was
quite with it, bubble-head—hey’d say.
He wouldn’t hang his jacket in the cloakroom,
kept it under cover till his turn to share.
“Safer this way.” Then slowly
he pulled it out. A feather, nothing more.
Long striped feather—
an ordinary wild turkey feather.
But when he held it up against the light,
how it flamed bronze and golden
glittering as ore all barred with sable. Who’d
ever seen such a magic thing before?

Sunrise, 2 
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

There, miners dug into the mountain
through the dark for color.
No guarantees. Some found gold,
on a hill above the old hospital
where I find graves
of the indigent who died
in the pest-house—marked not
with names but numbers on iron spokes
rusty as a dead season.
That morning I came to see
the museum with its historic mine.
It was closed. The museum,
not the mountain, which put on
shooting stars for spring,
every oak-branch tipped with soft
green-gold. The creek ran
bubbling between grassy banks
at the sun-gold it mirrored, rippled,
and carried away.

Sailor Ridge 
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

All night it stormed. We woke
to a windfall of clouds moving out and away
across the ridge leaving mist in a swale
that caught sun rising.
My iPad worked the magic
of its lens which gives me less and more
of what I thought I saw, transforming it quicker
than the slant of sun on clouds still moving.
We were so far above
the river carrying yesterday away,
I unclipped my dog who’s taught to work
on-lead. What a day to range free!
“Track him!” But Trek
knew better ways to work the magic
of your scent on air that’s always ferreting out
nooks of landscape as it goes.
Everyone’s sky is different.
My dog dashed, head high, over field and
around a fall-down barn, quicker than I could
find a foothold on the windfall ridge.

Sailor Ridge, 2
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

Pleasantly heavy with pre-Thanksgiving dinner
you made last night, a kind of spell against
all holiday disharmony from sinners,
I drive to work in full daylight, not tensed
but, for a rare reprieve, at ease with life.
Into my speeding Highway 50 view,
a graceful curve, pedestrian overpass,
and on the walkway, waving from some strife,
a suicide-to-be? Thank God for enclosure,
high chain-link fence, rolled over high atop.
I muse what harvest comes of this to crop.
What attire adorns our freeway cynosure?
An orange-is-the-new-black tee shirt, verse
bold-lettered big across the front, a New
Testament something. Yes, John 3:16.
All right, he’s okay, wielding a cheery wave
serene he’s finding commuters ripe to save.
I think of Samuel Johnson, who’d as lief
pray in the asylum with Kit Smart as with anyone,
Smart whose poems could make cat-manic fun
and then again, I suppose, decline toward grief…
But now, good morning! With this man, may I rejoice?
He pantomimes glee, with traffic-muted voice.


—Tom Goff

Our college walls were designed for our displays;
the spongy surfaces for when thumbtacks
pin paper butterflies, bred monarch-thick
as wintry Santa Cruz orange-winged arrays,
to countenance and speed communiqués:
something least Internet, close by bike racks,
for tearoff phone numbers to browse and pick,
one more way we the furtive say our says.

Bureaucrats out of love with the messy true,
you pounce each time these fluty mirlitons
may propagate, rip down these bulletins
in favor of sterile aesthetics recognized
nowhere else here. True, clutter mars a view,
like Frank Lloyd Wright panes flyers victimize…

But before you strip away our freedom windrows,
gaze on the souls, the needs inscribed; what windows…

 Michelle's Laurel Burch purse, which she is very proud
to have found at the thrift for $2
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

READING “WHAT IS THINKING?” by Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks   
—Tom Goff

Inside, but what is an inside, here in this room,
my colleagues are helping with papers, that is, listening;
they suggest, but what is suggesting? Outside, glistening,
pink-tinged puffs—they plump, or do they loom—
suggest in the sky. We prompt so fiercely here,
yet break off, watching shapes, the unprompted Near;
that silence, I handle, fondle, re-revolve
and will till my moment, the last of my lengthy dissolve.


—Tom Goff

Easy to say the summer is for hearts
made manic, drugged with sensuous-endless days;
that obtuse angle feeds a hog of pies,
thins dark down to a last sliver, warms the arts,
and every outdoor animal that darts
to steep with bassarids in glowing rays
bounds, dawn to noon and back, as do our thighs
and minds, convulsing with delights and starts.

Soon, slow fist-shut; the silent iris-out
of sun brings the extinguisher, December.
But I refuse this bondage to some ember.
I serve my muse through hip-deep winter doubt,
track her star-traces into sinister mists that veil lights:
lost cars down pitch-black roads pin hopes to red taillights.


Our thanks to today’s fine contributors! Poetry festivities in our area start tonight at 6pm with Poetry in Motion in Placerville at the Placerville Sr. Center, followed by the weekly Sac. Poetry Center reading, this one with Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Alli Warren, Brandon Brown plus open mic. Speaking of SPC, Weds. is the annual fundraiser at the home of Mimi and Burnett Miller, 6-8pm, with food and drink and music by Golden State Brass, poetry by Susan Kelly-DeWitt. Gen. admission is $35, or $30 for SPC members. This fundraiser is a long-standing tradition of the holiday season, and as always, our community is grateful to the Millers for opening their beautiful home to us.

On Thursday, Poetry in Davis presents Joshua Clover at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, 8pm. Then on Saturday, if you're down SF way, stop in at Alley Cat Books to hear translators William O'Daly, Arturo Mantecon and musician Arturo Balderrama. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


Today’s LittleNip:

My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see.

― Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim



 Aha! Something ELSE we can do in secret—
spend all our money!
(Celebrate how little it costs you to write a poem!)

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, November 27, 2016

And Make It Count

—Anonymous Photo

upon seeing my first book of poetry
deleted from the library’s online card catalog
—John Grochalski, Brooklyn, NY

there is a disbelief at first
kind of a how could they! vibe

that is, before the feelings of failure set in

you remember what it took
to get those poems down in the first place

indignities by the bushel that made up those verses
the years it took for the fucker to come out

remember how proud you were
to have it there on that shelf?

three fiscal years in this institution and not even one read

three million people in this borough
and not one of them cares about you

that’s what you get for sacrificing sleep to the lit gods
for getting up before the sun nursing a hangover
and banging your head against a wall for the right words


to make matters worse you check
where the book is currently sitting
at number 10,379,247 with a bullet

clearly not the time to stop paying into that pension yet

or figuring out where to put the pool in the yard
of that big home that you jog past three times a week
should it ever go up for sale

of course, there have been worse things
stabbing at you in this weary life

bullies and jilted lovers and broken bones
shithole apartments and cars on their last legs
jobs that have led you to the brink of death

horrors you never thought that you or any loved ones
would have to go through

a deleted book full of stale sentiments and memories
is quite possibly the least of your troubles

and come to think of it you’d never thought
about that book on the shelf anyway until today

that pride from years ago turning into a dull ignorance
or new words through fresh hangovers

other books to worry about
that you can’t even get on a library shelf

it was a fool’s thought
to think that it would always be there
waiting on that perfect reader

and who knows where it is now?
who really fucking cares other than your bruised ego?

let it be some fire’s kindling
or a doorstopper on mars

let that thin tome sit in its dotage
with the other rejects on the dusty shelf
of an old-age home or mental institution

that shit is dead and gone

and there’s an empty page facing you right now
you vain motherfucker

so make your next move, poet
make it count.


—Medusa, with thanks to New Yorker John Grochalski for today's fine poem (see next Wednesday's post for more from John), and a reminder that D.R. Wagner will be reading in Walnut Grove today at The Tong Fine Art Gallery, 2pm.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

It Might Be Blood

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


And somehow you can’t be afraid
Of anything.  If you are going
To open your mouth to talk about
Love, there can be no part of it,
Or of your body, that doesn’t remove
All of its garments and reach out naked
Toward embrace or get hit with the back
Of a hand, or met with words that once
Had meaning other than what one might
Have ever imagined.  And what is your safe word?
It can’t have anything to do with what might
Be done to that body or what your body
Might be doing to the body of someone else.

There is a terror as the foot slips
From the edge of the curb, the sidewalk
Wet, the grass too slick, and you pitch
Forward or backward and it feels good
Or it doesn’t feel good and your mouth
Begins to bleed no matter how it feels.

Your fingernails dig into the back of your lover
And the marks look like words.
And the words sound like dogs barking.
You can feel your head pitch
Back and slam into the sidewalk.
Concussion.  Maybe.  The entire idea
Of love may even see you living your
Life unable to walk correctly again.

But you can’t stop the love.
So you speak of the weather
Or something you felt just before
Your head smashed into the concrete,
Just before the blood broke through
Your skin and you forgot what it was
You were saying.  All you can taste
Is that taste that might be blood,
Or might be wet grass.  Your ears
Fill with so many sounds you must
Struggle just to hear the words,
Just to know what you want the words
To mean.

You are actually saying them to someone,
And more than you might want religion
Or sex or someone making you feel
Like you just learned how to invent
Your body, you realize that all there is
Are these words you’ve managed to hold.

They are like a streetlight,
Like a morning, like a mouth
Moving on your body,
Like your darkest fantasy has just
Been able to afford its own car
And it stops and sees you
Wet and sprawled on the edge
Of the street.  And it opens the door
Of the car and looks at you lying there,
So full of desire, all of your being
Struggling to hold these words
Close in your bloody mouth,
Your damaged head.

And it says, “Get in the car now!
You know what you want!
Get in the fucking car now!"

 Wild Plum Tree Cut


We came down from the North.
The rain was driving.  For three days
We were unable to see the trails
We were using, hoping we had chosen
Correctly and that the water
Would stop or slow.

On Tuesday there was a break in the clouds
That lasted over an hour, and we found
Ourselves much higher above the valley
Than we had thought we were.
We could see farther valleys and even some
Distances where the clouds had let go
Of a few hundred feet of the mountains.

They had a glowing mist about them
Before they disappeared into the clouds again.

We were told this geography was typical
Of these deep emotions we were
Experiencing.  We had to
Connect with our families.

“Your heart looks much like
This place,” we had been told
Before we left.  “And traveling is most
Difficult once you reach the
Last range of mountains.”

We were barely to the mountains
And traveling was already most difficult.


It was already late in the afternoon
When the rain began again, harder
This time, the clouds insisting on
Staying close to the ground.

In some far distance we could hear
What sounded like bursts of gunfire,
Followed by dull explosions that were
Definitely not thunderclaps.

We took the route across the valley
And began our ascent as darkness
Was rearranging the landscape
For night.  Somewhere higher up, we
Noticed lights that appeared, disappeared,
Appeared again through the blowing rain.

We decided to make for the lights.
Perhaps we could reach them in
A few hours if we did not stop to rest.

We would find our families again.
We had vowed to do so.
We would be guided by our own breathing,
Our breathing and a perfect understanding
That our geography would remain true
For us, whatever the task might be.  

 A Bevy of Locke Cats in Front of Mrs. Chan's Home


“There’s a terrible risk here,”
I told my friend Baxter
As we sat, drinking wine and smoking
Cigarettes on a Saturday evening many years ago.

“What’s that?” he said, draining his glass
Of Vin de Tavola.

“We could grow old,” I replied.
“Well, at least you’re right, for once,”
He replied.  “Let’s go outside to the
Front porch and have another cigarette.

“We will talk about pain.  Maybe
That will help.”

“I hope so.  I really do,”
I replied, watching the streetlight
Come on, flashing and complaining
About the charge pushing through the wires.

“I hope so.  I really do.”

 Iris In My Kitchen

            after Kipling

Broken I was and beyond repair
(I never could understand).
I’d stand in the rain and think it was fair
(I knew I was wrong but I just couldn’t care)
But still I stood and still I stared
(I never could understand).

I stepped on my dreams, or so it seems
I tried to keep them all clear
But there was never a dawn that could draw me on
(Now I can feel and I tried hard to feel)
And I struggled, but named it fear.

I was loved or thought may be I might
(I never could understand)
Still I leaned into the fight
Broke my spirit to capture the light
(And the light it was never that bright)
(I never could understand).

Oh the things I would do to make this seem true
Were never enough, much too bland
And now I can feel, as I am able to feel
(But please understand that I barely can feel)
Yet it still seemed all much too grand.

I’m broken apart, like it matters at all
(I never could understand).
And I’ve tripped on the verge and I crawl
(But it doesn’t seem real, just small)
Still I grew, but was broken, was never so tall
(I never could understand).

And now in the twilight I beg for a bright light
And it cuts like a curse from a height.

And I’ll never know how it caught me and so
(My soul has gone from me, faith, I never will know)
And I never will understand.

 Calla Lilies (Photo Manipulation)


Music in a basket, taken to make a room
And then a dwelling and then a palace.
It has proven itself to be no
Architecture for living.  There is no
Inside.  The rooms are beautiful
But without doors.  There is only
Sound at the end of an arm or a
Stepping across a threshold trying
To direct the forward motion of the whole

We live in the crescendos and
Diminuendos.  Legato to the
Edge of the cliffside
To see the view and there,
To once again discover the
Woven basket,
Capable of any season,
Full of song and placed beside
The clearest water of a Spring.



These flowers burn my hands
As they are delivered to me.
I must have gone out at some
Point to gather something like them.
But they became too many bouquets,
Too many different ideas of what
Time allowed me to find.  I am
Sure it was for time’s amusement,
Just as it finds so many literatures
To poke at as one might a jellyfish,
With a stick, between tides.

This, then, is between tides.
I will be patient with it all
And carefully map out the
Labyrinths, make deliberate choices,
Find a mysterious object half-buried
In the sand, carefully lift it, turn
It over, only to discover a perfect mirror. 

 Duck Decoys in Locke


He always seemed to walk through
Things, never around them, as if the night
Were a huge tangle of objects
Moving like a glacier beneath his stride.

And he would crash through
The surface with each step and
Plunge out of sight, reappearing
With the same crashing of steps.

Furthermore, he seemed headed
Nowhere.  Our job was to watch
Him.  After all, he was our guide.
The old ones called him “our prayer”

And bowed to him when he would
Arrive late to the caves, cut,
Bleeding more often than not
And always mumbling about
Something he had seen in his journey.

We hardly ever spoke to him
Except to ask common questions:
Would you like more soup?
Are you bringing wire with you tonight?

Except for myself.  I had decided
To talk to him as if he were
Not our prayer, but rather a kind of drunk
Wanderer whose job was smashing
Underbrush beneath his feet.

“What is perfect?”  I asked him.
“A lamp atop a three-drawer dresser,”
He answered.  “There are silhouettes
Of deer, squirrels, rabbits, foxes,
Birds and the forest in its lamp
Shade.  It is perfect,” he said.
“It is also only four inches tall.”

He wept and I could feel
The music of a piano musing
Well after midnight come through
His words.  “What am I feeling?”
I asked, alarmed at this.

“You’ve never been inside a poem
Like this before, have you?”

His eyes were suddenly the only
Light in the room.

“Touch the walls here very carefully,
My friend.  This thing just ends
And there is no bottom.
Watch what happens when
The words run out.” 

 Through the Drawing Studio Window, UC Davis


His face gave nothing away,
Maybe a couple of small wrens
Hanging upside down from the fine
Branches of a birch tree in Winter,
Dining on seeds, but that was about it.

At any moment you may be given
To understand something that
Will push darkness aside and
Allow all to stand on the upper deck,
Totally stopping the infinite,

Plundering it for even more ideas.
Wandering deeper and deeper
Into the labyrinth, hands in
Pockets, whistling a South American
Tune, expecting nothing, watching
The great power of the waves.

We went inside, put some water
On the stove for tea, a perfect moment.


Today’s LittleNip:
Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
pricks like a bramble.



—Medusa, with thanks (and happy birthday this week!) to D.R. Wagner for his fine poetry and photos today, and a note that D.R. will be reading tomorrow (Sunday) from his new book,
Love Poems (Cold River Press) in Walnut Grove at The Tong Fine Art Gallery, 14136 River Rd., 2pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

Victoria Dalkey, Annie Menebroker
McClatchy Library, Sacramento
—Photo by D.R. Wagner 

Celebrate poetry, and the friends it brings us!

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, November 25, 2016

Bring Back the Snake

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


Standing with the Cleveland Native Americans
who are standing with Standing Rock
the sage smoke circle ends
with Blossom saying
"Give your thanks your way"

I nod to the green of the trees
the blue of the sky
then down to the clover on the ground
and the honey bee caressing it.

I am thankful.

Hours later the sage smoke
is replaced by a bee smoker
fired with cedar chips
small twigs
and a sumac seed cluster
as we inspect our hive.

Again, I am thankful.

 Smith Upgrade


"Not at all," I tell the Devil
as he offers money, power, fame,
access, and adulation.
"That's so yesterday.
Try inner peace, patience,
fond heart, friends with flair,
right thought right path right action.
Gimme something good.
I'm tired of your candy."

 Gold Stamp Cohen


The lotus flower blooms unblemished
from muck of mud and dirt

I was born drenched in filth
rich in original sin

My petals wilt from want of sun
as I watch empowered orb

Seems I'm more like maybe moon
stark in cold and dim

I wanted so to grow to star
bright in distant am

But star too far beyond my reach
so worm crawl inch by inch

Eating dirt while dreaming sky
no arms to scratch this itch

 Neon Coffee


Moroi, Moroi
We meet where
The cuckoo does not sing
The dog does not bark
The sacred yew my flesh
The warming gone

Though hidden behind
Paths in the park
I in my city
Am amphetamine hot
And see
Clean Grecian face
In crumpled wrap
Of excrement
On flesh

None descending the stair
Dare call patrons
Matrons of questionable ease
Strip tease
Sand not withstanding
For each beach is the same
Same lame game
Where neither retribution
Nor love of institution
Dare descend dissembled day
Or this garbage of Eden

Bring back the snake

 The Shadow Knows


Cat sits on chair arm
fast swats my bicep with her tail
swat swat, swat swat
I close my eyes
listen to the outside
the wind sounding like water
the water sounding like wind
the slow traffic below like both
and feel one with one
as swat by swat by swat
my go glows



Late January
coming back from Snoetry 5
a 12-hour reading in Erie
three lady poets in the car
me driving
sun down
liquid ice falling from the sky
we enter 90 West to Cleveland
going 45 in a 70 zone
see two-car crash
and flashing lights ahead
I hit the brakes
the tires stop
the car doesn't
we slide at same speed
silent on black ice
straight for crashed car
two backseat poets screaming
front seat poet talking serious
me thinking it's simply too cold
and too far from Cleveland to crash
I slow turn the wheel to the right
and we gently slide right
just past the rear of the crash car
the screaming stops in amazement
but now we're heading for the cop car
its top lights flashing NO NO
I gently turn the wheel left
and we slow slide left
between the front of the crashed car
and the rear of the police car
and go on down the road
in complete silence

 Hunter Moon


Open window, night beyond
raindrops sluice the tree leaves
in soothing sound of sleep



Prince Valium rides my valley of naught
Soothing inside my insidious thought

He eases the reins of vicious jerks
Smoothing the pain and obnoxious quirks

   High low Diazepam, seize me into slow
   Mow my mental diagram, make my innards glow

With head getting lighter comes bits of laughter
Larger and tighter encouraging after

My dragging is slain, slow slowing down
Much less to explain and a lot more clowns

   High ho Diazepam riding to the rescue
   Skewering social sham, remaking inner stew

I'm sorry you're sad, though not really
I've goodened my bad, made serious silly

I know going up means coming back down
But temporary yup way worth next frown

   Doing dat Diazepam, dancing with the devil
   Being me is as I am knowing I'm not evil

Sometimes it's best to just blow out your pipes
It serves as a test for the rest of your gripes

But this this ain't now, and that now won't when
So to my body I bow and get on Zen ken

   So goodbye Prince Valium, thanks for the ride
   I appreciate the value of the lessons inside

(... this tune is as laidback as one can get: 5:28, 2011, Peter Ball (1949-2015) music, Smith word&voice


Today’s LittleNip:


There's right
there's wrong
and there's is


—Medusa, thanking Smith (Steven B. Smith) of Cleveland, OH for today’s fine sights and sounds in the Kitchen, celebrating the twelfth of his monthly posts with us. And may he post many more “12s” to the Kitchen table from the Land of Cleve…

 Celebrate the word, and all the places it comes from!

Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column 
at the right) for info about upcoming poetry events 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, November 24, 2016

We Early Pilgrims

from Balancing Act, quilted by Jan Soules
River City Quilt Show, Scottish Rite Temple, Nov. 18-20
—Photos by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


We keep on
believing in the Word
circling the spirit
of the early Pilgrims
as I drove from Falmouth
to visit Plymouth Rock
this morning
down country roads
of cranberry patches
late flowers and bogs
visiting farmer friends
along the highway
with their pumpkin breads
as everything lives
and wakens spots of sunshine
as a Beat poet 's jazz voice
open with my eyelids
no longer drowsing
in morning's early hours
from a northeast sea wind
lifting my astonished eyes
between a row
of singing sparrow hedges
in my own upturned intensity
as a red blackbird wing rises
to my riffs by frenzied light.

 Striking a Pose by Cathy Brorby


Mondrian has splashed
in an unforeseen orange
and lemon color
with a wash and sponge
in a landscaped hand
with neon butterflies
fused in a luminous voice
from an organized mind
in touch with a choice nature
with some splashing
from wings
in a former Dutch painter.

 Window Seat by Laurel Anderson

(for Hart Crane)

Time for a poet
to emerge
from the language conduit
in a veiled shore
from a language without limits
informing the sea's mirror
we are ready on Cape Cod
among broad-leaved vapors
still surfacing at the edge
for our anthology pod
into a faint corridor voice
gracing an echo floating
off the circular Encantadas
with an underground choice
of knowledge to fulfill
in Melville's logs
flowing and flowering
over Florida bogs rising
those towers of God.

 Spiral Gakeaxus by Heidi Steger, Quilt by Deborah Dolce


Put on
by this world
with its cold faces
by my mirror
in the hallway
as I put on
my butterfly tie
and German heavy metal
set aside
as I'm out the door
yet feeling unusually astute
as my mind races
before today's poetry slam,
wishing always
to be mute in the sun
overwhelmed by
a Beat's mutual slam
away from personal
and mortal self-destruction
with parental expectations
in today's present company
higher than the azure sky
in my mental daydreams
like the bard William Blake
together with the great "I Am"
and the Danish philosopher
Soren Kierkegaard,
yet it seems I am secretly
expecting to be a star
in great measure
of perpetual motion
on the movie set's big studio
of my Cousin Sonny,
a great publicity director,
taking easy walks
by the Pacific Ocean
with actors in the arts
not forgotten
or verboten
vouching for me
on family couches
with stage managers
and a coach set to
watch me
on the hot seat
in my teenage years
with my actor's parts
in my hands
as I'm sledding
down the snowy hills
away from the badlands
to get to an audition
in Hamlet.

 Staycation on the Nile by Elyse Marinos

(for Margaret Atwood)

You walk by strange hills
across the woods and lake
in a wide space
not abandoned
by the thrill of words
of what survivors expect
in a language
of a metamorphosis
knowing Margaret Atwood
was a part of this.

 QJ Sitting in a Tree by Jan Millner 


Deserted by printed moments
by the dawn
flirting by shadowy winds
in an early homecoming
as spring sparrows
and small birds
who headed south
in the Fall
by riverbeds
Tate repented by mouth
with love of language
on a world for words
as someone has represented
that transform our earth
admitting the dawn sky.

 Out of Africa by Jan Soules and Gail Parrish


In greensward blades
cutting out
what our grey skies admit
facing Civil War's casualties
amid horsefly fields
of lost humanity's shields
over Achilles' heels
time restores the wounded
under soldier's knees
from our dead brothers
all Union in the rain
in Whitman's dream
from Lincoln's Brigade
in a future free Spain,
Walt's eyes permit us
the forbidden faults
of hidden hatred
behind the defenses
to bare it in riddled bodies
in vaults of a poet's grit.

 Our Lady of the Way by Jan Millner


When apples fall
from the trees
now with luminous leaves
in crimson arrangements
my mind goes back
to many harvest of sheaves
where Walt Whitman rests
near the big muddy river bed
finds a penny and a diary
as he notices
a red-winged blackbird
on the fir branches
in the forest backwoods
visiting his many brothers
fresh-faced yet injured
in whom America believes
by the Civil War sounds
scattered over our landscape
watching letters delivered
from the railroad underground
as he exhibits good will
to shape our poetic colors
on an Autumn's first light
singing tunes
in the grey dawn chill
with the sun reflected here
in words of earthy love
expressed in thrilling passages
to another body.


Today’s LittleNip:

 —Anonymous Photo


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch and Michelle Kunert for today’s fine poetry and pix, helping us celebrate Thanksgiving Day from coast to coast!

Celebrate poetry!

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Songs of the Desert

Cactus Clock, Phoenix Botanical Gardens, Phoenix, AZ
—Poems by Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, NY
—Photos by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento, CA


Out of this poem
grows a little desert flower.
it is blue sorrow
it waits for your return.
You escape so you must from me
refuge, folded, wrapped in cool spring rain leaves—
avoiding July, August heat.
South wind hellfire burns memories within you,
branded I tattoo you, leave my mark,
in rose-barren fields fueled with burned and desert stubble.
Yet I wait here, a loyal believer throat raw in thirst.
I wrest thunder gods gathering ritual-prayer rain.
It is lonely here, grit, tears rub my eyes without relief.
Yet I catch myself loafing away in the wind waiting fate
to whisper those tiny messages
writer of this storm-welded wings,
I go unnoticed but the burned eyes of red-tailed hawk
pinch of hope, sheltered by the doves.
I tip a toast to quench your thirst,
one shot of Tequila my little, purple, desert flower.

 El Dorado Hot Springs, Tonapah, AZ


I own a gate to this prairie
that ends facing the Rocky Mountains.
They call it Alberta,
trail of endless blue sky,
asylum of endless winters,
hermitage of indolent retracted sun.
Deep freeze drips haphazardly into spring.
Drumheller, dinosaur badlands, dried bones,
ancient hoodoos sculpt high, prairie toadstools.
Alberta highway 2 opens the gateway of endless miles.
Travel weary I stop by roadsides, ears open to whispering pines.
In harmony, North to South
Gordon Lightfoot pitches out
a tune,
"Alberta Bound."
With independence in my veins,
I am a long way from home.

 Chairs, Phoenix Art Museum


Sonoran Desert,
sleep, baby talk, dust covering my eyelids.
No need for covers, blankets,
sunscreen, sand is my pillow.
morning fireball
hurls into Arizona sky,
survival shifts gears,
momentum becomes a racecar driver
baking down on cracked,
crusted earth—
makes Prickly Pear cactus
open to visitors just a mirage,
cactus naked spit and slice
rubbery skull, glut open
dreams, flood dry.
Western cowboy wishes, whistles, and movies
valley one cup of cool, clear, fool's desert gold
dust refreshing poison of the valley.
Bring desert sunflowers, sand dunes, bandanas,
leave your cell phone at home.


There is a heart embedded inside this male lion, I swear.
I eat leaves and underbrush, foliage of the forest, I belch.
Then I fall in love with birds, strangers and wild women.
Tears fall into the lush forest green below,
like Chinese crystal glass beads, shatter.
Then I realize it’s not the jungle, but I that am alone.
In the morning when the bed squeaks, both alarm clocks erupt,
I realize I’m alone in my jungle.
I hear the calls of the wild—
the streetcars, and the metro trains
wake me in my sleep in my jungle alone,
let me belch in my belly with my Tums,
let me dream in my aloneness I swell.
There is a heart embedded inside this male lion,
I swear jungle man, lion lover, and city dweller.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Michael Johnson

Solo boxing, past midnight,
tugging emotions out of memories embedded,
tossing dice, reliving vices, revisiting affairs,
playing solitaire-marathon night,
hopscotch player, toss the rock,
shots of Bourbon.


—Medusa, with thanks to Michael Johnson and Cynthia Linville for today’s songs of the desert.

 —Anonymous Photo
Celebrate poetry!

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