Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Torn Corner of the Morning

Elves of the Hills
—Poems by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA
(—Artwork Provided by D.R. Wagner)


It was a deep and thick-browed sleep
That came upon me, full of halls and doorways,
Some of flame and some of stone and some
From which the scent of heaven wafted
Upon no breeze at all but a pregnant stillness
In that air found alone in dreaming and carved
In certain chambers of the heart.  The lonesome speech
Known to fall from the mouth of ancient bells,
Tripping one and keeping one from finding
Any way back from the soft and guarded arms
Sleep surrounds us with, it boards its indeterminable
Train and makes for mountains darker still than midnight.

Here is the dwelling place of spirits long forgotten
On this earth.  Spirits whose speech is of a tongue
No longer heard upon our world and scarcely remembered
In any land.  It is hinted with a cadence known to fairy,
Heard when troops of them dwelt up an airy mountain,
Down a rushing glen.  It was a voice of wings that carried
The blue away from the sky and pushed the sun to clouds
That it might hang its lyric on the walls of our souls,
Admonishing us to be still and await a kind of rapture
One might hear only in the presence of mystery.

I have walked there and will walk there again
For I have deep business with the shades and fleeting
Beings that dwell there.  I am come to them to find
Those words which are seldom heard in any poetry
Or song, in any prayer or any curse that might
Be given to those who read these words or speak
To one another of the wonders of the dreamlife.

I learn within those rooms and behind those silent
Doorways of the many rooms and enchantments
That live beneath closed eyes and breathe that other
Breath that rushes from our lungs when we are
No longer present in this old and fitful world.
I would carry this to you that we may share it
As a feast so seldom given to each other
That one might call it madness or others
Call it truth.

 A Lantern Symphony


I have fragments, seeds as it were,
That are intimate, in my blood stream.
They call in song and pace to my heart
Beat, begging for some greater melody.

Over the Hills and Far Away
—Illustration by Margaret Tarrant, 1950


A star stumbling
Behind a cloud.
I see it correct
Itself.  It asks me not
To try to explain why
This happened.

 Catch a Moon Fish


I have managed
To make myself very small.
I can fit within these words.
My voice sounds much like your own.

 Corner of My Living Room


We heated nine pins
In a pan of milk
Until it began to boil
And it stopped the witch
That stole our milk.
She sucked it from our cows.

It poked nine holes into her heart
And the witch no longer was.



They tore off a little piece of the morning.
It was the part where the mouth was located.
Not all of it went missing, just enough to allow
Some of the light to slip out the back and follow
Night to his house of shadows.

We were able to see him reach for and hold
The hand of sorrow as if he were trying to staunch
Blood pouring from a wound.  Even the blood
Looked dark.  We could hear it splashing
On the floor.  You said it was the sea.
I had my eye on the sky so wasn’t sure.

I bent down and picked up a small part
Of light that had fallen from the edge of a wall
That morning, was touching it as a lover might
Touch the most intimate parts of a mirror.

I reached for your hand but it was the same
As that of sorrow, and my belief that this was more
Than a mass of sand that could go no farther
Stopped me dead in my shoes.  I looked past
Where the corner had gone missing.
No one would notice it.  It would become
A distance, a whispered voice, the broken
Part of moonlight caught in an unforgiving
Carnival.  No matter how many of us might
Gather, we would remain forever alone.

A couple of clouds that had nothing much to do
Found their way to the torn corner of the morning.
They managed to fill it with birds and small animals
Running across the lawns looking for food.

Waterfall on the Yellow River, China


Spun out into the evening, rain doing most
Of the talking, I try to tell myself I’m only along
For the ride.  The wind holds a fine mist between
Showers and I’m covered in moisture before
I even get to the car.  I pretend that it is a message
Somehow lost in the night that I have walked into
By mistake.  My specialty is wandering far away
From the body and finding its forms in a kind of sleeping
That makes the moon sing, unlocks desires that come
Of pressing my forehead to that moon, taking the skin
Off of stars to show what they are really about.

I’ve seen the hearts of these stars, felt their flesh
As a child feels its mother’s flesh against its mouth.
Here I am free to speak to you, illimitable in my
Understanding but not graced with a language
Stable enough to touch with my hands.  I must
Hold you close to my body, feel your breath
Upon this same evening, trace my fingers
Across your breasts, up your thighs, touch
Your lips and still I will find myself lost in ink.

I will cry and I will laugh and I shall steer
My fragile boat into the unkindest reef
Only that you may spare me this moment
Where we might stand together watching
The whirling of the universe, going to where
No bird can sing, where you can breathe for me.

 Choir of Angels


Today’s LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner

An owl lives just outside
My window.  I saw it tonight
As it folded its wings and waited.
Otherwise, there was no sign
It ever knew I was there.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s poems and for providing today’s artwork. “Cutting the Chord”, “Sorrow Just Beyond the Morning”, “Witch”, and “The Deep Gifting” were posted on Medusa’s Kitchen in 2014.

Jerry Brown with Sutter in days gone by
(California mourns the passing of its First Dog, Sutter.) 
For more about the life and times of Sutter, go to

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
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Friday, December 30, 2016

Cinderella's Slipper

—Poems by Linda M. Crate, Meadville, PA
—Anonymous Photos

you need a better personality

i am who i am,
but you were always trying
to tame and cage me;
domesticate me when i was never meant to
be anything less than a free bird
flying through sunsets without a care
or fear in the world—
you told me i could model
if i lost a few pounds,
and you don't know how much that affected
my mental health
when we came shattering down
like cinderella's broken glass slipper thundering
into the floor of the universe;
for the longest time i didn't want to eat
or drink or sleep
just wanted to talk to you so i could see if the
monster in the mirror was really me or a manifestation
in my mind
i had so much to say,
but you wouldn't let me
perhaps because you knew you were wrong
or because you never really cared how i felt about anything—
maybe lose a few flaws and you'd have a personality
worth having.


beautiful monster

in the dawn of older mornings
my love for you fluted like
the songs of nesting birdsong through
rivers of trees and slants of golden days and
the white of rainy remembrances,
but it never seemed
to reach you;
i loved you so much i abandoned sense
and morality
giving you the choicest of my flowers
only so you could abandon me
beneath the harsh white kisses of winter
cold and distant as your
very heart and soul—
i realize now
sometimes the most beautiful faces are those of
but i will slay all the wickedness of this world
that i am able;
for while other girls found they were princesses
i have always known i am a warrior
of light and virtue and love.

forever may you burn

there are shadows of us
hanging in my
little ghosts to haunt me
just when i get to
thinking that i
am fine,
and i wish i could just exorcise
my mind because there's
no need for wolves to linger where
they should no longer tread;
you're never coming back because you
were never mine
even if i must forever be
if i could have read between the lines
i would have just left before you
shattered me into a thousand shards
so your soul had someone to
sing to
because i loved you with all of me
simply so you could hold me in your lowest
esteem of lust,
and i remember the cutting words and the
tears i cried at your last letter;
may every sunset bring with you the fires of my rage
forever may you burn.

stranger in my skin

we drank two glasses of
peach champagne
anyone else arrived
convinced of our own brilliance
and immortality
slipping into the vague slipper of
every laughter knows,
and i think that was the night i realized
that maybe i wasn't quite
as straight as i thought i was
the day i fell in love with you although i wouldn't
admit that to anyone
not even myself;
felt like a stranger in my own skin
so i laughed too hard at
and fell asleep to the ambience of crickets
strumming their legs like violins
dreaming of the pink
that i once knew was your hair. 


i remember the carnival
a party
in august where we
could all play and dress up,
and people were
whispering "it's not even halloween"
they couldn't understand us
even if they tried
i tried not to let them bother me
but their narrow-minded
grated heavily on my
i was the leopard girl that asked for
an apple tini that was more tini
than apple,
and i remember how that guy hit on me;
until he was told i was
dating the
"preacher's boy"—
it was fun
to lose myself in the music,
the drinks, the poutine;
it's not something i have at home.

it wouldn't be right

be gentle
i'm more broken than i'll ever say
because i've never wished
to burden anyone
not even you,
my enemy,
who's hurt me more than any apology
could ever atone for;
i was icarus
and you were the sun that doubted my love
burning away my wings
until i fell away
into this ocean of ice and misery—
words cannot express
adequately all my rage and my pain and sorrow
being left behind like this
i learned to fly again,
and my wings regrew;
wanted to fly back into your arms but they were
already taken by someone else—
i thought how nice it would be to see the water from
beneath it upon the heads of river stones,
and yet i realized that it wouldn't be right to surrender my
power or worth to a man who couldn't even remember what
his heart was used for.


Today’s LittleNip:

My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-tip in the second-to-last drawer.

—Carrie Fisher


—Medusa, with thanks to Linda Crate from far-away p-a—another step toward the new year!


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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Murdering Croissants & Dutch Beer

—Poster by Alphonse Mucha, 1898
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


A cloudy sky
yet feeling alive
at ten years old
at the thrill
of riding a race horse
shielding my eyes
yet reprieved
in my will
to take the reins
with a given moving
signal here to discern
as I'm rushing down
in Haverhill
of course as a poet
in this town
believing I will
face it and learn.



You lived to be a hundred
as a motion picture maker
when I was taken to see
a series of your movies
at fifteen
by my Cousin Sonny
who worked for the studios
in Hollywood, California
as his neighborhood art screen
showed us
Children of Hiroshima
and the horror flick
which still sticks to me
as a young script writer
on the job one summer
even at my poetry schtick
which came to me later.

 Landscape with an Obelisk
—Painting by Govert Flinck


Scarcely a light
in December's short day
the snowflakes
melt as if they
were quarreling shadows
which melt by chance
unrecognized by the lake
yet here I sit by my desk
near winter woods
watching a black bird
on the branches
in my seashore neighborhood
trying to think
of the Dutch master
Govert Flinck
who painted Landscape
with an Obelisk

which as a young poet
always carrying words
from my hallways
would trek on Sundays
to the Gardner Museum
in Boston
to listen to a concert
or enjoy the art
with my Aunt Sarah
until some of it was stolen
in a heist in 1990
along with a couple
of good Rembrandt paintings
who was his contemporary
in his zeitgeist.



Walking by Montparnasse
meeting Kate
a Paris friend
who had been harassed
by a wise guy in a bar
she was excited to tell me
of her thesis on Joan Mitchell,
the abstract expressionist
and colorist
knowing how enamored
we were of her Trees,
Ici and Posted
back in the States
how they both studied
at Smith College
Kate reminding me
I was then emerging
with poetic knowledge
as a keen wordsmith
remembering Joan's exhibition
of Drawing into Painting
would be coming up
this October
through December 2016.

—Painting by Joan Mitchell, 1990 


Saint-John Perse,
politic diplomat and poet
in his prolific shaky time
when being out of Styx
against welcoming
Vichy was a crime
writing Anabasis
an evocative tragedy
in a nursed language
from an itinerant age
of critics who know
the praising panegyrics
and its metamorphosis.



When Tatyana Grosman
flees a span
of revolutionary time
not staying put in Paris
or Venice, Japan, Dresden
and lastly Barcelona
bravely escaping
to the Pyrenees on foot
as a collaborator on Stones
with galley and gallery partners
the painter Larry Rivers
and poet Frank O'Hara
for you, Tatyana,
would not depart in fear
without sending out
(we can still hear)
a passionate target and dare
from her
rendering a verdict of love,
delivering for your friends
and above all leaving
from her à la carte critics
an unforgettable
mural series in years
with her fine printing,
drawing and fashion
for which only art atones.

 Young Spanish Girl
—Painting by Constantin Guys


Baudelaire enjoyed
Constantin Guys
this painter of watercolor
and illustrator at his bench
even compared him
to a Whistler in French
in the Second Empire life
in his span he composed
Young Spanish Girl
and The Loge at the Opera
among those who sinned
and in an encounter
yet only recognized in art
who suddenly vanish
as a daughter or young man
on a wall in the museum
lost in the shadowy wind
are not surprised
at the large-sized window
of a dream by a counterpart.



Wishing to grasp
a new perspective
in a gestured mirror
of Cy Twombly's
retrospective in 1994
at the Whitney Gallery
of Modern Art
in discarded objects
on the vast floor
among designs and signs
over long corridors
of inscriptions, numbers, jets,
faint Bacchus fragments
for the drunken god of wine
from parts of antiquity
among maps, flags, tubes,
more than ninety objects
in cubes of random targets
we are reacting to hackings
past romantic keepsakes
and quotes from the poetry
of Keats, Rilke, Mallarmé
dada paintings
and his art when he lived
on the Isle of Procida, Italy.

 Cherry Picture
—Painting by Kurt Schwitters, 1921


With a German friend seeking
to view a thorough collective
of Kurt Schwitters in 1985
partly speaking under a cover
of rain here in the Big Apple
at the Museum of Modern Art
it seemed as if in this retrospective
of ephemera and new ouvres,
dada sculpture and poetry
whose work was publicly
condemned on display
by the brown-shirted Nazis
who called it degenerate
yet these abstracts, bric-à-brac,
objects the world would
dispose of or throw away
in textures, patinas, collages
from the back of cultural coats
in prisms of many colors
when escaping fascism to Norway
experiencing trial and error
exile and terror every day,
it is an honor to stand under
the mirror along corridors
to review such abstracts
amid the wonders of sculpture
of our data of cultural artifacts
as you make connections
with later relations and collations
free of the thorn and call
of political ideology
from his reborn meaningful art
bombarded in forms and dreams
in orange, greens and reds
to sum up in this museum
all of your personal creations.



We reviewed Feininger's painting
at the Worcester Art Museum
and seeing your retrospective
of photography, comic strips,
landscapes, geometric shapes
in a new perspective
of your etchings and sketching
in villages, and the sea
when you left the country
in a brief life span
for Germany
to study photography
and learn of cubism
as a clever pitted caricaturist
never allowing the war
or fascism to make you
an embittered man
you were without regrets
as you were learning
how to draw landscapes
and enlist interlocking plates
of architecture and the structure
surely as a draftsman of planes
and as a discerning cartoonist
having to leave Berlin
as an American when the Nazi
dictator Hitler takes over
yet you were considered
a bit eccentric
almost a poet, yet
even if the cornered
critics thought
that Lyonel Feininger
was a bit off-kilter
even near Weimar
enlisting in his search
as a spectator in a specter
from a color palette
on a finger of representation
you draw the Gothic Church
Gelmeroda which sustains
the continuum that still makes
your reputation as a pioneer.

—Painting by Lyonel Feininger, 1936


Today’s LittleNip:

—B.Z. Niditch

Claiming to be
a welcome reveler
in the stark cold
for the new year
sheltering a time
of summing up much
from your few resolutions
amid these cheerful sounds
though in the dark
of a Tin Pan Alley
you criminally murder
your girlfriend's
spinach croissant
after devouring a Dutch beer
while playing riffs
from your tenor sax
in Central Park.


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s poetry as we count down the days to the New Year. For more about the French Poet Saint-John Perse, see For more about the Gardner Museum heist, go to

Celebrate all the poetry that has not gone unwritten!

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then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Nine Espinellas

Janet Pantoya, Woodinville, WA

—Janet L. Pantoya

Dreaming away the hours,
wondering what to do next.
Clean out the closet? Send a text?
Go outside, water the flowers?
No, the forecast is rain showers.
Now what to do, sit for a spell?
Write a poem with something to tell
of a Muse who moves in mystery?
At least that is the theory.
It is a force that will impel.



wandering into the wetland,
their dreams and imagination
resulting in fabrication.
But some folks just don’t understand
when woods become Never Land—
fallen log is Hook’s ship then,
and burned-out trees are Lost Boys’ den.
Fun, abounding in fantasies,
creates long-lasting memories
called to mind:  “Remember when…?”

—Janet L. Pantoya


—Janet L. Pantoya

I have a place where I can go
to dream in quiet solitude.
I seek this space for interlude…
to ponder and let ideas grow,
Colorful flowers all in a row—
an artist’s pallet in full bloom—
release my thoughts from any gloom.
They soar to heights of inspiration,
paint a picture of sublimation,
unleash the worries that consume.

 Jennifer Fenn, Fresno, CA

—Jennifer Fenn

The news of shooting comes across
computer screens turned on each day
of black men shot while on their way
to run some errands.  Cops then cross
their paths and shoot—their lives a loss.
There’s news of demos, masses shot.
So many die, some make it.  Still,
at bullet-pace these stories fill
our minds with questions, answers sought.
These lives all count, or do they not?


—Jennifer Fenn

Here, layered fissured rocks of time
from ancient eras, long since past.
The Lord has carved with colors cast
from iron, copper—size sublime—
the echoes here would seem to rhyme.
As I imagine life below,
from high upon this lookout place,
I see the Colorado grace
the rocky bottom with its flow
with noontime sun that gives its glow.


—Jennifer Fenn

The waves are rolling onto shore
as in the days of long ago—
the days before I’d ever know
of everything there was in store—
before I’d see these waves once more.
The coastal mountain, like a dome,
looks out upon the wooden pier
and on the gulls that gather here.
Like reaching hands of God, the foam
is calling me, lost daughter, home.

 Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento, CA

—Carol Louise Moon

In New Orleans there is a park
called Audubon.  In dreams I go
there, see the hankie birds, a show
of snow-white feathers that is stark
against the tan of trees.  A spark—
a flash—the camera catches all
the flurry as the birds obey a call
They fly up all at once and wave.
White-bodied half-notes leap the stave
of branches browning in the fall.

(first pub. in Brevities)


—Carol Louise Moon

I cry as sleep is coming on
for there’s a tree within my dreams,
my friend is standing near—it seems—
I turn toward her but she is gone.
She floats through blossoms and beyond.
The blossoms on this tree are high;
I want to reach them, and I try
but cannot pick them on my own—
so as I reach I’m left alone.
She’s gone past clouds, beyond the sky.


—Carol Louise Moon

Imagine a bittern in the tule
pummeled by tempest all around.
A single reed he stands his ground
unnoticed.  He moves so gently
that swaying among the reeds he
won’t be found.  Now his disguise is
perfect here. Consider what if
you were a reed-bird, too—his mate,
engaging in his dream of fate—
your life creative, just like his.


Many thanks to our three poets today for their fine Espinellas! Also known as the decima, the Espinella is a 10-line poem with specific rhyme scheme: a,  b,  b,  a,  a,  c,  c,  d,  d,  c. Founder Vicente Espinel (1550-1624) was a Spanish writer and musician of the Siglo de Oro. The Espinella deals with a wide range of subject matter, including philosophical, religious, lyrical and political. It is often composed in 8-syllable lines, or tetrameter. Pedro Calderon del al Barca used decimas for some stanzas of his “Life is a Dream”; so, for their 2016 poetry challenge, the Pantoja Espinella Circle (including poets Janet Pantoja, Carol Louise Moon and Jennifer Fenn) have each composed three Espinellas on the theme of Dreams/Dreaming, and we have posted those today.


Today’s LittleNip:

The last winter leaves
Clinging to the black branches
Explode into birds




 Celebrate the poetry that won’t let us go!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A White Singing of Birds

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


A play of sevens, and the soft air of night.
A chair by a window.

Light lying across the rug.  A sound from the
street.  Rain-swish.  Moan.

A superstition touching my shoulder.
You in your world, feeling shadow.

A letter slipped under a door.  A key in the lock.
A rocking chair that won’t rock.

Anything old that matters.  A certain tone
in a certain silence.

Some new beginning cutting its string.
A pair of scissors.  Shining.

All endings brought here for mending.
Like socks.  A basket of thread.

How many times must I tell you not to do that,
I say.  You stand behind me.  You stroke my hair.

I cut the moonlight into the shape of curtains.
I wait for the shadow to release me.

Soon I will shuffle cards for solitaire.
I will lay them out on a patient table.

Soon I will mention something to the mirror.  I will
release my image into the light-switch by the door.



Dancing Child—Dancing Child,
I watch you learn yourself,

dancing to the
full-length mirror,

locking eyes with
Mirror Child—Mirror Child,

dancing back to you.

(first pub. in DADs DESK)

After “Ballet of the Woodpeckers 1986” by Rebecca Horn
in these mirrors
stab glass images of

restricted flight
the in and out of light

the positioning of each to each
so no mirror can escape the other

the corner

all are level
with ceiling, walls, and floor  

walls coincide
with depth and spaciousness

how can light
decide which way to go?

can mental birds    get in?
go through?    get out?



An unfurling of white umbrellas
from a great height of weightlessness
on a day of spent light—moving
like ripples and bouncing the raindrops

over the wet streets. It was a camouflage,
I thought—a great mass of winter souls
in migration followed by a white singing
of birds that were invisible.

I felt my window tremble with joy
at the spectacle as the floor swayed 
and I wondered how so many
floating umbrellas could fit the space

of my watching. My own umbrella
stood dry and folded beside the door
with my keys and things that I needed.
I wanted to be down there among them,

but did not want to give up my view
as the umbrellas kept touching
and parting in their maneuverings—
occasional bits of sidewalk showing through.

The height deepened and left me no time
to decide—the window opened
and the room-light poured through
and my umbrella flew into my hands.

After “The Singer” by Wassily Kandinsky (Woodcut)

Now the singer, in her shining dress,
stands beside the black piano—
basking in the moment—while

the audience—in shuffled waiting,
hushing now in expectation,
waits for the singer to sing.

In his black tuxedo—adjusting
his position—the pianist,
lifting his eloquent hands,

waits to strike the first chord of music,
his concentration on the keys,
foot ready at the pedal.

Poised now, he looks toward the singer
who nods from her peripheral,
the hall in hush—expectant.

Pressing her hands together, she waits
for the full intro.  (This is what
she was destined for, she muses…)

The mood is set; the moment captured:
accompanist and audience—
all forces gathered.  She sings.



My mother is a real woman in a real world. She is beau-
tiful. Her name is Annie. She has auburn hair. Her eyes
are browner than mine. She likes shredded wheat for
breakfast and tomato-beer just after. She cheats at rummy.
Tommy cheats, too, and they laugh together about how
they cheat at such an easy game as rummy.

They go to the store in a taxi and take a taxi home. They
lock their door. They talk down the intercom when
somebody rings their bell, saying, Who is it?  Who is it?
until they know.

They share one ashtray that they empty often, the old
blue deck of cards stacked loosely between them on the
table where they sit across from each other most of the
time. What they talk about I do not know, but they are
always talking—or she is—and he is always saying how
she is always talking.

Enclosed in a world small enough for the two of them,
they have each other, and this they love. They sleep
safely together in one bed. When he wakes up and
coughs—and coughs—she goes on sleeping. 


I touch the no-man’s-land of your face.
How strange. Even your eyes speak
gravity of distance. I dare not ask. I use
the desert of your mouth for answer :

this time I go away—find where light
meets dark—enter where I fit and become
new—you stare for awhile at the point
of vanishment, then turn away and enter
your own opposite direction :

I soar through the distance in my blue
wings—dream flight, maybe—I’m not sure.
I have already fused light and dark
to lock time in place, name it mirror and
go through as image. Always I approach
you as I recede from myself. Remember?

Your face turns back into my touch—a
map of readable and unreadable messages.
Your eyes are blue. Then gray. Then green.
Your cheek hollows with shadow.
Your brow retains its deep furrows.
It is no longer safe to love you.



Again I misread the signs—land us here in this town of
nowhere to begin knocking on doors. Of course, no one
will answer. This is Ghost Town personified. I brace for

your accusations, your heavy, insulting silence, suggest
we wait for daybreak, or inspiration—suggest we calm
down—look on the bright side—fold our map and wait.

Again, I misread the signs—your eyes, magnetic—the
rear view mirror lengthening its view, the cold, dark
silence settling in— and I know that here is where we

belong. This is it, I say— stepping out of the car—the
night air brittle with expectation, and I take my purse
and keys and leave you sitting there, tuned to the radio,

turned to the side window, checking the side-view
mirror, and I walk toward the only building
that seems lit, however dimly, to see if it
means its All Night Vacancy sign. 


Why smile when grief is ever near like a lost, lovely
woman who stays at the edge like a bitter memory,
singing her slow, dark song in your mind,

like the blues you play in your heart instead of sweet
hymns—that even those glow in the dark like an open
piano in cold moonlight—a white curtain pulled back

to let night breezes in, while you sit in thick silence,
and watch the shadows, and listen to the footsteps that
go back and forth outside the door

that you will not open, but only listen to see where
they go, and you hear a laugh from somewhere that
sounds familiar, and the sad piano begins to play

all by itself—some ghostly song, but whose hands
are on the keys? And you realize they are yours, and
you close your eyes and let the pain relieve.



It’s easy enough to send praise into an aftermath.
What we receive of light is the other side of dark.

Who shouts in the hollow becomes echo there.
Here is a word I can use, wet with meaning.

Tears are the salt of grief, joy, and humor. Hollow out
the womb for the lost child. Name it Sorrow.

We are at the service of our souls
which are at the mercy of our lives.

In the stone light
gray thought is manufactured as shadow.

Two who are unnamed
go toward love with fierce anticipation.

The hotels are empty now. They served the lonely
and the lost in their transitions.

It was the gulls, so starkly white in the gray field,
dark skies roiling inward.

Reading it all wrong, that word again, about to break,
like a face left in its mirror before it got old.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

the song of the keys
as he walks
swinging away from his body
clanking against him
rhythmic to his
powerful unlockings


Our many thanks to Joyce Odam for her fine photos and poems today as we move into the new year. 2017—who would believe it? Our new Seed of the Week is "Starting Over". 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 poetry, with its infinite chances for new beginnings!

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, December 26, 2016

Moments of Renewal

Golden Celebration (Rose)
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan, Fair Oaks, CA

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento, CA
under the heart leaves tree, I rest
in warm sun like honey
spreading throughout my view
glowing under, over trees
shimmering with dust
plant bits, insects
swim in liquid sunshine
amble without care

trees weave tapestry
surrounding me
their densely textured leaves
show autumn’s beginning frosts
in russet and golden tips
further within the grove
redwoods’ branches
eternally deep green
almost black, but for
this year’s green-budding tips

warm late summer, still
but mid-October asserts
autumn’s dissolution
ends summer’s riotous excess
once again, the blessed cooling
letting go, kneeling to rest
dormancy, rejuvenation
ultimate rebirth

 Rustbucket Sunset
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

—Ann Wehrman

the room is quiet, utterly still
except for occasional wheezes and clacks
from the ancient radiator
cold rain patters day after day on the window
I live here alone
spend Christmas without parents
estranged from siblings
whose suffering makes me cry
yet whom I never visit
instead sending cards
for Christmas and birthdays

—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan 

Slooh Cam, December 2016
—Ann Wehrman

it caught my tired eye
as I scrolled down Facebook
one more time before bed—

Slooh Cam records the winter solstice
in all its mystical magnificence
my eyes fill with tears
joy chokes my throat
live, Canary Islands, Spain
Slooh’s Pico del Teide Cam shows
bank of clouds, gray purple, massing
like violet, snowy hills or rough sea
fifty people worldwide watching this on Facebook
solstice exact in just a few hours
why is not the whole world watching?
the universe is singing
I watch in silence, alone at my desk
voices of the cosmos rise
like a chorus singing Beethoven’s Ninth
pour forth amazement, joy
exhale as one, Alleluia!
cloudbank’s rim now etched in pink, gold
white light widens at rim as
Sol climbs toward noon
cloudbank hides his face
yet we see, we feel
coming moment of renewal
rejoice, rejoice, Alleluia!

 Lemon Voyage
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

The overhead light was a bone moon
unmoving while phasing through its cycles.
Could meticulous blades find their way
between body and soul? No one asked for angels,
but a bright arc hovered where the moon
should be, whispering, whiskering
dark comfort, forgiving sleep; the conscious
self unraveling from dust and ashes;
strengthening wings on air.

 Jay with Persimmons
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Taylor Graham

I found where they tunneled into mountain.
An owl-tree guarded the entrance, a mine-
shaft rough-walled with dark inhaling
winter shiver, a hint of frost, ghost breath.
An owl-tree guarded the entrance, owl-
pellets full of tiny bones and fur—as life
begets death, to grow life again. A mineshaft,
rough-walled with dark, inhaling what
ghosts are required to remember. Late
December sunlight gleamed and fell. Winter
shiver, a hint of frost. Ghost breath rose,
drifting down the hill; its mined-out stone
leaving the dead long graved in peace, alone.

 Natural Ornaments
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Taylor Graham

Amphitheater sunk
below level of sidewalk and lawn—
concrete as a Monday classroom but for
declamations (silent) from the pit,
Electra’s ancient voice transported from so far,
flying in November
gusts as
heady as kids descending from buses –
information escaping syllabi
jostling for attention of young minds
keyed to muscle, synapse, digital
lessons. Across the way, a boy once hoisted
mailbag on saddle
not knowing the railway was roaring
off away out here to the old-western wild,
Pony Express already extinct
quicker than hoofbeats
running against iron, rails
slick but slower than information
tapped on a keyboard, clicked across space
under heavens of progress,
virtual change of
weather by cyber-seconds
x-ing out what was just
yesterday in this world keyed from

 Micro Library
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Taylor Graham

As if waking from the dead I walked out of infirmary and up the hill—closest I could see to wild—through winter star-thistle spiky in death. I crossed a dry moat, old ditch from mining days, and hit a wall. Manzanita too dense to crawl through. Green island in a city, canopied with oak and pine. Biding through December. A game trail led to footpath littered with human castoffs—page ripped from an encyclopedia, homeless camp, empty Monster can, decomposing birthday balloon. Deer prints, flit of towhee. Quartz scattered, useless treasure. When struck by sun, crystal magic. Who was prince of this realm?

briefest glimpse of deer
two spring-vaults, vanished—mirage
of a great spiked crown

 Woodpecker with Persimmons
—Photo by Katy Brown


Today’s LittleNip:

Lost in the fog—
an old man in the street
chanting “Ram, Ram”.

—Sunil Uniyal


Many thanks to today’s fine contributors for all their help in moving us forward during this season of renewal! There will be no reading at Sac. Poetry Center tonight, but you might roll on up the hill to Placerville for the Poetry in Motion poetry read-around at Placerville Sr. Center on Spring St., 6-7pm. Other than that, I know of no readings this week other than (I assume) Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento on Thursday, 8pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area, though—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


 —Anonymous Photo
Celebrate poetry—and renewal—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
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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Too Easy to Forget...

—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA
—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO

—Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO

Twin sons
in different cities
decked out in new suits
fly home for the holidays
arrive at the airport
within the same hour.

Dad picks them up
but doesn’t head home.
It’s near midnight
a cold Christmas Eve.

He heads for the city
humming old carols.
His sons want to know
where they are going.
What is he up to?
They never can tell.

Soon they find out
arriving downtown
driving past men
maybe two dozen
on Christmas Eve
huddled on curbs
leaning against buildings.

He wants his young sons
now first-year attorneys
great jobs and good money
to know what they have
but to remember forever
there’s a world without selfies.

Tomorrow it’s church
a golden turkey to follow
toasts and good cheer
so easy to forget
men huddled on curbs
leaning against buildings
on a cold Christmas Eve
homeless for the holidays.

 —Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Donal Mahoney

Widow in a rocker
pets her calico cat
long strokes slowly.

With the cat purring
and the widow humming
Beethoven fills the house

with memories of
the many years
of mistletoe

and aftershave
as snowflakes
dot the window.

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


Millie comes home bawling
from another holiday party and
Willie asks what’s the problem.

Millie says her friends are cheese balls.
“They’re all widows, short and round,"
and she’s afraid when Willie dies

she’ll eat everything in the fridge
and become a cheese ball, too.
Willie hugs his beloved Millie

and assures her with a kiss,
“You’ll never be a cheese ball, Darling
You're too tall. A cheese stick, maybe.”

 Radical Bird
—Photo by Katy Brown


He's a chef today but Raj Patel
was once a swami in another life
and a mongoose twice
in other lives as well.
All this occurred in Bangalore
before he came to Chicago,
he tells customers while bringing
cups of foaming Indian tea
and bowls of mango ice cream
to tables in his small cafe,
a steamy oasis on this
freezing Christmas Day.
"Drink up," he says.
"No charge for tea
on Christmas Day."

His regulars come to pay
homage to his chicken curry
as well as to his revelations
about the lives he's lived,
one life after another,
over many centuries.
Every time he dies, Raj says,
he's swept right back
in another guise and he'll
keep coming back, he says,
until he gets life right.
"Every man comes back
until he gets life right.
There is no other way."

Having been a mongoose twice,
and having killed a cobra,
Raj Patel prays every night
that he'll come back
the next time as a sparrow
because sparrows always
have enough to eat, he says.
"They fly around, copulate
feed their young and never die,
as far as I can tell.
Have you ever seen a sparrow
rotting in the street?
I have not but I'll keep looking."

Raj Patel says he'll believe
sparrows live forever until
he finds a fallen sparrow
somewhere in the street.
"Prove me wrong," he says.
"Bring me a fallen sparrow
and you will feast like a sultan
on chicken curry, basmati rice,
mango ice cream and chai tea,
everything absolutely free!
McDonald's will never offer
a deal as good as that!"


Today’s LittleNip:

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store.

—Dr. Seuss


—Medusa, with thanks to Donal Mahoney, Michelle Kunert and Katy Brown for today’s holiday fare, and wishing everyone, both in and out of The Kitchen, a day of good cheer!

 Celebrate the poetry of lights!
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

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.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Asking for Angels

—Poems by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA
(Visuals also thanks to D.R.)


The pink darkness has a perfect
Form.  No ash of dreaming
Clings to it, no dawn rules
It with whirlpools of relentless
Time.  Not one word rises
To describe it.  It is hidden
In the dresses sleep wears
When it comes to us across
The marshes our consciousness
Finds at the end of the day.

We have been out for weeks now.
The children of death had discovered
Our camps and swept into the spirits
Gathered there, driving our heroes
To madness and stealing their faces,
Giving them to wolves.  We huddled
Under a bone moon looking
For something, a light upon the water.
The sound of a divine wind,
A sigh that would signal deep sleep.

These things were denied us.
All seemed as rigid as old men
Staring at their hourglasses, barely able
To speak without being perturbed.

We knew what any destination
Would require and kept our hearts
Pure against the truths of these plagues.
We forgave ourselves.  We would have blue
And beautiful bodies.  We lit lamps
Against all darkness.  We searched
For the boundaries between our souls
And our bodies.

We have given all that we can give.
No one will speak to us of peace.
We try to find pleasure in seeking.
We asked for a few angels.

At the gates men played cards,
Betting souls against our breath.

This is all we have seen.
We thought this might be love
And happiness.  Tell us,
How will we know?



The horizon breeds dark
Families of thunderstorms.

Performances of the dead.
An architecture of dreams.
We hold our feet to it
In a space where we have
No need for feet.

A constant drip of water
Becomes mistaken for footsteps.
Other breath purchases rooms
In which we may be born
Or make love or hold the dying
In our arms, fascinated
By the wallpaper.

The passing fancy of our cities
Is dreamed by other than ourselves.
Fumbling through a labyrinth
We come to recognize as our lives,
But it is too late.
We no longer use our eyes to see.

These ghosts have memorized their lives.
Otherwise they could not live as ghosts.
Ghosts are required to remember,
To remain ghosts.  You can build
Them with your blood and a heart
That escapes the body, usually by accident.

There is a certainty of obliteration
That is discovered in the blood.
Ghosts need no blood but may
Keep it anyway, a hidden secret,
A place to store the memory
They open into our dreams or drive
Their horsemen before us, hunters
For our souls, tongues of fear
Rising from the swamps, the damp
Corridors between the rooms
We have found ourselves within.

Unsure if we are in their nightmare
Or the nightmare is fully within ourselves.

 Fantasy City


The error of imagination.
The collapse of the dream
Into a mountain of magic
Never to be understood
Or unwound.  A paddle
Lifted against fast-flowing
Water and sunlight bouncing
Over rapids.

It all happened so fast.
There was little time for
The reality to have purchase
At all.  One could have been given
The moon and it would only
Be worn as a pale disc
Around the neck,
Never to regain the sky

Tonight I was forced awake
At three AM by a sound
In my sleep inquiring as to
Direction and how far
Until morning.

As my mind cleared
I was handed a weapon.

“Go straight into the garden,
Past the mirror that seems
To reflect, but does not.

You will find a book there
Claiming to know how this began.”

Myths, all myths, older than the Chaldeans
Of Ur.  Giant tigers, mouths open,
Challenging every step toward understanding.

It may be better just to climb
Back into bed and fall back into sleep.
Perhaps we can forget our names
And gaze upon the broken timbers
Below the ruins of heaven.

 Rats Rowing (Ste-Genviève, MS 143, 14th c.)


I lined my pockets with pieces
Of clouds, but you don’t
Have to believe me about this.

I dwell in the twilight.
I have been known to hear
Voices that claim great things
From roses to sunsets.

I shuffle through time
Shoelaces undone, supposing
All this to be a dream.

What do I know?
I cannot tell a book
From a trap, a fish
From a memory.

I recognize the breezes.
They carry the smell of roses
This morning.  A nightmare
Stops its car beside me,
Offering me a ride to wherever
I may want to go.

 Luttrell Psalter, England, ca. 1325-1340


When is the night full?
When the moon rises?
When you lift my hand
To your lips?
When the crickets
Resume their songs?



A moment ago
I heard you sigh.
It is too dark to see
Your eyes.  This is what
Happens as night steals
Into our garden.

 Mice Under Violets


Use your lips
To talk to my skin.
Their shadows against
My whispered words.



The rain makes
Tiny rivers across
The marble table top.
Once again I believe
All dreams begin this way.

 Fire Elemental


Today’s LittleNip:

Outside the open window, the morning air is awash with angels.

—Richard Purdy


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for helping us usher in this Eve of Christmas with his fine poetry and visuals. We are all asking for angels, indeed!

Celebrate poetry! 
And check out the new issue of convergence 
with its Clown Band cover by Poet and Sacramento Poet 
Laureate Emeritus Viola Weinberg!

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.