Friday, August 18, 2017

Fair is Fair

Brain Stem
—Poems and Photos by Smith, Cleveland, OH


Some days
it's the space between pages
the silence before sound
the tip of the tongue
just out of reach
you can almost taste it
the one that got away
in happy never after
worry worn as won

Sometimes fire plays with wood
just licks and leaves
licks and leaves
until it gets a taste
and chomps

 Red Eye


Day and night come and go
wet dances with dry
old seeps through new.

The dead outnumber us
feed the living
canceled checks.

I still take new day's step
most hopeful, and yet
look for the lance.

Which coming kiss or curse
or hug or worse
will decide my stance?

 Scan Now


It's not all rock
there's the exquisite relief of quitting time
dragging dead flesh twixt hill and home
to swallow cold food
before tepid bath and bed
and the dreamless ache of sleep
where eyes closed in dark
wake in same dark
at alarum's croaker cry
to rise again
stack old bones on new pains
then limp to manual mountain
and hope against logic for gain



I'm normally normal
but just not now
and it's always now

there're two times:
there's now,
not now

not today

it's never tomorrow

that's why I'm nearly normal
nominally now 

 Night Fragment


Walking rough terrain through pitch black
first cup of campfire coffee one hand
flashlight the other
stop on trail
turn off light
sip black unsweetened coffee
hot in black back of night
something large rustles near by
I tell it welcome, but coffee's mine

black out
I pour black outer liquid
into inner body darkness

after long silence
coffee speaks

 Earth Entry


I don't always turn the other cheek,
sometimes I slap back.

And I always forgive,
but never forget.

So beware,
fair is fair.

 Mind Meld


i come to sip yer honey, honey,
my sticky bee—
internal hive memory

nothing personal, just duty.
howdy duty. by jingo. by golly.
by jolly we'll be an external


of an inner


we spark the waters
hold 'em up
do the dirty bop

i need some heart gravy.
give me some heart gravy baby—
lounge lizard rhythm in
polyester time

    —with Lady K. Smith

 Betty USA


I don't make mistake, I don't make mistake,
I don't make mistake, no I don't make mistake
they're not all that great and they lead to hate
make a mess of fate I hate to relate
so I don’t make mistakes

Oh I may make mistake, might make mistake,
could be my mistake, oh yes I’m mistake
mostly wrong on sing of song
lost the timber break the plate

Chasing rabbit, hailing hare
turtle here faster there
end of race rocks each roll
so unknowing's so nice to know
but sorry sir I gotta go I gotta go I gotta go

A chunk of tone and clink off-key
in merry merry mutilation melody
with grunt and groan and growl of gruel
wreck unrhythm on my motley crew
and torture tune unusually cruel
o I do I really really do

So no mistake to make or break
it’s all outtake which comes to fate
I do my do to your is
know at heart it’s all show biz
audience empty payment late

It ain’t mistake but ache I make
it ain’t mistake but ache I make

So chase the rabbit, hail the hare
Turtle here faster there
End of race rocks each roll
so unknowing's so nice to know
but sorry sir I gotta go I gotta go I really have to go

One thing here another there
depends on what the Emperor wears
or dares to care to bare beware

gotta go gotta go I gotta go

To hear with music & backing vocals by Billy Clarksville, word & voice by Smith (6:57, 2015), go to

 Vice Excel

Today’s LittleNip:


Two no-cats brushed my where.
I looked. They were not there.
They brushed again.
Ghost dance of none against my skin.


—Medusa, with thanks to Ever-Expanding Smith (Steven B. Smith) for fine poems and pix from Cleveland today! And remember that you have two poetry reading choices tonight: The Long-ish Poem at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm, and Shawn Pittard and Laura Dominguez Abraham (plus open mic) in Davis at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 7:30pm. croll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

 Expanding Smith
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.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Right Here

HT Cupper
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Soft whimper from the backseat.
Aren’t we there yet? My dog wants out,
he’s had enough of driving up freeway, and now
this little canyon. He could smell it through
closed car windows. Here, he says
in Dog. I find a pull-out, he leads me down steep
into shadow. No winter torrent, the canyon’s
summer-quiet. Beyond berry brambles,
down to the creek. Opposite bank’s a puzzle
of rock carved by current, exposing roots
dug down for water. Through trees,
swathes of sunlight find the surface, shimmer
ripples and the calmer stream. Water-
striders. And below a rock shelf, my dog
making his own swirls, mud, eddies.
He’ll come out shaking, sharing.
This is the place, he says.

 CC Meadow


Something fidgets in brambles this misty
morning along the creek. Blackbird?
Glimmer through trees as I cross the bridge—
light on a window pane of this almost
ghost town, remnant of what used to be
the road east. Houses boarded up,
the only survivor is this bungalow where
a living family hangs red scarves
from the line. Even the old schoolhouse
is repurposed as barn. I wonder
what happened to the names in chalk
on a blackboard, the answers to questions
mystical as all things bypassed, gone.

 Tracking Ground Squirrels


Young dog Trek—long legs, long feet—
is at the window, glass being always in the way.
He’s posted like a guardian dog, on guard
for ground squirrels that tunnel
everywhere, maybe under the house.
They ravage garden—tooth-marks mark
the way. Trek leaves his nose-prints on pane
of glass—window which is a sliding door,
a passageway. The door is closed, glass smudged
with nose prints, evidence of dog-guard
while master is away. Windows are too much.
What can a dog do, inside glass? Only
watch the rodents, how they snatch bird-seed
scattered by careless finches every-
which-way across the deck. Trek is undeterred,
on duty, ever faithful to his guard.
The ground squirrels always get away.

 Trek Outdoors


A wolf appears in the room’s dark corner beyond glow of the moon. Your skin tingles as if beast emerged from the palm of your hand, a rhythmic pulse linking man and wolf. If you stroked its rough fur, it might settle like a familiar dog. You might understand its tongue, the light of its eyes. Yet it holds apart, as if you stood in some forbidden circle of your mind. For now, man and beast focus on a single point in space, dark radiating beyond lamplight—maybe thinking the same thoughts, not yet meeting the other’s gaze.

moon through window glows
steady, silent as a globe
that contains all things

 Madia, Quartz Hill

    abhanga for the solar eclipse
We’ve come so high to see
Moon glide across the Sun—
daylight hardly begun,
Earth going dark.

This mountain lookout point
far above valley haze
a rare platform, to gaze
at our lost light.

Call this a holiday?
suddenly turning night—
it caused the ancients fright.
Would Sun come back?

We’ve heard the news reports.
Are we so very wise,
watching as the light dies?
How far we’ve come.

 Madia, Sun Haze


In uncertain light, the earth is laced
with crescent sunbeams.
Ever-diminishing day filtered through trees
at mid-morning.
Don’t look Sun in the eyes, they say,
for fear of blindness.
And what might that reveal? The sun
allows us only so much light
in a human life,
if we wish to go on seeing.
And so I walk in a growing dim,
stepping on ground littered with shards
of muted sun. Dark forms
fluttering. An annular eclipse
may not come again
in my lifetime. Is light essential
to dreaming?
On this hilltop I’m walking
among glimmer-gold
fragments like so many fallen willow
leaves. My own
shadow keeps stepping between.

Forest Road

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Galvanized tin cabin abandoned.
Nameless creek vanishing clear.
Road sign blanked out to nowhere.

Map shows Cheese Camp in three
places: creek, ridge, and meadow
but we haven’t found it there.

GPS got spell-corrected to GOD.


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine poems and pix! For more about the abhanga, see For more about the sevenling, go to and scroll down. Poets’ Collective is new to me and seems to be a ‘way-cool site for poetry forms, if you’re into that sort of thing… which I sometimes indulge in and sometimes, well, don’t. No shoulds, here, but they can be great fun and great discipline. (See “Medusa Mulls” in the links at the top of the blog for more of my opinions, including the American abuse of the lovely, delicate haiku form.) For form resources, I also like:

Shadow Poetry:
Jan Haag’s Desolation Poetry:
Poetry Foundation:

And for poetic terms, try Bob’s Byway:


 Star Thistle, Quartz Hill
—Photo by Taylor Graham
Celebrate poetry! Tonight you have your choice of readings: 
Luna’s Cafe with featured readers and open mic at 8pm, or 
Laura Dominguez Abraham and Shawn Pittard (plus open mic) 
at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, also at 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—
and note that more may be added at the last minute.

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Here's the Thing—

Sue Daly
—Poems by Sue Daly, Sacramento, CA
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA


I have no poems
to speak of
none to read,
none to write
none to edit or embellish
nothing heavy,
nothing light.
None advancing or leaving
for a distant shore,
I stand empty-handed
with only this and nothing more.
Nothing pithy
nothing witty;
no endings or beginnings
with nothing in-between.
No ideas on the horizon
Not even a glimmer;
all my hopes
and all my poems
have flown south
for the winter.



Left unspoken
    rhyme without reason
    love for a season

Left unspoken
    words made of dust
    time-tested trust

Left unspoken
    grief without end
    wounds of a friend

 —Anonymous Photo


Her doppelgänger must
reside in an alternate universe.
She imagines her living in
an Ozzie and Harriet household
with a loving mom and dad.

She wonders if the girl that looks
like her has ever gone hungry
or been locked up for hours. Has she ever
hidden her bruises from the teacher?

Probably not.

Once she stayed at Nana’s house overnight.
She had seconds and thirds at dinner.
Nana let her have two desserts.
She drifted off to sleep while watching
The Lawrence Welk Show.

That night she dreamed
she was wearing a sleeveless
shirt while running free in the wind,
baring her arms to the summer sun.



You gather me
unkept and unkind,
you filter me
and find buried jewels.

Your patient and purposed spirit
bequeaths me
a small slice of sunrise.

You gather me
from the four corners,
take me into yourself
then release me,

 —Anonymous Photo


    Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
    They’re in each other all along.

Like a well-loved cat you
curl up beside me, almost purring,
telling me about your day.
The beginnings and endings
of my life revolve around you.
We make our way around the sun
in different orbits, sometimes
touching and sometimes not,
sensing each other’s presence
within, where no one and no-thing
could ever pry us apart.
We are so entangled together,
when I breathe in, you breathe out.
This is the way it is with us,
connected at heart level,
always joined in our minds—
destined to become closer with
each day passing bright
before our eyes.



Here’s the thing—
when asked if we would do it differently
if we could go back in time,
we say “No, of course not,
everything happens for a reason
and it all brought me to where I am today.”

Here’s the thing—
we spew syrupy-sweet platitudes
talk about silver linings…
(I’ve rarely mined any silver,
it must be missing in action along
with my half-lived life.)

Here’s the thing—
we downplay our despair,
camouflage our doubt
then pass it off as truth.
We say “I have no regrets, no secrets
            to unburden,
I’ve fared pretty well through the
            passage of time.”

But here’s the thing—
sometimes… we lie.

 —Anonymous Photo


Eclipse clouds our view
     a perfect glowing circle

Compass spins wildly
     instruments are jammed

Volcano bellows on a distant island
     threatens to spill its wrath

Time-shifting fog engulfs us
     in a mesmerizing haze

We step off the abyss
     walk into the legend

How far have we drifted?
     we have no way of knowing

We look for the North Star
     search for the Southern Cross

Anything to find our bearings
     anything to light our way home 


Today’s LittleNip:

—Sue Daly

Let us be finished
with sorrowing.
Wounded and worn,
surely we have borne
this load long enough,
it will not be long—
our music begins.


Our thanks to Sue Daly for today’s fine poetry! Sacramento Poet and Artist Sue Daly’s poetry has been published in The Clinical Update, When the Light Changes, Brevities, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, Poetry Now, Cosumnes River College Journal, Medusa’s Kitchen, Song of the San Joaquin and others. Sue facilitates a poetry workshop at Wellspring Women's Center in Sacramento. She has an interest in empowering women to find their unique voices through writing and sharing their poetry with others.

Today’s poems are from Sue’s chapbook,
A Voice at Last (DADs DESK Publishing Co., 2017), and can be obtained by writing to her at Sue will be reading at Poetry in Placerville (with Carol Louise Moon plus open mic) this coming Sunday, Aug. 20, at Love Birds Coffee and Tea Co., 1390 Broadway, 1-3pm. 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.


 Celebrate Poetry!

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Several Ways of Loss

Red Horizon
—Poems and Original Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


I go to the Sunday room
where ruin has scattered itself
all over the broken sunlight patterns
on the rug which is worn thin with
footprints and faded colors.

There, a whole lifetime rehearses
its sorrow which is yet to be;
the walls are consoling the space
they enclose and hymns
are coming from the radio.

Voices have left the dream and
cannot be remembered. The window
releases its sunlight every morning
when I raise the old dark window shade
and turn to face the day.

How come the memory keeps changing,
like a life that has been rewritten?
Some voice from a shadow scolds,
and I weep. A doorway threatens
to let me leave. I no longer belong here.



These ruts, mud-driven, hard as crust in summer,
filled with dust that scatters up, then settles back.

The road goes on until it reaches somewhere
known—like home, or keeps on going—

a road that follows a sort of crow-path way
between far places that connect.

It’s just such roads as this that I am lonely for,
rocky, uneven roads, through died-out trees,

where shadows sleep with sunlight undisturbed
with long-brimmed silences between cars.

Oh, what to call this place—this nowhere place.
I’ve never been there, but I miss it so.



Distractions: Something to break the distance to the eye:
A jagged line. A sound off to the edge. A movement in
the light. Something to cure the fear of being far and
almost night. (That fence along the road—was that same
break in it there before?) The last time you asked the way,
liars told you that this was a place of no circles—one
straight long road; their fingers pointed where. Ahead of
you, the sky; and in it, an airplane coming at you. No place
to hide.

Magnifications: That evening bird with the echoes in its
voice. The wind that speaks in raspy leaves. Shadows that
compare themselves to hunters.

Confusions: The fence repeating itself every fourth mile.
The airplane repeating its way across the sky, and aiming
its wings now—right at you. No houses to run to, except
the one just ahead of you—there is no way that leads from
it. The face at the window is watching. Its mouth is endless
with a blame. Its arms are full of suffocations. It is adding
its crimes and apologies to your name. It is the only place
to go. Walk slow.

 Day Melting

After “After The Dancing” by Gerald Stern

Long into the gray night, full of mystery and gray roses,
wall-paper vagueness, the way lights pale against
the ceiling from passing cars that turn down this street

then turn around, lost.  This is where things get lost,
small gray moths hiding everywhere, watching our
shadows dance to the gray shadows briefly illuminated

by groping lights from those lost cars.  We are the furtive
dancers; these lost streets are ours.  But we dance—we
who are lost together—dance to the furtive music of quiet

radios, reaching through the windows of our eyes to each
other, yet holding ourselves far enough away to not touch
lest we become hopelessly lost in each other’s flailings.

 Wrong Way


this is the way it will be :
the strain against bleakness
the map against time

you must go the several ways of loss
ask no one directions there
overcome apprehension when
all becomes silent and still

you must choose from many doors
none of them locked
only one is the right one
and you must go with your first choice

you will become obsessed with symbols
all things will become
meanings to other things
you will consult horoscopes

relevancy is this :
how you determine what you learn
do you have all the ingredients
for a decision
don’t answer until you know

it is a long time to sit staring
into the way you would go
take as long as you need

you will go under the rain
it is a way to be sane
going despite the crow cry
uttered once on the morning

it is blue now
a whispery sound at the edges
a huge red flower made of cloth
hanging on a dress

it is going to be summer soon
but first, there is the
tragedy of this winter

nothing is ever forgiven
do not expect miracles

(first pub. in Gallery Series Five Poets, 1977)

 Pretty Little Town


Let us not forget how we were children—
drawn like a thread through some defining word,
blending ourselves into life’s conversation
before we thought of life as tragedy.

Innocence is first—first gift of children,
layered over—word by word by word.
How should we continue this conversation
without it becoming a singular tragedy?

Can we really know ourselves as children?
—as if the meaning changes in that word
we give ourselves and use for conversation
to play the amusing role of tragedy.

In truth, we barely remember ourselves as children
—forgetting some year as one forgets a word—
leaving gaps of meaning in each conversation
where there is always room for one more tragedy.

And here we are, bemoaning ourselves as children,
groping, it seems, for yet another word
to fill the gap in one more conversation
to prove we are—or are not—worth our tragedy.


After Three Men Walking, 1948 by Giamocetti

Walking out from the center of the mirror, I face
three directions and am at once at the mercy of
three compulsions.  Thus am I split into the three

measurements of existence:  I am past, present,
and future.  But, still, I am of the mirror—that
mothering eye that will not diminish or release,

but only gives me a glimpse of illusion—that
bordering reach—that drift off the fathomless
edge around me.  If only I can pull away at the

exact moment, I will escape the unguarded blink
that must occur.  Even now, I can feel my three
selves slip the magnetic hold of my own fear

and reluctance—that pull at the weakening
center—if only I am that brave—if only I can
break my own trance, and that of the mirror.



Come, let us lean on one another through this difficult
light—this landscape of abstraction where we are changed
as we go through the shiftings.

Let us perfect a thread of reassurance—make up a call to
use—scratch marks on stones—leave a drop of blood to
prove our presence.

Did I not see you bleed in red light, sharpened by glass
distance we have not yet reached? We are not from that
city that pretends itself so we will enter.

Let us obey the circle that forms and gives us permission.
We are in the mind’s eye. What a blessing. Something loves
us. We are safe here. Don’t let go.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Travel this dark
that goes too wide
across the day
which is too long
which has
no other way
but through
and has
no other traveler
but you.

(first pub. in
Poetalk, 1995)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her fine poetry and pix today, exploring our Seed of the Week (Are We There Yet?) via the notion of travel and roads. Our new Seed of the Week is Hats. How many “hats” do you wear in any given day? Do you have any vivid hat memories? I rarely wear hats, but I still have the one I wore in my wedding to Sam (the dress is long gone, but I still have the hat). Go wide and talk about hats metaphorically as well as literally; then 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 of others to choose from.


 The snakes of Medusa must wear many hats...
(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.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Are We There Yet?

—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Charles Mariano, Sacramento, CA

remembering yesteryears
during conversations
goes like this,

5 years, is now fairly recent
10 years, just a couple years ago
20 years, a ways back there
40 years, is a coon’s age
50 years, is yikes!

60 years…

well, i’m in a dark,
confined space
where all this damn dirt
came from


—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento, CA

before the ROTC runners
before the student athletes
and the sunrise faculty swimmers
before the leaf-blowers
and the lawn-tractors
before the coffee truck
and the guy selling giant posters

couldn’t sleep
so here I am communing
with the dark dewy peace
of trees and buildings
of thirty-thousand
busy minds

 Tiger Lilies

—Michael Ceraolo, S. Euclid, OH

September 18, 1881


In my younger days I wrote a poem
similar to the poem below:

My day is fading in the west
The night shades hover near
ready to bring me eternal rest
The clouds of death appear

Thus will end my life's toil and cares,
though with sadness for my heirs


"However presumptuous it may seem,
I am nevertheless constrained
to confess the truth about myself
                I say boldly,
that I claim inspiration
I claim that I am in the employ
of Jesus Christ & Co.,
the very ablest and strongest firm
in the universe"

Tiger Lily

       (symphonic poem by Bax, 1909)
—Tom Goff

I got this mood under Mount Brandon with all W B [Yeats]’s magic about me—no credit to me of course because I was possessed by Kerry's self.

                    —Arnold Bax, in a letter to Anne Crowley

Kiss into the innocent stripling moods of bliss;
lure, nurse, lull him you captivate with perverse,
pure, terse words that spellbind him. Cast the Ur-Curse:
mist over your victim who’s been most remiss
not to suspect some trick too soon to be caught.
Capture the fool, fold him in Irish rapture,
sad hopelessly compounded with the glad,
mad-sprinkled with sweet green spice, dark, sensual, bad.
Aperture. Hill shuts upon you. Overture
shot through with horn-calls, bassoon, harp, elfin-taught.
Fiddle without a lesson, for the riddle
is how you came by that violin your hands quiz.
Gleeful, on fire with Yeats. You orchestra people,
cèilidhe alongside you Sidhe. Man couples with Faery…  

cèilidhe = KAY-lee        Sidhe = SHE (the fairy hosts)


    (Phantasy for Viola and Orchestra, 1920)
—Tom Goff

Into his ardent Viola Phantasy,
with intimations of Éireann’s brown-haired girls
sharing with lads their white breast-curves, dark curls
in hopeless awkward plights of intimacy,
Bax has it in mind to inject a clandestine blow
for Irish culture, Ireland self-rule:
amid the glow of allegro finale-flow,
an overt melodic shred he figures to fool
his British public, John Bull at the premiere
—from the Sinn Féin anthem, Irish rebellion-song.
It might as well be the Internationale.
(He’s dared this before, braved danger, running it near.
“Who fears to speak of Ninety-Eight?” rings clear
from In Memoriam Patrick Pearse.) Not wrong,
his rash forecast. It escapes them, one and all.


—Tom Goff

Bax praises Liszt’s famous “tinsel” Liebestraum:
“Of course it’s sentimental; he had the grace
not to be ashamed of it.” Who has the face
these days to dare say such things? Direct; no qualm.
And why this high-spirited defense of Liszt?
For Bax, there’s denser water where bathos floats.
Liszt does what Bax does: the tune’s built on repeated notes.
The antithesis of melody, says one.
Say I, the audacious gestural force of same.
The Piano Quintet: Bax hammers against the tame
in a “one-finger” fanfare, memorable dark fun.
Such repetition amasses intensity.
Liszt’s tinkling trinket—of hidden immensity?
Well, isn’t Bax out of fashion, like Lisztian mist?
Musicians who champion Franz Liszt’s Liebestraum?
Shunned, as if pleading Hitler’s Lebensraum…


       (Robert Browning’s “The Ring and the Book”)
—Tom Goff

“Do you see this Ring?” Well, no, not for some time;
that is, I hadn’t seen Browning’s famous Book
for ages. Now I read Book Six, Guido’s nook,
next-to-last haven of dodging husband: crime,
that of murdering wife Pompilia,
his seventeen-year-old wife supposed run off
with a young priest—the tale is Rome’s one scoff—
for carnal bliss, batting her eye-cilia
at Handsome, as well as escape the spousal cage.
How plausibly Guido defends with Shylock skill
his honor: I catch myself smiling, though I should be frowning.
An old nobleman’s attitude, ownership, for ill
or good, of one he deems a whore’s daughter (the baggage!)
and yet prize bird. He somehow works his will
on judges’ (and our) minds. Don’t let’s forget his kill:
she’s dying by fevers and traumas from five deep wounds.
I think he felt qualms enough to not scar her face:
mere murder sufficed for him and his cutthroats. Zounds!
This Guido Franceschini pleads for grace,
the O.J. Simpson of his Roman day.
Meantime in the world young men routinely slay
wives for Honor—where? Bodily organs, or lodged in the soul?
What would you do, good sir, great Robert Browning?
Unteach the possessor-destroyer? Patch the dead whole?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

"The journey to the airport
Takes about fifteen minutes,"
She told our guests.
"But it begins with
A single step," I said.
Suddenly everyone
In the car began to hit me.


Many thanks to today’s poets for their tasty mélange to start our week off right, some of them celebrating our Seed of the Week, “Are We There Yet?”. Today we have some news items from Sacramento Artist/Poet/Publisher Jennifer O’Neill Pickering, who will be reading at Luna’s on Aug. 31, and at SPC with Patricia L. Nichol on Sept. 4 (Labor Day!). Her book,
Blooming In Winter, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as at her studio show and reading events—plus it’s for sale by contacting her at Here are the poetry news items she’s passing on to us: 

Calling all poets: take the monthly Ekphrastic Challenge on Rattle's website (! This month my pastel, Street Folks, has been selected for your poetic inspiration and will be on the website during the month of August. The two poems selected by the Editor and myself will be featured on Rattle's website, and you will be paid 50.00 bucks! Looking forward to reading your writing. (Deadline is Aug. 31.)

 Street Folk by Jennifer O'Neill Pickering
This month's Ekphrastic challenge on Rattle

Ongoing and every 4th Saturday, come read your writing (prose or poetry) at Writers On the Air (WOA), 10am-1 pm, with host Todd Boyd. (10 minute limit per person.) Readers will leave with a podcast link to their writing. This event also includes a featured reader each meeting; Aug. 26 will be Jackie Howard. Here is a link for more information:

I also want to remind all writers who are also visual artists to submit their work for the annual Sable & Quill, a reading and art exhibit at the Sacramento Poetry Center in January. It is the 9th year of the event and I hope to begin assembling a comprehensive book of all participants to celebrate our 10th anniversary. If you are interested in participating this year, please send 3 samples of your art work and writing for consideration to: Thanks always to the Sacramento Poetry Center for providing a space for the event. We are able to make a nominal donation to the Center each year.

Thanks, Jennifer! It’s always a sunny day when people send calendar and publishing announcements to the Gorgon. Don’t be shy about sending mention of poetry books, readings and other poetry events that you’re involved in, either. In addition to being an open mic, Medusa’s Kitchen is also a bulletin board.

Another Ekphrastic challenge comes from Placerville: El Dorado Poetry has posted some artwork by Michael Paul and is asking for poems in the ekphrastic mode. Go to for info and to see the art.

Sacramento Bee has an article by Stephanie Taylor about the annual Squaw Valley Writers’ Workshop. Many local poets have enjoyed attending the workshop over the years. Check it out at

This week’s poetry readings in our area begin tonight at Sac. Poetry Center with Allegra Silberstein and Patricia Wentzel, plus open mic, 7:30pm. Thursday brings choices: Third Thursday at the Central Library at noon is still on hiatus (until September), but Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe meets at 8pm with featured readers and open mic. Or, also this Thursday, Poetry Night in Davis presents William Greene and Lauren Swift, plus open mic, 8pm.

On Friday, The Other Voice in Davis presents Lisa Dominguez Abraham and Shawn Pittard (plus open mic), Unitarian Universalist Church library, 7:30pm. Then, on Sunday, Poetry in Placerville features Sue Daly and Carol Louise Moon plus open mic, 1-3pm, Love Birds Coffee and Tea Co. on Broadway. 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—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


 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.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Not So Bad, To Die...

Hemigrapsus oregonensis
—Anonymous Photo

—Mark Doty, 1953

Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze
preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like—

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws’

gesture of menace
and power. A gull’s
gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber
—size of a demitasse—
open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.
Though it smells
of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case
comes with such lavish lining!
Imagine breathing

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer’s firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into this—
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
revealed some sky.



Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Constellation of Morning (Murmurations of the Heart)

—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA
(Previously appeared on Medusa's Kitchen, 2014)


I had a small handful of lights.
They were to used to transport
Me into any space but I was never
Okay with that condition.

I was sitting in a small room with a single lamp.
There were a lot of rabbits on the floor of the room.
Outside I could people coughing.  The noise was
Much like one would hear in a theater before the show
Was to begin.  The room appeared not to have a door.

A rhythmic pulse begins.  I find it more difficult than ever
To begin.  I begin to imagine the smell.
I look hard at the palm of my hand.
One wall of the room begins to dissolve.
I am before a host of angels.

The rabbits move to the edges of the room.
There is a red weeping before them.
The Angels appear to be drunk.
Some of them are smoking.
They begin to sing that blue chalk song of theirs.

Animals emerge from the palm of my hand,
Snakes, elephants, dogs, lemurs,
A flock of red birds.  My hand becomes
Detached.  I realize these lights,
These animals are a kind of language.

I will attempt to use this language.
The Angels form a circle and begin to move
Around and around me.  Perhaps something
Here will prompt you to construct a secret life,
One that is full of things like these.

Come closer.  These are terrible and majestic
Beliefs I am asking of you.  You’ll need a boat.
Remember what I told you.  Travel alone.

 Bolinas and Frog


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.



The story is unrepeatable.  It has no
Walls but dominates dreams with its
Huge body, so huge civilizations may be lost there.

Never finding their way, such a labyrinth
Undoing our tongues by refusing speech
As we open our mouths, no longer able
To breathe, lost once more on our journey
As Ulysses was lost.

I remember the last time standing
On the banks of the Niagara River,
The Upper Rapids.
The rocks seemed to be exploding.
The sound clear and loud but still
We were able to talk to one another.

Then it happens, for over a mile
Eternity opens its mouth so wide
We swoon upon the river banks,
Gazing full into your body.

You are the element.
Oh water that is all things to me
From life to death, filling my body
With your flowing.  Am I in love with you
Or is it that you are in love with me?

I seem to speak as you do, drop by
Drop; some clear, some clouded.
I do not know what I am trying
To say.  My library pours from its shelves.
Filling all available space, pours through
The windows, through the town and city,
Never stopping.  We hardly notice

Where all of language pours back
Into your element, washes itself
Within you and returns to our lips
As we sing endlessly to your mystery.

 Bedroom Light


Murmurations of the heart
Clearly caught upon unknown thorns.
The long kiss of phantom wings
In such uncertain light,
Something blindness might reveal
Had it Milton’s tongue
Or the knowledge of something
So essential to dreaming that it
Must seek through a thousand
Stories of kings and queens,
The children of dying parents,
To find the mysteries of slowly
Falling leaves, a vague understanding
Seldom articulated.  A garden
Long neglected so that it becomes
Almost impossible to tell if it
Truly was a garden.  A confection
Made by butterfly wings that
Wakes from oblivion into
A common dream.  Here we will
Build a house with them.  Sails
Borne by a great ship, bent with wind
In both tedium and splendor.
A history of speech
Able to reside in our most private
Lives, always intruding,
Never more than uncouth
Fragments attempting to
Explain our lives to us.



She stood there looking
Just like a bridge ready
To take its toll.

She dropped her journal
On the sidewalk and three
Black birds and one red one
Flew out of it.  “The ink was still
Wet,” she said.

“I was hoping for birds,” I said,
But she didn’t know what I was
Talking about.  I sat on the corner
Curb waiting for the light to change.
I knew it would take a very long time.

“Remember when we were talking
About God?" she said.  “No,” I answered.
“It was on that beach and there were flies
All over everything and they kept getting
In our mouths when we were talking.”
“No,” I answered.  “I’ve only heard about
It from a book I read when I was 12 years old.”

“It’s a good thing sunlight isn’t hard.
Everything would break on a sunny day.”
“Everything breaks when it is raining.”
“Are you trying to be funny?  Like dawn
Breaking and all that?”  “Not at all.
I just don’t know how it holds together
When it is wet.  I can’t see anything at
Night.  A lot of the time there is nothing
There.”  “Yes, there is.  I can hear it talking.”

“I’m going to take a walk out past the gardens
Along the slough.”
“When will you be back?”
“Back?” I said.
But she was already gone.



The clouds were molten.
More ideas of clouds
Than floating ships of water.
The sun would soon have at them
And dissolve their nests away.

I crouch near the creek
Searching for a white trout,
A lady the fays said to be
At work, on duty, waiting
For a long-lost love,
Enchanted in the olden times
And left between the pages
Of a yellowing book of tales
No longer told to any but children.

There is a way across morning,
Past the range of first light
Lifting over the oaks,
Past the proclamations of the birds,
Still only dark forms fluttering
From power line to power line.

The lights on the tower change
From red to a strobe of white
Before quitting altogether
As this change comes into the sky.

There is a genius here to which
We are not party except to walk
Through it, marveling at the spinning
Of the earth, its ability
To catch the shimmer
Of a white trout as it rises
From the water, fully clothed
In white robes, again to take
Her place.  Her place in
Her shining stars,
Awaiting the sound of her lover’s horse
As it draws nearer and nearer.
A constellation of morning
Gathered into our lives.


Today’s LittleNip:

—n.ciano (Nancy Pulciano)

Words carefully crafted,
something like...
summer rain.
Man and Woman,
stark with pain.
A love never spoken,
a love never made.
Love? No chance given.
endless inspiration.
Art was made.


Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for his poems and photos today, all of which have previously appeared in the Kitchen. D.R. will be taking the rest of August off from his regular Saturday posting, needing time as he does for further recuperation and for his various publishing projects, but we'll save his spot by posting "hits from the hits". He promises to return with new work in September. 

Don't forget that previously published work is welcome here—a great way to advertise your books, for example. I always say, if it's worth posting once...

And our thanks and welcome back to Nancy Pulciano, a former student of D.R.’s who used to post in the Kitchen and has been out having adventures. Don’t be a stranger, Nancy!

Tonight, SPC Gallery celebrates “A Box Is…”, 36 new art pieces by Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Gwen Amos, Helen Plenert on the concept of “out of the box”, with a reception from 5-8pm. 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.


 —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.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Grin and Bear It

—Poems by Caschwa (Carl Bernard Schwartz), Sacramento, CA
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


“Are we there yet?”
Ask the people and the pundits
Now over 200 days
Into the new pretendency
Let’s see about that

Undeniably racist
Rallies and retaliation
For allowing black folk
Full citizenship
Are we there yet?

The hornet’s nest was stirred
From the unforgiveable audacity
Of allowing a lowly liberal woman
To run for president
Are we there yet?

The new administration
Is taking credit for
Crossing rivers where
The prior one built bridges
Are we there yet?

Business as usual
Is the new government normal
Lavish retreats for the executives
Eroding opportunity for the masses
Are we there yet?

The slow boat to China fuse was
Lit on explosive investigations
Evidence is being collected
The hangman is readying his knot
Don’t hold your breath waiting



I am hopelessly frowning
While smiling weeds are clowning
Around on my lawns and garden

Each an escaped felon
Larger footprint than a melon
Grasping onto that first taste of freedom

Neighbors and vendors suggest
Sure-fire solutions, at best
Sure to enlarge the difficulty

Demoting me from retired state worker
To an insignificant weed jerker
From dawn to dusk

Dreams of a nice rock garden bed
Now dance around in my head
You see where that got me?

( * * * )

There must be thousands of species
Of harmful winged insects
And all of them make me blue

Then come countless questions as to
Which species is most onerous
And those questions upset me, too

(* * *)

A circular firing squad
Could be no worse

Than politicians
Writing policy in verse

(Response to “One Room Is A House” by D.R. Wagner)
No window is big enough
Nor even double doors
Walls and ceilings must fall away
Become mere crumbling clay

Because one solitary room is a nest
Where occupants practice
The endless exercise
Of flittering wings and wandering eyes

They are one moment drawn
Into vast open spaces
Then abruptly sucked back
Into a small honeycomb shack

Home does not bear a house number
It is a special invitation from
Close neighbors and distant foreigners
To visit the globe and peer ‘round all the corners



What is this thing?
Called Love,
Who had dialed a wrong number
And had gotten this answer:

Karma window panes
Holding fly paper
Catching flying
Paper airplanes


Everybody gathered
Everything ready
Except there was a dog
On the launch pad

The dog was in heat
I waved to her
She didn’t get it
Houston, we have a problem


I climbed all the way
To the very top
Of a hill of beans
To learn the secret:

Soak them slowly
Cook them slowly
Eat them slowly
Leave quickly

(I’m new to culture, please
let me keep my visitor’s pass)

Taking note of Sir Arnold Bax
And his dual affinity with
The Celtic and Nordic cultures

One may conjure a
Glencolumcille scenario
Where Thor’s Chthonic boom

Drew forth the maththeth
To the chthafety of their
Chthtorm chthelter


(Sometime in the 1960’s)

I felt like taking a bicycle ride
Into the distant mountainside
Away from urban and suburban
Napping in the lap of nature

It began taking shape
Much like King Kong the ape
A silver screen fantasy
Enjoyed with popcorn and soda

My impressionable eyes gazing up at
The MGM Studio's 25,000-gallon hat
Water tower which I hastily strapped
To the frame of my 10-speed bike

Off I pedaled across the town
One foot up, the other down
Somewhere north of Beverly Hills
The climb got serious, and then…

A noxious odor fouled the air
Road kill snake decomposing there
I dismounted my bike, held my nose
Small steps now, big breaths ahead

Mulholland Drive, near the crest of the mountain
Still the same day, but the hour, who’s countin’?
Enough of a day for one guy on a bike
Coming home all downhill, brakes and breeze

Decades later I can still smell that snake
When the Press Secretary echoes words oh so fake
Best we can do is move on, put it behind us
But endless lies have an afterlife…..



We hug closely while rounding curves
On a speedway of emotion

Moonroof above, fertile garden of
Hormones below

No determined destination
Parked off-road

Poems in our head, particularly
Joyce Odam’s “Interminglings”

We shall rake the birds
With alluring food

And feed the leaves
With moonlight

It’s my turn
I’ll get up   


Today’s LittleNip:


A restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Has to list everything it serves
On two separate menus

One geared to the eloquent
Who want to take a bite out of
The lesser privileged

One other geared to the lesser privileged
Who want to take a bite out of
The eloquent


Our thanks to Caschwa (Carl Bernard Schwartz) for his fine poetry today, and to Katy Brown for these photos of the bear she saw last weekend in Auburn. In addition to our Seed of the Week: Are We There Yet?, Carl's work today has allusions to the poetry of D.R. Wagner, Joyce Odam, and Tom Goff,
poems of theirs which have appeared recently in the Kitchen. Glad to see you're paying attention, Carl!

Sacramento Poet Michelle Kunert writes to remind us that there will be a partial solar eclipse visible in Sacramento on August 21; see Michelle has sent us two links for music to watch the eclipse by:

And if you’re in the mood for Terry Moore’s Love Jones Experience, that’s happening tonight with poets and musicians in Elk Grove, 9pm. 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.


 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.