Monday, October 23, 2017

Longings and Wantings

—Photo by Ann Privateer, Davis, CA

—Ann Privateer

bound to this body
limited by its edge
how I wish to fly
but wishes, like lovers
can be elusive.

longings and wantings fly,
sometimes very high,
away from landings
that are capturing me
in reality.

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer

a bird flits
in the garden
followed by a moth
as the cat measures
its next leap
to snare one or the other.
Daylight calls out
and a tiny mouse
scoots to gather
a crumb.

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

Day starts with sun, yet dreadful and morose
as last night’s mope, wet with the sprinkler soak
that blasted Billy-dog and me. Some joke.
My mood’s as quick to lift as lead. Suppose
a Puritan dose. Reprisal. Swollen sin.
Light trails behind the harbinger, Miasma,
town-crying dank November eons of asthma.
Day starts with sun; the smile of dawn smirks thin.
Shadows retire with senile painfulness;
then, look, upon the spears of grass encased,
some, still in yesternight’s Gray Goose excess.
On buttery dandelions bees—yes, bees—
buzz flowerheaded flits. Toxins and wastes
leached or scoured away…by Time? Skinned knees,
boy shorts in a poisonless garden. Utter clean
via nine p.m.’s drenching by machine.

 Viola Weinberg reads at Poetry in Davis
John Natsoulas Gallery, Thurs. Oct. 19
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Tom Goff

Let no more Santa Rosas burn.
Let’s have no more of flame than can
upshoot young quail into the span
of safflower-oil-clear morning, turn
anonymous night to name-day fire.
Let morningflame light red-stroked cheeks
on Northern Flickers, tint their beaks
pure silver fit to sing desire.
Let no more Santa Rosas burn.
Comb the sere hills free of stubble,
topple the rain-jar, mend the rubble.
Tell us what we have to learn.
Our Grecian climate’s all one urn.
Let no more Santa Rosas burn.

  Traci Gourdine reads at Poetry in Davis
John Natsoulas Gallery, Thurs. Oct. 19
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Tom Goff

We warriors hae climbed oot of the wrong trench
This morning. Bagpipe skirling, but where’s heather?
Nae bluebells, only pansies, lilies. Weather
Sniffs mickle a whiff o’ th’ mizzle. Damp, nae drench.
My Gaelic hawks and donkeys; losing my burr.
Lift high yer claymores, lads, afore they blur.
Straighten yer kilts and sporrans, my herty lads:
Pastels and rainbows, like to rub oot yer plaids… 

  Sibilla Hershey at Open Mic last Thursday
—Photo by Katy Brown

          On his “To the Memory of My Beloved
          the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare”
—Tom Goff

Clever to praise “my Shakespeare” oh so well
That we keep eyes pressed on the immortal plays.
Never we mind about Ben’s crooked maze,
“Will’s” social standing lost in the asphodel,
Such epithets as “gentle” of one meaning
To readers who scarcely con the pricey book,
Another sense to subtler ones who look
Through lenses tinted gold for slants and leanings.

Take “Stratford monument.” Which Stratford is it?
Play Station Central London? Warwickshire?
Which Avon spawned the Sweet Swan who flew higher?
A town stream? Hampton Court? Let’s make our visit.
(Will Shakspere no more staged plays for Court Hampton
Than did the Rose hear arias from Rose Bampton…)

 Trina Drotar at Open Mic last Thursday
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Tom Goff

Bimala speaks:

We say that Shiva assumes a great many shapes,
But surely never this thing of points, a triangle.
How everything hangs till it rots as do dark grapes.
Us: Wife, Landowner, Fanatic. Who would not dangle
In winds of fear?

Triangle, I did say. You cannot relate
Fully to me except as you speak through him;
Along all speech-paths, an interloper: Fate
Seems to have decreed this by apparent whim,
Nothing less clear.

Home spells intimacy, always bound with duty;
World signifies exposure to fire and beauty.
By what strange trickery of the gods is love
Shaped to excuse our wearying? Use and use
Thrusts iron spears through our relations. Rupee
embeds itself coin-hard in each one’s glove
Of skin: chill, severe.

What reconciles us to being used and used,
For domestic peace or revolution’s grandeur?
The conflagration I fear starts with my ruse:
Before I ignite it, who’ll first speak with full candor?   

 James Lee Jobe at Open Mic last Thursday
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

It has been decades
Since homework and hall passes
Earlier circles of friends now broken into
Smaller arcs, each missing large pieces

We are all adults now
Says the calendar
OK to smoke, even chain smoke
No more parental taboos

The same giggles arise
From the same classmates
When viewing the fish of Pisces
Positioned like the numerals 69

And there remain a few Bubba’s
Who failed to meet graduation standards
But now proudly raise their own standards
And march around with loaded guns

There could be a monster among us
Or somewhere within each of us
Our blank slate of self-doubts and miscues
Now fully populated and heavy

Including the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
Where fastidiously healthy astronauts met their death
So that corporate biggies could try to meet a deadline
That lesson ever since rudely ignored by the automakers

When younger we learned to
Follow the money
Now that our years weigh more than our gold
We follow the ashes, too

 D.R. Wagner at Open Mic last Thursday
—Photo by Katy Brown

Today’s LittleNip:

—Ann Privateer

music played slow
or fast, hearts quicken
clear water
swirling turquoise pools
first snow fall
desert blooms
clouds at sunset
morning mist
spirit pictures
what we're made of.


Many thanks to today’s contributors, and bravo to Tom Goff for rhyming “Miasma” with “asthma”. For more about Tagore’s
The Home and the World, see To start your Monday off in a lively way by hearing Toscanini conduct Debussy’s Scottish March, go to And if you’d like to read Ben Jonson’s poem, “To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare”, it’s at

Katy Brown’s fine photos today were captured at last Thursday’s Poetry in Davis reading, which featured Viola Weinberg and Traci Gourdine. If you’d like to see more photos from that event, go to Medusa’s Facebook page at Thanks, Katy!

Poetry readings in our area begin tonight at 7:30pm at Sac. Poetry Center with The Art of the Collection: Readings by the Poets of Kate Asche’s 2016-2017 Monthly Workshop. On Friday, Speak Up Stories and Poems presents Moon Don’t Go at The Avid Reader on Broadway in Sacramento, 7pm. Saturday morning, Writers on the Air features Ronald Brady plus open mic at Sac. Poetry Center, 10am. Then on Saturday afternoon, Poetic License read-around will take place in Placerville at the Sr. Center, 2pm. 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 very well be added at the last minute.


 Celebrate Poetry!
Viola Returns to Davis
—Photo by Katy Brown

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, October 22, 2017


—Anonymous Photo

There is No Remembering—

only storytelling: making up
some lovely plotline I can
live with: retool those ugly

shoes that pinch, make them
looser to cut out the wincing,
get me through yet another

long, long walk of a day…

There is no such thing as
true remembering, is there?
I have my own scrapbook

of favorite lies: dog-
earred photos yellowed
by time—my own mythology

that I’ve wrestled, wrangled
and re-worked ‘til its leather
softens, soothes, gets me through

another long walk of a day… 

—Kathy Kieth, Diamond Springs, CA



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Poems for the Season

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


A frightful symmetry
Seen through the leaves of night trees
Just as the moon clears their confines.

I will tell you that this is only your grief
Speaking and that you do not desire death.
You will attempt to argue through drunkenness
And you will leave, sleep dressed as madness
Wraps your brain and stops the parade.

Suddenly the moon cracks open the night,
Filling it with its delicious light.
It plays with our imagination.
“I am the moon," it says.  “I am the moon.”

Most things are without sense.
We make the most of what we have,
Drive ourselves to understand in broken
Cars, demanding the extra mile.

I hear you breathing, but it does not seem
To be a rest, rather, the trough of a wave,
The catching of the moon in a glass,
The surface of a great totally transformed.


            with a line by Melissa Studdard
Of course it was a great pile,

Battlements and turrets and half-

Turrets.  Collapsed staircases.

Hundreds of rooms, most of them quite small.

One could spread one’s arms and touch the nether

Walls.  Small windows allowed quicksilver light

Into the rooms.  All color faded.  “Have you 

Learned anything by being here?  A prayer perhaps?”

I saw a small lawn with rows of cages, each

With a cloud of a different color within.
“I keep these for the various seasons,”

The vampire had said in the same tone

With which he had explained the moats

Filled with stars in nets heaped far below

The water.  “These are from the temples,”

He had said, laughing softly to himself.

Occasionally he would explain

That he needed to touch me.

But I would hand him a rock

And he would be placated for awhile.

Turning it over and over in his hands,

Studying its shape as he held it 

At arms’ length.

“You have a most interesting spine,”
He announced to me as we climbed 

Toward the halls where he kept the whirlwinds.

“Yes,” I said, “it allows me to fly or sail if I must.”

He fumbled with his keys, trying

To find those that fit the dry, yet festered

Wood he used to build the doors to those rooms.

“It took me years to find the correct wood to keep
These things here.  They love black leaves,

You know,” he added, as he slid the bones

Of the bolts aside and we watched them
Flash in great rooms lit by constant lightning


“Will you always live here?” I asked.
“I come here to pray and to recall the taste
Of lips.  I have no time to think or eat properly
Or to rest.  I keep beehives around the castle.

The sound soothes me, as do the rooms 

With the great waterfalls.  Come, I will show

You these rooms.  Have you a taste for blood?”

 The Moon


As I crested the hill
I found the moon asleep
In a small hollow, nestled
Just below the tops of a grove
Of oak trees.  The moon was
To have been up an hour ago.
The light coming through the branches,
That quiet music the moon always makes.

Tonight your skin tasted like
Lime juice and orange blossoms.
I have moments like this where
Everything seems possible for an instant.

I wasn’t supposed to tell
You about the moon, but I had
To.  I thought maybe you would
Go there with me sometime.

I know the exact place it was
Resting.  I could hold you there.
We could pretend we have always
Known things like this.
We could sing a moon song.

 The Moon Over the Horseshoe or
Canadian Falls


Star poked me in the eye.

The coyotes heard it.

I could barely move.

Tiny lights reminded me

I was alone.

I think I am dead.
I died in a dream

With my mother
Talking to me.

And I laughed.
I laughed.

For I was alive.

I could feel myself cry out

And I knew my name

When they called.

And then we were

On the beach

Building sandcastles

And you remembered
My name.

And then they took
It all away from me.

The blank look

The waves have
As they touch my skin.

The lights in the town

Are charms.

They visit above the voices

Of the coyotes,

The questioning owls.

These are the voices
In my heart.

I trust you will tell no one.

 The Moon in Oakland


Heaven dare not look too long
When soft, my darling, says the moon,
The stars, the whirling balls of stone
That are the planets, to their sleep.
For soft is the song that rises, clouding
Those towers that are praising in those
Fell halls full of angel wings and dawn.

Heaven dare not keep the night long
From around her shoulders where she
Wears it like the cloak it is and
Brings it to our bed, still full of stars
And singing, such shining is herself.
I gaze upon that which angels fear
May tear them from the face of God,
Even for a moment, such is my darling
In her sweet good-nights before we sleep.


Today’s LittleNip:
There is nothing you
can see that is not a flower;
there is nothing you can think
that is not the moon.



Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s poems and photos, all of which were previously posted in Medusa’s Kitchen. (D.R. was feeling poorly on Friday and needed time to recuperate.)

Head on down to Sac. Poetry Center tonight, 7pm, for the release of
Strangeland by A.J. Thomas and Friends, hosted by Bill Gainer and Red Alice’s Poetry Emporium. 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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Fairy Light

—Anonymous Moon Photos

—Michael Estabrook, Acton, MA

I’m underground
the walls are covered with tiles
blue tiles
like in a subway station
so I guess I’m in a subway
but some of the tiles have holes in them
and there are snakes
everywhere snakes
some snakes crawl through
the holes in the tiles
my father shows up
comes walking towards me
and he’s stepping on the snakes
he doesn’t have a choice
they cover the ground

—Michael Estabrook

No doubt a modern Medusa
would have wires for hair
rather than snakes
like the mythological Medusa
because today everything
has a wire in it
and when wires get crossed
when things go hay-wire
it is likely to be much more fearful
than snakes in this modern
technological world
we try to live in.

—Michael Estabrook

I have often wondered
what the ancient poets would've done
if they had computers or recording devices
or a smart phone like the one
I'm talking into right now. For example
would Paradise Lost have been five times longer
if Milton had a smart phone and what about
Homer’s Iliad, would he have
added more details about the battles,
more characters more scenes more blood and guts?
Interesting questions we will never
have the answers to, at least not until
the physicists figure out how
to travel back in time.

—Michael Estabrook
At the club pool
squeezing the last rays of sunshine
out of the last days of summer
but I’m not anxious
about the coming fall
because I’m not returning to school
not going back to work
seeing as I’m retired, relaxed watching
as the woman in the orange bikini
surveys her domain
and the wasp
beneath my chair
continues building her nest
of dried grass.

—Michael Estabrook
At the granddaughter’s softball game
when one of the mothers
asks what I do now that I’m retired.
Chores and yardwork I respond
but my wife adds, he’s a poet, written books
and is all over the internet.
That’s nice, the mother says,
my aunt writes poetry too
and my mother’s
second cousin’s girlfriend’s son
was a famous New England poet,
Jonathan Smyth
ever hear of him?
And that’s exactly why
I don’t tell anyone I’m a poet.

—Michael H. Brownstein, Chicago, IL

Blood rising through the werewolf, the wolfman, the dragon tamer, the killer of lizards, the lovers of osmosis.
Yet he cannot let go. Moonlight knows nothing of the sun’s heat, nothing of a snow burn, nothing of the scars binding one enemy to another.
But he can hear its frantic heartbeat faster, faster, faster until—
Dawn wakes the blue sky with a whisper and the full moon slips away into the shadows.

—Michael H. Brownstein

let your heart sing
follow the path of the melody you like best
and when you stumble, no regrets
the pebble within reach a fairy rune, a fairy ring

let your fingers hold it tight
let your heart sing in response
let your melodies come alive
let the pebble shine fairy light

and, yes, the path you own
is the path you need, the path of everything,
and when it takes you home
angel cake, good news, fairy thrones

Today’s LittleNip:

—Michael H. Brownstein

next to you
curried slivers
of snores


Thanks today to two Michaels who are not strangers in the Kitchen, Estabrook and Brownstein, for their fine poetry as we gear up for the weekend. Michael Estabrook writes that we say “coalition of cheetahs, clutch of chickens, colony of bats, caravan of camels, cast of crabs, crash of rhinos, congregation of alligators . . . and what might be the best appellation applied to a gathering of poets? Convocation? Cluster? Chattering? Collection? Clutter? No, no, perhaps cacophony would be the most apt descriptor. Anyway, Michael Estabrook is one of the cacophony, his latest collection of poems being
Bouncy House, edited by Larry Fagin (Green Zone Editions, 2016).” Check it out at

The Story Roundup workshop is happening today, starting at 9am in Angels Camp. And tonight Allegra Silberstein and Carlena Wike will read in Davis at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 7:30pm. 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!—and the harvest moon!

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, October 19, 2017

The Call of Wild Geese

Railroad Tracks
—Poems by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
—Photos by Taylor Graham


He said he’d be on the railroad tracks.
Riding the route they used last year for Pony
Express—historical throwback detoured
from hectic country two-lanes to abandoned
railroad track. But how to find him on that lonely
stretch of rails and ties where you never
hear the whistle that means a train is coming—
engine, cars, caboose in a museum now.
No wheels to electrify the rails from there
to somewhere else. He asks you to be patient,
to pick a spot and wait. Exasperating.
The tracks are a moving target, even without
a train. He could be anywhere, riding
high on his dark horse, passing
through at night without a lantern, just clatter
of hooves on ballast or hardpan path
along-side. No street-lights. He could be
anywhere. Let him ride.

 Track Stops Here


No train comes through town—the tracks stop
here, where I see a young man walking
west, in wool watch-cap, sleeping bag draped
over his shoulder. It’s early, and cold.
Forty degrees by the time-and-temperature
display above the bank. Farther up Main,
by a building called Virtue, two very narrow-
gauge rails jut out of cutbank
but only by a ruler’s length. If the young
man followed that line into mountain,
would it be warmer inside?

 Out of the Mountain


Where she grew up, words meandered
like water down a side-creek mid-Sierra 
on its way to find the North Fork; like a fawn
following its mother through manzanita,
or porch-talk between supper and bed, before TV
or even radio, way out there. No need for
succinct, just let the words sprawl tired legs
over the stoop waiting for an evening breeze.
Venison was deer-meat, and nobody
asked if it was legal. She grew up pretty much
out of sight—except for the railroad.
She’d sit unblinking in the three-walled out-
house as the train rolled by, trainmen waving
at her but they’d soon be gone, out to Caldor
for another load of logs for milling into doors.
Did she dream the outhouse might
have a door someday? The train stopped
running decades ago, the mill shut down,
maybe the open-air privy’s gone now too.

 Smoked Sun, Home


News photo: a tailgate briefing on the Branch
rail line: volunteers learn to cut brush, clean out
culverts, lubricate rail joiner bolts; how
to operate the CP& No. 4 speeder. Renovating
for the museum.
Remember Rita telling us how she
lived in the old days, way out miles of canyons
long before the new bridge over the river.
Railroad ran up Cosumnes, Diamond Springs
to Caldor, hauled logs for milling into doors.
Miles of uncut timber out beyond.
Years later, we used to hike there;
let down the tailgate, our dogs ran free. Miles
of uncut woods—long after the old mill
burned down. A new electric mill, in town.
Now there’s only one Shay locomotive
left, renovating for museum.
Rita’s gone too.

 Train Tracks


You tell me limestone used to be the big export here—plain old sedimentary rock surfacing in pale golden outcroppings. Right here where we train our dogs, just off to the west—near the quarry edge: by ore car to grizzly, jaw-crusher, hammer-mill; 36”-gauge railroad to the kiln. Where are the tracks? Disappeared into county road and gated access to a subdivision, you say—but the kiln stands somewhere in these limestone hills. Haunt of ghost-pine and chaparral scrub. A place we train our dogs to find the lost; casual suburban litter, 4-wheel ruts through brush, homeless camps. October’s getting colder. Remember how it is in spring?

these hills burst out in
chamise with white blossom—red-
bud, pink heather-bells

 Smoked Sun


You were way-back in line. Eight o’clock
and already trucks, SUVs, sedans were idling
from bus-station overflow parking, past
the water district, waiting their turn to unload
into dumpsters half a year’s trash too awkward
for curbside pickup or just too yuck to deal
with. Early morning, cold! You really wanted
to get rid of the broken-useless you were
hauling. Next best thing to cleaning out the
soul. A tough week. Traffic officer knocked
on your window, said the guys behind
would take your bit of trash in their pickup.
They had room. Driver met you
at the trunk of your dusty little car, big grin
on his face. Said, you don’t have much
and I like your bumper sticker. How could you
wipe his grin off your face? He grabbed
your trash can, your garbage bags full of who
knows what; handed the trash can back, empty.
There were lightning-bugs in his eyes.
You wore his grin all the way back home,
making room for every driver. Sometimes
it takes so little to bring you to tears.

 Smoky Gold

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

We scuttled our plans
having to do with a wobbling warble
in the plumbing—
so much for makeshift fix-its.
October wind was a snitch whispering
our follies through the keyhole.
When we opened the door,
it was no handyman
but fluorescent-red dawn hitting
the flank of our familiar hill,
the call of wild geese telling us to leave
everything undone and just fly.


Many thanks to Taylor Graham for these fine poems on the rails and her wonderful photos to go alongside, celebrating our recent Seed of the Week: Railroad Tracks. The smoke in some of her photos is what has blown up our way from the Santa Rosa (and other) fires.

Lots to do in our area today, poetry-wise, starting at noon with Third Thursdays in the Central Library on I St. in Sacramento. Bring poems, preferably by a writer other than yourself, about the spooky or some aspect of tricks or treats. Then, this evening, the writing group Escritores del Nuevo Sol will release an anthology for their 25th anniversary at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento, 8pm. And Poetry in Davis features Viola Weinberg and Traci Gourdine (plus open mic) at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis tonight, 8pm. Lots of choices! 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.

The latest edition of
The Poeming Pigeon (Love Poems) is coming out soon; pre-orders are available through Nov. 1 at Next call for submissions (Poems from the News) will be from Dec. 15-Jan. 31; see


 —Anonymous Wag
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, October 18, 2017

Stealing Time

—Poems by Scott Thomas Outlar, Atlanta, GA
—Poems by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

I can smell the smoke from here.
Karma licked my wounds sixteen times,
sent me spinning through black orbits.

Now all I need
is one more little lie
whispered from your precious lips
to help complete the cycle.

Wet tongues offer sweet salvation,
and our love overpowered lust.
I forgot the meaning of God.

I can hear the strain, the crack,
the flood, the flow,
the bleeding from broken sieve.

Four chambers bite
with a metal gasp;
you ignite my flesh
as carbon creates the first sign of something sacred.

The vowels of heaven are humming,
and Dionysus always blessed our dance.
I forgot the pathway to peace.

I can taste the burn of liquid cancer.
Fingers spark at the point of contact,
metastasized and melting back to void.

Amber stains and dragon’s breath
chase away the smile
worn stoically on sleeve
when the high feels mighty healthy.

Bright eyes burn red with the sun,
and our home was always near to heart.
I forgot the grace of hallelujah.

 Alas, Poor Yorick...


This poem was born from silence and tear gas in the streets
An ocean of clouds and a river of blood
(weep with the waves of crashing entropy)

This world was born from chaos and confusion
A gene swarm soup and open yawning graves
(but I still love you anyway)

This war was born from bullets and bombs
A triggered grenade and patience to hold the pin
(explosions ignite in my trembling hands)

This glass was born from a wellspring of wine
Bacchanalian dances in a field flush with poppies
(guide me through your visions please)

This music was born from a symphony of stars
An eclipse of the sun and a signal from Mars
(falling from grace before finally being saved)

This cancer was born from blackened cells and cigarette stains
A wisp of chemical smoke and a numb fading pain
(teach my lungs about fresh air in the woods)

This child was born from sex, flesh, and sweat
A dream in the night and a seed of fire in our bed
(hold to the light as a spirit ascends)

This miracle was born from whispers and prayers
A tease of your tongue and aching apple eyes
(fruition of God when I took a bite)

This garden was born from a snake and a sword
A hissing white lie and a symbol of choice
(turning our backs to the gates of the horde)

This truth was born from salvation and trust
A deep-seated faith and passionate lust
(signs on the path read heaven or bust)

This peace was born from the calm after storm
A surrender of sin and one last moment to mourn
(addiction to hope is the pact that I’ve sworn)

 Skull and Bottle

(Doesn’t Require Your Latest Brilliant Opinion)

Is that hawk screaming
about whether or not
it believes in the existence of God?
Or simply seeking
across the distance
with a signal for its lover?

Is that blade of grass
straining against gravity
to grow taller toward the sky?
Or allowing its roots
below the ground
to do their business behind the scenes?

Is that cloud concerned
about bunkers being built
in fear of bombs?
Or being carried carefree
by a gentle breeze
blowing through the air?

Is that star all bent out of shape
over the latest debate
raging on cable news?
Or shining as a beacon of light
to more galaxies
than can be fathomed?

Is that leaf throwing a fit
about cold weather
as the season begins to shift?
Or brightening the woods
with a brilliant autumn hue
before falling back to the soil?

Is that wave cursing at the moon
about the way in which
it’s made to move?
Or crashing upon the shore
with a splash to fulfill
its natural fate of ebb and flow?

(prev. pub. on Dissident Voice)

 Broken Stone

When you place your foot
upon the head
of a treacherous snake,
the venomous fangs
sink deeply
into its own lower lip
as the script
gets flipped
with a squish.

Watch the wretched beast
convulse under the weight
of its own
self-destructive urges;
serves as a sign
that all the lies
have finally caught up.

A final fit
gets thrown in the garden
as the past
withers and decays,
no longer
having any say
in the perfect fate
that opens narrowly
along the path
toward a brighter future.

A shedding of skin
as the truth ascends,
laying waste
to every attempted
bite of betrayal.


Here is my climate,
changing by the moment,
swirling around a red center,
ready for release…

Little slivers
of Lucy’s diamonds
started spilling
all over the floor
into puddles
stained with blood.

Shipped across the sea
seven days a week
to fleece the fools
on every front.

You can have all the jewels back
to bathe in blood,
along with (most of) your greed.

I just want a million … or two … (for now).

This is
the most sacred moment,
resting between
the beats of your heart
after the lungs
have already expired.

Let me see you smile
(this is me begging)
one last time
(and pleading)
so I can remember you
(and praying)
three years later
(and screaming)
as the same man
(and howling)
that I knew all that time before
(at the sun/as your son).

The future has come
whether you’re ready or not,
firing at will,
regardless of God’s wishes.

in all its infinite wisdom,
freely decided long ago
to burn
this building down.

That’s why we’re here,
carrying a pail of water,
as the new age cycles
with a promise of peace on earth
(for those who truly seek it).


Today’s LittleNip:

—Scott Thomas Outlar
Sitting here
where the sky falls,
where the rain pours,
where the gods weep,
where the season shifts,
where the air growls,
where electric wonder
becomes second nature,
I can only smile
as my spine shivers
from a kundalini force
that packs a punch.

Breathe into me
with your sacred whisper
as my bones shake,
as my flesh sighs,
as my blood churns,
as my hope soars,
as my dreams scream,
as my heart opens
to the sound of your voice,
and I will promise
eternity and more
even if I must steal time
straight from the source.


—Medusa, with thanks to Scott Thomas Outlar for today’s fine feast of poetry, and to Katy Brown for her equally fine feast of fotos! 

 —Anonymous Silliness
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
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Train Wail in Fog

Into the Dream
—Poems and Original Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


The terrible train
is bearing down on the night.
Its whole voice is calling
and its loud feet are clacking
on the rails.
It is heading for this room
which is trying to shrink
to fit my dread.
I am not making sense,
but the train
is an empty one this time,
with room only for me,
if I will enter.
But it is still so far away
and I have a long time
to fear it
and listen to it
Airplanes pass over,
but the train
pays no attention,
it keeps clacking and howling.
Cars race by
in an anger of
screeching and blaring,
but the train
keeps boring its eye
till it finds me,
standing on a
shaking windowsill
with my overnight bag in my hand
and my gray hat on.
I am going.


After Woman on Train by Estelle Tambak

Round.  All coat, scarf, muff,
bundled warm.  Settled deep,
making a dent against the seat.
Family somewhere—somebody’s
wife, mother; face gone slack
against the rhythm.  Eyes shut.
Perhaps asleep; face set in the
old expression that she wears
for public transportation, for
times alone with her thoughts
which lull and wander.  Night
outside the window, cross-hatch,
deep, her other face nodding
there beside hers, watching
for landmarks, signs, her stop.

(prev. pub. in Ekphrasis, 1997)

 Distorted Mirror


Long ago,
when life was new,

trains came through
with ghostly sound

and easy distance.
Nights were long

with listening
and what I knew

was whole and strong
—not like illusion.

Where this goes
is just as far

as nowhere is—
I’ve been there, too.

(prev. pub. in Medusa's Kitchen, 2011)



Old Lake Castles.
Nowhere to
be found.
Only on
the sign
that I misread.

Old lake castles?
I want to see them.

There is the sea
and the hills,
and the road between,
but where are
the old lake castles?

Maybe this road . . .
or the next one . . .
I know
they’re there.

(prev. pub. in Time of Singing, 2000)

 Where There's Smoke


How is it the moon can hang so low    
how is it the moon can hang so high
how is it no moon at all will show
         in a certain sky?   
How is it the old moon tugs me so,        
how can the sea make such a claim,
how could the moon travel all that sky
        with no sea to blame?

How would I want the moon to be :     
        forever low?   forever full?
forever magnet in the sky,
        with the sea at lull?

Oh moon, oh sky, oh moody sea—is that
why I can sometimes feel the same in me?

 Mountain Slide


That long train wail this foggy day, the winter sun too high
to burn-through where the train-wail carries like a slow in-
sinuation of somebody’s doom.  It comes from everywhere
at once, fog-stirred and haunting—such an easy word to use
for what that sound can do to one, like me, who listens and
can use its sadness for my own.
                                             Perhaps we’ll intersect at some
long track where I must wait in my cold car—a cup of coffee
by my side—the radio on some bad news, or music that I
like—or else decide silence will do, and sit and watch the
fog-dense cars roll past, and just relax, and put perspective
in a line with time.

(prev. pub. in Tule Review, 2001, Jane Blue, Editor)

 Study in Squares


. . . . the
                                                                     alone . . . .



the way to hold against sunshine
no matter how real the
passing of hours

old beaks pecking in the rain
not that we have ever lost the sea
we keep the hunger clean

(prev. pub. in Contemporary Quarterly, 1980)




I am the babe in the winter cold,
left on the doorstep of a stranger.
My mother’s warm arms lay me down.

She recedes from me like a shadow.
I know enough to cry
from my small and terrible depth.

I thrash with all my might
at the new-born forces that assail me.
Maybe someone will come.

My mother is a ghost now.
I’ll carry her ache forever,
if I have forever.



Long clackety sound just a mile away—
train that I write songs about
for children that I know—
telling them it is their
it is mine . . . .


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

It is how we are geared to jump
to conclusions, like Jack be nimble 
and where’s the fire, and all that
itchin’ to finish the race.

But here is where
we get off the track—so to speak,
so to speak—off the track we’re on.

It’s all in the gist of things—and
that’s where all the quarrel begins.


A big Tuesday Thank-you to Joyce Odam for today’s gourmet poems and artwork, including some fun concrete poetry, as she brings us the sound of railroad tracks, our Seed of the Week.

Our new Seed of the Week is Monsters. 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.

And don’t forget to keep an eye on our calendar of upcoming poetry events—some are added during each week at the last minute, such as the Escritoires Anthology Release at Luna’s in Sacramento this Thursday. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about such things!


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, October 16, 2017

Slicing the Dark

Hiking the Falls
—Photos Today by Maria Rosales, Paradise, CA

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

I live my life in widening circles
that drift out over the things.
            —Rilke (tr. Edward Snow)

How all things circle away from me and return.
First venture of mine with pen is for Shakespeare,
the true Shakespeare, the wayward courtier
whose true life and true stature we’ve yet to learn.
Exposure to his great drama and hidden story
steeps me in poetry; little poems of mine
come complementing the music that was my line.
So does everything in youthfulness touch glory?

Ah, hopes that the sheen rubs off on my poor skin.
Music demands: composer Arnold Bax
inflects my late-in-life poems, masculine Muse.
Now I find Arnold’s brother, poet Clifford Bax,
as publisher gave space to those very views
of Shakespeare* that comprise my early sin.

* * *

Or, as Shakespeare, Earl of Oxford, might put it,
if, beating the bush in spring, I did not catch
the wished-for bird, I find still holding the mesh
with winter’s patient quiet, I may chance to net it…
Yet how many birds to every one I’d capture
flee every direction, so many ways fly raptures.
Is life all consolidating of early springs?
Give me a few more years to reconnect things. 

(Bax and a fellow editor published an article by John Thomas Looney (pronounced LONE-y), originator of the Oxford theory of Shakespeare’s authorship, in the first issue of The Golden Hind, a literary magazine, in 1922.)

—Tom Goff

To his friend “Gustave,” poet Clifford Bax
writes of the Shakespeare author-controversy:
he takes it up, with interest in the facts
altogether uncommon in these pursy
and lean times of Stratford trolls and meanness.
Begs to dispute John Thomas Looney’s contention
that Shakespeare’s Tempest, breaking rules of scansion,
outside the Earl of Oxford’s life, his keenness
of poet’s wit, won’t in the canon fit,
an argument Bax refutes. Details unknown,
must Stratford Will lack education? It
might be we’d claim “ghost” Lord Elgin shone
behind Keats’ Parthenon, those Odes Greek-themed,
as soon as tear down Will whose life shows seams…

Yet Bax is always gracious in debate;
would he, not Stephen Greenblatt, were our fate.

 Poppies at Table Mountain

—Tom Goff

Here in an old jacket pocket is a book,
a little book you handled once, of Sappho,
now battered, in your hands or mine, just look.
Yet something of Sappho, fragmentary too
in your brief poem inside that book, still rings
with light percussion as might her sung Greek
have rippled the air; struck finger cymbals cling
to the ear that cannot release but seeks
her note of torture, wrenched from an amorous life.
You could not live with me: I hold this hurt
which rays from long-ago lines, delirium knife
among your flower petals, sharp moon-spurt
that slices the dark and fills it with night-motes.
Moths beat at lanterns: lighthouses to winged lost boats. 

 Cowbag Clover 

—Tom Goff

Santa Rosa keeps burning; the sun weeps rose.
An ashes-of-roses hue tinges dewpoint dawn.
Blacker come shadows over the walk, the lawn.
If not even my lady phoenix from cinders grows,
what wonder the birds are silent, disappear?
Red are all suns in leaden weather; lead
might run from molten cathedral roofs, such dread
stalks crowds like death once in London, fire to sear
plague’s not quite extinguished multitudes. From heights
not unlike Las Vegas windows at Mandalay Bay,
yet higher than all the skies, higher than spheres
of stars, fatal batteries shoot at us arrays
of weaponry. Reprisal for what we’ve started.
Our toolkit fell open long since. Just count the departed.

 Bluedicks and Lupines

—Michael Ceraolo, Willoughby Hills, OH
Cleveland Haiku #381

Urban tumbleweeds—
puff balls
of the dandelion

* * *

Cleveland Haiku #382

Homestyle restaurant—
a gem hidden
in plain sight

* * *

Cleveland Haiku #383

whispered words about how
to mistreat your employees


Today’s LittleNip:

—Tom Goff

Laramie Jeremy,
helpmeet Melania
looks at The Donald
with tender concern;
what starts as partnership
reddens her face with
becoming slow burn.


Our thanks to Tom Goff, Michael Ceraolo, and Maria Rosales for today’s fine Monday brunch in the Kitchen! Poetry readings in our area begin tonight at 5pm in Placerville with the open mic for poets and musicians at Poetry on Main Street (at The Wine Smith), then continue at 7:30pm at Sac. Poetry Center, featuring the release of
The Way Back by Mike Owens (Random Lane Press).

Thursday at noon, Third Thursdays in the Central Library, a read-around hosted by Mary Zeppa and Lawrence Dinkins, meets at the Sac. Public Library main branch on I St. in Sacramento. Then on Thursday night, Poetry in Davis presents Traci Gourdine and Sacramento Poet Laureate Emeritus Viola Weinberg (plus open mic) at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, 8pm.

Also in Davis, this time on Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Patwin Lane, The Other Voice presents Carlena Wike and Davis Poet Laureate Emeritus Allegra Silberstein (plus open mic), 8pm. On that same Friday, Manzanita Press presents Story Roundup, a day of storytelling tips and performances at Manzanita Arts Emporium on Main Street in Angels Camp, beginning at 9am.

Saturday will be a book release/reading for
Strangeland by A.J. Thomas at Sac. Poetry Center, hosted by Bill Gainer and Red Alice’s Poetry Emporium, 7pm. 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.