Friday, March 31, 2017

California Romantics

Chico Wildflowers
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento, CA

I went about picking a few
     grass blades green and supple,
and laid them on my porch to dry
as the sun had chased the rain away.

Soon, I observed…  ah…
     there, a little sword
     there, a compass needle
     and there, a tiny bookmark.
     And there, a pointer for which
     to point out hapless ants
     struggling across the porch.

Life had not granted me
     what I had longed for.


—Carol Louise Moon

Blue-capped school girls in mud
whose upturned boots disclose
bleach white petticoats, squeal

as earthworms cluster in nests
among twig-strangled shells.
Wood-winged hawks soar skyward.

Shimmering sunbeams skillfully
paint whitewash on brown tweed
school boy vests and trousers,

as valiant hands reach to raise
mud-flung maidens from dark
earth of bright spring morning.

Somewhere in Pisgah National Forest

is a very misty
waterfall called
Looking Glass Falls
among steep rocks
and green, green
ferns.  It is cut through
with wooden railing
for tourists
to hold onto
to keep themselves
from slipping
and dashing their heads
on a stone
or falling headlong
into the falls
and drowning outright.
The falls were
created by nature
thousands of years ago,
but the railing
was man-made just a few
decades ago
to keep people from
slipping and dashing their heads
on a stone
or falling headlong into the falls
and drowning outright.
So, if you’re traveling with your family in the family car
between Georgia and North Carolina
you may want to see this beautiful waterfall
called Looking Glass Falls.
Just be sure to hold onto the railing to keep yourselves
from slipping and dashing your heads against a stone.
You and your family should be able to
enjoy yourselves outright.

—Carol Louise Moon


—Carol Louise Moon

It was a county fair-type theatre ticket
etched on the judge’s mind by way of a
heavily inked wood carving,

and a wax cylinder of watermelon flavor
pre-molded phallicticly which swirled and
slid out, smearing the inside satchel;

and the gray belly-button lint found flattened
against the grosgrain navy blue silk wall
next to the encasement zipper;

and the twin safety pins intertwined
contortionistically, among other things
I finders-keepered while cleaning out
Melba’s purse.

—Tom Goff

When I say I love California Romantics,
George Sterling, Ashton Smith come first to mind.
When I say I love them, not when they find
but seek is when my mind with theirs most clicks.
They apostrophize the Sierras under snow,
they pen their passionate odes to dancing feet
they readily seduce; but also greet
verse lords beneath whose tutelage they grow.

But this is not what I prize in all their verse.
It’s when they become their sinister asteroids,
transmute themselves to comet flame and speed,
pierce innermost to outermost black voids,
impelled light-years by necromantic curse:
fierce hunters of stars they are, and I must heed.

Trace their far-flung incendiary wake:
such fires won’t die, plunged deepest in cosmic lake,
however that lake’s deep black offsets the white fire.
Flame trysts with shadow: vacuum-silent desire.

We prize Clark Ashton Smith, George Sterling since
they have about them that poetry which imprints:
not Baudelairisms, Poe-isms, the faux-infernal,
but how their humanity touches the cosmic supernal…


—Tom Goff

The convention delegates were organizing for order, not Utopia.
—Carl Van Doren

Those long-agos who shaped the Constitution,
intent on repairing the infant fabric: ardent,
harnessing sharp divisions into Union.
Slaveholders some, most reasoning beings if mordant,
those fallibles we honor, by and large,
who placed hope in what citizens would emerge
to build up, less by their goods than by Good Faith,
this ghost the Ideal State, wraiths crafting a Wraith.

           (painting by Henry Wallis)
—Tom Goff

He sprawls, a Werther Young without the gun.
One side of the window’s open for his soul.
No notion of what’s wrong; so springtime air,
a trifle warm, has led him to this loll
across a nicely laid bed. One shoe on,
one off; nursery rhyme he’s diddle-dumpling-down.
Disquiet rests in the drooping arm. The bolster
relinquishes the head to the bed’s edge.
No candle in the bedside sconce. The lodge
he’s lodged in, not the worst garret: life’s not gone
from that potted plant green on the window ledge.
Thus much aside, the heart’s in the color scheme.
The youth’s drained poet face, blackened by shadow
wherever not white, draws notice to the red
short crop of hair. Red is for blood; the dread
continues its fugal motive, constant theme
in those bright purple trousers, purple is red
spells blood and shadow black means blood congealed.
Think backwards empty boot, think vacant holster.
Where is it written all must be revealed?
The boy poet’s shade flits…in what umber meadow?


—Tom Goff

Words spoken, mine to you, can’t be unsaid.
Thank all the goddesses, no ugly words.
Your thoughts can’t vanish the instant I am dead.

They live on tagged, scrawled, elegant to be read,
on astral scrolls, on anklets tied to birds.
Words uttered, you to me, can’t be unsaid.

Nothing you’ve written or spoken can be fled;
I have proof, for all who think it absurd,
your thoughts can’t vanish the instant I am dead,

bled of the inner blue that turns to red,
drained of your touch, your DNA transferred;
words, you to me and back, can’t be unsaid.

Oh think me not ungainly or ill-bred
to tell, remind you, what you spoke, I heard.
Your thoughts can’t vanish. The instant I am dead,

those precious symbols, ink at first but bled
transparent, may stay clear, may turn obscure.
Can all we’ve told each other come unsaid?
Will thoughts, heart, disappear, one instant and dead?

—Tom Goff

In Bryden Thomson’s unfolding, the passion swells
phrase-lengths their longest, musical shapes contort.
This legend in architectural sound outwells,
brimming with fury, quivering, bruised, hurt.

Yes, the Expressionistic tendency,
the raw inflamed sense of the world’s denial
of dreams and visions brings on stridency;
clearly the man intends we share his trial.

Yet I prefer Tod Handley’s measured take
on Symphony Two: the same as to Bax in anguish.
But that Fate-motive, as constant, yet more clear:

constricting hopes, yet organizing what’s near.
The man, Tod says, jots opening notes and makes
his symphony from them; lets not one thing languish.

He adds: the man has called it, Symphony.
By which he signals a synchronicity
with all who’ve ever written in that great form.
Nor is this a simple conforming to a norm.

But what Tod Handley urges here is bustle:
ferocious no less, the organ-suffused peak moment,
rhapsodically bursting, subsiding to a last rustle
of that dark Question beneath, presiding in ferment.

Musical voicing, symphonic structure, complete
in Handley’s interpretation. Yet in Thomson,
the deep-dyed living desire that issues crimson.
We wish our knowledge of Symphony Two replete

with stirrings of underdemon, undercurrent;
for who is our lightning Bax without thundercurrent?


Today’s LittleNip:

Temple bells die out.
The fragrant blossoms remain.
A perfect evening!



Many thanks to today's fine contributors for today's poems and pix! Tom's "Thomas Chatterton's Death" is an ekphrastic poem (see, and Sac. Poetry Center’s Art Gallery is celebrating National Poetry Month by presenting a showing called, Ekphrasis: Poetry-Themed Art, and Art-Themed Poetry. They’re asking for submissions to be dropped off on April 1—yes, that’s tomorrow. For questions and guidelines, email Bethanie Humphreys at

Speaking of Ekphrastic poetry, the latest edition of the Sacramento-based journal,
Ekphrasis, edited by Laverne and Carol Frith for the past 20 years, is now available at


Celebrate poetry!

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