Monday, March 20, 2017

Do Not Bite a Ghost

—Anonymous Photo

—Michael H. Brownstein, Townsville, N. Queensland, Australia

Do not bite a ghost. They are chalk
And have no taste. You can add sage, salt,
Pepper, even garlic. It will make no difference.
Do not clean everything everyday.
Ghosts are blindsided by dust in light.
They cannot stand camouflage or invisibility
But remember to remove all of the cobwebs.
Every ghost is a collector of spiders and flies.
If these rules are not enough,
Go on living. Forget about them.
They will move someplace else.
Ghosts have an obsession to be remembered.


—Michael H. Brownstein

Some Sundays they dream in nightmare
And other nights dark and light,

A shimmer of shadow against white walls,
Cold fingered and cold breath,

A simple outlook and a simple memory
In need of a following.

They are generous creatures by habit
Willing to share covers, curtains, and wind

But never sheets or pillows.


—Michael H. Brownstein

This story is about three men tied to a cave,
black bear no longer once upon a time,
the two brothers, coyote and wolf,
and the beginning of the flight of urban legend.

I tie a knot to two other ropes,
then I tied three knots to five ropes in all,
but still the balloon is too heavy to fall from the sky
and the cloud-eating dragon hides well in the blue sky.

This is not a tale of love lust and greed—
everything turns brown on the other side of things
and nothing else stays green for long.
Discover something new.

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

By the week, the price was right. You couldn’t
afford a hotel downtown. The lady assured
you, this motel wasn’t haunted—now, those old
buildings on Main Street, they all had their
stories. With or without ghosts, quirky as Gold
Rush. History naturally gives birth to ghosts.
You checked in. A suite, she called it:
bed and TV, tiny bath; kitchen microwave;
table big enough for a desk, two chairs. You only
needed one, but a writer needs a desk. Carpet
worn down to hardwood. The whole space dark
with lights turned on and curtains wide.
You unloaded duffle bag and computer; ready
to write. This motel has permanent residents,
but no ghosts. You heard a meow. No cat.
Opened the door, surveyed the landscape.
Empty. Just your VW parked out front. Where
were the other residents? Motel fringed with berry
bramble under a steep dark hill dense-green.
You walked that way. Meow grew fainter,
farther, twining into bramble. Blackberries ripe.
You picked a handful through thorns. Your
hands stained purple as old-time carbon paper.
Sweet, seedy. The cat commenced, persistently,
a long drawn wail-meow, again. Again.


—Taylor Graham

After all the hoopla fanfare and nostalgia
of bygone days—the golden empire of black-
stetson’d gamblers, prospectors with their picks
and pans, a mock shoot-out on Main Street—
after all that noise, he walked till the sidewalks
quieted, the hills went dark above town.
And then the moon, one perfect silver coin.
He kept on walking to his cheap motel
between the last streetlight and the home-
less camp. And sometime after midnight
he listened while an old ghost roused
to the hour to tell how it really
was in the good old days.
Or maybe that ghostly sound
was just the owl.

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

He drew a map of the world – this child
who can’t tell left from right and
keeps transposing letters. He gives the continents
names of his own devising, ancestries
of kings and beasts who never lived.
His landforms vaguely familiar, their outlines
subtly askew from what’s in the atlas,
as if a mind-quake stretched and twisted bedrock
in its bed. Not static, to stop the infinite
resolving, tilting, tiding, breaking up
of continents and coastlines. His map is alive,
as his wings are sails. “Here
be the dragons,” he says, unventured
lands and seas of his imagination, that deep
blue-green labyrinth. He wants to
venture there. Sometimes, when you’re
just collecting your keys or caught in rush-hour
traffic, that map sails into your head,
Unknown that lies across great tiding waters.


—Taylor Graham

Your new neighbor was afraid of adders.
We only have rattlesnakes here, you told him,
and gopher and garter snakes but they’re
our friends. He didn’t believe you.
Said he moved here because it was supposed
to be paradise. Shouldn’t be any snakes
in paradise. Such ideas he has
of how the world works – but are you
responsible for his phobias and doubts? Fear
is infectious, you said, and ferocious.
He started chasing all the snakes off his land,
through stockwire fence, onto yours.
The garter and gopher snakes settle in your
garden, rattlers in safe crannies under natural
heaps of rock. All as it should be in paradise.
You watch your step on the rocks.

 Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

       When my parents went on family vacations with my brother and I
       Hotel rooms just are never designed for parents traveling with a boy and a girl
       Of course my brother and I just couldn’t share the second double bed they’d give for four
       My brother and I tried it once and it was horrid
       and we fought that whole night
       being as we never shared a bed at home and had our own rooms
       So my Dad instead often flipped a coin
       in regards to who would get the bed and who’d sleep on the floor
       If a sleeping bag hadn’t been packed
       Dad would have to split the bed in half
       Unlike the top mattress
       often the bottom box spring would obviously not have been cleaned recently
       as well as hard to sleep on
       and my brother and I would have to fight about that too

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

 —Anonymous Photo

—Kathy Kieth, Diamond Springs, CA

Somehow I always end up
in a cheap motel: you know the one,
on the edge of town between the tracks
and the Interstate, dank rooms with pea-
soup paint peeling back from some crooked,
faded print—a seascape, maybe,
with yellowing lawn furniture and geraniums,
someplace far from here—

These pea-soup paper walls bulge
with borrowed sounds: shards of sibilants
cut right through that dingy seascape.  Scored
mostly for soprano and bass, muffled lumps
of snores and sex and crying babies bump and bang
around my soup-can room as if the ocean
on the wall has roared to life.

I have stayed in ritzier digs, with valets
and free shampoo, and soda machines
that actually work.  The cool brass and glass
in such still places reflect only silence; no faded
prints hang in those empty rooms.

So I’m heading back up the Interstate to
the cheap motel.  I guess I miss
those seascapes. . .


Today’s LittleNip:

—Jones Very (1813-1880)

The morning comes, and thickening clouds prevail,
    Hanging like curtains all the horizon round,
Or overhead in heavy stillness sail;
    So still is day, it seems like night profound;
Scarce by the city’s din the air is stirred,
    And dull and deadened comes its every sound;
The cock’s shrill, piercing voice subdued is heard,
    By the thick folds of muffling vapors drowned.
Dissolved in mists the hills and trees appear,
    Their outlines lost and blended with the sky;
And well-known objects, that to all are near,
    No longer seem familiar to the eye,
But with fantastic forms they mock the sight,
As when we grope amid the gloom of night.

For more about Jones Very, go to


Our thanks to today’s contributors! The cheap motel theme seems to have brought out our ghosts, who have, as Michael Brownstein says, an obsession to be remembered, Halloween or not. Certainly my ghosts do…

April is National Poetry Month, and Nevada County will kick it off on Saturday, April 1, with the First Annual Sierra Poetry Festival, with keynote address by Cal. PL Dana Gioia plus many other poets, open mics and slams, discussions, workshops, youth voices, Poetry Place Vendor Fair, food from Briarpatch Food Coop. The Festival will take place at the Sierra College Nevada County Campus, 250 Sierra College Dr., Grass Valley. For more info (including complete schedule & registration), go to

Manzanita Writers Press is ready to publish their
Out of the Fire Anthology, which is being published to “heal the community after the life-changing effects of the Butte Fire, and to create a lasting record of the event”. In order to fund the publication, they have organized a Kickstarter Campaign: for a donation of $25 or more, you will receive a copy of the anthology after it is published. Go to; there are several levels of donation. Deadline to meet their goal is May 8. For more info, go to

This week's poetry in our area begins tonight at Sac. Poetry Center with readers from the Women’s Wisdom Art Anthology,
Lift It Tenderly, 7:30pm. Thursday at 8pm, it’s Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, with features and open mic. On Friday, 7:15pm, Keynote Poets Honor Barbara West at Stellar Studios, 202 23rd St., Sac. Saturday at 2pm, Poetic License read-around takes place in Placerville at the Placerville Sr. Center, and then that evening, the Soft Offs present their annual “moetry” (music and poetry) fundraiser for Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm at SPC.

This Sunday at 1pm, Poetry on Main Street—a new venue in Placerville—will hold an open mic at The Wine Smith, 346 Main St., Placerville. 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. (They almost always are…)

And check out Medusa’s new photo album on Facebook, this one by Michelle Kunert of last Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Sac, at (Love the green poodle!)


Celebrate Mondays—and the Spring Solstice!

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.