Tuesday, April 25, 2017

One Thorn for Love

Sun Flare
—Poems and Original Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Here we go hungering after life again,
despite certain hallways and dark-hung mirrors
where we continually walk toward

and through ourselves
as if the walls never taught us
anything. The least structure failure

and we lose who we are,
depending on memory to recreate us.
Each day is like this,

created and uncreated,
life after life, learning the maze of resistance
which is our illusion of difficulty.

We have not been here before,
though part of it seems familiar,
We trust anew, and mistrust eventually.

Why are we singular and not blent
as the smug words say—part of
a single consciousness?

Though I try to enter your space of being,
I feel my difference. I am blocked by my selfness.
I can only imagine you.

Our thoughts combine, and what was confusion
is now love, though we destroy it
with our inability to know, and be known.

Hungry for touch, we reach
and recoil. What is that sensation
that it devours us with such desperation?


(After Galway Kinnell)

Well, she has kissed the bitter rose
and now her lips have blood on them.
One thorn for love is what her grievance knows.

This blood red rose that once was talisman
she makes symbolic with a kiss
and dried up tears.  She’ll not surrender this.

The taste of blood is bittersweet.
She mocks a bitter laugh.  Her lip
shines red.  She bites it with red teeth.

The rose has died, as now her love is dead.
She peels its petals for her crimson shrine
to all her dead heart vows to keep confined.



Love on the verge of failure,
risking themselves on one
another—how can we
bear to watch them—

happy as fools—
following the light in
each other’s eyes, holding
hands on the dark pathways.



Here we are,
on the other side of failure—
far from each other now,
and the old beginnings.

 Flower Panels


You are the one I almost love.
How will I hold you now,
my arms are cold and distant;
I wear an old song in my mouth.

You are coming toward me in warm light;
you are carrying a rose.
Oh, you are carrying a rose.
I reach out into the emptiness between us.

You are walking through me
in the warm light. It is the mirror.
It is the mirror between us.
I am on both sides. You are on neither.

It is the false light that hinders everywhere.
It shifts and loses us too easily.
It cannot hold.
No wonder I cannot find you.

Now you are sitting in a circle of your own 
a new-formed sea, surreal as always.
I move toward you,

but there is no substance of reality.
You cannot hear me or see me.
I am under water,
deeply breathing.


After “Sculpture” by Flavio Zarck

The wings are too heavy now, the body
too weak, the bent pose not surrendering.

Time has lapsed, ruin has taken over,
the mind is in a trance.

A wall of light expands, the bent figure
leans—leans—against the unfamiliar,

The wings shred further—
scarred and broken, in pain of motion,
still attached to the tensioned shoulder.

The figure is unaware of wings now.
The heaviness is heavier.

What is troubling the mind—the lack of
remembering, the question diminishing;

what is here to love, or feel defeat for,
what happened—what happened?

The light failed—no trail of glory,
the metallic wings still flapping.



I go to the vast window
with its scenery that falls away.

I have no cat—even though
birds avoid my gaze and disappear.

I hold the curtain back with my shoulder
and watch the day—how it shortens

and grows chill. I should turn away,
but something holds me here . . .



Holding one long note of music within the music,
inattention comes to irritation—is the note stuck—
holding itself in one long tremble—the other notes
probing around it?  Is there intention—this held
sound—longer than breath-holding—like swimmer
under water? Will the held-note merge back into
the lost smoothness, otherwise pleasing, except for
the annoyance of the listener . . . ?

 Leaf Shapes


It is funny how I have no more tears,
no more weeping—no more—for any
of the dyings, no matter how close.  No.

All my weeping was spent on little things,
the first tantrums of life—the first failures
and losings—all my tears were used then.

My jar is empty.  I keep nothing in it now.
My tear jar stands useless, a pretty ornament.
I do not know what to put in it now.

It is a tear jar, and I have no more weeping.


 “ . . . there never was a word for her / Except the
one she sang and, singing, made” —Wallace Stevens

Her world was made of joy beyond the
nuisance-price of trouble; she kept her hope,
admonished all my pessimistic gloom—
would never be defeated—not by sorrow—

would not at all surrender to those forces
that would vex her spirit—laying claim;
she’d swear a bit, then laugh them all away with
her defining, all-redeeming word—Tomorrow!

 Leaves and Berries


I too can write a sonnet—love and loss
balanced between the lines for you to read
and see—and try to understand the cost,
perhaps less subtle than what you can heed

at first, but buried like a word, and how
to struggle with it—as I’m doing now—
you, so pompous—sitting there, so smug,
the way you turn me off with just a shrug.

No more will my word-failure be assuaged,
baiting me to scorn my tireless need,
challenging my heart till it is freed,
unfeeling when I’ve wept, and when I’ve raged.

I’ll finish this somehow and back away—
admired or not—with nothing more to say.


Today’s LittleNip:


Take no credit, take no blame,
let be—the frustration
of your struggle:

the mind in the maze,
no out or in—just there,
in the maze you puzzle through.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s poetry and original art, playing with our Seed of the Week: Frustration. Her “Useless Sonnet”, by the way, is an Onegin Sonnet: Iambic Pentameter,
a b a b | c c d d | e f f e | g g

Our new Seed of the Week is The Air We Breathe. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com. 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 a reminder that the deadline for Sac. Poetry Center’s annual journal, Tule Review, is this coming Sunday, April 30; see spcsacramentopoetrycenter.submittable.com/submit/.


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, April 24, 2017


Sunset, Mekong River
Nong Khai, Thailand
—Photo by Loch Henson, Diamond Springs, CA


down the woods trail and past the ponds.
Let’s pry the lid off what we know.

Find a way to meadow in the midst of forest
blooming white and yellow.
How many kinds of April willow?

Step inside a house of bark,
watch the sun light every gap and crevice.

See the weave of honeysuckle vines
to bind the trees together.

Sit still, become a basket maker
of your mind.

Listen. What’s that tap-tap?

someone hammering with a tiny
hammer? sending Morse code
through the woods?

Let’s give every bird a name of its own.

Your head is room enough
to take this whole meadow with you

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

—Taylor Graham

That girl has a foxtail
under her blanket cinched tight and tighter –
saddlebags full of math problems,
papers red-lined “incomplete.” Ridden all day
by teachers; the rest of the time
father’s “do it now!” A mother worries
is the girl just frustrated,
or is she lost? Not that headstrong, just
boggled, itched and stickered
by her life. Slaps the saddle down hard
after school, knees the girth near breathless;
leaps astride, clattering steel-shod,
hooves striking sparks on pavement;
into scrub-woods plunging to get away from
that thorn dug into her brain;
through brush, under low-hung branches.
Does she forget to duck?
A horse knows his own way back
to the barn. Can she find
a path through stunted gnarly oaks
and dry grass waiting for a match, tangles
of woods like fairytales
that used to scare her in the dark?
A daylight way home.

 Mut Mee Guesthouse, Nong Khai, Thailand
—Photo by Loch Henson 

—Taylor Graham

        for Loch

Your trip was an inspiration—
even with stopover in that city where
the air quality was abominable—

and your lungs aren’t the sturdiest
nor are mine, I’ve got a cough as well,
it just hangs on, my “solstice cold.”

Your souvenir of Shanghai—but you’re
home-bound now, inside your
walls. We miss you at poetry—our life-

breath, we like to say, as healing as
mountain air in God’s country
(as we call it), foothill breeze with doe

so light along a roadside. As if
immortal verse could fill our failing
lungs, first stanza through the last—

those poets gone now. Your trip
still with you, suffocating. I’d invoke
an exultation of meadowlarks

to burst open your door.

 Dessert, Easter, 2017
—Photo by Loch Henson

—Taylor Graham

Frustrating, trying to find the old mine where they dug for gold. The map sketchy. No one wants to talk about it —damage it did to the land. Unsettling hillside, releasing toxins into creek. I’ve hiked a labyrinth of trails through meadow sog, berry bramble and I haven’t found it, nor totally lost my way. I keep my compass by sun and shadow; drawn to canyon bottom, its damp and dark. Ferns conceal the hole delving out of daylight.

what bird calls unseen
from green unweeping willow?
I’ll follow birdsong


—Taylor Graham

Shall we adventure down the creek?
The new footbridges already are easing into
the landscape, taking on the color of leaves
fallen last year or some year before.
Every leaf on every tree finds its way down,
in time, like the creek. These simple
bridges shift their balance with the weight
of our footsteps and the way the banks stretch
and sigh in their sleep as the creek keeps
flowing even in dark like a dream.
But, you say, we came for daylight, and
nothing seems to be changing.
We’ve lived too long with humans and their
machines—geared faster and breaking down
quicker than the creek cuts rock.
The way nature blesses us with change.
How old is this canyon?

Loch Henson in Bangkok
—Photo by MRW

—Taylor Graham

The sound of drums was lost
before it ever reached the meadow.
If drummers carried the chant beyond
their boxed performance,
they dispersed on different paths.
The meadow silent
but for the breathing of a few
listeners who’d come to hear the drums
speak to the soil and grasses
and the bones of a fox almost lost
in tall green. The drums
never arrived. But an insect—
perhaps a nymph with only the hint
of wings—landed on a sleeve,
moving as if searching for its form,
its place, its voice.
The listeners spoke in myth,
in verse very softly to not to disturb it
on the journey to its song.

—Photo by Caschwa 

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

          The best lack all conviction…
                        —W.B. Yeats

The paper greets us with atrocity.
A little Syrian girl with oxygen mask,
face cherry red as if from carbon monoxide;
worse still the toxin visited without pity
on her by her country’s president. A task
to be done, extinguish so many, genocide
to us…and what to do? What can we do
to flush this dictator monster out of Syria?
As these thoughts finish, back into the car
inside which classical music sprouts wisteria…
nothing here of tragic victims, angers:
Peter Maxwell Davies’ An Orkney Wedding,
stuffed with Scottish musical capers, bangers,
deliberate departures from true pitch,
rascally quarter-tones, bagpipe distortions:
all at the farthest madcap remove from sarin…
How can anyone reconcile the itch
for drunken amiable braggadocio
with a doe-eyed Khan Sheikhoun child’s contortions
toiling just to breathe one breath less desperate:
our jollity’s undersong, plague—as in Boccaccio?
What species of fleshy insect, what disparate
traits: joy on the one hand, fear on the other, held
one arm-span apart by perfect Vitruvian Man,
that equable creature managing not to meld
humor and cruelty…yet the more balanced his stance,
the more his meaty thorax emits indifference;
how far beyond self must our glance range for inference?


—Tom Goff

We look for gods to come, we watch for omens,
believe sky-images, bright signs, transparencies
must deliver swiftly what’s heralded. A woman
giant-strides the horizons; or strange errancies
tilt with the twilight, at point of sun’s lance;
“these late eclipses of the sun and moon”
cap every “squeak and gibber,” every trance
not even Shakespeare’s antennae can attune
to mechanisms of thought. Now we see cloud,
declare it amasses like a besieging force.
And so we perceive. It grays, it blackens air
as we think sarin, some such poison shroud,
should steep us in blisters, burn us past despair.
What darkens these crystal signs? Our own remorse?

—Photo by Caschwa 

—Tom Goff

A certain composer whom I need not name
penned into one of his eerie nature scores
the mood directive Elfin and soulless. Spores
of the dark mushrooms, ferns or birches claim
less than his Inhumans the label soulless.
Our whimsical musician-poet thinks
the Sidhe, the faery race, that untamed goalless
pack of necromantic drifters, links
fingers with every mortal hand who probes
June-shadowed forests riddled with dawnlight;
henceforth, each tricked poor human too must drift
bereft of compass, grasping for bright slight
seductions. You, though: immune, my guide, you sift
true from false paths, pierce thickets of oakleaf lobes,
all Latvian soul (deceivers far too slow
for you, bride sprung of quite different elves!) you glide:
we tread the leaf-plush depths where shadows glow,
you prodding the Sidhe like birds from where they hide…


—Tom Goff

Whatever I may suppress, feeling seeps out.
For lack of a decent, amenable word,
I hide sweet emotion, I cloak it in doubt.
My old coal-mine mouth, my canary-bright bird
under my tongue. As if meant to smother,
poor bird, poor word. I search for another.

Next time you come to me, nothing will shout
from my crimsoning face, not one thing absurd
will slither from under tongue, poke out from mouth.
So secretive will I be, I may seem blurred.
Blurry I mean to be, shapeless, or rather,
reduction of bird and sauce. Not one loose feather. 

Hornbill Bookshop, Nong Khai, Thailand
—Photo by Loch Henson

I found at a garage sale a 1945 book called Five Thousand Quotations for all Occasions by Lewis C. Henry
     This book that I bought for just 50 cents has poets and authors I haven’t yet read 
     For instance a French-born predecessor of William Shakespeare named Francois Rabelais—
     He was known for coining into English such phrases as “Strike the iron whilst it is hot”,
     “never look a gift horse in the mouth”,
     “of two evils, choose the least” and “robbing Peter to pay Paul”
     Me, I had classes on Shakespeare that didn’t discuss Rabelais’ effect upon him at all
     This book with a severely damaged dust jacket was probably going to be discarded otherwise if I didn’t buy it
     No book like this, no matter how old, should be disregarded in the way this one probably was
     Such a book can inspire people to read even “dead poets” out of current fashion
     So it seemed to cry out to be “rescued”, being thrown in with a stack of outdated history texts

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA


—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

Went to the library
To see what they had

Countless selves of
Digital spines

Cute and gory
Mixed together

Hard and soft covers
Hot and cold topics

No due dates
Take your time
Sit’n & Knit’n


Today’s LittleNip(s):
Cleveland Haiku #426

the creek and several tributaries
officially have names

* * *

Cleveland Haiku #427

Small waves leap
over the concrete barriers
protecting the shore

* * *

Cleveland Haiku #428

A mans walks the streets
holding his guitar,
never stopping to play

* * *

Cleveland Haiku #429

birds shopping for food
on my lawn

* * *

Cleveland Haiku #430

birdsong from the bush
outside my bedroom window

—Michael Ceraolo, Willoughby Hills, OH


Our many thanks to today’s contributors, a fine, diverse beginning to a Monday morning! About her photos, Loch Henson writes:
The Hornbill Bookshop is on the same soi (alley/street) as the guest house, and features many titles in English.  Books literally disintegrate in the tropical climate...the humidity erodes the fibers...so it is brave to open a bookstore in this area.  The owner bags most titles to keep out the moisture, but leaves a few open for browsing.  She has an impeccable section of hardback poetry for sale (minus the two titles that I purchased while staying there!). The reference to Loch’s health in Taylor Graham’s poem refers to Loch’s breathing being badly compromised by Shanghai air, where she had a 13-hr. layover. She has been ill ever since. (Her "dessert" photo reflects all she could hold down at Easter.) Our thoughts are with you, Loch!
James Lee Jobe has some news about the Poetry in Davis Series; check it out at www.facebook.com/notes/james-lee-jobe/the-other-voice-poetry-series-update/10155124398367088/. James Lee also invites you to like his new Facebook page, One Dog Dharma, at www.facebook.com/OneDogDharma/?notif_t=fbpage_fan_invite&notif_id=1492993531982027/.

Poetry readings in our area begin tonight with April Ossmann and Camille Norton plus open mic at Sac. Poetry Center, 25th & R Sts., Sac., 7:30pm. On Thursday, check out Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, with features and open mic at 8pm.

Don’t forget that this Saturday, from 10am-4pm, will be Sac. Poetry Center’s Writers' Conference 2017, featuring Iris Dunkle, Kathleen Winter, Marsha de la O, Indigo Moor, Hugh Behn-Steinberg, and Paul Hoover. Reg: $40 (members $30). For info/reg., call 916-714-5401. 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.

And this just in:

HAUNTED LUNGS REVISITED....(a Snarkastic Haiku by Loch Henson)

Lungs full of China—
words fail me when the breath does.
Send inhaler, STAT, please!


 A Troll Hairdresser
Celebrate Poetry!
—Photo by Loch Henson, who shares Medusa’s love 
of vintage troll dolls—who have similar difficulties 
with hair control. This one is known as Susie Sweetdream.

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, April 23, 2017

Trees Need Not Walk...

—Anonymous Photo

—David Rosenthal, 1920

Trees need not walk the earth 
For beauty or for bread; 
Beauty will come to them 
Where they stand. 
Here among the children of the sap
Is no pride of ancestry: 
A birch may wear no less the morning 
Than an oak. 
Here are no heirlooms 
Save those of loveliness,
In which each tree 
Is kingly in its heritage of grace. 
Here is but beauty’s wisdom 
In which all trees are wise. 
Trees need not walk the earth
For beauty or for bread; 
Beauty will come to them 
In the rainbow— 
The sunlight— 
And the lilac-haunted rain;
And bread will come to them 
As beauty came: 
In the rainbow— 
In the sunlight— 
In the rain.


—Medusa, reminding you to head up to the open mic for poets and musicians at Poetry on Main Street in Placerville today, 4-6pm, at The Wine Smith, 346 Main St. 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.

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fruits of the Earth

 Earth Spirit
Earth Day, 2017
—Poems by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA
—Anonymous Visuals Courtesy of D.R. Wagner



Night decides to take over the conversation.
The shadows stir, the spiders begin
Their spinning toward the dawn.

Spring begins its work toward those
Seasons it will never see.  The exuberance
Of buds and bright flowers, the dazed
Spinning of elm seeds through the green
Air.  Soon there will be no room upon
The ground, for all will be growing.

We do not wait.  We dig the soil, find
The seeds of plants we want to see
In particular, begin the garden rituals.
We too become fruits of the earth,
Laboring toward the harvest, privileged
To entertain the dance through all the seasons.

The morning excuses itself from the night.
The night pales before her great might,
Calls the dark spider back to itself
And bides until the story changes once again.

 Girl With Watering Cans


I am watching the evening insinuate itself
Into the conversation about the day.
Dinner time had no mention of her, there
Were still doves admiring the liquidambar trees.

The weather wanted to see things differently,
Clearing, then a haze and a confusion of cloud
Types culminating in a less than enthusiastic
Fury as the sun relinquished its part in the conversation.

The path went from the beach up a small creek,
But as it did, there were lots of trees in the canyon
Holding the creek.  Shadows were setting up
Night camps and small birds sought perches

To watch the show.  We watched the foot
Bridges ease into the landscape like rainbows that
Had lost their color and were waiting for the
Flare that would say evening was indeed here.

I will stand here until it is impossible to tell
One object from another.  There is little hope for
The moon tonight.  The evening begins to cup
The sun in its hands and starts to hide

It from view.  Why even talk about a landscape
Except that we remember the others who are
Unable to see this evening, who climb to sleep
Without these blessed thresholds to touch them.

Every leaf on every tree closes its lights down
And cries for us to remember it, stores the moment,
Blesses us with change, holds the dark off for a
Final moment and considers the entire world as one thing.


The darkness comes to my window.
Gazes in at me sitting with my hands
Clasped as if I were praying.  It doesn’t
Know what to say.

I dwell here now, where the sea has voices.
I am able to wear snow as a garment that moves
In swirls around my body.  I can be seen in the twilight.
I move like a samba.  I move like a tango.
I move like light on the river.
I have the memories of trees.
I am a gigantic sleep.
I call you with the high sounds of birds.

My lips speak the white verbs of the sky.
I lift stones that the sun may touch all things.
I am able to hear, to hear your voice calling
From sleep.  That which is real are the green
Chords lovers carry in their hearts.
I remind all with wave after wave
That will be your feeling as you pass
The gateposts to a city reaching ever higher.

There is never a need to touch me. 
I look out my window as the sudden rush
Water makes when it insists on being heard.
I give you the seasons as if this were my prayer.  


The idea of a black bird flying
Over a landscape of doors.
Everyone listening to the darkness
Owned by time and pressed into
A single voice that repeats a blur of oceans.

One is reminded of love.  A thick kind of moonlight
One is permitted to walk beneath, feeling with
The transparency that comes as memory removes
Its ways we preferred to use to recall the intimacy of touch.
A flicker across the tops of ocean waves, revealing nothing.

The mouth is spent recalling what was spoken in
Deepest ecstasy and discarded in the morning
As part of dreamt parable, no longer useful to anyone.

I untie my shoes and remove them.  My feet
No longer work well enough to get very far
Ahead of the broken parts.  I gather their shapes
Through a deep action of my will.  A voice whispers
To me that if I am lucky, I will not awaken.  I awaken.



We most remember the incidental music
Written by Schubert, but she still lurks
Long after the play has died.  She remains
A princess and holds Schubert’s hand,
Forever unable to let go, less all the magic cease.

The day has barely dawned and already I fear
The blue of a morning that will bring a poison
To the fragile skeleton that threatens to keep
Our princess away from her promised life.

We have never seen the play.  What remains
Is beyond words.  It holds our imagination.
When given the mirror, the silver falls away…

Only the spirit grieves.  We begin the dance.
The body offers its lips.  We ascend the throne.
I ask you to dance.  We are given a black wolf
To make of it what we will…   Our own Rosamunde.  


Headline: “A crystal box filled with music, c. 1000 A.D.”

The sound would be lost
At once were the box opened.
It is impossible to record the music.
It seems to create an empathy
In the listener as a Paraclete would.

For each listener, called ‘voicers’
By those who study this event,
The experience of the music
Is significantly different.

This is known:  The music
Is always melodic, memorably
So.  Rhythm is patterned.
Certain passages repeat themselves,
Yet, this is extremely rare.

Oftentimes the music generates
Usually abstract visual information,
But also occasional narrative, as in myth.

Animals, from insects to birds,
Mammals, reptiles, amphibians, seem
To hear these sounds with ease.
They oftentimes pay long attention to
The sound.  All have been seen moving
To the rhythms seemingly generated by it.

Some researchers believe particular
Mating behaviors in many species
Have been initiated or changed by
Exposure to this music.  Much more
Research is necessary to prove this.

It is said that people who have encountered
This phenomenon have recorded their names
In a document upon doing so.  This document,
While testified to, has never been verified.

The box has moved frequently
Since its discovery.  It is liable to appear
Almost anywhere.  It has been seen and
Heard off the Australian Great Barrier Reef
As well as in the Himalayas and the jungles of
Peru, Southeast Asia and South America.

No one knows how the box comes to
Move or where it may appear.
Its appearance has always had the quality
Of a mystical event about it.
In the past seventy years it has been seen
Very infrequently and very briefly.

One other box was known and was opened.
It shattered immediately and caused great
Disturbances in the Earth’s
Magnetic fields and impressive light patterns
In the ion layers of the atmosphere.

Its existence is usually denied except
In poetry and certain fairy tales.

If you encounter this box, contact
Creatures that sing or listen to
Recreate your own experience
That others may know these songs.

 Vegetable People

Today’s LittleNip:
—D.R. Wagner

Focus shifts so easily.
This morning
I was looking at an iris, newly opened.
It seemed the most beautiful of things.
Now I look up to see you walking into
The garden.
It seems the most beautiful of things.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s poetry and visuals on this Earth Day, 2017!
Note that there is a new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page, this one by Katy Brown of last Saturday's Sacramento Voices reading. Check it out at www.facebook.com/Medusas-KitchenRattlesnake-Press-212180022137248/.

And yesterday's Sacramento Bee had an article about Mahogany Urban Poetry Series and other Sacramento readings: go to www.sacbee.com/entertainment/article145561759.html/.

 Celebrate Poetry! And don’t forget Amy Rogers 
at Writers on the Air at Sac Poetry Center today, 
beginning at 10am, or the Arts in Nature Festival in 
Georgetown, beginning at 9am (poetry at 11), or
the Q&A with April Ossmann, hosted by Kate Asche
beginning at 1:30pm in Kate’s downtown studio. 
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.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Crazed by the Honey

—Poems by Donal Mahoney, Belleville, IL
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


Down the patio walk,
white stones, through the garden,
under the trellis toward me
yellow frock, yellow hair
rising and falling

I lie in my lawn chair,
spoon honeydew sherbet, sip
pink ade from a tall glass,
cubes circling

She is almost upon me
I look up and I tell her
I have sand, sea, skies, laughs,
all paid for and nothing
nothing at all to do.



I look in the mirror and I'm not there.
Where did I go? I don't know
so I look around and see my wife
with the dogs and kids.
Not one of them sees me.
Recliner's empty. So's the bed.
I must be somewhere; I always am.
Barber claims he saw me yesterday
and I won't need another trim
for a month or more.
Dentist says I have no teeth to fix,
that I should keep gummin' it,
so why would I go there?
Maybe I'll call my sister who knows
nothing about me now.
We haven't talked in 20 years.
When no one's in the mirror
they sometimes find me
behind the couch chompin'
on a Dagwood sandwich
but this time it's different.
Where am I? Heaven? Hell?
Somewhere in between?
I hear Hoagy on the piano
playing "Georgia on My Mind."
Text me on a cloud
if he plays "Stardust."
The drinks will be on me
for everyone in the house.


One, a nun, has
her transfer in her hand.
She's silently praying.

Another, a hooker, has
her income in her purse.
She's lighting a cigarette.

Another, a mother, has
her mind on her children.
She's going to work.

None of them knows what
they share this morning:
ova ripening.



Natural Family Planning
has its ups and downs
so to speak but it often

works quite well.
But when the calendar
says not tonight

I ask my wife to please
go in another room
with that banana.


Jesse was a common man
he never made a lot of money
he had a troubled marriage.

His wife left him for another man
he never saw his kids again.

Although he never wrote a book
he read hundreds of them
trying to solve riddles in his life.

But Jesse had a lisp, you see,
and others liked to laugh.

After he died last week
the undertaker poured his ashes
over the edge of an ocean cliff.

He liked to watch eagles dive
and carry away big fish.

Jesse was a common man 
as are we whose whole is
greater than our parts.

But Jesse had a lisp, you see,
and others liked to laugh.



On weekday mornings
on a quiet corner
three moms with small  
sons and daughters
wait for a school bus
they hope is coming

The children laugh
play a game of tag
three moms are silent
three feet apart

One reads a book
another smokes
the other checks
her cell phone

The bus pulls up
the kids pile on
and rush to windows
to wave good-bye
the moms all wave
as if in sync

The bus takes off 
makes its turn
three moms
walk home
three feet apart
down the block
without a word

three moms
with children gone
are free at last
white, black and brown 


The cur dog
tethered to a stake
across the road
runs back and forth
barking all day
then breaks free.
He’s off and running
down the road, happy
as a dog can be.

Across the road Willie
in his rocker on the porch
cheers the dog’s escape
and tells his wife
knitting in another rocker
that he’s a cur dog, too,
tethered to the Earth
but only for a spell.
He’ll break free as well,

something he has told her
many times before in
50 years of marriage.
Despite his fantasies
she loves him still
and fills his pipe,
sticks it in his mouth
and lights it as he did
for himself for years.
Then she tells him we'll
do what the dog did, Willie.
We’ll bark all day and see.



We have a drop-off problem in America.
We must decide which restroom
one can use when nature beckons.
So far, tumult reigns among the people.

If we declare both genders equal
as well as every variation within the two
everyone can share the same restroom 
and stand or sit as necessity requires.

But some find this approach offensive
and if they win, perhaps we should
evaluate what some Third World folks
have used peacefully for centuries.

They dig a hole behind the bushes
and stack some leaves nearby.
No need to have a plunger.
When so moved, just drop by.


Dylann Roof defended himself
in the sentencing phase of his trial
after he was convicted of killing

nine people during a Bible study,
the nine people who welcomed him
after he walked into their church.

Had I been the judge I would have
asked Mr. Roof to approach the bench
for a private consultation and I’d have

said the court knows you’re sane
because you were certified to stand trial
and you have said insanity is not

the reason you killed these people.
You said it had to be done and you did it.
Mr. Roof, are you possessed?



My parents were
far from preachy.
They went to church
separately and I went
to the children’s service
separately as well.

But as a family we
went to many Irish wakes
that enabled me
last New Year’s Day
to look death in the eye
when my daughter died
after a long fight to live.

I’m old enough now
to listen for the bell signaling 
my own last round with death.
Hard to believe I've made it this far.
I may even lead on points
but any bookie will tell you
death by a knockout at the end.


A doctor by day
Ralph spends his nights
ordering tulip bulbs

from Holland
beautiful and rare
to arrive in autumn

to plant and think about
for months ahead until
spring arrives and the

tulips become a rainbow
beautiful in his garden.
Ralph talks about tulips

at the office every day
where he pulls small bulbs
from the gardens of patients.

Unlike his tulips
those bulbs don’t grow,
never become a rainbow.



Earlier than ever this morning
I wait for copy to vacuum.
It must be free of error
and the deadline is near.
But what matters today isn’t news
about war, poverty or race riots
ripping the city.
What matters today
is the warm quicksand
of that good woman
under me again,
taking me in.
Let her writhe,
let her tug at her knees,
let her legs go off
in every direction.
Let her take what I have
and lunge for more.
I’ll be here forever,
a bee crazed by the honey
buttering her thighs.


Today’s LittleNip(s): Two Senryus:

Sagebrush on Broadway
a Big Mac wrapper tumbles
softly down the street



If smiles had echoes
all the world would hear Grandma's
bouncing off the stars


Our thanks to Donal Mahoney and Katy Brown for their wonderful contributions to our Friday. Tonight, head over to Davis to hear Joshua McKinney and Hannah Stein read at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 7:30pm. 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.

Note also that there is a new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page, this one by Katy Brown of last Saturday's Sacramento Voices reading. Check it out at www.facebook.com/Medusas-KitchenRattlesnake-Press-212180022137248/.

And today's Sacramento Bee has an article about Mahogany Urban Poetry Series and other Sacramento readings at www.sacbee.com/entertainment/article145561759.html/.


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, April 20, 2017

A Wall of Lilies

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
(Anonymous Photos)


Perhaps beyond
the wall of lilies

around the river
clearing the Neva

our hearts would collapse
from the church times

in prayer
of chimes

as Pasternak
and his sister

spoke for the last
hour of Vespers

to remember
this Easter hour


The Jerusalem wind
from the air of breath

when Jesus
as a rose of Sharon

in his depth
of death is alive

in memory
of his reality

will survive the garden
as the sinned seek pardon.


The days
which pass over

and cover us
for Easter

under the canopy
of brutal intensity

the Resurrection
when every sound

is a poem
of immensity.


With his poems
of justice

in his valise
hiding from the authorities

and the military

who wish to take away
his contrary soul

he in his verse of wonder
are at peace who sings.


and equivocation

on this dawn
following a deer

in the forest
of the Northwest

watching for hunters
but hoping for rest.


At the window
close to the hills

hearing the bellicose
wind along the roof tops

the rain laughs
at the branches

the sun singes
the lightening of the Oaks

which shiver
in the breeze.


Today’s LittleNip:

—B.Z. Niditch

I walked into the light
of the church

in my most tender
flight and search

feeling I had been
forsaken in the lurch

it was so bright
in its revealing.


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch for his fine poetry and botanical inspiration this morning!

Celebrate poetry!
It’s a busy day today in our area, starting with 
Poetry at the Central Library at noon, 828 I St., Sac., 
or Literature of the Wild’s Round Robin at noon 
at Folsom Lake College in Folsom. Tonight, 
Danté Pélayo will be featured at Luna’s Cafe 
in Sacramento, 8pm, or head over to Davis to hear 
Phillip Larrea and Barbara West at the 
John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st St., also 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, April 19, 2017

Riddles of the Night Falcons

—Poems by Sheikha A., Karachi, Pakistan
—Photos by Caschwa, Sacramento, CA


There are red ribbons tied to the door
tonight: charity for spirits. Was it

considered before setting loose
someone else’s conscience

like a wrath on my gate, that I
wouldn’t know your embryo

rose from black iron. Now, your son’s
feet scrape against doors;

his is a grave of amorphous cries,
the singing of shunned crows;

water it with your cold wails,
let him call your name aloud. Go

like the unconfessed restraint,
take the son of the son with you,

place him on his father’s burning
feet, and notice his eyes bead

like the black mouth of an open well
glinting like a wolf’s sight on prey;

then come back to my locked destiny—
my face: a valley of several ghosts.


Your eyes are kohled riddles
of the night falcons. Hospitality

is the second name for prolonged
architectures in your city. I have

walked the squares in circles
from the time my inner cheeks

would blister from excessive eating
of hard-skinned yellow dates. There

is a stirring of immediate resurrections
in your sands. Children where I live

threaten lawsuits as humour. The pits
of black olives are no different

from green’s, and if you pick them raw,
trees won’t protest. Love is a silent

coincidence between hearts; treated
like a band-aid, placed and removed

with an iodine solution—the lips
will wince as the eyes push back

the sting. I am still filled with
visions of your bulbing rains,

how they now clump into textures
of snow—an unimagined phenomenon

to happen to sun-trimmed roads.
Where I live, we have been

burgled of weeping skies, digging
floors of homes in search for canals. 


Tell me about the scarps
you visited in your time away
and the steps carved across
both sides of your face;
a river ripples seismically
on your forehead—a scar—
scabbed down by the dusts
of your travails: allegory.

Your eyes like asthmatic
dunes of a struggling desert
whittling against sun and wind,
and your lips: line of oasis
on heat-blurred horizon(s).

Bridled. Broken. Barbed.
Bottled. Belittled.

Tell me you suffered

so I satiate
and slide back into my self-
constructed perfunctoriness. 


Brooks push back to ponds
before fish mob gateways.
The fireworks have broken
the terraces of houses drilled
of holes from bullets by guns
that went off in practice.
There is rumble in the sky
as if the buildings in heaven
greeted a bomber. Now, there
is water spilt everywhere.


There are clothes to wring tonight.
I didn’t think bad dreams were
addictive. From not having seen
a man and woman become animals
in puddled mud, I have been wishing
for some bad to happen, worse than
the bad happened to anyone else,
or even up-scale torture. Just so I get
benediction. I have been washing
soap off clothes in waiting— 

       for em em eye

Fold my wish into carving souls;
old as the falcon looking sea wave
receiving storms like prejudiced guests.
Sometimes the right thing to do
is let distances set in. Pages of a calendar
are held together by spiral rings—
the layout of avenues, routes liquefied.
Musky scents of moist dough rising
in a bowl—this is how rain binds soil.
Sometimes the only thing to do
is bring versions: the least unacceptable
conduct. Men of phantom tongues write
honourable verses, women of clenched
intents line them with graves. Some
ghosts are bold enough to leave,
they don’t believe in living
inside the clock.


Today’s LittleNip:

I’ve always associated the moment of writing with a moment of life, of joy, of unexpected reward.

—Seamus Heaney


—Medusa, with thanks to Sheikha A. for her fine poetry today, and to Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) for his beautiful spring-blossom photos!

 Sheikha Doodle
Celebrate Poetry!)
Sheikha is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates.
She has been published in over 100 literary venues so far,
both print and online, including several anthologies
by different presses. More about her can be found on

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, April 18, 2017

April Stanzas

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


I watch the treetops swishing in the air; their joy
(or agitation) is what my watching gives them.
That small dark bird—but a shape of quick
movement—gone before I can name him.                  

This drooping row of yellow roses—held up
by the iron fence—so generous with their petals.
A purple lady—walking fast—almost falls—
swerving to miss a leaf-shadow (or a pavement flaw).
Two men with a basket of noisy cans loudly share
their green bottle of morning wine, jovial together,

and their quick brown dog turns an abrupt corner—
surprised, its shadow continues down the sidewalk.

After “Blue Remembered Hills” by Howard Hodgkin

take the blue—how dark it is—
how it forms a deep curve,
like a rising wave,

and the yellow
that fits-in where it can,
flashing splinters of sun light,

and bits
of brown
become the ground—

the heavy, closing, border of black
becoming the eventual night
that pends,    and pends



I gave you the yellow bowl
and the yellow cup
with the red design,
but still you were unhappy . . .

I put raisins in your oatmeal
with a dash of nutmeg on the milk,
but still you would not give up
your sadness,

I sang a song and made a speech,
but you were still quarrelsome
and your eyes would not
give up my face.

And I went breaking like a dish
slipped out of
failing hands
and I went crashing to a cry,

so angry now
that both of us,
of your dark moodiness,
could die.


So many flowers do I see
that I’m afraid I trouble thee—

all whimsy and emotive guile,
to prattle on in some old style—

waxing flowery in my speech.
My woozy heart is moved to reach

an eloquence too far to know—
it’s just how longingly I’d go

back to some time beyond my birth
to find an older-fashioned worth—

so many flowers do I see—
I do believe they’ve giddied me.

If she were real,                
                “The Lady in White”
               —Charles Courtney Curran, 1961-1942

she would bend toward the light of
yellow flowers before this dull background
of rain, or sea;

her white hat would shade her face
and her hand reach endlessly toward
some touch she craves;

she might expect response,
for the scene lives—as she lives—
in the capturing of time;

whatever her name, we would call her
some beloved name of our own,
for, even as we watch,

the brush-stroked blue
is fading with loss,
and the flowers merely bend away.

After The Flower Seller, 1942 by Diego Rivera

This burden of yellow is all that you can bear, however
beautiful—heavy as light on a late summer.  How bent
you are—sagging at last to the weariness—no matter if
flowers.  You are tired of light-soaked flowers that al-
ready settle into their dying—like you—glorified by the
zeal of the hidden artist who overloads your basket with
this burden of yellow.



those summers
you stood under tall corn
laughing in your pride
a golden man in golden corn

and the soft mysteries
of the corn talking . . .
talking . . . as we walked under
almost cool there

those summers
you grew sunflowers
rivaling Jack’s beanstalk height
so towering . . .

their huge faces
bending down
heavy with light
your arm reaching upward, but

they were
even taller than that . . .
you smiling at me . . .
oh camera summers

(first pub. in One Trick Pony)



Today I walked hastily toward a door. There was a shadow
in the wall and when I reached a patch of light there was no
door. I turned toward a window and looked through. The
world was wild and torn. A rose fell from the wind. I was
afraid, for where I was, was not where I must be. The door
became a shadow, not a wall. The light became a sound.
The rose became a bird.  It sang, and broke me free.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam
The rain has lessened. Everything subsides.
The winds. The sirens. All the dreary news
the day began with. All that’s whole divides.
The silences stay silent to confuse.
We don’t know how to read each other’s clues
or all these pendings—not just if but when.
It rained. It stopped. And it will rain again.


Many, many thanks to Joyce for today’s poetry and photos! Trouper that she is, Joyce was able to read at Sacramento Voices last Saturday, despite a brief stay in the hospital earlier in the week. Later this week, I’ll post an album on Medusa’s Facebook page, photos that Katy Brown took last Saturday, including some endearing ones—such as the one below, which appeared on Facebook last Sunday. If anyone else has any photos, I’d very much appreciate you sending them so we can add them to the album. (By the way, was that you, Michelle Kunert, who took this photo (below) of Joyce and D.R. Wagner?)

Be sure to keep an eye on the listing of poetry readings for the week; more are added as we speak. 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 will probably be added at the last minute.

Our new Seed of the Week is Frustration. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com. 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.



D.R. Wagner, Joyce Odam
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.