Monday, August 21, 2017

Hats Off!

—Anonymous Photos

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Back in Central Illinois
We collected
Gimme caps—
Free, mostly from
Seed corn or
Tractor dealers.
Tried not
To be too greedy:
Only one cap.

—Michael Ceraolo, S. Euclid, OH

        August 1, 1881


Bell was back today with his machine
Though I flinched at first last week,
fearing an electrical shock,
today I was ready and didn't flinch
Again Dr. Bliss operated the machine
Again he was unable to find the bullet,
something he thinks important
I wonder if the bed's metal springs
were a hindrance in the search


"I know in my heart
that I am ONE with Christ . . .
forever and ever"

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

Small dark-clothed lotus in the lotus posture,
your back turned. Seated high in the Pyrenees,
you gaze “out far and in deep” at steep pasture.
Green-softened chasm, summer reveries.
Just off the crumbling road-lip, just on the chasm-lip,
your backpack bulk laid down. Thin cloud, soft fog
hides, heightens every altitude. Each spasm-slip,
each twist or wrench of pre-sprained ankle: block
or hindrance, anyone else. And you tread onward.
But meditate now, student. Thin white mist,
at heights not sung by larks or flown by wrens.
How Roncevaux absorbs the cirrus-kissed.
Young soldier woman at ease for once, eyes forward,
profound as all this downdrop in the lens.


—Tom Goff

    for Carol Pottorff, whose lesson this is

A veteran teacher cracks away at a tough
nutshell, a student’s inarticulation.
The girl can’t sound out the word available.
A-vayb-la-bla, abey-la-ya-bla-buh.
Each syllable-by-syllable try dwindles.
Can it be true no learning ever kindles
without unlearning? What skin’s left to slough?

The teacher tries the backwards buildup, slow:
ble, a-ble, vailable, available—no go.
A brainwave! Something to fit this individual.
The prof thinks to pop out a simple visual.
A (face with a) veil, a bull: she draws a crude rebus.
Enunciation breaks over the girl like Phoebus.
“Available,” she says, and walks away.

To you I have no sense of what to say
even with all the right intake information,
what liberating rebus anyone draws.
Always I wear the veil, or you the gauze.
Inside bullhide I hide—whatever the cause.
The veil is really yours to don or doff.
The bull, horn-sore, has just now trotted off.

    (acquaintances of Arnold Bax)
—Tom Goff

At Edith Grove, the Drapers’* English home,
a couple walls knocked out to cram musicians
for chamber-music epics good physicians
would vow could cure whatever dire syndrome,
you’re spellbound. Lionel Tertis, great violist;
Pablo Casals, Eugène Ysaÿe; Young Poland
in Music: Slavic Modernist knights at joust;
have lance, will travel reactionary lowland.
Here’s Paul Kochánski, chin to violin:
he’ll show you his most brilliant special effect,
glissando double-stopped with double trill.
Now, Karol Szymanowski, architect
of mystic symphonies: Rumi, Hafiz too,
inspire him much as Yeats and Synge spur you.
Rebecca Clarke, Gene Goossens augment the thrill,
intoxicant sound that transcends boon or sin.
Are you there the night young Artur Rubinstein’s flames
sizzle the ivory fuse toward dynamite?
Power extreme, if not by sound, by sight
ignites at last the distinguished guest, Henry James…

*Paul Draper, noted tenor, and Muriel Draper, author of Music at Midnight.


[At the Royal Academy of Music,] pouring out our jejune imitations of Tchaikovsky and Wagner, we dipped our pens in the fiery fountain of Helicon, in unshakable assurance that no such music had ever before blessed the earth. Our masters might dowse the flame with cold water, but the heartrending disillusion of the evening was banished at dawn by the morning wind of a still more godlike inspiration.
                        —Arnold Bax, in
Farewell, My Youth

—Tom Goff

    for any student

Do true for fun, says poet Marie Ponsot.
Wise words. Or do untrue, seed fantasy,
ripen your invention-garden, sow
your own seed, grow green as a praying mantis, be
all stalk, though you become space-beanstalk, sprout past
both Jack- and Giant-head-level, clear to the airlock
of the most high space station, beyond the last
shy molecule outshrinking the sheerest hairlock
of will-o-the-wisp-ineffable oxygen.

You are the earth’s but you are also the cosmos’s
nearest likeness to a living god.
Show godlike inspiration—no psychosis,
no trauma or neurotic episode
got you here by itself. Take agency,
take risks. No need to abandon gravity,
though it may abandon you. This vacancy,
this void’s your home, much more than mere cavity.
Fill it with your vast thought as you swell out
that Orlan spacewalk puffball of spacesuit.

You’ll pass through ion storms of dazzling doubt,
meteors, sand-grain-dangerous, will shoot
at but not through your plasticine spaceskin.
Rewards, as few as the atmosphere is thin.
Thin-skinned, what if we burst your luminous
second epidermis, bust your thrusters?
Suppose, exposed to vacuum, your velutinous
suave sausage casing, ultimate disaster,
bursts—it won’t, say scientists prosaic—
Pretend your artistic hopes disintegrate
with you. That’s just one day. You can regather.
Collect your scattered destiny, compound your matter.
Here’s a new suit. Slip into it, acclimate.
Above all, create the transcendent, dare every ambit
one orbit more elliptical, more eccentric
than yesterday’s. You failed with this day’s gambit?
Don’t free-fall back to Planet Earth acerbic.

Let yourself glide, drift clear of all the bitter.
Exploded, your god-bits batten the god-mosaic.
Stars up here give of their optimum burn. Space canyons,
starfingers concocted of contracting spasms.
Bright fissures, celestial cataracts fall into chasms.
Dilation as rooted and spreading as ancient banyans.
Are you a god-fragment in chaos? Add your god-glitter.


—Tom Goff

Two men of creative genius, Bax and Rilke.
Eminent British composer, Bohemian poet.
The private life of neither flaxen, silky.
So inwardly arranged, each, wouldn’t we know it:

both drawn to psychologists, not psychology.
Rilke’s great early love, Lou Salome,
a Freud-trained woman psychoanalyst:
Watch Rilke wriggle away, bait slunk from hook,
from Lou’s best referral. Culprit unbrought to book.

Behold Bax writing to Godwin “Tiny” Baynes,
a chum from young manhood whose quite other life
was working for, translating, Jung. Midwife
delivering Zurich to England. For Baynes’ pains,

commending Bax all manner of psychic wealth
via mental accouchement on some analyst’s couch,
all Bax can say—friendly, mind you—comes to ouch.
No overt coaxing, certainly no stealth,

will make Bax / Rilke submit to that rope of sandstorm,
docile acceptance of fate’s analysand-form.

Nor would I, for that matter, unbridle, unbristle.
Why trade away edge best guarded with ounces of mean,
to have one’s subconscious intestine, best whistle
scrubbed clean? 


—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
At a magician convention
In the great hall
All the magicians arrived
Wearing hats

Some held rabbits
Some held bats
Some held we’ll have to guess

Next door
In another great hall
Exterminators came
Then it got fun

Some had traps
Some had spray guns
Some we’ll have to guess

When they stopped
For a break
The two groups intermixed
Wearing hats, pointing guns

Rabbits, traps
Bats, guns
None left, I guess


Each and every week
I faithfully play the Lotto
“Don’t let your numbers
Win without you”

Surely my numbers
Will come up
Though it may not be
Within my natural lifetime

Not to worry
I’ll just incorporate myself
And go on living and living
And eventually win!

Of course by then
The Lottery Commission will have
Decided there are better uses
For my prize money

Such as donating
The entire winning jackpot
To the Lottery Commission’s own
Gamblers Anonymous fund

But my sustainable corporate self
With memories of human values
Now fully erased
Will be blind to the difference

Reincarnation of that
Once living human being
Will bring me back as
Digital financial projections


By God’s design
Humans repeel and replace
Their skin daily

The process just happens
Without critical, political,
Despicable, deplorable

Much like an oil change
Out with old, tired, worn
Back to square one

Old skin stays where it falls
Old oil must be recalled
For a fee, of course

So you see, dead horse
The all-powerful buck
Stopped here



Biblical folks shared
The gift of knowledge
That would have missed us

Fabulous, improbable
Events too distant to
Ever have kissed us

But we believe
We must believe
That all of this is true

Because they say
It came from God and
He is rubber, we are glue

Now we have a president
Who shovels us
Fake dirt to sift

Hoping his words
“Believe me!” will suffice as
Our precious gift

We cannot sit by
A term or two
To right the ship of state

We must take action
Here and now
To unteach war and hate


Our president
So bold and self-sure

Read a script about
Charlottesville, about values
That should endure

It was a crossword puzzle
So lacking
In challenge

He penned all the answers
Using ink
By the gallons

The very next day
When the solution
Was published

He offered
Better answers
To replace all that rubbish


Today’s LittleNip:


I was in Central Park
At the Carousel
And wanted to visit
The landmark Neo-Nazi Tower

A cabbie said
“No problem,
We’ll just head down E. 65th Street
And make an Alt-right on 5th Avenue”


Lots of fine poems today while we wait for the partial eclipse beginning at 9:02am (see Michelle Kunert has sent us two links for music to watch the eclipse by:

Poetry readings in our area begin in Placerville tonight, 5pm, with Poetry on Main Street, an open mic for poets and musicians at The Wine Smith, 346 Main St. Then head to Sacramento for CharRon Smith, Marvin Xia and open mic as Sac. Poetry Center presents Hot Poetry in the Park, Fremont Park at 16th & Q Sts., Sac., 7pm.

Thursday is Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sac., 8pm, with featured readers and open mic. Then Sat. morning, Writers on the Air presents Jackie Howard plus open mic, with Todd Boyd making a podcast. And Poetic License meets that afternoon in Placerville at the Placerville Sr. Ctr., 2-4pm. 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 issue of the
Ginosko Literary Journal from the Bay Area is now available at

And SnakePal JD DeHart writes that he is working on a project at, a site where he writes book reviews and posts author interviews.  Check it out!


 —Photo thanks to Charles Mariano, Sacramento, CA
(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.