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!

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, March 30, 2017

Parchment Histories from Shooting Stars

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


Doves on the rooftops
before this alcove

birdsong will rise
on an open grassy field

forgetting the hour
lodged in this dawn

destined to escape
for a shield of snow.



Pushing aside my thoughts
by the Tuileries

wondering which flowers
will make a brief daylight scene

within a curl of winding

to take time away
from the artistic loneliness

of so many gathered here
to echo in their art or music.

 Tuileries Garden


Mozart's overture
opens an opera

that lacerates
the curse

in its libretto
the culture

of the gods
plays out its part

where love
opens our hearts.



In a riptide
the boat rears up

on the shore
where two blackbirds

rise by half-flight
over at the tidal basin

as cherry blossoms
spin in the air.

—Anonymous Photo


The Thinker
that was his body

distant eyes
of philosophy

on the precipice

of Dante's

by logic.



At night
by twined hours

a decade passes
its petals

and rootless seasons
from blinded lights

of guiding dust
in parchment histories

from shooting



A construct root
of reflections

installed by voices
of pranks hijacked

to prejudice
in his metropolis

in an abyss
of family relations

from a direction-less
sense of endless existence

yet with outposts
of ultimate humaneness.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

I saw a star slide down the sky,
Blinding the north as it went by,
Too burning and too quick to hold,
Too lovely to be bought or sold,
Good only to make wishes on
And then forever to be gone.


Many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s tasty technicolor poems, as his shooting stars light up the sky!


 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, March 29, 2017

Ghosted Rainbows

—Anonymous Photo

—Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, IL

Everything is red
in the kingdom of the queen.
Matador hat with barnacles,
witch white hair to the shoulders,
tickling the breast.
In her eyes are the blood shot
of many vampires;
in her heart the daggers
of many soldiers.
Five inky fingers
cross her throat
like an ill-fitted necklace.
Her dress is like heart charms,
scales of fish dripping
blood toward her toes.
Withy, twists around her throat.
Anglers of the court toss hooks
toward her cherry red lips,
capture the moment
of the haze of purple
surrounding her head.
Everything is red
in the kingdom of the queen.
Death changes colors from red to blue.

 —Anonymous Photo

—Michael Lee Johnson

Emperor Penguins never set feet on land,
straight up their feet on ice, tuxedo's with short feathers
overlapped, waterproofed, inner down layers insulated with air.
Heads bobble fat fannies waddle, the march to the homeland begins.
70 miles the clan walks and slides away from the sea and back to the sea.
70 miles into the darkest, driest and coldest continent, Antarctica cradles up the South Pole.
High step, searching for partners for one year, away from predators, the mating party begins.
Mutual sex they turn check format a goal, breed their young, months of illness, hurt, struggles, isolation, separation face in the winter the great white ghost of death.
Starvation is a 2-way trip the male is the mother 120 days, mother goes for food-
at one point tough they all must go back to the ocean and sea.
Emperor Penguins they dance and huddle.
Back they go to the ice, to the flow, and sea 50/50, millions of years ago.

 —Anonymous Photo

(Heart attack, 50 years of age)
—Michael Lee Johnson

What happened to 20 acres of farmland tilted toward sun angles,
those sharp stone edges cool fall comes
frost fields covered taking ownership of rented, abused, abandoned land−
10 years Phil has been gone, DeKalb, Illinois farmer.

Did he find salvation in those gold cornfields?
October orange colors, hayrides, and pumpkin harvest
of grey, grave bones buried near the deadly bicycle ride.
Mystery did his lover Betsy
(defense, prosecuting attorney, Elgin, Illinois)
stand by his site after she went through mourning,
the grandstanding at the wake at the farm,
the dimming of all candles, incenses, and memorial shrine
she held sacred within her bedroom walls, now faded.

 Mt. Pleasant Cemetery

(Toronto, Ontario Canada)
—Michael Lee Johnson

Gravediggers uprooting caskets
with sharp, steel shovels-
each slicing step downward
through nerve-rooted earth
cooper pennies jingle in change
pouches dangling by their sides.

They chat casually of Jesus,
His painless resurrection
from the sealed tomb,
money-changers being chased
away from God’s holy temple.

 —Anonymous Photo

—Marchelle Dyon, Chicago, IL

Hear the tom-tom drum
The sloshy swash
Click clacking
Sounds of rain
The happy heavenly tears of cherubs
Laughing, dancing harps of rhythmic
Water music    F

Puddles pools into rivers of kaleidoscopes
Shaping rainbows
Turning umbrellas
Marching colorful rain boots
Prancing down morning mayhem
People-clogged streets.


—Marchelle Dyon

With the disappearance of ink clouds
Day begins with little shade folding out of darkness
Turning colors of blueberries and cream
With blotches of crimson-pinched cheeks thrown across the sky.

I know well the heralds of each dawn.
I know well the sparrow’s song.
I know well the rooster’s cock call.
I know before the deep mocha horizon begins to pale.
I know nature’s town criers that assure me all is well.

The sun lured by birdsong opens its wingspan
To be mathematically perched between the clouds
An aria of still life, a mystery rising
Light bringer an Aubade to lovers
Lovers wrestling angels to again with the blanket of night

I know well the heralds of each dawn.
I know well the sparrow’s song.
I know well the rooster’s cock call.
I know before the deep mocha horizon begins to pale.
I know nature’s town criers that assures me all is well.

I know the morning has a song, outside birds chirp it
The good news that comes with the sun
They sing in a leaning oak
Its leaves sweep back the dust and dark at my window
Day mirrors and shine onto my waking eyes all hallowed and divine

I know well the heralds of each dawn.
I know well the sparrow’s song.
I know well the rooster’s cock call.
I know before the deep mocha horizon begins pale.
I know nature’s town criers that assure me all is well.

 —Anonymous Photo

—Marchelle Dyon

She’s only two years old
And already on the move

She’s ready for the world
Her bright eyes, shine
Ready to take on the day

The world’s not ready for her
Still buckled down

With sleepy eyes of frost
While the world naps
Under a blanket of frosty wind

She wears her sweater-coat
Her gloved hands and her boots
She wears a hat with pompoms

Pompoms ringing like bells
Her imagination sparkles like snowflakes
She looks out the window into the dawn

Dreaming of the world outside and not dreaming
An old soul, her days already planned
She is only two years old

And already on the move
Ready to take on the world.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Marchell Dyon

We dream in concrete
Our thoughts are pillars whitewashed with sun
Our eyes rotate like pigeons’
Pigeons perch still, like gargoyles in the park 
Warding off the evil eyes of March
We dream in streetlight
Playing at being peeping toms
Shinning blinding light
Playing laser tag
Into one another’s dream mirror
We dream in prisms
Some dark, some surreal
Ghosted rainbows
Shading a sundial of stone


Our thanks to Illinoisans Michael Johnson and Marchelle Dyon for today’s hearty soufflé of poetry to get us through the middle of the week! Michael has provided the photos to go with his poems; the rain boots I posted with Marchelle’s, well, they just seemed right…


—Anonymous Photo
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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Tenacity of Secrets

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


It doesn’t mean she didn’t think about it—
walking home with the stranger who

had shared an hour with her in the
coffee shop—two casual moments—

sharing time—and that it was cold,
and had been raining—only an

interesting detail of the story—
he was so courteous, a little bit sad, 

and she was restless, with a sadness
of her own, and their voices

intermingled in the clear night air,
their slow footsteps sounding

in unison on the wet sidewalk,
and at the corner he held her elbow

as she stepped down, and she looked
at him sideways, and you could almost

read her thoughts, and her smile
was the smile of someone who had

made a careful decision, and they said
goodnight, and there was no ending.



going back against the dark
passing the murdered birds and
the five mad willows
I wept as well as I could
and saw the landscape lessen

and I who looked for markings
instead of trusting to my skill
wondered why days
pull backward into night

I never meant to tell
the deep-eyed stranger what this meant
all men are guilty
pointing out a finger
as if they knew

new birds are limping through the air
coughing out sad !hear me!
from their height

I hug the trees for love
they’re lonely too
and tired and blemished in their life

and here’s the turn I took
I read the sign
nailed to a rotting post
someone has used it for a target
but the words don’t hurt

the arrow is without error
it says it all again—
it always knows
the only way to go


Your drama—all wrong,
in the dark light of memory—

filtered through time
with its tearings,

how you showered
then lay on the bed

with the pistol
under your chin,

and you went on and on
with your dry, crying words

and the window curtains
blew softly in

from the open window
in the late afternoon breezes

of summer
and the city noises droned past

and everything seemed normal,
and I stood there, not wanting

to stay,
not wanting to go

from the room,
just waiting there,

holding my breath
through your breathing.



And we were young and bent on suicide, but friends
dissuaded us—took our hands and ran us along the
beaches—all summer, teasing the waves and watching
the white gulls come down among us—as if they were
tame. But these are lies, of course. I need your attention.
I need you to hold me from what might have been true
if I had known you. Is that why we had no faces—only
those white masks—stark and featureless so no one
would know us, though we cried to be known; is that
how we became anonymous? Where were you then—
my imaginary one—were you on your way to impor-
tant appointments—famous and aloof—could I have
touched you?


the nostalgia
of certain dreams
of certain plans not followed . . .

the safe illusion
of hindsight
where everything is perfect . . .

the lament of wrong-doing
of failed chances
of foolish decisions . . .

the losing of forgivers
who can never find you
who are not looking for you . . .

the easy flow toward regret
like birds off a black cliff
above a blacker sea . . .

(first pub. in Calliope, 1991)



How will I know light
if my eyes cannot open ?

I feel a warmth on my face…
I cannot tell...   I might be wrong…

if I open my eyes to darkness with
nothing to assuage my certainties . . . .



Here’s where
     two of a kind met and
          discussed their differences.

You’re a silly old man,
     she laughed, and he showed her
          his dark and beautiful poems.

His eyes pooled
     and his voice spoke tears.
          You’re a silly old man, she said.


I could say of these vines that they are tangled, cannot be
solved, that one should not enter them; they are fastened
to the earth in knots, choking their own spaces. They are
complicated—like puzzles—looking for straightness and
upwardness, or how to avoid those directions.

And they are strong, growing thick with their struggle—
as muscular as cats. They possess the place they are at with
the tenacity of secrets, or changeability. You cannot step
through them, unless you be as small as insects are, or
moisture made of gray drizzle, or are as bodiless as breezes.

And vines are very slow and dark; they are forever changing
their mind, or trying out new decisions—such are the thoughts
of vines, coiling as slow as centuries, curving all over them-
selves in a sort of sensuality—like a slow writhe of serpents
in some rare goldness—not knowing which of them is the
one they are.



Everything is tilted now—this law; this life;
this patient flaw; this red bottle of perfume
leaning to the lamplight; this string of fallen

Oh, things gone wrong—the emptiness is
full—of dragging time, of speeding time—
the emptiness is all.


What can be taken back
from time so poorly spent?

Today’s wounds were bloodless,
mostly all the small vexations:

things left undone,
half-hearted undertakings,

indecisions—nothing big enough
to mention, just the usual

waste of time, with time so dear.
What holds life so relentlessly?

The circles one goes round in
when the mind is plagued

with fret and worries,
let alone the hurries that jam up,

slow down,
refuse to make good use of time;

the wrong directions made;
the morning energies all wasted;

the usual naps in the afternoon
when effort slows and you realize

that tomorrow will be filled
with today’s procrastinations.



What is this affirmation made of doubt,
all contradiction and page-turning
of ideas and simple philosophy?

Now is the right time
for everything to evolve,
the only sharp edge of decision to allow.

One window looks out on the confusion,
harsh winds tearing at the glass, leaves
and birds struggling in the gusts of winter.

How long before shadows lie quietly again
on the ground, like whispering, like murmuring,
held in retrospect to fill the now with such consoling.

After “The Shore” (postcard) by Lewis H. Siegel

Trying to make sense
out of wrong perspective:

a bird flying over the moon
a sailfish flying in the sky,

a huge red rose becoming
a monument,

a red shell, and a blue shell,
and a rock guard their fossils.

Blue is blue here,
even through the gray,

the shore is totally benign.
Why describe this. It is nowhere,

Once there were stirrings—
had life—

were not yet made of memory.
Someone told me this.



Now you must do a slow dance
upon your reflection—
a slow dance for the rain
that has left such a shimmering.

Or you must stand in perfect stillness
and look down into your image
that waits for you to step back
to realize how important
such choosing is.

You could lose yourself here—
somehow release
one self
from the other
by a mere decision
of thought that is not yet
ready to give up such power.

You must make
the first disconnection.

But even then
you hesitate at the choice
between resistance and surrender.

So you choose the dance,
and your sad reflection must dance, too.


(a Cornish Sonnet)

I wonder if I’ll ever learn the way.
I wonder if the way will ever change.
Just fold the map. It might be fun to stray—

not know if I’ll get lost, if night will fall
on wilderness, the landscape dark and strange,
with underbrush through which no one can crawl,

through dirt roads with no signs—no center line.
I guess I’m not a wanderer after all,
content now with a place already mine:

my wants all settled for, if not exact:
windows, roof, and door—and on the wall,
a Blessings Sampler. Everything intact . . .

yet wonder if I’ll ever learn the way
through dirt roads with no signs—no center line.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

There is something called fate.
People fear it. Or bless it,
according to their experience.

Fate is useful to use in place of
reason, or explanation,
or any responsibility

for decision. It is always
fate. It is only fate.
Fate willed it.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s wonderful exploration of decisions, right or wrong, fated or not. Our new Seed of the Week is an ekphrastic one:   

 —Anonymous Photo

See what you can come up with about this photo, and then 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.

This just in: This Saturday, Ana Castillo, who will be offering a workshop and a reading on Sunday, will be offering a meet-and-greet, short talk and book signing at Sol Collective, 2574 21st St., Sacramento from 6-7pm. Info: 

And Taylor Graham and Katy Brown will facilitate a poetry workshop this coming Sunday, Capturing Wakamatsu, in Placerville, 2-4pm. Info and reg. information:

Joyce's "Not Really a Flip-Coin Decision" above is a Cornish Sonnet. At the same time as travelers were inventing the courts and introducing the sonnet form to England, France and Spain, traders in the southern ports of England were also bringing in their own forms of poetry. These forms consisted of hybrid poetry influenced by those Arab traders who plied their trade with the ports along the Mediterranean and the tin mines of Cornwall. It is only natural that they would come into contact with the sonnet form and in time come up with a fusion of that form. this sonnet form is similar to the hybrid poetry that emerged from that part of the world. If you'd like to try one, the form consists of two, three couplets stanzas and a refrain made up of the first line of each stanza: A  b.  a  c.  b.  c. ….   D.  e.  d.  f.  e.  f…  A.  D.


 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, March 27, 2017

Decisions, Decisions

—Anonymous Photos

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

An old country store, patronized
by locals, shaven or not; whitewater rafters,
and families taking a scenic route from
somewhere to somewhere else.
Your dog pushed open the swinging
front door. The man behind the counter
said yes, the missing lady had been there,
yesterday. She went straight to the
liquor aisle, stood a long time choosing.
Like she had all the time in the world,
or none. Seemed separate, somehow—
fractured, like rock. All the life-energy,
the thrill drained out. Never said
a word till she’d paid for her bottle. All
downstream from here, isn’t it? Your dog
led you through blackberry thickets
down to the river, rapids of wild snow-
melt carrying everything away.


—Taylor Graham

A mountain renowned for crystal peaks, 
pristine wilderness yet not beyond the range
of distant automatic imaging, scientific
On a glorious September morning,
every golden aspen leaf translucent with light,
the two set out on an overnighter—
all they could carry in a Kelty pack, plus cameras
slung around their necks to snap fall colors
against the dark of conifers. They
watched clouds build over the summit; 
camped in a high-lake basin, caught rainbows
for supper; woke at dawn
to snow. What last night was a granite bowl
of crystal water was frozen tight.
One small plane rode the blue wind
overhead; oblivious; sun-struck fuselage
slipping below snow’s horizon.
Nothing marred the perfect white,
a world turned winter-magical, impossibly
far from roadhead.

—Taylor Graham

We’re on the trail of quilt blocks, hand-painted, hung  
            on old barns, in gardens. They beckon
                       travelers along country roads that climb ridges,
twist with the shrug of hillside, tuck into hollows.
           Quilt patterns passed down generations. Ohio Star,
                 Log Cabin, Scottish Cross, Gold & Silver.

Today, we’ve driven a crazyquilt of vineyards,
           woods and orchards; patchworks of town and field.
                      By that old barn, prospectors
watched the Wells Fargo stagecoach thunder by.
          And there, land homesteaded 160 years ago.

                      Imagine a circle of farm women quilting:
patterns of green, big-leaf maple sunlit in a dark canyon,
          and lavender—distance, time remembered.

                     A woman straightens the bed-quilt,
remnants of a home she left on the other side of mountains.
         A child sleeps under the comfort
                    of hand-sewn quilts pieced of family history.

We’ve followed the trail here, to this home of the arts—
        the Fausel House of pioneering days.
                   A scrap of patient fiber-art—an heirloom    
durable yet delicate—brought back to light,
        honored in this quilt block: Fausel Family Lace.

                  White on blue deep as evening sky. Flowers
and stars, earth and heaven. The quilt-trail
doesn’t end here. It goes on, our land’s long story.


—Taylor Graham

The old woman did not slosh the precious
contents of her mop-bucket on the kitchen tiles.
Yes, she was startled when a small masked
frog leaped out. But he might be
a fairytale prince in search of a pond in drought;
or, if only a frog, then a big consumer of flies
and mosquitoes, pesky creatures who drowned
buzzing in her oatmeal or became seasoning
for fried chicken. She wasn’t bitter
about it, that’s just how flies and mosquitoes
are. Although, as background to the story,
they never transform into fairytale princes.

—Taylor Graham

A whim, a lark. A beautiful day.
Get in your car, start driving. Out of town.
That place your buddy mentioned.
Enter it into your GPS. Up the mountain.
Turn left. Dirt road single lane.
Sun-glint off hood, bowsprit of adventure.
Sailing into the unknown.
Down, down off the ridge. No signs.
No view. Road gets rougher. GPS: turn left.
Getting closer. Gas gauge slipping.
Road blocked by rockslide.
Gas gauge says Empty.
Get out, look around. Remote.
Overhead a raven says You’re crazy.
Cellphone deadzone.
List all your resources.
Moonrise. Coyote sings lullaby.


—Taylor Graham

You told me your basket held fire, but that
was long ago. Safer than keeping flame
in your hand, and better for fishing. It was

legend, or history, or a different land
altogether, depending on fluvial phases,
the alteration of the moon. I wondered

if those faces, unmoving on the farmhouse
wall without a smile, could remember
fire-baskets over a night pond, the unseen

underwater moil and hustle, fish rising
to the strange illumination of almost-day.
Those long dead faces leaning out

as if over water—could they appreciate
how lovely the light-struck dark, the night-
birds, how assiduous the hunger?

—Taylor Graham

Through the kitchen with its memories
of how to stave off famine; past
the faces framed on the wall, none of them
happy according to custom back then,
a photograph being solemn as a funeral and
almost as final. The past becoming
a haze in white, black, and gray tones.
Up steep dark stairs to the private
rooms. If I lifted an edge of flower-quilted
spread, what sweetness might escape
musty as a century and a half ago?
An open steamer trunk keeps its secrets
of folded lace and linen. But
someone has thrown a window wide,
so the gauzy curtain leaps to catch
a cold spring breeze. It wants
to be aired out. It wants to
brush a basket-weave of bamboo
along the edges. It wants to dance.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

How many you
How much time
You got?


Many thanks to Taylor Graham and Kevin Jones for today’s riff on wrong decisions and the regrets that proceed therefrom.

Next Saturday, April 1, is the beginning of National Poetry Month! Founded in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets (, National Poetry Month is a way to promote poetry around the world during April each year. Here are some links to participate:

•••General info, including more than 30 ways to celebrate:
•••Sign up for Poem a Day:
•••Download this year's poster:
•••Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day April 27:

 2017 National Poetry Month Poster

Our area will be kicking off NPM with three events on Saturday, April 1, including a poetry reading by the Thursday Workshop folks at Valley Hi-North Laguna Library, 2-4pm; a prose writing workshop by Nick Jaina at the Third Space Art Collective in Davis, 10am-2pm; and the first ever Sierra Poetry Festival in Grass Valley, starting at 9am and featuring Calif. PL Dana Gioia as the Keynote Speaker, plus lots more goings-on at the Sierra College Nevada County Campus. Decisions, decicions—you’ll have some to make that day!

Meanwhile, don’t forget tonight’s Poetry in Motion read-around in Placerville, 6-7pm, at the Placerville Sr. Center; and then back to Sacramento as Sac. Poetry Center presents William O’Daly and JS Graustein and their new book of poetry and photography,
Water Ways, at 25th & R Sts., 7:30pm. And of course Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe is always happening on Thursday nights, 8pm.

Another workshop: on Sunday (4/2), Sac. Poetry Center presents a Spiritual Activism Writing Workshop with Ana Castillo at SPC, 10am-1pm,; later that day, she will read at Avid Reader, 2pm.

And Taylor Graham and Katy Brown will facilitate a poetry workshop this coming Sunday, Capturing Wakamatsu, in Placerville, 2-4pm. Info and reg. information:

Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info (and workshop registrations about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


 Celebrate National Poetry Month!

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, March 26, 2017

That Stinking Pile...

—Anonymous Photo of Anonymous Arm

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

The case pending before the court
Centers around an issue of
Freedom of speech
Which is a right

Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education
Are great examples to highlight certain rights
But not this right
So here they are Wrong Decisions

Is it “center” or “centre”?
Both and neither are right, but choosing
One of them over the other
May be the Wrong Decision

The same bad timing
That will kill a joke, a car engine,
Or a sexual liaison
Can also devastate a decision

Such as times when
Routine acts like
Opening the oven door
May be the Wrong Decision

Or when that sly, strategic chess move
To set up the checkmate
Works better for your opponent:
Wrong Decision

Now approaching 70 years of age
I find myself virtually buried
In a tall, stinking pile of
Wrong Decisions

Some made by me
Some made by others
Many more that are hair trigger ready
There is no escaping them


—Medusa (thanks, Carl!)

Be sure to pop up to Placerville today for the new reading venue (open mic), Poetry on Main Street at The Wine Smith, 1-3pm. 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.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Last One Dreaming

—Poems by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA
—Visuals Courtesy of D.R. Wagner


Trails led out of her eyes.
People were walking on them.
A few of the people we thought we

The moon, crooked behind
The trees.

One man handles fire
With his bare hands.
He lifts it and puts it
Into baskets,
Sells it to ladies
Walking down the strand.

There was a blue cherub
With purple wings
Who never quite made it
Into a song.

We waited as he tried and gave
Him our guides, so we may as well
Take him along.

He can ride in the carts that carry
The hearts, that bundle the darts
For the trade.

He can spot where the bridges
Have all fallen down.  He will
Tell us of what they were made.


We stopped for the night beside
A stream of water just as the last
Light was climbing up the trees
To make its jump into night.

As it grew darker, the stream grew
Brighter and brighter and we could
See almost as well as in daylight.
The stream seemed to enjoy our being there.

No one had ever come this far into
The forest.  In the morning the stream
Gave us fish, dappled like sunlight,
Sweet of flesh and eager to join
Us in making our bodies work.


When we reached far Marlee
We released many of the birds
We had brought with us from Gothurg.

They flew ahead of us, forming
The shapes of many creatures
As they did so.  The people of Marlee
Could see us coming for miles,
As if a cathedral were walking
Toward them, singing the while,
Telling the tales of our journey
In stories that are still told today.


Two giants, squatting, eating flowers.
In the next moment they had become trees.

Evening Sky


The Chinese ghosts are on the streets tonight.
There is just enough dampness in the air to hold
Them in sight for a few seconds.  They are talking.
Their faces flash perfect features in the cold
Light from the few street lamps.  They sit on the wood
Benches along Main Street, stare from the second
Story windows of the old buildings, leaning toward
Each other.  They are gray as old flannel cloth is gray.

They know each others’ names but will not speak.
A wisp of smoke rises from a long clay pipe.
The breeze plays it for a few moments.  Only a cat
Notices it as it disappears.

I hear the clink of teacups and whispers in Cantonese
From behind doors, along the alleys.  It seems no one
Alive may occupy these moments.  The town swirls
Through itself a moment longer, then disappears
In the blaze of car headlights coming down
Off the levee.  The ghosts evaporating before them.



This path leads along the shore-
Line for about a mile, then ducks
Beneath some wind-shaped pines
Into a cove where the moon may
Always be seen as it assembles
Its lines and hoists itself
To the night sky.

Years ago many people would gather
Here to watch these preparations,
But now this place is mostly forgotten.
Those who came here have died
Or have gotten themselves far, far away,
No longer thinking of this place.

I came here with gifts for the moon,
But it will not receive me and prepares
Its rigging, mixes its huge variety of lights
And sits down for a few minutes
Before it is time to lift above the tree line.

I watch it practice becoming huge, then
Diminishing to the much smaller size
It uses to reign as lord over the night.

It flips though its phases, tucking itself
In here and there, using the shadows
To its greatest advantage to remain
As beautiful as possible.  It is
An amazing display and takes place
In that regal silence the moon demands.

After awhile, I am joined by a few
Others who know of this place.
They come for inspiration and to restart
A sense of wonder lost to themselves
In their commerce with the world.

For centuries this place has been
Such.  I have seen the winds here,
Flocks of owls and creatures who
Build the night.  Last to arrive
Are the dreamers in their gauzy
Garments, truly stardust and breathing,
Smoothly and deeply.

The moon begins its ascent.
The night settles into itself perfectly.



At the top of the stairs
I can look from windows to the West
And to the South.

From my bedroom
I can look to the East
Across the gardens
Into the oaks and meadows
And to the South, to the edge
Of town past the house James
Lives in and past Russell’s wood shop,
The Chinese demonstration garden.

Farther to the South, the last houses
On Levee Street and the swale toward
The homes of the migrant workers
Who make the orchards and vineyards
Work.  Sometimes I hear their dogs.
Sometimes I hear their music.

My living room looks out to the West
Through timber bamboo, also across
The gardens.  There are door openings
On the other three walls, my front door,
My kitchen, my bath, my office, my bedroom
And my closet.  Only four of them have doors.

My kitchen and my bedroom have
Bamboo curtains.

My office looks to the East.

I can cross the entire space in a few steps.
It does a good job of containing me, despite
My collection and accretions of my life.

I’ll go to bed knowing this tiny world
Is safe here in these words written in the

 —Photo of Needlepoint by D.R. Wagner
by Deborah Mendel


Lifting the edges of the quilt
A rush of warm air suddenly
Owns the room.  It is sweet
But heavy with sleep.

The room gradually assembles.
Everything in its proper spot or not.
What comes to walk these rooms
At night hasn’t a name. We do not
Know that it is there.

Sometimes, when we wake,
Say, in the middle of the night
There is a scraping against
The object in the room, as if
Some dark thing was trying to get
Back into them or get out of them.

“It’s the way dreams work,” says Ramon.
“They never know where they are supposed
To be.  I’ve had cuts on my body some mornings.
I could almost catch them slinking away,
Dropping things into my mind as they left.”

I thought it a violation, if they were, indeed,
Dreams.  They had rules to follow.  They
Did not have to behave that way.  They
Did not have to converse with nightmares.
There are ways to come and go.

They shouldn’t have taken the job
If they were going to cut or scrape
Their way in and out of our lives.
I resolved to report them as soon
As I was awake enough to do so.

 La Sagrada Familia


I dreamed that all the books
Were under the thinnest sheet of water.
I was the one who cared for the last
Of these dead places where the words
Were gathered, and that they remained
Secret, although visible.

One could see the spirits swirl
Within the books.  Memory had
Become dust by these writers
Long ago.  They were the summoning.
Water touching the shapes of the letters,
Moving over words barely used any longer.

It was a wonder to stand with them,
Even as a guard.  A few steps and another
Voice climbed to touch the sheet.  The water
Sang murder and breathing, the secrets of fire,
Letters read into mirror,  the most momentary
Of waves, the slip of light across the wake
Some great ship made.  Fair Troy and the hidden
Rooms of canyons, open-mouthed for more dead.

The poet who counted the fireflies of a single
Afternoon gazing into the heart of the forest.
All so delicate and tenuous as the moment
The hand moved to make these things words.

I awoke.  The last one dreaming.  The books
Had been returned to their shelves.
I was thirsty for water.  All of today the water
Tasted of words.  Every fragment, each swallow,
Another universe, another word gazing back
Through the thinnest film of water on my eyeball.


Today’s LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner

Genghis Khan and his brother John
Got into it one day.
Kahn pulled a knife and stabbed John’s wife,
Then tried to run away.

But John was quick, he grabbed a stick
And hit Kahn in the head.
“Try that one more time, he said,
And you will wind up dead.”


Our many thanks to D.R. Wagner for sending us his dreams and gifts to the moon today. D.R. will be performing music with Stuart Waltham at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento tonight, 8pm. 

Also tonight, The Soft Offs will be holding their “moetry” fundraiser for Sac. Poetry Center at 25th & R Sts., Sacramento, 7:30pm. Before the evening’s happenings, you can head up to Placerville for the monthly Poetic License read-around at the Placerville Sr. Center, 2pm. The suggested topic for this month is “hand basket”, but other subjects also welcome. 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 the poetry of rain!

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, March 24, 2017

Up, As in Barking

—Poems and Visuals by Smith
Cleveland, OH


My bark is worse than my bite
although once my bite was worse than my bark
back when I was but burgeoning bark on tree
but it was a dogwood tree
so I was bark bark
and became known as Bark Bark Smith
and little dogs pissed on me.

It was a good life
warm and wet
before I matured into tendril stock
which warps and weaves
in woof woof wonder
which is why
I'm now known as
Bark Bark Woof Woof Smith
the One Who Never Whimpers.

 Dark Matter


As has been said
The night weighs upon the city
In tired, fat insolence.  Rats scurry.
Old papers flap down empty streets.
It is an ugly season. Full.
Day slouches in, in shameless anonymity
Devoid of great chained excuses of being
Avoided has been of god, notion and country.
Unfocused without, we hunt worms within
To bait further cold excretion of reason, rationale.
Refuse refusing our naked nothing.
Strip steal by night.

 HB vs. JC


There's something wrong with this world
I mean I wash the dishes
and more dirty dishes appear
I clean cat box of clayed shit and clumped piss
and more's magically there
every day I defecate
yet defecate the next
dedicated to re-release I guess
I eat in morning noon evening in-between
again and again
I drink water piss it out drink it in
again and again
in never ending script
get up
run the rat wheel
walk the rat wheel
sit the rat wheel
be the rat wheel
resolve to better
fall to fail
it gets cold I put on sweater
it gets hot I put on sweat
is there a seek in cycle
or learning in loop
something actually done
or are they just waiting for me to see the light
already seen in previous scene
done played
is this but screen test
or something real
I mean what's the deal?

 Break of Dawn


O listen now thou mad, thou meek
Receive and mourn these words oblique
Hear me—for I, Lucifer, speak

God’s impotent envy me from heaven hurled
Manwards toward this god-forsaken world
Where you in reward were Eden expelled
And I, once majestic, upon my belly felled

So I reigned in hell in favor a god
Forever, until upon me science trod
Then even from hell was I disbelieved
And from formal evil my duty relieved

Now no heaven holds atomic aplomb
Nor profits in neutered gamma ray tomb
Knowing crucified wish is unworkable womb.



We fish with human face
such depths of want
and need
heart drums beat
to pulse blood hope
in womb warm wonder

Lying lizard in the sun
in spring full breadth
of coiled light
our brain bridged push
mute witness
for those who died
in black and white
before elective gray



The promised land of milk and honey
Hides the men of scars and shame
Who came they say to slay their dragon
Yet slayed to stay the same

Sleep creeps like Jason’s wool
Down shelf enchanted eyes
Devolved from Mammon’s muse
These self-selected wise
Inside their phantom rooms
In fairy tale castles
Devoid of viable dooms
As integrated assholes
They sway
Illusion’s lies



Huddled beneath behind
Green metal stalls
The tile encrusted
Yellow, he sews an
Empty money bag
To his crotch, watches
His reflection mirrored
In regimented urinals
   five six seven
Decaying down the wall
Cradling his existence
Fraying five to seven
In staid erotic fear
Small spider woven
Through uninforming ears
Tired of heaven he sews
His money to his crotch
He huddles

 Blue Note Smith


You know I love my coffee
and I do sing me some blues
but I ain't got no ennui
cuz I done paid my dues

I toured with Loose Lips Lemon
who wailed way down home blues
one back bar and shack at a time
when he wasn't in detention

We played late with Bawdy Betty
and Sweet Lip Louie Lime
and Floozy the Fair and her Fountain Fine
as well as with Radical Rhyme

We'd low moan our way way down the jetty
high wail it back up the line
tapping tomorrow for yesterday's wine
whatever our setting or clime

I beat Fad Fauxbert playing bad aces
and Red Rogue's own shadow mime
man we'd wail in the strangest of places
do us a couple lines

Always drinking moonshine lightning
playing both black and white
play right through the fumble and frightening
to thump that back beat just right

Man would we move making the show glow
mount music to rise the high tight
making them dance both for the so slow
as well as the fast coming fight

Drinking toking snorting too
swing n sway n play right through
thumping pumping out heat beat
making sure you're moving feet

Hump and bump and blowing blues
bringing joy of song sound through
wailing high through cloudy sky
to lessen lie of daily why

Let that sweat roll down your chest
your mess of hair all falling round
Memphis blues beat often best
to funk the junk with southern sound

Oomph the truth with cry of life
strut the stuff of story time
boot the boogie through your strife
rock in ready reeling rhyme

Dance and play your sins away
growling guttural swaying say
inner music outward bound
whip to wonder music loud

So dip your double dipsy doodle
fly your full fuel freaking flag
do the funky punky poodle
prance in pure your pagan pride

To hear a bit of werewolf blues, 2014, words by Peter Ball (1949-2015) and music by Smith (word & voice), go to

Today’s LittleNip:

There lies a sorrow beneath this yellow
odor which rises on two legs and mocks
what little man remains behind.  Shallow
selfish greed of love and lover's talk
of trust in self made shadows mere shadow
of hallowed spell disguised by holy frock.

Varied the means of divination, certain
though time and dark demons conspire, despair
by this hand shall never rend the curtain
nor set wraiths cull delusions of lone fear.
What is, is, beyond lamenting, Canaan
isolation.  Love and love alone stands bare.


Many thanks to Smith (Steven B. Smith) for today’s tasty poems and visuals! Don’t forget that Keynote Poets Honor Barbara Smith tonight, 7:15pm at Stellar Studios in Sacramento. 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!
—Photo by Smith

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.