Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Glass Cheeks of Heaven

—Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Eliot Lake, Ontario, Canada
—Anonymous Window Photos


Crusted arms
of pit-stain yellow
reach down into my dismembered soul
of fractured days
and play with the pieces
like Curiosity
with a

I wish there were a reason
I find myself Fetal once again
on a blow-up mattress
with a leak
at eleven in the morning
thinking of nothing
but mercy
and the

As the dog
barks at the mailman
and my busted gut 
breaks out in hives
and Rousseau
walks the streets of Paris
in drag

so Tyranny
can say
I told you


The sands of Arabia
are not as close
as they used to be.

When toes through sandbox
thought of far-off sifted lands
and anything
that could be played
or imagined  

before you were called in
to dinner.



Nothing lasts

When I was kid
a broken shoelace could last
for years
if you knew how to make the most
of what you had.

I was never allowed to waste

Dinner was a lesson
in frugality
and old socks were just
a little less

As for shoelaces,
they always seemed to snap
at the most inopportune
of times,
but I knew the tricks
so it didn’t

I would tuck the first large piece
that broke away
into a conch shell on my dresser
and move down a loop
to the next hole.
When that part snapped
I would move to the next
until I reached the third hole from the bottom
and the heel of the shoe
slipped off
when I walked.
I would then gather the first broken piece
of shoelace
from the conch shell
and knot it back together
with what
was left.

By the time it snapped
for good,
I was a few years older
and my foot size was large enough
to warrant a new pair
of shoes.

Though we saved the material
from each outgoing pair
to provide patches for pants
that were tearing
just as fast.

is a lesson
everyone should

AT 4:09 am

The first twenty years
are all about

The last twenty
are all

For a few years
in the middle
most of us
can do




You should always feel like something
is at stake
or you may as well
be dead.

with nothing to swim
are fishermen’s trophies
strung up
for the camera

in 1950s
black and white.

Perpetual motion
is the only way to ensure
you are never that
which came

Your parents
or Pol Pot
or spinning Jennys
in predictable circles.


The hair relocation plan
seems to be going off
without a hitch.

As I get older,
the hair that once graced my head
has moved
to my back
and ears.
Makes you wonder why hair doesn’t just
start out there
at birth
and save us all a lot of time
and trouble.



Buddy Holly
and the crickets
on my front lawn.

over the toilet
with pants down around
his blue suede

Johnny Cash
in a prison
of his own design

as the Tennessee two
help Roy Orbison
cry into my

and Jerry Lee
tickles the ivory
of the elephants of


from the concert
we met a couple that had lived
in San Diego
for the last twelve years:

him with a careful hipster beard
that could have been trimmed by pelicans
in passing

she with a voice so mousy
I thought about wheels
of cheese.



He was the type of guy who ate regularly,
farted seldom
and often fought with
the garden hose.

When he died,
there was a large

in black,
like whenever


and quartered
and late for work,
most never question why they
are in such a hurry
to die.

As the beach towels
flounder like whales
and morning traffic comes
to a standstill
and the window washer
seventeen floors up
cleans bird shit
off the glass cheeks
of heaven.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Ryan Quinn Flanagan

She says she wants a kitchen
with an island
and I do
the best I

Bringing her home
St. Lucia
when I know
her heart is set
on Japan.


Welcome back to Ryan Quinn Flanagan, a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: 
Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Medusa's Kitchen, Setu, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.


 "The Sands of Arabia are not as close as they used to be…"
—Anonymous Illustration
(Celebrate poetry!)

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Yellow Broom, With Ant

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

After Turkeys in the Snow by Liz Hawkes deNiord


We know how the turkeys connect their voices
when we gobble out to them and they gobble
back in a racket-challenge of sound, just milling
around and waiting for us to challenge them again/
and again/ and again/ till we grow tired of losing
the game—and just stand there—and they just
stand there—sizing each other up . . .


Again the turkeys, in the snow, not straw. I wonder
what they think about : which follows, which leads,
so aimless, so unlovable, though they bobble in close-
ness and tremble apart by turn, playing look-out,
bobbing their heads up at any disturbance. Curious
fellows. So innocent of treachery. In the snow, in the
season of the winter . . .


To make this a triptych, I hear they run wild in cer-
tain neighborhoods where they have built up their
courage—still gobbling in unison to frighten any-
thing that startles them. Never engage them in any
sort of discourse if this bothers you. They are like
clumsy pets, annoyances, unapproachable. Just
ignore them. Maybe they’ll go away.



I never got to see one, either. No field or
barn we passed revealed a single one. Cows
just stood and looked at me. Cows of ordi-
nary hues.

And none jumped over the moon, no matter
how I tried to conjure such a scene. Cows
were only cows. Pleasant on hillsides, and
tame though I was afraid of them up close.

But Elsie kept my fears in line. One child-
hood, summer time, I saw a domestic cow—
on a can of milk—standing on her hind legs,
dressed like a housewife, and talking. What
was one to believe? A purple cow, indeed!



Focus : This broom :
Unusual. Archaic pattern. 
Simple design. Functional.
I take it up, sweep the floor,
the cobwebs from the wall,
feel the task, aware of it,

Women swept dirt before
there were floors, with a
branch of leaves, perhaps.
I consider the hems of
their long dresses…on
dirt streets, on board walks,
their houses. Long dresses
must have frayed out
and never washed clean.

I took a picture of my broom
once— full-frame, up close,
to show the coarse straw, the
red string binding—the ant—
and called the enlargement :
Yellow Broom, With Ant.

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 1997)

 Burning Clouds

After First Steps by Vincent Van Gogh

Work set aside
the wheelbarrow full
the spade dropped to the ground

the farmer
bends to one knee
and holds his arms wide

toward the bending
mother—her arms curved
down behind the first steps of the child.


Everything disappeared as in a gray dream. We became
particles of light, broken by dark—a jealousy of forces,
and though we were whole within it, we felt part of a
texture that was both form and formlessness. Sounds got
lost within sounds. We groped and could not feel. There
was no color. No time. No sense of destination. We
moved as though suspended; as though on a distant moor;
as though transported to a place of old tales told by sur-
vivors—but only their voices, we could not see them.
And after centuries of effort we found our way through
by second-sense and perseverance. The fog-swirl lifted
and dispersed, and we were on the other side—as of
having come through a gauntlet of fear. And through
the thinning mist, haunting voices wailed behind us,
begging our return.

 It's the Blues


It is a long block—longer than a
city block, slightly uphill—winding
through the streets piously named
for their special people. Shade trees
overlap and a meadowlark trills—
the one that left our neighborhood
so long ago. My shadow hurries
before me—my other shadow
follows behind. I am at the corner.
A hand-made sign says “HERE”.
I turn and find a place untouched
by the fear and violence of the world.

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine)



I seek the comfort of the flowers where
the garden is the darkest and the glare
of sunlight has not yet become aware.

It does not reach beyond the dappled wall
where songbirds used to sing and so enthrall
—as though you ever needed song at all.

Your flowers are allowed to flaunt themselves,
and scent the air, but birds must hush themselves.

But here is where I go, to listen still,
to where the meadowlark would trill and trill
—and memory of this can thrill and thrill.

Your deafness will not let itself allow
the echoed singing that remembers how
it filled your happy heart that hates it now.

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine)



Thinking past the now of the never,
dreaming through sleep and waking
into more and more of it—
the time left—and the time used,

I will believe what I can of it—
the old mystery and the new
finding—half an answer.

I go to the great bareness
I try to fill with anything
and everything—as though I can.

I still yearn for the unfound
and the lost—none of it myth
or reality—sometimes I want
to wish everything away from me.

 Silver Edges


Wanting pure song this day of unbeginning,
of already winding too tight—relearning
its saddest joy from heartache and hope,

from wanting and needing—
from striving and failing, and striving again
into the hours that are draining,

how can I hope this—want this—
so much, when from a meadow
of remembered time, there is a meadowlark.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Where we are rich is where some happiness
fills a particular moment without reason or
specialty—only its little change of light
that makes its point at some lift of darkness—
and allows the blessing of gratitude . . . .


A big thank-you to Joyce Odam for her meadowlarks today, nestled in her fine poems, and for her timely artwork, so like these glowering skies of smoke and November. And even a turkey poem to help us transition into Thanksgiving! As Joyce says , ",,, the blessing of gratitude . . . .”

Our new Seed of the Week is Turkeys. Send your poems, photos & 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.

—Medusa, spending her week in gratitude for poets and the poems and artwork they share around the Kitchen table . . .

 —Anonymous Photo
To watch the video, “The Turkeys Got Out Again!” 
from Liz Zorab of Byther Farm in the UK, go to
And, of course, celebrate poetry!

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Endless Work of Reclamation

Fire Spreads Quickly
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Dewell H. Byrd, Central Point, OR

Leans toward charred rose bushes
on the creek side of the Paradise

Rumpled sky lowers its gray hand,
stirs the ash of yesterday’s home…
vacant spirit.

A scorched rag doll weeps,
absorbs pungent smoke…
silent sponge.

Fireweed thrives, welcomes bees.

Bless the insects and the weeds
that have the tenacity to do
the endless work of reclamation.

 —Photo by Chris Moon

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

This is not the barn
You're looking for.
Most barns
Are rectangular,
Or at least square.

This barn is
Round. Round
Barns are not
Places for tragedy.
Only mistakes
And repetition.

 —Photo by Chris Moon

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

(with sincere apologies
to Joyce Kilmer)

I think that I shall never see  
A dinner lovely as a turkey.
A family whose hungry mouth is prest  
Against the wings, and thighs, and breast;  
A turkey that looks at fire all day,
A string, lest meaty wings would stray;  
A turkey that may in summer wear  
A nest of sweet potatoes at the fair;
Upon whose bosom knives have cut;
Who intimately lives with stuffing gut.
Poems are made by fools like me,  
But only Mom can cook a turkey.

 Ground Squirrel
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


I don’t claim to BE
Napoleon Bonaparte,
just found his cell phone


Well I’m sure he said
to re-chord the sheet music,
so what’s the big fuss?


Russian intrusion,
what could possibly go wrong?
Let me out of here.


I pledge allegiance
to the net earnings of the
money invested


White collar workers
depend on people who farm,
or nobody eats


Just went golfing and
I forgot to take along
my back seat driver


Magnificent butt!!
Puff, puff, inhale, puff, inhale
No, I am not hooked.

—Photo by Katy Brown 


Pluto no longer
a planet, but poker is
an athletic sport?


Pledge allegiance to
the flag of the United
States, or are they still?


Which side of the brain
controls someone who cannot
discern left from right?


Why tally votes by sex,
race, and age, not left handed
coma survivors?


Price of gasoline
at pump ends with tenths of cent,
why don’t they round it?


The filling they put
in potholes in the road does
not last, why bother?


You need six lucky
numbers to win, however
six is unlucky

 Room With a View
—Photo by Katy Brown

At the recycling center they
offer bins for cans and bottles
pre-measured for tare weight

so they just place the bin onto
the scale, deduct the tare weight
and move on to the next bin.

Able bodied men take big, heavy
clusters of compressed matter
and use an electric lift to elevate

all of that onto a truck for transport.
The system works fine, day in and
day out.  Life is good.

At the hospital they receive grannies
in walkers or wheelchairs and leave
it for them to face the struggle of

maneuvering themselves out of their
chair to step onto a scale, back into
their chair and then off again to climb

high up onto an examination table.
Digest that for a moment. Old cans
and bottles receive more help than


 We Are Small
—Photo by Katy Brown


A friend’s year old baby is enjoying the quietude
of nonverbal autism

spared all the media sensationalism devoted
to barbarian drama

bathing instead in the nonjudgmental vibrations that come
from his mother’s pianoforte

both tired parents searching intensely for professional
guidance in Sacramento

though the radar does not find appropriate providers any
closer than Salinas

 Building Row
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA

When you are a poet-laureate,
For some city, large or small,
Earning a small stipend,
They expect you to write
Fine poems on demand,

On any given subject,
Relevant, at the time,
To that particular municipality,
As though fine poems of the mundane
Could be quickly summoned up,
And written down,
As readily as popcorn
Can be puffed up from Jiffy-Pop.

Well, it’s a gig, right?
And poets never get paid much,
Most of the time;
So why not give it a shot
And pop something up, like Jiffy-Pop?

How hard could it be to do,
With your vivid imagination?
You’re familiar with the location,
Since you live here,
And know all the taco-trucks?
And the homeless folks,
Out of luck
Who slumber in shade
In the refuge they’ve made
To get out of the glare of the sun:
A portal, so small, so hard-won!

Well, it’s great to be a poet,
But don’t speak too clearly of suffering,
Because most of us already know it.
We’d rather you say
Something pleasant, instead,
To get that mess out of our head.

Make us believe in the wonders
Of walking along, downtown
Among the shops, cafes and bakeries
And art-shops that surround.

Make us believe that our city
Is a wonderful place to be,
Despite the homeless people
That sleep in store-doorways for free.

—Photo by Katy Brown

—Joseph Nolan

Some things last
While others break.
It’s a matter of chance
And what’s at stake
And who is in control.

I’d like to take you
On a roll
Across a farmer’s field
Where planted crops,
Row on row
Were hoped to bring a yield,
But depending on the weather
They would or not,
And whether,
Could not,
In advance,
Be told.

 Beach Grass
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Joseph Nolan

In early-morning’s night,
Well before dawn,
I hear freight-trains rumbling.
Steel-wheels, heavy-laden,
Into darkness, drawn.

As the years go by
I hear they’re growing louder
From three miles away.

Or maybe I’m just sleeping lighter
And feel their presence
More than before
From three miles away.

 Note Helicopter
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Joseph Nolan

Trying to be nice!
It’s hard to be nice
When your town
Has burned down.

Trying to be civil
Through burning, grieving rage
When talking to
TV reporters, who demand you emote
For the camera, to go on TV
Or under a microscopic slide,
When what they want is tears.

Cursing is prohibited by the FCC
It’s too realistic and
TV viewing audiences containing children
Might be triggered if you tell them
How you really feel about all
This ##@@$%^$^#%#%^##!!!!!!!
So you have to stifle yourself for the cameras.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joseph Nolan

I slipped out from a womb.
I’ll be shoved into a tomb
When my time comes.

Betwixt the now and thence
I wish I could make sense
Of all the strange coincidence
That I see ‘twixt and ‘tween
Or know what it might mean?

My life is a stranger’s dream!


Many thanks to our many contributors today! Photos include those of Katy Brown, some of which are of a fire previous to the one in Paradise, and Carol Louise Moon’s brother, Chris Moon, for his wonderful barns, our Seed of the Week. (See more of his work at Those who wrote about the Camp Fire tragedy include returning Snake Pal Dewell Byrd, who used to be a frequent part of
Rattlesnake Review. Welcome back, Dewell!

On Saturday, January 6, from 12-2pm, you are cordially invited to enter 3-5 artworks to the SPC fundraiser art show at the Sacramento Poetry Center Art Gallery entitled Paradise Relief: An Invitational Art Show to Benefit the Camp Fire Victims, curated by Bethanie Humphreys and Heather Judy. Info: For questions, or to receive the entry form, please message or e-mail Bethanie Humphreys at

Poetry events in our area this week begin tonight with POETRY WITH CAPES, a poetic presentation from the Church of the Illuminated Monkey, with Dave Boles and D.R. Wagner, plus open mic. Bring your poetry (or someone else’s) and wear a cape in the long tradition of cape-wearing poets. [See for more about this cape business.] And Poetic License will meet in Placerville on Saturday from 2-4pm at the Placerville Sr. Center lobby on Spring Street. The suggested topic is "dancing", but other topics also welcome.

Otherwise, it looks like a quiet week, which is just as well, with this smoky air and Thanksgiving doings elsewhere. Since Thursday is Thanksgiving, I’m assuming there will be no Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe. But scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


 Tragic End of a Barn
—Photo by Katy Brown

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

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Dark Matter

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA
If we but shadows were
What might we destroy?
What powers of darkness
May shadows employ?

History’s replete
With dark power of deceit.
Darker still
The evil will
That skillfully
Employs it.

If we but shadows were
Could we destroy the light
Or merely block it?
A solar eclipse
Turns night
From bright-lit day,
And shocks the world.

That bright/dark
Dallas day we can’t forget
A wicked shadow, long,
Stunned to silent horror,
Showed shadow to be strong!

Every war
Employs deceit to start it
To further its most deadly aims,
Slaughtering the innocent.

Never will shadow be erased
From our tiny planet
Or from space.
Dark matter is the greater
Weight of mass
Throughout the universe.


Our thanks to Joseph Nolan for today's fine offering at the Kitchen table, as we near the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination (Nov. 22).

Lots to do today in NorCal poetry, starting this morning at 11am with Coffee & Poets #39 at the Brickhouse Gallery in Sacramento, as Bob Stanley interviews Sacramento Poet Mary Zeppa. Then, at 1pm at Love Birds Coffee & Tea on Broadway in Placerville, there will be a release of Phil Weidman’s new book,
Rungs of the Ladder (plus open mic), from Cold River Press. And tonight at 6:30pm, Sac. Poetry Center will present a Special Evening with Dennis Schmitz. 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.

Do note, though, that the 2pm Davis Arts Center Poetry Series reading from
Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California has been cancelled due to the smoky air. Irony, anyone?


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Things That Don't Get Lost

Fall Color in Yolo County
—Poems by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA
—Photos Courtesy of James Lee Jobe

Months now without rain, even this lizard looks dry. The redwood trees out front are green, but I don't know how they do it. I suspect magick is involved. This is California’s great northern valley, and it seldom rains between Easter and Halloween. By late summer the heat and the dryness are like giants pounding on huge drums, calling out for rain. The rain is in the beat and standing out in the heat, watching the empty sky, I can feel it building, building, building, waiting for the moment when the dam in the sky gives way to life and love. And to rain, simple rain. The lizard has had enough of waiting, and scurries off without even saying goodbye. Too bad. I could use a friend.

 Deer at Cache Creek

Pine trees shaped like triangles, breathing like humans.
Redwood trees as strong as helpful giants, also breathing.
A breathing sky as lovely as a woman
Longing for love.
The watershed, Putah Creek here, breathing loudly
Like a young man who knows nothing of love.
Sunset is coming.
The breathing Earth spins like a dervish
While the solar system slides through the galaxy.
The universe breathes, like a tree, like the watershed.
Motion and growth. Breath.

 Capay Valley Crops

The white nationalists rule America with a fist of hate;
How can I oppose them with hating them back?
Yet that must be my task—to remember
That all humans have some worth and deserve
A measure of dignity. Even those who live off of hate,
Who let the fat of anger clog their arteries
And weigh down their hearts. I have my own soul.
I will embrace those who are hated by the fascists.
And then the hard part, to forgive the hatred
And to pray for their souls, too. Can I do this?
I don’t know. But that is the task at hand.


Oh, you have no idea how dark it is.

Just as I know the universe has no end,
I know that there is a shadow across my soul.

Can you actually prove that we have souls?

No, but I can show you the shadow—
Are you up to seeing it?


We might take off our shoes and walk together through the dew-damp grass of the very early morning. We might sit down together with coffee and quiet talk, speaking of those things in our lives that are real. It might be that we have beliefs and values in common, and that our hearts are our own, that we not controlled by some dogma or ideology. That who we are and what we are might be more important than where we were born or how we pray. Wouldn’t that be something? In these things I will place my hopes, and I promise to leave room for your hopes as well.

 Fall Color in Folsom

I must have slept after all.
We might call it sleep, but I wanted to rest my soul,
Not just my body. Instead,
I read long into the night. Outside,
The full moon of August was high and glowing.
My body was reading but my soul was outside,
Walking in the yellow moonlight.
Then I woke up with a start in my reading chair,
The book was on the floor where it fell,
I must have slept after all.
Outside there was the first corner of sunrise,
And a new day. The moon had yet to set,
And so the sun and moon passed each other
At the corners.

 Walnut Orchard in Fall, Sacramento Valley

I said, "You look pretty today." And she did. She gave me an 'almost smile' and thanked me. I was sitting at the table eating lunch and she had been passing by, so I reached out and grabbed her around the middle and pulled her to me. "No, I mean it. You’re my pretty wife, just as pretty today as four decades ago. Beautiful." This time when she thanked me she leaned over and held me, too, and I could feel the love still there, the years that have passed and the children raised, the granddaughter growing fast, our grey hair and my bald spots. I could feel those things we have. Things that don't get lost.


Today’s LittleNip:

May I always do my part to keep the light lit,
Even though I may never understand what the light is.
May I be a help and an asset to those around me.

—James Lee Jobe


Our thanks to James Lee Jobe for his fine poetry and photos this morning! James will be reading with Mary Mackey in Sacramento today, 1pm, as Crossroads Reading Series returns to South Natomas Library on Truxel Road. Also today at
1pm, there will be a release of River Rock Books’ poetry collection, Seaworthy, by Marie Reynolds at 916 Ink Imaginarium, 3301 37th Av., Sacramento. Also at 1pm, there will be a reading in Modesto from the latest issue of Song of the San Joaquin at the Stanislaus County Library. [Note: that's 1pm, not 2pm as originally listed.] And tonight, Tellebration will take place at Sac. Poetry Center, 6:30pm, with world stories and music hosted by Angela James. 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.

A note, though, about the Davis Arts Center Poetry Series reading scheduled for tomorrow (Sunday): It has been cancelled due to the smoky air.


 “...even this lizard looks dry...”
—Anonymous photo
(Celebrate poetry!)

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Sun Always Rises

Rising Dawn Smith
—Poems and Visuals by Smith, Cleveland, OH


Night yet clings to dark earth
most folk still asleep
the air untainted with their need
but soon sun will rise
and dark dissipate
even if sky is clouded, rainy,
sun will rise
sun always rises

until it doesn't



The silence isn't. The traffic is.
The day's behind the rain.

Why? and Why not?
two questions as yet unanswered.

Stop? or Go? or stuck in idle?
get your under cleaned.

Overthrow the upperhanded,
polish seem to gleam.



The basement's flooded.
3rd floor window's cracked.

Winter creepin'.
Leaves leavin'.

The old cold comes 'round
to go again.

Rolling entropy up the hill.
Life comes back down.



We don't know what we don't know
and we don't know what we do
so believe Easter eggs and chocolate
and big debt Christmas crying on the cross
used-car lot asphalts forever
no-service service stations
big-box stores
laugh-track sitcom lives with no prize
going coming coming going
scarfing down legal lies
forgetting why
how to fly
or even try

they're so sly

 Pocket Rumi


I used to sail up denial
mile after mile of reprisal
drinking bitter brew

In fact, still do

Weary worry bone deep hurry
running lies up the line
leaping looping time

Worshiping fool

It's in this niche that
the nose knows
the toes goes

Karma's after fact



When firm was flesh
and form had charm
the mind said less
to hide from harm

We keep it up
till we run down
work to sup
serving clown

I know we're meat
but beat your need
life's incomplete
unless you bleed



Every second I dread disaster
grateful it hasn't come

Entropy's down the road
around the corner
cross the street
in the alley
right here

The village is dying
the circumstances dire
sad women weep
yet laugh when they meet
at the well

 Transporter Failure


If cargo go by crow fly
time tries oppose those flown
dispose whom you will
free will ain't free
or even pretty
no matter how far back we flow
teeth and tongue and mouth water
for the plump, the weak, the slow
I eat you
they eat me
and the Ones eat many from throne
of high and mighty

may we stick in their throats
curdle their craws
leave wronging longing

 Covenant of the Ark

Today's LittleNip:


Can't beat beast.
Been beast too long.
Two million years.

Sit with beast.
Pass a pipe.
Learn to get along.


Our thanks to Smith (Steven B. Smith) for today’s fine, wake-us-up poetry and artwork! And please note that The Other Voice in Davis will be cancelled tonight, due to the smoke in the air.

While you’re trapped indoors by the air quality, check out the California Poets website ( for news about readings and poet activities in other areas of California. Interesting. Maybe join the group yourself?

Another website to check out is the Julia Vinograd Fan Group at Some of you may remember the colorful, eccentric Julia, Berkeley’s street poet. Currently she is suffering from cancer and mild dementia, and her friends are asking for donations to help pay for her care. She also has a new book out,
Between the Cracks. Order it at Zeitgeist Press (

And stay out of the smoke!


—Portrait by Smith 
(Celebrate poetry!)

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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Sleeping With Fire

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Pond’s a drained teacup,
no-man’s land. Dried mud, sun-baked
jigsaw puzzle whose
pieces don’t interlock, don’t
fit together—hard walking.

What will be hidden
when pond fills again with rain:
great circle of rocks;
a history of trees—their trunks
many years submerged. All dead.

But look, young willow
colonizes with lush green
thicket for autumn—
thriving in a dry teacup
and all alive with birdsong.

    for Matsu and Okei, Wakamatsu

Samurai helmet in gray-green stone
juts from the summer-parched grassy field.
Cattle graze. Wind plays a whistle-bone,

the song of life, of earth’s harvest-yield.
Her gravestone faces both ways, a choice.
Samurai—in life and death her shield—

ten years wages spent to give her voice
in white marble on the western hill.
Now, in oak’s leafless boughs, birds rejoice

the season. May’s lost, it’s had its fill.
November gives hope of first-rain’s sound
on stones that mark what’s been lost and still

remains—remembrance—and blessings found.
Dry pond’s sudden green of willow, sly
colonizer of least-promised ground.

As wind and birds mark the changing sky,
Earth harvests seeds that live, husks that die.


Motherlode hardpan, stone mixed in,
and where’s the soft spot for growing?
Unnamed weeds have taken ungrazed
pasture where we used to mow and
windrow, stack for winter fodder.
When the Harvest Moon stared down,
folks would labor late into the night.
All that unspent light. We’d look up
and love that wonder of a sky
not paid for, just given.


Curtains of sunlight swirled with gold motes,
oat-chaff, seed-heads. No Sunday rest
from daily chores, livestock always hungry.

She paused at the haystack piled so high while,
in their pen, sheep clumped together at manger
and goats watched with their elliptic eyes,

then scattered as super-abundance of haystack
avalanched down, burying the girl who fed them.


Wind pushes down the chimney,
it wants to bring fire into our house
while, on TV, Paradise is burning.

This state so flammable—in 1856,
our downtown burned three times;
the Bell Tower our famous landmark,

its warning, a monument to fire’s toll.
Fires even fiercer now. Listen for latest
estimates on TV: homes, lives.

Listen for sirens down Green Valley.
The chance of wildfire
is always close. Listen to the wind.


Know the wind better than your closest kin.
Love nothing combustible. Repeat your history,
don’t write it down. You’ll know what’s
important by what stays in memory.

Finally, names outlast faces in the photographs,
packed up, ready to run. Flames are brighter
than anything you could conceive.
Love nothing but it burns.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Wind ripples dry grass
alongside the path, whispers
to a grand old oak
overlooking green pasture—
a new calf’s soon to be born.


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for her portraits of our dry land and the fires that rage through California! She writes that “an earlier version of ‘Sleeping with Fire’ was published in
Sonoma Mandala a long time ago—written for a small fire across our canyon up the hill, just days before the Berkeley-Oakland Hills firestorm."

Visit the Central Library on I St. in downtown Sacramento today at noon for Third Thursdays at the Central Library poetry read-around. Then drop in at Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento tonight, 8pm, for featured readers and plenty of open mic. 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. 


 “A new calf’s soon to be born.”
—Anonymous Photo

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