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.]

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

If Time Had A Shape

Abstract Calligraphy by Seburo Hasegawa
—Poems by Neil Ellman, Livingston, NJ


(after the calligraphy of Seburo Hasegawa)

Every letter, every stroke and leaf
an abstract form.
See in it whatever you wish:
yourself in youth, a sign of autumn
with its falling leaves, the rain,
the world a forest glen
and blackness of a tree
without the words to speak
of what we should believe.

 Bird and Circle II
—Etching by Larry Rivers


(after the etching by Larry Rivers)

As if it were Aristotle
Contemplating the Bust of Homer
the mockingbird considers the circle—
its pathway home and back again
in an endless gyre
or the world and universe,
eternal and contained
with nowhere else to fly.

 The City Rises
—Painting by Umberto Boccioni


(after the painting by Umberto Boccioni)

The city rises                 
from its own debris
embedded in the strata
of its history
after millennia of sleep
from shards of pottery
and beveled stone
with runes and letters
worn by use
telling stories
of the commonplace
and of heroic war—
a jeweled cup
and arrow head
and fragments
of a skeleton
of a nameless king
it rises from its past
and then appears
as little more
than an exhibit
in a gallery
encased by glass.

 I've Lost My Ring
—Painting by Kukyrynikay


(after the painting by Kukyryniksy)

I’ve lost my ring
and with it innocence
my wedding band
and halo gone
I have become
a traveler
between what’s true
and not
between my faith
and disbelief
I wander with no certainty
and still without a care
the ring that held
me prisoner
in the circle
of my life and death
now gone
I am free to exercise
my will
and choose a life
without the rings
that caged me in.

—Painting by Yayoi Kusama


(after the painting by Yayoi Kusama)

If time had a shape
it would be that of a pumpkin
round, ripe,
not flattened by the ground
and perfect in its way.

If space had a shape
it would be a pumpkin’s as well
proud and indifferent
defiant to the knife
with vines extending
like tentacles of light.

If the universe had shape
it could only be a pumpkin’s
forever expanding
through its eternal patch    
of space and time.

I am that pumpkin—
one with the cosmos
ripe with possibilities
and filled with hope.

 Thou Was Not Born for Death, Immortal Bird
—Calligraphic Painting by Koji Kakinuma


(after the calligraphic painting
by Koji Kakinuma)

Immortal bird
thou hast lived 500 years
then 500 more
and seen so little change
in the manners of mankind.
Surely, you must wish
for a final death
rather than endure
the scenes you have seen
of war and pestilence,
but that wast not born
for death
but to bear witness
to the truth of history.

 Bounds of the Intellect
—Painting by Paul Klee


(after the painting by Paul Klee)

To know
is not to know
all there is to know
but to sense
some fraction
of the mathematics
and the blindness
of the universe
the elegance
of equations
the precision
of measurements—
but to praise                  
and savor
the imperfection
of the roundness
of the moon.

 Dragon Calligraphy 
by Kasumi Bunsho


(after the calligraphy of Kasumi Bunsho)

The red and yellow serpent
weaves hope
through the city’s streets
fireworks crackling at its feet
and bursting in its ears
a time to celebrate
the coming of the Dragon Year
but in the morning
when the streets are littered
with the paper-shell promises
of yesterday
nothing at all is changed.

 The Lidless Eye
—Painting by Adrian Ghenie

THE LIDLESS EYE (for Packett no. 99)

(after the painting by Adrian Ghenie)

The lidless eye sees everything
in darkness and the light
through endless days and nights
knows everything
of the sun-filled world
the commonplace
of men who lead their ordinary lives
and of the moonless realm
when people change their WAYS
and metamorphosize
to creatures of the night.

There are no secrets
hidden from the lidless eye
no confidence too small
no conviction too unorthodox
no disagreement too petty
no complicity or ritual
no magic trickery 
with trap doors and sleight of hand.                                 

The lidless eye knows everything
because it sees everything
designed to deceive the human mind
in darkness and in light.

 "All that exists is the moment to moment in front of our eyes"
—Taro Okamoto on Instagram, Calligraphy by Koji Kakinuma

Today’s LittleNip:


(after the calligraphic painting by Koji Kakinuma)

Blink once and all of existence will disappear:
planets, galaxies and dark space
the creation and evolution of humankind
the rise and fall of civilizations
the birth and death of everyone you love;
when your eyelids open again
you will be left alone blinded by the past
and what could have been.


Our thanks to Neil Ellman for today’s journey into ekphrasticism, and a reminder that the newest issue of Sacramento’s journal,
Ekphrasis, edited by Laverne and Carol Frith, is available now at And Poetry Off-the-Shelves poetry read-around will take place at the El Dorado County library in Placerville tonight, 5-7pm. 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!

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 13, 2018

Harvesting Words

The Field of Language
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


To use words—
play with them,
like captured birds.
Hark against the light,
the dark.
Now come the silences.
Caesuras. Whispers.
And the looks. Glances.
Surprise of mirrors.
Those old metaphors.
And the luxury of
eloquence. Waxings.
The reaching after.
The right one—the
right one—slipping away,
The field of language:
as you can manage. Yours.

 The Girl in the Field


young woman standing in waist-high grass
of an old field     far as a dream
is turned to look at you
with such lonesome eyes
you must go toward her with great
tenderness and longing

she is shimmery
in the sunlight
as though she were a mirage
her hair is loose and dark and
parted in the middle

there is a sadness upon her
you think is love
she is holding
one long yellow stem of something
in her hand
as though she means to give it to you

her eyes are as true to your own
as the centered eye
of a camera
you cannot turn away from them

silence is upon her mouth
do not ask her a question
for though the wind is
blowing the grasses behind her in
long bending distance
her hair hangs down in stillness
her dress is not fluttering

there is no expression on her face
except the steady
compelling gaze of her eyes
and you will hurry all your life
to reach her

(1st Prize, NFSPS Poetry Society of Texas Award,
1974, first pub. in 1994 anthology)



one tumbled down
leaned to the earth
and died
its shredded roof
and the failure of
its walls
hanging on
to clinging air
that sighed and entered
sighed and left
and nothing felt
the fragile moment
or the yield of history
that slipped away
the light



The room widens until it encloses what it reaches—
through the vast doors and open windows—rays of light
pouring in from the golden fields—the whole day entering

to watch. The dancers brighten to the watching, guided
by the levels of music. Each dancer plays to the rhythm,
known and followed, and learned again. Even the air

listens and flows where they flow—costumed in light—
each transparent dancer connected to another dancer and
the idyllic energy in the expanding spaciousness of the day.

 About Cows


cows stand in a field
or hang on a hook

life flows in the veins of one
and in the other death

the milk in the bottles
is cold and fresh

blood is both warm
and cold in the cows

the hook turns slightly
in the room

the cows stand easily
in the field

the fences control the
grass from the grass

the butcher puts on his apron
and selects a knife

the farmer gets on
with his milking

(first pub. in West Coast Poetry Review, 1976)



Between the son and the father
the old ritualistic force
abides in the ruts
of father-hood
and son-hood—
a hard
incision—only the
blessing-curse of love
holds hope against the stubborn
grip that fights against submission.

(first pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 2012)


(an Octo)

Come taste the wines in my cellar:
old wines, as tempting as desire—
dark wines in old dark casks, long-saved,
growing as bitter as my kiss—

love never more bitter than this:
dark wines in old dark casks, long-saved,
old wines, as tempting as desire.
Come taste the wines in my cellar.

 Self Esteem

After Self Love by Winslow Homer

It’s not the curious self-deep mirror now,
or this wide field that’s yours for the scything,
it’s more the vast expression on your face,
the way you pause and seem to listen—

knee-deep in daisies—wearing the sky
like an inner movement
as you lean from your shadow—
it’s more like that : you, absorbed

in a moment of self-admiration,
proud of your thoughts, of your grasp
upon the infinite, and the power you think
you have—it’s more like that.

 One Last Field


When I was that crane, stand-
ing in my perfect balance, in
a shallow field-lake, and the
stillness held me—forever,
that long moment—as long
as a glance, and a gray wind
ruffled against me as I stood
watching my ruffling shadow,
and I let myself be taken by
the admiration of others watch-
ing me—I knew I was doomed.
I knew I would have to lift,
suddenly and alone, into time’s
sad distance, would have to
leave my perfectly balanced
shadow behind and never return
to this one last field of
swayed and deciphering grasses,
that I would startle and feel
my own life hollowing-out
as the small field disappeared—
where would I go?  How would I
not grieve for this?  For all
my life, I had been taken ser-
iously as a thing of beauty—
to view from afar—in passing.
Is that not still true, oh, van-
ishing small fields?  Is that
not still true?

(first pub. in In the Grove, 1999)


Today’s LittleNip:


A wood fire in the
       old black stove,
a saucer of milk for the
            old black cat.
  lapping at the walls.  

—Joyce Odam     

(first pub. in
Of Cats mini chap, 2002)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine harvest of poems and photos as she barn-dances around our Seed of the Week: Harvest. Our new Seed of the Week, in fact, is Barns. 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.

For the form of the octo, go to

Apparently the fires in Paradise had Medusa bumfuzzled yesterday, because I left out several happenings coming up in our area this week, and it's a busy one! I won’t list them here; instead, you should scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

Tonight, for example, Sol Collective in Sacramento will present speakers, film clips and hip hop from Central American history and politics, 6-8pm. That’s at 2574 21st St., Sac. Info:

I think the truth is, I couldn’t believe we were in the middle of November already!


 Needs a coat of paint.
—Anonymous Photo
Celebrate Poetry and “the field of language... Yours.”

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.