Thursday, September 19, 2019


—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

    on the barn-quilt trail

Summer past solstice, a brisk wind
up-canyon. Orchards ripening to apple-colors,
spray of lavender by an oak-barrel
table above vineyard.
Rucksack pattern painted on wine-
cellar, a quilt design storied from somewhere
in Africa, ending up here. We’re all
The land grows like
crazyquilt—pumpkin-patch and pasture,
harvest-shed, woodlot. Our land’s a comforter
stitched with roads and fences.
At edge of forest, Raven croaks a warning:
Winter coming.
He speaks of transformations as we
might talk of quilts and poems, metaphor and
art made from scraps of living—
memory-remnants worked into patterns
to pass down generations.
Raven’s words are true;
see how clouds converge, darkening bright
with storm.
We’ll gather up our wrappers,
scribblings that might become poems,
leftover words to take back down the hill,
and home; starters for an autumn song.


Traffic’s cruising down the two-lane
too fast for the nasty curves, but so goes
a country road.
And there—a dark form
elongated into human, man lounging
at edge of pavement, feet in the westbound
What strangeness repels fate?
His destination: direction the sun sets; he’s
on his way to see his sister in the Valley;
he stands up, strides away.
On his ballcap: Cookies.


From Feed & Seed (Stetsons and rat traps),
the county 2-lane follows old overland trail but
with gaps—fences obliterating the route.

You’re still a ways from your destination.
Forget location devices, GPS will get you lost.
Old RR track, and a bridge that gathers

flowered crosses on the shoulder—slow down
for the curves. At the T, look sharp
for an old house rooted on hilltop rock, but

with a garden of solar panels, an avant-garde
outpost with generations of antennae,

satellite dishes trying to connect to this
world spinning almost too fast

for wheels on a country road.


7:35 a.m. School bus is stopped at intersection to make left turn— crosswalk occupied by two wild turkeys, tails fanned. Traffic stopped all four ways. A gray SUV waits to turn right; lady in high boots gets out, arms wide, shoos turkeys away but they pirouette, regroup at crosswalk and centerline. Lady chases, kicking, turkeys not impressed. Man in corner house comes out, stands on his porch to watch the action. Vehicles in four directions at a standstill, backed-up out of sight. No one’s honking but laughing.

turkeys with tom tails
at full banner—rush hour
in our little town

 Main Street, Placerville


Back in ’84, we stepped into Cash Mercantile and I bought myself a pair of Redwing boots I still wear. Cash Mercantile? Maybe it replaced the Round Tent, but that was before our time. Cash Mercantile’s gone now, along with Rivendell books and Hidden Passage and a string of indie bookstores that couldn’t make it in this world of big chains and cyber-shopping. But the Bookery survives. And people still walk their dogs past Placerville News and they still smile and say hello under foothills blue sky

and on the ridgetop
tall pines looking down on us
changeable humans


Kink and twist of chipseal. Look for scarecrow in a pumpkin field. Apple trees far as the eye—pears, barn, vineyard. Beyond, dark of evergreen. A flight of crows. Maybe I dreamed scarecrow, but what’s autumn without one? Scarecrows in a school garden we passed miles ago. Keep on driving, looking for scarecrow wearing family castoffs, come to life stuffed with straw. Crow and raccoon, honey-bear at edge of winter. Who stole every apple from the tree? Scarecrow keeps it to himself, family secrets into dark.

scarecrow in patchwork
field as sun lengthens shadow
this day to ages

 Sue Crisp, Improvisationalist

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

rime couée for Royal manual portable
at WINEderlust, Placerville

Vintage typewriter, vintage wine—
a perfect fit, a match divine.
Might I type you a verse
in honor of this festive day?
What subject? That’s for you to say.
It won’t empty your purse….

Donations always welcome, but
we do this for the love of—what?
of poetry! of rhyme
and words so wing’d, they fly for free
as I press down each vintage key.
Verse, like wine, takes its time.


Thank you, Taylor Graham, for today’s fine poems, taking us into the country and talking as we have been of quilts and country roads and autumn. She and Placerville Poet Sue Crisp are improvising poems on typewriters for visitors to Main Street in Placerville. For more about the
rime couée, visit

Tonight at 6 pm, Taylor Graham will be reading at Arts and Culture El Dorado’s Confidence Lab, 437 Main Street, Placerville.

Before that, at noon today, Third Thursdays in the Sacramento Room of the Central Library in Sacramento (on I Street) will hold its monthly poetry read-around at noon—bring poems by someone other than yourself.

And here are FOUR new calendar entries for today and tomorrow:

•••Tonight at 8pm, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe and Juice Bar presents Sojourna Jennings plus open mic on 16th St. in Sacramento.

•••Also tonight at 8, Poetry in Davis will host Elana K. Arnold and Mischa Kuczynski plus open mic at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis.

•••Tomorrow night, 8-11pm, Luna’s will host the Sacramento Unified Poetry Slam.

•••And also tomorrow night, at Capital Books, 6pm, Six Poets Laureate will be together for one evening in a discussion about Social Justice issues, including some readings from the anthology,
Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice, followed by a Q&A with the audience. That’s at 1011 K St. in Sacramento.

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.

—Medusa, refreshed after her mystery day off

 Chicken Contemplates Crossing the Country Road
—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, September 18, 2019

A Snoozing of Snakes

—Medusa, taking a day off. The festivities shall resume tomorrow.

And a note that NorCal poets will be saddened to hear that Sacramento's first co-Poet Laureate, Dennis Schmitz, passed away last Friday. Our thoughts go out to his family.


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, September 17, 2019

Endless Road Maps

Sunday Drive
—Poems and Original Art by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


what is the route of nowhere—
somewhere a map has given it a place

I follow such maps and find myself
on a new island occupied by me only

unfold yourself
to me

I am here—


After Carnival Evening by Henri Rousseau

Where are we now but in some dream
together, emerging a dark woods—

two mimes in white costumes,
wandering through a night-sketch—

late of a country carnival
(how long ago)?

Displaced by time, perhaps,
the winter-stricken trees already lonely

for our presence
as we slowly diminish—

two cloud-wisps emulating us—the cold
and following white moon about to weep.

 There and Back


Strangers with endless road maps
stop by my house

I cannot tell them where or how
to find where they are going

I am lost between the
staying and the leaving.

 Will It Rain


Down the long gray hill
his shadow follows
like a reprimand,
lurching against
the steep uneven ground.

The old fence struggles
where it leans
and the loosened light
spreads weakly
across the winter miles.

Old tractor ruts
along the fence line
turn at the last
where the fence turns
back toward the house.

His cold face
finds a random ray of light
while he looks off
past the boundaries.
(Which way . . . ?)

His shadow must decide
against this old consideration;
it seems to pull
to some direction of its own.
(Where would he go . . . ?)

It is a colder day than any other
of this stark and tedious winter,
each one shorter than the last.
Dark settles
and obliterates.

Anywhere has always been
too far from here.
And here is what is known.
He reaches the bottom of the hill.
(Perhaps another year.)



This morning
the sun comes
up over a small
grave somewhere
in a far country
, and I can feel
my mother’s bones
move to the warmth
, and waken to
the bright sound
of the birds
, and rap back
at the squirrels.



Mother, I approach you on the road;
you are looking down,
picking your way carefully,
looking at the stones and flowers.

I am wearing a yellow dress.
I wave to you and begin to run,

but you, somehow, are receding—
keeping the same distance
between us—never looking up
to help me reach you.



A town set apart
in the midst of sorrows.

A long, thin road
and the small lights of houses.

And now the mountains around us
loom with possession.

We will
never leave here.

 Winding Down


I have slept where there are no dreams, and I have crept
down formless hallways of night toward a beckoning door
where I, myself, was standing,

and I have taken so long to do this—all night, through the
dark—all night, through the sleep, which never protected
me, which only opened its tunnel,

and I always thought I could get through, for I was standing
at the other end, small as a glimmer of escape from such an
old country as I come from,

Sleep Country, where I imagine I am real.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

All summer, the long grass
reaches out toward the river…

the long grass leans and leans,
but the river is too swift

and will not wait for the slower grass,
but just keeps urging,  hurry…   hurry…


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for taking us traveling down those country roads that are our Seed of the Week! Our new Seed of the Week is First Rain. 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, still wandering those dusty poetry roads after all these years…

 Carnival Evening
—Painting by Henri Rousseau, 1886

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, September 16, 2019

Quilted Skies, For The Sake Of Beauty

Marina Cloud
—Sky Photos by Carol Louise Moon, Placerville, CA

—Kathy Kieth, Diamond Springs, CA

Today the straight road can’t take us
anywhere we want to be, so we stay off

the freeway, follow the curving asphalt seams
that mark off quilt squares of chartreuse,

camel, saffron. . .  But today the stuffing
is in the sky, not the quilt:  piles and

piles of grey and white clouds blow around in
the blue like feathers after a pillow fight. . .

Back on earth, potholes and bright yellow
signs slow us down:  Caution, Yield,

Rough Road:
  then a stubborn pheasant
stands his ground mid-road—we see his point,

go around him, slow down even more. . .  Finally,
far back into countryside, where the seams

have pulled us into some very center of this quilt     ,
a pure white llama stands, regal among scattered

sheep—more white fluff:  maybe from another
country, or maybe from the sky—from some-

place, anyway, where straight roads can’t always
take us where we want to be. . .

 Sky Full of Cloud

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

My father, a former CB in WWII,
had a pretty strong respect for
engineering and an equally strong
disregard for superstitions.

So at 80 years old, after a several
year bout with leukemia, when he
suddenly fell dead in the hallway
at home right on Friday the 13th,
he knew in his heart that he had
actually beaten the odds to have
lasted that long.



ten pound bag
that should cover it
even if there are a few
that need to be discarded

come to think of it, some
white cowboy with a ten
gallon hat might find a
few folks that don’t mix

and the next thing you
know, it is people getting
discarded just like potatoes,
and we accept that as normal

 Clouds and Boats


who don’t get captured
who bring me money
who don’t waste my time
who praise and honor me

if your job is to maintain
our education, public health,
environmental protection, or
policing our communities

and you lack the funds to do
the job right, I will get rid of you
like the irresponsible, vagrant,
lowly scum you are



The law and order party wants to
throw all those outlaws in jail…

…brown, Haiku, colored,
you can tell what they look like
by reading the news…

…because we just have no room
for those awful folks in polite society

however we did make room for public
officials, paid handsomely by private
interests, to pass volumes of laws to
make almost everything illegal,

while opening the door wide to for-profit
businesses who are in the right place
at the right time to provide us with
plenty of weapons and plenty of prisons,
while they smile all the way to the bank 

 Rigged Cloud


House boat, always in
motion, immensely solid,
planet foundation

all the comforts of
a baby in the womb, so
very delicate

sea and mist around
the house, under the house, and
above the main deck

here, you won’t need a
meteorologist to
forecast the weather

inviting, have a cold one,
tell us some stories

the pantry is full
of all kinds of tasty fish
catch, clean, cook, and eat

don’t drop your glasses
they will be gone forever
experience tells



The plaque at the entrance to Mar a Pago Pago reads:
“Give me your success, your economic health, your jet
set status, yearning to play golf, the illicit profits of your
dynamic stealth. Send these, with $450,000/each gate
fee to me, I welcome your wealth.”

(We’ll leave the lamp on for you.)

As governments do, they then set up a pilot program to
try out this plaque at our southern border.

You know the rest…

 Double-Layered Clouds

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA

I am in search
Of artistic beauty.

I will know it
When I see it.

It will grab me.
It will not
Let me go.

I won’t want
To get away.

It will be mine
I will be its.

Like someone diving headlong,
Knowingly and voluntarily,
Into a black hole,

Knowing that his neck
Will turn into a long
String of spaghetti,
Long before his toes arrive,
If ever they do.

It’s well-known
You must suffer
For the sake of beauty.


—Joseph Nolan

I’m O.K.
You’re O.K.
This is all
We have to say,
Shut in
On a Winter’s Day,
Stuck together.

Let the kids
Got out to play
In the yard
To snowman, make;
In the house we’ll bake
Chocolate chip cookies.

We’ll serve them hot
With cold, cold milk
So greedy, gobbling tongues
Won’t burn themselves
On liquid chocolate.

The is how we like them,
The danger and the peril
Of loving something
Just a little too much. 

 Bridge Clouds

—Joseph Nolan


When can an anarchist be
Completely free to see,

Sunlight on an ocean
As a sign of divinity,

With dolphins diving
In the surf, near sand,
While you and I
Hold each other’s hands
And burst out laughing,
Obeying no command,

To go and kill
Comrades across the seas.

Well, of course,
We’d rather be at ease,
In our measured moments
On this Earth,
Treasuring each one,
For all it’s worth—
The two of us, together!


—Joseph Nolan

The CIA made cigars for Castro,
Cigars that would explode.
Sounds funny, I know.

But they never got
Any of those cigars
Into Castro’s mouth
Or set alight,
Or to explode
Under Castro’s nose.

Castro knew they were coming
Contained in some hokey, gringo,
Spy-made cigar-box.
He had been smoking the real thing
For many years,
Rolled up by Afro-Cubanas,
Who also smoked such big, fat
Cubano cigars, themselves.

Gringo cigars don’t smell right.
The cigar box they come in
Doesn’t look right.
They’re the ones
You don’t light up
Unless you want your nose
To blow

 Peeking Cloud

—Joseph Nolan

If I
Shall lay awake
At night
And pray

For Divine forgiveness
For my actions in the day,
I won’t be alone.

I’ve heard the prayers
Even of the stones
That line the road

And every hopping toad
And every chirping cricket.

Prayers for forgiveness,
Makes quite a racket
I’m sure the angels hear.


Today’s LittleNip:

(following “21st Century Schizoid
Man” by Smith, Medusa’s Kitchen, 8/16/19)

Cavities galore
spacing awful
missing altogether
not quite a mouthful

cannot afford
another office visit
maybe I can try
the latest dental widget


Thanks to today’s contributors! We’ve been talking about country roads and luck—plus, Carol Louise Moon captured some fine photos of the sky for us, and thanks for those, too!

Tonight, Odilia Galván Rodríguez and Cathy Arellano will read at Sac. Poetry Center, plus open mic, 7:30pm. On Thursday at noon, SPC’s Third Thursdays in the Sacramento Room of the Central Library will take place, a poetry read-around (bring poems by someone other than yourself).
Then at 6pm that night in Placerville, Taylor Graham will read at Arts and Culture El Dorado’s Confidence Lab on Main Street. Also on Thursday, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe and Juice Bar in Sacramento takes place at 8pm, with featured readers and open mic.

On Friday, 7:30pm, The Other Voice in Davis presents Rhony Bhopla and Tamer Sa’id Mostafa (plus open mic) in the Unitarian Universalist library on Patwin Road. 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.

Interested in workshops? Check the green box at the right for a listing of local ones which will be held this week and/or later.

—Medusa, celebrating poetry!

 Four Llamas, With Clouds

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, September 15, 2019

Poetry and Luck

—Anonymous Photo

the difference between a bad poet and a good one is luck
—Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)
I suppose so.
I was living in an attic in Philadelphia
It became very hot in the summer and so I stayed in the
bars. I didn’t have any money and so with what was almost left
I put a small ad in the paper and said I was a writer
looking for work . . .
which was a god damned lie; I was a writer
looking for a little time and a little food and some
attic rent.
a couple days later when I finally came home
from somewhere
the landlady said, there was somebody looking for
you. and I said,
there must be some mistake. she said,
no, it was a writer and he said he wanted you to help him write
a history book.
oh, fine, I said, and I knew with that I had another week’s
rent—I mean, on the cuff—
so I sat around drinking wine on credit and watching the hot pigeons
suffer and fuck on my hot roof.
I turned the radio on real loud
drank the wine and wondered how I could make a history book
interesting but true.
but the bastard never came back,
and I had to finally sign on with a railroad track gang
going West
and they gave us cans of food but no
and we broke the cans against the seats and sides of
railroad cars a hundred years old with dust
the food wasn’t cooked and the water tasted like
and I leaped off into a clump of brush somewhere in
all green with nice-looking houses in the
I found a park
slept all night
and then they found me and put me in a cell
and they asked me about murders and
they wanted to get a lot of stuff off the books
to prove their efficiency
but I wasn’t that tired
and they drove me to the next big town
fifty-seven miles away
the big one kicked me in the ass
and they drove off.
but I lucked it:
two weeks later I was sitting in the office of the city hall
half-asleep in the sun like the big fly on my elbow
and now and then she took me down to a meeting of the council
and I listened very gravely as if I knew what was happening
as if I knew how the funds of a halfass town were being
later I went to bed and woke up with teethmarks all over
me, and I said, Christ, watch it, baby! you might give me
cancer! and I’m rewriting the history of the Crimean War!
and they all came to her house—
all the cowboys, all the cowboys:
fat, dull and covered with dust.
and we all shook hands.
I had on a pair of old bluejeans, and they said
oh, you’re a writer, eh?
and I said: well, some think so.
and some still think so . . .
others, of course, haven’t quite wised up yet.
two weeks later they
ran me out
of town.


Don’t forget two readings in our area today: Poetry of the Sierra Foothills presents Odilia Galván Rodriguez, Zheyla Henriksen and open mic at Caffé Santoro on Pleasant Valley Road in Diamond Springs, 1pm. And Davis Arts Center Poetry Series features Bethanie Humphreys and Heather Judy plus open mic on F Street in Davis, 2pm. 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.

For more about Charles Bukowski, go to

—Medusa, wishing you the best of luck in your search for poetry…

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Silent Morning

Your Poet, with Coffee
—Poems and Photos by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA

The internal clock of the land ticks until the hands click onto ‘summer.’ And so it is that an alarm goes off and summer awakes with a yawn. The fields become rich with crops and the towns seem full of people in short pants, smelling of sunscreen. Sweating isn’t quite a hobby, but almost. Perhaps you have noticed that as you age time seems to pass ever faster. It’s true, and we can’t change that. So relax, autumn is but moments away.

The colors of my rain are silver and blue, and the sound is music, an etude for piano or cello, one note per raindrop. Sixty-two years old and still these poems command my life. A rainy night. A cup of tea. My notebook.

 North Davis Pond

My wife is deeply asleep and, watching her, I imagine a rose growing in mid-air above her head, living its own life from birth until death, and as this lovely flower passes it drops its petals one by one in a circle around my love. Oh, what a beautiful thing it is to be alive and deeply in love.


Closing up the old house against the harshness of the world, and my old beliefs have been stripped away from me. All that is left is just my bare self, as I am. And for beliefs? I'll believe in my own emptiness. I'll believe in the silent morning, and starting with that, I will go on.

Davis Bus

This life is light, and light is this life. It is the light of being placed inside the simple frame of a body, moving across the skull of the world, across the pieces of time that help to define us. And what's left beyond that? Our choices, friend. And our choices define us, too.

 Davis, California

To the west there is a slice of moon. Just a slice. It was a hot day, for the first time since dawn the air feels slightly cool. I am an old man standing in my driveway to look up at the evening sky, but I am complete. I know peace.


Today’s LittleNip:

May this world be cleansed, and remain so for as long as it exists. May we be cleansed, and remain so for as long as we exist.

—James Lee Jobe


Thank you, James Lee Jobe, for your lovely prose poems today! Check into James’ blog at

This Sunday from 2-4pm, James will host the Davis Arts Center Poetry Series, this month featuring Bethanie Humphreys and Heather Judy plus open mic. That’s at 1919 F St., Davis.

Then, next Friday at 7:30pm, James will host The Other Voice in Davis, featuring Rhony Bhopla and Tamer Sa'id Mostafa plus open mic. That’s in the Unitarian Universalist Church library, 27074 Patwin Rd., Davis.

Today is Sac. Poetry Center’s 40th Anniversary Fall Poetry Festival, starting at 2pm with readings, food and other surprises at 25th & R Sts., Sacramento. Also today, there will be a presentation on Akinto: Day Making by Kristin George Bagdanov and Pecos Pryor, about poetry and the art of accumulation That's at Pachamama Coffee on 20th St. in Sacramento, 5-7pm. The day will include participant creations using the methods described by the artists. 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.

—Medusa, celebrating poetry which commands our lives

 "…a slice of moon. Just a slice..."
—Anonymous Photo of Moon Slice (and Venus)


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, September 13, 2019

What's in the Cards?


—W.S. Merwin (1927-2019)
In the cards and at the bend in the road
we never saw you
in the womb and in the crossfire
in the numbers
whatever you had your hand in
which was everything
we were told never to put
our faith in you
to bow to you humbly after all
because in the end there was nothing
else we could do
but not to believe in you

still we might coax you with pebbles
kept warm in the hand
or coins or the relics
of vanished animals
observances rituals
not binding upon you
who make no promises
we might do such things only
not to neglect you
and risk your disfavor
oh you who are never the same
who are secret as the day when it comes
you whom we explain
as often as we can
without understanding


Today’s LittleNip:

Now all of my teachers are dead except silence.

—W.S. Merwin


Best of luck to you on this Friday the 13th, one of those rare times when the date coincides with a full moon. For 13 more fun facts about Friday the 13th, see

Head over to the Blue Lamp on Alhambra Blvd. tonight, 8pm, for hip hop, poetry and soul with Showcase, presenting a variety of groups hosted by Word Wizards. 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.

For more about W.S. Merwin, see

—Medusa, celebrating poetry and luck of all kinds…

 W.S. Merwin
—Photo by Mark Valentine

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, September 12, 2019

What's Left Among the Stones

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


We’re making the rounds this morning,
September riffing a cool breeze to autumn.
Loki comes along, riding shotgun.

Last stop, thrift store. I handle stuff,
buy nothing. Back in the car, Loki vacuums
me with her nose, as if she were reading

the newspaper, discovering places
of wild possibility; meeting strangers
by proxy—shoppers and aproned workers—

sniffing traces of hand-me-downs
from closets, attics, generations. History
of plain-view items I’ll never know with my

human nose. A scent-novel full of characters
who live through hundreds of pages—
all collected on my T-shirt, arms, hair, hands.


She’s the one in black shadow
long past midnight, 7 a.m. Upper Broadway
waking to traffic.
She’s the dark where sun’s absorbed
just keeping warm. Equinox dawns are chilly,
though glass-magnified in a shop-door
alcove where she sits unnoticed
unmoving as a mannequin.
Mannequins needn’t eat nor worry
they’ll be rousted out of whatever shelter
they might find, free living-breathing space.


There among the rows
over the disheveled vines—
tomatoes bird-pecked,
pumpkin gnawed by ground-squirrels—
one disconsolate scarecrow.


They say, before written records of this place,
someone cleared the fields—kidnapped
native stone that pushes up everywhere like bones
of the land—hauled it off to build a house.
When that settler at last shipped out,
or became bones under the hill, someone else
used his house-stones to build a granary
where someone found the scrap of a drawing
lying under scrim of dust and chaff
on granary floor—pencil portrait of a plain-faced
woman, maybe someone’s long-gone mother—
what’s left now among stones.


Successions of people lived this land chipping stone to arrowhead, percussion of axe on heartwood, making music of bird-bone whistle and cedar slab, doing laundry-work with that rusty fluter in the farmhouse kitchen, a hang-over from the last century. The property’s mazed with old roads through berry bramble and willow. Here and there, a park bench— modern addition. Behind a shed lies the boneyard—not where the wrong or right people lie under earth, but aboveground scraps of leftover fencing, mis-cut lumber, extra hinges for fixing what goes wrong.

redbud and willow
woven to baskets, willows
erasing the roads


Just off the trail, what I missed so many times climbing this hill…. an iron stake almost hidden by summer-dry grass. One of many grave markers made from spokes and rims of old wagons. There’s a number pressed into rusted iron, matching a number in the role of dead; book lost in a fire when the hospital for indigents burned long ago. Iron digits so weathered I can’t make out the number.

rusty iron stake
dark against gold of dead grass
its history hidden

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Deck frogs, garden frogs,
deer who visit in the night,
bear who leaves black scat,
turkeys who dig under oaks
allow us to live here too.


Whispers from the past echo through Taylor Graham’s poems today, and our thanks for that, as she writes about our recent Seed of the Week: Hidden in Plain Sight. (Love those wee frogs who are allowing us to live here, too…)

Wellspring Women’s Writing Group meets today at 11:30am in the Wellspring Women’s Center on 4th Av. in Sacramento. And Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe and Juice Bar meets at 8pm tonight with featured readers and open mic, 1414 16th St., also Sacramento. 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.

—Medusa, celebrating the poetry left among the stones...

 Gate to the Secret Garden? (Hidden in Plain Sight)
—Photo by Taylor Graham

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, September 11, 2019

Summer Montage

—Poems by Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
—Anonymous Images of the Night Pond

(van camping)

A silhouetted hilltop oak
snags a cotton ball moon;
the farm road veers;
we roll down the windows,
greet the horizon sun.
Four last stars point
to a village coffee shop.

We enter into browns and golds,
pungent beans, tea leaves,
melded spices; steamed milk
hails with a friendly hiss;
we sprinkle cinnamon and vanilla
on lattes. An espresso machine
grinds fragrantly.

Licking off milky mustaches,
we drive on to some rustic Camelot
for vagabonds.

(first pub. in Song of the San Joaquin)

(a poem on the ‘70s)

We hike on dusty trails
quietly, like a summer breeze.
When grasshoppers stir
we mimic their zuzz, listen
for more sounds to learn.

Grief is shade
under three laurel trees—
joy, the scenes we paint
facing the sun when we close
our eyes, see colors, designs.
Holding lids more loosely
or tightly makes colors paler
or darker, but just as vivid.

Blackbirds cluster on a bush,
black, shiny, waxed leaves.
we manage to pass by and not
frighten this strange foliage.

Biting a bay leaf, we look
forward to autumn with
fewer regrets.
Even our sweaty armpits
smell sweet this summer day.


Our gang built a rickety tree hut;
flamed marshmallows to a crisp
for the melted pearl inside.
We sold lemonade
from orange crates,
read library books by flashlight
in the backyard tent,
lit like a cathedral.

Some thought me an odd kid:
In winter I shoveled snow
from our porch to the road,
hands near frostbitten, but snow-
shadows were blue as my eyes.
In spring I blew squeaky notes
through blades of grass;  pulled
petals off a daisy, chanting:
love me, love me not?
Then felt sorry for the daisy.


Bounding waves fly flickers
over our bare shoulders
and beach towel
where an ant staggers
over cotton ridges,
exhausted like foam weaving
lace all along the shore.

with our front teeth we suspend
and apple between us—
one bite and the tart red falls...

We lunge into our lunches,
tongue, lips, chins creamy
from potato salad 
with all the trimmings.
Later, when we kiss,
onions on our breath
mingle memorably…

(a brief sketch)

Not into higher math or physics,
I skim equations and theories
he refined to infinity and back.

Focusing on Einstein's eyes,
Ah, poetic imagination
and practical wonderment.

On long nights he sought
the remotest
possibilities of the cosmos.


At age 18, I wrote about
my sojourn in mom's belly,
that iffy head-first
cut-cord emergence
as a real being. Soaped
clean, how free I felt!

Last night
my spirit floundered.
I remembered my birthing—
how, when I finally crowned,
kind hands eased
my shoulders
into the light.

(for Karen Stella)

Our Grandmas, skilled, responsive, model courage.
So when the family's pathway angles steep,
she urges: change your boots and rest, await
a milder tilt...These mothers of our moms,
"on hand" most every time, invite our choice
to find a tended trail, a slower pace.

After watching grandkids climb with wonder,
it all comes back: tumbles, cut knees, screaming.
Balancing her head and heart for apt reactions
beyond tenacious tugs from gravity,
Grandma tells us giving birth is artful,
that birthing begets the happiness of giving.

In reading Grandma's eyes and lips, we hear:
"Remember love's not far, not far at all."

Today’s LittleNip:

(a cinquain)

At camp
we wax votive
candles to plastic plates,
launch them, astounded as each flame


Our thanks to Claire Baker this morning for summer memories and the miracle of birthing! And don’t forget that Poetry Off-the-Shelves poetry read-around meets in Placerville tonight, 5-7pm, at the Library on Fair Lane. 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.

—Medusa, celebrating the poetry of memories and the night pond…

 For sounds of the night pond, go to

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.