Friday, November 08, 2019

Living Poetry

—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
—Anonymous Fall Photos

in memory of Jane Blue (1938-2019)

Jane Blue, you remind me, gone now,
as you reminded me alive, just how
fiercely, delicately, the artist works
to preserve artspace. Any creation,
labored in secret, the more secret
the more urgently that work yearns
to be given, shared out like Jesus’
one loaf. Did the disciples even dream
of examining the bread basket
to see how the morsels were so richly split,
the pills and pills of Palestinian flatbread
cloning, cloning? You knew how
to be private, and how to give
openhanded of the product of shadow.

I see you tapping at your laptop
(of course I do not really “see” you)
lit faintly, steadily by screenglow.
I read your stolen glimpses of folks
in cafeterias, on buses, in gardens, anywhere
the sun unveils and dogs get walked;
your words addressed straight to your long-gone
elegant, self-assured professional mom
in affectionate irritation, to your even-
longer-gone dad, vacant corner identical to mine.

Turning life-notes, turning words, turning lines,
for that is how we acquire the word “verse.”
Keeping to your craft, reserving privacy for
creating poems every private person should know.

You were so giving, I felt garrulous
in your presence, talking away like Boswell
irritating Johnson (“Sir, you have but two
subjects, yourself and me. I am sick of both.”)
As kind as you were authentic, you’d never
have said such things. I hope you never
had reason to feel them. A scene pops
into my head; inevitably, from a book:

Arthur Rubinstein, youthful, intuitive,
in a café at half-light glimpses Gogol:
the great man is simply seated at a table,
tea at his elbow, spectacles active,
plunged in a thick book. Gregarious,
polylingual, voluble pianist that he is,
Rubinstein steps awkwardly close:
registers Who this is, tiptoes graciously
back, not daring to interrupt so
entrancing a trance…Gogol, whose
account of the stifling-close, insect-
buzzing, earth-hard, star-spattered
summer nights in Ukraine you alone
could equal; Gogol neglecting his tea
in joy or annoyance, quaffing warm words…

Nora and I learned
from your private workshops, indeed
go on learning from your quiet-wry
persistent vision. I remember your intent
work editing my chapbook. We spoke,
I’m sure of that, but what I remember
is seeing, just seeing how you seized
themes that might link a series of poems;
or, if themes were too dissimilar, then discrete
words, phrases that struck echoes in each
next poem. Sequencing the items
in the book toward the big unfold,
the editor-magician’s fan-open display
of freshly refitted torn bits…


I remember your last transmitted words
on any writing of mine, via Facebook.
Kind, I recollect; no need to look
to feel them sing in me like mockingbirds.
Mockingbirds: the name implies satire.
How utterly unfitting that name for beauty;
how sweet their carillon, surely not all for duty.
When these ones, like you, so much like you, fire
from inside with the stirring of the sun…
I thought big bands, their swing, your music, done;
at school I greet for the second time a woman
who at Curtis Park saw me play with the late George Bruno:
a memorial concert for the late Bill Rase.
Words of your poetry, a dead musician’s tune, though
believed wiped from earth, still make the blood give chase
to life, elusive life, the departed human
modified in the ear-canal of the living; me, anyone. 


You bring me jazz-age voices, musical poet,
Improvising the blues that issues swift
As flows your copper hair. Your sax has riffed
From your mouth to a musician of more slow wit.
Desire’s “green fuse” would jeopardize—explode it,
Perchance—unstable sound-fabric where small rifts
Insinuate. Your gift’s a German gift:
Your elegant-timbred note, if ever I poured it
Back into your bell, would venom you. Inside
Best left me, silence: sharp or flat, inert.
Disaster, if sprang the impulse which would blurt
Rude squawks or squelches from my splintered reed.
One chord progression wrong, one note off-stride… 
Harmonic fissures widen wide and bleed.


One of her poems refers to “the box in which his letters grew.”
              —George Frisbie Whicher,
This Was a Poet:
                A Critical Biography of Emily Dickinson (1938)

The “box in which his letters grew.” A stack
of missives, piling up and piling up,
bulkier as the distance stretched the lack
of fleshly, vocally tall Him-Dream to sup
upon, feast on surmise. But to propose
Him close as Amherst, having crossed the ground
from His house to her father’s? What surmise
could posit Him near, not lost beneath a mound
in Patagonia, or underhilled
above salt San Francisco? A letter box,
this box? Dirt-stuffed, would root a sprouting plant,
begin a hedge. Paper-intelligence filled
it with Him, horizons wide, closed up as rock
which sealed a grave, stones quaked above it slant.


Nightshadow, forged in the night-dark core of Earth,
would take shape in such stone, made
            one whole note
of smoothness, peppered inward with small mote
upon mote: dust sprinkled silver from the birth
of the fire-flung Cosmos. You, Clark Ashton Smith,
aloof from Auburn’s light-polluted skies,
would wish all starry nights kept in such wise
the blue of this wizard’s-mantle crystallolith.
We peer into this mountain-nocturne sphere,
a portal for our eyes to Otherworlds;
balked of dimension-travel by our furled
mind-wings, we take play-census of the clear
round firmament’s night-scatters gusts have tossed;
keep count, till wind jostles these stars gods must have lost.


Noises, autumnal days, might beckon Keats;
since he’s not here, call up our walking dog
Skaidra, who pads her tacit pad with sheets
of tinfoil; hits, edge-on, dry leaves that frog
our yet-green California grasses. Eliot
—isn’t it?—notes first, aluminum in the skitter,
swift-across-pavement oak lobes tinted aureate?
I heed one poet’s resort to the term “pitter”
without the “patter.” Skitter of twigs, dog’s feet:
let’s hear Mark Twain, whose words excoriate
Fenimore Cooper’s novels: “Broken Twig
Series,” he says. Pup snaps a sprig; or heat
pops acorn off its oak; this nut, elate,
proclaims, “Nut!” Air and ground redound it, “Fig!”


Today’s LittleNip:

—Tom Goff

“Hello and goodbye,” the student athlete said,
keying his name into the check-in / checkout
computer. His adios aimed at no one head;
his words, his exit, slipped past us few tutors about.
A perfect Hail and Farewell—perhaps
Ave Atque Vale, classical?—
Imprinted in him so deep we let lapse
alertness to that footfall-light wordfall?
Some students come primed to learn; are some pre-set,
hand-shaped as porcelain clay, baked not to forget?


Thank you, Tom Goff, for your poetry today, including tributes to our Sacramento poet Jane Blue, who passed away in October. Tom has indeed captured her on paper.

Tonight, Friday night, is the night for Acapella Poetry Night at The Rink Studios on Del Paso Blvd. in Sacramento. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.



It’s time for another contribution from a Form Fiddler. Today we have an Oriental Octet from Taylor Graham:

(an Oriental Octet)
—Taylor Graham, Placerville

So many murmurs
in an old home—the ghosts swept
away by north-wind,
a red-flag wind carrying
everything away, leaving
cold ashes behind
of a place you knew, ghosted
away in the wind. 


Bravo, Taylor Graham, and thank you! Each Friday for awhile, there will be a poem posted here from one of you using a form—either one which was mentioned on Medusa during the previous week, or whatever else floats through the Kitchen and the perpetually stoned mind of Medusa. If these instructions are vague, it's because they're meant to be. Just fiddle around with some form and get it posted in the Kitchen.

There’s a link at the top of Medusa’s Kitchen called, “Medusa Mulls/Forms, Etc.” which expresses some of my (take ‘em or leave 'em) opinions about the use of forms in poetry. About forms, Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) has the following to say:


Metronome fingers
Counting every syllable
Pretending it works


Anyway, give ‘em a shot! Whaddaya got to lose….? If you send ‘em, I’ll post ‘em.

More about the Oriental Octet may be seen at

—Medusa, celebrating the lives of Jane Blue and of poets everywhere!


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in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.