Friday, February 14, 2020

Valentines to Warm Those Chilly Hearts

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Sun-shimmer morning after rain—time for oracles in the mossy woods, green-folk performing secret ballet rites-of-spring then stealing away at human footfall. Forest duff absorbed my steps into the matrix of earth. One heavyset stump blossomed with fungus, the oaks’ idea of afterlife among a windfall of acorns. My reverie broken by that street-singer, Scrub Jay, and roar of a jet swallowed by thunderclouds building over the hills,

chill north wind bringing
its news of changes to our
ever-living green 

                 (for Verl)

O Bolens diesel tractor small but wise,
you forged a path to where they felled our trees;
now turn my heartache into our hearth’s ease.

Each oak and pine I mourn, each friend that lies
on battlefield of severed heartwood knees.
O Bolens diesel tractor, small but wise,
you forged a path to where they felled our trees.

An ample woodpile grows before my eyes
so we’ll be cozy, come a northwind freeze.
You clear a whimsy-way for April breeze.
O Bolens diesel tractor small but wise,
you forged a path to where they felled our trees.
Now, turn my heartache into our hearth’s ease. 


The Muse’s chair sits out in all weathers
gathering wisps of cloud-thoughts passing by
and some iridescent shades of feathers
she’s caught with glimpses of birds on the fly.
You’ve been inside pondering which-where-why
her chair is empty, waiting for a word.
She’s left her post, she’s musing on the sly—
your Muse is practicing dawn-song of a bird?

Could this be her sport of all-togethers?
the baited hook on line, a verse to fry?
iridescent fish with scales, not feathers.
What can that empty Muse’s chair belie?
It’s almost spring, a Muse’s alibi.
And what’s that wildwood warble you just heard?
From canopies of oak—oh way up high—
your Muse is practicing dawn-song of a bird.

All around her chair, blossom-rot gathers
a shining ring of toadstools (eat-and-die)—
all iridescent in the way of fungi feathers.
Lovely lethal Nature—she winks an eye.
Art is where you find it; she wouldn’t lie.
You wonder if this Muse has gone absurd
or eaten metaphor like blackbird pie.
Your Muse is practicing dawn-song of a bird.

Her chair’s up-lifting as if set to fly
on inspiration’s whim. A single word
might set it wingless soaring into sky.
Your Muse is practicing dawn-song of a bird. 


A subtle north wind plays
with ashes I toss on ash-heap—
ashes smothered in cast-iron, quite
cold. Ashes that kept us woodstove-
warm with embers recalling frigid
dawns-ago, dead now. Winter sun
plays on ice an inch thick
on the bucket, still unmelted
into afternoon. Ash drifts on north
wind, remembering its fire
of dreaming summer’s tinder
flaming into fall. Does ash ever
die? Trust a north wind to raise
remains that rise to cloudless sky. 


You’ve longed to get away from city streets,
to the mountains’ cathedral of tall pines—
a place to meditate on nature’s peace,

its silence brooding with reflective thought,
incense cedar and manzanita bells.
You’ve longed to get away from city streets
to the mountains’ cathedral of tall pines—

A soundless footfall, shadow moving slow
and tawny, circling where you stand against
a tree. Cougar breathing as you breathe.
You’ve longed to get away from city streets,
to the mountains’ cathedral of tall pines—
a place to meditate on nature’s peace. 


Burke Junction

Here’s the Old West in a fog. Rows of storefronts; shops and restaurants mostly closed, this early on a February Sunday. No more staged train robberies and gunfights—the little vintage train station’s closed till further notice. No Wanted posters, but we’re here to catch a missing man—Hatch, old search dog trainer, who left his car in front of the Nail Salon to wander among buildings for our dogs to trail. The little water-tank floats, silent, above its tower lost in fog. Larry the resident white rooster saunters by as if to tease my dog, antsy to “go find!” Down the boardwalk, spinet against store wall, chair for pianist and bench for audience.

raw morning, footsteps
and breath muffled, fog plays the

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

North Wind’s come to call
through door-lock and chimney flue—
don’t you love its song? 


Listening to the sounds of the wind in Taylor Graham’s poems today, echoing our recent Seed of the Week, North Wind. Thanks to her for such music! Her poems today are in the forms of Haibun, Haiku, a rhymed Madrigal and an unrhymed one, plus a Ballade. For more about the Ballade, as well as some examples, go to

For up-coming poetry events in our area, scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info—and note that more may be added at the last minute.



It’s time for more contributions from Form Fiddlers! Each Friday for awhile, there will be poems posted here from some of our readers using forms—either ones which were 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 forms and get them posted in the Kitchen. 

Kelley White is new to the Kitchen; she stumbled across Joyce Odam’s poems last Tuesday and was very surprised, since she has appeared in Joyce’s
Brevities. Small world! Also surprising: she sent me a Tuanortsa, which we talked about here a few weeks ago (astronaut spelled backwards, don’t ask me why). More from Kelley in a couple of weeks, but for now, here is her astronaut-spelled-backwards:

—Kelley Jean White, Philadelphia, PA

I start out walking
one booted foot
ready to step
on your back
your pretty little shoulders
oh darling your eyes gleam
love or anger
and I’ve been alone so long
it’s hard to remember
what brought us
together in that night
how we waited
in that busy little town
we knew so little then
now we know even less

now we know even less
we knew so little then
in that busy little town
how we waited
together in that night
what brought us together
it’s hard to remember
and I’ve been alone so long
love or anger
oh darling your eyes gleam
your pretty little shoulders
on your back
one booted foot
I start out walking


Here is a Rispetto from Carl Schwartz (Caschwa):

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

put on a pair of gloves to gather this fruit
it’s a bit thorny, your tender skin knows well
the imprint you leave with your big, heavy boot
may publish a story you don’t want to tell
have a bowl ready to collect what you pick
set it down handy, clear of weeds that are thick
stifle the sound of the phone ringing loudly
what really counts is the fruit you pick proudly


Carl says he “looked up the Chueh-chu [a form Taylor Graham sent us last week] and came up with this trilogy, each using a slightly different rhyme scheme”:


my heart becomes alive at the beach
it is here that true life is in reach
all the senses filled to the limit
just inhaling, no need to beseech

hidden feelings will show their colors
waves break like the first bite of a peach
hot sun, crisp air, no timecards to punch
ask Nature, she has so much to teach!

* * *


secure all the animals inside
make sure to close the windows and doors
put emergency supplies handy
clear a good pathway along the floors

okay, we are now safely in place
rehearsed like marching band groups of fours
it is too soon yet to test the sky
my bones aren’t broken, how about yours?

* * *


light of my life, nothing will dim it
all the senses filled to the limit
a honeymoon of togetherness
puzzle pieces no problem to fit

memories etched of this and that bit
high and low times to sharpen our wit
okay, now we are safely in place
anniversaries always a hit


Today is Valentine’s Day! In addition to Carl’s sweet poem above, we have another love tribute from Joseph Nolan:

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA
My lover has many
Layers of luckiness:
It begins
With her silky skin,
Continues with her
Brilliant eyes
And ability
To disguise
The way she
Loves me so!

I’ll never
Let her go;
I couldn’t
Without her!

She’s lucky to have
A lovely body,
A mind that’s
Quick and clear,
A sensitive ear,
A way to be
As clear
As she wants to;

But ever
A mystery
To me!


—Medusa, wishing candy and flowers to all those who visit the Kitchen— and thanks to all our contributors today for some right-lively fiddling!

 Love (and write!) like a tiger!
—Anonymous Photo

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clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.