Friday, May 15, 2020

Long Life & Good Hunting

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

           Getty Museum Quarantine Challenge
She’s the live ekphrastic of a painting, 1632, by Nicolaes Pickenoy. Her name is Coco. For the photo, she wears her husband’s dark robe backwards, mimicking the satin gown of Pickenoy’s lady. Intricate 17th- century detailing inspires her scarf of fringed honey-orange (livelier than the unnamed model’s muted color scheme). Coco must do with what she finds at home, sheltering-in-place. Head-dress is a paper cut-out by 5-year-old daughter home-schooling. The aristocratic neck-ruff of Pickenoy’s lady transforms, for Coco, to half a dozen toilet-paper rolls strung together. She lifts and juts her chin to look over the rolls, to stare at her husband’s lens—

a pose of resolve,
perhaps, in masked, contagious
times—her eyes, her self.


Time for a sestina?—just walk the field,
blue lupine’s capture-the-moment couplet.

2 strangers in nursery aisle, each seeks the
best tomato plants—6-foot masked sashay.

Never thought I’d see the parking garage
with so many empty slots at midday!

 Clarksville Day, 2017


Clarksville Day! when they open the gate
to ghost town that once boasted four hotels,
a general store, school, post office, Wells
Fargo, Pony Express remount station;
its main street part of Lincoln Highway.

On Clarksville Day, I cross the concrete
tee-beam bridge, stepping aside to let
a hitch of Percherons clop-clop past me,
pulling a period wagon. The good old days!
Yes, they had the Spanish flu epidemic.

Now we’ve got a world-class pandemic
which means Clarksville Day won’t happen
this year. The ghosts keep the town to
themselves—no masks, no social distancing,
no live visitors to spread the virus of the living.

        Accipiter cooperii

Guerilla-raptor of the woodlands, she wing-beats through oaks,
red-eye scanning, missing nothing on hunt. Where is her child?
Nest crotched high in a lookout oak, she settles, surveys her domain.

And look! the towering blue oak suddenly lifts its wings—
accipiter rises above leaf-canopy, sizes us up,
lets herself down to the nest to feed her hungry hawklet.

Perched on gate-post not waiting our return, but hunting; it takes
hundreds of songbirds, lizards, snakes to grow her chick to fledging.
She’s death to ground squirrels—I wish her long life and good hunting.


Weed-eating our back-
hill’s grass-infested rock-piles,
I step carefully,
try to guess the hidden den
where you keep safe your kit-babes.


It begins as endless words, something
funny to slice through chaos. A slow
blur in all directions. What did she say?
to roast and carve old grievances, over
the river, mulling another pinprick.
No reason to remember this, it won’t
spoil. The way-we-were spreads itself
out of our hands, leaking out in the folds
of dim history to overfill our space.  

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Grayam

Are we still closed down?
Nest of seven bluebird eggs—
here, the nuthatch with her chicks.


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s timely poems and photos, and yes, we are still closed down, sort of—although much of our El Dorado County up here is allegedly opening up now, with restrictions. Most restaurants are, indeed, hobbled, but Medusa’s Kitchen remains wide open, serving epicurean poetry and phine photos, 24/7! Don’t be shy about bringing what you have to the table; send it to (24/7, for sure)!

For upcoming poetry readings and workshops available online while we stay at home, including Nick LeForce’s weekly workshop at 4pm tonight (“Writing From the Inside Out”; reg in advance at, and James Lee Jobe’s reading tonight at 7:30pm ( 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.

For more about El Dorado County poetry events, check Western Slope El Dorado Poetry on Facebook:



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.

Earlier this week, I mentioned that Carol Frith, one of the editors of Sacramento’s long-running journal,
Ekphrasis, passed away last weekend; coincidentally, we have an Ekphrastic poem today from Joyce Odam. The Ekphrastic form is tricky; there is no specific structure to it, but it’s  too easy to fall into pure description of the visual piece in question. But check out and note how they talk about taking the poem further into the art, as in the musings around Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn”. Here is Joyce’s poem about a painting by Picasso:

WALKING YOUNG (Ekphrastic)
—Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA
               After Mother and Daughter,
              Barcelona, 1900 by Pablo Picasso


Prissy and Missy go for a dance—
walk down the strutting avenue
in their pretty shoes and daring
skirts—a bit too tight—and a bit
too short—for the old decorum.

Boldly they flounce themselves
along through the golden mirrors
of the air; blithely they mince,
and glance and smile and flutter
their lips. And the day is so long,

and so bright,   and so rare,   that it
lets them go to the end of it before
they know what the next will know,
that there is only one,  as brief,  and
free,  and glad,  and young,  as this.

Thank you, Joyce, and check out Ekphrasis ( when you get a chance. 

Here is a Cento from Carol Louise Moon

—Carol Louise Moon, Placerville, CA

She kept her red heart memories.
She felt the balancings
of life and love and wings
throng about her as the bees.
The towers thrust aside—
a place where she could hide
in warmth with hints
                          of summer seas.

A Cento: Each of seven lines is a phrase from the poetry of: Carl Sandburg, Joyce Odam, e.e. cummings, James Russell Lowell, Edgar Allan Poe, E. A. Robinson, and Henry Timrod.


And two Sonnettes (abbacbc), also from Carol Louise:

—Carol Louise Moon

Our park gazebo’s freshly decked in green
with couples dancing in their western dress.
A band that plays the old tunes with finesse
creates a very blithe and family scene.
For sure, it’s Pioneer Day once again.
All the teens will soon be playing chess;
it’s good to see them all in hugs and grins.

* * *

BITTERN (a Sonnette)
—Carol Louise Moon
The Bittern, brown and stout,
              lives in the tule,
pummeled by winds and tempest
             all around.
Search throughout the reeds,
             he won’t be found.
He points his beak toward sky
             and moves so gently,
unnoticed as the sways within
             a breeze.
Statue-like he always stands
             his ground;
a reed-bird—he blends in
            with the reeds.

SPRINGBOARD (a Sort-of Panic Chain) 
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

(Written upon the occasion of Medusa fatally drowning her computer keyboard in Diet Coke, as discussed last Friday. It varies from the Panic form because it is only the writer’s thoughts, not a compilation of phrases from other authors.)

Computer keyboards
are like springboards
helping one to dive
into pools of knowledge
without themselves
being in the water
for sport

the music of songbirds
not the folly of wrong words
helping one to swim
without themselves
being immersed in a beverage
of sort

carbonated soda
from Introduction to the Coda
may enliven taste buds
without themselves
being part of the score

but do not despair
sitting right near your chair
is a dry and clean keyboard
so you can complete the
Relative Feed Value part of
your Dairy Herd Management

Taylor Graham also tackled Carl Schwartz’s “Panic” form in her “Zoom Reunion” (see today’s post above), a made-up form which Carl says has “no rules or guidelines except that it is a mosaic of quotations, clumsily overlapping and enjambing in somewhat undefinable ways to create a message that may not at all conform with what the original authors had in mind.” That sentence sounds like a Panic in itself!

Here are some Limericks from Carl—not the easiest form to make smooth and find enough rhymes for, but Carl’s do the work:

MEAN STREAK (Limerick Chain)

if I told you I’d then have to kill you
make it easy for both of us, will you?
just act like you know
and hand me the dough
so I won’t then officially bill you


when you open a can of worms quickly
hold your nose ‘cause it’s going to be sickly
put half on the hook
just like in the book
but watch out for that point, it’s real prickly


we elected a pompous ass child
had no resume, boy was he wild!
got his rules from the Klan
tries to prove he’s a man
just by reading the numbers he’s dialed


there’s a trail to the top of the mountain
of the bills we rang up at the fountain
those strawberry shakes
and chocolate cakes
the grand total looks fine, but who’s countin’?


it is ‘way past your bedtime, you know that
so take off your big coat and your snow hat
tomorrow we’ll ski
downhill, you and me
then come home, wipe our boots on the door mat


this new virus has stolen our free time
quarantined all day long from our tee time
that nice nineteenth hole
club sandwich with sole
and my drink with a touch of some key lime 

My apologies to Carl; his “Vocabulary” was supposed to be posted last Monday, but I blew it. So here is his Sonnet, along with his photo of poison oak:

I know when a good smell fills my nostrils
recognition in uncharted waters
as natural as stamen and pistils
variable as good teeter totters

a dead language protects many flowers
from revealing their common, spoken name
and then all those long and grueling hours
spent to alphabetize spices, for shame!

songbirds refuse to wear their name badges
hard covered trees omit printing titles
the meadows display unmatched quilt patches
joined together for daily recitals

and so you may see me doing this dance:
“I will look it up when I get the chance”


And finally, another tongue-in-cheek poem about the Sonnet, this one on committing the unforgivable crime of leaving a syllable off of one of the lines:

ALMOST (Spoof on Sonnet)

too many lettters put into one word
two left metric feet dance right off the page
failure to tally the syllables, absurd!
it is what it is, let proofreaders rage

garlic and onions, a must to include
we can’t let this poem be called blasé
forthright opinions, not shy to be rude
in your face, peons, just do as I say

I was right there at that very same place
but didn’t read the feelings like you did,
all geared up ready to hike out of base
camp, each of your jars secure with its lid

so here we are, climbing up the bottom
rung of a burning ladder in Gotham


Big thank-yous to all these contributors for fiddling with forms this week and letting us see the results! Don’t you want to join them? Pick a form, any form, and see what you can do with it! The snakes of Medusa are always hungry…


 When will this mess be over?
—Public Domain 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.