Friday, May 08, 2020

Resolve To Be Alive!

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

LOCKDOWN  (a Sestina)

This is just a bump
in the road. Time to embrace
stay-at-home as a temporary fixture
of life; a solo howl
ricocheting off walls lonely
for friends. Resolve
       to stick this out. Resolve
is good! Bump
meetings off your schedule. Lonely?
Solitude’s tender embrace
like 19th-century novels; a howl—
squeal of a plumbing fixture?
      Must isolation be a fixture?
to take advantage of this. Don’t howl
when life’s a speed-bump.
the silence. Lonely
      is as lonely
does—that old-saw fixture
of growing-up. Embrace
the moment. Resolve
to love your cat’s soft nose-bump,
dog’s melancholy howl
      to run free. You too, howl
the moonstruck lonely
with whatever goes bump,
sends shivers in the dark, lights a fixture
that sparks resolve.
Accept the starry sky’s embrace.
      Explore your backyard, embrace
a tree. Sirens howl
from far-away—closer? Resolve
to be alive. No lonely
in your new world. No worn-out fixture—
newborn! A wakeup bump!
      Embrace your lonely
wolf-howl, your out-of-the-blue fixture.
Resolve! it’s just Life’s fist-bump.


An isolation-walk to monitor
how the land is faring without people.

Long-gone miners tore away the topsoil—
such lush spring growth! it’s giant poison oak.

On a sequestered walk, fairy lanterns
blooming where I never saw them till now.

Tiny flutter-buzz—native bee has found
native blackberry’s lavish white blossoms.

But before I can focus my camera,
bee is long gone to unfocused flowers.


Don’t call it isolation.

A solitary walk through buckeye woods

pressing the edge of meadow

blooming with buttercup, blue dick, and
cluster-lily brodiaea. Stunted oaks

are leafing out with honeysuckle.
Forget your schedule, your cancellations.

New green-growth climbs up
every heap of dead, lacing
woody skeletons with another kind of life.

A native pollinator has found

native blackberry, small bumbler

almost lost among oversize white blooms.

Call of wild geese from the lake,

a wander-song with schedule all its own,
and April sun cloaks everything with bright
and shadow. Who could be lonely?

MASK & UNMASK       

Children are dancing on the open stage where, last summer, folks sat on straw bales in small patches of shade, watching a play of history—colony that came and prospered for awhile and disappeared. These kids are dancing impromptu in their first spring shifts. The same kids who passed us on the trail, appearing so fast out of buckeye woods, I couldn’t pull up the bandanna knotted at my nape. The kids quite unmasked, running laughing and signal-whistling to the ones coming behind. There are always more coming behind. They ran ahead around the lake to this open platform, where we arrive in our own time.

How we improvise,
dancing our history on stage,
then bow and descend.


What happened is, we grew lonely
of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows—

“Dig deep enough and you might see the sky.”
Emptiness, but a vaster silence filled   

the uses of solitude. To imagine; to hear
in the silence that prolongs the span

of the arc-lamps, and the moon’s suffused presence,
of tune or breath . . . .

into something of inexplicable value.   
There is a solitude of space

between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
the ice-cream parlor and the tobacconist’s.

The paired butterflies are already yellow with August,
there is no loneliness like theirs.

[Based on lines taken from the poetry of Lisel Mueller, T.S. Eliot, Richard Wilbur, Grace Schulman, Jean Valentine, Thom Gunn, W.S. Merwin, Randal Jarrell, Mary Oliver, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Karl Shapiro, Ezra Pound, James Wright]


That photo of a tractor gone to seed,
farm machinery by growing green reformed—
volunteer weeds and miscellaneous vine
all joining forces, getting sweet revenge
for plowing, tilling, harrowing, and planting
a field meant for wild grasses and forbs.
The old hay barn bows incrementally
to weather, and the erstwhile tractor-shed
has fallen to its knees; the farmer
long gone, the place maybe in foreclosure.
And the red tractor—in green-field isolation
quite apart from agriculture’s schedule—
rests at ease, softly wound in whispering
leaves and the erratic breeze, a color accent
in one of Nature’s whimsical designs.

(an Ekphrastic based on a public domain tractor photo, Medusa’s Kitchen, 5/1/20)

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

In these virulent days, how
can you take charge, exert some
sort of control in your world?—
seeds for the garden.

Warmup stretches: forward-fold,
reach high then touch your toes, and
while you’re down there, pick foxtails
from weed-eating shoes.

They felled the towering oak
lest it touch the power line,
now we’ve got a mess of spring
sprouting from the stump!


Thanks, as always, to Taylor Graham for her deft and inspiring hand in sending us her photos and poems. About today’s post, she writes: “Besides Haibun and Blank Verse couplets, I'm sending you a scrunched Sestina, “Lockdown” (I hate to have poems take up a whole page with stanza breaks; this came from a Sestina prompt with 6 suggested words); a Cento (names of poets at end of poem); Dodoitsu, and Ekphrastic on one of Medusa's public domain photos.” For info about the Cento, see

As for her “scrunched” Sestina, that’s a mind-bending sumbitch of a form that’ll get 'way out of control if you let it. Taylor has written hers using very non-traditional line-lengths and no stanza breaks, choosing instead to indent (what she calls "scrunching" it); don’t let that tie you into knots. Follow the traditional recipe if this is your first one. Here’s a site for kids that might be a helpful start:



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.

Poems are where you find them, and need to be jumped on right where they lay (lie?), right? Last weekend, I wrote to Joseph Nolan as follows: "Remember when I spilled Diet Coke on my keyboard? No harm that time. Did it again a few days later, and for a few hours, mysterious D’s kept appearing on documents. Then I did it yesterday (yes, all within a week!) and totally killed the keyboard. R's, F's, V's and the delete button no longer work. Had to cut and paste them where I needed them. It's amazing how many times one needs those letters—and DELETE! Don't get me started on my need for Delete… The moral, Joe? Don't spill Diet Coke on your keyboard. (All is well now; hubby had a spare.)"

Here’s Joe’s reply; he says maybe it's grist for a poem, such as:

 How I Killed My Keyboard, Using Diet Coke:
 Requiem of an Overworked Editor
 By  —kk  
How about it? Ready to jump on my Coke-soaked keyboard and turn it into a poem?

This week, Joyce Odam has sent us a Canopus Stanza (a b a b c b c), sister to the Sonnette (a b b a c b c). These forms are short and simple. Thanks, Joyce—!

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

Brooding into silence, you withdraw.
An hour into winter—and you feel
something in the mind begin to gnaw—
something that the heart begs to reveal.
Wet shadows stream against the windowpane.
You let the mind and heart begin to heal.
You sit and watch. You listen to the rain.


Sue Crisp has sent us a Countdown poem. Poetry Soup ( says that the Countdown poem consists of “counting backward from an arbitrary number to indicate the time remaining before some event (such as launching a space vehicle)”. Here is what Sweet Sue sent us:

—Sue Crisp, Shingle Springs, CA

Why did I decide to sit down and write a poem when I have so many things left undone?
Do I have no purpose, no drive today to motivate me into my usual whirlwind of my daily activity?
Odd, it seems, I feel no push, no urge, no sudden surge of energy to dust, to sweep.
These chores I can almost do in my sleep, but not today, I’m bored, not moving.
My mood is a need of rest, not putting my energy to the test, at best.
Pencil in hand, a blank notebook page, just waiting for my brain to get engaged.
Nothing, just what I see out the window, trees beginning to bloom, neighbors cat.
Yes, I guess I could write about that, his coming and going.
Today he’s just wandering in the yard, while sniffing here and there.
Today, no birds, squirrel to chase, he doesn’t seem to care.
Back to looking out the window today, there’s a breeze.
It’s slight, barely moving the bare limbs of trees.
Hummingbirds are at the feeders for a snack.
Wings of magic, move them forward, back.
Gray squirrel comes into the yard.
Acorn in paws nibbling away.
Back to the dray.
For the day.
No housework.


Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) jumped on last week’s idea of making up a “Panic” form. He says, “Here is my ‘Panic’: 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.” (Sounds like MY poetry, Carl… Or maybe Gertrude Stein.) Anyway, here are two Panics that Carl sent, and I hereby christen the Panic to be an official form. Maybe it would be appropriate for that keyboard murder I committed last weekend…

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

A plague of opinion! Shall I
compare thee to those which
we call monsters, new hatch’d
to the woeful time which is the
author of authors, partial to
their wit, sure to madness
near alli’d, such harmonious
madness from my lips would

* * *


Lawn as white as the ropy
drivel of rheumatic brains.
White thorn too late, too late!
ye cannot enter nowhere
who is everywhere. Preserve
the right of thy place, for I
thou thee, thou traitor!


Love the “ropy drivel of rheumatic brains”; been there and still am. Carl dug into the classic Villanelle form, as well:


she was seen stripping and posing quite nude
out on the French Riviera, no less
gentlemen postured and baring their mood

it’s just like that at any altitude
uncontrolled hormones can be a big mess
she was seen stripping and posing quite nude

after a time, she married some rich dude
what made them spouses is anyone’s guess
gentlemen postured and baring their mood

what sets them apart from the multitude?
money and beauty escaping a dress
she was seen stripping and posing quite nude

again and again, with much fortitude
paparazzi in place, always the press
gentlemen postured and baring their mood

tables abundant with glaring fast food
top of the mountain is not free from stress
she was seen stripping and posing quite nude
gentlemen postured and baring their mood


Carl also sent us some Ivors (6-syllable Imagist poems); see Wed. 4/29/20 Kitchen post from Tom Goff:


spread that hand—reach a tenth




pedals—easy touch now


double forte—not blast


play some—happy music


a circle of fifths—nice




here’s the key—don’t lose it


down home fun—up tempo


Bach inventions—crisply


5/4 meter—count rests



For more about Imagism, see In Carl's version, he has chosen to make all 12 images fit one title, the "Ivory" (keyboard).


And here are some Shadormas from him, just to wind up the week right:


big at the State Fair
buy ticket
wait in line
must be tall and old enough
let’s do it again!


shiny, new, and bright
so much fun
and delight
for older generations
no match for a car


kids not yet
old enough to smoke
by the tobacco business
hooked for a lifetime


here comes the
brand new strain
expect waves
it’s a global pandemic
we are not ready


can’t go out and play
stay inside
maybe hide
there is no known cure as yet
we have each other 

The Shadorma is a Spanish 6-line syllabic poem of 3/5/3/3/7/5 syllable lines respectively: (


Wow! An abundance of poetry from SnakePals today, and thanks again to Taylor Graham for inspiring us to tackle all these challenges, masked and unmasked.

A final note: The Spring 2020 issue of
The Marsh Hawk Press Review (online, ed. by Mary Mackey) has a List Poem in it, page 22, by Eileen R. Tabios. It certainly fits my household—especially the toilet paper part. See



Oh, dear... they shouldn't have to go through this...
—Public Domain Artwork

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.