Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Tower of Words

—Poetry and Original Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


I think I’ll go away—find me a new place to be—
somewhere blue, with a blue door—a blue seashore

on one side—and a blue mountain on the other;

between these, will be the blue door, one to each side
of a small blue room, where I will be, in a blue center.



these levels of hills
beyond which reach the sky
and my yen for distance
one blue upon the other
shades of distance recede into the
pale-to-darkening sky
the hills come to me now with their
overlapping tones and shadows
old twilight hills that I am watching
a thin line of river flows up the mountain
leaving behind a small lake
upon which a small island is floating

 Undertone of Silence


On smooth mirrored water the low boat glides,
doubling itself and its occupants, taking the day

lazy and long, a small black cat leashed to the bow
for luck, the rower and the one who just leans and

watches admiring the thought of themselves created
by art : the red shirt of one, and the blue shirt of the

other, a low fog misting, soon to involve them, tame
as a shadow, the black cat staring down at itself in

the staring water—not even a ripple to show them
moving through golden fog toward some shore—or

deeper—the paddle inert in the rower’s hand while a
drifting thought holds them immobile : the featureless

cat and its featureless double, the boat turned upside
down so the sky might swallow the whole tableau

if it wanted to—nothing can drown here : no room
for a cry, the thought too shallow.


restless rivers

running narrow     
running wide  
sometimes deep 

flecks of sunlight
moon flecks at night

the underneath is lost
to all the consequential
flow of them

whatever stays    whatever goes
names the rivers…
each calling…   each drowning….



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…

 Never the Twain


              A great silence overcomes me,
              and I wonder why I ever thought
              to use language.            —Rumi

Adrift in the whiteness, I am becoming white shadow,
not even the sky on this small lake to reflect me.
I cannot see the shores on either side.
I have no oars.
I try to think of the words for this,
but it is all sensation.
I may be caught in a stillness,
or I may be falling;
there seems to be no difference.
I may be borne upon the back of a white bird.
or maybe I am the bird.
This may be the true dream of my existence—
the one with no ending.
All is here, and was ever here. There is nowhere else.
I am a moment out of eternity—one snowflake—
one last tear that slips down my cheek
and reaches the corner of my silent mouth.
I taste my own existence.


dangerous deep
flow—should I risk the urge
to challenge what I dare not know—
how your swift music could become a dirge?

Proud swimmer, listen to my song of praise;
do I tempt you with my power?
Your hesitation sways . . .
 I am only

 Day Closing Down


I          spiller of wine          on sundays
in boredom of solitaire
and late t.v.

sit on the floor
in red chiffon
watching my small glass go deep
then shallow

while I          surrounded by
all that river
go shallow          then deep

(prev. pub. in Scree, 1976)

 Love Song at Dusk



When I was the one, the first holy one,
of my other being; when I knew myself,
and the way of myself
and out of longing for myself,
and there was no other,
and even then I sought,
and my own blood was flowing,
and I bled until I was pure of my bleeding,
and this was God
in my pleading,
and I answered,
and was ordained to ever ask
and answer
and still I complained of my prayer
and my conviction,
and I went to the tower of words
and it was a mountain
and it leaned into the falling sky
and even then I signified nothing
for a moment,
for a long, powerful moment,
and was united with my birth
long after I died,
and thus I cried and cried
for myself and others
and nothing came to me
except my ego which was made of words
made of thoughts, and they entangled.
Oh, why do I remember this?
It was all done before it began,
and I was diminished.
My tears drained me and I was a river 
pouring down a mountain in the eyes of God.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

How beautifully the little river flows
along the narrow banks . . .
how windingly it goes . . .

taking its flashing ripples and its leaves,
given by the sun . . .  and wind . . .
and shedding trees . . . .


—Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her tower/river of words this sunny summer morning!

Our new Seed of the Week is Relentless. Everything seems relentless these days: the heat, the quarantine, politics. Write about it, and send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com. 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.



 —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.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
All you have to do is send poetry and/or
photos and artwork to
The snakes of Medusa are always hungry!

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Sun Will Rise

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Sue Crisp, Shingle Springs, CA                                            

Remembering the days of my youth,
laying creekside in the sun, listening
to the creek burble as I watched the
rippling water run over half-submerged
rocks and water sparkled stones.

The peace, tranquility, of that creekside
sound, soothed by the scent of wildflowers
that abound in that springtime veld.
Song of birds, croak of resident frogs,
natures voices, a blended meld.

Those days are gone, the creekside pleasures,
but not the mind’s eye of nature’s treasures.

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Sue Crisp

—Sue Crisp
The creekside log cabin,
set back in the wooded glen,
spoke of the peace, tranquility,
that the days once had been.

Now brambles, weed patches,
fill once-flowered beds.  Wild
flowers of poppy, sunflower,
and lupines now nod their
summer heads.

Home now for the skitter and
squeak of mice, webs of a spider
or two.   Insect-seeking bats make
an occasional fly through.

Her days of glory gone, yes, a sad
thing, but she can still hear her
tinkling creek sing.

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Sue Crisp

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Creek side,
Oh yes!
Hips and knees
Too. In fact,

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

are you losing your memory?
well, to tell you the whole truth,
there are occasions when
sensations experienced do not
seem to ever formulate as a
memory in the first place

like when you are half-awake
and the connections are just
not there to reliably file away
what is perceived on the spot
so in place of memory one is
left with a suggestion of déjà vu

or like at the end of a movie
when they roll the credits and
you might just barely be able
to remember a few of them,
but most of them never reach
your memory at all

what was the twelfth word of
this poem? don’t look back,
just answer right now! Come on,
you read it seconds ago and
you should be able to recall that
one point easily.     or not 

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan


It was the era of Cassius Clay, Lew
Alcindor, air raid sirens sending
school kids under their desks every
Friday at 10:00 a.m.

My dad went to work at a giant
aerospace firm, put a slide rule
in the pocket of his shirt, freshly
retrieved from a Chinese laundry

once a week we dined out at a
café that still served real cream
with the coffee, a gallon of gasoline
cost well under a buck

we pledged allegiance to 48, 49, 50
stars on the flag, comedians used
language you could share with mom,
long distance calls cost a lot more

we were on the winning side of a
world war, hope and renewal were
the framework of our plans, onward
to a better life, we could do it!

then, like a driver without a map, we
hit some bad roads and missed a few
turns, allowing the voice of corporate
dominance to speak for everyone

the material expenses of death were
to become a traded commodity, so
no lives really mattered any more
(it’s the economy, stupid)

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan


the framers of the Constitution were farmers
and fully understood the advantages of
rotating the crops, which is why they made
sure to include the flexibility of amendments,
some of which would fail because their acidity
level was not matched to the task

Our Second Amendment, for example, does
well to nourish egos, but can kill old roots
that were striving to reach sunlight

Our Thirteenth Amendment attempted to carve
into stone a new pecking order for our menagerie
of appetites: food chain link sausage fencing
allowed prey to run free before unleashing the
predators to get their fill 

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan


starting way back in that earliest time
when original thoughts became vanguard
reconnaissance parties in mud and grime
people double-digit older worked hard

to build an uncrossable barrier
a foolproof blockade for generations
as if age was a common carrier
of a germ that kills emancipation

and so it is when older poets read
the thoughts set down by folks a bit older
than they are, up comes that wall to impede
their access, and up comes that cold shoulder

and so the beacon of enlightenment
comes with darkened shades of disappointment 

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

A statue of actor John Wayne still stands at Orange County airport bearing his name
         and there’s been discussion to put this memory of John Wayne “out to pasture”
         just as other statues have been removed in California, such as that of Captain John Sutter in Sacramento
         John Wayne starred in Hollywood-made movies about whites murdering the “evil savage" Native Americans in the Western U.S
         even while the civil rights movement heated up  
         Wayne unrepentantly told Playboy in 1971, "I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves. …”
         Meanwhile there’s a company called BradFord Exchange which sells replicas of John Wayne’s jackets and clothes from his “iconic" characters in the movies
          I think the “Duke” jacket should come stained with “Indian blood”
          and on it, feature Wayne’s white racist statement, "What happened between their forefathers and our forefathers is so far back—right, wrong or indifferent—that I don’t see why we owe them anything. I don’t know why the government should give them something that it wouldn’t give me.”
          For the Native American, of course, that meant genocide instead of “liberty”.

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA
The limb
Barely makes its range
Through faltered, frail-made

Misshapen, now, and weak,
Its muscle-memory
Recalls smooth, fluid swings,

But with aging’s changes,
It wears down
Worn and bleak.

 Distancing Sucks
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Joseph Nolan
When you look into darkness
From a place of bright light,
From a position of great illumination,
Of brilliant radiance,
Of pervasive luminescence,
You really can’t tell
What’s in there
Very well
Because of the size
Of your pupils.

Pupils must shrink
In a place of bright light
So its rays
Won’t burn
Dear retinas.

There are only so many
Retinas can absorb
Before they are done.
It’s a matter of adaptation.

It’s also why rich folks
Don’t get what goes
Down in ghettoes.
They don’t like to look
Into darkness.
They’d rather enjoy the light.

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Joseph Nolan

I’m just not clear about wisdom.
It seems so out of place
In a world devoid of meaning,
Where souls have lost their grace,

Where they try to control each other,
And push each other around,
And burn and shoot
And hang and loot,
Whenever the lights go down.

In a world devoid of reason,
A wise-man must be mad—
Stung by tears of son-stripped mothers
Who’ve lost everything they had!

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Joseph Nolan

The balance of a pendulum
Is found throughout its motion,
Swinging blithely, back and forth,
Its every south
Begins its north,
Back and forth,
Back and forth.
It always stops

Keep On Skatin' 
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Joseph Nolan
The narrowness of golden rules,
Of virtues and prescriptions,
Of religious observations,
Do not outshine
The glimmering of ivory,
The shininess of ebony,
The ruby glow, mahogany
Or the firmness of oak wood.

We need not bless
The sun
To get
The sun to shine.
The sun will rise a’morning,
Regardless, and
Everything will be just fine!


Today’s LittleNip:


a mountain is not humbled
by the courageous efforts
of climbers to ascend it

a sniper is not humbled
by the meritorious
qualities of its target

but the parents of infants
are truly humbled by the
amazing beauty of life


Another crazy-quilt Monday of fine poetry in the Kitchen today, and many thanks to our contributors for that!

Here in our area, Sac. Poetry Center uses Zoom for weekly readings and workshops. For more info, go to www.sacramentopoetrycenter.com; here is a list of what's going on there this week:

•••Mon., 10am: Writers on the Air hosted by Todd Boyd: RSVP in advance via email to writersontheair.message@gmail.com. Zoom: us02web.zoom.us/j/358106078; meeting ID: 358 106 078

•••Mon. 7:15pm: SPC Monday Night Socially Distant Verse online, featuring Connie Post. Host: Stuart Canton. Zoom: us02web.zoom.us/j/7638733462?pwd=YVltWXFFa2Rid2pZQ3pWaVordmZ5UT09; meeting ID: 763 873 3462 ("P O E T R E E I N C”); password: spcsdv2020

•••SPC Tuesday night workshop hosted by Danyen Powell: Bring a poem for critique: us02web.zoom.us/j/346316163; meeting ID: 346 316 163

•••Wed., 6pm: MarieWriters workshop (prompts) hosted by Patricia Wentzel: zoom.us/j/671443996

•••Fri., 4pm: Writing from the Inside Out workshop led by Nick LeForce. Reg. in advance at zoom.us/meeting/register/upwkde-opjkpnyQECAVBKolY4hKCdl61uA/. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. (If you have registered before, use the same link.)

* * *

Also this week:

•••Tues. (7/14), 6pm: Second Tuesday Poetry Series online, hosted by Modesto Poet Laureate Stella Beratlis, featuring Connie Post, Michael Meyerhofer. Zoom: cccconfer.zoom.us/j/99196095308/.

•••Fri. (7/17), 7:30pm: Video poetry reading on Facebook by Davis Poet Laureate James Lee Jobe at james-lee-jobe.blogspot.com/.

•••Sun. (7/19), 4-5pm: Book Launch: Writers on the Air features Mimosa Sundays, with Jennifer O’Neill Pickering reading from her new book,
Fruit Box Castles: Poems From a Peach Rancher’s Daughter (Finishing Line Press: info and pre-order at www.finishinglinepress.com/product/fruit-box-castles-poems-from-a-peach-ranchers-daughter-by-jennifer-oneill-pickering/). Host: Todd Boyd. Zoom: us02web.zoom.us/j/358106078; meeting ID: 358 106 078; password: 025674

For more about El Dorado County poetry events, check Western Slope El Dorado poetry on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ElDoradoCountyPoetry/.



—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

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.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
All you have to do is send poetry and/or
photos and artwork to
The snakes of Medusa are always hungry!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Spun Glass and Black Jade

—Marianne Moore (1887-1972)


through black jade.
       Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
       adjusting the ash-heaps;
              opening and shutting itself like


injured fan.
       The barnacles which encrust the side
       of the wave, cannot hide
               there for the submerged shafts of the


split like spun
       glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
       into the crevices—
              in and out, illuminating


turquoise sea
       of bodies. The water drives a wedge
       of iron through the iron edge
              of the cliff; whereupon the stars,


rice-grains, ink-
        bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green
        lilies, and submarine
              toadstools, slide each on the other.


       marks of abuse are present on this
       defiant edifice—
             all the physical features of


       of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
       hatchet strokes, these things stand
             out on it; the chasm-side is


       evidence has proved that it can live
       on what can not revive
             its youth. The sea grows old in it.



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.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Glove Filled With Music

—Poetry by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy of James Lee Jobe

Something rises out of the east, a new day, like an idea being formed, like a child being born. Light in the sky. Life on the earth. Breathe and it begins.


I have washed my hands for twenty seconds with soap and music. I have surgical gloves to wear. I have dreamed up a house with invisible walls that let me see the sun and the moon and the trees. Oh let me stay there for forty days and forty nights, like Jesus in the desert. Let me stay there, inside, for forty years. Death is a glove filled with music, and I have gloves to wear, I hear the music. Perhaps you can hear it, too. Listen.

 Anna Akhmatova

After the Nazis were finally driven back, Anna Akhmatova read her poems to the wounded and the dying. Although well into middle-age, they say Anna was more beautiful than ever, and that she had a glow that was ethereal and kindness was in the blue of her eyes. Can you imagine it? The wounded heroes of Mother Russia filled with the rich poignancy that leaps from the verse of the queen.

Rain against the window with a tapping sound. My wife laughing, alone in another room. A sadness for the mounting grief across the face of the world. Things that tell I am still alive.


Beneath this house are the roots of an old oak tree. Night. All is quiet. I can hear the oak roots moving in the manner of snakes. In this way the roots bless the soil, and so the house above is blessed also. Life is grand, isn’t it? Look around, even now as you read, the world is green and in bloom.

Today’s LittleNip:

The universe is grand, endless and timeless, yet all of it exists in one molecule of liquid, the tiniest part of a tear in the corner of your eye.

—James Lee Jobe


—Medusa, thanking James Lee Jobe for today’s post, and reminding you that James’ weekly video poetry readings continue this week, posted before 7:30 pm each Friday at
www.youtube.com/jamesleejobe & james-lee-jobe.blogspot.com/. 

 —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.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
All you have to do is send poetry and/or
photos and artwork to
The snakes of Medusa are always hungry!


Friday, July 10, 2020

Alive With Words

—Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
—And scroll down for Form Fiddlers’ Friday!


The wooden gate says
No Beach Access,
so far from ocean crowds.

Our open circle’s
cleansed by leaf-breeze
the great oak makes.

We sit each in private distance
webbed by eyes and voices
spacing silence.

The hawk alights on a wire
strung with sun.
A poem of Blue Lotus

opens earth under my chair,
I slip in between shade and light,
sky and the tilt-wing attendant

who passes over, speechless,
sailing elsewhere,
judging us alive with words. 

    early morning workouts

He walks the shoulder of the track,
his stride grown short but he won’t slack,
keeps going

while runners circle oval rounds.
young and fit. He knows his bounds,
he’s slowing

but keeps this truth: once you stop
you’re done. A creek is drop by drop

as walkers pause to say “good morn”
and ask the year when he was born—
it’s showing.

He’s 91, truckin’ toward another year.
They say Oh wow!! He’s hero here.


Sudden jade-green invasion,
south pasture’s grown knee-high in
scrubby sworls, the thistle our
sheep ate like ice-cream. Gone. But
sure as taxes it comes back
stouter than before. Weed-whack
slash it—it’s constant as stars.


Sheep sheltered in place
too long—till the gate opens
into free pasture.


I stood at the rim with my dog
between thunderhead and silent gorges,
summit dark as cloud. Wordless
deafening dialogue
of opponent Old Norse gods.
Storm in all directions.
Trail crew gone, fighting distant
lightning fires, armed not with guns
but chainsaws and shovels.
We had no red-card, my dog and I
alone on the mountain.
Fireworks to east, north, south.
The moment electric, free. A choice.
How to admit
we were way too high? I picked
a creek without a name,
down, toward a river off the map,
charged with electric sky.



Zero hour for birthday by
Zoom, your kids, grands & nephews—
zipless talk & laughter, a
zoo of chatter, bad wifi
zones out, voices turn to
zither without words or else
Zoom-Zoom, your dead cousin’s cat.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

After long absence
we’re together but distant,
masked against a plague.
The pond summer-full with birds,
blue water lapping its shores.


Many thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s post! She sends us a modified Triversen (“Poems in the Pasture”), a Linda Klein Sonnet Variation (“Way Past High School”), Pleiades (“Starthistle” & “Zoom”), Tanka and Haiku.



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.

Joyce Odam sent an intriguing poem: it’s a Paradigm Poem, made up of five verses, each a different form: Mondo, Katauta, Choka, Waka, Tanka. Thanks, Joyce!

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

Does my mirror lie?
There is rain in the old glass.
Whose tears burn my face?           
The distant nightingale sings—
sings all night for its freedom.

All night I have wept.                   
My pillow is still grieving.
How can you feign sleep?
I dreamed you were a wood-thrush.  
The forest hid you.
I searched with my empty cage,
but you would not sing.
Is that not enough for you?

Look how my wet gown                 
makes tear-puddles on the floor;
I have brought the rain.
The song in my heart begins.
Thus have I returned to you.

Ah, but you are old . . .                    
old like last night’s vintage wine . . .
how you confound me!
I tease and you grow angry.
Don’t listen to your mirror.


Jennifer Fenn was inspired to send us lots of poems this week. She writes that “Taylor Graham’s Book Spine Poem, ‘Quick-Step’, inspired the one I am submitting below, ‘Plainsong’. I am also sending a double Pleiades (‘Change’), an Octo (‘Power Poles’), a Limerick (‘Oh to See Venice!’), and a Haiku (‘D-Day’)”. Thank you, Jennifer!

—Jennifer Fenn, Fresno, CA

David Copperfield,
the star thrower,
the Paris orphan,
Sara Crew,
Little Saint Elizabeth,
friends for Life!
Living on air
Beyond the forest,
let evening come!

* * *

—Jennifer Fenn

Covid climbs in, corners us,
catches us, capture us, like
canaries in wire cages,
comfortless, away from friends.
Clock ticks to months, we scramble,
cram to crack this conundrum,
conjuring up a vaccine.

Confined from my grandmother,
can’t watch classic movies with her.
Cocoa together is out.
Cruel, cold-hearted tyrant,
crashing my birthday, leaving
crumbs instead of cake and cream,
cast off your hideous crown!

* * *

—Jennifer Fenn

Some beetle-eaten pines still stand
above their long-time forest home.
Their arms and trunks become bare bones,
they’re looking like they’re power poles!

Will lightning catch and burn like coals?
Their arms and trunks become bare bones.
Above their long-time forest home,
some beetle-eaten pines still stand.

* * *

—Jennifer Fenn

I hear canal water’s now clean,
With sun sparkling on it! Pristine!
But travel’s banned! I sigh.
No gondolas float by.
I must wait to view such a scene!

* * *

—Jennifer Fenn

White sky, black cannons.
Ocean on TV foams gray,
But we know it’s red.

Sacramento’s Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) checks in again, this week with an Acrostic (“Limo Lino Pop”), a Triolet (“Cracked Bell”), and a Sonnette (“Mayflies”):

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA




* * *


my potato chip had a crack in it
no honor or respect had leaked out
the nonjudgmental dip cared not a whit
my potato chip had a crack in it
in that virgin part I had not yet bit
well just a little, to leave no doubt
my potato chip had a crack in it
no honor or respect had leaked out

* * *


the pandemic has made us all mayflies
the whole life experience foreshortened
to one speck of existence apportioned
among creatures who will never be wise
business as usual thrown out the door
masks are the new normal, raw suburban
this is what life is, we can’t ask for more


Wow! Look at all the forms that were represented here today! Thank you to these fine poets for fiddling along with us. Feel free to tackle any or all of these forms yourself—whatdaya got to lose???

Lots of Japanese forms float through the Kitchen; you might want to check out Billy Collins’ master class on them at www.masterclass.com/articles/a-guide-to-japanese-poetic-forms#quiz-0/.

Resources for today’s forms may be found at:

•••Acrostic: www.shadowpoetry.com/resources/wip/acrostic.html
•••Book Spine Poem: law.marquette.edu/facultyblog/2020/04/national-poetry-month-create-book-spine-poetry; see medusaskitchen.blogspot.com/search?q=book+spine+poem for Taylor Graham’s “Quick-Step”
•••Choka: popularpoetryforms.blogspot.com/2013/11/choka.html
•••Katauta: www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/katauta-poetic-form 

 Frogs Sheltering in Place
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA

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.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
All you have to do is send poetry and/or
photos and artwork to
The snakes of Medusa are always hungry!

 Saddle up. poets!

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Twenty-Three to Twenty-One

Chester A. Arthur, 1829-1886
U.S. President, 1881-1885
—Letter Poem by Michael Ceraolo, S. Euclid, Ohio

Here are two from [Michael’s collection], Twenty-Three to Twenty-One. Michael writes that it is so titled because “a woman named Julia Sand wrote 23 letters to Chester Arthur, the 21st President.” He says he has “done some condensing and re-arranging of Ms. Sand's letters (they total over 150 handwritten pages) as well as adding an occasional line or two, and I have imagined Arthur's responses; there is no known record of him responding.”

From Twenty-Three to Twenty-One:


                            “New York. Aug. 24th, 1882

My friend

How good you were to come & see me,
after all—
                & how badly
you were repaid for it!"
"I was afraid you had a
what shall I call it?—
a very stiff visit—
which was a pity,
for my family are not given to stiffness—
but you see, you took them quite by surprise"
And so they found fault with me
"for not entertaining you more agreeably!"
I thought you were coming to see me,
but it was clear from the time of your visit
you wished to see the rest of the family.

"But I did not like what you said,
just when you were leaving"
"it was frightfully mean"
"There is something more I want to say to you,
but will not now"
"I will give you time to rally from your malaria,
before I find fault"
"Hoping that your visit to Newport
will do you a great deal of good         Yours sincerely,
                                                   (Julia I. Sand)       J.I.S."

* * *


I appreciate your concern for my health,
and I appreciate the break from fault-finding
I would like you to know though,
that I found no fault with you or your family
on my visit

 Julia Sand


                        "New York.
                                Aug 28th 1882

are you sufficiently refreshed now,
to be found fault with?
Or have you, since we parted,
lived in such a whirlpool of adulation,
that you will not tolerate a lecture?"

On other matters
"The question is simply whether you intend
to do your duty to the whole country,
or to sacrifice the good of the country
for the benefit of a small clique
of your personal followers"
"What fraud does the Republican party
intend to perpetuate at the coming elections
that it needs so much money?"
“There are some things which the American people
will not stand even from a prime favorite"
"It is your so-called friends who drag you down"

"Are you angry with me for speaking to you so plainly?
Must I tell you again that I am your true friend in doing so?"
"I still have faith that your nobler nature will assert itself"
"Sometimes I ponder regretfully your last visit"
"I liked it best when you looked at me"
"I could have kept you for myself" but now
"I begin to believe you are too afraid of me
to write under any circumstance"
and I wonder "Will we ever meet again?"
                                                            Yours Sincerely,
                                                        (Julia I. Sand)     J.I.S."

* * *


I write a response to every one of your letters,
but do not send it to protect your privacy and mine
I am not angry with you, but I will say again
don't believe everything you read in the newspapers


Today’s LittleNip:

The health of the people is of supreme importance. All measures looking to their protection against the spread of contagious diseases and to the increase of our sanitary knowledge for such purposes deserve attention of Congress.

—Chester A. Arthur


—Medusa, with thanks to Michael Ceraolo for letting us peek at his new poetry series today, with its interesting letter format! For more about Julia I. Sand, go to sites such as blogs.loc.gov/loc/2020/05/julia-sand-the-letters-to-president-arthur-now-digital or www.nytimes.com/2018/08/08/obituaries/julia-sand-chester-a-arthur-overlooked.html/.

 Was Chester Arthur a party animal?
Find out at potus-geeks.livejournal.com/698782.html/.

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.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
All you have to do is send poetry and/or
photos and artwork to
The snakes of Medusa are always hungry!

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Imperfect Yet Fabulous

—Poetry by Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
—Public Domain "Angels of Color" Stock Illustrations

(Before and After the Turning)

             (dedicated to Carol Frith,
              a magically-wise poet)

hourglass sand
through, may
the cleared glass
show sunclouds
fringed in
molten silver
in an
blue-angel sky

is the ocean
a clean beach
succulents & poppies
California radiant
among dunes.


We follow her down the aisle.
She pushes a full cart
toward two kids who finger apples
not seeming to care when
she fondles their hair.
Removing a bottle of Blue Nun
from the rack, she smiles
as if she modeled for the label,
but only sips wine at the sacrament.

We invite the friendly Nun
to our picnic by the lake.
At sunset we will all walk
on water: if we sink, we’ll swim.
The Nun accepts our invite & hurries
into a long check-out line where
all agree she should go FIRST.
We point      to our car out front,
charading        we’ll meet her there.

(California Coast, 2001)

Our tents are colorful mushrooms,
nylon geometry over duff down.
A camp log, weathered silver,
collects a rope of kelp, orange
peels, a No More War t-shirt . . .
Our fifteen tents border
a redwood clearing near water
willows by Butano Creek.

On a day-trip to the coast,
we explore tide pools and sand
dunes, sand specks in our sandwich . . .
After campfire, kids scramble
into tents, snuggle into sleeping
bags and army surplus blankets,
sprawl among parents.

A childlike matriarch, I linger
in a lawn chair to wish upon
the evening star for peace, sanity.
A young redwood sweeps the turf,
shadow-dances on my orange tent.
All campers now are nestled in nylon
cathedrals where a full moon escorts
us into wave-washed dreamscapes.


Arjun makes
immortal a long
blade of grass
by pulling the green wish
squeakingly free
and chomping!


After hiking in the Sierras,
I rest among aspen trees,
drawn to pale branches’
lively leaves. Safe in a
pristine place, I drift asleep,
dream . . .
fallen angels encircle me
like sunshine. Removing my boots
they wash my feet, refresh my life,
welcome me as a vital member
of the Tribe—

(from the ’70’s)

A black child on ghetto corner
holds a potted Easter Lily,
it reaches to her chin,
the sprung petals pale
as whites of her eyes,
her hope rising, African
dance still in her toes,

a black child waiting
for the blood-red light to
change, so she can place
in her Grandmother’s
worn hands the symbol for
a be-bop figure rising
from the sealed Tomb, pushing
away the weighted stone
in Hallelujah sunrise.

A black child
forgetting that He too
was white.


Mother, using a clean
flour-sack cloth, I polish
for you in the sun
the fine crystal glass
from which each afternoon
you enjoy sipping
your whiskey sour,
then another, another, and . . .

But mother,
first see with me how
your drink absorbs spring
light, turning it golden.
And, mom, see the pastel prisms
moving along the shiny rim
before and after each
crystal sip?


We elders cherish every breath,
try one day at a time;
we take it slow, save NRG
for flirting with the sublime.

We’ve survived the Holidays,
leaks and flooded rooms;
kin in trouble, each broken bubble,
family films, and Zooms.

We love our bookish library,
of ideal peace and size:
we borrow mostly “mysteries”—
MURDERS first, then otherwise.


Instead of tapping
the too-tiny keyboard,
maybe one day
I’ll breathe so warmly
over this imprisoned
whiz-bang letters will
themselves into words,
then phrases
for a felt poem’s
fledgling flight
into fabulous freedom!


Today’s LittleNip:

the poet closes all eyes
but the vision
in her spirit, she
hears a humming
from poems
yet to be written.

—Claire J. Baker


—Medusa, thanking Claire Baker for today’s angelic poetry!

 “imperfect yet fabulous”
—Public Domain Illustration

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.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
All you have to do is send poetry and/or
photos and artwork to
The snakes of Medusa are always hungry!