Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Last Night, Hoot of the Owl

Photo by Ronald Edwin Lane, Weimar

—Ronald Edwin Lane

It’s cold today
The moon lonely
A waning sliver
Adrift in the blue
Endless blue

The wind blows
Too cold for this time of year
An oak fell across the road
Its leaves already withered
Branches broken

It’s cold today
The moon lonely
A waning sliver
Adrift in the blue
Endless blue


Thanks, Ron! Ronald Lane reminds us that the wheel of the seasons continues, as the days shorten into autumn even in the midst of summer heat. We're talking about The Winds of Change this week; send your poems to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. (But I notice that last week's moon continues to haunt us, to slip into our poems here and there...)

Here are three "change" poems from Taylor Graham. The first is from her new book about Elihu Burritt, the Learned Blacksmith and peacemaker; see the bulletin board over at the right of this column for more info on this book that is especially appropriate for July 4th. Then Mitz Sackman continues her "Urban Solace" cycle. And D.R. Wagner says his contribution came out of nowhere; he just "sat down and there it was."


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

(Governor David S. Reid, North Carolina to Elihu Burritt, 1854)

The North Wind off Yankee hardpan.
Abolition Wind—
does it speak in the voice of your brother Elijah?
The South Wind from deltas and bayous
full of the plaints of slaves longing to be free.
Wind of Peace,
the Olive Leaf Wind in accents of Boston and Bristol,
Worcesters on both sides of the sea.
The East Wind bearing news of the Vaterland,
the five languages of Schleswig-Holstein.
Atlantic winds mournful as a Highland mother calling
to her son, emigrated to far-off Montreal.
Ocean Penny Postage Wind delivering his tidings.
The West Wind, wild with rumor and whisperings
in Spanish, Russian, Canadian French.
Winds eddying in the laps of mountains, speaking
in dust storms,
in Miwok, Navajo, tongues you’ve never heard.
God’s Wind, language before the earth was divided.


—Taylor Graham

A perfect day beside the lake,
crystal blue of snowmelt mellowed
by the warmth of summer bursting out
in butterweed and lupine, columbine; sky
a stainless blue, earth rejoicing
under the red-check cloth; anchovy-garlic
spread on sourdough, a plate of oysters
on the half-shell with chardonnay; the two
of you, plus warblers singing in their sweetly
foreign languages as clouds build
over the summit and an unexpected breeze
ruffles the edges darkening, a flash
and rumble of thunder, but still far off;
riffling the red-check cloth above earth’s
mantle convecting, magma rippling our
surface to imperceptible shift, a hawk-
shadow crossing some small creature’s
idea of protection, its warren.


—Taylor Graham

This fresco teases the imagination,
frustrates the mind that wishes answers.
Only this after the sand and wind
came through. They must have been
upscale people, for their time—what
time?—women in robes and ringlets,
sandal'ed men with swords.
A fragment of fresco makes no sound.
Last night, hoot of the owl.
This morning, a flight of crows.
Wind and sand wordless as their
secret, hermetic in time.


Garden Night
—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

She looks out the kitchen window
Her small garden a picture of stillness
In the fading light
She has worked hard this summer
Planting and harvesting
Been abundantly rewarded by fresh food and herbs
She reflects on the turning of the year
Solstice but a distant memory
The cross quarter day approaches
Her garden dance of thankfulness is due
She prepares carefully washing with herbs
Donning her cloak, she steps out in the moonlight
Slowly dropping the cloak, she circles the garden sky-clad
She thanks the earth for its fruits
For her life and dreams


—Mitz Sackman

He kept a moth
In his wallet
To remember the past.
—Stephen Dobyns

His family moved from the farm when he was twelve
Just in time to be a city boy for his teen years
And yet….
He keeps a moth

Moving from nature and morning chores
To city nightlife and constant busyness
He needs to work, to have a job
Needs his own money
In his wallet

Sometimes it feels as though his life has changed too much
Newness blows through with unfamiliar rhythms
These times he feels uncentered
He slows down
To remember the past


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

We had been traveling for many days.
The far lands still seemed as far away
As ever. Everyone looked young, ready
To devour whatever might be placed
Before us. We had a million ideas.

From the evening hills, just before the dark
The purple winds could be seen gathering.
We had no idea what they were, only that
They seemed ominous and unwelcoming.

By the time they were upon us all was
Confusion. I could not see past my own
Hand. Voices could be heard but it was
Impossible to identify anyone because
The wind claimed even their voices.

We had no idea when the wind passed,
Only that we were no longer young, that
It was harder to see due to the dust
In the air. We were scattered but still
Traveling. We tried to regroup, to find

Our friends from before the winds.
The sun was much less bright, so many
Looked familiar. The dogs had wandered off.


Today's LittleNip:

Our lives are like the plants
floating along the water's edge
Illumined by the moon.

—Ryokan (translated by John Stevens)



Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Victoria Rodriguez

—Victoria Rodriguez, Sacramento

Wrinkles and veins
Working in factories and putting clothes
On her nine children
Cutting nopales in that way
I love to see her
Work that knife.
Sewing us clothes,
Making her own tablecloths and curtains
Rearranging pictures of family
And always making room for
The new additions.
Her hands
Doing the loving,
Dialing everyone on their birthday
Just to talk to them a while.
Laundry up and down outside on her line.
My grandma’s hands constantly
Moving. We wouldn’t know her without.
She wouldn’t either.


Thanks, Victoria! Victoria Rodriguez lives in Sacramento, where she is on her way to receive her B.A. in English from CSUS. She loves writing, going on adventures and spending time with her family. Watch for more of Victoria's work in the new Rattlesnake Press online anthology, The Ophidian, coming soon to a computer near you.

Does your life ever feel likes it's "dead in the water": do you get the doldrums (no wind in your sails), as they say on the sea? The doldrums can be a blessing in disguise, of course—time to re-think, re-pair, re-group. The Winds of Change will blow back into life soon enough; they always do.

It seems to me that The Winds of Change are a good topic to think about for July 4. I think we could all use a little change in this country right now, whether you’re left-wing, right-wing, independent… And what about the more personal Winds of Change? What do they mean in your life? Are you looking for change these days, or dreading it? Are you headed in a direction you want to take, or do you need to switch courses? Or is there even any such thing as change at all?—is it true that “The more things change, the more they stay the same?” What about the changes that go on inside, vs. the ones that happen outside, and the interchange between?

Anyway, our Seed of the Week is The Winds of Change. Have at it, and send your poems to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.

Victoria talks about the inside kind of change:


—Victoria Rodriguez

Here I started walking on Halloween
Here I sat with my dad watching hours of T.V.
Here I argued with my boyfriend over the way I pronounce T.V.
Here I let the juice from plums succumb to gravity down my face.
Here I sold cigarettes and booze for those who I’m sure would pick these over water in a heartbeat
Here I felt like I shouldn’t have ever come
Here I felt at home
Here I thought of my first house
Here I think of my parents young and their days full of happiness
Here I like pink now!
Here I like pink sometimes
Here I hate pink.


Mom keeps the outside light on.
The one on the porch; i think it's for Mike,
but once he's here
I ask her if she wants me
to turn it off.
Slowly, she says no.
It makes me believe she keeps
it on for you.
So you can find your way home &
know that we will
be waiting.

—Victoria Rodriguez


—Victoria Rodriguez

It’s not like it’s a lotta money
It’s not like it’s a long ways away
It’s not like it’s that noticeable
It’s not like they haven’t heard that one before
It’s not like you messed up your life

It’s not like it’s that big of a deal,
I mean, come on, it's not like brain surgery.
But actually
It was.
It was three of them.


—Victoria Rodriguez

I never used to cry. Lately I’ve gotten back to that not-crying stage.
Too tired, too weak.
Whenever I would see the scar on the right side of his head, I would grow weak at the knees.
And at the heart.
I would have to walk away.
Looking at old pictures of what he used to look like, thinking of what he would have said right now, at this moment, just takes too much effort.
“Your dad is still there, he’s still here, that’s still him.”
Yes and no.
My dad would not have kicked me out of the house three times.
My dad would be outside working on the cars, yard, garage.
I miss those weeks he would take off of work, just to spend time with us during
our breaks from school.

My friends threw me a surprise birthday party when I turned sixteen.
“I would be crying right now!” one said. I tried to cry. I really did.
Don’t get me wrong; I was very honored and felt lucky to have friends like these.
But the tears wouldn’t come.
But my,
do they come too easily now.


—Victoria Rodriguez

My mother tells me when my
Brother was born,
That I was jealous and the first thing I did
Was walk right up to him and pull on his nose.
I am cursed for that since I am the one
Walking around now
With the obscene
Large nose.


Today's LittleNip:

He keeps a moth in his wallet to remember the past.

—Stephen Dobyns



Monday, June 28, 2010

More of What The Moon Saw

Moon Jelly

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

bubble and shine
scums the surface
it reeks

mats the marsh, hair, feathers
burrows the beach
burns the bayou
gluts the gulf
ravages the river
sinks the swamp
poisons the pool
wastes the well


shine and glitter
its skim and scope
stuns into silence

devil’s eye, winking,
ogles the ocean


It’s kind of a slow week for NorCal poetry readings (see b-board at the right), but don’t forget Stephen Kessler and Alexa Mergen at the Sacramento Poetry Center tonight; and, of course, there’s always Luna’s on Thursday. For a more complete listing, go to

Capitol City Young Writers’ Conference July 17:

CCYW will hold its conference July 17 from 9:30am-5pm at San Domenico School, 1500 Butterfield Rd., San Anselmo (415.258.1900) for youth in grades 6-12, seniors who JUST graduated from high school, and adults who wish to sponsor a young writer. As an adult, you can sponsor a child to attend the conference at no cost by paying his or her conference registration of $100. For your sponsorship, you are able to attend the conference for free (which includes lunch). It's like a 2-for-1 deal, and you are helping out a young writer who cannot afford the conference otherwise. $100 sponsors a youth for the conference, which includes lunch and a book. You can even choose your own child as the one you want to sponsor. Keynote speakers will be James Redford and Peter S. Beagle, with Special Guest Jane Friedman from Writer's Digest. Info:

New from Taylor Graham!

SnakePal Taylor Graham has a new book out. She writes: My Elihu project may never be finished. But the first edition is out and available through Amazon [see Medusa's b-board]. Walking with Elihu is a selection of my poems on Elihu Burritt, the Learned Blacksmith, international peace activist, advocate of the common man, and observer of the Industrial Revolution. My book, published by CreateSpace, includes a short biography and 94 poems dealing with Elihu's life: his study of 50 languages while working at the forge; his struggles to promote peace in a time of Civil War; his End-to-End walks across Britain; his tenure as Consular Agent at Birmingham, England under President Lincoln. A practical working man who was also a dreamer, Elihu exulted in skylark song and, in an age when woman's place was not in higher education, instructed schoolgirls in Sanskrit. My poems range from free verse to formal (sonnet, villanelle, terzanelle, sonnetelle, and others).

I hope you'll help me spread the word about this once-famous, now almost-forgotten peacemaker, who believed in the power of words and the voice of the common man.


In Pre-Islamic Arabia
the moon was a god with three daughters
The Star Sura wrote:
"Have you not seen Lat, Uzza, and the third Manat?
These are the exalted cranes (intermediaries)
whose intercession is to be hoped for..."
Chinese might have also called on Heng-O
for whom they hold a festival in the autumn
Another the Greeks called Artemis
along with many other names of moon sisters
Perhaps mothers too (of the "hijos de la luna"
inspiration for all-night Mexican prayer vigils
often today mentioned only in Spanish tunes)
The moon stayed in temples alone
(after "the prophet" ousted its offspring
forcing them to wander as gypsies)
some of them became called vampires
though they all want to come home
whenever the moon is full
and even in seasons of shorter nights

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


(arrested in 2009 by Iranian border guards)
—Patricia Hickerson

what were you thinking
as you prowled that border?
and what took you there?

lily sprouting from a crevice?
snowcap glistening in the sun?
flight of hawk?
slant of moonlight on the grass?
dart of lizard?
swoop of buzzard?
friend saying let’s go further?

your adventure, Sarah!
no question I envy you—
seen as iron bars
the vertical slats at my window
body too aged to climb the tree beyond
danger unthinkable


Today's LittleNip:

There is a road from the eye to the heart
that does not go through the intellect.

—G. K. Chesterton


—Medusa (with thanks to today's contributors, including Pat Pashby for the LittleNip)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Letting Go In Order To Hold On

Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Alice Walker

Letting go
in order to hold on
I gradually understand
how poems are made.

There is a place the fear must go.
There is a place the choice must go.
There is a place the loss must go.
The leftover love.
The love that spills out
of the too full cup
and runs and hides
its too full self
in shame.

I gradually comprehend
how poems are made.
To the upbeat flight of memories.
The flagged beats of the running

I understand how poems are made.
They are the tears
that season the smile.
The stiff-neck laughter
that crowds the throat.
The leftover love.
I know how poems are made.

There is a place the loss must go.
There is a place the gain must go.
The leftover love.



Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wearing My Daydream Costume

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

(based on “Maiden Moon” etching by Elaine B. Rothwell)

Death is dancing with the maiden in the moonlight.
He has made a ring of light for them to dance in.

She lifts the hoop of light
and dances away from him.

He is left standing in the circle
where he is powerless to follow.

She has stolen the power of his intention
with her refusal, and thus has transcended

both light and dark. Death waits—and waits—
until she is through dancing and will return to him.


—Joyce Odam

(based on Trance, 1953, William Baziotes)

Whatever is dark here is dark for itself.
The freed form merges and will sleep.

The dream
will be released—ensweep

the mind
and send its secrets deep.

The moon of power
will retreat—

allowing the mind distortion
of what surrounding dream-clouds keep.


—Joyce Odam

It is the music in the water when I look in
the moon flows through my hair
fish dart through my eyes
my hand meets my hand and the world trembles

I take the cold to my body like a dream
a star falls
I watch it float
a black leaf drifts down over my shoulder


—Joyce Odam

(based on a drawing by Art Vela, Big Moon Quarterly)

O, Distant Moon, I am sitting here
in a frame of thought,
wearing my daydream costume

as I watch you glimmer and
grow fuller until you
luminate the night

with such a light
I am absorbed by it.
I shimmer and grow unreal:

I am a child of some lost time
in some idyllic history.
You follow my transformation:

someone plays music…
someone I almost love…
someone I almost know…

it saddens you;
clouds come between.
O, Jealous Moon…I know…I know…


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Moon-carver, restless
with the changes of the year,
sits in bright fullness
whittling songs for the crickets
out of summer’s loud, thin air.



Strange Moon
—Photo Enhancement by Bob van Alphen

Friday, June 25, 2010

Check Your Spouse for a Rusted Bottom

Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz

—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

A gladiator’s August
A poet’s story
An unsailed dory

Forbidden carmel knowledge
Corporate sponsors
Winter recipe

The blooms of love
Abandoned children
Hidden treasures

Rain forest excess
Barren desert
Surf’s up

Coastal June sea breeze
Check your car and spouse
for rusted bottoms

Bees and blooms
Brides and grooms
Foreclosure looms

The coffee’s hot
Breakfast is ready
You’re not invited

Spring training
Spring cleaning
There are no box seats

Everyone is welcome
to help whitewash my fence
Join in

Autumn leaves die and fall
Become a chore
Praise life!


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Executive Order
Reduces workers’ pay.
Experts guessed wrong. Everyone

You have
More kids than
You can feed, starve

Puffed up
The housing bubble?
Sub prime lenders, no

The recession
On those who
Said we’re not in

The pain.
Realtors, bankers, watchdogs
Owe 15% to General

The promises
Of old fashioned
Good faith collective bargaining

When all
Is done, Schwarzenegger
Will feel our pain…


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

My goodness sakes! Oh, dear, oh dear!!
Do not drink this liquid.
It makes you ill, I fear, I fear,
A very, very sick kid.

With looks that are deceiving,
Mild innocence untrue,
It will not take the place of
Your daily favorite brew.

Your face will turn hyacinth
With bold shades of azure.
Doctors cannot help you now,
As there is no known cure.

Breathing won’t come easily,
Your belly will distend
As you shake and ask Why me? till
The awful gruesome end.

You may visit Capistrano
To see swallows who’ve flown south.
Whatever else you want to do,
Don’t put this in your mouth.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

I am happily married to
more than one MRS, who
co-exist well in my house.

The first, of course,
is my main driving force,
my lawfully wedded spouse.

The next MRS I love
are the divine blessings of
Memory, Reason, and Skill.

Though master of none,
I appreciate each one
as a mountain that starts with a hill.

Last but not least
I love the poetry feast
of Meter, Rhythm, and Sound.

There could be more MRS
deserving of kisses,
but these are all I have found.


Way up high in the Tulip Tree
far above our everyday worries,
blossoms grow that not all will see,
preoccupied with their hurries.

—Photo and Poem by Carl Bernard Schwartz


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Was replaced
By the sextant.
The new Chevy Astro:

Says Clearasil.
Those words also appear
On roads by limit lines. Streets have

Affixed, Nailed
Announcing, proclaiming, heralding
To everyone in the village:


ESL 101
—Carl Bernard Schwartz

What is a post?

Battery post, Dental, Emily, Fence, Hitching,
New York, Out, Parcel, Sign, Trading, Web;
Post haste, No Bills, Office, Partum, Toasties, Game, Bail.


We toggle between sagacious and nugacious,
there is no middle ground, no shades of gray:
Superstar or loser, wealthy or bankrupt,
Devil or angel, able bodied or handicapped.

Is the cup half full, or half empty?
It depends on who is wearing it.

Those display racks at the shoe store
purposefully steer shoppers
to think out of the box…
until the sale is made…
then it’s right back in the box again.
We should wear those boxes on our feet.

The tide is coming in.
The tide is going out.
It doesn’t really matter, just bring me a towel,
‘cause my trunks are out there in the tide
whichever way it’s going.

A drinking vessel on a sailing vessel.
A man in drag at a drag race.
A pair of drawers in a chest of drawers.

You’re not stopping, so I will.


Today's LittleNip:

—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Up near the top of the cherry tree, you
Get some of the best fruit, but you
Can’t wait long, because of the birds.

I started eagerly to fill my basket
And then I needed both hands to balance.
Fallen, but pride hurt worse than body,
I’ve since learned that a ladder will
Help this go more smoothly.



Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blindness Is Only Temporary

Electricity at Home
Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

I am beyond the base camp this evening. I have travelled alone to be here
and yet I choose to write about this to be with others. Only then will I
be able to give purchase to these dulcet, idle days on the cusp of Summer.
Extraordinary clouds constantly reinventing themselves, the true writing of
water we can barely read in our torpor bred of ego. “Excuse me, can you
speak wind?" Can anyone here speak wind?
I suppose this is a lot like all that stuff you’ve read about the moon
before, how it goes away and then comes back looking different every night?
How it goes away for a few days, comes back and is a new moon? Well it’s
not. I was just out walking in that pale light and it was totally
different but essentially the same. It took thousands and thousands, maybe
millions of years to make that moon.
Oh I placed my hands on your body, the moon was there, a wreath of petals
awaking for the silk mist of our breathing. See how it is not new? I’ll
waken you as soon as I am able. It has been a long time not to be noticed.
Oh cover of the night, the hand of darkness that passes out of me, to
where do we go, where do we crawl after this kind of beauty?
Yes it has a look about it. Yes, it is very much of the heart. This is
why it has been penetrated time and time again. It is impossible to stay
there. We speak of our love for one another. A golden music comes from
our bodies, so vast, being on these seas all night. Ah the moon, the moon.
Here is the kingdom. Godspeed should we ever be delayed.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Not here. Like fish in a plastic bag
On the floor of a subway car with no
One in the car and something pink, always
Something pink, dangling over it, reminding
Anxiety that it has a job and a heart.

There is no room for those photos of blue
Birds or cameras. It is pointless. We fall.
That’s the entire story. The Gestalt tells
The story better than I can. A hand
Gripping a cube, an architecture made
Along the road while walking, so things
Won’t move too fast, be too brilliant.

Like Sitwell, silence is my hobby. We can’t
Stand around here thinking this is some
Great city. I’m going to find you tied to
A bed, breasts bound, a smile on your face,
A jelly fish covering the entire scene as if
Floating were an answer to all our questions.

Come with me now. I will speak in Italian,
Pretend you realize that all that has been
Said so far is only a prelude to what we
Would like the future to be. Footwear
People dream about, plays of light
Along the edge of the stage.

We are not going to be able to see
The next part of this whole thing
Very well. A couple of silhouettes
Working full time on your walls so you
Won’t have to dream. Tropical dreams
Will begin to infect just about everything.
I will tell you your name and you will
Believe me even if you have never heard
It before. The doors of drugstores will
Be left unlocked so you can find what
You need without cost. There won’t be
Any parts you will not understand.
If you do not understand it will not
Be the next part. Kindness will have
The name of someone you love very much.


—D.R. Wagner

No one has used this road since
The end of World War II when
Rain came down for eight days
Drowning the wood, abandoning
Even the golden voices of the animals
That once lived here.

It wasn’t that it was dark,
Thoughts could easily become more dense
Than the crippled light that insisted
On being there despite having been foreclosed
And locked with thorns that seemed
Sharper than memory when unfolded.

But we came here anyway, if only
To be troubled by the fact that the road
Refused to go away or stop leading
To anywhere; a cut where, looking ahead
One could see the trees break and an open
Meadow lean ahead all the way to the lake
Shore. In the summer there were fireflies
That received the place like a memory.
Summer is gone, the war is gone
And we, for want of learning something special,

Something to place at the service of trying
To understand all the histories all over again,
Cause us to falter a bit and look
Cautiously about us to see if we can
Explain anything about this loss or the place
Itself that might leave us feeling
Intrusive about our need to be here.
The placid shadows, the mothers calling
Their sons home to dinner across the fields.


—D.R. Wagner

Just beyond here there isn’t much
Water at all. It is a desert but we don’t
Think of it as such. It is
Just a place we don’t visit often, no
One we know very well lives there.

South of that there are mountains.
They have a lovely blue-green hue to
Them in the mornings sometimes and when
It rains they seem to float just off the ground,
Catch clouds in their shadows and glow evenings.

You can travel toward the lake for hours
Without seeing a thing but the greens
Will give it away. The greens and the way
The air replaces everything we were worried about.
It is like magic I guess. What do you know of magic?

I am going to point to the place we will try
To attain before this evening comes upon us.
You will know the place. You’ve been there
Before. Just before you get there children
Will line the sides of the roads with flowers
In their arms and toss them to you. You will
Know this and still be surprised that it happens.

I’m going to try to get there myself before
Any more news reaches us, so we can see
What is happening rather than just hear about it.
Let’s plan to meet where the highway bends
Back toward the village. I’ll wait for you if
You discover you are having a hard time
With all the directions or are having car trouble.


—D.R. Wagner

They never reach the ground.
We can see them riding the wind,
Tails streaming out behind them.
We will never know their destination.

Sometimes we just float on the tides.
We look up at the clouds but they
Are busy. Most of the sound is gone.
There wasn’t enough to go around,
Now it’s gone or only a ghost. The
Blindness is only temporary. It will pass.

We begin to open the packages. There
Is fire in them. We feel we see friends
In the flames, faces and gestures we
Had forgotten. Whatever the sea is doing
Is making us look harder and harder
At its breathing, at its waves, so much
Like the clothing we wore during the cold,
How hard it was to move. We would use
Our hands to talk to one another. That might
Have been a clue. Yes it might have been.

They show us where the lightning is kept,
Tell us we can use it if we have the need.
We do not understand what they are talking about.
We didn’t even ask to come here. We will
Never reach the earth this way. Too much
Ice. Too much sun. Too much of this dancing
We must do to even move a few miles.

There will be consequences for what we have
Done here. Trails of Virga will follow us down,
As close as they can get. I’ll not remember you
By the time the sun is just opposite where we
Are now. There will be a rainbow. This is how
You will know it was us. Sorry we couldn’t wait
Any longer. We didn’t have ourselves in order.


—D.R. Wagner

Light was just coming up
As we began the dance
For fire and water together.

From this dance steam would
Rise to the heavens, as dancers
Came together, propelled by our ritual.

First, the songs began to rise,
A verse about angel’s wings,
A chorus declaring our love
For the mountains, the far
Distances, for the stilling of noises
Held by night, for the lament dealt
By those who carry time
Within their quiet appearances
Throughout their lives.
Such songs they were.

As the steam rose higher,
We knew this place, this world
Would persist past our shallow
Moments here. This was the truth.


It is because of this dance
That one is able to remember
Childhood, that all who dwell
Upon this earth can come and see
Time as it mixes everything into
This selfsame dance.

It is danced very seldom,
For all who witnessed its
Previous incarnation must
Have passed from life before it
Could be repeated. It is
Performed with great ceremony,
The dancers consuming doubt,
Uncertainty and great fears
That all might recall this particular
Time of life. Shadows and mist.

Shadows and mist, the steps
We learn to take, the lips we
Dare to kiss. Through the fire,
Through the rain, though all
Becomes the past, we beg of grace,
Insist, that we may remember this.


Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner

Today's LittleNip:

The lost child, crying, crying
but still catching fireflies.




Wednesday, June 23, 2010

That Nosy Old Moon

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

(for Q.)

Little boys at swim in the calm slough waters,
pure delight, their bare limbs winslow homering

in the stillest of painted splashes. At the edge
of the bright blue calm water, a gathering

that fanned upward of the slender fringe
into a rise of soft grass apron, under shading oaks.

And under the trees, all along that slight
swale of grass, move creatures, chatting easily,

feasting, listening, as fond and funny words
are spoken of someone, forever of that gathering:
a man, a poet capable of lines

long-thought into beauty. However pensively
moon floats over that water scene, thinking

upon ripples that so resemble her sheets of dry sea,
we consider her distant, think her puzzled by the sunlight

that must obscure for her our lands and oceans.
But she, aiming faint daybeams, penetrating just
so far the airblue veil, intimates

a steady eons-held note—if we listen for it with our eyes—
a consoling note to soften griefs, a slow lunar music.


We're talking about the moon this week: specifically What The Moon Saw. (Yes, poets are mooning me this week...) What was it that the moon saw? Send your moon-musings to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on Seeds of the Week.

The new Summer issue of Canary was posted Monday in honor of the Summer Solstice: Editor Gail Entrekin hopes you'll take a few minutes to look it over and pass it on to friends.

And the beautiful new issue of Poetry Now is now available online:


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

in the stone quarry flooded
the midnight pool
you and I
at the floodgates of love
shallow the moon glitter
hot as July
metallic glaze on a gushing plain
voices a net of echoes
ears silenced as we sink below
to the quarry floor
cool nip of toes pale as tilapia
silver scales glisten
breasts float fat, opalescent
all night caress of dreams
lapping at arms and legs
your arms and legs
wrapping me


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

A writer of a military turn of fancy might say
that it was the sublimest battle-scene ever enacted on earth.

—Elihu Burritt, Walks in the Black Country

The ruins of Dudley Castle: winding stairways climbing
broken towers. The moon shines through glassless windows
of the banquet hall; casts waltzing tree-shadows
in the salon where nobles danced “when Elizabeth
was queen.” It smiles into the chapel on all those statued,
happy saints, and silhouettes the citadel rooted in cliff.

It keeps track of a traveler ascending dizzy stone steps
to the parapet, to over-look a war-zone, red sea of furnaces—
Wolverhampton, Albion, Smethwick each launching
its mortars, volleys and cross-fires of shot, shell and bomb
under a purple cloud of smoke. The moon shines even
on Vulcan’s gateway. But its light can’t penetrate

an underworld of pits and trenches, mines and counter-mines
where unseen men dig for coal to fuel the fires to forge
the steel and iron into bolts and nuts, trowels and pruning-
hooks. The moon sees the ruins of Dudley Castle,
and the battlefield of Progress running red. Tonight,
it sees you, Elihu, with your walking-partner, Capern

the postman-poet. The moon shows just the poet-half
of your companion’s countenance. How is it,
it illuminates your face entire? the dreamer gazing
over ancient ruins by moonlight, searching his mind
for a poetic turn, and the blacksmith peering into
the Future’s furnace all aflame.


—Taylor Graham

The old dog barks
from somewhere in the dark.
Almost deaf, she's lost
without the sound of human voices,
footsteps, breathing.
How many times by scant moonlight
her master used to follow her,
blind through the dark,
searching for someone lost.

Look how he searches by feel
now, following the edge
of tall spring grass, searching
for a deaf dog in the dark.
The rising moon shines
just enough light,
perhaps he’ll find her.


—Taylor Graham

Three Army buddies asleep
in the old Ford, you’re driving home
on a lonely two-lane
after midnight; crest a hill

to face four headlights—two
cars in brace, a race to pass
in the blind. Glorious confluence
of high-beams

you aim dead
ahead, in between. Do you close
your eyes? Pray? The moon blinks.

second. Then, nothing but black
pavement and a solid
centerline, your headlights
pointing home.

Behind in the dark, taillights
split the difference; disappear
behind a hill. Your buddies sleep.
You’re new-moon wide awake.


Moon Dance
—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

In her flowing gown
She slipped the leash of bedtime
Hurrying silently down the stars
Through the door
And out, away from her parents
The blaring TV
Only the stars and the moon hanging above her
In the dark narrow backyard
Letting the music of the stars
Speak to her heart
She dances
Alone, alive
Under the moon


Under the Moon
—Mitz Sackman

Her feet ached
A long day at the shop
Filled with the petty drivel of retail
Dealing with customers in a hurry
Some of them quite rude
Her mind was tired
From all the meaningless chatter of the day
Who cares, she said, not me
Night had fallen
She sat in her yard under the tree
Softly singing her moon chant
Over and over, the day slipped away
She was at peace


—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

“Nobody touches the moon,”
he says, “not even you.”
But I dress in blue, reach high.

Finally, one dawn shatters the moon
filling the air with her obscure fragrance.
I catch a piece

tickle my fingertips across it
kiss the fleshy part so softly
taste it

slip it into my pocket.
Yes—the moon is good company.
I won’t go moonless again.


Today's LittleNip:

All the rains of June:
and one evening, secretly
through the pines, the moon.

—Ryota (translated by Harold Gould Henderson)



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Moon Thrills

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Always looking through something to see something else.
The night has a lovely coat. Sometimes it holds it open
And one can see the stars. At other times the willowly
Breath of a season may tell us something peculiar about
The way a path through a woods might look just as

The light fades and retreats behind a copse of slender
Birch saplings, glowing gold then silver then a pewter
That has nothing to do with wood and everything to do
With the spirit of wood. What the moon saw is that spirit.

While the moon uses a totally different language than we
Use it has no trouble communicating anything to us. It
Has a Pentecostal gift that is of the first things. It recalls
When the light and the dark were separated and sent to
Their own places. It lives in the breath as the tides.
It holds lovers in its thrall without saying a single word.
We are that spirit. I will touch your lips and your breast.
I will embrace you as the moon does and the moon thrill
Will occupy all of your senses for a moment. I will become
The moon.


Yesterday was the longest day of the year, which means it was the shortest night. Still, the moon saw things that we need to talk about, like it does every night. Let’s take our Seed of the Week from the title of D.R. Wagner’s poem: What the Moon Saw. Send your moonings to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs.

And thanks to today’s other contributors for finishing up our SOW about dads. The title of Janet Pantoja’s “My Dad’s Desk” reminds me of Sacramento’s new large-print quarterly, DAD’s DESK, edited by Carol Louise Moon. Pick one up at The Book Collector.


(Reflections of an eight-year-old)
—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

Night after night he would come,
climb the tenement stairs, tap softly on the door,
and say . . . let me in Babe . . . I want to see my kids . . .
I love you Babe.

My mother would turn off the lights, tell us to be quiet
and pretend we were not at home. She’d tiptoe to the door
and lock it while my sister, brother and I huddled together
in the dark, too afraid to move.

Sometimes he stayed there a long time banging hard
on the door or jiggling the knob to push inside.
I remember him yelling . . . I know you are in there, Babe.
I’ll take those kids away from you if you don’t answer me.

We’d hide behind the curtain after he left and watch him
walk slowly up the alley looking back at the windows,
all bent over like an old old man.

In bed I remember listening for footsteps in the dark.


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

I imagine him playing a flute
in a long wet corridor
walled in stone.

I imagine him mysterious,
facing the east with burning eyes,
and at night the west.

I imagine him father to some burning child
made of melting bone, with soul of cold fire
and mouth holding an old moan.

I imagine a long cold note of sadness
that he cannot hear
floating between us in the closing air.

This is the fatherless year
of devastation
when all things break and are gone . . .

I imagine my father . . .
broken . . .
gone . . .


—Joyce Odam

Oh, to be under the leaves of father—
that vast tree—
leaves fluttering from his branches—
the great strength of his shedding . . .

oh, to be shrunken and hiding under
such wrath—fearing the birds of his eyes,
such violent grieving—his
failure to follow his first beginning . . .

how the winds hone and agree—
how the rains leave him glistening—
the trunk of his body stark and beautiful
and vulnerable to winter . . .

and I—pulled away by my fear—
by my great admiration—
by the metaphor of our difference—
I could never love him like that.


—Joyce Odam

safe child is leaning down
into green as if she
knew her way

she has found a flower there
a small black blossom
just at the edge of her fingertips

her golden hair is
melting past her knees
her feet are turning into ivy

her father snaps a summer camera
now she is captured
this is a story saved from sadness



is a secretary—
standing tall, erect in elegant
mahogany on ball and claw feet
with flame-carved finial top.

Slant writing front drops, exposing
cubby holes, slots, tiny drawers,
secret compartments . . .
mysteries that lie within.

Two doors—thirteen
lattice window panes each—
locked with a skeleton key,
reveal upper bookcase
with memorabilia-filled shelves.

Below, four large
serpentine shaped,
dove-tailed drawers
conceal countless papers.

A needlepoint chair, Mom's handiwork,
is pushed under the open writing
surface of my Dad's desk—
chair and desk are now vacant . . .
abandoned . . . inherited.

—Janet L. Pantoja, Woodinville, WA


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

My father is an old rumor.
Where is he now,

his lifelong disappearance
still disappearing?

Life goes one way by itself.
What if my life had held him?

Father, I name you ghost.
Ghost-Father. Haunt. Haunt.

Wolf Moon Rising
Photo by Katy Brown, Davis