Thursday, September 30, 2010

Return to the Garden

Photo by Katy Brown

Crumbling stone and shadow

cast in the morning light
survive for a while.
Acres of weathered angels

keep silent vigil for spirits
no one remembers today.
On the far side of the weeping yew,

a family sings a song of deep mourning
beside a fresh grave.
They burn incense and scatter flowers.

I brought nothing to offer for you.
And for the first time,
I could not feel you in the early light.

When I look at how far the headstones
have washed out over the once-unbroken grass,
I realize those were the ones

who would have remembered more about you.
The burden of remembering rests with me;
and, I fear, you are mostly shadow, now.

—Katy Brown, Davis


Get your submissions together for today’s deadline (!) for the Winter Tule Review, then head on down to Luna’s Café (1414 16th St., Sac.) tonight to hear Trina Drotar, Sandy Thomas and Martha Ann Blackman. Get your beauty rest, though, because you’ll be wanting to be fresh for the Big Doin’s By The Bay this weekend, including the first of this year’s Litquake events in SF on Friday, then back across the bridge to Berkeley for Watershed on Sat. (start with the walk in the a.m. led by Chris Olander and others), then The Nature of Art Festival (Art in Nature) in Oakland on Sunday. Info about all these goodies on the b-board, of course.

A substantial list of print journals that accept online submissions (and thanks to Molly Fisk for this) can be found at

Census of Poets and Other Artists in El Dorado County:

During the month of October, artists of all genres (including poetry), arts organizations/businesses and other arts venues are asked to participate in ED County’s first Arts Census, sponsored by El Dorado Arts Council and the El Dorado County Office of Economic Development. If you fit into any of these artistic or business categories, contact Deb Jensen at to take an Art Census interview (four short questions, takes about 15 min.). They want to know how many “practicing” artists there are in the County, and how they can be better served.

They also need volunteers to help take the census; training will be this coming Saturday (10/2) at ArtSpace, 459 Main St., Placerville. Contact the arts council at 530-295-3496 or email for further info about volunteering.

Somewhere on the periphery

of music and poetry
she draws a circle of quiet
around her world,

embracing the solitary—
the sighing brook,
the secluded niche,

the sleepy sun stretching
as forgotten yellows soften
into warm lazy days.

Someone dances barefoot—
a stunted heart opens.

—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

We came across an empty bench
that sat alone in the bright sun
among shrubs hiding rattlesnakes,
poison plants, and yellow jackets
too close for comfort.

Given design by creatures who
regularly transcend the mere act
of sitting and waiting, this bench
was not just for resting one’s weight,
or for lifting weights, or for
watching for the next bus, or for
herding people in an institutional

This was a thinking man’s bench
that those in the know would no
more dare to crouch upon than a
Ming vase, or an expensive gadget
from Silicon Valley.

There were no fancy velvet ropes or
thoughtful signs to steer onlookers
away, just the hope and the sometimes
false assumption that others would have
the common sense to appreciate a piece
of art for the spectacle that it is, and not
pry behind the lens to find a golden egg.

And so the empty bench is still with us
today, in our memories, alongside the
cherished images of loved ones who
have passed away.


Today's LittleNip:


Our long history leads us
where we need to go,

fall to your knees,
remember the simple act
of grass growing;

envision raindrops
standing still in the sky.
Return to the Garden.


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole



Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

What we have been makes
us what we are.

—T.S. Eliot

Henry, an old man, sat on the same
park bench every day. It was next
to a rose garden. He enjoyed the
company of people passing by.

Then one day Henry passed on
and was no longer on the bench.
People still walked by. Nothing
was any different.

Kafka told of a man, Gregor, who
turned into a giant insect because
of a troubled life. Maybe Henry’s
untroubled life had turned him into
the bench he’d sat on…

and he’d become a metaphor of him-
self. The bench should now be called
Henry, because, like Gregor, he’d
become something else.


—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

Spent so much time
On the bench in
High school football
I began to take root.

Coach (I swear)
Had to free me
With an ax
At season’s end.

“Don’t worry, kid,”
He apologized, “next
Year will be different.”

“You mean I’ll play?”
“No, we’re getting
An aluminum bench.”


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

That young man slouched on the park bench—
a bright autumn day with red and amber leaves
not yet shaken from the maples—what is he
thinking, eyes half closed? What tune insinuates,
so now one boot begins to tap the first beat
of a rhythm—is it a song of cabbages, or kings?
So young a man, his music must be a different
language, or one I’ve forgotten years ago.
But look, he isn’t slouched at all, maybe just
letting October sun and breeze meet him
here on a park bench.


—Taylor Graham

Where will she go in this maze
of city? You said goodbye
to her sitting on a bench by the steps
to underground, the subway,
its steel security, its quick connections.
There are taxis, buses. Or will she
measure distance by the whim
and flimsy of two gimpy legs? She can’t
walk first-class anymore. No airbags
under armpits or the arch of foot.
Life is no more carnival, no joy ride.
But she’s still got tunes in her pocket.
Will she hum herself to some
intersection you never dreamed of?
Second childhood remembers
so many songs.


Today's LittleNip:

—C.D. Wright

We live on a hillside
close to water
We eat in darkness
We sleep in the coldest
part of the house
We love in silence
We keep our poetry
locked in a glass cabinet
Some nights We stay up
passing it back and
between us
drinking deep



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Out-Singing The Birds

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

sleep frags
—charles mariano, sacramento

wish i could be like these guys in the paper, talented, confident, able to leap tall buildings.  cursed early with low self-esteem, couldn’t shake it.  rode the horse anyway.

a full moon hangs with the sun in the morning light.  inspirational sight.  a garbage truck slams a dumpster, rattles the building.  opportunity, is a small, cracked window. 

read about a guy who died recently, and what he left behind.  house, money, lots of toys.  realized i didn’t have jack.    

keep finding crazy notes to myself on scraps of paper, scribbled months ago.  notes like, Confessions of a Cockroach Boy, Pendulous Breasts, or, There’s a Bullet in my Burrito.  somewhere back there, this was important.

a horn blasts loudly behind me.  realized i was idling at a green light.  gestures were exchanged.

last nights troubling dream kept me rolling unevenly.  something about desire and death, or both.  strangled my ass all night, woke up tired. 

starbucks:  “black coffee, two advils, and water for my horse”  


Thanks to today's contributors, including CM for the frags, Carl for his poems and well-timed opinions of politics, D.R. for the bench photo, poems and LittleNip, and Sam the Snake-Man for the Toad and Toadstools/mushrooms that sprang up under our redwood and are HUGE.  

Our Seed of the Week is D.R.'s photo of a bench. Tell us about it. Is this where the lone monk meditates? The lovers tryst? The kidnappers make the drop? Or is it just where you have your morning coffee while you write? Send poems/art/photos about it to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs. For a complete list of all the SOWs we've ever known, click Calliope's Closet under the Snake on a Rod on our b-board, the skinny blue box over there on the right.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Hair pins and bobby pins
from coast to coast were
earnestly busy making
cross hairs and firing pins. 
We were at war with
enemies from across the
pond.  Enlist!

Sophomores and juniors
were swept from their
homes and schools and
delivered to death’s door
step, where they got a
crash course in setting
priorities.  We prevailed
in battle.  Hooray!

Some came back with
more stripes on their
sleeves, with tallies of
hitting the target, more
is better.  Others were
brought back missing
life or limb, and many
never made it back at
all.  We’re so proud!

Today torpedoes and
heroes are sandwiches we
consume to feel good.  It
is popular sport for people
in the press to second
guess military strategists,
and even assign a route
for the commander in
chief to take, as if he is
a milkman.  Wave that
flag so they can see it
across the pond!


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

An immaculately groomed
celebrity dog stops to relieve
herself and immediately
dozens of dizzy flies descend
on the mess like a slate of
pompous political candidates
seeking contributions.

Moments later, a shaggy stray
stops and relieves himself. 
All the flies rush over to the
fresh mess. 

What’s the big buzz this
November?  Same old.

—D.R. Wagner

A drifting in the heart.  Long
Sounds that find no solace.  No matter
Where they go they remain wanderers.

We will find them on the shores of the lake
After storms that rip the lining of the night
Easily from its darling moon.

Someone must have seen where the careful
Touch has gone, where the sandals cut
The crust of the morning away from the bread
And no hand, oh pretty creatures they are,
Could move move as brutally, tearing the stars
Down from the black lion of night,
All kindness gone, its blue cart tipped
On its side in the crowded streets.

No one wonders any longer
Dammit all anyway all they ever
Wanted were blankets to keep warm
And just a touch of a hand,
Someone to say, “Do not be afraid at all.”

 —D.R. Wagner

We were talking about how happy
The new snow made us feel.
That whiteness on white and the world
White as well.  No wind and the light,
The magic light that made all things

When we lived in Kenmore, New
York the winter had to line
Up across the lake in Canada
And march down the winds
To do its lovely trick.

Out here in California the lens
Tends to cloud over like a wind shield
On a car driving in the mud,
Rain and dust.  Two curved
Views of the world never quite
In agreement with each other,
As we dive through whatever
Season it declares itself to be.

We will gather all we can of white
In sugar, teeth, cake icing,
Clean paper, plastic forks, gym
Socks and soap bubbles and try
To tell others about this loveliness.

Only the babies will understand
What we have to say.  But
We will say it anyway.

Sometimes the pain screams
Such a brilliant white light across
Our brains we forget everything
We were going to do or say.
So much for that sway snow
Had for carrying us away.  Quietly.


Today's LittleNip:

Four geological eras had to pass so that human beings would be able to outsing the birds and die for love. 

—Gabriel Garcia Marquez, from a speech on peace and disarmament he gave in Ixtapa, Mexico in 1986



Toad and Toadstools in Our Front Yard
(or are they mushrooms?)
Photo by Sam the Snake-Man

Monday, September 27, 2010

Autumn's Expectation

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Tonight I hear rain
as I have heard rain before.
I use a blue pen to say this.
I use a blue page to write upon.

Is the rain blue? Or only my blue thought
of rain? Or some blue memory that returns
with rain? My night window shines.
The street lamp wavers like a soft wet music.

The sound is a pleasant sound,
an October sound;
as yet the leaves have not left the trees.
Will they turn restless now or want to linger?

Must I always measure rain with words;
must I ever know what it says to itself,
or to glass,
or the other sound of things?

It has its own wet voice; it has its own silence
when it listens to my listening, when I stop
what I’m doing just to feel the experience of
first rain that evolves from Autumn’s expectation.

The news predicted it with a percentage figure,
as did my knees,
my hot eyes
upon the late and swelling evening skies.


Thanks, Joyce and D.R., for today's offerings!

Some of you may have seen a post on the b-board saying that Francisco Alarcón would be reading at La Raza this Friday. T'ain't so, I'm afraid; hopefully he'll be reading on October 29.


—Joyce Odam

(after a Max Tharpe photo)

The leaves are too many;
the boy’s hands
are too small.

There is
a slowness around him
that he tries to fill.

But the leaves will not wait. 
They say,  Now!  Now!
And they fall.

And the boys’ face
wears a gathering smile
for the leaves are

everywhere—just as he is,
with his swift evolution—
with the arrogance of

his joy and power, for he will
reach into the falling leaves
and catch them all.


—Joyce Odam

Smiling face
next to my smiling face
I have forgotten who you were.

Our arms about each other’s waist
show we were close.
Our free hands share a wishbone.

There is no background of house
to give a clue, only the uncut lawn
of someone’s yard.

A man’s long shadow
leans from the camera—so—
it was afternoon…

the tree says autumn, windy…
our skirts shape to our bodies…
we were pretty…

It saddens me that I
forget who you are, if your wish
happened, or if mine…

(first appeared in Harp Strings, l995)


—Joyce Odam

Behold me now in autumn.
Love after love
I drift through something golden.
Name it anything.
I die with the sun
and live again in leaves.
In the blue corners of my shadow
I wait for rain.

I fathom to your eyes.
You feel me dancing.
You would dance with me
but the light is hollow.
You ask if I am real
and I answer you with laughter.
You close your eyes
and I slip behind them.
You call me sadness.

I come to you again
when you are
tearing from the trees.
How faceted you are,
holding your corners up to the wind,
giving me the bright happiness
of your tears.

At last I know you.
You are the rain.
I tell you how it is to be
half golden—half blue shadow
and you keep breaking into
silver pain.
I turn my body into silence,
but you have found
where I keep my love
and you are singing.

(first appeared in The Small Pond, 1971)


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

One brief look and she is gone.
Try to follow and be lost

in a swirl of leaves
and scented breeze of autumn.

She is only what is thought
And you are turning into winter.

(after "Still to be Neat" by Ben Johnson)



Photo by D.R. Wagner

Sunday, September 26, 2010

365 Poems

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Ann Stanford

They will be floating from my mouth like doves
like bright scarves from the sleeves of the magician.
Look, I am spinning five of them over my head.
It has been a bad dream when I
forgot to twirl one like a flag every day,
to walk into town like a parade
with flutes and drums, with timbrels.
They will be chariots drawn by lions.
They will be gazelles and leopards.
They will fly around me like a flock of birds.
They will be my traveling companions.
They will gnaw at me day and night
like minnows, or devour me whole like the whale.
I will stand among them as among trees of a forest,
calling, these are all mine!
They will tell me secrets.
Wherever I go like the roll of drums,
salvos of guns, rockets kindling the air,
they will arrive day and night.
I will beg them to go away.
They will torment me like gnats,
swoop by like hawks at noon, bewilder my dreams at evening.
They will say, welcome home.



Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bougainvillea and Scuppernongs

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

I linger
tripping dung beetles
away from their assumed masses
towards the glare
of a cracked neon plate
of words
declaring bankruptcy is not here to stay

it has read so a year now
every since I parked
my decaying carcass here
the brown wingtips
now grey lichen and moss abounding

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA


Richard Hansen writes that he’ll be back from Scotland this weekend! Of course he’ll need some time to adjust to life on this side of The Pond, but we’ll keep you posted about the progress of The Ophidian.

Also in the ‘Way Cool Dept., frank andrick’s computer woes are resolved, thanks to Josh Fernandez, so he’ll be able to get the WTF#7 info to me in time to release it at Luna’s Café on Oct. 21. This also means we’ll be able to get back on schedule, so the deadline for WTF#8 will be Friday, Oct. 15. Go to for submission guidelines.

The latest issue of The Dirty Napkin is online, with SnakePal poets Cleo Griffith and Gillian Wegener plus others:

Davis PL Allegra Silberstein sends us this announcement from Kurt Ridgeway:

•••Mondays 10/4, 12/6, 2/7, 6:30-8:30pm: The Well of Poems workshop open to Unitarian Universalist church members and the community-at-large at the UU Church of Davis, 27074 Patwin Rd., Davis. Free. This is an opportunity for a deepening conversation about poems meaningful to your life. Each person will bring a poem (or two), read the poem, relate any story associated with the poem, and reflect on the poem’s significance to their life story. This can be ANY poem, yours or someone else’s. The intent is to invoke a dialogue through the power of poetry and perhaps provide each other with some greater understanding and appreciation of the human journey.

• Open to poets and non-poets
• There will be no critiquing or writing poems
• Poems are to be no longer than one page
• Optional: Bring 10 copies of the poem(s) you present

Facilitator Kirk Ridgeway (530-231-5679 or is a worship associate at UUCD. In Pleasanton he was co-chair of the Annual Poetry, Prose & Arts Festival, was Poet Laureate, and values the oral poetic tradition. Register at or (530) 753-2581, x104.


—Michael Cluff

(for Jose Saramago)

Crouching on a newer island
where California once was,
Bruce waits
for a tide
that never comes.

Sagebrush and yucca blossoms
aren't enough
the chalky stream
is starting to run low to
lower to lowest.

Helicopters will fetch him up soon
and Margo as well
he suns himself
under the Hollywood sign
while she scampers by
on a camel
freed from the zoo.

Waves of heat
caper kilometers away
and Catalina is closer
than it has ever been before.


—Michael Cluff

I heard a painting talk
in the cadence and inflection of a Spanish fern
and the Doric pillar was unreceptive
until the moon went auburn.

Stellar cauliflower
was a nice touch
on the edge of a Elgar piece
tetanus will always wilt the lily.

Anger was the fourteenth concept
in the muskegon's gall
and he, the zero dog,
kills only when the wind is to his back.

Applaud sauce
holds a daylight advantage
but pink earshells
caused, once again, against dirigibles.



—Michael Cluff

Joab glares non-stop
at me while picking the inside
at a week-old pork and beans can,

I am ashamed of myself,
I have been reduced to this,
it hurts more
breaking kosher rules,
yet it does not really matter.

"I am Minsk,"
he stammered,
"I thought it would be better here.
It is not
the hand of poverty
is just as heavy.

"My coat should be so thick
the newspapers I cover my feet
at night between twelve and two
with what I can not read.

"Unemployment rides my back
like a mad wolf on the edge
of the brown forest."

I am mute,
another sleeper here
cut my tongue out
a week ago
he does not recall doing so—

I do not either

I think.


Lucy and Ron are playing footsie
underneath the mosaic-topped table,
she's gay and he isn't
it makes life more intriguing.

Irma finally came back
she's been gone for about a year,
she has a blue streak in a forelock
it just makes her look fatter.

Gilbert wants to rewrite the world
it never measures up to his standards
which are lower than he suspects.

Sondra isn't saying so much
that's not quite like her,
the usurper of anyone's power,
she controls all such situations.

April then slaps Peter
hard across the groin,
he'd rather be with Irma
rolling on her bedroom floor.

The fountain isn't running
it always shuts down in hot weather,
Ron wonders what April and Sondra look like
naked in the airport lobby
days when Rick flies in alone.

And the gunman lurks in the bougainvillea
right inside the aspe door.
Father Milo saw him leave there quickly
and Gilbert, fetal, dead on the coldest stones.

Lucy plants a scuppernong
for Gilbert within a month
and moves away from Ron and all
except Sondra and Peter who are no more.

—Michael Cluff


Today's LittleNip:

Never in the history of humankind have we had so many means of communication, yet we remain islands. There is little real communication between the members of one family, between the individuals in society, and between nations. We have not cultivated the arts of listening and speaking. We have to learn ways to communicate again.

—Thich Nhat Hanh



Under Our Redwood Tree
Photo by Sam the Snake Man

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tripping It Lightly

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Placate the Gorgon, goes the Court’s
prime watchword. See Her Grace
always as She meaneth to be seen:
pearl-bedecked, engowned in royal
raiment, indeed rainbow-gorgeous:
dresses, petticoats, stomachers, vestments
of peacocks’ eyes, of unicorns, cascading
virgin pearls, of hearts embroidered
all around with posies:  Always the same,
ever married to the realm.

But some there are who whisper
differently: why indeed these
poems, of Venus and Adonis, of
the Moon Queen lusting after her
dearest boy, who yet spurns her
whitest flesh and reddest hair? Why
then, more impish still, the murmurs
and speeches, of Actaeon springing
unawares on bathing Diana, seeing,
knowing, and gaping at what wonder
in the nude form of the world’s most
pampered huntress? And, seeing
the naked bather, he feels his head
grow horns, not cuckolds’ knobs,
but great thrusting stag branches
…useless to him as his side reddens
gored with arrows. What must it be

to know in an instant tremendous
royal truths, to be summoned
amid self-opening doors in clangors
of disconcertment—and there,
in her nightgown, seated at table
for cards, waiteth Her Majesty,
robe open, revealing white secrets

soon to blind the beholder
privy now to the dreadlock kinship
of royal nakedness and snake-headedness:
yet “she is lusty, fresh and moist, full of love
and life…and she can trip it as lightly
as a fairy nymph upon the sands and her footsteps
not seen, and much ado with red and white.”

Thus have I writ, William Reynolds,
a first-day’s purchaser of Shakespeare’s
Venus and Adonis, I a mere humble
citizen of London, speaking for many
too highly born or placed to risk free speech…


Thanks, Tom—who has been thinking Shakespeare these last few weeks. And thanks to our other contributors, including D.R. for more of his cool photos (he's been down to Hearst Castle recently), Pat Pashby for the poem and LittleNip, and Jeanine Stevens, who has a new chapbook coming out from Finishing Line in December. More about that later.

Blogspot has made some changes in how we post, so bear with us as we get the hang of these. Things might look a little "different"/wonky. The good news is, though, that it looks like we'll be able to indent—crucial, for poetry! Michelle's poem about vultures is the first-ever-indented poem Medusa has ever published! (I used to use the "center" feature for hanging-over lines.)

More workshops:

•••Jannie Dresser is offering three workshops in the East Bay:

Poetry Soul-Diving
Sept. 29-Oct. 27
North Berkeley ($150)

Let a Formal Feeling Come
Oct. 3-Dec. 5
Albany/No. Berkeley area ($175)

Is the Music Over?
For poets who want more music in their verse, and songwriters who want more poetry in their lyrics.
Oct. 14-Dec. 9
East Bay location ($165)

For more info, check the website or email her at about these or the following:

•••California Coast Poetry Get-Away: I Have a Dream, Jan. 14-17, on the Sonoma Coast. Extensive workshop for inspiring your dreams, shaking-up your imagination, and regaining serenity after the busy-ness of the holidays. Practices include meditation, art-play, writing prompts. Accommodations include a full kitchen, hot tub, gorgeous views, places to walk or shop. Nutritious and yummy food (each participant will contribute food for one meal and help with clean-up), and comfortable sleeping arrangements (double-occupancy room with ample space for finding solitude). Reg. plus $50 due Oct. 1:

•••Closer to home: Sat. (10/2), 10am-4pm: Horse Wisdom Inspires Poetry, presented by Horse Wisdom and Healing Arts at Little Winds Equine Education in Davis. Participants will engage in experiential activities with the Little Winds horses and local poet Nancy Bodily, followed by a chance to express feelings/insights in a guided poetry creation session. $125 includes lunch; limited to 8 participants, no horse (or poetry) experience required. Info:

Michelle Kunert is concerned about the surfeit of vultures in the Land Park area; see yesterday's Sac. Bee. Well, we all gotta eat... I'm glad they take care of the nastier jobs for us, whatever their table habits. But yes, one does wonder why they take up residence in one's neighborhood. By the way, did you know vultures are the only birds with a keen sense of smell? You can imagine why this comes in handy.


Hundreds of turkey vultures are roosting in Land Park,
   ironically, in the area's trees near 13th Ave.
  These birds are the strange relatives of storks
   yet can hunt prey as if they were wolf-pack hawks
   In public parks they eat helpless pond ducks and geese
   and leave around stinking piles of their excitement
   Yet laws still protect them as "endangered" species
   though they've adapted to living in urban neighborhoods
   unlike storks associated with birth and new life
   Carrion-eating vultures
   also tend to circle around dying creatures—
   Have they migrated out of our deserts
   waiting around for our city to also "die"?

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento
I walk past crumbling viaducts, check eel traps,
mostly empty by October, and from pit heaps,
I gather worn markers and knotted string.
On my amulet, three dragons leap against my chest.
Reaching my hut, I press palms on the etched
spiral over the door.  At the crossroads, villagers
set bonfires: hazel wood, alder, and oak, burning
off summer’s sour drosses. Torches blaze, sparking
branches sealed in first frost. Lazy ones who stay away
will sink in black mire, ice blocking pathways,
held captive by demons in winter’s darkest days.
I move closer, charcoal blackens my hands, cinders
scorch my hemline. Under my flaxen dress, I feel
the arch, the twist—curled metal warming my heart.


—Jeanine Stevens

In October, dry winds
charge in from the Mojave.
Some students, excused
from school, fight
the fiery ring
surrounding the Valley.
Embers smolder
all through Thanksgiving
when holiday garlands
already crisscross
the intersection—
a silver bell swaying
in the center.
Blistering gales return,
stripping young
banana leaves.
By evening, tinsel hangs
shredded and limp
from thick wires.



as a fresh autumn breeze
flutters the curtains—
brushing her face and hair

and wind chimes
chant to the persimmons
urging them to blush orange

and scampering squirrels
chatter as they sample
each fruit for ripeness

and her Muse whispers back
on a puff of air.

—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento


—Tom Goff

Ah, the riches of England! Hot fires
that scarcely heat huge coldstone castles,
those fires lit from the bounty of nearby
noblemen’s woods…Coal mines and tin mines
and lead mines, gold worshipped but largely
pirated from Spain, pearls dived for in Ceylon
and India snug in the lading of ships. What notion
of damage to the goddess Nature? Mast-making,
timbering the sides and bowels of ships…The vital
heat surges up smoking, as do the mighty lines
in theaters of lumber. Swans, mute swans,
decreed as royal as royalty: owing to what
prior abuses of arrow and gun? William
of Stratford supposed a deer poacher.
The hut-warming, huddling, bundling, crowding
drawing on colonies of flea and germ.
What will these humblest peasants
who dine on “coarsest cheat” say, if they know
this plaguey, aguey conglobulation of breed
and birth and starve and decay and fevershake

will so slim the Earth-wide populace,
those cities reduced, their fires banked,
as to cool and chill and snow over the faces
of hills and meadow and town? What
will they exclaim, knowing their grandsons
and granddaughters will beg their way from
farmstead to city, wearing snow jackets, 
ice leggings? What does it tell us that the Earl

of Oxford means to cut down all his woods
(he tells Lord Burghley) for coin to take him to Italy?
And yet, years later, can proudly claim that when
his ancestors held forests—now wrenched from him
by dubious legal means—the “woods were preserved,
the game cherished, and the Forest maintained
in her full state?”

Were Elizabeth’s nobles their own best canaries
inside the bowels of the Earth they’d dominate?
Did the Earl of Cumberland visit his proud holdings
down, where mining pairs would scrap like spouses,
one man to wield the pick, the other man flapping,
savagely driving away bad air with a rag?
Think of it, the lord and master bent low to inspect,
still gaily bedecked in his best gilded doublet:
he came, he saw, and then he—keeled over?


Today's LittleNip:

Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile I caught hell for.   

—Earl Warren


Pool, William Hearst Castle
Photo by D.R. Wagner

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Wild Geese Know...

Whole Foods Festival
Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

we drove the country road
past fields gone to seed
between towns
a tree here and there
lean branches bent over us
low fog pressed weed fragrance
closer to earth
Fall littered the ditches
a golden leaf glittered unseen

you were telling me about Shiva
Saraswati and Narayana
I said are we lost
don’t worry, you said
we are one with Buddha

Autumn’s dead leaves
scurried past us
then a stoplight
we rode to the far side of town

where is the living Buddha?
is he lost?
no, you said

we drove
we saw the word café
lit up in scarlet neon
like blood running through
transparent tubes

inside it was sweating-hot
drums beating
couples dancing
horns blaring
Buddha was there laughing
he took me in his arms
whirled me around
I was warm and safe
leaning against his big round belly
like a fiery old stove


Thanks, Pat, and thanks to our potpourri of poets today and every day! Pat has another little bit on

The new issue of Gail Entrekin's Canary is online at in honor of yesterday's Fall Equinox.

And Sacramento Poetry Center has announced the winners of its 2010 Poetry Contest for a Single Poem. Indigo Moor was the the final judge for this year’s contest, and he selected:

1st Place
David Moody [Vacaville, CA] (Crossing the Equator)

2nd Place
Katie Quarles [Rocklin, CA] (Note to Self)

3rd Place
Rachel Jenkins [Davis, CA] (Transformer)

Honorable Mention:
Shadi Gez [Faairfield, CA] (Fields)
Ellaraine Lockie [Sunnyvale, CA] (Evolution)
Ray Hadley [S. Lake Tahoe, CA] (A Good Trick at the Zoo)
Gordon Preston [Modesto, CA] (The Library)
Katie Quarles [Rocklin, CA] (The Garden)
Carolyne Whelan [Pittsburgh, PA] (Ode for Traveling Solo)
Kathleen McClung [San Francisco, CA] (Nephew Blurred)
David Moody [Vacaville, CA] (A Mouthful of Stars)
Laura Hilton [Auburn, CA] (And Can You Love Me)
Allegra Silberstein [Davis, CA] (Magnolia Blossoms)

Winners can contact Sandra Senne [] 916-979-9706 for more details.


Pale shade of old cream,

light settles across the Vaca Hills this evening.
A thread of the new moon sinks
in a crescent of pearl beside the evening star.
The air, different now,
smells faintly of smoke and ozone

—the start of autumn.
Flights of geese sketch runes
in the darkening sky, fleeing southward
from rumors of ice building in the high winds.
They appear unseasonably early.

For the last few weeks, the violet evenings
have been stitched with migration.
The birds have not rested in the bypass.
Somewhere there is going to be a hard winter.
The wild geese know it.

The crows form a river of darkness,
heading toward their nightly roosts in walnut trees
outside of Davis. They will not move on
when the weather turns cold and wet.
They seem to take the shortened days in stride.

The light is changing.
There is a new scent on the evening breeze.
The air feels different, like an antique shawl,
settling on the valley.
The wandering geese have known for weeks.

—Katy Brown, Davis


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

Summer’s pleasures are gone.
The cloudy days of autumn
and winter are coming on.

Autumn descends, bringing
with it endless drifts of
yellow withered leaves.

Long autumn evenings
have no cheer, no warmth,
no butterflies, no bees.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Fall’s fanfare trumpets its way
across the closing chords of
Summer’s cool demise, and I
choose to listen to Stravinsky’s
Le sacre du printemps.

I love the feeling of the piece,
though my understanding of
French is about the same as a
tadpole’s conscious comprehension
of metamorphosis.

Maybe the changing of seasons
triggers hormonal surges. In any
event, it brings about feelings I just
don’t understand. What better to
represent that than Cercles
mysterieux des adolescentes?

Picture Igor S. break dancing to the
strains of Jeu de rapt …….or not.


Photo by Michelle Kunert

Today's LittleNip:

...Unless you do something in the world, you can have no real business to transact with man; and unless you love and are loved, you can have no intimate relations with them. And you must transact business, wire-pull politics, discuss religion, give and receive hate, love and friendship with all sorts of people before you can acquire the sense of humanity.

—George Bernard Shaw



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Beehive Sweetens

Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Bella Akhmadulina

Not working, not breathing,
the beehive sweetens and dies.
The autumn deepens, the soul
ripens and grows round;

drawn into the turning color of fruit,
cast out of the idle blossoms.
Work is long and dull in autumn,
the word is heavy.

More and more heavily, day by day,
nature weighs down the mind.
A laziness like wisdom
overshadows the mouth with silence.

Even a child, riding along,
cycling into white shafts of light,
suddenly will look up
with a pale, clear sadness.

(translated from the Russian by Barbara Einzig)


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

She walks the way the wind goes,
the way the hearts of crab-apple leaves
bend, changing color.
Timing is light and shadow playing
with meaning. Lottery
of unexpected fortunes. The great
wall of fieldstone stands
like a messenger between slope
and circumstance. She rubs a finger
over the wall’s face. Stone
always bears a message.
She’ll follow its shadow until wall
becomes a snake moving
across stubble-grass, an arrow.
Until it tells her something.


—Taylor Graham

So particular, each morning. None
quite like the last. Today, oceans of sky
swell with titanic clouds,
and the speckled lamb faces away
from wind, a blizzard of fallen leaves.

This morning, what is fenced field
but an extension of the way-out-there,
where before dawn, coyotes
called. A grassy swale is no bunker
against such weather.

The ewe lamb shakes her ears
and hunkers down. Tribal memory
of winter coming. What does she know
of one more time, another season;
months before any thought of spring?


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Help, I have fallen! cried the
brown leaf to the green.

I wasn’t ready to descend,
life to end, no time to mend.

Its pleas reached only
the space in between.

Ha ha, I have risen! puffed
the green leaf to the brown.

My life is now fulfilled,
more to build, forever thrilled.

Then a breeze blew the green
leaf straight to the ground.


Bella Akhmadulina

The sound of rain like a lute—
such strumming on the roof!
To the pedestrian in the Square of Arising
I say, Be very kind!

I tell a boy, Be wild!
Leaning to his curly head
I say, Loosen the string,
Free the green balloons!

On the street where the public chatters
I come upon a white dog—
with a compassionate look
the dog fixes me in its gaze.

And in a store I discover a miser
in the palesness of a face.
He admires a bottle of cologne,
but the price tag has him sweating.

I say to him, Don't be a pig, cure yourself,
Buy something expensive
and take it to someone you love.

But I'm not very successful.
Among the boys and girls,
the grownups who look like me,
an ice-cream cart rolls in.

And so, I walk at sunrise.
I notice the long shadows.
I notice the surprise
of people who look at me as I pass.

(translated by Daniel Halpern with Albert Todd)


Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones
There's something in this richness that I hate.
I love the look, austere, immaculate,
Of landscapres drawn in pearly monotones.
There's something in my very blood that owns
Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate,
A thread of water churned to milky spate
Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.

I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray,
Those fields sparse-planted, rendering meagre sheaves
That spring, briefer than apple-blossom's breath,
Summer, so much too beautiful to stay,
Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves,
And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.

—Elinor Wylie


—Today's LittleNip:

—Amy Lowell

Greatly shining,
The Autumn moon floats in the thin sky;
And the fish-ponds shake their backs and flash their dragon
As she passes over them.



Photo by D.R. Wagner

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rose-Colored Dreams

Little Red
Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

The autumn made colors burn
In the noise of swift wings
We spoke about winters inscribed on waiting lists
Of migratory birds who bang their wings like shutters
Then grow heavy calling the earth.

The autumn confused its colors
Your eyes were tired of being dead
We spoke of the great trees that wander
without moving

Of the remoteness of crowds
Of your last dull scream

I spoke to you peacefully under a layer of summer
Horizontal like stagnating planets
and now they have asked me to draw you
I sketch you with quivering leaves

—Vénus Khoury-Gata
(translated by Willis Barnstone)


Autumn officially starts tomorrow (9/22); let's make the Seed of the Week an easy one: Autumn. Send your autumnal thoughts to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. Anytime—autumnal or not...

Mountain Democrat Looking For Ghost Stories!

Send 500-750 words about seances, possessions, friendly/unfriendly ghosts, or any other Halloween tales by Oct. 8 to Mike “The Crypt Keeper" Rafferty, c/o The Mountain Democrat, 1360 Broadway, Placerville for possible $50 restaurant gift certificate and inclusion in their Halloween Special Edition.


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

(After Dreams and Illusions by Dolores Mitchell)

You sit alone in a pall of blue smoke,
wearing red so you can remember
why you are here—

to be loud with others who are alone,
where conversations blur into
the bluish air—

heavy and languorous.
You stay where there is music
in the cold loneliness

that connects you to others.
You can almost

the music
through the din. But you
let it fade and let your dreams

take over—
your rose-colored dreams
you still expect to save you.



came through my life and left a wound for memory,
and left a love—bitter and sweet—and went away

and left a sleep to fill with dreams that wreathed
like smoke—and turned to pleasure—and to pain;

one who was love—composite now—became unreal,
was never real, was never love.

—Joyce Odam


—Joyce Odam

At last I was able to write the poem though it lived in the
forest of itself. It had long beautiful leaves like fingers.
It stroked the surrounding branches for the sensation
of love. It quavered with words, and it spoke,
though I did not understand it.


What is the use of it all, I asked the silence, but the silence
only offered more silence and I understood. But, why?
I whispered to the solace. But the solace was
stroking the grief of another. Thus was I
chastised for my jealousy.


—Joyce Odam

(After Love without Hope by Robert Graves)

The anonymous young bird-catcher
lifts his tall hat to the girl
to let his larks escape
to sing around her as she sidles by . . .

and as I steal this,
I go to the heart of the scene:
the young girl, proud with disdain,
or shy with the power she must have . . .

the gush of freedom for the larks
as they relive the air and learn never
to fall for such darkness again
as the tall black hat of the bird-catcher . . .

and they sing free,
for themselves and each other—
not even aware of the impulsive purpose
they serve, or the sacrifice they complete:

the futility-gesture
that serves only the poem—not love.


—Joyce Odam

They were never for this symbol—
not the tender image of a poem,
softly jeweled by glint of light

on a smooth face—but smear
of dark feeling—salty to the taste,
making wet stains upon some pillow.


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Though I am all poem,
words fall through me . . .

Though I am a net,
I cannot catch them all . . .



Photo by Katy Brown

Monday, September 20, 2010

Peeking/Peaking at Halloween

the last winter
—charles mariano, sacramento

talked to this
older lady
her last winter

the pain
in her voice,
her eyes,
echoed loneliness

she asked me,
“have you seen
my only daughter?
have you spoken?”

her big house
so impressively grand
in sadness

forty years ago
her daughter
under a hail
of angry words,
walked out

“forty years
of damned
suffering heartache,”
she said bitterly,

it’s just me,
and this big ass
lonely house”


Thanks, cm, and the rest of today's contributors. SnakePals Patricia Hickerson and Catfish McDaris have been having a conversation. Go to to see what she’s been telling him.

Residents of the Valley Floor tend to flock to Camino and Apple Hill in record numbers during the Fall. A word to the wise: the crowds peak at Halloween. This weekend was relatively light (the traffic can be AWFUL). So I’d advise you to get up here in the next week or two (weekdays are much better, too), if you’re inclined toward the apple:

A Starry Night Poetry Series in Lodi is doing some interesting things—especially their youth offerings for the next two months—and their website has advice for poets of all ages about how to present poetry in public. Go to and click on “Advice” up in the menu at the top, and then scroll down their website for info about youth readings in Oct. and Nov.

Workshops coming up:

•••Mon. 9/27, 7-9pm: “In the Body” Poems: Writing Poems About Our Body’s Response to the World We Live In, taught by Connie Post, Sebastopol Center/Arts, $15. 707-829-4797
•••Starts Weds. 9/29, 6-7pm, 10 sessions: New Voices (free poetry writing workshop) with Past Sac. Poet Laureate Julia Connor at S. Natomas Library, Sac. Free, but must register:

And submissions:

•••The Tiger’s Eye editors write: We are currently reading submissions for issue #20 of Tiger's Eye. 10 years!! The next deadline is February 28, 2011. We are offering a Fall special, a read-through of your chapbook with comments and suggestions that will make it submission-ready, for $50. Contact us at or visit us at
•••Bay Area Poets Coalition presents its 31st annual Maggi H. Meyer Memorial Poetry Contest. Go to and download the info. Deadline is November 15.
•••Another deadline, more imminent: Sept. 21 (tomorrow!) to submit poems for The Jack Kerouac Poetry Prize:

I hope you scrolled down to the veryveryveryvery bottom of Medusa’s skinny blue b-board box and saw D.R. Wagner’s arresting photo. Here’s a fitting poem:

—Isak Dinesen

The eagle’s shadow runs across the plain,
Towards the distant, nameless, air-blue mountains.
But the shadows of the round young Zebra
Sit close between their delicate hoofs all day,
where they stand immovable,
And wait for the evening, wait to stretch out, blue,
Upon a plain, painted brick-red by the sunset,
And to wander to the water-hole.


quick draw
—charles mariano

nudged my keyboard
slightly to the side
and found pieces,
under it
and thought,

pounded these keys
so fast, so hard,
knocked the skin
clean off!”

typed this note
at my usual
blinding blur,

then checked again


—William S. Gainer, Grass Valley

They carry their knives
for other reasons—
leave scars
in passing—
it's a thing
they just
like to do,
like carving,
"I love you"
in a picnic table,
with a little more


—William S. Gainer

The only thing
he carries,
a pillow—
as if with
defends it
as if it has
a porch, doorbell,
a lawn
to mow...


—William S. Gainer

I want the comment
on my headstone
to simple read:
“Beat Ya”

I want it to read:
“Beat Ya—now fuck off”

But I’m not sure
the stonecutter
has the balls
to go done
in immortality
with me
like that...

so, maybe
we should just put
fuck off...


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

If you ever want to get shot down
just greet someone with the warm
expression, “You look good
today!” Often as not, the suddenly
glum recipient will act as if you had
said “You look good toady!”

Instead of gracefully accepting
that they radiate an air of
pleasant perception, they will
brashly interrogate you as to your
ulterior motives, rudely question
your position to make such a
judgment, and force the issue
“Compared to what?”

That’s why some people stay away
from other people and just surround
themselves with household pets.
When you compliment any of your
pets by saying, “You look good
today” their singular response will
be, ”That reminds me, it’s time to eat!”


Today's LittleNip:

Riches are over-estimated in the Old Testament: the good and successful man received too many animals, wives, apes, she-goats and peacocks.

—Margot Asquith



Alice Gainer
Photo by Bill Gainer

Sunday, September 19, 2010

That Tempting Tic

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Carolyn Kizer

(after Po Chü-I)

We all have our faults. Mine is trying to write poems.
New scenery, someone I like, anything sets me off!
I hear my own voice going on, like a god or an oracle,
That cello-tone, intuition. That bell-note of wisdom!

And I can't get rid of the tempting tic of pentameter,
Of the urge to impose a form on what I don't understand,
Or that which I have to transform because it's too grim as it is.
But age is improving me: Now, when I finish a poem

I no longer rush out to impose it on friendly colleagues.
I climb through the park to the reservoir, peer down at my own
Shake a blossoming branch so I am covered with petals,
Each petal a metaphor...

By the time we reach middle life, we've all been deserted and
But flowers and grass and animals keep me warm.
And I remind myself to become philosophic:
We are meant to be stripped down, to prepare us for something

And, often, I sing aloud. As I grow older
I give way to innocent folly more and more often.
The squirrels and rabbits chime in with inaudible voices.
I feel sure that the birds make an effort to be antiphonal.

When I go to the zoo, the primates and I, in communion,
Hoot at each other, or signal with earthy gestures.
We must move farther out of town, we musical birds and
Or they'll lock us up like the apes, and control us forever.



Saturday, September 18, 2010

Easier Made Than Kept

Stone Wall, Cumbria
Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

beginning @ the end
—Dawn DiBartolo, Citrus Heights

“language is a translation of grace…
tethered to conviction, one says moon, one emotion…”
~ Noah Eli Gordon

and the beginning
was the end;
distended promises
were easier made
than kept.

indebted to the dream,
we let go the frayed rope,
severed the tether and
coasted into separate bloom.

after all, life
is a seed
worth sowing and
promise is just a ‘ho.


Thanks, Dawn (and Katy)! In addition to this weekend’s poetry readings, Fall festivals abound! The Chicken Festival and the Teddy Bears’ Picnic have nothing to do with poetry per se, but as I’ve said before, getting out into the world of sights and sounds and smells (and wee tots) can stimulate the Muse, sometimes—especially when the weather is oh-so-fine.

The following three announcements have just come to my attention; two of them have to do with bears—which aren’t so cute when you live in the hills and they rummage through your garbage, having their own picnic… Apple season is in full swing up here in Camino and thereabouts (they had their own bear visit last week, and he was a big’un). While you’re in the hills stocking up on all things apple, check out the Teddy Bears’ Picnic (today!), then swing by Books ‘n’ Bears for their monthly read-around; this month’s theme is “First Love”. More info on the b-board, of course:

•••Sat. (9/18), 11am-3pm: 12th Annual Teddy Bears' Picnic at Rainbow Orchards, 2569 Larsen Dr., Camino, sponsored by Lane Florence LLC, Rainbow Orchards and Rotary Club to benefit Family Connections El Dorado. Free admission. Games, entertainment, petting zoo, Teddy Bears' Parade, bounce house, face painting, Gift Basket Raffle, Meal Deals on food; all-access wristbands, $5.

•••3rd Sat., 3pm: Poetic License meets at Books 'n' Bears, 6211-A Main St., El Dorado. Bring poems or come to listen. Monthly themes. Info: 530-621-1766.

•••Sat. (9/18), 12-2:30pm: Behind the Story: Author Thoughts at the Salida Regional Library, Stanislaus County Library. Meet local authors of many genres (including Stanislaus poets Sam Pierstorff and Gillian Wegener) and hear them speak about their books and how they got started writing.


poetry without hops
—Dawn DiBartolo

I keep expecting
a poem to just
jump out at me,
grab me by the hand
and pen in eloquence
the depths of my soul

yet I cannot write
that the sleepy summer silence
was all that greeted me
in the stuffy halls
of my awakening this morning

I cannot write
that traffic buzzed a cacophonous
ruckus so that I rolled up
my windows to better hear
the songs I didn’t know
playing on the radio

I cannot write
that August has betrayed me,
betrayed us all and left us
to the long shadows of autumn
way before our time

I cannot write
that boredom and tedium
have switched strategy
and, rather than abandoned to word,
I am prey to madness.


to love Cain
—Dawn DiBartolo

I am Cain.

and even before the blood,
I am Able.

“you know your place…”
a vacuous phrase

that means “don’t ask”
but assume

beyond what is actually said.
wounding, yes

but within the mark,
I am able

to love Cain.


a poem
—Dawn DiBartolo

when something
moves you,

dissect it ~
find the heart;

interject illusion,
or voyage

at a whim ~
words become

this being
of its own skin.


Today's LittleNip:

—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

Ah, solitude
piercing the heart.



Literate, Well-Read Teddies