Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Wolf in All of Us

Chibi Kieth, descendent from wolves

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

It must have been the wind
that told me—just like you always rode
alone. Private words for your buckskin horse,
and the wind down dry washes;

your hands working magic
with the reins. One day you left the horse
at home; hiked halfway to nowhere,
a seep in a gully; waited silent

as noonday shadow until they came.
Wild mustangs flicking their ears, sampling
the sky. One mare held you with her gaze
before lowering her muzzle to water.

You stayed long after they galloped off.
You told it in a poem. But
now the magic of pencil on paper
has slipped from your fingers.

You need no name for the rim-
rock place where,
without touching foot to earth,
you could wait for the wild horses.


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Not denying
the darkness
nor forgetting
the day
you parted
like violets
on a bedside vase
letting go
by sunlit water
lapping breath
of an uncoiled past,
as cabin fever
removes the coldness
of disbelief,
we opened up
the linen closet
of a recoverable past,
a screen of colors
to embrace.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

I was trying to remember if it was
A long time ago that I saw you.

It was in the April time, I’m sure
And then again the leaves were falling.

I was waiting by the waterfall.
You were walking on the shore.

The sky was dressing itself with great clouds.
I was waiting by an open door.

There were dreams all about the camp.
There was magic in your hands.

There were songs. We both sang them.
There were words we could understand.

It was like this forever, I recall.
It was never this way at all.

I only know that it was you I loved.
I never knew you at all.


—D.R. Wagner

From her unwavering gaze
And rivers, their kindest of moods
From the arch of her eyebrow,
The turn of her lips to smile.

The sun pulling itself above
The greeny hills, spends its
Entire morning looking in her
Direction as do I and the
Birds, the wind, the gathering
Clouds lost there too.

May the night forget its way
This evening. We have this
Cup of time only. Do not
Envy us a few poor words.


Today's LittleNip: 

Let this coming year be better than all the others. Vow to do some of the things you've always wanted to do but couldn't find the time. Call up a forgotten friend. Drop an old grudge, and replace it with some pleasant memories. Vow not to make a promise you don't think you can keep. Walk tall, and smile more. You'll look ten years younger. Don't be afraid to say, 'I love you'. Say it again. They are the sweetest words in the world.

—Ann Landers



B-300 ("Sophie"), mother of OR-7.
Welcome to California, OR-7! May your historic crossing
be fruitful (and safe!) for you!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Air Gorgons for the Gnu You in the Gnu Year

Kids' robot sculpture made from litter
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

The man in the muted cardigan sweaters
always bought new shoes for
his two sons
Rick and Danny
two days after Christmas
unless that was a Sunday.

He seemed the prefect
suburbanite model
dress shirts
not too tight white slacks—
at least he was to me.

Later Mr. Turnbull
was arrested for
something Mom would not
elaborate upon
and Rick and Danny
began to wear tennis shoes
with more stains and
displaying more veer than before.


—Michael Cluff

Edwina eulogies
her ballet slippers
now fit her sister Sylvia

But she recalls
those days
with Madame Helene
and the nutcrackers

Edie will put on
the velcro foot cast
and figure out
how she tripped
off the pergola
so nimbly.


—Michael Cluff

Bought for graduation
in June 1973
thirty dollars
have lasted well
up to this day
past the demise
of Two Guys Department Store
four marriages
three college degrees
the deaths of both parents
and famous dreams.

These heavy
brown brogues
would carry on
without me
but I am glad
they do not.


ROME, GEORGIA: December 26, 1:03 p.m.
—Michael Cluff

Up to Mt. Berry
to see my son-in-law's kin
today is very merry
according to his wife Jen,
they were engladdened to see me
from the West Coast,
a special treat was to be
of which they would boast.

In the front yard near the porch
they had constructed an heirloom snowman
from bushes of the Mojave which had been scorched
by 1962 desert blasts and sliding sand.

The tumbleweed Frosty had moved
from Parcelete to Floyd County
it had been quite costly
but added to the Gamble's Christmas Bounty.

I was taken aback to 1972
Uncle Rudy's house in Piru
today was yesterday and maybe tomorrow
from this nice gesture my memory will now borrow.


ATLANTA AEROPORT: December 28, 7:52 a.m.
—Michael Cluff

On the tarmac
I stare at the flatness
the tawdry stale nature
of terminals
and sardine cabins
too many minutes
to come on a plane
headed West
with no real food
or room to let
my elbows rest free
and akimboed.

But by the time
the Mississippi passes
down there below,
I will meander
freely within
air pockets
of artesian


PHOENIX: December 29, 10:16 a.m.
—Michael Cluff

Hauled into the Hummer
to visit the second daughter
in Phoenix
she was not remade
invented there
and that is good.

As for the grandchildren
it is a wash
they have about 491 years
before the verdict
comes back
one way or
the other.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

Being around people who have ADH
Get to the point!D
Takes some patience

Each a virtual perpetual motion machine (PMM)
They are ready to go to the next step
Sooner than others

Thus the California rolling stop:
I checked, it is safe,
Why not just go?

Thus the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster:
We’ve been over that before,
We must meet deadline

Thus marriages for life and eternity
That crumble to nothing
Much sooner

PMMs feed upon others who sleep
And consume their ideas
Good night.


(After gazing at the “Rejoice” photo by Joyce Odam*)

I learned from my father
A WWII Seabee
That battleships were painted

My mother, a reader
Of James Joyce, et al.
Was adamant it was spelled

The truth at the center
Of this rather odd
Fórmidable dilemma,

There was no real centre
Around which to prove by
Formídable logic

We live in two werlds
That use different roolz
With defiant codes of onner

[*see last Tuesday's Medusa post]



It can be hard to get gnus
To wear shoes
But since they are Gorgons
They’ll at least try them on

Air Gorgon XI—
White patent leather
Fine for sprinting past

Air Gorgon XIII—
Panthers paws
For when stealth is

Air Gorgon XIX—
Black Mamba snake
Rivals the other king
Of the jungle

Gorgon 2011—
Four colorways
One for each

Pricey all,
But image is
For the gnu you


Today's LongerNip: 


Read this poem like you are
Cramming for a big test
Quiet room, lots of light
Focus, focus, focus

Start at the bottom
Then scan sideways
Take note of just the verbs
Make a mental list of them

Forget about adjectives
They are just a distraction
And so is the title and the form
You are not tested on distractions

Verbs are a poem’s punches
Roll with the punches
Throw some yourself
Batter that poem!

Don’t let the poem
Do all the talking
Pound that keyboard
With your priorities

Remember, in poetry
It is just as easy to commit
Global genocide as it is
To kill one mockingbird

Okay, you’ve done your work
Good job.
Lights out.
Get some sleep.



 Clarksburg Truck
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
(Be sure to check out our latest photo album, 
"Historic Locke by Cynthia Linville"
on Medusa's Facebook Page)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Next Year's Words

David in Diapers at Deseret
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Cathy Hackett, Sacramento

It turned slowly,
probably sometime after forty.

Gray hair was hidden
under color for years.

Hiding the gray to look younger.

To fit in a society that worships youth

Looking more competitive with
Younger co-workers and bosses

The dye stopped not long ago

Now I honor gray hair
not trying to please anyone


—Cathy Hackett

It sneaks up on you
A slight slurring of speech
A weakness in the knees
Double Vision

How is it possible that
Life could change
in just 24 hours

He walked, drove a car,
took care of himself

24 hours later he needs
24/7 care


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

He fingers each nail before hammering
it into the sole. A sturdy boot,
this platform between foot and soil.

But isn't it foolish to pound so much
metal into leather, so a man
must stomp his way across earth?

Imagine standing on a hilltop, gazing
at distant features of a landscape
that beckons in all directions—

like standing on the compass-rose
of life. Couldn't lightening the step
also lighten the soul?


—Taylor Graham

The snake casts its skin,
the sheep rubs its old woolen coat
against the tree-trunk and comes away
without its itch. It is done by us all,
as God disposes, she's been told.
It has to do, she thinks, with currency.
Last night the moon, dark
as a dying year, cast its jawbone
to the morning's dogs. Like
last semester's teacher, pale specter
in a bright crisp sky. Today,
her old soles fell into the trash.
Without a glance behind, she slipped
into fairy-sneakers, salamander
skins, her new skip-hop-
dancing self.


—Taylor Graham

Glimpsed so briefly, a point of land
between horizon and the tide.
We left our footprints in the sand,
we watched the gulls and petrels glide

from shoreward to the other side;
glimpsed, so briefly, that point of land
we puzzled off the map, denied
its presence. Must be sleight-of-hand,

a trick of light and eye, some grand
illusion that would not abide,
glimpsed so briefly. That point of land
became a myth: somebody lied

to set his tedium aside.
As shadows gather and disband,
shall we just let the question slide?
Glimpsed, so briefly, one point of land.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Horses did not always need shoes.
The mustangs of the steppes and deserts
Do not wear shoes and yet they hurry
Across the great spaces, keeping the sky
In its place with their hard running.

The Katak dancers of Northern India
Tell their stories without shoes, their feet
Keeping taal and sliding us into
Endless patterns as the tabla
Drives their feet to be calloused and split
Open even as they cycle us through
The hours, days, seasons, years.

I am wearing heavy shoes today, the kind
Used to hike to high places. My
Feet need these shoes. They are too
Soft and do not touch the earth
As much as I would like them to do.

The ground gets hard. The air gets cold.
I enjoy the warmth of socks on my feet.
The shoes become friends, comforting me.

I never wear shoes when dreaming.
My feet always find the way to proceed.


—D.R. Wagner

Eyes glazed like tar.
Cool nets
Are tossed over our body
Meat. The air thrills
With our writhing.

We are substitutes
For fame. Red-faced
Factories full of
Discord and the smell
Of merciless victory.
We are lists of the unidentified
In unknown cities. There are chips
Of us encoded in silicon
Dream warp belts.

       They apply their warm
       Sticky selves to our outer bodies.
       You could synthesize pain
       Like it was the real thing.
       I was no good at this.

We would whisper together
As we walked. Occasionally
I would bleed from the eyes
And ears. “You look like
A souvenir,” you would say.
My thoughts would scab over.
The stage lights would come on.
We could barely hear our music
Above the noise of the crowd.
“Take it to the bridge,” you
Would say.
I could only understand
That we were traveling.
I looked down.
There wasn’t any net.
The air thrilled a second time.


Thanks to today's contributors! Check out Cynthia Linville's photos of historic Locke on the Medusa's Kitchen Facebook page; thanks, Cynthia.

Cathy Hackett is a new poet on the scene, part of the Wisdom Woman's Art Program at the Sacramento Food Bank, where she attends Allegra Silberstein's poetry class each Wednesday. She says it's "a rare mix of woman from different backgrounds. Each has a unique style." A chapbook was published in December, and it can be purchased from Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services. (Contact Helen Plenert at For more about Wisdom Woman's Art program, see

Also, D.R. Wagner has a new chapbook out, called Pentecost, from Green Panda Press. All of the poems have appeared in Medusa's Kitchen. You can get a look at the cover at There are six poems, 9 pages stapled, stamped, no fold. 60 copies only, $5.00 each. Green Panda Press also has a page on Facebook.

Errata: About yesterday's second photo in the Kitchen (by Jane Blue), Jane writes: That is Cathy's husband, Eric Weaver. (Also, Peter is not her dad—he is only 8 years older that she is!) 


Today's LittleNip: 

For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.

—T.S. Eliot



Photo by Cynthia Linville

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

From Her Heart a Lily Grows

Jane Blue and her daughter, Catherine Weaver

—Catherine Weaver, Palo Alto

Bemused like a bewildered butterfly,
He started a thousand things in an afternoon
The glittery gleam of gadgets fluttered by
Like a will o’ the wisp in June.

When meeting a tiger you must catch his eye
And hold his gaze in your own
And don’t look after a far-off sigh
Or allow your sight to roam.

The flashing lights and big brash sound
Coming from here and there
Kept his attention spinning round
And he never got out of his chair.

When meeting a tiger you must catch his eye
And hold his gaze in your own
And don’t look after a far-off sigh
Or allow your sight to roam.

So when his possessions were prised
From him, and his rights were crudely ripped
The glazed expression barely left his eyes
Until his mouth was zipped.

When meeting a tiger you must catch his eye
And hold his gaze in your own
And don’t look after a far-off sigh
Or allow your sight to roam.


—Jane Blue, Sacramento

O! I am the center of the universe; the sun
revolves around me! Icarus thought in that
plangent moment before the wax of his wings
melted, and the feathers fluttered out
into Breughel's blue sky; almost consumed
by the cloud of amorphous, pale light
that Breughel smudged, lemon-colored,
across the upper right quadrant of the canvas.
The sun was that close in those days; Daedalus
warned his son, "Don't fly too close," but Icarus,
being an adolescent, did exactly the opposite;
the contraption was Daedalus' own invention:
a test, sending Icarus first as you might ask
the host to taste the wine for poison, or
give a bit of meat to the cat; in a flash Icarus
is in the green Cretan sea, head first, legs
jutting up, flailing only a little; fat Daedalus,
wearing a woolen robe, reaching timidly
from the bank toward the drowning boy,
too late; ashamed to call for help. And life
goes on; birds sing, water laps;
sure-footed sheep munch up and down
the steep hillside, almost to the cove where
Icarus sinks; a young man plows tiers
into rough soil, pushing as the horse pulls,
both their heads bent to the task; the focus:
work, daily life, a red blouse; a ship sails away
from Icarus' splashing; the shepherd
rests on his staff, glancing up to the left
where he thought he saw a speck in the sky.


—Catherine Weaver

When I was but a girl,
I looked at the elder folk and wondered
What they knew that I didn’t, and
How they were steering the world
So confidently.
I looked at the buildings and cars,
Listened to their discussions of
Money and politics,
And I closed my eyes and
Sang to myself,
Secure in the knowledge that
The world was
In good hands.
How came the world to be a place
Where crocodile tears are shed
In public
While our livers are torn out
Day after day,
While we believe the tears,
Like Prometheus with amnesia?
The curtains of lies have become
Threadbare from overuse
And when the wind blows
I think I see
A glint of truth
Through the gossamer tatters.
And I know the elders of my youth
Were not so confident and sure,
But were putting on
A brave front
So that I could have the time
To close my eyes and sing.


—Jane Blue

She sits up slightly in her neat chaste bed, sheets
tucked in hospital corners, someone singing
a canticle in her brain; whispers that she wants
the last rites. She can speak "only a little,"
the usually voluble Zsa Zsa. And from her heart
a lily grows. The bed floats above the faded world,
no gems, no diadems. No one sees it, looking at
her crumpled, sculpted face. From long habit
she says the Hail Mary before the priest arrives.
A halo dissolves among the clustered stars,
the glowing lily becomes a giant lamp, or a Sister
of Mercy's starched headdress, which she remembers
from her Hungarian childhood, how the nuns worried
about their intricately folded creations wilting
and shrinking in the rain. Someone has thought
of umbrellas, but Zsa Zsa is floating far above them.
The paint is not yet dry in the ecstatic shadows;
she is still alive. She cannot say if she feels a tinge
of disappointment, married nine times, eight times
failed, a hunger dogging her. Drifting into
the midnight sky, the nebulae, she looks down
upon herself, the priest anointing her.

(based on the painting, "Who Lit this Frame in Us" by Alexandra Eldridge)


—Catherine Weaver

My dreams are never dull, they get me to move,
They’ll even cross the desert on a camel
Living life, with nothing to prove.

My dream-music wakes me and I dance to the groove,
My toes clicking on the enamel
My dreams are never dull, they get me to move.

My creations will never be locked in the Louvre
Or any other civilized trammel.
They’ll be living life, with nothing to prove.

No iron shoes for them, they’re light on their hooves
And aren’t a domesticated mammal.
My dreams are never dull, they get me to move.

So you may find me anywhere dancing to their groove,
Out in a field or on top of a manhole,
Living life, with nothing to prove.
My dreams are never dull, they get me to move.


(based on Abdi Asbaghi's "Self Portrait")
—Jane Blue

A man lounges on an orange sofa, wearing
a rumpled white button-down shirt.
He is twiddling a rope, loosely attached
to wooden crossbars in the black holes
of windows behind him. The walls are gray
and bare of decoration, like his mind. His face
has been misplaced, manipulated
out of the photograph, leaving a clean-
shaven chin. You cannot know his thoughts.
If you ask a man what he is thinking
and he says, Nothing, it is probably true.
My exultant son told me of a study
in which advanced brain scans proved a man
can turn off his brain completely
as he stares unfocused into space. A woman
cannot, the same scientists discovered
in the darting explosions of color in her scans.
She dares not. She is busy creating the world.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Catherine Weaver

Ever flowing in the desert
Comes a wild and whispering wind
Always shifting never inert
No beginning and no end.

Solid gold and gleaming gems in
Massive mountains tall and bold
Inviting one and all to step in
To the dark and hollow cold.


—Medusa (with thanks to today's mother-daughter tag-team, Jane Blue and Cathy Weaver)

Cathy Weaver and Peter Rodman, her dad
—Photo by Jane Blue

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Turn The Dream Around

Photo by Joyce Odam


bright as faith… quiet at last…
informed at last… the way
already paved and trod…

I’ll not inflict a rhyme
on that, too trite,
too easy:

the day, the way,
no sound that trembled
with your listening,

your quiet breathing
as you listened
to your thoughts.

All this I say to you,
to me, to any in the reach:
oh beautiful… oh perfect morning…!

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento


—Joyce Odam

cold moment ringing over us
like stars singing down to us:
be cruel, be cruel, as we are . . .
be kind, be kind, as nothing is . . .
oh, we are so judged and wanting
and the darkness is so slow
how can we but praise
love, planting moonlight
       in the snow


(based on "Moving Mountains—The glacial Erratics"
CD Jacket Cover)
—Joyce Odam

Where all things
allow perfection—
however lame.

All is healed by deprivation,
which is to say, the sky, the snow.

Only the black crow
can glow with purity against
the apparition of the vertical guitar.

Music is in the mind. The sky is clear.
The snow is deep and nothing moves
but these words.

What makes the dream allow such things?
Whose mind makes all this visible?
What skill of power—older than belief?


—Joyce Odam

Mother and I are going for a walk.
Mother and I are standing in the snow.
Mother doesn’t really want to talk.
Mother doesn’t know which way to go.


               “Through regions of snow.”
                                 —Stephen Crane
—Joyce Odam

I have gone
through white winters,
calling out my loss and my questions.

Nothing answered
but the shadows of gulls
transparent on the walls of my searching.

I felt their cries
as my own. Ah, then, I am
not alone. I said, though it was snowing.


(based on "Banlieue sous la neige" by
Maurice de Vlaminck)
—Joyce Odam

Some lonely place as far away as snow,
long roads of travel, and longer ways to go.

Roof tops that slope, and skies that never end.
a murky figure that must ever wend and wend

across the reaches—back and forth it seems,
trying to find an exit from such dreams.

The day won’t open. Night has lost its clue.
At times like this, there’s nothing more to do

but grope toward the nothing that is there.
Only thoughts can reach. There’s silence everywhere.

If you are lost here, what else can be found,
but hope, if hope is willing to turn the dream around

and walk into a mirror made of light.
and find a way through all this blinding white


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

snow under moonlight,

blue as ache
blue as longing
blue as cold fire

becoming slow translucence,
becoming blue sheen of silence



Sam and I both need a new pair of shoes. As we trudge toward the new year, we all need new shoes, either metaphorically or literally. So that's our Seed of the Week: New Shoes. Tell us about the ones you got as a kid, or the ones you wore out, or the ones that didn't fit right—or go for the metaphor: tools you need to get you where you want/need to go. Send your SOWs to; no deadline on SOWs. Note: the Rattlesnake P.O. Box 762 in Pollock Pines is no longer functional. From now on, email your goodies.

Photo by Joyce Odam

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mushrooms and Champagne

Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis

strange things appear
on trees. Heaven
lavishly pours
nothing is dry
the slough
rousts everything
awake bringing
buckets of DNA

growing mushrooms
on tree trunks. Turn
down the covers
and hide, you might
wake up sporting


—Ann Privateer

In burning sun
with my two yearning
sisters, we’d love
to unplug, seek fame
beyond this rusty
incendiary holding place
rain down the drain
let’s bust out
live by chance
depend on trees.

We survive
Together lacing
visions of a private
space only to become
unlaced. Alone or
together, we find
our own egg place
in our local domicile.


—Arthur Winfield Knight, Yerington, NV

I remember getting up
to teach a class
at the university
where I worked,
to write a poem,
to work on a novel.
It was always something.
Rushing, rushing.
My blood pressure high,
nerves shot. Now,
retired in rural Nevada,
I read the paper
when I awaken,
have a glass of
cranberry grape juice,
then watch the news,
while I drink a glass of wine,
gliding into the day.


—Arthur Winfield Knight

We have hash browns
from McDonald’s
and champagne from Spain
for breakfast.
We’re drinking
our champagne
out of lead crystal glasses,
so they have a nice ring
when we toast each other.
Kit and I are celebrating
out 35th anniversary today.
I’m her second husband
and she’s my fourth wife,
so people were
betting against us,
but we fooled them all.
We were living in the East
at the time, but moved
to California,
where I’d grown up,
twenty years later.
Finally, we settled in Nevada
with our old dog,
a retired, racing greyhound.
We’re getting old, too,
but we like to tell people
we’re falling apart
with as much style as possible.
We forge on.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

Scene One:
Touch Here to Open Door
One passenger follows instructions, and nothing happens

Scene Two:
Push Like Hell on the Damn Door
Another passenger lowers shoulder and shoves, still nothing happens

Scene Three:
We dare you to open this door!
All the passengers line up with a battering ram, the glass breaks but the door won’t budge.

Scene Four:
Ask the driver for help
The driver pushes a button and the door opens easily

Scene Five:
Thank you for riding with the transit company
The passengers start shopping for cars



(Yale scientists have recently reported
finding evidence of other solar systems
with planets that could support life)

The loving parents gave their children
A little ant farm, of all things
With just one instruction:
Go ye forth and multiply

So they went out to playground Earth
And watched for eternities
Occasionally interceding
While the ant farm grew and grew

They saw the little farm
Explode into great hills
Colonies becoming civilizations
Working together, warring, what next?

Now those children have totally outgrown
Their interest in the little ant farm on
Playground Earth, and have moved on
To some freakin' awesome adult toys …



Notwithstanding the separation of
Church and State
These recessionary times call for
Bringing back the tithe.

Let’s start now with the 2012
Presidential race and take
One tenth of the contributions
From the several individual campaigns

Pool it into a single fund that
All the different candidates, to really
Prove their worth for public office,
Can together decide how to use

For the benefit of the United States
Because as modern politics teaches us:
Money talks ever so much
More loudly than words



Government is spending way too much
So we look for things just right to cut
But not this, but not that, etcetera
Leave our pork intact from hoof to butt

How ‘bout if we consolidate
Merge two programs into one
License marriages at DMV
Classes A, B, C, so fun!

Veteran and veterinary medicine
Already share so many letters
Let’s put them under one roof now
Form a cooperative of debtors

When it comes to courses hard to finish
Golf and law first come to mind
A pro must also pass the bar
Losing players are jailed and fined

We could just shrink the government
Back to one king on a throne
Let royalty collect what the people earn
Working their fingers to the bone

But didn’t we have a revolution
So we wouldn’t have to live that way,
Or is that just a fiction of history
‘Cause it’s all about stock market play?



Out in the Pacific a Navy warship
Beached on an island
And could not move

A little boy from the village
Put a message in a bottle
Telling of this spectacular occurrence

He cast it into the ocean
Carefully between waves
And watched it sail away

Meanwhile the captain
Ordered his crew to dispatch
An urgent call for help

They considered urgent colors:
Would this be a red, an orange,
Or just a yellow?

Then they pondered all
The ramifications of the wrong
People getting this call for help

We don’t want everyone to know
How vulnerable we are
Better use some kind of code

And better not let the admiral know—
He was captain of this vessel before—
Never had any such problems

A few days later the bottle was found
By the admiral’s grandson
Hey Grampa, looka’ this!

Must be a practical joke
Why don’t you just write a reply
And put it back in the ocean?


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

You've walked as far as you can walk,
to the edge of land.
People claim that, long ago,
Peace was settled here.
But all you find is a barren shore.

A glimpse. Haze on the horizon.
An island. War has burned the bridges
and the stairs. Did Peace
sail there? You have no boat, no oar,
not a piece of knotted

twine. On the reft shore, nothing
but what the sea brings.
Broken shells. You hold an empty
spiral in your hand.
Some creature lived inside and then

moved on. Which tide took Peace
away? Mankind has dynamite
in his blood. The mind
is a spiral, an ark, as wind can be
a prayer. Your breath inflates the sail.


Today's LittleNip: 

Some like poetry
some like it
                     on the fly
others want it to make
them cry
           a few to be a lie
like all four
              don't ask me
I could try
       but I really

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA



Photo by Ann Privateer

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Gift

—Mike Chasar, Salem, OR

Diluvian, draggled and derelict posse, this
barnacled pod so pales
next to everything we hear of red tides and pilot whales
that a word like “drama” makes me sound remiss

except that there
was a kind of littoral drama in the way the shells
silently, sans the heraldry of bells,
neatly, sans an astrological affair,

and swiftly, sans a multitude of feet, flat-out arrived—
an encrusted school of twenty-four
Gabriellan trumpets at my beach house door
and barely half-alive.

Oh, you can bet
I picked them up, waded right up to my ankles in
there among ’em, hefted ’em up to my ears to hear the din
of all things oceanwise and wet,

but every of the ancient, bearded, anthracite,
salt-water-logged spirals,
every of the massive and unwieldy, magisterial
mollusks shut tight—

no din, no horns roaring reveille, no warning, no beat, no taps,
no coral corpus,
no porpoise purpose
except it was a secret purpose kept strictly under wraps.

A fine Christmas gift indeed, this
obscure migration,
this half-dead conch confederation
which would have smelled yon tannenbaum like fish—

a fine set of unwrappable presents
and no receipt by which I could redeem them.
I lifted one up by its stem
and thought of how, by increments,

all twenty-four
must have lugged those preassembled bodies here
sans Santa, sleigh, and eight little reindeer,
to my drasty stretch of shore.

And, no other explanation being offered for the situation,
I thought that I might understand
how one could argue that the impulse driving them to land
was a sort of evolutionary one—

misguided, yes, redundant, a million years too late,
a needless, maybe rogue and almost campy
demonstration of how history,
even in the world of the invertebrate,

repeats itself—breaker
crashing down on breaker in the Gulf, Gulf War
coming after Gulf War.
O Maker,

there is so much slug inside these shells,
here, at the end of December,
at the edge of a world I couldn’t blame if you did not remember.
Miracles sell well,

but Lord, it can be numbing
to a people who cannot
tell between a second nature and a second thought,
a second chance, or a second coming.

(first pub. in Poetry, 2005)

For more about Mike Chasar, see 



Merry Christmas from Rattlesnake Press!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Glimpse of the Island

Christmas Lights
—D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

The rabbit stopping in the snow, in the blue
Light of the Winter moon, catches that light
In his eye and throws it back into the sky
With an eye so small, a star we see so bright.

Giant trees tower above us as we walk, snow
Crunching beneath our heavy boots. We have
Camps to reach and villages to find, before the dawn
Has any thought of molding the objects of the morning.

From where we stand we can see the grey wolf shadows
On the hillside far across the creek from us. They move
Away and down the slope, “looking for yet another star”,
Your wisdom seems tempered by the hour and the perfect
Stillness this single night has as we move through it.

“One who names the stars has called us here, that we
Too may know the names of stars.” Fish below the ice
Gaze upwards as well, the sleeping bear listens to the naming,
Rolls slightly and nurses the cubs close against her fur.

This is so perfect, here on this whirling planet
With its bright blood and vales of tears. Let it
Retain its stillness just a moment more that we
May notice, in this moonlight, a quick mouse
Upon the forest floor and see an owl—not see it
As its feathered flight in silence recites the litany
Owls might make as they too know names of stars.


—D.R. Wagner

There is a low wail coming
Up through my skin. When
I listen in, head close
To the radio I can feel
The pulse, the full pulse,
The pulse, pulse of the electricity
In its circuits. I can smell
The ozone. I can tell
It needs flame. Even the music,
Even the announcer’s voice,
Lifting and falling, selling stereos
And car tires has the stink
Of flame around it. I wish
For evening, a room far away,
The arc of a great bird
Across the sky, etched air.
The wail will have none of this.
It becomes louder and shrill.
The dial begins flickering,
Its mouth full of flame.
It begins to melt.
I quickly pick it up,
Toss it into the air.

The stairs of the angels catch fire.
The air is filled with burning stairs.
There is no way to get to heaven
Any longer.
The fire storm rages down.
It is like dreaming.
It is like moving clouds
Away with one’s hand.
I stand at the top
Of the stair and look down.
Someone is listening to a radio
So intently
I believe
They are an animal.


—D.R. Wagner

Dynamite in the blood.
The veins are fuses, hot
With mockingbirds in the
Long air of delta summer night.

I listen to the sputter in
My chest, smell the gunpowder
Of tomatoes and snap beans
Racing through the tall
Grass toward my brain.

I become the fields
And burst into flame,
running from my bedroom
Blinded by sheets of flame
Higher than the crust of smog
Above my head, choking on smoke
Of my ancestors, as the dream
Banks break over my mind, flooding
The synapses and thought canals
With wave after wave of soothing
Water. Towers of steam rise up
Throughout me. I am pale and shaken
With the delta. Clouds of me hover
Over the levees, find the languid sloughs
And presently regain the river, winding, unwinding.


—D.R. Wagner

That land could be so close
To the water and not part
Of it.

The palm trees seem to start
As green bursts in the air pushing
Their long stems down to hold
The earth around themselves.

Along the shore all of the fish
Come to see this edge of the land.
It is an event in a world of water.

Without lights at night
They aren’t there until
You hit one. Without a view
Of the bottom in daylight
It is already too shallow
Or much too deep.
Your guess is as good as
A knotted rope.


Thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's photo and poems, and to Michelle Kunert for the photo and for her photos of the final Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe of the season (which was all open mic); see Medusa's Facebook page for those, and join the gang at Luna's for another new year starting Thursday, Jan. 5.

If you'd like to immerse yourself in seasonal poems, here are a couple of sites (of course there are many more...):


Today's LittleNip: 

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

—Charles Dickens



—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Noir-ish

For the Squirrel
The trick
Is to get his girl
to sit
Beneath the mistletoe
And steal a kiss

—Photo and poem by Ronald Edwin Lane, Colfax


—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

Enid holds Christmas snow
a precious gift
hardly ever obtained
in a china-thin hand,
the cost of losing virtue
is well worth it
albeit it goes so quickly
up the nose.

Brodie mixes holly berries
into the Christmas snow,
another year without
the spirit
of a soul
does not merit
a carol to be written
or one to be forever sung.


—Michael Cluff

I improvise on the fly:
"There is nothing Jewish about snow"
but after the gig is gone
I then pause and recall:

Nana used to gather some
to convert this solid into a
life-containing liquid
by a weak fire
during the few hours
the goyim allowed her
to have on
during breaks in the pogroms.

There is nothing Jewish about snow
except common pain.


—Michael Cluff

I want a cello
to play in Montebello
date a woman named Seraphina
living in South Pasadena
a house on the Isle of Man
and musical abilities like Pan
some grog
and a collie dog
a genuine Dali
at an auto rally
star in a Pinter play
rest in the bath all day
no math
and a chocolate bath
less taxes
entertaining faxes
and golden iPod
no plates of scrod
some apple tarts
without the farts
some peace on this planet
we all are worth it Janet

Snow covers all but
the gloved hands of a cellist
who hits sour notes.


ONE FINAL TO GO: 9:27 a.m.
—Michael Cluff

Lost my reading glasses
nearly as bad as dying at Manasas
computer set up not to be done
until Wednesday's noonday sun
jury duty is a callin'
interesting papers make me bawling
the new place now has no chairs
have to postpone some holiday affairs
the last set of papers
will not induce capers
but after the last page is marked
my jolly spirit will be resparked.



never occur
just the way
William and Jessica hope
the turkey is always dry
Clive is stuck in England
due to weather or homeland security
and Prudence is always minorly
pestered by the law.

Yet again
good does come
from the slam jangle
between December 10
and January 2
Martin comes back home
and one out of many
is just fine by them.


—Trina Drotar, Sacramento

The cousins are sunning in the Bahamas.
Grandma’s photo’s at the table’s head
Nine and One on the cake, and me thinking
I should have used the one of Donald Duck
feeding her French fries that year in Disneyland
where I’d rather spend Christmas. Mom’s
photo, the one where she didn’t look so old,
so tired, so done with the holidays, placed
at the second position, a wine glass full
of cran-pomegranate because that’s what’s
in this house, and perhaps because of that
time when she and her friend, Paula, made
pomegranate wine. To Mom’s right should
be a photo of my dad, but he never spent
Christmas Eve with us, although I did bring
him for Thanksgiving one year to the horror
of my grandma and her yappy little dogs.
Instead, I’ll place a photo of Bob, that gray
and white cat who never really belonged
to anyone. Next to Bob, perhaps I should
place a photo of my sibling, there’s the one
I grew up with and the ones I didn’t. Then
again, maybe a photo of Sidney, the basset
hound my dad supposedly gave me as a birthday
gift when I was two. Maybe, just maybe,
I can set up the photos, plates, glasses,
and the silverware, and go for a bike ride.


—Trina Drotar

When you were two, I think it was the push toy
that looked like a gumball machine. When you
were three, it was a truck or car or something
with wheels and made of metal. When you
were four, it was another vehicle – larger –
and when you were five, it became a test
to see just how fast you could break those
unbreakable toys.



made her look like a madam in an old-fashioned, yet contemporary, whorehouse, all of the foster daughters, granddaughters, and other females sitting at her feet. The dress (from the crazy aunt who never made it out that Christmas because of snow or some other reason) slit from ankle to mid-thigh, sleeves exposing wristbones, and a plunging v-neck. Silver jewelry decorated neck and ears that usually wore none. Silver, heeled shoes upon feet that never even wore pumps, and a bouffant wig in platinum blonde (the same color that the crazy aunt always dyed her hair and tried to say it was her natural color) upon hair that was permed monthly at the shop where the “old ladies” drove this eighty-five year old grandma just a bit crazy.

—Trina Drotar


—Trina Drotar

My cousin must be the only person I know who likes fruitcakes. Not just any fruitcakes. Oh no. Only the fruitcakes that Grandma used to make with dried fruits we’d purchase each November at the Farmer’s Market on Alemany (it’s still there, you know). Only the fruitcakes that Grandma gave her each year on Christmas Eve after she moved here from Japan. Only the fruitcakes that Grandma wrapped in brandy-soaked towels and stored in the front basement (nowhere near that Christmas tree, though) until the following year when the cakes would be removed, packaged, wrapped, labeled, and given to people who could appreciate them. People like my cousin who kept each year’s cake a few extra years just to make sure that it had fermented properly. Like a good wine, Grandma’s fruitcakes were not to be eaten too soon.



appears prominently in every photo taken at Grandma’s on every Christmas Eve since we were toddlers. No taller than three feet four inches with a gold-colored imitation metal topper and filled, or over-filled, with nondescript glass balls and too-large lights set in those star-shaped tinfoil reflectors.

Brought upstairs from the front basement where it resided eleven months out of each year (in between the canned goods and paper products), set upon the table with great aplomb by the parlor’s front bay window that looked out to Silver Avenue. The green plastic lawn and leaf bag removed, the cord unwound and plugged, and we’d all cheer. 

—Trina Drotar


Today's LittleNip: 

Being the fastest
of Santa's staff
ain't all that great
when you are looking up
someone's tail.

—Michael Cluff



Is the shore any less
Passionate than the sun
When it sets?

—Ronald Edwin Lane

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Balance Point

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Here's the balance point.
Persephone goes underground.

Bodiless, Medusa combs
the snake-tangles of her hair.

I carry bits of grain in my pocket—
seed for a mouse, or another season—

as Demeter's daughter travels
below last summer's roots

twining like Medusa tresses
in soil, almost root-bound—

wishing only to be pulled out
by the head, released.

A rabbit running snow-trails
pauses, twitches, gazes

up at the moon—that old year's
stone face—and, without meaning

to, throws back the live
light of his starry, brief eye.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

the girl a woman with an idea:
baby at breast
nest waiting
the boy
the girl’s mother as villain
the girl
the couch in the dark
the boy as hero
the kiss the hand
the girl as mother
baby at the breast
the nest waiting
the girl’s mother a dark fury
the separation
the girl in heartbreak
the boy seeking a home
to bury his fatherhood in?
the girl
the couch
the dark
the boy as hero
the mother as villain
the girl as mother
the baby at breast
the nest waiting


—Patricia Hickerson

he was passionate
lust and desire shone from his eyes
romance, expectation
big guy, muscular athletic and smart
all the trappings
loved the classics, music
a university professor
low, caressing voice
quoted Shelley his favorite poet
what a guy! his students loved him
enough to fulfill any woman’s dream

passionate he was—but not for her
only for shapely racetrack horses
mares, trotters, ponies
all the beauties
racing their hearts out
coming around the turn
snorting, fuming, wild eyed
like the gamblers sweating it out
Churchill Downs, Belmont, Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields
across the ocean Ascot, Bologna, Longchamp
he was everywhere placing his bets
Reno, Tahoe
at Harrah’s SportsBook, at OTB parlors
this unseemly coupling with strange creatures he never met
never shook their hooves hello
never patted them on the nose if they won for him
no appreciation
only if he lost, then blame the jockey, say it was fixed
the horse was doped

wild ride, dark dream
of winning money and throwing it away again
his dream
she wasn’t included


—Patricia Hickerson

she wants a bicycle, dolls
she wants to be wrapped up in a rug
by a boy who is 12 years old
she’s 5 but she wants this boy
he is dark he looks like an Indian
he tries to lasso her
with a rope thrown from his barn window
they play cowboys and Indians
she is the Indian princess he ties to a lamp post

she wants to be 14
carry lipstick in her purse
she wants to wear perfume
she wants to dance with boys, kiss them

she wants to write poems
she wants to drink a Manhattan
the way Daddy makes it
in a small glass with a cherry floating

she wants to read many books
she wants to stare at the stars, recite Keats
she wants to write novels
she wants to take the subway
the bus get out of town
get out of Jersey
cross the bridge to Manhattan
commute to college on Broadway
walk the lush New York streets
eat French onion soup, listen to French songs
party at fraternity houses

she wants to browse through museums
she wants to hang out in bars
she wants to get married
she wants to lean up against him

she will have babies
she will have lovers
she will marry the world
she will never be happy
that’s not what she wants


—Patricia Hickerson

starlit by Venus
her spirit wheels in the sky
installed as an evening cry
a deep bell clanging her call to pleasure

in life she sprinted across wetlands
courageous in lust, hostage to joie de vivre
the daughter from Romano
Venetian mainland swamp
kidnapped from her husband
enemy in the sometime wars
by the troubadour Sordello
on family orders they fled—
she the muse for his poetry

her untamed song
haunted by siblings debauched in Paduan blood
their reverence for murder
mayhem manslaughter massacre—
she mourned her dying countryside,
the carnage-coated landscape
pine forests painted scarlet
maples crimsoned, oaks, larches fired to ash
lapwings singed, screeched the pain of man and horse
fallen to earth

so Cunizza, bright mirror of mercy
throned in compassion,
sang the starry lyric: love protects us
here, there, with this one, that one,
4 times pawned for marriage she never sought—
connubial interment opened her soul
her voice straight from the throat
throbbed in their ears
so they would never forget
even after she died an old lady in 1279

Cunizza…child of a Ghibeline warrior,
descended from a German general,
with her own hardy abandon
released her slaves
her guttural outpour jarred women’s ears
set the tone for their peasant sound
raging against tyranny, tolled down the centuries
among leaves and flowers along the marsh paddies


—Patricia Hickerson

the rain, she says,
can’t stand the rain
as she sprints thru the park
slips down to the subway
rides across town
elbows through crowds
dodges the rain
enters Bloomingdale’s
riffles through racks
runs out to Lex
buys the Times
reads the weather report
can’t stand the rain
reaches her apartment
heats up coffee
hugs her dogs
sprawls on the couch
shuffles cards
plays the Ace
snubs the Queen
honors the King
screws the Jack
looks thru the window
admires the rain
from a distance


Today's LittleNip: 

“The older lady harrumphed. "I warned you, daughter. This scoundrel Hades is no good. You could've married the god of doctors or the god of lawyers, but noooo. You had to eat the pomegranate."
"And get stuck in the Underworld!"
"Mother, please—"
"And here it is August, and do you come home like you're supposed to? Do you ever think about your poor lonely mother?"
"DEMETER!" Hades shouted. "That is enough. You are a guest in my house."
"Oh, a house is it?" she said. "You call this dump a house? Make my daughter live in this dark, damp—"
"I told you," Hades said, grinding his teeth, "there's a war in the world above. You and Persephone are better off here with me."
"Excuse me," I broke in. "But if you're going to kill me, could you just get on with it?...”

“You know what would help this boy?" Demeter mused. "Farming."
Persephone rolled her eyes. "Mother—"
"Six months behind a plow. Excellent character building.” 

—Rick Riordan, The Last Olympian


—Medusa, with thanks to today's cooks: Katy Brown for her photos, Taylor Graham for our solstice poem, and Pat Hickerson for musing about women's lot in general.

 Mossy Fence
—Photo by Katy Brown

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three Bulbs To Grow

Carolers in Fair Oaks
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

What does it mean that I love my own cooking?
Is that self-love; is it bad?
Can I be objective about my own cooking;
do I more easily digest that which I make?

As a girl, I cooked dinner for our family
seven nights a week;
Mom enforced serving the same meals weekly,
prepared by following her verbal instructions,
no cookbooks needed.
That’s all your father will eat, she maintained.
Oscar Meyer hot dogs, sauerkraut,
tuna fish and peas, hamburgers, meatloaf
fried chicken, pot pies, beef stew—
then start the list again.
Memorizing menus and directions,
I standardized results fairly well by high school.
My sister always complained, though,
There’s nothing to eat in this house!

Finally leaving home,
earning little income for grocery shopping,
it took me years to set up a kitchen, cook for myself.
Once I did, I experimented,
finding classic cookbooks, recipe websites.
Feeding myself when living alone,
my home cooking got better and better;
now I can pound out a rib roast, turkey dinner,
pizza, or layer cake from scratch.
Before she died (too young), my sister
told me one day that the only thing she could eat
was my homemade carrot cake.

Whiz in the kitchen, but no one to eat it;
insufficient employment, how to afford grocery shopping!
Even on a tight budget, I
make a mean baked sweet potato
corn muffin, bean chowder, fruit salad;
home cooking for one still satisfies—
though at meals, I read
to dull the sadness of eating alone.


—Ann Wehrman

I dreamed that I opened my mind
and you walked in,
held out your arms, enfolded me,
opened your lips and kissed me

I dreamed that you loved me
for years without hope
I’d chosen another life
than that which, you believed,
was our destiny together
respecting my choice, biding your time,
or perhaps without hope,
you made another life

yet both our lives crumbled
water of life cascaded through us
swept us together
we began to be part
of each other,
though I still didn’t know you
you still lived without hope
or perhaps bided your time

until one day, or so went my dream,
you entered my heart through my mind,
which had deemed you unapproachable,
shielding myself from hurt, or from love

you entered my life
through my heart and my dream
I opened my life, heart, mind, arms to you
in my dream, you walked right in


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The assessor lives atop his hill-with-a-view.
Our friend's goat, displaced by his road easement,
forages the lower, weedy slopes.

This season's bad for taxes.
The homeless camp behind Bonanza closed down.
A bulldozer pushed tents and lawn-chairs
into dirt-piles with uprooted manzanita.
That parcel has been leveled for another mall.

I drive my little car east up Main.
Window-paint angels and holly wreaths
cover For Lease signs on all the vacant shops.

Carols on the radio, "In the bleak midwinter..."
People with ample homes of their own
gather in other people's homes to eat and drink,
and discuss what to do about
the town's food bank and soup kitchen.

Neon eyes catch my headlights,
low to the ground.
I park my car, walk up my host's front steps.

A rat high-wires from porch-light to the dark
that draws a shadow beyond
tonight's holiday cheer.
Chittering above my head, it balances
by its long tail and resumes its night.


—Taylor Graham

A walk foreshortened by the Thames
that once would flow through field and moor—
now stitched and patched with dirty hems,
a city's out-skirts of the poor.

You used to walk here, years ago
when May put on her blossom-show.
But Progress is a subtle sweep
that changes worlds while we're asleep.


—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

Just after the Visitation
School Christmas pageant
(I usually had to play
Santa Claus, typecast
By physique and beard
Even in grade school),
We’d line up for our
Holiday treat, inevitably
A bag of oldish,
But not yet fuzzy oranges
(Would a Hershey Bar
Now and then have ruined
The Church?).

Father Crowley would give us
His blessing and we’d head
Home for vacation.

Inevitably, it would be
Sleeting in Central Illinois
That time of year, and we’d
Take the perilous shortcut
Across the Irving School
Playground. Just as
Inevitably, the public school
Kids would take our bags
Of oranges away from us.

Every January, the nuns
Would ask how our families
Enjoyed the treat, and every
Year we’d explain. “Ah, may
The fruits have had a strong
Laxative effect upon them,”
The nuns would always say.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Taylor Graham

What good can come of winter? Only ice
and snow on doorsteps—wonderland, indeed!
No holly will she hang; she won't think twice
of Christmas cheer. Poinsettias are a weed.

But what's this on her doormat, wrapped in brown
plain paper, tied with twine? A packaged frown.
Mysterious as what lies under snow:
three bulbs to blossom, if allowed to grow.



Christmas Lights
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Table Full Of Words

Girl With Rose in Basket
—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

All day I measure and sift
create and fill the oven
mess up the kitchen
fill the tables and the counters
spill peach juice everywhere
leave rings of flour
pick at the cake crumbs with my fingers
drink coffee after coffee
read recipe books to their endings
like a good novel
I am a baker
I send you to the store
for more flour, sugar, spices
expensive ingredients
for my fever
I make one thing after another
until I am done
and we, not hungry, eat none of it.

(pub. in One Dog Press Broadside, 2006;
Love Bites, Mini-Mag 2008)


—Joyce Odam

I cannot name the egg again.
It remains as mysterious as ever.
I, making ordinary breakfast
of the egg,
never consider what I am doing.
Sometimes I try to be talented with it,
cracking it open with one hand
and dropping it into the pan
without breaking it.
Nests of it turn under chickens
into a tedium of miracles
which I can hear forming.
If it floats, it is bad.
It can be saved for throwing.
Original Chicken pecks her eggs
with her curving and yellow beak
that is hard as a bone.
The eggs of the goose are stacked into
a mountain.
She will not hatch them.
I am surrounded by eggs.
I use them for symbols.
Three ducks so far have given us
three sets of ducklings.
One or two of each set always drowned,
though I always knew
that ducks always take to water.
At dusk, we gather the eggs,
stealing them from all the intention.
We go where it is dark and full of straw
and take them.

(first pub. in Permafrost, 1980)


—Joyce Odam

I ate my life like a starvation.
It was not enough.

I was hungry for sorrow.
It was good.

Now hunger lives in me
like an addiction.

I taste the edges of tomorrow
and am obese with yearning.


—Joyce Odam

And right in the crotch
of the long-stemmed onion
the good soil lies

just where the translucent
meets the shiny green.

Black grit
is wound in the tiny slices,
absolute, contained.

Something wise
and poetic in me
leaves it there.

We shall eat the earth
We shall realize

grateful communion
with the source
of such good fare.

(first pub. in Trace, 1969)


—Joyce Odam

onion at three a.m.
rotting in the sack
tracking it down
that sour spoiling thing
sentencing everywhere
with its ruin and its soft
that my hand must touch
and examine the others
next to it

and I think of how wasteful
all life is
and death is wasteful too
with its unconcern for
choosing what
on the outside
looks so fresh and firm
or deceptive age
which is well preserved

and what to do with it all
for it lingers so
in the bloated air
in the kitchen
where the use for it
was lax or slow
for we never mean to purchase
what we will not use
the way cooks do
who like to invent
their recipes
from what they have on hand

like the hearty pot of
onion soup
we could have had
simmering artfully
in winter’s house
on a particularly cold
and hungry night

(first pub. in Interim, 1988)


—Joyce Odam

laundry soap
brillo pads
tooth picks

and why not (a poem)

something to clean
something to rust
and something to

celebrate steak

(first pub. in Lyrismos, 1967-68)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

Here is a table full of words. Flesh and wine.
Gorge yourself. Never be hungry. Even the
crumbs are precious. Ask for more.

Fill your mouths and eyes.
Push your chair back. Fall asleep.
It’s all useless language. Do not speak.

(first pub. in Brevities, 2008) 



Our Seed of the Week is Happy Holidays? Is it truly the season of light for you, or is it a rush of materialism, tension, family strife, something to get through? Send your holiday poems: memories, longings, joys, forgivenesses. Surely your muse is itching to talk about it...

Photo by Joyce Odam

Monday, December 19, 2011

These Songs Are But The Wings

Christmas Spirit
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

O all that is true and beautiful
In the story books of children
Are the lights that make her
Skin glow so that the Powers
And the Principalities come
To sing before the Throne of her smile.

And she sees everything. The rat
Gnawing its way into the soldier's
Body, the claw and eyes of a great
Bird depends on her lovely eyes
And this dirt is made to run
With blood again and again.

O I believe in life. The sun cresting
The morning with its new light.
O I believe in love and all who do
Not are the enemy of truth.

And still they will come and bend
Their heads to please you but you will
Have wonder holding your hand,
The perfect shape of everything.


—D.R. Wagner

Make no mistake, the darkness
Will come to the perfect world.
These songs are but the wings that carry
Us into those green and breezy hills.

The red deer move on the top
Of the hills. Their shadows are
Bright yellow and look like flame.

You won’t find anyone if you climb
Up past the house and the barn,
Where the cabbage has been planted.
It looks like a bouquet for giants,
But purple with leaves big as
An adagio lost on a plain
Or a field of ice. We, yes, we can
See you even there. See the sun
Is coming even at this hour to take
Itself from the tops of waves,
Huge sheets of light full from the
Leaves of trees. We wait by the camp
Fire, telling stories.


—Taylor Graham

We sent our Curiosity to Mars. But waiting
is so difficult for humans. What could we ever
solve? death, or love, peace, or hunger, life?

Late at night, might a computer record blips
from space, to chart them like French
or German for tense, mood, and person?

I follow rabbit-trails of dream in my sleep.
But my hair reaches out wild in all
directions, antennae for receiving signals.

One who knows names of stars
gazes into the night sky focusing on
the brightest body, visible at solstice

this bleakest time of year when the soul
seems ice-crystal. Planet or star?
Are its pulses a Morse code we might

decipher, to learn a language beyond
our grammar, our tongues to pronounce,
our human translations?


—Taylor Graham

We set about to build a bridge to span
the gap. A graceful lattice under Mars
and Venus, above Old River. Our plan
envisioned a tall archway lit by stars,
a street from here to there. But how to start?
We argued about structure and design—
simple or cantilever—all the art
of beam and arch. Steel or wood? oak or pine?
The far horizon glowed by day and night—
what sort of bonfires in that unknown land?
were they of war or welcome, joy or fright?
We puzzled what we couldn't understand:
those signals to us from the other side.
We scrapped materials, let the mystery bide.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

Having grown up with tension
From the whirlwind of the Cold War
Inflation, assassination, addiction
Huge advances in technology

I can only wonder
From the outside looking in
What it might have been like
To have been raised in a culture

Where one would recognize
From daily casual talk
The implications of references
To the daughters of Zeus and Jupiter

Smart folk, those Greeks and Romans
Personifying all our inner drives
So people could talk about them
Openly in a public forum

Instead of leaving those questions
To a sequestered panel of 12 peers
And a few alternates
Who are limited by a silence order

All the while wondering if
Our highest courts and legislature
Will once again amend the Constitution
Giving the justice bus a new route



At one time society had reached
An explanation of the world
That made perfect sense
And everyone could live with it

That became the basis
For common sense:
The world is flat and has edges
Of course, don’t doubt the word

A few royalty owned all the land
Held all the power
And there were fewer still
Who could read and write

So very handily they were
Always correct
Because there was no one else
Around to correct them

Fast forward to the space age
Where correction is king
From accident reconstruction
To overloaded prisons

To seek a second opinion
To spell check and grammar check
To recall elections
To auditing the books

To Pluto is not really a planet
Common sense is now
Orbiting the Earth
Somewhere over the edge


Thanks to today's cooks in the Kitchen: D.R. Wagner, Taylor Graham, and Carl Schwartz (Caschwa). D.R. and T.G. will be reading with fellow Meduskateer Katy Brown at the Sacto. Poetry Center tonight, 25th & R Sts., Sacramento, 7:30pm. Be there!


Today's LittleNip: 

Tinsel is really snakes' mirrors.

—Stephen Wright



Fred and Ginger
—Photo by D.R. Wagner