Monday, January 31, 2011

Set Fire To Words

The Nightingale
—Illustration by Edmund Dulac

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

It’s the way you treat light—
as if you owned all its properties,
you the magnet for its releasements.

You own the word: Light,
you who own the darkness, too.
You make light find you.

You rim the dark with light,
trying one against the other—as if
you could both blend and separate.

You make form out of nothing.
Will surrendered to Art:
Dark. Light.


Thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s If-I-Could-Write-a-Poem poems, and my apologies to Sandy Thomas for not being credited for last Saturday’s LittleNip. And thanks to Trina Drotar for so tactfully pointing it out, and for this week's Poetry Trap. Trina's new littlesnake broadside from Rattlesnake Press is available at The Book Collector.

Don’t forget to watch the ever-changing b-board (at the right of this) for all the po-news that’s fit to post—I've been moving the furniture around again. Right now we have links to the new issue of Poetry Now, to the fine article about Elsie Feliz that appeared in the Sacramento Bee last week, to an interview with Six Ft. Swells Editor Todd Cirillo, to a 2011 Poetry Calendar—and, as usual, local events that are taking place this week. And that’s just the beginning! Keep scrolling down for more and more links, photos, and other fun stuff—plus readings that are more than a week away, as well as SPC’s own column and various SPC happenings that are coming up. I know—it’s a lot to take in—and that’s because there’s so much po-business happening in our area!

You also need to be familiar with our SNAKE ON A ROD—now in a new location in the skinny GREEN box—and all the entryways he provides to workshops, weekly readings, and Calliope’s Kitchen—a place to hang out until the Muse strikes.

And I could use some tips about online poetry journals that you like for our new "Submission Tip of the Week" section. Don't be shy about telling us where you're being published, and which journals you like. Let us in on your secrets!


—Joyce Odam

Choose me,
said the word—pristine and new,

as a possibility for remorse, or even
love—such a word,

translucent and shimmering,
one I could see through,

clear to the other side of meaning:
Oh, word, I cried,

(for this was a word one could cry to)
Oh, just-right word,

how I want you in my poem—
the way you shimmer there

at the edge of my thought, willing . . .
but something streamed between us

and the word was gone—
gone in a pulse of light, like a flicker

of one tremble to the next—something
not quick enough to capture.


—Joyce Odam

It is how you repeat sad phrases to me
in your soft voice that diminishes . . .
If only you could give me music
I might hear . . .
Had you died, I would grieve, but silence
is only silence, as death is death . . .
Your body moved in a quiet dance—
a slow wreathe to the music I could not hear . . .
How clever, the music, to escort you
into somewhere unreachable . . .
You turned away into yourself.
Not a shadow, not a mirror followed this . . .
I pulled from myself what I knew of you,
all your spells and confusions . . .
When you returned, it was with nothing you
remembered. I wept and named you love.



seems to hurry this night—
as if the night needed a new dreamer,

as if hurry could provide what sleep
resists—such a night as this one—

earthbound souls in the wailing air
of nothing there—only the wish. 

—Joyce Odam


—Joyce Odam

I talk again to old blue stones
that don’t respond, but shift and stare
from their blue depth, deflecting light
as secretive as what I write—
with all the meanings hidden where
nothing betrays… nothing atones…


—Joyce Odam

I wanted to
write you a poem,
but all I could say
was love.
I celebrate you.

I wanted to say
happy birthday
in a special way,
but all I could
think of was
you are
a happiness to me.
And I celebrate you.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

If I could write a Stave of Six—
honor the form with fitting words,
like matchsticks held to candle wicks,
illuminate the inner urge . . .
what poet would not want it so:
set fire to words and watch them glow.



Off to Sea
—Illustration by Edmund Dulac

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Kiss Which Can Never Be Undone

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Kenneth Koch

One day the Nouns were clustered in the street.
An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty.
The Nouns were struck, moved, and created the Sentence.

Each Sentence says one thing—for example, "Although it was
   a dark rainy day when the Adjective walked by, I shall
   remember the pure and sweet expression on her face until
   the day I perish from the green, effective earth."
Or, "Will you please close the window, Andrew?"
Or, for example, "Thank you, the pink pot of flowers on the
   window sill has changed color recently to a light yellow,
   due to the heat from the boiler factory which exists nearby."

In the springtime the Sentences and Nouns lay silently on the grass.
A lonely Conjunction here and there would call, "And! But!"
But the Adjective did not emerge.

As the adjective is lost in the sentence,
So am I lost in your eyes, ears, nose, and throat—
You have enchanted me with a single kiss
Which can never be undone
Until the destruction of language.


—Medusa, who woke up to about eight inches of snow this morning after running around in bare feet yesterday

Photo by D. R. Wagner

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Darklings Are Growling

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

for those half asleep
waiting for Spring

will we ever know it again—
a winter of recovery?

huddles of deep fur
resting in caves
density of shadows
bears giving birth
suckling cubs
tucked into cubbyholes of pelt and bone
cradled at ease in a blind-struck hideaway
deaf to the crackle of ice
limbs encurled
heartbeats slowed
season of stillness….


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Seeds seem to do well
any time but Winter.

For example, the art exhibition
that inspired Modest Moussorgsky
to compose Pictures At An
Exhibition took place in
February and March of 1874.

Then in 1922 Maurice Ravel
penned his wonderful orchestration
from May to Fall, with the premier
taking place in October.

Contrarily, in January of 1986
the seeds of inspiration of 7
aspiring astronauts were suddenly
and horribly extinguished in the
Challenger space shuttle disaster.

Maybe we should just stick to
planting bulbs in the Winter,
and patiently wait for better
conditions before planting our
tender seeds.


If I Could Write a Poem

I’d write of automobile rims that spin when the car is still,
silver and shiny and usually spinning in opposition to one
another, the front right spinning a tad bit slower than the
driver’s side rim, which seems always to spin faster than
the one behind where Billy always sits so that he can toss
bits of paper out the window instead of the rocks he carries
in his pocket that he once threw at a car from atop the
overpass five miles from where a woman found a dog, and
that rim always stops spinning before the one where his
little sister, Tammy, sits playing with her doll and brushing
the few strands of hair it has left while their parents ride in
silence toward a destination none of them had envisioned.

—Trina Drotar, Sacramento


—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Red and green, the color
of thoughts and words—
alive and blooming,
poinsettias in the
realm of literature.

Or, perhaps, poison oak:
awe-inspiring in its
ability to torment—
causing me to seek mercy,

even beg forgiveness
for having produced
a half-baked poem.


—Carol Louise Moon

The wind is so howling;
the dogs are so barking.
The bark of the
trees seen from here seems so dark.

The window is shaking;
I think of its breaking,
and see through the
glass all the trees are aglow.

The green moon is shining
revealing the leaf greens,
the sheen of the
greens where the rain is so wet.

The darklings are growling.
Their silhouettes moving
give rise to the
movement of Dog in my room.

My room is now shifting.
The pale light is sifting;
the stark eyes in
Marquerite's painting now move.


—Carol Louise Moon

This fidgety squirrel
has pause
at the base of a juniper
between two decisions—
go under, or stand in the driveway:

go into the night club, or hail a taxi.


Today's LittleNip: 


is a cup
of caffeine
with sugar
and cream



Photo by D.R. Wagner

Friday, January 28, 2011

Agape, Aghast, A-Gasp

Art Car, Crocker Art Museum, Fall 2010
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

If I could write a poem today, Walt Whitman,
it would sing to thee or of thee, ancient gray poetic
father, or spring forth as did your freshest green poems
of lusty and pronounced American sexuality, bonding,
and rugged character,

but alas, I am just one lonely
man sipping a plain honest workman’s java
at Starbucks. My sandwich lies limpsey and bland
before me, yet it boasts wholesome naked
slivers of turkey, slices of Swiss, with two simple
plastic unopen’d packets, one mustard, one mayo
(and are not we all unopen’d packets?)
sufficient to bookmark any of your leaves.

Presently I thumb through “Song of Myself”
and a packet bursts open; O mustard, you
are now truly a bookmark, asprawl across
the smeared page. I feel a rube, a sneak, and a boob,
to have left my felon thumbprint a bookmark
pressed upon your crispy page. Yet thus would
I sacralize your truths a recuerdo in my mind,
camerado, as with a solemn sign and stain of mustard.

Next me the track-suited or sandalled young women
loiter sipping their hoity-toity coffees, they gab
about their day gigs with expressions of That sucks,
or Shut up! as in You’re kidding/You’re not kidding,

while I, smiling at these ejaculations, dawdle over
the finely stained Walt Whitman book,
with my languid turkey and Swiss sandwich
and plain honest workman’s java, my good simple
mustard and mayo for bookmark,
under the Starbucks lamp both bright and dim.


—Tom Goff

The California Romantics…included Ambrose Bierce, George Sterling…and Clark Ashton Smith, among other figures…
—Donald Sidney-Fryer, from The Outer Gate: The Collected Poems of Nora May French

Some males, as movie trends inform us, want
a buddy to love more deeply than a girl,
trend set by “The Wedding Crashers,” which unfurls,
or is it disrobes, unravels—fast—its scant
chemise of a plot, the repartee all taunt?
Add pratfall, vomit, leers in snarky lip-curls…
Vaughn/Wilson woo each other, albeit whirl,
piling up femmes like ninepins. How it flaunts
itself, the comic genre tagged Bromance.

Spare me the studly grossout buddy-buddy;
Cuddle me with a man-poet nice to study
—Bierce? CAS? Or Sterling? Sidney-Fryer? O trance,
to touch the skins of poet friends, no jackanapes or antics:
Give me my California Romantics—or Bromantics?


—Christian Morgenstern, 1871-1914

Korf receives one day from the coppers
one of those B-9 forms, so-called because they aren't:
Who? Where? How? Why? And other such stumpers and stoppers.

Married? Single? Divorced? Separated? Other?
(Supply all relevant and requisite documentation
to support these claims.) And the Maiden Name of your Mother?

Visa? Permit de sejour? Papieren? Pass?
Credit rating? Or bluntly and plainly, are you a legitimate person
or are you perhaps nothing? A no-one? A member even of the torturable class?

Failure to fill out the form will subject the subject
to penalties only some of which are specified hereinunder—
forfeitures, fines, confinement, etc. Signed, Oberuntergruppenfüher Hecht.

Clearing his throat, with a discreet, "Korf!" he replies, "I insist,
on my right, notwithstanding any covenants and codicils to the contrary,
and as the party of the first part, to deny that I officially exist."

Agape, aghast, a-gasp, the deputy superintendant clutches in what could be a coronary.

(translated from the German by David R. Slavitt)


—Christian Morgenstern

Korf, whom worry easily attacks,
Can already see the skies
Filled by balloons of every size,
So all day he prepares whole stacks
Of draughts for bylaws and statutes
Of a society for resolute
Maintenance of a zone designed
To deep balloon-egress confined.

Yet even now he can smell doom:
His club already falls behind;
The air, it seems to him, goes blind,
All the landscape turns gloom and tomb.
Therefore he puts down his pen,
Turns on the light (they all will, then!)
And goes at once to Palmstrom's place;
They sit together, face to face.

After four long hours, finally,
This nightmare is overcome.
First to break the spell is Palmstrom:
"Be a man now, Korf;" says he,
"You've got hold of the wrong era;
A yet, this is a vain chimera
That tricks your intellect away,
Bobbing over your head today."

Korf recovers his own clear sight—
No one is flying in the golden light!
He snuffs his candle, silently;
And speaks: "If not today, sometime!
One day you will no longer shine,
At least for us—it makes one's teeth
Chatter—the masses underneath!..."

Thereafter, von Korf once again
Sits in his room and takes his pen
Drawing up a vast design
For the protection of sunshine.

(translated from the German by W.D. Snodgrass)


—Christian Morgenstern

A river called the Snake,
unhappy about the lack of any sane ecological policy,
takes itself in hand one fine day
and ups and leaves.

A man called Tony,
watching it mosey along across the prairie,
whips his shooting iron out of his fancy holster
and ups and kills it.

The critter called the Snake
is ashamed of itself and of what has not happened,
but too late, too late—the entire territory
ups and parches.

The man called Tony,
blowing the smoke from the end of his barrel,
hasn't the foggiest notion of what he has made happen.
Oops, it's dreadful!

The man called Tony,
unrepentant but nevertheless to some degree atoning
(the environment, after all, is all around us)
ups and croaks.

(translated from the German by David R. Slavitt)


Today's LittleNip: 

He thinks his erect prick articulates the winning side of an argument.

—Stephen Dobyns



Art Car, Crocker Art Museum, Fall 2010
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Like Truths That Have Seen All Fools

Wells Cathedral, England
—Photo by Katy Brown

What it takes to make a poem:

a drop of blood, a scrap of memory,
a pear blossom in moonlight,
and snakes, always snakes
for motivation. . . .

dance naked on the page,
drop mask, pretense, intent,
everything learned about
civilized behavior . . . .

write by candlelight, streetlight,
brilliant sun, half-dark moon,
firelight, flashlight,
the faint light of a distant comet . . . .

write on the back of a map,
margin of a photograph,
utility bill, notebook, computer screen,
grocery list, underwear receipt. . . .

the poem always existed,
waiting in the void,
waiting to be heard by the poet
who is quiet enough,

trusting enough to coax it from
the underbrush where it
crouched, hidden since the first dawn
when all that existed was a single word . . . .

—Katy Brown, Davis


Open the spiral bound book

the pen is close by
begin writing or
stare at the blank page accusing you
until you must turn away.

Twist your pain into a square knot,
secure it to the crossbows of a kite,
wait for a sudden wind
to send it aloft.

Trust to flight in an amethyst sky;
bring it down once again
knot secure:
it holds sky within.

Let it be caught
in the spirals of your book
let it shine on the blank page...
take up your pen and write.

—Allegra Silberstein, Davis


—Michael Cluff, Highland

Between the banging
of walls
I smile at Martine
she never returns
in like,
but the extra cinnamon
in the buns
usually tells me


Cauliflower coffin
on a comfortable
confirmation of coinaged
citizenship colliding in copses
of cornfield confidences
cataleptic constellations
and cobalted chewable caraway
ceded coronets collapsing
into codas and catastrophized
baleful bassoons bollocking Baal.

—Michael Cluff


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Here is a street lady
trapped in a web of abuse,
her shivering body painted
over with several thin coats of rehab.

She became alienated from preachers
whose sponsors provide them food,
shelter, clothing, and a home to come
home to while they elevate their knowledge
and skills at the university. She gets her
religion where she gets everything else:
from the dumpster.

Today is her birthday. Tomorrow she
graduates high school. The next day
everyone at the office wishes her well
on her promotion. Whatever is in there
mixed in with the usual garbage.

A bold but undisciplined tongue
faithfully articulates the utter pathos
of having to shape one’s hopes and
dreams within the confines of other
peoples’ discards.


                    ...Douglas Blazek
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

A dreaming.
A tearing at the windows
That opens to a particular jewel.
We can walk there. Even the air
Smells sweet as if the clouds were charms.

Here the Forlicon hills seem
To challenge the sea, almost taunt
It with hard, nearly leafless scrub
Plants that never seem to notice
The wind and cold rains. Like truths
That have seen all fools, they never
Shake in their perfect occasions,
At spring, they have the smallest
Of yellow flowers, four-petaled.

I caught it in my throat
And it was a birdsong, one
I did not recognize and I thought
It my own and perhaps I had
Made it and then afraid to look
Down, but doing so, I saw myself
Fully fledged gazing at two pure
White herons perched in the branches
Of a tree nearly submerged in
A pond. There was only a moment of this
And the hills returned around me and I wept.


—D.R. Wagner

We will hardly notice when this
Is over. A sudden flurry of description
As if a poem were an uncommon species
Of bird that hardly ever visits these
Colder climates, even during the short
Summer days when insects form dense
Clouds in the air and conspire to
Be the noise filling the night. Clouds of them
Blocking sunlight and even the moon
For moments at a time and then
There they are shining again against
The buzzing darkness with its curious

Movement, wings through the thickness
Of the air. The ground littered
With hundreds of thousands of
Tiny winged bodies in the morning
Just as new clouds begin to
Form close to the surface of the lake,
Fish rising through rainbows to snap at them.


Today's Slightly-Larger-Nip: 

—Carl Bernard Schwartz

A few nights ago we stepped out
into the cold backyard, looked
up and saw the moon, a beautiful
Waning Gibbous.

The very next night we once again
stepped out into the cold
backyard, looked up, and saw
no moon at all. We knew it was
way too soon to have reached the
new moon phase, so we tried
looking from all directions around
the house, but there was no view
of the moon.

After consulting the almanac, we
discovered that in this season the
moon didn’t rise until about 10:20 p.m.
That was the difference.

Forget about the virtue of being
early. From now on we’ll be
happy with the rewards of being



—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Of Course You Can Write A Poem

The continued need to wish

that a strong poem lies in wait, in some adopted room
of my mind, inspired not by lust or loss, or by wanting
to inspire and project art into words, glues me
to the chair, hands and fingers curled to the touch
of keyboard, listening to all the sounds around me
or someone to say something I can use, looking for anything
to tip me into making a fullness on the page
a stain on the glass for the scientist to study
and be amazed by, a hard hit drive into center field
and gone so far, not one test tube is in danger
of breaking.

—Ann Menebroker, Sacramento


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

of course you can write a poem
and you must write a poem
you must sing the way, new poets
fire up through the crust
become irrepressible piebirds
sing your new words

smoke the way out of passion
tilt your words from your hip pocket
whip out the words
spray them across continents

set the sea on fire with hope
melt glaciers
light a fever in the head

new poets, give us new reason for words
words become fireflies
each word charged to flash its semaphore in the night
each signal pinwheeling into space

each word rattles a tail of hot sparks
new words flare up from the heaving cinders

each word a searing firestorm
each word a sun spinning a halo of new suns

each generation of words more flammable than the last
each word a burning seed
each word the incandescent womb of new poems


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Would it be bright-cluster
dense as filaree purpling the pasture
where lambs go sporting May?

or would it sound like woodwind
teasing willow leaves,
rummaging up the swale?

or harmonica to a blind man's lips,
silky-sound he pulls
out of the hat on his head,

with nothing at his feet to beg
pennies? Who makes
a poem, anyway, for coin?


for Steph Schaefer
—Taylor Graham

Heron's nest in a ramshackle snag
weathered the color of
Heron (Great
Blue) and all the jackstraw
lived-in nest

with two immense
heron-chicks practicing
wings, all
odd angles; and stretched
above, the dame

neck/head/bill reaching oddly
skyward; herself
a weathered snag pointing
toward Polaris;

the dead tree reaching
with its bone-
fingers remembering
all these odd

ready for flight—
that's the poem I wish
I could write.


—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

I stare to allure you. Notice my restraint and my
beautiful scales. I move like a stream of liquid ribbon.

There are many doorways...I feel their thresholds
as I flick my tongue and glide along nameless
passages. You can sense my restless eyes.

You are not unlike slide over boundaries and
gaze with quiet reproach. You love with icy passion.

I am limbless form curls around
your heart. You will come to know me. I can sense
your restless eyes.


Today's LittleNip: 

Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

—Mark Twain



—Photo by Robin Gale Odam

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy Feels Like A Poem

Robert Burns' Desk
—Photo by Maureen Hurley, Marin County

—Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Of a' the airts the wind can blaw,
I dearly like the west,
For there the bonnie lassie lives,
The lassie I lo'e best:
There wild woods grow, and rivers row,
And monie a hill between;
But day and night may fancy's flight
Is ever wi' my Jean.

I see her in the dewy flowers,
I see her sweet and fair:
I hear her in the tunefu' birds,
I hear her charm the air:
There's not a bonnie flower that springs
By fountain, shaw, or green;
There's not a bonnie bird that sings,
But minds me o' my Jean.

Burns House, Dumfries, Galloway
—Photo by Maureen Hurley


Happy Birthday, Bob! Today is Robert Burns' birthday, and you can celebrate with the rest of us at The Book Collector tonight, 6-ish til 9, 1008 24th St., Sacramento. Poetry, food, libations and good cheer—it'll all be there, so you be there!

Dawn DiBartolo sends us her musings about wishing she could write a poem, so let's take her up on that for our Seed of the Week: If I Could Write A Poem. Send your yearnings to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs. And thanks to the rest of today's contributors!

wish I could write a poem
(after reading Joyce Odam)
—dawn dibartolo, citrus heights

I wish that I could write
like the music of the day
dancing in the shadows
with my tired woe.

and I wish I could write
that the winter moon, sagging
low and sallow on the horizon,
is the light by which I see
into myself.

and I’ve dreamed of writing
tomorrows in a white gauze expectant
of the healing wounds inflicted
by the falls that are always
accompanied with a rising; I rise.

I wish that I could write
red-red valentines and whole-
heartedly sing the falsetto melodies
of the foolishly enchanted.

the chilled sun of January
flirts with my spring emotion
and my inks bleed to be heard.
it's been a lifetime, but
happy feels like a poem.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Once you have cold symptoms,
you take anything you can
to deal with it.

Same thing goes for Kleptomania.

The secret to being a
Sacramento Kings fan
is to embrace the game
of Solitaire on your
home computer.

It doesn’t matter if you
make a wrong move,
or lose far more than you win.
You can just start over.

People in authority cannot
all be trusted…
Especially those wayward
souls in the California Youth

I don’t suit up and play football
or by tickets for stadium seats,
but I’m looking forward to Super Sunday
for the good company and wonderful eats.


Argyll, Scotland
—Photo by Maureen Hurley

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

rain gaze meeting mine
shocks, yet I return
famished, parched, I
dive into the bay of your eyes,
your life brushes against me
realize I love you
hearts’ affirmation
constant ground bass
counters the coming
cataclysm, visible from here
I run toward the cliff
cry I love you
words held in my mouth
wind in my face smothers
race side by side
regardless of the
depth of the gash
we must span


—Ann Wehrman

tightly corseted, blue blooded
conscience loosened
by middle-aged, abstainer’s mocktail
late dinner blends seamlessly into midnight snack,
deep bowl of granola, raisins, milk,
look no further, on the desk,
beneath fingers flying under excess’s influence,
it all comes out, at least begins to
work its way out of her throat,
slides down, rhythm of the sea,
confessional, spills out,
not quite last call, no bartender’s towel
lapping at the edges of her
almost unconscious revelation;
here at home, it’s discreet, respectable,
brutally alone, love locked within her
proud heart, may never see him again,
unable to tell him, I want you, I love you,
fingers spill over keys, tears drip,
the radio quietly accompanies


—Ann Wehrman

despite all this love,
it's not me you hold,
at least not tonight

two notes seem the same,
but consider the difference
between A flat and G sharp
the infinite space
between here and there
does not, in truth, zero divide zero…

the actual name of God is still unknown
thus, we cannot speak it aloud

there is a difference
between what we have felt,
and your lips meeting her flesh,
between my body moving
as I conjure yours, and
her body and soul trembling
under your fingers


—Ann Wehrman

(After David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars)

Inside my tree, worms writhe,
bugs catch in my hair.

It’s bright outside, and
you don’t want me there.

Snuggle within old blankets and leaves;
your love—more real than reality—
fuses my core.

Lightening blackens, scours,
followed by rain.

My face peers out through matted snarls;
you walk by without a nod.
I cower, rot, within this hollow trunk,
niches in its bark packed with wild, bitter loam.


Today's LittleNip: 

When you lose,
don't lose the lesson.

—Dalai Lama



Robert Burns, 1759-1796

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kerfuffles of Dancing

Black Eyes
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

First I dance with you.
And then I dance alone.
Then I dance with the man,

and then
another man.
Then I dance with the woman.

And then I dance
with the other two women together
as we whirl the child.

Then I dance alone again;
I dance
with the dying moon;

I dance
with the whirling ground
and with the spinning trees.

Then I dance with
the men, and the men, and the men
who dance me again

until I fall. And the moon falls
with me. And the trees
dance on with the shadows.


—Joyce Odam

They are the perfect followers
of each other. It is a waltz.
Outside it is snowing.
They leave the doors open.

They praise the music
for its permission.
Even their cats
share an old preferred opinion.

They whirl and catch
smug glances of themselves
in the heavy mirror
with its gold veins.

And never are they breathless.
Winter has a long way to go.
Their cats waltz with moths
in dreams of their own.


—Joyce Odam

Around me the light expands,
a rainbow of dream—
a nebula of creation—
my own thought.

The walls hold it in—
suffocate it—
let it splay and recreate
into spreading pattern:

blue upon gray, roseate yellow,
softening like a bruise;
and now the travel of dark,
wiping the corners, flattening away.

A whirling sun of energy
hangs in the room like a daze—
my hypnotized eye, staring into my
centermost self—stunned at the power.


—Joyce Odam

The very softest of rain-fall.
One of the last mornings of winter.

The waters of the world rise in the night
and drought danger lessens.

The streetlight shines through the green curtain.
It is the quietest hour.

It is the insomniac hour, the reading hour,
when solitude is possible.

A swift sadness plucks at everything.
Vague body-aches assert themselves.

The disorderly room is heavy with obligations.
The clock is crowding the peacefulness away.

Preference and ambition are not in tune.
Music is not the answer.

Sleep is the only way back, sleep which returns
when everything becomes too much.

I drift back into the very softest of rain-fall.
One of the last mornings of winter.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

My mind
is kerfuffled—
in rebellion, in blame—
a ruffle of consternation.
Oh, Woe.



—Photo by Katy Brown

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Listening For The Tellings

Above the Clouds
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

(from The Book of Days)
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

From the far North come
The Tellings. They come so that
We may learn the many ways of others
Who live here in this place with us,
Even if their voices be small or their habits
Not what we may understand from our own knowing.

Those who travel, those who name, bring
The Tellings to us in Autumn. For almost
A week we watch their fires come closer as
They move down from the distances.
When they reach the meadows just beyond
The villages we send the children to them.
For three days they speak only to the children.

This is because the children
Are able to see the magic of The Tellings
More clearly than others. They will learn
The songs and find roles to assume in the
Ways of The Tellings. They will show us
What the travelers and those who name
Bring back to us. They will be the vehicles.

When I was young I was among the first
To see the ladders turning in the air;
The ones of flame, the ones of ice and the ones
Changing color. My part was that of the long
Bell and I would make its sound often, for it
Was pleasure for all to hear this curious sound.

This was long ago and this Telling is old.
Now we have music and the changing of the forms.
We also know the dance that moves the places of things,
So that which was far away may be near and that
Which was lost or almost forgotten may be found again.

Each time The Telling brings
Us what we do not know.
It is like what you call morning
When all is once again before you and unknown.

One time, in a Telling, there came
A great room, so great that mighty
Rivers were within it. This lasted
Many days and all that was asked there received reply.

We wait now for the return of the children.
Their voices can be heard at the edge of the wood
Lands. They sound excited. We are able to hear
Songs we do not know.

I am telling you these things about how we are
So you may come to recognize travelers and those
We name should they come near you in dreams
Or should you, in traveling, come upon things,
Or songs, or places requiring Tellings. We await you.



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Olios And Obbligatos

—Photo by Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

TINTYPES 2002— Frederick, Joyce and Theodore
—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

Just understand the enormity
to yielding to conformity
to be the same is an abnormality
a form of spiritual frugality.

Same shapes, same thoughts, same clothes
always an easy wayfare to control
don't put butter on your hot crossed rolls
fight a war in Iraq for petrol.

Today, he will move away
doesn't mind the loss of pay
proclaims he may be partly gay
just watches water lapping in the balmy bay.

She just declares every other Tuesday
the latest, coolest form of Booze Day.

Neckties are a type of jail
subject the throat into holy hell
supervisors see them as the holy grail

he said my soul they do impale.

Choices we should uphold
life always needs tangier spice
think and be always bold
otherwise mankind

is now a new type of two-legged lice.


—Michael Cluff

varicose veins and all
wandering through a sewer system
x-factor on a full rampage
yanking the wings off wyandotte ducks
zodiac now full of blood
all because of his lack of insight
balancing the monastic calendar
cabbalistic dementia
deluged with false sacrifices
eliciting Palovovian responses
fried via junkets across Ionian,
Grecian seas
humming to himself
"I will be home soon
journey now ended
killing fields will no longer reap
largesse and looted and loutish
marinated, mangled corpses
no more."
Oretes suffered the same
placental inheritance
quivering on the edge of a
rocky road roiling with
steers bloody and brindled
tossed from wave to wave on the way back west.

Suppression needs its own rest
filet mignons seldom borrowed
jerboas will have to do instead
veronicas speed well towards soignee
gazpacho is gehenna to some
hubris not such a homely dish
unless tabors fall out of tune;
mandibles stretch to ingest
limber egrets under plexiglass
ionized by purdah-less woman
bold enough to be themselves
timberlines are descending as you speak
kleig lights miss the point and quaffle and peculate
cinders rival nuggets in popularity
ergots and feigning aside
xebecs have floated up the Columbia
deterimental to the volcanoes' cones
rife with fruition
wainscottted on kiwi and tangerines
auburn in the luciferic maw and purl
quaint and papal in some minds
noted for sang froid
zithers, fleur de lis, olicooks
olios and obbligatos
pandemic soul.


—Michael Cluff

A worm is swirling
counterclockwise in the lens
of Doctor Farr's eye.


Staring 'cross the interstate
she will never take to see Kate
beyond the county line
health of all sorts in decline,
Sharine aims her wormy gun
in a little spate of fun
at the windmill at Sierra and Sixth
taking Quixote out of myth
into the reality of depression and mental miasmas
her shots cause EMRs to bring saline and plasmas

In the Jack-in-the-Box franchise
Howard nibbles at his starchy fries
hears the ping and ding from the metal oval above
sighs and heads home to ponder and then comfort his love
the police never keep her long
the bullets blanks, her aim too wrong
to cause nothing more than a tiny fury
no need to take it judge or jury.

Sharine has lost too much already
especially her other daughter Nettie,
life is just too rough for some
Howard just smiles, she's at least no longer a bum.

—Michael Cluff


—Michael Cluff

Peter Johnson and I
were found to be different
and then fired from the high school
because of it.

They never checked the rumor
just dismissed us
without pay

Myspace can be a wicked place
that's why he and I
don't use it anymore
but others apparently do.

We had our clothes on
at least.


—Michael Cluff

From Baku to Ulm
to Pau to Nazare
I ran in a personal marathon
one step ahead
of death
in late summer

Shtetl living
was not as bad
as what was to come
and with my years
of intense training
for an Olympics not to come

I tried to leave pogroms
and Nazis
one harried step behind
from the Caspian Sea to the Danube
to the Portugese Atlantic coast
I went alone

then to the Isle of Mull
to Mentone

and still
after seventy years
away from Old World waters
I am always running still.


Today's LittleNip:

—Robin Gale Odam

perfectionist tortured by
normality can’t pick out a
peach every one looks better
than the first


—Medusa (with thanks to today's contributors. And check out our new feature, Submission Tip of the Week, at the bottom of the skinny green box on the right!)

Last Night's Moon
—Photo by Robin Gale Odam

Friday, January 21, 2011

Scurrilous Gestures

Snow Scene, Niagara Falls, New York
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Even slashed across the skin as one
Passes a doorway open to the street,
Just past midday. One can hear the
Day moving on concerned with its
Myriad of activities, constantly
Changing clothing, constantly reappearing
As newer fashion, never a composition of ordinary
Sounds, No trace left upon the skin.

Looking through the trees in the small
Park so close to the shoreline. The
Trees suddenly excited by a glinting
Tossed up by water into the palms,
Flickering there, frightening the pigeons,
Touching the fronds, the serrated trunks,
The oleanders, white and nervous pinks.
The sand beach becomes light itself
Before this light returns to the tops
Of wavelets and we notice the sky is blue.

Here in the Sacramento Valley, the long
Distances cause us to catch our breath.
Far away and close to the earth, tiny lines
Of trees and field upon field stretch
Away from us, taking us with them
In reflections from vernal pools and overflows.

We untie our souls, doff our mortal
Clothing and follow them as far as we
Are able, sometimes clear to the Pacific Ocean.


—D.R. Wagner

I am watching the evening insinuate itself
Into the conversation about the day.
Dinner time had no mention of her, there
Were still doves admiring the liquid amber trees.

The weather wanted to see things differently,
Clearing, then a haze and a confusion of cloud
Types culminating in a less than enthusiastic
Fury as the sun relinquished its part in the conversation.

The path went from the beach up a small creek
But as it did there were lots of trees in the canyon
Holding the creek. Shadows were setting up
Night camps and small birds sought perches

To watch the show. We watched the foot
Bridges ease into the landscape like rainbows that
Had lost their color and were waiting for the
Flare that would say evening was indeed here.

I will stand here until it is impossible to tell
One object from another. There is little hope for
The moon tonight. The evening begins to cup
The sun in its hands and starts to hide

It from view. Why even talk about a landscape
Except that we remember the others who are
Unable to see this evening, who climb to sleep
Without these blessed thresholds to touch them.

Every leaf on every tree closes its lights down
And cries for us to remember it, stores the moment,
Blesses us with change, holds the dark off for a
Final moment and considers the entire world as one thing.


 Face in a Tree

—D.R. Wagner

Forty coats of Coronado Red,
Rubbing each coat out in-between.
Smoother than lipstick and better
To look at, gleam in the night when
The garage door is popped open.

The air is a cloud of lacquer spray.
There must be no wind. Nothing
But air gonna touch this car. My,
My, my, how it shine. Only thing
Better is a Fender guitar lying in
Its case. Only thing sweeter is
Everyone just standing around
Waiting on summer midnight,
Smoking cigarettes and looking
Deep into the paint, seeing their
Lives in there, reflecting back.

So many of them could never get
Over how it was being there,
How it felt, how everything looked.
So they stayed. For more than thirty
Years they continued to talk, to smoke,
To paint cars, work on them, transform
Them so that they matched a single moment.


                                ...thinking of J. L. Borges
—D.R. Wagner

Like a mouthful of broken glass
From which blood pours between the lips
With terrible panic and suffering
An audacious remark rises and thrives,
Alarmed at its own vacant worth and having been birthed
From aspersions filled with a personal holy water.

When the body was tossed into
The river I was told about it and
Believed it like a student in a
Classroom eating a peach; the most
Serious of subjects was introduced
Full of the virgin and secret treasure
Stabbed into every dream that even
Recalled what had happened that night.

The anguish was terrible. There was no
Measure as days have no measure.
I didn’t fully understand until now.
The talons of sadness are a narrow pass.

These words needed a dagger. A real
Dagger as if someone had voiced
“His time had come.” Oh please!
The dead are always wax no matter
How much we are fascinated by them.

We continue to tell the story
But it is only a gesture. We believe
Someone has died. When we pray

All is different. The door opens.
We see who is coming. We see the hand.
The gestures are like stab wounds.
We try to hide begging history for any
Form at all to hide the pain.
I reach for my knife, make a scurrilous gesture.


 Pick-up Truck on a Farm

—D.R. Wagner

Night decides to take over the conversation.
The shadows stir, the spiders begin
Their spinning toward the dawn.

Spring begins its work toward those
Seasons it will never see. The exuberance
Of buds and bright flowers, the dazed
Spinning of elm seeds through the green
Air. Soon there will be no room upon
The ground for all will be growing.

We do not wait. We dig the soil, find
The seeds of plants we want to see
In particular, begin the garden rituals.
We too become fruits of the earth,
Laboring toward the harvest, privileged
To entertain the dance through all the seasons.

The morning excuses itself from the night.
The night pales before her great might,
Calls the dark spider back to itself
And bides until the story changes once again.


—D.R. Wagner

Traveling back and forth between
The woods and the edge of the river
I had never tried to understand much
Of what I encountered. It made everything
More dream-like and the days and evenings
More beautiful as if I were a child
Once again and all was not
Carried like blood being transported
To a situation requiring it for life.

There is always so much indecision
As if we wait for someone we hardly know
To tell us what is actually happening
Or later we see it in a film or videoclip
Thinking it is something we truly remember.

How long this hour is, whatever it was?
There are no measures that ever are certain.
We breathe and miss our own breathing.

Everything seems strange as we live within it.
It all eventually seems senseless. There are
Always cards somewhere on the table.

We never want to speak to the circumstances.
A long silence births itself and fills with
Dark pleasure. We are sleeping side by

Side and I never saw who you were
For a long time. We will be dust.
I may say I will see you again
This way between these woods and that
Grey-green river that moves so quickly
And once again it will be circumstance.
We become instruments of it and bow.

 Afternoon in Niagara


Today's LittleNip: 

A single man has not nearly the value he would have in a state of union. He is an incomplete animal. He resembles the odd half of a pair of scissors.

—Benjamin Franklin


—Medusa (with thanks to D.R. Wagner for his poetry and for bringing us the beauty and power of Niagara Falls in his photos today)

Wall with Snow

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kerfufflology 101

To bed with no supper...


my own mess of nerves and sass
born on the 13th,
she said,
I have made such a noise
kicking up dust wherever I went
almost ashamed to show my face,
she said,
born under Scorpio
in an auspicious year for making revolution
grabbing a gun to scare off the rats who pursued me
showing off, pulling up my skirts
immodest in a time of the demure
seeing Mickey Mouse as a great big rat
gnawing on the souls of the innocent
hiding in bed from Mother, she said…
Mother didn’t know that foggy Nov. morning
what she had given birth to! SURELY NOT A KERFUFFLE??

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis


Thanks, Pat! Kerfuffles abound this week, and Medusa has gotten her own bad self into one about THREE—count 'em—THREE mistakes of late. First I screwed up two of Bill O'Daly's poems last Friday by leaving out the line breaks. Then yesterday Pat Hickerson wrote to point out that the January issue of Snakebytes, our monthly online Rattlesnake Press newsletter, said that Pat's reading/release party for her new chapbook would be MARCH 9, not Feb. 9 like it's supposed to be. Then, almost in the same mail, Robin Odam wrote to point out that I left off the last seven lines of her poem, "Vanish", in yesterday's post! They say errors and accidents sometimes come in threes; I can only hope...

Anyway, my apologies all 'round, and herewith are the corrected version of Robin's poem, as well as her gracious take on the whole kerfuffle. Today we also have Tom Goff's poem about MLK Day, plus various takes on our SOW: Cosmic Kerfuffles (featuring The Snake Holder, Ophiuchus) and Dewell Byrd's poem about JFK, who took office on this day exactly 50 years ago. FIFTY YEARS? Now I'm in a kerfuffle!


—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

I live in a cartoon.
My hilarious broom
sweeps dust over blacktop.
Dust and weeds.
Broken cobwebs.
Brittle twigs.
Particles of years.

You fiddle with
rust, faded boxes,
missing treasures.
You arrange secrets
on a shelf.
You are serious.
I forgot to tell you
it’s a joke.
My stifled laugh hisses
into the dark night.

I surprise myself
and listen...our
Music in the dark.
Always on time,
in the late night,
he plays it low.
Feel the hunger.

I slide my broom,
cling to my
wisp of sanity,
align myself with
a thin line,
pull a long breath for
the next caption.

Cartoons can be deadly.
One can become
missing from the next frame.
I vanish and reappear.

You place our chairs
beneath the little tree
and bring something you found,
some words, ones we said
countless times
I feel shy and
begin to vanish.

Cartoons are unstable.
I listen to the music
and reach
for my broom.


—Robin Gale Odam

Seven lines vanished, the last lines of the
poem, the youngest ones. Like a row of ducklings
winding their way through morning, they wandered
off while their mother was guiding the others across
delicate pages and stepping over fallen kerfuffles.
They are feared taken by Serpens as he slipped
through the fingers of his master, Ophiuchus.
A search is under way.


—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

It was the sixties
And my friend Bob
Had a vision: a
Beneficent cosmic
Force that ruled
The universe.

Everywhere and
Nowhere, timeless
And all knowing,
It looked like
A giant, sentient
Cheeseburger, but
Made of lint
And hair. It was
The sixties, remember.

Bob donned a ratty
Old brown terrycloth
Robe (It did have
A hood), and began
To preach the gospel
Of the First Church
Of the Cosmic
Fuzzburger in his
Parents’ basement
Between Star Trek

In the spring
I cut my hair
From beyond
Shoulder length
To boot camp
Buzz, and
With the help
Of a little Spray-Net,
Fashioned a very
Nice graven image
Of the Fuzzburger.

I topped it off
With a sesame seed
Bun, packaged
It in a pretty
Pink box from
An artisanal bakery
And sent it
To Cosmic Bob.

His parents said
He went pale
When he opened
It, stopped preaching,
Got a job and moved
Out of the basement.
They were very

Looking back,
I’m sort of sorry
To have caused
A kerfuffle, to
Have disturbed
The Force, to
Have hampered
A nascent institution.
But having
Glanced in the mirror
Just now, I really
Regret giving
Away all that hair.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

I cut the cannas close to ground
on Martin Luther King Day—see
our garden air now naked, free
that swam with plants, tall-stemmed, tight-wound

and topped with bloom-effronteries
of orange akin to gold, now brown
with rot, and crimson witcheries
now bent with rot, already downed:

epiphany? Or epitome
of us? Self-crediting, self-crowned
deservers: claiming heights (oh drowned,
delusional blooms!) we hold in fee
from green upshouldering peasantry…

(Find earth, little worm, crawl back to ground.)


—Tom Goff

What is it about the cosmos
that sifts far more wishes
than the genie-standard three
and, granting them, flummoxes us?

Why, when we night-chariot like two
speeding Ezekiels just to stargaze Van
Goghs, Gauguins, and Cezannes
—the big Post-Impressionist Show
at the DeYoung—why does San
Francisco ensorcel our quest with tunnels,
sharpen our eyesight with soft easeful
fog to and from, and last, trick of tricks,
display the Golden Gate Bridge

like Vincent’s last still-undiscovered
masterwork from Arles: the sky’s
nightshade purple-black, against which
lift the vast towers, gloom-looming
sentinels in spectral bitter orange
—while amber-and-lime hanging
lamps mimic his thickly articulate
whorls of sour-sweet French star?


What brought it about, what work
of God that, every time our Orquesta
Mexicana de la Juventud performed
Bizet’s First Symphony for the indigent
in a conquistador-built church, rain
downclattered, lightning bolts dowsed
the lights, yet we would soldier on
through a lyric third of the slow movement
in the pitch dark? Till, of course,

the awkwardness of so many student
strings would bunch up silent
at the next bar’s threshold, melody
irretrievable even by a conductor…
Understanding ESP and its limits, osmosis
and its, the audience, some never before
behearers at a concert, applauded,
their cyclotron palms the only heat source
in that ancient cold nave, they not naïve.

And what spacedust sprinkle
of wormhole despair made Bizet
slough aside his teenage triumph
of a symphony, one lone parchment
abandoned fourth-dimension deep
in the dust of a conservatory library shelf?
As melodious a gem as Mendelssohn
could muster thus young, singing
of Georges himself and no other,

yet lilting undiscovered for itself and that shelf,
or for the earless old stars feigning
to listen through the library window
from faroff deep, for eighty years’
patient long black nights…


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Avid study hall closet gay pride of
lions share crop the picture perfect
idiot light of my life sentence
structure design flaw.

Player piano bench press release
button hole in one way off stage
coach the team spirit rapping.

Let my people go cartwheel
and deal cards and letters of
reprimand the dog-eared seal
with a kiss a frog jump start the
engine noise.

Get even numbers game preserve
a win a prize heirloom repair shop
until you drop biscuits and gravy
boat sails lowered expectations.

Close the window cleaner air gun
powder room size up to speed
limit line dry mouth off guard
post no bills to pay attention
deficit disorder treatment facility
hours and days to remember back
strain the soup bowl a strike three
little words.

Rough and ready to open the till
Hell freezes over exertion.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

No other man or beast, not
even the most hated, feared,
crazed, lunatic tyrants and
political figures come close
to the sum total kerfuffle of
a snake:

Writhing body in constant
tension, coiling and uncoiling
its singularly muscular limb,
ever ready to strike with
fangs, venom, and crushing

It is imminently dangerous
to even peer into the eyes
of this cold-blooded predator,
who will capture your glance
with the awesome beauty of
a volcano, and then simply
swallow you whole, putting a
sudden, dreadful end to all
your feelings, sensitivities,
agendas, etc., leaving no
material part of you to bury.

It is the general consensus
among a consortium of
reputed kerfufflologists that
a snake will even consume
your memories, and the very
memory of you.

Sleep well tonight.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Dewell H. Byrd, Central Pt., OR

Why web those two rosebushes:
Midas Touch and John F. Kennedy?

Why strain against north wind
when Peace is south of you?

Do you prefer the lure of gold
over soft, pink perfume in bloom?

Relax, try to save your energy
for bug battles, live breakfast.

If your web is torn, will you still grace
my rose garden with gossamer magic?

So think, my eight-legged friend,
Peace is calm, dignified, serene,

a natural match for Kennedy’s
vision of hope, of Camelot.


—Medusa (with thanks to DR Wagner for finding us today's Medusa portrait)

 John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ophiuchus, Hold On To Your Serpent!

Photo by Robin Gale Odam

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

I live in a cartoon.
My hilarious broom
sweeps dust over blacktop.
Dust and weeds.
Broken cobwebs.
Brittle twigs.
Particles of years.

You fiddle with
rust, faded boxes,
missing treasures.
You arrange secrets
on a shelf.
You are serious.
I forgot to tell you
it’s a joke.
My stifled laugh hisses
into the dark night.

I surprise myself
and listen...our
Music in the dark.
Always on time,
in the late night,
he plays it low.
Feel the hunger.

I slide my broom,
cling to my
wisp of sanity,
align myself with
a thin line,
pull a long breath for
the next caption.

Cartoons can be deadly.
One can become
missing from the next frame.
I vanish and reappear.

You place our chairs
beneath the little tree
and bring something you found,
some words, ones we said
countless times.


Thanks, Robin, Janet, TG, and other contributors today who responded to our Seed of the Week: Cosmic Kerfuffles, or who are still musing about dreams and water. Great to hear from Mitz Sackman again, after a long hiatus!

Medusa’s Bulletin Board (the skinny blue box on the right) is bursting with readings these days; yesterday I spent lots of time posting new ones. The foothills are especially alive with the sound of poetry, including lots of events this month in Placerville, El Dorado Hills, and Grass Valley. And Manzanita Writers, based in San Andreas, have a reading this Saturday to celebrate another Manzanita anthology (Wild Edges); a workshop Jan. 29 (EBook It!); another workshop February 12 (Between the Sheets); and their Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate contest with its Feb. 28 deadline. You can find details about area workshops and contests in the appropriate “pages” on Medusa if you scroll down to the SNAKE ON A ROD section of our bulletin board.

Pleasanton Poetry, Prose and Arts Fest March 26-27:

The brochure with full info on contests, workshops and activities for the Pleasanton Poetry, Prose and the Arts Festival on March 26th and 27th is now available! This year's program is packed with literary talent: Al Young, Calif. Poet Laureate Emeritus, is the keynote speaker and a workshop leader. Poetry, prose and screenwriting workshops for adults, teens and youth with be led by Adair Lara, David Alpaugh, Connie Post, Lisa Gentile, Susan Wooldridge, Lee Rossi, Nina Schuyler, Alison Luterman, Kathryn Reiss, Kim Rosen, and Julia Connor. To register, print out the form at (online registration is not available.)

Submission Opportunities for Stanislaus County Residents and beyond:

The Poets' Corner Contest for Stanislaus County Residents submission period is February 1 through 4pm on Wednesday, March 16. Entry forms can be obtained beginning Feb. 1 at Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department, 10th Street Place in Modesto; The McHenry Mansion, The McHenry Museum; Stanislaus County Library; Maddux Youth Center; King Kennedy Memorial Center or online at

For a forthcoming anthology of Modesto-area poetry, Quercus Review Press is seeking poems from poets who reside, have resided, or have some connection to the Modesto area. Work does not have to be about the Modesto area. Please send 3-5 unpublished or published poems, plus an SASE, to Quercus Review Press c/o Modesto Poets Anthology, 435 College Ave., Modesto, CA 95350. Include a cover letter that reflects your connection to the Modesto poetry scene and include your name, address, and email on all pages of submission. For previously published poems, please include the place and date of publication and the name of the copyright holder. Deadline: postmarked by April 1, 2011.

Speaking of Quercus, its editors are still putting together the first issue of Snail Mail Review, but they’re so enthusiastic about their journal that they’re going to be accepting submissions for Issue Two starting February 1. So watch for details about that (and for Issue One!)—you don’t have to be a resident of Stanislaus County to submit.

Stanislaus Connections ( is seeking submissions for its "A Gathering of Voices" page. The themes are peace, justice, and/or a sustainable environment. We ask for poets to be from the area or connected to our community in some way, like featured readers at a local reading or participation with shared activism or...originally form the valley or...? If interested, please email Tina Driskill at

And finally…

Song of the San Joaquin is accepting poetry for the Spring Issue through March 15, and you don’t need to be a San Joaquin County resident to submit! Send 3 poems to (preferred) or PO Box 1161, Modesto, CA. For more information, see


—Robin Gale Odam

Oh, my stars, a new and ominous 13th sign;
how far away from the burning sun were we
on the day we were born?

Ophiuchus, hold on to your serpent—he’s
sliding through the cosmos shedding kerfuffles.

Seems we’re a-wobble on our axis, out of line
for eons of time, and now someone has gone
dizzy and changed the zodiac.

There are reports of crises; people are crying,
and kerfuffles are falling, that’s all we know.

Appears kerfuffles cause upheaval and tumult.
In such commotion we don’t know who we are.
We don’t know if we like each other; turns out
we may not be compatible, after all.

Maybe a 13th sign is a sign. We can have a 13th
floor; think of all the extra living space.
And everyone who professed 13 as their lucky
number will be vindicated—they were probably
Ophiuchusians all along.

I once read that I was born on a rotten day.
This may be good news—I may like being a
snake, flicking my silver tongue and staring with
my new steely eyes.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Kerfuffle: a commotion or fuss.
In earlier days, curfuffle, carfuffle, cafuffle,
cafoufle, gefuffle, settling at last,
like our place under the eternal stars
and their signs, aspects, and whatnot, as
Compare kerplop,
kerplunk (ker for onomatopoeic
emphasis with maybe a hint of crash.
From Scots Gaelic car
and fuffle
to twist, bend, throw into disorder,
dishevel, ruffle, related to fuff, puffs
of smoke or steam going
off in a huff. And what’s this
about throwing our horoscopes
into a fluffle?

(with apologies to Michael Quinion & his World Wide Words)


—Taylor Graham

At 5:03 a.m., a low-level scream.
In the dark, in the left-hand
corner of the room where January light
first hits the window, the cat
is calling up the sun.

I wish I could explain to her
the notion of a gag-rule, of silence
before dawn. She has no concept
of the nuts & bolts of the cosmos,
the moment of sunup, quirks of fog.

All winter she keeps her vigil.
No placating her by playing
the masseur, stroking her
the length of aging black fur.
At 7:09 a.m. the sun will find her.


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

Ah what is the world coming to
That old question
Not even the heavens stand still
Am I a Gemini or not?
Astronomically speaking, never in my lifetime
Now we have moved along twice
What is all the fuss
Chronic slow news days
Something to titillate us
The earth wobbles on
We laugh at our certainties
Horoscope kerfluffles
Cosmic comic life


Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Robin Gale Odam

describe the river homework due
wade through abstract nouns
slippery root words sink and hide
compound sentence branches endlessly
rapid words merge into unruly paragraph
crowded adjectives describe motion
wonder imagines force could tell it better
tangled roots twist in the turbulent deep
opening statement arrives late with
confusing current thick to tread
skim the surface hold your breath
better not swim here wake up
it’s due tomorrow


—Janet Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

Khaos disturbs most of the
Kosmos of astronomic
Konfused people, wobbling Earth
Kreate a big fuss, maybe
Konsciously, or not . . . the same
Kraziness—star gazers lost?


Today's LittleNip: 

—Robin Gale Odam

Lady with tangles for hair calls out to me
in the morning. I tell her I must go. I tell her
I am not my own. Speak, she pleads, tell me
of your heart...cry to me, I will listen...I am
combing my tangles and waiting...



(and no, "Poe's toaster" didn't show up on his birthday—once again. See

Grave of Edgar Allan Poe on his birthday in 2008 with, 
as per tradition, its two roses and cognac from 
a mysterious visitor