Monday, February 28, 2011

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

Snow drifting peacefully
Silently to the ground
Just peaceful contemplative weather
Not last week’s storm
Filled with winds and wet
Yanking large trees out of their haven
Bringing down power lines
Air filled with moans, cracks, grumbles
Wet, wild and windy song


Thanks to Mitz Sackman (the recent storms brought an oak tree down on her garage in Murphys, breaking three rafters and causing a 53-hour power outage) and today's other contributors. The storms—of one sort or another—seem to be on everyone's minds.

Deadline for The Ophidian #2, Rattlesnake Press’s online journal of poetry and art, is tomorrow— Tuesday, March 1! Don’t be left out. Scroll down the skinny blue b-board over at the right and click on The Ophidian for info. And today is the last day of The Book Collector’s month-long 25% off EVERYTHING sale—better get down there NOW!

Trina Drotar, editor of Poetry Now, has sent me lots of ‘way cool info lately about SPC goings-on, including a new feature in Poetry Now called “Young Voices – Poems from poets under the age of eighteen.” Youngsters should submit 1-3 poems at a time, a one-sentence bio (sample bio: Alex Smith attends fourth grade at B.F.F. Elementary School in Sacramento, bakes cupcakes, walks dogs and plays soccer) and an email address with the name of a contact person. No more than two submissions during a calendar year, please. Send to:; subject line should read, “Young Voices”. They are seeking poems that show the world through young eyes with insight, humor, or both. Please allow 1-3 months for consideration by the editors. (If your poem is selected for publication, you will be asked to sign a release form authenticating that it's your original work and granting Poetry Now permission to print it.) Deadline for this feature will be on-going.

And watch Medusa’s “Submission of the Week” box (over on the skinny green part of the b-board) for other opportunities to get your work out there, including, this week, the SPC Press’s Third Book Contest (deadline 3/31).


—Marie J. Ross, Stockton

Heavy clouds
the color of onyx,
brought flashes of lightning.

Like an avalanche of snow
thunder shouted profusely;
demanding clout.

Storm, the nasty greeter,
heaved from his heavy hand,
ruinous dissemination,

with cumbersome trails indenting
the highest cliffs,
from an outpouring of rain.

from pathos prayer echoed;
clouds undressed their burdening frocks,
as yellow arched a gentile smile.


—William S. Gainer, Grass Valley

She’s gone green,
buys the recycled

Toilet paper,
made from old
packing crates.
Sometimes I think
they forgot
to pull
a staple or two.
It’s just a feeling you get.

She saves nineteen cents
per hundred rolls
at the Costco.

We got a garage full.
It seems to be something
old women are drawn to—
having an adequate supply
of the appropriate
paper products.

I just
flush it away.


—William S. Gainer

After the reading,
she pulled me aside,
said she really liked
my stuff.

I said,
“Do you play
the accordion?”

If you think
that sounds
How do you think
I felt
saying it?


—Allegra Silberstein, Davis

In Tahrir Square Muhammad Saladin Nusair
holds up a sign: Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers.
From Cairo to Madison a seamless web—
the dream of democracy sent abroad and returned to us—
the words of the people, beautiful as the voice of the turtle:
the psalmist song that is heard in our land.

In Cairo activists scrub the square to show their love
for the place of liberation. In Madison's rotunda:
people on their hands and knees scrub the marble floor.
In the capitol hearing room a line of people gather
to give testimony...time and again people say:
we were inspired by the Egyptian people, in peace
able to overthrow a thirty-year dictatorship.
In solidarity we show our oneness.

Codepink sent flowers to the people in Tahrir Square,
a gesture received with kisses, hugs and tears.
In Madison, an Egyptian called a local pizza place
and made a huge order for the protestors.
The garlic came from supporters in Cairo.
A Wisconsin fireman said Pizza had never tasted so good.

Muhammad Saladin Nusair writes to us:
We shouldn't let borders and differences separate us.
We were made different to complete each other,
to integrate and live together...
one world, one pain, one humanity, one hope.


Today's LittleNip: 

Clouds over Texas
not as huge as they would claim
global warming shift

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA



Photo by Katy Brown

Sunday, February 27, 2011


—Robert Frost, 1936

An ant on the tablecloth
Ran into a dormant moth
Of many times his size.
He showed not the least surprise
His business wasn't with such.
He gave it scarcely a touch,
And was off on his duty run.
Yet if he encountered one
Of the hive's enquiry squad
Whose work is to find out God
And the nature of time and space,
He would put him onto the case.
Ants are a curious race;
One crossing with hurried tread
The body of one of their dead
Isn't given a moment's arrest—
Seems not even impressed.
But he no doubt reports to any
With whom he crosses antennae,
And they no doubt report
To the higher-up at court.
Then word goes forth in Formic:
"Death's come to Jerry McCormic,
Our selfless forager Jerry.
Will the special Janizary
Whose office it is to bury
The dead of the commissary
Go bring him home to his people.
Lay him in state on a sepal.
Wrap him for shroud in a petal.
Embalm him with ichor of nettle.
This is the word of your Queen."
And presently on the scene
Appears a solemn mortician;
And taking formal position
With feelers calmly atwiddle,
Seizes the dead by the middle,
And heaving him high in air,
Carries him out of there.
No one stands round to stare.
It is nobody else's affair.
It couldn't be called ungentle.
But how thoroughly departmental.



Saturday, February 26, 2011

Provisional Tenants

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Bertolt Brecht

Contemplating Hell, as I once heard it,
My brother Shelley found it to be a place
Much like the city of London. I,
Who do not live in London, but in Los Angeles,
Find, contemplating Hell, that it
Must be even more like Los Angeles.

Also in Hell,
I do not doubt it, there exist these opulent gardens
With flowers as large as trees, wilting, of course,
Very quickly, if they are not watered with very expensive water.
     And fruitmarkets,
With great heaps of fruit, which nonetheless

Possess neither scent nor taste. And endless trains of autos,
Lighter than their own shadows, swifter than
Foolish thoughts, shimmering vehicles, in which
Rosy people, coming from nowhere, go nowhere.
And houses, designed for happiness, standing empty,
Even when inhabited.

Even the houses in Hell are not all ugly.
But concern about being thrown into the street
Consumes the inhabitants of the villas no less
Than the inhabitants of the barracks.

(Translated from the German by Robert Firmage)


—Bertolt Brecht

After the wailing had already begun
along the walls, their ruin certain,
the Trojans fidgeted with bits of wood
in the three-ply doors, itsy-bitsy
pieces of wood, fussing with them.
And began to get their nerve back and feel hopeful.

(Translated by John Peck)


—Bertolt Brecht

I, Bertolt Brecht, came out of the black forests. 
My mother moved me into the cities while I lay
Inside her body. And the chill of the forests
Will be inside me till my dying day.

In the asphalt city I'm at home. From the very start
Provided with every unction and sacrament:
With newspapers. And tobacco. And brandy.
To the end mistrustful, lazy and content.

I'm polite and friendly to people. I put on
A stiff hat because that's what they do.
I say: they're animals with a quite peculiar smell
And I say: Does it matter? I am too.

Sometimes in the morning on my empty rocking chairs
I'll sit a woman or two, and with an untroubled eye
Look at them steadily and say to them:
Here you have someone on whom you can't rely.

Towards evening it's men that I gather around me
And then we address one another as 'gentlemen'.
They're resting their feet on my table tops
And say: Things will get better for us. And I don't ask: When?

In the gray light before morning the pine-trees piss
And their vermin, the birds, raise their twitter and cheep.
At that hour I drain my glass in town, then throw
The cigar butt away and worriedly go to sleep.

We have sat, an easy generation
In houses thought to be indestructible
(Thus we built those tall boxes on the island of Manhattan
And those thin antennae that amuse the Atlantic swell.)

Of those cities will remain: what passed through them, the
The house makes glad the consumer: he clears it out.
We know that we're only tenants, provisional ones,
And after us there will come: nothing worth talking about.

In the earthquakes to come, I very much hope,
I shall keep my Virginia alight, embittered or no,
I, Bertolt Brecht, carried off to the asphalt cities
From the black forests inside my mother long ago.

(Translated by Michael Hamburger)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Bertolt Brecht

On my wall hangs a Japanese carving,
The mask of an evil demon, decorated with gold lacquer.
Sympathetically I observe
The swollen veins of the forehead, indicating
What a strain it is to be evil.

(Translated by H.R. Hays)



Don't forget two important dates: Deadline for The Ophidian #2, Rattlesnake Press’s online journal of poetry and art, is next Tuesday, March 1! Don’t be left out. Scroll down the skinny blue b-board over at the right and click on The Ophidian for info. And Monday is the last day of The Book Collector’s month-long 25% off EVERYTHING sale. Better get down there this weekend, or you’ll be left out of that, too!

 Soulangian Magnolia
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Friday, February 25, 2011

At The Edge Of The Light

Life goes on, if you're a junco...
—Photo by Sam the Snake Man

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Nature, utterly graceful about her knell,
in the mountains, and at times in the mere high hills
draping her doom about her silently in snow
issuing swift in gracious whiteclad drifts
or lentoing the flurry down to a down forged
of slow blue icicle-spike and bit-edge particle…

and oh the groan of noise with which we react,
tractoring, ramspiking, scraping, bludgeoning
away the pure, the deadly-as-cyanide
to the hypothermic & miles-lost drugged trudger.
Off it must come, off windshield off sheetrock
wall off burden-sagging roof; and my thoughts
haplessly snowshoe to friend K.K. in Pollock Pines

riding a Toro- or Lawnboy-sized snowplow,
rumbling against this most implacable
& whitest-capped of tides…to adapt
a phrase of Robert Hass: in February nights
do these her waking dreams not harrow
as, over and over, she enters the ice-aisle,
the ice-furrow…?


DAY JOB (for GL)
—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

At my day job
I am forced deception
victim of the injection
to play by rules
worthless from inception.

At my day job
always constant rejection
appearance under inspection
by anals and fools
babbling with lips of correction.

At my day job
I rue my conception
workplace a bad inflection
gatherer of torturous tools
and oh, no one hears my plantive objection.


Limed in hot tunes
we gravitate towards a tower
of bike parts and donuts
rusty and rotting
in the daily shower
of mites and microbes
that make the sky into chowder
and my love into livid lemon smiles
and sneers frosted by glaze
from a demonic chaotic
pottery and shard factory
a job
Noah, Malachi, Elijah
and Job
forewent in 1923
or was it it 1936.

—Michael Cluff



blooms invade
rush in and out

before summer heat
dreams into tomorrow

seeks then recedes
before blooming

petals fall
in a short season

flees, sees sunspot
halos form

in the backyard
your city of light

saying eternity
a reverie, come

play with me
my child.

—Ann Privateer, Davis


—Ann Privateer

plump, full, in spring,
no bigger than a thumb

filled with sticky
ooze, its blood

flings out
multiple bursts

an intoxicating
web, sweet

to the eye
hiding patterns

scalloped green
crayoned bold.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Gary Snyder

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light.



—Photo by Ann Privateer

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gardening With Weasels

Turkeys in La Sierra Park
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

My parents don't miss their pyracantha hedges,
thorny bushes which bloomed in Spring
with clusters of holly-like bright red berries
planted by their home's previous owners
only good for birds to eat
but poisonous to people and pets
And yes its red color tempts hunger—
dangerous for children who also eat them
and have to get their stomach pumped after…
So much for this member of the rose family
(perhaps a relative was Christ’s crucifixion "crown"?)
But a major deciding point to cut them down
was when those flocks of cedar waxwings arrived
and got "loose" grazing on their found prize,
leaving their stinking droppings everywhere…


—Tom Goff, Sacramento

One of many word-sounds nonsensical
repeated too many times running,
tongue, teeth, mouthroof, lungs, gumline
all in a bunch. Next of kin (which twin
must die?) to twine, Mark Twain, and twang.
One P.D. James character, confronted
with ill will (twins Will and Ill), tastes
his bite of chicken “like a gunge in the mouth.”
That old DeVito/Schwarzenegger vehicle, “Twins,”
Mad Magazined as, yep, “Twinge.” Old
photo: we twins in our vehicle, Dad-rolled.
The word said best with voiced Z at the end:
neither Dubya nor Obama rightly zee-ends
a zee-ended word, have you noticed?
Twin’s last best Z-sound absorbed, one
phantom twin into the surviving sibling.
Sibilant. Twine your nice legs around me
and I’ll unspool all to hell and gone
in one twinge.


(After Kathy Kieth’s "Opinions About Rain")
—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Pi is one of the easiest
mathematical concepts
to define using the basic
subtraction method:

opinion – onion = pi.


(After Kathy Kieth’s "Blizzards")
—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Over the river and
through the woods
‘neath the shadow
of the shimmering
snowy Sierras runs
a sinewy web of
urban asphalt.

Nature’s sweet
whipped topping
is cast aside to
expose the crust
upon which we must
obey our conveyances
and go shopping.



your spouse turns out
to be a bias ply tire
so of course they need
to be replaced with a
steel belted radial…

But then what if it isn’t
all about what is better
for you, but how you
can make things better
for your spouse?

And what if you were
just five years old
when this is happening?

Would that make a difference?

—Carl Bernard Schwartz



so it must be places that are to blame
for all that malice and evil we see
at the tip of Hellfire’s flame.

We send mean people to prison
but rehabilitation is a really hard sell.
Their demeanor cannot be tenderized,
their dead victims cannot be made well.

What if we went to Stockton
and of course to South-Central LA,
rounded up and sent all the gang bangers
to another place far away…

Such as to Auschwitz, Ground Zero,
or a volcanic mountain range.
Would altering their tragedy
ever give them an attitude change?

—Carl Bernard Schwartz


Sometimes it is nice to
be alone, as long as we
have good neighbors.


but you can go to one
of the other stores in
the mall and they will
take care of that for you.

Women are not allowed
to bathe topless on our
beaches, but not too far
south of the border that
is routine.

Thieves burglarized a
home while the owner
was away, but the folks
next door notified authorities
promptly enough to catch
them in the act.

The ball sailed just over
the reach of the Gold Glove
infielder, but the outfielder
backed him up expertly.

The singer could not
perform the song as written,
but the accompanist could
adjust to any key.

—Carl Bernard Schwartz


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Her warm hazel gaze caught
my frowning brown eyes
and I just could not refuse
the offer to embark on a
voyage to the New World.

A voluptuous body
beyond compare, but
then she didn’t need me to
stare and comment. She
already knew she had
what men like.

What could I say? My
mind, disordered as with
Asperger, lacked the
social skills to articulate
a worthy compliment,
so I just thought of that
rare moment many years
ago when I called and made
an impossible billiards shot

and my eyes became
cheery and my lips
turned to a grin.

Then she returned
my smile and nodded…
like she knew what I
was thinking.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

I used to make pictures
with weasels: arrange tiny feet
into rivers and trees, just so—

a weasel tableau. . .
Then just as I'd stand back, brush
fur off my hands, the river

would scuttle under
the couch, the tree would bite
holes in the canvas. . . So I sold

those damned weasels, took up
gardening instead. But frankly,
it's not all that different. . .


—Medusa (with thanks to today's contributors. Watch for a littlesnake broadside from Carl Schwartz, coming March 9!)

Sacramento Navajo Rug Weaver Marilyn Greaves
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Noise Filling The Night

Sunset with a Murder of Crows
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

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.


—D.R. Wagner

Only the span of the hand raised
Against a late weather, the sun down,
Night knowing what it must do,
Drops of water are deflected as a ceremony.

The hand cannot stop the thunder. Thunder
Clings to the outline of the fingers
Like the sea to the shore line.

Every cranny delineated by the lightning
The moment carries with it. Still thunder
Comes against it, forged perfectly
As jewels and ornaments, weapons and shields
Are forged. So quickly,

Mercury bringing it,
Hephaestus smithing. Two brothers
Against the hand for a moment and
Discontented with the silence of words
Inclines thunder toward the world
And explodes in meaning even before
We realize with what we are dealing.


—D.R. Wagner

A bundle of harps
Designated by a quiet
Dialect not spoken in this
Province but having the music
Within it that drives the
Labial tones of the flute
From its strings.

Some would call it magic,
The tone bending the meaning
Of gestures and objects to
Tell a completely different
Fact concerning the way
One wishes for something
Unattainable, evoking
A great longing both
Attractive and repellent
In its phantasm of music
Making. We never understand it.
Still we never fail to listen.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

There was a prince who kept his folk like sheep
to fleece for coins. His people went to sleep
in hovels; he, a palace with a dome
that climbed the heights, a panoramic sweep.

And yet, though rich with cinnabar and brass,
it lacked a staircase, for its prince to pass
above those commoners who toiled below.
His one desire: a spiral stair of glass.

He'd gaze at stars and fill the empty air
with dreams. But coffers might as well be bare,
for they can't buy his one obsessive wish.
Who dares to build, of glass, a spiral stair?


for Elihu Burritt, crossing at Abbotsford
—Taylor Graham

The Tweed runs wide and rapid, flowing down
to sea. This ferry-girl weaves its shore—
at water's edge she gathers up her gown,
steps into her light shallop, takes the oars.

Lovelier in her swift moment
than any high-blood princess hung
portraited on walls
for centuries beyond the painted smil—

natural as noon, no Lady of the Lake
romance here. A mere penny pays your fare.
She'll row back home as you resume your walk.
The Tweed runs wide and rapid, flowing down.


—Taylor Graham

Nine miles out of town, south side of a two-
lane that slices knife-straight to the county line—
vineyards, orchards, fields growing green—
and yet, the world is too much with us, she thinks;
late and soon, the sound of brakes, SUVs
pulled off along the shoulder, slamming car doors,
holiday weekend, flap of bunting in the traffic-
breeze; rap of fingernail against melon, testing
its red ripeness; woosh of glass opening
the cooler, chink of coins on wooden counter;

and then one note she's never heard,
the start of song. At the corner of her eye,
a flit electric-blue like sky gathered in a bird.
And then, without another note, it flies.


Today's LittleNip: 

What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.

—Soren Kierkegaard



Plum Blossoms
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Does Red Sound Like?

—Photo by Robin Gale Odam

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

It was not Oriental Red, like he had promised,
but the sweetest blue silk — a gift, before he
left her.

She wore it in the long afternoon, in her
quiet room.

She wore it before her dark mirror.

It was icy blue, like a cold lover’s eyes.

It lay over her shoulders, falling like a chill of
shadow upon her.

She saw how it covered her like the sky,
how it was the color of her eyes — she
shivered and slipped it off.

She folded it loosely and put it away, with her
crimson slippers and a sachet, of Oriental Red.


Thanks to "the Odam girls" for today's poems and pix. Robin Odam says, "After so much blue, I feel like red!" She's talking about our Seed of the Week last week, Blue Silk, and so many fine poems about it that we received. Thanks to all of you for that.

This weeks' SOW is Soundgarden: Poems That Explore Sound. Write about the birds or the bees or whatever, but use primarily sound images. Or experiment with the words you use: rhyming at the end of lines or inside them, or use words that sound like what they protray, or... We use so much visual imagery that sometimes we leave out the other senses. And what's worse, we sometimes forget that poetry is a SOUND form—we get caught up in telling a story and end up with "prose that uses short lines", instead of the short lines of spoken music that poetry is supposed to be.

Anyway, send your soundplay to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs.


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

I used to think I should have long blue hair,
silky as sunlight through summer rain;
silky as a doll’s blue hair,
combed by a child in a cancer ward.
Blue is that shimmer on far hills
where it has been raining,
blue rain of twilight,
all the original shadows
moving into place,
where the ghosts of so many
are wandering the sky
as if they knew how to live again.
Blue is a color to be taken seriously;
It must fit the dreams
as well as the reality.
Blue has a silky tone,
like a blue swish of fabric
pulled over safe dreams
from which no one awakens, terrified.
The child has long blue silky hair now,
combed by her doll
which is bald.
This is a secret between them:
they know what they know,
but cannot put words to the phenomenon.


—Joyce Odam

Each turns to silk in the dream,
slowly unwinding around each other,

floating upward and downward
and outwardly yearning,

voiceless in the tangible silence—
a mutation of silver

and dark sensation,
constantly writhing

apart and together,
darkening and brightening

like the underside of music.
How lyrical to move like that—

to feel like that—
to watch from one’s own dreamlessness


(after "Mediterranean", Raoul Dufy, 1923)
—Joyce Odam

For the sake
of blue

I draw this color

beyond the true,
like Dufy’s

simple mystery
of the mind

and of the need
to see

let go the rules


(after “The Feasts of Silk”, Toyen, 1962)
—Joyce Odam

This hanging of silk,
these dresses
that take on shape
of bodies—
three wraiths
in closet light
each time the door
is opened,
caught standing there,
in the light
of your imagination.
Oh, do not
bother them again;
they are admiring
their own
fit and fold,
the shadow-play
their fabric makes
in the shining way
they brush against
each other
for sensation.

(First published in Haight Ashbury Literary Review)


—Joyce Odam

Where air-silk flows like dreams
over the gray moiré
of this soft morning—

the wet leaves tipped with
light—everywhere flashing amid
the golden music of tiny songbirds

through the perfect light
where no sorrow is allowed—

where the smallest flower
will blossom because you find it
and the gray silk days

will soften into evening
and the sky will ring with stars,
so bright you’ll praise them openly.


—Joyce Odam

The music that haunts the most
is always blue, the kind of blue
that merges into black and gray,

that comes from every ragged hurt
there is to share and what the
inarticulate will ever try to say;

some city-street-musician plays it
every day—wailing inward like a
winter soul, long-beaten down and

long-removed from hymn or lullaby,
though here the lost still try to
pray—too poor for more than what

they have become, scavenging at
emptiness with hungry hands, being
everything the street blues say.


—Joyce Odam

Caught in moonlight’s floating web,
in breeze of silver—shred by shred,

of dream sensation, yielding deep
into the curtain of her sleep,

enveloped by the closing room
wrapped and wrapped in sleep’s cocoon.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam was the burnished way
light shook itself from trees

and spilled into the red air,
closing down the day...



—Photo by Robin Gale Odam

Monday, February 21, 2011

Madness And Brotherhood

Mud Cloth by Betty Davis
Mud Cloth Madness Exhibit, Crocker Art Museum
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Paul Lojeski, Port Jefferson, NY

There are three
houses on our
block that’ve
been for sale
for three years.

The owners
won’t lower
their prices,
to acknowledge
the economy
has tanked, sunk
like a stone by
crooked bankers
and financiers,
who've left them,
the saps, holding
the proverbial

Now they hide
in their bubbles
of denial, sure
they’re immune
to those great,
invisible forces
grinding every-
body else to dust.

If they wait just
a little longer,
they think
the market
will readjust
and re-embrace
them, the true
and they’ll reap
the golden

Meanwhile, I pass
by now and then
and I see them
at their windows,
staring out
at nothing,
waiting wide-
eyed for a sign.


—Paul Lojeski

The worse things
get, the louder
the TV’s

Whatever it takes
to divert the
from the slaughter
forward in that frantic

But the sheep
know, they
sense it in their
bones: murder
is on the wind,
in their name

but better
them than us
they pray
in lonely
as the good
once faith-
fully did.


—Paul Lojeski

In the photo
of a morgue
the father kisses
his dead son’s
hand while
a brother
kneels, his
pressed to the
dead brother’s
forehead: Iraq,
February, 2011.


—Paul Lojeski

We had a share in a town up north and once a serious indulgence in a bad substance had us both shaking but him worse, under the covers pulled up to his chin, skin gone green and I urged him to let me take him to the hospital but he rode it out as winter tore the place up outside. Now he’s got a family in LA, clean in the heat but he calls sometimes to joke about that time, the time death got its dark hands around his throat and closed in for the kill. Imagine laughing at a thing like that.


—Paul Lojeski

this bit of breath
fascinated even
the most cynical
of prisoners.


Today's LittleNip: 

The world is now too dangerous for anything but the truth, too small for anything but brotherhood.

—A. Powell Davies



Thanks to Paul Lojeski for some thoughts that somehow seem to apply to Presidents' Day, as do the photos sent to us by Michelle Kunert from the Crocker Art Museum as we wind up Black History Month. The Mud Cloth Madness exhibit, organized by The Kuumba Collective Art Gallery and presented by the Crocker Art Museum, explores how mud cloth, a hand-woven and hand-dyed textile, developed by the Bande people of Mali, West Africa, has inspired local artists in an array of mediums. From wearable art, to quilts, to decorative arts, Mud Cloth Madness offers a contemporary twist on a traditional symbol of African culture. The exhibit runs through April 17; go to for more info.

Pan Spirit
Mud Cloth by Adele James
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Real Names

—W.S. Merwin

Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught

they're hiding

they're awake in there
dark in the dark
hearing us
but they won't come out
not for love not for time not for fire

even when the dark has worn away
they'll still be there
hiding in the air
multitudes in days to come may walk through them
breathe them
be none the wiser

what script can it be
that they won't unroll
in what language
would I recognize it
would I be able to follow it
to make out the real names
of everything



Saturday, February 19, 2011

Catching The Moon

—Photo by Katy Brown 

—Katy Brown, Davis

Arachne, in the time of heroes,
wove a net from hemlock shadows
then cast it in the evening sky.

When the yellow moon rose fully,
it was snared in this device for
famed Arachne, bold and clever.

The moon, hanging in the silken sky,
strained to move above the mountains,
tried to mount the dark blue void.

Artemis, whose moon was captured,
formed a plan to set it free from clever
Arachne, weaving in her dusty corner.

She sliced the moon from full to quarters,
then a sliver, thin as wire, where it slipped
between the netting in the bluing evening sky.

This is why the moon progresses: full,
then half, then none at all— to slip the net
cast by Arache in a time of heroes
to snare the moon in a silken sky.


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

She misses them sometimes
Not that she didn’t enjoy
The time and space of her retirement
She remembers wearing those lovely scarves
Textile jewelry framing her face
The softness of silk
Sand washed, crepe textured
She loved flaunting those lovely filmy dreams
Blues, greens gold
She had loved them and they loved her


—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

Our marriage was Ice Blue,
like our bedroom walls.
     Early on, we shopped

for the perfect quilt (Blue,
of course): expensive settling
into that end of the spectrum:

Sapphire all over a house
whose old heater wouldn’t
warm us: Cobalt coverlet

we pulled up around white
faces on dark winter nights…
     Mozart, you called it:

let’s stick with Mozart, you
said: perfection, you decided:
what’s the point of the sense-

less intrusions of yellow, brash
audacities of brazen red?
     I can still see you

in the half-light: brush full of
Periwinkle and Forget-Me-Nots
poised over a paint can: Mozart,

you whispered, burrowing your
head deep into the Cerulean of
crystalline sound as you spilled

Azure all over me and
our endless walls of
     that Iceberg Blue…


Today's LittleNip: 

—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

She told me it was
blue silk, said
It was true love.

But what did
I know
Of the fabrics?

Turned out
To be pure



P.S. Thanks to today's contributors! Don’t forget the Sacramento Poem deadline coming up on March 1. Scroll down to the SPC section of our skinny blue b-board for details.

 While you’re scrolling, keep on going to the very bottom for our new Ticklers section, including David Alpaugh’s Seven Deadly Guidelines, which those of you who submit poetry for publication will appreciate. Got any sites to add?

—Photo by Donald R. Anderson, Stockton

Friday, February 18, 2011

Our Snow Adventures

Our back deck, yesterday at noon.
Now imagine the snow doubled...
That's what we woke up to this morning.


dusts windows, doorknobs: crunches under
pink pads, paws too distracted to feel

the cold—her own boots, of a sort. Snow
powders frozen January ground: smothers

yellow lawn and tries to choke the struggling
crocus, dull the sharp spears of tomorrow's

daffodil. But the cat is ready: ears and tail
pointed toward that bluejay that scolds

from the pine tree, the siskins chipping
as they feed, the soft scufflings of the rodent

meandering in the woodpile. . .

kk does the front deck (yesterday)

(Dale is our 85-year-old neighbor)

With bouncy Pomeranian
the neighbor’s plowing brand-new snow—
you’d think that it was ten below.

He’s up and down the drive again,
a noisy course of stop and go.
With bouncy Pomeranian,
the neighbor’s plowing brand-new snow,

his knitted cap vermilion
against the white, as to and fro
they slowly crawl—reptilian.
With bouncy Pomeranian
the neighbor’s plowing brand-new snow—
you’d think that it was ten below!

kk does the driveway with the ATV
(plow blade on front)


walked past today: they picked their way
through the snowy slush, the muddy

berms—tomorrow’s ice already here at
two o’clock this afternoon. I’m always

startled by their blue eyes, their tiny
pupils: ice-diamonds against

the white snow of his
thick winter wolf-fur, her

pale human girl-skin wrapped in
blue wool, navy jacket, small white

gloves… They look up in time
to see me: sharp glitter of silver over

yesterday’s white: sparkle of crystals
on his fur and her skin as they

carefully choose their way together:
pick their slow way through

the glassy blue secrets of
tomorrow’s snow…

             for debee

chases her dreams:
             slides over

her as she sleeps:
            wakes her

with his grumblings as he
            skids down
the steep roof of her

            rumbles and moans
as his claws dig in:

desperate lines in the flimsy
            frame she has sketched

ever so lightly
           over her head…

(I call the chunks of snow that fall out of the trees onto the roof "snow bears". Thunk!)


sprinkle down around me everywhere
I go, splash mud on my boots—big drops
blurring up my glasses as I run from

the car to the haberdasher to the tea shop.
The tea maker fiddles with his bone cups
and his cozies, mutters over soggy leaves

of Jamaican spice as he tries to divine
tomorrow, all the while grumbling
about today. . . The haberdasher is more

proprietary: counts drops and declares (after
marking down the totals) that all quotas
have been met and the sun will return

at 3:12 on Thursday. . . But my neighbor
just thunders at me while she rows
for the mail, yellow slicker swish-swishing,

hairdo flying, nails at risk, bundled up
in all that she owns, bristling about local
storm damage—ruined hats, blown-away

teacups, unfortunate toppling of topiary. . .


Kids in earmuffs and ladies in long skirts skate around
tiny trees and tidy houses and a snow-white church;
there are cats and dogs and even a wee teddy bear; but
it’s all just a snowglobe. . . And every now and then

that globe gets tipped upside down, maybe by some naughty
child, or the restless spinster across the street, and then
those trees have to dig in: the church spire points toward
the ground, and the teddy bear stands on her head while

all that snow dithers down around her. . . Then, if she’s
lucky, her globe gets put back on the shelf or the coffee table
in one piece, no leaks, and such a flurry slowly settles as
the ladies straighten their skirts—at least until the next time. . .

Today's LittleNip: 


one dying tulip
drops two scarlet petals on
February snow


—Medusa (with thanks to Sam the Snake Man for today's pix, taken yesterday, and to all of you for your indulgence of MY indulgence of my poems about living in the snow...)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Singing Of Our Tribe

 Gary Snyder, 2011
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

They use the same words I do:
wind, water, heart, omen.
They use sentences, usually English,
as I do. And walk as I do,
through a similar world.

Yet the pens they hold
put words in a different order.
They notice things I never see
until they point them out.
They keep an orderly muse.

My muse hands me scrambled thoughts,
directs my attention to motes of dust,
leads me into blind alleys and dark corners.
My pen is mostly dry or blotchy.
No clarity, here. No observation

of grand spaces or unfolding ideas.
It’s rambles of image, colliding in confusion,
a cacophony of words, randomly chosen,
attention skipping from flower to star.
How am I to make a poem of this?


Our thanks to today's contributors, including Katy Brown, who has been making the best of her brand-new retirement by attending readings and book shows, snapping photos wherever she goes, then coming home and writing about it. Her photo of Gary Snyder was taking at UCD last week.

Snow and ice will probably keep me up on the hill tonight—not that we'll be snowed in, but once the roads are plowed, they turn icy at night and unsafe for travel. [See "Life in Pollock Pines" at the bottom of the skinny blue box for a visual.] Anyway, frank andrick will be holding down the fort this evening, February 17, at 8pm at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sac., for the release of WTF9. He'll be starting our third year and welcoming Rachel Leibrock to the staff as Associate Editor. Check it out! And don't forget the March 1 deadline for O2—the second issue of our online journal, The Ophidian. Check the b-board at the right for details on these happenings and many, many more!

Do you ever go to Check it out—but save plenty of time for it; it’s addictive!


There are many shades and hues of blue
within its own scheme to fit one's mood
for some reason most "color blind" individuals see it
even replacing it for many other colors in the rainbow
Symbolic of either sadness or joy
it can mean death or life
depending on the culture or circumstances
Azure and cyan sky colors on clear days
Warm baby blues, electric and aquamarine
reflections in water and the seas
Dark shades for above when it rains
Midnight and indigo surrounding the moon

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—Allegra Silberstein, Davis

I wait in my blue gown
lips lined
throat gone dry
for the call that does not come.

Pictures on my bedroom wall
ease this wanting time:

a seated ballerina, her back to me,
turns her gaze to a blue-shadowed
painting: a Degas dancer
on the wall beside her.
She waits there.

Ingres’ woman in blue,
Comtessa d’Haussonville,
crooks the pointer finger of her right hand
beneath her chin and smiles.
She has no need to wait.

Beyond these walls,
beyond pictures here,
minute by minute days grow shorter.
Startled moments fly like wild geese
crying above autumn clouds.

On his white horse
Rembrandt’s Polish Rider looks
into distance. No one knows for sure
the meaning of this enigmatic painting
so alone
here in my bedroom I can believe
he rides to me.

By my garden wall
a blue jay
brash blue with shades of brown
splashes in a puddle fed by a sprinkler
feeding thirsty grass.

(First published in Poetry Now, August, 2009)


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

What a terrifying adjustment it must
be for people to visit our country
and find out what really, truly
dominates in this land of opportunity.

Put away those rosy expectations
of Constitutional guarantees. The
front-runner far and away is a
long standing, pert near-immovable
culture based on entitlements that
overshadows the Constitution’s ban
on honoring titles of nobility.

The Meg Whitmans of America,
joined by many, many others,
believe that their financial success
fully entitles them to hire foreigners
cheaply to come and clean their toilets.

If we are to save the country money
by reducing entitlements, it will
take far more than just some hurried
legislation mandating spending cuts.
Meaningful change will require a
thorough program to re-educate the
public about the whole culture of

Then start cutting from the top.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Ever since our fiscal freight
train has gotten off track
and there are just not enough
earnings and revenue anymore
to take care of our basic needs,
we have been looking for an answer.

One thing that could help put
our hocked-to-the-hilt house
in order is to adjust our currency
to reflect true market value.

When someone plays a game
of chance and wins a huge
amount of money for example,
they should be paid off in
dumb luck bucks, worth about
10 cents on the dollar of the
regular wages paid for sweat labor.
The other 90 cents goes to the
General Fund.

When someone enjoys lucrative
gains from investments made by
their folks, this pampered parents
paper should be valued at 5% of
the typical earnings of disabled
veterans. The other 95% goes to
the General Fund.

When the survivors of an hourly
employee who is shot to death on
the job are awarded restitution by
the court, that token tender should
be a sum equal to the average
annual bonus pocketed by corporate
executives. The state should tax
these bonuses at a rate sufficient to
fund such restitution payments.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

OK, we all know that silk
comes from silkworms,
but where does the blue
come from?

I couldn’t pull any blue
out of bombyx mori, and
the mulberry fruit many
feed on is not that hue.

Maybe the worms just
feel blue because they are
overworked, underpaid,
and command little respect,
like legions of human blue
collar workers

Blue could also just be an
arbitrary advertising gimmick
like the blue plate special
meals at diners. It may
require such a gimmick to
sell blue silk fans, with all
the competition from air

On St. Patrick’s Day we
enjoy green bagels and
other foods that are not
normally green. How
about having a Blue Silk
Day, where everything is
presented in blue?

I like blue.


Today's LittleNip:

...poems follow the contours of life, the loneliness of the artist, the uses of war, the role of nature, the constancy of love, and the coming on of death.  They are the singing of our tribe, called out from the heart across the noisy business of daily life.  Read them in a generous spirit, prepared to hear your own heart roaring in your ear.

—Christopher Burns



—Photo by Katy Brown

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No Defense...

Blue Silk Niagara
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Near the very brink of these falls, the water
Has a change of heart and becomes blue
Silk. Yards of it unwinding over the edge,
A sweetness no one can touch, catoptric
With the sky and anxious in the eyes of
An afternoon spent like this. The air

Begins to have other ideas and holds
Itself just at the edge of it all, for a moment
Then resumes that endless spilling of water
From the heights, blue silk unwinding
Into the river gorge below. No one has seen
This. It can only be written of and then, only in season.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

All those worms transforming saliva
into silk, each tiny, voracious
creature feasting on mulberry leaves;

digesting, shedding skins until,
from the larva's lip—a spinneret,
a spittle-spindle—silk emerges

in a single strand spun in figure-eights,
layer on layer, a mile of silk-saliva
hardened to cocoon. Of course the worm

must die, its silk woven into waves
of jade and turquoise, eddies
of fabric delicate as spit—a scarf,

a robe with wing-wide sleeves.
She'll walk the riverbank, carefully
unwind her cocoon and step out

into blue silk rippling
with shimmers
of a transforming current.


—Taylor Graham

From juice, translucent amber in the glass,
the morning sequence moves like shadow
of a Tuesday sun across the green-white
privet flower, the spotted stone that makes
Zen garden of a plain front yard; chance
crossing of the street on quick diagonal—
a girl in blue silk skirt and jingle ear-rings,
then an old tweed neighbor ambling her
brindle dog—such freedom of a sidewalk.
Already it's nine o'clock, two hours before
Mrs. White comes to clean up the kitchen
and fix his lunch. So much happens, out
the window, without opening of a door.


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

We see crows surround
a fallen member of the flock,
waxen feathers blue-black
in meadow sunlight—
waiting until the bird spirit
has risen,
then, as one, crows spread wings,
tuck feet, fly as high
as crows can ever fly.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

Tante Bosch, wife of Uncle Bosch, i.e.,
Captain Bosch of the Seven Seas—
I never knew Tante’s real name, just Tante Bosch,
my first headache, age 12,
in their Brooklyn apartment;
Tante floated out of their bedroom to greet us
(oh my head, my head!)
on a crest of blue silk; she was the great-aunt of
my uncle’s wife, Grayce—Grayce also
in blue silk with black satin
delicate suede sandals, spike heels
Prince Matchabelli perfumes
Grayce explained about oil-based and water-based scents
teaching me the blue silk style of luring men
could I ever, ever be equal to these yards and yards
of blue silk?

Grayce talked about Tante Bosch
it was like one icon to another
Tante bathed in milk all her life
skin white as snow beautiful even in her 70s

walking through the Bosches’ vast layout
rooms hot as Borneo
I got a headache from all the sea chests, the candles,
the carvings, the incense, the batiks, the beads
the rich hangings from Malay, blue silk from Macao
and other colonial possessions—
I had to take an aspirin, maybe it was the schnapps
or all the exoticism, the eroticism, the blue silk—gosh,
I asked myself

how many quarts of milk
did Uncle Bosch have to pour
to cover Tante’s breasts
after she lowered herself into the tub?
she was not a small woman
a short snowy lump
skin smooth as satin from bathing in milk

Uncle Bosch must have loved to stroke
that silken flesh, don’t you think?
better than handling wood of a ship’s wheel…
oh hell, hand me the aspirin


Today's LittleNip: 

—D.R. Wagner

There is no
For love...
It has its own door.
It names the heart
In whatever language
It chooses. There is no
Defense. We stand
Naked before it and
Are committed upon
And within, it becomes
Like breathing as
Explained by wonder.



P.S. When I was featuring James Lee Jobe yesterday (see “Older Posts” at the bottom of this box, or go to “Medusa’s Rap Sheet” over near the bottom of the skinny blue box), I forgot to mention his blog, Putah Creek. He was blogging ‘way back when Medusa was just a wee snipper-whapper! Go to and see what I’m talkin’ about.

P.P.S. Word of the Day: Catoptric (see D.R.'s poem above). How many times have you used "catoptric" in a poem?

—Photo/poem by Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

Valentine’s Morning, gray and silver...rain
and gusting wind—birds don’t know what to
do, yesterday they were so happy...they were
planning on singing today. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blue Silk

James Lee Jobe with Mary Zeppa
at The Book Collector

—James Lee Jobe, Davis

The grandfather clock packed its bags
and caught a train back east,
hoping for new opportunities
while there was still time.
The curtains blew away on the wind,
flapping madly as if waving goodbye,
then shooting out into the sky
like a thing frightened.
The dog left, just giving up and walking away,
and the cat took up with the neighbors,
saying sullen things
and lurking under bushes.
The apples ran away with the wine,
somplace more romantic, I suppose;
I hadn't been aware of the relationship.
With each loss I felt a bit freer, and lighter.
Night was coming on, and looking
pretty good. What now?—I asked the heavens.
There was no answer, of course,
but the sky was lovely,
and the setting sun was so warm.


Thanks, James Lee Jobe, for today's poems, and thanks to Robin Gale Odam for Today's LittleNip. About himself, James Lee says he is a longtime Northern California poet. His fourth chapbook is a Rattlechap, What God Said When She Finally Answered Me, from Rattlesnake Press. His fifth chapbook is being published by Little M Press. Jim is too modest; he's been a NorCal Force in poetry, both as a publisher (One Dog Press) and as a writer, for many years. Hear him read this coming Wednesday night at Red Night Poetry—see our b-board for details!


—James Lee Jobe

I will die one day
Right here in this valley.
Don't be sad.
The sky will slide open
Like a bathroom mirror
And kind angels
Will guide me home
Through golden light.
To you it may seem
Like just another beautiful
Valley sunset.
And you'll be right.


—James Lee Jobe

I pledge allegiance to no flag,
no country, but to the earth.
The Great Mother
is my country.
One world, one people
with many faces and beliefs,
here to help each other,
to love each other,
and to grow.
I bind my faith to no rules,
just to my own heart,
my own truth,
and I set nothing in stone
except this;
we are all equal souls
in this world, my sister,
my brother. And kindness!
I pledge allegiance to that.


—James Lee Jobe

Midnight. A waning moon.
Cats by the hundreds,
by the thousands,
begin to gather
in the tumbledown streets
and parks.
As if commanded
through telepathy
the cats form into ranks,
into companies,
and move out
in an orderly manner.
Many more cat brigades
from the suburbs
join them,
and their numbers swell
into an army,
marching through the night.
Just before dawn,
they take up their positions
around city hall
and the police stations.
Today they will put right
many wrongs.
A balance will be reclaimed.
Any moment now,
the sun will rise,
and with it
will come the signal
to attack.


—James Lee Jobe

Your skirt
down to the floor,
and the first monkey
is released,
and runs screaming
into the trees.
Black lace panties,
garter belt, and hose;
another monkey is free
and running.
Slipping off
your top reveals
the mountains
where Vishnu sleeps,
also covered
in sheer black lace.
Dozens of monkeys
are now
on the move,
and playing.
You pull me
next to you
and the jungle
comes alive!
On the backs
of the wild
we are carried
into the trees.


—James Lee Jobe

It isn't easy to explain The Black Dog.
(In a crib, just out of sight, a boy wakes up.)

This isn't a dog who wins awards or has a pedigree.
(He is very alert, and uses the rail to pull himself up.)

This isn't a dog that will ever wear a leash.
(Something calls to the boy, a desire perhaps.)

The Black Dog smells wild.
(Laughing, he pulls himself up and over the rail.)

The Black Dog pisses when he wants.
(Dropping down, the boy crawls fast across the floor.)

He eats garbage and he bites.
(At the doorway, the boy stands on his legs like a man.)

The Black Dog owns the world.
(He is taller now, with a trace of a beard, determined.)

You may not touch The Black Dog.
(He strides through the door, his muscles flexing.)

Unloved and free, The Black Dog commands respect.
(Fully a man now, he turns the corner and walks away.)

His life is his own, not yours, and your rules mean nothing, nothing.
(His life is his own, not yours, and your rules mean nothing, nothing.)


Today's LittleNip:

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

Found him out there alone,
tangled in his thoughts.

I’ll take him a lifeline—

Corona, silence,
wisp of blue silk.



Our Seed of the Week is Blue Silk. What does that conjur up for you? The night sky, like in Robin's photo, or a smooth, unruffled ocean? The flag of some developing nation? A negligee, or a handkerchief, or a shade of fingernail polish—or some rich guy's pajamas? Write about blue silk and send it to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs. 

—Photo by Robin Gale Odam