Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Clouds Wore Queen's-Violet

Sun Ties
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

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

The moon ran on and on toward the morning.
It distilled all disasters as it did so.
I became afraid of the sounds it seemed to be making.

A brandy was brought to me but I
Am no longer interested in alcohol.
I rose to close the door, to stop the noise.

I began to feel as if I were
Reading everything that had just occurred.

It began to snow. I watched
The large flakes climb down
The sky from the gray. They landed
On my hands and sleeves. The moon
Made them seem even more real
Than these words could ever do.

I am not the person I was was when
I began saying these things. I now
Realize that they are not mine.
They can never be mine. I have
A vague plan about giving them to you.


—D.R. Wagner

If you are reading this
The infinite has already been
Breached. We have found you
Close to this very place, near these
Words, but the silk of the moment
Has created corridors and stairwells
Upon stairwells and it has become
More and more difficult to translate
Exactly what we are trying to say
Into words. We thought you,

You of all people would have
Brought some special words, some
Compendium with the names
Attached to it so that we could
Begin to understand how we all
Managed to find this place, of
All places, and these people, all
These people here waiting.

Thunder has been turning its volume
To hallucinatory levels. We will
Shortly not be able to identify anything.

A large tan dog has just run across the page.


for Prissy, dead these 30 years
—Taylor Graham, Placerville

How to translate into words?

In dream, you cross your paws, primly,
German-Shepherd odalisque on the couch,
and ever-so slightly cross your eyes
at my human blindness. Caprice—sweet
Prissy. You could see in the dark

through tangles of poison-ivy, berry-
bramble, creeper. I was lost as a flower-
picker in Virginia woods; as the man
who hanged himself on the Blue Ridge,
or the boy flash-flooded away.

You found them all.

I keep a compendium of names
of the missing. But how could you
disappear so soon?

Dark-eyed to see beyond my limits—
what have you found on the other side?
Dogs don't write letters home. Yet
sometimes, by caprice of night, the moon
makes you real again—

a young, live
seeker-dog running across the page.



everything about them—stairwells that echo
with every step, swallowing the climbers,
but leaving sounds of footfalls multiplying
in concrete caverns—endless Mobius loops
of drops and landings, drops and landings.

Unforgiving stairs that catch a heel
or shift mid-stride, or climb ladder-steep
into or out of high places—open metal stairs
switchbacking up to lookouts; stone stairs laid by
penitent stonemasons waiting for a absolution.

I hate the minimalist crispness of stairways
without handrails—those death-traps
set in whitewashed lofts; or the over-wide stairs
where only fearless climbers can step out
to pass a creeping child or hobbling elder.

I still remember when I was two—
full of two-year-old pride. I woke early
from my nap, climbed from my crib,
and decided to go down the stairs on my own.
My foot slipped on the top step. I

tumbled all the way to the first landing,
where I slammed into the wall. I still have
the scar where I bit through my lower lip.
Half-way down, I knew—
for the first time—that I could die.

—Katy Brown, Davis


—Katy Brown

I’ve read your last letter over
and over, again; the folds nearly
worn through. Is it the end
of another summer?

As lightly as an owl steps
from the upper branches
of a starlit yew,
you lifted into the shadows—
silent as angels or
the faith that lifts them.

Without the framework of your words,
I no longer remember
how to tie the net to pull phrases
from the roiling sea of language.
I sound like I’m speaking in code
or like a befuddled aphasiac.

I need to write to you—
not for you to read—
but so I can remember how
to capture what I want to say:
to understand what is in my heart.

It has come to this:
if I am to make peace with myself,
I must start posting letters to the dead.


—Taylor Graham

The sun's stabilizer has slipped
a notch toward fall.
Why, suddenly, does the taste
of sardines make you
want to travel? Sardinia or Norway,
Peru—anywhere you've never
been. I'm hearing
Celtic music—it's nothing
but a bit of Delta breeze.
And the boy who walks the railroad-
ties at twilight—that point
in time that keeps its own
revolving schedule—he, too,
has been changed in his
turn, to 7th grade.
Just this morning's sunrise,
the clouds wore queen's-violet
on their bellies, as if someone
were prophesying rain.


—Taylor Graham

Early on the ridgetop trail. September.
Smoke from distant fires blues the canyon.
Lavender, antique gold rubbed and tarnished.

Smoke from distant fires blues the canyon
dry grasses. Everything is aftertaste.
Sudden flowers—madia, tarweed. Among

dry grasses, everything is aftertaste,
spurts of yellow blooming—distillation
of a season's near disasters, wildfire—

spurts of yellow blooming. Distillation:
this sweet scum on boots and cuffs, late summer
pleasures. An early walk with my dog—

this sweet scum on boots and cuffs—late summer
sun on a spider web, and breakfast peach
still warm, foreseeing the fall's golden chill.


Of a summer's near disasters, wildfire.
Pleasures: an early walk with my dog.
Sudden flowers—madia, tarweed—among
lavender, antique gold rubbed and tarnished,
still warm. Foreseeing the fall's golden chill.


—D.R. Wagner

The palace has gone now that
The poem has been recited and the
Entire place has disappeared as if it were
A line of language only, a magic
Breath might work had it the power
Fiction imparts to the greatest
Poets. But no...

The room remained unchanged. One
Could still look at the photographs
In the open book, on the table
Near the kitchen, light streaming
Through the window, soft voices
Coming from the adjoining room.

Perhaps the palace is completely
Gone now? If this is true we will not know
How long ago this happened. In this kind
Of poetry there is no time. Quixote can
Sit down next to you at luncheon
And begin a story which will totally
Captivate you right up to the point
Where the last syllable is uttered.


Today's LittleNip: 

When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation.

—Jorge Luis Borges


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R., K.B., and T.G. for today's "conversation"

Sun Catcher
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sarsaparilla and Vanilla Cremes

Armstrong Woods
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

(with two lines from "The Round" by Stanley Kunitz)
—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Light splashed this morning
and melted all over the floor,
spreading into the darkest corners,
and the room glowed.
Shimmering fish of light
swam the walls
and mermaids sang in the shining.

So I closed the doors of my house
and I swam in the light
with the fish and the mermaids,
and I melted into the glowing.
I sang the praise of summer,
and the August lion
swam to my side and purred. 

(first pub. in Poets' Forum Magazine, 2005)


—Joyce Odam

They are really quite pretty
and awfully young
but seem fidgety
and dissatisfied.

They talk to each other
in the shadows
but their eyes search the cars.

The houses behind them
are dark
and blending huge
against the night;
doorways are ominous,
seeming to
contain life.

Love is looming somewhere
in the sex-heavy hour.
The whole street is nervous
and busy with something it wants.

The cops are not there
as the paper has lied,
only the slow hunter cars
with their left windows open
and husbands inside,
as true as the marriage
and its temporary wife.

And all of this
is in summer
with the bars closing down
and the eloquent lust
moving in and out of
the womanly night.

(first pub. in EPOS, 1972)


—Joyce Odam

night, you said
after having slept twice,
your sleep
and my sleep

and now this rising from night, the clock
on twos, my reading light on . . . you
walk from your room . . . you return to it.

Two closed doors.
My book.
The clock on twos.
You saying

(first pub. in Nanny Fanny, 2002)


—Joyce Odam

A man lurks in the shadows. Every time
another girl goes by, he whispers
instructions, tells her which way is safe.

She cannot make out his features. She
imagines his touch on her arm—his eyes—
she does not know whether to believe him.

But he is so urgent—so sincere—yet stays
hidden. She looks down the street, the long
flat wall, the few doorways, lit by a wet moon.

The rain has started again and she does not
know how she got here. A wrong turn. Another
time. She does not know her name—though

the man calls her by her name—says he
loves her, wants her to remember him when
she awakens in the morning—in the strange
room—tells her where he has hidden the key.


—Joyce Odam

This cat that guards my door,
this bronze,
silent, elegant cat

that gleams in the structuring light
of the doorway
and seems to like its chore—

to hold the door open
from the summer wind
that likes to pull doors shut

where it gets to stare out
at all the noisy, moving things;
and in winter, it helps

hold the stubborn door closed—
and simply looks good sitting there:
The Important Guardian of Doors.


—Joyce Odam

Angel, bless my door through which no one comes
and goes; it is a frozen door, braced shut, useless
by a useless lock and a frame that settles. The
whole house ignores it. Once closed, it stays closed.
Once opened, it stays open to enjoy the view.

Some things are much too difficult to
handle—the way the wind tends to blow
it open if I don’t keep something heavy
for it to weight against. The way I can’t
depend on it alone.

It’s never worked right for long—a mystery
doors keep to themselves. See, I have given
this door-angel to alleviate our difference.
Some doors are not meant to be used as doors,
but only as emergency exits, or fears with bars.


—Joyce Odam

I release the bird into the dream
where it flies into a dissolving wall
made of thick white curtains—

where it flies into a dissolving wall
made of light that flattens as it spreads,
becoming a sky the bird can remember,

made of light that flattens as it spreads
where the bird will remember what I tell it:
“the dream is never real...”

where the bird will remember what I tell it:
“the solution of light is always dark…
there is a dissolving sea of night to cross.”

The solution of light is always dark.
The dissolving image becomes the reality.
The bird returns on its own.


The dream is never real;
there is a dissolving sea of night to cross,
becoming a sky the bird can remember
made of thick white curtains.
The bird returns on its own.


Thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems, and thanks to Cynthia Linville and Annie Menebroker for our photos, both of which were taken on the road (Annie went to Yerington, NV last weekend). Joyce's final poem here, "Emissary", is an example of a tartoum. See the "Forms to Fiddle With" section of the green b-board for more about tartoums, the cousin of the pantoum.

Thanks also to Michael Cluff for Today's LittleNip, our Seed of the Week which he has suggested: The End of Summer Dreams. Joyce began today's post with a nod to August (by the way, she is an "August Lion", having her birthday in August), but Labor Day is upon us, and summer is wending its way down the tubes. (I kind of miss having the State Fair be the end of summer, but times change...) Anyway, send your farewells to summer dreams to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs, though. Maybe your Meee-yooz would rather write about some SOW from the past; see Calliope's Closet under the Snake on a Rod on the b-board for all our previous ones.

And we have a new "album" on Medusa's Facebook page, thanks to Michelle Kunert who sent us photos from Sac. Poetry Center's Amnesty International reading last night. Check it out!

Today's LittleNip: 

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

The end of summer dreams
sarsaparilla and vanilla cremes
a stroll along the foggy beach
the rest of life within your reach.

A nap upon a raft in a soft lake
enjoy the view of rusty hoe and rake
dance in the lingering dusk
enjoy the air's heady musk.

The sparkle and bite need not go away
just store them up for a dour day
the rest of your hours will then be ripe
in the light of the soul's positive stripe.



Breakaheart Road
—Photo by Annie Menebroker, Sacramento

Monday, August 29, 2011

We Dance Like Poets

Voodoo Queen
—Painting by Karen Hickerson

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

aunt and uncle
every whirl a stanza
every dip a sonnet
the Big Apple
Lambeth Walk
the Shag the Lindy Hop

watched from the sofa
(a child of 10)
they made their turn around the
hardwood floor
rugs rolled up
phonograph playing
she his rag doll
with painted cheeks and curly hair
high heels
and a floating skirt

writing in rhyme the child yearned
to dance their poetry
what they kept up
for 60 years
glide forever
through their elegy


—Patricia Hickerson

scabrous walls, an abandoned tent
Rimbaud said he hated his early work
priest on a toilet,
ulcer on the Venusian ass
given up forever at the age of 20
after he ransacked Verlaine’s soul
turned poetry upside down

this kid
running home to Maman at every crisis

sleep now, Rimbaud
beside these tumbled walls brown and dark
shelter you and your Abyssinian woman
in European dress with
you the rich trader in your fancy African garb
playing the artful dodger in the exploited place
then back to Maman to die at 37
cancer of the leg

ancestor of trash and sleaze
you looked back
called it ‘disgusting’ and ‘ridiculous’



—Caschwa, Sacramento


—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

No one thought to check
the back seat of the sedan
for a gypsy decked in silver,
a barber dangling a blonde
toupée by one finger,
a clown with two-tone purple
hat and large copper watch—
except for me.

My uncle left so much
baggage there, I wasn’t sure
what my farther had seen
from the corners of his
star-studded eyes.


—Carol Louise Moon

Off-green hurts, somehow.
Nostalgia in the second lining
of my stomach—my soul.

Because it sticks
and won’t let go…
I end up running in circles
like a one-winged bird
in yellow mud, toes splayed—
feet slipping.


—Carol Louise Moon

I remember Mom’s thick, brown hair
resting softly on her shoulder,
over the cushioned wooden chair.
And there where my father would stand

with his muscular, squarish hand
over the cushioned wooden chair
resting softly on her shoulder.
I remember Mom’s thick, brown hair.


—Carol Louise Moon

The night is damp and electric.
Near a moonlit grass bungalow
a while goat stands on the road’s edge.
The old scops owl sounds a warning:

“Flooding rains will come by morning.”
A white goat stands on the road’s edge
near a moonlit grass bungalow.
The night is damp and electric.


Today's LittleNip: 

I'm not a poet
I'm a living poem
Written just for you
Writing myself down
Bit by bit
Waiting to be read

—Dillon Shaw, Davis


—Medusa, with thanks to our poets today and Artist Karen Hickerson, niece of Pat Hickerson. And here, for reference, is a baby scops owl (see Carol Louise's skillful octo...)

 Scops owl

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why Not Dance?

Nagasaki Lantern Festival


Hang from the night sky
So that your eye might draw
One more image of love upon your silk canvas
Before sleep.

Words from Him have reached you
And tilled a golden field inside.

When all your desires are distilled
You will cast just two votes:

To love more,
And be happy.

Take the sounds from the mouth-flute of Hafiz
And mix them into your seed pouch.

And when the Moon says,
"It is time to

Why not dance,
Dance and 

(trans. from the Persian by Daniel Landinsky)



Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Bastard Son of Sisyphus

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Charles H. Halsted, Davis

Odysseus, the bastard son of Sisyphus
Sailed by the stars of his destiny,
Outlasted the ire of Poseidon,
Who sent searing sun,
Gales and freezing rains
To punish his audacity

For blinding the one-eyed Cyclops,
Sailing past the Sirens’ songs of desire,
Seducing the goddess Circe, and
Feasting on the cattle of the gods.

A seer from hell foretold his choice
Just one of two paths to be taken,
As his hair turned gray
His skin more weathered:

To plant his oar in Ithaca
Renounce the sea
Till the soil and savor his wine
Lie down again with Penelope,

Or to presume his youth once more
Set sail to taunt the gods of destiny
And die by wreckage on a rocky shore;
Never to find the paradise of heroes
At the far edge of the western stars.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

Penny thought she might stop dating
as soon as
Otis flew home from Afghanistan
but she’s been having so much fun
what does he expect her to do
stay home with him and her knitting?

here is Joe at the door
his first question
whaddya hear from your old man?
Joe’s anxious about Otis
his former best friend
now pfc with a sharpshooting medal
but no more so than
Frank, Al, or Duane
she likes to tease them
you better look out
Otis is due any day now

she loves her status as an easy lay
a sireen, if you will
I’ll regret not doing more of this
when I’m 80…

being married to Otis for 7 years
is long enough
if he wants a divorce he can have it
anyway he probably
hasn’t been a model of purity overseas
Penny knows she isn’t the only sireen in the world


—Caschwa, Sacramento

The computer tech
Restored my site
For that I gave him money
And then some more money,
One more installment to go…

Idealists join the military
For the high purpose of
Making things better over there
By killing people
To make things safer back home
Where we kill people
For no good purpose at all.

My doctor sent me a telegram
With this one urgent message
To manage my health:


—Dillon Shaw, Davis

The ocean is absolutely teeming with life
coral reefs miles long
kelp forests acres high
life in the deepest, darkest, coldest places imaginable
life in unbearable heat and pressure
life in every tide-pool
so much life a blue whale
the largest animal alive
can live off the krill it eats
by swimming with its mouth open
the ocean is the most populated body on the planet
so why is it that
when I look at her
the ocean
she seems the loneliest thing I've ever met
perhaps it's because
for all the manatees, porpoises, fish, mollusks, seals,
jellyfish, plankton, krill, sea turtles, and even humans
on their little boats
so much life
but only one ocean


—Dillon Shaw

When she was Six her father left
When she was Eleven her mother said it was her fault
When she was Twenty Two she dated a man
who abused and betrayed her
When she was Twenty Three she got a job
protecting others who would not thank her
When she was Twenty Four she had the health of a sixty-year-old
When she was Twenty Five she had a stroke
and her voice was no longer her own
When she was Twenty Six she said "no more"
moved to the coast with only a handful of possessions
I met her When she was Twenty Seven
She taught me the wonders of the Ocean
of Sea-Shells and Sea-Glass
and the nature of Inner Peace


—Dillon Shaw

I couldn't sleep
I loved her and couldn't have her
and I couldn't sleep
So I went looking for the sunrise
because it was in no hurry to come to me

Searching, I found the Ocean;
Majestic, Timeless, Wise
You've heard it all before
So beautiful and powerful
but it couldn't help me
or wouldn't
I was too small

Searching, I found a precipice;
marked by a child's aging grave
a rotting wooden cross, dead flowers, a porcelain doll
so lonely and sad
Giving up on the sunrise, I heard the taunting of seals
laughing hysterically in front of me and behind me
but I couldn't see them, so I kept going

Searching, I found a ledge surrounded by ocean
on all sides
I was flying, and free
The seals kept mocking me, but I never found them
or the sunrise...
or her...
But I flew


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

In a faraway land, a town on a river
to the sea. Water flashing crimson-silver,
salmon up-currenting to spawn.

But the countess was enraged: one day's
salmon-catch reserved
for the common people of the town.

A countess craves salmon.
If she has none, the people shall have
none. She ordered her pawns

to fall her trees across the water.
So small a thing, a weir. Free sound of river
blocked, town landlocked, everyone;

no salmon swimming home to spawn;
gray wall of trees axed down.
Only after centuries, a channel was cut

freeing the town, letting the salmon run—
undoing what the dead had done.


Thanks to today's contributors! Pat Hickerson and Charles Halsted are talking about Odysseus, about which Carl Schwartz has his own poetic comment, and Dillon Shaw, former student of D.R. Wagner's, is back with us. And about her poem, Taylor Graham writes, DR's weir reminded me of something in Elihu's Walk from London to Land's End (1865). Here's a retelling. Taylor Graham, Katy Brown, and D.R. Wagner will be continuing their poetic "conversation" (which has been going on in the Kitchen for some time now) at the open mic portion of A Starry Night in Lodi this Sunday. Speaking of D.R., check out the photo (below) of him with Doug Blazek. There's a lot of poetic history in that photo...

Make history of your own by entering Tiger's Eye Chapbook Contest, deadline for which has been extended to Oct. 31: And if you're thinking of publishing your own chapbook, Margaret Bell reports: The folks at Alphagraphics in Rancho Cordova are good at what they do. They are wonderful to work with. They are very affordable—particularly if you have already done a lot of the required proofing, etc. yourself. They do not require you to get a certain number of copies on the first run. Call Usha Datla, the owner, at 916-221-1838.

And don't forget that the next deadline for Sac. Poetry Center's Tule Review is TODAY, Aug. 27:


Today's LittleNip: 

Whenever man tries to probe into the universe's dimension of time, he will finally be confronted with eternity. Where he tries to understand the dimension of space, he will be finally confronted with infinity. And where he tries to understand matter by separating it into ever smaller particles, he will always discover something that is even smaller, and be confronted with the fact that there is no final smallest particle.

—Gerhard Staguhn



 Doug Blazek and D.R. Wagner

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Occurrence of Incredible Things

UCD student art
—Submitted by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

When I came out of the poem
It became possible to see myself
Coming up from the far countries
That bordered those realms
Where singing was the circumstance
And dreaming was the tale itself
That could not be undone and suddenly
I was song to my own self.

I could look in to the charm
The poem depended upon,
Could dangle from it without harm
And move back and forth from form to form
And still be the part of the poem
That meant, when it spoke of
The magic that might follow all
As we came from sleep
With dream on our lips as tales
That call back unto themselves

Repeating ever and forever,
Glass upon glass as in The
Thousand and One Nights,
Repeating myself assiduously
And with the confidence
Of a great queen's lips
That this queer and particular
Danger is none to fear
But “Time's winged chariot
Hurrying near” and traveling,
Oneself upon the water
Pushing at the weir
That is the world transformed.

The whole into a further
Magic thing and finally clear
Becomes a song to sing.


—D.R. Wagner

For a long time nobody said
Anything that could be called
Sensible about the way morning
Had opened its kit bag and just
Given up the ghost.

Fog and damp streets, soft
And capable of swallowing
Sound within fifty feet of
Anyone at all. We could pass
One another and there were no
Footsteps. Cars slid out of
The gray with no sound at all
Until they were directly in front
Of one. Then the statement was
Sullen and could easily have been a lie.

I waited with you sitting on the curb
Near the Parkway knowing the gorge
Was quite close but without a clue
Where its edge might be.

I began to construct a story about
A people who only existed in
These weather conditions and
Would disappear with the clearing
Of the fog.

It began to sound like a religion
To me after awhile. I listened
As carefully as possible to
Discern the sound of the river
Down at the bottom of the gorge.

There was absolutely no sound.
There was nothing to see.
Nothing had ever happened in
The world. It had always
Looked like this gray wool
Over everything. There was no direction
At all, toward or away from anywhere.

We waited on that curb for what
Seemed like an hour. Once a bird
Landed about a foot from where
We were. It didn’t even notice
That we were speaking to each other.

When it left it went to
Some other world we would
Never know. I was afraid
To say goodbye to you.

We might never see one
Another again. I struck
A match to light a cigarette.
Even the flame was gray.


—D.R. Wagner

I used to think that it was
Wind that pulled my face
Away from my bones and threw
My thoughts as far as the sea

Shore, where I could stand
for hours watching the birds twist
In the bright blue air and tear
Across the wave tops barely
Clipping the surface, then lifting
Themselves up toward the sun.

My hair ruffling and clothing tight
Against my body as I leaned
Forward to walk into the mouth
Of the day, to live this way, perfection.

But it was not. It was time
Who dressed in that same clothing
And hid in the doorways swirling hours
And memories alike around me
Until I became so confused
By all things I found myself once
Again talking, without sound,
Back to the perfection that was wind.


—D.R. Wagner

Light turned blue.
Door opened. Half of the
Afternoon spilled across
The floor.

Every time this happened
We could see the seasons
Change, the quiet silver
Attached to dreaming, always
Polished, glinting. Each occurrence
Different. The woods in Maine,
River storms across the Great Lakes.

We could hardly keep track,
Afternoon after afternoon,
Always before that light.
We knew it would be this way.
Always the surprise: birthdays,
Funerals, flights of birds,
The occurrence of incredible things.

The blue light must be
Where singing or dancing occur,
Some manner of movement, deep
Rooms, direct communications.

The night easing itself toward
Another time. Someone
Cleaning the whole place
Up, changing it. We will
Wait until tomorrow, hoping
We will be alive, blinking
Into that blue light,
Waiting for that door to open.


Thanks to D.R. Wagner for his beautiful poems, and for bringing his students' art from the past into the Kitchen. We get lots of wonderful photos here, but we don't get enough drawings and paintings, I don't think; feel free to wing 'em up this-here hill.

CORRECTION: Yesterday I said David Iribarne would be reading at the Guild Theater this weekend, which is my mistake. Actually he will be reading at the Florin Business Complex. (At least I did get it right on the b-board.) But please take note, and show up at the right place on Saturday!

We close today with dandy octos from two Red Fox Undergrounders, Brigit Truex and Judy Taylor Graham—both inspired by Katy Brown's LittleNip yesterday—and today's LittleNip by Kevin Jones. Hey—Judy's hubby, Hatch Graham, is reading in Lodi on Sunday! Be sure to head on down there for this rare occasion.


(Octo in response to "Net of Light" by Katy Brown)
—Brigit Truex, Placerville

The door is sealed shut by shadow-
leaves rustling against the light
that seeps through the slats. The blue frame
patiently holds the houred web
marking time—dawn and dusk, flow and ebb—
dew-beads hung on the abacus frame
of silk suspended in the light.
Watcher-weaver spins her shadow.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

A lacewing's caught on flypaper—
so delicately engineered,
immobile on spiraled honey-
gold in August sunlight. What draws
the fated grace of natural laws?
Immobile on spiraled honey—
so delicately engineered,
this lacewing caught on flypaper.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

The Others,
Listening to us
To them.



UCD student art
—Submitted by D.R. Wagner

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Solace and Other Kool Things

—David Iribarne, Sacramento

No one around
baby left violently awake
crying wondering where home lies.

Innocence wasted, walls crumbling
sleep left late.
Long abandoned.

Barely alive, her nine strands
of blond hair glow as she sleeps.
Drool dribbles from her mouth
as she flops her arms back and forth.

Not knowing where to run,
no choice, she left her on the bench.
Mother not ready.
Confusion, depression follow her home.
Shadows of guilt surround her.

She walks home, each step feeling like
her legs are made of stone,
drowning into the sidewalk

Baby violently awake,
home taken away, before it could be home.

Mother cries, tears weigh heavy.
She hopes forgiveness will follow her home.
Hopes it will not desert her.
Night eats up day, and mother too
is left violently awake.


—David Iribarne

Ran to the water
blistering sky above
water bled with you
as I ran my hands through it.

Thought I had forgotten you
but as my hands graced
the cold water your soul
was pulled out.
Water was warm with you
I began to feel at peace.

More and more I began to unfold
the crevices of my feelings.
You became alive in me,
water welled in my eyes.

Jumped in the water
where you once were
where you once died.
Swam with you
circled the area I last saw you.
The last place I held you,
talked to you, touched you.

Water was refreshing, I felt comfortable.
Didn’t bother to dry you off.
Wanted to keep you with me
as long as possible.
No more did I feel cold,
there was sadness,
but I felt I could overcome it.

Arrived home, looked back
at my footprints, the drops of water
and thought you were back walking with me.


—David Iribarne

Met you again that night
over drinks and happenings
talked about events of the past year.
Sat comfortably in the rubber chair
didn’t feel the edge of the table rubbing against my stomach.

My eyes were focused totally onto you
conversation just flowed so freely
silence did not create tension
it was just that—beautiful quiet.

Noticed that you smiled when I told
you of my experiences of last year
in the past you frowned upon me and my decisions
now I felt at ease and no judgment
was given by your words or your eyes.

Somehow two hours had passed
pizza hardly eaten
many glasses of beer poured
many words spoken and cherished.

Arrived home that night
noticed that we exchanged
so much more than dialogue
we listened to each other intently
interested in each other and our lives
something that was not present
in past meetings.

Before our conversations seemed
like conferences and debates
whereas this time everything
felt so smooth and so connected.

That night was such a simple night
such a night like any other summer night.
Yet it was not a night I could have anticipated
Had not foreseen enjoying my beer with you
not expected dialogue that was not followed by sighs
that we would leave each other in such a comfortable state.

Never did I think that night
that I would be meeting
you again for the first time.


—David Iribarne

Have you looked at the moon?
She is so beautiful in all her glory
my kids slip n’ slide by its light
peaceful loving feelings surround me
as memories slip n’ slide in my mind
I smile, first time in a long time.

Hear you laugh with your sister
temperature just right all round
slightly cool with breezes
I bask in the wind
feel like I am glowing
wet with happiness.

So many times before I had watched my kids
swim with the grass
and never had I been so green with envy.
Can’t believe that I had not noticed
the sweet magnificence of it.

Maybe it was the moment
Maybe it was the temperature
maybe it was the light of the moon
maybe it was their smile
that made it all the more apparent.

Frankly, I don’t care.


—David Iribarne

You speak to me in so many ways.
Seven days of struggle, you survived.
Strength, endurance was challenged.
Those days you taught me how to live
as you died.

Sat with you that night
room was still fully quiet
your breath is all that echoes.
Ran my hands up and down
the contours of body
building up sweet lasting memories.

You asked to sever life that night
hoping you would not live much longer.
You lasted longer than you thought
your vigor awakened, allowing you
to say goodbye in your own way.
and to all you wanted.

During the course of the week
we thought you would go many times
your breath would stutter and slowly space
then you would moan and grasp our hands
letting us know that you
were not ready to leave just yet.

Time and time again thought your battle was over.

Informed friends that it was your last hour
but you surprised us again
by lasting another hour, another day.

So many times during your life
you had taught me about courage:
when you taught me to stand up to others
walk away in instances, but always to face your fears.
When during your confidant’s last days
You stood next to her holding her hand.
When they drained toxins and blood from your body
your concern weighed on others and their well-being.
How the skin on your head brutally peeled leaving it rough
you continued to live on not complaining.

Although it was during these last days
You taught me the most about valor and true life.


—David Iribarne

In the face of it all
we sometimes lose
ourselves, lose each other.

Stood by your name that night
always seems something
will remind me of you.
Your memories shelter me,
take over my mind.

Polished your letters
tracing the letters with my fingers.
questions surfaced
seems my heart is still at war.

I never know which way to turn.

How do I keep you close?
Why did you have to leave so soon?
How do I save your memories?

Gently rubbed my fingers
over your name again.
Remembered your blond hair
dimples more apparent as you smiled
you stayed with me even after you left.

I looked at you, you shined that night.
I felt good.
Put my hand over your name
began to discover beauty again.
Saw that I did not have
to answer all things at once
just enjoy what you gave me.

Things began to disappear that night
and for once I wasn’t worried.
You did not have to tell me why you left
because you really were still there.


Thanks to David Iribarne for the poems! David will be reading at The Show at the Guild Theater this coming Saturday night; be sure to go hear him (see our b-board for details). There's a lot happening this weekend, in fact—check it all out on the b-board. And thanks to Katy Brown for the photo and LittleNip, and for finding us this unsettling bus photo on the Web.

While you're scrolling around on the b-board, be sure to take note of yet another new feature: Kool Thing of the Week. Click there for something tasty. You may've noticed, though, that "of the week" on Medusa doesn't necessarily mean those things are changed on a weekly basis. Deal with it: Medusa is a moody harridan. But you knew that.........

We were speaking of J.L. Borges earlier, and Robin Odam writes to point out that yesterday was his 112th birthday, for which Google posted a special "doodle" on their home page in honor of him, if you happened to catch it. 


Today's LittleNip: 

—Katy Brown, Davis

The spider casts a silver net
between the branches of an elm:
a web of light will catch her prey.
Assassin of the garden lands,
she handles meals with all eight hands.
A net of light will catch her prey
between the branches of an elm.
The spider casts a silver web.



 Color web of light
—Photo by Katy Brown

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Screen-door of a Poem

Morning Glory
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

I could have jumped from here
river in my eyes
down I’d go
river in my eyes
down to the street
river in my eyes
14th floor cheap hotel
river in my eyes
Palisades yonder
but river in my eyes
high as high could have jumped
summer sidewalk
sweated terror
far from home
hit cement
river in my eyes
only one roach
river in my eyes
peek from drawer
brown antennae gone too far
searching for surprise
river in my eyes
I could have jumped
river in my eyes
share the shower, man next door
couple fighting down the hall
river in my eyes
where’s my home?
river in my eyes


—Patricia Hickerson

hello? still there?
what we leave in the past…
the pay phone that keeps secrets
in the lobby behind the street door;
I’ll be home soon; I had to work in the Library.
I’m just at the subway.
Mother, I care about lying to you but…
It’s getting dark now. It’s cold.
It’s hard leaving Don’s bed where I spent the afternoon.

leave behind
get the number on the pay phone
link to Don in his rented room upstairs
drawn shades fight sunshine
he’s still lounging at noon in his baby blues
out all night again…
cigarettes range the giant ashtray

Don nowhere to be found;
me at my brain-stalled job till classes start again
leave summertime behind
that pay phone number;
maybe he’ll be going out one day hears the ring
leaving the building to party
meet his men friends in the Village;
he’ll answer the phone
maybe he prefers them to me,
can’t seem to leave them behind
I keep calling anyway….

turn the corner & walk down from Broadway
I can still see the Hudson from here but—
where’s the pay phone?
Lady, don’t you know that place was torn down years ago?


—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

Behind closed doors
Mom et al. decided
Aunt Jane should be put away
hidden from visual consumption
no fault of her own
the evolution of things
just sometimes anticipated went
that needed way.

My sister Arabella
cried a bit
then took up with Barbie
and her beach house.
It was more apropos
according to the other relatives
especially Auntie Jo
and Mrs. Beasley.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

No sooner had he gone to bed
Than the hare stood up on his head
Scarce believing so many sheep
Would huddle, not being herded.
Why not count hares to bring on sleep?
We are so much more picturesque
Than sheep: they just jump, we will leap.
No more to tell, his eye lids fell.



Rally round, citizens all
A mustard colored car
Has answered our call

Just write that name in
When the ballot comes your way
Our country needs a leader
Who stands out above the fray

Military expertise
Is fine for dropping bombs
But don’t forget the children
And all their dads and moms

The TSA is a Wall Street toy
That’s no match for terrorist plots
Contracting our safety to private firms
A most costly investment in ersatz

Let’s show the world true freedom
In the 2012 election
A mustard colored car
Is by far our best selection.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

All closed; each tempting to be opened
like an Advent calendar warped in dream.
Uncountable doors without names
or numbers. It must be a game of chance.

What treasure waits behind this one?
Ideas of angels, or a full Honey Moon?
A walrus basking on wet shingle?
Or a bright, unclaimed image?

A dumb-play with a moral you must
discover before the deadline? Which door
to open? Are there dragons,
or deep ocean-floor with a pirate wreck

spilling Spanish doubloons? A man
could lose himself in this labyrinth of
choosing doors. Unanswerable question,
if you never bring yourself to choose.


—Taylor Graham

Beyond the hill—but with each step
you take, less distant—listen
to a blacksmith hammer's steady beat.

Coal-smoke wafts on the afternoon
like tribal memory; from earliest time,
men have mixed the essential

elements—fire ~ air ~ metal ~ water—
into human life. And here's
the living smith, leather-apron'd,

smudged and sweaty. Here's a donkey
to be shod. Step inside. Feel
the heft of sledge, the grip of tongs.

Where there's smoke, there's history
and chant. Listen as he works—the ring
and tap of tools on metal give meter

to a verse, the forge's flame sparks
words. Without your noticing, the sun
flares into evening aglow with song.


—Taylor Graham

Who let the sheep in?
     They glow pale, electric blue
     from room to room down the hall.

What do they want now?
     Your old textbooks: flowering
     plants, meadow ecology.

How long is summer?
     They form a ring, a circle
     of not-forgotten hunger.

Why sheep in the house?
     In that ancient lore, wise men
     still seek a transformation.

What do your books teach?
     Broken buckram spines after
     the ewes have finished browsing.

Who walks in the dark?
     Cloud-lightning, and the static
     of wool against textured wall.

Will it ever rain?
     Sheep meditate on clover,
     freshets through mountain-meadow.

Light-bulb out again?
     They chew cud: philosophy,
     science, ethics, their true name.


—Taylor Graham

The cat woke me at 4:30, yowling
outside the open screen. Voice
of owls and thunderheads. In the dark

curling around my ankles
at the doorway, the cat would not
come in or out. Woke me from dreams

of a puppy—our old dead dog beyond
time—gazing through the door, wanting
in or out. In dreams, who ever knows—

searching for you among the living,
or wishing to see again the rockheap
where foxes had their den; hillside

she loved before she died. Screen-
door of a poem looking out,
and looking in. Darkest quadrant

of the mind that can't be happy
where it is, ever-longing
for something on the other side.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

The boy is twenty-four...sterile
corridor...father prays before white
on white on white door after door
after door...carpet art deco to belie
worry, plush to quiet footsteps of
visitors and the curious...lunch is
bitter celery soup.



One day in a row...
—Photo by Robin Gale Odam

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where Are The Rabbits?

Turtles, McKinley Park, Sacramento
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

More houses. More and more houses.
Blocks and blocks of brown framework
eating up the land.

I look out over roofs and roofs and roofs
that take up all the distance
and wonder: where are the rabbits,

where will they go now: the brown
field rabbits, huddled somewhere
within all that diminishment.

I hear the territorial barking of dogs,
the cars that swish through on brand new
streets. I look and look and look

through the stale brown air
at the vanishing habitat of the rabbits.


—Joyce Odam

there it goes again
into the dark funereal sunshine

unwelcome interrupter
of traffic and pedestrian

black light
against the go

long mourn of cars that bears

the somber passengers
through a life’s amen

there it goes . . . there it goes again
unwilling caravan

the same grim destination
claiming its priority . . .

life turns away
so no rude thought cut between

(first pub. in Legend, 1973)


—Joyce Odam

He is painting the universe with his eyes.
He is making things come true—the long
far visions that arrive blind—the birds that

fly into his shoes. The way he turns his
head to perfect every detail suggests
what a perfectionist he is, though he

risk the vertigo or misunderstanding
of his pose. He is almost through.
What he sees is good—a billboard bought

by a millionaire. What it says is true:
the people who look up at it from their
moving cars at the end of the day will buy.


—Joyce Odam

At the doorway of twilight, two boys
sit on the warm sidewalk,

side by side—cross-legged—
almost identical—

as the world rolls by
in twilight cars,

and the day’s light steepens
its shadows, and the building

lowers its own slow shadow,
filling the doorway,

and the two boys gaze into
the moving world—

their eyes set in the deep
engrossing stare of childhood.


—Joyce Odam

And now there is rain,
and a night to catch it in.

I am fitting under the hours
like a prayer,

though nothing answers prayers.
I lie here and listen to the rain.

It is soft. Hypnotic. I gather the warmth
of the room like a simple comfort.

It is enough. I feel good. The rain
keeps falling like a benevolence,

There is no wind;
sounds of cars make blurring sounds—

far away—slow-motioned—
they vibrate the air.

Sounds of sirens are
thin and distant.

The rain-sound is nearer,
falling a bit harder now.

Something alerts me
from my smooth feeling.

A dog with a hound-voice
begins barking in a monotonous

and mindless bark—telling
the neighborhood his threats and suspicions.


—Joyce Odam

An old woman crying—what is her grief—
who cares about her? She is barely visible,
crying in the rain, walking across the street

in front of the cars,
letting the rain pour down upon her,
looking straight ahead as her hair goes stringy

and her clothes soak through.
Still, she does not hurry. She is an old woman
walking in the rain. She has crying to do.


—Joyce Odam

It was a lost toy,
left in a long-ago sand-pile,
smothering there: all these years.
It was in a coloring book,
two sisters quarreling over the colors:
one wanted blue, one wanted yellow.
It was in a factory—in China—
monotonous from duplication:
It wanted to be gold, not mustard…
It was in the hand of a small boy
who picked it up with joy—
wiped off the sand, and said Wow!


Thanks to Michelle Kunert for her turtles, and to Joyce Odam for today's poems. We also have an Octo from Don Feliz (see below), which is our Form to Fiddle With this week—though Don's played fast and loose with it by using nine syllables in the first and last line if you consider "Frederick" to be three syllables; that's just the kind of wild and crazy guy Don is! Anyway, fiddle with the Octo if you choose.

Or write to our Seed of the Week: Behind Closed Doors. What goes on Behind Closed Doors? Unmentionable delights, or unspeakable crimes? Whispers of family secrets, or bargains struck in smoke-filled rooms? Ask your Muse what she thinks and send her answers to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.

Let me call your attention to our new feature on the green section of the b-board: if you click on the dawg who's Feelin' Frisky, you'll enter a land of poetry quizzes to stretch your brain here, there, and everywhere! And while you're on the b-board, note that the deadline for our Submission Tip of the Week, Tule Review, is this coming Saturday!


—Don Feliz, Sacramento

Frederick The Great of Prussia rides
by carriage between linden trees
through rain along his private drive.
Drachenhaus, octagon with four
tiers and sixteen dragons that roar
through rain along his private drive.
By carriage between linden trees
Frederick The Great of Prussia rides.


Today's LittleNip: 

A white flower grows in the quietness.
Let your tongue become that flower.

—Rumi (trans. by Coleman Barks)



Behind closed doors...
(Better knock first!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Writing in the Fog

 Photo by Robin Gale Odam

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

His dream, gold...maize, yes,
and sleek, screaming fast full throttle past his
competitors toward the first bend—the radio
crackled with static...

The traffic light turned red in the early morning.
His heavy old boot found the brake and the
hulking city work truck, the color of mustard and
affectionately named Honey, groaned to a stop.
He waited obediently, looking ahead for...a glimpse
of the checkered flag...

The traffic light turned green and Honey pulled
through her gears...into the graceful curve
of the next bend, a streak of, gold...maize,
yes, sun-kissed, screaming fast full throttle—his
silver hair slicked back, nicotine-stained fingers
gripping the smooth knob of the shift rod, oily boot
working the clutch...

red light, radio crackling orders, two more miles
to the job site.


—Katy Brown, Davis

I want a name that plunged from the sky:
a shooting star, born out beyond time
in the darkest quadrant of the void.

I want a name like water:
sieved through limestone aquifers,
materializing out of desert stone.

I want a name born in air:
the transparent passion supporting
owls and thunderheads.

I want a sunflower name:
double helix of meaning and form,
following the sun’s arc.

I want a name known only to foxes:
passed from vixen to kit
in dens beside the rattling talus.

I want a name that can only be sung
by the great blue whales when they
dive to scrape the roofs of Atlantis.

I want a name condors call
to one another, riding the thin air
over desolate peaks in the Andes.

I want a name that only is spoken
by candlelight on All Hallows Eve
and firelight on Beltane:

The true name of the red-haired woman
in my dreams who watches me
through a crumpled mirror.


—Katy Brown

Plead Not Guilty to the monthly minimum;
forfeit your residential and work addresses;
proceed with a trial; seize utility bills.
Do not send cash.
File a completed certificate.

The court may:
require additional income;
notify you of its decision;
take one or more options;
make a record;
refuse completion.

Confidential certification
in an additional appearance
may result in
(check box)
place a hold

Docket Number
655 Oleander

pay on line


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

I was as surprised as you to see
Sheep in the hallways of the house
And hurrying as well from room to
Room, the theater of scents and
Noises. A quest it seemed but then

I noticed that a fine aura of clear
Blue electricity surrounded them.
They had been transformed, if only
For those moments into seekers
Of a larger thing, a song, a freshlet,
The million things that people bring

To tie together, form a ring, another
Way of knowing, a citadel of secrets,
Wings that lift one from the common
Fields of meadow grass and clover,
Push them toward the highest sounds.

This clings to them, electricity upon
The wool and through the skin that
Drives them past their sheepy silences
Outdoors and brings them in to find
The long lost lambs, the long forgotten
Sires, the ewes that came before them,
Secrets of the moments not the now.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

Fragile vase
Easily broken
Into a million pieces
Very expensive
Heavily guarded.

Fragile feelings
Easily broken
Into a million doubts
No market value
Who cares?

*** *** ***

Lawmakers enact laws
To force deadbeat dads
Who spend large on themselves
To pay child support

Carefully omitting provisions

That would force
Deadbeat lawmakers
Who spend large on themselves
To pay taxpayer support.

*** *** ***

The tide ebbs and flows
For an eternity
Unmindful of purpose
But overflowing
With dedication

‘Neath a bridge
Taking commuters
Back and forth,
Back and forth
Just to reach
Jobs that don’t quite pay enough
And homes that need repair.



The white collar investor
Sits in a plush chair
on the sunlit garden balcony
of his affluent office
Feeling good about himself:

Dedication—to finish what you start
Energy—to get things moving
Risk—that puts the worth in worthwhile
Legal—obedient to the law

He needs to remind himself of these virtues
Because there is mounting social concern
That the product of his efforts is just plain dirty.

…so dreams the coal miner when he is
given 30 seconds to rest…



My taste buds cherish those
Long forgotten delicious moments
From a variety of situations
When I savored that
Perfect cup of coffee

Flavored with vanilla
And some kind of nut
Suitable for sipping hot
Or freezing and
Putting atop a sugar cone.

How I enjoyed it comes out boldly,
But what it was named,
Who brewed it, and
Where I got it:

On this present day
And each day forward
I will seek out that
Perfect cup of coffee

And a refill.


—Dave Boles

i have lived
much too long
the warrior blood
that runs through
my veins
my heart
blood pressure
causes many
to be ordered
doctors incessantly
for the past
fifteen years
tell me i will die
if i do not get
it all
under control
for my sons
i take the medication
and slow myself
though one day
i will
as will
we all
i will throw the medications
and doctors advice
grab the war axe
i have been
let loose
a final cry
and watch my ancestors
from their thrones
in Valhalla


—Dave Boles

the cafe is filled
early morning feeding
is the order of the day
in the heartland
of America
mom and pop still reign
in these all too often
of a past
in America
corned beef hash
three eggs
hash browns
sourdough toast
cup of coffee
gets the fire going
couple of cops
handful of truckers
this is America
early in the morning
amid the noise
the waitresses
bringing heaping
of rejuvenation

on this morning
like any
the sun rises
in the heartland
of America
but tonight
while the stillness
of the heartland
Babylon will rise

in the morning
as the cafe opens
and the truckers'
coffee brews
America will wake
to a few less
mom and

Babylon smiles
in the stillness
of the night
it paves the way
for a brand new

our country
lies safe
in its unwillingness
to become
it is warm
as it pulls its covers
over its head

outside Babylon
is calling

one step
is upon the threshold

one hand

is opening
the door.


Lots of poetry today, and thanks to all these contributors! About her "found" poem, Katy Brown says: I'm not saying where I found the words. I refuse to incriminate myself. . . . though the poem is pretty clear. And welcome to the Kitchen to Dave Boles, editor/publisher of Primal Urge and co-host of Poetry With Legs, the new reading series at Shine Cafe in Sacramento. There's a reading there this coming Wednesday; go to the b-board on the right of this for info.


Today's LittleNip: 

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

—E.L. Doctorow



Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Name Will Be Poet

Photo by Viola Weinberg, Kenwood, CA

—Julia de Burgos, Puerto Rico, 1914-1953

                                              Confronting a longing
To die with my very self, abandoned and alone,
On the densest rock of a deserted island.
At that moment, a final yearning for carnations,
On the landscape, a tragic horizon of stone.

My eyes filled with graves of stars,
My passion spread out, exhausted, dispersed,
My fingers like children watching a cloud fade,
My reason mobbed with enormous sheets.

My pale affections returning to silence
—Even love, consumed brother in my path!—
My name untangling, yellow in the branches,
And my hands, twitching to give me to the grass.

To rise to the final, the whole minute,
And to offer myself to the fields,
Then to bend the leaf of my ordinary flesh
And fall unsmiling, without witness to inertia.

Let nobody dishonor my death with sobs
Or wrap me forever in plain earth
For in a moment of freedom I may freely
Demand the one liberty of this planet.

With what mad joy will my bones begin
To see airholes in my brown flesh
And I, giving myself, giving myself fiercely and boldly
To the elements: in solitude breaking my chains!

Who will detain me with useless dreams
When my soul begins to fulfill its task
Making of my sleep a rich dough
For the frail worm that knocks at my door?

Smaller and smaller my worn-out humility
At every instant greater and easier the surrender
Perhaps my chest will turn to begin a flower bud
Maybe my lips will feed lilies.

What shall I be called when all that remains
Is my memory of myself on the rock of the deserted island?
A carnation wedged between my shadow and the wind,
Death's child and mine: My name will be poet. 

(trans. from the Spanish by Grace Schulman)



Saturday, August 20, 2011

What is Forever?

Berkeley Street Sculpture
—Photo by Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

a poem beginning with a mustard colored car

sped by me on the street today.
an old mustang; muscle car
personified, setting off car alarms
with its baritone roar, as if trying to
impress the ladies and they whistled.
the poem had a black racing stripe
on the hood; black like my dreams
of late that haven’t quite made it
into poems, but sear down the middle
of my thoughts.

I always wanted
a mustang…perhaps to appear
more ferocious than my own roar.
instead I drive a mediocre silver
non-poem that merely gets me
from point A to Z.

what is a poem anyway but a
compilation of letters to form words…
to form thought…silver, yellow
or otherwise.

—dawn di bartolo, citrus heights


katautas for the not-so-golden years
—dawn dibartolo

why are we falling?
     every lofty opinion
     shifts to the “normal” myth.

why does mother cry?
     in a bottle, time stands still
     while in dreams, thoughts sadistic.

are you finished yet?
     responsibility is
     only so heavy as perceived.

who is right or wrong?
     solid stones go without break;
     but shatter is fated.

what shame do you fear?
     clarity remains lost on
     those who stick to judgment.


katautas for love
—dawn dibartolo

why does the wind blow?
     her hair danced lovingly
     in the summer jasmine breeze.

how does the sun feel?
     with lips of warm Spring, he
     confines her to memory.

where does love begin?
     the inception of moment
     falls to time’s full discretion.

what is forever?
     pieces of the soul caught up
     are fragments of time inscribed.

is love a given?
     this devotion is such that
     desire cannot fold us.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

They've wandered bleating
down the hall. Do they think we
keep green Spring in the cupboards
where nothing grows?

The carpet isn't tasty, but they
leave their small round tokens like
drops of dark chocolate on the shag.
Front door to sofa—looking

everywhere—it might be
in the bedroom, purple-vetch tucked
lacy in a drawer, sweet clover
beneath a pillow.

Or are they searching for
lambs under the bed, the old ewe
in a steamer trunk? She's already
made her passage. Silence

advances and the lamb has flown
with the owl. What secrets
do they think we
keep in our human house?


—Taylor Graham

People will whisper
if the town beauty never marries.

They watched her four plain sisters
do what women do: walk down
the aisle to families of their own.
The way of the world.

But she—tall and slender, dark—
what might her desire be?

Did she ever have a beau?
A tragic love affair?
What message in the distant
calling of a train?

She returned to the big
white house of her girlhood.

Whose footprints in dew
along the meadow edge, to the eldest
willow? Weight
of whispers in an empty house.


Ken Van Koevering
—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

From the latest
unremembered, unimportant war,
Ken is stationed on Second and Tonto Bar Lane
the only one,
he's willing to bet,
who, around these parts,
is aware Kuwait, is, yes,
a step away from Iraq
by geography,
but in importance overall,
universes apart
with the span growing forever
by the second.

Time advances
memory reverses.

His heart is not heavier
than the lead left
in his left leg
but both would be better
not bitter
if only.....

the right operations
were done in their proper moments.

And he feels
even spoiled menudo
tastes fine
compared to the aftermath in his throat
and still-accessible soul that
the Gulf War
and America,
have left behind in him.


—Michael Cluff

After teaching Marxism
two classes a day,
I pull off my penny loafers or
saddle shoes
and solid knit tie
to indulge....

The dean may seem
to know
what I do
at times
his secrets
are kept as well
as mine.

Bach in the basement
Tzara in the tower
and me
in the mezzanine.

It snowed today
for the first time
in twenty-nine years
around here.

I left my tie
and my shoes
and my soul-
on for a change.


After Bruce caught diamonds'
effectiveness from gabardine, houndtoothed
icicles just killjoyed levity,
many nuances otherwise polarized
quaked red solvents towards underutilized
vases while xeon yodeled zeroes.

—Michael Cluff


—Michael Cluff

The shrink records,
"Exercises extensively
with his Mercury door handles—
a fourscore minute fitness plan,"
he declares with an air
"the exact count of days
of Noah's flood
for each side."

The psychiatrist
watches from his fourth floor office window
sets up another appointment
then strips off
his expensive wingtip shoes
and argyle socks
and chews on a clean toenail
for a random change.


—Michael Cluff

Dapper enough
a Canadian goose stance
center of the Milky Way look
he stands, then struts
in cuffless light tan dress slacks,
now oh-so the fashion,
brown tassled loafers
and no tie.

It mainly works for him
but this time

He is dead already
just doesn't know it
she does

or lets him
think she is too.

Purple and black striped neckwear
goes on
and she concurs
he is a little less dead
but not nearly as much so
as he
and she
might be
sooner than tomorrow.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Michael Cluff

Whitewashed blackboard red lighting
a case of yellow journalism
greenbelting the orange sky
the brown valley signaling "two"
an azured-tonal sort of blues
propogandized by the worst sort of purple
and puce prose.



Little Chibi meets the Great Big Sea for the first time
(w/Sam the Snake Man)
Half Moon Bay, August, 2011
—Photo by Kathy Kieth
(click to enlarge photo)