Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Getting Out Of Dodge

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Chrysanthemums are
Supposed to be insecticidal but
They fail to numb the gums
Of moths, who eat them quite a lot

“Get out of Dodge”
A dash light would demand
If we tried to put 8 people
In our 7-seat Caravan.

I wandered into the kitchen
Drawn by the aromas of cooking
And was given several chores to do
No room for guys just looking

Armed forces serving far away
Vacationers cruising day by day
There’s no good reason you should stay
On the sofa watching TV

Twelve men on the football field
A penalty flag was tossed
One too many, can’t drive home
The limit has been crossed.

The schooner Eclipse
Was anchored so well
It failed to rise up
To ride out the swell.

An absentee landlord delegated the marshal
To pay a visit one time on the absent-minded
Absentee voter renter who could not
Marshal the funds to pay the rent on time




Rebuilding a vintage auto?
Of course the parts need to be
The real thing
No imitations allowed

The same in the garden
Where the requirements for
Healthy flowers
Vary widely from strong trees

Then we get to the subject
Of political races
All candidates claiming to be true
To the roots of our nation

Thankfully, consumers can buy
“One size fits all” gloves
And never have to touch
The soil of OEM.



For some countries war is
A spare tire locked in the trunk
It is only used for necessity
And then eagerly stowed away again

Then there are the
Continental kit wars
Bright and glossy, worn outside
Like dueling pistols

And other nations recognize
The need to stockpile whole arsenals
Of inner tubes and patches
Just in case war is declared

Here at home we have
Spike strips in our driveways
So we are always at war…
That is the American way.


(and it’s night all day)

Served in honor, so they say
It didn’t matter who I’d slay
Given an order, just obey

Now I’m back, well most of me
Having seen more than a person should see
Puts a whole new twist on that notion of free

Half an hour of good night’s sleep
Half a morsel left to eat
Half a lifetime on the street

If you’re strong as a tree, they’ll help you to grow
A wounded vet, they just hand you a hoe
The land of opportunity, don’t ya’ know.



Tell me again why
We’re supposed to own
Our own homes

Or to use our own
Energy to move
Our own bones?

Why can’t ownership
Just be rented like
Everything else?

We’re entitled to
Water that others
Dragged from the wells

And to the babies
Borne to surrogate
Mothers, tax-free

From false eyelashes
To wigs, even a
Replacement knee.

Tell me again why
We’re supposed to think
Our own thoughts

Or prefer to read
Poetry than stare
At ink blots?


—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Our midday moon
so round and pale—a lacy disc.
Our midday moon
looks down on us this day at noon;
studies browns and blues of earth is
mapping us—cartographer, this
pale midday moon.


—Carol Louise Moon

Fall’s last leaf
on this tiny twig, finally falls.
Fall’s last leaf—
thin, crusted coin. And no relief
for me from winter’s chilly halls
and gales, as winter tugs and calls
fall’s last leaf.


—Carol Louise Moon

What ignites within my soul a fire?
The Dance of Moon and Tide,
the tug of strings on my desire.
The Dance of Moon and Tide;
crouching down, then reaching higher,
leaping, twirling—arms out wide.
My soul ignites to dance this fire,
this Dance of Moon and Tide.


—Carol Louise Moon

Snowmelt carries nature’s debris
past my boots. A circling hawk is
aware of my plight, sinking as I am
into a winter depression. Great-
grandfather’s voice, carrying our
name, swirls in an icy breeze. I am
new to this Ohio winter, California
tan beneath my coat. Ears ringing,
eyes stinging, I press on to the
clearing where my horse left me, or
perhaps I am mistaken.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

From the train window, bonfires
in the long, dark expanses between towns.
Fields of night uneasy

in the long, dark expanses between towns.
Passengers whisper among themselves
the languages of a land divided.

Passengers whisper among themselves
in a row—rumors, a town occupied.
The locomotive slows, pulls to a stop.

In a row, rumors. A town occupied.
Train platform with a single dim bulb.
So many tongues. Irini.. Unser.. Hermano….

Train platform with a single dim bulb.
You understand nothing, imagine
click-off-safety, shutter-release.

You understand nothing, imagine
this a stop of your life. Books. Snapshots
flash. What weapons? But words,

so many tongues—Irini unser hermano—
the languages of a land divided.
The locomotive slows, pulls to a stop—

click off safety—shutter release—
fields of night. Uneasy
flash. What weapons but words?


—Taylor Graham

On the commons they were burning
books. No, they were only
burning book-readers' eyes, and it was
temporary. Did the blinded eyes
see a collective, entire light as if each
eye became a candle?
For miles across rice paddies, asphalt,
tidelands, wild geese and
wintering cranes woke to moonless
midnight, gathered
together and took wing for shores
of light. And the readers,
as they opened their eyes and mouths,
a song like tongues of flame.


—Taylor Graham

At dawn the lanterns fade, as by themselves.
They hang empty, paper-thin; opening
to store brief, golden light in fragile shells.

And on the tree, countless brittle leaf-shells
still hold saffron sunlight within themselves
as if, about to fall, they're opening.

I walk out, doors and windows opening
as if they, like the house, were only shells
of waking creatures—who?—finding themselves

or losing themselves, opening dead shells.


Today's LittleNip: 

When the cold comes to New England it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice. In December, the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night, the dark is blue and bluer still, as sapphire of night.

―Alice Hoffman, Here on Earth 


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors for playing around with forms and rhyming. About her "What Town?", Taylor Graham says it's "a tartoum with liberties taken in stanza-break at the end. We're allowed liberties, aren't we?" Medusa agrees, being a bit of a rule-breaker herself...

Photo by D.R. Wagner

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Okay, Where Were We?

Dove on a Wire
—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

I have not been well.
I think I’m coming down
with death.
The bitter smile
that forced my lips apart
has let the poison in.
Now I must breathe
in sighs,
great, gulping efforts
to survive.
Death’s germs
are everywhere.
And lately, when I
touch my throat,
my heart is there…

well… after all…
you asked…

(first pub. in The University Review, 1969
Narrowing Mini-Chap, 2002)


—Joyce Odam

his black voice harshly harmonizing
with himself

his sharp eyes sharply severing
the day apart

cutting the loud sky with his wing
so wide and dark

making a noise we cannot bear to feel
or hear—it breaks the heart

(first pub. in Acorn, 1999)


—Joyce Odam

Your candle has burned down, almost
to the rim of the candle holder—
too short to light again;

yet I do not throw it away—
a death candle that I burned for
your life—however long, however brief.


(for David Milnor)
—Joyce Odam

Iambic death, with careful plod
through mud and snow and goldenrod,
tramples each poem and each rhyme,
goes where it goes in death’s own time.

Death, as iambic . . .
like a march
to a destination
of its own . . .
nothing as resolute as death.

Life offers grief, the way it must.
Sorrow cries: enough… enough…


—Joyce Odam

And now I face an ending not my own:
Today I saw a brown field full of crows.
And yesterday the sky was full of gulls.
I feel a contradictive undertone.

How can I be the one slow death abhors?
The crows were stark as sadness, huddled there,
the gulls just bright opinions of the air—
as life is full of never-ending doors.

I turn away from all but death’s own room.
You turn to say the crows are just a curse—
the gulls, for all their whiteness, are much worse
—that all will end that ever was begun.

(first pub. in Hidden Oak, 2004)


Okay, where were we? I'm so sorry for the second interruption, another two days where Medusa went "dark". Short version: Internet problems, fixed yesterday—and then another "blackout" this a.m.! As the technician on the phone said, the aether is an inexact science...

Thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poetry. She'll be reading this Thursday (12/1, 6pm) at the Sac. Poetry Center's Annual Fundraiser, once again at Mimi and Burnett Miller's home, 1224 40th St., Sacramento. Come enjoy food and wine and beautiful artwork—plus a raffle! $30 for nonmembers; $20 for members or for new members who join SPC that night.

Then on Friday (12/2, 7pm), Red Fox Underground and El Dorado Arts Council will present Suzanne Roberts at ArtSpace, 459 Main St., Placerville. Free! (For more about Suzanne, go to

The Sacramento Bee has a nice extensive article today about E-Legal Tag Team and their outreach to kids through their poetry. See the blue board at the right of this for a link to the article.

And Sac. Poetry Center is proud to announce the winners of the 2010 Quinton Duval Chapbook Contest: Denise Lichtig of Davis for her chapbook, Crystal Gods, and Janet McCann of College Station, Texas, for her chapbook, Carlos' Café.

It's Tuesday: we got back online just in time for our Seed of the Week: Shorter Days, Longer Nights. This time of the year, as we head toward the winter solstice and the Valley fog starts to pile up, we really feel the darkest days of the year. Send your poetic thoughts on the subject to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs; see Calliope's Closet under the Snake on a Rod (on the green board at the right) for previous ones to while away these long winter nights.


Today's LittleNip: 

God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger.




Full Moon and Street Light
—Photo by Joyce Odam

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Oooops—Medusa's having Internet problems. *#$%)*&^!!! Please stand by........

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fig Leaves, Black Cats & Nibbles on the Squash

 Artwork by Ann Privateer, Davis

—Ann Privateer, Davis

Acid can’t match
Yellow’s gall
bitter as it may be.

Endure or wilt
from too much

useless and brazen
is chewing at your house.

Temptation bites, rubs it
all away, when
we swarm, watch out.


—Ann Privateer

Exceptions rule
because runners

Inventory old clothes
never buy new fabrics
nor heavy thread.

Initiate a gong
minus the time spent
on shopping sprees.

Sober up
live in the past
forget too many sales.

Value what is
even what’s old
can be new.

No one’s house
ever imploded
from having too little.

No one wins
a prize for
earning too much.

Someone’s atrophy
might be your

Clouds that jettison
never get there
any quicker.


—Ann Privateer

A fig leaf
no bigger than a thumb

with white, sticky goo

milk like blood

a fruited bulb
that ripens

filled with seeds
a web of sweet pleasure

hidden by scalloped edges
irregular borders

crayoned yellow green.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

He was a rodeo star
As macho a man as there ever was
Tumbled, scarred, survivor
They called him Black Friday

The crowds would cheer
When Black Friday appeared
Always ready for action
He could handle it

His reward was multi-colored
Fabric paper depicting old guys
Wearing lots of makeup and
Those distinctive powdered wigs

Black Friday was clearly
Not one for taking handouts
His slogan was “I got mine,
Keep the change.”


The empty and abandoned Gottshalks at my local Country Club mall
looks especially creepy after Thanksgiving as I pass it by
with dark empty show windows and security caging bars
and its sign left behind to never again glow at night as it decays
I miss it since it closed for good from bankruptcy in 2009
not being able to survive its competitors on the New York Stock Exchange
Even though my friends and I felt it mainly sold stuff for "old" ladies
at least it had nice customer service when I shopped
As of 2011 J.C. Penney hasn't bought it as they promised
So Macy's is the only major chain giving the mall any heartbeat
as well as for the sake of Ross and the Bed, Bath and Beyond
and the Hometown Buffet customers wanting a cheap smorgasbord

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


My friend Laura swears after she takes her two dogs inside at night
rats come into her backyard's vegetable garden
(with fencing around it to keep out the dogs)
She finds little nibbles on her squash
but perhaps the reason they don't eat the whole things
just like so many humans
with the behavior of going to raid a fridge at midnight
they would too rather eat garbage than eat healthy

—Michelle Kunert


Dennis was staying
one-and-a-half steps
ahead of the sheriff
of each town
he visited
and then consulted
next pilfering the gentry
really only the men
of their neckties
dress shoes
and leather belts.

He was the best-attired lawyer
in the state
especially in glen plaids
and herringbones
elbow-patched sport coats
but that didn't matter.

He also ripped off
their underwear
in backroom trysts
and the staid businessmen
would not stand
for such blatant abuse
of their essential coverings
be they clothes
or corporate gains.

Sheriff Colvin
was now on his trail
having lost his shirt
in a rigged off-shore
oil deal.

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA


I hired a stripper
to grade papers;
she concentrated primarily
on those dangling modifiers
that erupted unplanned
from those sheets
of tortured thoughts.

Her life had been driven
by adjectives up until now
when proper nouns
and definitional phrases
re-diagrammed her life.

I let her go
when her growing expertise
demanded she charge
more by the hour.

—Michael Cluff


The cat was playing tag
badly in the second-from-right
freeway lane
just after Foothill Blvd
near Rancho Cucamonga.

It did get through sideways
by a white foreign job
but made it back
just barely
to the patchy grass on the westside

Being a black short hair
its luck was go
for it alone
that early pre-eight a.m.
Wednesday morn.

—Michael Cluff


Today's LittleNip: 

I went back to drink
you went back to drugs,
and the dog went back to work,
but the cat ate up the salmon
you were too stoned to cook
I was too blotto-blitzed to unwrap
and Spike was much too busy
chasing his own tail.

—Michael Cluff



Be sure to check out our new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page: Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Katy Brown.

 Photo by Ann Privateer

Friday, November 25, 2011

Done, But Not Done, Til Undone

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Elizabeth Harrison, Davis

Mists fade into the light blue above
Gold hues vibrate the horizon
Green sprouts from the ash-gray earth
Wings ruffle dewy leaves
Not a breath of wind
The absent sound
And then


—Brandon Buonacorsi, Davis

Silence obliterates everything
      the sound
The battle waged between
   the polar opposites
          quiet and chaos
   creating music of life cycles

Each cannot live without
     opposites make whole
     the other.
Harmony exists within
  the contradiction
     of the two

Or does

Silence simply exists as
     a subset of sound
It is a way of hearing
     everything, nothing,
         and feeling totally at ease
              with one’s self

Silence brings
     the gift of peace
Too often ruckus surrounds human minds
                     cast ruckus aside

     Feel the


                the silence


—n.ciano, davis

once there lived an interesting man and,
he was different from the rest,
he was beautiful at dusk,
and always sad by day,
no one understood,
the loneliness,
he withheld,
yes the,



I went on a walk on a moonlight dusty path,
my one thought: who am I?
purpose and meaning
enemy is thought
but that didn’t help
the troll had told me,
“Everything is what is, or what can be.”


—Giselle Rodriguez, Davis

He lied there, motionless, not a word
out of his mouth. They all sat around him wondering
what was happening. From out of the blue he spoke.
They did not know this but he was alive and in his mind,
he was home, not the foreign home where they ate and slept
the past few years, but the home that was theirs,
the home that they knew and understood. He stared at it.
He stared at all the trees filled with fruit. He laughed with
his mischievous laugh that seemed almost taunting.
He was finally back, his orchard was as beautiful as he had left it,
but beautiful or not, there was much work to be done.
He put on his old sombrero and began to dig a spot where
new vegetables would soon grow.
He called out to his wife to bring him his gloves,
but his wife stood still. She merely stood there and then,
she disappeared. Then it all disappeared, and he was back
once again surrounded by his children, who were
no longer children. He lay there.
A few seconds ago he was in his thirties, now he was
too old to remember. He turned to his wife, told her he
still needed to finish all his work.
They then understood what was happening.


today i

passed the freeway

marked it with my trace

passed it on the way back

marked it, but not done



and will tomorrow too

til I'm done, but not done



             is the point?

                               back and forth

                               forth and back-forth

                               forth-back forward for

                               forty-four times


                               to the fourth power

                               times time

though it's already there

the trace

because I lived, I marked it

but not UNDONE yet

so keep going

              keep going

              don't stop

              til done

              don't break

              don't fall

              don't cough


til done

not done yet

til words are done

               til this is done

and when done

               it'll be DONE and UNDONE

                                all of this


                                same time

                                UNDONE by them

                                when they're DONE with me

                                and have my trace

                                (all they wanted)

they'll find it

they'll summarize it

               analyze it

               misinterpret it

and then make a theory

               teach the theory

               publish the theory

               learn from the theory

               test others on the theory

               preserve the theory

               feel smart about the theory





               and laugh

because I'm dead

and they can't correct me

and because

you'll believe them

—s.c. berci, davis


Thanks to today’s poets, most of whom are past or present students in D.R. Wagner's Poetry by Design class at UC Davis, except for Carl Schwartz (Caschwa) who is, well, a Student of Life.

James DenBoer of Swan Scythe Press sends us the following announcement of two new Swan Scythe books. (Michael Hettich is just about my very favoritist poet ever!)

Just last week Swan Scythe published The Measured Breathing by Michael Hettich, winner of their 2011 Chapbook Contest. Michael Hettich's poetry has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cake, Hamilton Stone Review, International Literary Quarterly, Poetry East, and many other literary journals. His most recently-published book of poems is Like Happiness, from Anhinga Press; a new book, The Animals Beyond Us, is forthcoming from New Rivers Press. Born in Brooklyn, NY, he now teaches at Miami Dade College.

Also just released is My Naked Brain, Selected Poems by Spanish poet Leopoldo María Panero, translated by Arturo Mantecón, and with an Introduction by Jack Hirschman. This is the first appearance in English by the acclaimed poet. The publication of My Naked Brain was partially supported by a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. This bilingual edition has been praised by Stephen Kessler, Francisco Aragón, Jonathan Cohen, and William O'Daly.

Also in the New Book Category (just in time for Thanksgiving!) is The Measure of Small Gratitudes by Ann Menebroker, from Kamini Press. The first edition is limited to 125 copies, all signed by Annie, and 25 special numbered copies contain an original watercolor by publisher Henry Denander. Email Kamini at NOW!


Today's LittleNip: 

—Caschwa, Sacramento

A BLT is all that we get
From a bailout
When the county is too poor
To buy a vowel.



Photo by D.R. Wagner

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Finding the Song

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

No trace of him but gold-fall leaves
in crevices of rock, as if
he disappeared into cliff and river.

Gray-blue autumn outside a door
he never reached his hand
to open, to come back in, where

his wife was chopping onions, apples
for a turkey stuffing. She baked
a pie. Fire in the woodstove, Thanks-

giving Eve. He saw his doctor, then
drove home. What secret places
in a life. He's nowhere among spray-

slick boulders at the current's edge—
we've listened to the rapids' argument;
watched the day's last floating lights.

Water keeps its private language,
dissolving garment of a man who dares
step in to November's river.


—Taylor Graham

I've got to go back
and take a picture of the beaver. Dozens
of them basking in water clear as a mountain lake.
Their lodges! mysterious dark islands

right there in the overflow city pond.
Just a glimpse,
traffic honked by so fast.
Didn't you see them?

Beaver playing like retriever-pups in sunshine,
blue water unpolluted—no
styrofoam, burrito wrappers, broken bottles—
in the city park! Where's

my camera?
No one will believe
me, I've got to take a photo before
they disappear, go extinct.

People will say I dreamed it, figment
of my mind. My imagination.
What could I ever prove
without a picture?


—Taylor Graham

Levi's gone at the knees; ragged cuffs.
Too much bending, lifting, walking,
too many steep trails, dropoffs,
vistas. I won't throw them
out, these old worn jeans
that just fit me.
Frayed edges
let light


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

There’s a kind of pain inside
Maybe I’ll take another ride,
Slide down a mountainside,
I forget those things, now I feel enabled.

Must be the power of the words
'Cause nothing else here has occurred
This whole thing feels absurd
I just put all of my cards on the table.

Won’t be going home tonight
I’m not sure I can stand the sight
Here, the furniture even fights
It gives new meaning to the word ‘fabled’.

Time to ride the rails away
Forget all the words I say
Just pick it up and play
Hang out at the Tower of Babel.

Put the lawn chairs in a row
Invite the pope, Curly, Larry, Moe
Make some bread, make some dough
We will talk about J Lo and Betty Grable.

This kind of foolishness has to end
We’ve got a store to tend
Run outside and make some friends
Get myself a new coat made of sable.

There’s a slow train coming down
Take everybody home in this old town
Even the jokers and the clowns
Chase religion out of town without a label.


—D.R. Wagner

I am not blind and I am acquainted
With sorrow.
It was brilliant
On the outside, still the shoreline
Tells me I am breaking up.


They look like people but they burn
Like candles. I wonder, “Do they
Have names? Do they have children?”

These candles can light up an entire
Room. And we are all in this room
Together. And we are all singing
The most beautiful of songs

While the ground outside pulses
The blood of our collective dreaming,
A way out of this blasted hole, gets
Drained away through money and cities
While they remind constantly that intelligence
Seems for blood, a privilege and this
Blood is nothing, a sink, an empty soul.

We seek the desert where we can still
Use our poor eyes, where we will be somehow
Strong and not break up. Where there
Are real people once again. We run to greet you.


—D.R. Wagner

I’ve got a hundred miles of railroad track,
Forty miles of bad road
My soul is living in a hurricane
And the night is getting cold.

Mr. Dupree, Mr. Dupree,
what are you doing hangin’ round?
I get so tired of living but I just can’t lay my head down.

I‘m blind as a bullet shot out of gun.
I can hear like a dog in the dark
My heart is pumping like a hand grenade
My bite is much worse than my bark.

I’ve got my hands inside a hornet’s nest.
I’ve got my feet inside my shoes.
Every time a bird flies by
I believe it brings good news

Nobody seems to know me.
My smile makes ice look warm.
I have lightning bolts for eyeballs.
I’m not the shelter, I’m the storm.

So please Mr. Dupree,
What are you doing hangin’ round?
I get so tired of living but I just can’t lay my head down.


—D.R. Wagner

As if it made a difference over all
Rather than to a few species of mollusks,
Birds, other seekers in the tidelands,

The moon does its work and everyone
Agrees it is a good idea that things
Work this way for a few more millennia.

I found you in the high cliffs
Late in the year, testing the wind with
Your walking along their edges, peering down
Into the sea. “I’ve lost a song somewhere
Near here and I will not be home
Until I have found it again and can
Carry it back home in my coat.”

I lit my lantern and told you I would
Join you, that having happened to me
Many times before and in this season
As well. Eventually the dance would
Begin again and you would find it
Closer to the shore than you might
Have expected or later in the month
Than you had thought such a song
Would even want to stay.

Sure enough, within a lifetime or so,
The stars saw the lantern and began
To wink back, prompting the tide to change.


—D.R. Wagner

Walking beneath red and even
Blue Japanese lanterns that reflect
The light from the umbrellas
Back toward themselves and the morning,

It is too beautiful. Somewhere
Near, a toad begins complaining about
The hour and keeps it up for awhile.

I don’t know why I should continue
To talk to you, except that the morning
Is chill but not too chill

And I have an ache in my foot
From having stepped on a piece
Of glass and the coffee hasn’t
Quite finished brewing yet.

The neighborhood is still quiet.
The sound of cars is far enough
Away to sound like a waterfall
And the streets are still damp from
Last night’s rain. And it is Autumn.

Just checking over that list now
Doesn’t bring me any closer
To finding a reason to keep talking
To you, but for now it will have
To do. I wish you were here.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Michael Cluff

This is the day when turkeys
give thanks as well
for making it through
a pernicious, perilous period
with neck attached
and feathers unplucked.

Yet tomorrow
is their Black Friday too
when they wake up
from aviary dreams
and realize Christmas
is just thirty-one days
lurking with a plate
reserved just
for them


—Medusa, with gratitude for all the songs our poets find...

Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell
December 1, 1917

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Sheriff And Other Unfinished Business

Esteban Villa and his art at the final
Beatnik Studios event, November, 2011
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Dewell H. Byrd, Central Point, OR

Everyone hushed about the house;
family, friends, neighbors

as if speaking above a whisper
might awaken him.

Cold wind whined under watery skies,
whispered through clapboard cracks.

Small children sought safety
in the corner behind the Franklin stove.

Preacher brought a wooden box, black book.
Everybody wore clean clothes, shiny shoes.

Folks brought Sunday food, hugs, tears,
muffled voices, songs soft and low.

Years have softened the images,
soothed the hurt in my heart.

David became seven forever
that gray November day.

(regarding the death of my brother;
first pub. in Living With Loss Magazine
& Prairie Schooner)


—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

They haunt Hubert
in ways he wishes
silence would swallow up
before another moment gallops by
in his stilted, slammed-down life.

Aunt Erica who locked
him in the punishment closet
with the scurrying, nosy rats
and occasional small snake,
running on a rampage with abandon.

Cousin Tony
who beat him down,
after the adults went to bed drunk
every New Year's or Arbor Day,
much in the now-popular
waterboarding style.

Step-sister Lurlene
who tried to slip
into his twelve-year-old bed
with copulation only on her mind.

Grandpa Phillips
who spat his snuff-stained false teeth
into Hubert's always-chipped drinking glass
at any opportune time
with fervent intent and malice.

And Uncle Karl
who taught Hubert
the proper way
to knot a tie
repress a normal desire
shine his ever-too-tight wingtips
straighten his braced back
accept the responsibilities
of a grown-up breadwinner
at a month just short of
fifteen years of age.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

these days a young white child wanders Harlem streets
a neighbor leaning out her window
six floors up from Broadway
sees him step off the train
after it barrels out of the tunnel from 116th Street
driving out of the past…
the train elevates to 125th Street
child pale as a ghost descends from the station
steps carefully down the iron steps
hangs onto the railing
plods across Broadway through traffic

next time sighted at the dead place
where the orphanage stood now torn down
no more Furniss Cottage or Reverend Peters,
Miss Richmond and Miss Minturn
The Sheltering Arms of Jesus…no more
standing in its place are a bodega, launderette
shut tight by night
no one goes near the iron bars and cracked cement
cries of Mama and Ma and Mütter are heard still
on the lost streets

and on this child’s lips Muvver…
his parents split up
asked him who he wanted to stay with—
Mother? Father? he said Muvver
Muvver put him in The Sheltering Arms of Jesus
he always called it “the home”
a child still searching…


Benny Barrios, Beatnick studios, explaining his artwork 
about the "short hoe" that the UFW lobbied to be banned 
from field work by 1975 in CA because it caused 
debilitating back injuries
—Photo by Michelle Kunert


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

No need to worry about color overmuch
in spring-summer: calling all flowers,
is the summons, and these burgeons
and burgeonesses do respond, coming out
bud, blossom, and wither. Even poverty-
stricken little violets exert all their little
violet hearts, ajump one hop ahead
of the bay leaf.

Ah, alack, all that’s gone now; and yet
color still. Invert the tilt of the sweet season
into the bitter, upside-down as Dante’s
devil, in ice down to the kicking part.
Yet these evilly chill weeks wreak
cinnabar and molten copper aloft in every
croft, the “multitudinous leaves do
incarnadine, making the green one
dead, yet red.” Just when you think you’ve
crucified your heart and gut on a cross of loss,

the day gowns it in a somber pearl-encrusted
farthingale all satiny blue gray, and, her brightest,
high-steppingest silk-clad feet in petals
of rust, her head in the trees, out steps
Queen Bess. Gloriana, it’s fall! When we’re
surest you’re gone, it’s never all over with Thou...


—Caschwa, Sacramento

Parking fee, maitre d’, oh the glee
To dine at five-star restaurants
Lobster tail, upscale for sale
The pièce de résistance
Oh what a high to
Tell the waiter
There’s a fly
In my



Such a long, drawn arduous journey
Sore feet surmounting the summit
Where the view was beclouded
By rain bearing hoodlums
Stealing our thunder
And leaving us
One escape:


(with sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

He sprang to his sleigh, gave a whistle,
Away they all flew like the down
Of a thistle. But I heard
Him exclaim, ere he drove
Out of sight, Happy
Christmas to all
And to all
A good



Have you finished with that nonet yet?
We have to stay one step ahead
So the sheriff can’t catch us
By the pond in moonlight
Casting, reeling like
True fishermen
Even though
It’s dried



Have you checked the pond lately?
There are no more fish to be seen
From the rustic bridge crossing
The north sector

The sheriff’s boot prints
That used to fill like
Little ponds themselves
Remain dry and empty

The feral cats that prowled
Under midnight skies
Have taken their business

Mother Nature’s delicate balance
Was manipulated to serve one species
Who found there is no instant renewal
Like changing a light bulb

Things will eventually get
Back to normal
Maybe millions and millions
Of years from now.


—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

There were a dozen other Kevin
Joneses living in Normal, Illinois,
Time I was there. They all lived
Much more interesting lives
Than I did, and made it
Odd at DMV, impossible
To reserve a table,
Difficult to cash a check.
Then there were these late night
Collect calls from the county jail:
“Can you come get me? Again?”
Once the sheriff himself called,
And he really did sound like
Sam Elliott: “Kevin, ya’ve
Gone and done it this time. Stay
Where ya are. I’m comin’
For ya myself.” “But Sheriff,
I’m Kevin Jones the English
Teacher.” I won’t repeat
What the sheriff said just
Before the line went dead,
But I decided to move
Shortly after.


Today's LittleNip: 


This is my thirteen-minute poem
Before I commute to my job
For which I get little pay
Good benefits, no net
Living within means
That get smaller
And smaller
Each pay


—Medusa, with thanks for the patience of all those poets (including D.R. Wagner's students) who sent in nonets, Tom Goff's "quodlibet", and other wonderful fare while she was moving house. We will, indeed, get them all posted!

 Benny Barios with artwork at Beatnik Studios 
about factory laborers 
forbidden to take time to go the bathroom
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Too Much of the Dead

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Too much of the dead—their chipped knick-
knacks in boxes, drawers full of
promises to clog the heart. Closets keep their smell.
They come in dreams with partial messages,
words I waking can't quite decipher but

they color daylight. Petroglyphs, leather volumes
in languages I no longer understand—
extinct, irrelevant. Old letters naming aunts
I never heard of, or wasn't paying attention. They
keep accumulating headstones, historical

markers. Last night my dead mother stepped out of
the moon. “I'm more alive than you
this world y cant imagine. The whiskits are making
ruuhm”—no, of course I got that wrong
waking. And her strange accent, “Ur feet tu hevvy,

arms full of broke things. Brokn children.”
Lugging my earth its cupboards of grandmother
china. Standing on shore while
storm-winds unfurl their scarves and sail.
My breath gets in the way.


So. Here I sit, translated to Diamond Springs, surrounded by boxes. This move, I've winnowed out much of the Dead Relatives (is that a rock group?), selling off their china and tossing what was chipped, but it still seems like 'way too much to be lugging around. How in the hell did I ever acquire all these books???

But thanks for your patience, and we'll gradually get back on track this week. Write to me about Dead Relatives, or Katy's blackbird, or whatever suits your pen. And our Form to Fiddle With is Free Verse. Yes, it's a form. Does it have rules? You bet your Dead Relative... (Check out's Free Verse Project at


Monday, November 14, 2011

On The Road Again

Rock (Red Veins)
—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

The delicate self of the white mouse
in the moonlight, small ghost

of its own existence, turning its head
in my direction, freezing to listen,

where I, in my sad beginning,
would rearrange

the way things are of life and death,
of fear and peril.

I am a white ghost too,
moving under the same darkness,

pulling my shadow back so the mouse
may be relieved of fear and safely pass.

(first pub. in Song of the San Joaquin, 2008)


—Joyce Odam

In the luminous room, shimmers
of light—reflections on the wall—the
fish tank with the blue water and golden fish.

A glassed-in world—
tiny air-bubbles rising like
colorless balloons through thinning sky.

The ceiling light reflecting
back, until the room is afloat with
water-shadows—water-light—ceiling fish.

(first pub. in Noir Love, Rattlesnake LittleBook #2)


After ‘Composition’ by Victor Vaserly
—Joyce Odam

Inside the maze
the golden fish swim to the edge
then swim away

to follow the jagged curve
and return again
to where they began.

Inside the maze
they ignite the golden darkness
they exist in—exaggerate themselves—

in a constant waver of motion
they follow and expand, as if they know
there is a way out, but trust what is familiar.


(after Young Girl with Goldfish Bowl, clipart picture)
—Joyce Odam

What is world
of one fish swimming
in small bowl of quiet water—

circling its image there
in mutual provision: its life,
its other life, the way it situates

its surroundings
with simple meaning;
and when the child comes

and places her small hands
against the glass, is there a brief
or lasting connection

of what there is between them:
sympathy and endurance—
whatever answer calms this question;

or is it all in the beauty of the meeting:
the stillness and the movement,
the sensitivity to a new meaning?


—Joyce Odam

this diamond fish
with his one centered eye
and his other eyes
out at the rim

this fish
in my glass
looking at me
from his own distance

wine colored mouth
transparent body
of cut light

his one life
is in my innocent hand
i twirl him to watch him grin

but he is sober-eyed
looking at me
and from his little time
wanting to tell me something
from his mind

but i am watching him
with drunken eyes
and can only marvel
at his beautiful sad self

little mortality image
that i love
so holy and pure
created for the length of
a dark glass of wine
and one poem…

i take one sip
and cannot find him again

(first pub. in Vagabond, 1975)


(after In Festen Grenzen by Paul Klee)
—Joyce Odam

“of endless agitation” —William Wordsworth

It’s the design:
one sees what one
sees in this sharp-angled maze,
the light coming from all directions,
as of orange shimmer of water over orange tile;

one might imagine
fish in a bright aquarium—
captured sunlight shimmering through
the exotic movement of the fish
moving in slow familiar patterns

in their small world with its
distortions: seams like arrows, tones of
quivery light through glass and water—
not that walls impede, or even imagination.

(first pub. in Rattlesnake Review)


—Joyce Odam

Oh, the ghost in the cornfield—in the
night—under the full moon it loves—
does a white-moon-dance with its
sleeves from its fixed position
though it tries to leap freely from its ties.

Oh, it shudders and cries
with its wind-hollow voice
and beacons its eyes to the eyes
of the windows. It knows there are
watchers there who admire it
and it flaps and moans the louder
until it is even more of a rag.

And tomorrow it will deny all this.
Tomorrow it will merely flutter
from inside out and simply hang
on a stick like a farmer’s joke
and twitch back at the crows.


Thanks to Joyce for cooking up all these delights for us today! And you'll get a chance to look at this post tomorrow and maybe for a few days after, because Sam and I have something to share with the class: we're moving Down the Hill to Diamond Springs, which is just outside of Placerville. Today, in fact. TODAY! Very soon after I write this—VERY soon—the computers will get unplugged and packed up and schlepped down the freeway, along with our little Chibi and his toys and our toys and boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes... (The only thing I can't find boxes to fit is my anxiety, but of course that's nothing new.)

But even our moving doesn't let you off the hook. We still have a Seed of the Week, even though this isn't Tuesday: One Step Ahead of the Sheriff. What keeps you on the run? Health issues? Legal ones, or money? The search for the perfect mate? And our "Form to Fiddle With" this week is the Nonet; see the green board at the right of this, and check out Joyce's example in the LittleNip below. Send your anxious musings to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 94726; as far as Medusa is concerned, her addresses haven't changed. And she should be up and running again in a few days. (The Cable Guy is scheduled for Tuesday; keep your fingers crossed.)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

Legend says an ancient golden fish
survives in the icy moonlight
of winter in a lake as
wide and deep as lost time
where it still searches
for another
as golden
and as

(first pub. in Poets' Forum Magazine)


—Medusa (who is On The Road Again, dang it)

 Rock (With Blue)
—Photo by Joyce Odam

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Poetry Is...

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis
(Click/pic to enlarge)



Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Garment Dissolves

Ancient Peruvian rock
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

October 29, 2004
—Katy Brown, Davis

My mother’s face is on the shadowed moon tonight.
Thirteen years after laying her to rest, she come—
rising on the golden spher—
drifting above a dark skyline on the near-full surface.

Distant now as she was in life, she watches:
a petroglyph drawn with indirect light on the airless moon,
her enigmatic gaze neither warm nor harsh.
What calls her to this autumn sky tonight?


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

That morning on our ridge, the wind
said Winter, said bundle
yourself up and hunker down. But
then, new voices joined in,
harsh, high above and coming closer; sky-
bagpipes rolling their hoarse,
boreal r's overhead. Sandhill Cranes
darker than intermittent clouds
they passed through. Distant
thunder, a throat-rattle in advancing
chorus—not a chorus—
disconnected singers, each one
for itself. No neat V-skein, a complex
weave of higher, lower flight
as each bird caught its thermal; up-
stroke and glide on the way
south. Guiding on what? Dead stars?
Behind them, magnetic north.
Two and a half million
years of crane history. Leaving us
behind to our silence. Seeking
winter. Stubblefields.
Bearing their faith on their wings.


(a suite)
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove


Breaking the children like dreams
As if events have never happened.

I have never held you like this.
You have never said I love you.
And the ships storm away
From the harbor, purple waves
Throwing scarves toward the shore.

We are nowhere. Look around you.
The cool air of understanding
Touches our secret places.
We laugh as if it is a stimulation
To our own understanding, but we
No longer understand.

Look again, we are still upon the shore.
Then, you are sailing away. The sky is
Telling you this is very wrong.
We try to tell you that we still love you.



They are spirit lights caught
In an earth song, rocking
Themselves to sleep.

Ahh, sleep, like a temple
For the old moon to meet
The new, beyond the breakers,
Pulling the waves toward the
Shoreline, pretending they are lovers
Who have never met before.

They are every evening.
Still they are new and hook their arms
Chasing one another up and down
The shingle.

Ahh, they are children then?
No, they are the old ones
Who spoke when the the seas were new
And are still able to speak,
Like breathing through all their rhyme,
The garments given them by time
Larger than we can ever see in our climates.



These lights float upon
Our eyes. We do not know
If anything is happening except
I can touch you here and there.

You too are gone back into
The cliffs and rivers so quickly
That I can no longer say your
Name, nor you mine.

I have been here forever. You have
Simply arrived at my door.
I can still reach out and hold
You but I am unable to explain
Anything you say at all. There is
No language with which to speak.

I will try this phrase
And will hope to make a
Garment of it.
I love you.

My entire garment dissolves.
I begin.


I will attempt to ply these words
Together so they may find, in you
Some sense.

Be an atrion and spilling frogh
Sparsapr tooling de beet rig smell
Chadon, Charmell unlift itself
Brean. I left your deeftly lyre,

So I know how you understand
Completely and we may feel this force
Inside as moving all of language
To worlds we have only been able to imagine.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Michael Cluff, Highland

Lending you so much power
over me is provident
more for you
than I
since I dwell
in clouds
much above you
as all well know.



 Fall Chrysanthemum display,
McKinley Garden and Arts, Sacramento
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Friday, November 11, 2011

Oul Divilment

—Neil O'Neill

On this work-a-day Friday of the September song
Fish day for the Catholics
As I was raised
Hoisting a memory of the old tradition
Where now, the new-hatched sins of the week
Hold court with Burger Kings

Vacillando con el cuarto de espere
Multicolored, Third-Worlders
Now the pobre Faithful,
Lost in Translation as
deep-fried hostages to freedom of choice
And the NEW responses to the God of Abraham

Who is responsible? It's up to you now!

Don’t be like me today
Who, although short-listed for the doctor
Still had to wait well past
Appointment time
But God be thanked, got in


—Neil O'Neill

A room soaked with TV
To be seen
Not now or ever on time
Or at 8am, when asked?
Everyone else’s appointment time

Soy vacilando con Multicolored
Third worlders
Bewildered by indifferent America
And her anti-social ways
Who need to be here
From 6am or earlier
Or Else

A body leased on time, wonts
Someone. Maybe the doctor or dentist
To assuage the personal life habits
And rent arrears
Of criminal poverty

Or not to be unkind
Esos santos might be calle-wise
Out diggin fur gold

On the Streets of San Francisco

Gracias a Dios!


—Neil O'Neill

He’s green-fingered—a gentle giant
What’s not to love?
Wickedly funny—as Black and White minstral
Crooning his world
From the acute angled avenue of Sycamore
The Kurt Weill without cigarettes or
Jewish rebellion from Torah

His gairden—the green room
Of his Opera of Tender Loving Care
Lives tomatoes, green peas and
The heat of his hot-house
Sheltering high Scoville-scaled
To the millionth dilution to be
Or not to be
—wicked heat—just because

And now us— together, gabbing our yesterdays
Seated down under glass
Geraniums corral behind, like those chili flavored
On the Mexican border of Johnstone Castle

I smell the goodness of the living plants
And inadvertantly remember
The tropical toe of America
All heavy with humid fecundity
Everywhere we went, the Mo and me
Like a State calling card

That odor
A Bogey-vision odor
Part perfume, part sepia toned reverie
Not his cigarette smoke, but
The other smell of the old movies
Where elegance, the egalitarian equivalent
Of the Great Depression
Is democratic—and mine too!
That humid, heavy old movie plant odor
Opens sesame
The inner door inside ma head —beckoning
So imaginary travel made real
Sweeps Jakub and me and Fred and Ginger—to the ball
In top hat, tails and
Puttin’ it on, the Ritz Cracker
The hors d’oeuvre of a lifetime
Partaken as Holy Communion
We munch together—grateful, in the huddle against Cruel Time

Miami—again—pastelled—salmon and blues
Yeah, the Miami electic blue—we rented it
The KIA-car that flew us down
The 7-mile long bridge
Over unlocking Florida keys
From Miami, Route 1
To Mile zero—Key West
(How many miles from Miami to Key West, I still wonder?)

That blue—still catches me
Off guard
Like a hanging bat
Unexpectedly noticed
Under blue-lit freeway
Or the blue-sheen glamour
Clyde bridges
At Gloaming

When the blue of the night
Meets the gold of the day
Shine on Blue
Sesame seed of ma soul
At lease for NOW
And until my song is ended
At least, Now before we leave
Jakub’s Gairden


—Neil O'Neill

Smell the tubacca fog
Seepin; through the floodlighted track
Cool wet slick-backed dugs
Spring, prancing-sleekit
The startin' line
Dad and me and oul Divilment
Makes 3 to 1 the Field
Then, odds on
Each Way

White-gloved Bookies
Semaphore secret signs across to Tote
Glesga glamour
At the White City...they're off!
Clutchin' bets, huddlin' in
Staunin' stiff
Pie and drinkin' Boveril
Under this dreech night's orders

Roon they go, and
Fair haring it
Faux skidding at the bends
But naw...wait!
Closing up ranks intae the final stre-e-etch
An "Splash"!! Phota Finish!
Aw Naw!
A Stewards Inquiry?

Noo, blurtin' Speaker-loud:
"Old Devilment at 3 to 1"

Dad says: Heh, we eat Fish and Chips the night!
Whid dyay say?
And me back et him
"And we've the bus fares hame
Tae Maw"?!


—Neil O'Neill

Deep-fishin for words is a new sport
For me
I've seldom been lucky though in love with the Muse
But hunkered down
So close to the River
That flows around
I'm not at sea, just
Beginning to see
Or actually
The rising tide of Dictionary
Asking, by page to
Choose me, choose me!
The best words
That give the freshest fruit
So, juicy—you can taste it (too)
I —very unoffishal Auditor
Take note of secret music
Posed in genuflection
Hopin like Hell
For the blessing


Our thanks to Neil O'Neill for today's poetry! Neil O’Neill is a singer/actor/writer who listens to the muse on the off chance that the noise of modern life can be abated. Hailing from Johnstone, Scotland, he lives in the SF Bay Area where he teaches English and poetry. A 26-year performer for Bread & Roses, he also has been known to appear on the music festival circuit in the US and Europe. His 2012 appearances include the Las Vegas Celtic Festival, Costa Mesa Highland Games, and the SF Caledonian Club’s Scottish Gathering. He is also a performance coach for Poetry Out Loud.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Neil O'Neill

My Moon is a balloon

Whole, half. Or sliced quarter

It's got my attention—remembering…

Birthday was grand—family retro

An opposition of Geminis, my son David and me,

Rose, blue, and lemon meringue (pie) too.

The moon was like a boat

Sailing up through silver blown skied-clouds


(first pub. in New Grass, 2010)


—Medusa (wow! It's 11/11/11!)

Second Annual Scottish Festival, Carmichael
(See—we have Scottish festivals, too!—And
where the hell is Richard Hansen?? Hurry BACK, durnit!)
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
(See Medusa's Facebook page for a new photo album
 by her and Katy Brown of the 2011 Confluence)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Midnight Dreams

 Old Jack
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

Put out the light in the midnight grin;
store the broom and mask another year.
The season turns from orange to red;

and the harvest moon will fade
against the remembered glow
of a long-dead star in the holy,
after-Hallows nights to come.

The seasons turn on faith alone,
from life to life in candle-glow—
in the flicker of a lantern smile,
then the spark that lights the void of night.

Say good-bye to Jack for another year:
a deeper night is on its way
with only a candle and a long-dead star,
a long-dead star to light us home.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

One green tomato,
its vine drooped by frost—
past its time.

Halloween's history—
but who warned
Pumpkin about pies?

Garden stripped bare
except in one back corner,
acorn enfolds oak.

Scarecrow lies among
crow feathers
in dimming sunset.

Muddy rubber boots,
new grass, weeds pushing up.
Bless the rain.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

We know that ponds are
By nature
Not so very deep

So why does the moon
Look so far away

Just as if that same
Had hit ocean depths?

Toss a rock into
The middle
And count the ripples

Will that number change
If your rock
Lands on another’s?

There could be a whole
Pile of rocks
In that little pond

Reaching to fill the
Craters that
Have blemished the moon.



Failed class in Anger
It was not my fault.

To help you enjoy
Your birthday
I got you a snake

That eats its own tail
By the way
There will be no cake

With icing on top
Or ice cream
A big juicy steak

Has taken their place
With candles
From rare to well done.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Sometimes all available elements commingle
so beautifully: high-brooding Mount Diablo,
a lookout, a viewshed scanning one hundred,
two hundred miles past darkling or sunning valleys
to yet more mountains; the morning or the setting sun
godding it above all this rise and upshoulder; close
to the tuck of the land blanket into the first tree-feathered
upthrust of Diablo’s ridge, Danville; on a bare hill whereof
nests Tao House, O’Neill’s house as sure as any Irish
chieftain’s, and inside that his mirrors and masks
and Carlotta’s trunks and Rosie the player piano
and the bluff sea captain’s desk whose writing surface
underlay misbegot moons and long days’ journeys
whole coasts away in memory; and away past all
this lair of mastery and mountain splendor
the broadly banded plains and delta as fertile
to our empire as Egypt’s; and all along the blade-stricken
cornfields, the big beautiful sandhill cranes primeval,
bodies seagray as the dramatist’s bedroom walls,
caps red as the red red doors Carlotta had installed,
hooting their radar soundings at dusk, creatures
instinct with the lusts to leave wingingly into dawn
after food, these ones as pregnant as O’Neill with
yearnings beyond the horizon, sluicing
valleys in the azimuth-slivered sky...


Brilliant day in the fields of Lodi:
long-bodied, supple birds in the tractor-beaten,
rain-wet corn and rice patches. Loving, sentry-posting,
coyote-watching Sandhill Cranes, families standing
by the hours in the flattened grain, spearing up
frogs and snakes, worms, morsels of corn
and we don’t know what all. Our binocs train
on one sunlit group of Greater Sandhills,
gentle arrivistes from British Columbia, wintering
easy along the loam. And, as the sun fills
their lovely hollowbones, they dance! Two
or three feet off the ground they rise,
wing parachutes billowing their full seven-feet,
making like Nijinskys suspended on the air’s
wondrous long delay of gravitation, shaping
the feather flare of Aztec festival dancers,
and all the while purring like cats. Oh
the Lessers, the Greaters, all Shakespearean
degree of crane in your holy families,
creches of roan and mare and only
colt, living gently among blackbirds,
white-feathered geese, kildeer
and meadowlarks. Rise at dawn, o rise,
and glide again in at dusk, my roan,
my mare, my little colt, be “sire and child
and happy mother,” ply the great chop
of your wingstroke and sing your rattle-song,
calling and hooting broncos in silhouette,
do your dolphin surge and tumble, yet wilder,
On, you noblest, most slippery mustangs of the liquid air!...


Today's LittleNip: 

—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

Chasing waterfalls
and rainbows—
joyous midnight dream.



 —Photo by Katy Brown 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Memory of Light

Artwork by Dave Boles, Grass Valley

—Ann Menebroker, Sacramento

                 for the 33 miners from Chile, 2010

Down in the sleeper's darkness
it is so deep, that above, the weather
can be any kind at all, any season—
but down here, it's too dark to matter.
If he had one wish, what would it be?
There are so many wishes
and so little need. But the human mind
is an odd one, and he asks
for someone to send down a picture
of the sun. Let him remember.
Let him realize the memory of light.


—Trina Drotar, Sacramento

On the morning after the night before Little Orange crossed
the street to play with Rascal, the cat who finally grew into
his ears and paws, and to run and tumble with Mouse, that
blue Russian who always went on road trips and walked
beside me on the beach, and to share a meal with Larry,
a ragdoll of a cat with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen, and
to discuss street life with Bob, the gray and white known
formerly as Homeless Bob, and with Lady, the orange
tabby with paws larger than Bob’s who should have been
named Laddy, I planted a hummingbird.


—Taylor Graham

A dream-catcher hangs
wordless to ease you out of the clock-
work revolving cage of thought.
You could drown in a drained koi pond.

Last night in dream,
a graveyard ancient as moss. No
markers, names or dates.
Only the stones
tall as masts of sailing-ships, statues
toppled to sleep
without identity or sequence.

But who was the girl who kept asking?
You rocked her to sleep
in your sleep as if she were
your self.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

On this street most of the lights are broken.
As we stroll from pool to pool the night
Has dances for us and moves the wind across our clothes,
Tosses our hair, throws some rain and touches us
Quietly, as if we could understand what it says.

I am broken this cold evening. I can
Understand little, grab your hand and put
It inside the jacket pocket with mine for a while.
Let the fingers talk to each other. Words have gone.

I would like to tell you about how beautiful
The lights are at Niagara Falls, when they
Illuminate the water at night, but you would
Not understand. The low and constant moaning
Of the water, day and night for over 12,000 years
Now is its own kind of music, locked in Dolomite
And the collapse of shale from irregular cliffs.

I can hear the sound of our footsteps in the
Pools of the dark. Small rainbows circle the streetlights
As we near them. I wish that they had voices.

It has been so long since we spoke to each other
Like this, where words were everything and everything
Was truth and your fingers against mine were small
Songs that used our hearts to keep the time.

“You got here too late,” I tell you.
Now I am blessed with longing only and you
Are blessed with a desire to know the dawn
As it has never been known before.

You laugh and tell me not to worry. “Listen,”
I say. “Can you hear time making sweeps, up
And down the deep gorge, hovering just above the rapids?”

“No, I can hear only singing, it’s like someone
Was trying to tell me something important. Can you
Hear it too?” I answer ‘yes’ but that it is spoken
In a different language. “Say something in that language,”
You say. “Okay, I squeeze your hand and kiss you.

“It’s like that,” I say. “I understand,” you say,
“I really do.” I believe you until we reach the
Next streetlight and the conversation changes.


—D.R. Wagner

I did not know Jackson Pollock
But I know that he liked baseball
And he could throw from far left field
And stop the run at home.

He could stand in for a shortstop
And make the game look easy
But he was always waiting
To stop the run at home.

I saw him playing first base,
Stretch and cover second,
Come running in for bunted balls
And stop the run at home.

He may have been a painter
But the man sure knew his baseball.
Just looking at the paintings
Still stops the run at home.


—D.R. Wagner

“In that cool and radiant empire
That was too much for our eyes.”

The slender sleeves all silvered,
Her fingers twirled with rings.
She ran before the morning
But of her, the morning sings.

She swirled down like milkweed seeds
Drifted cross the river, tossed
Her messages like blossoms
And they sparkled touched with glass.

You’ll not find her on the fairways
You’ll not find her, she’s arranged that.
You’ll just chase horizon’s lightning,
You’ll think, of every horse, a map.

From this glowing ridge we see her
It’s a fire, then it’s not.
It’s just a flash on the horizon
It’s made of ice, then hot.

Promise us we will not go there.
We’ve been there once, won’t go again
Though the path seems made of diamond,
It is all reflections, engravings made of tin.


—D.R. Wagner

Tonight ten thousand geese
Will fill the sky, like choruses
Of saxophones and trumpets.
A tireless beating of wings
Transforming energy from grasses,
Muck and water, into thunder,
Till it’s lost and such a silence
We have not heard before. Then from
Far away, kalimbas, tumbling to the ear
And we forget the flocks of birds
And dance, we dance, we dance, to hear.


Thanks to today's heavy hitters, all of whom "stop the run at home". Be sure to catch Dave Boles at Shine tonight, where Poetry With Legs presents more heavy hitters—Neeli Cherkovski, legendary poet who is over from the Bay Area, and frank andrick, legendary poet who is, well, over from 10th Street. Or catch Taylor Graham at Poetry Off-the-Shelves in Placerville tonight. All details may be had on the green board at the right of this column. You can also see info about our Seed of the Week there, which explains all this pond and moonlight stuff that's starting to appear—though Annie Menebroker actually went for the opposite—sunlight.

About her poem, Annie says: When this extraordinary accident happened, the world held its breath. The wait for rescue was unbearably long. I remember when they reached through the earth to the miners, and asked them what they most wanted that could be transported to them, and one man asked for a picture of the sun, which gave me this completely chilling feeling of the human spirit when it's at its lowest.

This little poem is my simple tribute to that man and his peers.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Taylor Graham

He was sipping moonshine
when she lifted off this mountain,
hair spread like wings, geese
against sunset—

another skein headed south
as the pond drifts into moonlight.
They're gone by morning.

Did she find a flyway?
Instinct brought her to this water,
fingers reaching for
air where she could breathe.



Artwork by Dave Boles