Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Geckos, Swine and Magic Apples

Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

Brittle as ice crystals, morning light
shatters on almond blossoms
in orchards on the hillside.

The fields lie patched beside the road:
corduroy brown of newly turned acres,
brilliant green of young wild rye,
fawn-yellow of dried harvest.

The valley breathes color:
the low slant of sunlight highlights
blades of grass and every stone.

We pass a squad of bikers,
heads down, pumping their pedals
in perfect, bulging unison.
Light intensifies brilliant jerseys.

An aged walnut tree, bare as a coat rack,
shakes free a cloud of crows
which fill the sky in a swirl of flint.


—Katy Brown

The Faerie Queen came down the path—
down the path to the sea-O.
With her knights in green and archers-keen
she rode to the emerald sea-O.

Through rye and sedge in meadows fair
they made their way to the sea-O;
where grass recalls the wind’s footfalls
as it blows from the mighty sea-O.

The entourage—a fey parade—
stopped at the edge of the sea-O.
On the finest sand, at the end of land,
they waited by the sea-O.

Out of the waves, the Mer-King rose—
rose from the depths of the sea-O.
He brightly smiled, Oh, my child!
with a voice that boomed like the sea-O.

My joy! My pride! My daughter fair,
child of the King of the sea-O—
you left your home beneath the foam
to rule the land by the sea-O.

Two monarchs met, two monarchs wept
for joy by the side of the sea-O.
Such a long delay until this day:
when the Fey returned to the sea-O.

We’ve left the woods and mountain stream
to come to the wind-swept sea-O.
We’ve come to play, to spend the day
by the shores of my homeland sea-O.

We pledge our peace before we leave
between the land and the sea-O.
Let the changing wind bring news of kin
both on the land and sea-O.

They both returned to their kingdoms, vast:
the rulers of land and sea-o.
The poets say that to this day
they meet by the edge of the sea-O.
They meet by the edge of the sea-O.


 The Magic Apple Tree
—Painting by Samuel Palmer 

(a painting by Samuel Palmer, 1830)
—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Surely this is not about apples.
Anyone who sits down beside his sheep
as they ruminate their cud on a dazed, sun-dazy
afternoon, under half a dozen trees that arch
and doze to frame a hillside
which suddenly is engulfed, no, glorified
in sunglow—gold-amber as wheat
on a ripe hillside—
might notice that one of the arching trees
bends impossibly full of apples so they tint,
crimson and delicious, the whole
landscape of this suddenly unnatural world.
It's the magic that naturally comes
of sitting with your ruminants for as long
as it takes to digest
a placid, sheepful afternoon.


—Taylor Graham

It's shrink & run again—his white
dress-shirt turned new-denim-blue,
bed-sheets tangled in the goat-rope,
pairing of socks defeated, one rag-
wool lost in the dryer's innards.
They'll fold it up behind a locked
door. Take a forever lunch-break.
Turn up the funky dance music,
two-step together mis-match—
what partners are for.


(quinzaines: the fifteens)
—Taylor Graham

Morning wakes unsettled sound.
In cyberspace, who
will I find?

Everything's broken in parts.
Whose voice puts it all

We trade phrases, couplets, words.
Is the lyric yours,
and mine too?

They say music is numbers.
Must all the fifteens
come between?

This morning is white blossoms.
Do even bees rhyme
in meter?

We don't meet in real-life time.
How is it, you make
me music?


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

he sports a gecko on his wrist
and asks me to pet it
gecko golden
spotted in sunshine
so pliant yet jittered
with sunlit nerves
little goddess of speed and gold

I pat the gecko
as she twists and turns
wants to be petted
yet yearns to escape
textured fine in squares and quadrants
gold leather unfurled
she slouches to the touch

I capture you in my net of dreams
climbing my wall
my sticky-footed friend
eternal tail cut off? grows back
you chirp you mimic you dart
Madagascar-bred you love the tropics
a jungle will do

the sweetness of your voice
veiled innuendo of your eyes
peering from a steaming nest of palm fronds
now I see you now I don’t


SWILL 1942
—Patricia Hickerson

squirming pliant mud of Aunt Minnie’s front yard
Main Street Kentucky hog-wallow
root snort belch
to my 14-year-old metropolitan eyes
disgusting smelly creatures
they roll in ecstasy
their corpulence insolent, assured
redolent of dark fragrance
of horse dung, cow patty, pig shit

now much later I see them
as flourishing gods and goddesses
porcine perfection
well-fed and royally plump
bellies subsuming earth
mired in exuberance
bellow to each other for the joy of it
roll their straight-lashed eyes
grunt who’s that snooty girl?
while I climb the rickety steps to Aunt Minnie’s porch
enter the gloom of her rattletrap house

Uncle Joe is in bed
soon to die after a stroke
poor Uncle Joe
will never tend the hogs again
or entertain me
by beckoning to his rollicking babies
in a piercing high-pitched squeal


Today's LittleNip: 

—Michael Cluff, Corona, CA

On the extra day
the waterman gave each
an additional sip
it was tepid
but better than zero.

On the extra day
archers paused under the prosceniums
watching anchors in the bay
finally being released
from the muck and brine.

On the extra day
the miller crushed less potash
and pumice
into the meal
but no infant lived a second longer.

On the extra day
the sky was really the same
but the sun felt new
the tillers sowed
the rocky, rubbled earth
with more speed and less sweat.

On the extra day
the commissar claimed
it was his real birthday
the plateau mumbled
and an angel and three devils wept.

—Medusa (for more about quinzaines, see "Forms to Fiddle With" over on the green board at the right of this column)

 Martha Ann Blackman with 
The Hansens: Richard, Rachel and Ru
at the Shine reading on Feb. 22
which featured Ann Menebroker and Kathy Kieth
[For more pix of the Shine reading, go to
Medusa's Facebook page, with our thanks
to Sandy Thomas!]

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

All These Temptations

Paisley Curtain
—Photo by Joyce Odam

(after Cover Design from The Savoy, No. 5 
by Aubrey Beardsley)
—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

whispering to her
in the twilight garden, holding her
to the intensity of his eyes

bending closer to her
while she goes pale and
follows the sincere angle of his

hand gesturing out to emphasize
and she becomes
wrapped in the cloying shadow of

his words, and presses, presses
into the disappearing tree
that presses back and swallows

every detail of her disbelief
enveloping her until she is one with it
and the secret he tells

and the ancient gargoyle
on the old stone wall
seems to agree…seems to agree…

its old stone face contorted
in a look of sculptured cruelty—
or maybe just the look that

the failing light puts there a moment
while its open mouth
and intense scowl seem

to contort in gleeful mockery
and warn away
a distant, maternal column-figure

shining like a last thin shaft of light
across a closing moat of water
while he, still holding her to his

soft insinuations,
until she is seduced by all those words.


—Joyce Odam

This dying emotion
that has so much trouble

your hands at its throat

your lips on its lips,
its terrible kiss—

life-saving it.
What does it matter,

the words that are said,
as if caring?

All it needs now
is the promise

you withhold.
And you tell it lies

in the guise of sincerity.
Yes, what about love . . . ?


—Joyce Odam

Forgiveness is just a word
like the others.
All the sins delivered to the just-born
are to be forgiven.
What is beyond comprehension
must be forgiven.
Mystery has many meanings—each one
surmised to be the one and only.
Thus, do not forgive me. What else
is there to know that can be lived with?
I speak in this voice because it’s the one
I have thought of as my own.
All these temptations… all these denials…


—Joyce Odam

This dawn, the old mockingbird—
I know he was an old bird
for his song was very rich and long

made of pure melancholy
and mad joy in the same true notes—

this dawn of this laden day
he filled the brimming sky
that he knew so well with his deep singing.


Thanks to Joyce Odam for her sinfully delicious poems, closing off this week's Seed of the Week, The Wages of Sin. Our new SOW comes from Caschwa (Carl Bernard Schwartz) of Sacramento: "The Best Gears of My Life”, to commemorate those times of teamwork when you really connected with someone else toward a common goal. Send your poems about the times when alliances DID work to—or let your muse run free over any of our SOWs from the past; those are listed in Calliope's Closet under the Snake on a Rod in the green box at the right of this column.

Davis Poet Laureate Allegra Silberstein reminds us that Davis has quite a few poetry activities happening in the next few weeks:

•••February 29, 7pm: Phillip Larrea will be reading at the Woodland Public Library (250 1st St.), Woodland, inaugurating a new poetry series there called Inspiring Words. Info:

•••March 1, 8pm: Poetry Night Reading Series in Davis presents Christopher Sindt, Kitty Liang plus open mic. John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st St., Davis. Host: Andy Jones.

•••March 5, 7:30pm: Poets from the Davis Poetry Anthology, Entering, will be reading at the Sacramento Poetry Center located at 25th and R, Sac.

•••March 7, 7:30pm: Trina Drotor and Sandy Thomas will be reading at Logos Books in Davis, 513 Second St.

•••March 16, 7:30pm: The Other Voice in Davis presents Sibilla Hershey, Ann Privateer plus open mic. Unitarian Universalist Church, 27074 Patwin Rd., Davis.

As always, watch our blue board for details about these and other poetphernalia in the NorCal area.


Today's LittleNip: 

EDGY (after Taylor Graham's syllabic poem)
—Joyce Odam

as night-shadow,
innocent startle of
lust walking at midnight,
waiting for you to appear
as love.



Leaf Fossils
—Photo by Joyce Odam

Monday, February 27, 2012

How Love Saved Me

Oh to have the stamina of an apricot flower in February!
—Photo and caption by Caschwa

(If California eventually slips into the sea,
Its finest treasures are not the kind
That can be recovered by divers)

(after Stephanie Hoogstad’s "The Three Californias")

If you live in California you are defined by your
Local geography and its provincial wordplay
Holding that everyone who lives where you do
Gets it, and everyone else is clueless

This dates back to the rotary phone days when
The entire State was covered by only 3 area codes
And we continually ranked so high in the world economy
We didn’t have to give any thought to being global

This is also what today prevents California from
Having serious consideration of hosting a caucus
Because any position given support by one faction
Is sure to be vehemently rejected by the other two

Will we annex Colorado so we own their river?
Will California finally divide into different states?
Will bullet trains unify the state like mandated integration?
Will foreign banks end up owning all rights to the John Muir Trail?


—Stephanie Hoogstad, Cottonwood, CA

Just to set the record straight,

"North" doesn't always mean "cold,"
and "near mountains" doesn't always mean "snowy,"
especially when you live in the Valley.

SoCal-ers seem to think NorCal is cold
and that we NorCal-ers have not clue about heat.

They're the only experts.

Think again.

Summer in the Valley?


No less than 90 degrees,
Often over 100

We NorCal-ers go to SoCal
just to escape our heat;
at least there
there's something to do.

Even when it's hot
the lake gets boring.

Trust me.

Still don't believe me?
Still fooled by the mountains and the word "north?"

Then spend a week in NorCal
in the middle of July with no air conditioning
and watch it get to over 100
just inside the house
and eat cold tomato soup for dinner
and take icy showers every night
and take a drive every day
just to keep cool.
And sleep on the living room floor,
the fan set on high,
'cause your bed's too hot to sleep in
(You won't sleep anyway).

Do that and then answer me these:

Still think NorCal is cold?
Still think NorCal-ers don't know heat?

Didn't think so.

I just wanted to set the record straight.


—Stephanie Hoogstad

There's a little book in the closet,
Dusty and covered in dirt,
And no one has read it in a while
Or, indeed, knows of its existence.

Beside it lies a ballpoint pen,
Its ink is all but dry,
Well-loved and yet unused
In the years that have just gone by.

From both there is a beating,
The rhythm of life,
So quiet and yet so steady,
So faint and yet so proud.

They are both so tempting;
The beat is hypnotizing,
The book is begging to be read,
And the pen is longing for the attention
It has been deprived of in recent years.

But life is too demanding, too quick,
And too much is more pressing
Than these starved little friends;
And so the closet will remain unopened
And the book will remain unread
And the pen's ink will just dry up,
Never to be used again.

But the beating will go on,
Relentless, mysterious, and hopeful.


 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Morning is a spiral stair, the whorled
shell of a freshwater snail on this pond-shore.
We’ve come to take our scientific
measurements in spring-light. Late February.
What dominion has winter, or night?
Wind. Invisible doors opening and closing, silent
clicks and locks. A kingfisher rattles at us
from overhead. Shiver-blue water
riffles the passing of sky.
A gutted crow, wet-black shiny as if it just
slipped down the birth-canal. Its feet
are blue as dawn. Wild courting geese
make joyous noise on the far shore. Coiling
and unraveling of small red worms
in our water-sample. The instruments
show this pond is purer
than tap-water. And now, a skein of eight
geese, pausing in the long
flight north to summer. New life
consuming each second. The crow
lies folded, ready for night.


Thanks to today's cooks; the Kitchen is a-bubblin'! Cleo Griffith from Salida sends us all these goodies from down her way:

•••Song of the San Joaquin is accepting submissions for the Spring Issue through March 15. Three poems per poet per quarterly issue. California Central Valley themes. PO Box 1161, Modesto, CA 95353-1161. Info:

•••Snail Mail Review is accepting submissions for Issue 4, three to five poems, no more than 35 lines each, one to seven pages of short fiction, to The Snail Mail Review, 3000 Coffee Rd, Chateau Apt B6, Modesto, CA 95355. Cover letter and SASE. Deadline June 30, 2012. Info: or their Facebook page.

•••The California Federation of Chaparral Poets, Inc. will hold the 2012 Convention at the Radisson Hotel Ontario, 2200 E. Holt Blvd, Ontario, CA 91761, 800-333-3333, April 20, 21, 22. Open to the public as well as members. Info:

•••Modesto Poets’ Corner Contest is underway and accepting entries from any Stanislaus County residents; deadline is midnight, March 13. Winners’ poems will be published in the annual contest book and poets will read at the McHenry Museum, Sunday, May 20, 2012, 1:30pm. Send to City of Modesto, Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Dept., c/o Poets’ Corner Contest, PO Box 642, Modesto, CA 95354. Info:

•••The City of Modesto is accepting applications for the 2012-2014 Poet Laureate position. Applications (deadline is March 9) at McHenry Museum, 1402 I Street, Modesto, CA 95354, or see info:

•••Second Tuesdays continue on March 13 at The Barkin’ Dog, 6pm, 940 11th St., Modesto. Gillian Wegener hosts guest readers Turlock poet Elizabeth Sousa and San Francisco poet Keith Ekiss. Opening for them will be Enochs High student Kathryn Harlan-Gran who recently won the Stanislaus County Poetry Out Loud Contest. Info:


Today's LittleNip: 

—n.ciano, Davis

the music made me love again,
brought me back from broken sounds.
in a crowd held by only one set of eyes
i watched it consume his soul and then, 
through his voice as it rose into the sky,
emit the sweetest light.
And into my eyes
there was a settled sound,
and that is how love saved me.



 —Photo by Caschwa

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

I don’t need that James Wright poem,
not the lightest smallest step out of my
scrawny body, to break into blossom.
If the blossoms themselves hadn’t
come—ye gods, in February!—I would still be
right here, shaken by petalled paroxysm,
minus the lovely nuzzling horses you speak of,
Mr. Wright. Every late winter the same
early heart-lurch into spring; John Keats
dies his annual Roman death in lungblood
and rises, young poet-god. In California,
the light few rains, Christ’s blood,
the stamens, anthers, petals, Christ’s body,
for we live here, hammock slung between
shore and mountain, in humble
sacrament. I love the poet-wife who
beguiled me long ago with lyrics
of “Sweet serpent supper,” but then,
I can cook up my own helpings of sin,
frothing, toxic, and gorgeous.



Thanks, Tom and D.R. If you don't know the James Wright poem Tom is talking about, see

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sentinels At The Dream Gates

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Night has just begun to think
That morning might have dominion
Over its dark pathways and twinkling
Cities, its muffled sounds and hidden events.

It pulls away from the horizon,
Gathering its capes and cowls about itself,
Retreats to darker alleys, smaller conversations,
Behind the eyes of lovers still awake.

Its eyes were the color of the moon.
Its thoughts are as clouds. One cannot
Hear the wings of the owl who hears
the softest footsteps of the hurrying mouse,
The shrew and restless beasts condemned
To haunt the heart of darkness.

There should be no moving about and no
Sitting as the teeth break as the bones
Crack beneath the feet of night.
The light fades from its eyes.


—D.R. Wagner

I must admit I was trying
To scare you with a story
About a table in a room
That I came upon unexpectedly.

The room was open. I could see
The flickering red lights and the doors
Closing behind me with their
Muttered language of clicks and locks.

The table was to be named
‘The fear table’ and I was going
To shrink away from it and run
Toward a window showing a yellow
Moon that understood everything.

But no, as I came here I noticed
There were sentinels at the dream
Gates and that the air had
A flavor to it that called across
Decades recalling the face of a friend
Long dead and that this would only
Be a moment where you and I could
Gather—a moment only,

Our emotions charged with the fuel
That suspense brings on,
Given to it by a special secretion
The moment allows words to have
If they behave in a very particular
Way. I am sorry I do not
Have that way at my command.

I am over here at the end
Of these words sitting, looking
At the corners of the room,
Still looking at the same table
But unable to do anything about it.

If you allow your breathing to follow
Mine you can see the sentinels
Looking in the doors. We’re not going
To be able to leave here again.
They know we are here.
They too will watch the moon.
We will wait here looking at one another.


—D.R. Wagner

Forgive me if I no longer
Remember the names of villages
That lie to the north of Rolztk.
It has been many years and no one
Has spoken their names to me
Since that time. I can recall them
After a fashion and remember they were
So lovely and bright and gay and
The women so beautiful. I also
Remember the dancing, how spirited
It was at the time.

Then too it was Winter and a cold
One with much snow most of the
Time and wind! Wind like we had
Never seen before or since. It whirled
The snow so fiercely that it was next
To impossible to see the buildings.

We would knock on any door we could
Find and were always allowed in, given
Vodka, seated next to the fire.

And we danced. The entire Winter
Was passed this way.
Before Spring we were required to leave.

We took the dogs and left at night.
The music inside the buildings still
Exciting, the women so beautiful.
The interiors so bright and filled
With laughing and good feeling.

We left before dawn, coursing into
The throat of the storms and made
For the South. I cannot recall
How long we travelled but we were
Nearly out of food when we reached
The Lodzak, the river, I mean
The river, surely you know it.

Yet now you are here, asking me
The names of those cities and
Discounting the tales we tell you.

Forgive me if I can no longer
Remember these names. Names
Are not what the journey
Was ever about. Whatever it was about,
It was not names and we were
So young and full of newness that
It seems a dream, yet I swear
It was not, no not at all.


—D.R. Wagner

“It began as a light buzzing
in the ears, a breeze that barely
moved the treetops and made
the ferns tremble.” ....A. Mutis, "Un Bel Morir"

It could move across the dew on the tops
Of the leaves. It would move
Like language through our shirts
Painting, mumbling, finding new
Ways to describe the shapes
The streets could make,
Try the doorways, insinuate
Its way into the keyholes.

I could so easily get lost here.
The crystal purity of gazing like
This into such a purity would
Easily allow these breezes to transport

Me far beyond any places where I could
Speak to you again. I would take
The form of an angel, one of
The higher choirs where to sing
Is constant and the light never
Changing. I would be there for
Ten thousand years and still be back
For a good cup of coffee in the morning
Waving a hello and finding your face again,

Would be gladness, as steady on
The bough, barely moved by any breeze
Or here high above all the tree tops
Watching the wind draw its imagination
Through the leaves, the choreography of
The spirit, the remembered language
Of a smile, the coiling and unraveling

As we make for shore, touching the
Sea birds as gracefully as their wings
Touch the air. And I shall hold
You close and sing in your heart to calm,

To smooth your fears and tears
Away as notes of the harp
Passing into our ears talking as
Music does, hearing this breeze
Without the slightest effort,
Falling in love over and over again
As each second consumes us,
As we consume each second.


Today's LittleNip: 

I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.

—Robert Frost



Be sure to catch D.R. Wagner at A Starry Night Poetry Series tomorrow, Sunday, in Lodi. Scroll down to the blue board at the right of this for details.

 Early Spring
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Wags of Sin

 the moon shines brightly
tempered steel flashes its smile
dog soldiers die well

—Poetry and art by Dave Boles, Grass Valley


—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

True, the pay isn’t much,
But the hours and benefits
Are quite good.

You’ll be working with
People a lot like
Those you probably
Already know.

There are seven areas
Of specialization within
The corporation: you’ll
Be asked to concentrate
On at least one.

There’s no real dress code.
You could call it business
Casual; shades of red
Would be
Right on target.

We have a company
Softball team, and
I’m told their smoke
And scarlet uniforms
Are quite beguiling.

And the flame and
Scoreboard is very
Effective, especially
When The House of
David comes to play.

Oh. You were interested
In a salaried position?
For that, I’d have
To examine your feet first.


—Kevin Jones

In response to godliness,
Sacrifice and good behavior,
She’d nod her head
And chant, “Your crown
In heaven will be all the
Greater for it.” (How will
I be able to lift
My head, Sister?)

In response to questions
About sin, its wages,
Satan and his pomps,
She’d waggle her head,
Chant “No, no, no, no,”
Until we gave up
Any thought of what
It was. At least until
Eighth grade.


 in morning's first light
elegant robes sway softly
the last of their kind

—Poetry and art by Dave Boles


—Michael Cluff, Corona, CA

For encompassing many negatives
people can identify
in their own approaches
and relationships,
the lion
is a regal beast
in human estimation
must be controlled and curtailed
aggressiveness punished
via cages and counterburns
of habitat and habits
or more demeaning, demanded
to a weaker physical biped.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

Ones: old nearly extinct singles
Twos: the wages of sin
Threes: Irregular

The hearts that we soften
Are broken more often
While we are just off in
Self pity

Tuxedo and cologne
Expensive gown on loan
Where did I leave my phone?
Big city

Count seven syllables in
Each exactly fashioned line
Until the unthinkable
Rhythm bashing two left feet

Like unauthorized parking
In the handicapped zone
How dare they be so
With my



The first guy browsed at a gambling ledger.
Sweating and shaking his head he
Stumbled through the darkened hall
And barked to the barkeep, “What a rough day!
I’ll have a Wages of Sin, and make it a double!”

The second guy paused at the entryway,
Nodding his head over some pages in his
Gold-leaf Bible and interceded,
“Don’t waste your money in there.
See the light: the Gift of God
For everyone. It’s free!”

The third guy snuck around to the back
And marched up to the counter with his
Very thick Code book open to highlighted
Passages. “Under the law, both wages and gifts
Are taxable. Pay up or I’ll shut this dive down!”


Thanks to today’s contributors, some of whom continue to riff on our Seed of the Week, The Wages of Sin. (Maybe we should call them The Wags of Sin.) About his work, Primal Urge Editor Dave Boles writes: The art pieces are interpretations taken from Kyokutei Bakin and his most famous book, The Tale Of The Eight Dog Heroes of Satomi. Bakin lived from 1767 to 1848 and the book was published in 106 installments from 1814 to 1842. The book was made into a Kabuki play which is still popular today.

And about the House of David reference in his poem, Kevin Jones writes:
They were a barnstorming (20s-50s, maybe)
Baseball team sponsored by a religious movement
From Michigan. Their players eschewed barbers,
And most of their beards bordered on the biblical, if not
Z.Z. Toppish. It’s said that Shoeless Joe Jackson finished
His playing days with The House. They made him wear shoes
And the beard. The Wages again at work?

We have a new Facebook album on Medusa’s page, this one thanks to Michelle Kunert, who sent us photos of the Writers’ Guild reading which took place at Sac. Poetry Center last Monday. Thanks, Michelle!

Lots going on south of us these days in San Joaquin and Calaveras Counties, starting with A Starry Night Poetry Series this Sunday featuring D.R. Wagner. Starry Night will be having a birthday party for Vincent van Gogh on March 25, and then they’ll be featuring Red Fox Underground’s Brigit Truex on April 22. See also the “More Than a Week Away” section on our blue board at the right of this column for all the happenings down thataway in March and April. Stockton will be having its first-ever poetry festival on April 7, for example. And Manzanita Press will be presenting some workshops this spring, including one this Saturday—there may still be room. See the blue board for details, and be sure to keep an eye on that “More Than a Week Away” section so’s not to get caught with your bloomers down…


Today's LittleNip: 

—Caschwa (Carl Bernard Schwartz)

So hard to be discreet when
The only thing to eat is
Another human being



My goodness, Carl! Get back in your cage!

birds take flight quickly
as samurai wields his blade
for all of heaven

—Poetry and art by Dave Boles

Thursday, February 23, 2012

All Those Californias

Octopus's Garden (made of chocolate!)
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Stephanie Hoogstad, Cottonwood, CA

I had to explain to this girl
that I don’t live by a beach.

“I live near the mountains;
we’re about as landlocked as we can be.”

She didn’t get it.
They never get it.

There’s three Californias: the Backwoods, the Bay, and LA.

Still don’t get it?

Then you don’t live in California,
and you’ll never get it.

I’ll try to explain it one last time:

There’s the Backwoods;
it’s mountains and forests and farms and cows
with just a bit of beach,
if you have the time to drive to the coast.
It’s most often called NorCal.

Then there’s the Bay;
it can be colder and windier and more unpredictable
than the stereotypes make it seem.

And then there’s LA;
it’s like something straight out of a movie
’cause it is.
It’s Hollywood.
It’s most often called SoCal.

I don’t live in LA!

I don’t live in the Bay!

I don’t live near a beach!

I live in the Backwoods, for God’s sake!

Sweet and simple:

NorCal ain’t the Bay or SoCal,
the Bay isn’t NorCal or SoCal,
and SoCal is no way in hell NorCal or the Bay.


—Kary Joseph Shender, Davis

at a prison bound
by eucalyptus windbreaks,
many men acknowledged no ken
of what those trees are,
I vowed
to bring some leaves in
for them
to smell,
to touch,
for a moment to savor.

I never planned to leave them there.

The grounds guard who sped
across the open field to catch me,
cared nothing for men
so long severed
from the natural world.

“Drop the leaves,” he commanded,
and, when I didn’t,
again, “Drop them.”

I offered my I.D.,
opened my mouth to explain
but closed it again,
there was no way to say
how a eucalyptus leaf
could provide

a temporary balm.


—Kary Joseph Shender

Shells, husks, peels,

all confine, protect
until the time
the inside is mature,

Then they fall away
or are cracked, stripped.

Would that prison walls would do the same.


—Kary Joseph Shender

Your hands are muscled,
chains tattooed across your knuckles,
mine, too, are tattooed,
but by Time.

While yours are smooth,
my rippled hands have spots, not ink induced
but sprung from sun,
easily as dangerous as your chains.

My work with children
on playgrounds and rough ones on the streets
my gardening and swinging
mattocks and McClouds while earning my keep
in a County park, striving to maintain my strength, planting
native species,
these stories now show
in my hands.

I see more than you think
in your chains, how each link
was dutifully earned
as you learned to serve la pandilla.

No matter that.
You’re past it, have grown,
put away childish things.
The chains will disappear
like a smudge or a tear,
when you’ve forgiven yourself and can remove them.

What I want you to know,
oh! how I want to tell you something
with my hands,
is that your inked hands and mine, splotched
and sometimes swollen,
               can meet and clasp in empathy.


Thanks to today's contributors, a couple of newcomers to the Kitchen! Stephanie Hoogstad is all the way from Cottonwood, up near Redding, and Kary Joseph Shender is another Davis poet, joining the ranks of all our other fine poets from across the Causeway.

Speaking of poetry in Davis, Sacramento artist and writer (and frequent art contributor to WTF) Jennifer O'Neill Pickering is the featured artist in the latest issue of Blue Moon Literary and Art Review (#8). Writers in this issue include winners of the Will Albrecht Contest; an excerpt from the novel by Lisa Slabach; poetry by Lilly Deng and Tom Pescatore; stories by W.A. Reed, Amanda Crum and Victoria Smith and photos by Josh Tulman. BMLAR is available through the Sacramento Avid Reader, from, and in Davis at Avid Reader, Newsbeat, Konditorei Austrian Pastry Cafe, John Natsoulas Center for the Arts and Rominger West Winery.


Today's LittleNip: 

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

—Ernest Hemingway



Click/pic to enlarge,
with thanks to Cleo Kocol for forwarding this to us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sins And Other Necessities

What are fences for?
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Those mages,
our black-face sheep,
contemplate long ages
of trespass while their humans sleep.
What are fences? They're surely meant to leap.
Boomer, Riveter—each sheep's born to know the ins-
and-outs of stock-wire, electric tape: creep
under, around, or push through; reap
roses. As Mistress rages,
the new lambs peep
past cages.



about the bird mess. Christ Almighty—
where would we be without a bird mess?—
detritus of days passed with

full stomachs and passerine gossip:
sweet comfort of birdsong and easy shits
and quiet nights of contentment… Who

cares about the bird mess?—it’s just
little white dots on the deck
and tiny black hulls sticking to the

lawn chairs. What the hell are brooms
made for, anyways…

—Kathy Kieth, Diamond Springs


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

(for Neruda’s clock)

When she rose from sea it was not within sight of land.
The white-lipped foam passed back into the great blue.
The vestments of the deepest ocean had nothing to proclaim.
All of time was waiting for room where understanding could help
Its pitiful argument for constant change, but there was no argument
Coming. The swells returned to whatever they were doing before.

There was no difference. There was no scanning of a horizon,
Frozen or tropical, it made no difference to whatever had life.
There was not a finger raised, no scent of sea or cry of sea birds,
No ship, no vague information that could be given to the moment.

But we were there with our fleshy instruments and eyes filled
With vitreous humor, more sea than seeing, a skimming of the
Way to the retina from the lens that tries so hard to convince
Us of the world with electrical changes and images such as this.

On the far beach, heaps of kelp near the water line and clouds
Of sand flies and midges, the grumbling of the waves upon the shore.
We will keep returning here to hear the story one more time and pour
Over the marks upon the sands, pour out our deepest thoughts,
Harvest the vision of her rising from the sea and disappearing
As perfectly and completely as these words do even now.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

across the sand
a possessive tide of ocean
those waves I used to ride
enmeshed in foam and seaweed
beyond the sand
sun glitters on the water, blinding

I wish for a determined tide of ocean
sweep the sand and clean it
draw it back to mother ocean
a school of fish scatters against my legs
I am far out to sea beyond the sand
now riding up and down in a seaweed tangle
waiting to be swept inward
to land in a tide pool where kids play

where I sat with Jack
we splashed each other, washed off the sand
while he told me about fondling girls
in the shadows of the boardwalk
years ago as a teenager
rousted by chaperones
held accountable
What do you think you were you doing under there?
did he need to tell them? no secrets in the sand
but underwater,
feel the tide grow stronger
whipping the beach in a frenzy
of desire and designation


—Patricia Hickerson

butterfly line
film of yellow chiffon
soft shoe of rhythm
girls dancing in the light
ripple of applause
wings lift
they fly up to the sun
wings wilt
they drop to the floor
their dance is complete
sun motes cover the stage
applaud the flight
the pile of sun


—Patricia Hickerson

molecules of color
that’s Damien Hirst’s art
you critics call them “spots”
like chickenpox or measles

you think he’s whorish;
he has his team do his work
factory work
in-your-face art, a joke perhaps
some pay millions for it
who’s to say it isn’t as good as Rembrandt?

whorish art
or Warholish art
what’s the difference?

you have to love those molecules
light and color
or no-color
whether a dozen
or 25,000
dancing gleefully in the sun
singing fan-fucking-tastic
Damien’s cool, man


—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

After eight years
of stranding facts
into hyperbolic noodlings
with no connection
to breathing or sleeping
or showering or eating,
Monique and Maynard
received their doctorates
from Petrie University
and the next day
went down a road to chronic
semi-employment until her death
while Maynard became
an elbow-patched tweed wearing pendant
bombastic lecturer
only after he had got his position
lying on his back
in the dean wife's bedroom
while Dean Fish
made it with Monique
on an infrequent basis


—Michael Cluff

She is licking crooked fingers
turns masses of pages
between sips of a cobalt milkshake;
days are nights to her
McCalls has no patterns
to cover over
"the unnatural body,"
she hears well enough though
the nurses found out—
they deal with candor and death
one becomes the other.

The mind, spirit alters
different ways
from the body,
a trap springing
shut at macabre angles
a few times they work as one
pain intersects
parallels the flow of her memory
better times come after such as these;
the dogma of her soul
keeps her above torture
imposed by recently defunct deities
upset at science.


Thanks to today's contributors for vittles both SOW-ish and otherwise. D.R.'s reference to Neruda's clock refers to the poem posted here last Sunday. For further inspirations, don't forget to check out our N-SOWs in the green box over at the right of this column. Yosemite! Wow!

Tonight Primal Urge presents its Poetry With Legs bi-weekly reading series, this one featuring Annie Menebroker and Kathy Kieth plus open mic at Shine, 1400 E St., Sac. One drink minimum. Host: Bill Gainer. Be there!


Today's LittleNip: 

—Dewell H. Byrd, Central Point, OR

laughter in a paper cup
honey eyes dance
above the rim


your voice
on cool water


an invitation



 Our porch when we lived in Pollock Pines
—Photo by Kathy Kieth

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Trouble With Love

Porcelain Head
—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

I tried forgetting you. There was no rule
to pit against—unequal to the test
that all love must—at least once—play the fool
who loves too hard. I should forget the rest.
Perhaps youth makes its own excuse—the heart
obeys no warning—wisdom fails at this.
Seduction is a fascinating art.
Someone will put the first fire in a kiss.
A kiss like that belongs where it belongs:
regretted maybe—savored—secretly mourned,
something to echo in old hurting songs,
with their rebukes for some love that was scorned,
that take you back to some long-buried name,
that memory—perverse—burns to reclaim.


(Mother Ryder’s Home for Children, c. 1932)
—Joyce Odam

Danny has shown me how to hold a blade
of field grass to make it whistle. I have a
skill now. I can make music of the grass.


Shy Danny has never teased shy me.
We twist on the swings. Time is not
here yet. We wait for it in the dusk.


Danny, will you miss me . . . . Danny
will you remember me? We touch our

        knees together at the bottom of
        the three cement steps that lead

                down to a locked door. One of us
                must leave. We are eight years old.


—Joyce Odam

Back in the surreal season of childhood
by the summer sea where time was endless,
there was a boy with eyes of pain—
half-real, half-dream—
who did not love me, so he said,
and led me through confusions.

I learned to navigate confusions
the way one gets through childhood.
There was a trickery of truth to what he said.
He said his lack of love was endless;
he said his life was only made of dream
and that is why he had eyes of pain.

He said only I could take away his pain
if only I would sort out his confusions.
Then he would turn away to that illusory dream
that innocence assigns to childhood.
My sorrow-bond to him was endless,
for I believed everything he said.

When summer died I said
I could no longer bear his eyes of pain.
He answered with a look and sigh, endless
with even deeper delving into his confusions.
He was destined to remain in childhood
where he would stay part real and mostly dream.

I think he still exists in his real dream.
It was in something that he said—
that surely he would die outside of childhood—
outside of which was even greater pain.
He was only sure of his confusions.
If I betrayed him—left him there—in endless

despairing loneliness, I would suffer endless
regret for the abandonment of those innocent first dreams
that always know the way out of life’s confusions.
What was it that he said—
that only he could take away my pain—
that I would always remain with him in childhood?

I feel an endless, sad desire to find him again. He said
we were more than dream—more than his exquisite pain,
aloof with such confusions. He kept my childhood.


—Joyce Odam

What, indeed, has become
of that old love—existent for all time
in the nurtured heart—that pit of memory.

What power it pretends—
pressing you to it
like a heartbeat shared.

Forget it. Or remember it. I don’t care.
But quit assigning it the first position.
It has forgotten you.


—Joyce Odam

How often have I asked, “What do you want?”
and with no answer, turned away from you—
as you have asked of me—to beg some clue—
as if words haven’t become a kind of gaunt-
let flung between us. And our silence, too.
And even as we test, and tease, and flaunt
our force and stubbornness and bear the brunt
of this, it’s what we always seem to do
instead of soft persuasion. We’re so new
at love: we bait, we guard, we vex, we taunt.
Thus do we share our bitter ways to haunt
each other’s upset lives. I guess it’s true:
It’s hard to risk—much less entrust—a pledge.
Love is a game with such a fragile edge.



It is not so much the expectation
as how things are:
cruelty comes first, and after.

What is left is in-between.
There is always one who will fail the other.
No equality here to make things easy.

There is a suffering to know. And disillusion.
If you can master these, you may
get through—value your scars—

show them proudly to each other—
even touch them lovingly,
and bless survival.

—Joyce Odam


Our thanks to Joyce for the poems and pix today! Joyce also has a poem in the new WTF which premiered last Thursday night at Luna's Cafe and is now available for free at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sac. Also appearing in this issue are Sage Alejandra, Bill Gainer, Patti Smith, Evan Myquest, Annie Menebroker, Amy Anne, JoAnn Anglin, David Houston, Trina Drotar, Patricia Hickerson, Bonnie Antonini, Josh Fernandez, Max West, Ed Tyack, Allegra Silberstein, Kelly Ann Conway, Sandy Thomas, Beth Lisick, Kristin Hersh and David Narcizzo, Jennifer Miro, Rachel Leibrock and frank andrick. Cynthia Linville also has a poem in there, entitled "The Wages of Sin", which we have stolen for this week's Seed of the Week. In the past, we've had "My Favorite Sin" and "Seven Deadly Virtues", but we've never had to pay for any of it. So here we are, with our thanks to Cynthia:

—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

You are lost in her fleshy dancing
lost in the feathers slapping her thigh
her stiletto spike on the chair
between your knees.
Your guilt is barefooted
and in shame you think of fig leaves
as you slip green into her G-string.
With the barest nod
she beckons you into the back
where your best intentions collapse into
smoky silk, garish caresses, open throats.
Your throttling peak subsides
into icy shudders
leaving you wandering
this labyrinthine catacomb
looking for the way out.


Send your penitent musings (well, it IS the beginning of Lent—) to No deadlines on SOWs (or N-SOWs—see the green board at the right of this); go to Calliope's Closet under the Snake on a Rod (again, on the green board) for all the SOWs of the past (hey—we changed the arrangement of things over there, just to rattle our cages a little bit!). And don't forget to check out Cynthia's Mardi Party "photo album" on Medusa's Facebook page for Fat Tuesday!


Today's LittleNip: 


came through my life and left a wound
       for memory,
and left a love—bitter and sweet—
      and went away

and left a sleep to fill with dreams
      that wreathed
like smoke—and turned to pleasure—
     and to pain;

one who was love—composite now—
    became unreal—
was never real         was never love

—Joyce Odam 



 Clown on Blue
—Photo by Joyce Odam

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cycles of Rain And Longing

View Oblique
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Against traffic, out of sight.
I was parked watching the rearview reflecting
Saturday morning. Leftover litter
of thoughts, parts of the last half century
but obliquely, hands on the wheel,
key in my pocket; truck going nowhere.

Where would a man go on two gimpy legs
between speed sign and a roadkill
sparrow? Man bent under his backpack, empty
fields on one side, town
the other way. Walking toward a distant
idea in his gray disguise?


—Taylor Graham

My dog is following scents alive today,
this cold February morning—

cherry trees thick with blossom
and fields green in the root-shade of oak.

Birds leave trails of flight-fancy
in passing. Dawn then dusk,

a pond mirrors it all: her walks toward
sunset; cycles of rain and longing.

Scent lasts as long as weather lets it,
tracing our every step on earth;

some bits thinner than mercury
after we disappear from the mirrors.

Liveoaks have grown so dense
around, the sun sets without her.


—Taylor Graham

My dog goes nosing skeletons
of last year's flowers—brittle-brown
stalks—and ground-squirrel
burrows. Disorder of birds; golden-
crowned sparrow pecking
at a road-rut. Never know what
you'll find in a vacant field, a pit dug
into pasture. The dead deflect
a compass off true;
draw the searcher magnet-blind
to sorrow. Bodies passed
over. Scattered in mountain-
misery, released from
skin and skull; or dumped
behind a punky log in forest,
so you feel a summer chill
walking the dusty spur. So many
still missing, haunting to be
found. Here, this
field of leftover star-
thistle, flowers soft as dry snow.

—Photo by Taylor Graham


—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

I have touched the past—
something black.
A wing dips down into
the nine pools.
The inversion layer shimmers,
lays a finger on me—
invoking Jesus.
Too much Matisse.

             * * *

Too much. Matisse
lays a finger on me.
The nine pools
invoking Jesus.
I have touched the past.
The inversion layer shimmers
a wing, dips down into
something black.

             * * *

Something black—
a wing—dips down.
The inversion layer shimmers
the nine pools,
invoking. Jesus
lays a finger on me.
I have touched the past
too much. Matisse.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

(I awoke at 3:00 in the morning to find)

Poems I had already read
Leftover food in the fridge
Stories that were no longer news

TV reruns
Crumbs in the toaster
A load of dishes to be run

A host of unsolved problems
safely relegated to the
black hole of tomorrow

There is no and will be no
today, not at this hour
just way too early



(Like currency at a foreign exchange bank,
Jewish lore defines values in terms of something else)

The Bar Mitzvah celebrates when
After years of religious study
A Jewish boy at the ripe old age of 13
Is finally able to lead the congregation in prayer
Thus, “Today you are a man.”

That about sums it up.

Except, stepping outside the synagogue
In a Los Angeles suburb in the early '60’s
There were still just a few limitations imposed
On 13-year-old Bar Mitzvah boys:

Couldn’t vote
Couldn’t smoke
Couldn’t drive
Couldn’t buy adult reading materials
Couldn’t enter into a contract
Couldn’t join the armed forces
Couldn’t ignore a parent’s curfew
Couldn’t marry
Couldn’t choose which school to attend, or whether to attend one
Couldn’t purchase or consume alcohol
Couldn’t gamble
Couldn’t take a full-time job

That about sums it up.



Tall walls of vandalism vines
Rooted in uncultivated soil
Fertilized by buckets of apathy
Watered with beer and wine

Show me the money:
Urban renewal, help, support,
Spirit, rebuild America,
Yes We Can, FDA Approved

Men in robes preaching values
Melting to temptation like
A snowflake in Hell
This is a transferable skill

Big Money, second chance
Big Tobacco, second rate
Big Pharm, second opinion
Big Leagues, second fiddle

The separation of Church and State
Has created a 2-headed snake
Each ready to bite you
For not following its rules

People who risk money
And come out ahead
Lobby for greater rewards
Than offered to martyrs

If you have to ask the price
You cannot afford it
Some ugly ducklings are just that
Obvious, fundamental, duh!


(To my father Erwin Victor Schwartz, 1911-1992)

Boldest and rarest
Were bottled and corked
And stored down below
In the cool, quiet

Orderly shelving
Enticing labels
Very off-limits
No one could enter

The cellar was closed
Locked tight to the world
As a time capsule

Fine beverages
No merchandising
Nothing was for sale
No public tours

People would wonder
Just what was kept there
They were ready for
Opening, tasting

Dad enjoyed table
Wine with his dinner
But these were his deep
Memories to keep

Death and destruction
Those terrible years
Fighting World War II
His house would have no


Thanks to today's contributors! Taylor Graham says the mirror photo was taken accidentally by her iPad; a happy accident, as it were. Carl Schwartz' (Caschwa's) idea about cancelling today suits me just fine. And we have a new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page, this one of last year's Mardi Gras by Cynthia Linville.

SnakePals will be saddened to know that Katy Brown's longtime partner, Robert Dickover, passed away on Sunday. We'll be thinking of you, Katy.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Cynthia Linville

It started and ended in a motel room—
It was a low budget affair all along.


At first I counted the days,
then the weeks,
then the months
(two, three, four).
Time passes faster when I’m not counting any more.


He counted up his things:
flat tire
torn blanket
broken string.



 —Photo by Cynthia Linville
For more of her Mardi Gras photos, 
go to Medusa's Facebook Page at
Medusa's Kitchen/Rattlesnake Press

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Petals of Time

—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Pablo Neruda

There is so much dark light in space
and so many dimensions suddenly yellow
because the wind does not fall
and the leaves do not breathe.

It is a Sunday day arrested in the sea,
a day like a submerged boat,
a drop of time assaulted by scales
that are fiercely dressed in transparent dampness.

There are months seriously accumulated in a vestment
that we wish to smell weeping with closed eyes,
and there are years in a single blind sign of water
deposited and green,
there is the age that neither fingers nor light captured,

much more praiseworthy than a broken fan,
much more silent than a disinterred foot,
there is the nuptial age of the days dissolved
in a sad tomb traversed by fish.

The petals of time fall immensely
like vague umbrellas looking like the sky,
growing around, it is scarcely
a bell never seen,
a flooded rose, a jellyfish, a long
shattered throbbing:
but it is not that, it is something that scarcely touches and spends,
a confused trace without sound or birds,
a dissipation of perfumes and races.

The clock that in the field stretched out upon the moss
and struck a hip with its electric form
runs rickety and wounded beneath the fearful water
that ripples palpitating with central currents. 

(trans. from the Spanish by Donald Walsh)




Saturday, February 18, 2012

Stuck To Our Skin

Water Sprite
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

He didn’t look at all as he imagined
Himself to look. When he came
Upon himself reflected his view
Was always, seemingly, oblique.

Obscured at times by serious
Happenstance, flocks of birds,
The whipping of lianas or palm
Fronds against the windows
As the light from the oil lamp
Bounced the reflections off
The glass, it was not likely
That he would be in any
Space where a proper mirror
Might be found that wasn’t smoked
Or distressed by having the lovely
Mercury scraped from its back,
Making him look tearful or
Extremely lonely as an old
Waltz might be lonely,

The music unable to bear the weight
Clarity would require and become
Indeterminate, a misfortune.

He became a hostage to his ideas
That everything he saw was
Infected in this way and
The only places comfort could
Be found were either blasted
Clear of living things or so totally
Overgrown that passage through
To pure sunlight was also seemingly
Impossible. He betrayed himself

To a distant idea that could
convey little, stripped of any
Possessions of perception
He himself might have beyond shadows,
Wings unable to fully open,
A disguise that passed
For recognition with no
Feeling except in irritating memory.


—D.R. Wagner

Words are a scab over our dreams
Of communicable marks and sounds
Placed in a sequence of deceptions
That allow us to see any manner
Of things both beautiful and
Filled with great horrors
Of description, digressions unable
To come to the end of understanding

Without prompting a sickness in
The body, sacred fevers, half-
Hearted charts purporting to teach
Us that something is amiss
Or something is inescapable.

They are alive to us, stuck
To our skin, making us stink
With bruises, flights of fancy
Flocks of pigeons gathered into lines,

Bound in books, or
So Dusk and Dawn often spoke.

 Sky Conflagration
—Photo by D.R. Wagner


                   ...Alvaro Mutis, from
                                "The Snow of the Admiral"
—D.R. Wagner

My sleep is littered with the parts
Other dreams have dropped while they
Were happening. Most of these things
Are not useful in any way: a gray
Coffee cup with a broken handle, a bicycle
With dozens of backpacks strapped to it,
Both tires flat but with a new paint job.

A collection of windows piled against
A wooden wall, some panes broken,
Others reflecting people passing by with
Armloads of paper, even though the room
Was empty. The flattened corpse of a dog,
Dry and almost unrecognizable. A
Small fire that did not warm anything
But also did not consume the pile
Of clothing upon which it sat.

I became afraid to get on the boat
Again. The gangplank had sunk into
The mud of the riverbank and only an
Inch or so still rested on the edge of the boat.

Miguel walked by with a long pole.
“Watch this,” he said poking at
The night sky. When he did
The stars trembled as if he were
Poking a painted canvas. He laughed and jumped

On the boat. “Hurry up man. It is
Nearly morning and we must get back
Before the stop lights change again.”

The stop lights were attached to tall palm
Trees where brightly colored parrots
Argued with each other.

Someone lit a cigarette and I watched
The smoke move up into the trees.
There was no longer any reason to wait here.
I picked up a canvas bag decorated
With stars and jumped to the deck.


            (from "The Snow of the Admiral"
                        by Alvaro Mutis)
—D.R. Wagner

         High calling of my protectors, those who have gone
before me, my constant guides and mentors,

         come now in this moment of danger, extend your sword,
with firmness uphold the law of your purpose,

         revoke the disorder of birds and creatures of evil omen,
wash clean the hall of innocents

        where the vomit of the rejected congeals like a sign of
misfortune, where the garments of the supplicant

        are a blemish that deflects our compass, makes our cal-
culations uncertain, our forecasts mistaken.

        I invoke your presence at this hour and deplore with all
my heart the manacles of my equivocations:

        my pact with man-eating leopards in the mangers,

        my weakness and tolerance for serpents that shed their
skin at the mere shout of lost hunters,

        my communion with bodies that have passed from hand
to hand like a staff to ford a stream, and on whose skin the
saliva of the humble is crystallized,

        my ability to contrive the lie of power and cleverness
that moves my brothers away from upright steadiness in
their purposes,

        my carelessness in proclaiming your power in customs
offices and guardrooms, in pavilions of sorrow and on pleas-
ure boats, in guard towers along the border and in the corri-
dors of the powerful.

        Wipe away in a single stroke all this misfortune and in-
famy, save me,

         certain of my obedience to your bitter laws, your abu-
sive haughtiness, your distant occupations, your desolate

         I give myself completely to the domination of your unob-
jectionable mercy, and with all humility I prostrate myself
at your feet

         to remind you that I am a traveler in mortal danger, that
my ghost is worth nothing, that those who perish far from
home are like trash swept into a corner of the market,

         that I am your servant and am helpless, and that these
words contain the unalloyed metal of one who has paid the

         owed to you now and forever throughout pale eternity.


—D.R. Wagner

No one comes to this
Part of this city any longer.
The people who live here
Are slow as a Winter’s night.

Even their voices are like the snow
Falling through the streetlights.
A single violin playing over a repeated
Small figure on the piano.

The ground is uneven, there are no
Footprints leading to the doorways.
There are few lights in the stone
Houses pushed together with narrow
Alleys. There are no animals.

It was here that the Sacred Heart
Was seen suspended in the air,
An alley in the night, above
The snow, beating, circled with
Its crown of thorns, burning in the night,
Its cross pulsating, a glow, blood
Stains on the snow.

The desire of the everlasting hills just hanging
In the air above the street. No one
Saw it. These words are the only record of this.


(invocation to the muse)
—D.R. Wagner

What fire then?
To give myself to children?
Oh woman run free before me
and let your hair come down, a winding sheet
for the fairest of the fair, the daughters
of the wind, your hair.

To be left alone somewhere in 1959
listening to fur piece bands play over
and over again, Night Train, memories
of bottles and stale smoke visions of black
haired girls dancing, legs spread, everybody’s
hustlin’ brother, get your ass out there
and get it on. And my guitar kept playing
thru Bill Doggett, spending a portion of your life
looking out the window of a smelly men's room
looking at the traffic going down Niagara Falls
Blvd., taillights like sores across the parking
lot. And the band played on.

Sometimes I drank.

My first wife, dream bitch, falling
asleep on the couch and letting me rape her
in quiet of sunday afternoon after weeks of
not coming near my body, my brain warping
out on its own jetstream of her working and
not coming home till two or three in the morning.
She didn’t wake up the whole goddamn time.
Just laid there and I stuck it in and worked.
My heart, coming so close to the dream
and she laid there, later to say, “Don’t
try to fuck me when I’m asleep” and I had
no more words, walked out on the porch
and watched the street lights
and cars. All the music little purple fires

in the ends of my fingers. she said
listening to me read something to my best
friend, “Why not call yr first book:

It was a joke, we all laughed.
She could not understand
what I was doing and I wrote harder to keep
her away from what was my self, the damage was
already done. I wanted to keep a small part
for myself, some place where I could be pure.

Finally, waking up to orange juice and glucose
after 21 days of shock treatments for an anxiety
reaction, which means I wound up huddled behind
a door afraid to open it to anyone. Anyway it worked.
I didn’t care about a thing.

Thorazine and hands moving in my dreams.
All that was left were the words.
All that was left was the part I had kept
for myself, the poems: THE BOOK OF SHIT.
Class of ’61.


Today's LittleNip: 

Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you—as if you haven't been told a million times already—that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.

—Harlan Ellison


—Medusa (with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's work. By the way—in celebration of WTF's 4th year, Issue #13, Spring 2012, the front cover photo by Sandy Thomas is currently hanging at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center, 5330 Gibbons Dr. Carmichael. Last chance to view is today, Sat. Feb. 18, from 11-3pm. Copies of WTF, edited by frank andrick and Rachel Leibrock and published by Rattlesnake Press, may be had for free at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento.)

—Photo by D.R. Wagner