Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Music Finds Itself

Song and dance by Sacramento's Sinag Tala members, 
portraying coconut vending girls in the Philippines at the
Asian Pacific Festival in Old Sacramento, May, 2012
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

             (for Amy)
—Brigit Truex

Nothing here
but the odd souvenir
from your journeys through folded maps

while I traveled with your postcards, your calls perhaps
if reception was good, the hour right. Time-lapse
images spin backward, go whirling—

you, first walking, laughing.
You, waving.


—Brigit Truex, Placerville 

Memory of standing
straight keeps the walls
from yielding to the lure
of wild grasses flicking
their raspy tongues
against the weathered boards,
whispering come here, stretch out
along my softness

like the fallen ladder, its coupled
H's forever at arm's length
from each other, lost among the heady
odor of ripe rot, the orchard studded
with decay—apricot pits, shriveled
brown faces of elderly apples,
forgetful, forgotten.
Even the muscular vines of pumpkin
and bean have stopped searching
for support. They lie flaccid
in the weak sun, whipped one way,

then another, as the fickle wind
paces the yard, plucks the corner
of a tattered curtain, once white,
now a vague wash of shadow,
color of the ceiling
inside the echoing house,
where untrod steps creak by themselves
and the stove's iron lip is cankered
with the drip of fruit pies,
years of hot meals,
served in silence.


  Sacramento City College music teacher Matthew Grasso 
(left,, with one of his 
invented guitar-sitar inventions and a drummer 
from his Neda Brahma Music band at the 
 Asian Pacific festival in Old Sacramento, May, 2012
—Photo by Michelle Kunert


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Somehow the music found itself
In Cuba, beyond Son and the rhythm.

Brilliantly feathered birds
Devour the afternoon.
A clacking of beaks.

Ramon says, “They sound
Like they are driving nails
Into the sunset,” just as
The guitars come up and
Play some instrumental music.

“What is this supposed to be?”
“You are under arrest."

The clouds announce our names
Without stumbling on a single syllable.

The air catches inside a
Clay pot and we hear a whistle.
You ask if it also sounds like your name?

We begin to understand music,
Pay attention to where the notes have been
And where they are going,
What they intend to do next.

You pour me a beverage.
It is blue.
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

She said she liked Billy Strayhorn,
That there was something in his chords,
She said, in his chords, that made
The night a little softer and consequently
The morning a little bit closer.  “You know,”
She would say, “makes it easier to close
Your eyes and just go someplace.  Billy
Could let you go places you’d never
Thought of before.  You could actually see
Big hunks of sadness break off from
Where the night gets too hard to get
Through, just break off and float away,
As if the dark were some kind of slow-
Washing river that could make things
Happen to your soul that could never
Happen at any other time.”

And she would snap her fingers,
Light another cigarette and hum his
Melodies just under her breath,
Reaching for something she couldn’t
Touch without that piano coasting that
Close to tears that the whole world
Could be there, just looking back at you
From the bottom of a glass and damn
Didn’t that whiskey taste just as good
Right now.  I mean right now.


—D.R. Wagner

I show to you a broken watch
And you make a reply that hides
What your heart might know
Of such a thing and I open a
Small wrapped bandana that
Features a small herd of wild
Mustangs on the Nevada plain.

You try to tell me what it means
But the horses run away into
The red of evening desert without
The smallest of sound.  We decide
This is a joke.  We still don’t laugh.

We vomit every idea about
Today we have held, even if
It has already happened.
What’s more, we are not crazy.

We will never have enough information.
Don’t let them come closer.
The dogs in huge packs run along
The edges of the cities these days.

I wander through the streets
Driven by your voice.  It sounds
So beautiful, as a song serves one.


Today's LittleNip:

—Michael Cluff, Corona

The eggshell's thinner
and more silent than before
the straw from Farmer Grayden's
collapsed haystack near the cedar
the dullest yellow of the year
and a bit of down
where the youngest chick
finally lifted up
after fifty-two previous
aborted take-offs
in last solo flight
never to return
with hardly a
backwards peer.


Don't forget the tribute to Gene Bloom tonight at 8pm at Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento.


Liza Chu, Miss Vietnam of Sacramento 2012, 
shows off a dress she designed in a fashion show at the
Asian Pacific Festival in Old Sacramento, May, 2012
—Photo by Michelle Kunert 


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bugs Get Empty Nest Syndrome, Too...

Baby Praying Mantis Leaving the Nest
—Photo by Charlotte Vincent, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Past the hedge
a U-Haul. Neighbors' ledge—
look, the spinning wooden duck is gone.

The shy lady drags a basket across the lawn,
loads it in the truck: map of constellations, fawn
in plaster, withered rose. Willows—see,

no leaves. Now the mystery:
house empty.


—Taylor Graham

One dog lost
after another. Time-crossed
leash-bond of so many years—
human tears. And now we've tossed

a dead bone
for the new pup to chew; stone
flung into the pond—a chase
to erase the seconds that hone

their bright blade.
In earth, so many are laid
to rest. This new puppy runs
under suns, then sleeps in shade.


—Kim Clyde, Sacramento

Holiday makers
Split the water
In their boats
Racing on
The swiftly flowing
Anglers laze
Along the shore
Waiting for
The bite
And tug
Of nature on the line.

Split themselves
From the nature
They enjoy;
Angling for their place
Between earth
And air
And sky
Littering this
Hallowed ground
The detritus of
The modern world.

Good capitalists
They aspire to be
Leaving behind them
The colors
Of the flag as
The wake of boats
Wash upon the shore
At the feet of



—Carol Louise Moon


Some days I feel like a waif
whose thoughts are wafting
from my ears.  Mostly I wonder
the why of things.
And where will the when be answered?
And when will the why be answered?
I have the wherewithall to wonder
without whining while waiting—
possibly with some other wonderer.
Who will I have my with-whom with
…and when?


By the way,
I’ve only seen pictures,
but I noticed the wheel bug
has this little wheel around his neck.
Shall I compare myself to a wheel bug
whose concerns have weighted him down
around his neck?


—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

…where poems are born in the souls of birds;
where old trees listen to the songs of shadows;…
                                    —Joyce Odam


Where poems are born in the souls of birds

is a crisp green meadow with herds
of cattle chewing on the green of words;

where bright yellow gowen bloom in the spring,
the cows all chew and the birds all sing,
is where I’d want to be found nesting.

Where old trees listen to the songs of shadows,
tell their stories to the fox and the crows—
in a place like this I could lose my sorrows

and gain some insight, or philosophy.
I would listen, while sitting the great elm tree,
to the leaves as they whisper back to me. 


Thanks to today's lively cooks in the Kitchen! Charlotte Vincent is Joyce Odam's daughter, and these are amazing photos she caught of our Seed of the Week: Empty Nests! Speaking of Joyce, note the inscription on Carol Louise Moon's second poem. And Taylor Graham says, about her poems: The first [trois-par-huit, our current Form to Fiddle With] is a somewhat fanciful version of disappearing neighbors. The second (one of those Celtic forms) is how we keep the dog-nest from being empty.


Today's LittleNip:

Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home.

—Phyllis Diller



 —Photo by Charlotte Vincent

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Speaking for the Unspeakable

—Photo by Joyce Odam


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

She knew what it was to sorrow by degrees,
the thin extending shadows of her years,

the blank look in the mirror of her eyes.
Oh, she was sad enough to specialize

in winter’s puny light—that tone of gray
that January brings.  Each year she vowed

to lift the house with light—to have it
glow and penetrate the winter—still—

she hangs onto her angers like a duty.
She knows what it is to sorrow by degrees.

(first pub. in Hidden Oak, 2004)


—Joyce Odam

we sulk through the house
wising we could love each other
or wishing we could
hate each other better


—Joyce Odam

I am not so content
with roses now.
They crowd and suffocate.
Their petals drop like prayers—
unanswered and ignored.
They bruise my carpet
where I pace in all my fury.
Your love has killed me,
so I kill it back.
I shred it into screams.
These roses that you send
compress the air.
Why send me roses now!
Why offer insult upon sting!
Words cannot be taken back.
I scorn your roses—keep their thorns.

Ragged Leaf
—Photo by Joyce Odam


—Joyce Odam

How they react
to the weapon and the thought.
Hating it.
Wishing it away.

If a bullet should come at them
they would stand and weep
and hold their hands out.
They would offer their love.

(first pub. in One Dog Press)


—Joyce Odam

If I were the sea
I would use you for a focal point:
your light for my darkness;

I would use you for a boundary
to gauge my edge against;
I would know where I could test
my calm and fury,
let my ships beware,
warn my whales,
and give your shore-gulls praise
for marking stormy skies
with their whiteness.

I would always know where you are
so I could ever surge toward you
with my lonely power.


Thanks to Joyce Odam for our Kitchen fare today, finishing up our Seed of the Week: Danger! Explosives! Our new SOW is appropriate to the season: Empty Nests. Send your thoughts about that vacant real estate, either real or figurative, to

Trina Drotar sends us a link to her new website: as well as to some reviews:
Poets everywhere will be saddened to know that Gene Bloom has passed away. Gene, originally from New York (where he briefly published a poetry journal by the name of Entrails back in the '60s) was a staple at Poetry Unplugged on Thursday nights. His raucous poetry will be missed.


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

It is as simple as this:
words will do it—
speak for the unspeakable
—the dark thought
uttered and believed.

Truth is like that—
filtered through the strength
of opinion—given with
great influence of passion. 
Oh, my poems…



 Fish Tank
—Photo by Joyce Odam

Monday, May 28, 2012

Waiting to be Reclaimed

—Photo by Taylor Graham, Placerville

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

It was always
sweltering desertion

my complete absence
by absolute shore

holding poppies
for my Uncle Jack

who hated the heat
of fractured war

hiding near the sea
by the slanted sun.


—B.Z. Niditch

Do not go there
helpless as a child
alone in life's air

until a hurting bird
sings on birch branches
by shore dunes

near calm rocks
of seaweed
about our shadows

a neon butterfly
on my right shadow
shines with first light

along a wooded path
around scattered trees
empty of my initials.


—B.Z. Niditch

Never beneath
the poet's embracing sky
has an innocent sun
touched the earth

have rays of first light
against the wind
spread out words

Never has
endlessly living
out alembic speech
along laughter's rocks
whispered such joys
at the edge's shore

has an ode
of futuristic pranks
sentenced us
to nature's folly.

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—B.Z. Niditch

You, Bay of Biscayne
on the airy shore
of my childhood

by recurrent waves
at manifold glances
by sand dune castles
which fall
every time you build

amid the color
of faithless return
in luminous bodies
of cut anemones.


—B.Z. Niditch

Waiting for
your umbrella

on miles of dunes
from the beach rain

like other promises
that do not last

more than anemones
by the sea shore

of a photogaphic memory
jolting my patience

in a red eye
that will not close.


Today's LongerNip:

—Caschwa, Sacramento

(Based on Carl Sandburg’s “Death Snips Proud Men”)

Act I

You missed Act I,
Because this is when
You were born and you
Didn’t know yet how to
Think, evaluate, and control

Act II

This is all the years of your life
When you were sleeping, waiting
In line, or otherwise subject to
Forces beyond your control


These are the moments when
You gave careful thought
To properly evaluate and control
A situation.  Some of you will
Miss this Act if you blink

Act IV

Finally, eternal sleep.
Family and friends will cry
And mourn and eulogize, and then
Place your remains to wait in line
To be reclaimed by the Earth.

Flowers to the leading lady
Good job, everyone!
Now let’s go have a nice meal…

—Medusa, who is wishing you peace on this Memorial Day

For more about B.Z. Niditch, go to

—Photo by Taylor Graham

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Long Sleep

—Photo by Kathy Kieth, Diamond Springs

—Carl Sandburg

DEATH is stronger than all the governments because the governments are men and men die and then death laughs: Now you see ’em, now you don’t.

Death is stronger than all proud men and so death snips proud men on the nose, throws a pair of dice and says: Read ’em and weep.

Death sends a radiogram every day: When I want you I’ll drop in—and then one day he comes with a master-key and lets himself in and says: We’ll go now.

Death is a nurse mother with big arms: ’Twon’t hurt you at all; it’s your time now; you just need a long sleep, child; what have you had anyhow better than sleep?



Saturday, May 26, 2012

Heavy Verbs of Our Movements

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Oh there is a terrible crying on the night air.
Children with dreams caught in their mouths,
Unable to speak.  The thick vengeance of sleep
Full upon them.  Wolves of sleep, cast not thy
Blowing eyes upon our small dominion.

We meant no harm.  We have even erased
Our poor names from the doors of
This kingdom.  Still our ears
Fill with the sounds of sirens and
Fearful gnashing of teeth.  A mad alarum
Chases through the night blood of our cities.
Our pulses spurting madly into its flames.

Oh there is a terrible crying on the night air.
And we softly lie here listening to the
Calm oceans of our breath as it wonders the
Stars with its sweet rhythm.


—D.R. Wagner

The starry rams that vex
The starry plow and trundle
Cross the heavens at the edges of the hex
Signs, tipping huge and noisy beacons
Toward the table of the morning,
Lower head and butt, no warning,
But continue toward the dawn.

Oh sparkle, clean and burning,
Clustered in the arms of the sun
That makes no claim to
Planets. Air like flying junk
That litter space as it races
To the limits of what is known.

The starry rams perplex us
And the starry rams suspect us
Of having forgotten them.
They left us perhaps, we left them
And see them only in the heavens

Or caught inside a wish
They could be less than poetry,
They could be less than verse
Or could become a simple myth
And the whole construction burst.

—Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

They stepped down the wind.
The air would shimmer as if it understood
Every step they made, the bright
Colors of their words, the stories
Beginning to be told before anyone
Could sit down.

We would find our way below
The bridge.  The dogs would follow
Us, smelling the blood on our clothes,
The smoky smell of gunpowder clinging
To us as if we were the only ones
Who knew its name.  Everything
Had teeth.  Everything had huge eyes.

The moon banks off of the clouds.
“You can’t touch that kind of show, sonny,”
She said, leaning on what used to be
One of the beams that held the moon
Well above the earth.

“None of your smart remarks, either.”
She continued.  “This isn’t that kind of world.
It is supposed to be filled with a love
Nearly impossible to grasp.”

The men are no longer able to find
Their way.  They carve flutes and make drums
To help bring the spirits closer.
Fear rides in a dusk, whirling cobras and searching
For fuel for the fires, cow dung
Or, if they are lucky, wood.

A calm evidences itself in our breathing.
It takes all our effort to keep
The sky spinning out its stars,
Too hot in the coolness of
The moon, charge this venture
With the heat necessary to all imagination,
To create this table we sit at,
Surrounding ourselves with precious
Gifts of red and gold.

The macaques make noises
In the tops of the trees.
They recognize faces from a long time ago
When these places were part of a perfect spirit.


—D.R. Wagner

Before you even feel it.
Before you see the burns.
Before the serious night enters
And hides in the corner of the room

Before the questions start.
Before the walls turn red.
Before the dreams come
Carrying their cloth bags, damp
With slender breathing.

Before these things,
Language will stop.
I will hold you
With my eyes, as if
All other instruments
Were broken and we
Had no right to come here.

The thickness of our bodies
Shall be of great comfort
Then.  The heavy verbs
Of our movements shall
Appear as dance.

Then, I will kiss you
With my lips full upon
All that is your reason.
And we will be transported
Together.  And they who chance to see
These things will be unable to remember
Our names or if we stood
Before them.  For them,
And their time, we shall
Have only this recognition: love.


Today's LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner

I will tell you all about blue,
But there is little to say
For the ocean and the sky
Say everything for me and I
See it on the smoke rising
From the fires toward evening,
And yes, floating in your eyes. 


Thanks, D.R., for today's gourmet fare, including the roses! For more McKinley park roses, this time from Annie Menebroker and Kathy Kieth, go to Medusa's Facebook page for yet-another new album called, well, More Roses!


 Poet/translator Carlos Reyes and D.R. Wagner