Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Now There is Forever

Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

I hurry but find no proof of kill.
The old wounds shift
and the arrow is bouncing off a tree.

Is that my skill, my thoughts arriving
before I know them—
but always missing my target heart?

I am standing in a familiar shaft
of cold red light—
the sliced air shining and streaming.

I touch my breast and watch the blood
pour down my hand
and am pleased at my calmness.


that drew
the careful curiosity of the boy

the old hive empty now
in the far back corner

of the lot
he still can hear

the golden buzzing
and note the way

the lazy shadows move
against the dreaming day

his mother stands there too
with him,

as if the bees
are still there

and busy at their work

as in some olden time
before this trembling moment

and much was lost forever

—Joyce Odam
(based on J. Alden Weir, "Watching the Bees", 1896)


—Joyce Odam

Home late again
to drain pan over-
flowing all across
green-sea linoleum.
She sloshed the pan
from under the ice box
poured it down the sink
and grabbed the mop.
     *     *     *
oh, in the day
the hours melt
like ice in wooden dark
intentions lag behind
like gray enamel hands
that hold too much and
lately the apartment
takes the smell
of cold and wet
not enough heat
no light
the walls too close
to other walls
must get away
     *     *     *

The ice man

climbs the stairs
twice every week.
Ice drips its usefulness away.
The pan grows full.
measures out the duty and
the play
but never gets home
soon enough.
Hard to
time these things.

 —Photo by Joyce Odam


—Joyce Odam

In the dream, the mirror holds
     my mother. She pleads to be
     released. Her tears run down
     the outside of the glass.

In the dream, my mother holds a
     glass of something bitter; she
     tastes and laughs. She dances
     to the breaking music in the
     mirror, her laugh in shatter.

In the dream, my mother is sitting
     at a window. Night is caught
     in the dark frame-light of the
     mirror. She shuffles an old deck
     of cards, lays them out again.

In the dream, I knock on the glass
     and it shatters. My hand bleeds.
     I try to run, but she holds me
     with a look. I try to run, but
     she holds me with a look.

In the dream, my mother is beside
     me, smiling with me into the
     mirror. In the mirror, she is
     looking out at us—rage on
     her face, pounding on the glass,
     weeping and shouting.

(first pub. in Caveat Lector, 1999)


—Joyce Odam

Black stars
in a white sky—
that kind of night.

Lightning that vanishes
before it strikes
because you close your eyes.

Only a mountain away—
whatever you want
and cannot reach in time.

Every wilderness has a center
where calmness breeds
like an extinct animal.

That weeping you hear—a pillow
that smothers what you feel
till you cannot feel it anymore.

Green clouds in windows
where tears blur glass and
a finger draws in the moisture.

However you mean this is beyond
explanation—you have counted all
the stars and they are gone.

The wild animal that lives
under your windowsill has dreams
unimaginable to you.



—Joyce Odam

They dance as if they have another distance to go.
She would dance fast. He dances slow.

Bogged down in each other, cheek to cheek,
trite and weary, they become as bleak

as someone biddable to sophistication’s mode.
They dance as if their very lives were owed

to melancholy, and melancholy’s tragic mirror.
She pulls away to look back over her bare shoulder;

his sweaty hand flattens against her back;
she softens and clasps her hands around his neck;

and he looks past her to someone in the shadow—
someone without a face before a window

who turns away as though, on close inspection,
must once again be only a reflection.

Something about this haunts him like a dying;
she looks at him and finds he has been crying,

and she has taken on a glassy kind of texture
and is receding from him, feature by feature;

the other dancers, too, seem to be drifting—
something of this night no longer shifting,

the same old music playing its hollow song,
time and its window teasing life along.

He finds the joke almost a bit too clever
First there was no time. Now there is forever.


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

The distortions and the perfections entangle, 
sharing color and form

How much of the ungraspable allows the eyes        
of obverse imagination

How much of the mystery holds still for the
instant of viewing

How much or how little can the mind
know what it seeks to know

How many strange and lovely birds fly over
or rest in stillness before harm finds them

How much does the painterly world
become real

What encroachments yet wait to use and
despoil the lost perfection

—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's gourmet fare. Our next Seed of the Week is Spells: ever had a spell cast on you? The lover you couldn't leave, the car you had to have, the daze of a hot summer's day? Send your spell-bound poems to kathykieth@hotmail.com—no deadlines on SOWs, though. After all, you're under a spell.....

—Photo by Joyce Odam


Monday, July 30, 2012

Dreamed by a Poet

 Blue Danube Dancers, 25th Annual Strauss Festival
July 2012, Elk Grove, California
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Layers of dream. The boy was dancing
in silk black trousers with a crimson stripe.
hip to ankle, a strip of red
so it flashed as he leaped
and twisted, twirled and dark silk swirled,
he was red-legged hawk in air,
and all the young girls watching,
clapping, swaying to the dance.
he'll march off to war, to battle across
the river, to trample haystacks under boots—
seedheads flying golden
into air, then stomped to dust
by troops as the horses flee from the fields.
Stripping off
layers of dream. The boy dances crimson
slashes flashed by sword-light,
gunfire light, each red stripe not cloth but
blood in spurts and drops, in tides
of war.
What does the dream
mean, and how to make it stop?


—Taylor Graham

Under the soft blue stone of heaven,
the way from field to garden is paved with shining
stones, a place dreamed by a poet
with rhetorical follies and similes of ponds.

Not far from here were brick-works,
just out of sight of these poetic vistas. Bricks blue-
black as the under-nails of girls who labored
without hope of metaphor in their lives.

But here is the home of the poet,
his shining stone. Today, it's the landscape's
skeleton surviving. In the end, a poet's
music flutes through bones.

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Don't you dare walk on my
Rare, expensive, antique
Turkish rug!
I'd rather you

Walk on my people,
Tread on their rights
Make inhumane gestures
Put respect out of reach

Twist the facts
Confuse the issues
Manipulate spin
Prosecute the truth

Ship jobs overseas
Burn the American flag
Make English hard to find on ballots
Defy the Constitutional ban against royalty

Do whatever else you want to do
But leave the damn rug
Hanging on the wall
As a beacon of hope and pride


—Michael Cluff, Corona

The inside of the old Oldsmobile
even in the Illinois night
was drenched near-deadly
by the swelling smell of sow
hogging the road above of us
and infiltrating inside the interior
of the five-packed car.

In the early sixties
interstate travel was on highways
sometimes just two lanes
in rurality
and being Jewish
this encounter
will living swine
just enforced
via the olfactory
what I just started
to read about
as a smaller kid.

  Swan Boat, Strauss Festival
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Before the air conditioner
came back on
Mr. Franks
had stripped off
his blue glen-plaid sports coat
and his green, blue
and black striped tie
and his black penny loafers were
sighted across the room
under his chipped
pre-Vietnam era desk.

The class
continued the history final
and the gunshots
coming out of Mr. Franks'
battered soul
recalled to him
the delta, hot
summer nights just
outside Saigon
with fatigues
as drenched as his now-
yellow pit-stained
white dress shirt
was now
and then...

—Michael Cluff


—Michael Cluff

Looking at the red numbers
and not recognizing they exist
beyond the basics of 7, 0 and 4.
Showering after shopping
for coffee, bananas and arugula
a bagel with the full cream cheese

The water paddling
the skin and memory
nicely for more than minutes
the need for deodorant
replaced by the want
for its smooth and even application.

The Internet gandered at
and work e-mail to be viewed
at my determination of a later date
clean a betta tank
in a manner respecting
the baby male
for today.

Then gazing at the hibiscus
and begonia on the second floor
when the sun
like me
decides to peek down
at the outer world
all in our own time.

  Betta Fish


Our thanks to today's artistes for their fine work! We are proud to announce a new album on Medusa's Facebook page: photos of near-by Locke which were taken by Cynthia Linville.

The Kitchen itself has a new page in the FUCHSIA LINKS at the top of the blog: Interviews and Articles is just what it says—interviews and articles! Check it out for a link to a new interview of Mary Mackey as her books go Kindle.


Today's LittleNip:

In the world of lying
clocks I dwell
unsteady in solid knowledge
and happy some dead-
lines may not be met

—Michael Cluff



Several local writers have stories in
this new anthology from Harlequin:
Jennifer O'Neill Pickering, Trina Drotar,
Maryellen Burns. Order it at  


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Just Listening

—Orhan Veli Kanik (1914-1950)

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
First a breeze is blowing
And leaves swaying
Slowly on the trees;
Far, far away the bells of the
Water carriers ringing,
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
A bird is passing by,
Birds are passing by, screaming, screaming,
Fish nets being withdrawn in fishing weirs,
A woman’s toe dabbling in water,
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening,
The cool Grand Bazaar,
Mahmutpasha twittering
Full of pigeons,
Its vast courtyard,
Sounds of hammering from the docks,
In the summer breeze far, far away the odor of sweat,
I am listening.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
The drunkenness of old times
In the wooden seaside villa with its deserted boat house
The roaring southwestern wind is trapped.
My thoughts are trapped
Listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
A coquette is passing by on the sidewalk,
Curses, sings, sings, passes;
Something is falling from your hand
To the ground,
It must be a rose.
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
A bird is flying round your skirt;
I know if your forehead is hot or cold
Or your lips are wet or dry;
Or if a white moon is rising above the pistachio tree
My heart’s fluttering tells me . . .
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

(trans. from the Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat)



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Only Bird Songs

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

The battle had long been forgotten.
Someone found a coin recently that had
An image of a sword and a nearly
Obliterated date that someone else
Said was a reference to a particular
Battle.  Everyone had died who could
Carry the name of the conflict into
The present.  There were layers upon
Layers of dreams that could no
Longer be cut through.  Not even
The sound of cloth tearing.  No reasons
At all except maybe a hawk announcing
A field to whomever might be interested.

I fell to my knees and prayed for those
Who had been this battle, not even
Certain I could pronounce the place
Correctly.  The dream rustled and
Tried to weave my sleep with its images
Of horses terrified and the loud noises
The dying made.  Within a week the
Coin had become lost again.
The hawk long disappeared.


—D.R. Wagner

There was a certain throw of rocks
That led out into the lake where
We could stand on the greatest of them
And proclaim wishes to the evening.

We were ten years old.  We thought
That wishes were indeed magic and because
Summer was upon us and because
The light that held July for as
Long as it did and glowed on our
Shadowed forms, that this was
Enough magic to allow almost
Anything to happen.

What we did not know is that
This perfect magic, while ours
For this blessed moment was really our
Gift to those who came after
Us in time and found themselves
In this same place.  Our eyes tearing
Across decades to feel their flesh
Again for a brief moment, to sing
A song to them.  But it was
Not a song they knew and all our
Efforts were only bird songs just
Before the sun abandoned the place.

I realized this, dismounted and
Walked carefully, step by step,
Down to the sidewalks of a neighborhood
I would truly never be able
To walk again. The wind
Already quickening across the trees,
Cutting through the window, open
Against July and telling me
To 'Go to sleep.  Go to sleep.
We will take care of everything.'


—D.R. Wagner

I leaned against the wall,
Slid into a squat and stared at the fire.
The flames looked like toys.  They popped
And whistled, made reference to many
Things, nearly forgotten, made new even
As they disappeared into warm ash
Carved on a breeze.  Temples of smoke.

We had been working hard.  The floods
Were coming and the crests of the waves
Would carry demons, naming the heart
And all it provinces, flooding its every
Room before a breath could be taken,
Slamming the bodiless ghosts together, thousands
Upon thousands of them.  We would pick
Up the bodies later, when the lights
Finally returned to the room.

A first star.  The sweep of angel wings
Across an infinite stillness.
From here I could look down at all
That was below as from a great height.
The fire.  The great waves moving over
Everything.  Light going out ahead of the waves.
Nothing ever stopping.  Breathing.


—D.R. Wagner

These pools look as if the season
Has forgotten them, left them to struggling
As their dark tadpoles struggle, barely able
To cover themselves with what water remains,
Tiny, amphibian feet pushing the mud aside.

They leave no track when they dry.  The cracked
Earth, the clicking of cicadas upon the best of summer.
A puff of dust pulled up from skeleton bird nests,
Finger bone left by a wind that was not supposed
To have a skeleton.  It was supposed to disappear
Into the woods, only dogs would be able to track
It.  But for the fires and the cold light of the stars
We would not know of this at all, thinking that
The season had fallen exactly there and the
Change to Autumn would feel like someone
Had only slipped a ring on our finger and we
Would not notice it until the temperatures dropped.

Until it was October all around us once again,
A few rain storms causing the pools to appear
Again.  A willow tree insisting it knew what desire
Was all about, urging us on deeper and deeper,
Across the meadows, into the darker woods.

‘This all looks so familiar,’ we would think,
But we would have been changed by everything
We had seen, sit on a fallen tree trunk, listening
Carefully to the croaking of the frogs.

 —Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

The women of the shoreline villages
Called him ‘a sensitive’ for he could,
They said, place his hand on the water
And know who was upon the open sea.

‘Ulysses is very near a whirlpool!’
He would say or ‘There is a high masted
Ship becalmed in a stagnant sea
With an albatross dead upon its deck.’

He spoke of waterfalls as songs.
‘The Father of Waters’, he said of Niagara.
He knew when the ice gave up its embrace
Opening the Arctic seas for the great
White bear and her tiny cubs.

‘The rain is on Namaqualand now
As it is on the Saguaro and the
Boojum trees.’  And they would think
He was speaking in tongues.

His body would shiver with the wild
Tides that engulfed Fundy and the rushing
Of the Amazon revealed rainstorms
Pelting the backs of black and silver monkeys,
Surprised at their fig-eating by the
Boom of great thunderstorms.

His voice was of the snows over
The rocks of the highest peaks
And he could hear the million
Languages of the surf on all the shorelines
In the world.

The women would watch his pale form,
So supple and so fluid, meander
Through the deep ravines that led
To shoreline or though the flat
Plains where rivers sighed with the heat
Summer placed upon their backs
As they idled below the dragonflies,
Quick as thoughts above them,
Red and green ghosts of any summer.

Then, in the Fall one year, just before
The changing of the seasons, he was
Gone.  He is remembered in the late
Season rains.  His smile has become
Spring mists.  His very breath still
Moves the trees, sensitive even
To the call of seabirds across the lagoon.


—D.R. Wagner

We were watching the tall ships
On the far edges of the harbor.
The storms were on the ocean.
The sea was in an extremely bad mood.
St. Elmo's fire lit up the tops of the masts.
The ships began to look like heavenly messengers.

We had come down from the north.
So much had been broken.
We had little food but we did have
Beautiful dogs who could move sheep.

We will not come by this way again.
These are dead eyes that stare
Out at me. I know these lions.
I know these shining stones.
I know all the greens of these forests.
I know the limits where darkness
Can own any body and occupy
Its vision with the stones
That suggest understanding but
Are not.  Thin songs, made of skulls
And wind blowing through hollow bones.

'Try this flute. It was your lover's
Ulna, so beautiful the butterflies
Will land in your hair just to listen.'

We move out to the garden if
Only to rest for a moment.
Time rushes past in a flaming red chariot.

One barely notices until we begin
To bleed and a strangeness
Composed by great age begins
To invade our bodies, carrying
On all night as if we were
Made of pure youth,

Our dogs pushing us closer and
Closer together until we are
Unable to move any farther.


—D.R. Wagner

I’ve seen that little bird before.
It seemed wild but it actually
Lived with the gypsies, never
Quite a pet, always a tall
Tale.  It could land on a
Saddle horn while one was
Riding and one would not notice it.

When she opened her hand, it
Was full of blue stones.  They
Looked like Opal, but
Seemed to have memory.  I would
Always be the other in the dream
And have the ability to speak
Ancient languages without knowing
If they would be understood.  Other
Dreams careened into me.
They sounded like nightingales
And contrived to find rest for me.

Stop.  Please stop,
I asked the sea.


Today's LittleNip:

I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.

—Anna Quindlen



 —Photo by D.R. Wagner