Friday, August 31, 2012

Calling CQ

Cynthia Linville

—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

Everyone knows how to wrestle an alligator, Kid.
Bill’s been telling me that for years.

Well I finally got a chance to see him in action
down in Florida last May.

Hey Look, Bill! I said. There’s an alligator.
Now you can show me.

Nothing to it, Kid, he said,
and jumped right into the swamp.

First, he rolled onto the alligator’s back.
Then, he gripped shut that big toothy maw.

He was careful not to cover up the gator’s ears, though,
because Bill had some stories to tell.

He talked and he talked and he talked.
He talked until that gator cried crocodile tears.

Now they say that once you’ve subdued a gator
the hard part is getting away.

But for Bill?
That was the easy part!

(True story!)


I want to be Red Riding Hood, he said.
So I helped him into the too-short cape,
rubbed Hollywood Red on his thin lips,
and admired his size 13 heeled ankle boots.
Now come show me what’s in your basket,
I said. Closer, I said.
I looked at him with my big brown eyes,
smiled at him with my big white teeth—
and then I ate him up.

—Cynthia Linville

—Cynthia Linville

There have to be mom-mermaids, she said
as she wriggled into her spandex
safe-for-water pencil skirt.
I mean, they can’t all be girls.
Mermaids with a bit of heft to the hips
with a knowing quirk to the lips
with a raised eyebrow.
Mermaids with breasts so full
they can’t be covered up with a seashell.
MILF Mermaids! he said.
I think it’s time for adult swim.
Are the kids in bed?

 —Photo by Katy Brown, Davis


—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento


Writing is labor. But, I remember

other work: sweet ether-dulled childbirth,

it’s rubber hose, gauze mask,

cold crystalline droplets—the odor, tannic,

like old wine in glazed bottles.

Above the Aegean, pitch pine

lands on grassy banks. I’m sipping retsina

in a sunny café.  A milkweed explodes

this brown seeded dream,

kernels scatter like miniature hooves.

I grab the nearest, twist my hands
in moth-spun fibers,
slip through seven bright planets
hovering near the horizon—
silverfish wounds ordered… to open… a slit
in the velvet sky. Accelerating
into an inconceivable orbit, cracking
past a white star, I hear singing.
It’s the Perseus galaxies moaning in B-flat!
(the lowest measurable note)
Like an aerolite
in the void, I’m drugged
in song, dread to disappear.
Then a thought—Chicago! Ella Fitzgerald!


—Jeanine Stevens

Evening TV reports a low—
a dense pressure hovers,

steel doors blast hinges
sashes bulge, water breaks

atmospheric equations.
In chintz birth chambers

a quick kick, rosy smile,
the first one drifts

down, dazzling emeralds
in golden honeycombs

gossamer spirits
in full-length mirrors.

Glass beads crack
shed eggs green as frogs

trees sprout timber—
cedar and balsam.

The monitor flashes:
Six baby girls born early. 



—Jeanine Stevens                                        


The study of bioacoustics: monkey,                                    

sea lion and gull voices against distant,                       
haunting Moog synthesizers.

Waiting for nature, the first light

shatters, a lone sparrow
chirps distilled splendor, a biophany—
each animal strumming its own sonic bower.

The rush is on to record soundscapes masked

by Arctic drilling. Where are the quiet places?

A congressional team listened to a 95-decibel
recording of snowmobiles racing in Yellowstone,
then another, wolves, ravens, and winter wrens.
(A bandwidth—nature’s own tone poem)

Some personal stereos play at 120 decibels
20 hours without recharging.
Aircraft, traffic, action films, jackhammers,
car alarms drowned out the wild.

Yet, few still wince when cell phones amplify
graveside services for old folks.

10 Million Americans suffer hearing loss, high blood
pressure and heart disease from excessive noise.

What races past our frequency range?
Hearing is blur, bruised ears and souls, a state
of disease, missing ancient breathwaves, the lost pulse—
the sighing in prehistoric caves.

Some have placed small red stones
to mark one square inch of silence—a silence
redefined: the elk’s bugle, the wolf’s wail, the pronghorn’s
charge, the wind’s whip and whistle.

Maybe silence is just song-held codes
of canaries, or simply a lull in birdsong after first light,
a silence that just hovers, then moves on.

(Found poem: “Stop, Look Listen.” AAA Magazine, Bill Donohue, 2007)


—Ann Menebroker, Sacramento

Suddenly we're on a steep San Francisco hill
in a stick-shift car, hitting a red light; me, promising you
we weren't heading for one.
But it's here.  Clutch.  Gas pedal.  Brake.
Fog.  Car ahead of us seemingly not worried.
The perfect day together just started and we're already
in trouble.  We're going up, honey.  Up the rest
of the hill, up to go down.  Up to the Cliff House.
Down to the ocean.  There could be a murder
happening on the sidewalk next to us. Someone could be running
naked, not even breathing hard.  All we know is the fear
inside of the car, your feet
working the car's pedals.  Clutch burning.
Our phones useless.  The GPS useless.
You want me to trade places.  The car behind
us honks.  The light has changed.  I look sideways 
at you and say, "No way!"


Our thanks to today's cooks! Cynthia Linville will be reading with Tim Bellows at Sac. Poetry Center this coming Monday; then she'll be at the Poetry Night Reading Series in Davis (Natsoulas Gallery) with Christopher Lu on Thursday, Sept. 6. Details for both of these are on the blue board at the right of this. Cynthia is one of the editors of convergence, and she reminds us that the Fall issue is now online at

Another poet/editor is Jeanine Stevens, who has helped put together Squaw Valley Review 2010, featuring Lucille Clifton. Ordering information is at

Carl Schwartz (Caschwa) is sending out signals to planets far and wide. About the Seed of the Week, he writes:  I first read the SOW "On a planet like ours" as meaning not ours, but another one like ours.  Then when expressed as "On this planet of ours" that takes it much closer to home.  How about open up the Kitchen and serve "On this planet hors d' oeuvres"?  Any way you cut it, there's always room for poems.  Isn't that interesting—I never saw the alternate meaning! I kind of like the idea of talking about another planet like ours.

Katy Brown's calla lily was taken at Darling House, the bed and breakfast in Santa Cruz that faces the sea. Katy returns from Michigan today, hopefully with many photos and poems in hand.

And Annie Menebroker? I've always liked Katy's photo of her, taken at a Book Collector rattle-read back in the day. Annie's poem, written about her and her daughter, Sue McElligott, reminds me of why I no longer have stick-shifts.


Today's LittleNip:

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Calling CQ, calling CQ
Paul, Ocean, Edward, Tom,

Calling MC, calling MC
Alfred, George, Edward, Nora, Tom

Calling QT, calling QT
Harold, Uncle, Sam, Sam, Uncle, Harold


Annie Menebroker
—Photo by Katy Brown

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Arabesque Melodies

Grace Marie Grafton

—Grace Marie Grafton, Oakland

The arabesque melody.  I want.  Song
of the frog, song of the blue damselfly
to placate the welts rising inconsolably
on my classical score.  It’s too wary,
too fretful.  It wears a straight mouth, it wears
tight hose.  More nakedness please, more slippage.
The raucous raven’s song, boisterous,
irreverent.  Oh blaring trumpet, tickling
timpani, but I don’t stop there.  Open
the back door, open sequestered dawns,
midnight rain, the small silver fish.
I sit on the limb, lean against the trunk,
ask permission of the doves to watch them
set on eggs and create grey, create brown. 


—Grace Marie Grafton

The world is never still.  Moving, shifting,
rising.  Is it that the molecules life
is made of are lonely, must constantly
nudge their neighboring manifestation?
Contact, communication, ‘lectrical
charge.  Or could it be, life is so in love
that molecules must kiss and hug and mate?
Water specks into drops into streams into
rivers.  Matter gathering into palm fronds
or beetle’s green lacquered wings beating
night air to bits that bump the eyeball
of a watching puma who wants to change
its prey into itself.  Even in death
bodies transform.  Not to exist is still.


—Grace Marie Grafton

My mom ironed my white cotton slacks
and I failed to recognize them as mine.
They were so beautiful I didn’t want to wear them,
wanted to hang them up in my room
and stroke their smooth gleam every day,
admire them as testament of her love for me.
Next is always cluttering up the fervent package.
Begin at any edge, sunset, the end of breakfast,
noon’s tilting, try to make the square corner
plumb, how long does that last?
Earth shifts, sometimes wind mimics
the gods.  Interesting that Jesus was
a carpenter.  Yet he was called wise.
How much do we have to give up?


—Grace Marie Grafton

Lost, the moon uselessly begs the stars
for a guide.  The constellations are a hall of
pictures, revolving around moon
until he wishes he weren’t a circle,
wishes he could stop in one spot
and grow teeth to eat some green beans
and blueberries and carrots.  Absorb color,
sprout hands legs hair, live modestly
under a magnolia tree, something
big and old to hide him from sky                                                  
with its constant drift and demanding expanse.
The only thing he really can count on
is his invisible tether to Earth,
the one who winks at him the lucky colors.


Thanks, Grace, for today's poems! Grace Marie Grafton's newest book, Whimsey, Reticence and Laud/unruly sonnets, came out in Spring 2012 from Poetic Matrix Press ( Her book of prose poems, Other Clues, 2010, was published by Latitude Press ( A chapbook, Chrysanthemum Oratorio, 2010, is available from Dancing Girl Press ( Her poems, "Evoke", won first prize in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition (Pen Women, San Francisco); she has won prizes in the annual Bellingham Review contest, and was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Poems recently appear in Glass, Prism Review, Ambush Review, and She is also active in the California Poets in the Schools program. Grace lives in Oakland with her extended family.

Grace Marie Grafton and Gail Rudd Entrekin will be reading from their poetry on September 7 at 7pm at Laurel Book Store in Oakland. The reading will celebrate Poetic Matrix, the poets' publisher. For more info:


Today's LittleNip:

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Brother of flame
to mourn the future
sister of fire
putting a wreath
on an unknown field
called poetry.


Gail Rudd Entrekin

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wednesday on Planet Earth

Sleeping Olmec Woman
DeYoung Museum, San Francisco
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Dewell H. Byrd, Central Point, OR

Dawn scrolls back the night
invites the wee tail of a rainbow…
glory to these old, sleepy eyes.

The stirrings of morning
nudge night’s silence into activity
greeting the casual spring shower.
A squawk somewhere beyond
my window demands attention.
Squawk, squawk, panic.

Crows swagger with authority
on the humming power lines,
challenge a small intruder.
A pin-feathered robin hops about,
calls for its mother, ignores crows
that make false bombing runs.

A feral cat slinks along the gutter,
tail twitching. The three crows
turn on the bigger prey.

Mother robin escorts her baby to flight.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

(I just bought a walker.  Added a gun rack.
Now it's Walker Texas Ranger.)

Somewhere distant
on a planet like Earth
women sit by while
it's men who give birth

to great nations
nude women on canvas

collateral damage
culinary shortcuts
burning the instructions

worst jokes at the worst times
buzz cutting all the pets
shoes with growth hormones
catching fish with hair nets



I write down lots of ideas
in the form of poems
some I send in
some of those get published

Others get filed:
Hold Until
Submitted and Waiting
Once I've Been Discovered
Scrap Heap
Not Picked
Maybe Later

Some of my ideas don't get written down:
silent triggers of discontent
verse sung in the shower
epiphanies while dreaming
spontaneous musical creations
outright imitations
personal stuff I don't care to share

And then there are those form letters:
thank you for your submission
one tooth on the gear
has to mesh with other teeth
on other gears
in terms of size, shape, pace, tone
and some other element
we won't tell you
because we don't know
what it is yet.

If a soloist has an agent, is he really a soloist?



When one plays in Las Vegas
it is not about coming in first
or being the first
it is about beating the odds

When one is making waffles
it is not about what to mix first
or who gets served first
it is about beating the eggs

When one runs a marathon
it is not about being first in the lead
or being chosen to run first
it is about beating the pack

For summertime recreational swimming
it is not about being first in the water
or the first to tag some landmark
it is about beating the heat

But first is sure nice!

 Mayan Dog Jar
DeYoung Museum, SF
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

In the trunk of the car, remnants
of meteor come down to Earth, detritus
of a shooting-star that never meant
to end up on a planet like ours, in a dry
creekbed, then stuck in a trunk
and driven here, Peddler Hill,
where your boots grumble
over decomposed granite, splinters
of wood—cedar, fir?—shining silver
in sun; random debris
of chainsaw and weather,
under equinox and solstice, long
after you've found, or not,
whatever lode you were looking for;
loaded up and driven on.


—Taylor Graham

I'd go with you but it's so long a drive.
I'd go but shade keeps winking under oaks.
The sheep are sleeping and the dog's awake,
the wagon's resting on its rusty spokes,
and honey bees are goldening their hive.

I'd go with you, if just for old-times' sake,
but it's a Wednesday, there's so much to do.
The earth is singing, I forgot the words;
the clouds are passing, and the sky is blue—
its poem calls me for a stanza break.


—Taylor Graham

He guides on lines they painted years ago.
So sure his progress, steady, it will last
through weather, speeders, deer, and traffic flow.
He guides on lines they painted years ago
that make our road fit tight; a chute, a show
of double-yellow rule, future as past.
He guides on lines they painted years ago.
So sure his progress; steady. It will last.


—Michael Cluff, Corona

On this planet of ours,
Isabel was content to dance
however she wanted to
with only her flowerhorn
and potbelly silver mollie fish
in attendance;
if they could think human-like
they would have appreciated it
without critique.

On this planet of ours,
Sharon wanted equal patience
from a boss
who demanded
no negative words
about himself
but always of others
even including Sharon as well
in it all
and to reserve the worst of the ripostes
for herself alone.

And on this planet of ours,
Horace saw that the ocean
had not risen incrementally
for at least this summer
and that was good enough
for him...
and Sharon...
and even Isabel.


Thanks to today's poets for fiddling around with various Seeds of the Week and forms. About her poems, Taylor Graham says, I guess these qualify for a planet like ours. And here (I hope) is an Envelope Quintet (along with a Triolet—that centerlining machine this morning just seemed to beg for a Triolet).

In other news, Richard Hansen's surgery was a success! Follow the progress of the intrepid co-owner of The Book Collector (Home of the Snake) by clicking the link on our green board at the right of this (under Poet Nooz). While you're there, check out the other Nooz, including the release of Squaw Valley Review 2010.


Today's LittleNip:

—Michael Cluff

On this day on this planet,
thunder is heard by the jittery dog,
a piece of inbetween fruit strikes
some young lover on the head,
and peace amongst colleagues
is tentatively obtained.


 Ancestor Skull
West Coast, Africa
DeYoung Museum, SF
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On This Planet of Ours...

—Photo by Joyce Odam


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

I go to the moon

for the first dream—
how far and round.
I fit.

I lie down and sleep.
A round dream enters my mind,
like a moon. I fall,
then fly.

After I have flown/fallen
a great distance, I enter your sleep
as a dream. How curious—
to know you like this.

(first pub. in Chrysanthemum, 2001) 


After SNAIL—Federico Garcia Lorca
—Joyce Odam                                                     

Love brings me this puzzle:
It says, solve me,
I am a one and only—
yours if you want me.
I will take forever or never.
I am made of loss and longing.
I am the first and the last.
I am made of memory and
forgetting—I will change you.
Do you know me?
Love brings me this puzzle.

(first pub. in DAD’S DESK,  2011)



—Joyce Odam

the rooster
wakened birds


refrigerator hum
the cat
batting its toy across the floor

in my neighbor’s sleep
his all night

-light is hung
like a star
in his dark green tree

in a farther tree
the first crow-

on a yonder street
the first

(first pub. in One (Dog) Press, 1998)

 Photo by Joyce Odam

The hurt of this…

the way it is ordinary,
as if it had no realization
of what was, and never is again,

layers and layers
of what takes the place
of life and its first drift of

sunlight over a gray day,
opening again
into another tomorrow—

a flash of yellow,
as if that bore
some importance here—

maybe only a shift of leaves
outside the window
as if a memory just happened.

 —Joyce Odam



like a vibration of music,
or a flicker of rain

light caught but unheard
outside the window

like a token of shadow
when a face turns

the first vibration of the air
toward the rain-light

—Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam 

What is first in the light

that over-dims?

What is the dimness
that the light betrays?

What force against what force
redeems what it repels—

this against that, and not for?
Oh, the quarrel—mind and thought

in torment that desires itself.
Why mirror this?

Light and dark at melting points
pour through each other.



(from Mixed Voices:
Contemporary Poems About Music)
—Joyce Odam

It was a thin music
on a white page—
it was hidden inside
a book cover—
it was just waiting
for my green pencil,
the one I happened
to have in my hand,
the one with the blue eraser—
and it was silent until now,
waiting for a random word
to begin it—
I never heard it before;
it was stolen—
I was its thief,
but I was jealous—
I had been reading
poem after poem about music—
I wanted my own:
flute, piano, voice, harmonica,
and my old guitar
that I sold,
and the way I must be
my own sad audience—
reduced to radio,
cassette, CD—
then this little thin
strip of paper
that just happened
to be there
when I thought of this.


Thanks to Joyce Odam for today's tasty fare, including photos from her birthday bouquet. Our new Seed of the Week is On a planet like ours…  This one is wide open: you can talk about strife and hatred and people who want to leave so badly that they go walk on the moon. You can talk about love and human kindness, or basketball or crocodiles. It’s up to you. What happens on a planet like ours? Speak to me.

Mo Hurley writes:  Only FOUR days left to reserve your space for an AMAZING California Poets in the Schools poetry fest, "Passing the Gift Forward," a full weekend of readings and workshops with something for poets, writers, and teachers—as well as Poetry Out Loud poets and Youth Poets Laureate. The annual CPITS Symposium will be held at IONS Institute high on a bucolic ridgeline near Mt. Burdell, on the Novato-Petaluma (Sono Marin) border on Sept. 14-16. Super economical Saturday Day Passes (including a fabulous lunch): 32 spots left. Join us Saturday for a full day of writing workshops—from creative writing to arts grantwriting/publicity workshops. Or drop by for a reading. Or become the reading. The panorama alone is breathtaking. Walk the labyrinth. Listen to the hawks cry. See; contac to reserve a spot. CEU units available.

Today's LittleNip:

—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.



 —Photo by Joyce Odam