Sunday, September 30, 2012

Protectors of the Moon

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Long ago when the moon was very young and unprotected
it was used by everyone.  Men, gods, and animals would rush
through its gates nightly (for the moon was much closer to earth
at that time) and take as much of her light as they could carry
and then leave.  Sometimes there was so little of the moon left
that there was no light at all and the moon would disappear.
Even stories told of the moon were usurped by seekers of fame.
The moon had no stories to tell.  The night became empty.

The creatures of the night became angry at the loss of their light
and sent an emissary to the emperor of the islands that were
all of Japan asking that he protect the moon and her beauty.

The emperor agreed at once and began by moving the moon
away from the earth to a place in the sky where no one could
reach her without difficulty.  He then appointed four guardians
to her.  They are described as follows:

The Guardian of the Gates of the Moon:  This guardian stood
in front of the palace of the moon and challenged anyone who
had business with her.  The poets and dreamers were allowed in,
the thieves were turned away.

The Guardian of the Legends of the Moon:  This guardian was
charged that the moon would always be given her proper due
in tales told of her and of her amazing powers.  No longer could
gods claim to move the tides and fill the glades of night with
soft light.  This alone was of the moon.

The Guardian of the Phases of the Moon:  Whose job it became
to conserve the light of the moon and regulate it so that its light
would rise and fall through the months of the year.  In this way
the world would have moonlight most of the year.  The moon
was even given a few days' rest so she could gather her light.
This became the dark of the moon.

Finally, The Guardian of the Bundle of the Moon was appointed.
This guardian was a poet and he had the most difficult job
of all.  His job became that of protector of all the moon that
was not her home, her phases or her legends.  He would guide
her light so that the creatures of the night would look as
beautiful as possible in her silver glow.  It was this guardian
who directed the light of the moon into the eyes of lovers and
who painted the leaves of the trees with moonlight.

It is because of these guardians that the ways of the moon are
as they are.  They were given immortality by the gods, who
praised the wisdom of the emperor for his careful work in
allowing the moon to belong to all the world.



Moon Over Oakland
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Delicate Rain of Pianos

—Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove


A delicate rain of pianos.
A drift of long-handled shovels.
Tentfulls of young puppies
Crawling upon typewriters.
What a charming morning for
Mr. Charles Dartless as he combed
The horizon and the hair on his
Bactrian’s back, mounted the saddle
And went looking for a fine lady
Upon a white horse who actually
Worked for an active hose company
In Western New York and had announced
In her newsletter that there
Would be refreshments and a
Light meal after the performance
Of her symphony.  The bag
Pipe players were chagrinned as usual
And were only heard after
11:00 PM.  However they could
Choose to have that hour at
Any time during the show.



Named, of all possible names, Renaud
Had undone his waistcoat much too
Early and had consequently, accidentally
Informed a lovely blue, almost lavender
Hedgehog who, until recently had sold
Accident insurance to families of beavers
Who had lived in the area since before
The French and Indian Wars, but who
Were currently involved with a rather
Simple barn owl who occupied an
Old Ford chassis near what some people
Would call the town water supply,
But which I will have no truck
With in any shape, that he was dangerously close to him.
I then stopped and picked up the top of Renaud’s beak
Which had somehow become detached
With his constant imitations of dogs
And cats fighting and re-attached it,
Admonishing him not to be so careless
As to reduce this situation any further,
Apologize and please realize that this
Was indeed, a work-a-day world.


Rattlesnakes of Saltbern Flat would find
Themselves used, when required to be
Used, as tires for an
Old motorcar owned by a young girl
Who up until this morning had been employed
Making sandwiches by the hundreds
For that same army of frogs we had
Spoken to in Restively, near the
Seine.  She had had it and
Was quite taken by the ride
That hissing and rattling concoction
Of impossible to contain improvised
Tires provided as it went on the way in a most
Curious manner, as if it actually
Had an appointment to keep.
“There’s one now,” she said, letting loose
With a huge spanner and
Accidentally breaking a window in the
Place she previously used to work.

Entering the Room


Have come to see that sulking
Old gull, Morrison said as he flung
Quite a large number of teddy bears
At Doris Mamore who was still
Making mirrors at the edge of a stream
From almost anything she could find.
Needless to say, they didn’t work
All that well but did prove great
Fun for a pod of not-quite-gray whales
Who grew quite fond of using them
For target practice almost every
Day just before lunch “Krill, krill,
Krill,” they would say, laughing in the
Squelchy way they do to attract as
Much attention to themselves as possible.


Where’s your beautiful mystery now
Mr. Fear?  Grow some new parts
Like the trees do as they gentle
The afternoon.  You can suspend
Your beliefs off some cliff
Or maybe there will only
Be the Enchantment.  They have
An entire State for that one. Keep
Your hands off these things.  What
Are you trying to trying to fill our cities
With anyway?  What would you give
For some perfect white bird
Seen rising from a swamp?
Your eyes?  Your mouth? 
Your sweet life?


Today's LittleNip:

Art is not to throw light but to be light...

—Kenneth Patchen


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's fare!

 Living Near the Void
—Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stalking the Wild Poem

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Instructions for reading
—Bob Stanley, Sacramento

read your poem in the night
read your poem in the street
read your poem in the colonnade, in the capitol, in the office, on the beach.

Your poem is the answer to the questions of your life
Your poem is the question you wanted to ask but forgot
the sensory record of the refraction of your mind
and heart and the reflecting of the light off the spider
on the window.

Yes, just the window.

The poem you read in the night will be dark
The poem you read in the street will be hard
The poem you read in the colonnade will be arched, lovely, sheltering,
maybe a little too ornate and
it will not be heard by as many as you hoped
but your words, when they fade, will still reverberate
a little.

The poem you read in the capitol
that’s one you will savor
even as you hear footsteps of capitolites
click by in an attempt to not be touched
even as you hear chatter echo marble halls.
you know some of them have poets locked in them
though they may not know this yet
some of them will listen
and your words
while not the entire key
will fumble in their pockets
to help them find it.

The poem in the office you file in a secret file and read
to one confidant only:
the office the office
you intone
how can there be a child within & how can
there not be?

The poem on the beach you sail wide into big wind
shout to the bigness of it all
wind, wave, sky, songs that run through your don’t understand mind
and youth and age and the one the ones you love
beside you all around you on that
sand-blown shore.
It’s a poem that would exist even if it didn’t
and it’s both yours and not-yours so you raise your voice
shade your eyes from the low sun and just
let it go.


—Bob Stanley

If you must play music, my son, avoid the instruments that veer from the righteous: beware the zither, the dobro, and the distant sounds of oud and bozouki. 
Avoid the lure of slide guitars,
but shun most of all the banjo
for the banjo is the instrument of lies.

With his face of sorrow, the minstrel sings a happy song
And the banjo that makes this possible, hybrid of drum and string,
survivor of middle passage, Africa to Alabama,
cheerful tone bright as fallen angel’s wing.

Far worse, the five string banjo, than even the fiddle,
for the fiddle has at least one string tuned to the lord
banjo strings are but
                    edges of laughter and fear.

Everything that comes from a banjo player is lies
watch his eyes
but don’t you watch
his fingers
damned instruments
of seduction.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Two tremendous explosions, Damascus, Syria:
no mention by whom, what rebel or terrorist cause.
Too early for analysis (news comes earlier,
always—show the blowups, never the laws
or reasons). Then it’s on to something else;
it’s MTV, where this Hurt Locker expels
some prior sliver of news…and is expelled.
Explosions in foam: espresso and milk get mixed.
White blasting brown? Is this how lattès get fixed?


—Caschwa, Sacramento

(The vacant house next store draws squatters and drifters
but no good faith offers.

Good work wasn't enough, good fortune failed to pay a visit,
accounts receivable failed to pay anything.)

My happiest driving experience
was in my 1966 Mustang
with the 289 (small 8) engine

Then followed some bad expert advice
the housing boom and bust
More bad expert advice

Now 4 cylinders have been furloughed
their fuel source cut off completely
for savings, say the experts

The car and engine remain the same size
with half as many cylinders expected
to do all the work and carry the load

My 1-cylinder lawn mower sits
alongside the driveway and laughs,
this is your future, Mustang

—Photo by Katy Brown

A neighbor and her husband left in late September, saying she'd be out of town till mid-October
  Since I watch the place I could have the last of her Summer tomatoes
  There was, surprisingly, still plenty of the ripe fruit that she grows in her front suburban yard
  along with some other kitchen garden edibles such as peppers, beans, and squash
  even though the tomato vines propped up with fencing are now turning brown and starting to wither
  I immediately savored these last flavors of Summer
  including heirlooms that tasted better than any I bought, whether organic or not, from grocery stores
  I chopped them up with peppers and onions to make salsa for dipping tortilla chips
  which I decided to eat as some meals rather than as an appetizer or for a party 
  I even sent some of the tomatoes to my parents and a legally blind friend as "payment" for some of his home-brewed "kombucha" tea
  I can't wait to finish up these last-of-the-summer tomatoes I temporarily hold in my fridge in a Debby Meyer Green-bag
  Maybe I will prepare some in the Excalibur dehydrator (though it uses a lot of electricity) for fake "sun-dried" tomatoes—possibly for Fall-time chili

—Michelle Kunert

—Michael Cluff, Corona

Dressing up for work
in a shirt and tie
muted and too subtle
with tight blood-clotting wingtip shoes
every weekend and some Saturdays
is like a bad movie
on a non-ending loop
with fading colors
and hope——
being in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre",
"Plan Nine From Outer Space"
or "Halloween II"
as a victim even
would be a nice alternative
in almost all ways.


—Michael Cluff

Mom keeps showing up
in a fifties hair bob
and cigarette-clenching
Marilyn-Monroed lips
serving Swiss steak, pineapple upside
down cake and tomatoed okra.
The movie progresses from bad
to worse when the wind
blows her back to Kansas
in a balloon from a state fair
carrying "Omaha" on its side
and our terrier
protects her in toto
and sepias, then overwhelming
mauves and puces
and carnations only found
in abandoned milk cans
sporting smiling cows
in pearls and lorgnettes.

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

Rick and Louie didn’t
Stay long at the Free French
Garrison, eventually wandering
To Northern California and
The Ryde down in the Delta,
Discovering the magic
Only a pink hotel and rustling
Palms can make.

—Photo by Katy Brown


right here. This evening's fog dissolves the road        
just past the guardrail, and the hills beyond—
a landscape cast, I thought, in solid earth.                  
Is everything clear to small birds? They stay,       
they won't fly. This place is drear in winter       
but enough like shelter, last resort, life       
in its sure uncertainties. Vast, I'd tell           
those birds, the unseen world, the sheer expanse.   
What roads, what gears have driven us to this   
inevitable or just plain flawed end           
of travel? This dry land that we called home
for years; this one bare tree we've known by name.   
Here, stars and lightning awed us to our knees.       
This is how sky comes down to gather us.   

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

—Taylor Graham

A wild thing barely glimpsed between
forest edge and meadow, sunlit
amber eyes, pricked ears.
Girl with blue feathers in her hair, passing
in a crowd. Willow's secrets.
A bighorn ram—living statue on sand-
stone—not apparition, but
dissolving in dawnlight before the shutter
could blink. Or that deep-bodied
military cargo plane that slipped
through a Sierra pass
below me, and was gone
before I could lift my camera.
Dreams of an old dog dying.
September sunset fading on my lens.

Stalk the wild poem
with nothing but words.


Our thanks to today's poets, and to Katy Brown for the late-summer photos taken at Apple Hill, including the elusive deer in the apple orchard.

Bob Stanley is ending his reign as Sacramento Poet Laureate with a burst of readings and the release of the anthology, Late Peaches: Poems by Sacramento Poets. He will be reading with incoming Poet Laureate Jeff Knorr tomorrow at a new venue, Capital Beer and Taproom; at Sacramento Poetry Center on October 13; and the anthology will be released at readings on Oct. 18, Oct. 20, and November 8. See the blue board at the right for details. Thanks, Bob, for all you've done for Sacramento these past years as PL, and for all you continue to do as SPC President.

And check out the other readings this weekend, including the new Avid Voice at the Avid Reader in Davis, which will feature D.R. Wagner, Phillip Larrea and Pietes Pastoos tonight.


Today's LittleNip:

—Tom Goff

Mon amour chèrie, si tu me comprenez,
je te prie d'écouter a la Revèrie pour Claude Debussy.
I’m torn apart and alive, alive and torn apart,
near you, near you, in you and out of you.
Bury me alive in your mouth. Your lips and eyes,
your small delicately working breasts, your
dark dark hair, mon ange!



—Photo by Katy Brown

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mountains of Love

The Bath
—Painting by Alfred George Stevens, c. 1897

—James Lee Jobe, Davis

Your voluptuousness is luscious!
You are a mountain of love for me to climb.
And look!
See me scurry among your canyons and wooded valleys!
I climb ever upward,
my dear,
surrounded by the flesh of your love.


—James Lee Jobe

A kiss
that could make an angel weep with joy.
A tongue flick on rubies,
on diamonds.
Lips as soft as a dove,
shining and moist.

as warm as the gate of heaven.

that you caress deep into the night,
even as she sleeps,
so soft and dear.

so  smooth and plump,
every inch to explored
like LaSalle on the Mississippi.
The headlands of that river
are as sweet as honeycomb
and as wet as the rains of spring.
To enter there is to surrender
to your dreams,
your final hopes.

A lick
that tastes of springtime in heaven,
the taste of a mango ripe
and bursting with a juice
that reinvents you.

A lick
like the promise
that you know
only tomorrow can hold.

that rise with her breath,
and fall with your own heartbeat,
nipples to kiss and suck;
a perfect breeze,
a perfect sunrise;
they pale in comparison.
You know that no tribute is worthy,
that you are not worthy.

The sounds
she makes in the wild moments of love,
gasps that reach into your heart,
as she arches her body back against yours,
her hard bottom full in your hands,

An orgasm
that is the eruptive burst
of a new born volcano,
and fiery.

An orgasm
that leaves you both weak
with the tears of fresh love.

An orgasm
that forgives you of your pitiful sins.
An orgasm like the love of Jesus,
washing the feet of the poor.

Is there more
to this life?
Yes, much more.
But you don't care.
Not anymore.
There is only now.
There is only her love.

There is only her love.

 The Mermaid
—Painting by Howard Pyle, 1910

—James Lee Jobe

The soft valley of blessed greatness,
the hollow where even Jesus worships.

Love's canyon of heavenly bliss, the pass
I take between great mountains of love.

That sweet spot between your breasts,
that ever waits for my kiss.


—James Lee Jobe

We are naked in the first moment of light.

A tangle of arms and legs,
keeping warm with each others skin.
Held by love,
and the sticky passion that we spent hours ago.
I cannot let go,
just let me hold on.
Your breasts are a measure of our truth.
The taste of your skin anchors me here to this life.
Your animal sounds in the night are rich poetry
in a language I haven't yet learned to speak.
The sounds of birds slip in through the open windows.
I wake up wanting you,
the earliest trace of light is just so against the blowing curtains.
I trace your face with my fingers until you smile at me.
Without speaking we both shift our bodies just so,
and I slip into you,
into the quiet.
Into the soft light.
Into the quiet.

We are naked in the first moment of light. 


Today's LittleNip:

In our minds, love and lust are really separated. It's hard to find someone that can be kind and you can trust enough to leave your kids with, and isn't afraid to throw her man up against the wall and lick him from head to toe.

—Tori Amos


—Medusa, with thanks to James Lee Jobe for today's lusty poems!

Exhausted Maenides After the Dance
—Unfinished Painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, c. 1873


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Phoenix

Arnold Robbins


Instinct running into exhaustion
Exhaustion breaking down into feelings
Feelings torqued and leveraged
Volcanic eruptions blasting forth
Past breaking through the glaciers of ice
Finally able to feel the feelings
That were frozen far below
Now the challenge
To balance euphoria and despair
Into a steady, forward flight
Decades past have tracked into the present
Free at last and a slave simultaneously
Trying to honor these feelings
Without going over the edge


Dive into the depths
The depths of despair
Despair for your dreams and your life
Life is now the darkness closing in and there is no escape
Escape the heavy onslaught of ruin
Ruin among ruins
Ruins and fire and ashes and darkness
Darkness encompassing all your thoughts and spirit
Spirit a heap of ashes gathered in a huge pile
Piled higher and higher
Within the ashes a fire burns
Burns until at last light is seen breaking forth
Forth from the ashes are seen beams of light
Light breaking through the darkness of despair
Despair can no longer hold back the light
Light gathering to break through 1000 years of darkness
Darkness disappears as the light grows ever stronger
Stronger it rises with wings and tail to live
Live another 1000 years
Years filled with hope and light
Light, this light we call the phoenix
Phoenix is your spirit


Just the facts
No hide and seek
No shell game
No shading the truth
No rose-colored spectacles
No turning away
No push-up bras
No high heels
No make-up—eyeliner, blush, lipstick
Just you in the naked truth
Between the covers
Of our bed
Au naturEl my love
Just you and me
The way we were meant to be...


I love you so much I want to...
Occupy Wall Street for you,
Lower gasoline and food prices for you,
End economic market manipulation for you,
Abolish all forms of abuse and crimes for you,
Save the whales for you,
Strike down Citizens United for you,
Stop global climate change for you,
Establish world peace...

Yet I must be a fool for love...
Considering I have never met you and
I don’t even know your name.



If it comes to this...
Where apes rule the planet
Where soylent green is made of people
Where vacations will be spent at Westworld
Where nothing can go wrong, wrong, wrong...
Where the last forests will be jettisoned into space
Where humans will battle cyborgs to survive
Where asteroids will crash into planet Earth
Where calamity and catastrophe pounds humanity
In wave after wave
Well, if it comes to this...
I’m sure there will be at least one more movie to see
One more movie to enjoy
One more movie to look and listen...
God help me though if I see another cell phone on in the theater
Then there will be hell to pay
Like one final destination
Like one nightmare on elm street
Like one brutal attack from an alien
Like one invasion from a predator
Like psycho in the bath
Yes, God help me!


Thanks To Arnold Robbins for today's poetry! Arnold was born in Manhattan, New York, and spent most of his childhood in Puerto Rico.  He holds a Bachelor's of Science from the University of California, Davis.  Arnold cut his poetry chops at Luna's Cafe in Sacramento.  He has been a featured poet at Luna's, as well as participating in many open mics there.  Arnold has also participated in two VOX readings, and open mics at the Sacramento Poetry Center and Shine.  He has one published book of poems called The Archaeology (2007), and some of his poems have been published in Rattlesnake Press's WTF.  He currently resides in Marin County with relatives until he finds full employment and decides what to do with the rest of his life.

Speaking of Shine, Kel Munger and Stan Zumbiel will be featured there tonight at 7:30pm. (Details are on the blue board at the right of this.) Their reading kicks off a busy weekend; be sure to take note of all the fine events headed our way.

And thanks also to Roger Langton for the stunning photograph (see below).


Today's LittleNip:
—Arnold Robbins

Every now and then
I get the yen
For a little Zen
If I feel a twang
I may turn to the yin and yang
Seeking balance
Finding peace and love
It happens when...
Every now and then
I get the yen...



—Photo by Roger Langton, Louisville, Colorado, who writes:
"Here is a photo I took in Mexico in '70s. 
These are two contemporary Mayan children selling 
flowers (orchids). The boy has a five-peso note 
in his hand. His little sister is hiding 
behind him, hard to see except for her hair. 
They live on a plateau in southern Mexico. 
They came right out of the 'jungle'
to greet us and it was a delightful experience."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In the Breath of This Music


In this flow of summer light
time has rested; we measure
slow—moment by moment—
and wish for rain.
How warm it would be,
sliding down our faces.



Here is where we lived.
Here is where we loved.
Here is where we left.

And now the old shed
of a house stands gaping,
stricken with neglect.

Trees guard it still,
but wearily.
Weeds overtake, then quit.

An upper window stares,
devoid of glass. The inner walls
still hold the ceiling up—

but barely. The outer walls?
They’re gone, as are the steps.
The pathway, too.

Only dry sounds linger here,
mutter about themselves,
worry the air.

And all we share of this
is how we lived here—loved
awhile—then left.



Boy-Girl-Dolls, hand-carved, cleverly
jointed, so they can move arms and hips

and legs in a clumsy hand-held walk,
their clothes pulled off for body-

inspection, then left to stare at
each other with painted smiles and eyes.

Some child has arranged them in a forest-
setting of tiny trees and out-sized birds

to act-out story after story in the
story-voice of children who

left them there, weathered from
neglect with no more lines to say.

Maybe they’re worth something now:
Handmade archaic toys—Relics of lost art

—beyond the lost imagination of a child.


Whatever it was, it was.
No use lamenting.
It grew large with neglect,
flattened like a shadow
and bulged like a light.
It flung itself everywhere
and crashed into emptiness.
We had no use for it.
It was pathetic.
Did not fit anything.
It starved on purpose,
carried its awful eye
in its mouth
with an awful meaning.
It choked on our love,
so we quit loving.
We did not want guilt
to be a part of this.
We carried water to it
so it would drown,
but it just lay there
gasping, then swimming.
What we did not know
was what its hold on us
had become, how we
wore it like a secret
to secret meetings
where we talked about it
in secret whispers.
Always it welcomed us back
and wrapped itself around us
with shaking shoulders
for us to weep against.


(after “Draft of a Landscape” by Paul Celan)

Razed. Stricken. Dug up and abandoned.
Memory’s neglect. Graves.
Small histories of small lifetimes.

Look for whatever you have lost
here somewhere. What is this place?
What has brought you here?

It is cold. It has no welcome.
It is a place without expectation.
You wander its terrain.

Ruts and stones, here and there a weed.
So that’s what you came to learn:
the tenacity of weeds; the patience of stones;

the caution of ruts. The horizon
cannot be reached, nor the end of day.
The sky is a separate thing.

You wish for a bird, and a bird flies by.
You are creating this.
Your own landscape.



This is my love I take
and bury in the sun.

Love wears a black black death
and a bride-white spray of roses.

Love wears my ornate grief
and all I own of being numb.

Love wears the bright red day
upon the wilting hours.

Love has taken all the young animals
of our joy away.

Love is playing the unfair game
with a fine macabre.

Between love’s teeth our thorny
and passionate flowers are bitten.

Between my teeth
are the kisses and the curses.

(first pub. in Baby John, 1972)



compares with the silence of flowers
wilting into the essence of memory,
or that solitary mockingbird

that sings from the tip of the pear tree—
sings for the silence to follow,
each note trailing . . . 

how many silences abide in the lives
of all living things—in the fragility
of light when broken on darkness—

is there another mockingbird,
or is this
the last one?

The roses that cling to December
with such tenacity—
are they ready to surrender themselves

to the tangles of meaning?
Storms come
to bare trees as they do to bared hearts.

Is it too late to love,
or to remember love
in all its violence and tenderness?

What is that dying note of music
that has such weeping in it when tears
are unbidden—but there—in the power?

Today's LittleNip:


this vibra-
tion of lines that

twang closed and resonate
more and more like a

magic comb that patterns
dark and light equally

whichever way
you hold it


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and photos! Joyce will be reading at Shine this Sunday as one of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change. Check that out on the blue board at the right of this. And note all the 100 Thousand Poets readings—here, there and everywhere! Try to keep them straight...

Ever feel like you were stuck in a bad movie? Tell us about it in your Seed of the Week: Like a Bad Movie...  and send your musings (poems, photos, etc.) to

Monday, September 24, 2012

'Mum's the Word

Salt Point
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Today, just glimpses of you, catchphrases blurted,
conventional greeting. What I want is to say
how stunning the little shock in the midsection
just seeing you walk toward me. Yes, my clichés
range from my outpost-sentinel-deserted
mode to my fascination with your hair,
which today flows thick and glossy anointing your face,
randomly patterned as when party fountains,
Niagaras of chocolate, capriciously interlace.
I want the music you make when you tell stories
of rough encounters, long-ago teenage fears,
or much, much better, that happiness that spears,
just spears the heart, your joys my joys and glories.
Yet bulletin boards, routines, exams, such various
and random songs from you are Stradivarius.


—Tom Goff

Whenever we stand distanced only a hand’s breadth,
leaving a line uncrossed like River Death
dividing touch from untouch, I feel breath
from your lips warming our space, then quickening depths
till floors seem to open on stories of endless death
—and yet the ceiling too, upon limitless breath,
all sky, all air through the stratosphere’s blueblack depths.
Such power, our word-elevator: the b of “breath”
needs only reversing to make the d of “death.”
I know too your d of departure stops my breath.
Breath stops yet again: you’ve entered the room: new breadths
of rosy horizon, dawn in all the depths.
My bee of all being, rooms darken starless, and I
now know you’re gone, fall many small floors, and die.


—Tom Goff

Make love to me, my love, my honey darling,
and then the doom of everything is close
at hand: the stark dispetaling of the rose,
rose from within molecularly curling,
browning, undercorrupting at the touch
of just one white and straitly burrowing worm.
Mysterious woman: oh your radiant form,
slender, well guarded from the sun, and such
as runs and dances, handsprings and strides covertly.
Ah, you the rough boys haven’t as yet discovered,
your whitely tapering grace not gliding overtly.
Who first will render you vulnerable among lovers?
This doomed world’s white and pink and poison for me,
except you, honey to hold yet never to see. 


Of chrysanthemums in chrysanthemums
Our friends are departing
Of chrysanthemums in chrysanthemums
Death in brackets, our Dulcineas
Of chrysanthemums in chrysanthemums
Other flowers do what they can
Of chrysanthemums in chrysanthemums
Men cry, women rain..
              —English Translation from the French chorus of 
                 Jacques Brel's song, "I arrived"

   Wilting chrysanthemums retain their crowning manes to the very end, seem like dying lions facing downward on their stems, wanting to retain their dignity
   In the Crocker Art Museum there hangs an Edwin Deakin flower bouquet painting with wilting mums in the "memento mori" style, as such still life was called
   Deakin manages to capture how mums with drooping heads are among the slowest to drop their petals
   Like so many other Victorian-era painters of the theme, he probably kept plenty of dying flowers around his studio 
   Also, unlike the matter of the common lawn dandelion which seems to mimic the mums' blossoms
   Mums don't gain a fluffy head of white tuft sails when they dry as they go to seed  
   Yet their leftover dried remains can also can be made into a good tea

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

hurriedly wash my hair, my body
shower off the stain
rise alone from the bed
where I conjured your body
love you from afar, as you wish
sometimes catch a glimpse of you

do you pity my love for you?
you acted surprised when I told you
though surely, you knew
we had made love in our minds
hundreds of times by then

hair, body, bathroom, and house
need my attention, yet my
eyes dim upon waking
no amount of caffeine
nor cold-water splash helps

through it all, feel your attention on me
backing me up, caring from the shadows
maintaining you don’t care—

stretching in yoga class,
my body effuses a slight sick scent
aging body, unclean house
yearning for your love
blind to life around me

outside the studio door
gardenias cultivated in pots
bloom in September sun
creamy petals, seductive sweetness
pluck a blossom, hide it in my purse
find it later, brown, dying, yet
still warm, sweet, fragrant


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

We waited. From that high hilltop, every speck
in the sky seemed small. Six geese honking
overhead, soon lost behind roofline. They said,

it's history, a must-see event. The last flyover
as our world lay uncertain in its haze.
We waited on the edge, suspecting a majesty we

couldn't see. The shuttle. Man's wanderlust for
space, for cutting trees. A spiral staircase,
hill to star. Silent music punctuated by a breeze.

Fox caught between bush and centerline.
Strings reverberating on a distant bandstand.
But all so far away, only a white speck

on horizon's haze and valley dust. So very big.
A flake of pastry-crust. You wiped your
spectacles to see more clearly. Frustration. No

sense of flight, of wing-thrust. Just forever-
forward motion slow and heavy. Afterwards
the headlines, TV footage telling us what

it meant, what it was like. Simile and story.
Under our feet the hilltop did not shake,
no matter how fast the world went.

So much remains on trust. It's fall.


—Taylor Graham

For 12.1 hours today, the sun grants us
light. A paradox: we're already past equinox
in this falling season of the year. Too much
light? The fields wilted months ago. And yet
we gather sunlight like a harvest. We brandish
solar panels to pump water from the ground,
and salt our vine-green squash with sun.
We run grains of soil through our fingers
so the sun can glitter each facet. We feel
our faces ripening in its rays. It makes us
shadows and flavors every poem. So many
hours we're granted. A paradox, a wonder.


—Michael Cluff, Corona

Through the open window
the past is staring back at me through
wilted white and yellow chrysanthemums
in now-neutered forms.
The stale air mixes with the new century
campanula, pepper tree and zinnia accents.

I am not actively living here
since deaths overrode the need
to be so alone and onery.

Poetry from the early nineties
nestles in the red plush chair
that no one has occupied
since Gore was Vice-President.

On the second couch
flyers about readings
point to the unaware ceiling
and remember
the sound of some now-silent voices
that rattled the beams above
a fire pit in a coffee bar.

Dress shirts and pants
sleep in the closets
knowing I would have to adapt
to them and so would
the world of fluid fashion
for them to leave
their pleasant hibernations.

Azure goes to umber
the sky says goodbye
to the sun
and today's memories
are born in the unformed
grass and purple shadows
on the right wall.


A big thank-you to today's chefs! Catch Taylor Graham at Poetry in Motion in Placerville tonight, and Ann Wehrman reads at Sac. Poetry Center next Monday. While you're scrolling around in our blue box (below the green box at the left), be sure to note all the activities going on this week, particularly at the end of the week and into the weekend, with what seems like 100 Thousand Poets doing readings, plus plenty of action in Davis, and a weekend workshop in Tuolumne Meadows. (I've switched workshops and other conferences to the green box, under the brain, so keep an eye on that.) Plus, the annual Watershed Festival takes place in Berkeley on Saturday. Or on Saturday, if you're in Sac., drop by Capitol Beer and Taproom for an open mic and reading by not one, but TWO Poets Laureate—Bob Stanley and Jeff Knorr. There's so much going on that I feel like I've missed something... but you'll catch it all if you look at our green and blue boards.

Monika Rose writes that this weekend's Tuolumne Writers Retreat in Columbia is filling up, so be sure to sign up soon if you're interested. She notes that Linda Field, host for the radio program, Manzanita Voices, will be there; this is an author interview program at KVGC Radio in Amador County, and Linda is looking for talented authors to interview for her program. Info at (Monika also notes, by the way, that there's a poison oak festival going on in Columbia this weekend, too!)

Tonight on KVIE, 10pm: American Masters features the life of poet Carl Sandburg.

The ocean photos today are there because I felt like looking at them (thanks, Cynthia!). B.Z. Niditch wrote that he went ocean kayaking on Saturday (he lives on the coast of Massachusetts), and Medusa and I got all nostalgic for the sea. Watch for more of B.Z.'s poetry in the Kitchen, coming soon!


Today's LittleNip:

—Caschwa, Sacramento

When the space shuttle Endeavor
was flown over the California Capitol
Old Glory was at half staff
per the Governor's order

While across the city
in a place where no one dies
the flag of private enterprise
advertises day and night

The United Steaks of America
Featuring cows instead of stars
coupons instead of stripes
profits instead of salutes

Old Glory isn't always raised
or lighted at night
like this flag is
may I take your order?


—Medusa (with apologies for sleeping in)

—Photo by Cynthia Linville

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Brandishing Light


Sing to me of apples,
swaying, red in summer’s leaves—
sing of late September peaches,
sweetly melting on the tongue.
Sing to me of purple-ripe figs,
dangling low on heavy branches.
Sing to me of plots of corn,
tall and golden, rattling in the wind.
Sing of peppers and tomatoes.
Sing of potatoes and carrots
and the whole rainbow of flavors
ripening in the ground.
Sing of fields and backyard rows
and patio window-boxes—
sing of harvest:
wilting in the sun of a last equinox.


My dad listened to the sky—
the whirl of animals in slow procession
through the seasons—

the moon and phases of it.
He loved the vagueness of the Milky Way
and he shared tales of the constellations;

he explained the geometry of eclipse.
Raised on a farm, he understood the seasons
and the paradox of a single spring

granted to all lifespans.
He spoke to me in starlight—
every word a wonder.


Through the viewfinder of my camera,
I understand the vocabulary of light:
colors, my adverbs—
shadows, my nouns.

Every object erupts with radiance,
combusts with intensity,
composes itself moment-by-moment
in poetry of pure symbol.

This is the structure I prefer:
not words that re-define awareness
but a wraith of shadow,
an exaltation of brilliance.

Words confuse the mind—
require selection and ordering;
they must march to grammar’s rules,
Webster’s spelling.

Poets deal in twice-translated reality:
they rummage for the right words,
steering the reader to uncover meaning.
Poetry is too hard.

I prefer the relative silence of a camera,
the quick detention of an instant—
that sudden arc that ignites
one awareness with another.

I yearn to speak in wavelengths of color,
compose angles and planes and curves,
fall into vortices of darkness:
I want to brandish light.


Our thanks to Katy Brown for today's poems and photographs!
Most of the pictures were taken in Apple Hill—
and I guess you can tell where
the shuttle photo was taken. 
For more of Katy's shuttle photographs, 
see Medusa's Facebook page for her 
latest album, A Last Endeavor.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Twined in the Hair of Mystery

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

There is a certain majesty
That lives still in the highest places
Where there remain palaces and magic
Lands of story books.  Birds of light,
Even golden light and clouds of many
Colors piled up against each other, so
The whole place seems a stage for fairy
Tales and diadems, oh single rose,
Of song of the day true and fair
Maidens and spells, the best of manners,
These things grew.

We were sitting on the edge
Of the meadow just where it begins to lift
Toward the high lakes and
The stoney outcroppings and
Small woods and copses.

It had to have been the place, for nothing
Else could have graced our language this way
With phrases like this.  Who ever spoke of children’s
Tales and storybooks spells and things like these
And those?  And so we left it to the land, made
A marker to be set next to the stream where
We rested telling others to take their time here.
Once does not encounter places such as this
Often, and less seldom sees them push at words
To get them spoken of in poems armed for so
Many other purposes than to have pure delight come

—D.R. Wagner

I thought the sound music and ran
To embrace it, whole seas filled
With symphonies, cantatas, arias,
Sonatas spiraling forever upward.
It was not music.  It was you.

I thought I could map the roads
Of the heart; thought I knew the
Ways and byways, naming the doors
That change the night to glory, the coolness
Of the moon, a reflection of language, words
Millions of miles away.  This surely was
A kind of dancing.  The heart placed before
The spiral staircase, the top barely visible,
Angels twined in the hair of mystery, a
Way of being that defies time,
The edge of the canyon,
Further than one has ever been before.

Late night with sinks full of dishes and whispers,
When the candles are low and neither of us
Is feeling very well.  Even death and sickness
On every hand.  Breathing into your mouth,
Year after year, morning after morning,
Running out of words and saying with the body,
The eyes, a motion of a hand, the wisp
As we move through and then across the wind.
There, right there, right fucking there, I love you.


—D.R. Wagner

A frightful symmetry
Seen through the leaves of night trees
Just as the moon clears their confines.

I will tell you that this is only your grief
Speaking and that you do not desire death.
You will attempt to argue through drunkenness
And you will leave, sleep dressed as madness
Wraps your brain and stops the parade.

Suddenly the moon cracks open the night,
Filling it with its delicious light.
It plays with our imagination.
“I am the moon," it says.  “I am the moon.”

Most things are without sense.
We make the most of what we have,
Drive ourselves to understand in broken
Cars, demanding the extra mile.

I hear you breathing, but it does not seem
To be a rest, rather, the trough of a wave,
The catching of the moon in a glass,
The surface of a great totally transformed.

Sparkly Squirrel
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

Somewhere, just outside of where
You live, a field opened up and swallowed
An entire portion of history as if it were
The wind.  This was not an earthquake,
Tornado or a flood.  It was not wind or weather
Of any kind at all.  Yet all was a total loss.

Memory is locked in cells, a billion patterns
Whirling round a web of friendships, songs,
School days and incidental sightings:  you riding
Past on your bicycle on a clear Spring day,
The first roses still struggling against the cool
Rub of the days, the ways the oak trees lean
Toward the seasons, giving us notice.

And then all is gone.  Those people who lived
Here, or near here eighty or more years ago,
Are no longer vertical, no longer blessed with light.
They have no vices.  We walk the same places
They did and there is not one thing we know
About them.

We notice strange configuration of buildings,
A fence that has no purpose, a row of trees,
A handful of houses that “have always been here.”

We watch the opening of the leaves and the flowers.
Look far into the easing of evening across our sight.
Remember all the names of friends, the kinds of music
That we recognize.  May memory serve you well.

Here are bridges.  They were built long before you
Were born.  This one connects one city to another;
This a country to yet another.  This road here is old.
It was built because an English king needed to get
To the racetrack more quickly.  It runs along the forest
Edge, skirting one hundred villages.  We do not know
The names of these places.  We name them with our breath.
Our breath names nothing.  All places change.  All naming too.


—D.R. Wagner

We told them there wasn’t going to be
Any room, the stars were already there,
The spaces between them already well
Defined, without need of amplification.

No use.  There they were.  An entire line
Of them, sitting there like a promise made
So long ago it was only known in stories
Told over and over, until no one was sure
Where the truth was, if the lights could
Really be this bright or if there really was
Singing like we heard?  It seemed so familiar
Yet as far away as morning is from night,
As longing is from distance, as wishing is
From song.  We called loudly, unhinging
Great clouds of colored gasses, spinning
Them outward as discrete messages, targeted

As emotions are targeted in arguments between
Lovers.  They smiled.  “We are your
Own reflections,” they replied.  “We are your moon,
Your stars, your whirling planets, your language even.

“We are meaning itself.  Of course there is no room
For us.  It is our contract with you.  If it were not
So, you would be myth, remembered stories only.  You
Would not know why you were here, what you
Were to do, why time displays the clothing it prepares.
You would feel as if you were alone in all the universe,
Thinking love and life as a highest reality.
Honestly now, do you think we would leave you there?
Come closer.  Learn the words to this song.  Sing it with us.”

FOR d.a. levy
—D.R. Wagner

Oh little duck squat in your beer.
Such raggedy mornings lope up the hill
And empty their pockets into my room.

I remember April on the coast of France
Wind coming in over the tops of waves
And pushing against the shore.

And now this soft light moves
In and out the door wearing the sun
Like it was a gun belt, aiming the mind
Of the child at the stars and firing.


—D.R. Wagner

I spoke to you many times
Before you died, thinking this
Was the only way to know you.

Now you are gone and still I speak
With you.  The conversation
Continues.  How is this possible?

It seems a body is not all that
Necessary.  It functions only
As identification: a place
Where all kinds of information
Collect.  Emotions, dreams,
Singing, my looking at you this way,
The flames leaping from your fingers,
A means of realizing love once and
For all, so I may kiss you at least.

Then we no longer
Inhabit this form.
Sound ceases its kingdom.

Still I learn from you.
Still I keep this poor skin.
Still I can tell you everything,
Any time, all the time.
You can do the same.
This too is speaking.
Sound need not be
Heard to become song.


Today's LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner

At the risk of seeming clinical I have delegated a deliberately precarious number of explicit yet loquacious quasi-analytical observations concerning excessive verbosity as an endemic proclivity in higher academic information and it subsequent promulgation to the larger field to the attention of your committee.
I trust you will regard this information as privileged and deal with it ethically and with respect to its controlled dissemination outside of interested study areas.


—Medusa, who thanks D.R. for today's fare as we greet the Autumn Solstice:

It is the summer's great last heat,
It is the fall's first chill: They meet.
–Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

 Happy Feet
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Friday, September 21, 2012

Peonies and Trailer Palaces

The Short-Lived Peony
—Photo by Roger Langton, Louisville, Colorado

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

in the curled-up city
the great apartment hives
in Kingsbridge and Inwood and back again
across the tricks and trickles of Spuyten Duyvil
its devilish pour into the Hudson
behind windows that mirror the river

roll up the rugs
put a record on the Victrola and wind it up
dance across the hardwood and parquet
from the foyer through the French doors
into the living room

pale yellow and lavender flowers slide along the ruffles
on her shoulder and down the slim length
her shimmering body
the long summer gown for long summer parties
the highballs, the cocktails
what’ll you have? Scotch and soda?

and for winter parties
her blue velvet gown
color of the evening sky 
just at dark

Peg at the baby grand
sings Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar
later, the dark rumble of the Apassionata
women’s laughter

overnight stay?
bed the child on two pushed-together stuffed chairs
when that window comes around again, Peg,
will you please open it?           


—Patricia Hickerson

war ends, oh say can you see
oh say, which war shall we sing about?

but say, there’s a ghost singing on Liberty Street
she’s smug and smart and 17
she wears a yellow autumn dress
she’s walking down Liberty Street
on a clear and sunny day
singing the unknown song of streets
only an old map can now sing you

song of Liberty Street

she still walks to her September job
sings all the way
from the Cortlandt Street ferry it rocks
on the Hudson chained to its dock
down the ghost of New York streets
to the old stone building at 1-3-6
sits red and squat and 4 stories high
on Liberty Street sing 1-3-6 Liberty Street
she types on a September day

song of Liberty street
1-3-6 torn down
made way for Twin Towers now smoke and rubble
the ghost still there she walks down Liberty Street
types all day sings her September song
in her yellow autumn dress
all fall down, say
another war begins, oh say               



murmuring couples lie around us in the dark
nowhere else to go
except to the grassy midnight lawns of Central Park
our fever is enhanced
hearing the echo of embrace
on the green grass of Central Park
while the rest of the City towers above
concrete steeples in the near distance
office-lit windows peer down
Central Park West and South
the north end ancient with brownstone
a cathedral forever building
and we are quiet in our cocoon
with others beside us
quiet and murmuring glide
let it flow
one couple unaware of the other
except to hear the endless soft murmuring
like fleshy insects invading the grass
spill seed and sperm in a quiet way
not to bother anyone
nowhere else to go—
the midnight silent lawns of Central Park                       

—Patricia Hickerson

Hicksville Trailer Palace, Joshua Tree
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Patricia Hickerson

Grandma sings to her parrot
song of the Lorelei
ich weis nicht was soll es bedeuten
das ich so traurich bin

but she is far from sad
even in her dark back quarters
red velvet and black mahogany
brownstone on 8th near Fifth
Grandma has little Elsie
they dance to the squawk of Polly-O

at the front of the house out of sight
Willie, Fred and Harry get beatings from Papa
they forgot their violin practice

now du! yells Papa from the audience
it’s Elsie’s turn to blow her horn
at the school pageant
at home with a cold she blows her nose so hard
she falls to the floor Papa is disgusted
Mama says what’s wrong with my little girl?
next door brownstone Papa and Mama
run their saloon Mama in black silk
high on her counting stool

at Grandma’s
Elsie kicks up her heels
she’s dancing around Polly-O 
singing with Polly-O
the parrot turns and twists and squawks
in time with Elsie
in parrot green and yellow
the fat beak its other claw
eyes beady as Grandma’s buttoned-down chairs
Hi dee ho! and a hey diddle-diddle
dances with Grandma
Elsie as frisky as Polly-O!   


(on seeing The Third Man for the third time)
—Patricia Hickerson
play me your zither, Anton
run down the cobblestone streets, Orson,
you’re the third man
they’re after you

more than three men in my life
none of them lived in Vienna
or played the zither
or escaped through the sewer
or got shot at the edge of a manhole cover

I had this one and that one
a man with a basketball
a man with a Reichian box
man with a Racing Form
man with a bottle
man with a toy train
they played me but
none of them played the zither
there were others…

play it again, Anton
your zither makes sense
your caress of the keys
with your broad adoring fingers
make love to your instrument
your music is mine
your zither, Anton, love it once more        


—Patricia Hickerson

you were my man, Jack
you made me forget the twisted years
the years of ball and chain
the years with nothing left to lose
like Janis Joplin
she smiled on me
gave me the liberated years
singing me and bobby mcgee
nothing left to lose
thank you, Janis
wiped away the grasping years
women not knowing which way to turn
the years of unyielding lust
for a man gone south

then Jack
you made lust a loving thing, Jack
a happy thing
you were my man, Jack
but you had to leave
ruined alcoholic heart
you hung on as long as you could
to make us happy
we swung on the moon
our bed in the stars
under a death cloud
you the man                   


Thanks to Patzee for the poems today, and to Roger Langton and Cynthia Linville for the photos. We have a new album from Cynthia on Medusa's Facebook page, photos from her recent trip to the desert land of Joshua Tree. Check it out! Cynthia will be reading at Verse on the Vine in Folsom with her Poetica Erotica pals on October 10.

Medusa is proud to announce that Sacramento News & Review writer and poet Kel Munger has chosen the Kitchen Best Local Poetry Blog in the recent Writers' Picks for Best of Sacramento (see and scroll down a bit). She has some mighty nice things to say about us—and I do mean US, since the quality she talks about comes from your poetry, photos, announcements and other poet-phernalia that you send me on a daily basis. Thanks, kids!


Today's LittleNip:

—Patricia Hickerson

green as a plucked parrot feather
no, green as a glistening jungle leaf
rain-splashed after the storm
no, green as a jealous cat
her green shoes
spike heels click on the flamenco floor
no, drag the tango street
shine in her lover’s eyes
green as new grass
green as sunset streak
green as spring trees
green as ripening fruit
her shoes shimmer in the dark
the crème de menthe of shoes             



Dinosaur in Cabazon, California
—Photo by Cynthia Linville