Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Waiting On Edgar Allan Poe

—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
proclaims the English Club poster, hawking
the deadline for submissions to a campus
lit-mag. Yes, V for Vendetta’s Guy Fawkes
mask’s just about the gear-speed of these young
culturally clued-in editors, alive to the sinister
leaps and lusts of mind in their green and gold time.

Must each tree be unleaving?
And is that Hugo Weaving?

When, oh when did too many Halloweens find
our Màrgarèts and our Goldengroves corroding
from within? When did our Skeletors, our Boris
Badunovs and Natashas, our Lex Luthors, turn
real evil, and us with them, internally,
“where the meanings are?”

Must peach trees learn unleaving?
What scheme is Hugo weaving?

Are ghouls’ cries merely grieving?

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Waiting on
Edgar Allan Poe
by dunes and wistaria
near the shore's
impassive edge
your likeness
appears by the sighs
of a tomb
on mediums of the sun
from gossamer veils
if you might speak
of the currents
sailing on windy clouds
across an ocean's tide,
as out of breath,
your spirits jumbling
in veins of sands
with doubled glances
at the island ferry
trying to catch butterflies
both neon and red
with clenched hands
not doubting my wish
to capture only a daydream
from a lost nightmare.

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—B.Z. Niditch

After an Octoberfest beer
every object
set me on edge,
the lawyer
already had my will
when there is none,
the landlord
had my rent
when there was nothing
in the cookie jar,
the pawnbroker
already had my sax,
the grave digger
wanted to find
a poet's ashes,
science wanted my eyes
to point to
but that belongs to you
who after my translation
will read me.

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—B.Z. Niditch

Out of human chaos
arresting time
on distant orange fields
from piled up pumpkins
once filed with soccer balls
it's rumored that ghosts
have secretly sprung up
from distant bodies
parting us
in suspended
bright stars
on the simulacrum
of a poet's universe
in an astrological chart
from traces
of outer space
as secret druid motives
in hidden attics
with the bottled alchemy
as this poet bobs for apples.

 Day of the Dead Display, SMUD
—Katy Brown, Davis


—B.Z. Niditch

Your statue
rises from stone and fire
of our imagination
enchanting like a Phoenix
or devastating
from a seductive glow
at our human artiface
a poet without text
or pretext
wonders what
you are cooking up
from your kitchen
in October
when ghosts return
from great aunts
and all stones
and carbuncles
are given from our uncles
when revenants pass
from our pipe dreams
and daily nightmares
on your Medusa watch.


Today's LittleNip(s):

—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

Yesterday began breaking against the
edge of darkness where memory cannot

Listening to the sound of shadows, where
silence isn't always heard.

Behind this hour is the veil of death
and poetry's torn pages.


—Olga Blu Browne

Shades of twilight, beneath
this ravens' moon.

The stir of echoes, gone

Death is not a dream.


—Medusa, wishing today's contributors and all the rest of you a Happy Halloween!

—Photo by Katy Brown

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Toughing It Out

—Photo by Joyce Odam

          (For A.M.)
—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Susy with frosty freeze
is as happy as she will ever be.
The gleaming ice cream
twirled upon the cone
is the moment’s desire.

The hamburger
in the small white sack
is dessert.
She will waste that later.

Susy believes it still is summer.
October holds her in its
moody sunshine,
wrapping its loose-sleeved winds
around her like arms.

But Susy is
as unholdable
as four years can make her, twirling
in golden circles toward the car,
taking her time,
her frosty freeze held out
to the licking air.


—Joyce Odam

In the dark are other darks—luminous
and round—hollow and deep— ringed
with full moons and the echo of dogs.

The lure of late movies on TV.
The sleep of no sleep.
All the ache and buzz of night thoughts.

The turning of time
which is desolate and round
on its one-way clock.

The repetition and persistence
of the days.  The whistle that
will not reach to hush the barking.

And the other who is not asleep in
the house but roams about in the
gradual under-sound of other sound,

well past the October midnight
which is still summer—
well past all that is empty and unfound.


—Joyce Odam
We are sent to kill each other but we fall in love. Whatever is wrong between us is confessed and forgiven, though we have nothing to confess; though there is nothing to be forgiven.

             I leave a trail for you to follow. It is an ambush. You dare not trust me. I dare not warn you. Nothing is changed between us. We are old fashioned, used to our old methods which others love about us. We are always The Entertainment. Tonight we are summoned again for our sadness.

            (based on A Girl at the Window in 
            Winter, 1931 by Alexander Deineka,
            The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
—Joyce Odam

What holds her there,
looking out at the night
with such patience and calm?

It is her dream:
the white trees in the moonlight,
the white bench for the ghosts
who watch her as she watches them;

it is the white outline
of the small dog asleep at her feet;
it is her white shoes and socks
making an iridescence in the room,

her arms folded against interruption.
A patch of snow falls
from the branch of the smallest tree;
a white bird

startles and sends forth
a song of sadness and warning.
She listens without surprise;
it is what she has been waiting for.

Now she can let herself waken
and nothing will have harmed her,
not even her imagination.


—Joyce Odam
The first folding is the body bent into sleep. A tangled sheet wraps around and crumples against his face and under his gracefully bent arm. His face nuzzles deep. What is valuable here are the old perspectives of roundness—how everything curves into everything else—how light is descending, as only slow light can descend—forming itself around the child until he shines with the contrasting properties of light—as light stares into every crease and shadow and repeats his stillness. And in the smallness of sleep, he becomes the subject of sleep and light which conspire to examine him and hold sleep’s time in abeyance and touch his breathing. Something else joins the study, circling itself around, and a sigh is felt in the intense and gathering hold of silence. He shifts a bit and pulls the blanket-sheet tighter around him and regains the power of his life—so precarious, and so deliberately measured.


       (For A.M.)
—Joyce Odam

For lunch today
we had tuna
with lots of mayonnaise
two kinds of olives
and oranges cut in wedges.

I drank milk.
You drank wine.

Later we walked
three miles through October.
At each fence
horses walked with us.
We took pictures of each other.

“This will be the third day,”
I said
about drinking.

“I’m proud of you,”
you said.

When I got home
I had a can of beer
three whiskeys
and fell asleep
beneath a blanket on the floor
where I shivered.

Today's LittleNip:
Many people want to be a poet but not tough it out like one.
—B.Z. Niditch
Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poetry and pix, and to B.Z. Niditch for the LittleNip. Here's hoping B.Z. is safe, back there on the stormy Eastern Seaboard in Brookline, Massachusetts, as well as all of our other many SnakePals back there.

Our Seed of the Week is The Perfect Storm. Weather? Visit from the in-laws? Or just the end of a bad day at work? Tell us about The Perfect Storm, that confluence of gnarly circumstances, and send it to No deadline on SOWs, though—or take advantage of our N-SOWS or the new SOW-PIX feature in the green board on the right.


—Photo by Joyce Odam

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bats, Banshees & Norman Bates

Julia Connor and Bob Stanley transfer (oops)
the Sac. Poet Laureate's Wreath to
Jeff Knorr, October, 2012
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Between deserted rails, my pup and I
walk the tracks outside of town. She turns
aside. Dead oak leaf-drift against
tree-trunk shivers in October breeze. Subtly
moving—a breathing heap of dead-fall?

No. Camo-pattern snuggie covering
a form; distorting humanness—but not to nose
of dog. My pup sniffs fabric, toe to crown.
Tail-high wagging; nudging, pawing.
From under gray-green leafy sheet, a giggle

unwraps itself from mummy: Kay, today's
volunteer “search-body,” who offers
a cookie to the dog come trick-or-treating—
dog who loves a living human,
no matter the costume or the mask.


—Taylor Graham

Midnight was black with crows and biting
spiders. The child couldn't sleep,
but tore into covers as if to dig herself
an oubliette; forget the stings. Her face
a mask not herself. A switch. All night
she danced to fantasy transformations.

The man dreamed remote zappers
and lost orders. The woman rode dark
horses between sleep and twitching on
of lights. By dawn the child's herself again.
The black itch gone. Driveway littered
with feathers like black, fallen leaves.


            for Elihu Burritt
—Taylor Graham

Who lights the halls of heaven with his hopes
of human peace? We live here on the shore
which is a tidal maze of sand and shell.

Like broken walls and gates, expended shell
litters our prospects. Here we've sown our hopes.
Tide carries them away and leaves the shore.

Somewhere past ocean must be a brighter shore.
You'll find yourself a cast-away horned shell,
hold it to your ear, and hear heaven's hope—

hopes shore you. Build your boat of starlight shell.


—Taylor Graham

The husband came home to find his wife dancing naked,
waving a wand that turned the family dog into a pig.

I read it in the paper, so it must be true.
A wife-turned-witch dancing wild
about the old dog enchanted into pig.

A wife turned witch, dancing wild
in the living room naked as day.
Who knows what inhabits a home?

In the living room, naked as day,
a pulp tabloid with bold headlines
leading one to invent the details.

A pulp tabloid? With bold headlines
we light our way. As dog or pig
the family pet remains speechless.

We light our way as dog or pig,
as wifely witch or puzzled husband.
There is no ending to the story.

The family pet remains speechless,
leading one to invent the details.
There is no ending to the story
about the old dog enchanted into pig.
Who knows what inhabits a home?

Bat Kite, Cal. Flying Mammal Fundraiser
Shine Cafe, October, 2012
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Michael Cluff, Corona, CA

Little Delores
almost exactly a decade ago
between the ATEC and CACT buildings

into the drainage system below.
But never and nary a bit of her
is ever noted and negated and nulled
by numerous Norcoians near
and not so.

Every now and then
during the dusk
she sometimes arises
above the ground
through the two heavy
clotted egg-white colored cylinders
drilled with air holes
from what I have heard told
just right to accommodate
what she seems to need.

She delivers a dirge-like ditty
declares it was a cruel mother
that mashed her up at work and then
through the ducts
in the metal
into the enveloping earth.

Delores' duenna
is now the dirt and radioactive dust;
a death not delayed
her blood and soul ever seeping
right below
the student center
of a college here
in Norco.


—Michael Cluff

During the latter days
of October, La Llorona weeps
and her northern cousin
blows hard and headstrong
over Southern California's scraped land.
Ana is a cruel wind
set to uproot pumpkins
from even the most secured patches
pummel the scarecrows of holiday pageantry
into the straw from which they were born
and scatter apples, candy and treats
and costumed kiddies
down south to help ease
for a bit
the pain and cries
her sad relative
moans eternally
without relief.


—Michael Cluff

During drama class,
Malina noticed a red drip
every eleven minutes or so
would spot her paper,
the last time right below the "i"
in Richard.

From the floor above
an abandoned guitar string
was the culprit source
left long ago by Alex
in a closet never opened
since October 2008.

He had played his fingers off
at an audition
in Alhambra
for a Rush cover band
which he never had a half
chance of nailing.

Malina left the lecture
the way Alex once
had departed his cords—
both disappointed
by the way their live careers
were not


HALLOWEEN POEM 7  (Dan Rivers)
—Michael Cluff

Back in 1982
during bank auditor days,
I had to wear
three-piece vested suits
in dark, dull colors,
white, yellow or blue only
dress shirts
and heavy plain-toed businessman shoes;
however, since my hours were
usually from midnight to dawn,
I sometimes removed my feet from
my leather prison to air them out
or relieve the boring pressure of numbers
from my numbed skull.
On October 30 or so,
Mrs. Palatine saw my lilac socks
and crossed over from boss to ballistic
balance between a bewigged Norman Bates
and Leatherface with a tad bit of a banshee
on the side, and her voice tore paper off the desk,
pale notepads and the bathroom stalls sixty feet down the halls.
The next week, I started to celebrate Thanksgiving early.
I now worked at home
producing voodoo dolls
that I claimed always had singular minds
of their own.


—Michael Clff

About every 26th of October
for the last fourteen or so years,
the magical markers have become possessed
and taken on words and smells
of their own.
Professor Carlavho noticed the dirt smell
of a brown one
while Sally Yarmelle would find the citrus blossom tang
of an orange pen aggravated her allergy
and she had to let class out early
a rare occurrence indeed
in the first year of the new decade.
Doctor Sumari swore aloud
the blue reminded him of berries
from bayou country
and Larry Lebeu loved
the deep tomato bisque
he insisted always dripped
from a medium-used up red one
he found behind the computer in IT 142
but he forever smelled liquors everywhere.
Yet the black markers never emit
any odor since they are evil enough
all on their own.


Today's LittleNip:

Enough "sexy vampire" fantasies
the real vampires "bleed "you
emotionally stake you in the heart—
control thinking you love them
you also become your own worst enemy

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento



Glitter Jacks
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Those Ghosts Who Stay...

 —Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Christopher Kennedy
                        For Russell Edson

If not for flesh's pretty paint, we're just a bunch of skeletons, working hard to deny the fact of bones. Teeth remind me that we die. That's why I never smile, except when looking at a picture of a ghost, captured by a camera lens, in a book about the paranormal. When someone takes a picture of a spirit, it gives me hope. I admire the ones who refuse to go away. Lovers scorned and criminals burned. I love the dead little girl who plays in her yard, a spectral game of hide and seek. It's the fact they don't know they're dead that appeals to me most. Like a man once said to me, Do you ever feel like you're a ghost? Sure, I answered, every day. He laughed at that and disappeared. All I could think was he beat me to it.



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Like Mining a Poem


Two crows put on their masks and light their eyes.
They have been here many times before.  We know
Them by their voices and the crackle, cackle or their
Arguing...  "We are not hungry," they say, and land upon
The heads of the dead, pecking at their eyes.  "They
Do not need them now and they are such delicious
Grapes and look—the jack-o-lanterns have no eyes
At all.  They are total masks, a smear upon a vegetable
Designed to help us understand the dead in a particular
Way.  We will come to your house and beg and you will
Give us sweets."

The trees along the driveway fill with black bodies,
Squawking and shitting on the lawns and concrete.
They use the red to color their eyes and watch us
As we make our way from house to house, dancers
In their fantasy as we think them players in ours.



His family had been red and wore
The clouded suits worn by those
Who could not mark the truth
With words but bore it rather
In the patterns of colors on their horses.

They speak by gathering groups of these
Beautiful horses into certain configurations.
They run them past one another
Changing their order on every run so that
The patterns are read differently
Each time.  Some are so skilled
That they can write music with the horses.

When we came to them, the voyages
Had been going on for quite some time.
Things were being traded that would
Not be understood for many, many years.
We asked which way the children
Had gone, what they had carried
With them and their ages.
It took two full days of horse
Display for that information to be conveyed.

We have been on the trails now
For over four months.  Everything
Seems just beyond our understanding,
Slightly out of reach.  It is very
Much like mining a poem to get
Any information.  In the evenings
We sit and watch the light depart.
We listen for hoofbeats through the dark,
The cries of wolf-like creatures,

Flames of red eyes circling our
Campfires, sure that we will fail
To find the children.

We find ourselves forgetting their names,
How we became separated,
Why we speak the way we do today.



I had torn two pictures from
Out of the newspaper.  They
Were a man and a woman
From two different stories.

I made them talk to each
Other like paper dolls but
They didn’t get along very well
And their conversation became
Chopped and abrupt.

I saw a picture in the second
Section of the newspaper.
It was a dog standing on his
Hind legs and balancing a ball
On his nose.  I love dogs, the
Woman from the newspaper said.
So do I, said the torn-out man.
They talked about dogs for a long
Time while I had a cup of coffee.


I lost track of anything that had
A name.  I forgot the bridges,
Couldn’t go very far downtown.
There were too many people and they all
Had something to say to me.  Nothing
Difficult to understand.  Simple
Things like How are you or are you going
To come over Saturday for dinner.
But somehow I lost track of them and could not
Remember very much about them.

I remember thinking that they looked
Like lanterns.  Later on that night.
I went for a walk along the river
And there were a lot of lanterns.
I wondered if I know any of them
I asked myself.



But it wasn’t by any of those
Who were held responsible.  It looked
Ridiculous as it was decked out, completely hung
Just above the the water like a congress
Unable to change their minds.

Little things has been broken.
A gaze into a room made of stone.
The flow of tears in the middle of the night.
A promise made to a four-year-old child.
A compass filled with smoke
That no longer worked.
A place we could meet and still
Feel safe for awhile.



It looked like a small pile of
Shells and rock with two light
Blue circles of sea glass next to it.

“That is Merlit’s name,” said Ramon.
“For sure it is his name.  But it
Was written a long time ago. 
Long before the gates were here.”

The gates looked like they had been
Built by sphinxes, they were
That old.  Merlit is said to have come
This way.  A tracing of pale light
Descended the gates into the maze.

“This is the way then?” I asked.
“I’d bet a sword on it.  One of
Those nice ones Odin uses to light
The Halls of Heaven.”

“I’m bringing the shells,” I said
To no one in particular.  “Do
What you will,” said Ramon.

I picked up a handful of the shells.
The light shifted a bit.
“Watch out for darkness.  Merlit
Moves the stars.”

The night was filled with new
Constellations.  Our entire camp site
Glowed in delicious, soft colors
For hours, well until the moon rose.



This night I have heard from the mirror
The slap of a fish tail against the purest water
I am able to imagine.

When I gaze into the mirror a huge
Fish swims by and I spy a
Great and brilliant eye that does
Not close, like those of a fish
And it glows.

The sun will come again soon
And I shall carry the mirror
To the chair of the Yellow Emperor.
He shall gaze upon it for a long
Easy time and finally order the horizon
Back to where it belongs.

Far away from the surface we shall
Gaze again at what looks to be
Ourselves looking back through that
Silvered air, but we will know
Them as other, though they
Look like us.

They are not our brother
But are kept from us by
The glass only.

The Yellow Emperor tells us
Someone will hear the slap
Of a fish tail once again
And the mirror shall fail
And what is the sea will no
Longer gaze back at us, but will
Come with arms outstretched
And we shall not want to be.


Today's LittleNip:


There is little colder than these red
Eyes gazing at an electronic brain.
Not even the idea of the wind visits here.
The lines from a lost poem written
During yet another war are sealed
In the heart but none shall ever
Open that vessel to see the exploding
Circles.  All communication breaks
Off just beyond the edge of the solar
System but the gold surface
Continues to reflect something, a star
Or an icy tale of some forgotten comet
Come by with information for no one.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's Kool Kulinary Kuisine!

Friday, October 26, 2012

October Dreams on Poetry Day

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis

alone, trying not to be
too infused with light—
night garb shadows
stitched with wind
and winsome melody.

Thoughts melt, street signs
sing a saxophone lament
distant howls hypnotize.

Even the road is not free
shoe leather names you
everything old is new again
restlessness unravels repetition
superlatives drown in the hollow.

A tedium pace graces each face
so lost as their chapters unravel
like the Edsel under the tarp.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

wildly orange
stretches for miles
cousin to thousands
rolling across meadows
take one home
carve out the guts
light from within
grinning candle face
snaggled teeth
an old lady of a pumpkin
caving in, soon to die
pumpkin on the porch
scares the kids
why would anyone want a pumpkin?
begins to rot
smell it a mile
orange strings turn brown
throw it in the garbage
let it smile to itself
death of a pumpkin 

—Patricia Hickerson

a dream of pumpkins grinning
thousands of pumpkins laughing in the fields
a show of orange heads
toothless but happy
and I’m all safe and sound in bed
blankets warm and cozy
but now the door slowly opens
what! I awake to….

the door slowly opening
when I am just settling down
to a long October dream of pumpkins
in the fields beyond the trees
the door

it slowly opens
after my first yawn into sleep
did I see a shadow beyond the door?
a grinning pumpkin head?
a shadow of a dream

settling down to deep sleep
as the door slowly opens
just a crack at first
then a shadow

a shadow beyond the door
as it slowly opens
darkness beyond
to disturb my doze into sleep
as the door

it slowly opens
should I scream?
or is it imagination
plaguing me again
as I pass in and out of sleep
deep under the covers
as the door slowly
yes, it slowly opens

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Patricia Hickerson
most of his life
Grandpa lived on the streets 
carousing with his buddies
not good for much 
didn’t support his family
cheated on his wife
looking for a rich widder-woman

by his 80s
outlived two wives 
pretty far gone
Halloween nightmare 

at midnight
candy tray empty
trick-or-treaters gone
on the living room couch
dozing off
house quiet as a tomb, all doors closed
everyone fast asleep… 
hear the click of the hall light 
Grandpa stumbling down the hallway. 
what’s the old geezer want and what is he doing? 
does he think it’s daytime? 
wants to go out for a walk?
wants me? 
comes to his senses
turns out the light 
stumbles back to bed


—Patricia Hickerson

came downstairs at midnight
to blow out the Halloween candles
still flickering on the piano
along with family photos
Mother in 1985
Daddy in…

well, heck, Daddy, what are you doing here?
thought you died a long time ago
looking like a toothless pumpkin head
poor Daddy dead by your own hand
you didn’t mean it
but couldn’t resist those puffs of smoke

here you are sitting in your easy chair
smoking a Camel
is that really what I see dangling
between your poor old dried-up lips? a Camel?
isn’t that what killed you?
oh, don’t get up
I can see you well enough from here
wreathed in smoke as usual
a ghost of your younger self
overcome by Camel commercials
believing Camels were harmless
scoffing at the idea of “coffin nails”

hmmm, I can still smell the smoke
the stale smoke smell I used to come home to
the smell of your last Camel
I would start sneezing and coughing
the smoke you finally choked on
smoke took the place of breath
snuffed the air from your lungs
poor Daddy, you couldn’t know
kept on lighting Camels
blowing smoke through your nose and mouth

nevertheless, my poor Daddy,
stay where you are
try to have a Happy Halloween

Today's LittleNip:

—Ann Privateer

decompress less
of your ego
the organic emerges
whips up easy symmetry
into a loose
dense froth
of ingredients
so unencumbered
it will spill like hemlock
into a mini version
of occurrences
more palatable
than a hot fudge Sunday.


—Medusa, who thanks Davisites Ann Privateer and Pat Hickerson for today's poems and photos, and who joins them in wishing Sacramento a Happy Poetry Day, as well as congratulating Jeff Knorr on his inauguration as Sacramento Poet Laureate tonight at New City Hall! Scroll down to the blue board at the right for details.

   —Photo by Ann Privateer

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Read Your Autoparthenogenesis Today?

Raptor from Sac. Theater Company's Enron
Midtown Art Festival, October, 2012
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Every reader involved in the Bible
sooner or later puzzles over the flight
to Egypt. Berlioz set it to music. But what
notes can hold the fear of Herod tingling
down Mary’s spine, coating Joseph’s face
with blotches, as they took turns holding
the supposed easiest, most ever-tranquil
of babies? In my sand-mind, scattered as are
the details, two moods present themselves:
translucent, flesh made glassy in the burning
day-lens; black, chill relief and dread mingled
in the obstinate dark no moon-silver visits.
For this is your unconscious, my love, now
is your dark sojourn from, through, and forward
into the fear, your internal Herod killing
your child inside you who was to be you
the lone woman womb-sprung fully figured,
this lovely Book of Autoparthenogenesis,
the one book of the Bible you needed to live
your legend into, just to survive, whose pages
my fingers may never brush, let alone my eyes read.
Darling, don’t be the wild creature
circling the giant fire we’ve lit in sand with
the last scrap wood and never edging near:
stay wild, but come. I will tender on my fingers’ ends
a just-seared remnant to tempt you with. I promise
never to civilize you, never to hold you when what
you wish is to hurry on in fear. Snap my offering
out of my hand and go, fleeing the Herod
outside you, the animal and the Christ Child
within you...


               for R.S.
—Tom Goff

Turning ten wisdoms I find my own nine errors.
These errors hang around, with feline lives.
Misdeeds ninefold face me like feral mirrors.
That one good wisdom yours—and how it knives.

These errors hang around with feline lives:
my catkin harem, all cut from the same long silk.
That one good wisdom yours (and how it knives).
Purring for time, and mewing for their milk,

my catkin harem cut from one long silk,
that one great cat my woman divided in wives.
Purring for time, and mewing for their milk,
these cats converge on my life’s core mistake.

All one great cat my woman, divided in wives,
mouths yawning serpent hisses and snake teeth,
these cats converge on my life’s core mistake,
slim weapons glinting from each footpad sheath.

Mouths yawning serpent hisses and snake teeth,
misdeeds ninefold face me, nine feral mirrors.
Such weapons, glinting at me from footpad sheaths!
I’ve turned ten wisdoms finding my own nine errors.


trovato anche in queste voci di Eugenio Montale
—Tom Goff

I’d banished, condemned, dismissed a time
I’d given to hell, consenting to walk the riverside
wilds with her. American River silver-spangled,
the clay of Sacramento Bar many-spouted.
Such equipoise: shade-chill, sun-glow.
Figs downshaken now blended into ground,
the branches healed, torn little green vulvas.
Disappointment as real a taste as the unbitten fruit.
What grainy, exquisitely mealy flesh and dark seed
have their beginning in me, now that you’re gone?


Overhead, faster than we can catch, flights
and faux-hawk cries of Northern flickers,
their rose-rust underwings our conjugal sign.
Mild Canada geese preening, cleansing, airing
feathers to shaft the arrow, flight: or canopy
that cold wind, a long stay. A usual order.

Turtles sunning on logs, beings emergent
from marsh and mud,
as from a marriage.


At a bend, water-throned, unmoving,
elsewhere-gazing, a cormorant.
Your dark majesty, plumage so like
your brownly downglowing hair. In full
sun, breast-glitter, ornament and essence:
diamond, from heart up through skin.

Emblem of my error, sign that through this
winter, I vow to assume your suffering: a garment
lovely to don, rough only on my skin. Like a bird
turned staff in a miraculous pair of hands,
Cormorant bars the door from outside,
leaving me in this daylight chamber of mistake
from which you’ve already slipped, my nightfall. 

*inspired by Dana Gioia's translation of Montale's Motets

 Art, Charlie Rancid, Midtown Art Festival
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Caschwa, Sacramento

It is a modern Crusade of
accusations blessed with
hallow point bullets
to pierce and shatter
the soul

one will be tested
against the standards of
rock solid, Venus perfection
trail blazing leadership
4.0 GPA

Heavily leaning to the
Constitution, but
some of the Amendments
are jettisoned as so much
entitlement baggage

Except for the right
to bear arms
except if that is
a nuclear arsenal
and you are Iran


—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Scrub doorway. Wipe the mirror's face.
Rain makes mud after drought makes dust.
Hang cobwebs where the spiders creep.

The new boss is a zombie creep
knocking at the door. Happy face
is a mask. Light the pumpkin. Dust

and vacuum, rearrange the dust.
Pie from the oven. Down its face,
meringue's gravitational creep.

Wear a bat-face. Watch the dust creep.


—Taylor Graham

In the garden, one pumpkin under crows
waits. If it dreams of Jack o' Lantern masks,
it trembles at the knife that cuts the eyes.

A cloudy evening dims its western eyes
and over-leans a gathering of crows—
don't call it a murder. A night for masks

transforming what we knew of life—its masks
that can't entirely conceal the eyes,
the wayward thoughts like hungry flights of crows.

Two crows put on their masks and light their eyes.


Today's LittleNip:

—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

Against the harvest moon,
wind dancers

ritual of chant echoes in this
place of beginnings

where mountains are mute
and rivers are sacred.

where ancestral voices draw
spirits from flames

(first pub. in
Brevities, 2012)



—Photo by Evan Myquest, Rancho Murietta

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mad Hullabaloo

—Photo by Viola Weinberg

—Viola Weinberg, Kenwood, CA

A black velveteen river of tarantulas
coming down El Valle Grande, one
after another, the road eclipsed
cracking on our tires like eggs

Flying up the vents and smacking
the closed metal, dear god
They were on the march and we
were in their way, as they tumbled

Creeping, a mob on the dark road
in a column on the asphalt as we
migrated bravely against the black tide
Crunch and drang, a bad dream with

The foil of little freaky creatures
their insect fur and all their bright eyes
rimmed in brash sun, headed south
with their egg sacs and twitching limbs

Like Scorsese’s eyebrows jumping from a script
treacherous, disturbing, stomach-turning
We stubbornly drove against the grotesque
as they whirled, wheels of hairy little, tiny legs

Click-clacking against the windshield
and bumpers, the headlights and truck bed
We shouldered on, became angry, we sped
for 15 minutes in shivering intarnation until

We passed out of the storm, the sandy road ahead
clean as a beach, and we were quieted, but
even now, just the thought of it, the madness of it
will possess a stray hair to tickle us to death


—Viola Weinberg

She sways, a pendulous lamp
of amazed happiness so bright
astonished and embarrassed
breathing through a pinhole
pretty as a ripe apple, eyes
on fire like sunspots, she
staggers backward
hands on breasts
her lips in o’s

Everything spins around her
swollen tree rings of watermelon
a bushel of chips, a gallon of salsa
arranged and rearranged by
a family of women in love’s kitchen
heavy Chinette paper plates stained
with tomato and tuna finger sandwiches
the intoxicating unction of covered dishes
nestled down on red cloth—
a beating heart, quivering

And here he comes
dragging his boots, pausing
as painfully long as possible
shy though handsome even now
emulated by men, loved by women
unbowed by life or loss—
Only a few know he will die
soon, only I know why
so like a leaf, only his trembling
voice broken by the rasps of time


—Viola Weinberg

With a sharp taste of a fearless, young wine
I conjure the delicious salt lick of heaven’s skirt

I’ve remembered it again, that kiss, that old longing
a longing made of eggshells and capillaries, but

tonight was different, no thumb-screwed sadness, but joy
I fought ego’s stubborn need—the need to need and won

The kiss hovered on the opera of my imagination, finally
throwing down a velvet curtain, crushing propriety

Instead, a world of flowers blew open to scent my little
moment, a sense of poetry in the arms of beauty

The conjured kiss lasted well over a minute, it smeared
my lips like sweating plums in a hot kettle, almost jelly

I went for it, and in my white-headed thrall, reached out
Love’s penny was being spent foolishly, lavishly, brilliantly

I caught it between my teeth and remembered the taste
I still can; once in a while, it visits, that foolishness I shake off

It’s a story told by the planets, starring gassy Venus
in her blue sweatshirt and Mars ruining her reputation

As she twirls away, a bright diamond on summer’s cleavage
Hunting down that last, long-ago memory of the first thrill

—Photo by Viola Weinberg

—Viola Weinberg

The trees fling their leaves
In a bruising wind, the sunflowers
Are skeletons—flesh ripped away
No petals, leaves or seeds
The birds huddle under the shed
The shed rattles and squirrels fly

In the village, everything is dark
Families huddle by hearth and stove
The cat is wild with the crash and jingle
Of branches coming down everywhere
We batten down, watching the bells blow
Off the trees, seeing the vines stripped

Somewhere in the woods, vultures
Are driven off their grisly perch
We hear them high above, coasting
On the currents, racket and echo
Far away from our hunker against
Each wave of wind, mad hullabaloo


—Viola Weinberg

The tiny basil flowers, for instance
that I will pinch back for the sake of the plant
The little carrots deliciously ready, but very short
The one beet that stands alone in its bed
bursting from the soil, red and bleeding
The last French radish, which has gotten
rather large, but can still be sliced
in two and set in a water bath to crisp
or the dead heads of carnations on a plant
that once looked like an explosion of red paint

My plans involve the garden shears and clippers
grown gamy now from pruning sappy limbs
or watching the little dog, who lies in the sun, still
as the sleeping Buddha or the pea shoots
trying to latch on the old willow teepee
or the little figlets still shapeless and vague—
but surely ready to be counted, their perfume
preceding their womanly bodies, their forming seed
I will rediscover the lost glove with a patch
and measure the cucumbers just set in a row

I will not think about things so big they are unimaginable:
Death, dearth, why some are loved and some are not
I will continue my subtle movements, small and tender
As if they were cilia in the ear of a thirsty honey bee
In this small world, I shall gather, cut, water and harvest
Entire life cycles of their little universe of mulch and dirt
I will hum a modest tune and clip the ragged thyme
No one will be saved; there is no winner’s bell to ring—
just the soft breeze with an insinuation of the ocean
a small planet of things to tend, one sleepy clover at a time


Today's BaseballNip:

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Uncle Alfred
took us on vacation
from the East Coast
to the Pacific,
and here
at the St. Francis hotel
a boy cannot sleep
sneaks a slice
of Black Forest cake
from dinner,
and wants to watch
the Giants
on the screen
play the Athletics
imagining bat and ball
bouncing and whizzing
to pass by him
as an earthquake
rolls him out of bed
and the announcer says
a seismic shift has occurred
between Oakland
and San Francisco,
has even hit the books
at Berkeley,
and the houses
by Santa Cruz,
the game is cancelled
and the boy
in his imagination
watches the sea ascending
striking the minutes
by the broken mirror
underneath his breath
there is a lid of tears,
gets down on his knees
to say a prayer
of St. Francis
Alfred taught him
on the plane.


—Medusa, with thanks to Viola and B.Z. for today's kool kuisine in the Kitchen! Both are huge baseball fans, so we posted B.Z.'s baseball poem on this, the opening day of the World Series. Batter up! It is also fitting to hear from Viola this week, as Sacramento inaugurates another Poet Laureate (Jeff Knorr this coming Friday, which is also Sacramento Poetry Day); Viola served (with Dennis Schmitz) as Sacramento's first PL, back in 2001-2003. Scroll down to the blue board at the right of this for details about Friday's PL Inauguration in the New City Hall.

 —Photo by Viola Weinberg

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Old Suitcase

—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

All night the captured dreamer must ride on the back of the 
bull through the forest of her own dream, through tangles of 
vines with white leaves that catch at her hair, and through 
the four directions that keep pointing and quarreling to keep 
her lost. Morning is at the other end of the dream, but she is 
holding her arm across her eyes as if she can stay asleep 
and not believe where she is, her sleeping-gown in shreds, 
her posture one of mesmerized foreboding. The night is 
heavy and deep and has no dimension; it has swallowed 
every sound and left her this muffled passage where the 
bull, like an old protector, must bear her along, for as long 
as she needs, in this precarious half-sleep, where she cannot 
feel or hear the comforting snort of his effortless breathing 
or the carefully-stepping delicate tread of his feet.

(first pub. in Poetry Depth Quarterly, 1999)


—Joyce Odam
When I traveled to the town of Sorrow,
bringing my old suitcase

full of stones,
and I was long in arriving

where it was cold,
where it was raining,

where doors hung blindly
waiting for me to choose one 

but the town was full of doors,
no knobs, no numbers,

a town of old hotels where all my
old loves were waiting,

dreamed, and lying shadowless 
and strange.

Had they forgotten me?
Was I soon enough to hold them?

(first pub. in Tule Review, 2010)


—Joyce Odam

where I am thin
sorrow pours through
I permit
the passage of sunlight
through these holes
I fold my darkness
like an old quilt of winter
all those squares
taken from old garments
I have been cold
all my life
now I am cured
of my unhappiness
I permit birds to sing
across my landscape
I open my trees for them

(first pub. in Poet News, 1989)

—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam

Through the door—the light,
abstract and meaningless.
The door itself is a passage.
It frames all who enter—
to stay or leave.
It leans a bit toward or away
from the light. It gives
permission. Always allows.
It makes the difference
between forever and never—
the point of view. It has no knob.
It swings, or is a curtain.
It never tires, holding up the walls
that depend on it, that need the roof,
and the floor—the meaning of the door.


—Joyce Odam

(1) why number
these passages of thought
as if to dissect words
from themselves,
as if to portion them
into comprehensibilities . . .

(2) like rooms of the mind
entered and left,
roamed for their strangeness,
for the differences of their moods,
for the sharp pungencies of memories,
for the doors between images
that open and open like inspiration . . .

(3) why number these stanzas
of words
that fumble with effort
or flow into eloquence,
like silken birds
that leave their cages
and brighten the containment
of your mind-house

(4) why number such meanings
of little speeches
so they can return, in sequence,
grief after grief
since they are repetitions
looking for their own beginnings?

(5) will they remember themselves?
the shadows
have hardened into reality,
the cages
ring with lost singing.

(6) you are your own mirror
placed on every wall
reflecting and reflecting
your effort to know yourself
as you will always do
for you are never completed 

(first pub. in Poets' Guild, 1997)


Today's LittleNip:

—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

Yesterday began breaking against the
edge of darkness where memory cannot

Listening to the sound of shadows, where
silence isn't always heard.

Behind this hour is the veil of death
and poetry's torn pages.


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors! Halloween is coming, of course, and we're already receiving Halloween poems and pix, so let's have at it: our Seed of the Week is Halloween—and, hint hint, that's a very broad theme: everything from Day of the Dead to trick or treat to childhood memories of warm homemade donuts and frosty nights to Scary Bosses I Have Known. Stretch your mind around the season and send your stretch marks to

—Photo by Joyce Odam

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sailing the Spirit-Wind

Medusa Head, Cistern, Istanbul
[Thanks to Katy Brown for finding us this photo!]

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento
I step out on the stoop,
stoop down to pick up a leaf
before leaving the house
to have tea with Kate.
I hesitate.

Patterns of autumn leaves
catch my eye—golden ones
like arrows pointing in so
many directions.  Confusion

sets in again, another reason
not to drive this season.
Leaves pointing to Maple Street
where Mabel lived, or Live Oak
where Liz lives, or Sycamore
for more of Wendy—wind

moaning between branches
in biblical lamentations.
I have my limitations with her.
Today is not a good day
for driving, or arriving late.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The family he left behind claims nothing
of what we say is true. He was only sailing
in search of archetypes. Figments. Lions.
The sword of Orion. Vulcan’s hammer.
            An island of mourning
doves and a beautiful woman of unreachable
smile. He was only filling his log-book
with the falling leaves of his mind, small
pages let loose on the wind as he hurried
back and forth across dawns and evenings,
            sailing the mirrors of waves;
sharing figs and roasted lamb with his
friends, his crew.
Miles of coastline debouching rivers
           and streams. Ruins of the tombs
of ancient kings, whose leg-bones became
statues carved in cliffs.
An inland sea is paradise, the golden fiction
                                     of freedom.
           But I say, this is the true
story. Now he is past, where fictions
sail the spirit-wind.

—Photo by Evan Myquest, Sacramento

—Caschwa, Sacramento

I stand a full half-inch
above five feet and eight
there is too much to pinch
if you're watching my weight

gray hair topping brown eyes
that view from old sockets
government sending spies
to measure our pockets

when one carries loose change
praise to freedom can't sing
even homes on the range
all belong to the king

War put us in deep debt
burdens we can't bury
and keep a safety net

Indian casinos
barely stave off starving
while Gas-X and Beano's
back up turkey carving

Halloween, trick or treat
money spent on candy
bankruptcy, now upbeat
Yankee Doodle Dandy!


(That is what I would name twins)

Yesterday, somehow
a delightful coworker
passed along to me
two fortune cookies

from a local eatery
I ate the cookies
and read the fortunes
tucked neatly inside

but were those fortunes
really meant for me
or was I reading passages
that belonged to another?

one of the fortunes
oddly enough
said I would be changing
my line of work

the President says
change is good
who am I to dispute
such authority?

the other fortune
kissed my vanity ass
and said I had some
pretty nice qualities

good fodder for that
resumé I am composing
as gateway to
that next line of work


Today's LittleNip:

—Carol Louise Moon

broad adobe garden tiles
stoic in the moonlight:
one salutes the northern wind
two peer through the silver mist
three press hard against the east

ashened leaves of autumn
join ranks along the foot path



—Photo by Evan Myquest