Friday, November 30, 2012

Furies Await!

Eye in the Sky
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Tim Bellows, Sacramento

Yellow Corvette, turquoise stripe
    nine inches wide—clear down the center.
‘Vette pulls up at Mandarin and Vine.
    It’s a got-it-made convertible
muttering in the bright day.
    Blonde woman at the helm, sapphire dress.
Arms bare, draped over the wheel.
    Ah, blonde woman driving.
Gorgeous. And she’s one strange miracle
    as she frowns all through the stoplight,
frowns as she
    rockets off.


—Tim Bellows


Was that a film about our jet fighter crash?
Is it still rolling? Seems I’m in the cockpit,
all of us pilots concerned we’re losing power

as the foothills rise up. Down and down we go.
We shake the black box, slap whirring control panels—
such imperious entities around us to make us brave
as the gray blur of hills keeps rising.

Ah, life. We do what we can. Things are
what they are. Death is what it is as dusk
spreads its anesthetic on the shrubbed ground.


Now we’re spliced into another scene.
We’ve gotten through the crash, fanned out
on a dreaming land. We find the cedar cabin,

step in, sweep up, set a pan under the kitchen sink
for drips, set cast iron pots on the stove for stew meats,
carrots, herbs, a broth mix. We notice the two suns
lowering, lowering as dusk takes on their yellow-violet hue.

In this we will live, comrades awaiting the next mission out.
It’ll be go, soon as we’ve rummaged for our equipment.
Radios, leather helmets, pocket watches
inherited from grizzled fathers

who crashed long ago and now
inhabit another cabin
in another film.

—Tim Bellows

It’s Gary Snyder, older, draped around
his fragile bones. In straw sunhat.

He embraces my meadow-blonde gal.
He has such power: Look! Her far-off eyes

now slow like the best of poems,
the best of passions.

—Photo by Caschwa

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Braille would become a sickly ___ille
the li___rian would hush you
we would have to catalog a whole new
subphylum of inverte___tes
your ___nd new car would lose some value
the Irish would say Erin go ___ugh



There is a saying that imitation
is the sincerest form of flattery
that's why copying test answers is OK

"I'll have what he's having" can be
a compliment to good judgement
or the character flaw of laziness

that oh-so-precious right to vote
invites shepherds to tell their flock
precisely what to think, whom to hate

If only courtesy could be codified
the driving privilege would not be
extended to rude, belligerent people

we tolerate small flaws from aspiring singers
and dancers, but if a writer pens "to" for "too"
the floodgates of criticism open wide

Six is unlucky for me
lucky for you
I'll stop here


(is paved wtih good attempts that fail)

It didn't rhyme, it didn't flow
it didn't have a beat
alliteration missed the boat
that only had one seat

but there it was with engines roaring
leaving most behind its wake
advertising a brand of ale
that would surely take the cake

a host of fans remains there still
offering praises to its speed
their glasses kept dry and empty
by an ale too fast to read.


As a small child I found
miniature golf
quite intriguing
even more so because
we rarely went

on one occasion
at the last hole
I hit a hole in one
past the windmill blade
and won a card for a free game!

we never went back there


arrived at hospital
7 o'clock pm

Full staff present
8 o'clock pm
8 pounds, 4 ounces
healthy baby boy!

mother and son doing fine
29 years and counting


In the backyard we have
a dwarf apple tree
quite young yet
bore fruit
full size


Thanks to today's contributors, including Katy Brown, who has another new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page: Snow in October, reminding us of things to come.

Trina Drotar writes:  There's still room for teens in this Saturday's FREE creative writing workshop for teens at the South Natomas Library. The workshop runs from 1-3pm. Snacks, prizes, and more!! All teens (13-18) are welcome. All materials will be supplied. Pre-registration is recommended but not required. See for more info.

Sadly, Trina also says that the Crossroads reading series she has been hosting with Sandy Drotar will come to an end with December's reading. This has been a very classy, well-attended series, and it will be missed. Another series that will be closing is Inspiring Words in Woodland. Hey—we need some NEW reading series to plug up these holes, yes? Got any ideas?

And be sure to check the current Sac. News & Review for a interview with Sac. Poet Laureate Jeff Knorr.


Today's LittleNip:

—Tim Bellows

Poetry is like
life. While you’re
making it, you

never quite know
where it’s going,
or why or

how. You only
know that Furies
and winds dashing

against white summits
await your bravery.



Trees on Hwy. 32
—Photo by Katy Brown

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whistling Joy

—Photo by Taylor Graham, Placerville

—Ann Menebroker, Sacramento

There were all of these little thoughts kept
on small pieces of paper, backs of grocery lists stuck
in corners to come back to, make them into poems
illuminating quick words that had a certain ring to
them, as if the brain had some motive other than
keeping its energy alive with cautions and fuel.
But too often these possibilities stayed quiet. There
were sentences lost: She often felt like a devotional
chore, a rosary-counter. 
Or how about: There was
too much day to handle,
that never found where
it belonged.  She pulled off the side of the street to
write down:  Pulled together with reality and tricks,
but none of it was going anywhere.  She heard a famous
movie star quoted with:  It’s hard to have a private life.
And later, in an e-mail to a friend, she ended with:
In the end, very little ends up being monumental.


—Roger Langton, Louisville, CO

Words are playing tricks
on me. When I want
to use them, a few
go missing, playing
miniature golf or some
other unexpected game.

While sleeping, lightning
brings them back, just
in time to convince me 
I'm not senile.

Once in awhile words
are lost in traffic
too slow to be useful
seemingly lost forever

I go to word books to
search for them. When found
fire burns: of course, I know
those words!
And that word, And that word.
They have been reliable friends
for decades. What did I do
to make them unfriend me?

The words come back
one by one with
an apology and a big smile,
I forgive them,
go on using their gifts,
hoping they will stay with
me this time.


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

It's Blake's birthday
and we have
angel cake
on hand
from our friend
we call Chet
the Frisco baker
the rented high rise
ten stories above
who arrives
every November 28,
always losing his keys
or I.D.
in the South End
of Boston
when there are art
festivals all around
like the painter
next door
knowing lots
of men and women
who are surrealists
with exhibits
and hearing music
even at hours
in snow shoes
or raincoats
like the horn player
out of a coma
playing sax
for us
or the jazz violinist
next door
fresh from Harlaam
meeting her Dutch uncle
the first time
since the last war,
but it's Blake's birthday
and even though
two wine cups
are broken
and a bit of stuffing
falls out of the sofa
and the door bell
and telephone
keep ringing
we will celebrate
our poet's
"Heaven and Hell"
with aplomb.

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Drivers grapple with the grade
under a weight of cloud.

In a hillside cabin, a man studies old legend
as if it were a relic of stenography,
a crosscultural puzzle in code.

Over the summit,
the clouds heap themselves to storm.

A small boy sees wild plum
dancing saffron-yellow with the willow.
He whistles this joy.


—Taylor Graham

November bivouac by the Patuxent.
My dog and I talk, to warm a night of fog.

My dog runs in circles after a lost scent
that fills this whole canyon bound up in fog.

On Trinity's high peak, by moonlight,
we drift to sleep above lowland oceans of fog.

My low-beams trace the road-edge. Breeze
will brighten scent if sun ever lifts the fog.

Searching the winter Bypass—my dog's
neon eyes. A flashlight shines halos in fog.

By moon's hazy glow I walk the old dog
tonight. His whiskers silver with fog.


—Taylor Graham

Sun leaves its track across a child's eye.
That cursive L on postal parchment takes you back.
The mouse asks little, and praises in quiet.
In pine woods, finding bear track a blessing.
Morning's ungreased wheel, a cartload of surprises.
The sadness of a horse's soul is its beauty.
Sage takes over the garden of cleansing.
Under your bare feet, the silk of black mud.
By magic, the box erupts in tabby cat.
Toadstools leap up and dance for joy and rain.
When the dog laughs, be ready to follow.
Dawn opens its wide windows, even behind clouds.


Contributors from here, there, and everywhere today—our mighty thanks to them! Cousins Roger Langton and Annie Menebroker sent us poems intended to bookend each other, and Taylor Graham is continuing to put together her dog manuscript while she and Michael Cluff work on our Seed of the Week: Tiny Moments of Great Joy (have you noticed all the tropical fish Michael has thrown into his poems lately?). Unfortunately, we didn't post B.Z. Niditch's poem about Blake's birthday yesterday on the exact day, but we can always celebrate it, right? 

By the way, Roger Langton writes that a poem of his which appeared on Medusa's Kitchen, "Hooked", later made into a broadside by Paul Fericano, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Congrats, Roger! Several other SnakePals have written that they've also been nominated; 'tis the season. For more info about the Pushcart, see our green board at the right of this. If you want to see Roger's poem, go up to the little cream-colored bar at the very top of Medusa, at the left, and type in "Roger Langton Hooked"; the post in which it appeared will come up and you can scroll down to the poem.

And while you're over there on the "boards", scroll down to the blue board and check out the poetry readings that are coming up this weekend, including Susan Kelly-DeWitt at The Avid Reader on Sunday, and don't forget the Sac. Poetry Center's annual Fundraiser at the Millers' home tonight! Sometimes readings come to the Kitchen at the last minute; best to check the blue board daily.

Cynthia Linville writes: The Winter 12 Issue of Convergence is online at! Look for work by Jason Dean Arnold, Myles Boisen, Doug Bolling, Melissa Donovan, Anara Guard, M. Boyd Houts, Erren Geraud Kelly, Pete Madzelan, David McAleavey, John McKernan, Simon Perchik, Robert R. Sanders, Anita Scharf, Allyson Seconds, Randy M. Taylor, David Thornbrugh, and Brenda Yamen. In addition, Editors' Choice pages and photos throughout the website are updated bimonthly, so stop by often. Frank Andrick is my featured poet this month.


Today's LittleNip:

The birth of a platy
and its still existing
after five days
a tiny moment
of great joy
for me
since my children
now have,
for the most part,
fish tanks, careers
and rubrics,
of their own.

—Michael Cluff, Corona, CA



—Photo by Taylor Graham

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

To Fomalhaut

Knitted Cactus
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

evening in August
we sat on a boardwalk bench
staring out across the spread of sand
to an in-pouring of waves
on the beach at Pt. Pleasant
crowds surged behind us
feet slammed the wooden boards
skyrocketing rides wheeled upward
whizzing and roaring through the warm sky
echoed faintly by the musical tinkle
the merry-go-round
children calling out

never again…


—Patricia Hickerson

at sunset
she found herself
caught in a whirl of white
gauzy strands
ghosts of yesterday
closing in on her
she held her breath

the web danced around her
not to be taken seriously
the sun started down
in flight from day
she remembered a strong figure
standing immovable before her
she spoke to him
found him elusive
till he made a strange declaration
about herself
and him

it was the poetry of sun going down
red flares pierced a drift of clouds
she floated
without pitch or mold
hands over eyes
not to see what had happened
waiting for his hand held out
sick with wanting


—Patricia Hickerson

this isn’t a TV show
where teams of ghost hunters
wield their technological toys
inspect old houses
hear whimpers and whispers
the restless dead
orbs appear
spooks shoot across space
(or are they just vagrant balls of camera light?)

this is a real haunting
a man you’d like to forget
somehow he doesn’t go away
always there inside you
gnawing at your innards
a savage process that will wound you  


  Late Summer Flowers
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

oh, solitary one, Fomalhaut
lonely autumn star
what do you feel as time stands still
400 million years or more
in your rainbow-shrouded darkness
time to remember, digest, forgive
time spent alone
at the edge of the world

life proceeds
pleasure, pain tip scales right, left
you remain untouched, silent, alone
will you host new worlds someday
will planets spin around you
will we someday know
your surface skin, your fiery heart
your life-giving warmth
your inevitable cooling and death


—Ann Wehrman

you’re like that illustration
in the children’s book
the spindly imp, cackling with mischief
and I, the fairy princess, floating
in a boat of leaves

your legs are too skinny
gnarly and hairy as a goat’s
all over you’re skinny
your nose is too big
your eyes light up
as you twist a phrase
to make it mean something else
more delicious

send a spiral of energy
sparking up my spine
massage the lower back
of my skull
remove the tension 
behind my ears
so that I can really hear—
and I find myself laughing
although you’ve long gone

so I lean back
safe in my woven cup
let the current rock me
white water sparkling left and right
until you return, all shy
with your warm mouth puckering
and your ageless, wise hands


—Ann Wehrman

face snuggles into your neck
your cheek
I could stay there forever
skin touching skin

arms extend down your back
holding, held
body heavy, warm

flying, I
clamber on top
ride your back
dip, swerve as one
liberated from gravity

soar side by side
dance around, beneath
ride currents of air
Earth turns
we scream with delight


—Ann Wehrman

back curves
black hair tumbles
eyes half closed, she dreams
scent of warm grass fills her
grass easy, prickly
underneath her
cool, dense earth

she rests in the sun
on the campus lawn
unafraid, un-self conscious

on my ten-minute break
I watch her lie there
covet her nonchalance, youth
freedom to lie on the grass
in sun’s warmth

bones ache with winter’s pain
I tighten my apron
return to work
job pays part of the bills
diploma in my dresser drawer


Today's LittleNip:

—Patricia Hickerson

here I am
my pillow soft
the moon high and hot
it lights the open window
whitens my sheets
outlines my lips
I’m waiting for you
and your good-night kiss  



—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let Its Words Be Easy


I belong to you now,
you with your kindness,
saving my worthless life,

pulling me from the edge
to show me level ground—
no dreamless fall.

How can I thank you—
with my love?
Okay then,

with my love.
I will surround,

and measure you in love.
How will you
ever be able to be rid of me?


           (for A. M.)
I went with you to a hotel of old sorrows—those old rags again. We knew to whom they belonged: to friends who were dying; to lovers who would die loved in gentle rooms of waiting—to sit there in the afternoon’s gold light and tell the shadowed stories of our lives.

I was the one between.

I wanted you to remember with me that I was quiet and said nothing to the solace, or the gratitude that was exchanged. I was just the observer. There was such a sadness for the beauty that I felt in your touching of hands against each other, alive and true, your eyes longing over the secrets of the afternoon which was fading very softly into a sad farewell, one that would last forever this time.

You were happy then; and so was the one in the memory of that window—the room fading back into demolition—the strange cry that we heard from the stair—which was a warning.


“You’re a very happy person,” you said,
so I laughed to show how happy I was

and went around smiling to prove
how lastingly I was happy

and was so grateful later that night
to chop onions for the excuse of crying.



I have given you my small gratitudes,
wrapped in soft handkerchiefs of praise

for your cornfield and your onions,
and for the nectarines on your heavy trees.

And I have thanked you and praised you
for your useful gifts of toil.

Oh yes, I have listened while you told me
what it took from you.

And I have murmured—over and over,
my praises—my recognition for your efforts

and your giving, which is never measured
by reciprocation, for still you claim

to remain loveless and unrecognized
for your generosity and goodness.

My handkerchiefs weep with frustration
to water all your fields of anguish.


Sarcastic-toned and smiling, biting with her eyes, rathering elsewhere, she tends the table of noisy patrons who will not tone down to order, who ignore, though she waits at their edges with her pad and pencil poised—with her professional way of keeping track, while they call out—over the table—over each other—criss-crossing what they want, or mumbling  amid the chatter and the laughter they have brought; but she keeps her temper tight in her smile and somehow wades through them all, even telling a small joke to them, though they are loud and private, and they look at her in a friendly way as, ‘yes, thankyou’, they accept more coffee, and stay and stay.


Going as far as pity
they come to the torn place in the earth
look for the seed in the drop of water
see it there
look upward and give thanks.
They are religious now.
Fanatics with a cause.
They have taken
all the death and forgiven it.

At night they go out
on rituals of loneliness
and choose up sinners.
(They are not perfect.)
They are ragged from living
her old red dress
with sequined hem dragging
making sparks against the stones
he carrying the old weapons he used to use
left over from wars and murders
and self defenses

Going as far as remorse
they tear at the earth with their fingers
dig up
the seed and the drop of water
to give to the ravenous bird
with the amputated wings.
And having done with it all again
they kneel
in the red moonlight.
Thank you for sorrow, they whisper.

(first pub. in Cellar Door, 1979)



My new trees are so grateful
for the rain. They are shining,
surprised to still be alive,
losing their yellow.

I love the sound of wet streets—
the tire swish and the plop plop
of a hard rain—one that can
hold my attention.


(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine)


Today's LittleNip:


Let it be new to your heart
and old to your mind—
seeming new.

Let it be meant
to be unforgotten
for it is true—
as true as new can be.

Let its words be easy
on the eye that reads it,
and the voice that speaks it—
for if you let it go, it will never be.


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's tasty fare! Our new Seed of the Week is Tiny Moments of Great Joy. Send your poetic thoughts about this vast subject to No deadline on this though—think about it throughout the coming crazy season and send 'em as you will.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Earth Laughs

—James Lee Jobe, Davis

Yes, even among mice; God is there,

blessing them with crumbs to find,

long tails, and furry paws.

In the streets people have stacked automobiles

like a Tower of Babel; the pile of autos

now reaches the stars.  

God climbs that tall monstrosity

and blesses the people inside,
listening to prayers over their car radios.

In the pines woods on the mountainside

are God's blessings of deer, raccoons, 

snow, sweet rivers, and even the occasional bear.

God blesses us with dreams, hope, and hearts

that hold love; how long since you fell

to your knees in praise and thanks? 
Even in the mirror, my friend, look closely,

especially in the sad souls of the eyes;

God is everywhere!


—James Lee Jobe
Her sage burns
on the altar of Abraham.

Smoke rising,
watched by the eyes of children.

A gown of silk, voluptuous,
bare feet on rich earth.

The fruit of her dark breast
feeds the souls of many.

The bed of her dark womb
nestles these souls in rest.

My thanks I hold in my hands,
raised up to Heaven.


—James Lee Jobe

Every dawn it happens. 

Just when all is most still, 

Blessed with night, 

And as quiet as sleep, 

Then the heavy black curtain 

Raises up just a little, 

Maybe an inch, 

Maybe less, 

And the first kiss

Of daylight peeks in 

On us all,

Like a laughing child 

Slipping under the flap 

Of the circus tent. 

Ho! The earth laughs 

And then opens wide, 

And the sweet newborn 


Pours in like a bath of light,

Like a miracle, 

And so it is. 

And it happens everyday.

—Photo by Taylor Graham


returns, returns. The sweater never fits.
Those colors that enticed her on the rack
make her cadaverous. A hairline crack
required the bowl's replacement, which now sits
in her closet. EXCHANGES knows her; it's
her first stop every time, in letters black:
RETURNS. Returns

is like a mantra, like a bird that flits
to Capistrano, always coming back—
those swallows ever seeking what they lack.
The restless forth-&-back that never quits,
returns, returns.

—Taylor Graham, Placerville


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

He knows every inch of this path
that cuts down from oak-hill to the verge
of creek. In his head, a lifetime of scent-trails
woven like spider silk, a web so complex

it maps his world as he unravels it. But today,
his quarry turned left and he goes straight
ahead, as if lost in reminiscence of trails past.
Forgetfulness? He pauses, sniffs, circles,

and squats, giving back to nature
what is nature's; enriching next spring's
tenacious, frenzied growth. Now he
tests the wind. Scent, an old dog's elixir.

Echoes, dreams. He resumes his trail,
as I resume the tale I'll tell in his training-log.
It's true as it may be false, twisted
as words following in an old dog's wake.

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Black dog knows he is observed and adored; his
steady breath, gentle gaze out the cottage window.

A bright morning shoved into a closet by 8am invites
no one with cane-in-hand to stroll a brick-lined path.

I think of her often: her word-grace, her casual smile-
of-earnest, her green eyes, her nodding of carrot hair.

That woodpecker works hard at his drilling, adding his
share of noise to the ungreased wheel of morning.

Penned-poems, dreamed, cause rapid-eye-movement.
But the poem in your eyes is what moves me… often.

Who has read our names on postal parchment aloud
that they would know our words are so entwined?


—Carol Louise Moon
There are these birds of white who drape the trees
that wade in bayou green up to their knees.

Louisiana has the greenest parks
in which to film a day of light and dark.

The tourist captures in a tiny box
the beauty of the trees and hanky flocks

flying up like tissue in the air.
They land back down on branches that were bare

of white just now. I pause to watch them preen
themselves, and feel so lucky to have seen

these graceful birds today. As I jog back
with camera in my hand, I jog a path

with others who explore the wonders here
and film the changing seasons through the year.


—Carol Louise Moon

Barnacles had the look of cupcakes
to her, and sometimes "mini Martian volcanoes,"
she said. But barnacles were never strange to her
as she wrapped up in woolens by the sea.
We knew her to be a little strange, single-minded,
and in her older years very eccentric.
When she spoke of barnacles
her eyes peered and leered as if
gazing into a tide pool.
"Nothing matters to barnacles but water,"
she said as if all she saw up close
could be summed up in a simple statement.
It is the observer of marine life that
must learn the difference between
breathing water and breathing air, between
facts of truth and facts of conscience.
She taught like the best, by offering herself
and her own observations.  And the student must
search and know according to his conscience.
We see her now turning a shell over
and over in her delicate hands.
We remember her lectures, her upturned lips,
her scanty brow, her squinting and peering
as if gazing into a tide pool.


Thanks to today's contributors for working with our "gratitude" Seed of the Week, including Michael Cluff and James Lee Jobe: check out for poetry, reviews and other poetphernalia. Taylor Graham sends us a rondine, proving once again that the subject of a form poem can be an important way to make use of that form. You can see TG and share poems with her at tonight's Poetry in Motion read-around in Placerville; see the blue board at the right of this for details. 

Thanks to Katy Brown for fine pics of upstate California; be sure to check out Medusa's Facebook page for Katy's latest album.

And thanks to Carol Louise Moon, the new editor of Sac. Poetry Center's Poetry Now []! Carol Louise is busy in local poetry, including being the editor of DADs DESK. She points out that her "Hanky Birds" poem is a couplet sonnet of heroic couplets.

Speaking of Sacramento Poetry Center, there will be a reading tonight at SPC featuring Mary Mackey and Michael Spurgeon (plus open mic), 25th & R Sts., Sacramento, 7:30pm. And this coming Thursday (11/29), Burnett and Mimi Miller will be holding the annual SPC Benefit at their beautiful home (1224 40th St., Sac.) from 6:30-8:30pm, featuring Jeff Knorr, Victoria Dalkey, and the Foothills Wind Quintet—plus fine food and libations and a raffle besides! No RSVP required; cost is $30, or $20 for SPC members.


Today's LittleNip:

—Michael Cluff, Corona, CA

The colors of the new day
adhere to their own logic
as do those of the night,
a fish is born
without my will
to replace another who died
earlier in October.
The purple marker feels
so pleasant in my hand
while diagramming
the contours of a cummings poem
and my own type
of sonnet
maybe enjoyed or exploded
here or in Haiti or even in old Suriname.



Red Leaves in Cherry Creek
—Photo by Katy Brown

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Like No Other

—Philip Levine

Let me begin again as a speck
of dust caught in the night winds
sweeping out to sea. Let me begin
this time knowing the world is
salt water and dark clouds, the world
is grinding and sighing all night, and dawn
comes slowly and changes nothing. Let
me go back to land after a lifetime
of going nowhere. This time lodged
in the feathers of some scavenging gull
white above the black ship that docks
and broods upon the oily waters of
your harbor. This leaking freighter
has brought a hold full of hayforks
from Spain, great jeroboams of dark
Algerian wine and quill pens that can't
write English. The sailors have stumbled
off toward the bars or the bright houses.
The captain closes his log and falls asleep.
1/10'28. Tonight I shall enter my life
after being at sea for ages, quietly,
in a hospital named for an automobile.
The one child of millions of children
who has flown alone by the stars
above the black wastes of moonless waters
that stretched forever, who has turned
golden in the full sun of a new day.
A tiny wise child who this time will love
his life because it is like no other.



Be sure to check out Medusa's Facebook page for our newest album: KB Upcountry by Katy Brown!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Daring Us To Dance

Bridge of Skulls


I wore a suit of spider silk.
A spider dwelt within it
And opened hems and tailored it
Even as I wore it.

She would sing to me the spider’s song
Of fangs that sought a broken wing,
The lame of foot, the blind
That flew across the night unheeding.

And I became the spider’s bitch
With silken gloves and silken shoes
I wrapped my arms around the prey
And the spider did the rest.

And every night I’d make her bed,
An orb web wound around
And dangle from a silken thread
Mere inches off the ground

Perfectly still, without a sound.
A hat of dried up insect wings
I wore upon my head
And sang songs to the spider
About the lovely dead.



One would think there was a charm near here.
A handful of mornings and twilights
Balanced on top of a cabinet.

Someone forgot they were there.
They will provide a lifetime of images
So complex they presage empires.

And I go a-gathering.  The blood
Returns to the sea.  We taste
It in the salt.  We taste it in
Echoes and dreams escaping our grasp
As they turn to films in someone’s
Idea of a story, set in the present.

I try to remain unmoved by the glory of it all.
Then I roll over in my bed
And you are sleeping close beside me.


The edge of the fire belonged to the coyotes.
They stayed back just enough so that their eyes
Were seldom seen but they spoke constantly. 

The dog knew every inch of that ditch,
The one that cut through Porter Woods,
Cut straight across it near to the
Backyards and on past about five
Of the biggest elderberry bushes
You might ever see.  And that dog could
Tell what it was running, pheasant
Or rabbit.  It would only run one,
Like it knew the season.

And we go forever higher and higher.
We keep our eyes toward the birds
Soaring so high they seem to be floaters
Across the surface of the eye.

They require that we acknowledge them lest
We lose track of them entirely and fall
So far up into the sky we are not found.

Our lightning mouth rises to the skin of things,
Inching past bitterness leaking
From the past, so very gray
As the mirror dissolves into
Forgetfulness.  You shall not
Run these Winter ditches,
No matter how much you may
Want them.  This emptiness
That keeps you now will
Leave and then return,
Roll like your own dogs and night.

I will hesitate until the light
Narrows and you are once again
Alone in your magic bed
Trying furiously to understand the
Perfect geometry you find
Your life constructed upon,
Calling out for love as if it were
Lunch on a sunny day.

Bees in Surf


When I was talking to Ramon about this island
We had been living on for the past year, he told
Me that it does not exist.  Does not exist! How
Is that possible? I asked him. We exist.

Not so fast, he said.  The dogs here do not
Exist.  We see them on the hilltops, under the moons.
Listen to their noisemaking when the night gets too big.
But they do not live with us at all.  They are part of the music.

And the villages, the horses, the battles on the shore?
I asked.  Oh they are quite real, Ramon offered.  They
Can be anywhere and will always be as real, real as can be.

But the entire island? I protested.  Listen said Ramon.
We have journeyed across these lands far into the deserts,
Rode the coastlines for weeks and weeks and even climbed
Many of its highest peaks.  We have never come to the end
Of the place.  We could see the oceans and the mysterious

Fires far to the North, but we do not know how we came
To be here.  Where are our parents?  What was our life
Previously to our being here?  Why have we come to love
This place as if it were our only home?  We have no reason.
My arm around your shoulder is more real than any of this place.

I listened to the wind signal to the far hills and watched the sun
Toss itself back and forth across the purpling skies.  Listened
To birds I have never seen call one to another across great spaces
Of canyons and huge, deep gullies.  Watched the tumbling of waterfalls
And endless rapids as they rushed into darker and darker jungles.
Stories came from all of them.  This one of Ramon speaking is one.

There are always more of these tales.  They waft up from the graves,
Choose to invade our personal dreaming and inform us as the Celtic
Twilight did.  They are certainly true.  They are certainly false.  They
Are the ramblings of the written word.  Come here, run your finger
Across this welted scar on my upper arm.  It was made by the sword
Of Welleran.  Certainly you have heard of it.  Sit, I will tell you the



We were dragged out to the edge
Of the villages
In the morning of the day.
There wasn’t enough light to discern
What was going on. We were fairly certain

Of our vanishing.  A deck of cards
Being shuffled.  The violets were
Just opening, suspecting morning.
We were the end of the book.

We recalled many things in the few
Minutes we had to rest, drinking glasses,
A basket of thorns, some old prints

That showed a sacred mountain in Japan,
The strap of a sandal that was worn
Enough to make it comfortable
For a long time to come.

There was a door hidden in a hedge.
They asked us to leave through it.
We played our hand.  We will be
Forgotten by the time this ends.



And she had golden tokens for eyes.
And her voice tore silver from
The bells of the morning.

Made of dragonfly dances that are songs
To the tall reeds, red dashes, green
Dashes, blue dashes upon the very tips
Of cattail plants with giant eyes
That told, then re-told the stories
Of the morning and the tale of the afternoon
Until children everywhere could
Understand them, whirling in the blur

That became July with its
Forever twilights and the heat
Inside the summer lawns come all
Undone and spilling, breaking into open
Woods full of fireflies and longing

Grown on childhood and magic.
Still, after all the years, daring us to dance.
And dance we did, our arms and legs,

Or waking and our napping, and our
Sleeping yes, and finding once again
Our selves in the deepest pockets
Of the night gathered around
What seems so like a memory as we
Are called across the Summer.  The
Moon is shining bright as day.


Today's Medium-Sized Nip:


This language is unlike anything
Understanding can bring to our mind.
Unlike any reflection we can recognize.

Are we plural or but one standing
Alone in the battle with nothing following?
Reflections?...unraveling roads and cities
And trails?  Begging pardon to echoes, praising
Emptiness while extending our hands
To shake wonder into consciousness.

Soon we will know who we are
Or, upon reaching the center
At least who I am.

Share some of these words with another.
Make sure they have no weapons.
This is about many things, but harming
Another is not one of them.
“A frenzy of tenacity.”


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


Friday, November 23, 2012

Silent Drums

Hip Hat
—Photo by David Iribarne

—David Iribarne, Sacramento

”I can’t get used to you wearing that hat.”
My friend said to me two weeks ago
when I wore a hat that was tagged as “hip hop”
by my friend.
Jokingly, I replied, “What, I listen to rap.”
She followed in a serious tone,
“So you want a black girlfriend?”

I looked at her shaking my head.

Yes I am white.  Yes I listen to rap.
I love it in fact.  I love the old school beats
of Run DMC, LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash.

I remember thinking I could breakdance
when the beats would blast out of my boom box.
The cardboard would be laid out
and I would haphazardly spin on my back
and wave my arms and call it poppin’.

As time went on I came to admire and love
when the soulful and intelligent hard beats of Nas
would grace my ears as he “Ruled” the world
or took hold of my soul with “One Mic.”

I got hooked onto the smooth danceable hits
of a man who called himself Fabolous.
His “real talk” got me going
He was slick with the women
but he respected them as well.

Wait.  Stop a moment I can’t forget
The jazziness of Gangstarr or
heavy joints of Heavy D.
Gangstarr was a “SureShot”
to get my feet tapping
while the Heavster would show me how to flow.

Now, there are also artists of Caucasian race
who can drop a tight beat or two.
You got the legends
Beastie Boys who taught us that
“We have the right to party,”
and about “Sabotage”
among other things.
You have the Bad boy Eminem
or should I say Slim Shady
I lost myself
when he would spit “Lose Yourself”
or “Not afraid.”

There’s certainly more than just these
There are my local homies
yes, I said homies,
D.J. Epik, Mr. P  Chill, D.J. Nocturnal,
D.J. Colossal, LSC, Mrs. Vybe, and Cleen.

My walls are painted with artists
like Justin Bua, Frank Morrison, and David Garibaldi.
Walls are a canvas for a breakdancer, a tuba player,
a piano player, a red hot cool band,
and “jewel” of a DJ.

So, after this I hope you know
that I am white, I listen to rap,
and I want a woman
that is smooth, diverse, tight, beautiful,
powerful, intelligent, swag, tolerant,
patient, and open.
I want a woman who listens, has character,
can hold a conversation
and listens to rap and all kinds of music,
and me.


—David Iribarne

Happiness is here
outside my window
let in in, let it stay for a while.

Let it bake and baste
let it simmer and marinate
for a while so when I taste it
I truly savor its juices.

Let it make a home
let it grow and bloom
overshadowing the dim lights
that creep in every so often.

Bring it close to me
let me breathe it in
take over my body
close my eyes
and open them everything
around me glows
all my chaotic cares slowly disappear.

I feel tingling through my soul
like when I taste a sweet strawberry
or when you eat chocolate cake for the first time
or when you meet your true love
and you don’t feel lost and insecure.

Happiness surround me
create a fence around me
that I cannot hurdle.
Stay here with me, don’t leave
I just want to smile and look at you for a while


—David Iribarne

How can something be greatly loved
yet abused?

Black eye
thrown against the wall
arms bruised
cuts on face
legs aching
slap to the face
going to bed with cheek swollen
scrapes on my wrist
cut myself
watch the blood trickle down my arm

Why are you not content in your own beauty?

You stupid bitch
you never will be anything
you need to lose weight
you need to take better care of yourself
you are never good enough
you eat too much
you should be trying harder
you should do better
why can’t you be more like your brother….

So much weight can lie behind simple questions.


—David Iribarne

Again you got me up late
you have my muscles tired
my body is numb.

All the lights are off
press my wrist to find my pulse
takes a few minutes
then my heart beats faster faster
as thoughts of you transcend my mind.

I just want to hold you close
lips touch your lips
skin sweat with yours
light fires within us
that cannot be extiguished.

Feel your hot slow breath
warm my body as it moves
down my body. 
I stand perfectly still
want to feel and savor every moment.

Want you to carve your love inside
hypnotize me, intertwine your heart
with mine making them one,
forever, I want you to sleep with my soul.


Today's LittleNip:

—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

Come to my secret place, where
A raven's shadow slips past the

Come, come to hear the spirits
call and feel the beat of silent

Come, listen to your soul, and
know the glory of the night.


—Medusa, who reminds you that we're having a give-away for the Seed of the Week this week (deadline Sun. night). See the SOW section over on the green board at the right of this.

Annie Menebroker reads at the WTF release
at Luna's Cafe, November 15, 2012
—Photo by David Iribarne

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Letting Loose Our Gratitude

—Taylor Graham

Grass in muted shades of green
under oaks, and the lesser-known forbs
that feed a hillside as we lapse
into serenity of fall—no one worries
about blooming; no guilt
of gardens. Grass grows. Oaks let loose
their gratitude in acorns. So many
acorns this fall, more than raindrops.
Acorns loved by wild turkeys,

who used to dance on the lawn, then
leave their prints in creek-mud. Where
have the turkeys gone? So many
acorns this year, as if the oaks
were sowing seed against another drought.
I try to read these omens like a trail
of ambiguous picture-postcards mailed
to us by mystery-weather. Our autumn
landscape cloaked in velvet green.


         for an old dog
—Taylor Graham

Sheet of plywood for a stretcher—
we lifted you onto the vet's steel table, told
how you went under the truck's wheel.
Thanksgiving Eve.
His hands probed, x-rays reached deeper.
Diaphragm sprung, you worked hard
at breathing. Nothing else wrong. It was
Thanksgiving Eve.
Vet put you on your feet, you walked to
the car. We drove to big-town surgery. Left
you there, drove home to a dark
Thanksgiving Eve.
By dawn, you were sewed back, almost
whole. A hundred miles to bring you home;
to watch you napping by our table. What
makes Thanksgiving.


          for Cody, 1996
—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Someday, this route that's not a trail—
a slip-through-thicket
like a thought through tangles—

someday I'll remember how we made
it out the other side, grateful
for a clear view over meadow, and

far below, the trail leading back
to road-head, highway, home.
I'll be grateful for this hard hike above

timberline, higher than you've ever
been in your short life; how
you learn to keep up with the big dogs,

pushing through willow thicket,
then lying in a seep of snowmelt while we
consult, again, the contour map.

Years from now, I'll remember this lost
adventure like a solace. The long
drive home; your puppy head in my lap.

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

After visiting the rock
and like any guy
in a new turtle neck
taking his camera out
for the family
scattered like my long hair
around the country
feeling like Walt Whitman
for some reason
shaking from a fever
to write a thanksgiving
grabbing a towel
from working out
of my broken-down car
longing to see
that old picture
of the Good Speed ship
from the first Pilgrims
on the sparse wallpaper
at nana's house
and her talking
of the Aldens and Winthrops
like they were relatives
or lived next door
unwilling to shed
a youthful memory
I wrote a Beat poem
in a tavern nearby
the server
leaning over
from the next table
wondering whom
she started talking to
and waiting up for me
at the no exit sign
which made up my life
that holiday.


—B.Z. Niditch

On an all-night diner
behind big bolted
double iron doors
in Santa Anna
after a wind storm
with pavement waters
by the vacant lot
my black boots
discovering my tracks
and the collie,
with my red eye
clouded in the fog
that I couldn't see
the edge of a fork
and knife
for the turkey leg
wet cranberry bread
in despairing gravy
on the blue plate
feeling deserted
even at the pumpkin pie
with a cold cup of java
for a traveling stranger
with a cowboy hat
in his adolescent time    
still grateful
for God, food, my dog,
and thanksgiving.


Today's LittleNip:

—Michael Cluff, Corona

This is the day when turkeys
and pumpkins
give thanks as well
for making it through
a pernicious, perilous period

with neck attached
seeds intact
and feathers unplucked.

Yet tomorrow
is their Black Friday too
when they wake up
from aviary dreams
and realize Christmas
is just thirty-one days away
lurking with a plate
carving knife
and dessert fork reserved
for them.



—from the Gorgon and everyone else at
Rattlesnake Press!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Type-A's, Insurance and Font Facts

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Caschwa, Sacramento

It was sometime before first light
dew just forming, birds not yet chirping, people
cuddled under a warm blanket of REM sleep,
the aroma of toast, the whole town caught on fire

families in their nightshirts limped and
staggered from smouldering homes
screaming pain and sobbing losses
stunned, confused, wild

the volunteer fire department
dispatched all of their outdated
trucks and engines rattling,
clanking toward the perilous flames

then I was caught in my own dilemma:
turn off the alarm clock to get up
and go to work, or hit the "snooze"
button and face more of this mayhem

I managed to get out of the house
in time to board the local bus and
softly find a seat among other
groggy early morning commuters

a few stops down the road we picked up some
alpha male guys and gals who were not only
wide-eyed awake, but overflowing with
exciting exchanges like those pumped up

Little League mothers who manage to delete
"little" from their vocabulary and coach their
pathetically inadequate children boldly from high
in the stands as if this one play in the game was

so critical a juncture, the kid's performance here
would certainly determine the entire fate of all humanity.

the heavy speech shook the bus with a landslide
of senseless rocks and boulders, casting early
commuters helplessly into the role of sleep-starved
prisoners beaten to confess crimes they didn't commit.

Once the Type-A riders left, there was a
collective sigh of relief heard 'round the world,
or at least throughout that one bus
which continued gently on its route.



He was very generous with his time
or so it looked on the surface
helping others who were running late
but never acting like he was hurried

and then he would
reach deep into his pocket
and pull out a gold plated watch
that had a special feature

each and every hour on the dial
ticked off 120 minutes
so he was typically early
and had time to spare

or so it looked.

—Photo by Viola Weinberg, Kenwood

Delbert was cursed
by his heterosexuality
the smell of any perfume
caused large bumps and divots
in his skin and scalp
that ravished him for months on end.
But in fact
he could not be around guys either
who doused themselves with
heavy-scented aftershaves
and the like,
his condition was non-discriminatory
in each and every way.

—Michael Cluff, Corona


—Roger Langton, Louisville, CO

Yes, Mrs. housewife,
you do have an insurance
policy covering your
deceased husband.
our company cannot
give you the funds
because the deceased
died on a Sunday and
was left handed.
Besides we learned that
he was an atheist and
had we known
we would not have sold him a policy.
All of these exceptions
are clearly outlined in
the Arabic small print.
But most of all
we are greedy sons of bitches
who want to use the money
to increase our yearly bonuses.
Thanks, Mrs. housewife, for
the thousands of dollars
you sent in a timely manner.
We do sincerely hope
you will do business with us


Today's LittleNip:


If you don't dot the "i"
in Arial
it looks like


—Medusa, who thanks today's contributors and who reminds you that we're having a Thanksgiving give-away for our Seed of the Week (Gratitude) right now. See the green board at the right of this for details.

Carl Schwartz (Caschwa) says his "It Started Too Soon" is "a fusion of your Sleepless Nights SOW and stylism drawn from Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story that airs each holiday season on TV."

—Photo by Viola Weinberg

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rainy Roads and All Night Cafés


driving in that rain
distorting darkness
all the roads
glistened with depth and danger
too late even for police cars
where we had been
was important enough to be there
we were part of the storm
our eyes assuming the tense vision
of sleepless travelers
lightning everywhere
the road grabbed into the sky
we followed

(first pub. in Muse of Fire, 1997)



There’s a late café in a sleepless town
where customers linger, as I used to do,
over coffee, to let time drown
the sorrows down to just a few—

well past midnight—feeling too
blue to go home—take my frown
to the sad mirror, blue to blue.
There’s a late café in a sleepless town

made of myth and memory—bone-
colored walls, seeming askew
with crooked calendars, days counted down,
where customers linger, as I used to do;

numbing the days to be gotten through—
maybe feeling their own pages torn—
a place like that.  Maybe you—
over coffee, to let time drown

whatever pulls you in—alone
in some quiet window-booth to pursue
your ramble of thoughts, as if to hone
the sorrows down to just a few—

as if you solved a thing or two,
then finally notice how light it’s grown,
the day beginning right on cue.
Everywhere such need is known,
there’s a late café.



do the dark now
do the dark
the way you do it

squeeze in the music
from the next apartment
slip the light under the door
fade the carpeted footsteps
that go by in the hallway
free the creakings in the wall

the puddles shine with rain
the streetlamp studies them
car-doors slam closed
and voices say goodbye
the moving hours are the same

do the dark now
make it right
the moon is bright
do the dark now
say goodnight

(first pub. in Wings, 1995)



I have come as far as your life.  I am
your fantasy—all you remember,

or want.  Sometimes I come as shadow
torn by light; sometimes I lie beside

you in your sleepless night.  But always
you forget me… you don’t believe in me

… you want another.  I am the distance
of your myth.  I become the other.


That yield of night—that merge of day,
that indeterminate, soft gray
that goes each way—like a steal
of forfeit dreams for sleeplessness,
like random thought that will regress
and not confess what was real . . .

that flick of time that slips aside
to let the pale, gray night divide
and thus confide what it knows
of both and neither—how regret
must ever lose itself—and yet,
not quite forget why it glows.



Sound of rain.
shall I sleep,
soul to keep?

So insane—
what prevails . . .
all that fails . . .
sad refrain—

so I weep.
Shall I sleep?
Sound of rain.


(…for my mother, who said this…)

Mother, the angels are here.
Shall I let them in?

Mother, they say your name
and they watch you sleeping.

Mother, shall we let go together—
though I am miles and miles away?

Mother, the angels are singing
and you are smiling.

Mother, I see them take you
in their many arms.

Shall I let go my holding?


Today's LittleNip:


The old woman—
sleeping in comparison
to Modigliani’s nude
upon the wall.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix! Joyce sends us some interesting forms this week: her "All Night Cafés" is a rondeau redouble, her "Sleepless Thoughts" is a san hsien, and her "Transitory" is in the Welch form, the cywydd llosgyrnog.

Thanksgiving is upon us, so let's go with the obvious and make our Seed of the Week Gratitude. And Medusa, in her gratitude to those who keep her going, will be having a give-away! Send us your poems about gratitude and we'll send you a free copy of the new issue of WTF which was released just last Thursday. That's There's a deadline this week, though: get 'em in by midnight on Sunday, November 25.