Thursday, January 31, 2013

News From the Four-Dollar Motel

Toy Dolls, Folsom Historical Museum
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

it wasn’t our fault you said much later
that we were both stranded at the same time
from our companions in the woods
we didn’t even know each other
but there we were
both groping through snow
it was blinding
where had we come from?
how to get back to our campsites?

it was getting worse all the time
and then we found the cabin
unlocked, deserted
we pushed our way in

there were logs by the fireplace
old newspapers piled nearby
matches in a drawer
we found a sleeping bag
could we both fit into it?
just to keep warm we said
we wrapped arms around each other
each inhaling the other’s  strange smell
each feeling the other’s body
the shapes, the rounds, the hidden places
we were warmed, deliciously
we fell asleep

we woke to a moon shining on us
a dented moon through the iced window
the storm was over
but we were not   


—Patricia Hickerson

my saxophone player makes me cry
the sweet wailing the tenderness
smoother than a lover’s touch
he takes me to another place
a thrill of nerves shudders my legs
his swelling and wailing
takes me down by the river
a dog barks
a child cries for his mother
in the crescent along the levee
shell-strewn washed up by the river
where I once lived in heat and swamp
listening to the rise and fall of life
that only my sax player can express
smooth as chocolate
sweet as pralines riddled with pecans
and we are down by the river
under the sugar spell of the saxophone plaint
the ripple of his sax
has sharpened my eyesight
your best friend will let his horse ride over you
in dust and heat
down by the river
so cold
so very cold
let night cover it all
you don’t want to see what’s going down
just hear the sound…
the sax player pauses to give everyone a rest
far across the city at a winding park
you spy a ketchup-colored shirt
that would show no stain from a hot dog flurry
then—a blood-red shirt or is it murder
not yet laid to rest?


—Patricia Hickerson

a certain place
just off 580
we used to meet
a jug of bourbon
a load of chips
and thou beside me, love
singing in the wilderness
of lowered blinds
puffy pillows
snowy sheets
wooly blankets
and thou beside me, man        


—Patricia Hickerson

pain perdu the Cajuns call it
Mom called it French toast
both the same
old bread on the verge of death
old bread almost stale
old bread hardened by time
old bread soaked in egg and milk
fried in mounds of butter till crispy
singed at the edges
burnished gold at the center
a miner would be proud
to find this glittering bread in his kit
bread isn’t lost
it’s found and refurbished
made good
made delicious
topped with powdered sugar
or pure maple syrup
not lost
not pain perdu
revived to live another day

Mourning-Style Dress, Folsom Historical Museum
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Tehama       

Only in the black of night               
do I feel safe enough               
Awake in a sleeping house               
trucks on the highway finally still           
I unzip my heart                   
take a cautious look inside               
Tears flow hot and sticky               
across my face                   
catch in my hair                                       
Light gathers, radiation                
therapy of the soul.                   
Tears stitch up the seam               
mend the break                   
The heart is whole again.               
Thirty years later I learn               
they always loved me.               
I never knew.                       
I am undone by love.


—Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Do you really think I like it, huh?
I’m stuck here on a pot-holed circle
without even a tree to shade
my flaking shingles,
my other half plastered to my side,
only a thin wall keeps us apart.
One or the other of us
always has low-lifes overnight.
They make noises like hogs,
bang the headboard against sheetrock,
leave me in the morning smelling like a sty.
We have holes in our shared wall
from fists in rage, disgusted elbows
and no one should sit naked
on the bedspread.
Forget about bare feet on that crud-brown rug.
Worst of all, I never get a good scrubbing.
The so-called maid swishes her rag around
just enough to sop up the puddles,
spritzes air freshener to hide
her long smoke breaks,
and only every three days bothers
to change the sheets.
Oh, how I’d love to move
but they’ve got me attached to concrete.
My only hope is some drunken loser’s
lit cigarette.


—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

A word
word's unheard.
What's worse is
extinct words,
words of non-distinction.

Words unheard of.
"Of" as a word
or "if"
as "if" it was
(as it were)
a word.

A weird word
that's weird,
and nothing more.
There's nothing more
weird than the word

So many moors:
more, Moore,
and Moor—
and mooring.
A boat load "mooring."
A boat load of Moors

on the water,
getting wetter
in the winter.
Other words, like
"Birds in the water"
already wetter
when it's winter weather.

Moors and birds
gathered together
like words
of a feather. . .
on the water
in the winter.



what comes to mind.
The form, the pith,
the sense of it
I do intend.
And, as the pen moves
on the page
and on ahead,
I wonder if what I have said
is worth the reading,
worth the telling.  Let me tell:

My thoughts by day
are clouded just the same
as night time comes.
At night the wine works
wonders on these lines
so loosely writ,
that pretty soon the poem
takes on a turn
before the turn
is meant to turn.

And candles burned
at both their ends
are now so done.  The poet is
undone as well,
with wine and spell
that grammar matters not no more,
nor spelling seen as use-full
two the pome.

—Carol Louise Moon


Today's LittleNip:

—Patricia Hickerson

the remote
can’t find it
and is that a cracker my toe is touching?
have you been eating crackers in bed again?
and don’t tell me it’s your paperback
what is this rag?
oh, your boxers
and what is
this thing?


—Medusa, with thanks to these lovely ladies for the photos and colorful poems about, among other things, that poor, ramshackle No Tell Mo-tel. My word (or yours!)—what tales it has for us! Write them all down and send them to No need to be just a lurker...

Toy Washer, Folsom Historical Museum
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Lungs Need Inflation

Leah Angstman

—Leah Angstman, Palo Alto
Blood inside eyelids
can be either vagary or reality
without much matter which;
it still is relived against his face
when my eyes in sleep
press his eyes in sleep.

How did I hold there and
pull a sixteen-year brain
apart from glass in a culvert
in a canyon
excavating for a mind

with these nursery rhymes
so close to the tongue
I could not put the pieces
together again?


(for Russian poet Aleksey Dayen, found dead after severe dehydration at age thirty-eight)

We’re drowning in it,
pouring over our faces
yet dehydrated
with exhaustion,

Words drunk could give
fresh life to the thirsty
but grave poisoning
to minds saturated, held
captive inside ribcages swollen
and ripe with famine,
throats and exits alike,
burning for sousing
plants of lines,
sonnets, stanzas, haiku,
iambic thermometer.

Were I at Normandy,
landing on this beach
after days surrounded by water;
were I drudging through a barren
unthawed Russian tundra,
untouched blankets of snow
curled at my feet in demitasse
cups and saucers with
pinky not even extended,
there would still
not be



Gathering in Mrs. Cornish’s
on a Tuesday in January,
particularly cold I remember
because it seemed so warm in Florida;
they weren’t wearing jackets.

To someone beneath grades,
the rolling TV cart was a novelty
and more so in the carefully chosen
seat next to Josh, the teacher’s son,
who still aspired
to be an astronaut,
his excitement rubbing on me
like hope of the unknown,

but the only lasting memory
was a burst of white smoke,
a blaze of fire, the knowledge that
something went terribly wrong
without comprehension of O-rings,
Mrs. Cornish’s jaw falling open in
hands that frantically turned
the screen from hope’s quick eyes.



In reclining, I feel intense blaze
of your severe eyes
groping face and lungs;
gripping the white of my pale
throat with knuckles fisted;
dripping in spaces;
licking through pores
in quiet desperation,
fiery and graceful;
creeping with mercury,
the leaded poison left
within the walls of vessels
docked in spoiled shipyards,
residue littering broken cells
regenerating themselves.



The lungs can't stand on their own.
They need
they need
your sails to get you there.

Yours, struggling to sail again
after deflating in
crucial timing of sudden wind.

Precautionary chemo
was the phrase on the
tips of tongues
cloaked in white coats—   
the just in case,
the maybe-we-should-be-watchful,
pre ...
cau ...

The lungs don't feel the need
for precaution—
your breath so lax into them,
but weakness shows.
Each one of those breaths
up the hill dragging dark and,
pre ...
cau ...
tious ...

pre ...

The tap-tapping of the keys
is slower,
the paragraphs smaller,
the joy,

Can't trade in
other cancerless organs,
parts and pieces,
for the protection of one sail;

just have to keep
sailing on the broken one.



En route to the bank,
three thousand in cash
burning a hole in my messenger bag:
dollar bills,
tips from the bar,
here-and-there cash
collected from two months
of not depositing.

There ahead, the regular
selling the
Spare Change homeless newspaper
for a buck a pop;
his eyes,
his hands,
asking only for the buck—
one small dollar.

Here I am
with three thousand of
the very thing he asks,
and who am I
to pass
with fists tight,
knuckles emerged,
eyes down?

I hold out my hand
into his hand—
a crumpled bill between us,
shuffles the papers.
"I've already got this week's,"
and just say, "Keep it."

Eyes meeting for a split
in that shameful space around us,
I wretch past,
hear him
unfold the bill and gasp,
another and a blessing for me,
but I am too far gone now.

I step to the teller
—slip in hand,
cash in the other—
"It will be short
just scribble it out."


Our thanks to Leah Angstman for today's poems! Leah has served as Editor-in-Chief of her own press company, Propaganda Press, for two decades, bringing over two hundred books by independent authors and poets into the small press ( In addition to poetry, she writes historical fiction novels and plays, has had twenty books of her poetry published, and has earned two Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in many journals, including Red Fez, Zygote in My Coffee, and a Guest Editor slot in Durable Goods. She can be found at,, and (@leahangstman).


Today's LittleNip:

There were enough reasons in the world

for her to go through with it.

She couldn't find a single reason
not to.

She hung her head to the table,
chose not to,
avoiding reason.




Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Death and Her Blue Remarks


I have survived one day without you.
I am strong.

Today the sun is real.
The wind is not rising.
The cries of the crow are sharp
and my ears are deep.
I do not hunger for you and this
surprises me.
Whatever name you were
I do not speak.

I make one tally
on the calendar.

(This poem has won prizes in the Cal. Fed. of Chaparral Poets, Inc. contest of 1987 and the Friends of the Library contest of 1992.)



Walking Death came by
with her blue remark,
gripped tight to the arm
of her ancient guy
who limped ahead of her
to crank the way,
while she glanced here and there
with her thrifty eye.

The sunshine was full of Easter.
it was a
crowded day.
The candy children
were loud and louder,
taking up all the space they could measure.

But Walking Death was thin among them,
gripping the sleeve of her thinner man
who picked out their gray
with a meager penny,
who measured the sunshine
that shivered through them,
and threaded the way,
while Walking Death
looked here and there
at the much and many
with a needful eye.

(first pub. in Contemporary Quarterly, 1975)



Yes, it is true. I am in the loss—spaced far between it; my hands cannot find the edge. I housekeep, but the dust wins. Balances surround me. I accept my gravity, fall through the television where the silence is. I reward myself with candy, stuffed in my starving mouth. I ignore the bottle—my last strength, drown among cups of coffee and diet Pepsi. I cannot mend the holes in my love, though I praise it with birds that can sing. Ah, season, full of the right weather, fill me with maps.


Each night they share the chocolate—after dinner, when they claim their separate chairs and prepare for the boredom of comfort, when their differences bring them together in the ritual truce of sharing something rich and sweet.


Love comes
from a far place
with blue wind in its eyes
and black roses
growing from its hands
limping along a bruise of
fallen petals
to show how far
the pilgrimage.

Love comes to me
with all the tempest I allow
and all the quiet
I avow.  And my eyes fill
with blue wind.  And my hands
take the dark flowers.

I clutch the thorny things
and press my face
among the blooms
and draw the fragrance in
and learn addiction . . .
and find
the scratches will not heal.
I curse my wounds.
Love smiles
and calls me beautiful.

(first pub. in Mustang Review, 1972)


WIDOW FOOD               

Popcorn. Peanut butter. Toast. (Still learning
how to live, talking to the ghost.)  Fried egg

sandwich. Bananas. Ice cream. (The easy food.) Conscience-vegetables that spoil in the fridge.

Baked potato, microwaved. Tuna, drained.
Crackers. Cheese. Or – binge-cook, to reheat.

Talk to the clock in off-guard moments, forgetting, turning to share the strange lining-up of numbers:

3:33…4:44…5:55…10:10…11:22…12:34…etc., saying, “Look at the clock, Honey,” to the room.

(“6:66”, we used to joke.) Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. No one to cook for, so why eat?  But, eat, eat, eat.

All the wrong food. Finger food. Plate of cookies with late T.V. Ignore the crumbs.  Long, heavy naps

in the swallowing chair.  Chocolate when all else
fails, and only you and the ghost are there.

(first pub. in Convolvulus, 1997)




She is in a crowded dress—she would dance—but prim is this room—he would disapprove.


She brings him a candy on a tray. She has one, too. They both settle in—book to book.


Her dress breaks free of her—she sits there in a thrilling light—made of itself. He does not look at her.

(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 2007)



Old as children, they
come touching at all my candy,
leaving uneaten bruises upon
my fruit and spilling the
cheap fermenting wine of Sunday.

They sit close together in one
chair, his long beard greying
into her long blue hair.

She wears a flea market coat of
real fur.  He wears a ruined hat.
They are dressed for winter.

He tells her
what to do with her mind.
She adores
and gives him the purest sighs
while he looks at her
in his brooding manner.

And they cry when I laugh
and they laugh when I cry.
They are restless and lonely,
afraid to go
and unwilling to stay
where the rooms are long and
the hours are many.

(first pub. in Chaminade Literary Review, 1991)



Grief is too much to know.
Time is how long it takes to know it.

Time and its addictions
is also time and its starvations.

All the hungers
know how to wait.

Time is not in waiting,
though waiting is in time.

“And yet,” I say to some malingering
afterthought, “and yet . . . .”

Time, you old ghost,
when have you touched my shoulders?

Time is the last thing to want when
there is no more to want.

Let us hold the moment and slide under
eternity’s pale shadow.

Time when it is precious is time that is
gone. Only the farewell has no echo.


Today's LittleNip:


Sweet cups of brimming light—and should we drink

from all the goblet-flowers of this place,
would we, like Alice, grow in size—or shrink—
lose our senses—feel ourselves erase . . . ?
Oh, careful one, how pale you turn to think
I’d poison you by urging you to taste  
such heady light—intoxicate your soul—
risk some addiction you could not control.

(first pub. in Hidden Oak, 2003)


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix about Chocolate and Other Addictions, last week's Seed of the Week. Say—ever been to the No Tell Mo-tel, that seedy repository of sleeze and lowbrow adventure where things that go bump in the night are unmentionable and (hopefully) reprehensible—the kind of places I used to stay when my appetite for adventure was far bigger than my budget? Weave all those fantasies, real or otherwise, into poems and send them to for our Seed of the Week: The No Tell Mo-tel.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Casting Prayers on the Wind

Mozart as a Kid 
—Philippe Noyer
[Happy Birthday yesterday, Amadeus!]

—B.Z. Niditch

You captured me early
with a miniature of you
on the Steinway
where mirrors offered
a touch of the sublime
in your delighted
bronze eyes
and I played you
as a young beggar
hungering for harmony
for your listening ear
and leafy laughter
at my attempts
to gain your favor,
then I wrote a novella
and put on a play,
"Mozart's Birthday"
which was published
and performed
in recital, 1994
and today I have
composed this poem
between my fingers
in the sound-proof room
by the piano
and computer,
for Mozart
whether on the open sea
from the Rhine to Danube
in foreign cities
or in a heavenly realm
we cannot yet reach
any more with words
over your joyful chords
or still under your spell
in my thoughtful hand.


—B.Z. Niditch

Time for a poet is always right.
—A maxim of BZ Niditch

Today's sky
will not be missed
in a sorry shade
of black and blue
when Arctic air
quietly smuggled in
from Canada freezes
the lifeless bodies
of snow into ice
bright figurines,
and my chilled sax
is exposed
as an orange slice
eaten on my motorcycle
on the jazz corner
for my timely gig,
yet a poet is still
a Beat for life
in his runaway suit
when the same shade
shines in darkness
from a cool club
on the blind window
staring back at him
with a sponged fog
on a wasted visage
and an angel stranger
helps the poet
with the gas
both knowing the blahs
will not survive
the skittering waters
on our overcast faces,
and that spring
may still be early
when words
will go down
when the sax
will again beat out
its underground notes
to play the Blues.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

A survey was taken at work
to assess the preferences
of the employees

We all knew that management
had already made its final choices
so we picked outrageous

both parties to a lawsuit
fiercely allege that the other's claims
are not valid under the law

when the matter goes to court
God's honest truth is distorted
like a penny on a railroad track

the vending machine accepted only quarters
all I had was a roll of dimes

I came back with a roll of quarters
which pulled my pants down
now I'm a punk rocker

the teacher: what point are you trying to make?
the judge:  what is this evidence offered to prove?
me:  is it lunch yet?



OK, a person who has
never had much money
wins a ton of it
blows through it
back to square one

a person who drinks
way too much with
no fear of consequences
suffers serious consequences
hello 12-step plan

a corporate entity
that outlives humans
loses stock value and
advertises its approach as
"in the best interests of our children's children"

a poet has huge dreams
of his work being loved
here and there a good review
mostly rejections
back to square one

Musical Instruments
—Pablo Picasso

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

On the stove, a splash of oil: a star-
splatter, a bright hot hiss,
a wisp of smoke
as Physics spoke:
Splatter! A bright hot hiss

summons. The day begins like this
with winter cordwood oak.
You struck a match
to make sparks catch
with winter cordwood oak.

A day that's bitter-cold, a cloak
of frost on frozen latch;
a door ajar;
a scent of char,
of frost on frozen latch.

But look how field-frost leaps to snatch
the sun as morningstar.
Our daybreak's bliss:
from night's abyss,
the sun as morningstar.


—Taylor Graham

I meant to touch-type the word “kiss”
but it came out as “loss”—
no pencil-slip,
a keystroke-trip
but it came out as “loss.”

How shall my meaning come across?
so clumsy is my grip.
My brain as well.
Misnomers swell,
so clumsy is my grip.

My soul would soar and sky-dive-flip,
immortal stories tell,
and such sweet his-
tories—can a hiss
immortal stories tell?

So I keep tapping for a spell
to catch ephemeris—
a typo-gloss,
a phrase to toss
to catch ephemeris.


—Taylor Graham

A kestrel flies over the labyrinth
I've made of my life—walls
of passwords dead-ending at a clue
that disappears when my lamp
gutters out, I forgot
to fuel it up, to recharge, to change
the combination.
The hawk is no hacker. She's simply
hungry to feed her nestlings
in the crevice of a tree,
a home that opens to no password,
just those gaping mouths.
Last week they were four speckled
eggs, each containing a sea:
life. The kestrel glances down
at me in my dead-end unmapped
bit of maze. But I'm
too big for prey. She casts her own
prayer on the wind, flies free.


—Taylor Graham

It's not in any bird-book I can find,
the hawk that circles overhead, just here
above our house and pasture fields,

our woodland oaks. As if at home
just here. Bright underside illumined
by the sun, but wingtips dark,

it soars in spirals, plays the current air
or speeds from north to south,
screaming the news of borderlands.

Screaming the news of borderlands,
it speeds from north to south
or soars in spirals, plays the current air—

the hawk that circles. Overhead, just here.
Just here. Bright underside illumined,
it's not in any bird-book I can find

by the sun. But wingtips dark
above our house and pasture fields.
Our woodland oaks as if at home.

Our thanks to today's contributors: BZ for reminding us of Mozart's birthday; TG for her responses to DR as well as her tasty Roundabouts (our current Form to Fiddle With); and CS for his lighthearted airs. By the way, BZ may have the January Blahs (he does live on the East Coast, after all), but James Lee Jobe feels otherwise about our winters here on The Other Coast: see his blog at And you can see TG at Poetry in Motion tonight in Placerville; scroll down to the blue board at the right of this for info about this and other readings coming up in our area.

While you're Internetting, here are three journals for your attention:;; and


Today's LittleNip:

When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.

—Mae West



Yellow, Red, Blue
—Wasilly Kandinsky, 1925


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lobbying for Contentment

Evening Sycamores
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Rabia, c. 717-801

I know about love the way the fields know about light,
the way the forest shelters,

the way an animal's divine raw desire seeks to unite with
whatever might please its soul—without a single
strange thought
of remorse.

There is a powerful delegation in us that
lobbies every moment for contentment.

How will you ever find peace
unless you yield to love

the way the gracious earth
does to our hand's

(trans. by Daniel Ladinsky)



Saturday, January 26, 2013

No More Than Memory



I have been all opened up
In the caves that line the seas.
They are unknown to most of the world.

A song from the kestrel helps me to know
Where I am and sheds an incomparable
Light that shows the secret parts of mystery
As I am so opened up.

I will find others here to be sure.
The shadows will show them
As gods who kindled our days upon
The earth as I sit rapt knowing that
My body too is earth once more
And I too will become no more
Than memory shunting through labyrinths,
When words are the rain, and nighttime
Glowers at the precious shapes of forgetting.

We will know that we eat of defeat,
That we eat of humiliation,
That we eat of treachery,
But will still use our years up
As traces that mark the way
For others as we watch this same bird
Lead us to a night where we will be
Used up completely to complete a single poem.



The hotel seemed overly beautiful
In the Winter.  Driving into the place
The white rabbits in the white snow
Made it seem magical.  The sun was
So bright it was almost impossible
To tell when the road ended and
The building began.

From the high cliffs the ocean hardly
Had a voice.  It was long and measured
With automobiles far below, moving
Like notes on a score played by
The afternoon.  A hawk hung in the air
Searching as we were searching.  Something
Like this could never be lost.

The children had made a little parade
In the street.  They carried sticks and
Sang songs they made up from what
They saw as they paraded.  There were
Sounds that joined them from so far away
Only memories could come close to them.
They faded into the heat of the day
Almost as if they had never been there.

I had built a labyrinth that occupied
Most of the lands between the mountains
And the river Gill.  I had thought it would
Be an interesting task, but my life had
Become caught in it and I had
Put so many mirrors in the place
That the days got lost in it.

Now I can only recall fragments of my own
Dreams, but they are inexhaustible in
Their variety; full of animals of all kinds,
Full of ancient languages of which
Only shards of knowledge can
Be obtained.

I find myself there as some other being,
A poet at times.  I had a nightingale
I called Virgil.  I worked assiduously
To find things to do.  Dreams were created
Despite the greatness of the odds.

Finally everything came down to this.
I know its light perfectly.  I handled
It with the care Milton took with
His writing.  I became able to show
You parts of its precious hours.



Nothing but black reminders.
The tree where Jim had been hit
By hot stick lightning so long ago,
Now split in half, down the middle.
A golden colored core flashing
Sunlight up the hill.

His hands burned pure black.
There were a great range of bruises
Like colors moving up his arms
All the way to his shoulders.
His look wasn’t even one of surprise,
But his eyes were gone, evaporated.

We were stealing wire from high tower
Transmission lines from near the factories.
There hadn’t been any electricity in
The lines for a couple of weeks and
We felt it was a safe time to do this.

We were poking the lines to see
If they were still dead.  Bobby
Tossed his pole up to the top row
Of wires.

A giant spark flew from the wire.
Shot down the pole and into
A tree where Jim was holding on with
Both hands to a long piece of water pipe.

We could not get the pipe out
Of his hands after he hit the ground.
The rescue workers had to break
His charcoal fingers off to do it.

I hadn’t been here for years.
All the factories had closed years ago.
Everything was rusted and collapsing.
The towers had been dismantled.
Now even the tree was dead.

I think some of death fell out
Of all of us that day.  It just slipped out
Slowly until all that was left was
That damn tree.



We didn’t know what to do
So we went down by the river.
There were three barges heaped
With some yellow stuff, probably sulphur.

“We’re so lucky to have this,” she said,
Reaching for another cigarette.
“Well, quit coming down here then.
You know it always makes you think
Everything is okay, like that wooden model
Of a horse you keep on your dresser.
You never made any pictures of that horse."

I had some beef jerky in my
Back pocket and offered it
To her but she said it was
Probably dirty because it was
In my pocket.

The sun was in a hurry to leave.
One of the tugboats leaned on its whistle.
It sounded like somebody had
Hurt a small animal.
The barges began to look very beautiful.

“I’m going to walk up to the locks."
Every step sounded like sheets of paper
Being crumpled up and tossed to the ground.
I saw some grouse lift from near
The fence as I came close to the canal.

I hate water that looks still on
Its surface but is really flowing
Very, very quickly just inches below.
You can see the mood in that kind of water.
It wants you.  You know it does.

She was shouting at me from the river
Bank.  I leaned against the chain link
Fence around the canal.  I began
To weep.  My ears were getting cold.
I thought I knew these people.



She was eighty years old
And her story was a comet
That her words could kill
Like snakes. She was on the edge
Of the canal telling everyone
The world could work if only,
If only, they would listen.

There was a great silence.
It was terror getting itself

“I can’t stand moving,” she said
So we dug a pit around her.
It was like a halo, a glory.

She rose to it like a trout.
Before we could net her
There was a rush of men
Armed with poles and braces.
We ran, but could only see her close
To the surface, struggling,
Trying to keep the nets away.  Crying.  Crying.



There must have been something important
In the fact he took the long road over to the coast.

After they left the main road, things seemed to stretch
Out.  At every town the language grew stranger. 
By the time they reached Verner, only a few words
Remained that could be understood.

She wanted to tell him she had forgotten the road
Where the motel was located but the moon kept
Interrupting her with its silly beauty and he kept
Singing those dumb songs about palm trees.

The flat tire was the worst part.  It seemed to take
Hours to fix and they both could hear the cars
Coming up the grade; first the gears, then the lights
Changing with the turns, then that rush as they hurried
Past.  No one was driving those cars, it seemed.
It was too dark to see if this was true but it might
As well have been.

After the tire was fixed she had picked up a handful
Of pine tree branches and begun to pick each needle
From the branch and toss them to the floor of the car.
“Stop that!” he said.  She had been thinking about
How every day for the past month had seemed to slam shut.

There were little songs attached to her thoughts but she
Didn’t sing them.  He would only yell at her for the noise
They made.  He liked the engine sounds.

When they reached Mendocino it was late. The fog
Was living in the streets.  She wanted to find a place
To sleep.  He started singing those shitty songs she hated.



We must get used to eternity.
It has all the words no matter
What way we play it.  It simply does

Not understand time.  It looks at it
As if it were a fountain or a monastery
Where echoes come to live if only
To get away from whispers.

But the fountain itself whispers.
We rock back and forth, vertiginous
Ships on the high seas.  The constant roaring
The sea insists upon, even as we walk
Its shore.  Then, the endless shoreline.
A perfect place to put all the lines
The poem demands.  No one will notice.

Hopefully someone will play the guitar
Or perhaps we will see the dawn
Before anyone has touched it.
We will be going away as we do so.
We think we will tell the others
About this as soon as we are able.
Everything happening for the first time again.  


Today's LittleNip:


There aren’t any cities
This big, I thought.

Then I remembered
That this was a poem.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix!

First Day of Bloom

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Listening of Wood and Wire

Celtic Harp
—Photo by Katy Brown

After a concert in Winters, California 1/20/2013
—Katy Brown, Davis

Don’t be fooled by the seeming stillness
of the harp on an empty stage.
Wood and wire listen—

register the splash of rain on winter glass,
the rush of wind in yellow oaks.
The harp resonates with every sound.

Time whispers through polished wires
echoes in the soundbox, moves like breath—
in harmony with the harper—alive.

From the highest tones, bright as sunlight
to the deepest chords that resonate in bone,
the instrument ensnares an unguarded listener.

The notes are the true voice of the harper:
the sound he hears when he dreams,
a dialect of enchantment and eternity.

When the harper rests against the soundbox, it is he
who is played by the visions reverberating inside.
The harp can seem as still as cobwebs in a branch,
until it casts a net of melody in the timbre of a heart.

—Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown

A cloaked woman emerges from shadows,
holds a candle against the dark,
flees the tyranny of night.

Captive to a stronger arm,
submissive to a brutal will,
a cloaked woman runs from shadows
holding a candle against the night.

No matter the elegance of her chambers,
no matter the security of the walls,
this property belongs to someone else.
A cloaked woman emerges from the shadows,
a candle held against the night,
fleeing the tyranny of the coming dark.


—Katy Brown

They came at night in black-sailed boats
to steal the shining beauty that was Helen.
History belongs to those who win.

No one speaks of the under-side of war:
the whispered pledge, the distaff spy―
they slip away in black-sailed boats . . . 

No matter what the reasons, what the causes,
wars are measured in blood and ashes:
history is told by the winning side.

Battles begin with stealth and thunder,
so one side never expects the attack―
black-sailed boats riding tide and wind.

The history of war is written in bone,
measured in graves and sung by crows.
The writers of history measure loss―

they tell of glory and justify ends.
Old men stand by while young men die,
riding black-sailed boats into the night.
History remembers only those who win.

 —Photo by Katy Brown

 —Katy Brown

Creature from folklore—from myth,
it rises, circling in clear October sky—
dazzling wings carve shadows on the fields below.

Thunderbird, climbing toward the sun—
bright bands—lightning stripes
flaring out along its wings, flashing across its tail.

A young eagle soars toward autumn buttes
—a silhouette of legend on winds of power—
in a wild land, this modern thunderbird patrols the sky.

In a wild land, this modern thunderbird patrols the sky,
a silhouette of legend on winds of power:
a young eagle soars toward autumn buttes.

It rises, circling in clear October sky—
bright bands—lightning stripes,
creature from folklore—from myth.

Flaring out along its wings, flashing across its tail,
dazzling wings carve shadows on the fields below:
Thunderbird—climbing toward the sun . . . 
Today's LittleNip:

—Robert Herrick

In all thy need, be thou possest

Still with a well prepared breast;

Nor let the shackles make thee sad;

Thou canst but have what others had.

And this for comfort thou must know,

Times that are ill won't still be so:

Clouds will not ever pour down rain;

A sullen day will clear again.

First, peals of thunder we must hear;

When lutes and harps shall stroke the ear.


—Medusa, reminding you that Katy Brown and other artist/poets will be featured at Sacramento Writer's Brush at Sac. Poetry Center tomorrow night. Scroll down to the blue board at the right of this for details!

Harper Patrick Ball tunes up before
last Sunday night's concert in Winters
[Generally, a harper is one who plays
the Celtic harp, and a harpist is one
who plays the pedal harp.]
—Photo by Katy Brown

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Infinite Kiss

Crawdad Nelson


If the sauna doesn't cure you, death is imminent,
the old man said; if the cure doesn't end you,
keep moving—

lie there praying to be killed or know you haven't been
meanwhile, another spoon
full cold water on

cracked rock, like a dangerous
ghost, out of nowhere

into my eyes, the suffering
that comes with attachment—

you stood there glowing pale in the unlit
steam bath, wet,
short black rubber hose
streaming cold water
on thick white breasts;

we couldn't be lovers that night,
I had to watch you dress: dark bush captured
in light sexy things, clean strong thighs and hips,
your now pink body,
dressed, I believe we had a few drinks later,

you asked what I expected to discover
staring into my own reflection
in mud puddles all day,
or whether there are omens in the rising vines

I might have said there are miles of wild coastline
where that sort of thing is approved of
but not around here,
and that we seek into sources,
or else we are stuck hoeing weeds;
my needle shall forever indicate True North,
amid the conflicting desires of the masses;
our grave attachments, my stray eye,
lone witness to the world's torn underwear
and early-morning rites, wanting to taste
the untouched, she who runs,
and she who leaves, and she who doesn't know,

I might have said there are wild patches
of timber yet, protected by irregular facts,
you might have thought I was a little goofy,
squirreled up in my forest hideout,
the competition for light, the sound of logging equipment
starting up in the chilly dawn, and old rain disturbed
by mechanics, the sputtering breezes of light industry
diversifying landscapes,
in a world so delicate—I found frogs on the road,
and deer stuffed into fouling bushes
either by wild cats or by sheriff's work crews,

and I once saved someone
from yellowjackets in the early fall,
after guiding her deep
into lands otherwise unknown:
every foot of land had already been fought for,
I stood like a deer listening;

a bear had dug them out
in his own pursuit of beauty, left a haze
of angry drones burning
square in my path.

(first pub. in Spectral Lines anthology, Romania, 2012)



Down on the water the salmon have massed, under whitecaps
Ready to drive upriver,
The blueblossom has all been trimmed to the quick,
A four-pointer with a black brow stares in the picture window,
The apples are rolling off the trees and up the hill, unbruised,
Into buckets near the woodbox—
The sauna's hot
The quail scatter at our feet when we stand in the morning
looking out over the fog which bowls forth, invigorating wind,
the dogs are counted and put away, sleeping it off,
a bumper crop of twin fawns stand around in the yard.

The tools are cleaned up right and put away, the chickens,
a pony, a horse. A silver dollar squeezes up
and spits itself out of the earth, discovered near the plum tree.

It looks like a pretty good year in the orchard, in the berry vines,
In the chard patch out behind the shed. There are lots of potatoes
In the ground already, thickening, and the huckleberries look prime.
A bear has been biting the stems off and breaking a trail,
Salmonberries dangle in the shade near the old pumphouse like gems
created instantly in last week's rain, the stump suckers in the yard are now timber,
It looks like a pretty good year.


Over the summit, Redding to Blue Lake,
Rattlesnake Creek in the cruel high canyons,
within timber shadows down the Avenue,
high in the chaparral, waddling through Capay Valley
on hot rubber, blaring oldies, windows wide,

counting miles by now how many golden lanterns
are there on wasted shoulders,
next to flattened chrome details

that lie crossed over leathered serpents
who died one at a time
in the glaring California burn

golden lanterns in the sun,
all the way down the redwood highway
and every tarred town,

prayers to the dollar sign
that rises at 8,
like a policeman, watching,

sinewed freightliners singing
and memorizing routes over lost passes
tossing out an offering every fifty miles,

all that coffee
turning yellow in the sun.



All night in the elderberry patch
down the creek
something seemed dying, out of breath
and in the morning it turned out to be a cow,
quite lost
thinking she had found her barn

and thus we drove her out, a wild eye
rolling at the dog

later on that day a red-tail settled
among us
and ate a quail
while staring at the clouds and eyeing
the cat

then a salamander emerged
kinking across lawn, flower beds,
like a wet shadow, chirping;

a tree fell, for no known reason
out along the fence, crushing the old shed,
grease-buckets, empty glass jugs.


Venus and Mars above earth
south by southwest, a dim horizon:
bull pines built tough—

putting in under Trinidad Head
triangulation against wrinkled swell
climbing soft ridges.
I can not touch it, it is not there.

Pelicans, dependent,
glide mindlessly north

eyes serene
lifted on
slipping out of sight.
Paddling murres, a cloud
of birds with dark lust, crying on the water,

Fighting the fish,
a flash of light above me on a wave
quickly out of sight—I pay out line
then bring it back, saltwater.



The world is too small:
I cross it on a bike
the other side is on fire
I'm peering through the fog, a curtain,
—pardon my stare—
I let myself churn. Secrets of the deep
scar my underside,
a sea-dog, tipping,  just ligan, after all.

The infinite kiss

is cold and wet like the sea's clammy hallways
and everything around here is actually very old,
as when the spruce woods shuddered & sank
& squid were invented.

I'm looking into the sun, caught halfway,
short on definitions just now, taking a peek,
I smell dynamite & remember what I've read in books.

when the ice cream truck goes by
heat separates the fence

we were caught when the wind backed around

and here we still are,

embraced like the spines of old woods,
far below. lancing through fog,

a world occurs

only in raw outline
with a hollow sound like the whistle buoy,
barely understood. The water
erases my tracks.


Our thanks to Crawdad Nelson for today's poetry! Crawdad lives in Sacramento where he works as a writer and as writing tutor. His work appears in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Sacramento News & Review and elsewhere. He is currently at work on a novel.


Today's LittleNip:

Oh that novel look of a first lover—take cover!

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


—Medusa, reminding you that there are THREE readings tonight in the Sacramento/Davis area: one at Time Tested, one at Luna's, and one at Logos Books in Davis. Scroll down to the blue board at the right of this for details.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

As the Sky Birds Sing

The Kiss
—Gustav Klimt

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Today Gustav Klimt
is celebrated
in Vienna
with "The Kiss"
gloved in lemon
150 years
young this week
as pilgrimages
of tourists walk by
a painting
in a flowing poise
of symbolist color
offering a gesture
cutting through eras
of living art
motions upward
spiraling patinas
in the enlightened
lamps of sunlight.


—B.Z. Niditch

America's public
and private poet,
an international poet,
a poet traveler
in peace and war
Southern and Northern
symbolist poet
friend of the solitary
and infinite liberty
friend for life
hands raised
to poets everywhere,
the scholarly,
all misunderstood,
the mystery
and contemplative,
the detective
of love and language
leaves our memory
the sky birds sing
for you this day.

(Edgar Allan Poe's birthday was Jan. 19.)


—Michael Cluff, Corona

Hiram was a victim
the need for untied bow ties
filtered his hours into
purchase and practice
since his forty-eight-year-old joints
were no longer adept
at the procedure involved in
the many twists and turns
such a fashionable look
inflicted on his novacained-like digits.
the trussed-up look
around his neck
nearly wattled complete
reminded him
of those days
when Cousin Maude
would hold him down
by his throat
in order for her
to have her own
particular, peculiar way
with him.
He was never happy
until she re-intruded
in his recently divorced thoughts.

—Taylor Graham

 I tell people to enjoy "warm" (in the 60's) Sacramento January sunshine while they can
 because it can mean February and March might be a cold-storming wet deluge
 meanwhile like me they can "play" outside
 and even go to the American River Parkway biking trail
 maybe just to look at the river too and sigh
 wishing they could rent a kayak or other boat during such a warm winter day
 —Michelle Kunert


The first and only time I ever recall of dreaming of sheep:
 In it I saw them graze in Carmichael Park
 and I learned it was part of a new county maintenance program, that
 they had fired the usual lawn-mowing crews from the budget
 and now instead were hauling these black-colored sheep around Sacramento

 —Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

This new obsession, out-of-place items,
clues and tools to solve a mystery
just unfolding. She grasps her tablet tight.
On the screen a door creaks open:
a corridor cluttered as her great-aunt's attic,
or her own garage. Her first find—
almost too easy, a pair
of antlers. Now,
spool of thread and a kangaroo; gavel
posing as a bookend. Public opinion looks
on this as a waste of time; addiction
unknown before the computer age. But
here's a fishing reel; a Cinderella slipper.
She still needs the evacuation plan—
likely hidden in a secret cubby. Where's
the key? Morning drifts toward noon.
She taps and swipes. If she closed
her tablet and opened her closet door,
what long-lost objects? What mystery?


—Taylor Graham

Waiting for him, you contemplate a box
of heart-shaped cardboard. Such a paradox,
these luscious treats so full of dark and light
obsession. Who could stop at just one bite?
What seems a gift is a Pandora's box.

And yet, a secret: this dark chocolate locks
heart-health in sweet fermentation that mocks
all your old notions of what's wrong and right.
            Waiting for him

in doctors' offices with tiny crocks
of Kisses on the counter, you count clocks
like pulses, lifelines. Every day's a flight
of tradeoffs—of complaints and small delight—
this bit of chocolate, this brief equinox
                        waiting for him.

Today's LittleNip:

You must stay drunk on writing, so reality doesn't destroy you.

—Ray Bradbury (with thanks to Charles Mariano of Sacramento)



Laura Cook reads at Sac. Poetry Center,
Russell Brown and his daughter in the background.
See Medusa's Facebook page for more of
Michelle Kunert's photos of the
Martin Luther King, Jr. Gala held on Monday, Jan. 21!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Glass Beads in Stray Sunlight

We are made brittle.
Love is caught
in the glittering web
at morning.

The sun is harsh
in its burning.
There can be no softness.
Love must die sharply.

Icy roses make
snapping sounds
where the diamond dew
is melting.

Petals crack open
and dark leaves
clutch at the metal winds.
Our eyes are breaking.



It was winter with its lack of leaves on stark trees. And the hurrying of cold things at the corner of the heart. And the length of gray that became monotonous. And no window was enough for hope with its frail wing made of frost or the bleak eye of following. It was a postcard with its angel stamp and its illegible message. And the mailman who read it. And the cold gray music that followed the girl of winter around so she would know she was not forgotten, but adored. And every mirror wept to know her. And in each one, her face was smitten. And she never returned to them—for that is the rest—yes, that is the rest of this small story.


(after "The Beautiful Savages" by Georges Barber)

Love flaunts by—out of reach,
in a lure of three: dancers,
or models of costume,

and green-stockinged—
wearing dyed feathers,

and beads—
in a bright window

full of time’s transitions—
winter’s hot-house
for icy eyes to melt through

with praise, envy, signs.
Mirrors know their secrets,
how they entice, comply—

reflect desire—
all three
miming: Choose me.

(for John Berryman)

poet in icy river
kills self
poet in river kills
icy poet
river in poet
self river
river kills poet
in icy self
kills poet
self poet
kills river
in river
poet kills self
in icy river

(first pub. in Wormwood Review, 1973)


These are the days of February—blossoms quick-
ening the trees. All over the city, white blossoms,
pink blossoms—brightening the cold, thin air;

And the mood of winter begins to fight for itself,
bites down on nights and keeps changing its mind.
Dreams up frost, and paints the days differently.



We are skating on the icy lake in blue cold
and white distance—circling out

and circling back to the careful shore.
We want to trust this lake of ice—

test ourselves against instinctual fear.
We glide in the glimmering hum of

the late afternoon—a bit farther out
each time—the other skaters

following their own testing of belief.
We are as purposeful as we will

ever be on this thin and creaking ice
that shudders at the cutting of our blades.         



You hold
so still.
Shades of cold light
play on your face.
I turn to the window,
stare through icy distance,
watch your image test my own in
the glass—feel your back stiffen—I’m
for us.



One two three four five.

Pull something out of
the hat. Six seven

eight nine ten. Count back:
Ten nine eight seven,
round and round to one

more—one more?—two more
times, as many as
it takes to get out
of this trap—how the

mind-quirk works, fiddling

with words. Two four six
eight ten, a break in
pattern. Weave in. Weave
out. Try for threes, un-

even. Three six nine.
What hat?—boredom hat,
floor-hat, cards tossed in:

Ace Deuce King Queen Jack,
most on floor—not in

Top Hat. Stupid game.

(first pub. in Rattlesnake Review, 2008)


Today's LittleNip:


It is always so:
glass beads in stray sunlight,
specks of illusion hiding against sand.

It is always what we know and say:
the look of cold winter light, the intense
feel of it, the love of winter with its eerie glow.


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's powerful poems and pix! I'm also hoping I didn't confuse too many people last Sunday, when I said Chinese New Year's is this week; it isn't, of course, being in early February. And our Seed of the Week is Chocolate and Other Addictions, a topic that speaks for itself, yes? Send your agonizings over same to, but remember there are no deadlines on SOWs. Go up to Calliope's Closet in the Fuchsia Links at the top of the blog to our many SOWs of the past for more ideas, and send us the results. No need to be just a lurker!