Sunday, March 31, 2013

How to Love This World

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—Mary Oliver
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.


—Medusa, wishing you a Happy Easter
and hoping that you can find that Perfect Love

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tales to Tell


The housings of my horse
Are embroidered with gold.
My skin is pure blue.
I walk through all forests,
Copper and silver and gold
And I am a story that cannot grow old.

My story is filled with all
Of the royals, prince and princesses,
Kings and queens;
Trolls and the fairies, enchanted
Castles of crystal and dream
And none of these creations will
Be what they seem.

My tasks they are endless.  They
Happen in threes, each one more
Complex, but accomplished with ease,
By magic and cunning, with fish,
Birds and beasts and magical fruits
And sweet candies and treats.

Stones more precious than
Jasper or Onyx.  Diamonds and
Opals and gems of great worth,
Seen always in dreaming then
Clouded by thunder.

The finest of cloth, silks brighter
Than sun and beautiful slippers
That fit only one and that one
Much more lovely than lovely could be
With witches and wizards turned into trees.

Such not are my stories when you
Have passed by.  They live in your
Childhood and are destined to die
Or hide from your grown self
Unless you can be tempted by
Such things that might move
In your sleep and carry the
Fancies to caves where
They’re reaped by poets and traders
In rhyme and in magic—who
Know what steals time.  It is
Through these stories joy
You will find.

Oh love them most well
Or the lights will wink out and you’ll
Leave them behind
With much of the joy
Such great things can unwind.

There are tales to tell.
There are tales to tell.
Take all of their gifts
For they well keep you well.
Do not leave them behind.



The smallest frogs have already got
Themselves ahead of the Spring.
They were lacing up the night
With their mating alarms, as wet and warm
Opened the dark in a soft
Run of weather that allowed the windows
To be open all night.

On the night table, a hunk of lampworked
Glass enclosed a few small flowers,
A damsel fly with a slightly irregular
Wing and a tangle of roots too real
To be anything but poetry.  But they were
Glass as sure as anything could be.

I haven’t been able to think about much,
Mostly sit and listen, feel my
Body asking me to do something that
Doesn’t hurt to do, that is not sleeping.


There is a grinding and a gnashing of teeth.
Someone is walking in my footsteps.
I am trying to learn why this is so.

I read books about kingdoms that
Have yet to be discovered, to deceive
Myself thinking events will become clearer,
That the water won’t always flow
Into the shadows, that everything need
Not be an extreme language,
That I will choose you and you will
Be my grammar and indulge
The million voices I find wandering
Just out of reach as the moon.

I can see it so clearly.  I know exactly
How it feels to touch the precise
Nuance of its finding a way into any
Moment.  This is left to vowels that
Require a concordance of
Understanding I am not capable of
Recognizing, except as a hunger
That belongs to a logic of error,
Habit, and a mysterious love of things
I am unable to find except
In talking about an early warmth
That has caught the Winter’s eye
For a few moments.  Frogs, the barking
Of a dog left outside, a kind of wonder
That refuses to be quantified in any of us.

Rapids Above the American Fall
Niagara Falls


Search for people, places and things
The box at the top of the page read.
"I wish I could," I thought.  "I’d like
To search for my uncle Skip.  Now there
Was a guy, good-spirited, helpful and always
Concerned for the other person."  I missed him.

I wasn’t there when he died.  I mean, I was
Living across the country in California when
He died.  My family said he died but I could never
Believe anyone died if I wasn’t there to see it for
Myself.  I still phone my grandfather and look for him
In stores or alongside the road when I go out to town
To get the things we need out here, bread, cheese,
Milk, salt, flour, those kinds of things.

I know I saw him one time near Little Parrot’s
Cove road.  This was last year already, about a week
Before my birthday.  I know it was him;
I was driving down the Lake road.
It was about 8:30 in the evening, in the Summer.
He was walking and I saw him turn and head down
Little Parrot.  I was going too fast and by the time
I turned around and got headed down Little Parrot,
He was gone.  I knew it was him though.

I remembered the time he got real mad at me
Because I got kicked out of school for a couple
Of days because I threw a can of Sodium out
The window of the Chemistry lab at the High School
And it exploded in a rain puddle and blew out a bunch
Of windows.  I suppose I knew better.  It had been
Raining and I thought it would just fizz and bounce
Around but, no, it exploded and really loud too.

I went over to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house
To tell her about it.  It was way early to be home
From school.  I was telling her when Grandma said
“Run honey, run.”  Grandpa had got up
Out of his chair and started for me.  “Run fast."
Hell, I knew he couldn’t catch me.  But he was
Angry.  His eyes looked real red.  I could hear
Grandma yelling at him as I skipped across the
Vacant lot across the street, next to my Great
Grandfather’s gray house.  We all lived close
Beside each other, my aunt, my mom, all us
Kids and my great grandpa.
I kept running.

I ran all the way over to Tony’s house.  I knew
He would be there.  We went upstairs and Tony
Started combing his hair.  He was always combing his hair.
It looked real nice.  I told him what happened and he
Laughed and told me to forget it.  It would be fine.

He gave me a about five sheets of paper, all folded
And typewritten, which was rare.  It was a sex
Story about a girl and two guys in a movie
Theater.  I read it really slowly because I didn’t
Want to get finished and have to go back home.

When I did go back, Grandpa was gone.  I
Didn’t ask where he had gone.  I knew I would
See him somewhere in the town.  He probably
Wouldn’t be angry any longer.  I can’t remember
When I did see him again until that day I saw
Him headed up Little Parrot’s Cove Road, just walking
Slow.  Yeah it was the other side of the country.
Yeah, I hadn’t seen him in three years but

Dead.  Yeah, dead, like hell he was dead.
I remember he said goodbye to me when I left
For the West Coast.  “I’ll see you out there,” he had
Promised.  Grandpa didn’t lie.
If he said he’s see me, then he’d see me,
And so that must have been him for sure.



When I was small and I suppose
Young as well, I recall standing
In the vacant lot next to my home
On Saint Paul Street and Louisiana Avenue
In the Town of Niagara, Belden Center,
In the evening, dammerung, the twilght,
Gazing at the fires glowing
In the heart of the Vanadium Steel factories.

They were not quite a thousand yards away.
The blue-gray doors were ever open and the huge
Smelting fires reached through the roof
And roared day and night,
Lighting up the sky, bouncing off our
House, bouncing off our skies
Off our neighborhood, our night.

But the prize sight for a lad was the
Slag dump vehicles, full of molten cinder,
Coming from the fiery furnaces closer
And closer to our house
With a mouth full of red and yellow,
Green and blue slag glowing
Like the ten commandments.
Forged from Dante’s vision,
Complete with popping gasses,
Exploding like fireworks going to their
Death.  And then they were dumped,
Directly onto the hurt ground,
Between the factories and our homes,
Directly onto a fading history,
Into the weeds and stunted bushes.

This area once held a creek that gained
The name Bloody Run hundreds of years
Ago, from the skirmishes fought there
Between Iroquois and British, motley
Forces embedding themselves in this
Niagara Frontier.  And these slag heaps
Glowed and smoked long after I had
To go back to my house and go to bed.

I would look up at the Winter sky,
As gray and green as the whole landscape.
We lived inside the slag.  On special
Nights the Northern Lights would come
Making the illusion much too complete.

Larger than the factories with their
Opens maws and deep-throated
Booms and groaning, their belching fires,
The entire sky aching with a message
Not one of us could read.  Death riding
Off to World War II on slag trucks
And stinking atmosphere.  This too
Was the battleground talking, far away
From the Western Front.  Pounding
Over and over into my heart every night.



I am burning charcoal behind my eyes
To make a red glow that tells
The night it may not approach
Unless asked and invited.

The low buildings house what we were to lose.

I’ve been this way for too long now.
Remove the cutting and slashing the world
Makes of me.  Make it worthwhile
That the tattoos on my neck
Really mean something for someone else
Besides me.  But it stops at the end
Flesh makes when it meets air.

You have become a demon.  Those who
Wish to love you live in fear of your
Flying skin.  We can no longer kiss you,
Say “My darling boy,” to you.
The flesh burns in its own fire and eats
Our lives quickly, making room for more food.


            for Evan Myquest

We were involved in shadowed work
That concerned itself with proving events
Using photographs which we were
Able to manipulate exquisitely.
Their documents lied even more.

I could see spirits walking across the room.
They were of people I know.
I am suddenly very exhausted.
I try to keep from falling asleep,
Difficult considering that the walls
Are made of living human hands
Joined in handshakes, crumpled into fists,
Gesticulating one to another constantly.

These people remain convinced that their stories
Are the real thing, that nothing has been
Made up, fabricated.

One of the hands reaches out and grasps
A beautiful yellow canary flying by.
It extracts a silver pin from the bird’s head.

They are loading weapons in a back room.
We can hear them talking about their solution.
The room smells of oakum, red phosphorous,
And the kind of dope used in dynamite.

The spirits begin a music that sounds
Like an old gospel song, "Jesus on the Mainline
Tell him what you want, Tell him what you want.
Call him up and tell him what
You want."  I think only I can hear this.

Very large crows begin to land outside the door.
They are twice the size of the men
Going outside to meet them.
They seem to be bringing some kind of message.

The hands of the walls all unclasp
At once and begin to wave slowly.
Our little party stands up.
“Keep your stupid documents,” I say.

We retrieve our side arms, button
Our heavy leather coats and prepare
To exit by the back door.

By the time we leave the structure
And make for the woods
We can see small fires popping up
Out of the ground.  We can hear
The hands applauding, the noise
Of the giant crows talking.

We enter the woods.  We hear
Automatic weapons spitting
Short bursts of chatter.
We do not look back toward
The building.  It is better not to.

We stop momentarily to burn
All of our photographs.
We head deeper into the forest.


Today's LittleNip:


And she says, “What’s that supposed
To be?”  And I tell her it’s my
Life and that it looks like this
Because I’ve been living for
A long time and there has been
Some damage to some part of it.
“You can say that again.”, she says.

So I do.


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

Transit of the Comet

Friday, March 29, 2013


—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Dawn. Walking back from the wild
north corner, I hear honking overhead.
Two geese—flying where?
Down the swale, I check our pasture.
There stands the goose, a single,
listening to the calling pair.
It doesn't move, but waits—for what?
Has it a mate? No sign of nest,
no eggs. I've seen that goose here
almost every day, all month.
Once, last week, a second goose;
the two lifted off, to settle on the pond
across the way. Next day, that lone
goose in our pasture. There
it waits. But look—two wild geese
as I'm driving out the gate.


—Taylor Graham

I came with only my poems. But G. brought
a see-thru plastic dragonfly that changed
colors like her thriftstore shirt. Q. had never
come before, but here she was by accident
or because she needed to get over sad.
S. couldn't come but sent his poems which
made everyone esp. Q. laugh. C., just back
from the borderland, brought her overdue
poems of bugs and seashells. M., who also
couldn't be present, sent instead a dozen
eggs in Easter colors beige and blue
from her backyard hens. We cut the carton
into quarters, divvied up the eggs, and
left too happy for words except a poem.

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

Carefully I hand wash
my old cotton scarf—
small black circles
enclosing splayed tripods.

The pale blue streamer dries
under the sun's whispers.
Worn jauntily, the fabric
stirs in a breeze.

—Photo by Katy Brown

—Caschwa, Sacramento

The Supreme Court is
hearing arguments that have
smashed through the thin
walls of tenement housing

where the language of mean
buries logic and meaning
as both sides passionately
shout at deaf ears

each insisting that the
basis for their position is
precisely what the framers
of our Constitution had in mind

exactly what our dead and
wounded soldiers bled for,
entirely consistent with
the will of the majority

as featured on Geraldo
seen on Meet The Press
portrayed on The Simpsons
discussed on The View

experts are interviewed
opinion polls ushered in with
fabulous fanfare while forecasters
parade their credentials

the Hollywood rags
consult their most reliable
alien sources to compose
shrieking banner headlines

But wait!  Stop!  Hold it!
time out, take a nap
the Court has not yet spoken
some patience, please



The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart. 
                —Rudyard Kipling

They revolted against the
crown who by tradition
owned virtually all of the
land, its crops and its seeds

raising rusty muskets to
face cannonballs and
sabres drawn fast and
close by powerful steeds

a bloody price was paid
for independence, those places
where they battled and died
are now tame hallowed fields

in the name of freedom,
liberty, democracy, all can
now revisit the arena of war
minus weapons and shields

after centuries of amendments
and precential rulings, while
defeating those savage Indians
who dared live on our frontier

we daily find new threats
to our core patriotic values:
health care, gay rights, spun
to offend what we hold dear


—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

Teacher would roll her eyes
Back into her head to make
A point.  This time they stuck,
Wouldn’t come down.  Just like
Your mother warned you.
We stared at the whites
As she screamed and whacked
Herself upside the head.
Except they weren’t really white.
More of a dingy yellow
Shot with red, sort of like
An egg you’re frying
In bacon grease and not watching
Too closely, and then realize
There’s a tiny chick in there,
Just like your mother warned you.


Today's LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

More eggs!
This begs
for soft-bland meals
with yolk.
No joke—
the ulcer heals.



Kk's Violets
—Photo by Katy Brown

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mysteries Afoot

Goddess danced
Goddess danced
Her everlasting dance
Bangles, beads
Went spinning from her skirts
Off they flew
Into the fecund dark
Growing there
Planted in fields of night
Stars, planets
And you, my Love, and me


Lightning without thunder
Just north of dawn
Lightning without thunder
While the owl swims
Above the streetlamps
On silent wings

Going home
Teased his way through a head of fog and over the saddle of Mount San Bruno, irradiated the broadcast towers and threw the quarried slopes above Brisbane into high relief.
Blew the smoke of picklegrass and dodder, cattails and tules across Grizzly Bay where the elk still thrive, and wandered east (O, Lord) to get stuck in Lodi again.
Baked the rosemary at my feet where I got off the bus, flowering blue and indomitable and sent me back to my Mother's kitchen where homemade spaghetti sauce bubbles on the stove.


Devil's interval howling
Benighted freight train
Confuddled my mind's ear
Sworn I heard fog horns
Certain I smelled madeleines

And so
And so
The dragon looks fiery
Daggers at the blind giant
A silent explosion lights
The southern horizon
Leaves will tumble
Dawn will come
Mysteries afoot
And so I am


Today's LittleNip(s):

Fog swims up from the river dripping silence and drowns the distant world.

The foghorns moan like a sextet of lost and lovelorn bassoonists trying to find one another in a darkened concert hall.


—Medusa, with thanks to Robert Lee Haycock of Antioch for today's poems and pix! (The photos may be made larger by clicking on them.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fragile Threads

—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

old grey suitcase
—charles mariano, sacramento

looking for Daddy’s letters
figured it had to be there,
where i haven’t looked, haven’t gone
in over thirty years

stuffed my life
into a small grey suitcase
locked it, then duct-taped around it
at least fifteen times

wasn’t expecting to go back,
maybe never
knew it was bad, very bad writing,
not just that though,
it was a period of heartache, agony
buried deep in the garage
under decades of junk

didn’t want to see it again,
should’ve burned it

perched strategically on top,
to mark the spot,
my Royal manual typewriter
with the words “write on”
scratched on the metal cover, 1969

opened the suitcase
and succumbed to the smell of years
volumes of stained, yellowed pages
poems, stories, letters
of a pitifully lost, unrecognizable me,
old wounds

searching for Daddy,
piles of dust and paper
fragile threads
of a damaged son,
who lost his father
then closed the door,

too quickly


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

In the art theater
at the midnight showing
we watch Yojimbo
and Roshomon
with subtitles
joining up
with your voice
of human long-suffering
as you lighten up
the silver screen,
the world will not
forget you
every film striking us
as we watch
the throne of blood
with war's shadows
and the Seventh Samurai
our eyelids weeping
and lowered against
men's violence
in bygone centuries,
yet today, peace and


—B.Z. Niditch

is breathless
on shadowy earth
in San Francisco
and am realizing
there is a voice
of octaves
I heard in the 1980's
living inside me
enfolded in
a wish for words
and renewed
here in a coffee club,
like the Redwoods,
finding my own
lot of the poet's notes
somewhere buried
on the piano chair
by my sun glasses
veined with the one-eyed
scales of a beachcomber
remembering March 24th
is your day of birth.


—B.Z. Niditch

A death may occur
at any funereal moment
as in the abstract life
of the painter, Igor
next door
who was a renaissance
man with sketches,
musical scores, carvings
as we uncover
fringes and fragments
of letters
and drawings
he left for us.

At all times of night
through the tint doors
of the kitchen
light beams
at all hours, shadows
an enigmatic figure
who once created
abstract art,

now still life.

Mel's Ride
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

“The word equinox is derived from the Latin words meaning ‘equal night.’”

What were you doing
when spring came this year?
Earth loosened her scarf,
let breeze chap her cheeks.
Trees unfurled fat, green buds
almost overnight.
Light lingers now, days lengthen.
I drink morning coffee
by the open window,
sunlight warm, heater off.

Spring sneaked up on me this year,
as I busily strove and tidied,
surprised me like gray hair,
lines on my face.
Can the equal day and night
bring inspiration to my mind,
dry from earning crusts,
renew love in my shy, aging heart?

—Ann Wehrman

Spring swells fuchsia in soft buds;
white blossoms glow on dark, wet branches;
rain-soaked pavement steams
with a warm, mineral smell.

I race through my classes,
the day’s chores,
only to stop,
suddenly unable to go on
for missing you.

Your face at twilight
watching me from the shadows,
the nervous, happy tone
as you first said my name aloud.

Spring brings a rainbow of flowers
as the redwoods shake off cold winter’s rain;
I nestle in hope of your love.


—Ann Wehrman

I stared at you
over that buffet,
perfectly arranged,
laden with tiny, handmade
chocolate tarts, elaborate
cakes trimmed with flowers.

Speechless, desperate,
I remarked that
violet stems taste sweet,
told you how Mom used to
lock us kids out, and
that's how I ended up
eating violets.

You said your Mom
used to shut you
out, too.
But then
you turned away.


—Ann Wehrman

He lay on his back on the concrete,
damp spring night biting,
center of the quad,
filled days with students milling.
He lay on his back
on the concrete in the dark.

I felt the cold seep
through his cotton army jacket,
felt the skin of his back drink it in
like a drug,
like the lonely years.

She straddled him,
her back naked to the night
bra only covering white flesh,
tattoo an ebony trellis
lacing her hips,
straddled him snugly, riding.

Night wild around them—
icy stars glowing—
her black bob bowed,
white shoulders sloping.

My hungry eyes watched them
dance without movement;
he lay quiet, lost in a trance.

Yet I felt they were posing,
somehow had known I would walk by.
I’ve often seen him,
face like my lover from long ago.

I walked by in the night.
I couldn’t look away,
like watching an accident
or the birth of a child.
I couldn’t look away;
I walked the rest of the way home
with a full heart, thinking
somehow, this was meant for me.


—Ann Wehrman

security buzzes me in
dark, seamy room, packed bar
jukebox plays Pointer Sisters’ “Fire”

clutching a bucket
tissue-wrapped roses
I approach crowded tables

dancer takes her ramp
white girl, jailbait
gracelessly leans way back
grips the chrome pole
paints a new dimension
to my favorite song

Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” rides the charts
I knock on a trailer door
end of the block in Kokomo, Indiana
Massage blinks the sign

she buys all of my flowers
she has a child
she is only doing this
until her boyfriend asks her to marry him

rainy night, Indianapolis
small club, blacks only
completely out of place, I
squeeze between sophisticated, stoned patrons

in their center, on a dais
middle-aged woman dances
opens her thighs, shows me darkness
frightened, I turn away

years later, perhaps I understand
but still walk that ten-mile road of strip clubs
bucket of roses sloshing on my hip


Today's LittleNip:

—Ann Privateer, Davis

Hello he
obligingly cooed
nice to see you, I'm
eager to dance, I
yearn for you.



—Photo by Ann Privateer

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Many Turnings


Above the fence line, beyond the borders,
a bird was singing,  “stone . . .  stone . . . ”

and the heavy day was drifting . . . drifting
. . . in my direction; and I was turning from

the window which was broken by the singing,
and the violence of love was almost worth

the danger.  How did I find myself here—
in this country—burdened by such gray

weather—burdened by your eyes which tore
the listening between us?  The bird followed

its song into the glass and we shattered—
one of us from pity—and the other from

the awful impact of the silence that resulted.


        (After "The Traffic Problem In Paris"
         by John Jesse)
A slant of rain / deliberate slant / deliberate
rain / full force against the quickening
of the city . . .


Umbrellas and wet shoes / taxis in no hurry /
jay-walkers / across the wet Paris streets /
lights turning on in street lamps and windows . . .


Whatever is lifting is contagious:
wet faces / shining eyes / quick puddles /
that form and make shadowy reflections . . . .


          (After "Yellow Rose/Green Vase/
          Ghazal of the Vigil" by John Italia)

I am musing here on a single yellow rose
—a rose that lived four decades ago—

that lay its perfect head against
the rim of a wide bowl

turning emerald in the room light,
its curve reflecting back

the scene of the room,
but out of proportion . . .

I stop myself.
It is the rose here,

not the vase—                                                                          
one perfect petal

peeling away
from the rose

to unfold itself
into a crowded leaf—

though nothing seems to move.
Not even the light.


Look how they are broken by the mirrors, the belovéds and the lost. Walls of time—reshaping their images, have failed to change them. They are made permanent. Panels of light illuminate them now in all their inward starings.


Two dancers whirl out of the music, slowly vanish into their own remembering—cherishing, cherishing; the way they hold each other; the way they fragment with each turning; the way colors burn over them and reflect back into the gathering panels of the mirrors.


          (After “Riptide” by Heidy Steidmeyer)

All that is grim, caught here on this long and shining beach in the warping moonlight—vague things gleaming in the distance—

a bird wing caught in the sand; the small look of something made of string; the curve of the wet land where it goes on and

on past the following night; the old deliberate way you glide along the water’s edge until you feel yourself disappear;

and why does it always seem at once so far away and so near—as if time and distance can be traveled simultaneously.



At any corner we stop for turning.
Life decision.
Many corners.  Many turnings.
Toward self, as toward a mirror
—mirror in the mind,
or in the inner eye of the mirror.
Text as guidance.  Mind, as need
for guidance.  Guidance as arrow
with direction toward target.
Failure to truly know what is believed
—everything according to forces
of time and place, and the instant.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix! There are lots of readings in the Sac environs this week, so be sure to keep up with the calendar by scrolling down to the blue box at the right of this, our Daily Diary. And yesterday we unveiled a new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page: Southside Park by Annie Menebroker, Katy Brown and Kathy Kieth. Check that out for the pretty pix and for the info about the Royal Chicano Air Force, a long-time poetry/art Force in Sacramento. May the Force be with you...

Time for a new Seed of the Week, this one being in keeping with the season and Easter: Eggs. Birds' eggs? An abandoned nest? Or maybe something in a fertility clinic? Or maybe Easter eggs, the dying ritual, the hunt? Or maybe eggs in metaphor: seeds, new beginnings, food for thought? Send your hatchings, poetry, photos, otherwise, to No deadline on SOWs.


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

         “Some things Elude Art Forever”
                      —Marion Key Biggs

A small
white moth
in my hand—

its fragile
my hand’s stillness—

turning itself
into origami
as I watch.

(first pub. in
Poets' Forum Magazine)



Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Fever

Southside Park
—Photo by Annie Menebroker, Sacramento

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Be amazed
after this long March
of winter's retreat
here along the Cape
writing a poem in silence
in your muted voice
at early daylight
in my Christmas
muscle shirt
my sister sent me
with an exercise routine
nearly forgotten
doing a half-mile run
along the acrid beach
among new tide marks
of a couple of turtles
who line up beside me
at the shore's edge
with my awkward body
of words on my lap
by the muffled noise
of shore birds
and the gulls' voices
so strong in the air
as a lobster boat
drenched with a new cache
of fresh fish passes by
the monster head
of a white whale
worthy of a line
in Melville's diary
is taken by my camera.


—B.Z. Niditch

For one born
in San Francisco
you were not that
quiet Yankee
that the world projected
for the t.v. show,
but with a melancholic
rather mature air
of a ticked off nature
whose words move us
in a satirical metrical flow,
with war shadows
always around you
and endless poverty
making you a bit angry,
you lit a radiant lamp
of poetry's fling
with myth and power
eventually showering us
with a marvelous thought
of spring
yet reminding us
we emerge from snow,
yet to the delight
of a bygone century
in whose love of words
we sought to know.


—B.Z. Niditch

The cello springs
on tonight's lips
of Bach's shadow
outlives the body
in contrapuntal
of your fingers
stretched on time's
open memory
at arm's signals
set for listening,
we realize in song
what craft
moves the chords
of the ebullient notes
to sway us
on blue angelic clouds
a resurrected voice
out of counterpoint
at the podium,
briefing through
spoils of pages
by a now quiet
selfless metronome
hidden in echoes
of an ephemeral past
over fine strings
in those mingled hours
quivering in practice
in an absence of speech
at recollected silence
exposing a cantata
of sudden fiery flights
motioning to catch
the mysterious precision
over unsettled rhythm
now augmented
by courting gleams
of fanning applause.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

On his mountaintop all night the hermit dreams
his breath's unconscious prayer reaching
toward the stars while he lies in body-sleep
on hard ground, his long beard fingering
for root-hold in soil or rock, reaching toward
earth-center. So far above a landscape
pale by daylight in the haze of distance—
outskirts of people's lives—and by night, dark
as its king in his dim kingdom, the hermit
dreams stars scattered in bright cascades golden
as kernels of corn, six quarters ordered
by the king as return for hermit prayer, corn
to last an earth-year almost as sure as manna.
His story now ancient and ambiguous,
the hermit dreams and half-dreams what
eternity might be, beyond his cold mountaintop;
dreams his soul in prayer even as his lips
freeze wordless with winter; as his beard keeps
growing like earth-hunger.


—Taylor Graham

By night, Orion hunts.
Our sheep, bedded down in dark
under Stone Mountain, dream of grass and spring

even as heaven shunts
to a new season, an arc
in some grand pattern—a ritual fling

we give dates to, as if
we could bind it to our brain,
catch Trickster Life as the coyotes sing

of hunger. Puzzle-glyph
of flooding and blessed rain.
Will famished sheep eat thistle for its sting?


—Taylor Graham

She wouldn't—couldn't—
read her words out loud. Shyness
put them down on paper,
clutched them there,
she thought. But they brought her
to the room, everyone standing
waiting. Read, someone
said. She began. Some words
got swallowed by mistake
and almost choked her.
Then a phrase, pulled into her
lungs, started tingling, expanding,
floated up the wind-pipe, became spoken air.
The audience breathed it in,
inhaled her poem. Gave it out again, magnified
twentyfold. As if it were a common dream
given words which weren't hers
anymore. Could this change the world?
Change her?


—Taylor Graham

This morning after rain, three lambs
are dancing in the meadow under the violet-
green shadow of a swallow come home
for the spring. In the shadow of Stone
Mountain, I've lost an hour counting clover
leaves and filaree (don't call it clock-
weed) and listening to grasses whispering
a common dream of green-gold-violet
covering the earth. One lamb is floating
now as on that dream, lying in oak-
shade on the grass, reciting mantras
in the idiom of sheep, of endless time
that runs through sleep. And yet last night
I heard coyotes cry, their echoes shadowing
the dawn, shadowing the grass. And
now, in woods beyond this field, more
shadows cluster as earth and time
and weather go about Spring's business
of changing the world, changing
future into now, as present into past.

Our thanks to today's contributors, including Taylor Graham's LittleNip rendering of the Brevee, the current Form We're Fiddling With (see green board at the right of this). The photos of Southside Park are part of our new Facebook album (see the Medusa's Kitchen page on Facebook) which was put together by Annie Menebroker, Katy Brown and Kathy Kieth, to honor the bandstand mural painted there in 1975 by the Royal Chicano Air Force, which will be having an exhibit at the CSUS Arts Festival in April. The RCAF is a Sacramento artist collective with a primary focus on Chicano cultural awareness. These artist/poets are responsible for many local murals and public art installations, including the Southside Park amphitheater and the Downtown/Old Sacramento pedestrian underpass. The RCAF was founded in 1972 by, among others, José Montoya, (Sacramento's second Poet Laureate), Esteban Villa, Juanishi V. Orosco, Ricardo Favela, and Rudy Cuellar. In addition to the CSUS exhibit, there will be an Art History lecture, panel discussion, and reception on April 13. Scroll down to Medusa's blue box at the right of this and see "More Than a Week Away" for details. And don't forget to check out the mural photos!


Today's LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

A growl
a howl—
turn on the light!
My sheep
deep in the night.



Tree trunk, Southside Park
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Sunday, March 24, 2013

For This Is Love

—Photo by Richard Hansen, Sacramento

—Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day; 

And give us not to think so far away 

As the uncertain harvest; keep us here 

All simply in the springing of the year. 

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,

Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night; 

And make us happy in the happy bees, 

The swarm dilating round the perfect trees. 

And make us happy in the darting bird 

That suddenly above the bees is heard,

The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill, 

And off a blossom in mid air stands still. 

For this is love and nothing else is love, 

The which it is reserved for God above 

To sanctify to what far ends He will,

But which it only needs that we fulfill.


—Robert Frost

The farmhouse lingers, though averse to square

With the new city street it has to wear

A number in. But what about the brook

That held the house as in an elbow-crook?

I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength

And impulse, having dipped a finger length

And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed

A flower to try its currents where they crossed.

The meadow grass could be cemented down

From growing under pavements of a town;

The apple trees be sent to hearth-stone flame.

Is water wood to serve a brook the same?

How else dispose of an immortal force

No longer needed? Staunch it at its source

With cinder loads dumped down? The brook was thrown

Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone

In fetid darkness still to live and run—
And all for nothing it had ever done

Except forget to go in fear perhaps.

No one would know except for ancient maps

That such a brook ran water. But I wonder

If from its being kept forever under,

The thoughts may not have risen that so keep

This new-built city from both work and sleep.


—Robert Frost

A house that lacks, seemingly, mistress and master, 

With doors that none but the wind ever closes, 

Its floor all littered with glass and with plaster; 

It stands in a garden of old-fashioned roses. 

I pass by that way in the gloaming with Mary; 

'I wonder,' I say, 'who the owner of those is.'

'Oh, no one you know,' she answers me airy, 

'But one we must ask if we want any roses.' 

So we must join hands in the dew coming coldly 

There in the hush of the wood that reposes, 

And turn and go up to the open door boldly, 

And knock to the echoes as beggars for roses. 

'Pray, are you within there, Mistress Who-were-you?' 

'Tis Mary that speaks and our errand discloses. 

'Pray, are you within there? Bestir you, bestir you!
'Tis summer again; there's two come for roses. 

'A word with you, that of the singer recalling— 

Old Herrick: a saying that every maid knows is 

A flower unplucked is but left to the falling, 

And nothing is gained by not gathering roses.' 

We do not loosen our hands' intertwining 

(Not caring so very much what she supposes), 

There when she comes on us mistily shining 

And grants us by silence the boon of her roses.


Today's LittleNip:

In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life: it goes on.

—Robert Frost


—Medusa, who is hoping you will join with me in celebrating Robert Frost's birthday this coming Tuesday, March 26

And be sure to check out the "Entertainment" section of The Sacramento Bee for today's article about the Sacramento poetry scene:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Protecting Secrets



We came upon a pale landscape plain
Made paler by the moon, white past
The white of death with bushes white,
Upon which horses roamed, whiter than the
Whole of what we saw.

For most of night we were a silent crew,
Tired from too many mountain passes,
Descents into forgotten valleys, then up
Again toward snowy peaks that gleamed
Like teeth and drifted white with snow,
Borne by the coarsest wind
That tore into our skin and face for days.

Yet here, upon this night, the landscape
All seemed careful to our eyes.
We knew that we belonged to another world

And took a curious comfort in our own
Shadows.  It was as if we walked upon
Detritus of some senseless time, that archeology
Could not undo or yet explain.

Still there was a sweetness there that
We felt resembled eternity or what
We thought eternity might be.  It trembled
And looked to protect secrets.

Our dreams and half-dreams flooded
With so many yesterdays we could, at times,
Move only by following echoes and paths
From one another’s memories.

These places did not depend on us
To reckon their distances and plains.
We finally trusted that the heart would
Know the way, bring our sweetest bliss
Back to our stories and our now frozen lips.

And so, we traveled on, imagining ourselves
Cold historians, transforming all we
Saw into fantastic tales that we
Could tell to one another, hoping
That each one would tell us who we were.



A refutation of time bubbling up
From a dark kingdom, filling the shoes
Of the traveller with blood, opening
The next day with fierce cuts that
Will take weeks to heal.

On the far side of the door we remain sleeping.
It is within thick shade we dwell,
Ambiguous and ancient.
One has not heard such words as these
Spoken at these thresholds since
All things dead tumbled on the land.

If it were a mirror, it would be
Faded, dim and darkened, but still
Able to reflect from its mica heart
Your own childhood, colored as one
Would color a coloring book, thick with outlines
You know by heart but are unable
To articulate without the edges.
Collapsing into the unsubstantial,
Becoming hollow shades, fountains,
Long dry from the lack of our
Wonderful bewilderment of first
Knowing the things of the world.

The main collapses.  This is no
Accident, no one picked an apple
From a tree and chased you with it,
Claiming it was your own blood.

Watch!  This song rocks back and forth
Like a lullaby or an elegy, caused
Only by a faint recollection
Of gardens and patios, of the order
Things seem to take as we
Walk through the outskirts of our
Lives seeking a refuge we can barely
Retain, even with the best of dreams.



This is not my war, he thought
Finally resting on the brown hills.
He had deep wounds in his shoulder
And fell in and out of dreams.

They came like breezes with the sound
Of cicada wings flying close to his head.
There would be knights and green vales
To calm him and he did not know
What plains he looked upon and no longer
Recognized the Spanish countryside.

He awakened to a short man
With kind brown eyes
Washing his wounds and dressing them.
Before he fell back to his last gift, sleep,
He asked the man, in Spanish,
Who he was?

Quien eres?
Mi nombre es Sancho.
Tengo que montar.
Yo sirvo a un caballero
Va a estar bien. Sonando.

You will be well. Dream on.
The soldier was full of music.
He could hear it at the end
As he caught up with the two riders.

Bird of Paradise

        for Meg Pokrass

Certainly stranger things have happened and I suppose, even more fantastic things as well, but this seemed so real.  Even the car felt real, even if it was a crapola invention.

A racing striped, super fast model all nastied out with licorice black racing slicks, a crazy jagged lightning bolt painted across the hood and a super fancy, super tricked-out interior with more treats than could be imagined.

Truly we are inhabited by the most incredible of beings, capable of dressing us in leotards, making us dance, making a choreography turning any moment into the most brilliant of pauses, an ah that is impossible to paper clip to consciousness.

Bring it all on, music of everything from a flurry of cat hair seen in the light of the afternoon, across the room in a dance of dust, lint as a language of movement never seen before.  On a diet such as this we grow and glow, unable to make choices when confronted by such beasts:  Cocoa or coffee, tea or pure dreaming, slender musings of vehicles even more powerful than these cars that race though the imagination.

We reach up and consume the juicy fruit such pleasure brings, touching ourselves, knowing we cannot quiet or quell such an eroticism no matter what we do.  Shhh.



A gift of knives.  A gift of blindness.
The smell of blood.  The taste of blood
Inside the mouth.  The way the lights
Of the railroad station look as if
They had something more than an electric
Glow to them.  Someone is crying.
I make a call on my phone to see who
It might be, but no answer came.

The fire in the pampas began just as the day
Began to lose its way, backing up to allow night.

The animals came ahead of the fire,
Until there was a stampede of shadows
Backlit by the greatest of flames.

I stepped from the landing boat, looking
Toward the town.  There were lights
In the bars and the houses showed a
Yellow-gold glow through their shades.
It made the entire street pulse.
I knew the reason we were here.

The fire on the pampas could be seen
On the far horizon.  Soon the animals
Would be here.  There was only the town
Between them and the sea.

I felt for my knife.  This would
Be all that I needed.  I would be gone
Before any fire could reach this place.

There was no waiting.
I ran down the side of the road
And began making a list.

The last thing I noticed before
The whole thing began was the sound
The ship’s bell made.  I turned
To look at the ship.
It was beautiful.
I thought it was a candle.
The gift of knives.



We send the word out once again,
As Noah sent one bird after another.
Black bird.  White bird.  Finally
Bringing back a twig with green
Leaf upon it and the sun shone
For thousands of years since and no one
Has found anything more powerful
Than this music that greets the
Combining of letters.  We, say.

Meaning has its own trucks and finds
Itself out in history searching for images
Where there are only cool abstractions
Built of letters, market places.

I will dream you a market place.
Here you may use your intellect
To unravel a theater, if you care to,
Caravans full of flickering violet light.

We dream paths through Yeats,
Or Frost, or Browning, Emerson, Baudelaire.
We search for them and soon
We are not able to discern what woods,
What bird, what limit, ‘there was a ship’, quoth he.

Ah, we are dreaming again.  A band
Of sunlight bounded by the sea below
A scud of clouds, darkly gray, above it.
We are certain of this.  A dream of geometry
That brings us to the verge of fear
Lest this be true, lest we doubt
What we see.  A sword.  A room
Full of such sorrow words shrink
Away from it, unable to introduce
Comfort, nor the sun, nor the moon, handfuls
Of stars thrown in for measure.

Nothing is much use to us.  Mystery
Remains staring at itself in the mirror.
It carries sacks filled with the hours,
And even more words which have become
Unreadable, of no use.  We are unable
To learn from them.  They are wet,
Shredded by the waves, trying to describe
A beach, a shoreline, your face even.
Still we send them each day.  A blur
With no accounting for anything,
Aware only of their lovely journeys.


Today's LittleNip:


Jorge Luis Borges who is dust,
I have come here to ask as you did
Of those same roses gone from even
The memory time had of them,
The self-same favor you asked
For Milton, the very final rose
You held, in your own labyrinthine
Garden with so many bushes of roses,
In colors seen by magic, that you held.
That it too will live here, in between
Your fingers, unseen, except in this poor poetry,
“Gold and blood-covered, ivory or shadowed"
Your rose, dear Borges, invisible.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poems and pix! D.R. will be reading at Luna's Cafe this coming Thursday night, 8pm. Be there!

Roses, Bolinas

Friday, March 22, 2013

For All Who Listen

—Anonymous Photo

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

This fat pastel chick
looking toward the edge of paper
with an egg-shaped eye
of black-dot yolk,
with its little orange wing
of many tiny red hearts stuck on,

whose two pointed match-stick
legs don't hold him up, but rather
sink into a plush red cardstock,

is just the kind of greeting card
I'll buy and keep for myself.

(first pub. in Rattlesnake Review, 2009)


—Carol Louise Moon

Jack Creek Road's alight with many sweet peas.
Most run along the fence at shoulder height.
We smell them as they move within the breeze
and see them as they glow in springtime's light.
Farther down the road, a fragrant sight
that looks a lot like cotton candy pink.
But here, up close, we see in folds of white
what looks to us to be a red eye-wink.
The painter's brush of white—a center of red ink.


—Carol Louise Moon

I love this bright elusive
month of May;
more sun than shadow
on the cedar path.
The air a breath of songbird;
grasses play.

The towering elm
is home to local hawks.
They spy the cedar waxwing
and the jay.
I'm thankful for the glories
found these days.

—Carol Louise Moon

Yellow are the slippers amid the sunlight.
Laced in rich brown ribbons
they puzzle me now.
Does a fairy wear these shoes?
Does she lead me
past the wide meadow?

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

We’re the red-garbed invisibles of the word.
And someone, days, weeks, months—or years?—ago,
has locked us in with a stern, stout iron key.
Here in our chamber, we subsist on bread,
one miraculous bread loaf for us all,
splitting itself unseen, and all we know
is that it feeds our scant ranks royally.
But we can’t exit this room until the bird,
a dove-white bird, all ecstasy, has fled;
that is, the bird-winged smoke, white smoke, lifts free,
supplanting that smoke burned from danker straw,
until we fear the chimney will not draw.
Beneath the bright-plumed miracle, white ash,
the minder of our door turns the dark key:
the blackness that fingered into our throats, the pall,
is gone; the fresh air of life returns, panache
is ours again, our once-dulled robes of the Lord
drink up dawn color. Good again as our word,
we are—and for all who listen, we are the Word.


Today's LittleNip:

Is it so small a thing
to have enjoyed the sun,
to have lived light in the spring,
to have loved, to have thought,
to have done?

—Matthew Arnold


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors, including the LittleNip from Patricia Pashby

—Anonymous Photo

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fresh Like a Crocus

—Photo Enhancement by Richard Hansen, Sacramento

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

My clock and watch
spring forward
with a click of the wrist
in rehearsal of the season,
quick as saying
or hocus pocus.

With suspension of belief
that winter
is unlimited
when life suddenly
opens us up
so youthful again
and fresh like a crocus
outside my rock garden
once chock full of snow,

Dazzles us with sunshine
and refreshes our soul
dismantles our minds
remakes our image,
restores our spirit
has our bodies be content,
birds dip in the quick water
receive my bread
have these words
consent to please
who made it all.


—B.Z. Niditch

Outside lemony laughter
of a worm-sick garden
on scented springs
of my bed
with undiminished notes
a seasoned exile
with a guitar of songs
in my fingertips hearing
the still rain
of an open-air parasol

no one but the unknown
but inexhaustible bird
from the night woods
hears echoes calling
from tiny rain drops
configuring scales
in perpetual motion
with open airs

dawn born
of a cloud's cover
forging a signature
that jumps out
like augmented chords
of the hyacinth
as bright juniper
uncovers first light

little spring
of pressing yourself
with astral chords
undulates with music
from our leafy eyes
since the first cry
of red earth
on the setting sleep.


—B.Z. Niditch

Crowds at dusk
with spring here
at the last rainbow
of some Friday night
won't dry out the city,
with a lighter arm
of short shirtsleeves
tasting the smoke
among the barbeques
in fires of hot stoves
by skinny rows
of street people
listening to my alto sax
on the loudspeaker
along with a Beat poet
near the waterfront
breaking glasses
of wine with waves
for tourist friends
on a boardwalk of trees
where crows try to rest
on park back benches
and a new born
on his father's shoulder
goes berserk with laughter.


—Photo Enhancement by Richard Hansen

—Caschwa, Sacramento

On the first day
of Spring I set out
happily for my
daily commute
on the freeway

and encountered
unusually heavy
traffic that was
equal parts
bad and worse

a big accident on
another freeway
created a cloudburst
of cars that rained
on my freeway

"Share the road"
loses much of its
appeal in stop
and go traffic



All over this nation there are commissions made
up of people who firmly believe that a student's
sensory experiences shrink as their brain grows
and so they have accordingly designed programs
of what and how to teach schoolchildren as they
matriculate from sparkling kindergarten kids to robots

they take some of the dullest, driest subjects ever
pondered by the most brilliant brains and make those
the core of a curriculum that is sure to send most real
kids to deep sleep, kids who are horribly hungry for
activity are forced to sit still, their eagerness sadly
confined to seeking out ways to ditch class

What if we were to turn that upside down?
make performing arts and athletic competition
the core subjects, such that English, Math
and Science are put in the role of a pep squad
whose primary function is to support the football
team, especially when the team is sorely lacking

expose kids to Shakespeare on the stage before
they are ever called upon to merely recite
the words and analyze the characters or plot,
remake the library into a pantry, the raw resource
of choice for students of culinary arts where the only
fine imposed is for bringing back something old

displace standardized testing with events
the outcome of which students can readily
see, hear, taste, touch, and smell, and rank
students not by how close they come to perfection
but by the degree to which each has individually
embraced their challenges and overcome them

Above all, we must forever eliminate that terrible
practice of using the same bell to start the school
day as is used to end it because it greatly
diminishes recognition for one's efforts:  if the early
event of starting something worthwhile and the later
event of finishing it get the same old bell, why bother? 



It used to be an ashtray
back when smoking was
as common as cream
inside coffee shops

and then laws were passed
to sequester nicotine from
caffeine indoors, so the glass
tray was retired from service

and recycled as a penny jar
on the counter by the cash
register, in case a patron
came up a few cents short

then customer after
customer who did not
feel the immediate need
to pinch their pennies

would enjoy the conspicuous
sound of dropping a few from
their change into the ashtray
while silently wishing they

would never find themselves in
that impecunious predicament
where they truly needed each
and every one of those pennies

—Today's LittleNip:

Nature asks us for attitudes of the beatitudes.

—B.Z. Niditch



—Photo Enhancement by Richard Hansen