Saturday, August 31, 2013

In the Service of Ideas

—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove


And here, a landscape dragged
Out into the middle of the room,
Still forced to dwell below the following
Clouds, the treasures of the snow
Or seeing the treasures of the hail.

From this place we can easily hear
The folk tunes, the village band,
Stripped to the bone.  A gray music.

We dwell in this room, small instruments
In the service of huge ideas capable
Of driving one mad, heaped up
In the far distances, slowed down
So we might have a look at them.

It is here the phrases are tested.
Strands of speech broken off,
Picked up again.  Still we are
Unable to describe the emotions
Implied by the light shifting through
The afternoon in which we find
Ourselves totally captured.

We look to the distances.
They would seem to cause less trouble,
For we can see them come closer
As we progress.  Andante Moderato.
A heavy atmosphere, the light
Breaking apart as in Rembrandt’s
Etching of the Crucifixion.

Almost lost in a convergence of lines;
The figure upon the cross, unable
To gesture except with its arms
Outstretched and pinned
To a tree, an apocalypse
In strict time.  Watch the higher ground.
Note the perfect stillness of
The villages, horse-drawn carts
On their streets.  We image
We are able to hear the conversations



But I was describing the day, wasn’t I?
And your hands were on your lap
And you were twirling a yellow
Wildflower between your thumb
And your index finger.  And you
Were watching the male cardinal
Hop from one branch to another,
Wiping his beak each time he did so.

And you weren’t really thinking they
Would come in great cars and stop
Across the street, jump out, run to the
House and pull him out screaming while
They tried to quiet him.  The large man
With no hair said, “There, there.  It
Will be better very soon,” then pushed
Him down into the car and they
Sped away.

That girl from three houses down the block
Was laughing.  Her window was open and
The light curtains with the red and yellow
And blue polka dots on it was moving with
The breeze, in and out of the window frame.

And that kid’s dog, the yellow one with
The cute face who always walked as if
He had somewhere to go, trotted past
And looked at me talking to you very briefly.
And you laughed and helloed and called
Him by name.

Mister Benson came outside and carefully
Attached his American Flag to his homemade pole
And hoisted it to the top, right below
The brass ball that had always looked
Just a bit too small for the scale
Of the pole, and walked back inside.

And I could feel you listen to me.
And I realized I knew exactly
What the date was and how I would
Always remember it, despite not one
Exciting thing having ever happened
All that morning and all of the
Afternoon, right until you came by
And asked me how I was enjoying
The fine weather we were having.



Darkness personified itself and stood, slightly opaque,
waving a paper in front of my face.  I reached for it but
my footing was gone.  The gravel rolled under my feet
and I rushed toward darkness and lost my balance,
darkness yawning ahead of me, a scum of words
blistering from its mouth.  I felt for the smallest moment
I would never move again.  The airport lights in the
distance, I reached the overhang and jumped into its mouth. 
It smiled, whispered my name, showed me its dimples,
told me it loved me.

 —Palm Fruit


They were crowded over in a corner
With pestilence, famine, deceit, war,
Treachery, terror and its relatives,
But they had nothing to do with anything
Like these horrors.

They were misdirected seasons:
Spring with its flowers and growth.
Summer with its soft breezes,
Bees and days of sunshine.

The Autumn of harvest and symphonies
Of color, of brisk winds and
The lighting of hearth fires.

And Winter, carrying snow and red
Cheeks, blizzard and landscapes
Full of trees turned white
As if dressed for a dance.

They had been directed here to be adopted
By these demons waiting
In the shadowed halls.
These darknesses would invade each
Of them and hide within their
Veils until it was much
Too late to be noticed.

Reaching out through the maze,
Days collected around them,
They would raise their own dark songs,
Flooding through all of nature
Tornados, hurricanes, wild fires,
Earthquakes, the accidents of
Any single day, standing in line
Waiting for the moment when
Their name might be called.
Erupting as easily as a thought,
Climbing through every season
Eager as children to be recognized.



The yellow plains.
The open hand.
The thistle with its bulbous head.
The chill in the morning air.

The breathing of a bird.
The lacewing tired at the end of summer,
Its long antennae still moving slowly.

The moth fallen on the surface of the pond.
The lowing of the cattle as they find
The barn in the evening.

The star caught in the branches of a tree.
The night creek invisible but for its sound.
The cricket chorus further than the imagination.
The circling of the black and brown dog
Before it lays down for the evening.
The scratch of a match across the striker.

The cone of lantern light holding
Such a huge darkness at bay.

The rising of the moon.
The closing of the rabbit’s eye.
The silent flight of the owl.
The bending of the night to embrace the earth.
The music lost forever in
The cape of the night breezes.
The heart listening as if life
Itself depended upon its hearing
These things.



There were coyotes around the edge
Of the trees.  They appeared to be
Of many colors.

Charred stars visiting the frontal lobes,
Carrying offerings that were never
Supposed to be these dogs, but were afraid
To take a human body, yet wanting
To remain close to us.  We shielded
Ourselves against the night with a piled
Fire as our center.

I don’t suppose much of this will make
Sense to many people.  It sounds like
A story without a point, an empty
Room but for the fire at its center.

Still, this is important somehow.
Here I will hold your hand
For this time and we will watch
Those elusive spirits climb the trees,
Flickering as they do so,

We turn our faces to the floor.
The words of dreaming pouring over our
Poor bodies, begging us to make ourselves
Quiet, listen to the coyotes,
Realize they have become
Embedded in the words.


Today's LittleNip:

It isn't possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.

—E.M. Forster, A Room With a View


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

Liquid Amber

Friday, August 30, 2013

An Expressionist Time

Burned Thicket in Diamond Springs
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Consumed by a workload
going postal at reflections
since adolescence
as my words
spread on maps
interlacing city walls
posted with graffiti
and by survival laws
of a constant necessity
(only when we mature
are we all ears)
then turned about
from urban revelry
to settle as silence
in whispers at night hours
trying to make a living
at playing sax
to outwit any appetite
for a lively domestic policy,
yet expecting any joker
to buzz outside the door
uninvited to lean on me
for a lottery ticket
that never comes out right.


—B.Z. Niditch

With a banker's valise
of debits and credits
he lets nothing slide,
another clerk guy
near me watches
his city bureaucratic
luggage made of leather
yet looks down at everyone,
with four degrees in hand
a fellow with a Masters'
his breast swells
appears as bullying man
with his inherited authority
holds your own work up,
and with a dirty mop
in hand he overpowers
another brother as well.

 Looking for a New Home
—Photo by Katy Brown

—B.Z. Niditch

On the bed and breakfast
on the Cape's wharf
an ex-sailor
asked me to feed
his parrot for two days
with droplets
of pollen and nectar
and assorted berries
in his coppery cage
with sand under him,
my adolescent nerves
let a lowly push-back
of my musical fantasies
go crazy and the parrot
named Royce
near my refrigerator
seemed to enjoy
my sax improvisations so
that he accompanied me
with talk of a critic
but no harmony
which got my mind
to compose a song
for Royce on sheet music
and the ex-sailor left me
his small treasure
of coins and stamps
of little monetary value
but for a teenage kid
it was a cool job.


—B.Z. Niditch

Taking a cab,
hearing riffs
of Miles Davis in the back
snow kisses the window
and I'm late
for my urban reading
with a letter
from Denise Levertov
who spoke with peace
with me on the airwaves
helping me
with an introduction
lacking air
with jazz everywhere
On sleepless hours 

stroked by kilometers

of magnetic language

grown up from running

on fragments of words

in uppermost fervor

of memory not distant,

in an expressionist time.


—B.Z. Niditch

In the subway
fiddling for coins
on cold floorboards
a dry mouth
eating a cheese cracker
the D string snaps
by broken panes
in the windy underground
on the Blue Line
a dark trembling angel
pulls out frozen posters
of Jim Morrison
blanketing his graffiti
discursive wall signs
holding his old Walkman
over the edgy stage dust
offering to sell
his theatrical poems
for a Saturday night
lottery drawing
as huge winds outside
the station along Revere Beach
slam even the turnstile
in this underground,
throwing the night off course.

 Burned Leaves
—Photo by Katy Brown

— B.Z. Niditch

Whispers under the rain
on Argentine blankets,
small talk of you, Borges
at the garden party,
wild tongues motion
at the reading recital
for the children,
mumbling voices
for the verdant voice
to host an angel cake day
in the back of our yard
you are welcome
to hear my sax
made out of snow
my dirt guitar
on the tall grass
near the blue moon rocks
the flautist on the hill
playing a young Mozart
breathing out the air
from the open Bay.


—B.Z. Niditch

Asked to MC
a junior poetry slam
after spending time
correcting my exam
trying to communicate
on the first date of the show
hearing wild outbursts
from large audience's row
while begging for silence
with swigs of beer
in the hall and everywhere
some in tennis shorts
or miniskirts
when we needed to hear
poems in diphthongs
with lines
of hurting ailing pain
motivated by the brain
all we got were cheers
and jeers as on Jerry Springer
until our highbrow teacher
spoke from his heart
and was a dead ringer
asking everyone to do
their egg head part,
and this almost beaten up
Beat Poet
stole the show's secret
when jazz violin and sax
had everyone relax,
when music and words
mix in as an omelet.


—B.Z. Niditch

It was a hot August
before my freshman year
at school began
here in this old movie house
in Cape Cod
where I was an usher
when Tuesday Weld
was on the marquees
in I'll take Sweden
with Bob Hope
playing for months
I knew every line
of every part,
even volunteered
to be an usher for
The Longest Day
during Christmas vacation
which is what it was for me
when the water cooler
broke down
during a snow storm
and I had to watch the movie
all weekend,
unable to open the doors
during the blizzard
with good and plenty, cola
and popcorn as my friends,
then I was moved up town
to an art theater
when Monica Vitti
was a sensation
when a publicity agent
for Oliver
and a cousin of mine,
Sonny, recognized me
down the aisle saying, "BZ,
you could do better work"
and gave me a summer job
the next year
doing film scripts
in Hollywood
where I met his mentor
Orson Welles,
who met Sonny
while he studied film
at the New School
I am here watching Orson
eating four oysters
in his hand at one time
at a West L.A. party
when method actor
and Orson's acting coach
spotted me
and I later showed him
my one-act plays
at the Brown Derby deli
soon I started
the Original Theater,
being quite a ham,
playing sax
and reading my poems
during intermission.


Today's LitterNip:

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Daypack full of Woodsy Owl bags; my dog
Roxy with empty saddlebags, dancing
as we set out on a Monday morning in July,
bound for the summit lake; climb up

through boulders, past a chain of little lakes
(burnt foil in a fire-pit, broken pair of sun-
glasses). Indian paintbrush, raven flapping
above. Glint off the trail—strip of cellophane.

Sagebrush and scree. My dog sniffs a jacket
stashed in rocks. At windy overlooks,
she inhales the western news. Valley haze
below; here, blue sky. Five Owl-bags of litter

before we reach the saddle. At the lake
Roxy swims while I pick up trash: dirty sock,
rusty grill-rack. Lunch break. Take off boots,
splash my feet in the coldest water. Is that

an eagle high overhead? On the return hike,
packs full of litter, overflow slung from my
shoulders, we meet two hikers. How sad,
they say, so much trash in this beautiful

wilderness; sad that my dog has to carry it out.
We retrace our hike—no litter now. What
a beautiful place! My wages for a unpaid job,
my dog joyful under her saddlebags.


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors: Katy Brown with her haunting photos of the burned area behind our house;  BZ Niditch, who comments on our Seed of the Week (The Best Job Ever) with his poems and by saying "it's not easy being a poet and having other jobs…" And you can hear Taylor Graham read at the Sacramento Poetry Center this coming Monday with her cohorts, the Red Fox Underground. That' s25th & R Sts., Sacramento, 7:30pm. Be there!

Fireman's Glove Left Behind
—Photo by Katy Brown

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On the Edge of Song

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

—Marchell Dyon, Chicago
You make me feel this way.
An acrobat walking a tight rope;
Barefooted, and in leotards.

My way slippery and unsure,
My toes flat against the wire,
I attempt to cross over, you egg me on.

Your face is airbrushed like a clown.
Your clothes bright and harlequin
Like flowers, balloons stem from your fist.

Your face shows no deception
Your lips permanently fixed toward mine
Are all smiles.

Still my stomach churns.
I force my body to keep its balance.
My mind traffic warns me;

It tells me to go back to steadier ground.
Somehow, my steps are locked
And extended on this air walk

When I do motion, it's forward.
I open my eyes. Then I breathe.
I never dream of falling,

I keep my arms steadied and stretched out.
I don’t look beyond your face.
I don’t look down.


—Marchell Dyon

The day we met behind the maroon-colored curtain
Taught me all there is about love.
I was shy, still I wanted to know
What it would be like to sip your tongue, to exhale your

On the day I rose from my seat among my girlfriends
Like Adam to Eve, I followed you.
I smeared on lip gloss heavy across my face
Like chalk across a blackboard.

When we kissed, it was like the movie.
In our minds we rehearsed something sweet to say to each
Afterwards, we stood blank, staring at our shoes,
Not remembering imagined lines.

An awkward romance we played out in third period.
Among the fake satin curtains, our lips were glued together.
Our sneaker feet curled and uncurled.
We were gone before the Gym Teacher could count heads.


—Marchell Dyon

His body is now flabby, beer gut, but once Heaven-sent.
Like an Icarus once rained on in mid-flight.
He is foolhardy to believe he can recapture the sun, but he
He stands now before the easel, a prefect specimen of man.

His nipples hang low almost like earlobes.
He comically flexes like he is Mr. Universe.
He has a lobster tan that glistens off drawn curtains,
He shows me all skin.
I sketch from memory with eyes that see only in past tense.
I see and draw in the hard muscles,
The fault-line veins of his stomach that sits now like rolls
of fluid,
A memorial to a stomach that use to sit up in packs of six.

I choose to recall on this canvas only those days on the
When his skin and hair were like Apollo.
A merman from the surf, jogging up to the sand to dry.
With eyes of disbelief I watched as he tanned in the sun.

With time adding decades to us both
He is still my Olympian god
And I am still the mortal that above all others he loves.
Who is more in awe with him, with each fine line I capture.

—Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner

—Marchell Dyon

Red on brilliant red, Max Factor, movie star quality,
Busy downtown neon,
Camera-ready lips, ready on the prowl,
Who will I be tonight?
Belle of bar or the wallflower I usually am.

Will it be a night spent
With me holding my girlfriends' purses?
Ending with me not in someone arms,
With me counting minutes on the clock.

Some girls have all the luck,
I’ve discovered it’s all in the advertisement.
The signals I send, the way I put it out there.

Will I become a devil in a blue dress?
A tall cool woman with stripper legs and an angel smile?
Which would he prefer to be with—all that metro fun?
Or a once-a-month bar-hopping schoolmarm?

Tonight I will wear a masquerade.
Who’s that girl in the bar window?
Be that blonde; be the one choosy over who buys me drinks.
Charming prince, whomever,
With my red fingertips carnivorous in his hair.


—Marchell Dyon

You keep me on the edge of song.
Your fingers are limericks.
You riddle my every thought.
Your love is free of form, spontaneous.

Your fingers are limericks with all-too-familiar punch
Our bodies know when to laugh;
We promised to love unrestricted,
Free of form, spontaneous.
Tomorrow in my place there will be some other girl.

Our bodies know when to laugh.
You say there is no love, just sex
Tomorrow in my place, you’ll sweet-talk the thongs off
another girl.
Your feelings are jumbled lines, they list strange things.

With you, there is never love, just mood swings.
Spend the night, leave in the morning,
Your feelings stay ambiguous; mine get in the way.
You come back; we jog in circles, nothing ever really ends.

People happen, then they part company, that’s what you said.
Our tangled rhythm is as old as written serenade.
We adore the familiar, we have a routine, and nothing ever
really ends.
We communicate through our skin.

Our bodies are listed in verse.
You riddle my every thought.
You speak to my skin, I like it.
You keep me on the edge of song.


Today's LittleNip:

If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer
If youre a pretender com sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
Come in!
Come in!

—Shel Silverstein


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors, and welcome to the Kitchen, Marchell! Marchell Dyon is from Chicago, Illinois. Her work has appeared in many publications in print as well as online. Her most recent work can be found on

—Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jobs—Who Needs 'Em?


Was my father’s liquor store
Other side of the tracks.  Your mother
Told you, yes?  But you went there
Anyway.  I know.  I probably
Carded you.

Two-to-close shift.  I’d stock the beer
Coolers: Blue and Miller, a little
Bud—was that sort of place.
Dust the half pints, Kessler’s
And Seagram’s.  Think about
The Muscatel and the MD 20/20,
And then decide to read.

Read a lot.  Was mostly quiet
But for a few pints, occasional
Beer quarts at quitting time,
Till after dark.  Hem and Fitzgerald,
Gertrude, the Beats. 

But then after sundown, and after
The 8:10 Amtrak from Chicago,
It all would change.  Austen,
Dickens and the Brontes—big city
Weeknights.  Fridays, it would darken:
Algren, Burroughs, and will you take
This gun for a pint of Johnny Walker
And a quart of milk?  Usually, Yes. 
There was a crate down
Under the register, store
Went down, all unclaimed. 

Was the only unarmed employee—
Well, there was a bigass screwdriver
Under the counter, but I never even
Brandished it.  My colleagues, my
Father and Little Phil carried 38’s
In shoulder holsters,
Both looking a little warm, a bit
Odd in the summer heat.  Old Ben,
Who’d come up from BrmghmAlbma
In the twenties we never did know
About.  Was a .22, but he was so
Fast, nobody—customers,
Staff, lifters, ever saw it coming out
As he smiled.  And they put it back.
I still believe it was ankle,
But I preferred his approach:
“Dude, you don’t really want
To be putting that
In your pocket.
Here, let’s have a taste;
We can talk.”

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove


—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

empty green plaid beanbag
ashtray, heavy lead crystal
ashtray, swipe them down
with Kleenex, soap and water on crystal
careful to clean around the rims
dried tobacco smells
yellow slimy sludge
remains, clings to my fingers
smell no soap and water can disperse
replace the ashtray
on her right hand, within reach
by his place setting
by silver, crockery, pork chops
and the baby’s cup
grey dragon trails of smoke rise
out of the ashes
each Lucky, each Camel
burns down to the end
replaced immediately
sucked dry


—Ann Wehrman

dark hillside, unfamiliar
Andrew’s tires crushed
he pulled over
we walked further
night overcast
cool spring fog thick
Ventura coast
walked away
from the memorial
peered over the ridge
other side of the hill
stones, trees, foliage
steep decline
far down, looking out
over Ventura Avenue
West Prospect
lights twinkled far below

where she lived at the end
where I stayed with her
small cottage
window open 
so I could breathe
she smoked through the nights
played NPR low, I could still hear
from my bedroll
on her pocket living room floor
place no longer mattered
she had seen too much
had forgotten how
to exhale
pride lacing fury and pain
tighter than a steel bodice

Andrew and I
looked over the hillside
golden lights on her street
he opened the canister
released her dust
that her soul might find
peace denied in life
rise out of the ashes


—Caschwa, Sacramento

A distinguished professor
At the lectern, stink bomb
Is the lesson of the day

You know the ones,
Those truly vile, offensive
Terms of total disrespect

Fired like hollow point bullets
Meant to totally destroy
The target on impact

Putting dear, kind, gentle
Readers of poetry on the
Defensive, constantly

Thrown in the middle of
Bear cubs play fighting
Thick skin, sharp claws

Favorable arguments
Flow from the tongues
Of total strangers:

Freedom of speech, style
Syntax, context, new wave
Reality, get used to it

Fireballs make good pictures
While images of wounded victims
…You know the ones

—Nancy Haskett, Modesto

Throughout my thirty-seven years of teaching,
various administrators have routinely observed,
required objectives,
looked for active participation,
standards and goals written on the board—
verifiable results
which proved I was doing my job.

Throughout those same
bell-regimented months and semesters
I have played that game,
thanked them for their accolades,
pretending it was all about
delivery of content,
test scores,
but knowing it was really about inspiring creativity,
boosting confidence
and teaching values that cannot be tested
with multiple choice questions.

And in the dozens of yearbooks
that will be boxed and stored in the dormers of my house
are signatures,
personal notes
and thank you letters from hundreds of past students—
notes never shown to any principal
yet I consider them,
above all else,
to be my


—Michael Cluff, Corona

Working as a living
mannequin for a men's
haberdashery in Haverhill:
allowed to indulge,
wallows in his fashion fetish;
argyle sweater vests
and gartered socks
solid wool ties
elbow-patched sports coats
and imprisoning penny loafers,
never-lit burgundy pipe,
he became the college professor
his aphasia and allodoxaphobia
compelled him not
to be
in public.

On-line life
was his savior—
standing still
and looking dead
in front of men's eyes
kept him employed
until several decades
had turned maudlin
and defied.


LADY LUCK I (Into Ashes)
—Michael Cluff

On the day
of sealing
the job down

the crotch
of the suit pants
get stained with

You mismatch
your shoes:
put on a tennis
to the left
and wingtip
on the other.

Your belt breaks into
two from over-stress
and cheapness
after you have gone long
past the three-quarters point
to the interview.

Then the car breaks down
in the exact center
of a deep and odiferous puddle
of gutter water and puece-purple rust oil from
an ill-serviced tumbledown semi
and you slip badly.

When you reach the receptionist's desk
you realize you dumped her
at the fourth-rate mall
on that debacle triple date
last September
and her memory
like her girth
is now an elephant's
and this thought has
slipped out of your mouth
right into her wrinkled ear.
Luck comes and goes
for you like blackouts
which usually occur
right at this point
of your diminishing day—
even if you are lucky
or even eventually not.



—Michael Cluff


Today's LittleNip:

A good poem causes one to pause and think…exactly the qualities that make texting while driving illegal.



—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors and a reminder that the new issue of convergence is online at

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


As Is Through Leaves
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


you see
the sun this
morning, how round
and red in the charred
tree, as if snagged
and bleeding
to death
there . . . .

(first pub. in Brevities, 2008)



As trees through blue fire
sputter and moan,
their branches tangling,
their roots in a lessening hold,
grasping for blue,
which may be sky or dream:
blue fire and red sky.

Oh fiery love and loss,
held together through all destruction,

what have you got to lose
but life and its memory?
—wild music rushing through like wings:
nothing so pure or useful
to love’s balance
in all its harmony and discord
—like all that music never written.


(8th time out)

You whom I must love
out of old fires
and ungatherable ashes
do not come to the
destruction of my eyes.

Do not enter
the casual embrace of me
else learn how dangerous
are arms for holding.

Never come to my mouth
with an innocent kiss—
never come that far.
It will be a sad returning.

(first pub. in Quoin, 1970)


This gray feeling. Shivering with danger.
Ashes all over our shoulders. Rags of
loneliness. Cold night glowing with our
eyes. Burning words all night to keep
the poor fire going. Hugging close to it,
feeling the thin darkness behind us,
pressing into our spines—this blanket
of disaster hiding our nudity, which is
how we know each other.

Sticks of meaning glow and crumble.
Soft ash rises into a hungry wind that
comes telling . . . telling the long night
what it knows. We dare not sleep lest
winter call us backward into death.
We are primitives—beginners at
survival, though we have done so many
times before . . . but not now . . .
but not here . . . .



I come with a heavy word now
for your lonely mouth

the kiss is heavy to
and made of weariness

each gift is broken first
to give you perfect sadness

I put my hand across your eyes
to say my darkness

I lay my fever
underneath your touch

I cry gray laughter
for your ashen echo

I bring you everything I am
and call it love

(first pub. in Oregonian, 1972)



WHITE, like snow
WHITE, like fire

White fire, hotter than red
White fire, sadder than red

Heart white, like pain
Mind white, like silence

Who’s to blame, oh,
Who’s to blame?


Today's LittleNip:


A wood fire in the
                      old black stove,
a saucer of milk for the
                         old black cat.
               lapping at the walls.     

(first pub. in Of Cats Mini-chap, 2002)


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix! Out of last week's SOW (Out of the Ashes) has come some mighty fine poetry. As Labor Day barrels toward us, the new Seed of the Week is The Best Job Ever. Send your poetic thoughts and pictures about same to No deadline on SOWS; click on Calliope's Closet at the top of this page for more SOWs from the past than you can shake yer pencil (pen? computer?) at!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Zumba to a Pleiades!

Sebastopol Cemetery
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Janet Lar Rieu Pantoja, Woodinville, WA
Daisies and dandelions
decorate a grassy field.
Dare we condemn such beauty?
Do they not enhance the view?
Disrespectful gardeners
drive mowers that mutilate—
destroy flowers—call them weeds!


—Janet Lar Rieu Pantoja

Potentially addictive.
Pull open shells to get nuts
packed with nutrition such as
potassium—tasty, too.
Pretty soon the bowl will be
piled high with empty nutshells.
Pressure is on to refill.


—Janet Lar Rieu Pantoja

Zeroes in on cardio:
Zumba-ites exercise
zippy Latin melodies—
zesty beats. Rhythms inspire
zealous to flail arms, move hips.
Zulu natives would be proud;
Zens appalled, would meditate.


—Janet Lar Rieu Pantoja

           Variety’s the very spice of life
           that gives it all its flavor.”
                                 —Wm. Cowper

Picked: a wide array with some
poems of this, some of that
put all together to form
poetic mixture of spice—
pleasant aroma…diverse
potent stars of Pleiades…
palpable imaginings.

Sebastopol Cemetery
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

My dog led the way up a logging road
cut through toyon, pine, and cedar

to a firepit—thin drift of smoke flirting
with a bed of ashes. Recent boot-

prints up a skid trail. Sun hot enough
to strike sparks without a flint.

Spent cartridges in a dusty clearing;
and wooden laths lashed together

to form five crosses in a row, old
towels for headdresses secured

with duct tape. Human effigies—some
taller, some meant to be children.

Targets for practice. Three buzzards
sailing high lazy spirals overhead.


—Taylor Graham

The old saloon harbors ghosts
abiding under mother
lode-blue sky, and an oak tree
hung with effigies of gold
rush years. Farther up the street
you'll see the bell that still hangs
recalling flame and ashes.


—Taylor Graham

At Home Depot I'm drawn to
a display: claw hammers' steel
glow. Innocent of years and
misuse—my father's, kept with
care for decades; not rusted
or splintered. I hold this one
in its wistful place, my hand.


—Taylor Graham
One gray squirrel leaping across
oak tops electric high thin
sky—one slip out of grace, short
circuit to glory flash! and
the lights went out, we sat at
table in gathering dark.
Our lambs fearless with wonder.


—Taylor Graham
From the parking lot, where do we start? Roads
begin, then part, disappear in smoke.
A cancer on the lungs. Catherine's scent floats
on haze, spent then billowed where flame spoke.

They saw her in the schoolyard yesterday,
they guess, playing with summer gone. Ash
of dawn. Wind brings wordless burning news, and
scatters clues. Where is she? Blowing trash,

silence. The birds have flown away to blue
sky. We pray to breathe. Catherine's gone—where?
Through smoke, a wan ghost black as char, now near
now far, wavering on hot, dense air.

Smoke fills every crevice, absorbs the sky,
those orbs of sun, moon, each burned-out star.
Without trace they disappear in gray,
in fear of inferno from afar.


Our thanks to today's contributors for their poems and pix, including some Pleiades and 49ers, our current Form to Fiddle With! Janet Pantoja's last poem is the signature poem of the Pantoja Pleiades Circle Anthology for 2012, Potpourri of Pleiades. (Send for your free copy at The circle is working on their new end-of-the-year anthology, due out by December.  (According to the Pantoja Pleiades Circle, the Pleiades is also a 49er!)

You may've noticed that Taylor Graham's poem today, "Hollyberry Ridge", was also posted last Friday. Medusa's mistake: the last stanza was left off. Today's post is the correct version. And her final poem today, a response to DR Wagner's "Catherine Wheel" on Saturday, is a Toddaid—more about that later. 

And thanks to Samira Noorali for the LittleNip, and to Cynthia Linville for the photos. Cynthia spelled "cemetery" correctly with all e's—be sure you do the same. Those wily snakes of Medusa have been known to throw an "a" in there for the final vowel. Hey—here's a coincidence! We currently have an album of Katy Brown's photos of Sylvan Cemetery on Medusa's Facebook page! Must have cemeteries on the mind..........

Today's LittleNip(s):
peasants sink into
a gravelly, charcoal street
that pulls like quicksand. 


sift for gold nuggets
and rare, perforated swiss
on a littered beach.

Samira R. Noorali

(first appeared on twitter:




 Sebastopol Cemetery
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Breeze That Blows

—Billy Collins

Sometimes I see it as a straight line
drawn with a pencil and a ruler
transecting the circle of the world

or as a finger piercing
a smoke ring, casual, inquisitive,

but then the sun will come out
or the phone will ring
and I will cease to wonder

if it is one thing,
a large ball of air and memory,
or many things,
a string of small farming towns,
a dark road winding through them.

Let us say it is a field
I have been hoeing every day,
hoeing and singing,
then going to sleep in one of its furrows,

or now that it is more than half over,
a partially open door,
rain dripping from the eaves.

Like yours, it could be anything,
a nest with one egg,
a hallway that leads to a thousand rooms—
whatever happens to float into view
when I close my eyes

or look out a window
for more than a few minutes,
so that some days I think
it must be everything and nothing at once.

But this morning, sitting up in bed,
wearing my black sweater and my glasses,
the curtains drawn and the windows up,

I am a lake, my poem is an empty boat,
and my life is the breeze that blows
through the whole scene

stirring everything it touches—
the surface of the water, the limp sail,
even the heavy, leafy trees along the shore.



Saturday, August 24, 2013

Untranslatable As Music

—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove


We were without the stars.
They had retreated from the sky.
Clouds were gone.  The night was without
The music of the moon.
The sea was perfectly flat.
The ocean had better things to do.

We could see the island burning
Before we were even near the harbor.
A dark fire with teeth of orange-red flame.
As we drew closer, a voice louder
Than pain infected the air,
The fire eating jungle and village
With no eyes and no body,
Devouring everything it encountered.

When the angels began to arrive
We thought they were birds
But they refused to hold their shape
And some became larger than everything
In the sky.  A dead moon
Suddenly, a small melon one could
Hold in the hand.  The angels, more massive
Than the wind, closed the fire
Like a door.  The night again
Perfectly still.

We find these things in our sleep.
They break its cheap and translucent
Walls.  Owls and other birds of the dark
Flooding through with these fires,
These angels, all the islands and the sea

Itself.  All we have left is one
Small ship populated with shades
Waiting for us to awaken, making
Songs of our breathing as we grope
Our way through night after night,
Driven toward the dawn,
Barely remembering any part of it.



Not having the moment.
Not having the stars to put me down.
Not opening the correct door
At the correct time, I stare out
Across the lawns, trying to understand
How it is I have come to know
The flight of birds as language,
The truth of speech in a raptor's claw,
The idea of true need in the open mouths
Of nestlings, only days old, throats always
Open, surrounded by sleep and caring,
Even with the eyes still closed and the stubble
Of feathers surrounding a body I have no idea
I have. 

This morning I awake from a sleep not rested
At all, fully awake and flooded with questions
Yet again.  The water wheel.  The Catherine
Wheel, “A sort of huge screaming puppet
Writhing in rivulets of blood,
A puppet with four tentacles,
Like a sea monster of raw, slimy
And shapeless flesh mixed up with splinters
Of bone.”

I am unable to walk, to lift my hands
To greet anyone.  I have acquired the ability
To recognize angels, see their wings,
Their glowing forms, even the mudra-like
Gestures they make in addressing one.
This does me no good whatsoever
This still, gray morning, slid over with
Formless clouds, not even a proper gray.

I think only that I am trying to understand
Birds, the crows and vultures as they
Circle and descend upon my body,
My arms and legs threaded through spokes
As if offering myself to them in supplication.



All these words you are reading
Can be used to hurt people.
No, they don’t do that when you see
Them like this.  They seem regular,
Not concerned with hate or devious
Activity or gossip or sexual misconduct.

They can be about going to the store
Or adopting a cat or a dog, catching
A fish or lighting a fire.

It’s not a picnic for them to always
Be like this.  Words can hurt
Pretty bad and they know it.  Curse
Words have their own club and
Asshole, dumb fuck, shithead, cunt,
All of those others don’t come
Anywhere near the other words
Unless they are forced to do so.

Did you notice these words had
Their own line?  The longer I
Make this poem, the more these
Words can hurt, even derail a train
Or burn a family to death during
A terrible earthquake.

I am going to go pray that they behave
For a good long while and stay out
Of hospitals and away from accidents.

It would be nice if they could just
Go quietly, but no, they
Just stop all of a sudden, shut up.

 Vic's Ice Cream


And now I am standing and staring
At the bark of this birch tree
Which, through once three trees,
Now has become one.  Grown
Together like verses in a song
Now joined by the chorus, always
Full of another thought that is
Not quite birch tree and yet more
So, that even these paper-white
Trunks leaning apart from one another
Hear a mother calling to her long-haired
Children, calling them to return
Home for it is evening once again.

And they stand listening, that breeze
In their lovely leaves twisting
Slowly as if remembering how it is
The dance must be performed,
Then catch it fully and I too
Dance in both my heart and in my
Body, stepping away to see the whole,
The tree, more beautiful than it
Has ever seemed, unwrapping the evening
For everything in this world.



We’ve been waiting for the swans,
To see how beautiful they are,
But they never come.  Finally
Someone throws a small rock
Into the pond and within a few
Minutes rocks are showering down
Upon the water and there is no other
Sound but their splashing.

The frogs have stopped calling.
The crickets are perfectly quiet.
Native birds that were there have flown
Away.  Eventually all the people leave
And those other choruses begin once again.

I have been lying in the tall grass
Beneath the willow that reaches out
Over the water.  Night is coming
Quickly.  Just before I leave
The swans come.  It is almost dark.

They look like ghosts with huge wings.
I notice that when they land I do
Not hear any water splash at all.
I hope that I am not dreaming.
I rise slowly and walk back
Toward the road.  When I look
Away from the water I can still
See the swans in my mind.

I decide I am not dreaming.
I am just amazed at the perfection
Of the mind in that it perceives swans
Like these over and over again.



The skies realize no one
Can ever stop them.  They fashion
Instruments out of birds and ask the wind
To play upon them.  If not
The wind, something equally
Sightless and brooding
With moods that could make
A child weep.

The page never gives up color
By itself.  It remains white,
Looked over and guarded by sharp
Teeth always making up its own story.

The waves are changing again.
The long speeches are coming to an end.
The rationalizations begin looking
For a way to convince ourselves that
We knew this was coming all along.
I’ve described the scene this way so you

Might see that beautiful girl loaded with
Bright colors walking right through
The center of this whole thing
Singing, quite content with how it turned out.


Today's LittleNip:

There is an hour of the afternoon when the plain is on the verge of saying something. It never says, or perhaps it says it infinitely, or perhaps we do not understand it, or we understand it and it is untranslatable as music.

—Jorge Luis Borges


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

Cat in Locke, CA

Friday, August 23, 2013

Always Loved

Gravestone, Sylvan Cemetery
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Bronze angel atop a tomb,
folded wings, her steady gaze.
Her finger pointing groundward
skillfully sketches sunrays
flowing like crystal channels
through granite chunks and broom sedge,
bringing forth a brand new day.


—Carol Louise Moon

Mossy edge of turquoise stream,
palm-size rocks of granite gleam
and shimmer with the water
from a sparkling waterfall.
Corresponding sounds which seem
very far, yet closer still
draw me near; I hear their call.


—Carol Louise Moon

A bird shrieks, a jay squawks loud—
another wrong committed,
sounds filling in the still air.
In June’s heat a tree branch serves
as juror’s bench.  Nature turns
a deaf ear to the quick flap
of jay wings fleeing the court.


—Carol Louise Moon

Close of day.  Close of day—you
close beside me.  I in my
chair, you in your crib—your crib
cradled in starlight.  So now,
climb the stair of your dreams—sleep
contently.  I promise that
Chanticleer crows tomorrow.

Always Loved
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

No woman I’ve been to bed with could quite lie
in a sweet afterloving after-cling.
Positions of all kinds, during the act, but I,
when we’ve finished the lavishly breathless thing,

I seem to come disengaged from, dispossessed
of, my partner’s body. My first would never dock
alongside me, her hull and my hull rock
where water would jostle and buffet as it caressed.

That is, we shied like scrapeable bumper boats,
scared of how ribs might graze, how nipples turn tender
where mouths have teased, how bodies abut like goats.
Would our pileup bend every existing fender?

So my she-heaven wouldn’t sleep, truly sleep,
with me, and I’d vanish, banished to a near bed.
My twirlaway next one would scroll up in blanket heaps
Cleopatralike, all bedrolled or carpetcurled.

Something there is that’s scrawny and juts out
in me, like bastions from a wall of skin,
that follows instinct or passion play with doubt.
What woman clings in surrender to four thin

canvas walls stretched over aluminum tentpoles?
As hard as I strain to relax and dissolve, no,
no liquid languid pair of legless tadpoles.
So have done with me, my loves, slough off and go.

But you might be different. Touch me delicately.
Before the delectable act or the disappointment,
first try out the wrestler’s hold that pins so subtly.
With you sheer nakedness is its own ointment.

My lotion, my aloe for everything that hurts,
that aches inside me and pokes her hard when at rest,
my woman of cloud, chiffon in all the desserts,
fling dream arms around us. This is your only test.


There [in a garden] a lily is sucked cruelly by a bee,
in its most sensitive, most life-giving parts.
                  —Leopardi, "Massacre of the Flowerets

—Tom Goff

One gets the impression Leopardi never knew
whether, or how, a woman’s sensitive parts
“imitate the action of the tiger” lily,
when luring a man’s mouth, or aching dart,
to the spicy banquet of the aroma dew
that pools in the aroused center, or wets the filigree
inwork, spiderweb-sensate, tufted around
the labia, cresting the Venusian mound.
I see your smile part lips and welcome open-
hearted: white teeth glare behind your lip-smile.
Your bee, I have experienced how to drone
and buzz around that smile, cajole soft tears.
Your canines glisten like stamens, and with a file,
it’s true, some tribal persons sharpen incisors
to points like yours, but every tooth. Alone
(yes, Leopardi) I smile ferociously in your teeth.
Will we find pain or ecstasy looms behind
this sucking kiss with fine-honed mandibles
—pain, or more fearful pleasuring in the waste?
But let me resume this torturing by taste
and suck up all your delights and chew the rind.
Then you do the same to me, for we’re adults:
I own a once-only sting, my life as a bee
one penetrant act, done swiftly, vulnerably.
Your antenna-trembling instincts are inbred
as is my rampage, brushing—or bruising—your flowerhead.


 —Tom Goff

Do you know, my purest-running honey,
that when you smile, lips drawn
like twin bows in the hands of Artemis,
but nowhere tense or unyielding,
you make the holy mouè of the archaic
Greek kōrè, your smile most sweet, solemn,
and mysterious? You cup the sacred
race of antiquity in your face, your poetry,
your devotion to the humane love that
bars your white shining limbs from Olympos.
Appoint me a flame-holder in your devotions,
darling demigoddess: in the temple of Athena
Parthenos, your skin of whitest Thassos
marble, carven by Praxiteles, the luster
in your moody polychrome eyes, all your
refinements outstrip your mentor-goddess’s
mere swart gold and crassly tinctured ivory.
If this is blasphemy, my lost one, let us
be devoured, bones crackling and black,
in a downpour of Greek fire and poison,
climaxing in a sexual and painful blaze,
starting from ashes potent as eggs a new
race of negative immortals!

(First pub. in Poetry Now, 2012)


Our thanks to today's contributors, including Michael Cluff, Tom Goff, and Carol Louise Moon, who got her brave on and tried the Forty-Niner, our current form (seven lines, seven syllables each)—with great success, I think. She even managed to make one of them a Pleides!

And Katy Brown has been visiting cemeteries lately, including the historic Sylvan Cemetery in Citrus Heights. For more photos and her lively description of her visit there, see Medusa's Facebook page.


Today's LittleNip:

—Michael Cluff, Corona 

Maintaining the loose
nooses refract independence
into a tepid sallow cistern
Narcissus turns away
disappointed by what
he did not see.



Sleeping in the Flowers
—Photo by Katy Brown

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Summons: WRITE!

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

My dog led the way up a logging road
cut through toyon, pine, and cedar

to a firepit—thin drift of smoke flirting
with a bed of ashes. Recent boot-

prints up a skid trail. Sun hot enough
to strike sparks without a flint.

Spent cartridges in a dusty clearing;
and wooden laths lashed together

to form five crosses in a row, old
towels for headdresses secured

with duct tape. Human effigies—some
taller, some meant to be children.


—Taylor Graham

There wasn't much to save. One
box, its cardboard just about burned
away. Inside, a dozen years
of contributors' copies, from back
in the writing-days. Broadsides
and journals stapled or spined, mimeo
editions. Corners and edges charred,
the pages scorched. But I could
still read every line, each
word. A sign? A summons. Write.

Loki Sniffs Children's Artwork
—Photo by Taylor Graham


glow like pearls
under candlelight—
the awesome dear idea
of nonviolence,
the natural cease-and-

desist of kindness
coming from every bone
in one's body—
an irritation. And then
the gorgeous glossing.

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole


—Claire J. Baker

We sleep at ocean's edge
on a beach lustrous
from grains of stars.

All night we tiptoe
through the cosmos—
itself a kind of sea.

At dawn, migrating
butterflies on horizon,
sun rising on wings.

Later, at a meadow
monarchs have landed
as poppies.

 Day-moon Through Colby Fire Lookout Tower
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Michael Cluff, Corona

Cornflower skies
reflect more
than is there
but Perry
refuses or ignores
what may be
if he would
only look beyond
ham omelettes
Led Zeppelin
and bigoted
lumps of moralities
he swallows
without reserve
or bitter


—Michael Cluff

"All I can remember about him is
he wore a light purple sweater vest,"
the woman with the multi-tinctured darkened eye socket
flattened, eggplant-colored nose
and talon-like scratches on her swollen cheeks
said, while unceasingly staring at me,
"like the one you are wearing now."

I blanched,
my face
now the same shade as
my dress shirt;
the top pearl collar button cutting
into my throat,
a garrote atop my psyche,
and the shame of being my sex
flood over my cheeks
matching the cherry and plum blotches
of swollen skin rimming her neck.

My colleagues all blinked at me quickly
sharing my sin as men,
the guilt of being who we were born to be,
a tourniquet tied and ever-tightening
between us all.

She said
nothing more;
I filed the crime report away;
she did not need to.


—Michael Cluff

Towers can only completely contain
the bodies of people

their souls
and spirits
the rise and fall
of such structures

and is
as it should be.

Today's LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

There stood a young laddie named Scare,
corn-husk where he should have had hair.
My dog took a sniff,
said “it isn't as if
that thing's human,” and went on from there.


—Medusa, who's late posting today is due to computer problems, now resolved...

Loki and the Straw Men
—Photo by Taylor Graham

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Startled Perfect Lexicon

—Photo by Taylor Graham, Placerville

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

The neon light
transmits the silence
sometime at a space
from our first thought
of how in our experiences
we pick and choose
what is aesthetically right
for a connoisseur
of the sea and season
like separating the sand
on the bayside beach
from an hourglass
we almost become as ashes
motionless when suddenly
the language gives us
a startled perfect lexicon
composing in the tones
and ocean undertows
our augmented notes
which arises to song.


—B.Z. Niditch

You take off
for the Coast
after two dog days
on a sleepless hotel roof,
headlights are scorched
on the overlong highway
the A.M. is muffled
by talk radio or war horses
when a little jazz music
breaks through static,
we find brown bananas
in the glove department,
to cry out the window
even for poets
is blind faith cast
from bloodshot eyes,
yet between signs
and abandoned trucks
and facing funeral cars
for half a mile
we cannot concentrate
or find the maps,
trying to play word games
is not metaphysical,
suddenly the islands
appear out of the sea
we become aware
with a couple of breaths
of the bayside air
and look up
from the dashboard
the sun soon over our heads
sand between our feet
the body of ocean
to our rescue.


—B.Z. Niditch

In the cool wind
bending the ocean floor,
Leda, leading mute swan
in the half-light
like a painted veil,
is gone from the sea
from our home harbor,
sweat rolled down
my back as rivulets
shiver near
the orange kayak
and my migratory guest
of years of affection
has foundered
on a dawn of no return
even my silence
may in verse
reach her
flowing like my wishes
of a former lover
past the distant Coast
beyond the sun's cover
under sackful vaults
of azure sky-blue.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

                     Aug. 8, 1922
—B.Z. Niditch

Words still lament
doubled down in praise
from the radiant hills
engraved from light
your gravity in life
rises as language
sparing your ashen voice
cushioned in song
on both sides of the pond
for our tranquil recognition.


—B.Z. Niditch

Always wanting the sublime
with an everlasting sign
even on highways
the nature in our spirit
signals out
insight from summer's sky
from the crush of traffic
or lights from other cars
each dawn a drama
bringing out ideograms
from earth to cosmos
reigning from fallen stars.


—B.Z. Niditch

The dust swirls
when day breaks
clouding our senses
by the peace garden
a red sun glances
away from our lenses
when the wind caresses
us for a few minutes
viewing gas masks
knotted in bodies
on unfriendly corpses
now nothing happens
on a soundless street,
everything comes to a stop
in a horizon burning
opening to flower
a monument to memories.


—B.Z. Niditch

What sustains us
like a Mozart sonata
in our loss are the voices
contained in unburied
notes, voices
speaking in dialogue
even in our sleep as
words move us
yet not whiting out
what touches the earth
here on a rainy ground
a bundle-up watchman
supplants our memories
by taking pictures
of the last bouquets
in a slow pause
from hand to hand
standing before us
in a landscape of years
ashes rise to brush by
on the echoes of fields
we survive the half-tones
on full palates of speech
expecting to hear
from agape lovers
the earthly faded tongues
like luminous honeycombs
in the August wind
still falling as a harvest
ingrained in nature
pressed as breath
in auras, proverbs
leaving us sign languages
and open metaphors
in veins of the living.


Today's LittleNip:
—B.Z. Niditch

Morning opens umbrellas by window
it rains when musical hearing resounds,

as an alto sax from the fifth-floor attic

records for my new quartet

all momentum of jazz notes

rises from the ashes

on old sheet music in the Sixties 

at revival and moving improvisations.



—Photo by Taylor Graham