Monday, September 30, 2013

Don't Die Young

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Lytton Bell, Sacramento

Don’t die young
momentous experiences are waiting for you
losses you can never win back
I want to hear your song forty years from now

The song after both your parents have died from lingering illnesses
The song thirty years after your fortune fled
The song five years post-rehab
The song about your prosthetic hand

Song of dust and alleys
Song of torn knees with no thread or patch
Song of no one to call for bail money
Song of vomiting into your only pair of shoes

Don’t give up
One day you will walk out by the sea
You will never have felt this alone
The crash of the waves is an accusing hiss

The dying beams of the red sunset are a cry from your own life
A seagull circles, diving into a wave
You don’t care if he ever surfaces again
Your feet in the sand leave no footprints

In this dark moment, you will feel a pull
just under your navel
You will feel the pressure rising up from the base your spine
a massive wail of futility and despair

You open your lips
Every failure, every doomed and thwarted attempt
Every anguish, gripping and squeezing your intestines
will erupt from your mouth in an existential howl of unparalleled beauty and pain

Suffering will pluck the strings of your soul, making music
And I from my wheelchair
or my gurney, or my grave
I will listen


—Caschwa, Sacramento

Considering those two words
On the back of a buck on
Either side of the floating
Eye atop the Pyramid

At first glance, the easy
Translation of that Latin
Expression gives us: “He
Approves of our undertaking”

Then taking into account a
Deeper analysis that explores
The ablative case, gender,
Passive voice, past participle,

Indicative mood, imperfect form,
Subjunctive mood, and genitive
Form, it clearly boils down to
“A panty raid of coeds is God’s will”

Bumpy Gourds
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Richard Hansen, Sacramento

I heard the scream
it was horrible
a child died
I was sure that’s what it was
it couldn’t have been anything else
We started looking for the mother
frantically at front doors
having walked through front yards
it seemed she was within three houses
but there was a wilderness
with lots of tall trees
I could see their silhouette against a darkening sky
and this wasn’t my neighborhood
and I was alone
even though the front doors were open
there was no one
I wasn’t alarmed but…
then I woke up and would remember that dream
over the years I forgot about it
but just lately it's come back
I understand it's not a dream
it’s a fundamental thought at the core of my being
it's no longer valid


—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

It is a thing of grace and possibility this dynamic orb:
A metaphor and a microcosm of the earth, its turnings and returnings,
Embodying the Eastern philosophers’ yin and yang, the western theologian’s
Light and dark, and bound all and brought to fruition by this hempen
Umbilical cord—the Great Mother at last freed from eons of mythical
Dreaming and here, here, palpable, bright, useful in my very hand.

For aside from the mystical nature of this ingenious machine, I see
A much more practical aspect. This is not merely a tool for contemplation,
A toy for a spring-fevered and wayward child. No, it has come to me,
Sure as the vision of a hawk when the wind clears the sky off Point Lobos,
This is a tool for the hunt. I see one of the old ones, in a tree, or atop a cliff,
Waiting to drop this on passing pray, giving the animal, or an enemy, the quick
And sacred gift. Yes, I am told the device’s inventors did this very thing.
But I am sure they cooked theirs before they ate it.


Today's LittleNip:

—Caschwa, Sacramento

It must be the very same
Unruly snakes that gave
Medusa her perpetual
Bad Hair Days

Answerable only to their
Own reptilian style

That are now slithering
Around both Houses of
Congress, adamantly
Defiant of staying in place


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors! Kevin Jones' poem is one from his new book, and he will be reading it at the Beach Walk which will culminate the 2013 Fall Festival at Tor House in Carmel this weekend, Oct. 4-6. Kevin's book is called Throwing Down: An Apocryphal History of Yoyoing in America, and it's available at, free to read, a charge to download (type "Kevin Jones" in the grey search bar at the top of the page). For more about the Festival, see

Small Pumpkins
—Photo by Katy Brown

Sunday, September 29, 2013

El Bobby

Callahan Bandstand, Southside Park, Sacramento
Mural painted by Royal Chicano Air Force, 1975

—José Montoya

Bobby Paramo
    Blackballed film maker, Chicano road
    Scholar Jaguar, wore his warrior name
Like he donned his pork pies and stingy brimmed
    Panamas—simple, casual, deadly! Sans
    Flash—just Bobby! Not Robert, Beto, Bob
Or Roberto—Bobby!

And that’s all that was simple ‘bout Bobby Paramo,
    That’s all that was simple, ‘bout Bobby!
    “Another remarkable life,” le dice el Corky al’
Louie de Fowler. “Simon.” Le contesta.

From the first GRITO, Bobby went seemingly into
Perpetual exile, we saw him here, los they’s
    Saw ‘m there—he moved the struggle like
A feast—from Los to San Pancho y hasta Fresno fue a
    Dar. Y Solano el vato—he’d hook with a
    Traveling pardner, ruca o vato—pero no le
Duraban—porque Bobby’s compact list of demands
    Were rigorous. La Causa meant struggle to
    This carnal. Y esos viajes pa’l terre were to
Bring news after Tlaqueloco and artifacts to all the
    Cultural centers all across Aztlan—la conecta
    Con la cultura Mexica was vital in Bobby’s view.

But even as he grew weary, still, no tenia paradero,
    Moving targets are hard to hit he’d say in
    That tirili way he joked. Then he’d get sullen
And serious.

Part of his rabia was that he felt let down
    By his contemporaries del Movimiento, specially
    His prodigies—ironically his demise could be
The chispa that ignites the imaginations of your
    Film makers—the script is there—his life
    Itself—with a closing shot of his ashes launching
The new Chicano invasion from San Pedro beaches
    To take Santa Catalina Island!
    Wasn’t that a Chicano dream once?
And films have got to be made before Sam Pickenpockets
    Makes a Bobby The Kid western, or Scores Easy
    Gets Pacino to play Bobby Paranoid—como
Le pusieron los culerios de Stanford during those perros
    Y antiperros days of Chicano filmmaker wannabes
    And rhetorical poets and sex y El Sexto souls—
My God! Culture Clash could do better than that, que no?
    If si se puede is doable, no solo se puede, se debe.
    Like when word of his passing hit the mean streets
De volada, sus camitas de la torcida y los Barelas de Burque
    And an RCAFer wannabe or two y aquellos select
    Few que siempre la hacian esquina mobilized
And this brother que nunca tenia paradero al fin paro!
    But his dreams of filming a triumphant Aztlan didn’t   
Die—the massive show of support that came together
For him in the end came from all quarters—Today we
    Can cherish his memory as we begin to realize exactly
    What he left for us—in spite of it all—his films,
His journals and the most precious gift of all—with Maria
    Nos dejo a su hijita de atolle—la dolce Vita! His
    Work is done—his exile is over and life goes on.
A sweet life—la dolce Vita!

(first pub. in La Luna, Rattlesnake Press, 2008)



Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Fence of Dreams

Locke I
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke


The orchestra has made a terrible mistake.
It has found itself being devoured by a tiger
Even as it plays without ever touching the details
Of the infinite.  Confusion has set in among
The clarinets.  The oboes have made deals
Implementing uncertainty, a state unknown
To music, which always wishes to touch us
Where we would not wish to be touched
In public.  We would rather read about such
Things in books than have them applied
To our bodies as concertos or pavanes.

Inside of this voice we are surprised to find
Our memories, our relationships with a probable
Reality that is forever having a most difficult
Time of it.  We would like to believe this an incarnation,
A guided dream like these words have become.
I will be so bold as to ask you to pronounce
These words aloud, as if you were learning
A song about certain twilights or the temper
Rivers maintain that forever seem a revelation.

I will not ask you if you are reading this
From any particular world.  How would you know?
I remember her hair, how beautiful it was and her
Smile, marvelous.  The rooms of our loving as
Spectacular horses or brilliant battles for some
Prized land filled with fireflies and gardens, beautiful
Waterfalls and sunsets we could not imagine.

I cannot express these things to you very well.
I will move my hand in your general direction,
Make my fingers move so you may realize
You have lost completely a history that might
Never have been yours at all, but floats like islands
Upon insensible verses, always promising magic.



There was a line of red lights on the western
Horizon.  It looked as if a great communications
Tower had fallen to the earth, lights still blazing.

I was trying to understand what I was feeling.
Long ropes made a kind of jungle around me.
I touched some of them.  They felt like your skin.
I tried to use them to descend but the floor remained
Too solid and I fell to it, weeping as if my heart
Were broken.  I looked toward the horizon once again.
The lights began to flash, one after another, a kind of code
My body could understand but which I was unable to.

I prayed the night would become darker and that
All lights would disappear.  I wanted so to be
With John of the Cross but when I saw his body
It was in ecstasy.  It glowed pornographically.
Stigmata appeared upon it.  I felt my eyes
Burn away until there was only the red light,
The fallen tower, the legions of angels climbing
Higher and higher beckoning me upward.
My legs flailing to find my body, my mouth filled
With blood.  I thought I was kissing you.



We couldn’t have been gone very long
But we had no way to measure these things.
When you wake up in the morning, where
Have you been?  Did you see the cities?

A shop where colored glass balls are sold.
The floor of the shop is made of sand.  Wait
Long enough and the wavelets begin lapping
Under the doors.  One can hear seagulls.

You pointed out a ball in the western sky
That you claimed was the sun.  I could
Only see mountains, huge and dark,
Crowned with clouds and flashes of lightning.

“We should go that way,” you said pointing
Toward them.  “We can watch the sunset.”

I was afraid of that distance.  I’d seen
What swings the falcon down to this place.
It is not mystery at all but meat.  Meat
That once belonged to the bones these ghosts
Rattle.  Meat that once held eyes that saw
Summer meadows and heard the bleating
Lambs across the way.

We move in haste to make for the mountains.
I tell myself I will have no fears.  My hands
See a clump or rotted hair, a swatch of cloth
And although I am tired I know 
I must go.  This life is holy.
Whatever we do is holy.  Whatever is said
Is holy.  If only we knew this constantly.



From the beginning
I had felt I was getting
Further and further away
All the time.

He turned and faced me.
I could see the end
Of his machine-gun smile
Short fires.  My stomach
Burned and began to find
Its way out of me.

“You can’t do that to me,” I said.
“Look kid, you ain’t so much.
I got friends I’d never do
This favor for.”  The gun washed
Me again.

Softly, the big ravens drop
To my head.  I feel the cool
In their wings as they
Brush my face and walk
Across my outstretched hand.



And so it came to pass
That people dwelt here
Who did not know their home,

And they became her poets
For they could speak to all men
And belong to none.

And this, my brothers, is spoken
From such distance that the mind
Has no room to see, all hands
Extended in all the directions.

These words come to me sweetly.
What the hand touches, the body
Loves.  What the eye sees stands
In error of the home.

All light surrounds.  The call
Comes down to name.  
We who dwell
Here on this most beautiful of earths
Call out to ourselves and are answered by many.

And it came to pass that these words were said
On a day called by a number, in a month called
By a star, in a year called by a circle, in a
Century called by a young mind.  They are tales
And they are not tales.  They are fore and they
Are their own light.



“What’s that?"

“What’s what?"


This is a cartoon, a story, a photograph
Of your bedroom in the middle of the day,
When no one is home and you are far away.

This is the drawing made from life.  It
Is so lifelike that when you look up
You can see that room around you and all
The little marks of the drawings fall
Out of focus and resume their roles,
Scarcely altered.  The wind in this drawing.

This is a direct message from me to you.

“What’s that?"

“What’s what?"




I thought that it would ride me, ride me
Like the voodoo spirit makes a horse
Of one and then uses all their words and strength
To build a brand-new thing once again.  But a thing
Without a name, not quite a spirit any longer
But a frame, a loom, a little wire man with eyes,
Plain as day upon its so-called head and made
To speak a certain way that only those who know
This selfsame spirit as a friend can understand.

Still, all are unable to command it, no more than any
Horse might be thought to be commanded "Whoa"
Or "Gee" or "Haw".  The rein laid softly against the neck
Might turn my head and that spirit would rise from
The smoke of a burning cigar and swirl around me.

“You are dreaming, little one,” the song began.
“You have only been loaned this pretty body
As a field might have a fence: to contain
The meadow as a stage where dreams
Become strong and more complex
Than could be imagined any other way.

"We will wait for you as you become the wanderer
Inside the wheel and watch as you do not recognize
That wheel for what it is, or the very best of speech,
Such as the crow brings on fortune’s wings of fire.”

It is still a good distance to the dawn.
The only thing left that might be recognized
As a gift would be a sleep where wind could whisper
Gold and wood, a yellow moon, a Winter’s tale
Told by Zen cowboys with a gesture, a valentine
Of travertine and onyx, of malachite and lapis—
All tricks of the senses so one will no longer fear
The roads outside the fences, things that are timeless,
The snow that falls upon our spirit body,
Sketching us into the morning with some secret faith. 


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

Locke II

Friday, September 27, 2013

Troubador Soul

José Montoya, reading in 2008 at Luna's Cafe
at the release of La Luna: Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe
—Photo by Alan Satow, Stockton

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

           for José Montoya

I never knew enough Spanish
to feel I could hang altogether with you,
José Montoya: my Mexico stint, hell,
my liaison with a sweet Mexican woman
totalmente insufficient to let me call you
cuate, compadre, amigo en la poesia.
Los días supersónicos del Royal Chicano
Airforce may have seemed lost in el pasado,
yet there you were painting, teaching,
crafting the wily poems you delivered
in that laconic speech rhythm of yours,
flirting with the false imagen of just
un tipo Mexicano: sly-dogging subversion!
Desert submariner, sand-skimming
Disco Volante needing no Bond to make
mayhem of the stereotype. You read
for your grand poetic festival Flor y Canto,
read for our infinitely small—quizás select?—
assembly of PoemSpirits at UUSS, bestowing
forever your troubador soul. To hear you
once more recite your poem on the poor
diablo truckramming el Capitolio, with that
fine detail of your in your car, and the rookie
cop telling you to “flip a bitch.” Poet
Laureate, Poet LowRider, tell me you’re
coming back somehow to read, at SPC,
at Luna’s, en cualquiera fountain
of lattés tibios you care to name, and I
will flip a bitch right there in my tracks,
make instant U-turn so’s not to miss your turn.



For more about José Montoya and his passing, see

Thursday, September 26, 2013

One Hand Held Out

Dennis Schmitz, reading at Sac. Poetry Center
last Monday, Sept. 22
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Here I am in Sonoma County
by the Russian River
working on a screen play
being a ghost writer
for the first time
in my young life
amid a nervous morning
with uptight directors
reading their tarot
before the academy awards
counting on their fortune
with their silent film looks
in hairbreadths of knowledge
and a jetty of insults
directed at other egos,
only wishing Judy Garland
were here
from the Wizard of Oz
whom I once met
at the Punchbowl
back East in Boston
with her needled arm
to cradle you
in your own self pity
of sorrowful blood
yet who sang for me
"I believe in you"
after the crowds left
the bar, not of justice
but of escape,
and now I meet a runaway
from Yorba Linda High
who tells me
she can't go on much more
and suddenly I burst out
into Judy's song
and we save each other
as I lean across her body
on a two-pronged path
and tell her
she is an angel sent to me
and we survive another day.


—B.Z. Niditch

I read in a Gideon Bible
commentary on a cot
where Kerouac slept
for a few nights
that the great Moses
the law giver
gave his kid the name
which means "stranger"
since his wife was
of a different people
than his own
since Moses too was
once upon a time an exile
a stranger in a strange land.
I asked a rabbi and priest
what the lesson was
and they taught me
to save others and rescue
the lost in this world
by knowing we were once
strangers to people
estranged from God,
and we should welcome
new people to our land
and make them feel at home.


—B.Z. Niditch

Nights when I wore
my blue beret
all the time
devouring a croissant
after playing the role
of a dandy
in a French comedy
I met Mona
near a fire hydrant
up on Nob Hill
going to pose
for a painter
it seemed
she had a devotion to.
It was slightly raining
and two show dogs
passed us by
in the wink of an eye
by imaginary light
she caught up with me
translated in the dark
of congealed voices
and showed me
her photos
reminding me
of a famous painting
saying the artist
could not live with
or without her.
I had my Gibson guitar
in my intolerable bag
by the evaporating traffic
and played for her,
later in the week
she confessed
of her needing help
and the Samaritans
whose number I carried
having once met to interview
for my college thesis
the kindly Monica Dickens,
the Samaritan founder
and a descendent of Charles,
who came to her rescue
I now know Mona
you were observed
by a higher power.

 Douglas Blazek was the other reader
at SPC last Monday night
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—B.Z. Niditch

Exiled in his vision
from the train,
telling me his story
of a Russian exiled pianist
with exhaustive memory
let me put him up
for the night
at my friend Maura's loft
since she was in rehearsal
near Warhol's factory
in the days when people
helped others,
those Sixties' nights
with flower children
by secret Zen gardens,
when peace was more
than a concept
for the general will
because our kids
were missed
and dying overseas
in an undeclared war.
I got Sasha his first job
of playing in a Big Apple Club
with a four-handed piano gig
breathing in a new life
and making a new friend.


—B.Z. Niditch

He was cold
in my life jacket
by the gazebo
the strong light
from high-tide currents
between the islands
of seaweed shadows
telling me in my kayak
near the tall grass dunes
he wanted
to be a Kerouac
having read his chart
in the morning paper,
with an eavesdrop of memory
in the Cape Cod Cafe
with his third cup of latte
wishing to be someone else,
and being high
as a drop out
from high school
trying to drown himself
in the bitter tears
of a fearful adolescence
Jim, this young athletic swimmer
who just lost a first meet
to a threatening bully,
reaches out to me
with an all-American smile.
I hand him some brie
and put on radio jazz,
five years later I hear
from the town gossips
Jim was in contention
for an Olympic Medal.


—B.Z. Niditch

This woman
in dizzying red,
fearful of flying,
weeping in laughter
on a bench,
sitting as in oblivion
by an ambulance
having taken so many pills
before the midnight flight
yet managing to roll
a Dutch cigarette,
hides her red pocketbook
and a Spanish shawl.
I play a Madrid love song
for Pillar
in the intermezzo hours
finding out from a TV reporter
who was high himself
she was a diva
on the San Francisco opera scene
she calmed down
with the blues arrangement
as I rehearsed for her
as a minority of one
and had a great gig
that weekend
knowing one hand held out
may wash another one.


Today's LittleNip:
Poetry rescues us from the reality of either boredom or frivolity; it saves us for a life's discovery.
—B.Z. Niditch


Poets will be saddened to hear that Poet Laureate Emeritus of Sacramento José Montoya passed away last night, September 25. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.


San Francisco as seen across the Bay from Tiburon,
scene of last week's America's Cup
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rapunzel, Rapunzel

 Noah Purifoy Foundation
Joshua Tree, CA
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

I had a window office;
He didn’t.
Department politics,
Roll of the dice,
But Cecil was an up-and-coming
Soon-to-be poetic voice
Of a generation. I
Was an aging,
Regional, maybe
Just local poet
Who simply wanted
To finish the degree
And get on with teaching.
But I had
A window office
And Cecil didn’t
Forget it.
He was polite.
I was generous.
It was a Midwestern
University English department
And these things were expected,
Maybe even required.
Every afternoon at three,
Cecil would knock, Smile,
Ask if he could borrow
The window. I would smile,
Nod, be charming
(Always. Even then).
He’d come to watch
The trains: the university
Bordered on the railroad.
(Ship them in, educate them,
Move them out for the next
Batch). Cecil was a railroad
Buff. He’d go to the window,
Open it, hook his hook
(Did I mention he had a hook
For a right hand? Pirates, poets,
Much the same, when you think
About it) into the masonry of
My fourth-floor English
Department office window,
Balance his Reeboks
On the lower sill, hang out
And watch till they’d finished
Making up the freights for the
Afternoon. The trains would
Whistle, leave. Cecil would
Unhook himself, smile, and
Go back to his windowless
(Gave him a poster
Of a Tiffany window once. He
Was not amused) office.
I was always relieved I didn’t
Have to rescue him again.
I knew what the papers
Would say: “B-list, minor
Poet killed in fall from
Even more minor poet
Colleague’s window.”
Cecil would not have been
Flattered, though flattened.
And dead. I would have
Been inconsolable.
And arrested.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Immense blue sky over dry fields.
But at the western treeline, this afternoon
cloud-castles are building, anything but
sinister after months without rain. My puppy
senses changes; all day she’s been
whining her dog-persistence: let’s climb
a beanstalk, chase a dragon, get out
of the house, and make-
believe! So here we are, running past
the schoolyard jungle-gym—climb the ladder,
slide down the slide, through a back gate
into woods beyond. A sudden
wind, as if to slay the dragon, blow the turrets
down. Already the first leafy Rapunzel
is shaking loose her golden hair.
My puppy’s running wild with fall,
it’s going to storm a real-life fairytale.


—Taylor Graham
It used to be the first free breath after the last red
stoplight, driving home. Winding country road
without a warning zone; houses in tones of tree and
loam, half lost in leaves and thoughts of their own.
Now there’s a traffic signal.
No more open gateway-welcome,
unbounded road, a spirit’s license to roam.
How shall I ever find my way home?

Noah Purifoy Foundation
Joshua Tree, CA
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Michael Cluff, Corona, CA

Mangling melons with machetes
Mitch is made for the Marines.

Slamming Slurpees into Susan's scalp
sent Saul to Stanford
as a study specimen.

Tomas is taking time
to work on his trigonometry
the test is next Thursday
time to transfer is tantamount.

Yvette is yawning
yard sales yield
yellowjackets and fever
the yearning yammers
equal yokes and yolks.

Shari shields strangers
from the sting of stratification
'specially those who would not
settle for the sidewalk or sewer
'stead of seeing they do not
slumber Sundays upstairs here.

And Adam refuses to see the velvet eve
that belongs to all
reserves it only for
diamond cutbacks


—Michael Cluff

I hate that your last dance
is over and MacArthur Park
is going to fade into final black
for you, I wish
you did not have to work
so hard for your money
but heaven knows, you did
your job so well
that I will enjoy
the gender sexuality awareness prom
I am chaperone tonight
and will definitely save
that last dance before midnight
for you and your memory
even if I have to do it alone.

And the air all around
the former Twin Towers
will weep for you
and all the several thousand others
it malignantly affected
over ten years ago.


Today's LittleNip:

The flies flow
guppies of the air
and pink paper
outside a museum
near a caboose
strutting its tongue
towards me,
indicating I need to erase
unintended cliches
and fill it up
with validity and impressions
that are true
not filtered through
mental augurs skewering
what I am ordained to say.

—Michael Cluff



Noah Purifoy Foundation
[for more about the Foundation, see
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


This dawn, the old mockingbird—
I know he was an old bird
for his song was very rich and long

made of pure melancholy
and mad joy in the same true notes—

this dawn of this laden day
he filled the brimming sky
that he knew so well with his deep singing.



is the soul
of the long day.
It is lost
for awhile
in half dark
and half light.
It moves through a time
of forget and remember.
The sound that it makes
is shadow.
The place where it goes
is night.

(first pub. in The Human Voice Quarterly, 1968)



a horse on fire streaking across
the horizon its red mane whipping
behind it and the dark sand burning
like a mirror under the igniting hooves


The old lover faces into the sunlight and sees his old lover
in last silhouette and thinks how his blindness fastens beauty
to an old regret, and notices how his own arm is still
attached to some failing gesture as he reaches for a word,
and how her hair is wild against the sky as she turns away,
and how his eye, through a blear, sees how far away the
dusk is from the dawn, though how similar the tone of light
is, just as a thought is recollected in time to fill a conversation. 

And she, in her dark vision, notices how he wears another
rage of dying color on his face, and how his eyes burn
through her as he lowers his arm and finds another silence,
and they stand for a moment, like this, full of time and lack
of time, and some shadow crawls between them like a dog
and licks their shoes which blend into the grass, and a bird
flies by, oh, just in time to save them.



Light lingers past the evening,
reluctant as I to bring
day down like a final wing—

a sky-bird made of such light—
turning to fragments so bright—
to watch it, eyes could turn white.

Just for a moment it’s there,
sweeping the sky like a flare,
though I continue to stare.

The bird of dusk is undone—
last silhouette in the sun,
flown over the horizon.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's beautiful poems and pix! A few notes about area goings-on:

Editor Carol Louise Moon writes that the staff of Sac. Poetry Center's Poetry Now recently made the decision to discontinue the journal's online component. 

Don't forget that the SPC Fall Lecture Series begins this Thursday and will continue on alternate Thursday nights through Dec. 5. See for info.

The latest edition of Ekphrasis, edited by Sacramento's Laverne and Carol Frith, is now available; write to them to purchase a copy.

Available online is the new Solstice edition of Canary: see

I've added some new deadlines to the Submit area on the green board to the right of this column; note especially the Jack Kerouac Poetry Contest in Davis, deadline Sept. 30 (and thanks to Michelle Kunert for the heads-up about that). Michelle notes that winners must be willing to commit to reading at the Beat Conference at the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis on Oct. 4. See for more info.

This will be a busy weekend, both here and in the Bay Area, with both Watershed and 100,000 Poets for Change happening. See the blue board (under the green board at the right) for details.

And finally, we were pleased to hear that Sacramento's Jeanine Stevens' poem, "New Delhi", recently won First Place in The MacGuffin's 18th National Poet Hunt Contest. Judge was Philip Levine. The poem, along with Philip Levine's commentary, will be featured in the Winter 2014 issue of The MacGuffin. Congratulations, Jeanine!


Today's LittleNip:


This is
the silent time
when dawn is crisp and new
and the first sound that starts the day

(first pub. in
The Oakland Tribune, 1960)


—Medusa, with a note that our new Seed of the Week will be Rescue. People save us all the time (and we save ourselves), either literally or figuratively. Write about it and send what saved you to  Or write about something else—anything else! See the Calliope's Closet link at the top of this page for all the SOWs we've planted in the past.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Carpe Diem, Carpe Florem

Jim Moose read at Sac. Poetry Center
last Monday night, September 16, 2013.
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Add the Fox as a central character, he said.
We already had the darkening cloak over Forest,
and one small fire against the Night; a Dog
as companion, recognized by its familiar
breathing in the dark; even in strange woods,
sure-footed as Fox, waking to guide.
Through the night, nothing but tales from beyond
the shadows cast by that small fire; maybe
a clearing in moonlight, too far to reach
without daybreak. Voices of nightbirds, voles,
vibrato of wind in leaves; and of course Fox.
Voices of prophecy and the serious Night.
Our own recounted bestiaries. In truth
there was only one voice slipping from tale
to tale, mind-merging one form of beast
with another. Each of us alone, having forgotten
our proper names; as tonight I’m alone
in the dark with my dog at the edge of Forest.


—Taylor Graham

Through the dark, snow headlight-bright.
Mountain jaws’ black teeth. Slow dawn.
Briefing by headlamp: summit
routes, mechanics of snowpack.
Such brief daylight for a search,
avalanche sun sets early.
Closure: mountain’s alpenglow.
Long mirrors reflect short light.
Winter forgets the faces
we once knew, features ghosted
in mercury, wisps of breath
no longer visible but
in memory, in the mirrors
behind our backs as we pass.
Early nightfall and late dawn
make dark for longer dreaming.
The lost ones reappear, merge
together, or separate.
Lately, I wake wondering
which is real, the waking or
the dream. His other-bright eyes.


—Taylor Graham

Days are running shorter now, the nights
go long. The thistle’s dead as summer-down.
Rambling Rosie, fleecy in French-taupe,
and her sister Sophie; broken ropes;
headlong-crush against the gate; gate lets go.

Off run ewes to raid the neighbors’ green.
We need a new gate, with catch-space
in-between: pliers and tie-wire, baling twine—
a sort of turnstile, jerrybuilt design.
That’s that. Now Sophie and Rose must grow

happy-fat on old dry hay and fresh-pick
garden clover till the greening winter rains
pass over. They’ll sing their grazing-song
of days gone shorter than the nights are long.


—Michael Cluff, Corona

Within the slowing dawns
elongating evenings
winter whispers in conspiracy
with the fall to let in the hiding
darkness of recovery
refurbishing of expended bliss
to lie in reserve
until the equinox
of mid-year
bursts upon one
the days grow plumper
to accommodate activity
for a prescribed while.

Ann Conradsen also read at SPC
last Monday night.
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Jimbo’s with the kids jumpin’ rope because he’s:

 —Richard Hansen, Sacramento

Do you know just who he is?

the little best buh buh in the world is

Oh I think I Do know Who
That silly little puppy that won best in show

the little best buh buh likes people food
the little best buh buh has a tail too
when the little buh buh
has to poo
he’ll let
you know
all about that too
Do you know just who he is ?
the little best buh buh in the world is

Oh I think I Do know Now
The little best buh buh is not a Cow

buh buh has fur and tail that wags
buh buh has a nose and breath that’s great
buh buh likes to chase little squirrels all day
and silly little kitty cats run away
the Best little Jimbo’s the little Best Bo
He’s the Best Dog in the Great Big World
And Now You Do know Who he is
the little best buh buh in the world is


—Richard Hansen

I feel such bliss
I say to myself
“I wish I could bottle this”
we’re lucky we have each other
that we can be so close
spending hour after hour
yah know
I once dated a man that had
a penis the size of my index finger
No. I didn’t laugh
and anyway it wouldn’t have mattered
he was used to the way women reacted
having had so many in the sack
and he did just fine with it
But Oh! Guess what? He was married
well just a bit
the man with a little dick
turned out to be
one hell of a big prick
and the girls in the office
never warned me about him


—Richard Hansen

All agreed
What was seen on a muddy field of green
was rather unseemly to say the least!

A grapevine was whining
and all the creatures wondered why
so a weary whippoorwill whispered:
“Why are you whining?”
But at first the vine declined to specify why it was whining
while many creatures became wide-eyed bewildered by this willful remission
Not the giraffe
it laughed
and was quite relaxed
because its hooves were in wet mushy mud
which felt good
all the other animals decided
to follow the tall fellow into the mud to wantonly wallow
when suddenly
the grapevine’s whining subsided
and in the time occupied by five long sighs
the vine finally surmised a reply that was wise:
“It took me all summer to muster this luscious cluster
which contain my seeds
and they need to be
far away from me
because after all I can reproduce asexually
if need be
and having damn kids growing at my feet…”
But the grapevine never finished its sentence
because the giraffe came over and ate all of it
and all the animals became ignorant
It’s true!
Because now there’s no grapevine
to hear the news through
and no animal could be so brave
to stick around for the massive news update
giraffe flatulence is totally disastrous to all the animals’zez olfactory glands
Whenever the giraffe takes a piss
which is
after all
a waterfall from such a tall creature it's hard to miss
all are reminded that
Ignorance is Bliss!


Today's LittleNip(s):

. . . so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache. . .

                       * * *

. . . only do not forget, if I wake up crying
it's only because in my dream I'm a lost child
hunting through the leaves for your hands . . . 

—Pablo Neruda


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors, including Pat Pashby, who was inspired by last Saturday's Neruda quote in the Kitchen to go exploring again amidst his works, and who came up with a couple of beautiful passages of his for today. 

 Danyen Powell also read at SPC 
last Monday night. Tonight the readers will be
Dennis Schmitz and Douglas Blazek.
That's 25th & R Sts., Sacramento, 7:30pm. 
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Winding of the Vine

Light Through Leaves
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Annie Finch 
For Mabon (fall equinox)

Our voices press
from us
and twine
around the year's
fermenting wine

Yellow fall roars
Over the ground.
Loud, in the leafy sun that pours
Liquid through doors,
Yellow, the leaves twist down

as the winding
of the vine
pulls our curling

Glowing in wind and change,
The orange leaf tells

How one more season will alter and range,
Working the strange
Colors of clamor and bells

In the winding
of the vine
our voices press out
from us
to twine

When autumn gathers, the tree
That the leaves sang
Reddens dark slowly, then, suddenly free,
Turns like a key,
Opening air where they hang

and the winding
of the vine
makes our voices
turn and wind
with the year’s
fermented wine

One of the hanging leaves,
Deeply maroon,
Tightens its final hold, receives,
Finally weaves
Through, and is covered soon

in the winding
of the vine—

Holding past summer's hold,
Open and strong,
One of the leaves in the crown is gold,
Set in the cold
Where the old seasons belong.

Here is my crown
Of winding vine,
Of leaves that dropped,
That fingers twined,
another crown
to yield and shine
with a year’s
fermented wine.


—Medusa, wishing you the best of the new season. To help you celebrate the Autumnal Equinox, see

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Serious Night

—Art by Ho Yin Mok, Davis

—D.R. Wagner, Locke

And plain the lips of flame
Lifted himself into the air
And he could smell the burning
The forest took into its woody
Body and flung the beasts of the wood
Onto the plain but told them
They would become tribes
And live as men for ten thousand
Years and then resume their
Ways as beasts and in this
They would be safe.

We think events like these to be
Tales from beyond the fence
But here the air is clear,
The night is muscled swift
That proclaims such tales
As if they were the word of law
And damned again to fire
Those who cannot find a truth
There at all.

Know you are coming strong
On some thing you cannot know
Unless you make the trek
Yourself.  The world’s variety
Becomes a fickle vanity
And spits us out again and again

Sometimes as trees,
Sometimes the form of the lion,
Sometimes a voice of prophecy
Slippery from being handled
So carelessly we miss the changing
Of the form and tell ourselves
That this indeed is real,
When it is only banks of dreaming
Plundered by cheap tellers of tales.


—D.R. Wagner

The child he go speaking to the angel.
Only the dog understand him.
He makes three different sounds
With his voice.  He says IT IS LATE AT NIGHT.
The grasses beneath the moon chortle.
They make rustling and call the fox in.

The fox can only come for a little while.
Somebody waking the bear up.  He was
Sleeping from all the berries and now
This damn fox is yapping and making
The voles and the little mice go chasing
Moths and night crickets all around the place.

Somebody better tell him about the tall
People who look like sticks.  How they come
Down spilling on the ground, all the tings
Dey are.  We hear them.  We can make
Dem sounds.  Listen up child.

When the angel come to this and the dog
Go running around making his big barking
Sound, don’t go being afraid.  Pull up the
Grasses around you.  Make a loincloth
With them bright moon grasses.
We all will come to make the dance
With you.  Not a worry.  We all will come.

 Big Dog
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

Does the mirror multiply the light,
Proclaiming it to be real light
Or does it know its own horror
And tell the tale as if from
Horseback, riding hard through
Each moment, begging for blindness.

Knowing it will not bring relief
From the vibrating reflections.
Witness to nothing, but remembering
All that it sees, evidence
Tumbling toward the bottom of the hill
Not knowing how any adventure
Will end, expecting each moment
To be the last, promising its
Own children so that it may watch.


—D.R. Wagner

A branch reaches down and touches me.
It knows my name.  I call it
By its secret name found only in dreams.

I was on the walks of the labyrinth
Stuttering to find its sounds.  I became
A harp to its fingers and I speak
To you of how curious the truth has become.

Sliding off the back of a wind
You thought familiar but were
So wrong about, you were found
Weeping in your bed, too tired
To rise.  Do not worry.

So many have been found here
Before you.  We ask you to turn
Your head and the world
Will become new.

We ask that you become
An artist by doing this
Even if no one understands.
The large umbrella cloth
Of the sure-footed will cloak you.
We will rejoice in every tree.

 Dog Collection
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

You have free will but your soul has none.
There is something nameless and
Barely able to take form
That peers up, upon us from
The floors of sleep, always a night move.

A recognized face in a darkening garden,
A luminous glow seen moving
Through a labyrinth, a flower
Made of ice shattering before your eyes.

The bark of a great tree that
Has our face attached to it
But which is incapable of speech.

These things dance upon our eyes,
Bow to one another, change partners,
Find a broken chalice, cracked
And hiding in a corner, unaware
It has value as a stair step leading
Downward in some other's dream.


—D.R. Wagner

I cannot wait any longer.
Too soon the morning will come
And the curl of your back
Will move away from our sleeping.
And the light will crack open
All the work we have made
Of ourselves this night.

I will watch my body dissolve
As a salt into the clearest liquid
And we will be as we never were before,
Plodding and stumbling down
The roadways toward some village,
Town or city, aware only of our
Traveling and the terrible
Ourselves, a cargo neither wanted
Or precious but necessary
For any kind of life at all.


—D.R. Wagner

Before you even feel it.
Before you see the burns.
Before the serious night enters
And hides in the corner of the room

Before the questions start.
Before the walls turn red.
Before the dreams come
Carrying their cloth bags, damp
With slender breathing.

Before these things,
Language will stop.
I will hold you
With my eyes, as if
All other instruments
Were broken and we
Had no right to come here.

The thickness of our bodies
Shall be of great comfort
Then.  The heavy verbs
Of our movements shall
Appear as dance.

Then, I will kiss you
With my lips full upon
All that is your reason.
And we will be transported
Together.  And they who chance to see
These things will be unable to remember
Our names or if we stood
Before them.  For them,
And their time, we shall
Have only this recognition: love.


Today's LittleNip:

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.

—Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets



—Photo by D.R. Wagner


Friday, September 20, 2013

New-Seasoned Air

Full Harvest Moon
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

It don't mean a thing
if it ain't got that swing  

—Duke Ellington


Buzzing along the Big Apple
on my rented bicycle
waiting for the Duke record
in the store by early sunset
with the paradoxes
of the Autumnal equinox
composing between sounds
from the chilled-out night
my weatherbeaten head
takes out all matter of facts
make my way by my map
by city graffiti
on decrepit dark carpets
still alive with alibis
of how I am alive with music.


—B.Z. Niditch

You knew summer was over
in California, 2005
after dad played
Kreisler's Caprice
on his own German violin
in the early sunset
on the porch
and the hour grew
shorter along the Bay
with our watery breath
would have its own wave
like the rhythm
and movement
of the equinox
at the last moment
when the applause died
from each family member
he tried to believe
it was a mirage
that summer would go on,
but a pool of eyelid tears
like in a disaster film
filled the hall
and everyone knew
Autumn was coming.


—B.Z. Niditch

On the set no one complains
of watching
the blazing idleness
on early Sunset Boulevard
flanked by crowds 
still card calling
on Norma Desmond
when things get rough
and we need a touch
of your silent screen magic
to touch up our lines
when it's hard to remember
the summer days,
here our stopwatch stops
in the Autumnal equinox
along the West Coast
forgetting all caterpillars
and moth wings
in our past life
to the raucous roll
in sound and color
of your moving picture,
all the pop culture notes
affirmative mischief
as flaming nettles of fame
still flicker knowing
we will not lose you, Norma
just let us eavesdrop on you
striking the midnight hour
of a withering pursuit
in this new-seasoned air.

 Moon and Tree
—Photo by Katy Brown

—B.Z. Niditch

After your reading
you told us of finding
a diamond stud
in Frisco
under a bed
of a flop house
where Kerouac slept
after doing imitations
with a bounty hunter
floored by the piano
at door stop time
playing Ravel
for the left hand
after the last war
punch drunk
in the fever
by a no exit sign
which shaped you
in your loss
catching a chill
from the Bay rains
in your sleeping bag
half opened
with the hands
of a blanket angel
wanting a juice
from every bar
of brawling justice
on the other side
of sunlight's road.


—B.Z. Niditch

Weighed down by first light
of the sun on the sister river
flowing its scales on waves
the sea whirred on winds
along the weeds and dunes
and dawn's helpless waters
and here on my roped kayak
by crags enigmas
anchored for my early voyage
amid orange's tall trees
finding a shell is pleasure
to kneel and gather it
from one 's wet fingers
for a moment's perfection
without worry yet feeling
like Melville
on his meanderings
without a history, only exile.


—B.Z. Niditch

wild bird calls
along a black sun
in grey flight
neon sky drapes
above dark water
earth-wise at dawn
along the burnt 
coast of Port Lligat
rooted in pensive
memory purges
its nocturnal absence
on verdant rocks
sad aging twilight
is desolate absence
that pales all arbor
in liquid solitude.

Moon in Tree
 —Photo by Katy Brown

—B.Z. Niditch

morning opens umbrellas in windows

other still rains when hearing resounding

drums from the fifth-floor attic with more

meaning than the quartet on the radio

all momentum and coagulating festival

prose poems that you showed an elderly man

in the perimeter of budding flashes

when the sky is absent in early dawn

when the jazz flashed from my fiddle head

wounding you when my history

was abolished in the Sixties

on my peace armband quivering from hiding

my insulating translatable voice of chancing

survival and moving eyes of tradition.


—B.Z. Niditch

One-timed, then two
by love and music
where competition
is everywhere
in shadowless words
played out in these boxes
with frozen-out regrets
in the big city
but I will let my poems
created out of sunshine
and my sax made of rain
dissolve into whirlwinds
of cool resolve
to rip my passions out
of my being
pushing away these boxes
of unspoken clean lines
and have my fling
not to wound
but to be a free spirit
with a riff of melodies
unspoken or unchained
rocking between
a vagabond and sky
beyond reach
of the underworld.


Today's LittleNip(s):

—Caschwa, Sacramento

We are going to need
Everyone’s help on this:

We need to gaze into the
Heavens and tell our
Higher power

That He forgot to turn off
The lights at night.

          * * *

You've got to find some way of saying it without saying it.

—Duke Ellington


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors: Carl Schwartz (Caschwa), for his delicate little nocturne; to B.Z. Niditch for riffs on music and the seasons; and to Katy Brown, who reminds us that September is the Moon Festival in Taiwan—see or for more about the Moon (Mid-Autumn) Festival.

 Moon Flare
—Photo by Katy Brown