Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tricks And Treats!

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

They said there were caves
Along the banks
Further down Spoon River
Where the Twilight Sisters
Lived. Find them, spend
The night, you’d never
Come back. Kept
Looking. Never found
Them. Always came back.

Joshua Tree, California
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Kevin Jones

They think we just strap
It to the back of the broom
And take off. Ever tried that?
Nah. Toss it all, caldron
And all into the back
Of the black El Camino
And head off to the next

—Photo by Katy Brown

—Kevin Jones

Glowed green
Just across that
Last berm in the
Stripmines back then
In Illinois.
Follow it, you’d come
Back at dawn pale, tired,
Dripping of shale mud.

Chalk It Up, Sacramento, 2013
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Michael Cluff, Corona

Leticia Wyatt
the choral leader
always heard Sinatra,
Streisand, Caruso
and Lanza serenading
the puce-purple panel walls
as she left the lift
as she called it
but when inside she endured
Jagger, Cher, Cobain, Madonna and Fergie
in ghostly person singing "The Time Warp" again
and again
and again
and again

when the electric bill
went unpaid by the slowly sinking
insolvent school
and she was between levels
and again
and again

—Photo by Katy Brown

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Cabochon sleuths milling
these creatures seeking
the advantage,
ever-vigilant and dogged,

sometimes crossing their legs
to slip by.
Ugly behind the eyeballs,
wretchedly alone;
lacking ethics and propriety.

Repugnant to the core
and bafflish, too.
(Willy-whimpers, all of them.)
biting me
adding injury to their insult.

(first pub. in Poetry Now, 2007)

Lucky Mojo
—Photo by Cynthia Linville


a large black spider who waits above my chair
as I sleep and dream of a lover's hand.
Among my gray he finds a light-red strand.
He weaves while running fingers through my hair.
Among the locks of auburn, gray and dense
he finds a strand more pleasing on the crown. And—
the spider tucks it in, I am convinced.

—Carol Louise Moon

—Photo by Katy Brown

—Carol Louise Moon

This piano’s thrashed and trashed—
sittin’ on the sidewalk, FREE to anyone
who can afford to pay a piano mover…
burly, strong, trucky. Let’s move it, Boys.
I can’t wait to play a little honky-tonk.

When I was a young-un I heard a piano
at school. I was headed for the asphalt
to watch the tarantulas migrating across
the playground on the first day back to
school, movin’ to the music of the piano.
Music teacher’s fingers movin’, toes
tappin’, choir singin’, tarantulas walking’
and me jumpin’ on hot asphalt.

Now, I want me a free piano from just
down the street. A FOR SALE sign, broken
keys, spider webs with spiders livin’ it up
on the back side of this new, old piano.

Bring back the good old, hot August days
on asphalt, honky-tonk music, kids singin’
happy songs, big fat spiders hoppin’ on a
hot playground, and me runnin’ around
in circles laughin’—with thoughts of my
own, new FREE piano.

—Photo by Katy Brown

Today's LittleNip:
—Kevin Jones

The witch smiles. She knows
She’ll sink. Or float. Whichever.
She has spells. She thinks.



—Photo by Katy Brown

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

One Day at a Rhyme

Pumpkinhead doll with
Lara Gularte's cat, Sharkbait.
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Gray cat
perched on her lap
waiting for All Hallows Eve
in a spider-lacework cubby
designed for pumpkin dreams.


—Taylor Graham

You asked me for some magic.
This young, dim morning of early dew
when the leaves are falling in every hue;
garden bloomers have done their due
and chicory’s hidden its spells of blue,
when scarce a sunbeam wanders through
and only the chilly gloom is new—
here’s pearly-everlasting, forever true.
Will this be magic enough for you?

—Taylor Graham

Missy’s dressed for Halloween.
By shadows cast across an old garage,
it’s late afternoon; too early
for trick-or-treat.
She’s a witch with a pointed cap,
she pipes on a magic whistle.
Could her cloak be just three
trash bags?
A striped tom purrs
against her ankles, weaving
cats-cradles, casting his craft upon
her: the knowing of birds, dogs,
lizards, and naturally cats;
a spell to hold her long after she
outgrows this costume.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Michael Cluff, Corona

The light touches
the tide just right
the pirates
fall back into
the sleep not given
to them in films and theme parks.
In half a month,
the moon tussles
the waters
in a new, opposite direction
the lure of pillage
becomes something
most dreamers
for a bit of REM rest


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Almost alive obscure voices
in Salem by the witch museum
the school class ventured
near the Druid holiday
on October thirty-first
near All Souls and Saints Day
we put on Arthur Miller's play
about demagogy and demonology
of New England's Puritan times
about the trials of those cast
to be demon possessed
or sacrilegious,
here in the waning strobe lights
the young would-be stars
of those who would act
at our rehearsals
would go to our workshops
thinking it would be fun
yet the woman who played Hecuba
had a flashing nightmare
of her own prophetic damnation
the day before we were to go
on stage
she acted so strangely
like a stammering succubus
incarnated into the Druid role
with such force of mysterious habit
she unfolded the great meaning
of the horror sequence
about how lower depths of politics
with uncompromising unbelief
can cast out truth
in her brilliantly real interpretation,
the applause took our breath away
and gave the critics
a veiled damned relief
when the performance was over.


OCTOBER 27 (for Silvia Plath)
—B.Z. Niditch

Near your Cambridge Apartment
voices of terrifying torment
enslaved the parallel bars
in your brilliant mind
trying to set you back
from fears of infidelity
and sacking your father's cruelty
with the so-called arrangement
when your husband was no gent,
with unreality of mankind
you lived dramatically
on a timely suffering stasis
in a borderline of solitude
no one understood,
surviving like us all
one day at a rhyme
abandoned erratically
on the basis and Anabasis
by living on a poetry's dime.


Today's LittleNip(s):


The bars are wrapped in velvet
My jailers escaped long ago
I will not can not leave now
Better the Devil I know



Like Ape-shit or Bat-
I'm crazy but I ain't
As crazy as that



What do you mean
My beauty sleep didn't work
In future please
Feel free to lie to me

—LittleNip(s) by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch



 —Photo by Ann Privateer, Davis

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


—Poems and Photos by 
Joyce Odam


We wait for someone to ignite
our loves. Why is this so? Are we
nothing until another proves our worth?

How can we answer what is unknown—
it has not yet been revealed?
We are poor examples.

The muse is a myth, but she holds you
in her power. You can feel the words begin.
But she falters, forgetting what comes next?

Why is this a problem of memory, a simple
lapse of self forgetting self?  No mirror
answers or agrees with the questions.

Questions are for amnesia,
which is another life,



You see these scars, the way they dramatize
my beauty and my age, the way they shine
against the softest light when I implore
toward all those who stare—who will believe
what they believe of scars?  I can’t explain.
I simply woke one year and they were there,
all healed, but sensitive to certain touch,
the way they ache when I am cold, or scared,
as if some memory still works its way
toward the obvious—or better yet—
the lurid gossip of some history

that some suppose.  I simply own these scars.
Whatever life inflicts is what they mean—
whatever I have suffered or suppressed—
or given up as sacrifice—or turned
away from some destruction that I sought
when I betrayed myself—oh, long ago
before my mirror pulled against my life—
though not with vanity, but with some truth
of having learned what one can never learn
except for scars.  I’m not ashamed—or proud;
I simply own them.  How they mesmerize

my staring when I study them and wonder
why I never noticed them before.
What scars? What scars? You ask. What scars? Why these,
these long white marks that crisscross everywhere,
that raise and pucker—that never will lie smooth
beneath my eyes that see—my hands that touch—
these scars.  And you—now that you see them too,
you turn away.  Your hand recoils, your eyes
avert, and you have nothing more to say.
You wanted love.  You wanted truth.  And, yes,
you even wanted me—but not with scars.



What is it
we have forgotten
so we cannot praise it?

Did it not belong to us once?

Then let us praise our lack of it
to honor our endurance.
We must revise our needs.



though I want to know,

without clarity of meaning;
I want to know

in validation
for the concept agreement

of my intuitive sense
of language,

in the
range of complexity;

I want to know its otherness—
the new truth—

the distance

its variance of meaning
that never quite pins down what I ask.


shimmer and probe
what darkness hides

a face gone old
a blur of music

a rumor of




time that enlarges
with reason to be sad



We talk of shadow-stuff in the quiet where it
is blue, and where you use words I know, and
I use words back to you; and we are shadow-
stuff in the use of words and what they mean,
as is love, always in silhouette, back to the light,
using words, expression lost in the shadow that
love holds for everyone—oh, I know shadow-
stuff is all we have of life and love—don’t argue
this—I know it’s true, some words more so than
others—let us begin our conversation.



I’ve danced and played the fool
for men who danced the rule;

I followed their brief lead—
buttered their ego-feed.

But one just walked in rain
with me.      With him, I’ve lain.


                             Feel the artistry / moving
               through you / and be silent—Rumi

Impose your heart upon the silence,
what is beheld in thought and dreams—
the hope of doubt—and oh, the doubt of hope.

What fails
is something powerful and strained—
a shadow and a blow.

The art of understanding is beyond the mind
but not the heart—it’s in the silence—
not the blare of thought that so befuddles.

What is, that is not known?—mystery
its own—more powerful than clues
or any solving that will be.

Take up the trust again.
It helps you look where nothing is.
And helps you look again.


Today's LittleNip:

I’m October.
I’m moody.
I don’t know what I want.
I want it all.

(first pub. in
One Dog Press,
October, 1996)


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's tasty potpourri! The season is here: this week's Seed of the Week is Witchcraft. Ever had witchcraft performed on you? Seductive eyes, a shiny new car—there are lots of ways we can have spells cast on us, both good and bad, times when we wake up and say, What the heck just happened?? Tell us about those times and send the results to No deadline on SOWs, though. Just let the muse cast a spell on you. To quote Joyce quoting Rumi: 

               Feel the artistry 
               moving through you 
               and be silent

Oh—and speaking of the season, head on over to Central Library tonight at 6:30 to hear the works of Edgar Allan Poe [somebody needs to tell The Sacramento Bee that Edgar's middle name is spelled A-l-l-a-n] read by Bob Stanley, Jeff Knorr, and John Allen Cann [Allen spelled with an e]. That's 828 I Street, Sacramento.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Coming Season

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis

for Halloween
I play the mother,
father, child, the many
on this night of deception
after the day job's demands
and look to see who you will play.


—Ann Privateer

when do they mingle
how do they interact
when will they be one?

you are well connected
the sun, the moon, the stars
seem to know where to go.

I am disconnected
inside, outside, belonging
where? the estranger

of gravel and sandy particulates
so frayed, burnt, frazzled
I could drink a lake of newness

and still long to fuse
with a moment
into release.


—Michael Cluff, Corona
Professor Henshaw
noticed Uriah Heep
entering the conveyance
at 10:32 on a Thursday night
the obsequious one
just kept bowing
until his head detached
and ended up on the teacher's
dead black wingtip shoes.


Kristie Payne
was shocked to see
a wisp of a spectre
hiding in the corner
late Monday,
the spittin' image
of Emily Dickinson
both were not shocked
by the dead fly
right at the edge
of their granny clodhopper feet.


Nancy noticed
right after entering
from the first floor Chem lab
that the salt of tears
could not easily disfigure
formica and bad brass fixtures
as it had the beaker
a few minutes ago
just under her upset eyes.

And the sound of her long-lost
love, Lorenzo,
crying himself,
in the space
about three times as big
as his permanent house
now in Lycott Cemetery.


or one such
not too long ago,
Edmund, the just-hired
history instructor,
saw his predecessor,
Dr. Ludwig
enter right upon
his brown penny loafers
and argyle socks' gartered heels
which was a surprise
that late at any night.

The previous professor
was carrying his own
guillotined head
with heavy eyelids
and grimacing jowls—
too many French Revolution
re-actings on Bastille Day
in Berrydale Park had caught
up with him.

 Folsom Tiles
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

This morning I snapped a cell-photo in the city
courtyard tiled in desert-tones of sand.
My picture transmuted browns and grays into
purples and blues that escaped perhaps an artist’s
brush of aquarelles as he sat at easel there,
applying colors to canvas before he packed up
his pallet and imagination, and went away.
Those colors live in air, to wash my photo just
then snatched by shutter-click. Color-squares,
a quilt sewn of remnants, jigsaw puzzle pieces
from assorted lives and boxes, autumn valley
tree-scape, seashore, cathedral stained glass,
all wishing to be put back together in a whole
design. Ghost images of what, for one split-
heartbeat, was. A flock of birds whose feathers
were once an old woman’s weathered hair. Bits
of the tree-frog’s song in my afternoon garden.

—Taylor Graham

My dog was supposed to find you. You left your
car and wandered among the pillars of City Hall
as if weaving cats-cradles, and then went jay-
walking across streets and lawns. A peacock
crossed our path, as if expecting us to stop and
bow. My dog wanted that bird. “No peacock!”
I told her. She sighed and resumed her trail.
There was a fence around the Animal Park
where my dog sniffed the air like it was alive
with bears, lions, and jackals. She quivered,
her tail a lowered sword. I told her the fence
was meant to keep the wild within strict limits.
Unlike my mind, my dreams, and my dog’s



over-shaded by oak trees—dark thoughts
against blue sky—a blue oak
where the speckled hawk nested above
golding grass. Voices, not of angels,
but sheered and transmuted by distance.
The dead TV antenna (c. 1980) on the roof
catches them, messages unwinding
like an insect hum, truer than anything
the news reports, filtering through shingles
to fill the house when we’re asleep,
or absent. That vestigial antenna searches
the airwaves for old movies, hoping
to find bit-parts of the man who built this
house. And we—we built the fences.
When I open the gate, I feel the vibration
of T-posts and stockwire transmitting
our last-night’s dreams along the corridors
of sky, and the imprint of our breath.

—Taylor Graham


Today's LittleNip:

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Too poor to buy a box
The old fisherman put
Everything in his hat

Hooks, lures, bait
Extra line, everything
So WHAT? He’d say

Never guessing that
In Medusa’s Kitchen
He was really wearing

A SOW hat.



—Photo by Ann Privateer

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Hanging Lures
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Jane Blue, Sacramento

and mother taught us the word
viviparous, as we knelt
on the pier at Monterey
a drop line twisted
around driftwood, a lead sinker—
we caught shiners, perch, the word
meant young swam live
from a veined sac slit
cleaning a female

but mostly we pulled out bluefish

mother fished off rocks
with supple bamboo
and humming reel; I stayed
down in the mirrors
of tidepool water; distant

I can still see mother's back
the loud suction
swallowing of the sea, mother
turns, mouthing a warning
across wind, across
pools of sea anemone, sea

she waited to catch ling cod, green
flesh like fruit
and cabezone that ripped air
with its crooked fighter's jaw

oh, she could not get enough
of the sea; even went into it
bringing home three salmon, each
tall as a girl, melon-colored
inside, sweet

the bluefish disappeared
and the otter mother showed us
lying on their backs in kelp
cracking abalone

they say the otter have returned
but I never will

we moved inland, followed
the striped bass, known
to grow huge in the strait—

everyone used the drop line there
crowded together on the long pier
at Carquinez, close but quiet

invisible as possible, the striper
can see you, the slight movement
of your line, so smart

me, somehow, I let down a barb
into the bony ring
finger of my left hand

mother didn't know what to do
had to ask a man, a stranger
to cut it out with his knife

(First pub. in Landing Signals from 
Sacramento Poetry Center, 
and Now that I am in the Light I See 
by Jane Blue, Konocti Books)



Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Serious Thing

Flat River, Locke
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke


The land is flat to the horizon.
Oak trees, dark thoughts on the landscape,
Seem only inches tall as they pour across
The golden grasses.

High above, from the north, slices of silver
Show though the painted blue.
These are not angels.  Their voices,
The roar of jet engines barely
Audible.  We are surrounded by distance.

Through this landscape, a brighter silver
Thread of the river unwinding.
Meandering into sloughs and
Green-scummed backwaters
Dreamy with egret and heron,
Kingfishers and beaver, the sounds
Of cricket and frogs, a steady
Hum of myriad insects.  These songs
Populate the river and the air.

This is the place.  The house
Of the sun.  The house of the tule fog,
The house of the gifts of the earth.
The great valley.  The great room.
The house of grace for all.



The house recedes in the morning fogs.
Now it is here, now it is gone.  From an upstairs
Window a dull yellow light of a candle, lit late
In the nearer dawn rather than a companion for
The entire night.  I lift my hand and make a greeting.
Here we go.

I notice something has been stolen from the pain
Of seeing this place as from a dream.  I am feeling the veil
But unable to push it away.  There is a piano playing
Somewhere but I think it is another’s dream moving
In this sea air.  It attracts dreamers like gulls to fish.
The long gliding of bird bodies and a soundless beacon
Struggles to throw the quilt aside and see what is really
Happening in this moment.  Here we go.

The mouth is still moist.  I was there.  I was there.
Who are you anyway?  Why would we be here together?
I need to be able to see you but at this moment we are both
Without bodies.  Is this the currency of dreaming?

Here we go loop de loop.
Here we go loop de li.
Here we go loop de loop.
The gulls in the morning circle
In closer.  They have seen us
Before.  They seem to be
Expecting something from us.


Souls within souls
Blown here in the form
Of flocks of birds,
Coursing through shadowed
Woods.  Sometimes they twinkle

As incomprehensible miracles
Across the rows upon rows
The mausoleums make in this place.

They are the sentences of the dead,
A language of bodies dispersed
Into the quiet of books.

The dark sweep of a library
Hallway reaching back further
And further into ashes.


We see an occasional
Painting, or perhaps our own
Reflection as we gaze into
The coolness of the cistern
In the middle of the garden.

We manage to stay within
Strict limits:  If you are
Breathing you can be here with me.
If you are not breathing
You become part of the deception,
The parade jingling through
The cemeteries. All has
Become vague and
Seems to stand still.

I wish for the sky to slope
Down from the mountains,
Hold me in that ceiling
Of its dusk and glory,
Make me listen for eternity
As if such a thing were possible.



The great shapes of the night
Move around us.  We play
At naming them, inventing
Punctuations to see if we
Can direct the shadows
That catch glints of gold,
Liquid silver, an arduous
Munching at memory
That loves to haunt
These places.

We really cannot afford
To be this careless.
After all, the night
Is a serious thing.

We continue to build corridors
For dreams to wander,
Canals for nameless fears.

We visit the outskirts
Of the night with its
Huge walls and empty palaces
Where echoes repeat
Vague memories of garden
Pathways, dim labyrinths
That lead to empty patios
Where one might hear
The distant ring of a telephone
As if it were part of an
Even greater plan than
This unchangeable landscape,
This perfection of form.


The clouds were trying to tell us something
Again.  Not about the weather or about water
But about the nature of the night.  They shuttered
As if they had souls.  They made marks in the air
Describing the space between the stars.

They seemed inexhaustible in their gesticulations.
They said it was because we had eyes and could
See eternity.  But no, we were sitting in a field,
Eating black bread and discussing swords and geometry,
Maps and the animals seen by Kenneth Patchen.

We loved things too much and we were ever ready
To think the clouds might be correct about
The night.  But we were eating grapes
And drinking water and you were telling
How you had put your tongue on the moon
One night in April and would always remember
It fondly.  The clouds could not break their bad habits.
Their minds were always slipping and changing.
The night could hide behind them and still they would
Always settle for less and always begged for an ancient
Language, one that would forget any personal

I stood up and looked at them boiling and tossing.
“Quiet yourselves, dear clouds,” I said.
“You will have to settle for these words today.
It is all we have.  Forget our names and tell
Us something about Edinburg or Prague or
Even Buenos Aires.  Join us for lunch.
We will not ask for explanations.”



Found it on a steep bank of the creek.
It seemed to have been there for quite awhile.
There was a fine green moss covering most of it

Except for some parts that still
Looked away from the world.

I hadn’t realized it was gone
Until Taylor’s rescue dog began
Behaving strangely in a poem.

It kept moving close then away,
Whining and whining to get attention.

It took hours to get it up off the ground
And back to where it should be.

The night glistened like wet souls
When it saw it in place again.
The moon looking at us as if this
Was some kind of cosmic game. 


Memories, the blisters of dreams
Well up on whatever we call skin
In our sleeping.

You claim there are flights of stairs
That, despite their solution to travel,
Wander in and out of labyrinths,
Claiming, echoes like victories,
That time is singular.  I pause
To think and am covered with roses.

The time I have here, made of gold,
Made of letters and of flashes of light,
Has allowed the white of the purest white
To pass though our very flesh.  We no longer
Have kings, our faces might be anyone's face.
It becomes more and more possible that yesterday
Belonged to the moon, that we were not there,
That the story we wanted to tell is in its death throes,
Days and nights confused on our hands. "Which
Ring shall we wear this evening?  Which is North?"

We find a chance to let ourselves back into
Streets we know and are able to find our way
Through, back to see our homes disintegrating
Before us, dissolving on the tongue like communion
Wafers. "This is my body."  We are called by familiar
Voices.  Before long we will remember who it is
We are, why we have come this way, where
Our center is, why our skin plays over us
As if it were a cloth of pure images, memories.


Today's LittleNip:


When I looked down
At the table I could see
The poem with a train
Inside of it, steam locomotive,
Blowing steam, highballing
Through the night, stars
Streaming across the sky.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner, and reminding you that when Anne Rudin was Mayor, she proclaimed October 26 Sacramento Poetry Day. Happy Poetry Day!

D.R. Wagner and Pat Grizzell performed
music and poetry in Grass Valley last Tuesday night

Friday, October 25, 2013

Like The Gazelle

—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Gabriela Mistral, 1889-1957

Today I saw a woman plowing a furrow. Her hips are 
broad, like mine, for love, and she goes about her work
bent over the earth.

I caressed her waist; I brought her home with me. She
will drink rich milk from my own glass and bask in the
shade of my arbors growing pregnant with the pregnancy
of love. And if my own breasts be not generous, my son
will put his lips to hers, that are rich.

(trans. from the Spanish by Langston Hughes)


—Gabriela Mistral

Fineness of midnight.
I hear the nodes of the rosebush:
the sap pushes, raising the rose.

I hear 
the burnt stripes of the Bengal
tiger: they don't let him sleep.

I hear 
someone's poem
and in the night it swells in him
like the sand dune.

I hear
my mother asleep,
breathing for us both.
(I sleep inside her.
I'm five.)

I hear the Rhone
descending and carrying me like a father
blind in blind foam.

Then nothing.
I am falling
inside the walls of Arles
full of sun . . .

(trans. by David Garrison)


—Gabriela Mistral

Don't sing: a song
always sticks to your
tongue: the song that was to be surrendered.

Don't kiss: the kiss
by a strange curse
always lingers where the heart doesn't reach.

Pray, pray, for it is pleasing, but know
that your greedy tongue won't say
the only Lord's Prayer to save you.

And don't call on death for mercy,
for in the flesh of immense whiteness
a live shred feels the rock
that smothers you
and the voracious worm upbraiding you.

(trans. by David Garrison)


—Gabriela Mistral

From the icy niche where men placed you
I lower your body to the sunny, poor earth.
They didn't know I too must sleep in it
and dream on the same pillow.

I place you in the sunny ground, with a
mother's sweet care for her napping child,
and the earth will be a soft cradle 
when it receives your hurt childlike body.

I scatter bits of earth and rose dust, 
and in the moon's airy and blue powder
what is left of you is a prisoner.

I leave singing my lovely revenge.
No hand will reach into the obscure depth
to argue with me over your handful of bones.

(trans. by David Garrison)


Today's LittleNip:

—Gabriela Mistral

I feel my heart melting
in the mildness like candles:
my veins are slow oil
and not wine,
and I feel my life fleeing
hushed and gentle like the gazelle.

(trans. by Davis Garrison)



An earnest Kevin Jones reading at Poetry With Legs
at the Shine Cafe last Wednesday night
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Setting Sail

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Kafkaesque dream images
so powerful here in my jeep
after I fish for answers
to my nightmare
in the copper light
of a less than courteous sun
for an unguarded moment
commingling on my mind
in a slightly deaf and death
shadow circling my car
by one red eyelid photograph
staring at me
outdoors at a stop sign
at dusk watched by
spy glasses of unknown
cameras taking our pictures
by unauthorized visions
on parking lots
even after happy hours
beyond city limits
by auguries and juries
as backdrops of memory
haunt us while secretly
taking our prints.

 Life Ring
—Photo by Katy Brown

—B.Z. Niditch

Not forgetting the hour
turning blue like saltwater
pitched down at the Cape
standing below deck
in the home harbor
my sockets gave way
to city grackles and gulls
as whale watchers appear
on the wooden docks,
with latitude I take out
a photo of a jazz singer
from my wallet
crossing a Cambridge St.
yet I refuse
to make a fist to the sky
about an ex
who passed away,
the cold air stalls
in a jot of liquid silence
from a sleepless dawn
fearful from regrets
aching at sea years
setting sail
with this life jacket
at first light
in this old navy shirt
getting over a fever
dropping from an affair
of the mind and body
on board with vistas
from old sunglasses
bought for a song
at the last fishing port
as you recall
the keel and mast
from boiling winds
aromatic waves
blowing hurricanes
flirting with life
outlasting islands,
unexpected storms,
and crazed by
breathless breezes,
my logs still detailed
from studious sockets
as rain takes
on a ferry
for one more voyage
from beach head squalls
with a tidal journal
awaking buried loss
to waves on its memories
and swallow a conscience
as surf rises
on the ocean mirrors.

 Marina Gull
—Photo by Katy Brown

—B.Z. Niditch

Thought waves
fishing for language
in my lexicon
while deployed
here by the crews
my breath untangles
and races above
all animated shadows
of a vagabond sun
on the Coast,
reels in memory,
rays hide out
as if to coax us
on the oarlocks
nameless voices
by tentative waves
of our own anonymity
whether we are
earth-wise or sea worthy
as my own empty body
smashes my jazzy mouth
of three syllables
shadows a coxswain words
along a drifting swim
to fathom what is lost
when welled up dark waters
rim along the lighthouse
on this navigator's waterway.

 Anchor Tip
—Photo by Katy Brown

—B.Z. Niditch

Weighed down
fishing in this traffic
flowing and adrift
by the sea whirred on winds
along the weeds and dunes
by toxic dawn's helpless waters
and here on my roped kayak
by crags enigmas
anchored for my early voyage
finding a cod for supper
from one's wet hand,
for a moment's perfection
without worry yet feeling
like Melville at the hot sun's
bristling melancholy
of his balmy meanderings
without a history, only exile.

Berry Tree
—Photo by B.Z. Niditch


—B.Z. Niditch

Unexpected haven

out to the sea

redolent of berry trees

where you hide by aspen

carving your initials

as any fishing survivor

on this shade of dawn

clearing wrinkled meadows

filled with hyacinth 

where no spy or observer

could pick this place

here only a breath's wind

will speak from silence

among undiscovered rocks

not far from this coastal port,

soon grown up by the ocean beds

you embrace a shoreline sand

holding white sea shells

to expect a listening echo

in your hot grass blade hand.

 Blue Heron Itch
—Photo by Katy Brown


—B.Z. Niditch
They retake silence 

enticed by collected winds

tapping the evergreen waters

into a numb maze of ice fishing

which soon became mine

as a mourning dove dives

into blackened waters

the ocean still rages

its burly breezes

from last Friday's storm

shelling the home harbor

and points North,

the radio news

travels briskly 

until a nervous confirmation

that local sailors vanish

once again by

the Lost River

that appeases fountains of

all imagination,

morning breaks 

in my tongue, like a heron 

floating at a distance

with so many names

to fill in and multiply

like cod and salmon in a basket

to the unveiling voices,
for waves can be merciless

like dusk, rain, even the sun.


Today's LittleNip:

—B.Z. Niditch

(for Pablo Neruda)

Where are they
the children
the lost
those living in memory
in our solitude
those without strength
who march with us
in solidarity
who sing with us
toil with us
write on walls
all over the world with us
in prisons
with us
clinging to a future
of the disappeared
and dispossessed
of the earth.



B.Z. and Friends
Rockport, MI

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Speaking of Sporks

Be Davison Herrera, down for a visit from Oregon, 
read at Sac Poetry Center
Monday, Oct. 21.
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

Just a couple of turns
From failed sonnets,
Some spare (What other
Kind?) lines for haiku,
And an epic I’ll never
Finish. Just as well.


—Kevin Jones

I open it and there’s
Just one in there.
As usual, he’s defensive—
Do these Spandex
Football pants
Make my butt
Look small? For
Some reason
They always ask that.


—Kevin Jones

After helping clean the garage
On Saturdays, there was
A special treat. He’d
Open the lid and let
Me look at his pickled
Minnow lure, there in
Its own sealed plastic tube.
It never caught a fish
And there was no word
For the smell.

—Caschwa, Sacramento

My folks never spoke of a spork
But faced many elections
Between a clown and a dork

Homes were displaced by new freeways
Where one could easily get caught
Between a clown and a dork

The cold war evolved into a
Contest where a hot potato is tossed
Between a clown and a dork

There used to be some reliable
Newscasters, now the choice is
Between a clown and a dork

Avotcja dedicated her Sac Poetry Center reading 
to José Montoya last Monday night
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Michael Cluff, Corona

The drone of honey-headed intellectuals
appeases nothing but falling leaves
making them decline faster
without the pain of impact
whenever it does

Gray aura cremates
organs and yerba buenas
dry stems of chapped flagstones
still resound over the stark plateau
with chattered, scattered,
shattered waves
of fallacious fallacies.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The trail led from your eyes
to a secret place, where we could
fish the river for salmon. But so many
other people walked your trail.
The banks lined with fishermen checking
their gear, crazy to catch the tide
that waits for no man. When the water
turned red, they cast their lines
to the current. Their lures caught on rocks
on the other side. Nothing is
as one hopes. They kept on casting lures—
Mepps spinners, Kwikfish, wigglers.
With one careful lure apiece we reeled in
more than enough for supper.
The fishing-party left grumbling
over how little they caught. And then
you waded out across the stream to pluck
lures from their tangle in the rocks.
Red blue lime dots of light, fire
in your hands, golden green flickers.
Enough to fill your tackle-box. Lures
pinned to your vest like a general
returning to his tent.
We slept under silver-wiggler stars.
I dreamed aquamarine, amber—
all the flame-colors of the river.


—Taylor Graham

You keep this box of lures to catch
the most elusive: wind chimes to call birds
of a song now disappeared; one
red marble for the volunteer hollyberry
growing on an old dog’s grave;
transit-tokens for the boys who chained
themselves to subway dreams;
a crystal to catch the hopeful look
of a maiden aunt who left on a ray of sunset.
In your tackle box, artifacts—you
won’t call them metaphorical—to cast
into the flow, and reel them in like fish,
silver-violet mist of mornings,
back to your bank of time. This box
to tackle loss.


Today's LittleNip:

—Michael Cluff

Inviolate moon
lets the pine cones tickle soft
no change under eyes


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors who are talking about our current Seed of the Week, My Tackle Box, and reminding you that Kevin Jones will be reading at Shine tonight at 14th & E Sts., Sac. (note new starting time of 8pm), along with Concepcion Tadeo.

Sonoma County Poet Laureate Bill Vartnaw 
read at Sac Poetry Center last Monday night
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bouyant, Made of Moonlight

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


It was not true—it was the way we floated
through blue and heavy water all the way to
death and back—almost too heavy to bear:

the shadow distances, uncertain and com-
pelling; the silent way we looked at each
other and gave up our fear.  We were too young

for dying, though one of us would return
changed and the other would not remember.
It was a dream, we said, as we kept turning

and turning, buoyant and made of moon-
light.  It was only sleep-water, we promised,
as we flowed through windows into cur-

rents, relentless as migratory pullings.  If we
lost each other, we promised, we would never
give up the searching.  We would not

need air.  We would hear each other through
our calling.  It was only love, we tried to ex-
plain to the few who would listen.



Now when I pick up telephones
little voices filter in . . .
“Have you been saved . . . ?”   
I say hello and
childish laughters haunt and find
where I am grim.
“Who’s there!" I ask. “Who’s there?"
and breathing silences respond
filled with demand.
Now when I answer telephones
strangers imply I know them
saying my name with whispered love.
Hang up! I plead, afraid of them.
I do not love!
They always call again.

(first pub. in Prophetic Voices, 1993)



when we speak in tones so sad
when we speak in tones
when we speak
and silences wait
silences wait
and between us
silences wait
and when we speak
of this
and of how
we always speak
in tones so sad
and silences wait
drifting between
words and meanings
oh, silences wait
when we speak in tones so sad

(first pub. in Red Cedar Review of Colorado)



I whisper into the telephone.
You whisper back.

We talk of silent things . . .
we talk of silent things . . .

repeating ourselves
and offering questions.

and, Yes?

Dyings are like this.
And waiting for dyings,

which is what we
have no words for,

though we speak and speak
in these whispers.

(first pub. in Paisley Moon, 1994)


(After “One Minute Stories” by Istvan Orkeny)

Mother says she is dreaming that she is
dying and just wanted to warn me, prepare
me for the phone call that would come.

I am calm, remove myself from responding.
I don’t want to hear this. Mother’s voice is
turned down low. I can barely hear her.

She says she has to be careful, that they
listen at the Nurse’s Station, but she is dying
in her sleep and she wanted me to know—
wanted to hear my voice—hundreds of miles
between us, and time itself three hours away.

Now, I don’t want you to grieve, she tells me
in her old no-nonsense voice; and though I
try to open my mouth to answer, she keeps
on talking.

I cannot interrupt her, though she dwindles
off again. Wake up! I want to say—but
don’t know what that would mean—if she
is really dying—in her sleep—in her mind—
in my imagination.



With the hook in my hand where I grabbed
for the life-line, I follow the shape of the
ghost to the shore. When I rise up through
the green and singing water, you will be
standing with your back to the sea, having
called and called all night through the storm.

You will hear my name in the flight of the
drowned soul you feel shudder through you.
Oh, my most loved, how can it tell you of
the places I have been on the journey you
sent me upon—I have learned how to
swim—I who was born in the ear of that
shell on the sand.

You will walk as one who has failed, but I
will be home before you, pouring the blue
bowls full of boiled sea-water where the tiny
fish with the diamond eyes swim brightly,
their borrowed hearts beating for joy.

It is pure, this love; it has been tested and is
worthy of you. You will walk in the door
with nothing to say, and sit down at the
table, and I will put my arms around you and
show you my hook.

Tomorrow I—shrill sea wife—will send you
out again to stand all night and look for me,
calling my unknown name, and braving the
wrath of the one who grants our wishes.



Here we are,
disconnected in glass reflection
where images collide
against competing voices and eyes

and a sense of urgency
the glass-captured sunlight
that is lowering down the walls

and a certain confusion prevails
made of the shifting light
and the overlapping snatches
of twilight conversation.



Sometimes your hand
would reach out
and touch
perhaps my hair
or sleeve
or just
the air between us
but the reach
was there
like a thought
unfinished . . .

times like that
I would undo
my restive rage
like a
disoriented bird
in flight
then called back
by a season it
would never change

(first pub. in Piper Calling Poets, 1990)


Today's LittleNip:


A mute in the land of silence
a sage in the land of praise
a singer in a field of song birds
a gossip among rumorous bell-ringing…

These are the tellers of what we ask
these are the tellers of what we answer
these are the voices and non-voices of all
the babble with which the world is filling…

Oh, go to the mute for silence
go to the sage for opinion
go to one who is hushed by birds
and let the old bells keep ringing.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's tasty fare as she tells us her take on last week's Seed of the Week: The Telephone Rang... Our new SOW is My Tackle Box, taking a cue from one of D.R. Wagner's poems we posted here last Saturday. What's in your tackle box? You may think you never fish, but the truth is that you do: fishing for success in your projects, your relationships. Fishing for compliments, for answers, for happiness, for...Tell us what's in YOUR tackle box, what it is you hope to use to "catch a big one", and send your poems, photos, artwork about this or any other subject to No deadline on SOWs, either: Calliope's Closet in the links at the top of this column is a veritable, well, tackle box of ideas to get you rolling toward The Big One!