Friday, January 31, 2014


Jennifer Elise Foerster, reading at 
Sac. Poetry Center last Monday, Jan. 27.
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Ann Menebroker, Sacramento

this river moves so slowly it never seems to
go anywhere at all.  it’s not as if anyone can find
inspiration here; yet, if someone loves you
like this river moves, you don’t have to
impress or speak in tongues.
it’s a slow melodious song backed up by
the sweep of wind through sticks and leaves.  the standard
here is long-lasting.  nothing gets lost
that can’t be found again, and the
fish grow fat from the handouts.  dead critters
on shore turn to instant beauty.   they
have left their bones to form art
in layers of dirt and moss.  I saw a man
playing a violin, sitting in a tree branch.  it
was foggy and he kept having to tune
the strings.  this river, if you listen
sings a song on its journey.  and the song
ends up maybe in Mexico, or Brazil.
and the river pretends it doesn’t know
anything about the journey.  but it’s all


—Carol Louise Moon

I would like to have met Chewbacca,
the actor beneath the suit, my
favorite character in early Star Wars.
Did he have to beg for the part?  Did he
wear deodorant? Did they pay him
monetarily, or in ape food?  Did he
belong to an ape-impersonator's guild?
Did they give him free tickets to the zoo?

Chewy. I thought he was cool enough
to have a dog named after him.

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

I am ruff and I am growl. I am
footprints on her towel. No bites
she finds from canine teeth
on Persian carpets fine, nor
fluffy, lacy pillows that we share.

A sudden green is seen between
my pads from romps on grassy
ground.  Birds I love to chase around.
Their songs are twang in summertime
game. In sun, in rain...  it's all the
same to me.

I'll tear a bathroom-basket cloth.
I'll drag off socks to chew and hide
from mistress of our house. She be
with me. We share affinity.

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis

that subcutaneous layer
that makes you as supple
as a drop of hot wax
on white table linen

the squishy parts you want
to squeeze but fear
the trembling thighs
the swishing pink folds

sounds throb, gurgle
and fascinate, eleven heavenly
days in the sauna might
reduce this water

you can't cut it with a spoon
you dream of swimming nude
shocking the masses, you pull
up the covers and sing...

to eat is heaven to grow fat
is divine, at least that was
the case for Hawaiian royalty.

—Ann Privateer

Off to ride the hard-nosed horse
with a turned-down mouth
she mounts, takes the reins
in hand, whips leather across
its frozen mane, its dappled neck
its curves that shine
its jeweled eye and resolute stare.
They rise and fall together
bend, go round and around
to chills and thrills of music
until ... it stops
and there is joy
and her mother.


—Ann Privateer

Smoke fills the room
sounds haunt, throb, question...

to have children or not
to rot in place
to be accepted
to attend college in Norman
to read The Dress Code for Women
to menstruate at eleven
to be shocked by the color red
to be surprised eating an oyster
to save its shell, make it a veil
to hide it in a sarcophagus
to join the masses and determine
to uncover sweet dreams
to perfume secrets from the viewer

who sports a smoke-filled eye.


Today's LittleNip:

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

             (For Thomas Merton 
                on Jan. 31, his birthday)

To be willing
to sing like a dove
at the echo of dawn
as a human witness
to a once-flickering
pitch black sky
disappearing as daylight
like zealous Daniel
before a jealous God
in an exile's den
tested by living fire
here in a monastic retreat
in these numinous hours
to uplift the lamps
of the earth for souls
in a solitary dim time,
to be as disembodied
from the world's pleasure
in the burning depth
as mystical ventures drift
over all sublime mysteries
in a thorn of a rose,
by every loving gesture
at a peace garden
of a blazing poetic Word,
carried you aloft to discovery
between death in life
in the spirit wind gusting
you unfolding passages
up on Jacob's ladder
in the solitary library
printed out downward
in a note and prayer book
from invisible dark nights
naming only the phrases
which live on in us,
heirs of nature and landscape,
arrivals by sea and train
writers of in scape and escape
trampling underfoot
on Kentucky blue grass
with creative gifts of grace.


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors and a reminder that Carol Louise Moon will read with Alaska's Carol Eve Ford at Sac. Poetry Center this coming Monday, February 3.

 Robin Ekiss reading at 
Sac. Poetry Center last Monday, Jan. 27.
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Jasmine of Time

—Poems and Photos by Martie Odell Ingebretsen, Sacramento


Above flowing brown waters
past the last minutes of sun’s light
the geese hold a ribbon of sound
that takes me with them into evening sky

In their fold of brotherhood
strapped to invisible currents
lost in the last pointed star’s reach
knowing direction by unwritten instinct

They follow ancient echoes
in the fantasy of their call
shredding sound like guileless music
into the long low growl of something wild

Written on vellum from broken trees
the sound strips my tongue of its hold on earth
and slings the arch of my inevitable smile
over the wild open jasmine of time itself

Come morning
I see as geese do the river
because the sky to my eye
is what geese see

Sound holds them together
formation affirmation
the river a path to the green pleated grass
and the woven fields of corn
even bright heads of sunflowers
to the vine-covered trees
blackberry brambles and tule grasses
of the delta

That cool delta breeze
makes a song from just leaves
and blesses the wind chimes
awake through the night

Shadows fall from houses
where heat closes windows
and kisses tomatoes
until plump and ready
to settle the meaning
that was never a question

I thought that the sun
slipping into the ocean
had the curve of a love song
wrapped in its cheek
until I saw it melt
in the river beside me
swallowing diamonds
around my bare feet

Giddy the robins sip from the morning
dipping reflection from just-watered lawns
knowing life is always delirious with change
and lasting like love and front doors
finds the way home just like geese do

Today's LittleNip:

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. That makes it difficult to plan the day.

—E.B. White



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

If Only...

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

If he could have just one thing,
make it a rubber band.
Only a kitten could find one
in this shambles of an office. A blue
rubber band to bat around
like a tiny infinity-snake coiled
and kinky, springy, elastic
as a cat. The humans of the house-
hold would snatch it back, hide
it where they think Blink can’t find.
Old Cowboy shakes his head, lies
back down to sleep; what
does a dog know of the dreams
of cats? Even that loco Loki
can’t understand the magic
of a rubber band.


—Taylor Graham

Skeletons of scrub-oak, coyote bush after
the fire came through. Rabbits used to live here,
and horny-toads. Every track across arroyo
was charred at the edges. You brought me here
under a broken moon, ghostly sister of rising
sun, years before we heard of global warming.
A wasteland. But here you seeded lana-vetch.
“Legume, nitrogen-fixing, good for the soil.”
A sort of resurrection plant. Next year, the whole
place bloomed purple, green tendrils threading
hillside back together, blueing the sky electric.
Fireweed, poppy. Scorched seedpods
remembered how it was supposed to be.


—Taylor Graham

Symptom of our times: To want.
After driving two-lane chip-seal up
the mountain to an unnamed creek, then
hiking upstream, across fallen-logs
over rushing water, all I wanted
was an answer. Dogs ranged ahead,
scanning for human scent. Objective,
litter: a pile of clothes some hiker found,
and reported to the sheriff. Whose clothes?
My dog dashed back through willows,
led me to a lady’s floppy crimson
felt-hat. High-heel shoes, gray skirt,
stockings, porcelain pendant on a chain.
Time and weather are detrimental
to fashion. All we found, an old pile
of clothes—evidence of murder?
Or someone cleaning out her closet?
A simple prank? My dog was happy
to find a bit of leftover human
scent. All I found were questions.


—Taylor Graham

From cliff-top, everything fell away. I was sure
I’d die. But I tied the knots as instructed;
clipped myself in; clipped my dog—
also in harness—to the umbilical rope.
She rested restless across my knees. I spoke
some nameless words to her
and stepped off the edge.
Breathless. The view was granite
but over my shoulder, nothing.
I walked at right angles down rock, the deep,
seamed center. At the bottom
I remembered to breathe. Still alive.
My dog put it out of her mind—always
in present tense. She danced across rockslide,
ready to “go find!”

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Wanting one thing
Counting down the scales
from my musical eyes
in walled drowsy half light
of interrupted
press call moments
by a herculean listening
to my pastime memory,
a music critic
from the big city
who advertises
only for himself
tries to blind my still life
by a turn-around remark
behind my back
saying he has my back
of my murmuring body
as only my lips know
my alto sax's ways
I may spot a phoney mouth
but I try to ignore him
as any cop on the road
trailing my motorcycle
going south,
absorbed by my first breath
smarting by amazed intro
from the warm-up act
on before me
remaining in a state
to sing tonight
with impending
into riffs of visited verse
having my reservations
of letting loose
unknown powers
of these horn melodies
by the floodlight hours.


—B.Z. Niditch

It was a story
Stanislaw a fisherman
related to me,
on a long
not forgotten journey
to Warsaw
during the war
of his liberation
he had only one wish
it was to reach
the Polish drawbridge
and to meet his sister
on the other side
yet the enemy
of this little child
blew it up anyway
Stan was nowhere
only in harm's way
even the cat in his jacket
did not survive its cry
in the salt ditch water
by the wide silence,
yet it would be built up
after the beasts had left
that beautiful icy spring
that no one could cross
not even a boy
on a bicycle.


—B.Z. Niditch

Waiting on the vague shore
with my map in hand
and wish for a life jacket
that will not wear out
in my everyday life
on the home harbor sea
to sail on my kayak
is in my blood and body
whirling by the waves
and affectionate winds
mile after mile
casting out for fish
in a huge basket pile
on my morning journey,
at my mind's eye
black birds and gulls
in overflight on poplar trees
even when it is sixty degrees,
my imagination moves
and travels on the ocean,
please let my life jacket
be in perpetual motion
the one just meant for me.

 —Photo by B.Z. Niditch

Today's LittleNip:

—B.Z. Niditch

With my singular eyes
in my lens from flights
of a personal memory
watching a blue expanse
of the ocean mirror
Leda is seen turned around
in the lightness
guiding her swan song
she is washing by fisheries
to my last wave
salutes an unmasked sea.



 Clouds Without Rain
—Photo by Taylor Graham

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Journeys of the Moment

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

“That the science of cartography is limited”
                                   —Eavan Boland

Sometimes I have to read you again,
old map, to find you.

Once you were clearly marked.
A real place.

Many roads led me hence,
through the old thither and yon
of distance...   of time...

Sometimes I have to read you
again, old map, to remember you.

Roads that were mud-tracks...
roads that became highways...
roads that became lanes of freeway...

Sometimes I have to read you again
to simplify you.

Some roads still dead-end.
Some roads brag no ambition.
Some roads claim the same old place forever.

Sometimes I have to read you again,
old map, to locate all those detours.



None of this is real.  Each map is faulty,
untrackable, hard to refold once certain

mountains are crossed.  This one fakes
a malady of summer desert.  Red seems

to predominate the boundaries that slide
against blue oceans, unnamed on any map—

clue after clue of no help—a map that uses
camels instead of newer technologies.


“Life and time are a spiral, then, rather than
  merely a circle with its endless repetitions”
                                            –Roger Housden

To be a spiral, then—be the turning—
the entering and evolving—be the
going and arriving in the
spiralous motion—
                          be the
             distance and
the staying—
since one is the other and it
is you in your own momentum
of existence. I knew this spiral when
falling asleep as a child. I knew it then
and it frightened me. Now I know it as the
journey of the moment into nothing and all is
one sensation—a dot on the map.


two circles— dancing—
various to one another

somber—dancing slow
—tedious and without

except for the dancing

a circular dissent—
sustaining to one another

—almost primitive
a comfort of demonstration

protest,    protest,    protest,

eyes down—
arms at sides—

moving past one another
in stable unison—

in friction of purpose—
tireless beyond what cannot be changed



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.


PRAYER NO. 333GM1000

O most abstract holyism,
this century
perfects the stereotype
to a coded sanctuary.
Key-punch a prayer
for our identity.
Do not alter Self
or the Machine
will have to punch new holes
in your godly-card.
We cannot accept
new images for old.
and do not change
that book of fables;
it is haunting
the way it is.
We have looked into science
and died.
We need
the ghost in the soul
and an archaic mystery
for the uncomprehending mind.

(first pub. in Trace Magazine, 1967)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix! Roses. Valentine's Day. It all smacks of desire. For our new Seed of the Week, tell us about your desire—for a person, place, thing, career, publication, enlightenment... The human capacity for desire is limitless and endless, it seems. If I Could Have Just One Thing: that's our new Seed of the Week. Surely you have some longing in your life to write about! Send your heart's desire poems to; no deadline on SOWs. 

Tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, Jan. 29, 4pm), Melissa Studdard will interview Sacramento Poet/Writer/Translator William O'Daly as part of her Tiferet Talk series, sponsored by Tiferet Journal—A Global Writing Community (Literature, Art, & the Creative Spirit, Tiferet’s mission is to explore the nexus of literature and spirituality. Ms. Studdard, a poet, bestselling novelist, and Tiferet editor, has previously interviewed Krista Tippett, Kanta Bosniak, Andrea Polard, Alfred Corn, Robert Pinsky, Natalie Goldberg, Helene Cardona and John FitzGerald, Molly Peacock, Jane Hirshfield, and other revered poets, writers, spiritual thinkers, and teachers in meaningful dialogue about ways to access the truths of our lives, access creativity, and balance magic and craft. Listen to the interview at


Today's LittleNip:


and curlicues.
White space.
Outside the lines, little escapings:
Leaf shapes.
Cracks in the idea.
Intentions moving in other directions.
Fuzziness and clarity.
Exactness does not matter.
Continue or stop.
You’ll know when.



Monday, January 27, 2014

Then What?

Sacramento Poet Anna Marie in a recent reading
at Sac. Poetry Center
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—James Lee Jobe, Davis
Within my aging chest lies a deep, stark cavern;
I keep your precious memory there.
Among the multicolored stalactites and stalagmites
there hides the ghost of you.
And though I often go there to visit you,
a wall of hard dreams stands between us.
In death, as indeed it was in life,
I just cannot quite get to you.
A poison of darkness, a cold tomb.
My eyes are nothing.
And in the quiet stillness,
I can hear your breath from beyond.


—James Lee Jobe

I came to love the sweet
taste of your round belly
and the dark magnolias
waiting in your forest.
Almost until dawn
I wandered through your trees,
and your kiss was my moonlight,
and your embrace was my dream.
You kept caged birds
in those along ago times,
and they sang in the morning
with beautiful voices
while you slept late,
and I lay there wide awake,
breathing you in, inhaling
your fields and trees.


—James Lee Jobe

Who is here and who is not?
Where are the flowers of living and dying?

And the river? It flows to the sea?
Who asked it to do that?

The warm milk of your soul has been poured
into a porcelain saucer to sip.

And tonight? Then what?
And tomorrow?

How many lifetimes
do you suppose that you have? 

 Sacramento Poet Francisco Dominguez in a recent reading
at Sac. Poetry Center
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Caschwa, Sacramento

In the world that God created
Night descends slowly, carefully,
And precisely like the landing of
The Apollo Lunar Excursion Module

In the world that man created
Night trips and falls like a
Broken tree limb or drunken drifter
Or a KO’d heavy weight boxer

A wholly demented and incompetent
Night crashes to Earth, erasing an
Entire day of sunlight and triggering
An onslaught of artificial light

Drive-in movies, neon signs
All kinds of crime, graveyard shifts
High beams at the wrong time,
The struggle to put kids to bed

I had a fall once on a hiking trip
Painfully hot day, cooling stream
Night was never that good
Wish I was there now



Along with the people who keep track
Of when swallows return to Capistrano
Or when annual taxes are due
Some note the time the sun will rise

That sure is a relief to people like me
Who hopelessly lose track of what
others properly label “Duh!”
Each morning the atlas saves my ass

Today's LittleNip:

—James Lee Jobe

A silver girl slowly bathing in silver water.
Silver moonlight.
A love that is silver, a silver heart,
My cold, empty, silver soul.
Her beautiful, ripe flesh
Kissed by my cold, silver lips. 



 Sacramento Poet "Pinkie" in a recent reading
at Sac. Poetry Center
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Elfin Prayer Wheel

Mary Rudge

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Alameda, a city I rarely visit, but notable
the choice occasions: young barely fledged
orchestral trumpet, I gaze on in silence and awe:
our Alameda community orchestra’s daring
the intonation and rhythm traps and hazards
in Mozart’s late D Minor Piano Concerto,
the great Lili Kraus at the keyboard: woman
unbroken in a World War Two Japanese prison camp.
Grandmotherly in a Golda Meir sort of way
till she stirs the virtuoso song from the ivory
and ebony chips. Precise advice to the ensemble.
Decades later, Nora and I meet Alameda’s
poet laureate, Mary Rudge. Must be a ways
along in her eighties, small-boned, elfin
and tiny the clichés she’s heard of herself till
they no longer register. How do we know of her?
Yes: Mary Rudge the Nora May French scholar,
digging to unearth the suicidal blonde poet
from under that San Francisco quake debris,
Modernist anathemas against rhyme and clear
sense and innocence in verse. But Mary herself:
what was she like young, did she play a willowy
empress-voiced Titania in school productions,
was she a self-sure, bell-resonant Rosalind?
If any mistook you, Mary, for Ezra P.’s music-
and-Fascism-defending Rudge, I bet they were
instantly, gently, firmly and forever disabused…
We see Mary twice: at this convocation of poets
in Modesto, again at a picnic of poets laureate,
enough for a “taste of her quality”: active in every fiber,
environmental as Jeffers, for feminism and peace
a Rukeyser, attuned to a higher pitch of Living
and Being, dancing like our Allegra, keying her steps
to an improvised drumming, a sizzling prayer wheel
of a woman. At that first meeting, Mary mentions,
with a trace of pride, her interview with the second
Mrs. Jimmy Hopper, Jimmy a Bay Area writer, kind
to Nora May in the golden girl’s last months. And we know
the sensation Donald Sidney-Fryer felt, shaking the hand
of a man who long ago shook Ambrose Bierce’s hand,
we know greatness as do those who’ve clasped eyes
on a lock of Beethoven’s dark hair in San José…


—Medusa, with thanks to Tom Goff for this poem about Alameda Poet Laureate Mary Rudge who passed away on Sunday, Jan. 19. Katy Brown's photos of Mary were taken at an Alameda dancing poetry event on Saturday, Jan. 20, the day before she died. Some of you may remember Mary's poetry, including work that appeared in Rattlesnake Review when it was still in publication. Katy says Mary was pleased with her new book, Jack London's Neighborhood ( For more about Mary Rudge's life, see

Mary's Hand
—Photo by Katy Brown

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Replacing The Moon

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


That night we found the moon
Broken in half at the bottom
Of a small ravine near the base
Of the Sandia Mountains
Outside Albuquerque.

Christ, I thought it was a soldier
Or a homeless person or maybe
Just some trash washed up in
An arroyo, surrounded by goathead
Skeletons and glowing horned toads.

We had no idea.  We looked up toward
The sky and there was nothing.
It was like we were not even supposed
To think about it, as if it were global warming
Or animal extinction or police brutality.

For hours we worked with duct tape,
Soft wire, needle and thread and got
It back together, hoisting it as high
As we could from this blank mesa.

Somehow it got the idea.  It rocked
Itself into position once again.
The wind kicked up, sure it did.
The tides remembered what was
Supposed to happen.  We took
A long drink of water and headed
Back down toward the city.

It seemed a very long way off.



Yes, the sky was a different blue then.
It didn’t hurt to look at it.  It could slice
The edges off of insects hovering in air.
There was a kind of electricity there
That formed a membrane over our skin.

The words could get through.  The water
Could find a way to venture within our bloodstream.
Insects hovered near us.  They mistook us for beings
With skin.  We opened their nerves up.
They turned to fields of dried grass.

A wind that never had a name finds
A way across these fields, makes bridges
Even as we try to understand the differences
Between gravel and gold, old friends
And woods filled with jackals.  I mistake
Broken glass for teeth.  I beg my dogs
To show me a better way past this place.

They know what I want, put their noses
In the air.  I run as fast as I am able to follow
Them.  They want the hilltops and the clear
Air even more than I can imagine.



I went back to the edge,
The ledge, the cliff, the top
Of the building, the top of the waterfall.

I told myself there was nothing to fear.
It was clear that these places were made
To hold the ends of the rainbow.  A bridge
Of angles to the deepest of centers. A ring
Given to pulse from the mirror, an aureate
Path that suddenly appears, splashed
Into the light, both terrible and seamless.

Eternity, only an exaggerated mirror.
It is all that holds the body there.
When one leaves such a place
One has wings or one dies,
Exactly the same as how we proceed
Through each day, everything appearing
Like no other day, ledge after edge, the incredible
Beauty only seen from the top of the greatest
Waterfall, taking our breath away.



A rabbit reaches a spot
Near the top of a small rise
Close to the edge of a meadow.
In a space between two bluff-
Colored rocks, it disappears
Into a hole.

Soon, he is resting in a comfortable
Chair before a fire.  The room
Is sparsely decorated, yet filled
With a glow that, seemingly, comes
Directly from the earth
Itself.  The rabbit dreams
Of flowers, beautiful flowers,
Large and flavorful.  The summer
Stretching away on all sides, forever.

Bees see this dreaming as they fly
Overhead, pausing to inspect this delicate
Light infusing the grass
With splendid vibrations.

This rabbit shall be here
Forever like this.  Its slow
Breathing matched to these rhythms
As we read them.  He stirs
In his sleep, feels the place
Surrounding, listening as these lines
Continue around him.

The rabbit knows that words too
Sleep between encounters,
A steely silence,
Not a waiting at all,
Stirred only by eyes
Sweeping through these words,
Driving nameless winds before them.



The paper was a brilliant blue,
Though ragged, torn and pushed through
With holes that let the words unfold
Themselves, full of summer and enclosing
Scene upon scene, each described and beamed,
Like coffered ceilings, nooks full of such
Affairs that, when undone, set reeling
Long gazes of longer yet, such feeling,
That when splayed out upon neglected pages
Of blue like this, have songs, bound to each
Word and sung on and on as to some fictive muse
Until it has consumed itself, mere ashes of a dream
That once breathed names and real dragons,
Dancing on long-forgotten plains, and steam;
Valley after valley dressed to half-conceal, all in steam.



She loved these half-digested things,
Cooked and uncooked, fleshy and raw,
Burnt on their edges, warm with traces
Of their origins still attached.

Hearts that had been broken,
Tears, fresh from flowing, hot and salty.
Words thrown in anger,
Unprocessed and deliberate,

But most of all
The greatest of her delights,
Old and worn or still brand new,
Tested or untested, the souls of men.


Today's LongerNip:


Jealousy has its own thick rooms.
What might be seen from a distance
As languid and almost touching
Cuts of clouds, pouring across
A perfect blue sky are landscapes
Only remembered, as blindness
Drives us from our rooms, begging
Us to say that, indeed, she was the most
Beautiful, surrounded by bees and
The scaly dust of butterfly wings.

Closer now, we see how they are torn.
The oranges and bruised bright greens
Reflected against these clouds were
Rain, filling their bags until they burst
And all was flooded, from these
Rooms of jealously.  A venom from
The heart, bent over and eating itself.

These are not butterflies at all.
The air itself is being shredded
Even as we gaze upon it.

Help us maintain the clarity of our
Streams of generosity as it pours
From us.  We slide upon the green
Slime that mounts its conquests,
Destroys characters, bound with
Imagined lies and a greed of the soul.

We need to take the next train
Away from this horror.  Do not look
Back at any of this.  Soon enough
They will build their own cages,
Charging only lies and gossip
As entrance fees.  We stand
At the mouth of the season
And vow our allegiance to truth
And praise for the accomplishments
Of all of those around us.  So we pray.


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


Friday, January 24, 2014

So Much We Don't See...

Straight Out Scribes reading at SPC Monday, Jan. 20
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Look up "fire" to find it is
a form of oxidation, then
look up "oxygen" to find it wasn't
even discovered until ~1774.

So for most of human history
anyone talking about fire
couldn't have really known
what they were talking about.

(first pub. in Medusa's Kitchen, May, 2013)



Well-schooled meteorologists
Love to give us exact number
Readings for rainfall, temperature,
And barometric air pressure

Imagine all the agony of ignorance
Forecasters suffered for millennia
Until about 400 years ago when
Someone actually invented a barometer

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Science tells me my kitten’s purr involves
the whole respiratory cycle and the intrinsic
laryngeal muscles; sign of comfort or pain.

Science tells me that muscles attached
to the bones of my dog’s tail make him
wag up or down, or side to side.

But it doesn’t explain why my black
kitten’s purr sounds like a knife carving
scrimshaw in my sleep;

how my dog knows different wags
for an old dead bone vs.
that giggling little girl he’s found.


a Transient Luminous Event
—Taylor Graham

My puppy sleeps, I watch TV: red sprites
dance ionic on the screen. Loki wakes,
her eyes aflame. Signals? Energy lights
our space, leap-falling like snow-crystal flakes.

She gives me her look: don’t you, Human, know?
Tonight the whole ionosphere’s aglow.
So am I. And so are you—or could be.

She sniffs the air. So much that I don’t see….

Brother Hypnotic at last Monday's SPC reading
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Michael Cluff, Corona

Greta said
"Since I was born
in late 1955,
they had not made
the advances in my disease
that would have kept me alive.
"But through God's will,
I am here today."
The reverends
and doctors
in isolated corners
she had been misdiagnosed
by a zealot
of either earthly
or heavenly comport.
Both parties were right
in their own minds.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

We know that Vincent Millay loved owning horses.*
Not to ride sidesaddle, but to breed and race.
As sure of her equine as of her Sapphic forces,
she well knew not to leave the least beastly trace
for the IRS of her dark trackside side.
Is this why, animal worshipper nonpareil,
she rarely writes of mares and studs and steeds?
The eye-glow of the lynx, the desperate quail
scrabbling low to ground, wild swans in flight,
these Vincent allows, but shuts like a Bluebeard’s room
from even herself until the crack of doom
(sealing the very door-below crack of light)
avowal of what her own snowdrift skin proclaims:
man-sinew, is it not horseflesh by a strange name?

Vincent Millay loves horses, yet seldom mentions
what oceanfoam swells and subsides in thoroughbreds,
or how the shimmer of sensuous intention
can’t jewel our eyes more brilliantly than in the heads
of jennets hotly covering their mares.
She adores in poets’ bodies the steel and flame
she surely knows but rarely, rarely declares
equivalent in the big horse who wins or lames.
What keeps our secrets unknown to our secrets?
Shakespeare,† who desperately wanted control
of the Cornish tin mines, will never once whisper “tin”
in all his plays. And over my poems egrets
and herons and falcons brood, but you, my young soul,
my wingspan, what dark compartment are you walled in?

*See Daniel Mark Epstein’s What Lips My Lips Have Kissed.
† Shakespeare, in my judgment, is Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.


—Tom Goff

A roadside worker, utterly alone,
no backup truck at hand,
treads the bicycle strip. No visible cell phone.
He’s just a vagrant on the pullover band
where whooshby, sideswipe cars constantly skin
and thin his personal force field. DayGlo green
and yellow the vest tugged from a bin
this morning’s armor. Heedless of each rabid machine
he bends from the waist. He measures retaining wall
under high hill with what looks like a tailor’s tape measure.
What if he were to fall, what if against that same wall
he were metallically backed and pinned?
He surveys his survey strip without rancor or pleasure.
His brush-cut grey-white hair, was it that color
when he began this work? How many months deep the odor
of gas and exhaust in his nostrils? What too-near
car invisibly shaves at his paving, what Wichita line-
man’s line was ever walked or ridden
so dangerously fine?


Today's LittleNip:

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

If you want
to write a poem
it must be carefully
thought out
no one is a prayer
or poetry machine,
think, love
and above all, dream.



NSAA (Lawrence Dinkins) at last Monday's Reading
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Thursday, January 23, 2014

As Daphne In A Tree

Derek Walcott

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

I audited your class
not having known
a St. Lucian poet before
with such tidal Caribbean
blue motioning
waves as floating rhymes,
opening the door
with endless compassion
for the tumult of words
bogged down with studies
yet hungry for knowledge
knowing few will believe
a poet or try to understand
the spirit inside
with my book bag
full of almonds
in a cold frenzy
to devour an orange
and hear verse
from the islands
not wanting to block
or bite
anything in the way
of my young aspirations
gripped by a desire
only to recite,
I kept my fury cool,
and like Derek Walcott,
not ever turning back.


—B.Z. Niditch

After a master class
in science
Maria doffed
her surgical mask
for an opera glass
at Carmen's libretto
in the Habanera
she was cast
to sing an aria solo,
and after the applause
with three curtain calls
were finally ended,
there was laughter
and tears on stage when
the last scene engendered,
and bows taken
as the audience paused
to leave,
Maria took off in a cab
from the concert hall
to the Stanford lab
treating a patient.
a graduate professor
Dr. Glass who taught
a high-graduate
college class in the law
who had a lowly fall,
as a brilliant scientist
with her medical knowledge
Maria saved his life,
this former Harvard older gent
was better and she soon missed
her famed trial lawyer,
reminded me of a Tom Sawyer,
always had an amiable smile,
who back in Cambridge
sent for Maria
giving her assent
and she became his reliable wife
and Dr. Glass was able
to walk slowly down the aisle
with a stick and cane
someone was offended
and muttered,
"He is older than her father
she hasn't got a brain
or must be legally insane,"
but I who knew the story
of the opera star
former proctor and scientist
was happy as the couple kissed.

 Lord Byron

—B.Z. Niditch

Only for you Lord Byron
for your birthday
I would wear
white gloves
and put candles on
your chocolate cake,
knowing you
were a Romantic
and (reportedly) a rake,
living to excess
as a flamboyant poet
we still owe it to you
and ask for your forgiving,
as you express
"She walks in Beauty"
and "Don Juan"
makes up for all of what
(reportedly) went on.


—B.Z. Niditch

Let's form an alliance
to awaken a Blakean poetry
with our nature's energy
hiding as Daphne in a tree,
with sparkling particles
of sweeping light
keeping our verbal articles
through the herbal night,
writing in a words bubble
in a nuanced phrase
watching through
new worlds in a Hubble,
all the mechanized laws
from a viewed eclipse
watching like St. John
the dawn of an Apocalypse,
creating images
as chemistry's connection
astronomy has a poetic gage
of autonomy and perfection,
on focus for a line
with a divine spark
in a telescope of language
and hope from the dark,
science and poetry is a friend
out of doom and gloom
when we are on the mend
uplifted in our hospital room,
what a great game for us
is poetry and science,
let clever reason be our aim
nor ever divide our alliance.


Today's LittleNip:

—B.Z. Niditch

I'm watching
the snow come down
everyone is excited
like a white Christmas dawn
who can resist
or even sleep
my neighbor is a scientist
a Russian guy, very deep
in thought
after a vodka drink
he's working on a cure
for something very rare
I know he will succeed
for he makes me care
and think of his need
and to make sure
I offer up a prayer
in my own creed.



William Blake

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gluttenous Dragon Fingers

Late Apples
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas (1580-1645)

My yesterday was dream, tomorrow earth:
nothing a while ago, and later smoke;
ambitions and pretensions I invoke
blind to the walls that wall me in from birth.
In the brief combat of a futile war
I am the peril of my strategy
and while cut down by my own scimitar
my body doesn't house but buries me.
Gone now is yesterday, tomorrow has
not come; today speeds by, it is, it was,
a motion flinging me toward death.  The hour,
even the moment, is a sharpened spade
which for the wages in my painful tower
digs out a monument from my brief day.

(trans. from the Spanish by Willis Barnstone)


—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas

Limblike to his own snout, projecting there,
A man was hung.  Sufficient it appeared
For all the scribes and pharisees to share,
Protruding like a swordfish from his beard.
It seemed an ill-set dial-hand, a pensile
Alembic, or an elephant, whose hose
Is turned the wrong way up, and less prehensile.
Ovid's was far less noseyfied a nose.

It seems the beak and ram of some huge galley,
Or pyramid of Egypt.  The Twelve Tribes
Of noses it exceeds and circumscribes.
For sheer nasality it has no tally.
A nose so fiercely nasel in its bias
Would even spoil the face of Ananias,

(trans. by Roy Campbell)


—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas

Last of the shadows may close my eyes,
goodbye then white day
and with that my soul untie
its dear wishing

yet will not forsake
memory of this shore where it burned
but still burning swim
that cold water again
careless of the stern law

soul that kept God in prison
veins that to love led such fire
marrow that flamed in glory

not their heeding will leave
with their body
but being ash will feel
dust be dust in love

(trans. by W.S. Merwin)

 Apple Hill Barn
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas

When you shake loose your hair from all controlling,
Such thirst of beauty quickens my desire
Over its surge in red tornadoes rolling
My heart goes surfing on the waves of fire.
Leander, who for love the tempest dares,
It lets a sea of flames its life consume:
Icarus, from a sun whose rays are hairs,
Ignites its wings and glories in its doom.
Charring it hopes (whose deaths I mourn) it strives
Out of their ash to fan new phoenix-lives
That, dying of delight, new hopes embolden.
Miser, yet poor, the crime and fate it measures
Of Midas, starved and mocked with stacks of treasures,
Or Tantalus, with streams that shone as golden.

(trans. by Roy Campbell)


—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas

I saw the ramparts of my native land,
One time so strong, now dropping in decay,
Their strength destroyed by this new age's way,
That has worn out and rotted what was grand.

I went into the fields: there I could see
The sun drink up the waters newly thawed,
And on the hills the moaning cattle pawed;
Their miseries robbed the day of light for me.

I went into my house: I saw how spotted,
Decaying things made that old home their prize.
My withered walking-staff had come to bend.
I felt the age had won; my sword was rotted,
And there was nothing on which to set my eyes
That was not a reminder of the end.

(trans. by John Masefield)


—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas

O you who eat with someone else's teeth,
chewing with molars, mumbling groans to us,
your gluttonous dragon fingers bite beneath
the gums, and pinch and nibble flesh and pus.
You who dissuade us from indulgent forms
of eating dive into a soup like stones
down wells; for a few crumbs, in rampant storms
you plunge in with your grandmother's jawbones.
Because of you, a peeling blames a mouth,
a hazelnut explodes in brave defeat,
its shell still boasting it a fortress bed.
Relieving hurt by pulling out a tooth
is getting rid of pain from head to feet,
and feels the same as pulling off your head.

(trans. by Willis Barnstone)


Today's LittleNip:

—Chu Hsiang (1904-1933)

Beauty runs a pawnshop,
Accepting only the hearts of men.
When the time comes for them to redeem their belongings,
She has already closed the door.

(trans. from the Chinese by Kai-yu Hsu)



For more about Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas, see

Mary Rudge
—Photo by Katy Brown
[Poets will be saddened to hear that
Bay Area Poet Mary Rudge has passed away.]