Sunday, August 31, 2014


—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO

No one has to teach a field
of sunflowers how to worship.
Before dawn in high summer

their necks are bent
in silent prayer like monks.
But as the sun comes up

sunflowers rise as well.
At noon they adore the sun
the way monks in pews

adore the Host at elevation.
Listen and you may hear 
sunflowers sing Alleluia!



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Space Station

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


The morning was
Hard and cool.

No, it was cold,
Very cold.

The captain
Has been drinking.



Ramblin’ boy has come into town
On a day sticky with early Autumn.
Walking in the heat of five o’clock,
Talking to himself like he was on
The phone with someone.
Holding a piece of wood about the size
Of a tablet device, looking at it
Like it had a screen.

He was gray, gray, gray with blue
Jeans that were gray and a white
Shirt that was gray.
Everywhere he walked everything
Was gray.  Even his brown hair
Was dusty, a faded black and white
Photograph, gray.

He wouldn’t leave and kept
Appearing in people’s houses
“To mess with them.”

“What do you want?" he would say.
“I’m exploring everything.  I’m making
A string.  I can get you drugs.
I don’t have to go anywhere.
You can’t make me go away.
I’m not afraid of any police.
Ain’t nobody here going to call
No police on me.  I’m not doing
Anything to anybody.”  And he would poke
His piece of board with his gray
Fingers and talk to it or make
Photographs with it that were
Only in his imagination.

“Why doesn’t anybody help me
Do stuff?” he would say.

And most people couldn’t see
Him.  He would fade into their
Consciousness, always talking
And getting into everyone’s personal
Space and say he was writing
About everything, typing on his piece
Of board.  He had gray eyes,
Smirked from the middle of groups
Walking down the alleys, making everything
Gray and as sticky as the day,
Pulling cricket songs
Out of the night.

“Where is everybody going?” he would say
Or be just across the street
Every time you looked, telling you
He wasn’t afraid of no cops.
Nobody was going to call the cops.
He could get you what you wanted.

Nobody would see him.
Nobody could really hear him.
“I’m like your imagination,” he would say.

And someone who had a yellow face
Would walk near him and they
Would be gray too and walk away.

“I’m doing stuff,” he would say.
Floating there day after day.
People not knowing why they were angry.
Or why there was so much dust
In the air or they would wonder
Why they didn’t care about things
They usually cared about and how
Come things looked so gray?

Ramblin’ boy without a name,
Boiling up all sticky as the day,
Poking his wooden board and walking
All over town.

“I’m, doing stuff,” he would say.
“What do you want?  I can get
It for you, anything.  I’m making
Things.  I am not going away.
Just try to lose me.
I ain’t going away.
I ain’t even got a name.”



Ramon and I visited
The Isle of Great Mountains.
It has taken us a long time
To reach this place.

It is without parallel.
One can go nowhere in the world
That has the insistence of this place.

“We must climb every peak,” Ramon says.
His eyes are not of this world.
I play him song after song
Upon my guitar late into the night.

“You are right,” he says in the morning.
“We must go back and tell the others.”
“They will not believe us,”  I retort.

“It does not matter what they believe.
We have seen The Isle of Great Mountains.
No one else has seen them.
Just tell them there is such a place.
You can write.  Say that we have paid
For their dreams.  They may come
Here on the great ships
We carry within our bodies.
We will hold them and marvel
That such a place can be.”



I cannot see the lower parts of their bodies.
They dance like spirits before my eyes.

Time is blind.  It puts itself in the eyes
Of others who tell us how we have changed or not.

I like the music best when it forgets the words.
It becomes possible to see the horizons once again.

When we are dancing we too become these horizons.
I press the moon into service.  It will not be lost.

I take the chance that it may make the morning sad
But I cannot resist its lovely gilding, its wreath,
Its mythology before time was broken into days,
Before there was anything like dance except
In dreams.

The dancers breathe inside the dance itself.
They are that which is living.
A history of the mysterious, astonished
That every arrow never quite reaches its target
Which on this exquisite night, daybreak,
The rising of sun, the transubstantiation
Of all we know is only dancing on the ship.

 Wind Farm


There is a tiny blue light
Just touching the edge of the venetian blinds.
Mendelssohn’s "Venetian Boat Song"
Is playing in a night room with warm
Low lights doing a lot of work
To hold my night together for me.

I struggle to remain capable of anything,
Even in a perfect evening.
Crickets performing to the meadows,
The International Space Station
Sliding across the night sky,
A wanderer I love to notice.
It holds all of our hearts.
It speaks to our recurring dreams,
Everything from grand armored knights
To the wild spinning of the stars.
The twinkling lights of our own earth
Announce all we know of the rest of space.

For these few moments
I have no idea what time
Has planned for any of us.

I will hold you here in my heart,
Put my arm around your shoulder,
Draw you close.

Such poor stages we have chosen
To dance upon.  Considering we are
The most perfect of beings
We have such a difficult time
Recalling samadhi.  The planets,
Indeed, the universe whirls
Around us and the smallest treasures,
A piano playing a boat song.
A particular quality of light.
The temper of being alone
In the wick of the night.

This is all I have to draw you close,
To recall your touch, the delight of your eyes,
The comfort of your body against mine.
Some little music, a few dim lights, a quiet
Within myself that allows me
To be with you here in these words.

I stand in the quickening light
Of the International Space Station
And trust everything we know
About distances, whirling around
Our lovely Earth, kissing your lips,
Telling you how it is I love you. 

 Snodgrass Slough


"There was only an immense staring
burn upon the land."
                     —Ray Bradbury

The landscape blew by the house.
Colors had particular noises.
They appeared to have a sequence to them.
The quality of our voices seemed
To depend upon to whom we were speaking.

How many ways to say “I love you.”

I watch the end of my fingers.
They remind me of something
I used to know but have
Now forgotten.  There is a trembling
There.  It is telling some sort of story.

I recall when were were coral.
The sea was within us and we were
Its language.  We waved through
The tides and gathered the smallest
Particles to our bodies that told us
The cities were close.  The beautiful
Fields would be filled with fireflies
Just as the sun set.  There was a moon.

“You know the moon?" someone said.
“No, but from now on I will believe you.”



How close can we come to the edge?
Far, far, below there are twinkling lights.
They are our villages.  We know who
Lives there and that they trust
Us to climb these great heights.

We thought so much was fairy tale.
That the pink sky in the morning
Was the blush of a cheek.
That bird song and the piano
And the clarinet and the guitar
And the cello and that all
Things that made music were
Language.  Still, no one spoke.

It was the gift of sound,
Like the waves upon the many shores,
The patterns clouds might make
As servants of the wind.

I will call you here to my side.
I will hold you safely as you look
Over the high edge.  We will realize
That what the poetry told us was
As true as it gets.  Even being
Here is more than enough to fill
An anthology or two before lunch.


Today's LittleNip:


I cannot resist the challenge.
My own eternity in a bunch
Of notebooks
Shoved under my desk.



Demonstration Garden

Friday, August 29, 2014

Catching the Next Wave

—Poems and Photos by Jennifer Lagier, Marina, CA


He’s a cocky bastard, full of himself,
arrogantly perched on a curved cypress limb,
his flustered, forgotten harem diving for cover
among sage, beach geranium, coast chaparral.

On nearby road, ungracefully aging males
gun red Maseratis, Lamborghinis, Ferraris
troll for trophy wife arm-candy
among anorexic, blonde joggers.

Assets and power jockey for dominance
in pheromone-saturated air.
It’s an alpha parade, puffed up fowl,
preening men beside turgid bay.


Morning light stratifies.
Gradient fog layers settle
like latte across the horizon.
Above snarled aloe, a near-silent trawler
drags gill nets through kelp beds
seeking shoals of anchovies.

On the path, a cigarette smoker points
his zoom lens toward distant rock piles,
boat wake, unraveling spindrift.
Announces, “Whales!”
his voice filled with reverence.

I strain to see spouts, fins,
some hint of cetacean migration.
Spot only geriatric sea lions
grumbling from stone thrones,
one more bristling otter.
Wonder why miracles unfold
at times I’m not watching.


The seagull is
easy to identify—
one remaining leg,
returns yearly,
seeks handouts
at Carmel River Lagoon.

My friend is the one
who named her Eileen.
Brings her treats.
Tosses morning offerings
to be caught in mid-flight.

She talks to birds and animals
we tease as Betty walks
along the ocean,
dispenses breakfast to
half-tame jays and gulls
who flock in her wake.


Dolphins somersault offshore,
fins slicing spindrift, teal surf.
Pelicans strafe bare stone,
glide above floating kelp,
skim pulsing breakers.

Off the tip of Point Lobos,
a trawler tows his gill net,
seines shoals of anchovies.
Morning sun lasers against
wheelhouse windows.

Salty boulders, stiff beach grass,
frame dun bluff, turquoise cove.
White gulls punctuate rigging,
rising waves, riptide water,
wash ashore poetry hiding inside me.


Turquoise surf oozes ashore,
creams against curved beach,
turgid river’s gold sands.

Salt mist slides across headlands,
hovers over canyons, pulled
inland by intense valley heat.

Sun-burnt sea grass withers.
Fog hangs aloft, fails to quench,
amasses in useless lavender heaps.

Summer cypress lift ragged limbs,
implore empty sky to bring fertile clouds,
needed moisture, overdue rain.


Chill wind explodes spent roses,
scatters gold pollen, petal confetti.

Flings pale mourning doves from
flailing elm leaves, protective branches.

Morning gusts disperse dismembered
fog chunks across mounded dunes.

Propels paddle boarders, strings of geese.
Strips frothy spindrift off pulsing surf.

Boosts the red tail hawk over cypress where
he stalls in a dead spot, circles and keens.

Hang gliders catch an updraft, coast silently
upon thermal currents above pristine sand.


A dirt path meanders along white beach,
coastal chaparral, curls between wind-sculpted cypress.

Dog walkers, morning regulars, sip streaming coffee,
dispense milk bone treats, greet one another.

Otters and dolphins offer an impromptu aquacade
augmented by occasional whale breach.

A white egret silently frisks among tangles of kelp.
Eileen, the one-legged sea gull, screams to be fed.

Painters erect easels, daub pastels onto canvas.
Surfers slide into wet-suits, grab boards, catch the next wave.


Decomposed granite trail meanders
along coastal bluff, segues into boardwalk.

Sere meadow blurs against
misty forest, foggy shore.

Vague hills merge with smoky horizon.
Fences, rooflines are soft, indistinct.

Ambiguous deer paths bisect poison oak,
golden meadows, cobwebbed thickets.

Spent lupine, fading poppies
deconstruct to ephemeral ash.

Last gasp of summer cycles toward fall.
Wild radish crumbles, passes away.

 —Jennifer, 2012

Our thanks and welcome to the Kitchen to Jennifer Lagier today! Jennifer has published nine books of poetry as well as appearing in a variety of literary magazines. Her latest book, Camille Vérité, was just published by FutureCycle Press. She taught with California Poets in the Schools and is now a retired college librarian/instructor, member of the Italian American Writers Association, co-edits the Homestead Review and Monterey Poetry Review, and helps coordinate monthly Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Visit her website at


Today's LittleNip:



Jen in her what-the-hell hat

Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Armful of Roses

—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
—Photos by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento


Things are quiet here, a friend writes
in the first email of his long life:

Most mornings I drive to Gillson Park,
sit and read beside the Lake.
The waves are a symphony.
Books are better there. Sometimes
a redwing blackbird will attack,
protecting its nest. The weather's
cool and there's rain at night.
It's not summer in Chicago
as you and I remember it.

I have a cell phone now too
and I use it all the time.
The landline's just a holdover
from the good old days.

Speaking of holdovers,
we should get together
while we still can.
At our age, who knows
how long either of us has.
People our age drop dead
without too much ado.

Tell you what: Whoever gets sick first
will notify the other one who'll take
a plane and race death to see
who arrives at the bedside first.
If I'm talking to a priest, wait outside.

Forget the small stuff like amputations.
They have prosthetics now for everything
except for tallywhackers.
Who needs more kids anyway.
My wife will send you an email if I die.
Ask your wife to do the same for me.



Henry's been married 50 years
without a sorry day,
his wife Opal reminds him

every week, and Henry
always says the days
are great but the nights

are something else.
Tonight should be a dandy
Henry thinks

as he lies in bed
adrift in shaving lotion
knowing that his perfumed wife

will join him once she wins
the battle of the bulge.
Opal says it's a bigger battle

every day to get her girdle off.
Henry calls it her chastity belt.
Smiling Opal never disagrees.


A flying saucer whirrs
through the kitchen air
almost hits him in the head

flies out the open window
followed by another saucer
sailed at him by her

angry that he's earthbound
can't take her to the moon
one more time tonight.

He's getting old, he tells her.
She should have come aboard
when he was 23 and flew

all night from star to star.
He ducks again and gasps,
"Once must now suffice."



Mabel in a gray cotton
dress turning to gauze
bends over her garden

feeling for a ripe cantaloupe
to take in the house
and chunk up for supper

when suddenly she sees
a blimp in the sky
this August afternoon.

She wants to board that blimp
before Melvin gets home,
removes his bib overalls

and straps her butt
because his meatloaf is cold
and his melon hot.

If he beats her again,
she knows she can't sit
through Sunday service.



I could kill him but I won't.
This tiny spider
no bigger than a pepper flake

has spun a web so fine
I can't see the strands
falling from a hook

near the basin where I shave.
He appears to levitate.
I could kill him but I won't.

He would be an inconvenience
for my wife if she spots him
but not an inconvenience

like the fetus in the womb
of my daughter's friend who plans
to come back to school this week.



Last week Opal learned
she has cancer

might live six months
even though she's busy

quilting with other
widows at church

gardening every day
pleased with her roses.

"I'm 80, Betty,
That's old enough"

Opal tells her neighbor
over the fence

as she walks
in her garden 

waters some roses
not as warm now

autumn is here
petals drift

in the breeze,
an early snow.


Most days the newspaper hits
the lawn by four in the morning
but it's six already and I don't see it.

I'll have to pull on my pants
and go out to see if it's hiding
in my wife's flowers and bushes.

She keeps adding more plants
to the jungle she's created out there
with parrots and macaws on the way.

But instead of going out
I tell her it's a nice morning
and suggest she check on her roses.

In this heat, they may need water.
And while she's out there I suggest
she scan the garden for the paper

in case it's held hostage by the foliage.
After coffee she sails out the door
and returns with no paper but brings

an armful of roses, a bouquet
I welcome more than the poison ivy
I find every day in the paper.


Today's LittleNip:


Hummingbirds dance
iridescence afire

around the red feeder
hung in the cedar

a symphonic swirl
ruby throats glistening

sipping sweet nectar
sipping until

it's time to jet back
to thimble nests.

The tiniest beaks
are open and waiting.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014


—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis

Intersecting lines move
in all directions like our
paths tracking decisions

the who, what, where
and with whom to be
enthralled or not, to bind

with roses or carpeting
after the dog runs away
and what was uncertain

is a hum and a drum
grafting intersecting lines.


—Ann Privateer

Hell bent with insatiable desire
beyond thunderous passion
looking for forever, before

the wild became harnessed
in the garden of beastly dreams
where the dogs are civilized.

Submission's running out
lost in the delicate balance
when tranquility becomes stout

when throwing the stick
again and again plays
with the bare arm's thick

heart tattoo, the origins
of which were lost
when you drank too much gin.

Turtle Rock
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

In the midst of forest, as if the centerpiece
of garden, lies a long meadow guarded
by a boulder dark as rock issued from the depths
of Earth. Under-topographics hidden, but
hinted by subterranean burrows sandwiched
between bedrock and lupine—one yard
of frost-heaved dirt to sink the foot of a hiker
to his boot-tops. The lupine has gone
to pod; a single ripe gooseberry where, a month
ago, the fringe of meadow promised fruit
enough to feed a bear. I picked that single jewel,
brighter by August sun than a ruby;
bit through its equator, sucked the pulp, never
touching spine to flesh. It was sweet
enough, then gone. And in the midst of meadow,
I grew dizzy with altitude—no, sudden
sapphires aloft and all around me, dragonflies
too many to count, enough to sparkle
remembrance through the coming winter.


—Taylor Graham

You’ve given up dreaming of Colorado
Springs or Santa Fe, of travel.
Here at home you see the wildest cloud-
scapes—as if peaks of cumulus
cut through a lower-level fog plateau.
What’s the likelihood of such a bloodless
battle? Someone says “earthquake
weather.” But your home is rock rooted
in landscape. This morning the sun
rose amber as lifeblood petrified,
a gem. You feel the change of sky, its
shiver like a lovely dread.


—Taylor Graham

The sky’s cornflower blue
with just these cirrus clouds coming
together above a meadow full
of yellow lavender and crimson petals
fading, wild grasses waving
a breeze for my dog to pull into her
treasury of scents. One raptor overhead—
could it be a peregrine? The clouds
are building dragon cathedrals
drawing winds from all directions,
I expect a storm. This meadow’s
laced as if by spider-silk
invisibly to lakes and summit
passes, to the cow-camp and the
rutty road that dreams August-long
of snowbank; and summer’s
always on the willow-verge of ice.

 Tree Dance
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Deep in forest I came upon a tree
with a nose. I looked closer. Eyes and ears,
mouth, lichen hair. Bark-wrinkled brow.
From his trunk, as many limbs
as an Indian dance but slower, absent
a storm. Relic of olden times, of comets,
bonfires, lightning-swords. Must we
fell him dead to count his rings?
How many of those around him
he’s seen collapse. I call him
“he” as I’d speak of man in the generic;
he seems without gender, individual
and universal. Prelapsarian.
His dance is rooted in place. Does he
yearn to be set free from his spot of earth,
his canopy to heaven? His answer
is wind-sigh and bird-song,
the long recurring narrative of leaves.


—Taylor Graham

An old letter from a grandmother’s
brother who eloped with music—
a letter of dashes and ellipses as if
he were about to seize the lost chord.
But he ended up teaching piano,
looking through smudged northern
windows at sunrise; opening the sash
to listen for distant church bells, or
were they birds just outside the pane?
The music caught in those ellipses.

 Silly Sheep
(for Taylor Graham, Shepherdess)

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

After the humidity, thick air
Of summer, the Midwest became
An almost magical place—if those
Words could all be put in the same
Sentence. “I can live again,”
You thought. “I could even
Stay here a while longer,”
You thought.

Does the Irish Setter’s coat
Take on a more vibrant sheen
Now, in the sunlight?
Should I wear a jacket
To work?
Should I fall in love?
Most definitely.


Claire J. Baker, Pinole

after years estranged
my sister and I play
Pick Up Sticks
using dry spaghetti.


—Claire J. Baker

After dark nights
of the soul, there's oatmeal,
a hummingbird.


Today's LittleNip:

—Claire J. Baker

This is a time
when full-of-wonder
wear afternoons
like wings.




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ice Dreams

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


you hold a wet glass
of melting ice water to your

houses waver around you

a mist shrouds over the ground
you raise one arm and become

the horizon
the glass shatters in the sunlight

a bird falls dead against your window
your hair blends into the sky

your face dissolves in clouds
space becomes circular

light is falling into your vertigo
your smile is cold



In the ice dreams, one of us flew out, recreating
the cold environment, floating upward in a terrible
surrender, bearing the other’s soul within, as if love
would be the

offering. Echoes followed, wailed and repeated
our mockery of escape, writhing in a cold flight
to a semblance of heaven. But always one of us
urged the other

back. Reality was all we knew—all else was time—
broken time—twisted in the ice. The melting powers
of love would not remember us; we had nowhere to go.

(After “Ice Creatures", watercolor 1943 by Henry Miller)

For years he swam under ice
toward the one who was always
above him, encased in blue sunlight;

where he could see her, ever skimming
the other dimension, wearing a
white coat of scales that glittered,

and he knew he could reach her;
there was always the current, pulling him
in her direction—and she beckoned,

smiling—Oh, this was impossible.
It took too long for both of them.
He grew to love the grip of water,

which was deep, and deeply lonely.
She was afraid of depths, and she
loved to float on the surfaces where

down-swimming skies could touch her.
Yet, somehow they held
their legend true. Ships came and went

with the telling. All the storms
knew; and the long, caressing calms
that could wait forever.



Legend says an ancient golden fish
survives in the icy moonlight
of winter in a lake as
wide and deep as lost time
where it still searches
for another
as golden
and as


I would prefer to write
a poem for August,
but winter is now
and too far away from August,
and your calendar
is full, you say.

So I'll take down
all my cold thin words for you
and make them do.

“Silver danger,” I will say
and twang its string
and you will vibrate to the chill
that twanging makes
and turn your thoughts away.

I will think lions in the snow
and make them purr
and you will have to pass them
as you tell your sadness
on your way to find
that real and tensioned woman
made of such perfection
she will have a twilight name
and eyes that blend
with all your points of vision.

The lions in the snow
will eat the days you left for scrap
because you had so many.  Later
you will have to pass them all again,
will have to step
between the paws and breathing, the
eyes that open after you.

“How did you like that winter?”
I will ask,
and you will shiver from the
different cold I mean, pull back
the icy sheets of our
vast bed
and crawl between.



Ice in the moonlight—
the stars breaking like glass.

Old, cold moonlight—
old rooster of the neighborhood.

In the protesting mouth of silence,
seven words left to say :

Innocent morning—
once more stricken with eyes.

(first pub. in The New Salt Creek Reader, 1975)


First she would pierce the eyes
with an ice pick
to pour
the strange and colorless milk
into a jelly glass for me to drink.

Then she would crack the shell
into jagged pieces
with her small kitchen hammer
to get to the white meat
that shone like crystal—

this we would dig at
with a knife,
or scrape loose
with our teeth—
this exotic, occasional treat.

The last of the pieces
would always harden
and lose their sheen—and I
never wondered if she ever wanted
to taste the milk she gave me.



Mother is out feeding the birds again.
They have brought their quiet wings
to her noisy hand.

This time she feeds them chips of light
so they can rise, glass-winged,
and cut through night.

Mother has given them seeds and bread
and they have not given back
even song.

One time she gave them words and cries
and they left some feathers
and her rueful eyes to follow them.

They will come down for anything.
She has not emptied
the kitchen yet.

She gives them shells of eggs and olive
stones. They are the hungriest
birds she knows.

Even in winter
she gives them food—
ice cubes and rose petals she has saved.

They have yet to thank her or make
a sound, other than their breathing shadow,
grown so large it covers
both her and her little ground.

(first pub. in ARX, 1970)


          I have been put here by repeated stories—
none of them true. I am frozen to such darkness
that light may never find me. I am under the spell
of an ice mountain through which I see terrible
illusions twisting themselves in my direction.

          You never arrive to save me, though I can
see you coming toward me, full-speed, on a beast
made of hot light. How can I wait for you! My
poor mind tells dream-stories until I awaken in
a great pool of melting mirrors.

          Even so, you are coming toward me with
your eyes full of tragedy—reaching everywhere
for me through  merging levels. But you are no
nearer than before. Light is my distance. I am
caught in all of it—from everywhere—the
swirling light and darkness, pouring through  me.



Skating on old thin ice to you
where you are circling away
toward a mood of closing gray,
I should not follow, but I do.

I part the folds of closing light
and draw back, blinded by the glare
that emanates from your cold stare
as snow turns everything to white

and everything about you blurs.
If winter wants you, you are hers.


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

You would not love me if you knew
how many loves have fed me ice—
how many times I’ve paid back thrice.
My burning tears have dried—
                        and my heart, too.


—Medusa, thanking Joyce Odam for today's delights in the Kitchen, talking about Ice, our out-going Seed of the Week. Our new SOW is fit for the season: Amber Mornings—the beginnings of Fall, when amber seems to creep across the landscape as the mornings are slower to get up—and so are we.

Monday, August 25, 2014

View From the Bridge

Bridge over Sugar River, Sunapee, NH
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Denise Flanigan


I'm not really
eating an Italian ice
and frosting
from a vanilla cake
as a first-of-the-year
brisk birthday party
while holding onto
a newborn's
cold shoulders
here in a steely
suburban cottage
on this inlet off the shore
with Inuit snowshoes
among the glaze
of high heels
a half-mile away
from land
wishing for a hay loft
a cool bicycle ride
or a luxury cab;
I am here
yet not really
asked to be
the entertainer
with my alto sax
and communicative verse
after whirlwinds
of a tropical storm
lash the Coast
when the lights
go out beyond the rocks
along the frosted deck
as we added attractions,
playing charades
and Monopoly
in the zippy winter night
as a Beat is here,
not really.


Ice cold but fervent
at first willing to explore
all that's out there
in these choppy waters
cover the sea of the Arctic
with icicles on my mind
suddenly a Beatles song
on their White Album
speaks to me out here,
Bob Dylan singing to me
"Along the Watchtower,"
"There must be
some way out of here,"
close to my own lyrics,
at first shy by these glaciers
then exploding as a vision
in the movie Titanic.



To read other minds
in constraint
that entwine your own
is to go beyond
the unfazed milky bones
which link us all
in connection
of one language
beyond any lighthouse
of words
over any Tower of Babel
here in these frozen waters
off the Atlantic
watching ice fishing
amid worms and bait
for flesh skins and bloody fins
which die and regenerate
in subterranean blue waters
as charging lobster hunters
now vanish from the sea
with their nets
eyeing icy traces
nearby of a turtle egg
not wishing
to interfere with nature
in a fetid feverish tidal basin
spilling over
a relieved chilling whisper
in a lagoon and Laocoon
from a faint wave sinking.


One of my actors
in the Original Theater
roller bladed even on ice
to get to his audition
he had tunnel vision
of his lines
with an eidetic memory
so I kept my eye on Adam
even when he left us
for the Big Apple
since I had no funds
to pay him for his worth
then went to Hollywood
and became a star
but when I needed him
he always came back
to us in roller blades
until he fell off
listening to Coltrane.



Andy Warhol at the Factory
with a passion for art and film,
I'm late and a still life
by the kindly porter
paying a chilled alto sax
reading poems
on the train underground
for some spare change
my camera rolls
for we underground Beats
are giving our readings
on street corners,
finding a lost Ernst print
at the Chelsea,
here is cheap vodka in draws
as time lapses
in my synapses
of taboo tripping,
needing a prescription
for a drug-free America
losing a nude display
of Gordon Parks' sequences
after getting the "Shaft"
on the way meeting Lana
a transvestite
who asked me for a light
and turned herself into
a bulbous yet
nosey chaperon
asking me to do
her laundry
of lace aprons, slips, dresses
of silk, Egyptian cotton,
and chancy things
drifting in the wash
in bathed icy bleach
of celestial swimsuits
from Esther Williams'
Technicolor sets
swirling shirts and blouses
lifted things from Macy's
from a drawn basket
in shiny scents of Lestoil.


With the romantic permafrost
congealed in a sun's cold glaze
at the Sorbonne library
here I am in the French lexicon
with its once-underground poetry
with Baudelaire and Rimbaud,
once again playing jazz
in my mind
to a melody of Mahler
in alternating rhythms
of rondeau redouble
and Rameau
before a French mirror
doubled up in a rimy room
for Verlaine and Mallarme,
the wind has Paris icicles
then in the cafe
we murder warm croissants
after portmanteau movies
of Jewish and Spanish refugees
seeing bridal angels
of Chagall
in the night and fog
by a synagogue and church
of our passing.



The military colonels
drink ices
while putting a poet
Yannis Ritsos away
on the island of Lemnos
exiled for years
when freedom was frozen
Yannis remembering
his twentieth birthday
in a fervor
of fevered expression
he coldly suffered
yet working poems on islands
from life's painful images
amid political repression
your language amazes
as you write in silence
Yannis Ritsos
on your arms.



When the cross lights
have a blackout
the sky opens
sprinkling ice flakes
on the window pane
spitting like riffs
on taxi window
thinking I spy Bukowski
as a barely alive shaman
reeling and needing
a ride
picking him up slowly
though shaking off
the tiny flakes
on my left sandal
on the street
the guy sits in the front
with me
as I take off
wanting to play sax
facing a cool guy
I only read yesterday
we in the same magazine
too shy to speak
where he slowly sinks
to rest in the best position
and not seeing
this fetal arrangement
as the best
for his strong shoulders
staggered from drink
with a little run
from a strangled cover
escaping the open air
by shafts of night
with the scent
he crumbled a few dollars
saying he was overwhelmed
with words, bills, lovers
in a sea of underground
mostly living
above a storefront
at edge
of the bus line,
we cannot lose sight
of being railroaded
by a hermit's fate
when a life wants to be
a year younger
on empty days
of sleeplessness
when you make a living
from your car
and here is possibly the poet
stretching out on my blanket
a body machine
beaten up by time
in this part of the city
of angels
knowing the devil
visits the friendless
with cold hands full
of change
and bourbon.


Today's LittleNip:


Rates of statistics
from catastrophic
climate critics
not listened to;
upon these icy mountains
a mother and child
under shadows of trees;
only drops of rain.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

And I Write

Cross, Madrid
—Photo by Ann Privateer, Davis

—Anna Akhmatova
No one can hurt me. They've tried to kill me
so many times that nobody scares me now.
I know what kind of people want me dead:
believers in love, political, dressed like the poor.
Nothing they can do is hidden from me.
This whitewashed ordinary room of mine
is Paradise, cut off, a plain white square
that overlooks the same street, the same people.
There's almost nothing in it—a few chairs,
bed, table, books, a red Persian prayer rug
with a cross in a yellow field in the middle.
It could be called a trap; maybe it is.
But what I feel
is gratitude—to those who put me here
and in their way hung doors, cemented brick, glaze windows:
may they never be ill or worried; may life pass them by.
I'm up this morning with the workers, I see
my old face in the mirror, bleached with anxiety,
and what I am is what the sun is—
itself free of itself daily
even when its last thin light goes out under the rim of the earth.
Everything's dark. Whenever I close my eyes.
Behind me,
much smaller than my head, abandoned, clear,
trees, miles away across a field, a road, one pinkish cloud,
live in the oval glass.
I tie one short ribbon in my gray hair
and step back—younger than the face I see—
nowhere, homeless, peaceful,
and talk to the voice inside me who talks to me.
Sometimes I sit here. Winds from a frozen sea
blow through my open windows. I don't get up, I
don't close them. I let that air touch me. I freeze.
Twilight or dawn, the same bright streaks of cloud.

A dove pecks wheat from my extended hand,
those infinite blank pages, placed on my writing stand . . .

some desolate urge lifts my right hand, guides me.
Much much older than I am, it comes down,
blue as an eyelid, godless, and I write.

(version by Stephen Berg)



Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tell Your Friends—

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


Tarantulas and dragons of them.
Glaciers of bubbly cumulus
Reflect the river until it
Can hold no more.
White and gray-white riots
Of clouds both above and below.

I pull some clouds around my shoulders
As I go across the meadow
To collect the morning once again.

Today, it too is playing with the clouds,
Showing them its blue cornflowers
And yellow buttercups, its
Symphony of bees and butterflies.

The grasses wave the breeze
Or the breeze waves the grasses.
I am never sure of much
In such a splendid cathedral,
Flabbergasted by its own moments.



I wore a suit of spider silk.
A spider dwelt within it
And opened hems and tailored it
Even as I wore it.

She would sing to me the spider’s song
Of fangs that sought a broken wing,
The lame of foot, the blind
That flew across the night unheeding.

And I became the spider’s bitch
With silken gloves and silken shoes;
I wrapped my arms around the prey
And the spider did the rest.

And every night I’d make her bed,
An orb web wound around
And dangle from a silken thread
Mere inches off the ground

Perfectly still, without a sound.
A hat of dried-up insect wings
I wore upon my head
And sang songs to the spider
About the lovely dead. 

 Oak Thicket


In the time of Tragus there lived three foxes who had spent most of their lives learning to speak like human beings.  They were more or less successful.  They could speak most simple commands and the youngest of them had held a discussion of ideas with a thrush one Spring—not that it amounted to much, thrushes are not all that good at language either.  The upshot was that the youngest could explain some of Plato to his fellows, but it wasn’t the good bits that stuck and his comments became very thrush-like and wound up using a lot of whistling, which was of no use whatsoever except that it attracted dogs who hunted foxes, and that was of no use to any one of them.
    Having noticed that the days of Summer were the most favorable of days, the three foxes decided to attempt to find someone to speak to and get all days to be like the best of days in the Summer.



There are birds under my feet.
They are alive and have committed
To being part of a bonfire.

They are still breathing. I can feel
Their bodies pulsating beneath
The soles of my feet.

All the children play
In the neighborhood
Near the Cathedral.

They hear the ringing of the bells
Bouncing off the stained glass windows.
Michael has again defeated the dragon.
The Gates of Eden have been closed.
We can no longer speak with the animals.

The birds begin to rise up, seemingly
Uninjured.  They preen their wings,
Stare at one another, then rise as one
Body and head for the bonfire.
They are prelapsarian entities.
There has never been a tripping,
Let alone a fall.  The fruits still
Cling to the trees.  We may eat them.

My own feet sprout feathers.
I am not walking upon birds.
I am their breath, their huge
Vision.  I am a rocket ship
Pasted upon a shirt. 

I travel to these places
With such ease I am able
To tell you about them
Without guile or pretense.

I join the children to play
In the neighborhood
Near the Cathedral.
We watch the bonfire.

 Mike Walking


I have been sent by our father
Which art in heaven.  What heaven
Is the art and are you my brother
That I may speak to you this way?

For I am a hallow that the edges
Near the kingdom of night
Come to us and these feelings pierce
My skin until I bleed in the most obvious
Places, into the rivers, through your veins,
Into your warm drinks, salty with your own
Tears and still you do not recognize me.

You are the kingdom I have come for.
Yours is the will that binds the fasci together
With its rude sticks as we seek our daily bread,
As we breed the days through our bodies
As each stick trespasses through this star-filled
Whirl, begging us to follow, to move away
From temptations we may never find the words
To describe and yet they languish as sorry legends
In the memories of our children as a deliverance
From an evil not capable of having a body,
But eager to use our precious skin to proclaim
Some wondrous light that was never ours
In the first place.

In the first place.  There you are my brother.
As we stand in the open air proclaiming
Our flesh as the most fluent of poetry.

 Sheep Grazing


I was in the garden
When the singing started.

I could see the angel turning
All ways before the gate
In front of me.

And there was breathing in the air.
And there was a deep sighing
That may have been the wind.

Now, I think it is myself
Who sighs.  The comets flash
Across the sky with tails of ice.

The visible part of all icebergs
Is always smaller than
A gunshot wound, no matter
How big the pain becomes.

Evening is here collecting
Her colors and taking them
To the west.  They follow
Her like trusting pets.

No harm will come to them.
They do not have this song
To flow to.  They will not see
The angel I told you of
Still turning, still with his
Beautiful sword.

I shake myself to keep
From sleeping.  I want to see
The light fade into the dark of night.

I want to watch the lights
Begin to rise from the campfires
Of the guardians of the night.

I will hold your hand in mine.
We can walk toward the angel.
It will seem like the
Rising of the moon.

 The Locke Ranch


There were roses gathered
To celebrate the joining.

At last the night and the day
Had found each other across
All of space and time.

We waited on the islands
For the celebration.  It began

Almost at once.  This one time
We saw dawn dance with twilight,
The alpenglow shiver through great
Banks of clouds.  The rising and the
Setting of the sun were performed
Again and again, without pause.

We stood spellbound before this
Display.  It illuminated lakes and rivers,
Filtered through vast woodlands,
Echoed across tundra and veldt.

We find so many who still anticipate
This marvel.  Perhaps it will happen again.
Tell your friends.  Go out of doors
Together to watch for it as often as possible.
There is nothing else quite like this anywhere.


Today's LittleNip:


Never, never heart.
Never go away.
Never, never heart.

The littlest lanterns.
History is the undertaker.
It buries everything.

We were still talking about sleep
And beds.  Waiting for the darkness
To take us back into the world.

Never, never heart.
Never go away.
Never, never heart.

Their hair intertwined
Like a Chinese umbrella

The chain

Never, never heart.
Never go away.
Never, never heart.



Dresser Top

Friday, August 22, 2014

Inhale the Sky Entire

Old Dog Cowboy
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Past the gym, between classroom bungalows,
my dog’s tracking our quarry. Across grass
to tennis courts, along the shady treeline. Then

whoop! Cowboy cuts south, the wind’s full
in my face and behind my back, hide and seek
of sky and my dog swings wide and happy.

Head high. Forget that step-by-step trail
of evidence, every wrong turn the “lost man”
made. This dog was born to range unfenced

give-him-land far from the road give him hills
and valleys, green grass of a playing-field
on summer break, he’s moving too fast to tell

where he’s going, he intercepts scent free-
flowing on the morning breeze. Straight to his
quarry, the wrong way, who cares? He’s old

enough to be retired. To lie at your feet
and dream. Just for this morning, let him lift his
nose off the ground and inhale the sky entire. 


—Taylor Graham

Why should she put up green festoons against
the atrocities of winter? Her dawn winces awake,
bundling itself in ice-fog. Long ago the molten
sun shipped out, skimming the south horizon
far beyond her sight. She used to think the stars
were brilliant, but they burned themselves out.


—Taylor Graham

I know the history, fabricated of despond.
All those months of research,
recyclist of things that grow in meticulously
labeled cabinets, enclosed spaces—
the worm that eats at the dark
of a wildrose wood, that multiplies
in the interim when we’re not watching.

You handed me a dish on which lay
the worm, quite dead. I carried it outside,
flipped the dish to give the worm
back to earth. Mid-flip
it took wing, a hawk—not of the dead at all,
but of breezes, flashing its blue pinions
to disappear in the courageous sky.

Morning Visitor
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Caschwa, Sacramento

I visited Locke once
And was treated very nicely
The mayor even gave me
The key to the city!

Then I learned that
Locke was just an
Unincorporated district
Sold the key on E-Bay



When I die I want
A simple ceremony
Closed harmony fanfare
Played by a Dixieland band

Hire an auctioneer to
Conduct the rituals
Get it over with

Then strut away
While the band plays
Visit a diner
Eat well, laugh

Cedar Noses
—Photo by Katy Brown


in no mood for dancing,
sitting, as he is, in rattan.
A tall woman waves a hanky
as she sallies up to his gray face.
Her suitor chooses to ignore her.

Sitting, as he is, in rattan
impatiently tapping
his patent-leather shoes
as she sallies up to his gray face,
a tall woman waves a hanky.

Her suitor chooses to ignore her;
his patent-leather shoes
in no mood for dancing—
standing, impatiently tapping.

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento


—Carol Louise Moon

When one first absorbs Sepia
there is a settling at the center.
I suppose the emotion is best
described as a settling in.
However, over-absorption
causes confusion, an unsettling
of the settling.

I have often wandered away
from Sepia into a desire for
complicated color, a shaking-up
of my focus, and a misguided
guiding of my direction.
Without Sepia, my Compass,
I am simply lost.

Love Fish
—Photo by Katy Brown


sometimes has a mind of its own      
I bought it because my flip cell phone can’t take good pictures      
I had the same kind before that I bought from a Goodwill     
Then it broke and I purchased another for $25 on eBay
What do I mean by a mind of its own?
It seems to decide to blur perfectly good shots 
like it suddenly goes nearsighted without lenses
though I have the settings correct 
The camera by doing this appears to want to get back at me
I wish my camera was more like a dog than a guy
and saw its purpose in pleasing its owner 
rather than deciding what it wants to do when I press its buttons
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

Today's LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

It was almost spring—probably
The last time for the season.
There was a sign at the edge
Of the pond, and naturally
I went over to read it.
Sign said, in about eight-point
Type, "Warning: if you’re
Standing here. . ."   Didn’t
Get to read the rest.  Fell
In.  Was completely soaked;
Nobody would give me a ride.
But I warmed up on the jog home.


—Medusa, noting two events tomorrow: (1) "Karate, Art & Poetry", a Scriptorium Saturday Poetry Show featuring artist/poet Joseph Galinato plus open mic and Pre-Show Workshop at 6pm. Graphic Center, 3925 Power Inn Rd., Sac. Info: 916-446-3821, and (2) Race for the Arts 5K or fun run and 45 interactive booths featuring hands-on visual, cultural, performing and literary arts. Starts at 8:30am, Wm. Land Park, 3901 Land Park Dr., Sac. $15-$30. Info: 916-966-8893.

—Photo by Katy Brown