Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Gasp of Warning

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


(After "Water", photo enhancement 
by D.R. Wagner—first appeared in 
Medusa's Kitchen)

Now water separates against the land.
Now earth has broken away.

Now there is only sky and water;
there is only dream,
with its ancient illusion.

The sky is caught in blue reflection
of nothing there.

Where is the gasp of warning—
the change that will change
again—surge back against

the awesome beauty of destruction.
Is this but a held breath:

time’s elasticity
that lets go a cosmic sigh
that settles back into forgiveness?


Over the golden tundra  (?)
in leaps and bounds

the gazelles
follow the cloudy sunlight

flickering across the dunes  (?)
like teasing moments

of daylight.
Everything is tawny:

the earth against the hoof prints
left by the running of the gazelles.

Forget destination and distance,
it is the in-between of this

that dazzles the perceiver—
the stillness caught

between each leap—
these moments of un-endangered joy.

 Birds Perched Between Trees


It was the hollow world we entered
with our dream of entering—
with our knowledge of being there.

It was the far room at the end
with its wavering wall
that held firm for our entrance.

And then, the vast potential—:
we could paint everything with our minds:
mountains,    sky,    earth,    our own seas;

we could invent eternity.
How eager we were,
pouring over imagined blueprints.

Oh, the birds we created—
the marvelous jungles and cities,
children of no cruelty;

The weather was divided
into seasons with no extremes.
We balanced everything

to perfection . . . and then,
we left it there . . . slipped out of our world
before it knew of us.



I want to write about the corn
but these hard kernels of dull gold
fail to remind me of
all I know about the corn…
     the way it listens in the summer for
     the wind that always finds it…
          the way it speaks
          and moves from speaking…
               rustle bend rustle rattle bend.

This wrinkled corn in my earth hand
cannot pretend to be the
the finished product of my eye,
cannot acclaim itself that far…
     this dried up
     secret thing…
          with all its miracle inside itself
          in my cupped hand…
               waiting to begin.

(first pub. in In a Nutshell, 1979)


I am in a doorway, bracing against it.

I am as tall as it is and can easily touch
both sides, yet I am a child; and in reality,
the doorway is huge.

I am in an earthquake. Behind me the dark
bulk of the house is shuddering with noise;
outside, the house is blurring and shifting as
if there were no stability left in the world.
I cannot move. I freeze to the doorway,
which is white and smooth. I fasten to the
white smoothness, close my eyes and wait.

I am an adult now. The doorway has
regained its true size—a flash of something
has brought me back and forth in time at the
first recognizable rumble:

Earthquake…? My imagination…?



blue background
a merging of violent colors
paint flowing across the sky

the sun
melting the core of the earth
mountains forcing through

the air
a releasing sigh
a gasp

the last red sunset
all this
in a momentary flare

of thought
a last brilliance of mind

dark reality
stillness exploding
nothing but sky to bear all this

 Two Pears


in the sky
like a high
promise made of sunset
and voice of, say, God, in His Most

Religious Moment—shining there
like a private illusion        not at all
(un)like some Neon Cloud Formation
made of pollution dust

in a windless sky—the ocean blazing beneath it
with shimmering red light from
the disappearing sun and lapping against the

consciousness of everything
even the silhouette of the very earth…
the breathing trees…   the (un)breathing stone
picked up at random and carried in a pocket

where some divining hand can feel the comfort
of it—oh, sweet digression—
you have carried me away from

The Number In The Sky which seemed so vain

with its self-congratulation—and was
so admired by the (un)discerning
and the envious—like an ad for happiness:
Oh, One;    Oh, Zero;    Oh, Ten

 Yellow Leaves, Cloudy Sky


all the efforts clang like uphill trains;
or boats in fog;
or the distance from drowning
at the edge of the shore

like the slow grief of water
wanting to be born
but the earth is slow
and the air cannot remember

all the sleepers are dead, so there is
no dreamer—one far-off poet
remaining in words,
those prisons of inarticulation…

every sorrow has a name—whatever
you call it; whatever you want and
cannot have; whatever you lose and cannot
find; whatever you explain to unhappiness

if there is a reason for healing
let it not be this one
there is too much to do yet,
too much loss and too much grieving


Today's LittleNip:


I will take the sad earth of myself
and make a poem.

Hear me.
Speak me well.
Arrange me in lines of sound.
Your eyes will know when to pause.

I will be hills
and more hills.
I will be
bleak weather
and go barren of everything.

I will be
desert stretches of emphasis.
No map will cure me.
I will not come to an end when I am done.

I will begin again,
I will begin again.

(first pub. in
Parting Gifts)


—Medusa, noting that our Seed of the Week is Sisyphus, taken from Joyce Odam's LittleNip: "I will begin again, uphill..." Send your poems, artwork and photos about Sisyphus and that huge stone in your life to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs, though.

Blaze of Maple

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dreaming of Romeo

2014 Dancing Poetry Festival, SF, Sept. 19
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Overhead, a weave of cloud and wings
above the delta. You crane your neck, trying
to untangle migratory call
from somebody’s cellphone—there he
sits as the birds pass over; keeps
asking questions as if expecting a response.
They—the birds—look like
El Greco saints in full heavenly flight. Now
you’re weaving fancy with their
fancy weaving in and out of cloud.
A change of weather. Are they cranes?
You’ve never seen one close. Plenty
of human birds with cellphones, their calls
of mating or territory, or just keeping
in touch on a long-haul journey. But now
these—even from such a height
they touch you. How are you supposed
to answer?

 Dance of Joy
2014 Dancing Poetry Festival, SF
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Taylor Graham

I woke up under the wind
slipping away from night. It sounded
like history. Nothing personal,
just axes and hands, a lost world—or
was it worlds lost in equations
of thinking and failing and making
something stay? Then waking
as if nameless I was drifting toward
a glow I call sunrise, and
the wind rushing to meet it sang yes.

2014 Dancing Poetry Festival, SF
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

The Jeffers impersonator has taken
His check and departed.
The string trio accepts foil-covered plates
Of finger food as their
And the wine servers
Gather behind the tower
To finish the wines in a manner
Jeffers would have approved.

Last out, the director clanks
The gate one more time
To assure himself
Everyone’s gone.

A shadow figure emerges
From the warrior stairway
In the tower, looks left,
Looks right, smiles as
Haig the Housedog,
The bull dog the family
Buried outside the
Living room window,
But who never really
Went away, snuffles
Across the lawn
To his master.
“Easy, boy.  Rest.
Let’s sit here and
Watch the ocean
Gather the darkness.
They were just ghosts.
And now they’re gone
For another year.”

Dancing Poetry Festival
—Photo by Katy Brown


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

(After seeing "Richard III: The New Evidence", BBC)


Richard, breaker of horses, and I do mean battle-horses,
spur your overbig charger against the odds, force
the twist in your back so like an egret’s neck in flight
to sustain the charge’s glowing sword-forge fire and momentum,
the heavy-metal, heavy-water gallop breakneck, full
in the face of six-foot-seven Sir John Cheyne, smash his
teeth with the force of your oak-beam, sunbeam lance.
Did I say the egret’s-neck crook in your back? But your bones
have grown their adult predator strength on feasts
of egret, peacock, boar’s flesh, wild hare, salmon
and sturgeon. This last once, let the meat of your spinewarp
fuel you far beyond what your wine-bibbing, ale-saturated,
roundworm stomach tells you you can: you are steeling
yourself to spear a wide blood lane to Henry of Richmond.


Oh you are goading your beautiful horse into a crevice,
into the domain of No Horse, your iron courser and corset into
the No Armor, the nude vertiginous kingdom. The narrow
wood throne snugly enough cradles your pelvis, your genitals atop
the seafoam skin of the beast—then steed spills and you sprawl
athrash in a red ocean of brawl-roar, tumbled corpses primed
to liquefy. You’re about to become sword-cushion for that
cold-eyed seamstress, that contemptible ladyface Tudor… 


…all the while you’re penetrating with lashing rage Hell’s membrane
as it was whispered you tore apart your mother, exiting her,
with a gauntlet of infant teeth. As you subside in a crimson pool,
as Henry’s myrmidons pridefully, vengefully pierce
a king who can’t stab back, your teeth-baring, gum-baring
primate howling snarl drains with your spinal column
into a parking lot some leagues and centuries distant
from Market Bosworth.


And is this verse spellbound to be silent
about the soil that trembled minutes before,
stretched tympanum to the overthunder? Sprung from
the news of Richard’s exhumation, up leaps the one
dragon-tooth sown and rooted down in: Dominic
Smee, a youngster, battle-reenactor, a stripling
with the same longbow back, aiming to prove so
bent a man could ignite an army, fight through his own
ribcage prison and stand to the armweary last. This
re-creators’ game if brought to consummation, what is it
to You, Lincoln green spinney, emerald field where
the plow or the electronic probe turns up shards
of knight’s helm-smiter, bishop’s mace and hilt-splinter?
You, sweet sheaf-matrix, Mother Bosworth and more,
will go on sharpening Your round horizon smile,
staying whole all the while Richard, Henry,
and their many minion descendants labor carving out
blood-pie slices against the grain of Your natural
rounds, cylinders, cones  and angles. World-woman,
womb to so many deluded warriors You wholly overmaster,
do as You do and touch as You touch, sanctifying
in Your death-embrace the least hallowed
of all the vicious blood-harrowers, turning
his moldering crumbles
all Stonehenge and holy…  

Painting by Ann Privateer, Davis

—Ann Privateer, Davis

things stay the same
and that fuels confidence
and boredom

like the organist
whose instrument
breathes deeply

to bring up bass cords
marine monsters
and comforting moss

until...we break
screech higher
to Quint-C

falling back to G7
and in between
we live and breathe.

 Painting by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer

we face each other through
wind and rain, squarely, focused
yet alone, each in our own

little room with sky perception
your furrowed forehead
your detective's private eye

my hurried dressing
after awakening
your sleepy smile

before bedtime
while a litany of winks
and blinks fill the space

empty thoughts taken
to the trash, what can we
say except the kernel of truth

we did not know
when we were happy.

 Painting by Ann Privateer

Today's LittleNip:


—ann privateer

concentrate your play
infuse it with kernels
that will not stray, away
with lifeless
principles, dance today
to moody melodies
heart rhapsody
the crux of the beat
fast or slow
with no espresso
and dream of Romeo.


Our thanks to today's potpourri of contributors! Kevin Jones will be reading at the annual Robinson Jeffers Fall Festival in Carmel this weekend; scroll down to the blue board (below the green board at the right) for details of that and other coming poetry events. And Ann Privateer's artwork, some of which we have samples of today, will be shown at Davis's Avid Reader, 617 Second St. in Davis, beginning at the Second Friday Art About on Oct. 10 and running until the next show begins in November.

Our other photos today were taken by Katy Brown, who attended the 21st Annual Dancing Poetry Festival in San Francisco on Sept. 19 to read her third-prize poem. Dancing Poetry is a spectacular annual affair that is not to be missed; you need to go at least once in your lifetime. Check it out at www.dancingpoetry.com and plan to enter poems next year.

Fortunately, our many autumn readings have brought out the cameras of some of our local poets—keep watching Medusa's Facebook page for new photo albums. (And thanks to our fantastic fotogs!)

Sacramento Voices 2014, the huge anthology of area poets which was released last Saturday on 100,000 Poets for Change Day, is now available from Cold River Press. See www.coldriverpress.org for a complete list of contributors and purchasing info. There's also a new online issue of the Bay Area poetry journal, Ginosko, posted at ginoskoliteraryjournal.com/downloads.htm/. And Oct. 15 is the deadline for the next issue of Rattlesnake Press's quarterly journal, WTF: see rattlesnakepress.com/wtf.html for submissions info or to order one or more of the 23 previous issues.

And don't forget that October 26 is Sacramento Poetry Day, which was officially proclaimed in 1986 by then-Mayor Anne Rudin. To celebrate, Medusa is planning a Marathon Post on that day, which happens to be a Sunday. Send poems and artwork and photos about Sacramento to kathykieth@hotmail.com, and we'll post 'em all, no matter how many! A good day to show the world how many wonderful poets are in our area!



Tor House Tower

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Give Earth Yourself

—Robert Browning

Oh, good gigantic smile o’ the brown old earth,
      This autumn morning! How he sets his bones
To bask i’ the sun, and thrusts out knees and feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth;
      Listening the while, where on the heap of stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitters sweet.

That is the doctrine, simple, ancient, true;
      Such is life’s trial, as old earth smiles and knows.
If you loved only what were worth your love,
Love were clear gain, and wholly well for you:
      Make the low nature better by your throes!
Give earth yourself, go up for gain above!



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Always the Surprise

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


We first knew about this place
From a trail that led to
An open space where one
Could look up and see
The many structures
Attached to the rock
Face above us.  Traces,

Marked trails, long used,
Now unused, could be
Seen among the sage
Brush and manzanita.

These were a way up to
Dwellings and sacred places,
Long abandoned, not forgotten.
They created a presence established
By time and confirmed by tradition
That gathered great power to itself.

Upon reaching these high places
We spent weeks studying everything
We encountered.  Each object, every vista
Was a language in itself, a tale demanding
To be heard, a singular statement commanding
Both time and a particular space.  It became
Too much.  We could stay no longer.

A cell phone would ring.  The aircraft passing
Above our heads created noise demanding
Attention, if even for the briefest moment.
We were driven by hunger and thirst, the
Caring for the animals, the demands of our bodies.

Some of us made love within the ancient rooms,
Calling aloud into a darkness long without
Speech.  We argued over what things must be
Considered important, what were merely
Artifacts of daily life.  Time exposed esoteric
Facets of insidiously selective concerns.
We returned curiously refreshed yet unfulfilled.



Light turned blue.
Door opened.  Half of the
Afternoon spilled across
The floor.

Every time this happened
We could see the seasons
Change, the quiet silver
Attached to dreaming, always
Polished, glinting.  Each occurrence
Different.  The woods in Maine,
River storms across the Great Lakes.

We could hardly keep track,
Afternoon after afternoon,
Always before that light.
We knew it would be this way.
Always the surprise: birthdays,
funerals, flights of birds,
The occurrence of incredible things.

The blue light must be
Where singing or dancing occur,
Some manner of movement, deep
Rooms, direct communications.

The night easing itself toward
Another time.  Someone
Cleaning the whole place
Up, changing it.  We will
Wait until tomorrow, hoping
We will be alive, blinking
Into that blue light,
Waiting for that door to open.



These birds, though made of fabric,
Still reflect the sky, albeit with huge defect
And flow across this body as it shivers; they
Will be gone before I’m close enough to count them.
And yet not gone as garments, but more like rivers,
Out into a delta and then gone.
These birds have it in their sewn-up wings
To reach beyond mere decoration.
Let them move a slower pace, gather their fine power
To dictate with songs that will sweep one away,
These fancy weavings and this weaving fancy
From flocks that were real birds but yesterday.



He put his hand around
The throat of the night
And began to squeeze.

A room filled with nothing
Looking out at nothing.
A room without a door.
The only way to be inside
The room is to read the words,
To speak the words aloud.

The lights of the night begin
To go out one by one,
The thumbs pressing into it
Like clouds before stars.

A quiet lifted to the room.
Standing in the room alone.
There is nothing in the room.

That noise is the wind slipping
Away from the night.
Dreams like milk fill the throat
Of the night.  The eyes cloud over.
The room was here only a moment ago.
Now it is gone.
The stars resume their attention.



I think I liked that he was magical
And did seem to know he was.
“I’ll get you a chair,” he would say,
Reaching into the clear air, and there
He would be holding a chair.
He would offer it to me and I would sit.

“We should have some tea.
Tea would be very good.”
And it would appear on a small table
With two blue cups sitting on saucers.
And the tea would be very good.

Sometimes we would talk for hours
About things like how hard it was
When we were kids to dream about anything
Unless we asked someone,
“What should I dream about?”
And your father or your mother
Would say, “Dream about a horse.”

That simple.  Off we would go running
After sleep, to find the horse.
I think that is how magic works.



Shadow legs across the top of lights.
We do not think for a moment
That they are our own,
But in this place it is possible
That they are.  For here we stand
Apart from what we see
And what we are and toy
With concepts that are not ours
By any right but by dreaming
That such things can be, and
Because we will not decline the chance
To dance across these lights,
The origin of which we never
Guess or question while we quest
These lands that face away from
The world.

For here the shadows can reform
Themselves into perfect myths—
That land abandoned by childhood
Long ago—and come to this place
To welcome us with open arms and sing.



And somewhere I will just stop wanting you.
And the stars will come out again.
And the moon will find its way
Back into a sky it had nearly forgotten.
And I will be able to see deep
Into the grove of trees on the other
Side of the meadow field.

And there I will be walking
With my hands in my pockets,
Listening to cricket music and hardly thinking
I am hearing someone’s meditations
While playing a harp.

And it will all sound so easy,
So that now I can hardly say
Things like this and have them
Feel like I was holding a rabbit
In my arms and the rabbit
Was very sleepy and that it closed its eyes.
And that I know exactly what to do.


Today's LittleNip:

Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private.

—Allen Ginsberg


—Medusa, noting that we have another new photo album on Facebook: SHINE FOR WEED by Annie Menebroker. And reminding you that D.R. Wagner and many other poets will be reading at Sac. Poetry Center today from 11am-4pm for the release of
Sacramento Voices Anthology II.

 Grizzell's Heels

Friday, September 26, 2014

Keep Typing—

—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
(with anonymous artwork)


If I were a possum
with a tail that long
I too would hang
from a tree limb
this dark morning
and hiss to frighten
the cats off the deck
away from the food
and water, and then

I'd drop from the limb
and eat as soon as
that fat raccoon
climbing the steps
with the lurching sway
of a hungry Grizzly
washes his food
gobbles his fill
and rumbles away.



This August evening
so many hummingbirds
helicopters of the garden

hover and dart
iridescent in the dusk
flower to flower

sipping perhaps
a last supper
then flying South

before the leaves
before the snow
us at the window

praying they'll stay
knowing they can't
praying for spring



He paints hummingbirds not
for people to praise them,

ogle and grovel and buy them.
He paints them because

the birds come fluttering
one after another

and won't go away unless
he paints them, every hue.

They line up like planes
at a busy airport, hovering,

waiting their turn to be put
on canvas, made immortal,

one bird at a time,
framed and hung on a wall.

After hanging each painting
he cleans his brushes and whistles

and waits for the next one to come
and hover in front of his eyes.

He prays the last one will perch
on his brush and stay.


You had to have a Schwinn
to lead this pack of boys
riding bikes full speed
baking under the Chicago sun
laughing after senior year
heading to the local park
to play a game of ball
or lob a cane pole
in the park lagoon
with stinkbait on the hook
to catch a bullhead,
cousin of the catfish,
small but just as tough.

Riding Schwinns was High Mass
in the summer after high school
before everyone would join the Army
or wait to be drafted.
Maybe one or two of us
had sober fathers working
and we would go to college.
I was one of those.
Going to college was something
I was told I'd do from third grade on.
So do the homework, my father said,
or he'd wash up and visit the nuns.

Korea ended not too long before.
Two guys ahead of us
would never ride a Schwinn again
or go to college on the GI Bill.
One guy did come back.
For years he walked in circles
around his family's back yard
smoking real Pall Malls,
unimpaired by filters, very long.
Butch was shell-shocked,
neighbors said.
We'd have to pray for him.
They didn't call it PTSD back then.



Ebenezer woke to find
rats in his basement
so he called PETA
to take them away
and the lady hung up
so Ebenezer prayed
and the doorbell rang
and there stood a preacher.
He waved a Bible,
yelled and screamed,
"All you must do is believe
and you will be saved!"
and Ebenezer replied,
"I do believe but
what about the rats?"
The preacher smiled,
turned to leave and
tripped on the stairs.
He never moved,
his head a Vesuvius
lofting a spume of blood.
Ebenezer closed the door
and said to no one, "I believe
the Samaritan can handle it."


It's not de rigueur
to believe he's there
behind the sun,
the stars, the moon
watching us
holding a burnt match
from the first Big Bang,
a souvenir, and
holding another
yet to be struck
the day he says
"No more!"



    After Reading 'Blackberry-Picking' Again

For many years
Seamus Heaney wrote
while the rest of us typed

none of us striking
keys as grand as those
in "Blackberry-Picking."

Not a sour syllable
nor bruised word
in any verse.

"Blackberry-Picking" tells
the rest of us to keep typing.
Excellence never dies

although it may not be ours.
We will hear poems
Seamus is writing now

when we sneak into heaven
and Seamus gives them to
the Seraphim to sing.


Today's LittleNip:


In the wind
a butterfly clings

to a marigold while
a bee hovers.

A hummingbird stops
then darts away.

The garden is still
a banquet in autumn.


—Medusa, noting that we have another new photo album on Facebook: SHINE FOR WEED by Annie Menebroker. Check it out!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Metaphors, Meteors, and the Metaphysical

—Photos of Manchester by the Sea by Denise Flanigan
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


There is something
in our footsteps
of anticipation
from our shadows
as morning lights us
at the library
which brings our memory
to intertwine us
whether by wind, rain or sun
carrying us to
a safe hideout
of learning and wisdom
in the aroma of quiet
as solitude emerges
in a profile of student
silence moving
among books of knowledge
from quiet places of discovery
toward hands that retrieve
our common histories,
here is a love note
in green flyleaf quivering
on a volume of Proust
binding us
in remembrance
of searching the past,
here is Dickens
a novel account
of hard times,
a selection of Irish, Spanish
French, Russian,
and a section of Jewish poetry
on this back bench
in creative corners
by brusque magazines
commentaries and reviews,
which stay with you
beyond two weeks
in their bound leather
from these solitary rooms.



I woke up light-headed
like Rip Van Winkle
in Washington Irving's story
from a blanket of a daydreams
this time with a pile
of my chapbooks next to me
as hundreds of patrons
approached the closing door
to attend a poetry reading
with large letters
pointing to once-buried
now mobile animated t.v. screen
where I'm hesitant to move
in a living silence
of my own resonant mood
trying to waken my memory
tied in an unfolding knot
of the conjugated past
in shadows overpowering me
illuminating coats and sweaters
surrounding your initialed name
on the programs given out
in a pleading sun of an off-season
with a sense of confidential fate
glimmering with a protective ease
as I randomly make my way
to the main lecture hall
expanding this pleasurable time
that after all the months
when time slipped
through my printed page life
night riding on my bicycle
to tiny used bookstores
cobwebbed academic buildings
public and private schools
to lecture and urban read
by covers of dusted-off chairs
in silent walls of unbelief,
here everything is tidied up
and within a people's reach out
on unfamiliar yet kindly faces
with ardent enlightened glances
directed toward me
who knew of my writing
and gave me the recognition
of my craft that words sought
in an itinerant language
of my excited fortitude.


With energy
in a single silence
near a river bed
with notebook in hand
by edged rocks
off the sea coast
lying on a blanket
of speechless reminiscence
full length
in the abrupt sunshine
dissembling his papers
by the deck of boats
in the home harbor
watching bees everywhere
in a grimace of worry
and shapeless nerves
breathing years of words
near a lost compact
with two boys stumbling
in the ditch water's edge
under a warning sign
for our protection
in a shattered gorge
and land passage
to recover loss
in an undertow
a swimming memory
of being there years before
among noxious cat calls
and hasty judgments
by growing wild flowers
garden snakes and turtles
in a life deserted
remaining only as gestures
of my trembling fingers.



A poet late
for his urban read
takes a wrong u turn
emerges on the boulevard
between two countries
winds up
behind the beech tree
gazebo and esplanade
meets a French woman
sunning herself
on a blanket by hedges
next to her oil portrait,
she gives him directions
and asks to accompany him,
they arrive early
she translates his poems
for the Montreal audience
then is awarded a contract
by an art studio director
who sees her portrait
and elopes with her
and the poet in the courtyard
huddled into the shadows
signs his autographs
on the back desk corner
spending a restless night.


a silk stocking,
a bourbon glass
in an actuality
of fragments,
opaque sun,
at the 13th station,
a paradigm
worn of desperation
in the Jerusalem
a partial vision,
by a rock
water colors
its clam shell
shadows on pale stone
reefs, unbelief,
the last fish surviving
in the Yantgze river,
or a scene
of Heddy Lamarr
in a Hollywood
orgasm in Ecstasy,
the Toulouse Lautrec poster
damaged at matinee
played by Jose Ferrer
in the movie house,
a partial eclipse
the aurora borealis
sky writing.



Out of passing
the risk of the sea
waves to us,
out of passing
the earth captures
a caravan in an odyssey,
out of passing
outer space
rescues a sky
of astronauts,
out of passing
red fruit and flowers
at a funeral cortege
of populist poets
who enter the Square.


from the start
with breakdowns
and long suffering
as once revenants
awakening an inward start
in an artistic sense,
forsaking their part
expected to be played
with complete indifference
parlayed by language
on bets and vetted
of an original parlance
as proper lyrical gents,
with nonsensical Edward Lear
or castoff John Clare
their lives scoffed in arrears,
like poor Rimbaud,
Montesquieu and Baudelaire
my God, as a dandy
having an honorary degree
of divine favor handy,
and by the good wake
of their bandied souls
would ache with mine
at the words taking up
their arbitrary tolls,
as Artaud and Poe
give them
a literary break
the Muse will not
let go,
or Eliot, Joyce
who heard a dissident
voice from a nervous soul,
like Sylvia Plath
for all her wrath
in confession
while not divine
in her profession
set us on another path,
or Sexton
with a wit and talent
in her quirks to tell
all the lit-crit jerks
needing repentance
of her long-suffering intent,
and our local friend Lowell
in his poetic works
whose commentary
was not a vocal crime
even in his "Imitations"
in momentary space and time,
yet spent on by critics
whose local intimations
they found didactic,
like restless Pound
not of sound mind
in their assignations
and sent away
on unsavory grounds
of political assassinations
being absurd
and eccentric
pacing around like a bird
with their minds racing
bound by sleeplessness
to confess their story
and sum up the poetic age
in a melancholy hell
just for glory of the word.

          (Sept. 26, 1888)

Solitary in awareness
with a felicity of words
in seasoned laurels
of a mythic sinuous space
over critics' quarrels
you found a language of grace
to our generation's relief
contrary to other spells
you sound in a mystical way
to search our nature fearlessly
in plays and mature poetry
that sounds among shadows
in a venture toward places
of hermetic church bells.



(In memory Cesare Pavese,

Bouncing his leg
off the table
saying farewell
to his nerves
nibbling at his soul
to wish he were
at a year or century
earlier or later
having seen anger search
for him in his stress test
in signals and signs
weighing on his life
of literary exertion
scaling in different
directions of Italy
like a weather vane
under Turin's grey sky
for so many seasons
trying to forget a memory
of mountainside sorrows
in noiseless playgrounds
and college libraries
reading Dante and Virgil
expecting change
in an earthy twilight
or on the seashore
with promises unfulfilled
in love and punishment
from an arbitrary existence
yielding to a squeezed fate
of vigil and desertion.

         (September 22, 1955)
In Southern California,
you crashed our world,
for your films do not go dim
projected in our youth,
still East of Eden
or Rebel without a Cause
in the learning limelight
of a wayward truth
remembering him.


Today's LittleNip:


As a meteor drops
into the lyrical quatrain
a sky bird stops in
her perennial refrain

a spider webs us
on the bark of a tree
outside a chorus
of larks initially.



—B.Z. Niditch

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

One More Mountain & a River of Bone

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

an inconvenient excuse
—Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

paper boxes floating on a circle of blue
broken wings as soft as dawn and incense
locked doors that time will not open
dry streams in which many will drown

the language of trees
a home that used to be
quickly we must be gone quickly

unsown fields ready for harvest
unsown fields already burning
unsown fields surrounded by water
unsown fields buried in birdsong

the armor of clouds
a lie you never heard
quickly we must be gone quickly

ten good reasons not to
far horizons that will not stay away
one more mountain and a river of bone
hungry telephones barking barking barking

the end of desire
an inconvenient excuse
quickly we must be gone quickly


better than nothing
—Robert Lee Haycock

we feast on dirt served up with knives and forks
we used to burn but now we stop the rains
nothing is better than nothing

we wind our voices through straws and reeds
we laugh at pretending but only smile at all the blood
nothing is better than nothing

we are getting nowhere too fast and too far
we can start over but never often enough
nothing is better than nothing

we tear the hills down to build holes that fill days
we once saw God in the most obvious of places
nothing is better than nothing


—Robert Lee Haycock

The Moon races ahead through the high voltage lines
And waxes and wanes new to new again in a day

The street lamps have set the sky above to smoldering
And night never comes then again it never comes

The ferris wheel can only be ridden from 12 to 6
And Fortuna is grateful for a chance to rest

The tumbleweeds are more than happy to hide us
And we can blow away when we are ready

The gutters swallow everything that comes along
And the pin boys are bored with themselves

The last all insist that they must be the first
And have forgotten how a zipper works

She is waiting there for me
And she is still smiling

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

This morning as we balance between
light and dark—a summer moment
falling soon to tip the unseen scales—
you say it’s the seasons’ formula
for change, earth tones slipping leaf
to stone. I say it’s metamorphosis
of spirit, stove-bound fire, a denning
of the home. “Woo-woo!” sings
jubilant my dog at edge of woods.
She curves her spine, pirouettes and
grins. She leaps and bows. Dancing
on earth, she beckons me join in.


—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

About this time of year,
Father Crowley would
Commandeer the school’s
Bus and (The term bat out
Of Hell comes to mind)
Drive us across town
To Old St. Mary’s Cemetery.

He’d herd us across the lawn
And in an uncharacteristic
Whisper, explain “This place
Is holy: it has the same
Status as a church.” I did
Notice the wide aisles,
The cross towering
At the far end, the orderly
Rows of permanent
Parishioners, waiting
For something.

“This place is beyond
The law,” he went on.
“Tradition holds you
Could seek Sanctuary
In a Catholic cemetery,”
His voice rising more
Typically to sermon
Level: “The police
Couldn’t enter; the
Police couldn’t
Take you out.”

While I wondered
How he knew so much
About such things, the
Idea of Sanctuary
Was always comforting
To me during my outlaw
Years, such as they
Were, growing up
In rural Illinois,
In the early sixties.

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

—Richard Hansen, Sacramento

Oh my soul!
My soul my soul my soul
Oh my soul
My soul My soul my soul
ya know?
Oh my soul
My soul My soul my soul
Oh my soul
My soul My soul my soul
Balloons and butterflies
fluttering wings!
the butterflies not the balloons
flashing tiger eyes
changing the minds of robins
thinking of eating them
Oh my soul!
My soul My soul my soul
Oh my soul
My soul My soul my soul
a child's birthday party!
they're growing up too soon
what a fuckin' annoyance!
plus we invited too many of them
he gets what I always wanted
never got
a complete set of The Rock'em Sock'em Robots
in perfect condition


Today's LittleNip:

—Caschwa, Sacramento

An opinion can be
Similar to an onion
With different layers
That need to be peeled away
Like an unwanted bunion

In some cultures women
Are forbidden to express
Opinions or milk in public
But they can peel onions
Almost any time or place

Right down to their ions
Which is what nerds cry
When they peel apart their
Hallux abducto valgus into
A pile of layers hard on the eye


—Medusa, reminding you that each equinox means a new Canary, the Bay Area environmental poetry magazine. See www.hippocketpress.org/canary

All Together
—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Poetry Dreams

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

I would be a library—shelves and
shelves of me, honoring books—

too many ever to read. I would have
desks and chairs for quiet study and
for writing poems. I would have a
librarian who kept things in order.

After all the reading I have done—oh,
after all the reading—I would be a library.

(first pub. in Poets' Forum Magazine)


In the book there is a leaf
that waits to be found again.

I write this down carefully
to honor the discovery:

I have sensed its stem under page
after page of turning—

knowing it is safely archived
with the words.

I do not want to damage
its perfection. I want to be

surprised—to call back the impulse
that made me put it there.

And when I happen upon it,
I will stop my reading

and study the leaf again
for its texture and design—

respect the tenderness I feel for it.


sidewalks are strewn with leaves
from city trees, falling in red and golden
patterns of falling,

some pedestrians pick up leaves for
book pages as reminders of what falls
in the seasons of falling,

street pigeons tell where is where
and cars and people
take turns stopping and going

rude sounds
intrude upon rude sounds
and grate the nerves that quiet craves

crows claim fields and telephone wires
and trees where they squabble
and scold with cantankerous voices

pigeons line rooftops and telephone wires
and at dusk—flurry up—white-patterned—
against the pieces of sky that open for them,

in little cubby-hole openings of buildings
small birds make nests and live their lives
amid ours, so crowded against them


He is the keeper of the words, this long cat lying along
the top of the dictionary on the dictionary stand,
alert to our wary notice, one soft paw on the page

ready to unsheathe. Social to the point of annoyance,
he eyes us from this vantage point—Webster’s left open
to whatever word we last sought meaning of.

He knows what it means—this need of knowing—
this need for exactness, and he guards
his right in the place of things—this presence—

this cat—at the edge of our animation,
reading the impetus of our words—the intonations
of our meanings, to the range of his decipherings.

(Facebook posting by The Bluestocking Review)

“I would like to go there evenings”
when the lights are turned down,
creating beautiful blue shadows

and the blue-leather chair
shines with a silverfish-blue—
and the narrow aisle is stacked

with books—and the shelves are
too high with books—but I don’t care,
because there is a bookshelf ladder.

The one chair by the round table
has books on it, too, and two white
ceiling lights cast their sallow light

directly down, and around the
narrow room, creating red shadows
on the carpet from all the book bindings

on the shelves and from the original,
old red rug as far as it will go. And I
will go there some year and avail myself

of the silverfish-blue-leather-chair
—and look around—and look around—and
if anyone should ask for me, I’m not there.


Today's LittleNip:


In stippled air,
the butterfly dances toward the pen . . .

write me, it says . . . draw me, it pleads;
I am all I am.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her wonderful poems and pix today, and a note that our new Seed of the Week celebrates the Autumn Solstice with This Hallowed Earth. Note also that we have another new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page: New Reading in Placerville by Katy Brown and Taylor Graham. Check it out!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Libraries & Forest Fires

Setting Sun with Crows
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

                   for Elihu Burritt

A convocation of these ancestral antiquarian
birds is called to contemplate the regimental
colors lodged inside chapel walls. They have
no time for a kitchen-maid in the garden, nor
the girl peeling onions from a milk pail. Such
birds love velvet, silk damask embroidered,
punctured with words and symbols fringed
in gold to cover stone walls; fabrics that
capture light or let it fly like sunset lightly
falling through translucent weaves. Bunting
is not their style, much less that extra-medium
modern innovation, polyester. It cramps one
at the shoulders or the wings, the heart, the
fancy, declares one old rook. Even worse,
video images projected onto ancient stone.
Stop making jokes, the maid says and puts
down her knife. She’s done with dicing.


—Taylor Graham

Over the mountains, above the peaks
storm-clouds rise like weather-castles built
on nothing. They look like smoke,
they don’t look like rain.
It’s fire season in our hills, and one by one
the mountains are burning. Flames
ignite a thunderhead that fills with lightning
flinted of wildfire’s own spark.
The next green ridgetop and the next.
The fire-falcon’s flying north and east,
leaving harrier-trails of flaming
canyon in the west. The sun glows blood-
orange through smoke, as day grows
dark to evening as we watch the wind
and ask the flames to pass us by—
our oak trees spared, the small green
pond. Squirrel and fox, deer and cougar.
We pray for the peace of clear blue sky.

 Smoky Sunset
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Come milk me, cried the wrinkle-faced John Milton
to his three daughters. This was every morning:
dictation, nothing about a nice aged Stilton
first spurted from some cow’s teat. Just what was borning?
Paradise Lost, among other lines. Who first,
who last took up the pen, in relay sacred
to jot John’s versing dreams? Perhaps Anne burst
into non-view and inked that parchment acrid.
Next Mary, last Deborah? Who knows? His “Turkish contempt”
kept them reined in, his team of interpreter-girls;
his teeming creation theirs, and not. When spent,
pentametered out, he tasked them with chores like churls.
His profit small, theirs less, when the Book was done;
yet someone had had some Puritan kind of fun.

Now it’s your turn. Come write me, milk me now;
I’m frothing with lines inside me, white as sperm,
for “milk me” seems the likely spume-of-the-cow
argot Victorian men used as the term
in loving or merely climactic lingam-spasms
in anonymous gilded leatherbound books of porn.
But between them and ourselves lie canyon chasms.
I simply know with what sharp pangs you’re torn
out of me. How swollen I was—with whose white silk?
You speak, and I just know you’re no Milton’s daughter.
You lavish that liquescent flash of eyes;
I’m 20,000 leagues under Jules Verne water.
Your tears you display as rarely as your white thighs.
Your clarity’s here, encoded with unseen milk.  

My bravest loveliest dairymaid and ruler,
you are not to be converted nor enslaved
to any mean purpose. Unraveler, my unspooler,
you are my muse, on you has been architraved
the beam of my door to beauty. All your goodness
feeds my dream milk as sure as is my depleting
by ecstasy. Who else dispels my moodiness?
Our skins even blush together—while never meeting.
But that is berry juice in the essential milk,
for we are the stuff that populates the clouds
when they most ripen over the sailors’ shrouds;
you and I alone live of that satin ilk.
What pours here is no black cream from your seeing-eye pen,
and all of it yours—just filtered through one of your men.


—Tom Goff

Thom Gunn contends libraries are wet dreams, dried.
He means most poems, reams of moist underpants
where passionate surges jetted, mummified
once-juices and -spices, but black with erotic ants
shot tingling up the electric-phallic anthill
and out into cloth. Such spontaneity,
we cry, then classify and shelve the dead thrill.
Libraries should not consist of oozeless velleity.
Oh, what I read has nothing to do with effusion
and everything, for you are concealed in it.
My tomes of you are enigmas, riddles, posers.
My palimpsest, I scrawl your darling skin confusion—
rich with tattoos, but your white shoulders begin it.
Let’s layer the falsehood—you with truest disclosures. 

 —Anonymous Photo taken in Barcelona

I’d help out with my church's library as a kid
and Rosemont Baptist Church didn’t have any computer in the ’80’s to track its books
They used the Dewey Decimal System labeling with a card catalog,
which wasn’t that hard when most of the books were under the Religion section 200’s
The church didn’t have any enforcement on returning borrowed books either
Some were expensive to replace
and the church collection also included rare or even out-of-print materials
I recall books by missionaries to foreign lands in Africa and Asia were among the most popular—
those along with evangelical theology from popular pastors including Charles Colson, Chuck Swindoll, and Billy Graham
There was just an "honor system” where borrowers were trusted to leave a phone number and address
That meant when books were overdue,
sometimes I made phone calls and hand-wrote post cards pleading for the books’ return in a “friendly" way 
Oh yes there were church-goers who returned their books on time faithfully
especially those in the Korean church who shared the facilities.
Yet for the “stolen” books that didn’t come back
you had to pray they’d end up read anyway by anyone who needed inspiration from the Holy Spirit
or that someone who ended up somehow with that missing book got saved because of it

—Michelle Kunert


Thanks to today's contributors, including the photos of our current smoky, firey atmosphere. Our most recent Seed of the Week is Libraries, which is causing me to think more about these poor dying creatures. I was saddened to hear that the library for the town of Weed has burned down in the recent fire which devastated that area. I suppose, in this age of library closures, it's too much to ask that it be rebuilt. By the way, Red Alice's Poetry Emporium will pass the hat this Weds. night for Weed. (The town, that is……) That's 1400 E St., Sac., 7:30pm. Featured readers will be Laura Martin and Karin Erickson plus open mic. Host: Bill Gainer. Be sure to scroll down and check out the area readings on the blue board (under the green board) at the right of this column. This is our busy season!

While you're scrolling, please note the new Medusa feature, "Webilicious", links to sites and articles that might be of interest. Here's one about poets who are/were also librarians:  www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/librarian-as-poet-poet-as-librarian


Today's LittleNip:

I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library.

—Ray Bradbury



Sunset over Russell Blvd., Davis
—Photo by Katy Brown