Friday, October 31, 2014

All Treats, No Tricks!

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

When I think of these brief years I have loved you
slipped from my hands but never from your face
bereft one lineless ounce of your silken grace,
I marvel at the dream-state that has gloved you,
masked you in a sheen of pure mortality.
A chrysalis of timelessness in time
wards off who knows how long the fatality
which seals off in a quarantine of quicklime
my every last ancestor. Tombstone carvers,
my Irish grandfather among their number,
would stand back aghast if someday your tomb’s door
burst to disclose—a girl’s form swathed in slumber,
skin blushful, lustrous & spellbound. The Bone-starver
Himself, an ensorcelled Shadow, must deplore
and raven it out in silent drift, eternally
alongside your crypt, pinned to the vault’s chill floor!

 —Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Patricia Pashby, Vacaville
Down in the dank, poorly-lit basement—
racks of old furs and garment bags
filled with dresses from the '40's and '50's.

She fondly caresses each one,
memories of youthful days,
weddings, dances, second honeymoon,
all filled with promise and romance.

Her glasses fog as the years go by—
a whiff of mold drifts in as she holds
each one up to her aging body,
wondering how long they will fit.

She carefully straightens the hangers
so each shoulder is secure—
returning them to their bags, zippers locked,
her memories intact, drifting back
to a jitterbug contest and first prize.

 —Photo by Katy Brown

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

This skull we share—
this me-myself-and-I inside
a boney bone, a calcium crate—
our thinking jar,
our Jack O-lantern home.


—Carol Louise Moon

I don’t ask much of Nature, or her proof.
This rook has prey he carries with his feet.
For better grip he drops it to the street
then brings it up atop my neighbor’s roof.

This is why I try to stay aloof.
I hope that what he caught is just a rat—
and not a baby bird just like a cat
would snatch, bite in half, and carry off.

The sky, a silver screen with shadowed rook
now magnifies the scene.  I take a look
up to the gable, then quickly back away.
This horror is consider Nature’s Way,
but I cannot approve the prey he took.


—Carol Louise Moon

What can she do, it’s 12am?—
a dripping faucet, ticking clocks,
mockingbirds mimicking crickets.
An elephant never forgets

these things and all that she regrets:
mockingbirds mimicking crickets,
a dripping faucet, ticking clocks—
What can she do?  It’s 12am.

 —Photo by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

The first Halloween party I remember going to
   I was about four or five in L.A
   and taken along with my brother in a Daniel Boone costume to Van Nuys Baptist Church
   Mom had me dress in a costume that was my brother’s the previous year
   It was the “Jerry” mouse of the cartoon “Tom and Jerry”—
   a grey pair of p.j.’s with a plastic mouse mask
   I think I complained that I wanted a “girl” costume such as a princess
   Even when I was older,
   Mom still never took me shopping for a Halloween costume
   Alas I had to wear his old costumes as the rest of my older brother’s hand-me-downs
   I recall nobody knew who I was dressed as
   and, not surprising, even mistaken for being a boy with my short hair
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


        I went contra dancing in a “crazy cat lady” costume for Halloween
        It's an ugly cat print dress which I pinned stuffed toy cats to
        with a messy hair wig
        My character is supposed to be bad—
        One of those crazy cat ladies that don’t spay and neuter
        and live in junked houses
        While many got the joke others were confused
        “Can I swing your bears,” said one guy who couldn’t see I was wearing cats

—Michelle Kunert

 Consumers Disguised as Sheep
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

A trash-bin full of treasure—
keyboards that don’t plug in to any computer
we’ve got anymore; a cord-less mouse,
two dead speakers; surge-protectors, misc
cables and who knows what else—all
spread out; could we sell this stuff on craigslist?
And here comes a flock of consumers
disguised as sheep, sniffing for a tasty treat.
Mere trickery, virtual everything.
They wander off in search of the tiniest bit
of green.


—Taylor Graham

Sunrise callout. Our dogs were dancing,
and not for nothing: their best treat, searching.
We drove miles of overhanging roads
then ruts and switchbacks down to river.
Charred fire-pit, ripped mummy bag.
Raven briefed us in his croaky baritone.
It happened long ago, he said.
A month, perhaps, by human timeline.
The aliens packed up and drove themselves
Was anybody missing? Our dogs
went sniffing particles of scent still lingering
on trashed stuff. Deer-bone bloomed lily-white
in a clearing. My dog nosed spent cartridges
half-buried in dirt. Nothing more.
Good dog. I threw a stick, she brandished it
like treasure.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

              for Elihu Burritt

This haunted land of cliffs and smuggler-coasts,
of muscled granite, giant-fists of torso—
it’s home, they say, to bogies, furies, ghosts.
A long-drowned sailor grapples for his oars,
a phantom stagecoach bears dead-letter posts;
girls of mist float through walls instead of doors.
Who dares to walk here unafraid at dusk?
Who walks in flesh is but the spirit’s husk. 


—Taylor Graham

Ink-Black sneaks from fireside to back-
door, slips from his sanctuary of home,
its humans drifting toward the patience
of sleep. Ink is off in search of mythic
lands called Deva Royale or Eldorado.
Who misses a cat the color of night
when anything might happen? Wind
spanks the shutters. Cougar and owl
set off on hunt. The storyteller weaves
witches’ frights, tangles of webs inter-
twining so you couldn’t trace them
to spider or roots of the forest dark.
Oh call your small cat home.

Today's LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

Happens every time.
I’m on the ladder, changing
Lightbulbs from the strand
Along the garage eaves.  And
The neighbor asks: “What
Holiday this time?” 
“Halloween.  See—orange,
Yellow, white.  Like candy
Corn.  Get it?”  He doesn’t;
He never does.  But he
Smiles pleasantly,
Indulgently, as he goes
Back into his house.


—Medusa, wishing you a minimum of tricks and a maximum of treats!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Shadows on Tracing Paper

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Denise Flanigan


Shadows on tracing paper
drawing us in
with Fall foliage outside
these French window blinds
bursting in a Magritte red
interior color of leaves
by Japanese yew trees
near our flagstones
with sea bird voices
in the close shoal's background
sounding on the waves
by my A.M. radio
recalling my portfolio
of poems and paints
stashed here
containing pains, wounds, joys
from my palms, hands, fingers
gouged with years of labor
mountain weighed in thought
sustained by drawing me
from lambent rainbow landscapes
on my warm coatings in Goya's oil
of many Joseph colors and odor
recalled from vessel sea ships
to return to home port
in voyages like Ulysses
waiting for Penelope
and record them in verse
like Homer
asking to be free and redeemed
in all nature's elements
of air, water, fire, earth
no longer as a mere wage slave
to hours of surface living
with uneasy sleep.



When in adolescence so down
and desiccated in my senses
yet dedicated to my crafts
playing alto sax
with the windows open
doing deadpan
like Charlie Chaplin
pretending to be Don Juan
with my acquired Spanish tongue
morphed into Cervante's poetry
wearing a freshly washed cape
from last Halloween
dressed for the next playhouse
in the nineteen-90's
writing a one-act
about those invited
to enter in our scenes
of life and quickly depart
yet make an impact
asking the characters
who will be remembered
those forgotten, costumed by me
like the flashy flamenco guitarist
from Andalusia
whose parents migrated here
during the Civil War
and my grandparents put up
in the shadows of the basement
still reverberates with music.



With cellophane
ready to be wrapped
for garish costumes
in the dark Gothic cellar
by pipes and woodwinds
here is a traffic in stringed
instruments to be repaired
on old and young violins,
now pretending with my lines
for a new BZ play on parade
at the outdoor South Shore Theater
with fashion designed
on new skits and skins
in four acts expecting visitors,
as this poet and jazz musician
soloist and storehoused magician
writes his romantic, ghostly
or Chaplinesque stand-up comedy
in mostly breathless arrangements
anticipating a downrange descant
amid a musical prelude of song
in voices of counterpoint melodies
by a chorus for us all.


With 112 characters
but not in any tweet
but in my serio-comic play
about spacey bat girls and boys
all Giants fans
in a manned mission to the moon
to uncover its secrets
outnumbered by thoughts
of science fiction
scratched out on October nights
buried in by four days of rain
lines written in three languages
actors in way-out campy space suits
survive on hard bleu cheese
surfacing for a while
to tell of their journey.



The worst offering
of yesterday's standing
in the chorus line
at the play's dress rehearsal
in the college basement
amid snacks and cookies
is a sudden forgotten tune
you sang with strum und drang
for us amid rich human feelings
with overwhelming sentiment
in the scent and sentimentality
of your last red rose hat
of French chapeaux
in October's music shadows
you put on for us in a festival
for a feel easy show's rehearsal
about Marlene Dietrich.



Unknown roses sent
after my last short film noir
written in my basement
"From a distant Denver or die"
as a dear John
love letter purloined in the West
is discovered with it
in the margin of a Spanish novel
found in a green bottle
by a newlywed couple
at a Cape Cod harvest festival
promoted and implanted
as Poe phantoms rise up
this October morning
and a barefooted child
squatted on an Persian rug
by a fading hyacinth
recites from her own composition
an enchanted apparition
composed into night music before.


When I lost
the night music
in a chamber recital
at a basement in Frisco
yet restored by Mozart's
clarinet's harmony
in the slow third movement
all indolent regrets
groundless secret passages
suddenly appear
in the third movement
it reminds me
of the orange squares
in a Mondrian
on the arts balcony overhead
speaks to my estrangement
like a mirage of notes
listened to as in an experiment
of my words.



Stop at the red light
from the old red light district
the dusty basement apartments
over a bygone cinema
with putsch of old loves
that wound actors and actresses
up for veteran entertainment
halfway up the steps
of the now stripped flowers
in the park dives
driving in the grey dusk
by nests of bird calls
of an unsettled past.


Today's LittleNip:


In the basement
of dream and bird
those days of sunshine
when leaves turn a blush red
after a night music of love
and letters arrive
from an unknown city
saying my poems
about the sea
have moved you
here is line by line
voice by voice
by a now-known name
and picture
from a kinetic light.


—Medusa, thanking B.Z. Niditch for a tasty breakfast, and reminding NorCal poets of three events tonight: Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe will feature Bill Carr, Tony "The Haiku Hitman" Robles, and open mic. And Sac. Poetry Center will present the last in its Fall Lecture Series: Susan Kelly-DeWitt will talk about art and poetry, 7pm. Scroll down to the blue board (below the green board at the right) for details.

The third event will be a Day of the Dead celebration which will take place in Hart Hall on the UCD campus today from 5:30-9pm. There will be dance performances, poetry readings and hands-on activities, such as altar making. The evening also features a panel of speakers discussing present-day issues in Central America.

The Beez

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

And After That?

—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
—Photos by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch, CA


After a day in the fields
plowing and sowing,
the old monks see
sundown is near, so
they put away tools,
clean up for supper.

It's soup and bread
torn from a loaf,
chunks of good cheese,
a rainbow of bright
fruit from the orchard,
coffee as black as tar.

There are 20 monks left,
slow and ailing, a drop
from a hundred or so
a few decades ago.
The harvest is small,
their lives still simple.

They work in the fields
and pray in the chapel.
But birds in the air
sometimes hear prayer
rise from the fields
and soar past them.


If I hadn’t died, I’d still
be bouncing along
in that Greyhound bus
through the mountains
swigging a Coke.
Don’t mind being dead but
dying almost killed me.

When the bus hit the boulder
I flew out the window
and was tossed in the air.
My head hit the rocks.
No one survived.
They found us later
covered with snow.

But it’s nice up here
on a cloud waiting
with the others now.
We wonder what’s next.
Moments ago an angel
landed and said Peter
would soon be here.



Two black cats
come over the fence
this morning

circle each other
all over the yard
hissing and leaping

into a ball
rolling like sagebrush
into the pool.

I fish them out
with a trout net.
Two wet mops

in silence
drying on the lawn.


I’m no expert on marriage
but you asked me so
here’s how I see it,
decades removed from
making the same decision.

If the woman is pretty,
has a voice you want to
bathe in forever, she
may be the right one.
But at my age or yours

I would marry only
a woman who made me
grunt at the zenith.
If she did that,
I’d buy the ring.



On tippy toes
with arms outstretched
my grandson asks

how old are you
and so I tell him
I'm sooooo old

that when I stretch
my arms like his
to exercise them

vultures land and
caucus there.
My grandson says

he puts his arms out
so robins will build
nests on them

and raise their chicks.
He never takes a nap
because he has to keep

his eyes on the clouds
to shoo away hawks
circling for supper.


There are people
I hope to see
lolling on a cloud

in Heaven some day
but hope never to see
on Earth again

when I go out to buy
a cherry Coke
at a drugstore counter

with silver stools
and red seats
and a girl

named Norma Jean
on one of them
legs crossed

but not a blonde yet.
These are people who
have been a problem

in my life
nice people
I hope to see

lolling on a cloud
in Heaven some day
but hope never to see

on Earth again.
Too many homicides
as it is.



In the Shady Lane Nursing Home
Aunt Bea crochets and tells her niece
sitting and listening this Sunday afternoon

that the young ones pushing wheel chairs
changing sheets and bringing trays
must learn to knock because

they’re unaware he’s behind that door
under the big clock in the day room
where the old ones sit for hours

watching television, praying,
writing letters, weeping,
asking to go home.

He's always there, she says,
and he has the answers but
the young ones have to knock

ask him what he wants
because he’s a question
not just an answer.


The dapper young man tells
the homeless man one stool over,
After I get my law degree,
I’ll get an MBA and go to Wall Street
and make a million before I’m thirty.

And after that?
the homeless man asks,
sipping the longneck
the young man has bought him.

I’ll start a business,
says the young man,
and make another million
by the time I’m forty,
buy a nice house in the country,
then franchise the business
so my kids can earn
as much money as I will.
You want your kids to do well.
Otherwise, why have them?
They cost money.

And after that?
the homeless man asks,
almost finished with his beer.

I’ll retire and buy condos
in Paris and London,
go on safari to Africa,
buy gold against inflation.
Once I retire I want to have fun.

And after that?
the homeless man asks,
lighting another cigarette
the young man has given him.

I’ll die when I get old
unless they invent something
that stops death, maybe a drug.
I’ll arrange my funeral
in advance, some big church,
don’t care which one
as long as they have a choir
to keep the wife happy.
And I’ll hire a good lawyer
to handle the estate.
Don’t want Uncle Sam
getting rich off me.

And after that?
the homeless man asks,
looking for another drink.

Today's LittleNip:


"Sometimes I want to sit down
and never get up," she confided,
tapping her cane as we crossed

the street, her Shepherd
towing us on its leash,
the light ready to go red.

“But then I have to pee,
and I'm thankful I can
make it to the bathroom."


—Medusa, thanking Donal and Robert Lee for today's Kitchen fare, and reminding you of tonight's
El Dia de los Muertos Altar & Celebration at UC Davis, First Flour, Sproul Hall, UCD. Poetry readings & open mic, mariachi music, refreshments. Bring photos of beloved deceased, flowers, other offerings. Sponsored by the Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese; more info on their Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Debris of Common Relinquishments

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


their subtle
their perfect size
and roundness.
(Aslant of perfect
for the word’s sake.)

How they
unusual and singular.
So many candy-fans
have no taste for them.
(I’m glad.)

It makes me part of
a minority—
epicurean and selective.
Halloween treat-bags always got me
plenty of black jelly beans
from the generosity of children.


And now there are crows in the city,
cawing upon the telephone wires.
I can accept all birdsong
that comes trilling
to my morning windows,
easing nature into mind,
soft against the hard,
like sudden things I like to find
in strangeness.
I can accept all lilac-guise
in winter.

But crows come in like war,
startle of dark
that makes a ragged scratch
upon the clock,
that makes a frantic waking
into fright.
Crows break the flimsy cages
of the night,
half-lifting their black wings
against the thudding
of the heart.

(first pub. in Imprints Quarterly, 1968)


what is this pall
of spirit

upon me now
I feel
like something heavy

something heavy upon me
a pall

upon my spirit.
I hum in my soul
that prisoned bird inside of me

in a little songless cage
hooded with my life
how it hurts there

it is all I can do
not to free it
it is all I can do not to let all the dark out

so the flood of light can enter 
and cleanse the soul-bird
how I want to hear it sing.


Shadow-bird finds the deep canyon of sleep,
follows the thin directing stream
until it comes
to the vulnerable alley of night
with its haunt of houses.

The hurrying sky
pulls the clouds in the other direction.
Shadow-bird enters the restless dream
of a boy who is frightened of the dark
—cries out.

One of the windows opens and lets the bird in
the boy
—becoming Shadow-Bird,
remembering back to some un-
wounded wilderness where it was not extinct.


I hear you crying
in the frightening world
of yourself,
but unless you come to me
I cannot make anything
easier for you.

If you let me,
I will hold you for a moment
and you will feel better.

Anna Akhmatova POEMS 
Selected and Translated by Lyn Coffin
“…she simply recognized grief.”
From the Introduction (xxi) by Joseph Brodsky

Our little song of grief—how can we bear to sing it
any longer; your voice goes thin with fright—

mine changes timbre;
why should we harmonize away this night?

Oh, Dearest, such a rage of sorrow do we know,
though time has softened us.

Look how the light touches the sill a little less
and yields to shadows—ominous.

Oh, Pale One, draw the shade against it all;
let’s hold each other while we can.

I fear the knocking at the door
for what wants in.


Sometimes I feel a soft butterfly-
shadow and a darting flicker of light
and a movement that precedes the
shadow by a precisive moment—

then a flash of color wavers by
and enters a waiting mirror
and I feel myself follow into
the same mirror as the shadow.

A brief flash of color overtakes
the shadow and I feel a change
of mood—and being—as I become
the butterfly that evolves. I am

both frightened, and enchanted,
for there is no time in the mirror
and I do not know how
to follow the vanishing butterfly.


The amnesiac soul floats in music and sends its shivers
everywhere, shines for the life it was, for the moment it
is, for the place it cannot enter.

Wisps of sound fasten to the under-parts of noiseless
movements.  Wings come through the invisibility here.
I can feel them lift me.

How did you find me amid the debris of common
relinquishments? All I ever wanted is in that glare I
cannot see through. It frightens me now to look into
such blindness. I have never been this thorough with

This would have been the turn of life in the poem of
some other hand—some space of love gone empty
again and not to be remembered.

Efforts and energies come to release me—those birds
I always tried to follow. I remember nothing here.
I look beyond myself. I am part of the vast and
continuing movement—speck of crying. What is love.


Today's LittleNip:


Hark to the moan in the attic.
Creep up the ladder or stair.
Find what is making
that sound—unloose
the frightening old thing there.


—Medusa, noting that our new Seed of the Week is Tricks, Treats and Treasures! Send your poems, photos and artwork about that—or any other subject—to No deadline on SOWs.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Zombies, Wind-Horses & Jack O'Lanterns

—Evan Myquest, Rancho Murieta

A knock at our door
Finds us at home
So much at home

We disturb very little
No rearranging furniture
No messing with the thermostat
No fighting over the remote
We don't harass the live ones
Who act more dead than we do

A darling couple
We couldn't love them more
If they were dead

But these television dramas they watch
Are giving dead a bad smell

So be our guest
To be at home with us

Ignore the zombies


—Evan Myquest

I cursed the darkness and would not shine the maglite because then I would curse the light. So I cursed my eyes, swigged my beer, and then I ran into a man who had no Times Roman.

I twisted her arm and ran off with her purse, and then I met a man who could never have afforded Helvetica.

I fell down after stubbing my toe on a root-lifted sidewalk and cursed my feet, and then I met a man who had no Franklin Gothic at all.

I put my back into the crowbar at the convenience store back door to get at the register when I saw a man who had a holstered Garamond.

I thought I'd blown out my knee again trying to dodge store security when I saw a man with Arial scars.

I felt my stomach contract after I boosted the Lexus and knew it was going to erupt when I saw a man who had no Courier.

I ran from the house I was robbing when I heard the siren and that was when I saw the one-armed man without Bookman Old Style.

I slapped the vein on my arm and was about to spike when I saw the man without so much as a gram of pure Lucida.

I was aware of the thump and two bumps but drove away even faster when I saw the man without a shred of Calibri.

I pointed the gun in my pocket at the trembling store clerk when I saw up in the aisle mirror a man who had no Prestige.

I ran from the helicopter's lights and the gathering squads but they cornered me with the dogs as the man with the Verdana jacket pointed them to me.

I did look good as the judge entered the courtroom and recognized me despite the new suit and Comic Sans.

I let them strap me to the table without a protest when I looked up and saw through the window a laughing reporter who had no Cambria.


—Evan Myquest

Ah, he said,
Then he pulled out a part
Put in a new thingamajig
And said, Okay then
Pushed the button
Listened for the correct whir
Wasn't satisfied
Ratcheted a gear or something
Listened again and declared it good
He wondered how long
It had been out of whack which was
Nothing he could do anything about
But he wondered still the same

And on every little class-seven planet
All the people—all of them
Clutched their throats and died

As suddenly
They were replaced one for one
By billions
Of kittens and puppies

Driving in the parking lot by the now-empty OSH building next to the Arden Way Safeway
   I see a homeless man propping himself up under its awning
   I thought, since it's probable no other corporation is going to buy the building
   Why not have it house homeless, rather than let it decay in its abandonment?
   Living units could be built inside, and the former garden center could be used to grow food
   People could get used to the homeless living in the suburbs in this way 

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

What is it that makes us interpret the world
with hands and fingers pressing for cold places to heat,
or door-spans of hot-to-the-touch? What makes
all we know a groping downward into ice-chill or fire-dark?

And is life truly a blacker and blacker sequence of steps?
If all our loving and fighting ascends at last
to somewhere loftier, why do we treat it
so crassly? Why can we not rise, from bed,

from certain death, from rejection or failure,
without complaint? (Have our bodies not complained
already, dog-silent, for us?) Some dream downward
through mattresses; I gripe, loudly: I wish I had more time,

to dream, yes, also to write, to perform music. But a lack
of anything, felt deeply, is it not the restraining wall
that props the narrow door? We see, we feel within
the narrow spaces. We learn with limits.

A famous artist had to cover a vast ceiling
with religious paintings, “appropriate figures.”
He had to cram his world, awkward ceiling triangles
and all, into his design. He dripped red on the floor.

He dripped blue on the priests. He had to strain
his neck day after day painting upwards high
over his spattered head while standing, or later,
while lying down aching and reaching. Halfway through,

everyone (except him) agreed the painting was
a masterpiece in the making. Figures appropriate,
inappropriate, bursting the constraints:
nudes with muscles bunched as garlic cloves,

index fingers meeting charged with sacred sparks,
with hornets, with particle beams. And how
did the painter respond? He went
and wrote a poem—a good one—replete

with complaints, complaints, complaints, about limits!


—Tom Goff

I miss you, not altogether and forever—you’re still
around—but never see you as often as I long to.
We lead such different lives, but the fun was that we were
heavenly bodies colliding. From deep in our solar system,
from some loose pocket of the Milky Way, you materialized.
Scotty must have beamed you up, my delight, my
dangerous ungraspable object. If ours is the dreaded,
half-scheduled collision of Earth and her a brain-smiting
asteroid nemesis, come hit me, X287! But you are no
faceless rock. Your smile is comet’s hair, is astral fire,
is supernova and solar flare. The energy you bring
to an embrace would raise and plant precisely
in its mortarless matrix each last brick
of the Egyptian Pyramids—this is your telekinesis, my
Marvel Girl. Oh, your eyes are gentle, your skin
blushes rosily human. But are you sure you’re
an Earthling? Take me to your leader. No:
better still, sweep me away like a Sabine woman
in that chariot of the gods that brought you here to
this very spot you claim for your moon-hidden planet.

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Is this a lesson in history, or only
a tale? How a mist passed across the full
moon that knifed every chink
to the barn’s failing loft; how the mist
lowered, gathered in front
of the man with the bullet, then lifted
to allow the shot. How they paved
a room with the knee-bones of sheep,
and when they tired of playing
jacks, they turned the knuckles into
a handful of buttons. A story
strange and fragmentary as clink of bone
against bone. And still it didn’t storm.


—Taylor Graham

The wind-horse runs on its wooden
stand on a dresser by the window,
facing out. In full stride,
he takes not a step, though in shadow-
form he moves with sunlight
through glass
passing the image of a man’s
hand cast in the gold of illusion.
The wind-horse is the only
breathing creature
in the room.

—Taylor Graham

Morning light’s not chrome but pewter—
tray with two dead oak leaves
on the doorstep. October chill. I’ve been
considering how yellow-orange
striped candies at the co-op are a land-
mark of coming celebration, sweet
as make-believe. Don’t call the misshapen
ugly; nothing’s as it seems. The mask
turns poems’ metaphor to metamorphosis;
that permeable membrane between
death and life. Just so, dawn can’t quite
sweep night-dark off the doorstep
with the leaves. They’ll come again,
the leaves, greener than ghosts, a promise
beyond endings. In a passageway,
prayer-flags in yellow, blue, and green
find this morning’s breeze
for breathing peace in and out
of season. 


Today's LittleNip:

—Evan Myquest

Thinking thinking
Thinking thinking
Thinking about how
To explain thinking
To them



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Celebrating Sacramento: Sac. Poetry Day, 2014

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

—Patricia Pashby, Sacramento

When both body and mind are at peace, all things
appear as they are:  perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

after a frenzied
ritual of courtship
the mallard male
gloriously iridescent
in the afternoon sun
huddles with his chosen
plain brown mate
in silent



is subdued, dressed in gunmetal gray.
She meanders past the skeletons of ancient oaks
that line her banks—

past the empty wooden picnic tables
past the feral cats hiding in the long grasses
past the birds asleep in the breeze.

A houseboat quietly floats by,
stirring tiny waves that nudge the shore,
licking the rocky edges.

Downstream it rounds the bend and disappears,
the waters again still, hushed, calm, pallid . . .

—Patricia Pashby

 —Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Don Feliz, Sacramento

Riding along with officer McPhoil
we stop to talk to a mother about her son. 
I listen until the car leaps forward
after a speeder only McPhoil sees

turn left when he sees our police car.
We turn right; after him in an eye-blink—
siren screaming, adrenaline pumping,
my thrill ride tears through the neighborhood.

People gawk as McPhoil follows the speeder,
radios for help.  He is too cautious, so the speeder
seems to escape around a corner
into a dead end and a plowed field.

Neighbors direct us and two backup units
to catch the speeder and his friend
running with their loot from a burglary.
We take them and my thrills to jail.


—Don Feliz

Two days after Halloween
Jack O' Lantern grins from
a corner cabinet at pilgrims

who followed polling place
signs to this suburban garage.
Voters seem serious: couples

clutching canes, bureaucrats
before work, students, and
unemployed neighbors; a

young veteran votes for the
first time, marking a ballot
with his new prosthetic hand.

All ballots are scanned—
Jack smiles, unaware his
future is pureed pumpkin.


—Don Feliz

Before the sun rises
the gardener gets ready—

with his shears holstered
in the case at his belt,

he rides his bicycle
to jobs far and near.

While lazy owners sleep,
he cuts limbs that dare

grow beyond their yards,
blocking sidewalks.

 Turtles on the Sacramento River
—Photo by Jane Blue

—Jane Blue, Sacramento


From the eighth floor of the hospital, a frail and stoic Chinese woman opens the blinds to the long panorama of sunset: it starts with the steadfast sphere of the sun gauzy in clouds, then clouds bleeding, bruising. From this height the fading light spreads across the fields, the trees reflecting November colors: garnet, vermillion, gold, all the way to the Berryessa notch in the hills where a dam was sliced and we watched the sun slip down into it in that first brilliant season of our love.


Another place that is not home: at dawn the sound of crows penetrates the window from trees by the river, a vague muted cacophony. An imaginary vision of the black cloud they make comes with them, at once known and not known, but the trees they settle in are real––crimson, orange and yellow in mid-November; then comes the image of the once-intimate road, so near, remembered. Fat brown squirrels pounce in the garden packing in pecans; they chatter silently behind the double-paned glass. Fall. The many meanings of fall.


—Jane Blue

There is something innocent about September light
when it spills down the gutter at 7 p.m.
We drove part-way on the piece of freeway overpass
where it ends at the river; twilight now, and lights,
blue and red, flashing. We couldn't tell what kind
of vehicles they were, but in the paper the next morning,
words: a rope swung from a cottonwood
up on the levee, out into the middle of the cold
Sacramento. I see in my mind the hole where you
went down, a maw right in the center of that wide
river. Then you pop up like a seal and your friends
laugh; but the next time you plunge
you don't rise. It was 5:30, 6:00 when they called
for help, 7:30 when we passed by, divers
scouring the river bottom; we didn't know this yet.
Your family had got there, the mood turned somber
and everything changed forever. The thing
about drowning is, when you're drowning, you
know you're drowning, but those on shore
haven't noticed. Drowning is quiet, and then
that horrible realization that you haven't appeared.
The river is close to me, your death was close,
but I will not remember it for so long,
not like your mother who sat vigil on the bank
for two weeks until your swollen body finally
revealed its hiding place; close to shore, thumping
against debris. This morning sun reached
through the curtains and fell directly on the yolk
of my egg at the breakfast table, a fluke
of the season's changing, and I felt suddenly alive.

(first published in Lily Literary Review)

 Drought Solutions
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Two caramel apples at Apple Hill:
can it be the apple tastes a bit smoky?
Of course, everything ever caramel
was first a bit singed, like all sweetest things;
like you, my lost one, who came to me
scented with fire—oh yes, flame retains
a most definite scent, elusive, pungent,
its tang quite apart from the smoke,
campfire smoke, California smoke,
King fire smoke, Applegate or applewood smoke.

We linger over inward fruit perfection
and crunch, the burnt sugar tooth-
stripped, the diced peanuts a memory
recapturable only as scatters who’ve
strayed into our blowaway napkins.
Angel of love whose eyes are darkest raw chestnut,
whose pupils dilate the color of sweet soot,
tell me again how we came here: 

was it really you urging us uphill, slicing
the Apple along the 50-to-Placerville bias?
Have we strayed like chopped nuts blown far?
Are we stuck for all time to the caramel
of original purpose? How close will we ever gnaw
to the pithy, stringy nucleus of travel?

Come with me deeper upcountry
as we bisect our own soft landscape,
fusing and surging together,
then coming apart like fission,
or whatever’s the matter
dispatching our quick dark seedpoints
to dart upstem all through the headlong core

which, wherever split, reveals close-set twin
apple-eyes peering intently,
stonesteady where sightlines entwine:
their crosseye gaze absorbs all of it,
from snowless mountain above on down
to peachpit Sacramento, and beyond
to the juiceladen wetlands, rivermouth
and baybreaker, witnesses forever monitoring
what sweeps or is swept up deep inside
the tree of the one tart apple Everything…

 Sacramento Swelters
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

September slides toward us through the yellowing grass―
out of the east― whispering of endings and the promise of endings.
A wind boils out of Zion, carrying the roll of thunder.

On T Street a small maple tree sets tiny crimson leaves
on its slender branches. It shimmers between garnet and emerald:
September slides toward it through yellowing grass.

Behind the beveled-glass window of a house down the street,
a mother dusts in her son's room.  He won't notice from Kandahar.
A boiling wind out of Zion carries the roll of thunder.

On 51st Street two houses on the same block fly American flags:
one also flies the Marine Corps banner; at the other, the flag is upside-down.
Sliding toward us through the yellowing grass, September approaches.

A recruiter talks to young men at the local high school.
He offers them incentives to join-up: a job, career training, signing-bonuses.
Thunder rolls on the wind that boils from the east out of Zion.

Afghanistan seems far away from this Elmhurst neighborhood;
yet a mother waits for email from her son there, and a flag flies upside-down.
Here, September slides toward us through the yellowing grass,
and the desert wind boils out of Zion, carrying a roll like thunder.

Tree with Shoes
—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

The drunken piano
at Steen’s has plinky keys
that heavy-handed
bangers play
on Saturday nights.

At least a third of them
have lost their ivories
(the keys—on second
thought, the men)
and leap up brown
between the nicotine-white
and sweated black
in half-remembered melodies.

The dialectic songs
go half-way out
into the room
to thicken in the smoke
and blur of talk
and deaden there
where sentimental singers
mouth the words
not even they can hear.

Upon her handled wood
the men have put wet glasses
while they played her
through the years.
a bawdy female instrument
would allow such hurt of love.)

Old whore piano
still adores her beer
and wears its white stains
like her other pains.

Old as she is,
love’s poor musicians still bring
their common talents
in the faulty octaves of their hands.
Faithful to each,
she gives them
all the music that she can.

(first pub. in Windless Orchard, 1974)


—Joyce Odam

I play Chopin, over and over, all morning and into the afternoon,
and fall into some old time that was his and feel how sad such
distances become and how wonderful to still connect. And I am
glad that I have made the reach, and wonder about him: Handsome.
So young. Tubercular. A genius. On his way to early death—that
stealer. I feel the gray day as tenacious as that—this day-long fog
that sifts into mind and mood and sorts out the music of my bones.
I am in love with music that can use such gray to enhance the
misery of winter. He must have felt the same cold about his shoulders,
in his composing hands, and so created what I listen to today—hour
after hour—how I defeated for awhile that Sacramento Tule fog that
stays and stays and stays.

 —Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam

I am taught.
I am taught to obey.
And to hold still.

But I do not obey.
And I do not hold still.

Look—I am over there
on the sunlit wall.
I am making poses.

You think I am funny
and you laugh.
I am not funny at all.

I am taught.
I am taught everything
you want me to know.

But I cannot listen.
I am in an ear
the ear of deafness.

I am in the sea
the sea of myself,
and the shell’s silence
goes inward to where
I am hearing the silence.

I am taught what to do
with my patience
which is loud
which is loud as snow
after it has blinded everything.

And there is my footprint
going into myself
just before the sun
shines upon it
from the patterned wall.


—Joyce Odam

We are riding back to Sacramento when a Tule
fog sets in and we are immersed in its gray on
a disappearing freeway with only an occasional
glimpse of white line—all taillights snuffed, the
road-edge lost to us, no way to go but go—I
staying gripped to you, pressed against your body-
rhythm with my own. We are alone in this—time-
stopped while time speeds on, re-ceding from
itself. I think no thought but that of getting through
in total helpless trust of you. The sound of us is
loud—almost a radar of a sensed direction we don’t
know how to measure, as brief a time-path as it is,
but we pull out of it.

 Elsie Feliz and Shoes
—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam

on days that sound like ides
such days as the
15th of March
at such a time as
one minute after midnight
they’ll let the telephone lines
get through

and then
we will send our late and
urgent conversations
over the tingling wires
we will be witches with old news
cackling like actresses
who pretend they are witches

you will call me
I will call you
and friends will have to
wait their turns
while we boil and bubble
till the cauldrons all run dry

too long between
we will cackle
and our crows will laugh their
ominous laughter
and we will too

get ready my friend of
the shortened distance
on the 15th of March
at one minute after midnight
one of our telephones
will jangle

(first pub. in Pearl, 1974)


—Joyce Odam

Passing by the church steps, I see a man, bent—
washing his feet from a water bottle, and a cloth

—intent, intent—his shoes placed neatly side
by side. It is twilight and still warm for October.

He does not seem to see, or care, that I see him
do this. It is his need, and this is his only means

and place. He will have his bare feet clean, then
lean back, maybe, and watch the people pass.

(first pub. in Poetry Now, 2005)


—Joyce Odam

She walks with her blanket pulled around her
like a shroud. Her ruined face peers through
as we brush our shoulders by, averting our
attention to the all-night café, where we
will talk a while—saying nothing or
much of our desires and wisdoms
—our little jests and gossipings,
whiling away an hour or two
on this spring night with its
stubborn touch of winter.

When we come out we shiver toward the car and notice
her again across the street—asleep in the narrow cot of
the doorway—her blanket binding her like a wound—
the breezy shadows of the night whipping around her.

 Leaf Fossils
—Photo by Joyce Odam

While waiting at the bus circle, Sac State campus
—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

turquoise melts
into the horizon
deep blue green
belies gathering chill
twilight darkens
to midnight blue austerity

stars flicker
pristine white
brilliant fusion of all color
sequoias’ arms spiral
needles hazy
as Spanish moss
in light’s lack

stillness, strength rule
in hushed. timeless patience
defy hoar frost’s grip
stubborn, blue-green Redwoods

cling within earth
entwine their roots


—Ann Wehrman

I lift a glass to you
wish it were plum wine
lift my cup of coffee to you
at midnight as I toil, write

keep a clear head
live day by day
pay down debt
work in my field

generations of women fought
for this independence
live on my own supported by friends

who am I to demean, depress, destroy
this version of womanhood
free, responsible, wise

writer cherishes alone time
reader loses herself in book after book
woman of certain age comforts herself
with care and experience

yet, Sacramento
in your cold autumn night
I fear ending my days alone

do I not love others well enough?
am I too self involved?
surely, it is not simply age, weight
or face, body no longer
glowing with youth’s beauty

do what you love
do not look for love
love will come to you
perhaps, Sacramento
but by that time
will I be too old to care?

 —Photo by Joyce Odam

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

That October month
Aunt Suzanna
emigrated from Boston
to Sacramento
and Sonny, my uncle
her other nephew
who worked on publicity
for one of the big studios
in Hollywood and hired me
crawling with ambition
that past sprawling summer
to read some film scripts
having majored in English,
and not to be selfish
for our family's sake
we decided to help
Suzanna move
her stuff lying around
boxed in by huge luggage cases,
she always putting us up
and putting up with us
back home in the East
at her house in the Back Bay
listening to me play jazz
all hours of the night
and now wearing a shirt
Sonny bought me
that said Tarzana on it
and munching on sourdough
cookies from my aunt's
new lemony kitchen
holding onto her Boston Terrier
brought to the zoo
near the tiger cage
reciting Blake's lines
about "burning bright"
and staring at the young lions
remembering what King David
wrote about being strong
in his poetic songs and psalms
of surviving the beasts in Zion
among Saul and his enemies,
then spying at the bird cages
swallowing my pride of words
writing my eager poems
about the cool climate here
when the earth shook us up
and almost falling
for a few seconds,
and changing clothes for dinner
Sonny talked about
Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago,
how they had
to leave different
European locations
to make the film,
and about Is Paris Burning
and its history
in World War II,
about Elizabeth Taylor
and Richard Burton
in Cleopatra,
and the innovative movie
on a black theme
One Potato, Two Potatoes,
receiving my education
so combining of all that I heard
wrote down thoughts
for my first one-act play
still under the stress
of having to move
a striped sofa
and two mattresses
hoping my skilled words will
open the minds
and skin of others
in not too far-off off-Broadway,
some day.

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

At water’s edge, a drift of Styrofoam,
a shoe with missing sole, a broken comb.
We’re looking for a man—my dog and I.
He used to live here under oak and sky
among the other shadow-folk who roam

from tarp to quik-stop with its coins and chrome.
They’ve given up the workday’s metronome.
By nightfall they’ll return again to lie
    at water’s edge.

What are their stories? Read their tracks in loam,
in dust. They gather in the twilight gloam
or dark. Faces by campfire belie
one man missing. A young girl’s lullaby—
what memory does it touch, what thoughts of home
        at water’s edge?


—Taylor Graham

This yard whispers histories, heap to metal
heap. A Kenmore range with rusty edges
and the burners gone, spaghetti-stained, and
chicken-wire, meant to keep a garden
from greening all over the lawn.
Mailboxes. Tire chains in tangles.
A brass lantern: still reflective face.
And oh, the bedsprings!

There’s so much more: bent, dented, angled
steel and tin, aluminum and iron, parts
that used to fit in intricate ways, and work.
Smelted, welded, molded, cut to specs.
Structure and plumbing. Detritus of lives,
we haul it back. We’re paid pennies
on the pound. It waits in sorted piles
to grow useful in some other form.
What will become of us all?

The ancient lady behind the smudged
window smiles and hands me a fortune
cookie with my pay. Nowhere else
have I gained so much for riddance
of old junk. As I leave, a spool of wire
flares from the welder’s torch. 
My fortune: Never forget
where you came from.

(first appeared in Sacramento Anthology)


—Taylor Graham

The ER doc came in wearing civies,
carrying his scrubs in a duffle that might serve
for tennis togs on such a Saturday afternoon.

He passed you on to the ophthalmologist
on call, who left his kid’s ball game
to drive against weekend traffic, arriving here

to diagnose your disintegrating eye,
and call someone who could fix it. Next,
in a clinic across town, a specialist

in evening clothes, who gave up dinner
with a friend she hasn’t seen in years, and two
tickets to the symphony, laid you flat

on a white table, numbed your
face and magically stuck your retina back
in place, then sent you out into the one-eyed

night with a patch over half your vision.
Now, by parking-lot security lights reflecting
pavement, you find you’re walking

on damp lawn that glints and sparks,
springing soft uncertain as your footstep over
earth that gives and gives and gives.

(first appeared in Pudding Magazine)

Trees at Dusk
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento                 

I come to the old neighborhood,
a canopy of bare trees, cool azure sky
just right for ethereal tunes.  
I touch underground wires, old trolley lines
that pull in my collective psyches.
Pale stones wobble my eyes.
Small shops shrink behind new coffee bars
and tacky nail salons. I kick hard pebbles
against their purple doors.
I miss my old sandwich shop.

Roasting beans, AH! the aroma tempts me.
I sit down for a latte and read the paper. 
Here is a cartoon, an old “Far Side”
featuring  two souls in hell.  I mutter,
“I don’t know this place. No more cheap-eats!”
I want to smell something fermenting: sauerkraut
on one-buck franks, honest dust from the pipe works,
the distillery’s old corn-based sweetness.

How can small-scale guys compete
with mocha javas and rhinestone inserts
on toenails masking blue bruises?
Neighbors oppose an open-air waste
station: the stench, sore eyes, hulking ugliness,
but the work force will be protected 
(picnic tables for outdoor lunches),
yet residents turn testy. Posting signs are costly.
A fair approach: let’s build taller levees.

Forget about convening the people,
wait until a small red bird re-arranges cobwebs
inside the clock. A thread is all we need:
unraveled skein, nightgown’s satin ribbons,
guitar string, mustard plaster gauze,
even an old fishing line might do. Just
a little strand hugging my finger
to follow the next piece—and the next.

(Found poem from the Sacramento Bee
and the
Sacramento News and Review, February, 2007)

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

Today's LittleNip:

1/4 OF BIG
—Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

Leland, you old cheat
What was your mark-up
On those bags of beans
Shovels and pans
Rolls of cotton duck
That you finagled
Into a railroad?
How many keen eyes
Did you see on their way
To keening in the diggings?
Thanks anyhow
For the eucalyptus
And Muybridge.


—Medusa, thanking all the contributors celebrating Sacramento Poetry Day (today!) with Medusa's Marathon Mega-Post (wow!), and reminding you to check in on the remaining half of the Cal. Capital Book Festival at the Convention Center. For a schedule of today's poetry readers, see

—Photo by Cynthia Linville
[Single-click on photos to enlarge them.]