Saturday, February 28, 2015

Use My Heart As A Pillow

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


When I open my hands
I have neither morning
Nor evening in either
Of them.

I will gather squash blossoms
In the early morning and dip
Them in an egg batter.  Fry them.

It is still three weeks until Spring
And I am adorning myself
With its heat and shimmer
And the taste of oranges,
The thrushes in the morning,
Already too bright.

It seems the river breezes
Have started to display
Robes not seen since November.

The fields are full of magic and green
But we must call it drought.
At least let us sing a bright rain song.

 A Too-Early Spring


I moved to Marseilles
For awhile.  I had tired
Myself too much in the jungle
And knew I could survive here
For a season without the fevers
Returning with the vengeance
That had plagued me in the tropics.

For awhile I returned to my old work.
I dealt in dreams and taught
For awhile the trade of winds,
Dealing with ships mostly of a medium
Tonnage that needed to move
Quickly and generally at night.

On clear evenings I would
Set up my small collection
Of charms and potions
In a quiet, clean hotel
And meet the travelers
Who found it necessary
To occupy particular habitats
Within the protection of dream,
Where they could communicate
With that population
Who plied these routes but were
Leaving the body to choose a new
One or a recently unoccupied one
For short periods of time.

I was somewhat of an expert
When it came to knowing
The traffic in such regions.
I could make good money quickly
And be gone before any situation
Looked even the slightest bit
Out of normal.

As a child in Zurich
And later on in Algiers, I had found
Myself with an ability to see
All the transitions of the breath
In most individuals
And quickly realized what this
Could mean to those who only
Required a body for a limited
Period of time to accomplish
A particular task and know dreaming.

I also became known as one who
Had no need or desire to ask
Why a client might need the dreaming
Or to know a particular
Language a wind might identify
Itself by to create fair or foul

My track was on old ways
And, except for bouts of terrible
Fever when I stayed too long
In the tropics, I could
Accomplish much fairly quickly
And always find easy passage
To return to my friends
In the far islands
Who always seemed to be at war
With one set of phantoms or another
Or with terrible armies anxious
To force their way past the gates
And commit their atrocities,
Summoning the darkest of shadows
And providing a realm for evils
I will not mention here.


Here the transmission ended
With a promise to talk further
When the weather was right again
And the trade in dreams and bodies
Not as swift as it currently manifested.
“The dead are being occupied temporarily
At an amazing rate,” being the last thing he said.

 A New Waterline for the Locke Demonstration Garden


He couldn’t tell if she had arrived yet.  There was no way to tell.  He would sit by the window for a few minutes, get up, look out the window, walk over to the door, open it, and look at the night.  There was no porch light.  The traffic on the interstate sounded like it had a cold or was trying to explain something impossible to explain.  He closed the door and went back to the chair.  She should be here by now, he thought.  Maybe she will hear me if I shout really loud.  He shouted really loud.  The dog jumped up and started barking.  “It’s okay,” he said.  “I was just seeing if she could hear me.”  The dog grumbled, took two steps and laid back down.  “She is never going to get here," he said to himself.  Headlights were coming down the street.  “It’s her," he thought, and straightened his belt so it was right in the center of his trousers.  The lights passed the house.  She had told him it was going to be like this, but he didn’t believe her.  He scraped his index fingernail against his front tooth, carving it slightly.  His thoughts began to flash through his mind.  “This is stupid,” he thought.  “My thoughts are like strobe lights.  Everything is stupid."  The card had said, “You had better not be anywhere near that house when I get home.”  He had no idea why she should say such a thing.  The batteries were already connected to the big alarm in the parlor.  He got up and repeated his routine again.  “This could go on forever,” he thought.  He knew he was right.  Outside he could hear birds making a terrible noise.  For the first time, he had an idea of what she might have meant in the letter.  He got up again and walked to the door, locked it.  A dull booming began to come from the basement.  He lit a match and threw it out the window into the yard.  There was a huge flash of light.  He told the police he could not remember anything at all after that.  “Why would she do something like this to me?" he questioned.  When he was finally conscious again, they made him repeat the entire story.  He never mentioned the letter.  Just before the surgery, he thought he heard her voice in the corridor outside the room.  Before he could be certain, he was unconscious, and all the humming and clicking folded into his brain, and he stopped being sure of anything again.  Except for the dog.  He was sure the dog knew what had happened.  He thought he could hear it whining, but the dog wasn’t there.  He still couldn’t tell if she had arrived yet.  There was no way to tell.



He spent the whole afternoon
Visiting graves.  He would poke
At them with his staff and mumble.

There were clouds of snow leaning
Over the fences and making the day
Grow much later than it actually was.

Near the keeper's work house
A couple of small lights were lit.
They could be candles.  It was
Hard to tell, but he decided
They were candles.  Then he wanted
More; a song or a bird would be nice.

He read the names out loud so the
Dead could hear their names spoken
Again.  He removed his hat and let
The breeze do what it wanted
To his hair.  He waved his hand,
Saying goodbye.  They probably
Couldn’t even hear him anymore.

The Clouds


We will wait for the moon tonight.
It is not only the moon.  It is full
And we can see it through the rain.

It is not like you are a child.
I will put the moon in my mouth
And we can stay in bed.  I will
Pass it into your mouth when we kiss.

I will tell you a story of a warrior I knew.
He used a rabbit skin to make a beard.
We lost him in the famous snows
That winter.  When we found his body
In the Spring, he was in full armor
And looked more fearful than a trap
Set to catch a tiger that terrible Winter.

I am going to continue North.
Meet me under the trees
And you can use my heart
As a pillow all the while I am gone.


Today's LittleNip:


Sometimes I can’t tell
If it is her speaking
Or if it is some bird
Call I should recognize
But am unable to recall.

Usually I answer anyway.
Just to be sure.


Giant Sock Monkey


Friday, February 27, 2015

Steam Punk Magic

—Poems by Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
(Anonymous Photos)


It’s all a fantasy,
But what is not?
A world that should have
Been but never was.

Kinder, slower, softer,
And with a concern
For the people,
And for the craft.

Airships made of hand-
Wrought metal, computers
Of bone
And mahogany.

A past, an imperialism,
That could be fixed
With a keystroke and
A backspace key.

Tennyson wrote about
“The ringing grooves
Of change”: railroads.

He got it wrong,
But now it seems
Not so very bad,
And maybe right.


You’d think
It would
Be a slam dunk
This steam punk.

But it’s
Not easy
Being creatively bold
About a world that

A difficult task:
Details gotta be right
(Even if they never were):
Or they’ll
Kick your ass.

They put us down,
Being creative
About Victoria,
Her time,
And the Crown.

But you got a better
Past that never was?
Then maybe I’d
Like to talk to you, cuz.


                      All you need is a time machine
                      And a good pair of goggles.
                           —K.V. Jeter, who coined the term
                                             “Steam Punk”

All my friends
Got these

Real long 
Leather coats
And blunderbusses.

We’re not real sure where we’re
Goin’, but we’re lookin’
Real sincere.

And that’s what’s so real
Important as we’re
Looking through our goggles,

From the front,
Out and
To the rear.


My best act would be
Saw-the-woman in half.
But by the time we get
The generator started
And running, the robot
Band playing, she’s
Usually run off.
The audience too.


I blame H. G. Wells
And his time machine:
Gave the Moorlocks
A chance
To come up and out.
Not bad folks, really.
I could growl
With the best of them.
Used a lot of sunscreen,
But otherwise,
Mostly like us.
Then they got
Cable.  Fox News.


She was a shape shifter,
And you know they have
(In spite of what you
Might expect)
Absolutely no stage
Presence.  And couldn’t
Care less about
How to work an audience.
People looked poised
To throw things.  But what
Do you throw
At a shape shifter?

Today's LittleNip:


Worse than being raised
By wolves: shape shifter.
Never knew what
You’d be wearing.
Always getting
Your tail stepped on.


Our thanks to Kevin Jones for his poems today; in his new children's book, Captain Max and His Armored Steam Balloon (Adventure One), Max saves Theodore Roosevelt from evil Ninjas, but is late home for dinner. Life is tough for a 12-year-old steam punk visionary in 1909. The book is available for 99¢ from Amazon Kindle (ASIN: BOOSKKGYAA). The cover is shown below, and I took some photos and drawings from the 'Net to get us in the steam punk mood—perfect for a Friday, I'm thinking.......


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow Kisses

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


Here we are in a snow-kissed
Zen peace garden
away from home
in the Seventies
invited to give an urban reading
with branches waiting to be green
wishing to have our cold bodies
washed by a Formosa sunshine
playing a drum song
on our fingers and wrist
to expect a thirsty visit
of lemony flowers by waterfalls
or seasoned seaweed
to poke through
our open face in the sand
or first light up
to reach our poetry bench
even just to drink mimosa
or pick a lofty orange
over Taipei's living ivy walls
wishing for a second wind of self
in silence of secret language
as a Mikado Pheasant dances by
over the slanting red roofs
we are awed by whirlpools
of a beach whale sighting
and with a cosmic spirit
of being alive as the young tree's
leaves on a bright yew.



Did not your name
on your walking papers
have to change for this race
each one with an anonymous color
over our sweatshirted backs
mine being orange
because of my Cape's kayak
eyeing a fawn on the grassland
in my kinetic lookout
from the Green Hills
here early for the marathon
holding a quartz time piece
from Paris as a lucky stone
downing two cups of latte
on the rocky roads
with a new outlook and lens
back home
within reach of my journey
yet receiving snow kisses
in the thick of hugging conversation
from the other runners
much more experienced
than this abandoned
language poet
with genuine flowing tears
on my solitary mouth
yet holding my tongue
while feeling alive
by the victory torch
passing my applauding hand.


Playing the Belgian composer's
difficult concerto in E major
even for my uncle's child
prodigy was not street-easy
but my strengthened hands
from after-school basketball
and constant practice on the bridge
made me suitable
to have my fingering stretched out
in the cadenzas at my recital
yet here I am tuned up and ready
to play in white short pants
pleading to remember
every note
with the knowledge
of my nana's promise
of a February vacation
with fun in distant California.



There are some things
that have no levity
about them
but it's really
best not to be willful
in our speech
but to reach out
to nature
beyond any baroque song
or our own subject matter
do the right from wrong
and exempt the extraneous
from any enormous guilt,
or like the poet H.D.
go seek Freud in therapy
yet not to be slaphappy
just amused
from any of our verse
words in language do matter
in our comforting places
though we are trained
not to mutter
or exhibit a pompous laughter
but smooth us as Swedish butter
lest bad puns tempt us
to curse after dinner
or nurse grudges
or bragging rites as a sinner
but to be like Edith Sitwell
the English poet
with light visages
in her bright passages
amid a poet's favorite care
like this pond tropical fish
in his own aquarium dish
yet knowing all the while
we navigate everywhere
searching for a miracle's escape
amid cats, carnations, jokes
on blue lakes in mild weather
the Muse wakes us
with a daily survival kit
no need for a calculated smile
watching a red bird with feather.

Feb. 22 (1907-1973)

It was there
in the Big Apple
at that reading,
was he that humorous
or bold
that my peacoated shadow
hides away
in the upper lighted floor
finding a front chair seat
and when he speaks
at the open door
every word is cool
like a poplar in the hills
almost like the whisper
of a prayer by your bed
or in a still life sanctuary
with Merton
at Gethsemani, Kentucky
the microphone echoes
its working solo for the day,
outside the seasonal grackles
are travelling down the Oak trees
of Central Park
my fate is inevitable
at the repast table
when he confirms
my artisan's love
to be in Charon's boat
and enjoy the persuadable sea
here with a narrative glory
amid Auden's creative
quest of modernity.

Feb. 22 (1900- 1973)

Surpassing waves
over the Aegean's open sea
the night is warm
and the storms now gone
from the sky bird sky
in a downcast cloudy shadow
under a once-gold slanting sun
as you, Georges Seferis
writing your precocious verse
yet half-asleep on the ship
as the Muse's favored suppliant
worthy of nostalgia's fame
drinks from a century's old
red wine bottle,
your sanguine laughter
glows from your poetry pocket.


Feb. 27 (1932-1911)

Watching Cleopatra
now through a vodka glass
or having learned to have kvass
with Igor my artistic neighbor
when your life matters
to a young audible boy
at the Hollywood premier,
and every year since sixty-three
amazed as I watch Elizabeth
when my Californian uncle Sonny
with his to-be-
continued colorful nostalgia
helped with the film studio's
world-wide publicity.


Still life teases us
by the town's funfair
featuring exhibits
of art's rechristened images
along a housecleaned renewal
on February's vacation week
by still frozen lakes
here delicate charms
cosmetic emerald, gold and silver
in cuff links, keys and compacts
are on open display tables
in chasms of our poster
from the loneliness as cabin fever
with sounding innocence
displaying the deep voice
of a new alto clarinet's sonata in B
from my icy congealed lips
as words of a future cable show
in a stand-up comedy act
will wrap a shade around my mind
in a ransomed gesture
as my sunglasses are removed
hoping the ringing town bells
will strike a good year
for blue landscaped strips of sky.


Today's LittleNip:
You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you.

—Joseph Joubert


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch for his poems and pix from 'way back East, as they continue to be pummeled by cold weather.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Atwirl in Dance

—Photos from a Sac. Ballet Rehearsal 
by Katy Brown, Davis

—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento
Children turn their heads in glee
Gung Ho Fat Choy!
Sing Song: The trailing red tail of the Chinese Dragon
is bound to the lapel of my headdress
in small minute folds, layer after layer
by which
my mother carefully tugs
at me.

The smell of rose-colored steam, lavender
and the American-grown mint
left at the bottom of a teacup
gently soak fabric
as it wraps around my head---
a cultural icon, coveting the ancestral
cells, that sailed on winds.

Her voice, near me, gently knocking
my ringlets back and forth
in my ear lobes.
A mother is wrapping her daughter’s
red headdress.
Red dresses, the dragon’s golden speech,
our drum pushing us into the sunlight.
Gold letterings of proclamations
fill with coins.
I dance in this parade too.
My turban is the dragon head.

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

Poet John brings
poems to share
two salads
two enchiladas
all from
an Italian village
near his job.

John comes young
And I get younger
near John and his dog
John has no dog
But I see a groomed
collie floating
toward me over
a green meadow.


(a poem of the 60s)
—Claire J. Baker

They pluck her ovaries—
ripe cherries;
yank out her uterus—
juicy pear;
rip out her tubes—
bean sprouts.
But she still has
pregnant thoughts
and beautiful babies.

(from author's chapbook,Touchings, 1976)


—Claire J. Baker

She watches
a lyrical poem
spread petals
over the page
or poppies—
wind chimes
grace notes
of time.

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

       After Robert Francis’ "Squash in Blossom"

Consider the luscious
greening moisture of sleeves
that open into new leaves;
how the color green gushes

through spring until summer;
how the unfoldings turn golden,
each stem is hidden
in a process more somber

now. As if, to be
truly a green-thumb
one must also plumb
the depths of uncertainty

about the insignificant, small
matters of a splinter
revelation:  the coming of winter
after the drying up of fall.


—Carol Louise Moon

It is a brilliant springtime day.
The yard’s alive—and midday moon’s
eye sees it all. The curiosity of jays
the ogle of the cocky crow
each note how spring’s atwirl in dance
in balance of the midday heat.

We look not just at all the weeds
which yield to flowers pinking here,
but get a glimpse as Death prepares
the way in tempest summer winds.
Time’s pattern oft’ repeats this scene
as spring recedes to summer.
The moist bloom glowing in my hand
will wither toward its end.

—Caschwa, Sacramento

I totally LOVE Bach’s inventions!
What an absolute delight
And of course Thomas Edison, et al.

Imagine if the person who
Invented the wheel
Tried to interview for a job today

Sorry, you’re pretty bright
But we can’t bring you on board
With that grooming and hygiene

The God that I worship looks
With more favor on mothers
Who sing to their babies

Than on top recording artists
With their high tech mikes
Reaching global audiences

He favors spreading the Word
The way people did before the
Invention of the printing press

It saddens Him to see medical journals
Publish only high-priced remedies
To heal those in need

Knowing full well that they are
Made from God-given natural herbs
Reprocessed and re-packaged

Real estate developers assume
The role of God to tell us what is
The highest and best use for the land

Then they charge more for properties
That have a view of land
That is totally undeveloped

—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

 ½ C ground peacock bones

1 oz. rose-petal perfume

16 shards of glass extracted from a wound

1 gallon of spittle from a horse’s mouth

a sock of dragon-charred wind

1 single unicorn hair

3 live scorpions

a loaf of moldy baloney

1 silver-coated tongue

a pot of leprechaun gold

*dirty deeds signed in blood

*as many as possible

—Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

I raise my hands
Call down a hungry moon
Ink babbles from my fingers
Lies drip from my elbows

Nothing has been done right
Nothing has been done

I crawl among my tools beshat
Scattered across splintered floors
Paintings fly up the walls and away
While others wonder where I am

Nothing has been done right
Nothing has been done

I am exiled from that house of many windows


—Robert Lee Haycock

I am old and tired and I had no appreciation for the things I held in my hands in my youth

Yes you did but you just don't remember

And I want a name when I lose


—Robert Lee Haycock

            for Molly and for Tad

Every bit of it
And nothing
Makes any sense
Even when it does
I can only remember
That I loved you
Even when I didn't
But you knew that
I know
You knew


—Robert Lee Haycock

Dreams of Grandma
Dreams of Grandpa
Things not done
Things not started
Broken things
My dear old incontinent dog
A rain that comes
A rain that goes
Falling down
Getting up
More mistakes

What shall I write about?


Today's LittleNip:

—Robert Lee Haycock

Cradled between rails
I awaken to a dream
Sails and black diamonds



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Name It Sorrow

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


at some edge
of some dreamed sea—
some cove of blue that draws me there
to sit enclosed, to hide in the blue shadow
of the blue air and listen to the white cries of
gulls—watch the patient crawling of the waves
—the solitude of loneliness one learns to love…

or was it real—
only some composite of time spent
beyond the measured memory that thrills and fails.

I’m here—I’m there—walking toward this moment,
—who I am—under the wide imperfect sky that
fills with its vast moodiness, moving so darkly,
laying swift blue shadow everywhere—and
the white gulls that sound so anguished,
though beautiful and low—and I keep
them with me to become at least their
curiosity—never having left—no
matter how many cities later...

I knew this place
—as well as my life—its long
unreachable distance—this shore beside this sea.


Two figures under black rain falling all around them,
except where they hurry over the dry ground,
made possible only by the width

of their black umbrellas—their long black gowns
shrouding them from the rain—black
reflecting black—their faces

hidden :  two silhouettes in tiny black shoes, one set
urging forward, the other set pulling back
against the weather—

the world dissolved to black silhouettes with a dark
mission.  Not that they wouldn’t answer,
if asked, but they are

resolute of symbol and swift as evasion—shadowing
past as we stand, wet and wondering,
in the March wind and rain. 


I, writing good news,
make you worry—
you have known me
too long—you
read beneath words
for what I am saying.

I tell you about
the seasons and the
domestic cuteness of the day,
skim-off the surfaces
like fat from a
simmering pot of chili.

I send you an easy recipe
using wine     and recount
all the latest
household disasters
to make you laugh.

And because it is time to
start dinner
I close with love
and start

cutting up
with a       newly-sharpened
making insignificant wounds
on my only life.

(first pub. in Squeezebox, January 1975)

       After "The Summer Breeze" by Childe Hassam

Now she sits on the edge of the sofa and
plays her violin to the darkened room,

the curtain tearing from the arms of
its own shadow. The room deepens—

ever-so-slowly as she leans into her music.
Her face closes and the trembling flower

in the nearby vase wilts a little slower—
the vase returning what little light

there is to the soft light at the window.
The captured breeze of evening floats

through the music. The curtain dances.
Now she has power over everything.



We who have been close and separate
now face the mutual mirror of regard
and look hard at the memory :

What has gone between us is a river,
deep and deeper
with the changes.

What a strange metaphor . . .
one of us always drowning here and there,
in the difficulties, in the confusion.

The river is always behind us
and before us,
hypnotic with motion and energy.

No stillness here, no turning back,
though we do—grasping at all these
beginnings, caught in the currents.


It’s easy enough to send praise into an aftermath.
What we receive of light is the other side of dark.

Who shouts in the hollow becomes echo there.
Here is a word I can use, wet with meaning.

Tears are the salt of grief, joy, and humor. Hollow out
the womb for the lost child. Name it Sorrow.

We are at the service of our souls
which are at the mercy of our lives.

In the stone light,
gray thought is manufactured as shadow.

Two who are unnamed
go toward love with fierce anticipation.

The hotels are empty now. They served the lonely
and the lost in their transitions.

It was the gulls, so starkly white in the gray field,
dark skies roiling inward.

Reading it all wrong, that word again, about to break,
like a face left in its mirror before it got old.


Today's LittleNip:

                        After Monet: (weeping tree) I

Making the best of bad weather,
I count the raindrops that are beginning to fall
through the dark morning.

In making the best of the bad weather
I go toward the old weeping tree of winter
and offer my tears in sympathy.

Making the best of bad weather, I let the rain
chill me. The tree rustles its sad leaves.
The old wet trunk invites my leaning.


—Medusa, thanking Joyce Odam for today's wonderful breakfast in the Kitchen, and noting that our new Seed of the Week is Name It Sorrow (and thanks to Joyce for the phrase). Send your poems and pix on this (or any other subject!) to No deadline on SOWs.

P.S. I don't know where I was, but I failed to learn about Louise Gluck reading from her new book, Faithful and Virtuous Night, at UC Davis tonight, Feb. 24, 7:30pm, Nelson Hall. Hope you can make it to hear this former Poet Laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the 2014 Nat'l Book Award. See for details. 

Bird Flying High in Sunburst Sky

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cryoseismic Booms

—Photo by Stacie Sherman, Orangevale, CA

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Tulip trees run flagrant now.
Firefly brilliance heaps each bough,
limbs draped in shreds from fabric-cloud
an Ithacan queen might sew to a shroud.
An Anyspring’s almost-scentless fuschian
minglement of sharp Confucian-
petalled wit: pink-lavender tips
or nails of fingers. Startling chips
of rare resilient bone-china shatter.
Some peelings suspend, some simply downscatter.
Indecision in these white platelets,
two-toned, delicate pieces of bracelets.
All this blossom-pregnancy
leaps or comes blown to vagrancy.
For each bright burden that loads the branch,
an afterbrown must edge the blanch,
then turn the bone-laolin-sheen bitter,
make way for a fresh white-violet litter.
What scumbles of mulch, these porcelain chips:
they all fall so sudden, spring fingertips.

(What costly adornments, satins for fruitful groves,
don’t lie down like medical sharps, discarded gloves?)


      CV. L’Héautontimrouménos
                (The Self-Tormentor)

I will strike you without hatred
and without rage—like a butcher!
Just like Moses’ great rock gusher
—I will make, from your own eyelid,

to replenish my Sahara,
suffering’s waters spurt their drops,
so my desire will swell with hopes,
and swim on your tears a seafarer:

so, when this vessel plies the large,
the wave-void, deep in my salt-drunk heart
your lovely sobs pulsate the start
of the drum that beats the charge!

And am I not the one false chord
in the divine symphony
graced by the ravenous irony
that shakes me and that mouths me mordant?

She’s the one in my voice, the shrew!
My blood is all hers, this black, black toxin.
I am the sinister reflection,
my Maegara’s harridan-mirror view.

I am the gash and I’m the blade!
I am the knuckle to smash the jowl!
I am the limbs and I am the wheel,
the victim and That One who lops the pate.

I’m my heart’s own best vampire,
one of the grandly self-abandoned,
laughably forever condemned ones
lost for all time to nevermore smile!

—Tom Goff
     (after Charles Baudelaire and Clark Ashton Smith)


—Tom Goff

Your voice is a guitar, most resonant:
it leaps white-winged and soft from your
Only your shy soul, the revenant
in you who shrank from day-bright vibrant timbre
—from full-throttle strums above your belly-hollow
to magnify how praise begins as buzz,
gold left to shake from pluck as bees shed pollen—
could fend off my crass plectrum swipe that does
to guitars what soldiers used to do who touched
match to touchhole: why the scooped log spoke.
Oh, off-key thoughts I twanged you, many thumbs plucked.
a fresh affront with each note-jangled joke.
I still want to plumb you hand-and-finger to bring,
wring voice from you, fret, neck, bridge, back,
                                    each ounce of spring and string.  

  Chick Bling (Spring Chicken)
—Photo by Stacie Sherman

Who in California can put away their winter wardrobe all at once in “Spring"?
   The long thermal underwear you might usually wear in the mountains at the slopes
   may have to stay ready in places like Sacramento until March and April
   just in case there’s rain and you might get your pants wet
   and you need them for your skin to stay dry
   The jackets and sweaters may still need to hang around in early Spring,
   especially if you live in or go to the Bay Area
   even if there’s sunshine
   it's still just too cold to wear any swimsuit at the beach as portrayed
   in popular media.

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

To Peter, a young man who wants the job
   of being Arcade Church's janitor
I told him remember to offer to scrub clean
   the upholstered pews
so that they don't spread lice and germs
   like movie seats can

—Michelle Kunert

Sun Door
—Photo by Stacie Sherman

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The old bird is back, twittering

her unmistakable song

over the phone. We haven’t seen her

since last spring, when she showed up

in vernal plumage without

a poem but her head full of hum

and colors. Where does she winter?

Patagonia, maybe Tahiti,

or just tucked into cozies at home.

She’ll sing us something unknown

to my book-of-forms.

She doesn’t care about next week’s

sonnet. Bright as a pheasant

of Nepal—blue feather among so many

shades of flight, a bit more silver

than last year. Could another winging

season slow her down?

We see her now, then she’s gone.

Who knows

where she summers?  


—Taylor Graham

Let’s say you go over the falls in a barrel—

frigid, still falling, finding a river’s way through;

listening for cryoseismic booms as you hurtle

over the edge, blind in your cask.

Remember the old legends.

Aren’t you safer in a barrel than a canoe?

Remember a summer when you

came here careless as a tourist, a child.

How the world has changed,

its weather like a river plunging down.

This time you’re in a barrel.

How long until you reach a sunny coast,

and then the surrounding sea?

—Taylor Graham

Through a haze of sleep-
lessness eight puppies swim out
of her amniotic ocean, to this coast
littered with woolen remnants,
worn carpet, chair- and trouser-
legs. The newborns gasp without gills
for breath; blind as a new moon;
their mother calling them by scent
of first milk; calling them by names
a human will never learn. Yet
each will grow to heed a stranger’s
voice, and follow it to the end
of this eroding world.

—Taylor Graham

Who is the patron saint of wolves,

I wonder, and puppies in a storm, or lost

when their mother is evicted, and

must carry them in her jaws from tenement

to sidewalk, keeping strict count of

how many are hers? Each pup humming

to an angel choir we can’t hear.

To the tune of tires on chip-seal, I wonder;

puppies behind the back seat, their

mother memorizing scents that must

seep through steel and rubber, no matter

how air-tight the engineers design;

keeping track, in case she must carry them

home. Could she be the patron saint

of lost puppies? When I’m not listening,

does she lift her muzzle above

horizon, sing wolf songs to the bright

of a moon?

Impressionistic Mother
(Loki Graham and her 8 Puppies)
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Allegra Silberstein, Davis
Cobblestones gleam in the café light
where Van Gogh worked solitary

in an upper room closer to the stars,
farther from food and friendship…

A waiter in white reaches
toward the black-robed patrons

who rest from the day’s work.
They gather in communal quest.

So many tables shining in the night.
So many empty chairs

beneath the sapphire sky closing down
outside the blue pillar of entrance.

Wood-framed glass panels filter
light––cobblestones lead to edges.

Alone, outside the frame
I dance with shadows.

Today's LittleNip:

The plum trees in front of the
Sacramento Bee building
     blossomed this year in late January;
by mid-February they were leaving a shower of shed petals 
     on the grey cement city sidewalk,
perhaps to throw blessings upon
     the arrival of Flora and Fauna.

—Michelle Kunert


—Medusa, thanking today's contributors (congratulations, Loki!) and reminding you that Allegra and Tom have work in the new issue of Rattlesnake Press's WTF. If you're a contributor and didn't get one at the release party at Luna's last week, let me know and I'll send you a copy. For others, free copies may be obtained at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sac., or go to and have one mailed to you for $2. The next deadline for submissions is Tax Day—April 15!

Hydrangea, Hearst Castle
—Photo by Stacie Sherman

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tiny Mondrians

Lady Goulds
(Anonymous Photo)

—Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
Moving from Chicago to Missouri wasn't easy
but breeding Lady Goulds kept me sane
for many years—well, almost.

I was writing then to make a living.
All day I'd rearrange other people's words.  
I needed Lady Goulds to look at

in the evening and most weekends.
Otherwise I might have married
some nice lady for the wrong reason.

Right now, a canary helps me dance
away the years or days or hours
I have to face before

I take on a cane or walker.
The canary calls the dawn with glee.
Lady Goulds, you see, don't sing.

They don't have to.
All they have to do is sit there 
as if Mondrian painted them

or God lifted a pinkie on the 7th day.
The beauty of the Lady Gould,
some say, is the result of evolution.

There was no grand designer,
most scientists maintain.
The Lady Gould is one big accident

that happened eons ago.
I find it comforting to stare at them
and know otherwise.



Saturday, February 21, 2015

Naked Like Yesterdays

Geisha at the Foot of the American Falls
—Poems and Needlepoint Art by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


Where have they left us this time?
There are cartons of photographs.
I recognize no one in them.  Are they yours?

The water around the place has rainbows
That look like oil slicks on puddles, yet
It is the sea that surrounds us.
We are indeed on an island.

We can see some small fires in the distance.
They appear to be on the other side of the island.
Ramon said it is only a sea fog burning off, but I
Can see flames.  Maybe some of us aren't here
For ourselves; perhaps we are here to shelter,
Nourish others?  I began to feel an astonishment.

Ramon filled his pipe with a meticulous
Lack of enthusiasm.  I wasn’t happy.
I wasn’t feeling brave.  I knew we could be
Anywhere we wanted to be at any time.

I recalled Wallace Stevens telling us that
perhaps "The greatest poverty is not to live
In a physical world, to feel that one’s desire
Is too difficult to tell from despair.”  I did not
Want to cross the island.  There seemed
To be no reason to do so.  “We can just be
There,” Ramon said.  “We do not have to travel.”

A thickening of a dream membrane?
Someplace where I walk out of your dream
To find myself lying beside you in a bed,
The Winter sun streaming in through the windows.

I listened to the voice of the sea. 
The forms of the clouds kept changing.
Sound seemed to come in perfect rings.
One could walk among them for great distances.

The landscape began to look like oily paper.
“Don’t make me regret coming here,” I said
To no one in particular.  These lines are indeed
Crashing around me.  I am not the center
Nor am I centered.  I can feel the shape of a coin
In my mouth but my skin remains warm.
“We are almost there,” says Ramon.
“Here take my hand.  You will feel less
Like a Kaleidoscope and more like
You are finishing something important.”

The smoke was much closer.  We could hear
The voices of those gathered around the fires.

 Maid of the Mist


Always the bridges are too long.
The castle gate too is aways locked
For fear of wolves, of which he has seen
A total of three and it is Winter and there
Is little enough to eat anyway without
Blaming the wolves for lack of game.
There are more than enough deer.

They are easier to kill than taking
A castle in the middle of the night
Just for a lamb or two anyway.

Still they keep to building
Gates and close roads to the castles
Themselves rather than make anything
Easier for a pilgrim or a traveler on a dark night.

To make things worse, Lent has started
And an ecclesiastical state of fasting
Has seized the faithful, making beans and gruel
Gross features of the purple season.

“Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum
Meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea.
Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis ad laudem
Et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque
Ecclesiae suae sanctae.”

“I suppose they meant castles,”
He tells himself.
The wind has picked up.
It is too far to go to reach a friendly door.

He curls up into the lee side of a snowbank
And goes to sleep dreaming of the angel choirs.
In Spring the bones are pure white and have the scent
Of roses about them.  The clothing is very simple.
There was a rosary and a small cup for begging and drinking.
The local bishop builds a small pilgrimage church on the spot.

He is given a name and plunked into a litany.  There is no gate
On the chapel and it is kept warm in the coldest of Winter.
He is the patron saint of wolves and travelers in a storm.


             for Maqroll ‘el Gaviero’

I can no longer determine which childhood was mine.
I can see the precarious structure upon which dreams
Are made.  I can see how truths bear
The mark of the incommunicable.

I was watching you stroll along the pier,
Glancing into the water, lifting your eyes
To the horizon.  Here, in the North, the days
Are either too short or much too long.

I squeeze the colors between my fingers.
I will paint the midnight and it will be full
Of horses, gifts of the moon, a brightness
I will not be able to hold in my arms
As I once held you.  I too watch the surf,
How it seems to have a language,
How the waves tease at its back,
Making the conversation impossible to stop.

Someone has come to me in the night
To sell me memories.  They are cheap.
They can become your own by reading things
Like this.  “What are you feeling?” they ask.

I swear this happened to you when you were
Only four years old.  Why, your mother herself told me
It was so.  That screaming has been torn from
A throat no longer able to speak.  You can hear
Them wash upon the shingled beach, a thousand
Voices.  Any of them could be yours.

Tonight, I will stand near the bow and watch
You walk along, above the water, thinking
Whatever it is you may be thinking.

I have a photograph of you doing exactly this.
It was taken years ago.  See, you look so young.
Do not fear any encounter.  Look, the birds turn
And wheel above your head.  They too are memories.
How many do you need?  How foolish I am to ask.

 American Island


Little breaking sounds
Around the edges of your smile.
A ghost of recognition buys a ticket
And boards a train to the lava
Fields of northern New Mexico.

Come here, you can watch
The plane going down, engine
On fire.  Mike Todd framing
The shot seconds before the
Sky and the ground become one.


A couple of years later my scout troop
Finds some airplane parts in
The snaky lava beds, but we
Are looking for rattlesnakes.



Does it matter if we find out the meaning?
This is sand we are walking upon.
The ecstasy is our eyes
And the echoes they toss
Back and forth.  We can
Wear hunger like clothing
And no one will notice
We are naked like yesterdays
Swept beneath the sword.

The lacerations on Sunday morning.
I will watch the battles for you.

I will tell you when they have become dust.
I will sit in the garden behind the myths
Flashing as your lovely light.

I will be your child,
You will hold me
To watch me breathing.



Niagara Live Burial


Friday, February 20, 2015

Baseball Cards & Johnny's Hat

Dedicated to Barry Thomas Outlar—I miss you, Dad.
—Poems by Scott Thomas Outlar, Atlanta, GA


My Dad died
one year ago—
is the emotion
supposed to change
on some arbitrary date
correlating with a cycle around the sun?
Was it more difficult yesterday
and easier now?
Or is it just the same
all the time
since he is gone
and not coming back?
My Dad being dead
is the most bizarre
concept I’ve ever dealt with.
It really doesn’t
make any sense
when I truly
try to grasp it,
so I don’t try to.
Life is a series
of strange occurrences
and moments of suffering,
with death
taking the cake
once all the candles
have been blown out.


When I was a child
my Dad
would take me
to the baseball card store
at Green’s Corner
off Jimmy Carter Blvd.
It seemed like such
a long journey,
a fun trip,
a special occasion.
The store was on the
second floor
of a strip mall.
I lost five dollars
at two different times
in that same store,
which seems almost impossible,
yet it is true.
I loved collecting cards
with my Dad.
We spent countless hours together—
buying the packs, sitting on the floor,
opening them, organizing each card by number,
talking about the different players and teams.
My Dad died earlier this year,
so it was just me and Mom
on Thanksgiving.  We drove
past where the card store
used to be years ago.
Older now, I realize
it’s not actually that far away,
only a few miles
from the house,
and it doesn’t feel
like such a special trip anymore.



This hat was worn by Johnny,
and my Father loved Johnny—  
who taught him how to fire a gun
and took him to the woods.
I never met Johnny;
he was dead
before my time.
But I’ve worn his hat
for twenty-five years or so.
I wore it in the woods
as a kid
while pretending to be
Indiana Jones.
I wore it to the store
to buy ink
when I needed to
print the first copy
of an early book
I wrote.
I wore it to
my Father’s funeral; now
both he and Johnny
are gone.
But I’ll keep
wearing the hat
because I loved
my Father,
and that seems to be
the way
this thing goes.

(first pub. in The Camel Saloon)



I sang to my Father
on his deathbed.
He had not spoken a word
in days, cancer-ridden,
organs collapsing, high on morphine,
but I knew he could still hear me.
I sang a song
from a book I’d written
years earlier during a particularly
good time in my life, and this,
being a particularly dark time,
seemed like the right time
to balance the dualistic energies.
I don’t think
I gave such considerations
that much thought
at the time; I was just sad
and wanted to sing, wanted
my Father to hear my voice
in a deep bass tone
that mirrored his own.
I sang a song called Home.
I sang it with all my soul,
as a goodbye note
to the most important person
I have ever known.



My dreams are haunted
with distorted visions
of what you once were,
what you once said,
what you once stood for,
what you once meant to this world.
Those days are vanished
into the ethereal mists of an unknown realm –
somewhere that I cannot touch,
somewhere forsaken by life and the flight
of human drama, somewhere beyond
temporal concerns of flesh, bone and blood.

My memories are polluted
with ancient regrets
that run deep to the marrow of my being,
that dig down to the depths of my core,
that burrow in and stealthily lay waiting
for the most inopportune time to strike –
rising up with black claws,
razor sharp and spiked with cancer,
crashing into my weak mortality
with laughter from the Revelation Grave.

My life is half-baked
now that you have flown the coop
and left my mind in tatters,
ripped asunder and torn down to
the foundations—a house of cards
toppling in the vicious tornado you create
with your will-o’-the-wisp eerie
ghost vibrations; ghoulish behavior
that leaves grit in my teeth and grime
covering every intention I once had toward peace.

My heart beats with a little less enthusiasm—
more a chore than a vital organic process.
My eyes are caked with a blinding mess
of muddy illusions that make no sense
as I trudge through day-to-day events
and try to make out the signposts
that once flashed with neon translucent
brilliance, but now throb with pulses of infinite gray.
The world is a colder place now
with you no longer around to share the seasons.
My senses are dulled,
my feelings are numb,
my immunity has been weakened,
my muscles have atrophied—
my only solace is
that soon enough we will meet again.

(first pub. in Dead Snakes)


Our thanks to Scott Outlar for today's tribute to his dad. Scott writes: This month marks the one-year anniversary of my Father's passing. His birthday is right around the corner so I thought I'd put together a dedication to him. Scott was featured in the Kitchen on January 15 of this year, and more of his work can be seen in the new issue of Rattlesnake Press's WTF, which was released last night at Luna's Cafe. Later today, there will be a few free copies at The Book Collector, or you can obtain a copy for $2 at

Note also that this coming Sunday is the deadline for Sac. Poetry Center's Sonnet Contest which is being held in conjuction with Sac. Theater Company's 450th Anniversary of Shakespeare's birth on April 26. Keep up with all the Bard events at  



Today's LittleNip: