Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Love is Too Sad For Keeping

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


In this century, I will be born.
I will be born knowing,

yet knowing not.
I will be old-fashioned


of an old nature,
then my own—

from influence of,
I will become.



I knocked on the door and heard the sound
go in and dwindle out.  I stood back

to listen and wait.  And only then
did I notice the bare wall standing

by itself.  It was only a wall—a façade—
painted that old-fashioned yellowish gray

with a crumbling relief of stone figures,
and through its windows I could see

the captured blue sky and clouds
and realized my error . . .

yet I knocked again
for I wanted to enter and see for myself.


It was a crossroad
  in a crossroad year.
    I was five. We
      always stopped
         awhile to watch
            the billboard
              with its train
                that moved like
                  magic in the
                    blue night air.

I always begged
  my father to stop
    when we passed
      that spot; and
        he always did
          so I could watch
             in sad-sweet
                  and believe
                    his lie:

He said
  that billboard
     train was mine
       and sat, unsmiling,
         in a silence that
           was his, while I
             sat gazing—it
                looked so real—
                  held there just like
                    a wound toy going
                      nowhere in the dark.


(After "The Sleeper" by Tamara de Lampicka)
Surround yourself with words,
like love—like old desire—

like scent of incense: Shalimar,
White Rose, Russian Musk.

Prepare the mirror and the look:
The histories remain and tempt.

There is the story, the unchanged
plot—the taunting rival,

all the doubt. And which of you
will glean the trance of time

for all that truly is
—or nearly was.

Why not reclaim, oh faded beauty,
what you see—why not?


These are the longings I send you,
full of elaborate rages and dark pities
for myself.  I send you guilt for my

predicament—name you Savior,
letter after letter of me mailed to
your old address.  Why don’t you

answer?  I send these thoughts
so you will realize my sincerity.
I have never forgiven you

for my happiness.  I forgive you
now for my despair.  Love is
too sad for keeping; I wish to

return it to you—hardly the worse
for wear.  These love songs
are for your pillow.

You come back for me.
I am floating on a tangible shaft
of moonlight.  Slowly I turn

toward you, break into a shatter
of weeping, fall to the floor. 
You cannot repair me.


BLACK GOWN STUDY                    
(After "Homes for the Disembodied" by Mary Tuma)

Black dresses
in high-
ceiling to floor—
trailing into
each other like a path
of grief
made of tear-water.
Though bodiless,
a sympathy can be felt
for them, hanging so starkly
and sheer
as if a message
of confession:
gowns of surrender;
gowns of release
from all their vanities
and fatal loves.
No breeze
disturbs them
in this bright gallery.
They hang as a study of
silence—wearing dust and light
like penance (though one dress turns
at this—upon its hanger—and a shudder is
felt—for what can this mean unless a way to disagree).

(After "A curia, 1963" by Robert Cremean)

What are they but depictions of desire,
reduced to abstract objects of perfection,
multi-faced from one—ideal and idolized.

That they are featureless is for the numbness
of the mind; their curves
are lyrical—half nude—half garbed,

in bits of fashion and design: hats,
and no hats,
circles of light highlighting here and there.

Windows protect them. Light animates
their stillness. They face outward into stares.
Who loves them this way— little balloons

of thought, a-float in multiple discussion.
What holds them so perfected there,
if not your whetted admiration?



they went then
to the
skyview roof
of the hotel
just to
top off
the excitement
of the evening
so trusting of
each other
and giddy with
intensity of
rapport and then
in unison
fell off while
still continuing
their animated
politely not
looking in windows
on the way down


the old echoes muffle
and expire
with no light
and no sound waves
to carry them forever,
where memory
is only made
of failure to remember,
created out of all
our eloquence
and exuberance;
the stillness of this place
is heavy with gravity.
It settles and spreads
and only says listen
in a fading voice . . .
and true to our loneliness
we have learned to listen
to the silences,
as if they were the love.


Today's LittleNip:


that drift of memory
catching on snags of thought

dissolving in
thought’s intensity

no longer what it was
no longer true

something to lose
the way it loses you


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's fine poems and pix, and a note that the new Poet Laureate Park is now completed; photos by Trina Drotar are on view at Medusa's Facebook page. Be sure to click on each one for commentary by Trina.

Our new Seed of the Week is Mysteries of Spring. Send your poems, photos and artwork about those mysteries to kathykieth@hotmail.com; no deadline on SOWs.



Monday, March 30, 2015

The Cat's Game

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

I call the pup but does he hearken?
What’s my voice to him, just weeks from
the womb? Sparrow trill or bleat
of lamb, one noise of many. I might as well
be a squat tower on the lawn calling
“Puppy Come!” Even the simple command
is beyond him. At edge of brambles,
he’s in a world of sky, of airborne freedom
outside his fence. Scent! His nose
goes down—involuntary, genetic. News
rises from underfoot. Crushed grass
decomposing, leftover spoor of what passed
in the night. Odors sweet to him
as fresh-baked bagels to me on a frosty
morning. As if a saffron thread drew
him across the green—forefeet reaching out,
hind propelled by thought-less intent,
he’s on my trail, following scurfs of skin,
what drops off us humans, melding
us with sky and earth. A quarry to pursue,
puzzle to unravel. What he's born to do.


—Taylor Graham

Do the trees live in terror of us?
As we set match to burn-pile, I wonder
at a shiver in the oaks above us on the hill.
How to explain, this is not random
brutality. We’re burning winter’s dead-fall:
shepherding fire to make us fire-safe
come summer—the wild elements
proportional as the mind of man. Are live
oaks mocked by my arguments? See
the scars where, long before us, someone
sawed away a limb—leafy arm
of a tree, its rotten cavity that might have
housed a nuthatch nest; gone. Our
burn-pile flares like fireworks; smoke
rises, dissipates, settles. When it’s over,
we’ll rake the embers, make sure it’s dead
before we go. Nothing but a circle
of ash, after-scent of char, a blue horizon-
haze on valley. The memory of trees.


—Taylor Graham

Granite, lava, sandstone—up-tilt here,
extruded rock there—my dog disappears
over the crest, catching updrafts seasoned
with scents from miles away.
The whole knit crazily together by
contours that make sense topographically,
uncut by highway or dam, man’s
attempts to re-image nature, to use or
redeem it. It sets my head spinning—
or is that just altitude gone past human
tension, intention? Here’s
a boulder scrolled with lichen’s long
histories. Buzzards kettle on thermals,
counting not naming the temporary dead.
I’ll follow my dog a little farther
uphill as landscape falls away. Could I
see the world she hears, smells,
knows in her bones?

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

A lacewing lands on my palm—I might clap, smash it, or let it
rest and, when it wishes, fly. Shockwaves in air widening circles in a
pond fluid dynamics the laceflight of wings, or my bare hands
concussing. Listen. I’ve heard a single butterfly passing through sky
has consequences not guessed. If I write this down,
or speak it so the free sounds fly,
what repercussions? What ringing unrhymes? Might someone
believe the metamorphosis of words in
metaphor, so they metastasize to
something I couldn’t imagine….
What dare I
do this

(prev. pub. in Snapping Twig)

—Taylor Graham

Walk out the meeting-room’s glass door
where once stood the alms-hospital.
Here, mercurial pane becomes a portal, you
find yourself a hundred years ago
among the dead, inmates buried on the hill.
You almost stumble on an iron spoke. It speaks
with neither voice nor name, just a number.
There were so many. This morning
they regard you with blue periwinkle faces
gazing out of green. It’s spring. Yellow
crowds the edges—Scotch broom
which even on a cloudy day blooms vibrant
as sunny life, invasive as disease.
And periwinkle—look closer
into its vinca face. You don’t know its
name but it knows yours.

—Photo by Taylor Graham 

—Richard Hansen, Sacramento
Mr. Mister
designed a refined
inspired by an idea hidden
deep inside him

traded his trade one day
to work for RainBlurred but they
didn’t hire him
he didn't have a science degree
had nothing to do with his
facial disfigurement which
caused a speech impediment
he didn’t get Frustrated

He applied for a patent instead
it was granted and
the banks cooperated
and he manufactured it
and it sold

He paid back his debts and
all his taxes
he's a rich man now
happy with himself living
in a big house and
for a while had
of any substantiality

the sprinkler works
with all the little tiny gears
remains a
to everyone
currently working in the Industry
and even the Chinese
and also
the Japanese
have failed to steal it
through reverse engineering

Mr. Mister
really likes his sprinkler
It’s great for ferns and things
that require
jungle-like humidity
It's easily adjustable
for growing banana trees
made tons of money and
bananas cheaper

Then Mr. Mister
kissed his wife’s sister
and got a blister which
Pissed Her Off!

She loved him you see
the money
and the speech impediment
no difference

She left him out of self-respect
and he’s really distraught about it
wealth means nothing now
but he doesn't mope around
He travels the world and tells
people how to grow bananas in just about
any and every
kind of

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

—Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch

It was about the patience of these trees
It was about the color of those bells
It was about the swimming of a kite
It was about too many Bibles
It was about three old men
Dancing arm in arm


—Robert Lee Haycock

My life's the cat's game again
Noughts and crosses
Snakes and ladders
Seems I'm always starting over


—Robert Lee Haycock

Circumstances be damned
I've never done my best
Here's a slackard and a sluggard
And your drunkard and your fool
Always been too clever by half
Possessed of a pornographic memory
Fuck me if I can forget anything
I know I ought to try harder
But the world is so beautiful
Sometimes I just have to stare
Out the window of a train
And dream a poem home

—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

Today's LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

The wicked muse of our obsession
was jingling ditties to an eastbound train,
that systematic wailer of the same old yearning
on a sing-song track;
the rash that itches till we can’t refrain
from scratching at the flimsiest
foundation of a fancied fortune and a rapidly
dispersing fame.



—Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

Sunday, March 29, 2015

O Pine-Trees!

—Anonymous Photo

—Rupert Brooke, 1887-1915

I'd watched the sorrow of the evening sky,

And smelt the sea, and earth, and the warm clover,

And heard the waves, and the seagull's mocking cry. 

And in them all was only the old cry,

That song they always sing— "The best is over!

You may remember now, and think, and sigh,

O silly lover!"

And I was tired and sick that all was over,

And because I,

For all my thinking, never could recover

One moment of the good hours that were over.

And I was sorry and sick, and wished to die. 

Then from the sad west turning wearily,

I saw the pines against the white north sky,

Very beautiful, and still, and bending over

Their sharp black heads against a quiet sky.

And there was peace in them; and I

Was happy, and forgot to play the lover,

And laughed, and did no longer wish to die;

Being glad of you, O pine-trees and the sky!



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Passion's Seat

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


There was no way they could get them
To say anything.  It was raining.
The trees kept thinking about time.
It had a broken sound like the rain
When it hit the windows.
They would only talk about the seasons.

Just outside the window
One could see paper lanterns
Glowing to the distance
But they do not lead to any heaven.

We could see smoke begin to rise
From the far side of the forest.
I thought I could smell the smoke
But I was often wrong
About things like that.
Trees burn.  They remember.
They always remember.

Now listen to the frogs.
They know.  They really know.
They see the light fade.
Nothing moves in the night.
I can’t explain any of this.
It is too difficult to sort out
These feelings with the trees
Being tortured as they are.

In our hearts the trees reveal
How they love us.
They pump oxygen into the atmosphere.
They know the difference
Between light and dark.
“We will live,” they say.

The big trucks are coming closer
To us now.  We can see the bodies
Stacked upon them.


        for E.R. Baxter

The altitudes have gone past tension.
We are required to know just how
High we are, what names the dead
Animals by the side of the road
May be identified by, what has happened
To the amphibians that the Spring
Isn’t as full; the vernal pools
With their pale eyes reflecting
The cool morning, the wakening
Rustle of the season, all green and up.

So we stand and watch the buzzards
Ride the thermals, circling 'round
And 'round, and we learn to listen
To our breathing as we do so.

We can meet here as often as we are able
But let us speak to one another
About these changes, remind one another
Just how temporary it all is.
Or, if I am unable to see you here again,
I’ll be sure to text you, maybe that
Will be our attempt at presence
As Spring replies with confounding necessities.

 Night Coming (Student Drawing)


We don’t have the room
So we keep climbing the stairs.
We are well above the houses.
We can see the meadows and now
Over the hills to the edges of the cities.

Still we climb.  We don’t have the room.
Books are left behind.  They cannot
Run behind us, but feed us well enough.

I was able to see you last night
In your home next to Lake Ontario.
I was climbing till the clouds obscured
The way and I was made to sleep.

We don’t have the room
So we keep climbing the stairs.
Here the past is ahead of us always,
The future farther above, leaving clues,
Filling crates with ideas, so there is
No room.  We climb higher.
There is no end in sight.



Something had stalled the mouth
Of the creek so the water slowed
Where we sat on the bank fishing.

There was little chance we could catch
Anything, but that was not the idea.
The idea was our being there
And it being Summer for awhile.

The trees were at peace.
We were believing in poetry
And music at that moment.
They made promises to us that
We might probably believe were true.

The day was graying over in small
Exclamations.  Frogs making splashes
Now and then.  You found a feather
And stuck it upright, as close to the water
As possible.  “So the fish might see
It and perhaps enjoy it,” you said.

There were reports that one country
Was killing people from another country.
Nothing too unusual for such a day.
Perhaps they wanted to sell something.
I looked into your eyes as you watched.

How could such a lovely
Reside there.  Dances could
Have been going on in them
The way they sparkled.

Are you getting tired yet?
Maybe we should check
For directions.  This seems
Far away, like childhood
Or daydreaming in March.

We never really wanted to know
Anyway.  Far away a car door slammed,
A dog barked as if it had something
Of importance to say.  We knew
Things would never be like this
Again.  Still, you smiled at me
And I smiled at you.  This
Thought remains fascinating, like wondering
What might be found at the top
Of that hill.

 Jack's Walk, Bolinas


They do not know what water is.
They think the world is dancing
Constantly.  Songs are ecstasy as they
Enter their bodies completely.  They do
Not need ears to hear them.


We seldom see them in trees,
But there they are, thousands of them,
Decorations of the Amazon jungle
In flood.  Leaves are the souls
Of fish, sculptures of fish
Never previously seen.  Here
In the high jungle they become gems,
Tales of the elders.  Fish.


We used to walk along the edges of the smaller lakes in the summer.  The crappie and small perch would rise in the evening and jump at flies or gulp bugs that fell into the water.  They would make concentric circles on the surface of the water, soft splashes in the twilight.  It was a language.  We had no idea what the fish were saying, but they were saying it.  Maybe it was about the heat or the rain coming the next day or what they had seen beneath the surface.  All those years later without a word, yet so much of blood and its salt, reeds and thin lines trolled through the water, the quiet that came from eyes that never close, from pressure on lateral lines, from talking on and on to fish.


(Ptaki Ktore Jedza Pomysty)

The shearwaters stay just above
The tops of waves.  The air pushes
Their bodies upward, inches from
All the ideas of air and water.

Bodies of fire exclaim.
A ball of shining made of ivory,
Made of wood, made of the beaks
Of ten thousand shearwaters.

A scroll unfurls itself, full of allegations
About who gave what gift to whom,
A silver mine, a pillow full of love
Being wound around sharpened pins forever.

Surely there is a way to keep
These ideas safe.  They glow
Like old friendships slowly
Being dismantled by birds,
Birds feeding on the soft music
Of believing in things like songs
And the idea that animals can fly.

 Sedum in Bloom


She wore a green-and-white blouse,
Had a halo like a saint
And it too was green and white
But it glowed like magic paint.

‘Come here,’ she said
‘Let’s go to bed.’
It put me in a swoon.
‘I’ll take you up.
I’ll take you down.
You will shine just like the moon.’

‘Who are you,’ I asked, I asked.
I caught my breath.
She laughed and took my hand.
‘Come on inside,’ she said.
‘I’m here to hear the band.’

‘What kind of thing are you?’ I asked.
‘How come you glow?’
‘You talk too much,’
She said to me. ‘Shut up!’
She cooled me with her fan.

‘I’m your muse, you fool.
I want your tool.
I want you to understand
That sometimes you must go with me.
Don’t be that fool,
Or I’ll turn your words to sand.’

I went with her.
It got me here.
I didn’t give a damn.
‘I’m yours,’ I said,
‘Until I’m dead.
Make me into a man.’

‘You are a man,’ she loudly cried.
'Stop fucking with my gifts.
When I call, you come, you hear?
I’ll help you write the myth.’

She kissed my lips, my fingertips.
She sucked upon my pen.
I guess I’d do that anytime.
She called, ‘Just do it then.’



We never would have believed they had weapons
As powerful as the ones we encountered,
Rational thought removed from incredible
Distances, the idea that history was a voice of reason,
A kind of clarity and certainty that we need go no further.

Passion offers us a seat, claiming it is turning
Us loose, that we have forgotten the easiest
Part.  The pastel-colored clouds are ordered
Into position.  They wait in line near the horizon.

We discuss if it is visions we are having, elevated,
Degraded, mansions we were never supposed
To occupy, let alone live in.  Every age has its own
Idea of the genuine.  We avoid it at all costs.

These figures keep returning.  They hold out
Their hands to us.  They offer us gifts that
We are unable to accept.  They seem depraved,
Do not serve the good of the many.  Absent love.

 Alfredo's House, Locke


Silence is herded
Where dear queens ever think
Of how the fish shines,
How the knives know their
Red duties and what men do
To make them so.

We know it isn’t tomorrow yet.
It isn’t time for a pathway to open,
For that sickness that is such a
Special creature to draw close,
Speak of wondrous light and
The long coats waking brings
To this silvery estate.

So silent.  I braid her hair,
Decide to call all of this ‘sleeping’
So we won’t puzzle over the closed
Eyes and supine bodies, or the
Cities burned to the ground,
For that matter.  We persist
In naming lands we do not know,
What produces good action,
What this white wind might mean to us all.



They are standing on the edge
Of the stair, gazing at the jewel
That is the dawn unfolding, neither
Afraid nor apprehensive.  The day
Will cascade upon them, then through
Them, wiping its silly smile across
All that lies before it.  A blessing
Of a kind, but without the quiet
Voice that calls the powers to itself,
Dispersing again in a million
Amens.  They drift before
The wave crashes, before the fire
In the fireplace really takes hold,
Declaring the memory of trees
To the damp air, before the clanging
Bells that threaten to topple
Childhood, clear water and singing
Into a collective murmuring of illusions.

Still they stand before it, eager to be
Enveloped.  This is the world, for heaven's
Sake.  What choice is left at this point?
We kiss it full upon the mouth,
The surface of the eye floating
Scars and image alike, a gray morning
Suddenly relieving itself of the clouds
And exclaiming at the green presents.


Today's LittleNip:

Listen, real poetry doesn't say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through any one that suits you.

—Jim Morrison



Houseboats on the Slough

Friday, March 27, 2015

Snake Charmers & One-Eyed Cats

—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
—Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


We hung suet out
on the deck today
hoping the wrens
would come
and stay the winter,
nest in the yard
and next summer
fill the air with song.

In an hour or so
the wrens arrived
but minutes later
the beak of a flicker
hammered at them
and they flew away.

The flicker had time
for a snack before
a blue jay brusque
as the weather came
and took over.

The jay as well
had a snack before
a squadron of starlings
landed to feast
and Fuzzy the cat
rolled over the fence
eager to leap.

With the starlings gone
the cat lost interest
and moseyed around
for a minute or two
and then dove back
over the fence.

With no one around
and the suet deserted
the wrens came back
and ate some more
until the jay came back
and took over again.

Any minute now
we expect to see
the starlings return
and take over the suet
for a raucous dessert.


Mrs. O’Malley
from across the alley
has another small job
for my father to do
which makes my mother

unhappy because
Mrs. O’Malley’s been
bothering Father for years,
parading around in shorts
and halter top, watering

flowers in her yard
when Father goes out
to cut the grass and weed.
Neighbor ladies have
warned my mother

about Mrs. O’Malley
from across the alley
because too many husbands
have too often helped
Mrs. O’Malley too well.



They’re widows,
old and gray, bent over
a quilting frame, sewing
to meet a deadline

for the next raffle
talking and sewing in
grand memories
of husbands

dead for years
remembered daily
missed deeply
loved forever by

six quilters, all
cheerleaders waiting
to leap when their men
walk through the door.


Dr. Sander’s wife
is a woman of means
who dresses down
when she visits
food pantries

as do her neighbors.
They take surplus in
every few weeks.
At the end of the year
they claim a tax exemption.

A neighbor told her
how to do it while
staying out of dark
and murky places.
Together they drive
cans and bottles to

their suburban pantries
run by nice people who
serve the frail elderly or
those laid off 
and looking for food

to maintain a lifestyle
and pay their mortgage
while finding a job.
Dr. Sander’s wife would
never drive into the city

and help the destitute.
Why go into harm’s way
just to be free of clutter
and pick up a little
tax exemption.


How are things, Adolph?
This is Brian, on leave from NBC.
Thanks for the interview.
It’ll run when I get back
sometime in September.
You’ve been gone
70 years or so now.
What’s new?

It’s hot down here,
says Adolph.
Not a drop to drink.
My mustache
burned off the first day.
All my soldiers now
shout “Hell!” not “Heil!"
Osama and I talk about

what went wrong
but he’s been busy lately
telling the guys from ISIS
this isn’t paradise so
quit looking for virgins.
We expect the boys
from Boko Haram any day.
Oy, will they be surprised.



I turn the porch light on at 4 a.m.
to see if a miracle’s occurred
and the paper's landed somewhere

in the snow blanketing our lawn.
Instead I see a clump on the mat
a one-eyed cat dazed by the cold

looking at me as if to say
“Are you the guy I saw
a week ago before I ran?"

Every morning now I feed
two feral toms at our back door
but never a cat at our front door.

My wife might say okay
once she knows this cat's
a lady in big trouble.

When I open the door
the cat runs across the street
turns around, sits on the curb

looks at me and says, “Listen, Mister,
I’m cold and hungry but we just met.
One quick peek is all you get.”


After 50 years Wilma
at her class reunion thinks
Waldo’s changed with age

that he’s nice now, not
the snake she wed
right after high school

and quietly divorced.
Both are widowed now
and Wilma looks lovely.

Tonight she has Waldo
swaying to the rhythm
of her voice but Wilma

needs to know a cobra
coiled in its basket can
wait to nip its charmer.


Today's LittleNip:


Gramps by the fire
in his rocker, hunched over,
is rolling his smoke with care

when Tom, his grandson, asks,
“What’s the most important thing
to look for in a wife?”

Gramps stares into the fire intently
then finally says, “You want a wife
with a low voice and a nice walk,

a low voice because later in life
your ears give out but her odd jobs
become more numerous

and a nice walk because you want to
let her go first forever and make
all that extra work worthwhile.”


—Medusa, with many thanks to today's contributors!


Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Annotated Spring

...Upon Which So Much Depends...
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


Expecting so much from life
as the sun began
this morning
the possibility of early spring,
a sight of a pandemonium of birds
on the birches
a day of green expectations
everywhere in a melee of joy
even in our deconstructed time
that language will conceive music
from its existentially dormant potency
undisclosed from winter blues
there is a flurry of hope
in the windy air,
a love potion on everyone's lips
a marathon to be completed
and a hundred lines of poetry
on a free press
running through
our earth-wise world to be heard.



At the glass window
a once-daydreaming student
now twenty-five
and endeared to poetry
hesitates to put on
her brand new skates
until she reaches
a blind blue hill rink
invisible to the quarry,
as a visitor of graffiti whispers
in the wind as he initials
the local Elm
marked above her
that he, her former tutor
in the language department
is in love with nature forever
waits by the tallest tree
near the clearing woodland
frozen in ether
with a photograph
from winter's last welcome
of bears and foxes
now has written all over a branch
of a hundred-year elm
his new poetic lines
and waiting for her to skate
at the annotated spring.


Not expecting to go back
to the features of the '90's
expecting awareness
of a Beat poet's adventure
enamored of enchanted
words taken off City Lights shelves
my posthumous self declined
like a quivering expression
from a straitjacket gesture
and jackbooted memory
still frozen from my urban read
a brother still in the shivers
of alley darkness
with an apotheosis of my sax
blown on the streets
and park bandstands
embracing a life's work
in a Whitman existence
prepared on the night sands
of Venice Beach
by secret slopes as life stops
for love making everything new.



You managed to arrive
early in my life
while budding ideals
surfaced along two Coasts
in subterranean joys
as I climbed up to dive
in a flow of ocean
having traveled
having cut short
all circuits
to my becoming a poet
surrounded by birds and fauna.


Mary, the earth was not singing
through lilting melodies
of cloudy melancholy or dance
on St. Patrick's day, 1966
when you made Irish bread
for us in an impoverished March,
after your two sons were drafted
sent away by Uncle Sam
to a far country
sister tracing in school on a map
a worn-out distant Vietnam
yet rays of first light appeared
on your closed showery window pane
through your hope chest
and fragile furniture desk
where we read Ulysses
of James Joyce in secret
writing in my three-storied novella
the hearth riddles and tales
in the clutch of spinning
top of the morning greetings
between the bread and wine
lids of potato skin and corned beef
at last celebrating peace
in bottles near the sacristy
doomed to a mother's capacity
for love and trembling faith
in a world of home bound magpies.


I can't tell what you are
or who you are
trembling inside
your foreign tongue
words move me
from your harried fingertips
outside your managed pretenders
who escorted and extorted us
in the ways of conversing
bridging the love gap
of a decade's surprises
crossing a court of thresholds
of blind dates.



Chuck, the life guard
now far away in Frisco
saved sister
from drowning
she was a rainbow to us
when we were nine
dropped into a bloodshot world
from a diving board
all of us only small bodies
that summer of haunting shadows
needing rescue, drafted to 'Nam
we even named our cat Chuckie
after you.



I.D. lost
no passport
only a transport to death
on Good Friday,1945
you being an ordinary actor
in a small hamlet out of nowhere
when your poems fall out
of a Salvation Army jacket pocket,
with a color photo you naively spy
a round-up of children
heading for a scout meeting
by campfires on the tall grass
and sent to their ashes.



Time placates these words
in a deserted breath
stopping by this green taste
of spring in a repast
crunching Japanese rolls
in a Zen garden
on this peace bench
admiring the yews
far away from home
in a life without us
or a second time
to check us out
in our absent tour of duty
yet resilient memory
nailing a poem by my right hand
of a once-pledged friendship
plagued by twigs of war
and forecasts of prophetic peace
now by sunlit riverbeds
will pass over a pardon
for our last photo and narrative
addressing us by name
by the coffee house
a soul offers to cross over
with me, hand to hand
at the finish of a marathon line
with only love's forgiveness
at the other side of the world.


Here we are, poet
exiles, gnomes
or vagrants migrating
with a seasoned
destiny like sparrows
but with no one
in your specter
to take you in,
perhaps people think
we are curious
a bit eccentric
like hesitant words
in muffled speech
and language,
perhaps another poor poet
in the Americas
will recognize me
through his glasses
jumping over hills
or at intersections
of the winding sky.



by the silence
behind trees' first light
of a wintry vacation
maps our hours out
on a park bench,
I'm slowly drawing
pictorial sketches
from haiku
when red ink
falls on the hands
by my melancholy watch
brushing away
odd-and-end thoughts
as suddenly photographs
in music as a cat
crawls under a park bench
with a frozen numbness
alarmed by the voice
of the poet I hear
in my spirit
Dylan Thomas
reading "Under Milk Wood"
wanting only to drink
at the local pub
as familiar faces
run from the cooling breeze
of the fountains.



When your life mushrooms
in your earth-wise field
near the windy dunes
of your hiding place
which whisper
from a sheltered sunshine
words of an excited embrace
stolen from your diary
and you listen to bird song
in a belated pleasure
which holds you today
to the retracing
of that desire,
if only that echo
of a past tenderness
were not a lost mirror
in the pockets of memory
of your lover's shabby coat,
it may be time to listen
to the ash trees
once again in your face's tremor
amid boughs and branches
in this blushing brief sun shower
making no noise
yet rain falls on every leaf
in the woodland foliage
as a whitetail deer stops to eat
motioning his nostrils
in the taunting soft air,
you ask to live through
a trackless field
to locate a pointed path
you were once guided to
you wait without a map
clustered by a lover's quarrel
for a noonday welcome
without any more suffering.

 Poet's Table


There is still a frosty glaze
of shower waters from heaven
across the wet streets
of a shivering Paris loft
where the wind whispers
its surprises and embarrassment
between stones and shadows
from echoes of a bygone age
of this poet also here alone
who remembers your words
on a French printed page
wishing to celebrate you
though the earth may have
forgotten your brief life
caught in a round of memory
touched by brief facile loves,
long-suffering lapses
bearing so many curses
betrayed by escorts and friends
intimidated by awkwardness
and the seven familiar sins,
lifting up his red wine glass
by this high window's tavern
waits on a vibrant toast
to Paul Verlaine
though few will acknowledge
what quenches us
in this unsettled universe
rising to remember
the Courbet portrait of you
in notebooks at my desk
from my time at the Louvre
this is your amazing day
Paul Verlaine,
amazed by an arch of small circles
of sunshine behind the curtains
by the strangeness of the hour
my eyelids also shine
at the aching icicles outside my door
waiting for spring skies
of this mostly cloudy adverse March
yet each moment
has a secretive light
reaching out from rain showers,
knowing that even below the Alps
there is a flower bed beneath the trees
trembling to give birth
to neon and gold butterflies
in the darkened breeze.


Today's LittleNip:

A tapestry of red rugs
pointed from a blinding light
to a poet's secret language
we exist waiting
for understanding
as a verse suddenly
fills a watching eye
grateful to be astonished
by emerging spaces
of a fragment of a universe
in gestures of trembling
yielding a collection
of sheltered nature.


—Medusa, with profuse thanks to today's contributors! Katy's pix were taken in the garden of Davis Poet (and Poet Laureate Emeritus) Allegra Silberstein.

—Anonymous Photo

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Precious Secret of Blooming

—Poems and Photos by Martie Ingebretsen, Sacramento


Sturdy         yet fragile
a face of grace
holding on to air that moves
petals like wings
she loves wind’s hands upon her face
but with tenacity's fingers
crumbling clods to slowly build gates
listening she yearns toward the road the river takes
wanting to travel someplace unnamed        like him
to follow the sound he makes         her whim
maybe a mean wind she thinks could take one small part
an orange piece of heart
that could go with the flow
even where cement would ransom beauty
into the arms of the sea
but she turns away instead
to dance naked with the tree
one arm still holding tenacity.


The earth has breath night-blooming
so fair her night turns light within

Through the heat of day she has waited
the changing
then finds some sleep-drenched man
half undone     wanting

The light of air so sweetly seeds discovery
no moon will despair the grace one gives another

She appears with her shiver true
and topples the fence and the window screen
following the sheets in rumpled sleep to a dream
I dream of you

With her instinct made from purity
she knows that distance is man-made
and so she magic-melds both time and place
making together lift the longing
with just one breath


In it comes
(the window like a welcome)
the Santa Ana of the day sky warm
across my resting skin
hot tub breath of healing

He wakes me to my might
a touch that I dream about
is the music playing in my hair
if I could just reach far enough
light sound laughter all singing there

The sunflowers are thinking water
I can hear them grumble
speaking in yellow,
the dirt loves the hose
where a tiny trickle of neglect
is like a mountain stream
to its need

Watch him like a rock to my river
calling to me from within my own neglect
I can feel it running up into me
and I am wet again with love

I will be the queen today
and witness the subjects of my crown
all nestled around the sprinkler,
oh, the power!
to turn it on just right
and waste not the precious secret
of blooming

The wind knows the curves within me
and his power folds my bones
until I am sky too
blowing beloved into trees


Into tendril I eclipse and more
And lit to fond with color blue adorn
The sky a dye of time and also magic
Beaming with bees I lay down with romantic

Close my eyes now into slivered moon
I’ll untie each celestial ribbon soon
While night and shadows hold me in my sleep
Knowing we are only in a prison when we keep
Our feet from feeling earth as opening gate
Into the pulse of mighty music’s till
A song from bless of meadow’s lift and still

The stroke of air is changed within this place
And breathing is the beat within the sound
Where peace distributes moisture to the glade
And I pressed to the garden god am made

With the love made sweet in time ecstatic
I'll cover each bulb to cool in time elastic
They'll open green and graceful
Colors blooming from the dirt
The wonder of this pleasure is
This birthing does not hurt


Today's LittleNip:


A meadow of winged monarchs
and bloomed-out purple
withered upright
faded to periwinkle iris

I would bed with such color
bogged and drowning green
breezed with wild rose

Listened stream of riffled rocks
I am song too


—Medusa, with thanks to Martie for today's poems and pix!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

This Most Perfect Place

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


of pre-dawn
just after night’s blue rain.

Winds of no color
break through the night,
sending the dark green trees
and leaves into a flurry.

Even so,
small chirping sounds
of softest yellow
burst here and there.

A squirrel scampers
along a frail board fence
outside the listening window.

I hear all this through
a slow, reluctant waking,
gray threads
of dream-fragments tearing away.

Then comes
the soft gray blue
of morning : 6:00 a.m.
Just like the clock dial said.



The way everything changes color
when you look at it again, like shades
of turning light on the second day of spring,

like old moods gone crazy, becoming
new things.  A boy holds a colored scarf
in his mind.  It flickers orange, then blue.

His small dog dances on hind legs.
The rain patters around them and bounces off
his green umbrella.

Under his feet the small lake forms
and invites him to splash.  His shiny yellow boots
stand upside down in the water,

and he is happy.  A mauve shadow
passes over and becomes a menace.
The boy is stuck in his puddle

and the small dog is trying to beg.
The boy holds a purple world in his hands
and looks for an opening in it.

His face is turned away to his new divining.
Somehow the day contains all this
on a single page; it flutters loose then turns into

a small paper boat that drifts away…
like the wish… like the dream… 
like the thing come true in the small boy’s wish.


How serenely she wears
the art of the painter’s hand
who painted her all green—

or is it the deception of light
turning her into
a numinous map of the sea

that follows her contours
with shapes and symbols
of intricate design—

even to the closed mouth
and eyelids, the hair sculpted
into deep waves: how

ever swim back now
to the real
and lose all this… how

ever clothe, and hide
the breathing design of her body,
so perfectly stained…


After "Lines & Spaces" by Cynthia Hurtubis

And there are myths to be gotten over.
New ones to make up.
Tragedies to memorize, with their betrayals and…

it is a dance, never finished,
columns of light to glide between, distances
to measure, why not just let…

let’s take, for instance, green—a sky of it,
a wash of light, a suggestion
of birds lifting up in rainy conversations that…

‘trail’… is that the word you mean? Those blotches
are barriers. They could be anything that impedes
the dance, which is the metaphor here, as if…

smears of light are to be considered,
how they relate,
and the mystery of the four dark barriers…

brush strokes?
a reflection of yellow, like water-shimmer in…?

a square room, without windows or doors;
a dance floor; all those green shadows of movement,
other dancers with their invisible presences…

besides, there were five—five darks;
the blur hides one. You are to be forgiven—
you with your impatient eyes. Why do we always…

keep these shadows for reminders;
How perfect you are in this light; how beautifully
we dance together in our different rememberings.


I drag some beauty past your eyes,
some little laugh,
some tease.

It is not easy for me.
I am locked within the
anxious habit of our lives.

I’ve no more newness
in my smile.
My love’s a safe place for your own.


I want to change the danger of our days.
I try another path—
get lost—turn back—
your eyes are there,
continuing their dark.

You drag a bullet through the air
to kill some bird against the grass.
He flies away.
I croon my sympathy to each of you.


I wish I were a stranger to us both,
someone with large commandments,
easy ways,
with eyes that didn’t go
so deep as mine.

I give up the charade of trying to please,
undo my happiness
like some flown bird
who left the frightened sound
of such safe green.

After "Piranha Alley" by Ben Kaja

A basement window.
An alcove doorway.
The sallow green of city dusk.

Old writings on the door.
A dim light from the window.
Shadowy motion in the street.

Someone lives behind the door.
Someone stares up through the
basement window.

Something will happen here.
It is too soon.
Let us not tempt fate.

Footsteps on the sidewalk.
Then and now.
Never and not yet.

Sounds caution down to hear echoes.
There are none. Someone completes
the detour by turning the corner.



It is enough—all of it felt at once :
joy and anger—relief—the unwinding word.
How strong the yearn. 

And what does the yearn want—
something that it can’t have—something that it
does not know—whatever else is true. 

There is nothing here. 
Let us go somewhere else,
enter somebody else’s poem with our words for it.

Look how the light
shines green through these trees at night,
how we walk under them, wrapped in green shadows. 

Green night birds sing
(or is it only our thought of them) 
it was summer when we loved. 

Mirrors loved us—
mirrors with their impossible perfection. 
Should we have warned each other?

A long train came through the years
on its reverberating tracks,
always in some small hour toward morning.  

One of us was always on it,
leaving the other caught in the different dream,
unaware of such travel.


(Theodore Roethke)

Imagine the long dark of morning, the slithering aside,
the soundless whisperings heard above growing :

The ghost : come from the skeleton, come from the
flesh, come un-weighted by all, save death, moving
in deep sea-rhythm, made of the same stuff as wind,
looking around with new force—being both seed and
withered conclusion, both orchid and moss—moving
now to the source of love : Memory and its rhyme . . . .

Looking toward the glass distortion to the sky
(made of that light) the images in the glass :
Fragmented eyes that are green, struck blind by light,
glancings of time in shock-value of
timelessness . . . turning that look aside . . .

so out of death (whatever death is) the ghost, male
and aware, knows all that it gave old questions to,
dreaming back to all the error and concern—
teaching again, whatever next comes to learn :
All that moves here—all that is alive in the
grave-like dark, damp as a forest—are
transmutations, in stubborn life (whatever life is)

celebrating this most perfect place that is
everywhere, but here most especially :
Ghost of Roethke—putting it all back—
whatever was out of order—whatever was harmed.


Today's LittleNip:


what am I looking through :
far from my face

growing out of the mirror

the window behind them
reflecting twilight

I am so still the leaves begin to move
in the still room

for what do I yearn?
my unhappy face

caught in leafy green light
the room empty except for this

except for the leaves


—Medusa, thanking Joyce for today's toothsome titillations in the Kitchen today, and noting that our new Seed of the Week is Obsessions, Sweet and Otherwise. Tell us about your own obsessions in poetry, photos and artwork and send it all to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.