Thursday, April 30, 2015


Ft. Bragg, CA
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Stacie Sherman, Orangevale, CA



You revisit your life
as a poet in April
keeping up the pace
with newfound courage
when time will not stop
for us to pass us over
our aging past history
on the way to Cambridge
to hear a lecture
at a reunion of friends,
my eyelids lower
at a roseate universe
by the Charles riverbank
filled with wildflowers
watching a rowboat pass by
filled with students
astonished by foliage
now filled with a mighty green
in a diffusion of sun
only to find my photos
of Bishop and Berryman
on my person
once in an album at home
I remembered to bring with me
now in this old denim suit jacket
of the Sixties
knowing exposure
will last only for so long
yet our imagination will hear us
like birdsong
going higher in an azure
waking sky
by the waters we are waving
to our companions
on the other shore,
we are aching for
something marvelous
to happen in the harbor
as we spy a whale
thinking of Melville's Pacific tale
which reveals
our ingenuous arboreal nature
we live in a miraculous way
where the loving are
as we toss a stone
in the waters as a prayer
from an outstretched hand
like Moses at the Red Sea
hoping for an untroubled day
full of images of mercy.


Whenever a bird song shades
the elm tree in the backyard
found in burnished groves
I'm no longer red-faced
or gloved in iced hands
by the cranberry fields
over a lost sunshine
keeping a vigil for this poet
until his voice responds
to another singular speech
of a younger soul
heard along the green hills
smudging my running shoes
near my footloose landscapes
I've colorfully drawn by the river
welcoming an unexpected guest
with a focused image
of me emerging up
from my hurting knees
in my rock garden
of blue phlox and a purple crocus
at noon's randomness
awakening my infinite nature
shadowing a visible comprehension
of a new companion
near a white cat by the fence
suddenly this student
with a baseball cap
worn backwards
shouts my name
circles my house
on his roller blades
and asks for my autograph
with my collection of verse
held close to him
on my hideout of a porch
and after a chat about
his thesis
on the late Mark Strand
tells me of his struggles
with writer's block
his runaway brother,
of romantic break-ups
in his family's burn-outs
as we greet one another
he sips a glass of bourbon
offered to him
as a neon butterfly
interests him
and we walk along
the chestnuts and leafy paths
on pine cone grounds
covering the sweet-scented roads
of birches and pine
overgrown with last year's vines
ensuring me
of his earth-wise expression
of his teeming memory
at being thirty
and already weighed down
by the world's climate changes
when spring's first footprint
is spurred by the sun
the wind picks up on us
by the first wildflowers
and he transfers my picture
he routinely takes
to his own diary
writing Thursday on a page.


To always have at least
one suit of Sunday clothes
inside the shutters
of my Turkish towel closet
near my own Wordsworth library
bound with verse selections,
to own at least one night light
for my alembic sanctuary
with the loving spiritual strength
like Thomas Merton
where we may praise the day
pressed by a row of flowers
handed to us
kneeling under canopies
of altars in ancient churches
from crystal Syriac synagogues
as children speak
in Aramaic tongues
at their first communion,
wishing for a Sabbath meal
or reserve a miracle wine
in purple bottles
at an Bethlehem restaurant
of our choice
to arrive on time
in a reunion among
Jerusalem neon or gold butterflies
and once lost snow birds
shine up royally from the sky
as white shadows of nature
visit us unannounced angels
in the Eden home harbor
at the first light house
along the open beach front
by the bluest Mediterranean Sea
expecting blueberry pancakes
after a jazz performance
when the pantry curtain opens
at 4 A.M.
as the trees laugh
at mourning doves
ascending by the aspens
to enfold their attentive wings,
to be a look-out as a young captain
along the sand castle
having discovered
the treasure of Marian dreams
by Candlemas all night,
to cuddle by the sea urchins
small-toothed whales or dolphins
under the deepest ocean floor,
to write the new poem
which heals the wounds
of a lost runaway,
to slide by the statue
of our revolutionary ancestors
over the Boston Common,
to travel incognito
in a swan boat
with my lone Spanish guitar
on James Dean's motorcycle
within the disco heartbeat
of San Francisco,
to wait blindly by my window
for a remembered friend
sharing a secret language
of love from adolescence,
to write my initials
with your ruby lipstick
on newly discovered mirrors
in a tiny dark room
before our performance
to play Hamlet in Denmark
where you will be Cordelia
and you will forgive me
after the last act is over
as the applause continues
hearing the anguish
of gamblers
from the casino next door
whose chips are cashed
for those without a ticket
at the arcade,
to expect to live forever
as a medusa jelly fish
on the ocean floor
in the next life story
of the poor ice fishermen
who speak to me in Portuguese
docked in my village shore
who will inherit a cache
of ten-pounder silver Ladyfish,
lobsters and red salmon
at St. Peter's pier.


in muse and beat
allowed my music
to write out
of my mother's lungs
into fathomless petals
falling at my feet
embracing love
out of the wildflowers' chaos
in notes and fragments
of jazz's edginess
from a thousand tongues
in entertainment,
looking for foreign bodies
stars and planets
when romance
spreads its light
out of a pool of sky
and captures us on an island
as an acrobatic bird
in an eyelid of God's night
reveals all to us love
from our out-of-sight verse
in a chirping chorus
covering a translucent universe
splitting blinding atoms
to offer a metamorphosis
for the gypsy moth's kiss
in our garden's leitmotifs,
as we sing out lines
by the sea reefs
from a lover's austerities,
planting the rose and lily
in the small grounds
by a memorial
of a brave experience
as a weary runaway hides
from himself in an eagle's cave
in a shy renewal of spring
next to my collection of shells
by the luminous lighthouse
early in the day
hearing the echo
of my alto sax
with snow dove
leaflets for peace
suddenly glide over the earth
from jet planes
skywriting to us
sending down greetings
in every language
asking us to unite,
as a child on the shore
drinks his alphabet soup,
my mother reads to him
from Dante's Paradise
to Milton's express
where we are all one
speaking words
as Whitman knew
a city poet collects sunbeams
in Malibu,
meets a country drifter
whistling a fiddler's tune
under the street lamps
of the last full moon,
who is no idler
though he sits
under a juniper tree
though the world may not agree,
as an orphaned jogger
from the Redwoods
he is set free,
now an artist of sorts
desperate to find
his ideal in drawing a beggar
now asks for coins
for his oil paintings
still with injured loins
when he was a logger
meets a nurse under a bridge
some distance from home
who puts on his bandages
and they marry in May
under the blanket verse
in the unreality of love.

(born April 6, 1921)

You loved being spontaneous
in your rocking chair
a birdwatcher
who became famous
for her marvelous words,
a feminist and religious
and pacifist
in the Church she was raised
adored John Donne,
knew the soul, mind and body
were in a poet one to be praised.



You sought truth
in an absurd universe
time marked you out
in your strength of verse
writing of the Messiah
in the new world
as a letter from sunshine
just to leave us wisdom
is the depth of our nostalgia
in anthologies to divine.


We saw you through
the window of the yard
one April morning
standing by the lectern
amid high columns
by rows of crocus
in the spring air
by fading shadow of trees
along Harvard Square
giving us pleasure to learn
of your wish to be
in a canvas painting
of a wandering sandpiper
along boats of churning seas,
taking off my shades
to see you in the sun
as the winter is fainting
in the forgiveness of the breeze
our minds are in suspension
and you love embracing
Sappho and Dickinson quotes
of our cross-examined notes
with burnished thoughts
in careful intervention
of past poets' lives
as if you are more than a seer
from Canada's far country
of Nova Scotia
or conduit who survives
a wondrous invention of words,
so carefully telling us
how to enhance your dreams
you eat Roquefort cheese
before going to a fearful sleep
under posthumous cover,
what a bountiful life you keep
as we court your signature
from your whistle stops
in travel, nature, love of birds
we are about to discover
Elizabeth Bishop
in these seminar lectures.


Today's LittleNip:

Each poem we write or read is an image, event and expression which becomes a creative part of our body of work and soul.

—B.Z. Niditch


—Medusa, with many thanks to today's fine contributors! Don't forget the Ted Finn tribute at Luna's tonight, 8pm. Plus, today is National Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day, a fitting end for National Poetry Month. For details, see

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cabin Fever

Ryan Quinn Flanagan
—Poems and Photos by Ryan Quinn Flanagan
Eliot, Ontario, Canada


The moths
with eyes on their wings
are not looking
at you.

from the pumps
into a waiting tank
of wanting.

There are caves
full of glow worms
acting out the mating cycle
in miniature.

boiling the heads of their offspring
over a fire older than



is white
in his late teens
with a loud ghetto blaster
when it is no longer
the fashion.

In grey sweat pants
and sunglasses.

On a blue yoga mat
outside city hall.

on his head
like a human
drill bit

Deep into the earth
for precious metals
no one else
can see.


We are at the Flea Market
in Innisfil
going from kiosk
to kiosk.

I stop at the knife dealer.
She wants to visit the fortune teller.

If we go to the fortune teller first,
she argues,
and she tells us everything will be fine
then we don’t have to get the knives.

But if we just get the knives now,
I say,
there’s no need for the fortune teller
because we have peace of mind.

The knives are on sale.
The fortune teller will likely give us a break
as well.

We have come to an impasse.
There is not enough money for both
the fortune teller
and the knives.

we find a clothing vendor from Trinidad
and settle on his-and-her t-shirts
from the discount rack
that claim we both ate the worm
when we did



At the home for the elderly
and the newly demented
a man in a wheelchair
is given a banana
in the middle of the tv room
which he kisses many

Even some tongue
which makes the other residents
a little uncomfortable.

The nurses try to peel it
for him
so he can eat his first meal
in over thirty-six

But he pushes them away.
A man who knows what he wants.

Never once forgetting
to kiss his precious


The battlefield spilled over into
Men’s outerwear
and someone blew their nose
behind me
at two hundred kilometres an hour
and there was artillery fire
and I thought of Napoleon, feeding
his prized white horse one stale carrot
with a leafy green
of vodka tall Peter, his many dentistry mishaps
with the Russian court,
myself—a conscientious objector—
taking shelter in the second fitting room
on the left
trying on a pair of brown overalls
so I could look like an anthill
and not a man
as the kid from sporting goods
with a Louisville slugger
made the


chop down trees
and I think
of amputation.

Of what I would do
without my legs.

Laying in bed all day
watching free cable.

While other men slave
for a pittance.

Making helpless puppy dog eyes
at all the cute nurses.

Who take turns feeding me green Jello
before my sponge bath
because they feel bad
and I should



Peel the eyebrows off
a Chia pet
and call it deforestation.

Water beds
like riding the open seas
with pillows.

Judgement day
will be an overdue
library book
you can never

Sitting in traffic
bumper to bumper
day after day
thinking of puppy mills
full of flea collars
you can wear to funerals
and still look as if
you were



She’s in her early twenties, brunette,
he’s somewhat older.

In both age
and circumstance.

She steals hearts, he steals VCRs.
Both clean up pretty well.

They live in my building
the same way the garbage chute

I would hardly call them friends.
Neither drink coaster-dependable.

like a reason
to not pick up the phone
when it is ringing

3 am.


how nice of you
to think of the serial
so forgotten
this time of year,
all we need
is an accelerant,
a speed freak from rural Iowa
pacing the room
with bad skin
and socks worn through
at the heel

as crop circles
are voted into congress
and space junk
loiters in

and balloons replace birds
as the last inflatable



My father said a man must work
and I was 12
so I needed to find
a job.

So I went down to this seafood place
that wanted dishwashers
and filled out a resume.

At the bottom of the page it asked:
Are you bondable?

I thought of Roger Moore.
I thought of being tied up
and those large classroom containers
of glue
with the orange tops.

The waitress came by
saw my young puzzlement
and took pity:

it means can you handle money, darling.

I answered Yes
and left the resume
by the cash.

Then I walked home
back up Little Avenue
kicking a stone.

And the flowers spilt all their sunlight
and no one picked it up.



An only child has to get inventive
so the clouds were his friends
playing tag in the sky above

and no one ever caught anyone
and it was all very exciting

long afternoons
of watching his many friends
change shape

propped up against his favourite tree
in the park
(another dear friend)

letting the ants crawl over his knees
because that’s what friends do
for one another.


Let us come together
travelling at different speeds
like the two trains of grade
eleven math.

You with a husband.
Me, under a pseudonym.

The Do Not Disturb sign
on the door.

No sex.
Just running our fingers through
each other’s hair
until the sun comes

Front desk
glistening nametag smiling,
trying not to get

Double agents
in the lobby
sharing secrets we shall
never know.



There was a log in the fire
and I thought of witches
at the stake
their hands bound behind their backs
like playing keep away,
of my grandfather’s gas barbecue
each summer;
a shimmering battleship grey
with many black knobs
to turn   
the hotdog or hamburger
(as if the first world has problems

and soon my ears were crackling
cold cuts and warm hands—
the ears of a reluctant guest
as our host pinged his glass
and made another toast
that was boxes in the attic


Welcome to the Kitchen, Ryan, and thanks for the poems and the photos of the breathtaking country in which you live! Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a paper-trained romancer of the elderly.  If it is not a milk bone or an early bird dinner, than it's just not worth it.  He presently resides in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with an acute case of cabin fever after another long Canadian winter.  He wants to see the sun again, like a dear old friend you've lost touch with.  Don't be a stranger to the Kitchen table, Ryan!



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

White Room of Sleep

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

 (After "Portrait of a Dream, 1953" by Jackson Pollock)
A face that is caught in a garish mirror
where colors gnash and light stabs.

Your life
is a white room of sleep.

Your mind holds a candle.
The flame wavers.

You stare through yourself
as if to escape :

you are a smeared painting,
your dream has defined you

against a wall of canvas.
You echo this—repulse,  

then admire—
held by your own stare,

by the anguish of the art,
rendered thus.

You have lost your power.
Such is the angry power of the dream.


Every exit is a word—

followed by a long red hallway
muffled by a gray silence;
some escape by following

the blue map of their lives,
past all the numbered doors
down the one-way stairs—

ghost-mingled and musty
with trapped shadows.
My hand follows a wall

for balance—reaches an end,
then another end—to a lobby
where inhabitants

look out of windows to the
blurry rain—so beautiful under
the streetlights

in the rain-light
that pours down my face
in reflection on the inner side of

the window by the door where others
enter and leave and emphasize
my deepest loneliness.

(After "Juxtapositions—Front Doors/Back Doors",
by Grace Bentley-Scheck, 1991)

The escape-house is green. Its steps narrow.
Its white banister gleams in the moonlight.
Its windows are boarded. Who lives there?
Its yellow door appears locked. (A ruse?)

Behind the high windows of a higher house
with the shades up, a figure walks back and
forth in the light—a restless
silhouette —unmindful of voyeurs.

Only the dreams escape from the houses,
huddled so closely together, holding each
other up, locking their shadows in—even
the one with the light burning all night.

The night swallows all the houses,
bits of all night music stream from the walls.
The yellow escape-door stays locked.
The white railing gleams in the moonlight.


(After CD Jacket: girl with butterfly and two birds)

Your hands are too small
to hold all that you desire.
The live butterfly
caught in your hair
will not love you for long.
The tethered swallow
you keep on a string
will escape
back to the wallpaper.
The beautifully feathered bird
you hold on a stick
will lose its will to fly away.
You are too innocent for such power,
to keep all that life as yours,
to possess and try to tame—
standing there in all your defiance,
as if you dare not believe me.

(From “The Cubist Poets In Paris”  by L. C. Breunig)
“At the back of the room a Christ was taking off
 Someone had a ferret
 Another a hedgehog
 People were playing cards
 And you had forgotten me”
                     —Guillaume Apollinaire


. . . when she let the opportunity escape
she went into a rage
became obscene and unbeautiful
        the small flowers
        on the glass
        in their delicate vase
trembled in the sun-
light that traveled to them
from the far window
        was never
        a consideration,
not even the soft evening tones
too soon gone
darkness was always close
as light is to darkness
or as any one thing is
to another
when one reaches for the specific
        or totally opposite
becomes what quarrels love . . .


(After "The Art of Poetry" by Yves Bonnefoy)
The curse is part of the mouth.
The mouth is innocent and led by the word.
The word is innocent of the mind,

The mind is contorted by the mouth

The word must be uttered to escape.
The mind must free the word through the mouth.

The mouth is obedient to the curse.


I am in a room of many women
each alone from the other
each a container of stories
each a silence worth listening to…

our dresses touch when we pass each other
in soft, aversive movements
when we are waiting our turns,
when we are measuring our restlessness…

shall we escape…
shall we be here forever in our
alien kinship—who are uniquely alike—
who are divided by our difference…

(first pub. in Calliope, 1992-93)



A bird winds slowly skyward
lifting a bronze shadow out of the murk.
It is heavy and lonely,
the last thought of a dying dreamer
who has heard the faint call outward.

What follows is grief, freed of weeping,
though it is heavy too
and folding like a weariness,
too much effort needed
to be free of truth and imagination.

A fan closes as if by itself, ending
the escape. The sky goes dark again.
Or stays bright. Who can say?
The delicate art is saved from eyes.
Nothing depicts.

Everything moves in relation
to everything else, even the stillness
which must breathe and wait.
A word is being offered to the silence.
A listener must make a choice.

Who am I to grieve over such things?
A dream cannot live without the sleep.
Let the bird go.
It is only your thought of it.
If it loved you, you will know.

Today's LittleNip:


what if I write love poems now
in couplets

like us
in certain dark

room to escape
room to step aside

where we
can think it over

and decide if love is safe
or all that necessary

for two who won’t trust


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her delectables in the Kitchen today! Say—what's in
your closet? Family secrets? or just a lot of junque? This week's Seed of the Week is In the Back of the Closet... Send your poems, photos and artwork about same (or any other subject) to No deadlines on SOWs.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Evacuating the Night

Poster for "Evening of the Word" Reading
featuring Art Mantecon, Charles Mariano
UC Berkeley, April 21, 2015
(Medusa with pencils for hair by Edel)

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Don’t give me a diamond studded
Digital pocket watch with
Roman Numerals
I’d sooner take a slow walk in the forest

Don’t tease me with a new luxury car
Adorned with all the latest electronics
That drives itself
I’d sooner take a slow walk in the forest

Don’t offer me a large screen HD-TV
Complete with DVR, UFO, HIV, etc.
Remote control
I’d sooner take a slow walk in the forest

Don’t give me the royal tour of a loft
With a view of the smog-smothered city
Handily close to traffic noise, crime, pollution
Urban renewal
I’d sooner take a slow walk in the forest

Don’t invite me to look at time share properties
Teleconference, videoconference
Communal saunas
I’d sooner take a slow walk in the forest

Don’t roll out projections and statistics
Bar graphs, pie graphs
Actuarial data
I’d sooner take a slow walk in the forest



I expect that if I win the Lottery
In that span of time between
Matching the numbers and
Collecting the money

I would feel like a patient
Who had just been told
He was first in line to get
An organ transplant

None of it would seem real
Until I could wake up one morning
And know that I had survived
A life-changing event

 Scout on the Rocks
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

I got up early. You’re my alarm
in the crate beside the bed, always a breath
ahead of me, catching up in puppy-
time that never lasts.

I lift you out of whimper, out the door
to do your business.
You’re the weight of life exuberating,
mumble of leaf-fall underfoot,

rustle of brush-pile loved by the beautiful
spotted towhee. Twigs dry as vanilla
bean pods. Taste of coffee before it’s brewed.
Sometimes—this very morning—

I follow you into the woods
where you’re friend of the oak-stump
scored by years, each lichened boulder.
You show me what light

smells like as it moves through shadow;
you find every gap that leads
to discovery. You’re the first syllable
of a full sentence not yet written.


—Taylor Graham

What could people make of morning
without that word? Its premonition—Ahnung,
almost a warning—wakes me
with my pup’s first whimper. Get up,
get moving, evacuate the night, its dreams.
The color of something not there
anymore, but weighing on the heart like waiting
for a knock at the door. A shimmer between
shadow and bright, infused with its own
light like moon-shine on hill pasture
that’s not quite ghost. A silken veil whose color
changes—char to mid-gray, pewter,
silver golding—as I watch. Did the ancients
have a word for this, before dawn?
Have we lost it like a child vanished?

*noun first used, they say, by Shakespeare

—Taylor Graham

Her eyes were new moons dark and blank
behind cloud; even blind, she crawled to edges,
the shores of an unknown world as if

she heard voices from under the rug—forlorn
or beckoning memories of what she didn’t know;
calling her from the whelping box, sniffing

her way to the sliding glass door
where voices escaped to drift on April wind.
Nine weeks old now, ready to follow

a stranger into her new life. But this morning
I followed her as she checked fresh
scents under the buckeye where deer slept;

paused, listened to traffic on the two-lane;
moved on, down rimrock to the swale,
wandering wondering. Stood for a moment,

a statue of what she’ll grow to be. I clicked
the picture in my mind. Pixels, dust
motes. An instant. Already she was vanishing

as children do, wandering farther away.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Young sweet light, if I may talk to you,
one human supposing for this instant you are human,
I could bathe forever in your odorless perfume,
that which we call warmth. Because you
are tender, and if you were human I would call
you blond, young light, I must not deceive you
about my feelings. Too much of your darling
fingertips’ pressure upon mortal skin, and I
will singe, burn, somewhat of myself
peeling eternally from myself. It isn’t self-involvement,
young sweet light, that holds me back from too
much of your bright life: oh no, I have a prior friend
who is dark, she is all swirl and can become
funnel cloud when she despairs, yet she wheels
her dark spare frame in joy. She comes in
at my window all California, yet when I scent
her atomic structure black as a girl’s hair, what comes
in a rush like smoke is all Aegean, the salt that cures
the “wine-dark sea” so I consider her preserved for me
since Homer’s own dark day. Oh, and she unveils
herself: stripped naked of her robes she too
is young light, a more silver morning, a being compounded
of the air she is and the window glass shutting me
away from her unbearably beautiful touch. Do not
despair, young light: perhaps you and she
are one, and so I will turn someday from her to you
finding no one taken from anyone forever…


Today's LittleNip:


—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento
‪ ‬

Monday's moon, and the
‪grind of every wind.‬
‪ ‬

Tuesday lost, and yes kindness
‪ ‬

Wednesday sharing in sin, dreams‬
‪ ‬

Thursday brokenness and sleepless‬,

‪sleepless nights.‬
‪ ‬

Friday, the heart forewarned.‬

Saturday, GOD is quiet.

Sunday, others don't forgive.


Our thanks to today's chefs (thanks to Charles Mariano for the Medusa pic from his recent reading in Berkeley!), with apologies to Olga Blu Browne for last Friday's rude truncation of her LittleNip. It was a cute-and-paste thing....


(One of Medusa's snakes on the loose)
—Photo by Stacie Sherman, Orangevale


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Custer's Last Stand

Ted Finn at Mt. Shasta

Today's poems are from Ted Finn's book, Damn the Eternal War, which was published by Rattlesnake Press in 2008 (SpiralChap #10). Ted, who passed away from cancer in March of this year, was active in the Sacramento poetry community in the past. A tribute reading will be held for him this coming Thursday, April 30, at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento, 8pm (hosted by frank andrick), at which time poets are welcome to come read and talk about Ted.

*  *  *  *  *

       (after Kirby Congdon)

finally wakes up
on Elm Street
and walks off shivering
into unforgiving Monday morning,

late for work again.

what are the slasher’s
blood-splattered knives
against the unending flesh
of fast-food chicken?

-what’s wrong Jason?
The manager is asking.
-you don’t seem to enjoy
-your work anymore.

Leatherface can’t help us either.

his chain-saw ran out of gas
and the AM-PM won’t break his $20.

now the Martians have announced
they are calling off their invasion.
of course,
our lawyer is suing for breach of promise,
but the case won’t come up for months.

everything goes on just like before;
there’s no escape.



her dark-colored lips open wide
like the mouth of hell,
laughing at the stupidity of it all.
the cash register clangs open.
"would you like
to use your charge card, sir?”
the bartender asks.
dollar bills stack up
like bodies dead of plague,
ready to be burned.
she wears black  
against light flesh tones,
tight on the curves,
skidding off the shoulder,
driving it fast,
hard through the night.
cigarette in one hand.
bottle of beer in the other.
the stink of smoke
and stale beer growing
as the crowd thickens.
everyone screaming
to be heard  
above the  jukebox blasting.
of course, one morning  
the party is finally over,
and pretty scrapes off
with the make-up.


you know there’s no escape from the wild vision,
nowhere to run,
nowhere to hide where it won’t find you,
screaming at you,
live, damn it. live.
you can’t escape the vision.
some night too exhausted to resist,
like surrendering to your lover in the dark.
you know some night you will surrender to the wild vision,
in the quiet,
in the few precious moments you’ve stolen
from too busy all the time,
you will let yourself go
into all the places
you want to live,
letting the vision penetrate deeper into you.
you know you don’t need this roaring through you,
a wild roller coaster ride,
all ups and downs.
you need safe and solid,
a coffin you can live in.
you don’t need this hold on tight the ride,
always somewhere between
I can’t wait for this to be over
and I never want this to end.
you know you don’t need this,
if it wasn’t every dream you woke up excited,
as if life could be that exciting,
when you know it’s dangerous to believe that,
dangerous to live like that,
as if there were any other way
you could live,
you would want to live,
like every exciting you’ve lived
you know you’ll never regret,
licking your lips
to get the last possible taste of it.



there is a clever and insidious criminal presently at large,
freely roaming the streets of San Francisco,
rampantly extorting money from helpless passersby
by reading long, boring poems.
carefully choosing his victims,
people who look like they will give anything
just to be left alone,
he rushes up to them,
soiled pages in hand.
—let me read you my poem,
he says.
he then begins his assault.
a victim, a friend, a local lawyer had been to poetry readings;
he had heard bad poetry before,
but nothing quite so relentlessly awful
that it could only have been created
to leave whoever heard it begging for mercy,
paying whatever was demanded.
—how much will it cost me to get you to stop?
he asks the man.
—five bucks, the man tells him.
my friend gives the man a five
and watches him rush off to find another victim.
who needs a gun to rob when you have a long, boring poem to read?



you get old enough.
the sky rains arrows

you lose slowly if you’re lucky.
the chips on the table dwindle
as the bets echo ancient fears.

the little deaths Neruda called them.
death of dream.
death of hope for love.
I know the fear.
I know how humbling the losses.

however fragile the dance,
however voodoo dirge the death song,
if dance slows only to sway,
if only the slow recessional,
the final blessing is the long way home.
if only slowly losing,
if no other mercy but that,
I am graced by the bare ruins of my life.

never often enough the exhilaration.
twisting and turning in the darkness,
we see only divine light,
God at last singing,
mad dancers to the music,
everywhere around us in the festival night.
because we have lost ourselves in
unholy visions,
we dance only to sacred music.
because work lies in wait a day away,
because we sell ourselves to the slow slaughter,
we dance at last the mad dance the music demands.


Today's LittleNip:


no better show
than watching
young tight skirts
on their lunch hours.
their hopes
ride their hips
like six-guns.
blown-away lovers
are notched in their smiles.

    * * *

"why can't you write a simple love poem?"
you ask me.
"how can i?" I ask you.
"i've known no simple love."

     * * *


when the barbarians arrive at the gates,
we’ll open them without a struggle,
mistakenly believing,
it’s the guy with the pizza.



Saturday, April 25, 2015

Calling Those Who Love Words

—Photo by D.R. Wagner
—Poems by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


There was crying coming from under
The rug, or so it seemed like it
Was coming from under the rug,
Or someplace that had that muffled
Quality something that’s under
A rug would have if one had
To weep from such a place.

It was a forlorn sound that
Carried memories in it like pine
Trees carry their pine cones.

Every once in awhile some of it
Would break off and roll toward
The door.  After awhile there
Was quite a pile of these sounds
And they began to disturb our
Conversation.  When we opened
The door these sounds escaped
But we could still hear the crying.

Now it wasn’t coming from under
The rug any longer.  Now it
Was us crying, confused that we
Were unable to understand
How this room had become
This way when we were in it
For such a short period of time.

 —Art by Flor Barillas


The languages were very ancient.
Those who spoke them carried
Small cloth bags filled with teeth
Which they scattered before they spoke.

They had heard the last bird.
They had somehow misunderstood
What it had sung, and came into our cities
Upon black bulls, the color of night.

At the time, we lived in houses
Without roofs, as we were responsible
For the stars.  Few knew us.
It was better that way.  We
Traded in crystals which we fused
Together, brought into the darkness,
Delighting in the coolness there,
The inability of those who sleep
To know more than quick glimpses.
The arrow piercing the cloud,
Let alone the expanse of space
And time.  We made fires.

On the most colorful of evenings
The child would appear in our midst,
Touching our languages, shattering
Our bodies, scattering the
Approaching ships we had gathered
To place in the rooms as talismans
Against the masks of their dreams.

The child would careen this way and that,
Messing up all our work, mixing it with destiny.

"Not trustworthy," we were told.
He was pursued through the concentric
Heavens as if he were a nightingale
Possessed of magic song.

The last thing we heard
Was that the Lion had come to the plains.
People had gone out to see him.
He had given them bread and wine
And a kind of courage that allowed
Them to question us.
We left as soon as possible.
We did not want to know any more.

 —Enhanced Photo by D.R. Wagner


He used to get his dreams in packages.
They came in the mail, tightly taped,
Wound round with yellow twine,
The color of which would come off
On his hands when he carried the packages.

“It is the easiest way to get them,” he said.
“You still don’t get a choice, but they are guaranteed.”

Apparently they were very well packed.
He said it sometimes took him hours
To prepare the brown boxes with the red labels.
“They will get away if you don’t wrap ‘em good,” he said.

Some nights the upper rooms in his house would glow.
We would stand on the sidewalk looking up
At his windows.  Often there were quick shadows and flashes
Of many colors, and then sometimes just a dull gray
That hung around the neighborhood for days.

When he died, we were asked to clear out those rooms.
There were hundreds of those boxes.  Not one of them
Had ever been opened.  We burned them all, sight

 —Enhanced Photo by D.R. Wagner


I appeared before a Centurion
In the second century A.D.
And I asked him if he knew me
And he fell down upon one knee.

He drew his sword before him
And placed it down upon the ground.
He gasped but spoke no sound
But bowed his head.  He doffed his cloak.
He cleared his throat and frowned.

"Why have you to visit me? he said
Are you a ghost of someone drowned?
Your face is white.  You don’t look dead—
Or has my mind unwound?"

I waited till he’d found his wits.
"Are you some kind of joke, pray tell,
Come from heaven or from hell
To spin this world to bits?"
"I’m just a man like you," I said.
"I’ve come to you to tell
That magic lives within us all
Within each bone and cell.

"You stand before one hundred men.
You lead them off to battle."
"Close your mouth and stop your prattle."
"I’ve only come to bring you glee.
That’s something you can ken.

"You’ve found your way into a poem
Made two thousand years from now;
You may tell your men you've seen a vision.
You’ve seen something that you can’t explain
Except to say a man today appeared
Before your eyes who has said that magic
Still abounds, that it roves far and wide.
That they should keep their mind clear
And let it take them for a ride."
He sheathed his sword.  I disappeared.
I’ll not try that again.  I didn’t think it could
Be done.  And yes it can… but you know
Something?  Stuff like this can really mess
With your mind.  So don’t waste time doing it.

 —Art by Dieu Hien Vo


I put my fingers on it.
It was cool to the touch.

I had been speaking
With a painter when I saw
Death.  I was tired.
I raised my hand to greet him,
But he did not notice me.
The air between us
Began to break up.

I could hear the crows.
He was still far across the fields.
For awhile he disappeared
In the smoke from the rice stubble fires.
Then he was beside me.

He knew my name.

“Strange that you should be here,” he said.
“And you,” I answered, touching his back.
I recall he had a red shadow.

“Do not use any of the doors
Into the night tonight.
Proceed by the plain.
I have to work at the doors.”

He pressed his back against
My hand as if asking for me
To continue to touch him.
“Your hand feels good,” he said.

“I came for the painter.  He has
A bad heart.  Nice man too.
I was surprised that you would
Be visiting him on this day.”

I moved my hands to his shoulders.
He shrugged and let me work my thumbs
Into the bony structure there.

“Go home and get some work done,” he said.
“I’ll be with your friend for awhile.  He has
To get used to me.  Thank you for touching me,"
He added.  "So few know me that well, and you
Were kind to notice me.”
“You are welcome,” I said
I walked back toward town.
I could hear the whippoorwill calling.
I thought to myself that this had been
A close call, but then again, perhaps not.
Who knows anything at all anyway?

 —Photo by D.R. Wagner


I hold a burnt gold in my hands.
My heart excuses me from from sleep.
It says “Go be with your poems.  Tend
Your birds and demons and those bright
Smiles of the weather you seem to love
So much.  Sleep is no longer the paradise
It was to you as a child.  You have other
Blood in your body now.  Tell us how hands
Touch you in the private places of your eyes.
Tell us what we so long to see as we step
To the edge of the world, not dreaming at all,
But wandering in twilight woods, immaculate
With bird song and a filtered light through trellises,
Through the branches of the lilac opening
Upon a Spring so fortunate to have splayed across
Your life with its handfuls of color and frenzies
Of splendor, calling to all who love words.”

My heart, grant me grace that I may
Speak in this way and not fear the tiger,
The sudden movement of a hand fumbling
The tops of the wheat, the strange and curious
Song that rises from me now.

I look at myself sleeping far below
Or walking through the garden labyrinth,
Aware only that I am shadow wherever
I may go, both the ending and the beginning.

Our thanks to D.R. Wagner and today's other culinary wizards!

If you're going to be up Georgetown way today, stop in at the Arts in Nature Festival from 9am-4pm at the Georgetown Nature Area, with music, art, poetry and dance for all ages: poetry with Craig Steiger at 11:50am and with Michael Paul at 1:30pm; the Youth Art Gallery, the Jam and Slam at 10am; Native American music, storytelling and dancing all day; workshops on nature journaling with Jo Chandler; yoga; crafts and food booths and lots more! Check out the schedule (and the new location, due to rain) at


Today's LittleNip:

We don't create a fantasy world to escape reality. We create it to be able to stay.

—Lynda Barry



—Photo by D.R. Wagner

Friday, April 24, 2015

April in Paris

Jeanine Stevens, one of the featured readers at
Sac. Poetry Center's "April in Paris" reading
Monday, April 20
—Photos by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

On Sundays after mass,
We’d travel, usually with Ock
And Jeannie Anderson, the fifty
Miles to Rock Island, Illinois.
There, high atop
(Well six floors, actually)
The Fort Armstrong Hotel,
Was The Sunday Buffet.

Ock was a meat cutter,
My father a boilermaker.  And
They made straight for
The prime rib stand.
“Blue, please” would say Ock.
“Bruised a little,” my father
Would grin.  The chef had
Heard it all before,
Was not amused.

Jeannie and my mother
Would go for lighter fare,
Usually Chicken Kiev,
Which they pronounced
Like my name, giving
My self-esteem no
Help whatsoever.

As for me, I was just taken
By the view from the
Wrap-around windows.
Big river over there,
Moving slow, color of mud.
Other buildings, almost
As tall.  One proudly
Proclaiming itself
“The Rock Island Argus.”
Turns out it was just
The local newspaper.
Was always disappointed
No giants or spare eyeballs
Ever appeared on their logo
Or the masthead.

Eventually I’d calm, pocket
My clip-on bowtie and be
Persuaded to have maybe
A grilled cheese sandwich,
Some macaroni, wisely
Saving room for desserts.
The things that could be done
With chocolate, with custard,
With cream even back then.

Best of all, though, were the
Exquisite parting gifts
For the kiddies—a treasure
Chest (Rock Island was
A river town with a reputation,
After all) of flashy gewgaws
By the cash register:
Squirting flowers, handshake
Buzzers, mini whoopee cushions,
Plastic ice cubes with colorful
Insects embedded.  Everything,
Everything I’d need
To continue my unpopularity
Back in fifth grade on Monday.

 Ann Privateer, featured reader at SPC
Monday, April 20

—Trina Drotar, Sacramento

She hadn’t planned it.  Not really.  Just pointed
to a spot on the much-folded, out-of-date, map.

She wanted to go. Get out of the big city with
its small mindedness, its noise, its anger, its joy.

She looked at the spot, ran her finger over the
letters that were too small for her weak eyes.

She pulled the spot closer, squinted, fingered
the letters, spelled the town’s name out loud.

Like the couple in the song, she was surprised,
but not really, to find her escape was her home.

 frank andrick, featured reader
Monday, April 20

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Having annoyed us early with its warmth,
premature summer masquerades as spring,
or rather, back to winter it feigns to bring
us who aren’t fooled: behind those clouds the balm
and calm of preternatural vibrant green,
ripe solar plumes, no humans harmed in making
arthritis-quieting sun come early, taking
its ease behind this decoy bay-fog screen.
Yet eerie disquiet lurks behind fake murk,
and, behind that, false notes of mirth too soon unurned.
From Bax’s First, movement two, have I not learned?
That elegy for the Irish dead, which torques
discord almost to savagery, tears me apart:
those clouds, if they could, would cry out their heart.

Some years, long repressed, a season wants early escape:
still it hides in robes of dense cloud its rock-black cape.


XCIX. Quite Far from Here (Bien loin d’ici)

(after Charles Baudelaire and Clark Ashton Smith)

It’s here, the sacred space of spaces,
here where this young girl frilled with laces,
tranquilly pampered into stasis,

with one hand fans at her breasts,
while on cushions her elbow rests;
she hears far fountains brim distress.

It is the chamber of Dorothée.
—The breezes, fountains, both intone
their songs that sob caressingly
to lull the girl sprawled languidly.

From top to toe, with great devotion,
her dainty skin is chafed with fragrance,
with oil and benzoin’s spicy resin.
In a corner, some flowers, a swooning motion.


CI. On “Tasso in Prison” by Eugène Delacroix

(after Charles Baudelaire and Clark Ashton Smith)

The poet in the dungeon, ragged in sickness,
beneath whose convulsive foot a manuscript rolls,
with gaping eyes inflamed by terror unscrolls
a staircase to dizzy the spirit toward the abyss.

The drunken laughs that flicker in this prison
tempt reason toward the strange, the absurd misprision;
Doubt surrounds him, then Fear, horrid with ridicule
and multiform, traps him in its dancing circle.

This genius doomed to a malodorous slimy cell,
these grimaces, cries, specters swarming, dodging
in mephitic turbulence next to his ear,

this dreamer aroused by the horror of his lodgings:
voilà! Your emblem, deluded soul, is here,
dream-mumbles snuffed out by the Real, in these four walls!


Today's LittleNip:


—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento
‪ ‬

Monday's moon, and the‬
grind of every wind.‬

‪Tuesday lost, and yes kindness
‪ ‬

Wednesday sharing in sin, dreams
‪ ‬

Thursday brokenness and sleepless‬,
sleepless nights.‬
‪ ‬

Friday, the heart forewarned.‬

Saturday, GOD is quiet.

Sunday, others don't forgive.


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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sacks Full of Light

Raccoon Print in Mud
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Stacey Sherman, Orangevale, CA



Rain is indifferent
at first light
wrinkles the wind
from a four-day
a few strong squalls
snap and snatch
the bark whirring
on oak trees,
at the sealed window
a poet in a red scarf
and dark jacket
waits for calm
to explore thick woods
along the bridge
sunshine gleams
on a lonely road
and grackles
search for bread
in the faded dawn
of an unruly coast
a collapsed kayak
from the home harbor
drifts in constant light
of a ditchwater shore
as a sax player
by the oldest swaying oak
prepares his oars
where a loon pipes
his song over the sea
resonates in the network
of an unsettled heart
wishing Thoreau
would visit here
and explore the woods
with me in Concord.



is no longer dawn
the still breeze
no longer the breeze
a memory off-shore
no longer
in an unsure April.



Joined in a nascent spring
a crocus in my hand
by the dark country road
the wind whispers
by blocking first light
on my sunglasses
echoes of mourning doves
awaken me on my knapsack.

 Driftwood Serpent


A fragile flower
you hold on
here in the zen garden
so why fear
the early morning
when you dream
on the ineffable earth
of the last icy winter
at the early hour
love glances at your guest
changing the first light
on your face
there is a limpid smile
you had in sleep.



Aware of the power
of water, sand, tree
in the honeysuckle
by the Charles River
on revolutionary fields
at Boston Common
near lovers, grackles, graves
a poet's hushed light
of feathered warmth
from muddy streams
green moss, lichen, stone
to open the springs
by fountains
pruning lilacs
no song birds are missing.

 1970s 2-Button Can


There are few Puritans
here of any sort
under the flaring sun
round-heads need not apply
or hidden royalty
of Cavaliers
in their collars
only tourist dollars
are their loyalty
at any last resort
yet there is a boy by the rocks
with his sports gear
by his backpack side
reading the Pensées of Pascal
in solitude, out of sight
and a bride of a few years
with long blond locks
stretched out
on the white sand
with a seared copy
of the Magna Carta
and the Bill of Rights
in her strong hand.


(April 22, 1999)

You talk about poems
and stories
from the chamber music
of your heart
when my Aunt Manya
read to me
your ironic words
when she was seventy
trying to teach me Russian
on her daybed
telling me about
her childhood along
the Neva River
and her love for Ahkmatova
as a widow
mourning the war
and for my part
nibbling like the birds
on your pastry
from the old country
we always celebrated
on April twenty-third
with some tea
and vodka
my appetite for writing
was always stirred.

 Squirrel-Made Pineapple Out of Pinecone


"The Dandelion,"
your short story
we read in school
and unlike an April fool
we won't forget it
nor your work as a poet
you finally paid your dues
after hating the military
and refusing to go back
to the contrary beliefs
for peace
in the early sun
of your days and night
dying from a dirty fever
not reaching thirty
unwilling to put on
a German uniform
or serve the war machine
you finally received
your release.



You are convinced
that war hunted
and haunted
those who survive.



Poet of Resistance
escaping from the enemies
of Parisian spring and love
clutching like Apollo
Daphne's hip as she flees,
after the war
you were supposed
to be in a car with Camus
but there was no room
for you and you escaped
a tragic accident
allowing you to be timeless
taking the long Orphic view.   

 4WD Party Spot


You return miles from home
still in darkness
quenched from thirst
dazzled by landscapes
traveling on unveiled roads
with your rucksack
on your hardened shoulders
loaded with fruit
in a low village
of bird call and swallows
fearing the next hour
pale from an embrace
not showered
in the wilderness
wanting to hold back
at first to a secret love
yet you say "Yes."



Your sackful of light
raised in a thousand suns
will not diminish
over mountains or deep seas
we will wish to hear your voice
flowing through centuries,
we who read you
when you suddenly
disappeared from us,
hardy, lyrical, marvelously
in a body of poems
from rivulet passages
of a lovely elegy.


Today's LittleNip:


We do not forget
one soul or skeleton
from Adam's rib,
who needed
a prayer even in their crib.


Our thanks to Stacie Sherman for her photos, and to B.Z. Niditch for his poetry today and for his poem and note about the passing of Nobel-Prize-Winning (2011) Swedish Poet Tomas Tranströmer on March 26 of this year at the age of 83. For more about Tranströmer, see

Another link B.Z. sent us has more about Tranströmer, including B.Z.'s poem "Expectations", which appeared in
Randomly Accessed Poetics in 2012, and which is read on youtube by William James Lindberg. See



 Tomas Tranströmer, 1931-2015