Monday, January 18, 2016

Turning Coots Into Swans

—Photo by Jane Blue, Sacramento

—Jane Blue

             "All the windows were open in her heart.”
                                           —D.R. Wagner

Means to look out on the whole wide world.
To escape down the sidewalk, down the road.
Silent, extra eyes. Silent swinging outward limbs.
Out when you are in. In, intimate, when you are out.
In the cold, in the heat. Sometimes mullioned like a cage.
Abroad. Mysterious, foreign. Flower boxes, geraniums spilling.
Plastered walls, a woman leaning out, smiling.
Open windows, sheer gauze curtains billowing.
Open like her heart. Or shuttered like a closed face.
Shutters painted cerulean or vermillion, flung open.
A woman turning away. A woman flirting.
A hummingbird flickering in the glass, yellow-breasted
At home. A sparrow that hovers, hummingbird-like.
A reflection in the window. You. In the roses, in the street.
Disembodied. A spirit. The spirit that sways the rose.
The wind blowing the rain sideways. A pink bud of rose.
Pushing high toward winter sun. In the wrong season.
The pink rose that will soon be pruned.
That will come back in spring.
All the windows open in your heart.

 Rhony Bhopla, reading at Sac. Poetry Center, 1/9/16
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento

Silent.  Indian fog creeps
like odorless gas, deadly over vast
Mumbai.  An omen has arrived. 

Roaming dogs lack sense of night,
they weave through alleys
between huts.  Teeth grip
leather shoes once hung on
string between doorways.

The hounds do not growl, they creep
like fog.  Come when human
minds escape confines of living,
needing, wanting—surviving.

Scattered grey backs do not relent. 
Skin ripples as they gnaw,
the inevitable fog, silent lashing.

They take back hides of other animals,
fearless, grasp jagged mouths of
steel cans.  Succumb to seduction
of white foam containers. 
Delirious for food left behind.

Not yet thick with insects, are well-kept
floors inside the huts.  Children, asleep.
Dreams of svarg begin to ascend
at the mourn of the conch.

svarg:  paradise

 Tim Kahl, reading at Sac. Poetry Center, 1/9/16
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Such a fine morning for a run away.
The sun’s above Stone Mountain, rising free
with just a hint of breeze at break of day.
A puppy reads the news that I can’t see

from higher ridges, lands of snow and scree;
down here dancing our creek all silver-gray
over rocks, after rain this jubilee.
Such a fine morning for a run away

from piles of papers, promises to pay—
out here it’s fresh as salt-scent by the sea.
We might as well declare a holiday.
The sun’s above Stone Mountain, rising free—

no matter all the hedgings on TV,
screaming gulls talking with nothing to say.
Storm passed in the night, sparkling in the lee
with just a hint of breeze at break of day,

my partner’s Loki-wild but on-belay
of leash. Now I unclip her. Bel-esprit
of wind from every compass-point. Today
a puppy reads the news that I can’t see,

and there she’s off in search of mystery.
I tag along, lucky as Saturday
that lags, and looks, and listens. Chickadee
and nuthatch, raven, woodpecker and jay—
                       such a fine morning!


—Taylor Graham

What must have once been pillar or
pedestal, not proof against
     the strapping waves that break with
         never ceasing shrapnel on the tide,
the sand that covers all then shifts
again unveiling just a particle
a hint of that once pillar, altar—
what better place to teach that things
       depart which never may return but
             changed by the everlasting
    sermon of the sea.

 Wendy Williams, reading at Sac. Poetry Center, 1/9/16
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Taylor Graham

He walked into town, he and his dog alone.
The population had exploded. Without a roof,
men camped beyond the light, far from
the graven steps of stone. So many questions
in the dark unanswered. What did the angels say
of men who came here without a home?
What door was open to a man without agenda
but only his dog and dreams? Where
shall he sleep on such a night that could kill
a man alone? He sat down beside his only
dog and said that his dog was home.


—Taylor Graham

You talked about swans, but those are
plainly common coots floating on a chilly river.
No, it’s not river but flooded field—see
last year’s stubble standing stiff gray in rows.

Lacking swans, these coots are our wings
on water, drifting among rippled
shadows, stirring charcoal into color the way
grace might come to land on our lives.

If I say blue sky is imperishable,
would you refute me with thunder clouds?
If they whisper rain, that ionic zing
is wind in wings.

Isn’t this the way with poetry?
conversation of warped images through
a slantwise window. Not bleared
but cracked, turning coots into swans.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Of oceans, seas,

Blue water.

What surrounded him—

The grey green,

The dusk brown
Of old strip mine
lakes. Was enough.

For now.

 Abe Sass, Sacramento, 1938-2016

Our thanks to today's fine contributors, and to Michelle Kunert for the photos of readers at Sac. Poetry Center last Monday. A note that the Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute, The DREAM, will take place at SPC tonight, 7:30pm. Also coming up this week, two events in Davis: Phillip Barron and Karen Terrey at The Poetry Night Reading Series at Natsoulas Gallery, and James Lee Jobe and Rhony Bhopla at The Other Voice at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis. See the blue box (under the green box at the right of this column) for details.

There’s a new photo album by Michelle Kunert on Medusa’s Facebook page: the launch of Soul of the Narrator, the annual chapbook produced by “Team Jan Haag”. The writing group read from their new book at Sac. Voices last Saturday at Sac. Poetry Center, hosted by Phillip Larrea. Check it out!

Also happening this weekend is the annual fundraiser at the Sac. Fine Arts Center in Carmichael, with the help of Sac. Poetry Center, featuring the Dave Brubeck Institute Quartet as well as Sac. poets composing verse inspired by SFAC’s current Animal House Art Exhibit. Tickets are $25. Again, see the blue box for details and to purchase tickets.

Or, if you’re so inclined, head on over to the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, which runs from Jan. 25-30. Plenty to see and do there!

Got an event coming up that Medusa hasn’t posted? That’s because we haven’t heard about it! Send into to

Last Saturday we remarked upon the passing of California Poet Francisco X. Alarcón; see the links in the green box at the right of this column for more about Francisco. Poets everywhere will also be saddened to learn of the passing of Sacramento Poet Abe Sass on Jan. 3 of this year. To read more about Abe, see You will be missed, Abe.

And Bill Gainer writes that super-star dachshund, Alice, has also passed. Bill writes that “Old age and the abuse of her youth had battered her health in the last few year.” (I relate!) Alice appeared in the Kitchen several times in the past, not for her written poetry, but for the poetry in her feisty little soul. You, too, will be missed, Alice.


 Alice, Brave Hunter of Lizards, d. 2016
—Photo by Bill Gainer, Grass Valley, CA