Monday, February 29, 2016

High on Invincibility

—Anonymous Photos

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

She’s lively, she’s gorgeous, 75 pounds,
and now, she’s my new German Shepherd.
“Sit, lie down, quit pacing, wait . . . “
Didn’t think this thing thoroughly through.
I find I’m constantly repeating myself.
She’s lively, she’s gorgeous, 75 pounds;
she’s starving—or, she wants me to think.
I have only a small can of dog food, here.
“Sit, lie down, quit pacing, wait . . “
We happen to be in a trailer house,
she’s staring out the kitchen side door.
She’s lively, she’s gorgeous, 75 pounds.
Must I keep repeating myself as if
I’m writing an unrhymed villanelle?
“Sit, lie down, quit pacing, wait . . . “
I have a new German Shepherd companion
and only a small bag of kibble, here.
She’s lively, she’s gorgeous, 75 pounds.
“Sit, lie down, quit pacing, wait . . . “


—Carol Louise Moon

        Tuanortsa after “Mad Day in March” by Phillip Levine:
        “On a bare limb, a bird, alone,
        arrived with wings frozen, holds on and sings.”

the doctor never arrives
the day I was hospital born
holding on and singing
Mom in a birthing gown
arrives with wings frozen,
like a bird alone
on a bare limb—
like a bird alone
arrives with wings frozen

Mom in a birthing gown
holding on and singing
the day I was hospital born—
the doctor never arrives

Note from Carol Louise: In 1949, the nurse actually tried to
shove me back into the birth canal to wait for the doctor.
It was AFTER I was born that the doctor finally arrived
and cut the umbilical cord.


—Tuanortsa by Carol Louise Moon

Please don’t sing
By the Light of the Silvery Moon, but
sit and read to me
my favorite poetry book.

Let me take
that silver coin
and travel to town to search for
a rhyming dictionary
to better work my craft—

a rhyming dictionary …
and travel … to town. To search for
that silver coin,
let me take
my favorite poetry book.

Sit and read to me
by the light of the silvery moon. But,
please, don’t sing!

—Marchell Dyon, Chicago, IL

They move in unison across the polished stage
Their bodies are as sheen as ebony glass

They move in unison from midair onto the stage
Their arched toes alight as soft as summer rain

They move wearing tutus as blue black as night
Their toes flexed straight now pointing to the drinking gourd

They move in unison their thighs parted and flung towards heaven
They move like a thing with feathers defying gravity taking flight

They piquet in unison
Their hourglass waist is a whirlwind across the polished stage

They are dark matter dancing
They are in unison suspended on nothing electric

They are twin queens of Sheba
Their skin tells the story of freedom

Of dancing on the banks of the River Niger
Before the first slave ships came

They are African ballerinas once chained
Now free to move their bodies once again


—Marchell Dyon

She knows soon she will fly
Her dream is predestined to be true
Hidden underneath her brown skin enflamed
And freckled like a pimple are her wings

An aria of wings, musical scales, rainbow wings,
Wings still in their chrysalis waiting to flutter
Like a bird captured by sunlight in a midair portrait
Trembling like a newborn’s heartbeat

She is a teenager; change is nothing new. BUT WINGS!
When the tiny buds of feathers sprouted
When she began to fly, spring scented the air
Across the concrete gardens where nothing grows
Without the hardness of stone

Beyond the bars of that inner city prison
Systematically built to cage her
Till her wings thinned to the bones
Till she forgot about blue skies and flight

Not everyone thought she should fly
They shot bullets at her, striking her in her shoulder
Till she bled crimson across the sky
Still she opened her wounded wings to fly

She would fly not only for herself
But for the others she carries with her
Souls without wings
Souls who could not be forgotten

Beyond the concrete gardens’ poverty
Where nothing grows without the hardness of stone in it
Over that invisible wall
To fields of daisies she takes them

To rest like butterflies
She bundled their dreams with care
A flash of color and light
Then back she went into the air

—Marchell Dyon

                For Katie

Her life has been a blessing not a curse
Although, by the way society measures
She was not by choice left but made the choice
To go it alone

Her children tossed aside by men who refused
To become fathers, she would not abandon them
These little ones at her breast

She had dreams like other women
Although these dreams were never fulfilled
For her the stars above held different cards
For her

The mother role is an honor of grace
Sometimes this role is like heaving out stones from
The parched earth with only her four fingers

Her bones under every rising sun, so
Her children may stand in the shade
Denying herself as a woman putting her children first
To society

She never makes apologies for being single and
A good black mother, now that her hair is gray
Her children gone, the memories of her daily
Struggle still lives on.


—Marchell Dyon

They join hands in a circle, arms stretch
Fingers flex flat
Their fingertips a palm branch in the still breeze

Their incantation mulls into smoke
Their incantation builds and flows over
Their five circling hands

They are a sculpture not of stone but of blood
Blood pumping vehicle churning ready
For whatever next is to be thrown their way

Their faces are as bright as sunshine
Their mood is as serious as a burial procession
Their voices echo like thunder shaking the earth with lightning

Their voices bellows like a ghost high on invincibility
They are a thing of fire and ice
Never do they swelter or fade into ash

To heaven and earthly ears
They do cast a spell
Their hands are a balm for healing

They are the mothers, daughters, sisters, children, lovers,
When no one else is there for them
They are there for each other.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Marchell Dyon

She dreams in oil slick kaleidoscope
Rainy days never wash away her rainbows

She dreams of music
Drifting on scales of meter and rhyme

She dreams of manuscripts feathered and alive
Breathing like bird in the lofty places in her mind

She welcomes this bird with outstretched hands
She is open to the wild wind riding her cheeks

Despite the wind she coos to this poem
Shy as it is to come forth

She inhales its African magic
Then she gives it form


Many thanks to Marshell Dyon for today’s poems (all the way from Chicago!), helping us to finish off Black History Month on this extra day in February. Anyone you want to propose to, ladies? For more about Leap Year Day, see

Thanks also to the local photographer who chooses to remain anonymous.

And thanks to Carol Louise Moon for her poetry and for the tuanortsa (“astronaut” spelled backwards). A tuanortsa is a Palindromic poem. A palindrome reads the same from front to back as from back to front. In other words, the lines can be read from top to bottom, or from bottom to top.

Poetry events in our area this week include Sac. Poetry Center tonight, featuring A Commune Editions Reading with Jasper Bernes, Joshua Clover, Juliana Spahr plus open mic; Mosaic of Voices on Sunday w/Amalia Alvarez and Ricardo Taveres; and Poetry at Einstein Sunday with Patricia Wentzel, James Moose and Jerry Fishman. Scroll down to our blue box (under the green box) for details.

Poetry journals struggle to survive. Canary editor Gail Entrekin writes:

As you know, Canary is a literary journal dedicated to environmental issues. The e-zine is sponsored by Hip Pocket Press, a non-profit organization dedicated to recognizing that art is the soul of a culture. To further our works, our parent company, Berkeley Poets Workshop and Press, has partnered with Amazon's donation program, AmazonSmile, a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization (us!) at no extra cost. Just shop at instead of your usual, and you get all the same selection and prices but with the added bonus that Amazon will donate .5 percent of your purchase price to your favorite charitable organization (us!).  Yes, it’s a small amount, but it all adds up, and even a small boost would be a great help to us.

To designate Hip Pocket Press/Canary as your dedicated donation receiver, please follow this link:  It costs nothing to join, and Amazon contributes to supporting non-profits and communities in return. Please take a moment to choose Hip Pocket Press today.



Sunday, February 28, 2016

City of Cups

Lichen Patterns, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
—Anonymous Photo

—Lew Welch (1926-1971)

All these years I overlooked them in the
racket of the rest, this
symbiotic splash of plant and fungus feeding
on rock, on sun, a little moisture, air—
tiny acid-factories dissolving
salt from living rocks and
eating them.

Here they are, blooming!
Trail rock, talus and scree, all dusted with it:
rust, ivory, brilliant yellow-green, and
cliffs like murals!
Huge panels streaked and patched, quietly
with shooting-stars and lupine at the base.

Closer, with the glass, a city of cups!
Clumps of mushrooms and where do the
plants begin? Why are they doing this?
In this big sky and all around me peaks &
the melting glaciers, why am I made to
kneel and peer at Tiny?

These are the stamps of the final envelope.

How can the poisons reach them?
In such thin air, how can they care for the
loss of a million breaths?
What, possibly, could make their ground more bare?

Let it all die.

The hushed globe will wait and wait for
what is now so small and slow to
open it again.

As now, indeed, it opens it again, this
scentless velvet,

this Lichen!


—Medusa, noting that somehow the last verse of D.R. Wagner’s poem, "A Poetry Reading", got cut off in yesterday Medusa post, so be sure to check back into the Kitchen to see it. And also be sure to see Medusa's Facebook page for pix of his reading last Monday night with Pat Grizzell!

Today (Sun., 2/28) at 12noon, Emmanuel Sigauke, Lawrence Dinkins, Anna Marie Sprowls will speak at the Central Library in Sacramento about African American literature, plus an open mic featuring African American poems. 828 I St., Sac. Free. 

 Lew Welch
For more about Lew Welch, see 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Oh, Angel of Light!

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


When they tore the door off the
The yellow world,
We surrounded ourselves
With flaming birds.

They quickly formed the wilderness.
One day was not different from another.

They annihilated all the armies.
Oh angel!  Oh Angel of light.

We came as far as the gate
Looking into the garden.
We could see the guardians of memory.
They could be called quietly
For what they had killed
But they could not be forgiven.

Your mother may be in these flames
Looking through the eyes of the trees.



This embroidered bird
Was just something
I dreamed up after dinner.

A kind of ship, useless
Except for the light
It cast on the water
In the harbor and the fact
It had sails painted
With scenes that changed
With each watch.

At one point, one could see
The hills stretching back
From the harbor.  The lights
From the harbor, the lights
Of the far farm houses dotting
The landscape as the Winter
Evening reached out to hold everything.

She bent close to my neck,
Telling me a story of how insomnia
Once had a town but it had died
On the edge of a rise that
Perched above a great reef.

One could see its body, night
After night, during minus tides.

 —Photo by D.R. Wagner


I await the passage of small things.
The fly across the width of the kitchen
Disappears into the screen and is gone.

The kitchen clock isn’t quite broken enough.
Every three minutes it sucks a chunk of electricity
From the storage battery and makes a deep “thunk”
As the time changes.  I cannot see the second hand
Move.  It is too thick and is twisted.  Perhaps if I paint
It red or give it a name, that will attract more than the attention
Two house wrens seem to insist on giving it as they cluster
Near the window.  The quick beating of their wings makes
A tiny rainbow just before all three birds depart, a single tweet.

The moon tonight, a legend just barely over the hedge.
Light cracking through the thinnest branches, not eager
To divest itself of all the other night sounds.

An easy warbler cast of this light cradled close
To the branch where we sit waiting for that
Single cricket to unlock a particular sound that
Will open everyone in the house into an easy sleep.

A large owl and two bats make certain we know
These quiet hours the breeze lifts me from could be sleep.
In my mind it occurs to me that this says something about a style,
The way a mainsail might address a following wind, saying, “Brother.”



Little breaking sounds
Around the edges of your smile.
A ghost of recognition buys a ticket
And boards a train to the Lava
Beds National Monument
In Northern New Mexico.

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

A couple of years later my scout troop
Finds some airplane parts in
Black crevices of the lava beds,
But we are looking for rattlesnakes.

 Pat Grizzell and D.R. Wagner reading at SPC
—Photo by Martha Ann Blackman, Sacramento


So they were waiting in the garden

And the dreams were out of reach

And folks kept coming up to ask us for the time
And it seemed as if we knew them
Then Patrick yells out “Screw ‘Em.
If they know our names we know they’re telling lies.”

They are standing close together

And they smell like fresh-tanned leather

But they speak with French and English all the time.

We begin to tell the poems we brought

But we’re both afraid we might get caught 

And we’re talking in stage whispers

Singing songs that make air blister 

But we’re feeling hot and we’re feeling sweat

And no one wants to make a bet
As each word wraps itself in line and then lets go

We’re sure we’re right but we forget,

The whole place shining like a dime


We know the crowd’s half crazy.

But we’re pulling on their daisy

And they want to hear the words

But the meanings get obscured

When you’re speaking poems you know

It’s way too late, sitting in some parlor

Or waiting at the gate, no matter what we say

It’s true, it’s real and we won’t waste your time.

Still we’re talking like we’re praying

And the world itself’s still spinning round the sun.

I forget now how much of this is true,

But that don’t stop our saying.  We keep

Hoping that they’re listening and not fools.

And I begin to kill the lights, someone trips

And starts a fight.  Still we keep talking louder.

They might be waiting till it’s over.

We’re sure we’re right but we forget,

The whole place shining like a crime.

I loved you before I got here and I’ve wanted

Everything you are pressed close to mine.

But the only way that I can say it is to make

It sound like this so it might be entertainment.

You’ll never know, I’ll never tell and even though

It hurts like hell, the smoke is fire and the fire

It comes bubbling through the floor.

And I can see you sitting there, 

You are broken, do you think I care?

I know the difference between right and wrong

And I need to say I want you, please be mine.

We’re sure we’re right but we forget

And this whole room is shining like a dime.

This is all that’s happening, another poem,
Another song, another cut into a vein,
A bell, a chime.  The crows they gather
In the beams and start to pass out crazy dreams.
Take what you want or what you need.
There does not have to be a reason.
We are here and we’re together and words
Are as fucked up as the weather.  I’ll shut my mouth,
Pretend that you are mine.
And somewhere outside this place
We will lose ourselves and lose our grace.
And I will breathe into your face.  And it might cruel
And it might be paste or it might be love that
Lives beyond all time.  And I’ll shut my mouth.
We’re sure we’re right but we forget
And this whole thing took two minutes of your time.

 Russ's Packard
 —Photo by D.R. Wagner


Does it matter if we find out the meaning?

This is sand we are walking upon.
The ecstasy is our eyes
And the echoes they toss
Back and forth.  We can
Wear hunger like clothing
And no one will notice
We are naked, like yesterdays
Swept beneath the sword.

These lacerations are Sunday morning.
I will watch the battles for you.
I will tell you when they have become dust.
I will sit in the garden behind the myths
Flashing as your landing light.
I will be your child.
You will hold me to watch me breathing.

 Gladioli at Mike's
 —Photo by D.R. Wagner

Today’s LittleNip:


The clearest of glass is that of the dream.
She woke me at three AM
To run this by me.

I had to wake, get out of bed
And write to make me free.

“I can take any form I want.
Why did you give me one
That rhymes?”

“You need the exercise.”
She said.

“Now stop this one on a dime.”

The end.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's fine poetry breakfast and his photos, and to Martha Ann Blackman for the photo (below) from last Monday's Sac. Poetry Center reading, which featured D.R. Wagner and Patrick Grizzell. See Medusa's Facebook page for more photos of that reading, sent to us by Martha Ann and by Michelle Kunert.

D.R. Wagner
—Photo by Martha Ann Blackman

Friday, February 26, 2016

Trash Cans and the Big 62

 —Anonymous Photos
—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO


Far from the city
way out in the country
a hot afternoon in high summer

as we drive down a bumpy road
bouncing one mail box past
another saluting

each farmer by name.
We marvel at the giant corn
until we come to a mail box

bent over an old table
piled high with tomatoes,
green beans and melons.

A tin can slumps in front
of this harvest with a note 
gripped by a clothes pin

saying, “Take what you will
and leave what you will.
God blessed us this year.”



Millicent was the daughter
who danced ballet and sang until
she met Butchie on a rainy day.

He was in coveralls
and cowboy hat and fixed
two flats on her Infiniti.

He asked her for a date
and she sighed yes and so
despite her family's laments

he picked her up in his truck
and they sang and bounced along
bumpy roads to the county fair.

Months later they eloped
and Millicent helped Butchie
run his car wash in Kentucky.

It's 50 years now since they wed
and Millicent has seven children,
twice as many grandkids.

No longer a slip of a thing,
she’s gray and plump but still
loves to let Butchie have his way

at least once a week.
Makes her feel like a bride again
to hear him yodel at the end.


The day Paul got married,
his old girlfriend called his house
just before he and his bride Anne

caught the plane for their honeymoon.
Paul was outside packing the car
and Anne answered the phone.

His old girlfriend was angry because
Paul had married somebody else so she 
told Anne strange things Paul liked to do,

strange things Anne had never heard of,
stuff that didn’t sound like Paul at all,
but Anne said nothing about the call

and they flew off to a nice honeymoon,
diving off cliffs and swimming in the sea,
seeing rare birds and tropical flowers,

eating native foods Anne hadn't heard of.
Years later, they went back to Oahu
for their 40th anniversary, and Anne

told Paul about the call but didn’t say
anything about what the girl had said
although she remembered every word.

They were sipping drinks at a café
when Paul admitted he remembered
the girl because she would ask him to do

things he thought odd and strange.
He was open-minded but there’s a limit.
Anne said she understood because after

40 years with Paul, she now liked to do
things she thought odd and strange when
she left the Amish for something new.



When I was in grammar school
I knew it was Wednesday
when I looked out the window
and saw across the street
three trash cans at the curb
in front of the Manion house.

No matter how early I got up
the three cans would be there
looking like a trio waiting
to break into song.

When I’d get home from school,
the cans would be gone.
They had been put away,
I figured, until their next gig
the following Wednesday.

When I was in high school,
I noticed one day only two
cans standing at the curb.
I was told the son had married
and moved to another city
and his parents missed him.
But two cans were enough
to tell me it was Wednesday.

When I came home from college,
I noticed my first week back only
one can was stationed at the curb.
My mother told me at breakfast
Mr. Manion had died and
Mrs. Manion wasn’t doing well.

For the years I was in college
that solitary can was always
in front of the house.
It was still there when I
graduated, found a job,
married and moved away.

My wife and I would visit my folks,
and one Sunday after dinner
my father asked me to give him
a lift to the doctor on Wednesday.
When I pulled up in the car
I noticed no can was waiting
in front of the house.

My mother told me Mrs. Manion
had died and the house was for sale
at a good price in case my wife
and I might be interested.
She said it would be a good place
to raise kids if we ever had any.
My father usually said little
but coughed and agreed.

They seemed happy because
I hadn’t said no to the idea.
I knew they would like us
to live across the street but
I wanted to talk with my wife.
But my parents stared at me
when I asked if they could find out 
if the trash cans were included
in the price of the house.
I’d need them on Wednesdays.


They have a few bucks,
the 62 richest billionaires in the world.
The Big 62 have half as much wealth

as the bottom half of the world’s population,
according to Oxfam International.
(Oxfam tracks the rich and the poor.)

Oxfam also points out that the top 1%
of the Big 62 have more wealth than
Everyone Else In The World Combined.

Oxfam released this information
ahead of the 2016 World Economic Forum
held in Davos, Switzerland, where the rich

from all over the world gather every year.
Capitalists at the Forum who read the report
had to be embarrassed, if that's possible.

Perhaps they told workers back at the office
about the need to find more tax breaks next year.
Or face unemployment. But if layoffs occur

unemployment comp and food stamps might help.
In some states Medicaid remains available, too.
Just don’t let your boss drop out of the Big 62.



The problem with Chloe is
she moved to San Diego
where the weather’s fair
but hasn't found anyone
who’ll listen to her so she
calls you or me at midnight.

Back here she had folks
who liked to listen to her
and if someone got fed up
someone else stepped up
with a problem to discuss.
Some folks liked Chloe
taking an interest in them.

Remember old Homer 
in the nursing home?
Twice a week she took him
a mocha latte and a cookie.
He’d sit up in bed and listen
as long as the coffee lasted.
Once she forgot his coffee
and Homer grumbled a bit
and fell asleep.

When her sister Daisy
got sick they reconciled
after years of arguments
and Chloe was delighted she
had someone new to counsel
but when she told Daisy she
had better go to church
the truce ended there.

Chloe needs more time to meet
someone new in San Diego.
Dudley left her, I understand,
to marry Alice who understood
Dudley didn’t like fancy chat.
In the meantime, you can try
what works for me with Chloe.
I unplug the phone before
I go to bed because she will
dial until someone answers.
Then she won’t hang up.


On Saturday mornings
several bowed citizens
gather on the sidewalk

outside the clinic
to read the Bible and pray.
Staff peer through curtains

afraid one of them might
stop a client coming in
for her procedure

despite two policemen
guns in their holsters
stationed outside.



It’s Rocky’s Diner
but it’s Brenda’s counter,
been that way for 10 years.
Brenda has her regulars
who want the Special of the Day.
They know the week is over

when it’s perch on Friday.
Her drifters don’t care about
the Special of the Day.
They want Brenda instead
but she’s made it clear
she’s not available.

Her regular customers tip well.
Long ago, they gave up
trying to see her after work.
After awhile her drifters go
to the diner down the street
to see if the waitress there

is any more hospitable.
Brenda’s regulars don’t know
she has three kids her mother
watched every day until Brenda
took a vacation out of town,
then came back and helped her

mother find a place of her own.
Now Brenda’s back at the diner,
serving her regulars and
discouraging her drifters,
while Marsha, her bride,
watches the kids.


Old Sam in Room 322
at the nursing home asked
the nurse to push his bed

near the window because
in October he likes to watch the leaves
on the Japanese Maple change color

from their summer green
to the red, yellow and maroon of fall
before the branches go nude for the winter.

The nurse chuckled and said
she hadn’t heard of his interest
in trees and nature and Sam said 

watching the leaves change color
and fall off slowly reminds him of
his wife getting home from work

and taking her time to change clothes,
comb her hair and primp a little before
smiling and coming to bed.


Today’s LittleNip:


First leaves of autumn.
Slow parachutes this morning
almost at the curb.


Many thanks to Donal Mahoney from St. Louis for this fine collection of poems, and a note that authors are invited to submit an application to present at the 2016 Great Valley Bookfest which will take place Oct. 8 in Manteca (see If selected, you could present individually, be paired with other featured authors, or be featured in a panel discussion. Spots are limited. Completed applications must be submitted by March 1; download applications at


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Shadows Flooding With Light

Shadow and Fence
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA



A dirty-blond stranger
with a long grayish beard
from Provo Utah
slept on a chimney
one snowy night
resting on a jazz club roof
of the local forest ranger
on another cold evening
after he awoke
laughing inconsolably
told us he lost the fret
of an A string
on his wine-covered guitar
which he replaced
then he created out of magic
a folk song with lyrics
of sublime originality
about the fronds off
Cape Cod waters
we invited him as a guest
to our outdoor city theater
to do stand-up or sing
with a T.V. host on the couch
to interview Rex
but he spoke in revelations
that gave him authority
larger than most
with an enlarged history
that no one could vouch for
suddenly like any cowboy
or imitating ghost rider
took off with a wandering eye
of a pedantic lonesome soul
perhaps searching
for God or sex in mind
or some vocation as his goal
courts over the duck pond
and elopes in a glitter of stars
to get far away
with a rich scientist's daughter
from Woods Hole
vanishes with all his insight
with a jolt
of his open-air sports car.



After the peace march
you emerged in the city
walking alone
with a home-made sign
speaking against war
without a moment
to drink green tea in a glass
like our grandparents
but you cleverly managed
to cut the lemon
four ways
from the farmer's market
burying my daily worries
as we remembered playing
backgammon and chess
when we were in advanced
Algebra Two math class
of Mr. Feeney
who was so poor
he wore his tweed suit
from the Goodwill
every day
but your nana
fixed his buttons
before our last exams
in the long corridors
of the library hallways
years later
we saw each other
in the Big Apple
at the poetry slams
as you intersected me
on my motorcycle
suddenly flakes of snow
appear on my old pea jacket
by a rush of city traffic
as sirens go off
at the red light
lost near a Soho district
where we did disco dancing
along the tinted bars
where I once played sax riffs
in weary alleyways
smelling of marijuana
with a chip on the old block
of my Manhattan street
where I met expressionists
in their cold starry-eyed lofts
at a series of February storms
yet hide to get our bones warm
by visiting the Cedar Tavern
drinking beer, wine
or Mexican tequila
talking at the revolutionary back
of Pollock, O'Hara, and Rothko
those now-famous artists
along with their poet friends
who became mine,
Ginsberg, Kerouac, Franz Kline
Leroi Jones, Greg Corso.

 Misty Half Moon

(born February 19, 1876)

The triangle remains
closer to a geometric time
of your creation's shadow
my red eye turn to you
speaking to us
drawing near
in a negation's voicing light
as a guide
shading in the indivisible
of a clear line of a blade
resting over a pitying floor
in this museum's corner
with a sculptor's heavy arm
by your vibrant cut
known as Brancusi's stone.


(January 5, 1932-February 19, 2016)
In passages and raptures
reaching each word of yours
in the name of your rose
outside a house trellis
of nature's tree groves
knowing your strong voice
has a sanctuary backstage
you are not lost alone
in this actor's dressing room
not in a mourning dark suit
before a motionless camera
for I'm consoled by your prose
leaning over your novel
read under my sunny window
accepting your tinged photo
on my one-lira's Italian postcard
near a transient travel oil lamp
our era shapes your epitaph
as dawn rises to laugh over the dust
from a somnambulist character
of an exiled story of stranger
disclosing many weathered years
in travelogue soundings heard
from varied nesting archipelagos
tidal waves are at high tide
remembering the lost ships
as shadows flood with light
over many a night's filmy eyes
amazed at Eco's unsurpassed energy
immersed in history, poetry
and narrative dialogue
that we witness in your shade
for your lost artifacts
with honoring presages
and passages over triumphant lives
left behind by murdered friends
in an age of light and science
you taught us chapters of life
in an illumined tempo
against the rocks and branches
at islands of the Mediterranean Sea
embracing us by a horseman's statue
to record our darkness
with shining phrases of ardor
now at digital libraries
scattered in arbitrary manuscripts
chronicled by a fable-teller's fate
in several languages and tones
embraced by a trembling hand
of reinvented time and pendulum
outfoxing the stones and a leaf
in his unsigned books at length
by a chalk line from fans
awaiting your enchanted speech
outside Milan's momentary
yet innocent snowy gates
or wherever the literate gather
to your soul-mated reflections,
in stories, words, letters
you made our world better.


(February 10, 1890-May 30, 1960)

Hardship by the Volga
night has electrified
a witness to mirrors
of a poet's spirit
clinging to words
when censorship
vilified you Boris
not the last time
you heard the moans
in corridors
of locked-down prisoners
with their backs
to the river rain
stars shattering
both war and peace
in Siberian steamships
a shadow in careless space
of a white sky resurrection
your eyelashed quarantine
now with the silent dust
your voice unwavering
into a spring of seedlings
of the hearth and garden
your light leads us
to the watery swan
and flapping wings of birds
covering you by gates
in buried underbrush lanes
seeking and dreaming
like the last dawn
of a notable obituary
shadowed by lightning
as the poet is gone
into a sanctuary's pardon.



Who may have answers
on this stage
like a signal to Hamlet
settling all my questions
but he does not rely
on my reacting to his ephemeral
last words, words, words
but on defying my own reason
to this actor and poet
who merely recites his lines
after rehearsing all night
watching Hamlet curse
with Shakespearean lines
about all his personal strife
I'm trying to memorize,
yet willingly knows nothing
as to the good prince's motives
what gives into his suffering
at the votive stone
taking notice of my part
in this play's atonement
yet having my own moments
since searching in his soliloquy
for his own past identity
that we witness and reveal
to this patient audience
who still fears his uncle
but cannot forgive the deeds
of unending violence
after the murder of his father
with the new king's silence
has those doom of secrets
opened here in this living room
and is weary of his mother
the waited-on moody Gertrude
whom his personal young life
has offended and violated
with his own gloomy melancholy
soon turns on his girlfriend
the confused beautiful Ophelia
who will soon be dead
in an excused adolescent season
but all our hourly lives are on loan
to a higher wonder of power
like leaves on the snow
may survive in the spring
to reveal a small jonquil flower
dancing in the underground
in the sunlight.


Today’s LittleNip(s):

I come here to speak poetry. It will always be in the grass. It will also be necessary to bend down to hear it. It will always be too simple to be discussed in assemblies.

—Boris Pasternak

You die, but most of what you have accumulated will not be lost; you are leaving a message in a bottle.

—Umberto Eco


—Medusa, with thanks to B.Z. Niditch and Katy Brown for today’s fine contributions to the Kitchen!

For more about Umberto Eco and his passing, see

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Springtime at the Circus

—Photo by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

—Scott Thomas Outlar, Atlanta, GA

Run ragged to the bone
pierced with mercury/enter the marrow
sip on the flood
of blood
from opened veins
cut nightly to drain/a ruptured
death apocalypse of rain
spent dreams/wasted/no refrain
the shame of prejudicial inclinations
never close their weary eyes
staring at the sun until it dies
up all night/greet the moon
sing the blues
with falling star rhythms of chaos
sweet on the tongue
hit-and-run notes
clang to a vomited melody
cymbals smash upon the head
of a dancing needle angel battalion
lined up across the tortured sky
waiting for the clouds to part
to pour hell down from heaven
and meet upon terra firma
with Revelation heartache of war
settle every ancient score
it’s a fallen paradise come lately
with no hope of return/ignorance undone
slipping apart at the seams
tearing the threads
precarious biases at best
sadistic grudges at worst/coming in first
in all the wrong
categories of righteous behavior

(first pub. in Dissident Voice)

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Scott Thomas Outlar
Oxygen slashed
by six percent

it’s the deal
of the week

Lung collapsed
to increase pressure

failing body
shutting down

Momentum snuffed
at the gate

gun fires
legs give out

Carry the torch
to the grave

burning worms
in the fade away


—Scott Thomas Outlar
Yes, every poet
has those days
when they feel
their words
aren’t worth the paper
they’re penned on.

No, that is not
a comfort
to realize
when it’s one of
those days.

Yes, there is a solution
that can be found
by writing
a good one.

No, this isn’t it,
but maybe
it’ll look better
come tomorrow.

(first pub. in The Poet Community)

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

—Scott Thomas Outlar

Those moments
when a subtle sound or sight or smell
triggers an old memory—

There is a certain
vagueness to it all…
but it just feels good.

At least
for a split second
while the electricity
snaps through the synapses,
offering a brief respite…
and sometimes,
thank God,
it is enough—


—Scott Thomas Outlar

Another day
Another dollar
or so they say

Another year
Another death
Another birth
Another cycle
and so it goes

Not every poem
has to be profound

Sometimes it is enough
to simply say:
See you on the next go round…

(first pub. in Anti-Heroin Chic)

 —Photo by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch, CA

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

A hundred clowns gather round
The little car, preening,
Wondering, is my nose
Too red?  Should I
Have gone 
With more polka dots?
Shoes bright and gaudy
Enough?  Oh, will anyone
Notice, want me?
Nesting time down
Clown alley.

 —Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

—Robert Lee Haycock


 —Photo by Robert Lee Haycock

—Robert Lee Haycock

Noise embosses itself upon a night.
Blue dress beckons beneath one tall tree.
Missionary overlooks crystal springs.
How do you wear ear rings when you have no ears?
Hills climb hayfoot strawfoot hayfoot.
Houses wait to burn and wait.
Another cigarette.
I’m ready.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Robert Lee Haycock

A few naked women
One abandoned bicycle
Bruised leaves of the flowering plum
That song unsung
Hanged versus hung
I think I’ll wang chung


—Medusa, with many thanks to today’s poets and photographers for this fine collection to start off our day! 

 —Photo by Taylor Graham

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

If Light Could Hold Substance

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


Guiding line. Words of another.
Steal them. Finder’s keepers.

Do not judge my intention lest I
weep apart and never again be creative:

We are fragile. The strongest of us
need to get through our beginnings

without too much damage:—
birdsongs, nestlings, in symbolism.

Love turns on. Love turns off.
Fine tunings make music of words,

and lack of words, those stumblings,
like bird-flail in first flight.



It was August, in a white hospital room
somewhere in mysterious Canada. My mother
had been reading a magazine with a story

about some heroine whose name she gave me.
I had long piano fingers,
translucent in her examining hand.

I don’t know if I cried or just lay there,
waiting, my mother’s face like a blurry sun
floating above me, her eyes burning through.

Nurses came by and admired me. I was mired
in my mother’s hold. She would protect me.
We compared ourselves to each other:

Our brown eyes.
Our moles.
No piano in my future.

My first bed was a bureau drawer
as we traveled, and then traveled some more,
over all the lives time had given us.

But for then,
I was content in my mother’s arms—
swaddled like a cocoon,

squirming with wordless questions—
our eyes fastened to each other
for life—

my tiny fingers
closing and unclosing—my mouth
forming poems—the conversation of our souls.


It was the other darkness made of stone light.
The touch that was terrible.  The shy regret.
The very substance of evil, unrecognized.
Oh, who has harmed me with such
unforgiveness?  Am I lost?  A child forever?
How am I to return and unlock the gray door?
I follow a path of shallow water
and wake in a bed of shallow glass.  I can tell
no one, give no one, the weapon of my life.
Let the curtain hang in the window of despair.
Look in.  Look out.  I am on both sides.
Someone is reaching for me.
I own my life. I give it to no one.
Whoever wants it must pay a terrible price.
It is a silent life, a great stain on the heart.
My mind burrows, looks for
its beginning. . .  there I am! 
there I am!



This birth—this birth of death,
too young to live;

this interrupted thing—
this thought

this vague idea
of child,

unknown, unnamed, unloved—
unwanted yet,

that now
lets go.

If light could hold substance,

what would be born—
what holy thought
made of some deep memory,
unformed and shadowless…

would light
give sensation and
form to its creation—
show it a mirror for proof …

and if
it loved,
would it be
harmed by this…

and could it stay—
so timelessly created in the
flicker of a perfect connection
that gave life to itself…

this is not
the first reality that has been
so given that must luminate and
find the answer to its own existence.



Sleep now,

Your mother dies.
Feel how she drifts
away from you,

how she strokes the dark,
how she pulls your mind
into her oblivion,

how she is silent forever
and you are silent
with her,

how all your
is preserved

and your little life
is saved
in the universe

like a perfect thought
before it is uttered
as a word.

(first pub. in The Listening Eye, 1995) 


I have become the only drift here. The halo of light and
the halo of dark open to receive me. I fall—I lift. There
is no difference. I am all motion and all stillness. There
is no difference.

All my life has rounded to a simple moment; no news
has preceded me; no intuition of any relevance. I
borrow the source of eloquence for no thought, which
need not be spoken. My eyes are open and closed in a
flicker of seeing. Sensation is almost a memory.

But I am not yet born. I am at the starting point of history.
I am the realization of all awareness. I am the spiraling
sound at the tip of the echo. What has spoken me?

I take leaves for the roughness of celebration, that
finished season, that sad texture, and lay them on the
counters above couches, to admire them, to keep their
delicate shapes in the reality of things. Do I grieve for
them? Dare I know, or not know, this or any other fact
of honor, of indication, the notice of what is left as

Is it death I talk about—or its sad echo, life? Is it that
or any other narrative of silence that allows such
simplicity of unimportant dedication—that statement—
that little ghost all things have?

Take the trouble to die, Oh beautiful one of the enig-
matic mirrors, so alive to the beauty of life. Take your
belongings up in a simple collage and go into the
masterpiece of existence. There fling the thoughts and
intensities of emotion in a terrible rendition of scream-
silences. Rend the air with your passion. Unfold the cloth
of perplexity and share the answer.

Yesterday, the two doves minding the nest in

the hanging plant in your patio were tending
their fourth set of babies, and today we got to
see their tiny beaks bobbing to be fed;

and today, two pure white doves flew by,
just as we got to your place—so amazingly
bright in the morning sunshine.  I thought only
gulls or herons were that white;

and later, while crossing the causeway in our
hurry to get home, a lone heron flew for a long
time beside our car before vanishing like a
figment of illusion—

and then—there it was again: a lone white heron
flying alongside us—and a full white moon—all
re-crossing the day’s long path;

and I let myself imagine a white owl crossing the
moon just then—proclaiming itself a meaning to
ponder—like a sign….


Today’s LittleNip:

tight as a knot
/voice condemni
ic is a threat/
hatred comes fi
rst/small cramp
ed animal glare
s from its nest
cruel window/lo
oks in/small an
of/its heart/ a
threat of deadl
y beating/tight
as a knot/ as a
knot/ as a knot


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's fine poems and pix, and a note that the new Seed of the Week is A Day Late, A Dollar Short. Send your poems, photos and artwork on this (or any other!) subject to No deadline on SOWs.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Sun and Shadow

Neighbor's Garden With Cat Fence
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Jane Blue, Sacramento

A cat sits on a piece of cardboard,
collapsed box, in sun and shadow.

Sun and shadow, sun and shadow:
that is life. The cat holds tomorrow

in its paws. Loam is piled in the street
and spread across a garden in the making;

bricks line up in the process
of being laid for a walkway; a wooden box

on the driveway, and draped tarps.
From here it looks like an artist’s studio.

A baby dove scratches in the gutter.
I’m not sure it can fly. The cat

has disappeared. Has it eaten the dove?
No! It did! It flew! Up into the plane tree.

Up to the nest. So many sweet smells
on the air. So many different bird calls.

(first pub. in Turtle Island Review, 2014)


—Jane Blue

               on "Witness" by Patricia Artel

A woman comes with lilies sprouting from her breast and from her long pointing finger. She seems surprised as anyone; the lilies, her hair, bursting from her like flame. She is an unwilling messenger of peace; doesn't even know who sent her, what world she came from and what she is entering, like the doves arriving with her. Clack clack clack they call in warning, the pair rising straight up into the trees together. We, just like this delicate woman, they seem to say, never wanted the role of peacemaker. All we've ever wanted is to protect and feed our children. We are trying to make a nest. Don't you see the twigs in our beaks? That is all you should expect of us.

—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Which morning is this?
Everywhere birds are singing.
What springs from dead grass?
Five blue eggs in a dry cup.

Where do the birds nest?
Young willow leaves wish to fly.


—Taylor Graham

               for Gerard Manley Hopkins                               

Such charged percussion in your verse
mysterious as universe
a-shimmer with wings
as a Spring sky sings,
the thistle’s curse,

the toil and trod of gaitered legs.
This highway’s littered with man’s dregs.
But a higher crest
shows the long flight’s rest.
Look! a nest
with six warm eggs.


—Taylor Graham

On a fresh green morning
my Shepherd-dog picked a single egg
from the wild-turkey nest,
carried it in her jaws and placed it
gently in my hand
as if I could mother it.


—Taylor Graham

Barcelona: one night in a youth hostel, the two
of you for once not hitchhiking
but riding the train. So many stops, so slow,
he promised to step off and pick you a bouquet
from the miles of wildflowers blooming
for no one but the two of you,
             and step back aboard before the train
was a distant memory. A whim of spring-break
so many springs ago. A gesture.
            Together you picked each savor
from a paella, sucked eggs from market-stall
shells; green olives wrapped in paper.
                              Then the two of you
boarded the train again with a packet of mussels
fresh from blue water, dark and raw
down the throat.
            On to Granada, the Moorish syllables
you tried to piece together out of arching
fountains and mathematical mosaics;
                        by bus twisting up to Toledo
in the dark above its snaking river; its myth,
spirits bursting in smoke and flame,
in stars over clouds breaking apart.
                                     Just the two of you
so far from home for a week of instants threaded
on a strand of time, moving slow as a train,
whether the two of you were aboard
or not. Or so you remember. Or is it only
imagination? Or does memory lie like lovers?

 Indigo Moor, Reading at Sac Poetry Center on Feb. 8
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Taylor Graham

The forecast was unrest in the weather.
Dark fell, it sounded like the heavens wanted
to pry off the roof, peel shingles like a sloughed
skin. What separates us from the world?
Lightning. Roof twisted tight around an invisible
metal key to open our den like a tin of sardines.
Air roiled with water, wind drowning out
thunder playing fast and loose with metaphor,
transforming. By morning, bones of trees
lay on the deck littered with birdseed, its feeder
gone. Flung-over bins and woodpile.
Our dogs stood ready at the door—
to see how their world had changed, or
guarding against its rush inside?

 Chris Hall on Flute While Othello Reads
at SPC on Feb. 8
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

If I were author Harper Lee
I would have been a hell of a lot more vocal in my final years
I’d say: “I wrote To Kill A Mockingbird in the civil rights era
only to see every day in the news now that America is in a post-civil rights era
(although I’m a white woman, I can never say I've been “color-blind”
I am very aware of the civil rights struggle of Americans of color
as was antislavery, feminist preacher Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852)
For instance I not only hear of unarmed black men being shot and murdered by cops
but black men also shooting and killing each other—
black men more likely to die a violent death
as well as poor black Americans having far shorter lifespans than whites
(Is it all part of a plan of eugenic “genocide” of America's “undesirable" citizens?)   
Oh yeah, musician John Legend is also right when he said while receiving an award for his music for the movie Selma,
‘There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850…’
Legend probably now told, like once were the Dixie Chicks told ‘to shut up and sing’
Alas I leave this world with a lot of students in our schools graduating from high school sadly never reading my book
as well as many other American authors writing about our nation’s historical fights over civil and human rights.” 

—Michelle Kunert

 Russell Brown at SPC Feb. 8
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

In scrub-woods
behind the quik-stop,
hidden by
bramble, an old quilt’s neatly spread.
Someone calls this home.


Our thanks to today’s contributors to the Kitchen for a charming cioppino to start the week off right, including Michelle Kunert’s photos of the Feb. 8 Sac. Poetry Center Black History Month reading, and, as Black History Month continues, a tribute to Harper Lee, who passed away last week.

Be sure to to scroll down to the blue box on the right (under the green box) for local poetry events, including Poetry in Motion in Placerville tonight; Wagner and Grizzell at Sac. Poetry Center (also tonight); and Billy X Jennings at Sr. Readers Speak (Sat. at GOS” Art Gallery). Be sure to watch the Kitchen for pop-up readings—those that don’t get advertised until the last minute… And take a look at Medusa’s Facebook page, too, for our new photo album by Katy Brown: Springtime in the Valley.

Those who enjoy ekphrastic poetry might be interest in the daily blog, Ekphrastic California; Patricia Wellingham-Jones has current poems posted there and sent us this link: PWJ also noted that an ekphrastic exhibition will take place at the Enloe Regional Cancer Center in Chico in July at Enloe’s Healing Art Gallery: Of course, Sacramento has its own ekphrastic journal, Ekphrasis (, published by Laverne and Carol Frith. See also San Francisco’s Rattle for its monthly ekphrastic challenges at The current one ends Feb. 29.

Submit, I say—Submit! Get your competitive spirit on and check out the contest opportunities in the green box at the right (under the mail box), including the local Friends of the Roseville Library (deadline Apr. 16). Why shouldn’t you take home some of the Real Money?


 Sean King at SPC on Feb. 8
—Photo by Michelle Kunert