Friday, June 30, 2017

The Flannel of Love

—Anonymous Photos from Australia

—Michael J. Brownstein, Townsville, N. Queensland, Australia

Everything flat and soiled
the heat vomits across hill and leaf
as if it were a heavy truck
swerving into the lane behind you
without any thought of braking distance,
the composition of gasoline, mechanical reliability.

If there is a god,
this heat is the ultimate in equality—
sinner and man of good deeds,
farmer and truck driver,
carpenter and office worker—
all of us have to breath in this fire at least once a day,
feel the blood boil of flesh and neck.

No rain for months,
even the river’s saliva has dried up;
all of the shade in the world is not enough
to cool the turtles massing in the undergrowth
near hard-baked mud at the edge of the brakes.

What will it take to cool this savage heat?
How much cold water will calm the monster?
When will lungs free themselves of hot pepper air?

Another night.
Daybreak—almost blue, haze,

the heat a serial killer who cannot sleep. 

  Flying Foxes Trying to Beat the Heat in Australia

—Michael J. Brownstein

When his mind began to blister and skip into missteps during double-dutch games he never played, he found himself deep in breathpause focusing on the soft sound of one hand clapping he could not describe; the comeback line to your-mama’s-so-ugly he could not play; the broken rhinoceros fan, a Zen Koan, he would not ever comprehend. Suddenly the curb at the street was before him, an insurmountable obstacle of Olympic stature, and he forced himself to breathbrake, to take each step as a direction from his head, one foot over the edge, then the other until he was safe, two feet on the street, the curb behind him, walking away without having fallen. He wondered then if he could ever compete in the dozens or race downwind in a flying kite jacket, the lift of the currents of everything taking him to another place of safebreathing. Of course, this was nothing to be concerned about, isn’t that what everyone told him. But then he never asked.

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

I feel the solstice warmth rise to my face.
I think it is the “hectic red” that generates
the angry sting I sense tints the ridges
—but is not confined there—
along my cheekbones.
(To this day we read of disputes, the
angry verbal brawlers contending “warmly.”)

Who made “the hectic” a noun? Was it Shakespeare?

If I know my who-was-Shakespeare,
this “hectic” first issued from the Globe-swelling scene,
as armored sallies issue
from a fort unstoppably,
compounded of rich indignant aristocratic spleen,

the anger that alters language,
adjective to verb and back,
royal wrath, steaming cold as does dry ice
yet leonine, all lexicon.

The hectic
spots my cheeks and forehead with ideas:
any maculate conception will do it.

Pangs a man might believe equal to labor pains
paint my face and wring my heart with indignation.
Savage indignation on behalf of those whose names
should rise high by meritorious effort, and cannot rise, or not enough:
many composers of intricate music

—Busoni, Szymanowski, Bax, Scriabin, Roussel, Rubinstein,
Moeran, yes, even Berlioz—

and many many poets—for example
many California Romantics—Nora May French, George Sterling,
Herman Scheffauer, Ina Coolbrith, Clark Ashton Smith—
few of them completely neglected,
yet where are their lofty monuments,
standing pinnacle on pedestal,
lighthouses beaming their own lives or legends
widespread over the broader culture?
(Are they immortal in their obsolescence?)
(May I someday be numbered among them?)

I say this, and yet—when I think of
you, with your facial oval sweetening the air
nervous as sugar burning to caramel in a pan yet serene,
your voice emitting perfume as the olive gives of its oil to the expeller,
then you, letting your delicate ears absorb my words,
never knowing that these were simply that perfume of yours
transmuted to wistful echoes—when I think of you,

and how, after a time, you tired of me and left,
as if renouncing some of your own fragrance:
When I think hotly of this, the hectic most brightly rises,

marks my face with its colors uneven like shot-riddled banners,

then fades. So do all those perfumes fade yet stay, aspiring
by scent alone to leap the five thousand miles
from the you-yourself to your own soft absent skin…

Today’s LittleNip:

—Michael J. Brownstein

The flannel in life the fabric of love,
Warm as sunshade across lighted lakes,
A halo around stardust, a soul around souls.

There is pleasure in a ripened peach,
The scent of a flowering prairie,
The coolness creating angels in the snow.

The fabric of love the flannel in life,
A happiness beyond seashells,

Beyond beaches, beyond a kiss.


Many thanks to Australian Michael Brownstein and Californian Tom Goff for today’s hot poetry, buzzing around our recent Seed of the Week, Sudden Heat!


Celebrate Poetry! 

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

What Do Humans Know?

Mother Bluebird
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


8:15 in the morning, already the heat is gripping.
Last week we had rain and hail; today
the mercury will be crawling toward 100.
On my way to the well-house, I check
the nest-box that hangs from an oak. Last week
I found five blue eggs in a dry-grass cup.
This morning the feathered mother broods her
eggs. Last year her babies were fledged
by now. In this season of sudden storm and
sudden swelter, birds extend their nesting
into summer. Mother Bluebird doesn’t waver—
not even a tilt of the head as she gives
me a sideways stare, waiting for me to leave.
What do humans know, in this cockeyed world,
about hatching eggs to flight?

 Nest Box


She was trapped in that mirror for decades,
her family’s Federal mirror mounted
too high for so small a child to catch but
a glimpse of her self at the bottom
of its convex eye. It watched her, warped
her inside its gold-painted frame.
Eagle-crowned and ringed with what looked
like lug-nuts tightened so they’d never
loosen, never let her out. But how could she be
inside the mirror and, at the same time,
the apothecary jar—glazed ceramic, crazed
over years—surely she was trapped
inside that too. Jar of aurantii cortex, bitter
orange peel. Pucker that ought to be
sweet as orange juice smile
as she watched her self in the mirror.

 Wild June 1

GOLD PANNING IN JUNE                           
    Uncle Jack explains

I like a rusty pan. Rust causes friction, slows
down the gold, which is so much heavier than

water. You couldn’t carry a bucketful of gold.
What about that pot at the end of the rainbow?

Panning’s slow hard work, it takes patience
—both your hands—shake, tip the pan, back

and forth; and again; tip up, a slow swirl—
rainbow water, sun-slick silver-aqua, topaz,

olive reflecting sizzle afternoon. And look!
a tiny speck golden as a fleck of frozen sun.

 Wild June 2

    rimas dissolutas

Your dog dances. A lost hiker’s to be found.
Morning has set its thermostat on blaze,
a fanatic sun whetting its brash,
its swelter over the landscape. A shout—

could it be Help! a raven’s call? a sound
that echoes down the canyon’s deep-cut maze.
Scarred land of heat-glare on talc, umber ash.
Downslope the river. Dog’s a trusty scout.

It’s tricky footing over ruptured ground.
Your dog stops, sniffs the air—a far-off gaze.
Across the gorge, a signal-mirror flash?
Dog’s belief overmasters master’s doubt.   

 Roxy at Foster


No pier, no dock, no quay. Just the lake
lapping shore, beckoning my dog to leap in,
no matter how cold;
the joy of thin air under jovial gruff
of one black raven, feathers shining silver
in morning light. Sky vacant of clouds
yet they’d be building
by noon. Call it a ramble, trailhead
to lakeshore, picking up hikers’ litter; then
up through hemlock, steady climb
to a tiny lake, crystal blue
pursed in granite. My dog gets there
first. I’ll pull off boots and socks, wade out
to the knees in ice-blue.
Nothing like mountain snowmelt
to wash off miles of trail,
to imprint alpine on mind and lungs,
on a lens behind the eyes.

 Hangtown Creek


Distant encounter with a wild goat, years ago.
My dog and I were searching for an old lady who
wandered away from home. I got the slim-
chance assignment, Spanish Hill. But the goat—

goats are savvy, they know where they live.
This one stood, king-of-the-hydraulic-cliff
gouged out in the Gold Rush; underneath,
diggins that ran from Broadway to Texas Hill.

The goat just stood staring at me and my dog
like he knew we didn’t belong. That land
was his. Last time I climbed the Hill, it was
a homeless camp. No use-permit, no lease

or sublet—folks with no other place to go
staked their claim like miners on Hangtown
Creek in the heyday. But the Gold Rush
was dead. The City chased the homeless away.

The wild-goat spirit is still king of the Hill.

 Lake End

AVAILABLE LIGHT                               

Image in my mind—potency of pigments
in the spectrum of light, colors of the moment.
And there she stands at her easel
above the lake—this landscape I’ve loved
in many seasons, and tried
to catch half an hour ago with my iPad
before I moved on along the trail—
wild turkey with young, a deer surprised
to see me in the buckeye woods;
egret poised at reeds’ edge. And now
I’ve come back on my circuit to snap this
artist still at her easel. She’s working
on sky reflected in water, capturing
(isn’t that what we artists do?) a small piece
of the wild world, not to deflate but
to intensely focus. Impressive,
her patience. I can’t stand still that long.
My iPad itches to keep moving,
find the next snatchable moment,
a perfect, changing
composition of light and shadow on ripples
wind-stirred, the egret lifting off,
our art forever elusive as light,
the origin if not the end of longing.


Today’s LittleNip:

Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.

—Hans Christian Anderson


—Medusa, with thanks to Taylor Graham for this morning’s lovely feast in the Kitchen! Note that "Available Light" is from Wakamatsu, where Taylor Graham and Katy Brown will be holding another writing workshop on July 9. Watch Medusa’s “More Food for the Brain” in the green column on the right, or check for more info.

 Celebrate Poetry—and freedom! Tonight you have three 
choices of poetry readings: Open Poetry Night at the Gallery 
at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, 7pm; Speak Up 
presents poets and storytellers at Avid Reader, also 7pm in 
Sacramento; and Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in 
Sacramento presents featured readers and open mic, 8pm. 
Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column 
at the right) for info about these and other upcoming 
poetry events in our area—
and note that more may be added at the last minute.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

News from Mt. Olympus

Mt. Olympus, Greece
—Poems by Michael Ceraolo, South Euclid, OH
—Anonymous Photos

Two in the Pool (2016)

    Katie Ledecky
The American conglomerate
that televises the Games in the States
often promotes American athletes
at the expense of those from other countries,
even when their performance doesn't warrant it,
sometimes framing the camera angles in a way
to reinforce the misleading jingoism

on a Friday night any jingoism was justified,
and Ms. Ledecky needed no camera tricks
to show her dominance in the 800-meter freestyle
[Insert your metaphor for a graceful swimmer
                 This was an event
where she had already lowered
her own world record three times,
the TV screen superimposed the same yellow line
showing the world-record pace in the race
that they used for every swimming event,
instead of being creative and showing
a projection of Ms. Ledecky
at her current record pace,
that would have been a real race
By the last few laps she was so far ahead
no other swimmer was in the picture;
she beat her previous record by almost two seconds,
and won the race by an even larger margin


      Yusra Mardini

In the days of the ancient Games
competitors were granted safe passage
to and from the festival,
                                    even through
areas that were at war,
there was never the much-mythologized
cease-fire in honor of the Games
the modern refugee is rarely afforded
safe passage to any destination,
Yusra Mardini,
                      her sister Sarah,
twenty others were no exception
And when their boat's engine died
their destination seemed to be a watery grave
But Yusra and Sarah were both swimmers,
and they jumped into the Aegean Sea
and pulled and pushed the boat to shore,
a landing in Greece that would have done Homer proud

The story would have ended there,
in unjustified obscurity,
                                  but for the fact
that Yusra was a world-class swimmer
She however had run afoul of
Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter:
"Any competitor in the Olympic Games
must be a national of the country
of the NOC [National Olympic Committee]
which is entering such competitor"

But even the IOC wasn't blind
to events happening in the world,
and they created a refugee team
of ten, in several different sports,
that would compete under the Olympic flag
Yusra won a heat in one of her events,
but didn't qualify for the final in either,
and so didn't medal
she'll be remembered long after
the medalists have been forgotten


Truth and Reconciliation (2016)

No one can ever be fully compensated
for having been denied the opportunity
to showcase their talents at the highest level
to which those talents could and should have taken them
there must have been some amount of satisfaction
for Odessa Swarts, denied opportunity
because of her country's laws of apartheid,
to watch her son Wayde Van Niekirk compete
at the highest level possible in his sport

And Wayde did more than merely compete:
in the finals of the four-hundred-meter race,
even though he was in the outside-most land
and the TV commentators made sure to say
that no one had ever won a major race from there,
he won the race in a time that broke
the seventeen-year-old world record

                                                      Wayde's coach
was a seventy-four-year-old great-grandmother
named Anna Botha, nicknamed Tannie Ans
(Tannie meaning Auntie in Afrikaans),
but their celebration was delayed some minutes
because security couldn't conceive of her
as a coach of a world-class athlete
But the situation was soon straightened out,
and coach and athlete hugged under the world's gaze,
no words necessary to express everything they were feeling


Cool Running (2008, 2012, 2016)

At these three Games
a Jamaican named Usain Bolt
established himself as the world's fastest man

[Insert your bad pun on his name
has a good enough sense of humor
he'd probably laugh at it]

of the hundred-meter, two-hundred-meter,
and four-by-hundred-meter relay races
(no one had ever swept all three races
at even two different Olympics before)
though Bolt holds all three world records
as of this writing, his dominance
is best expressed not by the numbers
(unlikely as it seems to us in 2016,
his records will one day be broken),
with the pictures of him, even in sprints
taking only ten or twenty seconds,
far enough ahead to safely glance back
at the other competitors in the race


Today’s LittleNip:

Finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver. Finishing Second in politics gets you oblivion.

—Richard M. Nixon


Our thanks to Michael Ceraolo from Ohio for today’s poems about modern Olympians! Michael writes: "Every four years when the Summer Olympics come around I am inspired to write more in my series of Modern Olympian Odes (Non-Commissioned, and Some Distinctly Non-Laudatory)." For a brief brief about Mt. Olympus, ancient Greek-wise, go to


 Celebrate Poetry!

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Blue Ghosts

And My White Gardenia
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


An orange moon lists in the left corner
of the sky. Off to the right an ecstatic
blue ghost is dancing to the moon.

Waves of sound become visible,
like a dark rainbow. Dreams are not
of the mind, nor yet of the soul—
the dream in-between, becoming.

The blue ghost is made of air
and light from the moon.
Such is the power of moonlight.



out in the dusty day where old dog sleeps
insects die against sunlight
I lie under lethargy like a rag
the mailbox holds up a metal red flag and
inside     in the hot darkness
the letter regrets itself

nothing of summer is ready for
such distortion     that drone in the air
takes so long to pass     makes a
long dagger of blindness of its metal wing
turns to dark speck in wavery distance
but it takes all day

(first pub. in Poet News, 1990)

 Mirage of Dark

After Sunset at Etretat, 1987 by George Inness

Could it be fire
instead of sunset . . . ?

This summer
it’s hard to tell from

that fill with smoke and

apprehensively, we

and sniff the air.



What do I see of the red-leafed tree
but curling leaves as it grieves and grieves
in the summer sun—turning every leaf
to a tiny fist that cannot resist—

so they hang there dead,
red and red and red,
while the base of the tree

struggles on 
with a tiny clutch
of soft red leaves
I can barely see.

 But For the Fence


and the plum tree
weights its heavy branches down.
the plums too tight together,

and too high. Each year
another branch breaks
and the plums fall to the ground

Much is remembered and expected
of the taste of plums:
one sweet bite,

before the sour taste within.
These are not plums for the finicky;
these plums are meant for jam,

or wine
and have no further use
except for the birds. 



It was a sepia day.  We strolled downtown, toward a late
café that waited for us where we would claim the small
round window-table and be seen by our own reflections.
Moody again, not quite in love, we would waste another
hour touching hands by accident and offering a wounded
smile.  Nothing else was real.  We saw to that.  The wait-
ress would come and go as frequent shadow. 

The soft light did not change until we noticed dark around
the edges, and the distraction of the bell on the door as
someone came or left, and the way the day grew sudden
once again;  and it was late;  and we were outside, walking
down a boulevard of closing stores.  And still we did not
speak, and were amused to see ourselves break up in all
those windows.


Skeletal Train,

and diagonal
slips through the hot city
stops at a railroad crossing
where cars
and wait
for their turn
to cross
first a few
then many
looking through
the steel bones of the
skeletal train that  doesn’t
hold anything and is in no hurry

 Red Shadows

          Jodi Cobb ~ Geishas ~ 1995
          from Tale of Geinji by Murasaki Shikibu

                    “When the colors of a robe do not
                      match the seasons, the flowers of
                      Spring and the autumn tints, then
                      the whole effort is futile as the dew.”

Red is the most disturbing color of the day,
the day intense with summer.  Red sways
and sways in unison with the heat-shimmer

of a long glass window, where seven dancers,
in geisha-red, stare down a long enticing
hallway toward a glass audition door.

Or, they are seven sisters—born
at the same moment—out of your
imagination. You cannot change this. 

Free this thought : red changes shape,
runs thick, like blood, runs thin
like water, is powerful in any light.

Other motion echoes this—blurs
and runs together in fascinations of red :
red in shadow, red in puddle,

red turned into a bleeding sunset.
Red in windows that reproduce
in windows, shifting and breaking

everything that hurries together,
lights, and sounds, old thermometers,
eyes that smoulder. Red is in rhythm with

the mind’s distortion. It is a pulse; an embolic
flow; a flash against silence; an affirmation;
a dark glow when you close your eyes.

It is the throbbing aftermath of memory.

 In the Arms Of

After “Memory”, 1937 by Agnes Pelton

Let’s take this apart, discover it,
wonder is for wonder :

A pure white vase over-
spills with rose petals, floating off.

The vase gleams from within
with contained light.

A new-born sea erupts from its base,
teeming with new realities.

The white vase becomes white heat
no longer able to contain form.

Was it always meant to spew roses?
Create stars? Why is it familiar?

Memory: white flare, white burst
of energy taking shape,
fragile with illusion . . .

Memory: Needing to find you
in the swarm of thought, even now
able to define me.

Memory: Contrived image now,
talking on its own memory. . .
memories . . . on and on . . . beyond mine. . .

 No Room for Blue


She is singing the high blues
in a low blue voice with a cat curled up on her lap.

The summer fan blows hot breezes through
the window. The room drips warm tones of light.

She is pleasantly real to herself—
in good voice—loving the blue words in her song.

The cat purrs under her hand
and flicks its tail. She leans her head back to let

the oscillating fan stream the air through her hair.
She closes her eyes and lets

the weight of herself resist the weight of the room.
She has a mood to feel and it is heavy and dense.

And the purring cat does not care for music—
or it does—and she, for one, is a damn good singer.


Today’s LittleNip(s):

        “Long walk home”

the dusk tide-line,
the day going under—
a few gulls—the sea calm, taking
my time.

* * *


Tag-end of summer, with its wilt and drag.
Then rain.  Soft.  Brief.  With its relief to see
the sky fill with clouds, a few inland gulls—
sense the renewal of energy—sweet.
Then back to summer, with its wilt and drag.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and photos as she leads us through these deadly days of heat—as she says, summer’s “wilt and drag”—and that was last week’s Seed of the Week: Sudden Heat. Our new Seed of the Week is Freedom. Pull up those metaphors: not just political, but personal freedom, both physical and mental. First driver's license? Graduation? Divorce? Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from.

And be sure to check out last Sunday’s Medusa for Tom Goff’s fine poem about Joyce.


 The Eagle says, Celebrate poetry, and get those poems in NOW! 

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Beatin' the Heat

—Anonymous Photo

—veRONIca Jackson, Sacramento, CA

The club house
is empty, save one.
Skip-Bo cards sit idle
in the cool, air conditioned room.

The walk, considered short
in winter, spring or fall,
is dehydrating in the breathless
triple-digit heat this June—
with no relief in view.

No one is coming, I tell myself,
I should go home;
however, I think I’ll stay
awhile in the coolness
of the club house.

At last, faithful Katie
enters through the kitchen.
We play a game—I win.
Then joined by a third,
we play a second game—I win.

I return home with a thirsty throat
and shiny skin to find
the greatest win is in
not giving in to Ole Mr. Sun

 —Anonymous Photo

—Sue Crisp, Shingle Springs, CA

A zure skies loom bright, above the warm sandy
B each.  Toes wiggle down into the gritty grains
C olliding with seashells and other hosts from the sea.
D igging a little deeper, there is the cool wetness of beach
E arth, renewed with each motion of the surf.  It’s
F ragrant scent fills the senses.
G ulls wheel overhead.  Those ashore, raucous with clacking bills,
H ungry for tidbits often thrown by beach goers.  They are
I nstantly aware of even the slightest fallen crumbs.
J ackals of seashore, they feast on handouts and carrion.
K ildeer, on stilted legs, skitter to and fro with the surge of the surf,
L ooking for minute crustaceans washed ashore.
M ussels cling to outcroppings of weatherbeaten rocks, showing at
N eap tide, their shells glistening in the sunlight,
O nly to disappear with the change of tide.
P  elicans, keen of eye, fly low over the waters surface
Q uick to dive at the first sighting of prey.
R afts of coots float serenely in the midst of sea life activity.
S un rays sparkle atop tiny surface ripples, while
T erns, in noisy colonies, wheel above their ground nests.
U rchins, in colors of purple, reside in small tide pools with a
V ariety of other colorful sea life,
W aiting for the turn of the tide to return them to the sea.  While there are no
X erox copies in the sea and seashore driven life, they all
Y ield to the way nature has designed them, in a lifelong effort to reach their
Z enith.

 —Photo by Sue Crisp

—Sue Crisp

Weak light manages to
filter through grime streaked pane remains.
Lacy filagree hangs loosely from posts.
Creaking porch boards speak loudly of old ghosts.
Missing, is the rattling of chains,
the smell of witches brew.

Tread lightly in the wake of former hosts
and the history it sustains.
Memories of a few
shares the respect it’s due.
Listen to the echoed refrains
sighing through the rooms of the past it boasts.

 —Anonymous Photo

—Sue Crisp

I was ill a lot as little girl, and
I remember when my momma would
let me sleep in her bed until I felt better.

I had a very bad temper as a little girl, and
I remember when my momma would
take me aside and tell me my actions were unfair to my sister.

 I grew into a very shy teenage girl and
I remember when my momma would
reassure me I would out grow it, and to give it time.

At sixteen, I was allowed to marry, and
I remember when my momma would
remind me this was not a step taken lightly.

My early years of marriage were not always smooth, and
I remember when my momma would
tell me to pick my battles and be fair, not spiteful.

My chosen hobbies for relaxation were not always usual, and
I remember when my momma would
say, “give it your all, and make your hobbies a proud part of you.”

Too soon, our years of mother and daughter were drawing to a close, and
I remember when my momma would
always let me know what a joy I have been as a daughter.

The time was nearing when she would leave her earthly home, and
I remember when my momma would
hold my hand, smile, and say, “It’s going to be ok.” Yes, I
remember when.

 Baker Beach, San Francisco, CA
—Anonymous Photo

I wanna go to San Francisco
    the summer weather is much cooler there
    If you're going to San Francisco let me know
    I'd like to get out of triple digit temperatures in Sacramento for awhile
    I want to hang out by the ocean bay in San Francisco
    even if I might have to wear a sweater 
    In the streets of San Francisco
    there isn’t heat frying your brain and sweating out your pores
    People there enjoy summer afternoons outdoors—
    on a sunny day they can go picnic, play, and dance in a park
    Sacramento’s people get no relief from possible seething heat until it’s dark
    For those in San Francisco
    Will you please sponsor Sacramentans to go to your city?

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

 —Anonymous Photo

T.S Eliot wrote “The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
   It isn’t one of your holiday games…"
   Considering this, the ASPCA apparently held a “cat naming” contest:
  “Help Us Find the Best Kitten Name in the Whole World,” they announced
   (among Eliot’s suggested names were Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter)
   Not one of the four names, narrowed down from 1,370 submissions, were of Eliot's invention either
   ASPCA names to vote on were Covfefe, Gizmo, Henry, and Whiskers
   The first one, “Covfefe” has an entry in the online Urban Dictionary:
   “the once secret name of an ancient tentacle monster that white supremacists fornicate with”
   Why in the world would something that President Trump tweeted about be considered for any beloved pet's name?
    Eliot said a cat’s name must be dignified and give the cat a sense of pride
    So how also does referring to your cat after a creature in the movie Gremlins (“Gizmo”) do that?
   “Henry” is a human name, among those that belonged to kings
    (including one who beheaded his wives)
    “Whiskers” is undoubtably a common name for cats
    But T.S Eliot would argue it lacks imagination and doesn’t invoke intellectual contemplation
    Whiskers is surely a name that does not create conversation with the cat’s guardian, so  why such a name
   —and the cat him or herself may not want it—
   When author and animal rights activist Cleveland Amory named his cat Polar Bear
    He claimed he asked the white cat that he rescued one Christmas what to be called in human language
    T.S Eliot and Amory would have agreed a cat’s name is one that he or she agrees to give an answer to
    or come to when called
    and the ASPCA should follow suit and even allow a cat’s name to be possibly changed from the one they give it…

—Michelle Kunert

 —Anonymous Photo

A Sacramento Bee’s "Pet Connection" said "Three useful behaviors to teach your any-age cat”
     It claimed you can teach cats commands as “Sit”, “Come”, and “Touch a target”
     Dumb a**es at the Bee, one doesn’t “train” a cat, a cat trains his or her human guardian!
     No, a cat is not a dog who lives to please
     A human is to be the willing “servant” to the cat he or she wishes to cohabit with
     Oh yes, cats will share affection with humans—but on their own terms—
     whatever a human does, it has to be with the cat’s approval first
     For instance, one cannot just simply grab a cat to hug and expect the cat to like that
     The best thing one can hope for in a cat is he or she just doesn’t suddenly bite or scratch
     and that he or she will always use the given litterbox when going indoors
     as well as use a scratch post instead of clawing the furniture
     Every cat is different, depending on their personality
     Many learn their own “tricks” rather than be trained to do stunts to “amuse"
     My family for instance had cats who’ve turned on faucets to drink from
     Cats merely learn to do things that they see they are going to benefit from

—Michelle Kunert

—Anonymous Photo

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

Unwelcoming neighbors say we are a pox
And try to evict us from our only box
This is our hole and we are the fox
No address, no doors, or windows, or locks

The cellar is a darkened storm drain
Sticky bottles of wine cry out in vain
Find me fast before the big rain
A hard metal cover shields some of the pain

The attic, of course, tends to be very small
Its once shiny treasures now quite beyond recall
Piles of dust and countless creatures that crawl
The perfect trap for every lost ball

No central air, just sudden heat
From helicopter search lights high above the street
Plenty of warnings, but nothing to eat
We with arthritis, they, much too fleet

 —Anonymous Photo


I couldn’t do everything I tried to do,
But at least I had finally learned how to count
Still I was not yet old enough to gamble
Or even to go to school. 

Of course at that age
Everything I said or did
Was a gamble

One day Dad told me, the second child of 2,
That Mom had suffered a miscarriage.
Slowly and carefully, Dad explained that
Mom would be very upset

So I told Dad to just tell Mom the same calming words
That he had told me when I was very upset,
“2 out of 3 is OK.”

 —Anonymous Photo

Today’s LittleNip:


Our thanks to today’s contributors as their varied voices begin our week! This weekend I heard from Donal Mahoney, who has been regularly posted in the Kitchen; he just got out of the hospital after 54 days due to a torn esophagus! Get well soon, Donal!

Tonight you have two choices of reading venues in Placerville: Poetry on Main Street begins at 5pm, and Poetry in Motion begins at 6pm. Then at 7:30pm in Sacramento, Sac. Poetry Center presents Tamer Mostafa and Rhony Bhopla plus open mic, 7:30pm (

Thursday is Open Poetry Night at the Gallery (Crocker Art Museum) in Sacramento, with an all-open mic at 7pm to celebrate their new showing: “Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose”. (Sign-ups at 6pm.) Info/registration at Also Thursday, Speak Up presents “Extreme”, with storytellers and poets at Avid Reader in Sac., 7pm. And Thursday is also, of course, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento, with featured readers and open mic, 8pm.

By the way, you can read more about the Hi-Fructose exhibit at the Crocker at Check it out!

Beat the Heat with the word game posted at the top of the green column at the right.

And Editor Cynthia Linville writes that the Summer 2017 issue of
convergence is online at Lots of Snakepals in there this issue, I see!


 Celebrate poetry!

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Leap, Spectral Rose

Joyce dancing the Odamesque w/Danyen Powell 
on her 80th birthday, Aug. 7, 2004
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

I sing of one good poet whose words dance
not quite the bergamasque: the Odamasque
alone will serve to name the magic prance
which no urbane Venetian nor suave Basque
can claim. One odalisque-nude yearning glance
from one soft half-concealed face—no flask
of liquor nor gunpowder ignites the dance
as do the almost unseen eyelights ask

that someone match her ardent rondo swerves,
first footfalls out then footfalls back again,
while bows and bends blend hints with faint fan-flirts:
sly woman equals amorous roguish man
in dulcet indirection. Night sky-curves
bring tristes tropiques with notes of wistful hurt.

Not Romanesque, this round dance, nor Burlesque,
this Rite of Spring puts metronomes to riotous task.

Leap, Spectral Rose, and leave the damask rose
a frail leaf-scaffold yellowed, all wormholes,
beside your arabesques a pale grotesque…

All revelers, glide like silk, take nips from flasks:
don dominos, visors: dance the Odamasque… !  

                        —for Joyce Odam, poet nonpareil
            (Writ, I hope, in evocation of her style when 

             the dance is upon her.)



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dimensions of the Evening

—Poems by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA
—Visuals Provided by D.R. Wagner


Tonight the paper lanterns have been lit,
Given a voice of light to the riverbank.
They utter wave forms and harmonize
With the lapping upon the shore.

There are spirits in the evening.
They rove upon the land,
Sit on hillsides watching
The paper lanterns flicker.
The close glow of their quiet flame
Agrees with the loneliness and the sorrow of age,
Unravels where the mind once played
And gives gifts of muted color
To those holding hands and gazing
At the display before them.

Song releases its legions of dancers.
They whirl beneath the paper lanterns.
They trail memory out behind them
Like toys forgotten in some child’s room
Seen through a slightly open door.

The owl is silent as it passes
The paper lanterns.  Nothing like this
Will ever happen again.  There is no
Way to know the dimensions of the evening.

 A Carol for Brown Owl
—Illustration by Margaret W. Tarrant


We had just passed the door
When someone asked for time.

Was it something you heard
Or something that will keep you away?

She said:  “You’ve seen birds, haven’t you?
Can you tell me what kind?”

It must have been an owl.  It was night.
“What flies at night?”   “That was time.”

A thousand crows lifted from the trees
Just beyond the meadows.  We thought
They were the leaves of the tree.

A murder of crows all but blocking
Out whatever moon we had.

 Girl With Bird
—Illustration by Margaret W. Tarrant


Years have gone by.  They refuse to relent,
And form dense piles, like paper
Written on and confined to a single room.

There is no sense in thinking about it.
Almost anything one can create will
Be able to assume any shape, use
Any language, make signs with its
Hands, if it has hands, or become
Any person at all, even one that
Is loved very much but has remained
Trapped in an object for a long time.

A sister was a sofa for years, then a teapot.
The dogs became undone and settled
Into becoming two chairs and a kitchen
Table that was left over from
A flock of birds she had once seen
But could no longer recall where.

There was still the shore, but now
It was night and the waves collapsed
In a stutter a friend had suffered
With long ago, in the fourth grade.

Anything but this place.  Help get
These things out of line and into
Something that could fill one
With a deep sleep.

Waking high above the sea in a villa,
Full of sun, near Naples, on Capri.
Hearing someone humming a song, sliding
Plates over each other, the smell of coffee,
Silverware tinkling as if it could help.

Perhaps it was a prayer.  It could have
Been a prayer rising up through
The room and then the body.

Someone was there holding her hand.
It might be her sister or it might
Be someone never before seen.
“Don’t open your eyes,” says a voice.
“Just go back to when we found
All those lovely shells.”

That could have been anywhere.

 Centaur-like Wraith


There is a fever in my hands.
It is higher than that red mountain.
It keeps me from moving my feet.

I can hear that singing
I told you about when I was young.
Do you remember the words?

I look to the western horizon.
It makes my face hurt to remember.
These are tears, aren’t they?

I’m going to close my eyes.
Pretend that I am dreaming.
Perhaps I will wake as a child again.

 Girl With Chicken Skirt


There were little fires in all the books.
I was trying to explain something
About the night, but I was choking.

The room began to fill with with pain.
I was dreaming like I was made of fire.
“No, she said.  You’re made of books.

Try something like a song.  You may have
More luck.”



It was her April.
Full of swallows
In the evening.

Hanging above the river
A blue-gold serpent
Uncoils in her mouth.

Two hours before sunrise
The temperature drops nearly
30 degrees.
The climate of her soul.

She wishes us a fine sleep.
No dreams at all.  Ever.
She kisses us on the cheek.

 Peas in a Pod


We never left the mountain.
The light across our bare feet.
We must have been lost all
Our lives.  Someone was calling.

It seems they have made a night
Only for us.  A drift of precious
Animals gazing upon a marvelous
Throne.  There were children
Weeping in a pale blue room.

Why is it things are able to be
Exactly like this?
I’ve seen a hand
Open and pearls as beautiful
As the world pour out across

The shore.  Here even is the moon
I told you about when we left
The meadow this morning.
Everything dressed in birdsong.

 Light Bulb Swing


What was it moving behind the trees?
It made a mist as it moved.
Our skin became damp of a sudden.

Mother brought some blankets
To the yard, spread them for us.
Crows came down and landed
Next to us.

“What makes the stars, my children?”
“We do not know, Mother,” we answered.
“Music, she said.  Pure music.
Sing for me, my children.”

We sang.  The sky filled with stars.


Today’s LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner

She spent time at the window
Using its soft gold coin to tease
A cat waiting patiently for a train.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poems and pix!

 Cooling Off at a Train Station in India
—Anonymous Photo
Celebrate Poetry!
Don’t let the heat get you down… 
Head over to Sac. Poetry Center this morning, 10am, for 
the Writers on the Air live podcast with Katya Mills
Then this afternoon at 2pm, Poetic License will meet at 
the Placerville Sr. Center up in Placerville.
Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column 
at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry 
events in our area—and note that more may be 
added at the last minute.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.