Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Gift of Trancing

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


I have plans for you and have
The names of ships you may board
That will take you to islands, to lands
Where strange things, there the Bong tree
Grows or fairies might gather
By fires at night and warm the
Long ropes of their noses, they do,
And warm the long ropes of their noses.

I will teach you to spell, to light
Saint Elmo’s fire on the top of the mast
And loose it from your mouth
To frighten the birds of the far lands
Who will cluster in toward you
To hear your stories.  If you
Come to the places I’d lead you,
If you’ll sail on the ships of the night.

Their voices will rise and mix
With the chorus that rides
From the waves to the sky.  There are
Legions that dwell in the depths
Of my body and serve the
Legends of men.  Yes, they do,
They enhance all the legends of men.

And yes, I will go, for my breath
Has the salt as the eye of the dawn
Is blood red and I’ll notch
My footsteps to the heave of the decks
And I’ll sail on forever and then some.

I’ll sail us on through the doors of the night,
You shall see me as a ghost on fogged mornings.
I’ll be sailing us on through the doors of the night.
Let this dream of the sea be your warning. 


They were lighting small lanterns
All the way across the headlands.
Ships were coming.  They
Had been seen from the pilot hill.

Bright flares on the tops
Of their masts.  The lights
They carried were of many colors and
Occasionally shot bursts
Of colored flame into
The high atmosphere,
Illuminating the bottom
Of the clouds.

The coming of these ships
Had been foretold but
They were not expected
To arrive in the dead of winter.

The children had begun
Behaving strangely about
A month ago and the Teal
Gulls were seen on the
Edges of the Father glade.

At night the booming
Of the fisher bells
Could be heard at
Curious hours of the night.

There was a hesitant
Music coming from the
Taverns that was neither
Joyful nor sad.  It held a
A great sense of longing in its notes.
We were unable to determine
If there were words to the songs.
The crowds grew well into the night.

The ships arrived much past midnight.
Were these sailors Gods,
Then, plucked from the night
And to be proclaimed
Throughout the land?

Their garments were magnificent.
Some of us could see
Them, some could not.
Quickly there were stories of them;
Before the morning came
People were waiting upon
Them for answers.
The ships glittered with lights.

In the morning they were but
Hulls abandoned and gray.
Peopled by shades the same gray
As the forged bullets with which
The world infects itself.

There was no conversation.
There were no oracles.
Glimmers ran softly up the sails
Like fairy lightning and
Nothing was forthcoming.

All day they sat in the harbor,
A kind of fungus on the water.
By nighttime, fires were
Started on their decks.
They burned with sickly
Colors and drove flights
Of dark birds around
And around their sails
Even as they burned.

On the following morning,
Ashes on the water.
The children packing
Their lunches and
Heading off for school
Whistling tunes and
Singing songs we
Had never heard before.

By the end of the week
We were once more
Upon the beautiful
Hills gazing out to sea,
Hoping to spot a sail.



There is certain majesty
That lives still in the
Highest places where
There remain the palaces
And magic lands of story
Books.  Birds of light,
Even golden light and
Clouds of many colors
Piled up against each other.
The whole place seems a
Stage for fairy tales
And diadems.  Oh single
Rose, oh song of the day
Is true and of fair
Maidens and spells and
The best of manners
These things grew.
We were sitting on the edge
Of the meadow just
Where it begins to lift
Toward the high lakes and
The stoney outcroppings and
Small woods and copses.

A certain crystalline glaze of colors
Was left wandering across the
Best of evening.  I was
Going to chase it but found myself
Full of a sadness
That may have been of the season
But probably had thicker roots.
Something prompted by the color
Of the day?  What the breeze had said?

(A flush of quail showing pure gold
And amethyst with silver beaks, ruby eyes.)

The sky a million doors
Opening and closing constantly.
All is revealed.  All is concealed.
Even the continents moved
Beneath our feet.

O trees, oh grace of
The dream revealed.

We walk among you as you
Do among us.  The brink
Shines upon us every minute.
The light moving.  Oh, its
Jagged lines across the
Edge of the horizon,
Just above the ground.

These trees move.  They are
Not stone.  I have seen
Them migrate through
The tongues of sailor songs
Touching the edges of the clouds
At night.

And when they thought,
They thought in trance
And could not be harmed,
For the grace of protection
Kept them safe from all danger.
In this state they could
Travel and rule without
Being seen to have moved.
Such was the gift of trancing.

It was rain, or it was fog.
It was lifting from the streets.
It was lifting from the fields.
I could stand here all night
And talk to you about
Which roads came down
From the mountains,
Which ones led to the cities
Or the sea, where we were
Required to be blind and
At what moment we must
Open both our eyes to sea.
And you shall be golden in the morning.

And the light will pour down on you.
And there will be millions
Of drops of water in the air.
And they may or may not
Have come from tears.
Or they may or may not
Just have blown here
By some wind.

Just as we may or may
Not have been where we
Woke this morning and
Saw the fog or the rain
Or the tears of an entire
Nation as we sat without moving. 

 Sawdust in Russell's Workshop in Locke


A primitive land that leaves
Nothing much behind.  It owns
The Winter sky and displays it
In the dance a willow tree
Chooses to describe a wind.

I would try flight but who would
Understand?  Even the birds do not
Know why and it is not everything
To them.  Huddled close to a tree
Trunk, knowing when the wind departs
It will once again be time to find
Seeds just beneath the snow.

They have black heads and blacker eyes
And carry maps made of their bones
That tell them where to go.

So I, coming here late and without guile,
Still detect a primitive ecstasy in
The noises of the crows, the impatience
Of the weather, the scolding I endure
From all imagination for calling this reality. 


There is the window
That sees the whirlwind.
But we will not look
From this window.  You
Will only see the marching
Men in endless procession
Down from the mountain,
Through the villages and towns,
Across the river’s mighty flow
Then tumble from the high cliff edge.

Water, white as snow and green
As rocks beneath the rapids are green.

Do not guard yourself against
This vision.  It will do no good.
I shall hold your hand in mine,
Lead you down the stairs away
From this great window and we
Shall walk through the parkland,
Away from the horror that boils
Above our heads, for here we will
See the weather, feel the rain,
The enchantment of the snow,
The green of plants that grow.


Today's LittleNip(s):
—D.R. Wagner


Tell us there will be
A wonderful bird.

Oh please tell us
This is so.

* * *


‘We have something special
For you today, my dear.’

She recalls him saying that
Just before the blade fell…

* * *


A clean mistake.
Almost perfect.


Many thanks to D.R. Wagner, who is madly editing another of his books for publication, but took time out to send us these poems and pix. Some of them are new, and some were previously posted on Medusa’s Kitchen.

Don’t forget: beginning at noon today at Sac. Poetry Center, the fifth annual
Sacramento Voices book launch will take place, along with the celebration of the annual 100 Thousand Poets for Change. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


 (Anonymous Illustration)
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
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Friday, September 29, 2017

Grinning Like Fools

—Poems by David Wright, Sacramento, CA
—Anonymous Photos


I've always had to question everything.
(But still, there is free-will, and a tree is a tree.)
As a kid, a little shit I suppose, I'd say
"You can't prove it" to anyone about anything.
In the ring I always relied on my straight-right.
In arguments it was
"You can't prove it."
Time changes things, and with a
Spinal disc that likes to pinch a nerve
On my right side
I can no longer rely much on any straight-right.
(But a fighter will find a way)
"You can't prove it" though, endures.

But none of this is poetry, you say,
Pointing to the above stanza.
Where's appeal to senses?
Too much "telling" not "showing."
No meter, no required elements.
And what tie binds this stanza to that one?
Whitman proclaimed that poetry defies definition.
And when his little girl asked Bukowski, "What is poetry?"
He answered,
"Nobody knows."


When Nietzsche learned that young men were using his
Zarathustra as a substitute Bible, a curious case of
Sublimation, he offhandedly dismissed them.
Playing Adam, he named them, "Zarathustra's Apes".
Hell, Nietzsche never wanted
Even the Zarathustra of his book says that
Followers would be those who don't comprehend him.

How merciful for Nietzsche,
Eternal Recurrence has him
Always dying again in 1900.

If he had lived long enough to witness the
Death of Mind and Spirit, how could he withstand it?
The death of God,
An immense event,
Destroyer of galaxies and moral order was his
Great challenge.
He met them by exalting Mind and Spirit.
Just as man had almost washed away the blood of
God's murder, he commits new unspeakable crimes.
And don't you feel the drag of guilt everywhere?
I hear it in the songs of birds in my suburban backyard.

And everywhere I go, the stench of
Rotting Mind and Spirit.
To sing us on our way they gave us
TV commercial jingles.
Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean....

Could a better character be found than
Sheldon Cooper ("The Big Bang Theory")
Of an empty shell, in terms of "Spirit"
In Nietzsche's sense?
And do you know that Eric Kaplan, a
Producer on the show, is a so-called
Nietzsche scholar?
After reading Nietzsche he props up
Sheldon Cooper as an example of intelligence?
What will Mr. Kaplan propose next, that
Laurence Welk played Nietzsche's kind of music?

We Americans have forgotten what intelligence is.
And Spirit?  In a literary romantic sense?
We never got near the summit.

We tried for awhile, but then traded away what little
Wisdom we gained for
Household appliances, family sedans,
Drive-up churches,
High-gloss porn and
Vast amounts of data at our fingertips and we
Have no idea what to do with it.

No, if Friedrich Nietzsche could see us now, he
Could only hope for
Zarathustra's Apes.
At least they watched their backs on the tightropes.
At least they'd see the pathetic and ineffectual
Sheldon Cooper for what he is. 


We were out at Folsom Lake.
The water was a bit too cold,
But the wine helped with that.
And I had scored a second bottle of codeine
For having my wisdom teeth pulled.
Doctors of all kinds are easy to con but
I didn't know that then, so I felt real slick.
This was back when I hung with
Crazy Deb, a diagnosed schizophrenic and
Daughter of an M.D.
She always carried an array of meds,
Some prescribed to her and some she'd swipe from her father.
And I was stupid enough, or "I don't care" enough, to
Pop her pills.
Took an ambulance ride once doing that.
But that day at the lake, drinking down my codeine and
Some of her pills with White Port and Sunnybrook, I
Found such a state of peace!
Just no pain at all, no cares, the two of us
Sitting in a foot of water
Grinning like fools.

(After reading "Two Tramps In Mud Time")

So here he is, the renowned poet, and to the
Two lumberjacks watching him split wood,
He don't look like shit to them.
Spare me, I know Frost denies it's him in his poems.
But trust me just this once.
That's him.
A lost colt told me, and
A colt lost in the snow searching for his mother
Says the truth if he says anything.
Pretense scared out of him.

With his few lines about those lumberjacks
Judging others by what they do best,
Frost presents a common human failing.
The cure is implied; don't be like them.
Frost, master of understatement, would never say this out loud.
So I crudely will.

My grandfather was a lumberjack.
Great at ax throwing and arm wrestling and
Any man who wasn't was no man at all to him.

Aren't we all just like these lumberjacks?
And isn't it the cause of about half the misery in our worlds?


Today’s LittleNip:

—David Wright

His attacker slit his throat and
He laid there
Eyes wide-open,
Fearful eyes looking right into mine.
He was bleeding, but it wasn't arterial, and I could honestly tell him  
"You're going to be fine."
This is a universal instinct,
It's what everyone says.
Even when we think
No way he'll make it, we say
"You're going to be fine."
Even Kant, with his
Strict imperative,
Would have to approve.


—Medusa, with thanks to David Wright for this morning’s hearty poetry brunch! 

Celebrate Poetry—and suffer fools gently, if not gladly, 
grinning or not…! And don’t forget that tonight the 
Speak Up Storytellers and Poets will present 
Both Sides Now at The Avid Reader on Broadway in 
Sacramento, 7pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under 
the green column at the right) for info about this 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.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

In Deep of Woods

Forest Chords
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Those familiar woods—pine snag rising
above manzanita thicket, the great black oak
lifting leafed-again boughs to bless
acorn woodpeckers working its wounds.
A fallen cedar, your chainsaw at work, making
rounds for cord-wood. Bark flaking off
like a worn-out suit, tree’s weathered skin pale
as longbone of a deer. How the dead tree
hummed the length of its life as chainsaw bit in.
Farther south, the bear-clover clearing
with its sacred stone. Granite rooted at a vista
overlooking canyon, its bedrock mortars—
Indian grinding rocks. In memory,
climb the stone and listen for something beyond
the view of sunset. Was this a talking-stone,
catching messages tapped on boulders
miles away? What chords the trees and rocks
into voice as it roots them in ridge?
What roots us there, still, as long as we
trust in woods to keep us?



I’m following my search dog through forest
when a tiny hovercraft dives straight at me—
iridescent and armed with the tiniest sword.

Hummingbird the Aztec warrior, braver
than his weight in human courage, sword-
bill pointed at my heart. He stops

midair, wings at max-rev; considers orange
radio harness on my chest. Warrior-wings
never pause their too-fast-to-focus action.

Imagine! deep in this dusty droughty
forest, a shimmer bird collecting nectar.
Not here. He understands I am no flower;

simply a human walking in the woods,
wearing orange cordura. Hummer reverses
with gear-shift of wings, zooms away.

 Lighting the Road


Dim light-flash aslant the bedroom window.
Couldn’t be traffic on our little country two-lane;
too constant, not moving. Not wildfire,
though it’s a long droughty summer. Rhythmic
pulse of blue and red standing. Nothing like it,
to jumpstart imagination. Another accident?
No sirens, no hurry, no sound.
Down our steep drive in the dark, I stopped.
Three tall figures with mag-lights—
slowly illuminating chipseal. Looking for
evidence? As if painting the road with light,
and I was the time-lapse lens. What
might I intuit? Twenty minutes passed. 
I was too deep at edge of woods. They moved
on, less acuteness to their search, getting
no more information. They left, a mystery.
Did anyone find anything in the dark?

 Road From Town


The phone rang, another creature missing.
Our target this time, an Afghan tortoise,
local schoolboy’s pet. We loaded our search
dog, drove across the North Fork;
found the address under a canopy of oaks
shedding their leaves. A languid fall afternoon,
breeze calm, but the nights turned chilly;
season turning toward woodstove
and candlelight. At the garden scrap-heap
we scented our dog. She nosed a carrot,
a squash curled like a green donut,
then headed for a tool-shed built staunch
against collapse. Sniffer-dog gravitation—
she began to grovel under the shed’s far corner.
She wouldn’t leave the spot. We guessed
the Afghan tortoise was in Sierra hibernation.

 Upper Pond


Come along down the woods trail, past the pond
with lilies, rushes, and a subtle flow
to join the creek and all that lies beyond.
We’ll pry the lid off what we think we know
of a meadow blooming white and yellow.
Here in the midst of forest, budding spring,
can you count how many kinds of willow,
how many different songs the wild birds sing?
That tap-tap, is it Morse code in the blind,
a signal from an unseen hand? a drum?
or bird-beak leaving dot and dash behind
in crypto music for the heart to hum.
A thousands gifts are here in grassy loam.
Your mind can take a meadow with you, home.

 Off the Road


Deep in the
woods, past the dead-end
with its dumped
overstuffed chairs and rusted
appliances, you

might miss me.
I can vanish like
Visqueen flapped
against a
vacant fence. I used to have
a name. On windy

days you might
mistake me for rags
of cloud; in
deep of woods,
I wear the shades of trees. You
won’t see me at all.

 Nisenan Village

Today’s LittleNip:


In the grade-school garden, sunflower skeletons past summer—and beyond, a dirt path  through oak-woods where the kids have made a village in the Miwok style. Look, three boys go roaming at the edge of wild.

behind the schoolyard
one cedar-bark tepee stands
letting wind sing through


Many thanks to Taylor Graham for her wonderful poetic and photographic musings on our past Seed of the Week: Deep in the Woods. As you know, Taylor is the first-ever Poet Laureate of El Dorado County here in California, and she is (and always has been) very active in stirring up readings, workshops, publications (remember Acorn?) and other activities in her area, including the current Facebook page about EDC (  Now she writes of a new project:

Thought I'd better send you this. El Dorado Arts Council got the idea of a Laureate Trail from our CA Poet Laureate (Dana Gioia)'s tour of all the counties, with readings. So they've got me scheduled with various Poetry Out Loud winners and poets at our county libraries: Placerville in October, Cameron Park in December, El Dorado Hills February, Georgetown April, Tahoe June. I only know who I'm reading with for the first one, so far. Here's the scoop:

El Dorado County Poet Laureate Trail: Friday, October 13, 5:30pm at El Dorado County Library main branch, 345 Fair Lane, Placerville. Sponsored by El Dorado Arts Council. Featured are Poetry Out Loud Ponderosa High School Winner Kaitlyn Stahl; local poet, English teacher, and Martial Arts enthusiast Kate Wells, and county Poet Laureate Taylor Graham. Family-friendly, all ages welcome. 

El Dorado County (and Taylor) are to be congratulated for their active approach to their new Poet Laureate program!


 (Anonymous Photo)
Celebrate poetry!—and the “edge of wild”!

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then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Whispering With Our Leaves

—Poems and Photos by Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA


Our roots need to dig into earth
fingers unfolding
like leaves being born.

Our bodies need air, need rain,
sun will loosen knots of pain.
Touch us, sky—blue visitation,
drift of clouds.

Hold fast, hopes
like sturdy branches when wind
wears rough boots and kicks!

May dreams we dream
cut apples wide open for juice
grown sweet from rain.

We offer shade and shelter.
Surviving storms,
we whisper with our leaves.


We arrive at a meadow
made lyrical by finches
and wild canaries.

In blades of grass we see
seven shades of green
growing even greener;

surely we have admired
this one stem before
yet never before

and could find it
again and still again
among waves of grass.


She climbs mountains with the hardiness
of granite, gentleness of ferns.
Waterfall spray beads lashes with color.
Meditations reflect in mirror lake.

Sequoias lead her vision to where the sky
begins—clouds are flocks of wild doves.
In the valley, when raindrops splash poppies
pores magnify in orange reverie.

Her landscapes are varied, challenging.
She explores deserts: sage, mud cracks,
ocotillo, the horned toad, lizards,
blueness of the Panamints.
Notes pinned to tumbleweed blow back
across the dunes, leaning into moonlight.

At ocean beach she gathers shells.
Washing off sand and dust, she fingers
rainbows...sea breeze, wind from wings
of a thousand gulls.

When her landscapes are veiled, murky
she yields herself calmly to shadows
remembering to remember
shadows are cast by the sun.

(prev. pub. in anthology of literature on aging,
Fierce With Reality, c. 2017)


His T-shirt glowed
a neon hue
of yellow-green.
We think he knew

we glanced his way
when the T-shirt grew
three leafy shadows
in shades of blue.

(on September 11, 2001)

When I chose a bench for meditation
a hummingbird hovered just above my head
as if my crown some longed-for open flower!
This curious, unexpected buddy
seemingly bound for surrounding gardens,
paused mid-flight. By whirring fan-like wings
he almost whizzed my shock past toppled towers
as though this tragedy had never happened.

Intent within my aura, this rainbow bird,
this comma or apostrophe in time,
as if he sensed my withheld grief, had stayed
by hovering—no reason I was sure of,
surprisingly near, so complimentary
my eyes released a humanizing mist.

Amazing: In clutch of lowest ebb and flow
there came an iridescent hummingbird.


the silence
of a redwood
we breathe


Today’s LittleNip:

—Claire J. Baker

After all we go through
together, or
in our own story
love becomes new
when heaven's curtain
rises to reveal
a glimpse of glory.


Many thanks to Claire Baker for today’s poems and photos on this, her 90th birthday! Happy birthday, Claire!



Celebrate poetry—and forests—and 90th birthdays!

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, September 26, 2017

Beyond the Unlit Turn

In the Shadow of Branches
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA
—LittleNip by Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento, CA


every night the horse gallops through the frantic
dream through the white trees in the moonlight
carrying the frightened princess away from
the danger—everywhere now . . .

the horse
never catches
its flowing mane in
the rustling branches,
or loses its footing  in
the agitated roots or in
the loosening stones of
the wakening woods
that have only one
way through . . .

do not worry—this is a story I made up to scare you :
the princess is the dreamer—the horse is the memory
the princess will lose when the dream is over . . . .



struck by light in a blue forest—
the forest of patterns
and directions,
sunlight and moonlight
and green rain
that falls when needed,
white flickers of rain drops
that make tiny reflections
on the boughs and leaves and
even the shadows that notice them.
Here, there is nothing to be sad about,
for no one has ever been here.
These are but words for a mysterious memory
of a soul not yet born to this sad world
of so much damage and lament.

 On a Darkness

(After “Wistmans Wood” by Devin Dartmoor)

In the woods, many shadows and
many sunbeams play through trees that
guide me in, and in, till I am deeper in.

The trees grow thicker.  The shadows shift.
The sunlight flickers in and out of branches
that replicate their patterns on the moving ground.

Turning circles lead me deeper—hearing now
the snaps and rustles—the loss of place—
the alien blend of peace mixed up with fear—

the feeling that I don’t belong : shadows turn into night,
unseen birds are closing up their songs, and I am in
the center of a center that has no direction now.


After “Turn in the Road” by Charles Burchfield, 1917

green trees
a woods
a gnarled tree
holding up a
lowering piece of sky
above a darkened building,

empty eyes staring at the turn
two white clouds (or headlights)
that grow larger and nearer
from the imposing distance
through the twisted tree,

an unnerving sound
in the breaking silence
almost a weeping (for the loneliness)
almost a cry (save me)
or something darker (find me)
from somewhere beyond
the unlit turn that keeps turning.

 Shadow Falls

(A Pantoum)

There is a woods that keeps its wilderness,
a fallen tree-log stretched over a stream
where children like to cross.  Swift water
glints beneath.  Trees fleck golden in the air.

The tree-log settles above the rushing stream.
Nothing sinister here.
Gold trees dapple the air.
The sky is blue.  Leaves drift down.

There’s nothing sinister,
the daylight lasting from dawn to dusk
with sky that’s blue forever, leaves drifting down,
and nothing but play to do.

The brimming daylight lasts from dawn to dusk,
the children serious, centered, alone,
with nothing but play to do—
exploring time, and life, themselves.

Serious children.  Centered.  Each alone
on the log-bridge, the gurgling water close beneath
as they enter time—and life—themselves—
the small, still woods keeping its wilderness.

 Follow the River


. . . so swiftly go the shadows of Time, the shifting of bal-
ances, the paths we took into the tangle . . . a wonderland
of unreality . . . the woods so soft in the filtering moonlight
with their tiny trees and diminishing distance, their curious
paths of strained light into another opening . . .

. . . it was the cure, the cure for silence and interruptive
sound, a moment out of such a word as Time, immeasurable,
such a word as, ‘lived by’ or ‘waited on’, and we lost it after
all, being too immersed in trying to realize the meaning, and
import, and how strange it felt, saying it, as if it were a miracle,
somehow that was believed in

. . . and it was so small we almost missed it, so real we almost
didn’t believe it, it was something we wanted to remember,
tell each other about, like a confession, it was that import-
ant . . . and here we are, trying to conjure it again, as if our
love depended on it.



Mother, here is your son whom you would save
from life—the life he has entered
with a certain failure—

that he feels doomed—and betrayed, though he
is worthy, and whom you love
and would sharpen his tones for existence.

Now he has entered the thickets, to sort
among them for what he has lost
or cannot discover—

something that he needs, but cannot name
because it is not there—
only his wanting of it.



I walk with you through silent trees,
through golden grass,

through twilit air—
permitting love to ebb and flow

through who we were and who we are
—a grove of sadness

that we must repair.
Why such calm here

—trees and more trees
in this place without a border,

sky beyond our view,
one muted glow of light remaining?

Nothing moves, so nothing ends,
we are here in time’s lost moment,

with its mourning—
taking back what we were given.
(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 8-9-10)


After “The Reader in the Forest” by Robert Henri
I want to write to you about the history
of an hour just lived.
I have come to this tree
which is very tall, and very old,
and seems to welcome me.
There are many such trees 
that seem to be just as knowing
of my presence, and I am writing
from memories that seem to change as
day changes its light through the leaves.
I think I have become lost, but that
is only another small detail
to mention—if I am found,
and you are not even the
one I want to find me.
There was something
about something
that I wanted to say,
but the tree is humming
as I lean against it and
the shadows rustle
I never knew
there were
so many
of green.
I know this is 
only a small grove
pretending to be a forest,
but that comforts
my little while of hiding.
City sounds still try to
invade the silence—the sky
is vanishing through the leaves.
The hour I mentioned has not really
been lived, just these mood-wanderings, this
room of leafy green curtains that keep changing
their light—moment by moment through the hours.



So vague, with only twilights now—no grand announce-
ment—no noticed entrance hanging to an edge which is
growing cold with shadow. Bent years are turning our
corners. How we envy them, laughter behind us, weeping
ahead—or is that so? Is it weeping behind, and laughter
ahead? I don’t know.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Robin Gale Odam

In the shadow of branches
on a darkness
shadow falls.
Follow the river—


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for a fine set of poems and photos today from Deep in the Woods, our Seed of the Week. Joyce’s daughter, Robin, noticed that the titles on today’s photos made a “found” poem, a collage, so she is the author of today’s LittleNip, and thank you, Robin! Note also that Robin and Joyce will be reading this Saturday at (and are contributors to) the
Sacramento Voices anthology release at Sac. Poetry Center, beginning at noon. See yesterday’s Medusa for a schedule of readers.

Our new Seed of the Week is a tough one: The Naked Truth. It’s never easy to stare the Naked Truth in the eye, let alone write about it. But give it a shot and send us your Truth, Naked or otherwise—and 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.


 Celebrate Poetry!
(Anonymous Illustration)

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, September 25, 2017

One More Time!

Aspen Grove
—Photo by Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento, CA
—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA



A poet and middling playwright, Robert Browning,
pens letters to Elizabeth Barrett Barrett
—the perfect-rhyming last two names are claret
to beverage any bard in ardor drowning.
Why this odd juxtaposing of two Barretts?
Did some first cousin kiss a cousin frowning
to trembling smiles that pierced tearfalls to spare at
least one heart’s ravining at life’s dawning?
That “I love you” (Robert’s first impulsive missive)
dislodges not one silver-hinged barrette
Miss Barrett must employ to pin dark ringlets
while flutters flit inside her, tiny kinglets.
Mid-sofa. Small dog’s back props paper. Scarlet
face. Brown eyes, for once, lit sparks, transgressive.

[Soon, what will Papá say? Dreading the dark floods
to come? Two singers mingle Jamaican bloods?]

(For this theory of Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett’s implacable opposition to marriage for Elizabeth, or indeed any of his adult offspring, see
Dared & Done, by Julia Markus.)


All the while you both suffer, Calais to Paris to Pisa
to Florence: you & EBB; the carriage-bounces
bone-jolt shuddering through her hips, back, knees, a
packet, less than eight ounces
tucked away in her luggage, you won’t know
for years yet. Wary, then ripening, love-sonnets.
Tucked away too, a knowledge you both forego,
packed deep within bonnets.

What rounds the day that brightens, light and space,
what hedges it in with soft, dim, dark, pitch black?
What secrets lodged in Jamaican cane-fields trace
your lines-of-lip, daub skin, eyes, yours, hers, so dark?
All stuffed down deep, more deep than a brother’s drowning;
too gooseflesh, bone-grinding, for even a Robert Browning.

Man, woman, now free of breath
while those more dark-skinned yet meet death…

—Photo by Jeanine Stevens

          (Arnold Bax, Third Piano Sonata)

          Adolescent dreams of more than life can give…
              —Clifford Bax, poet, fiction writer, playwright

Piano Sonata Three, a strange brave piece,
introvert triumph, brooding, wholly inturned
—those moody, twisting figures, no release
in the first-movement dark. Triumph is earned.
And over what? Consumption, Tanya’s illness;
her instability in love, devotion,
loss of interest in her keyboard, of stillness
found far beyond tunnel’s end, perpetual motion?

Through all this, your strange Irishness of thread,
wishing more green than even Éireann’s green,
more flawless russet than Donegal suns at dusk
can spare from their rose chalices, serene
wave-lappings more than ever soothed deep dread,
more human heart than lives in your parched husk…


Your soundstream gleams, though pitched in a vocal realm.
Despite Franz-Liszt-style filigree, all song:
soprano-tenor, agonized till slow
come wistful traces, only taking glow
in consolation—man self-hymning wrong
more right keeps firm as captains finger helms.
Arnold-and-Tanya scrimshaw; private wars
carve patterns in our zeitgeist, culture scars.

Cloud-life, tone-clustered darkness, animal shape:
transparent at first, each beast-of-gloom’s rain-grape.
Is this the Irish Battle of the Black Pig,
an all-Celt war fought for desire and art,
song’s arrow-shaft still quivering in the shot heart 
of nullity, the ultimate ripe split Fig?

(Bax refers to that Irish almost-Apocalypse,
the Battle of the Black Pig, which might be waged
on the fields of art and literature, in
Farewell, My Youth.) 

 Sunset, 9/20/17
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

          (Ralph Vaughan Williams)

No shakeup wakeup early warning—hurricane!—
so Triton-horned as this fanfare-alert:
Behold…the sea! a full brass-section spurt
to stir the choir’s awoke, our drowsy, brains…
Tides, thunders, deep rock-slaps, wet slosh on stone,
salt flung into noses, eyes, ears, that same salt
which crusts on sails like acrid snow, the tone
of water fisting on barrels, keels, hulls, vaults
in palaces Poseidon keeps reserved
for longest god-journeys. Today a rude recitative,
sings Baritone Man. Passed hand-to-hand, tune swerves
up toward Soprano Summit. How does he give,
VW, such well-mastered word-rhythm & cadence
that rough Walt Whitman sounds (but better!)
            like Shakespeare rewrit for maidens?

 Kay Street at Night
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

(John Skinner, 1945-2017)
            for Susan Maxwell Skinner, after the John Skinner
            Memorial Concert, Carmichael, 9/17/17

Whenever hired as your sideman, I played
probably as I stepped, with wary eyes;
you warmed to me, I think; yet I’m afraid
we saw each other never at actual size.
Now one last set: I hear you, trumpet man,
bandleader, a hero late in the days of swing.
Your horn came with you in that moving van
for aviators—practice was everything—
an Air Force cargo plane. Echoing cockpit notes!
If I’d only flown like you in the Flying Tigers,
I’d surely have seen fog clear away, cloud-motes
that pinned me under what you winged over, Eigers.
We’re listening to your legacy, your band,
brass-blazing-out as in your days up front.
Your alto-sax man makes improv blues expand
to Paul Gonsalves legend-length, no stunt,
not one cliché that I can tell. Kurt Pearsall,
Rick Baker, more men I half know, shout out
riff upon riff, endanger the back wall
with walls of sound. Transcending grief, no doubt,
in this brief channeling of you. They get down!
True, I hope not to hear “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”
yet one more time. But that’s just it! One more time!
As Basie said, so you did. Kind of like rhyme:
the secret you knew was lay down what we know
and add jazz sauce, jazz kick, jazz strut, jazz glow.

 Jane Austen Rice Portrait


A portrait of Jane Austen, age thirteen,
white dress beyond the Austens’ normal reach,
style French pre-Empire, maiden-simple sheen.
The dress, near-royal humble-affluent sheath,
mere setting for the perfect facial oval,
short chestnut hair, an almost pixie cut.
Arched eyebrow-cockades ornament sheer foveal
acuity. Eyes of this pouncing hawk rebut
all manner of prattle, busywork and cant.

No Gainsborough sweep of wind and “landskip” blur,
no accent of adolescent breasts by sash
across that white Empire of dress can abash,
any more than those vestments can obscure
Her. Candor, meaning kindness, candor meaning
truth-speaking, aimed as upright as, no leaning,
this Jenny-grenadier, parasol at a green slant,
holds no green doubt. Such diamond-tipped command
intends no note of ballroom allemande. 
Smile’s rosebud; her gaze deals out adult shames
or praises. Those eyes relive in P.D. James.

Your reddish hair-cap the dusk subdues, the now
and here of eye-appraisal, your almost-bow
upon a stage prepared by sky and earth
from your half-Sappho, half-Aphrodite birth:
so present, yet redolent of things far and fey,
Miss Austen, you become a bright One I knew,
One whom Remembrance still sketches and once drew,
a pre-Tennyson Almost-Loved, now far away.

(On the recently reidentified Ozias Humphry painting, called the Rice Portrait of young Jane Austen, a website devoted to it gives convincing evidence that art experts have long mislabeled a major portrait of the novelist at age thirteen, painted in 1788. See

Today’s LittleNip:

—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento, CA

                 Today I read that Rosa Parks is dead.
                           ⏤ Joshua McKinney

Today, I read that Gandhi is dead

I read that the earth will erode
that water has dried.

Today, I read with a teacher
I held the book, while she moved
her hand across the page.

No earth crumbled, but silence
made me gasp, as the mountain
in the story, heaped lava in our eyes.


Our thanks to Tom Goff and Rhony Bhopla for starting out our week with their fine poetry, as well as thanks to today’s photographers. Rhony will be hosting next Saturday’s release party for the new issue of the Sacramento Voices anthology; see below for the schedule of readers.

For an article about Sacramento Band Leader John Skinner, as in Tom’s poem above, see

The Fall issue of the environmentalists’ poetry journal from the Bay Area,
Canary, is available now online at

Readings in our area this week begin with Poetry in Motion in Placerville, 6pm, at the Placerville Sr. Center. Then at 7:30pm, Joshua McKinney’s Long Poem Class, Part II will feature Katy Brown, Marilynn Price, Laura Rosenthal, and Leigh Jordan plus open mic at the Sac. Poetry Center in Sacramento.

On Friday, the Speak Up Storytellers and Poets series presents Both Sides Now, with poets and storytellers reading original work at The Avid Reader in Sacramento, 7pm.

Saturday, the Fifth Annual
Sacramento Voices Book Launch (from Cold River Press) will coincide with the annual 100 Thousand Poets for Change ( at Sac. Poetry Center, with a reading beginning at noon. Host Rhony Bhopla has sent us the schedule; she says to arrive early to get a seat:


FEATURE: 12:00 Noon  Katy Brown
12:20 Barbara West
12:28 Jenna Turpin
12:36 Angelica Vera Franco
12:44 Stanley Zumbiel
12:52 Patricia Nichol
FEATURE: 1:00 p.m. Haley Karin
1:20 Shani Zuberi
1:28 D.R. Wagner
1:36 Patricia Wentzel
1:44 Sue Daly
1:52 Stephen Daly
2:00 Aeisha Jones
2:08 James Lee Jobe
2:16 Joyce Odam
2:24 Norma Kahout
2:32 Robin Odam
FEATURE 2:40 p.m. Carol Frith
3:00 Mary Zeppa
3:08 Victoria Dalkey
3:16 Susan Kelly-DeWitt
3:24 Kathleen Lynch

Then on Sunday at 2pm, another unveiling: Crocker Art Museum and Susana Haifon present the only showing of the documentary,
In, Done, & Out, a film about the poetry of Evan Myquest.  Info: This will be the ONLY showing, and it’s a short film, so be sure to get there on time. Free meter parking on Sundays!



Celebrate poetry!
  Barbara West reading at The Other Voice
Davis, CA, September 2017
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

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, September 24, 2017

Unlearning the Forest

Deep in the Woods

       (inspired by the thoughts of Michael Ceraolo)
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

Poetry has the
Acoustical properties
Of music:
Onset, duration, release

With that sharp rock in my pocket
I set out onto the forest floor
Shaded by the canopy
To explore its mysteries

First I make the mistake
Of trying to conform
Unknown perceptions
To easy conventions

Is that a leaf blown by breeze
Or is it some kind of animal?
Or maybe the only thing moving
Are my vitreous floaters

I look upward and expect my gaze
To be met with all sorts of
Flora and fauna having sex
I get bird poop instead

Satire requires more brains
Than birds are known to have
So I didn’t take that personally
Just kept walking

Now trying to unlearn
All those “facts”
About the forest
That clouded my brain

I reach for that rock
In my pocket
Now a gaping hole
Someone else will find it

And create good, original
Forest poetry
That I will read and know
As déjà vu


—Medusa, with thanks to Carl Bernard Schwartz (Caschwa) for his poem inspired by last Monday's posting in the Kitchen of a poem by Michael Ceraolo!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Imagining the Wart Hog

—Anonymous Illustration

—D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA

I am only imagining that wart hog.
No one was on the streets.  Lights
Were sparkling like memories.
There were particular songs for the hours

While things were being collected
To allow night to have a dominion.
I could hear a deep sobbing borne
On the back of whatever wind wanted to display
Itself for us.  This would lead to a troubled
Collection of those hours while we waited
For the stars to begin reminding the night
That there was no place else to go.

I broke a bottle of the special water
Over the edge of the doorway as required.

Don’t attempt to get more information
From places like this poem.
You will only end in trouble.

 Pussy Willow
—Anonymous Illustration


Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poem and pix!

Head out early this morning and get to Sac. Poetry Center by 10am to hear TJ (Brother Hypnotic) plus open mic at Writers on the Air. Then this afternoon, drive up to Placerville Sr. Center for Poetic License at 2pm. (Leave early for that one; the Apple Hill traffic is pretty heavy this time of year.) 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.


 —Anonymous Illustration
Celebrate poetry!—And celebrate yesterday's birth of D.R.’s 
new grandchild, Von Liam Morlock, son of D.R.’s daughter 
Annalesa Morlock and her husband, Nick Morlock.
Welcome to this world of poetry, Von Liam!

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.