Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sneakers and Shadow Cats

Rosy-Fingered Dawn
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Another rosy-fingered dawn,

beacon to brighten

clarity of past-Thanksgiving—

December on the way but

everything in its good time. This morning

frost is on the swale, our dead

garden silvered, touched with light.

How does morning so
insistently shiver-shake me awake with

joy I can’t name?
Kitchen’s warm as my fingers
laced around a coffee

mug—ceramic heavy with memories of

Novembers past.

Our grounds enriching gardens of

patient soil—the

quirks of Nature, call them blessings,

ringing the bell that calls for

starts and

turnarounds, destiny’s

unplannings of our best-laid

ventures; unexpected vistas on our

wanderings which

x-out our calculations,

yanking us alive. Look! sun’s headed for


 Old Boots


Cheapest boots I could find for running trails—
boots that tried to keep up with my dog
who ran bootless at a flying trot—
boots with miles worn into synthetic soles,
boot uppers not leather, not waterproof—
those boots started coming apart at the toes
and the boot cushioning gave up.
Those boots I kept wearing anyway,
boots that let dirt in between socks and sole
like walking barefoot, not in boots at all.
Those boots are slowly becoming earth,
more earth than a manmade boot could be.
Boots still feel comfortable as feet to me.

 In the Pantry


An old house keeps its secrets and its quirks.
A crack, a fray, corrosion, unseen glitch
garage to pantry: black-scat, crumbs and flecks—
a crack between existences that works
to let a hunger through, a creature itch.

So, life of mouse with ours now intersects.
You set the bait, wait for the fatal snap.
It’s sprung. No rodent; clearly there’s a hitch.
See, messing with another life’s complex.
The critter’s made a launch-pad of your trap.
Mouse hex.

 Shadow Cats


Behind the strip-mall—empty storefronts dark—
between the back-door locks and tattered hedge,
I’ve seen the ear-torn matted-fur cortege.
Are these once-house cats who embark
beneath surveillance light? their shadows stark
on cautious pads across the narrow ledge,
their feral-feline wits the only pledge
of safety. From behind fences, dogs bark.

Survivors of the street coyote, car,
and hawk, of hunger and well-meaning traps,
they skulk and lurk and carry on. They prowl
the darks with second sight. And here they are
still hungry, making rounds of cracks and gaps,
of what man leaves. As soundless as the owl.

 Through Windows of Time


In a storefront window, limited edition
print of how our town used to be, suspended
in time like doctor’s shingle above the corner
door. Window glass plays tricks, bleaching
out the ink tones with this morning’s platinum
light reflected and a stain of blue—November
sky and, look, ponderosa pines on the ridge-
horizon mirrored, at my back; were there
taller pines when this print was made—cut down
to build this town? Time’s juxtaposed in glass
so it feels a sort of warning to not ignore
what’s pressed into our time machine—
how this canyon eroding between its ridges
used to be, what our horizons might become.

 Prints on Glass


You’re fingering the strings and frets. It’s time,
a late fall daylight’s slanting thru paned glass
onto creaky floor. The audience begins its climb,
as ghosts from stairs to hall in silence pass—

a late fall daylight’s slanting thru paned glass.
The Gold-Rush corridors have seen such days,
as ghosts from stairs to hall in silence pass
out of abandoned tunnels, once a maze—

the gold rush. Corridors have seen such days
of boom and bust. In time, shafts come unshored.
Out of abandoned tunnels—once a maze—
lifts a bass-line of music. Phantom chord

of boom and bust in time. Shafts come unshored
by unseen hands. Some nights, with no applause,
lifts a bass-line of music, phantom chord
between the living and the dead, a pause

by unseen hands—some nights with no applause.
Onto creaky floor the audience begins its climb
between the living and the dead. A pause.
You’re fingering the strings and frets. It’s time.

 Rosy-Fingered Dawn, 3

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Episcopal bell ringing as I knocked—
summoned to tea and worship-words,
mortification of the phrase, revising.

Why did you leave the neighborhood—
skunk, the crow, the cost of noise?
I don’t drive that street anymore.

Two old sneakers dangled from a line.


Many thanks to Taylor Graham, who notes that her El Dorado County Poet Laureate duties have her very busy for the first half of December: featured at Good Earth Movement in Placerville this Friday (holiday poems); Christmas Bazaar at Georgetown Library on Saturday; talking/reading to Rotary Club Dec. 7; Cameron Park Library Dec. 15—plus the usual schedule of El Dorado County read-arounds and poetry readings. For more about El Dorado County poetry events, go to


 —Anonymous Photo 
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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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Elemental Dreams

—Anonymous Photo
—Poems by Alfonsina Storni, Argentina (1892-1938)


It’s ten. Evening. The room is in half light.
My sister’s sleeping, her hand on her chest; although
her face is very white, her bed entirely white,
the light, as if knowing, almost doesn’t show.

She sinks into the bed the way pinkish fruit
does, into the deep mattress of soft grass.
Wind brushes her breasts, lifts them resolute-
ly chaste, measuring seconds as they pass.

I cover her tenderly with the white spread
and keep her lovely hands safe from the air.
On tiptoes I close all the doors near her bed,
leave the windows open, pull the curtain, prepare

for night. A lot of noise outside. Enough to drown
in: quarreling men, women with the juiciest
gossip. Hatred drifting upward, storekeepers shouting down
below. O voices, stop! Don’t touch her nest.

Now my sister is weaving her silk cocoon
like a skillful worm. Her cocoon is a dream.
She weaves a pod with threads of a gold gleam.
Her life is spring. I am the summer afternoon.

She has only fifteen Octobers in her eyes
and so the eyes are bright, clear, and clean.
She thinks that storks from strange lands fly unseen,
leaving blond children with small red feet. Who tries

to come in? Is it you, now, the good wind?
You want to see her? Come in. But first cool
my forehead a second. Don’t freeze the pool
of unwild dreams I sense in her. Undisciplined

they want to flood in and stay here, like you,
staring at that whiteness, at those tidy cheeks,
those fine circles under her eyes that speak
simplicity. Wind, you would see them and, falling to

your knees, cry. If you love her at all, be good
to her, for she will flee from wounding light.
Watch your word and intention. Her soul like wood
or wax is shaped, but rubbing makes a blight.

Be like that star which in the night stares at
her, whose eye is filtered through glassy thread.
That star rubs her eyelashes, turning like a cat
quiet in the sky, not to wake her in her bed.

Fly, if you can, among her snowy trees.
Pity her soul! She is immaculate.
Pity her soul! I know everything, but she’s
like heaven and knows nothing. Which is her fate.

 —Anonymous Drawing


Today my mother and sisters
came to see me.

I had been alone a long time
with my poems, my pride . . . almost nothing.

My sister—the older—is grown up,
is blondish. An elemental dream
goes through her eyes: I told the youngest
“Life is sweet. Everything bad comes to an end.”

My mother smiled as those who understand souls
tend to do;
She placed two hands on my shoulders.
She’s staring at me
and tears spring from my eyes.

We are together in the warmest room
of the house.
Spring sky . . . to see it
all the windows were opened.

And while we talked together quietly
of so much that is old and forgotten,
My sister—the youngest—interrupts:
“The swallows are flying by us.”



The sky a black sphere,
the sea a black disk.

The lighthouse opens
its solar fan on the coast.

Spinning endlessly at night,
whom is it searching for

when the mortal heart
looks for me in my chest?

Look at the black rock
where it is nailed down.

A crow digs endlessly
but no longer bleeds.

(trans. from the Spanish by Aliki and Willis Barnstone)


Today's LittleNip:

Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toenails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.

—Dylan Thomas


The new issue of Poetry Now, the quarterly publication of the Sacramento Poetry Center, is now available at They’re also looking for submissions for their next issue. Check it out!

Katy Brown writes that she has noticed that
the Guardian (London) has begun doing poetry again. See Poem of the Week at Katy Brown is, by the way, a Pushcart Prize Nominee for 2017 from The Poetry Box! Congratulations, Katy!

Speaking of The Poetry Box, Editor Shawn Aveningo Sanders writes that their new issue of
The Poeming Pigeon: Love Poems is available at, and she also encourages you to submit poetry (starting Dec. 15) for the next issue, which will be on the subject of “Poems from the News”. See for details. Submissions end Jan. 31.

Throughout February, 2018, The Poetry Box will accept submissions of chapbook manuscripts for their contest. Details to come later.

—Medusa, reminding you of tonight's Sac. Poetry Center benefit at the Millers’ home tonight. 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.

For a biography of Alfonsina Storni, go to

 Alfonsina Storni
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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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Shadows and Shoes

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Look in my closet:
the bones are disguised as
shapelessness in dresses.
Their legs dangle into shoes.
They have no eyes.

They do not rattle,
those times
you ask about them.

Their names are gone, too.
They do not answer to anything like names.

They are discreet,
hanging to old failures and acclaims,
murmuring there together like old biddies,
keeping the dark together
with their archaic news.


And in the clouds,

the image-heavy clouds,
taking me 
from here to there—
too far—each time too far.

I long for flightless shoes
for walking in the fields
and climbing low hills
in tempo with me.

I long for stillness
to hold me from
the whirling
that I live from year to year.

And here . . .  here . . .  I am again
in clouds, in brimming clouds,
that know me as a weary bird
afraid of flight.



Bending to her shoe.
Priest.  My mother told me of.
Priest.  Bending to her shoe.
One shoe     then two.
Buttoning her shoes.
Her crippled shoes.
Bent to his mother.
His dark symbolic mother
with whom he lived.
For and with.
Priest with mother
dark above him on her chair
her long gray swallowing skirt
touching the floor at his knees.
Shoe.  Shoe.  Priest and shoe.
Her    grim    presence.
Ill…   Ill…   Old and old.
Sitting there    expressionless.
Sad duty:    Son.    Mother.
Priest my mother told me of.
Kneeling there
with ivory button hook
before her.
Priest.   Shoe.   Priest.   Mother.
Prim shoe…   High shoe…
of polished leather
with so many buttons
my mother told me of…

(first pub. in Etcetera, 1998) 

 Cinderella's Other Shoe


in doubles we see them:
images in two’s—

duplicate connections,
shadows attached to shoes

—admiring themselves
in the glad surprise of mirrors

—face to mirrored face,
each to each grown dearer

wearing the same rapt expression
saying the same thought

as if one still might
disaffirm the other—meaning death,

their eyes becoming tragic windows
opening together

enchanted now—their dazzled love
dependent on one another

 Never Worn


These blue waves lift forever to the shore
     as if practicing time in suspension.
They pull in from the eternal horizon;
     the dark rocks wait for their fall.
The sound of their breaking is just about
     to be released.
The turbulence of blue churns with impatience;
    the layers of wet light glow upon the sand.
The smell of the sea air comes through the
     tang of memory.
The gulls have just lifted away with their
     harrowing cries.
The sky’s last light is slipping and slipping
     into time’s darkness.
And in that darkness, the waves finally
     and silently break across the picture frame,
right up the tangible edge of my wet shoes.



Mourning her ruined hat, she comes from the sea’s loud
edge to stand dripping before the unforgiving mirror that
always appears. With her mother’s eyes, she watches
herself measure from girl to woman—feels her death
leave her.

Her shoes are heavy with sand. Her wilted dress hangs
from her like seaweed.

Still, she watches herself—costumed for someone
worthy of her grief. She wishes the hat had floated off—
with the dress—and the shoes—with all the gesture
she is guilty of.

Now she must explain herself to the stupid mirror—
so accusing—so mocking.

 Rhinestone Days


Today is not the day for luck.
For rage, perhaps;
for staring at the rain.

But today has come too swiftly,
on borrowed news, with static
and wet shoes.

And with today comes
those two proper sisters,
Grim and Lonely,

who sit
on my two chairs. I feed them
whiskey and dirty blues.

They blur and whisper.
The man I am holding
is half unholy—

the half I’m telling—
the other half
is heavy with mute clues.

Today is not
the day I choose
for dim remember.

The sisters are sleeping now:
I follow
the secret smile and meaning.



Passing by the church steps, I see a man, bent—
washing his feet from a water bottle, and a cloth

—intent, intent—his shoes placed neatly side
by side. It is twilight and still warm for October.

He does not seem to see, or care, that I see him
do this. It is his need, and this is his only means

and place. He will have his bare feet clean, then
lean back, maybe, and watch the people pass.

(first pub. under a different title in Poetry Now)

 Puttin' on the Ritz

After Mother and Daughter,
Barcelona 1900 by Pablo Picasso

Prissy and Missy go for a dance-
walk down the strutting avenue
in their pretty shoes and daring
skirts—a bit too tight—and a bit
too short—for the old decorum.

Boldly they flounce themselves
along through the golden mirrors
of the air; blithely they mince, and
glance and smile and flutter their
their lips. And the day is so long,

and so bright,    and so rare,    that it
lets them go to the end of it before
they know what the next will know,
that there is only one,   as brief,   and
free,   and glad,   and young,   as this.  


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

I am the worry stone,
sent to worry you,
to fit your hand
and pocket—
not your shoe;
I would not have you limp
or toss me free—
I would have you
remember…    remember…
ever remember me.

(first pub. in
Poets’ Forum Magazine)


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for sending us all sorts of wonderful shoes, shoes and more shoes (our recent Seed of the Week)! Our new Seed of the Week is Buttons, which is somewhat related. What kind of buttons? Clothes, of course, or maybe campaign buttons? Button mushrooms? Computer keys, like the ones that send a message you wish you hadn’t…? Or the red button that would set off WWIII, and the hand that hovers above it? 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.

Bethanie Humphreys writes that Fri. (12/1), 12-2pm or Sat. (12/2), 10am-2pm are the days to drop off artwork at Sac. Poetry Center for upcoming Going Wild, an invitational art show at SPC to be held on Sat., Dec. 9, with sales to benefit Sacramento’s Wildlife Care Association (artist to choose percentage donated) and curated by Bethanie Humphreys, Heather Judy, Jennifer O’Neill Pickering. See for details, or go to and scroll down. The Gone Wild Art Show will run December 3, 2017 thru January 2, 2018, with a Second Saturday reception on December 9. Artwork with completed entry form can be dropped off at SPC either this Friday (12/1) from 12-2pm, or this Saturday (12/2), 10am-12pm.


 Celebrate poetry, and go to 
to hear the Shoe People song 

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, November 27, 2017

In My Shoes

—Anonymous Photos

—Charles Mariano, Sacramento, CA

say who you are
where you’re from
Converse, Nike,
best money can buy

when i was a kid,
a mocoso,
from the K street projects
in Merced,

were like my skin
dirty, callused, peeling

i wore shoes
from the segunda,
secondhands, for a buck

wore them
till they barked
flopping front ends
patched with tape
cardboard insoles

nothing to do
with culture,
everything to do
with poor

don’t recall
being dirty, smelling bad,
or crying,
but must have

i remember hungry
a lot

and no matter
how many times
i changed the cardboard
in my shoes
by my hardened, unwashed socks,

or wondered why
everyone in school

i’d just lower my head
pretend not to notice,
then go home
to our house
in the projects,

where it was safe
where everyone
wore shoes,
like me

(Response to “Where Did They Go?”
By Taylor Graham, Medusa, 11/23/17)
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

Land of the brave
Home of the free
This property is mine
All answer to me

We won independence
From one old world kingdom
Only to start our very own
Real estate development company

Bison, bears, and skunks
Used to roam freely here
Until we developed the land
For the higher purpose of profit

Making the very existence
Of some of God’s creatures
A blight upon the property
Indeed, a serious criminal offense

Homeless humans, too
Living off the land like
So many unwanted animals
Get off my property, all of you!!


A hauntingly beautiful
Piece of silver jewelry
Was salvaged from
A pile of discards

Real metal
Not a plastic bauble
I needed to learn its value
For insurance purposes

No, of course
To sell it and pocket
The cash
Dear cash

The jeweler eyed it through
His brass-plated monocle
Weighed the piece in his hand
And offered me 15 cents

“It has barely any silver”
Recited the jeweler
“Save it for your grandchildren.”
And that was that

The next day, mysteriously, when
The jeweler opened for business
He stumbled across an old bucket
Filled with silverfish

And that was that.


Today’s LittleNip(s):

Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.

—Daniel H. Pink

* * *

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

—Dr. Seuss

* * *

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

—Charles Spurgeon


A big thank-you to Charles Mariano and Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) for today’s fine poetry! Readings in Sacramento this week begin tonight at Sac. Poetry Center with Andrena Zawinski and Indigo Moor plus open mic, 7:30pm. And on Wednesday, Indigo reads again, this time at the Annual SPC Fundraiser at the Miller home, 1224 40th St., Sacramento, 6-8pm. Music will be provided by the CSUS Vocal Jazz Ensemble, plus food, a raffle, and a silent auction. $40/$30 for SPC members. 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.


 Let your poetry dance until your shoes wear out, 
then put on a new pair and dance some more!

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then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Secret Faces

—Painting by Vincent van Gogh, 1888

—Charles Simic 
Shoes, secret face of my inner life:  
Two gaping toothless mouths,
Two partly decomposed animal skins  
Smelling of mice nests.

My brother and sister who died at birth  
Continuing their existence in you,
Guiding my life
Toward their incomprehensible innocence.

What use are books to me
When in you it is possible to read  
The Gospel of my life on earth
And still beyond, of things to come?

I want to proclaim the religion
I have devised for your perfect humility  
And the strange church I am building  
With you as the altar.

Ascetic and maternal, you endure:
Kin to oxen, to Saints, to condemned men,  
With your mute patience, forming
The only true likeness of myself.



For more about Yugoslavian poet Charles Simic, see To hear “My Shoes” read aloud, go to

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Where To, Little Friend?

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA
—Poems by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA

Dawn, I've been waiting
for you for one thousand years—
Not a wink of sleep!

* * *

Late summer bike ride,
grasshopper lands on my neck—
Where to, little friend?

* * *

Blue water, cold and clean,
flowing past granite boulders—
My son's ashes, gone.

* * *

Zazen at midnight,
the quiet mind, still at last—
And then, a hoot owl.

 —Anonymous Buddha

Out buying cookies
for a poetry reading—
Double the pleasure!

* * *

Dawn is beautiful
because nothing has gone wrong yet....
Wait, where's my coffee?

* * *

On my old cactus,
the flower blooms just one day.
Oh sweet, lovely life!

* * *

The bike is loaded,
library books, groceries—
Riding slow, cool breeze. 

 Cherub in Shadow
—Photo by Katy Brown

Is a god above?
Does it matter? Fresh blossoms
on my crape myrtle.

* * *

Fresh sunlight tickles
the east windows at daybreak—
Good morning, everyone!

* * *

The sun spends the whole day hard at work.
Only at night does she rest,
in that secret place we cannot see.

* * *

Sixty years of walking on eggshells; what good
could keeping secrets ever do for me now?

 Old Growth
—Photo by Katy Brown

These days, no matter where I go
or whatever it is I happen to be doing,
I feel my son there. No, not his ghost,
it isn't like that at all, but something of him
goes with me, through my day.
Maybe it's his kindness that lives on,
or his love, whatever it is,
it brings me some peace.

* * *

A word after silence; let it be Peace. 

 Olive Branch
—Photo by Katy Brown

Time without form.
Form without the bare face of time.
What is the Buddha nature?
Everything. Nothing.
Stripping away the empty illusions
that I built around myself.
What is left?
I'll let you know if I ever get there.

* * *

Lovely and perfect, the perfume of your neck,
there in the hollow space, right beside my kiss.

* * *

Walking under the tall pine trees in the moonlight;
who needs those fools and all their politics?

 Oak Galls
—Photo by Katy Brown

The dog looks up hopefully as I pass.
He can tell that I know something.
And I do.
He knows something, too.
He wags, I keep walking,
neither one of us is talking.

* * *

hold me in your arms,
are we not the same?
Flesh and blood.
Muscle and bone.

hold me in your arms,
are we not the same?
Human beings.
Human souls.

Love and flesh.

* * *

A wife and husband holding hands under bright moonlight.
Hard years, and some good ones.

 Leaves 5
—Photo by Katy Brown

Today’s LittleNip:

An extra
zazen session today,
this one—late in the evening.
And after? Spicy ginger tea
and a breath of fresh night air.
I am thankful for this life.

—James Lee Jobe


Many thanks to James Lee Jobe for today’s fine short poems, and to his co-Davisite Katy Brown for her photos (and D.R. Wagner's too—see below)! James Lee is the host of two Davis monthly poetry events: The Other Voice Poetry Reading Series is always the third Friday of the month at 7:30pm; the December reading will feature D.R. Wagner and Joyce Odam. And The Other Voice Poetry Workshop is always the second Tuesday of the month, also at 7:30pm. They write new poems there, each month with a different theme or form or type of prompt.
For December the workshop will on poems about the sacred feminine, or inner-feminine. Both events are at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, 27074 Patwin Rd., Davis, in the library.

In Sacramento today, Writers on the Air meets this afternoon from 2-5pm at Galaxy Bean, 5825 Madison Av., presenting "Amp Your Voice" and hosted by Todd Boyd. And Poetic License meets today in Placerville at the Placerville Sr. Center lobby, 2-4pm. 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.


 Buddha and Tara
—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA
Celebrate the poetry of faith—and the faith
that is 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, November 24, 2017

My Voice Raised in Bell & Chime

—Poems and Photos by Smith, Cleveland, OH


Your ghosts do not own me,
nor carry cry of Christmas coming.

I will take my lump of coal with pleasure,
burn in sin to warm my heart.

My step will be my own,
I will not walk in borrowed shoes.

But I respect your walk of way,
though not your push of Prophet.



The first sip of hot black savior coffee
unsweetened in dark before dawn
slides from lip to throat
to blood to brain to mind
to move me to the coming day's
old sorrows, borrowed rituals,
its forever fog of the familiar
masked handcuffs of the gone
wading new waters with old tides
and altered sandbars with rip sides
of do again the done before
do again the done before
do again do again
do again
the done before



News depresses me
with its shallow anger and hate
but what gets me more
is doing our laundry
at the Soap Opera Laundromat
having to hear Drew Carey
call contestants down
to The Price is Right stage
where they bounce
and jiggle
and squeal
and wiggle and squirt
in greed of need
and want to flaunt
something for nothing
in quarter-hour fame
before the shame
of being same
all small and normal

 Sad Ugly


Me big
Me want
Me take
Me smart too
Probably get away with it 

Take Receipt


Everything depends
On who and what and where and when
It never ends
Cuz everything depends
On why and high and low and then
It's worse than Zen
This never end
If I'm awake it's now
And constant daily harrow
Toiling morn to morrow
To somehow slip the sorrow
Trying to round the bend
Ahead of time's outrageous arrow
Which never mends
Which never ends
Which always depends
On what reality recommends
Or the trends tend
Eye gloss ago
It's now and how and when and then
Again and again and again


Poor naked ape, melancholy Dane
Dying the silent, sinking orange
I offer my praise to mad Ophelia's black mass
Receiving Laertes' pain-poisoned harangue
I'll soon join that fortunate lass
Morpheusly oblivious of pain
   (Camus' first question of philosophy re-
    weaves Thane Hamlet's “or not to be”
    brings Kant's “progressive unification of
    sense manifold” to termination: total
    psychic expiration. Hence our sole
    existential goal becomes fervently wishing
    good death's black ghoul to sensually become
    as one with our whole)
Where God assumes skull Yorick's reign
Stay yet awhile Horatio and give lie to my name

 Less Than Zero


The gods died.
But for the fish
We brought them back.
Returned mortality
To the horse’s eyes,
Gods to antique brass.
My voice raised
In bell and chime
Laughter light on lip.

 Lava Lamp


We're shipping empty boxes
one for every gland
and you can lend a hand
o damn this grand ellipsis
of foxes guarding pen
we have so little order
losing lesser larder
so we spin 'n grin it
the suitboys putting non cents in
we really have to slip this is.

A food for every hunger.
A heart for every need.
A hug for every sadness.
This is plead to seed.

We really have to slip
the suitboys putting non cents in
instead we spin 'n grin it
losing lesser larder
in our lack of order
the foxes guard the chicken pen
there is no grand ellipsis
we need to lend a hand
one for every gland
or else we're shipping empty boxes again.

A hug for every sadness
A heart for every plead.
A food for every hunger
This is need to seed.

(To hear the recitation, with music by Peter Ball, word & voices by Smith, go to


Today’s LittleNIp:


I cut the cockroach off at the watering hole
Sent his brown-backed soul
To that great black crack in the sky
May God have more compassion than I


—Medusa, with many thanks to Smith (Steven B. Smith) for today’s post-Thanksgiving feast of poems and photos!

 Pilgrim's Progress
—Photo by Smith
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, November 23, 2017

Bowls of Bounty

Dawn on the Swale
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Our first Thanksgiving here.
Eighteen-pound turkey for just the two of us.
We’d be eating leftovers for weeks.

Outside, morning fog mixed with smoke
from a pasture across the swale.
Bonfire and pit barbecue. Crowds of people

gathered, kids tossing balls. Tables set up
with folding chairs. Bowls of bounty.
We didn’t know those neighbors could have

so much family. Laughter filled the space
between, the chilly swale. I stood on our hill,
forgot my cooking, watching strangers

make merry of a festive day. The kids
were playing football on new-plowed field—
muddy-churned by running feet.

What a mess for cleanup! Laughing thanks
giving faces a glow as red as good
foothill earth. Why go back

inside my dark little house?
Sun through the last wisps of fog
turned everything golden.

 Early Morning Swale

PLAYING TURKEY                       

For weeks of acorn-fall
eight wild turkeys paraded every morning,
mist or shine, patrolling our perimeters;
the big tom standing stonewall
so our Shepherd dogs detoured wide.
A week before Thanksgiving,
turkeys were gone. In that bumper wild-
turkey year, they disappeared
from roadsides, fields, oak edges. Gone.
You said turkeys keep calendar.
They play the odds.
For decades they’ve prospered here,
birds little-changed from their dinosaur
ancestors, learning to live among us,
playing by their understanding of the rules.
The turkey parade’s moved on—
that head-forward plug-along march
of survive and thrive.

 Guide to the Golden State

         Federal Writers Project, WPA 1939

Our county’s on Tour 10a (Hwy 50).
From Bullion Bend, site of famous stagecoach
robbery, driving west down the mountain,
we come to Placerville and El Dorado, following
the old Carson Emigrant Trail blazed by
the Mormon Battalion. Next is Shingle Springs,
where gulches once were filled with miner’s
cabins. On to Clarksville, already abandoned
to broken stone walls and houses without roofs
or windows, just signs of old placer diggings
in the fields. Westward, to the old stage stop,
White Rock House—railroad flag station
when this tour-book came out. But how about
El Dorado Hills, and Cameron Park? How about
Sam’s Town? not built yet. How about
the Nisenan grinding rocks, existing long before
the WPA? You can’t trust a guide book,
even a mother’s summer road-trip bible, to keep
all of history—though the book’s first chapter
is entitled “El Dorado Up to Date.”

 Indian Creek 1


Morning cold as Canada. Googling Canada,
I get directions to the Canadian Embassy
in Meiss—Meiss as in El Dorado County,
California. Driving Mormon Emigrant Trail
eastbound on its long, climbing ridgeline,
I’ve seen the tiny road sign for the drop-off
down to Meiss, 5495 ft elevation, south
of Baltic Peak with its abandoned lookout.
Was Meiss a settlement, or just a cow camp?
Could folks live there year-round? Highway’s
barricaded shut all winter. Even in summer
I’ve never made that turn off to visit Meiss.
I google further. A local bail bondsman uses
its photo, maybe as incentive to get out of jail,
to a creek running through lush green meadow
fringed by Sierra conifers. I want to go there.
But the highway’s closed for the winter,
Meiss more unreachable than Canada.

 Taco at the Lime Kiln

    the old Diamond Springs Lime Plant

I knew this place as relic—abandoned
limestone processing plant. A tramway could
carry thirty tons per hour, precious
white stuff thundering over heads of motorists
dazed by the noise.

Now, the land’s repurposed, a transfer-
station for old trash. Swarms of pickups wait
to dump their loads. Tramway and lime-
kiln gone in the name of progress.

But I remember:
silent parody of a gazebo in broken
concrete and rebar—standing half-walls,
shafts dug into hill above a blindingly
white expanse of sand and lime.

We used to train our dogs there,
to search for people under earthquake
rubble. Those dogs are long gone now, too.
What to do, but dig down to old memory?

 Where Are They?


The first time I climbed this hill,
I followed my search dog up a rutted road,
wild brush fragrant on either side.

A whistle—unseen bird?
under a bluff blasted long ago by Gold Rush
miners—itinerants from many lands,

part of our town’s history. Where
did they come from, to tunnel under the hill
and finally daylight on the other side?

The next time I climbed this hill,
years later, my dog found homeless camped
among the brush. I heard a whistle—

lament for an old brick house left behind?
My dog and I kept moving, not
wanting to interrupt. I had no answer,

no prescription or remedy.
This hill is a gated community now.
Where did the homeless go?

 Indian Creek 2

Today’s LittleNip:
       for Katy Brown

The cat who sly or shyly sent you thoughts
across strip-mall pavement—

the yellow cat, not even tarnished gold,
with short and crooked tail—

ancient cat of furtive choreograph
around your come-hither quiet—

cat who migrated from home to feral;
beggar, bramble for a bed—

the cat who at blink of a moment spoke
soundless his name to you—

alley cat transformed from wild to loved,
unreachable but for the eyes.


—Medusa, with thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine Thanksgiving feast, and with wishes to all of you for a day of contentment!

 —Anonymous Photo of Anonymous Toms
(Celebrate the poetry that is Thanksgiving!)

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.