Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Air Full of Spices

—Anonymous Photo of Cinnamon Bark
—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA


            The air is full of spices.
                        —Alan Rickman, in
Sense and Sensibility

A tutor I like speaks quite shrewdly of cinnamon.
Some self-proclaimed expert talker on flora has opinions
on this special kind of cinnamon made from bark: our tutor
retorts, Amazing what people who know nothing will claim.
Oh she knows her cinnamon: All cinnamon comes from bark,
and my mind’s mouth closes on this morning’s savor
that rose with trumpet efflorescence upon rice and then faded,
as do love-names inscribed knifepoint into manzanita bark,
or, for that matter, in cinnamon tree bark, as the names
heal till knife-names are no more emblems than is the tongue’s
ephemerally adopted cinnamon powder, dissolving.
We speak of Peet’s Coffee: recognizing in her a young sibyl,
I muse aloud on how my introduction to Peet’s was Shakespeare
in Berkeley. The night chill, Richard II in John Hinkel Park,
the muted, edged first velvet of Peet’s against my taste buds.
Her rejoinder: The conditions were just right
for it to be better than it actually was. That’s right,
that’s true; but oh how she speaks of cinnamon.
I fully expect she’s enlightened about sin in man,
sin in woman, and can descant richly thereof.
My half an eye on Wallace Stevens, my other
three halves on the fellow at her side, who hopes
to study profoundly those precise spices she’s read up on.  

 —Anonymous Photo, Cinnamon Trees

(Artur Rubinstein, piano virtuoso)


Artur Rubinstein, your hands fascinate:
large hands for the keyboard, hands formed generous
for playing works of the über-Romantic great,
your “very noble and approved good masters”;

large-handed too in the sense by which we rate
that magnanimity which without fuss
presides over steady good luck and smiling fate,
endowed to condole, bestow, when life’s disasters

conspire against us poor, of stubbier fingers.
Like other grand artists, you ruled as potentate,
your scepter your frame’s sheer potency; seduced;

you blamed; comported your child-self irate
with your own children; damage that this day lingers. 
Large-handed, hot-handed, great-souled by turns. Confused?

Poulenc, Milhaud, Heitor Villa-Lobos, you brought
to light by that genius you indulged and fought.


Your party piece was Salomé, for money:
The whole avant-garde opera on piano
For lovers of music, or of the illicit honey
Found inside that cactus of an “obscene” show.
Index of your character, your trawling
With Chaliapin for fresh prostitutes.
Yet deep in your nature truthfulness in brawling
Suavely for new music, for the astutes
Of Modernist art: Picasso, Szymanowski,
Chagall, Stravinsky, Villa-Lobos, Ravel.
You’re born to adore any body sexually
Gifted, gifted yourself with that remote
Sweet touch that attracts her to pleasurable hell.
Slight evil, an étude mainly of black notes. 

 —Anonymous Photo of Cinnamon Tree Leaves, Autumn

     (Smithson & Cohen)

Bax, you surely read the Memoirs of Berlioz.
Odd if you do not recognize his wit
and easiness via the pen to utter it,
a raconteur whose mind flows much as yours flows.
Each of you bedeviled by Harriet:
great Hector lost in love of a young Irish
actress (Irish: one contact point more yet),
iconic, somewhat inchoate Ophelia, childish
bawdry and innocence: Harriet’s Mad Scene
scores her eidolon indelibly in his obsession;
you know a sensualist’s rapture and listless anguish:
your Tanya’s consumption heaps her with despair and spleen.
For you, sterile Lake Geneva. Death’s inception?  

 —Anonymous Photo of Cinnamon Berries

(British conductor, 1893-1962)

Peculiar, the leavings of an artist’s life,
especially if that life is musical:
Great Britain owns a devout Musicians’ Chapel
to enshrine creative surmounters of the strife
involved in cathedral-building of sorts, black notes
on paper white or ecru. One such was you,
Sir Eugene Goossens, now a mere name that floats
in Internet ether. So much more is due

than that embroidered kneeler in the church
though lovely trim with your name and one of your themes.
You led a life forever in restive search:
composer, conductor, inspirer of dreams
in other brethren of your harmonic guild: a fanfare
by Copland; the Sydney Opera House; such schemes
realized in part by your influence brought to bear
on sketches, doodles, or mote-crammed sunbeams.

Brought down by Australian Customs: evidence
of witches’ covens and exotic sex.
You might be novelized expressly to vex
our #MeToo movements. Were there informed consents
in each of your extramarital sojourns?
Whatever the 1956 climate, you suffered;
even a maestro—or he especially—burns
knowing, cashiered from status, no one’s buffered.

You so lately rejected—nonetheless, powers
that govern broadcasts over the BBC
deem, rightly, none else can baton adroitly
a composition scathing as meteor showers
without our atmosphere’s protective skin:
your dear friend Arnold Bax’s Second Symphony.
Your broadcast acetates brim with sympathy
for that work’s rarely relenting drive, its din
and discord fitfully relieved by lyric
that grapples lovely against preordained death,
death not only of all intaken breath,
but death to render beauty’s resilience Pyrrhic.
You press and press at high velocity
the BBC Symphony, strings and winds at strain,
yet nowhere a line crossed into unthinking ferocity.
The late composer’s revived in heart and brain,

yet I think most of your early image, the photograph
of someone even more urbane than Bax:
his crispest suit looks woven of straw and flax
alongside your bladed trouser creases—and spats.


(from Arnold Bax’s Overture, Elegy, and Rondo

Like late Beethoven, John Barbirolli said,
conducting your Elegy in honor of Vaughan Williams.
Pure sonic experiment, that’s what he implied:
the soft tambourine tap conveys just how vermilions,
mauves, cosmic twilight lilacs retrieved from the furnace
bathe in occult suspension, rhythmic, not plush,
albeit the harp insists on seraphic hush.
Sonorous melancholiac trombones earn this
composition its keynote, post-Gothic Tomb.
Up from the graveyard piercing crypts and cerements
steal indistinct figures through groves of woodwind gloom,
not cliché stage ghosts. A pair of clarinets
intones your lullaby worthy the brothers Grimm:
uncertain-sung pages decaying, a pitch-stained hymn…


Today’s LittleNip:
I miss your silent stature, your avoided days of disaster, your present state of distress. I’m cinnamon, cloves and fire, you are the rested cedar wood of desire.

—Coco J. Ginger


Our thanks to Tom Goff for today’s fine, spicy and musical poetry! For more about growing your own cinnamon, go to


 —Anonymous Photo of Cinnamon Rolls
(Who Can Resist!)
Celebrate the poetry of the senses!

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, January 30, 2018

Forming a Masterpiece

A Stillness
—Poems and Original Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

After A Road in Auvers After the Rain
by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

After rain is always fresh.
Colors deepen.
Clouds address the sky in
ceaseless foldings and
Houses shine in the wet light.
Red roofs and blue windows
stand out like paintings. 
The earth is ready again.
Trees are especially
of the rain,
greener now.
The view is vast—
extends beyond time
now that time has passed—
turns into now, like today’s rain,
the same rain,
the same intensity
of everything after rain.
A rural white road
can become
an arrow under moonlight.


After Cover Painting: The Falcon by Michael P. Berman
from Groom Falconer: Poems by Norman Dubie

holding the white moon to his genitals,
the mute savant wishes a look could reach…


holding a white dove to her heart,
a loveless woman wishes her heart could cure…


holding a white fire to its mind
a stillborn soul wishes its life could melt…

 Methods of Color

After Dry Paints by Pyotr Konchalovsky, 1913
—and is not
in agreement here :
        these pots and jars
                of dried-out color,
appealing enough to arrest the eye itself.
              —A Still Life
       crowding space, as if
         intentionally arranged
            to suggest random shape 
               against drip
                  and splatter
                    colors playing
                    against light
              which darkens, as if
        this is their story or their last,
     covered now with time and closed intent.

 Blue Mirage

After Landscape from a Dream
by Paul Nash
, 1936-38

It’s not that I love this dream, but I can’t get through the
mirror to the sea. The sky is a flat and painted blue, and
a huge white cloud is in the way. A pane of glass becomes
a cage. A boulder of fire creates a second, retributive sky—
blood red and near—and a lone dark gull is flying right at me.

A frame of fear surrounds it all and I don’t know what to do—
I can’t awake, and I cannot sleep. Mirrored in metamorphosis,
I am turning to a fear myself : My own face holds my feathered
face. My arms have turned to wings. My shoulders hurt, and my
mouth is cruel. My frozen eyes do not believe this metaphor, of
which I am both abstract mystery and indefinable clue.

 Blue Silence


A gull is lost in London fog.
It’s been
dipping down
and around the anchored boats
that merge in the atmosphere
and barely shudder . . .

the gull
is a white flash
of something alien
to this lost place for a gull to be
and is the only one . . .

I’ve seen its painting
on the canvas of a painter
who has proven with his eyes
the feel of fog that permeates
the sea-born heart and spirit of
all followers who love such art.


After Winifred, Duchess of Portland
by Philip de László, 1912

Winifred is everywhere, image after image:
on the gallery hall, on the painter’s wall.
Shadows love her—she is perfect—perfect
as Love. Love is stricken by her smile. Her
smile is secret. 

              Frames would hold her, she denies
this. Soft light is open to her guile. Time—
receding at it does—complies with every
nuance of her breathing; her gowns drape
softly, timeless, ageless—know her moves.
Mirrors possess her.

             Philip is innocent of this, her true
admirer, her one viewer. He thinks he
captures every essence of her beauty. He
dies without her—years away. Fame will
keep her as she was—never whilst—and
never when. She is now as she was then.

 Many Candles


Strange how
to the canny eye—

pose to pose, and stance to stance,
the observer observes the painting—

and poses back.


After Elizabeth Doran

—the oil paint on butcher paper
            at the pouring
 spreading into the vague pattern
       of happenstance
                  the mauves
       and blues
with the persistent yellows
       goes thin,
the orange      clumps together,
       the butcher paper
receives the abstract depictions
       and becomes
         the artist,
    does not dry
but lets
the composition
form into a masterpiece.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

I hated this one immediately : bisque with
painted-on marcelled hair and fixed brown eyes. 

It looked at me, its blond face featureless.

But I said thank you and sat it on a chair where it
slipped sideways and went rigid with not belonging. 

I don’t remember ever touching it again.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s colorful poems and pix, painting for us in words and colors after our Seed of the Week: Painting. Our new Seed of the Week is Rebirth, as we hover on the cusp of spring like the songbirds outside my window. Send your poems, photos & 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.

Today’s paintings:

•••Van Gogh's
A Road in Auvers:
Groom Falconer cover:
Dry Paints by Konchalovsky:
Landscape from a Dream:
Winifred, Duchess of Portland:,_Duchess_of_Portland


Celebrate poetry—and rebirth!

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, January 29, 2018

Painting Shadows

—Ann Privateer, Davis, CA

—Carol Louise Moon, Placerville, CA

Then there’s the issue of eyebrows.
When I think of eyebrows,
and I often do,
I think of the Persians,
the beautiful Persian women
of history book art.

There are other women,
brows painted over each eye.
And, of course, the natural look
of Polynesians.

At this point, let’s not mention
Frida K, whether or not
her visage totally blended
into one large unibrow.
This is topic for another day.
Please, not today,
as if you think I need clarification
on some aspect of my personality.
I would not allow a unibrow
on these, my facial features.

I used to pluck my brows until
what remained was a thin arch,
an arc penciled darker
to appear thinner.

There’s a thin line between love and hate.
I hated those anorexic brows.
Is that so wrong of me?


—Carol Louise Mooon

In hen house light there shines a single beam.
I sleepwalk—not so sure this is a dream.
I hear the soft, low clucking that is
sound of meditating chickens in this
den of peaceful souls.  They themselves
produce a product counted by the twelves,
with each egg laid in hay with gentle ease.
I steal within the dawn light to appease
my appetite for scrambled eggs, a scone,
at breakfast table gazing at the field.
I’m grateful for the hens, their daily yield.
When thinking of the hens I think I should
provide symphonic music for their good.

—Anonymous Photo

—Carol Louise Moon

I’d rather it was summer than in fall.
I’d rather it was June, instead of May.
What interests me is following his scrawl.
Of course, I want to see if he will stay
or, two o’clock, get up and take his leave.
To me, it doesn’t matter, either way.
I notice when he lights upon my sleeve,
he quickly moves to cookies on the tray.
When he flits he dives into the hall.
I follow where he trails across the wall.


—Carol Louise Moon

The day seemed rather quiet, not a sound.
I stepped outside to watch a goat pass by,
the focus of his vision toward the ground.
I sensed that he was lonely, even shy,
for as he trod his head hung really low.
I asked him if he’d join me for some tea;
it seemed he had to other place to go.
If chamomile was to his taste, ‘twas free.
I insisted he wash up and wear a blouse—
indignant, he got up and left the house.

 Rear View Mirror
—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer

Followed into the parking lot
he hurls insults at me

I try to disengage
praise his virtues

recall our companionship
with wine.

I lock the car
focus on a lottery

ticket while he
continues to yell.

The engine hums.
I back up, wave

try to save
the poorly parked

day, too much

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer

Love, love, love—
a bushel and a peck

not enough to stop
storms of hate

of things that go bang
jealous, lost.

Love upgrades
trios of snobs

lost accolades
finish last

nurtured youth
lost, lost, lost—

wanting to win!


—Ann Privateer

the way the kitchen chair
slid across the floor
trying to be silent
worried I might jar
some ones nerves
wanting a pat
getting a sneer
years ago in my youth
parceling success
with intrepidness
while undercurrents
of excitement sounded war.
Now I worry the pen
will run dry.

 Arizona Sunset
—Photo by Sue Crisp, Shingle Springs, CA

—Sue Crisp

This was my passion:
to come to Arizona,
to explore its culture
and heritage.  To view
the Sunset's Splendor.
This was my passion.

Days of sunshine,
a warming trend.
Then a changing
weather sent clouds,
grey skies and mist.
No longer did my eves
of Sunsets exist.  I need
days of sunshine.

I wait patiently
for new weather to
appear.  Bring back
rays of sunny days.
Only then will the Sunsets return, as
I wait patiently.


—Sue Crisp

There's a lot of different types of empty spaces.
Empty spaces where forests used to flourish.
Empty nests that wildlife used to call home.

Ghost town filled with abandoned buildings, now
decaying, empty of the prosperity they once knew.

Closer to home, empty spaces in a closet, drawers.
Desk, now that the once-upon-a-time occupant lived,
abandoned, for college and life on the freedom trail.

An empty space in the old doghouse, where your favorite
German Shepard once lived.

Your husband's side of the bed, now an empty space, and
the quiet of his now-gone presence, an empty space in
your heart.

 —Anonymous Photo of Artist Wendy White at Work

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

(Response to Joyce Odam’s
Kitchen feast of 1/23/18)

The artist poses
Like a sniper
Her easel positioned
To allow the best angle
To capture the picture

She politely asks the
Subject to sit still
And in this case
The sun cannot move either
For she is painting a shadow

Any tiny change in
The angle that light
Boldly approaches and
Misses the subject
Will ruin this session

Exhaust tireless dancers
Make the Tango a nogo
Lose a slipper at midnight
Impound the royal carriage
Make motherhood less understood

No!! The world must freeze
In place while the brush
Picks up oil and the eyes
Envision a masterpiece
There is no shutter speed

Only shudder speed
If the subject squirms
Or the wrist gets sore
Or the next artist arrives
And pulls down the shades

 —Anonymous Photo


The very, very proud
Foresail of a ketch
Could read the wind
Like a newspaper
And navigate to
Anywhere in the world

Suddenly it was elevated
Mast and all
Like a bare-root tree
And transplanted to
A 610-foot, 15,000-ton
United States Navy

No problem, said the sail,
I can handle this
And its first act on
The behemoth destroyer
Was to recruit the other
Sails from the ketch
Forming an unbeatable team

Now the very smart sail
Answers challenges with
Rare pearls of wisdom, like
“It’s very complicated, who knew?”
While insisting all hands
Salute this wind-blown fabric
As the best in the world



High school senior
Some 50 years ago
Setting out on a day
That would be the first day
Of many more first days

Motorcycle, helmet, gloves
Boots, heavy coat, glasses
The usual coastal morning fog
Destination: college entrance exam

The trip was uneventful at first
Until the fog put the glasses
Entirely under water, essentially
re-writing the prescription to

Continue with glasses off
Arrived just fine
Tested just fine

High school graduate
Awakening from coma
Experts said the mind
Blocks memories that traumatic

Started college on crutches
New glasses, old friends
Arrived and tested just fine

 Below and Above
—Photo by Sue Crisp

Today’s LittleNip:

—Sue Crisp

Sea foam spreads the shore,
raucous seagulls swirl.


Many thanks to today’s fine contributors: Foothill poet Sue Crisp who is in Yuma, AZ for a few months; Davis poet Ann Privateer (who spends lots of time in Paris); Caschwa (Carl Schwartz), who says, “With fake news so common now, people are beginning to question the verity of their own birth certificates.” And congratulations to Carol Louise Moon, who just returned from Maui, where she says she “returned with a ring on her finger”. Carol Louise has moved to Placerville, where she resides on ten acres with partner John, a builder of harps.

Deadline for submissions for
The Poeming Pigeon (theme: Poetry from the News) is this coming Weds., Jan. 31. See 

For "Parables About Chickens", go to

Poetry readings in our area begin tonight at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm, with the UndocuFund fundraiser, featuring Maya Khosla, JoAnn Anglin, and Patrick Grizzell. Thursday will feature The Love Jones “Best Love Poem” Competition down in Old Sac., 8:30pm, or head over to Davis to hear Troy Jollimore and Heather Altfeld (plus open mic) at John Natsoulas Gallery, 8pm. Friday at 6pm, there will be a book release for Connie Gutowsky’s new book,
Lift, at Sac. Poetry Center. 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.


 Medusa Graffiti, San Francisco
For more SF graffiti, go to
Celebrate poetry in any form!


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, January 28, 2018

Looking for Sven

—Poems and Photos by Ryan Quinn Flanagan, 
Eliot, Ontario, Canada


It’s the end of the world again.
Every few weeks some crackpot comes out
of the woodwork announcing our impending doom,
and since they have papers on their walls from the university
the news keeps reporting this nonsense
over and over again.
I guess someone will be right someday
just playing the percentages,
but right now they’re wrong as hell.
Even Hawking has got on board the apocalypse train,
though I think his mind left the station
some time ago.       
But it’s the end of world.   
Just as it was last month and the month before that.
All I know is that there is garbage to be put out
and dirty dishes in the sink that won’t clean themselves.
That is what I know.   
The doomers and gloomers can have their shit show.
I’ll have a nap, and perhaps something spicy for dinner.



We get to our holiday spot by the beach
and there are two psychics
within a block.
They have set up shop
across from one

A psychic turf war,
I warn the missus.

California is a funny place.
And not just for the forest fires
that start by themselves.

If you want your palms read like the Cantos,
it’s going to cost ya.

And the taxes would seem crazy
if I were not Canadian.

Making friends with a cat on the beach.
While the sand fleas bounce off my legs
on their way to other things.


Before the competition
he asked his father to shave his hind quarters
and legs
with a Bic razor
and lather his body with butter
for the documentary film crew that had gathered
in their home
so he could stand in front of the bathroom vanity
and flex for a couple
Narcissus was a negative Nancy.
Mr. Universe still wets his bed.

The competition still days away,
he had much lifting
to do.

And a needle to stick in his ass
whenever the cameras weren’t looking
so he could hang with
all the rest

when it mattered.



because high noon
seems a little early to agree
to meet anyone
for anything.

I sleep in late
am allergic to caffeine
so I don’t float around on that
good coffee buzz like everyone

It is difficult for me to wake up.

Plus, I don’t have a gun.
Hard to have a standoff
without that.

And I’ve never rode a horse,
not once.

I like my drink, so I got that covered.
But once I start, I go until sunup
and the hangovers are awful,
which is why noon hardly ever happens
for me.

 Winter Snow Road


She says it is good to think of other people
and I tell her it is not,
that it is awful to think of other people
and what they may or may not
be doing.

You know what I mean, she says,
we should pick my aunt up something
from the gift shop while we are here.

She says her aunt likes things with her name on it,
so it’s between a coffee mug and a key chain.
We settle on the key chain because she thinks
we may have already gotten her aunt a mug.

The girl at the cash does not want to be there.
She does not hide it well, and I can hardly blame her.

When we leave, a bell rings over the door.
The girl at the cash already back to playing
on her phone.



They drove the twenty miles outside town
down this dirt road off the interstate
a few nights a week
parking their pickup trucks facing each other
four trucks with their running lights on
and one with a radio tuned to the doo wop station
out of Austin
so they could practice their barbershop quartet
harmonies in peace
and tighten their act for when the Mennonites
who ran the local Farmer’s Market
came calling.

 Winter Fog


There is a knock at the door
and I get up to answer it.
You Sven?, some scantily clad white girl
in insane heels asks.
No, I answer.
She pulls her night planner out
and scrolls down the appointments:
Sven…half and half for $120
Luxor room **** 10.45 pm.

I’m not Sven, I shrug.
She throws her arms in the air
and walks back towards the elevators
Who was that?
my new wife asks
coming out of the
Someone looking for


Today’s LittleNip:
Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

—E.L. Doctorow


Our thanks to Canadian Ryan Quinn Flanagan for his fine poetry and today's photos of life up his way! Ryan was first featured on Medusa on April 29, 1915. Read more about him at


Ryan Quinn Flanagan
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!

Saturday, January 27, 2018


Jobe at 61
—Poems and Visuals by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA


At the end of the service
our congregation joins hands
to bring a prayer into the world.
Hand takes hand takes hand
until we are like a lovely snake
winding through the sanctuary.
No one is left out,
no one is omitted.
The reaching out continues
until all are joined by flesh,
and then we all are joined
in spirit by our prayer.



and we swiftly climb up through the trees of light.
Human beings on the move.
Below us, the earth sings primitive verses in a low, rolling voice.
The sun is just a golden memory now.
Up through the trees we climb,
like beasts.
Love itself is illuminated.
The moonlight shines on our animal faces.

 Rough Draft


A forest of guitars, growing from the soil like trees.
An ocean of drums, all rolling, rolling.

In the mountains, saxophones and trumpets
blow deep, rich notes, improvising in the snow.

And the valley below holds a thousand pianos,
a thousand xylophones, and one stand-up bass.

The world is ready, friend, count off the beat.
Life is an improvisation, let's begin.



See me bathe.
High above this long, green valley,
High above the river.
The air is cool, and I am clean.
I have wanted to be clean for so long now.
My body is below,
lying still and dirty on the ground.
I can hear my wife crying,
but I am rising
up past the clouds now.
Clean at long last. 

 Top of the Pile Today


You are naked, wounded, covered with dirt,
and you are pulling a fire behind yourself
as you stagger across the troubled face
of this world, dragging it with a long rope.
These are the days of hunger and exhaustion.
Now the sky has opened its mouth and roared
like a lion, like an old man.
Now the river is a sin of tears.
You own your soul, and nothing else.
One step follows another,
and the fire burns on.
The earth again turns away from the sun,
and darkness slams shut the door
of light and being.
You walk alone through the shallow night.
Will morning come? Yes, of course.
But when?  



All the long morning I walk

through the harbor front

in the slow, steady drizzle.

There is a wildness to the city.

Pigeons, mice, spiders.

Opossum on Federal Hill.

An oak with an Oriole nest.

In the water, who knows what?

Fish, oysters, crab.

Overhead, geese returning to Canada.

From the cracks in the concrete

blades of grass and weeds poke through.

Even with skyscrapers above me,

the wilds of nature are everywhere.

Raindrops build up on my glasses.



Some people claim that broken things
are all that's left. Shards of glass
between the feet and the street. Shards of glass
to pick up and use. To break the flesh. To hurt.
"Go ahead, cut yourself,” people say.
"Cut someone else."
Broken questions in the pieces of night.
Broken souls that have become questions with no answers.
Shards of people on the shards of a world. Some look to the sky
and ask, "Why are we even here?"
To listen. To feel.
To mend.
We come here to mend,
and to try to learn some kindness.


Today’s LittleNip:


Our thanks to James Lee Jobe for today’s fine poetry and visuals!

Drop by the Sac. Poetry Center today, 1pm, to help collate the latest issue of
Tule Review. Or drive on up to Placerville this afternoon, 2-4pm, for Poetic License at the Placerville Sr. Center, where the theme of the day is “Baloney”! 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.


 Going Low Tech
Photo by James Lee Jobe
Celebrate poetry—high tech or low!

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. 


Friday, January 26, 2018

Cacophony & Candlelight

Composer Sir Arnold Bax, photographed with trumpeters of
the Royal Military School of Music, outside Kneller Hall, 1947.
(from Sir Arnold Bax website, collection of Graham Parlett)
—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA


All great composers stand accused of noise,
Bach, Beethoven, even Mozart the polite,
writes Nicolas Slonimsky. We hear poise,
charm, euphony; their audiences took fright,
hands clamped to ears. Trumpets in Bax’s work,
British brass-band-trained, make the loudest cadre;
they squawk with English lung the ram’s-horn Turk.
Yet, delicate as placid squads of padre,
with lyrical plasticity shape phrases.
In Bax Three, alpine middle-movement glow
prompts a lone trumpet’s crown-of-the-mountain dazes;
these reveries volley down-valley echo (echo),
hypnotic until a resuming discord razes
fresh Jerichos. Bax’s trumpets elsewhere glare,
at contrapuntal strife with violins;
induce compact motivic cells to declare;
burnish with silver varnish what begins
one primal melodic strand, then sprouts three branches
of intertwine. Here one or two break echelon,
in crossover ménage (the purist blanches)
with “broken consorts” mingling them, percussion,
flute, viola. Now in mute, now mute out,
they’re couriers handing themes over to trombone, horn;
dovetailing as demands a composer born,
submerging then resurfacing, bells out;
regaining embouchurial aplomb.
And here stands elderly Bax in overcoat,
unflinching before the blown harmonic bomb
just triggered by His Majesty’s remote
control: some thirteen milit’ry trumpet masters:
the brazen fanfare surely Bax’s own,
straight as a rockstar’s amplifier blasters
at him across walkway gravel on wintry ground.
Bax, Master of the King’s Musick, weathers the blare,
brassmongery belled out heraldic as in times yore.
The mismatch appears so audibly unfair,
a ruckus to ring for hours in uproar-
deadened sore ears. Yet wind may scatter harsh winds,
for nothing like outdoor air to dilute the dins.
The photograph may even have been posed
quite silent. Or was the composer crassly hosed?   

 —Anonymous Photo


Millay had just come from autographing three hundred and thirty-five sets of the limited edition and thirty-six sets on Japan vellum of the ultra-limited edition of Wine [from These Grapes]. She was cross-eyed with fatigue. They had a round of martinis.
    —Nancy Milford in
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna
       St. Vincent Millay

This Christmas, Nora’s ensured that, thanks to eBay,
the next-to-last one of three hundred twenty-five
limited-edition for-sale sets* of Millay’s
Wine from These Grapes rests as if newly alive
—that year, ’34, that month, that fall day’s the day
this two-volume poetry set my spouse has contrived
to give me rests in my hands—slipcovered array
of hardback blue-gray cloth, the recessed spine
in pale beige as are the cover’s corners, sharper
than are this year’s inferior books: this, fine
as befits the first-rate firm of the brothers Harper.
Now swathed in preserving cellophane, the pages
artfully stressed rag-paper-edged Worthy Charta,
stock nobled, refined and stout for future ages,
unto me, yea, delivered the veriest Magna Carta.


This Magna Carta for poets, paid for in strain.
Strain of the eyes that cross, the hand that cramps.
The torrent of signature, signature tortures the brain;
your words shrink to the size of inscriptions on postage stamps.
The marvel, that fine-grained Edna St. Vincent Millay
in dark-blue ink on the frontispiece page shows
where this my copy in ordinal sequence goes.
For you it marked the near-ending of the affray;
or did you have that still finer edition in vellum
to stain with your fountain pen? I think that came first.
You wanted to be done with them, expel them.
No getting around what this intensest burst
was for: for Eugen, for the Thoroughbred horses you loved,
the right to keep writing professional poetry: shoved
at you one more book, one more book you had to ink
for money, martinis. I bend elbow with you, one drink.

My next-to-the-last proud copy by which you earned.
Let me not be the one last to have read, and learned.

*The remaining ten copies were reserved for the poet,
presumably keepsakes or gifts.

 Cover of St. Millay's Book

Today’s LittleNip:

My candle burns at both ends;
it will not last the night;
but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
it gives a lovely light!

—Edna St. Vincent Millay


Our thanks to Tom Goff for today’s fine poetry! Tonight, Speak Up: The Art of Storytelling and Poetry presents poet and storytellers on the theme of “Renewal” 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.


 Study by Candlelight
—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, January 25, 2018

Psalms to the Skylark

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Look, overnight they’ve appeared, a stealth-
army under leafless oaks; pushed up
from underground to take over the hillside.

Fungi—mushrooms, toadstools, I can’t tell
the difference. I don’t know their names.
So many species, subkingdoms, phyla….

These specimens, like snow-goose eggs
sunny-side-up—magic of a myco-goose
that just keeps laying gold-yolk.

And this one, wide as a saucer curled
at the edges and foamy as meringue flambé.
And these, puffs brown as popovers.

Consider these iron-gray horseshoes
on hooves to carry a knight to battle. And this
cluster of tiny pleated umbrellas for an elf.

Isn’t it beautiful, this frilly white cup
of midnight rain? beautiful as mystery
working undercover to make its own myths.


In the mail, a slick brochure for torrid lands
of old ruins, gondolas and shady grottos.
I’ve been walking the perimeter of stockwire
fence, my dog with his foot-free dance steps,
dashing away and sometimes coming back
to my recall; hinting at secrets
his nose discovers and I’ll never guess.
Explosion of small brown birds from an oak.
Blossoming of a fairy-ring, crown for
the dynasty of rot; chancy but princely
beautiful. And carpets of miner’s lettuce,
ready to pick for a salad. My dog reminds
me to be grateful for this, the simple
mysteries of green.


The boss is hidden behind his monitor,
computer’s inscrutable code transformed
as he types—I can see his fingers
playing the keys. He’s searching for some
hydraulic something to fold a young
guy’s stuck convertible top
back into its nest, freeing driver to sunlight
and wind in the hair on a pleasant
foothills day. It’s California, where it seems
no one has parts for this convertible’s
top hydraulics. Now the boss
is on the phone to winter-struck New Jersey.
Maybe they have the vital part; the secret
to a drive plein-air, come a sunny day.


Dreamers are out tonight searching
immense universes. Peace, love. Whispers
softer than full-moon tides. No, that’s
our dry creek running water at last, rushing
the boundaries—bridge, culverts—
rising like yeast dough, flowering fungus,
hunger of the masses left behind.
Water armed with branches, leaves, detritus
of lives. This morning Saint clears our
culvert, lets the water run free. He does
the job cheerfully as song. A dreamer
at work. Tides running as ocean
bids. Even here so far inland, wind-fall
finds its place, making new soil.


It must be hard for an old river
to keep on dancing in sunlight, when
it sees, all around, how man grubs and torments
the shore. Slave traders raiding other tribes,
pushing villages to find new land
on the other side, and still no peace.
And the shine of gold luring adventurers
across continents and oceans—all those new-
comers digging bedrock, blasting hillsides,
trying to outdo Nature’s patient work.
Does the river remember that chief
of Hill Nisenan who kept his people safe
from the Indian Wars, inoculated
against smallpox, fostered education?
A judge for all people, blind to nationality
and color. Surely the old river—history
flowing in its path to sea—must have danced
in sparkles of sunlight to see such a man
walking beside its living waters.

for Elihu Burritt the Learned Blacksmith

But did that man ever dance? Too busy
with sledge and anvil, hammering to the beat
of Latin in his head, Greek conjugations,
50 languages for a journeyman blacksmith.
His study was stars in the heavens
and geography of lands across oceans.
Might the mind forge a world at peace?
At last he set the hammer down, keeping
its beat in his heart; setting a cast bell
ringing for congresses of peace. His song
was psalms to the skylark ascending,
to hedgerows giving shade for travelers
and shelter for nesting birds; and children
playing in the green, far from that old
devil’s tattoo—drums and cannonades of war.


White, black, and speckled,
and the odd soft chocolate-brown,
sheep of all colors
and persuasions are herded
by the grid of stockwire fence

from grazed to wild free-
growing, the fiercely green
world of pastured sheep.
Then each lays its sheep-self down
in the shade of ancient oak.

A soft gut-rumble
begins, each sheep turned inward
in meditation.
And the great white dog
sleepless, on guard of his flock.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Driving by, we could feel it in the air—
flying metaphors, segmented sentences
crawling out of the woods to line up
in stanzas he pounded out, key by key.

Maybe he hasn’t caught every word
from the high-‘n’-wild. He never
meant to shoot an image dead—just
capture it, write it down, set it free.


–Medusa, with thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine poetry and photos! 

 —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
to Medusa.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Speaking of Fake News . . .

—Michael Ceraolo, S. Euclid, OH

In the forty Earth years
after the publication of Wells' book
there had arisen a few new media
with the ability to deliver stories
to many more people much more quickly

One of these new media
was the showing of moving pictures
(only recently with dialogue added;
such pictures for many years
had live or recorded musical accompaniment
and thus were never truly silent
as the Terrans usually termed them),
the people had to leave their homes
and go to gathering places called theaters
in order to view such showings
(eventually Earthlings would develop
the ability to deliver such pictures
directly into people's homes,
still later develop the ability
to deliver such pictures directly
to people's portable electronic devices.
We will encounter such transmissions
in the third part of this history)

Another of the new media,
the one that concerns us in this part of the poem,
was what the Terrans called radio:
sounds traveling at the speed of light
via waves captured by a receiver,
converted back into sounds heard by the listener.
These waves could be broadcast
to hundreds,
                                    even millions
of receivers at the same time,
the added fact that more than one person
could listen to a receiver

"What is heard on the air is transitory,
as fleeting as time itself,
and it therefore seems real"
                                          and thus
"the radio has to some extent
destroyed for the listener
his capacity to distinguish
between real and imaginary events"
this would be brought home to us
by a broadcast on the night
of October 30, 1938
(as Terrans reckoned time)

That was the date when the concept of
"fakery in allegiance to  truth"
would have,
                  if not its greatest exposure,
its greatest effect up to that time
A man named Orson Welles
(what was it about Earthlings
with some variation of the name Wells?)
and his Mercury Theater on the Air
broadcast a radio play,
an adaptation of Wells' novel
that had us this time invading
the United States instead of England,
structuring the show as a series
of fake news broadcasts interrupting
the purported “real” programming
those fake news broadcasts were complete
with idiot-in-the-street interviews
and the opinions of alleged experts

Just like the first Wells, the second Welles
had us winning at the outset,
not even the stirring speech by the actor
portraying the fake high government official
("confront this destructive adversary with
a nation united,
                                          and consecrated
to the preservation of human supremacy
in this earth")
                      could inspire the humans
to do what the germs eventually did

we had already solved the germ problem;
                                                              in fact,
there were even some of us Terran-side
at the time of the broadcast,
                                          a fact
unbeknownst to the Earthlings

What interested us more than the broadcast itself
was the reaction of the Earthlings who heard it;
the reports of widespread panic
supposedly caused by hearing it
were greatly overblown,
                                    for many reasons,
by the then-dominant print media,
it showed us two things:
many humans have deeply ingrained in them
"the need to spread the news",
even before confirming it is news;
                                                  and second,
"the overwhelming majority of the American people
do not have even and elementary knowledge of science"

We would put those two things to use
in the decades-long end game
leading to the third time. . .


Today's LittleNip:

You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what's in your heart.

—Carol Ann Duffy


Something different today: the second half of Michael Ceraolo’s long poem. The first part was posted on Medusa on 11/18/17 (“Tomorrow Never Knows”). Thanks, Michael!


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.