Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Hugh Hefner's Wooden Leg

Hugh Hefner
—Anonymous Photos
—Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Eliot, Ontario, Canada


She reminds me of that moment
we finally decided to skip through time zones
in that sewing machine of a rental car. 
How we stayed by the beach in that place with no hot water
and I told her it said: In Case of Fire Bring Steak on the back of the door. 
How she asked me if it really said that and I said no
and she said it would have been funnier if it actually did. 
She points to my ring finger and reminds me we are married. 
You know who wasn’t married? 
Dolly the sheep. 
Why not clone the Ode to Joy? 
Or a Caribbean Island you can keep in your backyard
that seconds as a tax haven when the government comes sniffing around?
I would clone an army of volleyball nets to smash my balls into. 
Hugh Hefner’s wooden leg. 
That’s where he keeps his dick pills. 
Never trust a man in his housecoat who tells you he is working at half past 3 in the afternoon. 
The best illusionists are the ones that can make you forget they are there. 
The girls are always there. 
YES YES, the many girls! 
The girls are there because the money is there. 
It is simple arithmetic. 
Why do you think there are so many bank tellers? 
It is not a sudden admiration for hours of artificial light. 
Follow the money back to the fox and you understand the blood of the hunt. 
Shipping containers full of endangered animals destined to be rugs.
Conversation pieces in an age of no conversation.    

 Red Panda


I remember
that we had to go to the Toronto Zoo
to see the red panda

because it was not like
all the other pandas
we had seen

and how my father balked
at the price of parking
as though the northern lights
should be in the trunk 

but we had to see the red panda
that had been on the news

so that my father bit the bullet
and paid the price

and when we got there
all you saw was trees and woodchips
in the enclosure

and I remember looking back at my father,
how they told us the red panda
was rare and rather shy
so that we stared at a couple of trees
with nothing in them

before moving on
to the reptile enclosure
where anything that spits poison
has to be half-

 Canadian Side, Niagara Falls


We are sitting in a room full of computers.
At her college so she can have a better living.
And the way I swivel around bored in my chair beside her.
Writing obscenities on the blackboard to meet
the morning coffee crowd.

They have cameras, she says,
I have to graduate.

Tell them I am some insufferable flirt
that followed you in
and that you never saw
me before.

They will probably give you a few dollars
hush money just to keep things quiet
in the current climate.

She laughs
and asks me to just sit still
and let her print her
assignment off.

Then we drive home
in a rental car because she is
just learning to drive.

With right of way
in a red two-door

Almost running over some school kids
on the green
with half a dozen knapsacks
full of homework

they will never



is a funny thing

not at all
like Americana

which knows what
it is

and confidently champions
the cracking of the bell
bride to banner,

simply knows it is
not Americana

and defines itself
solely by that

(by what it
is not)

without ever knowing

or even wanting to know
what that could


 The Intrepid Snow Plows


don’t think
I am choosing

but some bunk
in rural Estonia
is not the Ritz
no matter how
you play it

Ivy League Gorby
or silk curtains
instead of iron

when one fighter is knocked out
the referee usually calls
the fight

stops the ceremony
to the general displeasing
of the crowd,
there is a mercy rule
for a reason,

even if mercy itself
is on vacation

catching sun
and fish in


 Here, kitty kitty kitty...


I’ve seen the pictures.
Mountain lions come to rest
on the welcome mat
by the front door.

Calling in sick
because an apex predator
is sleeping it off on your
front stoop.

That is what you get for living five minutes
from the wild.

You are not a vegetarian
and neither is anyone

Sometimes the wild comes
to you.

And you are smart to stay inside.

Some cats are too big
for the litter box.

When I stand in front of mirrors
my hair seems to be going off
in all directions.

Like a confused roundabout.

And the authorities you called
will try to scare the damn thing away
before they shoot it.

My hair running off
in all directions.


You wanted to be on the George Jones show
if you were starting out.
Johnny Cash was a regular so he could
make his break.

Merle Haggard too.
Tammy Wynette.

I only think of this now because
of lost sobriety.

Ears big as turnstiles
that make loudspeakers out of all
the crisp dark whispers.

I find I return to things
these days.

Old records, locks of hair
hatcheted off into the waiting
basket of good grooming.

Not for reasons of nostalgia
so much as survival.

And blood,
do not forget
the blood.

The mess we make of ourselves
is sometimes the only hope
of others.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Hardy har

can’t thank Delilah
for the coffee

a flame for the fans

idiot rooster
lost to

just a trim
a tram
a dram

a splash
a spot

my slippers



Thank you, Ryan, for fine poems about such things as Hugh Hefner and red pandas and Canadiana and other colours of your world up north. (I did have some harsh words with my spell-checker about your Canadian/British spelling of “colours”.)


 —Photo by 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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Words Are Mountains (I Live In Their Shadow)

A Touch of Color
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


These simple stick-trees of winter
without their first leaves, too frail it seems
for the winds that tear

at their nervous gesturing
at the gray air, being merely a fragile part
of the cold landscape

with the empty bench and the stark lines
of a fence leaning against
whatever it was meant to separate;

and sometimes a lonely figure
will stand there
in the flat texture of the day,

a shrinking silhouette,
looking outward,
featureless, bareheaded,

hands in pockets of a coat,
seeming to be—itself—a tree of sorts,
as the day darkens toward evening;

and still the figure stands
and watches whatever is there to gather
for the mood of such lingering;

and the trees,
that look like a child’s drawing
of such trees,

shudder into themselves
with the toughness
it takes to survive such desolation.

 So Quiet

After Evening Rain on Shinobazu Pond
by Shiro Kasamatsu, 1938

the old blue shadows
the lone figure in the rain
the orange street lamp
in the pond
and on
the rain-sodden path

the lone figure receding
resolute    silent    lonely 
only a revenant
to memory
blue trees whisper
rain    rain

the small bridge crossing
the same wet night
the narrow
for leaning down
for looking into
the shimmering water

the wet umbrella
still bobbing
in the shrinking distance
the slow blue night
still murmuring,
rain     rain

 Beginning Again


A woman stands in familiar blue light;
familiarly a mirror addresses her,
creating a double.

Then a third woman appears, turned away
from the two—as if disdaining the vanity
of the two who so admire each other.

And they do a hypnotic turn in a center :
the two, the mirror, and the one turned away.
This is not for the fondness of memory.

It is only a turn of forgetfulness of mirrors
in vain cupidity, though there is only 
the one that contains three images.



last night the sky,
so subtle,
taking daylight down,
a streak of orange on the blue,
white clouds here and there—diffusing,

my-god! the words we knew to say,
but didn’t say, we only glanced, remarked a bit,
then turned away, the sky took on the hue
of quiet change, showing separate parts
of a marriage, so subtle…,



You see these scars, the way they dramatize
my beauty and my age, the way they shine
against the softest light when I implore
toward all those who stare—who will believe
what they believe of scars?  I can’t explain.
I simply woke one year and they were there,
all healed, but sensitive to certain touch,
the way they ache when I am cold, or scared,
as if some memory still works its way
toward the obvious—or better yet—
the lurid gossip of some history

that some suppose.  I simply own these scars.
Whatever life inflicts is what they mean—
whatever I have suffered or suppressed—
or given up as sacrifice—or turned
away from some destruction that I sought
when I betrayed myself—oh, long ago
before my mirror pulled against my life—
though not with vanity, but with some truth
of having learned what one can never learn
except for scars.  I’m not ashamed—or proud;
I simply own them.  How they mesmerize

my staring when I study them and wonder
why I never noticed them before.  What scars?
What scars?  You ask.  What scars?  Why these,
these long white marks that crisscross everywhere,
that raise and pucker—that never will lie smooth
beneath my eyes that see—my hands that touch—
these scars.  And you—now that you see them too,
you turn away.  Your hand recoils, your eyes
avert, and you have nothing more to say.
You wanted love.  You wanted truth.  And, yes,
you even wanted me—but not with scars.

 I Remember the Drive


It was for poetry we made these ruins,
colored them white for distraction,
marked on the calendar the disappearing days.
So many, we sighed. Not enough, we amended.
There is no death, said the words.

In the church of love,
we gazed at the artifacts that adorned the walls.
So many, we sighed, and shifted our eyes.
You wore an aura of red. I deflected you
with a confusion of resistance.
Our hands almost met.
I could not remember the words.

Someone played a guitar in the doorway
to block our going. We sang with the others.
We decided to forego black for the mourning.
Whatever was left, we divided.
Strange to be halved, we marveled,
folding our wings. Oh, Angel, I cried.
Oh, Angel, you answered.



Muse with me while we gather light for a poem.
We will read it later—

tell each other what it means,
then reminisce awhile,

compare amazements—how much our lives
are parallel—

how many years
we’ve known each other,

while we confess,
or commiserate—

let down the burden of our cares
to hold each other’s dark—

find some new -/- old words
to fill our many silences with explication,

then laugh—
or cry—

whichever is needed. 
Old friend, as close and separate as we are,

I muse these thoughts for you
from this old, well-worn and reliable, loving heart. 



Words are left after silence to take what they need
of love. They wait—no, lurk—in my brain
like an illness or an ambition.

Words affiliate themselves
with sound and meaning
so I can express myself through them.

Harmony and discord go hand in hand . . .
no, that is trite . . .
they co-exist in effort, and whatever opposes that.

What can I make of them—my thoughts?
my language?
my love, and non-love? to go back

to the beginning
where beginnings slide you forward
on effort you think is your own?

Why do I say all this :
Words are mountains, I live in their shadow
and shadow-reaches—how better can I say it?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

snow under moonlight,

blue as ache
blue as longing
blue as cold fire

becoming slow translucence,
becoming blue sheen of silence


Thank you, Joyce Odam, for putting together your poems and photos for this week despite the ravages of flu and sciatica! And thank YOU, Robin Odam, exquisite daughter of Joyce, for helping her get them over the airwaves to the caves of Medusa!

Our new Seed of the Week is stolen from Joyce’s photo title above, A Touch of Color. Despite the weather, color is all around us. 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.


 Evening Rain on Shinobazu Pond
by Shiro Kasamatsu
(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.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Looking at the Big Board

—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

DEBBI, Part One
—David Wright, Sacramento, CA

One drunken night
I was about twenty and found
Myself in dark Debbi's closet.
She was trying to keep me in there, and I
Forearm-shimmy'd the door, which broke wide open
Hanging there by a single twisted hinge.
I felt proud and macho and validated.

A half-hour before, we had taken a break from our drinking ritual and
Stumbled into that closet, making out.
Now, that episode over, with nothing broken but the door
We went back to her kitchen table for more tequila shots,
This time passing on the lime and salt.


DEBBI, Part Two
—David Wright

Months later Debbi calls, "Listen, I've got something to tell you.
There was an abortion and I think it was yours".

I ask her to pick me up and we
Went to Denny's for pie and coffee.
On her father's Master Card of course.

We talked about our times together, the trips to Folsom Lake, and our
Crazy maniacal Philosophy Professor at college.
About how we soon went different ways.

Now, old and childless, I wonder about that boy or girl.

The pie and coffee were good.

 Mustard in Vineyard

—David Wright

Closing in on that
Final lap and
It sure doesn't get easier.
Hard to breath,
A knee aches,
A side stitch, and then a
Sudden wind comes up
Right into our face.

Winners have already won and
Gone home with all the prizes.

We tread on.

Public glory has evaded us again.
When we cross the finish line
No one is there to greet us.

All for nothing, the kids say.
You old fool. 

But back home
We meet the eyes in the mirror with joy.
That matters.
We limp to our bed smiling and
Know in secret that the
Greatest glory of all is ours.

 Sonoma Shop Dog

—Frank Ramon, N. Highlands, CA

Into this well of sadness
I drop the bucket down
Drinking long of melancholy
Minute’s madness swirls round
Now I know there are no answers
To these questions now that creep
Into the rooms where demons dream
And keep me in a fitful sleep
I used to think that we would win
All gentle souls would bathe in love
I waited for the angels then
Believing they would come
But even now the planet rules
Are set by dark hearts, and I cry
It seems the worst is yet to come
Tears for my baby fill my eyes
I'm so afraid I cannot keep
Some glimpse of goodness
As I leap
From door to boundary
Dark to clear
And watch the days melt
Month to year
I know that some have ears to hear
Whispers of the planet weeping
A smile a frown
The clown wears both
Which one the guest
Which one the host
As the sun and moon
Divide the light
These demon dreams
Divide my life

 Stripes on Hill

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

There are some really good days
Still visible in the little mirror that warns
Images are closer than they appear

Back when bountiful health, the stamina to work
Two jobs [optional Oxford comma] and the insulation
Of continuous joy allowed infinite patience

What fun being an autocrat!
An open season on rules and choices
To make and break as one pleases

Now stuck in heavy toll booth traffic on that
Bridge between comfortable retirement and
A desolate non-world of no choices at all

The default is “pay the toll and follow traffic”
But would it be too greedy to ask for better
Days than the fulfilling ones already enjoyed?



Between the pinnacles of
Acute stress and miserable tension
Lies a broad swale of
Numb feelings

It is here that all
Creatures great
And small
Seek refuge

Our Chief of Swale threatens nuclear strikes
As if the ability of chaparrals over time
To recover from fire paints a roadmap for all

Tainted air and water, broken infrastructure
Unlimited fatal shootings anywhere, everywhere
The roll-out is proceeding
As planned

Of course the loss of countless present-day lives
Is a fair price to pay for the privilege of living
Just look at the
Big board

 Evening Tree


From Westwood Village
Up and past the Janss Steps
Beyond the upside-down fountain
Sits Schoenberg Hall

Where music composition
Is guided, not taught
By learned professors who
Have done it all

They each proclaim that
They cannot assign a grade
On original ideas
Of all things

Only asking students to
Commit to a plan and be
Graded on effort even
If it stings

Walter Piston’s Harmony
Is not a rule of law
Just toss it clear out
If you wish

And embrace that a cycle of
Fifths is some Happy Hour
Routine as told
By a fish

Penning notes to a scheme that
Someone else proscribes is
Orchestrating, not composing
There it is

One might as well ask a scuba diver
To sketch an oak tree
In charcoal
Vis à vis



For Americans who recite “It’s the economy,
Stupid”, a deeper analysis shows that
Some business activities are in perpetual
Motion, like the Earth rotating and orbiting

In any post-depression economy, some
Of the most secure jobs are newspaper
Carrier, stock broker, florist, and anything
To do with groceries or office supplies

Because these pursuits go on and on
Whether news is good or bad, whether
Trading is helpful or not, whether people
Are delighted or grieving, as long as a

Business is open for business, a good part
Of the economy is essentially divorced from
What policies drive the government, what
Laws are passed or not, what headlines

Break, what pundits offer, the national deficit,
The Index, what treaties are in place, who
Won the Super Bowl, what Trump said, what
Oprah said, or what is in your daily horoscope


Today’s LittleNip:

—David Wright

When my ninety-year-old father was in
Hospice, they asked me if he wanted a Clergyman.
I leaned down by his ear to ask him.

"Clark Bar?"

"No, CLERGYMAN”, I said, even louder this time, right into that ancient ear.

"Clergyman", he said, looking like the world suddenly stunk.
"Hell no, religion is bunk."

We shared our last laugh.


Thank-yous to today’s fine poets, and to Katy Brown for her recent fine photos from the Sonoma area! Frank Ramon is new to the Kitchen, and was sent our way by D.R. Wagner, who is having cataract surgery today. Our best to you, D.R., and welcome to the Kitchen, Frank!

Poetry events in our area this week begin tonight in Placerville, 6-7pm, with Poetry in Motion read-around at the Placerville Sr. Center, and then continue at 7:30pm at the Sac. Poetry Center with the launch of Lara Gularte’s new book,
Kissing the Bee (plus open mic). Thursday at 8pm, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento continues as usual with features and open mic. Then at 8:30pm that night, T Mo Entertainment presents Sac Girls Rock at Laughs Unlimited in Old Sac. 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.


 —Photo by Katy Brown
Celebrate poetry!

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

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Dancing With Daffodils

Daffodils at Ullswater, Lake District, England
—Anonymous Photo


—William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

I wandered lonely as a cloud
  That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
  A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
  And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
  Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
  Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
  In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
  In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
  Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.


For excerpts from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal about these daffodils, go to According to that site, “In 1802 William and Dorothy Wordsworth's visited Glencoyne Park. On 15th April 1802, they passed the strip of land at Glencoyne Bay, called Ullswater. It is this visit that gave Wordsworth the inspiration to write this famous poem.”


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Translating Light Into Words

Yolo County Farmland
—Poems and Photos by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA

Raindrops like teeth, the enamel of god.

A horse of lightning. A tractor of thunder.
The muddied boots of the children,
waiting forlornly by the front door. A wet winter,
here to move water back to the earth, and back to the ocean.
You can cry or laugh or find a drum to pound.
You can catch a bus to Dayton or Tulsa.
This isn't fate. This isn't preordained.
Nothing is preordained.
If I were foolish enough to make predictions or claims
I would tell you of dark-haired, dark-eyed girls dancing to gypsy music.
I would say that the government is lying about the shape of the world,
lying about the dreams that wake you with a shudder,
lying about everything. I am living now in the silence of things,
sleeping in the dusty corners.
Accept the finality of the human experience.
Raindrops like teeth, the enamel of god; I am a being of light,
and I refuse to answer to anyone less than god.


Winter, afternoon, California's vast Central Valley.

The wind whips the trees like an evil master
and blows the rain sideways.
An elm tree branch breaks away and brings down
a power line, a few houses go dark.
Water rises, somewhere a levee fails,
an old man tries to drive across the flooded roadway
when he shouldn't; determination
isn't always the proper choice in life.
Here, inside my house, it is warm and dry.
My birds watch the weather
through the sliding glass door of the patio.
The larger one is munching on walnuts
and listening to the Verdi aria on the radio.
It's lovely, the music. 

 Yolo County, Grasslands

You are taking a walk beside the river. Look at the water, is it not more beautiful than the sheen of a diamond? Like tomorrow. Like love. Like the slender hands of the angels under starlight. The trees drink your most kind thoughts and are silver in return. They reward your faith with a new name. It is full-on winter and you can feel the cold crispness of heaven with your nose and your ears. You feel a love for god and you look up at the sky, even though you know that the divine is inside of you, in your own golden heart. In your own diamond soul.


Putah Creek. Summer. Daybreak.

The creek, always moving,
slides by at the very place
where night and morning cross paths,
and then goes on past
on its way to heaven. 

Yolo County, Toward the Vaca Hills

I live in the Sacramento Valley, it is tremendous, it goes on and on. Each of us here walk through the valley the same way, and yet each of us is different. A life is a life, yet no two are truly the same. And my life? In summer, I trust the morning dew, and in winter I trust the valley tule fog. I put my faith in the deer grass and manzanita, in the blue oak and the grey pine. I live in this valley, a part of it.


Pretend that our country is a flag
that stands for wealth and power.
Pretend that our country is a symbol
that stands for greed and heartlessness.
Here we lay down the bodies of the poor
in a long line, painted red, white, and blue.
There is gunfire nearby. The dead students fall
while our leaders play golf and snort cocaine.
In a church, the faithful pray.
In the streets, the angry rage.
Nothing changes. There is a stink of death.

Yolo County, Weirs Below Old River Road in West Sacramento

Listening is love, and empathy is a blessing. Is your progress through life slow? Does it sometimes seem so? Then stop completely. Just let go and be still. Watch. Listen. Every stop is a chance to learn. And what is gained by going fast? If you can tell me, I’ll listen. Being a human being is like translating light into words.


We're alive, so we breathe and we love. In a home, there is often the silence of two. But through the strength of years spent knowing one another comes also the laughter of stories told—and sometimes retold. Heads close together over coffee and the life of a long marriage. Each one close to the thoughts of the other. Love, the wide bond that goes beyond blood, is alive in the children, in the grandchildren, in memory and deed. This is tomorrow, this is now, endless and without bounds.

(for Alexandra)

 Yolo County, A Bridge Over Cache Creek

Today’s LittleNip:

February. Above this farmland
a cold sunrise stripes the sky.
A heron slips through the reeds
in the green, swift creek.
"Who am I?" —I ask the new sun.
"Only you know." —comes the answer.

—James Lee Jobe


Thanks to James Lee Jobe this morning for his fine poems and photos! And a reminder that this morning, 9:30am, Writers on the Air presents frank andrick, Lynette Blumhardt and open mic down at Sac. Poetry Center. You’re supposed to RSVP if you’re going; 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.


James Lee Jobe, Yolo County Poet
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.

Friday, February 23, 2018

All Twelve Colors

—Photos of Saturn’s rings taken by the Cassini spacecraft, 
credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, Ca

(UCLA, c. 1937)

In Schoenberg’s music theory class sits Mom,
my not-yet mom. She sees him, pieces of chalk
wedged between fingers, play with never a balk,
in Beethoven, Brahms, Dvořák, Mozart style,

the classroom piano. All twelve colors, each nom
de Kapellmeister, each musical wile or guile;
Bach’s well-tempered twelve keys roll down cycles of fifths.
Our radical, blessed with all the conventional gifts.

One fine day Mom takes her careful copious notes:
Herr Schoenberg expounds on his patented twelve-tone row:
the fount of Modernism’s ghostly atonal floats
and drifts, or discords that stun with vertigo,
pandemonium straight from the funny farm.
We listeners go spinning—to heaven? to self-harm?

Berg, Schoenberg’s disciple, deploys his twelve tones warm
—if we forget Lulu’s or Wozzeck’s core schrecklichkeit,
ecstatic blends, quasi-harmonic, of bittersweet light.

Schoenberg, confided my mom, thought her quite bright,
seems to have believed she could become a composer.
Ah, reticence, mute before even the Muse who best knows her.
(Her shy gene was mine too: a class with John Adams!—the chance
to have studied composing…my discarded Post-Modern romance…)

Mom’s notes, fresh from Schoenberg, fell victim as might a martyr
long before the thriving old age of Elliott Carter:
waste papers Grandma’s dementia made her throw out.
Where all the papers, all tone-rows vanish, I’ll go soon: no doubt.

    (Samuel Johnson)

The faster he puts his oppressive poverty
and illness behind him, the quicker it pops
phantom-like right back in front of him. A free,
a moral being will not submit. It stops
whenever he doggedly sets to work. Yet, sick
since youth (the King’s Evil), drowned in depressive thought,
he turns to his Bible. Thumbs at pages flick;
he’s warped the spine of the Good Book till he’s wrought
it back-bent contorted, close-peering with two bad eyes.
Procrastinator no deadline terror prevents,
he rapidly pens a fine Rambler: against delay.
The printer’s boy knows it’s imperative to stay,
collect hastily scrawled sheets, masterful words, life-wise.
Much left undone: will our Maker fault mere good intents?

    The original “supermodel,” c. 190

Oh, if we the world had only
caught you for sculpture young,
for poetry young—your poetry
(unwritten), your sculpture—what legends,
powers might have sprung to your hand
(powers high above your actual adequacy).

Late though you came to clay,
you practiced early that figure-ground reversal
the supermodel carving herself into
that optical illusion: reshaping
the naked air of a pretend outdoors,
freshening the fouled-bandage atmosphere
of the art studio, the photographer’s lair,
windows latched tight on oily smells,
silver gelatin smells. Yes, you sculpted

the workday’s “ether”: luscious in
the kimono, the ersatz peasant getup,
the gauzy gossamer drawn scarcely decent
over sixteen-year-old breasts and bare shoulders
—these were rags round the essence,
the pole’s metal spine under
the propaganda flag. Late in life, you taught

sculptors, modeled how to press ooze
into form, squeezing clay to a semblance
of your sweet form warped by all the shaping
suffocating ambient slime. You, jailbait
for Stanford White, John Barrymore,
psychopathic Harry K. Thaw. Oh, you were

groomed and raped, loved and caressed
and civilized by your soon-to-be-bulletholed
“Stanny.” He gives you homework:
literature, art history, poetry. In return?
Are we in need of a bare-breasted statue to crown
a severely garish monument?
A nude caryatid to prop a faux-antique cornice?
How he poses you, makes
“frozen music” of you: your Rapunzel hair
cascades brownly down, your white left arm
replicates the witch-mother-jailer’s tower.
(Oh, he cares about you. You’ll never see
Angelina Jolie, in Girl, Interrupted, crack
wise about her “ther-rapist…”)

Let us leave you your fragment of peace,
a lifetime pilgrim-trailed away
from nude in a red velvet swing
to matron saint of all
traumatized underage sex-victims
slowly becoming yet hiding the Artist
far below skin, and that skin exquisite… 

            for James Lee Jobe

We’ve arrived at the top of the trail, atop the high ridge,
we’ve labored to reach the base of the column
supporting one end of the Foresthill Bridge.
Three turkey vultures are circling, low and slow.
Our calves and knees liquefying: how do the dark birds know?
At us, with eyes sharper than ours, the vultures downpeer;
I stare back up; is it apropos to fear?
Nora, braver than I, proposes: Keep Calm and Carrion.


Today’s LittleNip:

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

—Samuel Johnson


Our thanks to Tom Goff today for his fine poetry on this snowy day up here in the foothills! (We got an inch or two in the night.) Tom has a new chapbook out from Tiger’s Eye Press:
Tintagel 2.0: Sir Arnold Bax—A Composer-Poet Recaptured. It's the latest in the Tiger's Eye Infinities series; each small chapbook contains eight poems. Those interested in a copy ($5) can contact Tom directly (, or Tiger's Eye (send $5 (postage included) check to:

Tiger's Eye Press
c/o Colette Jonopulos, Editor
63 South Grove Street
Denver, CO 80219

Kathleen Correia writes from the California History Room in the Calif. State Library that they have chosen to highlight historic resources related to Calif. poetry in their latest research guide, California Poetry ( Kathleen also notes that they can send free speakers to one of our poetry meetings, to talk about the History Room’s resources related to poetry, or they can arrange for a History room tour for up to ten people. Cool!

Why the photos today of Saturn’s rings? Tom writes about music, which is rhythms, as are the icy rings which are held together in such a perfect fashion. Nature—and poetry—are all about rhythms, yes? For more about Saturn’s rings, including the long-lived Cassini spacecraft which, together with its companion probe, Huygens, circled Saturn for 13 years, ending only this past September, go to

••• (amazing!)

And don’t forget that Speak Up: The Art of Storytelling and Poetry meets tonight at 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.


 The small color differences in Saturn's rings 
have been enhanced in this picture from 
Voyager 2 data. Credit: NASA   

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, February 22, 2018

Don't Call It A War

Outside Theater
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


That Valentine morning, seven
wild turkeys. Three hens on the sidelines,
observing four toms a-bloom.
Each tom’s tail a splendor of amber-
bronze glinting early sun; a veritable bouquet
of feather. It must be the day
of choosing. There aren’t enough ladies
to go around. Each tom’s puffed to the max,
jutting beard, snood engorged.
I ask the hindmost lady, who will be
her Valentine? Only a turkey hen can judge
the true worth of tail-feather display.

 February Dawn


Above the Valley, head toward winter
up in the foothills where old-time Gold Rush
craziness settled down to ranches, farmland,
vineyards. Scattered towns, no real cities;
County seat like a throwback to the last century.
Where they set out driving cattle to upcountry
cow camp meadows, you might see a low
building with no apparent sign out-front to say
they make custom Western belt buckles.
No Pegasus grazes spring buttercups. It’s winter.
But somewhere hereabouts, Percherons
at pasture, sun glinting off black haunches. 

 March Swale


March fresh as uncut grass
in a basket above the canyon dark.

A toddler falls behind the older kids,
he becomes the hunt.

Check that siphon-creek
under the road,

the old dry ditch a little higher,
remnant of gone history.

They dug and mined this ridge
in Gold Rush days.

A two-year-old can crawl
under thickets of manzanita.

Just two strands of wire
fence off a mine shaft 900 feet deep.

Hasty teams, mantrackers, dogs
and listening-posts through the night.

Birdsong at dawn—
what is its feathered message?

Spring-lift of air up the ridgetop
lilts a search dog’s nose.

The boy has found no Easter eggs.
He only wants his mama.



We searched the wetlands in a tule fog.
No breeze, or just enough for stirring demons—
darker wisps of water-breath above the current.
You could toss a silver dollar and never see it
again. Were we looking for a body sheeted
in cold, or an old man wandering between stuck
sedan and nowhere? Sound and scent diffused
in fog, fluid as water. Everywhere. No foot-
prints to forge a line of prose to its conclusion.
Ellipses of fog.

 Shale and Ivy


Imagine fog, a lane falling off the road
with its cross-hatch xings, SLOW signs. Silence.
The lane fell away. At its end, a wide gate
closed. Narrow passage between house and hill—
cut-bank under cloud-woods. Path edged
with masks, no face inside. Stone torso weeping
water-veils into a basin. The figures
locked your eyes. A keypad kept its secret code.
You rang the brass bell. No footfall, no
answer. A dog barked once, inside, and then
was still. Listeners? You turned to leave.
A faint voice far away. Wordless as a child
lost in woods, voice consumed by
weather. Follow that sound. No one. The voice
again, moving opposite, dodging, distant.
Listening-post with a button—eye without
a pupil. It said RING. Voice dispersing
from above: what do you want? None of this.
Nothing from a voice without human listening.

 HT Creek


Is the old house nothing but history now,
its façade shedding bricks like sloughed-
off skin? But the bats and the barn owl—
and the old ghost you sensed in the attic.
Did you dare climb the failing stairs?
And is a ghost memory or history? how
fallible? Every evening wings pare open
the dark, close it up again before dawn.
Outside, new spring grass skirmishes
with wetland-creek for possession
of the swale. Don’t call it a war. 

 Daffodil in Gopherweed

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

A blank public room full of switch-lights
and recycling air; full of old folks come to learn
subjects they never found time for. I’ve
wiped the fog from my glasses—I with poems
in my hands, a scrim of dust on my boots.
Friends and strangers ask questions of everyone.
Here’s the old veterinarian, retired from
taking care of dogs long gone. The once-hiker
of wilderness sits stiff in a folding chair.
New lessons for us all as, outside,
sun quizzes the flowering quince on what
its blossoms remember about spring.


—Medusa, thanking Taylor Graham for her fine poetry and photos this morning!

 —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, February 21, 2018

Tabula Rasa

Anonymous Photo
—Poetry by Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA


As a satellite image
on a magazine page
hurricane Irma
(after Harvey & Maria)
looks hauntingly hypnotic—
a monolithic snowball
blown by supersonic winds
into an abstract,
a calm blue eye riveting
in the center.

California earthquakes
trigger ultra-sensitive
seismometers to etch
tiny black lines
on a Richter scale. Ah,
pen strokes by Da Vinci
loosening his hand
before rendering
an immortal sketch.

An electrocardiogram
of a healthy heart—
a civil engineer's
blueprint of a zany
suspension bridge
from California
to Hawaii.


On a dusty track in summer
sunlight, wearing sky-blue
warm-up suit and running shoes,
she sits way back in her chair,
head lowered, lips tightened,
stunted arms pulling hard.
Slowly she rolls around the track.

College sprinters
run for a while in her wake,
then speed ahead,
sometimes touching the chair
as if to send her gliding
all the way—a boost
for a gutsy gal.
Then she pulls harder,
determined as any Indy driver.

On days she doesn't show,
they ask.

(first pub. in Marin Poetry Center
Anthology, 2016)


Two Latin words,
"tabula rasa," tablet erased,
mind cleared, begin afresh.

Astronauts collected specimens
on the moon, zoomed back
to planet earth, landed
on the sea, as planned.
Tabula rasa, moon and sea.

Images in flux change
faster than a blink...Sleep
provides respite, rest,
Tabula rasa, sleep.

Another war finally ends.
Dignitaries gather around
a table, treaty signed,
World citizens relax a notch.
Tabula rasa, peace.

In a still pond,
as we meditate, serenity
rows placidly by on
dragonfly wings
iridescent as inspiration.
Tabula rasa, dragonfly
and meditation.


frisking a meadow
in the rain
are more familiar
with water's
oxygen and flow
than any engineer
thrusting his pole
deep into Sierra snow.


We walk in woods, wondering
if  bare limbs can comfort us, or
what we can offer dripping trees
in a gray-on-gray terrain.
Our roots quake. We tremble.
Fog obscures the way,
mistletoe chokes branches;
mushrooms glare, toads gloat;
no birds sing, yet.

Ferns filigree over our boots.
The foggy wall crumbles, reveals
a path we can follow...We have

journeys to plan & complete,
lyrics near our hands &
at our feet; music to extract
out of storm & stone—
a winter landscape to translate
into a language of our own.


Today’s LittleNip:

(an hour after rain)
—Claire J. Baker

A large pothole
on a country road
reflects a
deep blue sky
a white cloud
along its edges.


Our thanks to Claire J. Baker for today’s fine poetry, and a reminder that Cal. Lawyers for the Arts will present Jon Martin, CPA, talking about how artists and the self-employed can “Relax With Tax” tonight, 6:30pm, 2015 J St., Sacramento. You must register; 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 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.