Saturday, March 31, 2018

Making Progress

—Poems and Photos by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA

I had always been somewhat uncomfortable
Inside of my own skin, so it was that wolves took me in.
I slept better with the warmth of their fur around me.
I learned to hunt with the pack. When the moon was full
I joined my family, canis lupus, under the glorious light.
Even now, in the meaty hours I still run and howl.


Your soul is a frozen orange,

And you brought me here to peel your cold skin.

My soul? Very warm fingers.

The apples are watching as I set to work

At freeing the fruit in you.

What I find most interesting,

Is that as I free you, I also become more free.

When you are naked, my liberation will be complete.

Does this make for odd poetry?

Yes, but my fingers and I can live with that.


It is a raw dawn on the morning of the poor.
"Be thankful," they are told, "Here is your daily crust."
The feathers of the wealthy have been groomed for the ball.
The day passes quickly for those who are pleasured.
Evening is a pistol and a whip; all the knives have been sharpened.
There will be fresh meat. "Where did the day go?"
Even as the poor ones scurry off, the music begins to play,
And the sound of laughter escapes the ballroom
The way a balloon escapes a child's hand.

Late one night Life woke in a fright,
Opening its eyes in the dark.
What did Life see?
Still and silent blackness.
What did Life feel?
The chill of cold air
On its sweat-dampened skin,
A fear that can creep in
While the world is sleeping.
Life laid back down on the bed,
But it didn't sleep. Not that night.


​Willing myself to become invisible,

I walk right out of the prison.

But friend, are you truly free

If not even one person can see you? 

A fog rises from the earth.
A cool, misty blanket.
As gray as a soul.
Archangels wade in the river shallows, like herons.
They seem to be looking for something,
But I don't ask them about it.
I am a small wooden boat, and time is my anchor.
I have pennies in a bucket, lots of them.
From the shore, the sound of the music of Bach
Being played on a cello.
Pablo Casals, in his eighties, was asked why he still practiced.
"I think I am making progress," he said.
I raise the anchor and shove off into the fog.
I think I am making progress, too.


Today’s LittleNip:

Keep the fires burning for whatever god you love the most.
The most private of prayers burns in the most quiet of hours.
You and the flame. Faith and fire. The drumbeat of the earth.
The whispers of heaven in the quiet folds of your ears.
You have a secret name, and you speak it in the firelight.

—James Lee Jobe


Our thanks to James Lee Jobe for today’s fine poetry and photos! More of James Lee can be found at

On Sunday (4/15) at 2pm, James Lee will host a new,
3rd-Sunday-of-the-month reading series in Davis, the Davis Arts Center Poetry Series. April will feature Andy Jones and Connie Post. Davis Arts is at the corner of F St. and Covell in Davis. Free! Info:

And tonight, starting at 5:30pm, the Pablo Neruda Music, Art, & Poetry Festival will take place at Todo Un Poco Bistro, 9080 Laguna Main St., Elk Grove, featuring William O’Daly reading from his new book of Neruda translations,
The Book of Twilight, and other poets, musicians and artists. Free. 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.


 The Poet (when he is visible)
Celebrate poetry—and poets!

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, March 30, 2018

Climbing On Air

—Poems by Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
—Anonymous Carousel Photos


We follow the ermine interweaving
odyssey of clouds,
high wind through lofty leaves
an airy hymnal.

Charcoal shades of storm stir
wild irises… the storming over
now peach and apricot tints
frame a playground
as children return to play.

Prayers polish stars,
rain refreshes the moon...
a rainbow
moist colors sliding
off both ends,
a baptismal fountain.


Sitting in my truck
in John's pastoral cemetery
I do word puzzles
as he liked to do—
words forward, backward,
vertical, on the slant,
horizontal, upside-down—
words revolving around themes:

engines, desserts, dogs,
country capitols, airplanes—
a feast of words,
finished puzzles resembling
spaghetti with an inky sauce
as pen markings bleed
through the pages.

I'll once more greet friends
and strangers, hoping
that all words between us
translate as LOVE.


We love the way Bella reads—
a word, a picture,
another word, another picture.
Today a farmyard story,
different animal for each page.

Bella pauses on large letters,
feels secure, like leaning
all her weight on
the farm's giant collie.
Then she leaps ahead, swoops
down on unfamiliar words
like a Kansas tornado
before it whirls away the farm,
she clinging to the collie.

Instead of young Dorothy,
Bella is
the Wizard of Oz peeking out
from behind a curtain
of flashing lights.
"Boo" she says to each page.
I read you, you are mine!


Have you ever
aspired to rise so high
you felt
your shoulder blades tingle?
When no wings grew,
you climbed on air?


Injured animals are
shipped to her shop: lions
with chipped manes, broken toes;
giraffes with cracked knees;
ostriches, feathers kicked off;
horses with peeling paint.
All arrive shoddy, downcast,
soon enlivened
by tunes from her tools.

This gray-haired artisan
Dulled eyes brighten.

When the animals are remounted
for their merry-go-round-
and-round, lions once more roar,
giraffes stretch tall, nudge
colored lights; horses gallop,
excited kids holding reins
for the high-ride steeped
in the musical whirl of childhood...

(from the Berkeley ‘70s)

In a seminar on Being Human
we write first of stowing
away in mother's womb,
the watery float,
how we felt when the cut cord
freed us.
We recall breasted milk,
arm cradles,
our braced wobbly first-walk.

We grew, ventured 
into the world on our own:
got supported, detoured, done-in.
We banged our two heads
on the nearest wall, threw one
stupid head away; it bounced
back, determined to stay.
And, yes, there came a time
for love,
a lifelong chance, a treasury
from having been born.

(remembering B. Jo Kinnick)

The woman we sail to
over rough seas, the teacher
we invite into temples
and taverns of our talents,
is balded from chemo.

Wearing a wild red wig
she oils her funny bone,
signs up for a cruise,
flirts with ship's captain;
delights when storms
sweep the deck;
shuns lifeboats
lined up on a railing like nurses.

Home again
our teacher drops a pebble
into a pond, watches
as concentric circles spread
calmly outward.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Claire J. Baker

Great lovers
rose petals
and long
then kiss a
loved one's
healing them
with nectar
of rose.


—Medusa, thanking Claire Baker for today’s fine poems, and sending a reminder that Speak Up: The Art of Storytelling and Poetry will present poets/storytellers on the theme of “Growing Up” tonight, 7pm, at The Avid Reader on Broadway in Sacramento. 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.

 1911 Historic Looff Carousel, Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, CA
Celebrate poetry in motion!

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, March 29, 2018

Bless the Rain

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Sounds like a headline from those old tabloids—
Elvis sighted on Mars, Man’s Head Explodes
in Barber’s Chair, Winter Is Dead.
By calendar, maybe. But here,
new Spring grass was greening hills and swale
already in December; by mid-March, out-of-
Almost anything’s a tabloid
headline now: Bark Beetles Are Replacing
the Bees. Outlandish?
I’ve seen the beekeeper’s empty boxes;
the bear who used to raid his hives, disappeared
like endangered species. Hillsides of amber
pines, dead of drought and beetles.
Global warming?
Climate Change is creepy as heads exploding.
In these modern days of apocalyptic
science, maybe the old tabloids are extinct.
What’s real? Ask song-birds headed farther
north each year, a polar bear searching for ice.


Incessant fall of midnight rain down windows—
you waited for the death of winter;
tried to exorcize with smudge of sage;
brushed to static the cabin-fever air. Gray inside 

and out. You got in your car and drove away.
Out of town, looking for—what? not
purple sagebrush but thrill of skin to ultraviolet,
thin sky. A distinctive yet still distant
peak. Summit becomes symbol.
But something stopped you short. Turnout
with no sign promising waterfall or panoramic
view. You got out and started walking.
Rocks to wrench the joints, and wind purging
brain and lungs. Water cold as snowmelt,
it lives so close to winter. You drove home
empty, full of a secret you couldn’t say.

 Ghost Pine


Familiar of our hill in every season,
the ghost pine haunts another spring. It’s March,
all that’s left of winter is the gray—ghost-
pine gray. Deciduous oaks are leafing
out to match wild grasses rushing the pasture.
Buckeye’s gaudy with green. The ghost
pine stands gaunt, disheveled, drab; needle-
fingers fumbling a breeze. Its trunk so
many-forked, you’d think it couldn’t decide
which way to point the sky.
Still standing for another spring, ever-
green in gray-tone, a survivor.

11.95 INCHES

You said Winter was dead. We’re past
the equinox, it’s Spring; when the Sap Moon
turns full, the calendar flips a page:
April, Sunday, it’s Easter. Life rises again

as our creek has risen just since last
night, right over the road. A bit too soon
we spoke of Spring. Waters rage.
We’re stuck, going nowhere till—when?


A break between storms. We unpeeled quantities of wet dead leaves twigs logs grasses plastered to stockwire fence laid flat by dry-creek running full-tilt flood-stage across our drive; pulled more quantities of the same plus one small boulder to unclog a culvert. Who needs a lake across one’s entrance-exit? Then I boxed up 108 Years of National Geographic CD-Roms along with 25 pounds of paper issues; my mother’s treasured Larousse Gastronomique; The Limerick; and Norton’s English Literature Early 17th Century inherited from a poet-friend. To test our connection to an outside world, we drove to the Library, delivered our book donation, drove back home. It was a beautiful early spring afternoon. More rain due tonight.

in the creek’s water-
color puzzle, scourings of
earth, stone, grass, and sky

 Wander on the Rocks


Over eons our red-brown rocks have heaped/
heaved themselves into a blocky maze
behind the house, an ankle-breaker hilltop.

Three years ago, I watched our tiny pup,
Wander, sitting, watching TV; science program
in terms of pi, not puppies. But Wander

would go pied-pipering her littermates over
the rocks, too young to anchor their shadows.
Years before that, we had a dog named Pi,

her feats circumscribed by nothing, not even
the constant π. Puppy Wander was ready
to go, and the other pups to follow—tiny ships

on a geologic ocean tiding slower than the mind
of man or dog. Crux of our fractured world,
Can’t as opposed to Of course I can. Our pups

were safe as any babe on this side of an abyss.
Brave hearts adventuring the universe.
Balancing on boulders, waggling ears to tail,

sailing arcs over rock-heaps in new spring
light and dark of oak-shade, laughing
with every puppy-tooth. A lie? their pi of truth.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

A sea of muddy water tides over the bottom
of our driveway and the dirt road rutting
away to paved two-lane connecting
us to the outside world. We’re an island
here. Spring grows vivid green
with rain. Clumps of grass—loosened
along the shore, roots still clutching earth—
gather at the culvert with twigs,
branches, and logs broken free in storm.
It swirls a foamy whirlpool
above the culvert. Everything washes
down-creek that’s dry all summer,
resurrected now in rain. This
is how our world remakes itself.
Bless the rain.

 Still Streaming


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for her musings about winter and—perhaps—our premature reports of its death. As for the poem on global warming—ouch!


 —Photo by Taylor Graham
 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, March 28, 2018

The Greenfire Surge

—Anonymous Photos of the Irish Coast
—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA


The soaking rains of mid-March,
lavished on us too late,
or almost, upon the parch
of all February, the pate
of the summit unwigged by snow.
Drydock, once white oceandrift.
The belated ice-storm may blow,
moist powder may poultice the rift.
Lovemaking edge-whetted by guilt
for desertion, months trickled away.
No heaping of sweet bright silt
will fully atone—or allay
the resentments kept warm by raw stone
too long frostless, iceless, alone. 

 Cobh, County Cork


For the Irish Rebels
             (on Terry Golway’s For the Cause of Liberty:
             A Thousand Years of Ireland’s Heroes)

At last, an Irish history simple to read
yet shrewd about that radical craziness
that had to spout if Ireland was to bleed
almost to bleeding out, then win: excess
from all the soldiery and statesmen brave:
The O’Neill, Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmett, Pádraig Pearse,
Grattan, the insane sane who would not slave:
such Michaels and Josephs and Dermots voiced and fierce
died changing the title laborer for martyr;
better than break-even trade in the blood barter.
Eloquent, too, the account of Gonne; and Yeats
and Augusta Gregory whose plays—debates—
fueled theater, sparked much greenfire surge.
The harpist’s banner, the sunder-from-England urge…

Balance of Terror
             (on the Easter Rising, 1916)

In “Shells at Oranmore,” poet Dermot O’Byrne*
talks not of seashells gleaned upon soft strands
of beach, but shells from naval guns that churn
stone into slurry and slag, steel firebrands
bombarding Irish coastline, English-tossed,
chaos-clatter, blood streaks everywhere
these imprecise war-dogs sniff out the lost,
doomed long before the first-launched scorched the air.
Words like “an insolence winged across the sun,”
or “Never before had such a song been sung”:
Strangely construed—lines on the barbarity
of British howitzers read today as if
praising Irish defiance. The sulfur whiff
taints all, it’s true—wee small disparity.

*Dermot O’Byrne was British composer Arnold Bax

 Part of The Ring of Kerry


O write it up above your hearth
And troll it out to sun and moon,
To all true Irishmen on earth
Arrest and death come late or soon.

Some boy-o whistled Ninety-eight*
One Sunday night in College Green,
And such a broth of love and hate
Was stirred ere Monday morn was late
As Dublin town had never seen.

And god-like forces shocked and shook
Through Irish hearts that lively day,
And hope it seemed no ill could brook.
Christ! for that liberty they took
There was the ancient deuce to pay!

The deuce in all his bravery,
His girth and gall grown no whit less,
He swarmed in from the fatal sea
With pomp of huge artillery
And brass and copper haughtiness.

He cracked up all the town with guns
That roared loud psalms to fire and death,
And houses hailed down granite tons
To smash our wounded underneath.

And when at last the golden bell
Of liberty was silenced—then
He learned to shoot extremely well
At unarmed Irish gentlemen!

Ah! Where were Michael and gold Moll
And Seumas and my drowsy self?
Why did fate blot us from the scroll?
Why were we left upon the shelf,

Fooling with trifles in the dark
When the light struck so wild and hard?
Sure our hearts were as good a mark
For Tommies up before the lark
At rifle practice in the yard!

Well, the last fire is trodden down,
Our dead are rotting fast in lime,
We all can sneak back into town,
Stravague about as in old time,

And stare at gaps of grey and blue
Where Lower Mount Street used to be,
And where flies hum round muck we knew
For Abbey Street and Eden Quay.

And when the devil’s made us wise
Each in his own peculiar hell,
With desert hearts and drunken eyes
We’re free to sentimentalize
By corners where the martyrs fell.

          —Dermot O’Byrne
A Dublin Ballad and Other Poems,
             The Candle Press, Dublin, 1918.
             (Suppressed by the British censor in Ireland.)

*Ninety-eight = referring to the popular Irish ballad
which begins “Who fears to speak of Ninety-eight,”
composed to commemorate the brief Irish uprising of 1798.

 Irish Surfers

(Arnold Bax, Third Piano Sonata, second movement)

For this brief “idyll, calm and broad in design,”
the splendid visions blend in one fine tune,
G major, sky-incising a perfumed line
by which we follow (yet can’t follow soon
even so apt a guide) into That World,
an Avalon, a Celtic Otherrealm,
all shifting greens, rose-violets cloud-enfurled,
bliss veiled most mournfully behind yew and elm
—then enharmonic pivot on that same G

to E-flat major solace: tears will stand,
eyelashes brim yet hold. Consolingly
the hymnal sings to us; as Ireland
need never blush for its more “ordinary”
velvets, russets, nevertheless a blush
tinges the maiden sky cheek: virgin Kerry?
Mortal contentment, ample summer hush
—but oh yes, there’s one volatile storm-clad moment
for even that gentlest melodic germ to foment.
So be it. Sing again, hymnal, make no hurry
—time enough to remount this music’s fury.

                           —St. Patrick’s Day 2018 

Today’s LittleNip:

You that would judge me, do not judge alone this book or that, come to this hallowed place where my friends’ portraits hang and look thereon; Ireland's history in their lineaments trace; think where man’s glory most begins and ends and say my glory was I had such friends.

—William Butler Yeats


Our thanks to Tom Goff today for his fine poems! For “17 of the Most Beautiful Quotes from Irish Writers”, go to For more about The Ring of Kerry, go to

Speaking of Irish writers, Medusa has had them on her mind lately, with SnakePal Eamonn Stewart last Friday, and a new Pal—Steve Denehan—coming up next week, and now Tom's musings on same. Watch the Kitchen for plenty of green.


 Bunnies in the Green (Note Shamrocks)
(Celebrate poetry from around the world!)

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, March 27, 2018

The Dark Listens

The Field
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Today is still gray with winter.
April is next—taking its time.

For days rain has owned the world
—the old wet world.

The tireless rain keeps filling the rivers.
Hillside houses slip a little.  Gulls circle.

Clouds flood the sky—near and distant.
Heavy.   Dark.   And gray.

Levees hold—or give a little
—unseen, but felt in apprehension.

Streets puddle.  Cars slosh through.
Red sirens echo like howls of pain. 

Somewhere, a familiar sorrow
makes its way home . . . stays forever.



the hailstones
through the screen door
we hug at the doorway, hello,
we hug at the doorway,
we never reach
the rainbow     oh loss
oh loss
in abeyance
the time between our last visit
and the next
travel this way
travel that way
way is everywhere
wanting what I want
extent of yearning
humility of acceptance
watching the train
rumble by,
reading the graffiti
all night
the shadows speak to one another
the dark listens

 As In Velvet


We are all

even where the dark
is finished

and the paisley

some in white stockings
some in gray

with the stray sunshine
heavy upon the year

for the fashionable dressing
of poetic demands

even as we try
to gauge

the seasonal

nothing so clear
as memory in its revision

 Golden Bee


On the pathway,
the quick-footed blackbird—
in the sunlight—strutted and glistened,
flew up to the fence rail
and sat there


Later that day, a rainbow hooked itself to one end
of the sky and folded into the rain-weighted clouds
for awhile and just curved there, but soon dwindled
off into moody space—like us in our mutual silence.


Cows occupied the slopes on each side of the freeway,
so at peace with themselves—forming circles
of idle companionship here and there—
while others continued grazing.
Behind them, the near fields
leveled off into the far
line of hills, which
further leveled
off into the
flat white
line of



It was the season of acute loneliness.
Blossoms came to the trees.
The skies softened.
Sunlight worried the cold glass of windows.
Geese had returned
with their wavering far cries,
guiding each other.
First robins brought their dear amazement
to winter eyes.
I filled the lengthening days
with my lethargy.
In all the nurseries,
disparate people
were buying seeds and flowers,
welcoming the season
with bursts of energy.
I had no energy.
My mind was too heavy.
I had nothing to offer.
My winter heart
had left me this lonely season of mockery.



Hello, Horse,
I say to the empty field
when driving by
in my back-and-forth way—
recalling how Horse used to occupy
the field like a lifelong tenant . . .

I miss Horse . . .
It was a comfort to see
him always there—
removed from all the traffic whizzing by.
I used to wonder what he thought.

Goodbye, Horse,
I whisper like a blessing,
made sadder now
by his absence—the field
just an empty field, except for the ghost
that lingers—like a loneliness.

 Scene Stealer

(“One swallow does not make a spring.”—Aristotle)

What is this absence? This loss
we feel? This timing gone wrong?
This cold season?

What is the meaning of a species
almost vanished? Should we mourn?
Should we learn to save ourselves?

What is after us?
We are pressed together in a vast
disharmony. We lose the rhythm.


The last poet in the world
sits writing in a quiet yard.
He looks around for inspiration.

The sunlight is warm upon him.
He is disconnected from his own memory.
He sees a shadow cross his page

and he looks up in joy . . .
it is the last swallow . . .
his is the last poem to speak of it.  

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 1997)

 Pink Blur


In the full-moon night of morning
of this first full-day of spring,
I feel the moon ignite the
dark with a fierce quiet
as I rise from my dream
and go to the window
to find the powerful
square of light—
so near—out-shining
the street lamps, and the
porch lights, and the first few
headlights of the morning, and I
stand there awhile in the stillness
and begin to map my day which, in
this clear, shimmering moment, I own.

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 2011 andSong of the San Joaquin, 2016)


Today’s LittleNip:

RAIN LULLABY           

Now that it has begun raining
this first day of March
of this continuing year

I will turn off the light,
put down my book
and listen to

the sound the rain makes,
willing the house to be silent
so I can listen myself to sleep.

—Joyce Odam

(first pub. in
One Dog Press, 2011)


Medusa’s thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s beautiful bouquet of poems and photos about being on the cusp of spring—our Seed of the Week: The Death of Winter. Joyce’s “Horse in the Rain” is in the form of an unrhymed poem called Quantitative Syllabics (3, 7, 4, 6, 10,  8). Each line of a stanza section—of any length—contains the same number of syllables in the corresponding line of subsequent stanzas.

Our new Seed of the Week is Dawn Chorus. To learn what that is, go to To inspire yourself with sound, go to 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.

The newest issue of
Ekphrasis, the journal edited by Sacramento’s Laverne and Carol Frith, is now available at


Cover, A.D. Winans' Crazy John Poems

In April 2018, Cold River Press will be releasing 
A.D. Winans’ compilation of poems from the 
Crazy John Poems series. The retail price is $14.95, 
plus $5 shipping...BUT it can be purchased from 
the publisher at the pre-publication price of $12.95, 
which includes FREE shipping. This offer ends 
at the end of March 31, 2018. 
first ten orders receive a free copy of Winans’ CD, 
The Reagan Psalms, which retails for $12.95.

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, March 26, 2018

Batter Up!

—Anonymous Photos

(an Alphabet poem)
—Michael Ceraolo, S. Euclid, OH

Another day and another game for Mudville's

Baseball maniacs, who cheered like

Crazy for their hometown team.  They were

Devoted to their star player Casey and the

Ensemble cast surrounding him, who were

Facing their great rivals in the pennant race's decisive

Game, and they found themselves trailing by two

Heading into the bottom of the ninth


Jimmy Blake's and Joe Flynn's hits

Kept their pennant hopes alive and

Left two men on with two men out.

Mighty Casey himself then strode to the plate,

Nodding in acknowledgement of the fans' standing


Perhaps the anonymous pitcher didn't know Casey's

Q score, for he failed to show Casey any


Slipping past him a fastball and a curve,

Two pitches called strikes by the

Umpire, who was then drenched in

Venom from the vociferous fans

Willing to bury him where he stood with an

X marking the spot of interment.

You expected Casey to swing and he did, but the pitcher

Zipped the third strike by him to end the game and the season.

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

“Trusty” is a government bond,
kept in a safety deposit box,
that will reach maturity in 7 years.

The government will deploy
only the highest and best
resources to protect “Trusty”.

“Jane” is an 11-year-old child
attending public school
who will also reach maturity in 7 years.

“Jane” must wonder
moment to moment
if the next breath she takes
will be her last.

—Eamonn Stewart, Belfast, Ireland

The first psychophany, from futurity
Her sugar glass ceiling smashing
I misheard, but not the

Psychophanies over the phone.
Ice lolly headaches.
She used to eat the rag nails
From my fingers.

Then she crashed through
The sugar glass ceiling.
Drsmiels at work
Clucked and clucked
Until I was fucked.

In an earlier age
I could have sang:
“Her crocodile tears have
Given me syphilis”.
At the fair, when she said
She should leave,
My candyfloss turned to ectoplasm.
After making love to her
I had somatic hallucinations for hours sometimes.
She gnaws at my fingers still.


Today’s LittleNip:

Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.

—Yogi Berra


Our thanks to today’s fine poets, including Eamonn Stewart in Ireland. About his poem, he writes: “It is a poem about intimacy betrayed more than anything else. The line about tears causing syphilis is from a dubious translation of a line from a Schubert song that a music teacher from my old school gave to our class one day. Sugar glass is used in Hollywood stunts. Drsmiel is a demon that breaks up marriages.”

It looks like spring is finally sprung here in our area; time to think about getting out and about again, including not only baseball, but brushing up your skills at a poetry workshop. Maxi Allen, the moderator of the Valley Hi-North Laguna Library workshop (in south Sacramento), writes that the library (and Sac. Poetry Center) hosts a poetry workshop every other Thursday from 6:00-7:30pm. The next meeting is April 5. This workshop has been ongoing since 2015 and is always open to hearing from voices in the community. Bring 15 c. of your one-pg. (or less) poem, 12-size font, your name on the bottom of the page. And of course, the long-running (more than 20 years!) Tuesday night workshop meets weekly at the Hart Sr. Center in Sacramento; call Danyen Powell at 530-756-6228 for info. For more area workshops, go to the green column next to this one here in the Kitchen.

Cold River Press is calling for submissions for the
2018 Sacramento Voices. Information will be coming soon at

Poetry readings in our area begin tonight in Placerville with the Poetry in Motion read-around at Placerville Sr. Center, 6-7pm. Then Sac. Poetry Center will present the Squaw Valley Community of Writers reading and forthcoming anthology,
Poems from the Valley, 7:30pm. On Friday, Speak Up: The Art of Storytelling and Poetry presents poets/storytellers on the theme of “Growing Up”, 7-8:30pm.

On Saturday (3/31), 5:30-10pm, The Pablo Neruda Music, Art, & Poetry Festival will take place at Todo un Poco Bistro, 9080 Laguna Main St., Elk Grove, featuring William O’Daly reading from his new book of Neruda translations,
The Book of Twilight, and other poets, musicians and artists celebrating the work of Neruda. Free. 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.


 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, March 25, 2018

Defying Gravity

—Anonymous Artwork
—Poems by Tracy K. Smith, USPL


5pm on the nose. They open their mouths
And it rolls out: high, shrill and metallic.
First the boy, then his sister. Occasionally,
They both let loose at once, and I think
Of putting on my shoes to go up and see
Whether it is merely an experiment
Their parents have been conducting
Upon the good crystal, which must surely
Lie shattered to dust on the floor.

Maybe the mother is still proud
Of the four pink lungs she nursed
To such might. Perhaps, if they hit
The magic decibel, the whole building
Will lift-off, and we'll ride to glory
Like Elijah. If this is it—if this is what
Their cries are cocked toward—let the sky
Pass from blue, to red, to molten gold,
To black. Let the heaven we inherit approach.

Whether it is our dead in Old Testament robes,
Or a door opening onto the roiling infinity of space.
Whether it will bend down to greet us like a father,
Or swallow us like a furnace. I'm ready
To meet what refuses to let us keep anything
For long. What teases us with blessings,
Bends us with grief. Wizard, thief, the great
Wind rushing to knock our mirrors to the floor,
To sweep our short lives clean. How mean

Our racket seems beside it. My stereo on shuffle.
The neighbor chopping onions through a wall.
All of it just a hiccough against what may never
Come for us. And the kids upstairs still at it,
Screaming like the Dawn of Man, as if something
They have no name for has begun to insist
Upon being born.




The earth is dry and they live wanting.
Each with a small reservoir
Of furious music heavy in the throat.
They drag it out and with nails in their feet
Coax the night into being. Brief believing.
A skirt shimmering with sequins and lies.
And in this night that is not night,
Each word is a wish, each phrase
A shape their bodies ache to fill—

               I'm going to braid my hair
          Braid many colors into my hair
               I'll put a long braid in my hair
          And write your name there

They defy gravity to feel tugged back.
The clatter, the mad slap of landing.


And not just them. Not just
The ramshackle family, the tios,
not just the bailaor
Whose heels have notched
And hammered time
So the hours flow in place
Like a tin river, marking
Only what once was.
Not just the voices scraping
Against the river, nor the hands
Nudging them farther, fingers
Like blind birds, palms empty,
Echoing. Not just the women
With sober faces and flowers
In their hair, the ones who dance
As though they're burying
Memory—one last time—
Beneath them.
                         And I hate to do it here.
To set myself heavily beside them.
Not now that they've proven
The body a myth, parable
For what not even language
Moves quickly enough to name.
If I call it pain, and try to touch it
With my hands, my own life,
It lies still and the music thins,
A pulse felt for through garments.
If I lean into the desire it starts from—
If I lean unbuttoned into the blow
Of loss after loss, love tossed
Into the ecstatic void—
It carries me with it farther,
To chords that stretch and bend
Like light through colored glass.
But it races on, toward shadows
Where the world I know
And the world I fear
Threaten to meet.


There is always a road,
The sea, dark hair, dolor.

Always a question
Bigger than itself—

               They say you're leaving Monday
               Why can't you leave on Tuesday? 



When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and red wine.


U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith has been appointed to a second term (2018-2019). For info, see


Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Thousand Cranes

Jobe's Soundtrack
—Poems and Photos by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA

My life is a library
filled with stacks of books
that are maddeningly tall.
Some grow so tall
that they fall over,
and so new stacks are born.
These marry other stacks,
and make families.
Soon, a city of books.
Then a nation.
Then a world.
That's my life, friend.
Welcome to my library.
Come on in.


A sea of illusion surrounds the island of my tiny life.
High tide comes, and washes over the way I live
and what I am. What am I? I wonder that, wet.
And what will I become when I am dry once again.

 James and Alexandra

Your flesh is like red wine,
dark and rich.
In the deeps of a precious night
we toast each other.


This life is a circle, like your lips in a kiss.
Now I am moving around and around
in love and in life. Together with you.


The sky at night is beautiful, like a woman
revealing the corners of her soul.
Yes, she is taking off her gown to stand naked before you,
but she is giving you a far greater gift than just her body.
She is giving you the stars of the Milky Way,
she is handing you the Cloud Nebula,
and all you have to do is love her.

 Alexandra and James

The blue night above the cold water of Lake Berryessa.
The white moon, alone against the black sky.
Not a star to be seen.
It could be that all of our souls together
make up the body of one vast soul.
Such is the grace of night.
These things are the rags of God, pitiful garments
worn in the presence of humans.
Prayer is a blessing of solitude, conversation with The One.
Yes, our souls join together, here, now, everywhere.
We are one soul.

(for Jose Montoya)


"I live for this art of mine," I said,
"Or perhaps it is a craft."
"Is it a chaotic, bohemian life?"
He asked me that with a sound in his voice
as though he already knew my answer,
and that answer was yes.
What did he expect of me?
That because I am a poet
I must live a life of wine and women?
A life without roots or rules?
Friend, that isn't true at all.
Like most people, I have rules I live by.
Praise the light and the dark equally.
Be true to your family and friends.
Be honest in your business dealings.
Try to cause no harm to anyone.
Be thankful for your life and your soul.
If you can help, then help.
Look hard to see the joy in things,
especially the hard things.
Let go and laugh when you feel it,
and when the rain falls, dance.
Time was passing and I still hadn't answered.
He was waiting, not for truth,
but to be correct, and thus superior,
which meant that he was not superior at all.
"Yes," I said, "Chaos. It's anarchic."
We parted ways then, both of us pleased;
he was pleased for his superiority,
and I was pleased because I had a poem to write.
This one. 

 Jobe Journal Art

My voice will not die
when my body dies.

My words and my thoughts
will live on in these poems.

My love will stay strong
in the hearts of my children.

Send my body to the earth
and my soul to the heavens.

Let my words and my poems stay
on the pages where I left them.

And let my children carry on here,
and bring on another generation.

My voice will not die
when my body dies.

 Jobe Bag Art

A crane made of folded paper comes to life.
Then another. And another. One thousand in all.
Alive, these cranes wade out from the cold marsh.
One thousand paper cranes take flight as one.
This life is magic, and we are the magicians.


Today’s LittleNip:

May I be spared the illusion
that even one second belongs to me.
I own nothing.
There is only that which I do,
and that which I don't do.
The rest is an illusion.

—James Lee Jobe


Many thanks to James Lee Jobe for this morning’s fine poems and photos!

Writers on the Air meets at Sac. Poetry Center this morning from 9:30am to 1pm, and Poetic License poetry read-around meets today in Placerville at the Sr. Center, 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.

U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith has been appointed to a second term (2018-2019). For info, see She will be selecting 25 poems to be featured in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series for April, which is National Poetry Month; go to to have them sent to you and for more information about National Poetry Month.


 Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate
—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.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Who Are You?

—Anonymous Photos
—Poems by JD DeHart, Chattanooga, TN


First and foremost, believer—
one who thinks and feels there is a Creator
and the universe is headed somewhere.

Then, a husband and son and, one day I hope,
a father.  My family relationships are
a series of roots that ground me.

Next, I am a teacher who is sometimes
disappointed with the reality of people but
always enamored with their possibility.

This is central to my work.

A writer.  One who has tried his hand
at a variety of publications, sometimes poetry,
sometimes essays.  Recently, research.

I always hope to write something.

A lister.  One who has been making lists a long
time to feel adequate, to feel like an overcomer.
No more lists.  This is who I am.


Welcome to the City,
once called Salem, changed to Slam,
a bit of scratching on the road sign.

Maybe it’s a change
in the atmosphere, more rays allowed
through, but here people could do
amazing feats.

Slam City is
where you can find…

a slender robotic assassin
with ebony liquid skin,
probably inspired by The Matrix;

a man with implements on his feet
large enough to cause an earthquake.

I called him Stamper,
imagined his thudding steps
shattering the world to its center.

A guy who could leap a tall building
in a…well, you know.  Kangaroo.
I drew him once or twice, complete
with hat and bionic legs.

Because who wouldn’t want
bionic legs? 

A figure from my dreams with gun-metal
gray hair and a mouth sewn shut, stitched
dark clothing, went by the name Silence.

I drew his costume in between drawing
the one I would wear when I could
save the world.

An unfortunate fool who turned the wrong
knob in an experiment and became a living
creature of stone, dubbed Cement.

My family pet, the barky Chihuahua, blown
up into a fifteen-feet tall monster,
his bug-eyes bouncing along a dark street.

A character inspired by Jim Carrey’s Mask
with purple skin, a lavender suit, and two ping-
pong paddles to spin him into manic orbit.

He would deliver jokes I had not written yet.
Maybe I read too many comics.
Maybe I watched too many films.

Maybe I still do too much
of both.

An entire race called The Lizards who lived
on the bottom, darkened level of the metropolis,
led by a scarlet-clad reptile man called Levine.

Surely this many-leveled world was inspired
by my frequent visits to Batman Forever.

Another race of creatures called The Sand
who live in the outer recesses where the urban
landscape meets what used to be forest.

I dreamed their stories daily
in my childhood walks with my father
and his large black dog.

In those reflections, I saw

a figure with the wings of a hawk and the body
of a man who could swoop down and deliver them
all, if he only cared.



Made real
this person I crave to be
no longer swept away
by injurious words
the small frame of views
from others
no longer defined by
criticism, that easy art
practiced in the absence
of real action, of creation
made real.


Gather your stray
thoughts yipping along
roadsides like lost dogs
no muzzles

Let me leash you all
together and put a thought
into a sentence
let it live in letters

Scratching my chin
squinting my eyes
refusing a smile
looking all kinds of thinking.

(first pub. in Poet Community)



I’ve learned some
traces of travel language
but still sit alone
in a room full of others,
I have caught some
syllables here and there,
can imitate certain sounds
and movements…
But a sentence? Oh,
forget it, I’m lost in posing,
too busy trying to make
meaning of the minute
regions of a language
I’m craving and resisting.

(first pub. in Poet Community)


I was Bruce Wayne
on the rooftop.  And even
sometimes the Joker.

I was Clark Kent, alien
in a land where everyone
else seemed comfortable.

My glasses were fake
and I was always ready to
reveal my true identity.

I dreamed of flying like
Superman until I was old enough
to be afraid of heights.

I learned that you don’t always
land on your feet when you fall
from a rooftop.

All of that is fine, I lament sometimes,
but still work on stitching my costume,
planning my grand entrance.

(first pub. at Red River Review)


Today’s LittleNip:

—JD DeHart

Of course, nothing is permanent.
Though you want to imply it is.
The world is made of sand, not concrete,
and structures wave in the wind.

This wall was not built to last.
There is a space in the future world
where this set of rules will not be.
Look forward to it, if you can.


Our thanks to JD DeHart from Chattanooga for today’s fine poetry!

Michelle Kunert sends three links to celebrities reading poetry, including Bill Murray reading Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Dog" poem. Thanks, Michelle!

 And of course, Superwoman...!
(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.