Monday, April 30, 2018

Abandoning Oneself

—Photos by Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

I abandoned myself to callow and immoral idleness and simply lazed and dreamed all day long.
          —Arnold Bax, letter of August 12, 1916 to Harriet Cohen

The callow and immorally idle Bax
—you humbug, when did you ever misspend one day?
Your so-called laziness hangs long candle-racks
in tallow-, beeswax-, paraffin-strung array;
so many shaping, dripping, hardening works
hung at first heat or coalescing cool
through manifold revisions. Someone shirks
in this green England. That someone, that fool,
not you. Bemoaning your age, your edge less virile;
or you claim your pieces tossed off—sprezzatura,
that gentleman’s airiest bluff, that coloratura.
Then—oldest of musical saws—you reckon sterile
your newest sonata, poem, or short story.
Left hand orchestrates old scherzos, right hand jots songs.
The coy shy fortune-seeker in you longs
to hear performed your “Concertino” score.
This perfect concerto, branded baby-grand:
sweet offspring christened as if by back of hand.
You downgrade self, misnaming its category.
Name scalding red flows from the caldera’s dark core. 

—Tom Goff

in memoriam: Debora Larry Kearney,
Folsom Lake College Professor Emerita

Debora, do you remember, I still say
—in poems, the dear departed can reply—
that day of the writing conference by the Bay?
So balmy, the empathetic air did sigh
along with us the imperatively cooped
up with our fellow academics there
in some quite august civic structure. Air,
pure air and light, the remedy for the drooped
and workweek-bent. No go. But, lucky for us,
we chanced on the exact same poetry reading:
the great Beat poet Ann Waldman chanting, chanting
from her book on Florida’s half-mermaid, half-walrus
species: her title, Manatee / Humanity.
Her expert incantation (call it Manatee /
Humanity / Advocacy), nigh-inaudible filigree,
backed, she explained, by her son’s electronics.
Mixmaster scramble, recorded squawk and blare
and beatdown groove—assault made audiophonic,
Beat Generation allegiance to ye old “unsquare”
sense of the fully-untended inconsequence.
We got the poetic message. It was intense.
Later, I solo-roved the Union Square shops
for San Francisco amazements, galleries
crammed with famous artists’ names. The props
I gave myself for visually bagging trophies:
there, it’s a Miró! And over here, Chagall!
Close to the hotel, who happens by but you, Debora…?
I relate my spellbinding discoveries, and ah,
like Aristotle or Sappho taking the air,
Debora, you’re back from already having been there
and matter-of-factly sized it up and seen it all…


—Tom Goff

Four Orchestral Pieces by Arnold Bax)

Who faster stamps the rhythm of this dance?
You flash like spokes on Bax’s bicycle.
The sun’s wheel spins out flaring sparks of chance.

I try and fail to keep up with your prance
And pounce, fast faint words echo-traceable,
More like the living rhythm of a dance

Than bolts or sine-waves from some necromancer’s
cliché wand, magic trivial and dull;
Your own wheel spins out flaring sparks of chance,

As Baxian rhythms throw off with their slants:
The ear thinks downbeat, pickup: gullible
To living rhythm’s tantalizing dance…

If sly caprice is kin to sweet romance,
Will you be someone’s happiest downfall,
Your wheel fling sun-spun, daring sparks of chance?

Will they cast over his life the predestined trance
That spellbinds—in full sunlight—to your rule
Your partner in the arrhythmic grip of chance?
Who are you if not the sun-spun wheel of dance?    

  Old Radicchio

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

A man whose life was
lacking control thought
it would be better if
he went out and bought

various plants
to put in the ground,
call all the shots and
boss them around.

So he went to the nursery
to discover and know
what kinds of plants
they felt he could best grow;

at the nursery they showed
him seeds of discontent,
also bare root dissatisfaction
in case that was more his bent

“Feed them anger and fury,
much daily dissension,
surround them with mulch
made from bones of contention.

If these plants ever give
you any trouble at all
remind them you’re the boss,
next to them you stand tall.”


Your name and address
cleanly printed
on a business check,
fresh as new coins minted

showing through a crisp
window envelope,
suggesting a nice benefit
to kindle your hope,

Imagine thousands of
dollars free and clear,
discretionary funds for
necessities like beer

then the fine print reveals a
super high-interest loan,
as if exploding your debt
is a nice thing to own,

or it is a quasi-check in a
generous dollar amount
to reduce the purchase price
from a figure too high to count

of a brand new, fully loaded,
must-have car.
Act today, don’t delay,
what are you waiting for?


(Borrowing liberally from Joyce Odam’s “Gulls,
Facing North”, Medusa’s Kitchen, April 24, 2018)

Watching HDTV images of an older, gray-haired
politician uttering his partisan comments because
he was given the mike, and there it was—

Beyond the face, a thin black horizon line:

That bold, narrow shadow cast by a meticulously
groomed collection of aged hairs no longer rooted
but merely resting upon the scalp,

now silently eroding the presumption of merit his
high credentials had brought to the podium, which
made me sad because I agreed with what he said.


Someone left the windows down
a cat got in and went to town.
At last the cat is gone and out

though the smell remains
both in our car and in our snout

Diligent investigations
and proven allegations
may culminate in a big bust

to take down those high and mighty
who have violated our trust

So we might get lucky soon
and be singing a cheerful tune
this is not about a payday

but the pendulum of karma
finally swinging our way.


What is the absolutely
dirtiest thing that you
could bring into your house?

Well don’t worry, it is
not your bare feet or your
well-worn, soiled footwear.

The winner is poetry!
All those images gathered
from acres of rural growth:

the community toilet of so
many creatures you would
never welcome inside, plus

the ugliest of raw feelings
bared wide open in verse,
creating a greater exposure

to risk, like using fiber glass
to replace durable steel siding.
Crash helmets won’t save you.

No amount of refined laboratory
equipment or technical training
are required to see these

troublesome elements, more
voluminous than bacteria, and
even available in LARGE PRINT.

Fair warning:  when a poem
bombs, the radioactive fallout
can remain for millions of years.


Today’s LittleNip:


4 Bud

curly hair
on a kid,
green toad
in the mud.


pretty fruit
poison pit,
case is not


Thanks to Tom Goff for his fine poems today, and to Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) for his also-fine poems and for his river photos. About his poem, “Maybe”, Carl says, “The rhymes are forced, the rhythm doesn’t flow well, and the lines are oddly broken.  Thus  ‘Something is not right here’ is the underlying theme of this poem.” He also says that “Everyone should keep a Med Kit (Medusa’s Kitchen) handy!” Wise words, Carl.

Poetry in our area, as we close off National Poetry Month, was supposed to begin tonight with a fundraiser at Sac. Poetry Center—it was originally announced as a fundraiser for Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, and there's still a note about it on the SPC calendar, but as I haven’t heard any more about that, I suspect it has been cancelled. So go down there at your own risk, or ask Bob Stanley what're the haps... Anyway, there will also be a big reading in Davis tonight from 7-8:30pm at the John Natsoulas Gallery, featuring Jane Hirshfield, Indigo Moor, Linda Scheller and Gerry Pineda. Get there early (doors open at 6:30) to get a seat!

Tuesday from 5-7, Poetry Off-the-Shelves poetry read-around meets in El Dorado Hills at the Library. On Wednesday at 3pm in the CSUS Special Collections Room of the Library, there will be a presentation of VocaLabUlary, a poetry-music collaboration between faculty and students.

Thursday is the Big Day of Giving, and there will be a celebration of same at Sac. Poetry Center from 2-8:30pm, presented by Sac. Poetry Center and Women’s Wisdom ART. Also on Thursday: Ladies’ Night Out in Old Sac, 8-10pm, and Poetry in Davis features Stan Zumbiel, Jeff Knorr, and open mic, 8pm at the John Natsoulas Gallery.

And two workshops this weekend: 2018 Gold Rush Writers’ Conference, May 4-6, in Mokelumne Hill, and Wakamatsu Workshop in Placerville on Sunday, 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.


 Celebrate poetry—and The Busy Beaver, who never 
abandons him/herself to days of callow and immoral idleness…
—Anonymous Photo

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, April 29, 2018

Entering the Head

"A fox's nose touches twig, leaf..."
—Anonymous Photo

—Ted Hughes (1930-1998)

The Thought-Fox
I imagine this midnight moment's forest:

Something else is alive

Beside the clock's loneliness

And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:

Something more near

Though deeper within darkness

Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow

A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;

Two eyes serve a movement, that now

And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow

Between trees, and warily a lame

Shadow lags by stump and in hollow

Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,

A widening deepening greenness,

Brilliantly, concentratedly,

Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox,

It enters the dark hole of the head.

The window is starless still; the clock ticks,

The page is printed.



For more about Ted Hughes, see
For more about 'The Thought-Fox", go to 

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, April 28, 2018

Hitch Your Horses...

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

Pearl River. Night.
Suddenly shining a flashlight
Across the dark water at night,
I can see the eyes of several alligators
Before they slip under,
Slipping down below
Like submarines with cold souls.
There are owls and frogs
Making their lovely noises,
And every so often
There is the yell of a frog
That has been taken suddenly
By a water moccasin.
Nature sets a hard table.
Magnolias and willows make a roof
That is lit by the campfire.
Beyond that?
The moon, the stars, the universe,
And maybe Heaven.
On one side of the river is Mississippi,
And on the other is Louisiana.
Man has a need for borders,
But alligators don't.
Walking to the edge of the river,
I shine the flashlight again,
And again the eyes go down,
But this time closer, much closer. 

I kept one prisoner in the brick oven,
And I kept another in a lovely wooden box that a friend built.
Dark angels watched over them.
Those were the hottest days of a Texas summer.
Horseflies buzzed them, nibbling at their wounds,
Tasting the salt in their sweat, tasting their blood.
And me? I worked in the pine woods,
Clearing a right-of-way for power lines.
I knelt in churches that had no pews,
Churches that were built of unpainted wood,
And I prayed for relief.
I walked the thankless miles carrying a chainsaw and a can of fuel.
I carried more prisoners in the pockets of my overalls,
And in my boots.
I fed them the lies my father told me,
Those same lies that your father told you,
And though their sentences were harsh,
They were not hungry.
In this way justice was served.

All through the empty night I walked the dirt lane,
Feeling my way along with my cane, my eyes covered
By a white cloth tied around my head. Just for fun,
For a laugh, the executioner had set my cap on top of it,
To mock my worldly and pointless pride. Death followed,
Carrying that damn scythe. Crows came too, hungry.
Every step was a mile long, and every minute lasted
An hour. The air was dry and still, I could many sounds;
The heavy footsteps, the ragged breath, the crows' wings
Beating in flight. I could hear Death following behind me,
As she always has, as she always will. As it is with you, too.
We all walk that lane as far as we can, never quite as far
As we hope for, and damn few of us ever see the end.
Eventually the scythe just suddenly whistles through the air. 

We are ready now to suffer.
We have plucked the feathers
From the wings of the angels.
All of the ice cream is gone. 
The dog wears a look of shame
Or sadness, even though nothing
Has happened that involved him.
We have buried all of our parents.

We are ready now to suffer.
First came joy, then sorrow.
We are ready now for what
Comes next, the inescapable.
This is the numbing of the masses.
This is what will happen when
The prisons outnumber the schools.
Our coffins have all been purchased.

We are ready now to suffer.
Bring on the hair-shirts and the sweat.
Bring on the guilt, oh yes, the guilt.
Lower all of your flags to half-mast,
And hitch the horses to the hearse.
We are ready now to suffer.
We knew that this day would come.
We are ready now to suffer.

 James Lee Jobe

Time is what it is, and so is the world.
What could I ever do about that?
I am getting older. Spring has again returned
To my valley, right on time. Any night now,
The sound of the crickets will also return,
And I will again sit out on the patio
Watching the moths fly around the one light.
I have nothing to sacrifice,
And I have nothing to gain.


Sharks have entered the river, just a little ways,
Where there is some salt in the water.
Silver-white and beautiful in their pride and strength.
They are not ferocious with cruelty, like mankind;
They live only as they must.
And in broken days the trees call out for storms and lightning,
Not like a man who wishes for death, but like a congregation
That hopes for a minister with more fire, more heat.
Who doesn't want that?
Wolves live beyond the laws of man,
And they don't give a damn who cares; that is a life worthy of respect,
A life that claims its own passion, as hard as steel.
James, there is that which is not, and that which is;
This your own life to choose, yours.


Today’s LittleNip:

If your plate is empty, bring it to me, and I will fill it.
Should you be cold, I will light the fire.
When the day is hard and heavy, return to me here.
I will carry the burden for as long as we both shall breathe.
In this life I will take your part, you do not walk alone.

—James Lee Jobe


Many thanks to James Lee Jobe for today’s inspiring poems and pix on this big day of poetry in our area, with the Sac. Poetry Center Writers’ Conference 2018 in Sacramento, beginning at 9am; the Sierra Nevada Poetry Festival 2018 in Grass Valley, beginning at 10am, and Poetic License poetry read-around in Placerville from 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.


 —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, April 27, 2018

Midwife Crisis

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


It was a small town
in the middle of nowhere.
A slowly dying mining town
with a lack of services.

And a shortage of midwives
for all the pregnant ladies.

The infant mortality rate
was three times the national

I saw it on this news program
that made their news anchors walk
into the camera shot so things
would look real dramatic.

And they all wore heels
so it sounded like cavalry
riding into battle.

Anyway, babies kept dying
and people kept leaving this town
so that the mayor feared
there would be no one left
in a few years.

The story after that was about
migrating sharks.

But I had the television on mute
so I don’t know about
the sharks.



She jumps up in bed
and seizes my arm with
an uncanny strength.

she yells,

She is in a panic.
I pinch the flesh on her wrist.
Bringing her back with pain.

I am almost proud of myself
for thinking so quickly.

I am a firefighter in a janitor’s body.
Putting out fires in the bedroom.

The older you get, sleep replaces sex.
I can’t explain it.

As soon as I hear her snoring again,
I know I am good for a couple
more hours.


I doubt this table was crafted for your séance.  There are carpenters that belong to the union and then there is the ghost of Aunt Mimi.  With more to say even though she lived well past a hundred years old.  It is hard to believe she would have any more to say after the first century of speech.  But that is how the living roll.  Making up the words of the dead so the living can get there without regret.  Terminal Aunt Mimi always hated you, now we know why.  That whole died-peacefully-in-her-sleep nonsense.  Surrounded by friends and family.  She seems to remember that whole business of dying differently, and since you are asking, she will tell you through the séance of your table.  Or maybe you should stop abusing fentanyl.  Even if it is by prescription.  Mengele was a doctor too, that does not speak so well to the profession.  I know it is just a patch, but we are not sewing holes on jeans here.  It took Delores and Tom Petty and it will take countless more.  All because you want to speak to Aunt Mimi even though she is in the ground.  Would you whisper to an acorn behind the back of a mating squirrel?  And those friends around you, they are not friends.  There is the question of the inheritance and they want it answered.  As for Aunt Mimi, pay your respects and be done with the thing.  You will be joining her soon enough.



I was leaning against the side of the building.
The underside of the brick eating into my shoulder
where the mortar had chipped away.
You were not there.
I could say you were, but we would both
know I was lying.
I was leaning against the side of the building
counting the cigarette butts pushed down into the pavement.
By the dumpster that always smelled, not only
in the scorching summers.
And the idling traffic spit out enough exhaust
to create its own sky.   
I was leaning against the side of the building
watching it happen.
Bony half-naked children wheeling tricycles  
in thoughtless circles.
The sound of a skill saw in the near distance.
If you had been there, you may have laughed.
Leaning against the side of that building.


A little southern passive aggressive
in the French Quarter
and I begin to wonder about the exorcist
with missing teeth,
seems like the type of thing you might
get in order before Jell-O wrestling the devil
out of souls, but what do I know?
Just last week I heard the neighbour yell: FETCH, BOY!
to his dog and I got confused believing it was my boss
and I was still in my tighty whities, but sacrifices
have to be made for freedom or the sun will keep rising
in the east instead of the west, I’ve seen the coffins
and only thought of Dracula’s Brides a few times;
I don’t want to live forever, I’ve been on suicide watch
three times in my life, no joke—
the only things that will live forever are bigotry
and cockroaches
and maybe dirty plates if we insisted on 
eating off them,
but this exorcist seems more like a librarian—
he keeps reading from his book and telling everyone
to be quiet; he’s doing his best, bless his heart,
but some cats just don’t have it.



We walk into the new bank
that has just opened up
in the lower plaza.

No one has money.
We are first in line.

The girls seem surprised.
My wife is just here to make sure
her changed password
has been recorded
after the latest hack.

While Cyndi Lauper She Bops
her way out of the ‘80s
and the printer never runs
out of paper.



Vader Jakob Panie Janie Fra’ Martino, yes,
I think I’ll stay for drinks
not enough to make new enemies, just to avoid old friends
and they say it’s autumn out there, but it feels more permanent
than that, stark and oddly flattering at the same time
the way everyone dresses well for a funeral, no no,
I hardly meant to suggest this is a funeral, this is a nursery
and I know that because everyone is acting like a baby,
I half-expect a stork to come through the door at any moment
with a mouthful of flabby neurotics from the Guggenheim—
what’s that you say?  four types of wallpaper in a single room
is not excessive, it’s indecisive; what’s the difference?  haha,
I hardly noticed this mantel here with dusty elbows resting upon it,
of course I love your nursery, it reminds me of warm milk…of Miss Brandy
Alexander and the lineage and stock and foibles it takes to get in the door
and stay here long enough to regret life stories outright—
jolly good, the chandelier is sporting earrings:
Ashes, ashes    
we all smoke now?


She has just arrived home from
a 12-hour shift at the hospital.
Almost falling down the stairs with laughter
when she looks into the kitchen
and sees me making a salad for dinner
without any pants on.

What are you doing?,
she laughs.

Making a pantless salad,
I answer.

The anti-fungal cream on my legs
has yet to dry in.

We have just gotten back from a week
in Vegas.

Picked up a strange rash that the missus
thinks is from dirty children at the pool,
possibly foot and mouth.

So I am standing in the kitchen
with my ass hanging out.

Thinking about that converted outhouse
along the highway outside Webbwood
with the sign that read:
Beef 4 Sail.

And how I imagined that anyone
who went inside never came out



This is not the road to Los Angeles.
There is snow everywhere.
Shoulder-high when you venture out.
The dead of winter.
This is not Fante’s dust.

The people that live here have no dreams.
Everything is hibernating or dead or shovelling.
It is salt on the bottom of your boots, not a dust.
A salt that will tell you nothing.

There simply to melt the ice
and leach into the water

Ask it anything
and it will not answer.

Trust me,
I have asked.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Ryan Quinn Flanagan







—Medusa, with a big thank-you to Canadian Ryan Flanagan for today’s fine poems from up North, and a reminder that Speak Up: The Art of Storytelling and Poetry will feature the theme of “Coming of Age” this evening, 7pm, at the Avid Reader 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.

 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, April 26, 2018

Swimming in Quicksand

Wild Cherry
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


           for Cowboy

My dog calls me out of sleep.
Overnight the wind has rearranged
everything. The sun’s first rays
just now exploding gold shrapnel
over the east ridge.

And everything is moving. Sun-shatter
through leaves, and wind plucking
overnight spider-webs till they
hum gold filament against the dark
trunks of oaks,

everything flowing, glowing
gold-green, a morning I couldn’t
describe. And so my dog stands
simply wagging.
    Wasn’t he good
to bring me here?

(first pub. in Penumbra and in What the Wind Says. Earth Day 2018 was April 22.)


This Earth Day, ponderosa forest
and meadow green are gathered to see
wild cherry in blooming blossom
as white as snow puffs on the breeze.

Three bark-slab tepees solid
in a row. How many springs of cherry
blossoming do they remember
to soft beating of the drum, marrying

dance with meadow grass, as
we sit pondside, hunched over words
of poetry? In the distance, uncanny
hum of digeridoo. A girl

is dancing with a streamer blue
as sky and swirling, and someone is
blowing bubbles and the cherry
lets loose one petal white as cloud.


Tide’s out. You’re searching riverbank in waders and raingear—gush and suck of mud. Where does water stop and land begin? Prairie landscape in gray, wind’s a samurai sword, a bowling ball knocking everything down. An old dock, half-submerged, the only token for a Monopoly-set where nobody wins. Is that a bloated body your dog steps across? No, heap of bed and mattress weathered way beyond human scent. By the grace of four legs a dog moves ahead. You’re wading, each waffle-iron print dissolves behind you. Water deepens; mud, 50 pounds of lead bars in your waders. Rain’s steady as wind. Protagonist of this search went fishing and never came back. Where’s his boat? Quicksand pulls you down, a drowning-horse. No hitching post to grab for, not a tree. Swim on mud, your yellow-suited body a boogie-board to reach the other side. Fisherman’s somewhere under the tides.


From chaparral there rises a low hill.               
It’s just a jog, a pebble’s breath from home           
when all of April’s glories burst and spill           

around us. Then that hill seems monochrome               
as sand, chamise and deerbrush. Drab and bare.       
It’s just a jog, a pebble’s breath from home           

and we cruise by as if there’s nothing there.           
Pure native scrub. Not graded, paved or sold.       
As sand, chamise, and deerbrush drab and bare,       

it’s guarded by a gate. Beyond, wild gold           
of el dorado mule-ears and rush-rose—       
pure native scrub not graded, paved or sold.           

We can’t enter this sanctum, I suppose,           
that keeps its secrets from the traveler’s eye—   
of el dorado mule-ears and rush-rose,           

of hummingbird and frog and butterfly.           
From chaparral there rises a low hill               
that keeps its secrets from the traveler’s eye       
when all of April’s glories burst and spill.


From his rocky hilltop he watches
the creek cutting deeper with winter storms,
flooding the road, leaving sand-bars
where was grassy field; oxbows grassing over
in spring. Up here on his hilltop, he loves
rock heaps even when they get in the way
of his mower. He likes to tell the grandkids
about the time—he verged a lazy river
far away; walking the bank— sinking.
Quicksand? His feet being sucked straight
down. He flopped on his belly, started
swimming for solid ground. He made it.
He likes to tell the grandkids how he loves
this rocky hilltop far above sandbars,
oxbows, water forever remaking its bed,
wanting to pull him to sleep there.


Waist-high green already, mid-April, field
quilted dense with vetch and clover, filaree
holding high its pointed clock-springs
like so many bunched birdlings lifting
their bills in famished song.

I’m wading through dregs of miner’s lettuce,
chickweed, lacy flourishes of thistle rising.
No way to watch my step, my boots 
out of sight in green. Only the birds are late,
this year. Where—

oh! there—dead grass sticking out of nest-
box #4, hanging from an oak limb. Carefully
open the door, reach in—feel dead grass
of bluebird nest, and something very soft.
Tilt the box gently, peek inside—

blue-gray feather sheen; one dark bright
eye staring directly at me without moving.
I slip the door shut; walk softly away.
Plenty of time to count the eggs
before they hatch.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

What I typed in the subject-
line was “1st pix with
red ipad” but the spellcheck gods
changed it to “withered.” Not
her fault. My brand-new device
(red cover so I can find her
in the dark indoors)—Red does
her best under inscrutable
laws of electronics.

Two days lost in my desert
of befuddlement, trying
to get a wireless tangle of apps
working together. It didn’t work.
But there, miraculously
by email, a poem
for trekking wilderness
beyond the reach of wifi,
Red kept it in her little red heart.


Many thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine poems and pix on this, National Poem in Your Pocket Day. For more about that, see

Today, from 11:45-1:30pm, Calif. Lawyers for the Arts will celebrate World Intellectual Property Week by presenting a panel on copyrights entitled “Copyright, Trademark and Patent Law: How They Differ and Where They Intersect”, with attorneys Steve Davis, Brad Heisler, Mark Leonard. County Bar Association, 425 University Av., Ste. 120, Sacramento.

In poetry readings, Dr. Andy Jones will read at the UC Davis Library tonight from 7-8pm, and Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe will present featured readers and open mic on 16th St. in Sacramento, 8pm.

A couple of events just in: on this coming Monday at 7pm, Davis will present an end-of-National-Poetry-Month reading at John Natsoulas Gallery, featuring Jane Hirshfield, Indigo Moor, Linda Scheller, and Gerry Pineda. Doors open at 6:30; get there early to get a seat! More info at

And on the weekend of May 4-6, Gold Rush Writers will present their 2018 Writers’ Conference, with workshops, panels, speakers, and so on. See for info and to register. 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 Poem in Your Pocket Day!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

You Are Sun

—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
—Photos of the Busy, Post-Winter American River 
by Caschwa, Sacramento, CA


The clouds again, this rainiest of springs.
Clouds dense with dark ripe wetness should inspire,
this day I help lead a full-singing choir
of poets aiming words, not drones, with wings.
Rain, yes: we need each solitary inch
to stave away the coming time of fire,
yet tree-crown flame will come, sure as desire
feeds, fuels, ignites all carnal gristle singe-
and-flare. I flared with hope that you’d make one
of our band, we poetic brigands hot
to pillage the campus, lay waste all that’s not
humane, environmental green and young.
This Irish pearl cloud-mass would appeal to Bax,
but you cannot read with us today; such racks
of cloud are Shakespeare’s hate. I’ll miss your voice.
Such times, verse seems an almost regrettable choice. 


All are born to nature; some love nature,
some have nature thrust upon them. And time:
my trumpet friend Victor, piccolo trumpet feature,
playing an Easter “sunrise” service. Time
change (spring forward); outdoors, Point Mugu.
Dark, heavy sea-fog; somehow, an organ’s there.
Cold, freezing cold and dark; yet in chill air,
murder to trumpet chops, it’s you-know-who,
mastering lip and mouthpiece fog-and-frost.
Sheet music unreadable without brash light
of sluggish sun or rounded moon; a flashlight
in Jeanne’s hand is all the needed torch
(good thing it’s electric, not igneous: no porch
to screen real flame against the raw wind gusts)…
Clergy’s not got word of the time change out;
thin congregation shivers to Victor’s notes.
He’s wrapped up his performance, nothing lost
on whoever’s happenstanced and heard—near-ghosts
dissolving by fog-degree separations. The rout
—latecomers in streams of cars toward Point Mugu—
arrives just as Victor’s departing with Jeanne, all stops out
—it’s Easter, sunrise now, one more gig to get to.   


In Santa Clara town a tall
tall woman cast in bronze commands
a key square where De Anza’s bands
still rove, each man a ready sword-
blade her slim quiet countermands.
The Word rays from her, no song, no words;
to abstract Modern silences
her linen’s green-patina folds
rise, parallels cut in sharp uplift.
Caresses, no: no bids, no scolds.
In somber ecstasy her gift
self-emanates. She is the Cross:
her horizontal crossbeam, all
she owns—one lily—balances
on open hands. Note: slightly drooping.
The blossom tilt, the floral Fall
must replicate her Doppler call
in me, as I perceive the loss
of you—most temporarily,
I do beseech St. Clare—for you,
not ever a nun, still radiate
that glow that splits the clouded gate,
transpiercing the sundown sad and late
in sunbeams, heaven’s residue:
as Saules Maita’s language does.
At poolside where Clare’s island lies
your lost one muses, languishes.
May life rejoin less warily
than has our recent time ordained.
Reunion: let it cleanse the stained
ghost in me till I’m fit to view
my standing saint, my tall and true.
I’ll look my fill on the inturned Saint
till levitation takes her up,
bronze Abbess, into the Lord’s blue cup,
lofts her above the raincloud taint.
Subtly desolate, this her lily,
or is it sickly, deathly drooping?
This maybe-plentiful lily bell
suspends ripe sky-fruit in some spell,
then spills; its horn blares All will be well.
A woman, a man, could stand regrouping,
consolidating, at this pool,
their best selves in that clairvoyance wound
I hope to come home having found.
Let no one declare, at Clare’s own pool,
this holy one a Holy Fool. 

Saint Clare: statue by Anne van Kleeck near Santa
Clara University, cast through the ancient lost wax
process, transported from Italy to California
around Cape Horn (1965)


I love that you change thoughts as air does clouds,
that if you’re sun—and you are—each ray’s bright liquid,
all flowing caprice, rains your gleam on the crowds
of birch leaves: parchment-paper in their insipid
chartreuse yet sere translucence. They’re so dry,
those branch-twig citizens remind me of me,
in April as if aping the stiff or “spry”
quite ersatz youth whose glow you hold in fee.

You, though, are the ever so young radiance
who takes her essential fluid shape from wind,
from gardens’ abrupt-sprung impulse blossoming
and flagons of vernal mead’s most needed sting
poured into one incandescent skin and mind,
all adaptation, rapid-shifting stance:

your shapely refusal to stay pinned down in form
softens your dry admirer to each new norm.     

Today’s LittleNip:

Words are things and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which make thousands, perhaps millions, think.

—Lord Byron


—Medusa, thanking Tom Goff and Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) for today’s fine offerings! 

Celebrate poetry! 

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The World's Soft Prey

Am I Next?
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA 



I was driving along down an ordinary street on my way to
somewhere which doesn’t matter now. I was driving along
and I stopped at the stop-light, at which I am always in-
clined to obey on any ordinary drive on any ordinary —
or not so ordinary, day. The light turned green again. I took
a moment longer than I should, I guess. The car behind me
honked its horn and the guy behind me in the car gave me a
dirty look and nudged my bumper. I took another moment,
looking both ways, not trusting traffic or random circum-
stance to keep me safe from fate or harm or loud impatience
of bigger cars with bigger horns and dirty looks. (And maybe
he had a gun — one never knows.) I tell you it was dangerous,
this chancing out into the world like the world’s soft prey.
But, somehow, by being ever careful and anxiously alert, I
survived the day.



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

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

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

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

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

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

Today is not
the day I choose
for dim remember.

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

(first pub. in Riven, 2004)

 Holding the World


The esteemed poet stands in a marsh of swirling words that
settle around him like a homing of white birds. He can have
his pick of them but only stands there—stunned to silence
by the sheer whiteness of the words—blinded by them, even,
when he contemplates loving one more than another, wanting
to capture them, somehow, in immortal poems, when all he
can do is watch them in their shining presence, and become
their poem.   



Somewhere a long black fence dividing nowhere
from nowhere stretches out toward the horizon.
Two gulls rest to let the red sunset wash over them.

Beyond the fence a thin black horizon line

defines the sun going down. The sky flares red
and the sea reflects. The two gulls stay perched.
The red ripples of the quiet sea flow beneath them.    

  I Will Grow Up To Be . . .

(Theodore Roethke)

Imagine the long dark of morning, the slithering aside,
the soundless whisperings heard above growing :

the ghost : come from the skeleton, come from the
flesh, come un-weighted by all, save death, moving
in deep sea-rhythm, made of the same stuff as wind,
looking around with new force—being both seed and
withered conclusion, both orchid and moss—moving
now to the source of love : memory and its rhyme . . . .

looking toward the glass distortion to the sky
(made of that light) the images in the glass :
fragmented eyes that are green, struck blind by light,
glancings of time in shock-value of
timelessness . . . turning that look aside . . .

so out of death (whatever death is) the ghost, male
and aware, knows all that it gave old question to,
dreaming back to all the error and concern—
teaching again, whatever next comes to learn :
all that moves here—all that is alive in the
grave-like dark, damp as a forest—are
transmutations, in stubborn life (whatever life is)

celebrating this most perfect place that is
everywhere, but here most especially :
Ghost of Roethke—putting it all back—
whatever was out of order—whatever was harmed.

 I Will Hold You

We hear of frogs that are missing,
that are deformed,
that are thinking new thoughts,

there in their bog of language and evolution
strange to themselves—
or not even strange,

but different—
green-smelling and iridescent,
like spells cast by witches in fairy tales.

But, here, they are real—enormous-throated
with warning, with trepidation,
the world around them bristling with doom.

They freeze, then leap
into known environments—the shallow green of murk,
the thickening shadow of extinction.

(first pub. in
Albatross, 2004. Also won
1st Place at INA COOLBRITH, 81st Annual Contest)



1.  The daily trouble
bogs us down
in dullest woe.
The nuisance, Death,
is at the edge of everything,
pestering like a brat
at the mother-hem.

2.  Songs begin at morning
but the singers lie
beneath the fatal clock
trying to be immortal lovers.
Birds persist in happiness
and leaves go joyfully forth
like resurrection.

3.  Somebody who is old
comes knocking at the door:
Selling my life!
New rags for old?
Any broken mirrors
you can’t use?

4.  Look what I bought,
I tell the one
who loves me for my bargaining;
look how its colors
dull the light…
look how it tarnishes the eyes…
look how it crumbles in the hand…

(first pub. in Prairie Schooner, 1972)

 Peace. Dream.


A leftover horn from some
stale celebration is bawling in the distance,
probably in the hand of some child—
loud in the morning.

I can see it now : crumpled on the end,
red foil peeling, three tassels dangling.
What a sad, old sound it makes—
over and over—

like some animal
trapped in quicksand,
or on barbed wire, or drought,
or winter—you know—a suffering.

(first pub. in Listenings, Mini-Chap, 2002)



Come on, old girl,
we’re tougher than that,
you and I.
We can surmount
a little droop,
a little falling-off
of petal.
What if our leaves
turn brown
and curl
to the edges
of that old wind.
Time is a circumstance
and you and I
still have
a season in it.

(first pub. in
Manifold, England, 1967)


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

I am wearing stones
to remain bogged in sorrow’s
sympathy.  Do you wear stones?


I wear light like pain
in eyes that cannot weep or
ever close to what they’ve seen.


A big thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s poetry and photos! She writes: “I found myself taking the S.O.W. of "Quicksand" to a meaning of current (...and-ever...) grieving over the conditions of life...Homelessness, cruelty and greed, the lack of conscience over the killing of animals to the point of extinction. The blindness of it. These surfaces of helpless rage that result, which I hope might resonate in my choice of poems and pictures this time.”

Our new Seed of the Week is Forbidden Fruit. 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.

*SEDOKA:  Made up of two katautas (5,7,7 / 5,7,7,) with a turn between the two triplets.  Can be a dialogue, but with a single author.


 Ungilded by Rosario Romero
Celebrate poetry with the new issue of Sacramento's 

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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