Saturday, June 30, 2018

Alligator Eyes

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

Wasps, by the bucketful, cover my face like a mask. I have begun having dreams where I am someone else, not me at all. Once, I was an old man who loved a young girl the way a child loves Jesus. In another I was an angry gangster facing down the police. These are dreams that smell of meat, and taste of sadness and guilt. With my hands I rub the sound of them, sound that floats over the surface of a pond. I am not gentle. Strong images of courage, stupidity, and love wasted. Looking into a dirty mirror, I tell the wasps that their mask is beautiful, but is it really me speaking, or the reflection? 

It is your own death that you are watching 

Play ball in the street. 

It is your own death drizzling raindrops on the windshield 

And driving to work on your day off. 

You have been working on this jigsaw puzzle for years, 

And you're tired now. 

Answers? They are the debris on your shore. 

There you are, watching your own death. 

The dogs biting you are your own death. 

And that telephone ringing? 

What do you think? That's right. 

It is your own death all over again. 

Just sit there and close your eyes. 

Eventually some idiot will tell you 

To move toward the light.

I am dreaming that George Clooney leaves the hoof prints of a horse as he walks. He sings to a pretty French girl, and then he actually becomes a horse. A handsome horse. I form a commune with several former co-workers and the sky becomes a mirror to reflect all life on earth. It’s complicated, this dream, and I can't remember a lot of things. There were long passages written and spoken in Farsi. People with shovel-heads dug long trenches. I sang them the Clooney song, and yelled to the great mirror in the sky, "This is a dream! I am the reflection of you!" 

I am lost in the ugliness of humanity again. 

The richer humans are eating the flesh 

Of the poorer ones, the weak ones. 

The rich peel the poor like bananas. 

They suck the bones clean and then purr 

Like contented cats. 

Cruel? Yes, and that is no coincidence. 

Everything cruel is on a compact disc 

So the government can watch on a computer. 

All of our names are written down somewhere. 

Not somewhere nice. 

This is repugnant to me. 

The ugliness of humanity is now a map for the hideous. 

They trace their favorite roads from a map 

With a pencil that they stole from a blind man. 

I have no map, and so I am lost most of the time. 

That's alright, though; I prefer it that way. 

I have nowhere special to be.

Alligator eyes in the bayou watch you pray to Jesus, and the murky green water has a rhythm that you smack out with blistered hands on a goat-skin drum. Something you can't quite see slithers past you in the water. Clouds cover the moon and the air is hot and still. The pines part like a bad haircut and then the angry god appears. Not Jesus. Some sins can't be atoned. Some shit you just have to live with. The water becomes still again. The alligator is patient. He’ll wait for you a long time if that's how it goes. 


This body is tired now and wants to rest

Like a bear rests in the deepest corner of winter. 

I want the sleep of the world, 

And I need those soft dreams of fur. 

I am setting down the wormy apple 

And the snake that desires everything. 

The prayer bell is ringing 

And the hour is sharp and clear. 

Will I wake up again one day? 

Does it matter? I am weary, 

Aching in my bones, and I cannot now say 

If my memories of rest are real or false. 

The corner of winter. 

The sleep of the world. 

The snake of desire. 

Who am I even talking to now? 


Today’s LittleNip:

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

—James Lee Jobe


Thanks to James Lee Jobe for today’s fine poems and his photos of Cache Creek. A get-well-soon note to James Lee, who has been feeling poorly of late.

Another note, this one about Taylor Graham, for whom today marks the last day of her two-year El Dorado County Poet Laureateship. Taylor has been a very active PL, traveling all around the county for readings, composing poems for county events, and otherwise representing poetry in her county. A big thank-you to her from poets everywhere for spreading the Poetry Word, and for providing an example of what a Poet Laureate should be. El Dorado County's new PL will be Suzanne Roberts of South Lake Tahoe.

Straight Out Scribes’ family art exhibit, Legacy, will hold a closing reception tonight at 6:30pm at Sac. Poetry Center. 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.


 Watching you...
—Anonymous Photo
Celebrate the poetry of the night!

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, June 29, 2018

Like Peace

—Poems by Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
—Anonymous photos of Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise)

(for Shukriya, in memoriam)

When swung in circles, arcs
dancing swords facet spaces
into gems.
Swords balanced on heads
reflect sharp ideas. Turning
half-circle on cushions of hair,
swords tend to lead, then
fascinatingly follow dancers' leads.

The blade curves slightly
like the first bend of a crescent moon.
Musical rhythms enter the steel
reverberating in ways
the sensitive can hear.
Never weapons, these steel props
reap dazzle and light
no one need fear.

Dancing swords mirror firm grips
on life, the courage of chance-taking,
beatitudes of care and careful.
Swung in circles, arcs,
horizontally and vertically,
swords facet spaces into gems
we hold dear, like peace,
like peace.


Someone knocks at my door.
Expecting no one, yet sensing
no threat, I open wide, welcome in
a long-ago friend I never
thought to see again.
Smiling in unison, we hug, hold.

Inhaling the tea I had brewed
my friend suggests we mend
our rift by sipping tea
from the same cup...
Movements melded, we choose
from kitchen shelf a porcelain cup
pure white like powdered sugar.

When I pour the steaming jasmine
a song trickles into the cup.
Alternating, we sip from the SAME spot,
laughter circling the kitchen as light
reflected from white porcelain.


Leaned against a haystack
a migrant worker inhales
in unison with gentle
pastoral creatures.
She can't read English—how
world regimes play chess games
which transform people
into pawns of war.

The long day over, she nestles
into fragrant hay; rubs sore feet;
sips warm sugar-water
from a Mason jar; plans to
manipulate no one, nothing.
When insects unmercifully tickle
her cheek, she simply offers
the dustier one.


A young carpenter
is building our stairs.
He's diligent,
clever with nails,
considerate with wood.

The steps are smooth,
their tilt not too steep.
He measures, saws, planes,
pounds; wears overalls
and sandals. For energy
as he works, we offer
almonds and apricots
from our trees.

We notice a scar
on each palm: happened
long ago he shrugs.

Sometimes he looks sad,
lowers his head,
then goes back to work

He's almost on the top step.
An apprentice, he requests
no pay; says he was only
passing through our village
by the lake.

Soon he will descend
the sturdy flight
and journey on his way.


Wish I could reclaim
the summer wind
held in my palm
as a kid
arm far out car window

like a silken scarf
a whimsical game
my hand

closing over
wind enough to hope
that one far day
like today,
I'd want to back...


Artist, please paint
each orange bloom
of the tropical plant
(botanically genus strelitzia)
as a bird in flight—

make a large painting
the sky lapis lazuli
flower birds dipping wings
before melding
beautifully into sunset...



I am not afraid to die
but hope for time enough to say
something unique, like:

envision me romping
over a poppy-and-clover meadow
near a restful stop for spring
water tasting of rain;

time to declare that my life
has been a roller-coaster
heck-of-a-ride; time to describe
that where I wait for you

Saint Francis wears songbirds
on his shoulders, bees sip honey
from his lips, fawns pause
when he strolls by
and all greetings begin with

           Ah, Hello.

(first pub. in Marin Poetry Center Anthology, 2011
The Ina Coolbrith Circle Anthology, 2018)

Today’s LittleNip:

—Claire J. Baker

I will tilt
a rosebud
pour dewdrops
into our tea.


A big thank-you to Claire Baker for her fine poetry today! Poets in our area are reminded of the James Humphrey Tribute Reading at Sac. Poetry Center tonight, 6pm. Also tonight, 7pm, Speak Up presents poets and storytellers on the theme of "Taking Stock" at The Avid Reader in Sacramento. 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.


 Pour dewdrops into our tea...
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, June 28, 2018

Rider Out!

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Not a tough hike but the kid mutters like
a raw recruit. He’s never carried a pack,
maybe regrets the compact he made,
“summer camp” with Grandpa.
The dogs race ahead, finding trail,
intuiting direction while Gramps orients
himself with quad sheet and compass.
Dogs prefer dog-reckoning, magnetic
in the DNA.
        Will we hear whippoorwills?
the kid wants to know. Grandpa says,
In the evolutions of carbon and
geography, this mountain missed out
on whippoorwills. Even the poorwill lives
lower down the hill. But nighthawks!

        A boy will lie in his mummybag
under a zillion stars, listening
to forest at night-work, as lake laps
against its granite bowl,
                waiting for nighthawk,
who according to Gramps hunts insects
almost multitudinous as stars.


I gave up on finding the canal the street
was named for. Flowing water gone without
a trace, no longer feeding into bigger waters
where colors glide in and out of each other
like a madras print down-canyon.
From Canal I’ve come to Quartz Hill, steep
little trail gouged in hardpan, intersecting
what used to be a Gold Rush ditch.
What might I find this morning?
a single worn-out glove, a doll’s head lost
in tousled coyotebush, chamise, manzanita.
The homeless used to live
here temporary as miners who dug the ditch—
abandoned now. The city drove the homeless
out, scattering litter. This morning
keeps quietly busy, breeze cleaning house.
Glint through brush might be the fox,
who turns his head my way in passing,
silent as morning profitably spent.


A sign: how many acres up for sale
beyond Denny’s and Motel 6.
Here’s triteleia, chalice like a grail
blooming among rocks and sticks

beyond Denny’s and Motel 6
where the homeless camp for lack of cash.
Blooming among rocks and sticks,
a tarp, a temporary stash

where homeless camp for lack of cash.
A rusty axle going nowhere,
a tarp, a temporary stash
under blue unencumbered air.

A rusty axle going nowhere—
no Keep Out signs on fence or wall
under blue unencumbered air
where’s soon to be a shopping mall.

No Keep Out signs on fence or wall
and so I walk the land for free
where’s soon to be a shopping mall,
not buying stump that was a tree.

And so I walk the land for free—
here’s triteleia, chalice like a grail—
not buying. Stump that was a tree:
a sign. How many acres up for sale.


My donation of time to research—
no, to getting dirty on land parched and
plain as a bare room with the walls
knocked away. Here, meadow gives up
to chaparral: plants I’ve overlooked
or never heard of; endemic, rare
or endangered. Flannelbush and bedstraw,
soaproot, a morning-glory known
only here. The pay-off? I couldn’t say.
Acres of scruffy brush that holds secrets
we haven’t guessed. A rough trail
climbs to a saddle where we can look
as if forever, while overhead
a great bird circles, weaving us into
its shadow as if to make us stay.


Head-high wild oats,
slender tapers ready for a flame.
Land still in shadow of the ridge
till sun ignites everything with light,
trees along the dry creek-bed,
each green distinct from the others,
so closely rooted, each tree
with its separate life—valley oak,
live oak, buckeye, willow,
wild plum plumping its tiny fruit
for the birds and me. 


           skewbald mare on the Pony Express

The first time I saw her dance,

slide into a twist

matching her partner’s unseen move—
She’ll do anything, he said,

for watermelon.
Tonight again, backlit

by setting sun mincing a smart pace

slowing traffic
she stopped at a touch

of her partner’s hand, stood statue
so I could notice the surprising

black of her tail,

long whiskers she let me touch
the soft of her muzzle,
it was the last of gloaming.


    Pony Express Re-Ride June 20, 2018

Incoming’s four hooves off the ground—
paved shoulder inches from traffic
eastbound. The cars want to go faster
than a small pinto mare. How long would it
take to drive to St. Joe, Missouri? Ten
days riding day and night. Night’s driving
out daylight, sun already over the ridge
west. I squint to watch horse and rider halt
precisely inches from traffic. Rider In!
smooth dismount, he lifts the great leather
mochila blanketing his saddle, one fluid
sweep it seems, lifts it again—slight pause
positioning precisely over the saddle
of a tall bay gelding waiting its turn. Rider
up—Rider Out! headed into dimming
daylight, where some miles west a black
horse with white star is being walked,
loosened up for the next ride. Already it’s
night. Too dark for my iPad to catch
a black horse, star or not. Beyond
our foothill towns, offset from highway,
the canyon trail climbs under a half-moon
toward Tahoe—leaving us unhorsed
still at roadside calling Safe Journey!


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

    Tuesday at Two

Back room at the Senior Center, sunlight
comes through the window filtered by leaves;
two long wooden tables meant for
laying out scraps of fabric
to stitch into patterns
as we do, busy
at quilting of
poems from
scraps of


Many thanks to Taylor Graham for her fine poems today, including bringing us a taste of this year’s Pony Express Re-Ride. For more about that, go to


 Pony Express Rider by Valery Kagounkin
For more about the Pony Express, 
including an article by Mark Twain, 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. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The House That Bolero Built

—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
—Anonymous Photos


Audacity: the only word to use
for Hector Berlioz’s overture
to King Lear. His brash testament to views
of that day on the darkest and most pure
near-nihilist embodiment of fury,
inbred political family savagery,
wrenching, stretching, snapping in rash hurry
all bonds of honor, love, truth, loyalty,
from one wild old man’s abdication. Bay,
you hounding horns—yet doesn’t all this come short
of Shakespeare’s Pyrrhic triumph of a play?
Bowed bass groans: Lear splits realm with one cleft crown.
The brusqueness of the arco: black cloud-frown?
Oboe: blunt loving Cordelia, thrust from court?
Swashbuckling allegro: Edgar wins through fray?
Judge cautiously, I tell myself, don’t damn a
curtain-raiser unequal to this drama.
Would Berlioz tamely conjure barbaric Fate?
Or does this French Lear reflect Parisian dogma?
The tacky ending (happy) by Nahum Tate?
Hail Alexander Gibson, who with Scots
orchestra tightens cyclone. Berlioz
rage glares through brass that darkens as it glows
gold. Lear’s bleak packthread paid out, twists and knots.


The house that Bolero built,
Le Belvédère in Montfort l’Amaury:
the famous composer’s name all but
rechristens the town. Montfort L’Maurice?
Hélas! Ravel’s exquisite house is closed:
that lovely gray house confected of oddments,
descending a hill with Ravelian slither,
Piano Concerto, slow movement, strangely
charmant locomotion, near-glacial grace:
we may pass by and gawk at the (tasteful) outside
frills and furbelows, Couperin ornaments pressed
upon ornaments. The belvedere-style turret capped
with scale-armor square cupola top,
each side of that top an upsweep wedding-gown-train
narrowing to the weathervane spearpoint;
the crossbow arch treatment over the rectangular window;
the curlicue ironwork struts that support the mansard door-awning;
those we may see till the Doomsday for pretty things.

But this museum house has been shuttered
by no one knows whom; caretaker Madame Moreau
has been asked with good or bad grace to depart;
when again will we come in and see the darkly
striped wallpaper, the ceramic dog, the porcelain
geisha? Surely no other house in the world
ever hosted this array of bookshelves, the lowest above
eye level, this arresting constricture of corridors,
hidden archives and alcoves. Who else but Ravel
would contrive a sidelong wall-mounted
Renaissance tented bed with bolster cylinder,
down in the basement, almost never slept in?
The Art Deco radio, speaker inlaid with strips of bright brass,
discloses a tuning fork at its design’s subtle heart.

His toiletries, all manner of vessels and
scissors and razors laid out to perfection,
the whole row of glass casques and vases
arranged nonetheless by strict Darwinian ascension,
the progress of humankind from crouch to slouch
to upright stance, growl to grunt to chaconne.

When again will we know anything like
the Erard piano on which the Left-Hand Concerto
was tested? Even that splendid instrument
crowned with the best knickknacks:
I see two ships under glass; but just one,
at the press of a hidden button, waggles
its ship like a bobblehead: riding upon
flexing stormwaves of crumpled satin.

When again the Japanese garden, rich
with lilacs, a fairytale chaos of round-clipped
shrubs, lawn lozenges, where we would
inflict the grossest of swimming pools
and hot tubs? The very walkways, inlaid
with aleatory stone flags, echo Otherworld,
indefinite realm. Ravel called it Japanese:
I think it Javanese, every stone a sliver
of gong or metallophone. Every ringing
xylophone vibration one segment in a pantoum
only Ravel would translate into notes. 

Today’s LittleNip:

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the top of a leaf.

—Rabindranath Tagore


Thanks, Tom, for your fine poems today! To hear one of YouTube’s many versions of Maurice Ravel’s
Bolero to invigorate your Wednesday, go to For Hector BerliozLe Roi Lear Overture, Op. 4, go to


—Anonymous Photo 
Celebrate poetry, as it dances on the edge of Time…

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, June 26, 2018

Swimming Downward Into Words

Listen, Listen
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Behind the soiled night glass, a bear on hind legs;
behind him a polar bear, one paw on a seal;
and farther back, a ghost-white mountain goat . . .

among all these, the blur of smaller animals,
of dusty fish and dusty birds.

But the window-bear commands the front of the shop,
his claws as long as my fingers, his brown glass
eyes connected to my glass-deep stare.

The window shifts, and I feel my breath in his chest
when the car lights pass;

and on the hearth-rug by the counter just inside
the door, a small round dog who does not bark
at anyone any more—asleep forever.

(first pub. in Pudding Magazine, 2002)



Moth-words that do not

but say into silence
what there is to say

of all that cannot

words that
become frail wings of effort,

breaking on
refusal and deafness;

words that find other than
intention—that must

fight the maze of another’s mind 
and be turned into weapons.

How does this happen—
that love against love

becomes a battleground—
a terrible place to die.



my senseless poem
from English into English

when I am famous enough to warrant

my hurried or labored words—
my complex thought—my obscurity.

I cannot help you
with this.  I am beyond this work

and into another language of discerning:
who am I . . . ?  why do I seek myself . . . ?

how can I go that deep
and still remain at my surface . . . ?

when I am swimming downward
into words . . . 



“Are you gentle,” I asked.
“You seem to be gentle.”

“I am a user,” he confessed.
Or else he smiled,

but he said, “Do you really
need to ask?”

And his eyes were puppy brown,
and his hair was ringlet young, and
he had soft ways about him, being
delicate of gesture and expression,
making circles with his hands, out-
ward from his breast, to be emphatic.
And I wondered if he needed protection,

But I know how masks are chosen,
so, yes, I needed to ask—to save time—

to get at the heart of things. I offered
an invitation he seemed to accept.

I know how to buy time with invitations
disguised as good advice. It was a beginning.



It was a pale morning of love
that was neither love nor pale.
It was a virtual memory.

If we take the quiet to heart,
might we deserve it? We are such
a din, the many of us who complain,
then cry about the crying.

However we mean this is nothing
compared to the literal meaning
that swirls through the other effort
of trying to comprehend.

Savor this—this reactionary memory
of loneliness with its false perfection.
Oh, never mind that—it was as you want it.

 Silvanna Cenni

After Silvanna Cenni by Felice Casorati, 1922

Made to fit garment,
cloth girl,
narrow girl,
pale, pale girl,
matte-featured, asleep
in fading window-light,
preparing to levitate,
let the undone white robe
slip from her
as she floats
out the window—
over the rooftops—
to the thin gray sky,
her feet gently pushing
against the floor
to help her rise,
her wing-like arms
foreshortened by her pose,
her hands limp,
as if not part of the effort,
her face in a trance.

Her eyes never open. She is obsessed with
whatever thoughts possess her. What holds
her is the dark edge of personal art—his—
his notion of her, his private desire, formed
by his brush, his pen, his eye. For whatever
love he feels—she is his.

 Something to be Said


Sidle me forward over the cracks and
ruts that flatten to allow trickery
of sensation, the whole foot
or the arch of the foot
as it tries not to feel
the tangible
fractures of
the imagination.
Sidle over the
shadows that have
the sameness of texture
felt by the eyes
as a difference.
Avoid the randoming
and skitter of leaves.
They are blameless.
Aversions must be met
by the self alone, the pace set
to control the phobia that will not let you.
Sidle is the only way to approach the effort
of nonchalance—the guise of control.

 Thorn Bottle

So why is blue so lost amid gold swirl and bruising red?
After Angel of the Last Judgement by Vasily Kandinsky, 1911

Is the soul so lost in turmoil that it is
torn on its own ascent?
Is the wing

conditional to flight and effort freed?
What need persists beyond a meaning that is moot?
There is no form for life to fit except its own.

Who cares if music dies without its praise, if lies
are meant to soothe all hurt. Then lies be blest.
Let hurt assuage its own connective.

What is worth an answer if it’s wrong? Let’s reassess :
The blue is torn. The wing is fragment-white.
The gold is truth but smeared within the ruin of light.

What’s left is rage and melancholy—
love is the music at the center, and the edge,
as if one thing were another.

The blend is felt as one perfection :
movement and stillness—
expressed in abstract harmony. Let it be so.

All is enough and what it is.
Let’s look—and look away—before we know.
Knowing is the end to what we seek.

So it was light—that and the darkness light concealed,
the allowing of color to form itself with the help
of brush and mind—the guilt of weeping afterwards.

 Beyond Self


I fold my life in half until it fits. I tell my arrow not to
warp. I drift upon all ebbs-and-flows and do not drown.
I dare thin atmospheres of effort and thrill at my accomp-
lishment. I cross the cold blue deserts of night until I find
the warm heart of some safe creature to lie beside. I ex-
plore thick forests of nightmare and learn to waken. I
dream the dream is real. I re-enter days of endlessness
that fill and fill with more of themselves. I get through,
moment by moment. I ask the arms of heaviness not to
drop me—to be patient with my frailty. I fold my life in
half again—my Self to keep.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

he takes favorite lizards
feeds them crickets

        *        *       *

listens happily to them
all night
singing in the lizards’ bellies


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for her poems on workshops (and workshopping one’s life) this morning, after our Seed of the Week: Workshops. Our new Seed of the Week is Hotter’n Hell. (Are we talking about the weather here, or some ill-fated romance?) 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.


 Angel of the Last Judgement by Vasily Kandinsky
Celebrate Poetry—and the poetry of color!

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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Monday, June 25, 2018

As Thor Forks the World . . .

Bowls for Sale
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Katy Brown

watched the shining silverpearl crescent moon
materialize out of the pale lemon dusk—

watched it swim the sky, calling to the evening star
saw the brighter, diamond star pace the moon

into a lowering violet night
counted the stars as they slowly emerged

the world is new again on such a night as this

—and the night is older than the myths that
tell of such a moon and star—and

the scatter of worlds that materialize
along this shore of time


—Katy Brown

On this moon-lit night, the inky water
seems more a mangrove swamp
than a hidden river marsh.

Crickets nudge the air with pulsing song.
The luminous path of light across dark water
looks more like the track of a giant snail

than the mythic source of reflected light.
A dozing crane ruffles its feathers and dreams
of hummingbirds, its tiny cousins of spring.

 Jug of Flowers on Rock Wall

—Katy Brown

Dusk—the haunting song
of a pod of murmurous whales
echoing through a swish of waves
washing against the hull—

sometimes we lose one another
even on this two-masted ketch—
hidden by the sails,
setting and unsetting the sheets,
securing the halyards.

We stand still under the moving sun,
the water rushing past us,
toward some uncertain destiny—
the sun sliding along an arc
from edge to edge of the world.

The days and nights pass—
turning on a cosmic hoop
suspended in the heavens.
The boat; the unending water;
you and me on the deck: the only certainty.

We take turns at the tiller, feeling
the water dividing beneath us. 
We use an old map and navigate by stars:
the edge of the world—ever impending—
just beyond the twilit horizon.



dropping pointy marbles in the lawn,
shedding brittle limbs near cars and roofs.

Lovely drought-resistant trees
with fragrant oil that lingers
in the mist or gentle rain;

trees that burn like torches when
Thor forks the world with celestial fire.

—Katy Brown

 Pink Rose

—Michael Ceraolo, South Euclid, Ohio

Cleveland Haiku #517

Crow drops from the sky
to scavenge
on the side of the highway

Cleveland Haiku #518

Low sky—
auto plant's smoke
camouflaged by fog

Cleveland Haiku #520

Wooden windows—
put in place after
a different sort of storm

Cleveland Haiku #522

Drive-in window stays
when the building changes
from bank to coffeehouse


—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

An idea drifts in for a great story, or a
splendid piece of music, or any of a wide
variety of positive changes. Then the eyes
open, sleep is gone, along with those
wonderful tidbits, leaving only daily chores.

Or is the real world only visible while
sleeping, and those long hours of wakeful-
ness are just some sort of stand-by mode
until we can get back to sleep?

While awake, I can play a couple different
musical instruments well enough to clearly
rise above beginner status, though it still
takes a heavy measure of dreaming to put
me on stage with my favorite performing

Same goes for poetry and photography:  I
know what I like and I strive, basically, to meet
those standards, happy that sometimes other
people like it as well.  But no worldly reader,
me, so I’ll never really know if I have added
to the sum total of what is out there.

Oh my, would you look at the time?  I’ll start
with two pillows and take it from there.



In Hawaii the heat of the swiftly moving
lava flow dominated all manner of existence
for man, beasts, and rocks. 

People who could got out of the way, and
others stepped up to help them.

In Guatemala the metaphor applied to tyrants
dominating all manner of human condition. 

Again, families who could got out of the way,
but in this instance, when they knocked at the
door of the nation that prides itself for being
the world leader of liberty and justice, the ugly
face of tyranny arose even more strongly to
steal their children and then smite them all like
a dirty bomb in a life preserver.

Generations of time and effort to overcome
our differences and generate sincere goodwill,
gone in an instant!!

 Inverted Question


Joining an animated discussion panel with
only a valid idea to express is like driving
someone who has an urgent medical need
through a busy intersection that has no
traffic controls. 

Others will not willingly share the intersection.

They will flare their lights, blare their horns,
glare their eyes, and brutally accost you as if
it was a medieval chariot race.

The more delicate your concern is, the more
it comes down to the fact that only the most
bombastic loon can effectively get that message

Congress has the same problem, so engrossed
are they with affixing nuclear warheads to
intercontinental ballistic missiles that the core
message of peace at all costs has virtually no
chance to be heard.



We keep phone and address listings in the usual
alphabetical order by last name, for the most part,
except those female friends and relatives who
somehow manage to change spouses (and last
names) more frequently than fine hotels change
the bedsheets.

And then there are the nomads who come up with
new contact information at a faster pace than
memory can capture.  For those, we fill up the index
card on one side, fill up the obverse side, get more
index cards in on the parade, ad infinitum.

California, of all places, doesn’t help matters much,
enlarging the original count of 3 area codes for the
entire state to a temporary plateau of 32 codes, with
many more sure to be on the way.

Inventors, bless their hearts, gave us speed dial so
we don’t have to worry so much about looking up the
new and improved correct, 10-digit number each
time we place a call.

What does the future hold?  If and when we colonize
our moon and some planets, our offspring may be
confronted with juggling several 20-digit phone numbers,
just to order a pizza.


Today’s LittleNip:

MAY 16, 2018, DAVIS
—Katy Brown

crack and roll of spring thunder
promise of rain among the lavender

the urgent call of songbirds
calling each other home


Our thanks to today’s contributors for starting this week off right with their fine poetry and with Katy Brown’s beautiful photos! Poetry readings in our area begin tonight at the Sacramento Poetry Center, 7:30pm, with Claudia and John Savage, plus open mic. On Thursday, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento presents featured poets and open mic, 8pm.

On Friday at 6pm at Sac. Poetry Center, there will be a Tribute Reading for poet James Humphrey by readers Norma and Saroyan Humphrey. Then at 7pm, Speak Up presents poets and storytellers on the theme of Taking Stock at The Avid Reader on Broadway in Sacramento. And Saturday at Sac. Poetry Center, there will be a closing reception for Straight Out Scribes’ Legacy art showing, 6:30pm.

Then on Sunday, July 1, there will be a Memorial Tribute at Sac. Poetry Center, 2pm, for Sacramento Poet Patricia Lee Nichol. Pat passed away in May: read about her at, and sign the “guest book” at

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.

For a review of Poet Donald Hall’s new essay collection on the “indignities of old age” and poets he has known, go to The review also appeared in yesterday’s
Sacramento Bee.


 Sweet Foot
—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, June 24, 2018

Besmattered With Smoke

—Anonymous Photo

—Anonymous, 15th Century

Swart swarthy smiths besmattered with smoke

Drive me to death with din of their dints.

Such noise on nights heard no one never;

What knavish cry and clattering of knocks!

The snub-nosed changelings cry after "col, col!"

And blow their bellows till all their brains burst:

"Huf, puf!" saith one; "Haf, paf!" another.

They spit and sprawl and spell many spells;

They grind their teeth and gnash them, and groan together,

And hold them hot in their hard hammers.

Of bulls' hide are their leather aprons.

Their shanks are shielded from the fierce sparks:

Heavy hammers they have; that are hard handled,

Stark strokes they strike on an anvil of steel

Lus, bus! Las, das! they strike in rotation

The Devil destroy such an doleful noise.

The master lengthens a little piece, belabours a smaller,

Twines the two together, strikes a treble note

Tik, tak! Hic, hac! Ticket, taket! Tyk, tak!

Lus, bus! Las das! such lives they lead

All horseshoers: Christ give them sorrow

For none for these waterburners at night may rest.


For more about “The Blacksmiths” and its onomatopoeia, go to

And speaking of Workshops (Our Seed of the Week), today from 12-4, Nick LeForce will present his “Wording the World Workshop” at Sacramento Poetry Center. Free! Info: the world/. 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—and the ancient workshop of the horseshoe!

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, June 23, 2018

Your Own Diamond Soul

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

Dusk. The California Delta. A calm
Lies across the marshes and sloughs.
Like a riddle watching itself in a mirror.
Reeds sways in the delta breeze. Just so.
The sounds of birds. Something splashes
But you don’t see what. Just the ripples
Spreading slowly across the dark water.

 California Delta Otters

The otter swims quietly across the green California slough, pausing here and there for a bite to eat. Just something to eat; that's not too much to seek. Sometimes he stands in the shallow water for a while, blinking. Sixty years old now, I meditate, focusing on my breath starting down in my tummy, going through my nostrils. How can a person to give up vain ambition? I don't know, but I am trying. That's not too much to seek.


Early morning at Seven Mile Slough. The little secret is horrid, and it sees its own reflection in the water. Then, damn secret, it hides its face among the cattails and reeds at the silent and still slough. This is the weakness often ignored by people. Cranes wade in their grayness, perfect and complete. Whole. Free. The slough leads to the river, and the river to the ocean. The secret wades slowly along, pulling its shoes from the mud with an odd sucking sound. 

 California Delta Clapper Rail

Losing the ability to describe the birds,
You become a bird.
A Clapper Rail in the Delta, perhaps.
Feathers. Like your finest suit.
Little claws. Strong like iron, like steel.
Like your mother at her strongest.
Beak. It is at once a weapon, a tool,
And a place to put food.
It is a kind of whistle.
And wings. A life in flight.
You cannot describe the birds anymore;
It's a little sad, but you feel better
As you bank into the wind
And rise up to the roof of silver clouds.

 California Delta Egrets

While watching the egrets wade
In the slough, the words came to me. 
I wrote these words down
For the people who have no names,
So that they might read them
When their sorrows finally become hunger.
In the slough the egrets were often still
As stones, as if they knew that I would need
A moment or two to find the right words.
And what are the words?

I don't tell you that in this poem. 

 California Delta Slider

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. A red eared slider slowly eases into the water without a sound.


Today’s LittleNip:

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

—James Lee Jobe


Thanks to James Lee Jobe this morning for his fine poems and photos of our California Delta! See below for the Delta hippos.

Jackie Howard and Gerrie Walker (plus open mic) will be reading at Sac. Poetry Center this morning, 9:30am, hosted by Todd Boyd at Writers on the Air. Then this afternoon, 2pm, Poetic License poetry read-around meets at the Placerville Sr. Center on Spring Street in Placerville. 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—and the Delta!
(For more about how UCD Center for Watershed Sciences 
used exotic animals as “weed whackers” in 2015, 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.