Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Golden Women

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


The lady of the elephant collection
is alive again this morning.

She awakes to hear
singing from the whales
in the coffee pot.

Her next life swims in the sea
which is nearby to serve her.

All of her glasses gleam,
she has been busy since
darkest morning.

On the brick mantle top
her first elephant weeps
offering a silver transparent tear
for her camera which fails so often.

All day she floats through her rooms
in many dresses and changing her hair
into different positions.

Her carpets are soft for her feet.
She lives alone
behind soft-curtained windows.
She does not talk to herself.


After Homage to Bonnard by Fernando Botero, 1975

She is floating in the tiny tub—huge woman,
buoyant and luminous,
glistening in the bathroom light—
balanced in the room that shrinks to fit her.

Her eyes dream into herself.
No voice disturbs her,
fathomless and mirrored by the thought of
self,    under self,    under self.

The water does not move—
not a slosh
or ripple,
but wraps around her to the rim.

Blue by blue, they sleep.
The room watches.
The walls weep.
The mirror pulls itself deeper into the night.



The lady with the huge face is opening her mouth to cry.
She was not pretty when she was laughing, now she is a
grotesque caricature of herself. The room is full of saviors,
leaning away. But there is kindness in the world; someone
has called her a taxi.


After Sunlight by Sir William Oppen, c. 1925

What has adoration to do with a woman
in muted window light—pulling her
stockings on, or pulling them off :

It is the pose of her body in that light—
the mystery of her attention to
her own beauty,      

as though disregarded, as though no one
is watching: not the artist :
or the reader of this :

or the brooding man in a dark room’s chair
who thinks of her, as if she is real
to his thinking.

She is only in the slow, seductive art
of dressing—or undressing—leaning
back—one leg lifted in the air—

the soft light approving and lingering,
and she will pose thus for as long as
anyone is watching.


After Woman in Kimono by H. Boylston Dummer

By the easy light of the north window
a woman reads to a goldfish
from a ladies’ magazine.

The attentive goldfish suspends
and slowly fans its tail.
The water barely quivers.

The curtains shine with such softness
that this might be a painting to light,
but it is a vignette to solitude—

that gathered pose
that women reserve for themselves
when they are biding.

Slowly the light alters
and outlines the back of the chair,
the lax position of her hands,

the quiet folds of her kimono,
and shines right through the
mesmerized goldfish glowing in the water.



Gold woman floats,
turns into fish,
curve of moon,

floats under sky-castle,
other moon,

Her sorrowful eyes
regret what they see.
She is sent to be dream,
so she is dream.

She is looking at you
in the waters of your sleep
—water made of sky-colors
where she swims under your grief.

The sky-castle
weighs her down,
she curves into the curve of
the moon. The second moon drifts away.

Your tears
created her; she could
love you for this, but her mouth
does not speak and you have no words for her.


After The Endless Journey by Georgio de Chirico, 1914

Lady of remember,

Lady without arms or face,
made from
suffering hands,

token lady
from ironic imagination
elongated pedestal-lady

sky-lady of maps
eroding lines of direction

prayer-lady of forgiveness
wearing her mask
of obscurity,

severed head of artist
looking up in sad imploring
love me…   love me…


After Nude Series III by Georgia O’Keeffe

motion and non-motion

made of red light
illusive to his meaning

figment of windows
never where you are

but in some unreadable self
not understood

except by light
which borrows you

for its substance
he reaches through you

with his love which is pure
(he tells you this)

if you had eyes
you would weep

though memory surrounds you
like a warning

never be

all webs
are innocent

his eyes close to hold you
reverent and holy

with desire
which he names love


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

nude woman
hanging in night air
like a vision of pleasure
huge enough to see
from as far away as the street is long
or this long hour or the promise of her door
come in

(first pub. in
Muse of Fire, 1997)


Thank you, thank you to Joyce Odam, talking about ladies today with her poems and her blossoms and our Seed of the Week: Lady Luck. For more about de Chirico’s
Endless Journey, go to www.amazon.com/Giorgio-Chirico-Endless-Wieland-Schmied/dp/3791327941/. For more about H. Boylston Dummer, see www.artnet.com/artists/h-boylston-dummer/. To see Sunlight by Sir Wm. Oppen of Ireland, go to www.art.com/products/p11726309-sa-i1351834/sir-william-orpen-sunlight.htm?upi=O4M4W0/.

Speaking of ladies (or is it bad girls?), our new Seed of the Week is a surrealistic one: You Will Need the Witch’s Cabin Key. It's not Halloween, but witches—both bad and good—are always with us, yes? See if you can wrap your brain around the witch's cabin key, then send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com. 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.


 Homage to Bonnard I by Fernando Botero, 1975
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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Monday, July 30, 2018

4 O'Broken Clock

Summer Clouds
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento, CA
Tap, tap. Thumb click. The President
spews words out onto the horizon
of mind-numbed humanoid receptors

pulling and tugging and zipping
alive and dead all-caps neon.  Iran’s Rouhani
feels the zing now.  Before, Kim Jong Un

responds, hovering over North Korea’s
red button.  Like little drooling boys
raging in mad hypnotic video play 

game over                    never comes

For, if it were game over, wombs
would harden to plumbs, children
would inevitably seize in their beds

books combust into sparks that
singe flesh, vegetation would consume
by toxicity of malice in guise of bravery.

Animal heads, seen shriveled
like rind of old lemon.  Bitter truth:
the ball is still rolling after an awkward turn.
Tap, tap, thumb click, zip zoom
the President is at it again                     boom

 Sierra Thunderclouds from Davis

—Katy Brown

I’m packing a bag
and taking a few things into tomorrow:
my notebook, some iced tea,
a couple of British mysteries,
a peanut butter sandwich,
my pillow, and some toothpaste.

No need to know why
I’m leaving for the future;
—no need to know why
I’ve chosen these objects.
I’m not sure where I’ll be tomorrow
and—most likely,

I’ll end up in the same place;
and—most likely surrounded
by my packed case, and the rest
of the trappings I cling to.
Most likely, I’ll be blinking into the morning
wondering why I keep choosing

to wake up on the same side of the bed,
in the same room, looking
down the same hallway, waiting
for  . . . . ?
This is a one-way ticket, this time-thing.
Pack carefully: there is no going back.

Even if I wake on the same side
of my rumpled life, the sun will rise a little later,
or a little earlier while I missed the dawn.
My journey into tomorrow begins now
each second that I step forward, I advance
on the future—move into the deeper now.


—Katy Brown

We are a sneaky combo—
the three of us—
poets, marked for friendship
and conversation.

Oh, we glitter and we gleam,
we jitter-bug and waltz
through unsuspecting crowds
picking phrases and rhymes from the air.

No one of us claims bragging rights,
building on the work of each other,
as we do. Like street jugglers and acrobats,
we puncture the world of expectations

laughing at the challenges tossed
to one another across the realm
of published works—
We are a sneaky combo—and we love it!

 Clouds Through Haze

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

All the seats were taken,
bladders were full, as were
the few ladies’ restrooms

so of course some women
arched their feet and marched
so sweet over to one of the

many men’s rooms to do their
business.  Even the prudent
framers of our Constitution

didn’t propound laws and rules
to govern this exact situation,
thanks to it not having been a

problem before we made it one.
But in our haste to bolt and
revolt, we also abandoned a

universal common sense in
favor of giving ourselves the
chance to play being king.

Today it is no longer a matter of
luck to find a clean and private
rest room at a public venue, it is

a royal privilege afforded to
individuals with the resources
to bring their own. KEEP OUT!


If I am fully rested and
caught up on my sleep,
there may be nothing
better than to select a
British mystery movie
to watch on TV.

Most of the time, though,
a sporting event is my
typical choice because
then if I fall asleep part
way through, someone
is taking notes for me
and posting them right
on the screen…



We eagerly looked at all the
advertising about the best
materials to prevent water
damage to the flooring at our

then we rented some trucks,
went to the beach and brought
back several loads of sand
right from the ocean floor, which
is known to resist water damage,
and spread that evenly all through
every room.

 Lone Tree With Clouds


Woke up at 4 O’Broken Clock in the
morning after, long after the Land
Rush was over, and we barefooted
Sooner or Laters who nestle our
hand-me-down cardboard boxes
under the busy freeway could only
retreat and gaze at all those other
folks with their expensive cars, and
their shiny, sturdy bootstraps who
certainly got theirs, and who now
had some place to go in a “Damn
you, get outta-my-way!” hurry.



If the sign outside the public building stated
“No uttering Haikus within 25 feet of the
building entrance” most people would
comply without it being any kind of problem.

But since the real target audience is cigarette
smokers, we need to call upon more than
just signs to get this right.

Maybe cigarette vendors need to start asking
to see a tape measure along with an ID card…
that would be a positive first step.

—Michael Ceraolo, South Euclid, Ohio

Cleveland Haiku #550

Euclid Creek—
bluestone slabs
not quite damming it

* * *

Cleveland Haiku #552

Cuyahoga River—
noises of a drawbridge

* * *

Cleveland Haiku #553

Euclid Creek—
gulls squawking
as they hunt for fish

* * *

Cleveland Haiku #556

By blue Erie's shore—
odors from the power plant
gone with its demolition

—Charles Mariano, Sacramento, CA

didn’t know
i had to go,
until i went

* * *


don’t kill
i’m just
a phone call

call collect
damn it!

* * *


stops me
in my tracks
stabs me
in the eye
dares me,
to write it


Today’s LittleNip:

I took some dark chocolate candies to my church’s Sunday women’s Bible study
    I forgot that there are no “snacks” for when they have communion
    I thought, though, why not have communion with dark chocolate as well as wine?
    If Jesus truly loved women he’d understand

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA


Thanks to our many contributors today, with all their finery! Birthdays abound: Charles Mariano and Taylor Graham had birthdays last Saturday; Katy Brown’s birthday is today! Best of days to all of them. By the way, the "sneaky combo" Katy refers to in her poem is Taylor Graham, DR Wagner and Katy, the three "Meduskateers" who sometimes write poems back and forth to each other.

Poetry in our area begins tonight at Sac. Poetry Center at 7:30pm, with spoken word from the Sacramento Unified Poetry Slam Team. Thursday is Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento at 8pm, with featured readers and open mic. Also Thursday, there will be poetry in Old Sacramento with the Love Jones “Best Love Poem” Competition, starting at 8:30pm. 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.


 Mendocino Bookstore Kitty
—Photo by Katy Brown
Celebrate poetry—and birthdays!

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, July 29, 2018

A Sort of Salvation

—Anonymous Photo

—William E. Stafford (1914-1993)

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off—they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.



Saturday, July 28, 2018


Jobe, still life with fruit and knife

May I be merciful, and in doing so find mercy.

May I share what I have, especially when there is not much to share,

And in doing so find my own heart.

May I forgive those who have wronged me,

And in doing so learn to finally forgive myself.

This I pray.

 Willie Jobe, 1991-2017

I worked nights, and he was a baby.

In the afternoons, I would nap on the sofa,

On my back, and he would nap on my belly

With his arms hanging down.

We slept easily in those earlier days.

His body and mind were perfect then,

My son, way before the heroin.

 Jobe, still life with rocks and sticks

The days pile up like leaves.

Studying the position of the moon,

Tasting the wind,

And watching the peppers and tomatoes

Growing in my garden;

It seems I have let the days pile up

Like leaves in autumn.

A year passes, a decade passes,

A lifetime; all quickly gone.

Then I am dust, you are dust,

And the moon is right back where it started.

Nothing changed, except for everything.


May compassion be part of our deepest nature. 

Let it arise from our interconnection with all things.

 James' Wish For Us All


The moon, like a snake, shed her skin last night. Skinless, she glowed even brighter, I could see that her light was the beacon that marked the dark and rocky shore, and so saved the small boats. Her light was a candle left in the window for the child who wandered so far; years have passed and she hasn't returned. Her light was a prayer across the face of the earth. Moon-skin at our feet. A light on our human faces. A light for our human faces.


I want to wash my face

Until my face has been washed away.

Gone. Faceless.

I will live faceless.

I want to wash my body

Until my flesh is gone.

I will go on as bones

And blood.

I want to wash until I feel clean,

But I can never feel clean again.

You cannot wash away the dirt

Of having failed your own son.

I spent the days between his death

And his funeral washing. And I was not clean.

I am not clean now.

 JL Jobe, Recovering from Vertigo

Pack up all the lights and put them away, but leave at least one window open. In summer, all of the windows. Pack up the music and the television and the computer and put them all away. Silence. Stillness. Now the night has robbed the sky away from the sun. Now the clouds are as silent as stone. Pack up your busy mind and put it away as well. Leave only your breath unpacked and out in the open. Now it is time to say the words—good night.

 The Poet's Hangout in Davis

Sunrise. Sacramento Valley.

Awaken, O feeble mind.

For once again the sun

Has almost cleared

The eastern mountains

And a regal purple light

Holds the sky in its arms.

Your life awaits. Awaken!


Today’s LittleNip:

That I might always speak up for those whose voices are not being heard. 

That I take it upon myself to do so without being asked.

—James Lee Jobe


Our thanks to James Lee Jobe, the newly-appointed Davis Poet Laureate, for today’s fine poems and pix!

This morning, Writers on the Air presents CharRon Smith and Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas plus open mic at Sac. Poetry Center, 9:30am. Optional Theme: Family, as in We Are All Family or Love Doesn’t Stop at the Border (Love is an Immigrant).

Then this afternoon from 2-4pm, Poetic License meets at the Placerville Sr. Center in Placerville. The suggested topic for this month is "foxworthy”, but other subjects also welcome. Bring your own poems to share; read from your favorite poets; or just come to listen. 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, July 27, 2018

Picket Fences

—Poems by Scott Simmons, Houston, TX

—Scott Simmons, Houston, TX

My old man never beat me but sometimes I wish he had.
At least then I actually would be worth the effort.

Instead he just simply reminded me how much of an idiot I was.
And he very seldom ever showed love to another person.

Neither of one us understood how to give our affection freely.

Although he did successfully teach me how to always be miserable.

Nothing was enough to be happy because he had lived a life he never wanted.
All of the scars from his childhood had never left him.

By the time I finally moved out of the house it was already far too late for me.
Because me and him are now just alike.

I suppose life is funny in that way.


I wake up and start to hate myself just a little more every day.
And the mirror is always the last place I care to look at.

As an actor I imitate life yet haven’t actually lived it in several years.

Sure I can make others laugh or cry but I can’t feel a thing on the inside.
It only goes to show that you should never look too deeply behind the scenes.

Beyond that mysterious velvet screen there is just an endless void.

For a true performer is only ever the person you want them to be.
And not much more than that.

No matter the volume of the works I’ve made it can still never fill up an empty bed.
All I have left are all the little reminders that she’s gone.

At least I’m dead enough to finally not even care anymore.


I see your face in my mind almost every other night.
It seems that my love had somehow outlasted my hatred.

Sometimes I think that was a big mistake on my part.
That would have been far simpler to process than what I feel now.

Instead I feel empty and I find myself searching for an actual purpose.

Although in a strange way I’m still happy that you found another.
Because this life is a lonely place and I couldn’t ever stand to see you alone.

Deep down I know that I had fucked us up just like I had with many other things.
He can provide you with that which I could never provide you with.

You deserved better than me and I deserved far less than you.
We both know that.

You made actually me enjoy existing for awhile and that’s more than I had hoped for.
And yet I’d still take you back without a second thought for your sake.

I suppose that I’m just always a selfish Bastard at heart though.


Regrets are often many but true happiness is a rarity.
So always search for joy with the determination of a mad man.

For Satisfaction is always transitory or simply brief at best.
And might last for many years or a few moments.

All significant life meanings and familiar faces will change over time.
And even you will become someone new.

You will be lost and completely alone at times.
And then later you'll be loved and cared for by someone special for awhile.

But in the end our hollow memories are the only things that will last with us.

Love all of your vices and experiences, because nothing lasts forever.

 Artwork by Scott Simmons

Today’s LittleNip:

It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.

—Jack Kerouac


Our thanks to Scott Simmons for his poetry today, and welcome to the Kitchen, Scott! Scott is a 20-year-old poet, humorist, and artist from Houston, Texas. He has been published at
Duane's Poetree, The Rye Whiskey Review, Horror Sleaze Trash, and The Anti-Heroin Chic. He is also the editor of The Dope Fiend Daily and his artwork can be found at his instagram entitled deranged_texan. Thanks for joining us today, Scott, and don’t be a stranger!

Tonight in our area, Sac. Poetry Center presents Kathleen McClurg, plus a book release by Maw Shein Win
(Invisible Girls), 7pm. 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.


 Scott Simmons
Celebrate new friends in 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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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Barefoot on the Land

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


     for Caleb Peirce (1825-1903)

The reverend is up, walking the raw land
before dawn, just as sky turns to gray silk;
then the burst of light over ridge, pure gold.

His suitcase full of books, candles—not gold,
that blinds a man to living with the land.
Of scripture that breeze writes on water-silk,

Caleb would ask, who needs stockings of silk,
or latest fashion in cities of gold
when one walks simply barefoot on the land?

This land, a spider’s silk, the kinglet’s gold.

    for Elihu Burritt (1810-1879)

A poor family, ten children to raise
for the Lord. How many potatoes and turnips
must a woman hoe and store in the cellar?
Your mother churned butter, plucked hens
when they quit laying; tended the white
mulberry in the dooryard,
feeding its leaves to silkworms.

She spun silk for your stockings;
loomed your homespun; worked tallow with ash
for soap; kneaded shirts and trousers
against the washboard; taught sons and daughters
the chores they could handle. Evenings
while she mended, she’d exhort you to holiness.
And still she found time for a flower garden,

petals fine as threads from a caterpillar’s
cocoon. You could listen to the tremolo of rain
on rose, soft as water-sounds of silkworms
on mulberry leaves, and fill yourself
with the scent of lilac. How morning-
glory’s purple blossoming feeds a child.
How rich you grew up, poor.


She peeled off her dress with its chain-
stitch embroidery the camisole & petticoats
bone stiff corset
she had to get out of this century this shackle
of fashion chemise & pantelettes
knit silk stockings under woven wool
the whole plaster cast
of clothes molding
how she was supposed to be
held together till she fainted dead away
as white as porcelain
she was going to slip
into mens trousers stolen off the line
blustering in a change-of-weather wind
a roomy shirt
that let the shoulders work
unbutton the collar
had to get out
in the open, run free before all the
gold the life the breath of it
was gone


This morning on the same old road, I see
a cairn that wasn’t there just yesterday—
eleven stones balanced oh so carefully
to mark a spot or maybe point a way.

And then, on a low curving wall
thirty-six seed pods in a neat array
as if placed there, in my pathway, to call

my notice to design; a kind of key
to gateway shadow, daylight falling free.


Just inside the threshold
sits a Chinese chest—who knows
who bought it, when,
where? some journey long forgotten.

Carved teak, battered from many
migrations, a wild crane
on its lid. It holds a wealth of old boxes,
photos with names, dates, places

half legible, filling breaches of memory—
small-fry in diapers, ladies
in silk stockings, a history of seasons
falling to waste or thrift store

like so many leaves,
the stories forever incomplete,
the wild crane
never flying away.


    for Katy

Squirmy road of twist and bend,
pavement’s got us penned.
When, wherever might it end?

Woods on every side of car.
The giants here are
trees as tall as any star,

a green that lulls to tire-song
as we roll along.
Let the forest voices throng.

We’ll get there or we won’t. No
shortcuts on this go.
We’ll arrive somewhere, I know.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

My muse is a serious walker.
A friend wants to trade
her faulty foot for a robot.
I wouldn’t trust that kind of muse.


Our thanks to Taylor Graham, who will be celebrating her birthday this coming Saturday, July 28. Happy Birthday Saturday, TG! On her Facebook page, Western Slope El Dorado, she writes: I
f you live in or near Placerville and have a manual typewriter, consider joining us for Typewriter Improv Poetry on Main Street. We compose poems on request at art galleries; any donations go to Placerville Downtown Association in support of downtown events. Typewriter Improv is in conjunction with 3rd Saturday Placerville ArtWalk, 6-8 pm. If you’re interested, email poetspiper@gmail.com; please include a short sample poem.

For more about Caleb Peirce (yes, that’s E-I) go to www.styleedc.com/2015/11/30/94897/in-history-reverend-charles-caleb-peirce-of-el-dorado-county/.

Big doin’s tonight, with Art/Play/Say at the Crocker Art Museum from 6-9pm, in honor of the exhibition, "Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment: French Art from the Horvitz Collection." Open mic poetry (bring poems of your own or of your favorite French poetry), drinks, games, scavenger hunts, gallery activities. That’s at the Crocker, 216 O St., Sacramento. Info: www.crockerart.org/event/1722/2018-07-26/.

And of course Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe also meets on Thursdays in Sacramento, with open mic and featured readers, 8pm. 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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sashays and Sambas

—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


The latest thing, if serious trends are things,
is taking stock of our white privilege.
So YouTube tells us, if we care to dredge,
this residue, this stubborn substance, clings
to our words: Long time no see is pidgin talk,
one tic drawn from the stereotype-stacked deck
of cartoon, cardboard Asians. Racist dreck
sinks deep roots: how to uproot the conquest stalk?

I see my pale midriff swell with the Bulge,
marbling me telltale white—quite different than
the malnutrition bulge distending Tran’s
or Yasmin’s tiny bellies: we can indulge.
What change comes of our knowing? What can be done?
I do blush, reflecting, “Free, white, and twenty-one.”

(A Prequel)

And I may hope, my Lord, [to be] considered as exercising a 
kind of vicarious jurisdiction…as the delegate of your Lordship.

     —Johnson, from
The Plan of a Dictionary (1747)

… I hereby declare that I make a total surrender of all my rights
and privileges in the English language, as a free-born British 

subject, to the said Mr. Johnson, during the term of his dictatorship.

     —Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield,
        puffing Johnson’s forthcoming
Dictionary in The World 

I write the letter I now write, spurning your help,
my Lord, to demonstrate that no raw-boned whelp
of letters, albeit a word-defining drudge,
sends words that can sting; I will not humbly trudge
nor truckle to great ones, conscious of Degree
(yours) versus degree (mine). I came soon to see
what you imply: you figuratively submit
to my Dictatorship over the flutter and flit
of meanings. Quickly you must have read my Plan,
tendered to you so long ago. The least scan
should divulge my wish to be understood as only
a deputy to your Lordship in the lonely
toil of registering language clear and strong,
far less aberrant, and fitter to linger long.
Style me Arbiter over a lexical Inquisition,
and you lodge me in a basely false position.
If you speak in jest, I appear so much more the drudge;
if in truth, my impudence is my blot, my smudge.
Read clearly and well the missive I hereby send.
Soon we shall see who has most, and first, to mend.


The poetry of [Californian] Nora May French [1883-1907]
possesses its own kind of cosmic consciousness… her work
does partake of the general imaginative flair that exists in
much popular art and literature before World War I.
         —Donald Sidney-Fryer


Young Arnold Bax was always under some spell;
he would have run away to Ireland forever,
but “the exigencies of one’s own life” do tell.
For only in Ireland could Bax find the Never
made River and Realm. And, speaking of Ireland, Ireland
—John, fellow composer—proved equally devoted
to mysticisms, odd entities of Desireland,
uncharted since Magick’s music cannot be noted.

John Ireland befriended Arthur Machen,
the writer of tales of Otherworld, the Weird,
acquainted also with “AE” Russell and Yeats,
like Bax. And Machen reviewed, as one endeared,
Clark Ashton Smith’s fantastic outer-space krakens.
From Smith, reach back to Sterling, Coolbrith, Bierce
and Nora May French, whose poem “The Outer Gate”
stamps her as doomed; her life-denying, fierce

brand of affirmation, starved all her young life
for Nature under the tantalizing stars,
brought from CAS a grief-poem, scars
carved in their school’s literature by psychic knife:
She, tingeing their artistry with her suicide,
bound tighter that California conclave: unified
by flesh-and-ghost-commitment to one Spirit,

connecting their sense of the illusory Real
to that more durable, more mystic grace
that stretches beyond our skins, that Unreal space
insinuating with tugs, faint taps, and strains
of music eerily drumming on windowpanes
what it most hesitantly aims to reveal,
that fingertip sense of realms between conceal

and feel: with tingling vibrations, every shiver
receiving a breeze to substantiate a Giver.
We know this caress administered without hands
whenever music imposes its demands
to register desires no one alive can desire,
nor any two skins lit up with telepathy-fire
deny. It all fits! Realms upon realms, no border,
just artists communing with not one connecting wire,
owning no gold like metal gold held by the hoarder.
From Wales to Dublin to Carmel to Auburn* nearby,

Great Ones long since dissolved to spectral status
will sing, murmur amongst themselves yet straight at us;
compose—no inkstained pages, farewells or lies—
inscriptions on twilight, or inside veined lids, shut eyes…

*Clark Ashton Smith lived almost his whole life in the
outskirts of Auburn, and Ambrose Bierce resided in
downtown Auburn for a few years.


Your reverie starts with a motif shaped like a sigh,
faint breath from an ancient rhapsody drawn out
silken as from the worm that knows to ply
one thread unfathomably supple, soft, stout:
long melody through-composed, much like Ravel
in his Concerto’s slow movement: the difference this,
Ravel’s melancholy confers no such intimate kiss
as yours, Ireland, unfurls in soft reveal:

just now, love’s pleasance turns agonized, awestruck; here
block chords turn bliss to pain-wracked discord thunder;
such dreading ecstasy connotes love’s fear:
subside, fear, once more to sighs reconciling with wonder.
Clairvoyant ghosts: flute first, then violin, partners piano:
sing, telepathy. Steal in, tympani, nightshade-slow…


Hearing your E-Flat Major Piano Concerto,
John Ireland, I trace emotional links to Bax:
Bax dedicated his Symphony One to you.
Yet in at-first-warm friendships, ties grow lax.
The affair he led with your Gweneth. What to do
but grimace with grinding teeth the while one racks
one’s malice for any good strategy short of, Sue.
Do only Debussy’s filles have hair of flax?
Your Helen Perkin performed with fire and strength
this opus you gifted her: languor, wit, ecstasy
equal to Arnold’s; the work soared, then even She
despaired of your love’s demands and left at length…
(Fleur Adcock relates in verse the at-first-sweet facts).
Surely you must have reconciled with Bax.


I learn your concerto was played by Rubinstein:
Ah spice that mulled Chopin, stirred into this ruby wine!


I bought myself a car a while ago, something I had never
dreamed of before …I wish I could take you for a ride—
I like speedy-looking cars, to drive slowly, however.

          —Elizabeth Bishop, letter of 12/8/53 to Marianne Moore


She takes her time, the “famous eye,” rides and inspects
where quick-alternating patches, light, shadow, light, shadow
play across broad-bladed leaves, odd underglow
sheening underneath: ’53 MG sedately swerving
heights San Francisco-giddy; though this is Brazil.
Basket-wove spokes on each wheel, car waxy clean
insect-black. Strange look, low-slung, the machine
Wehrmacht staff-car or cacao-colonel uptight,
yet innocent gaiety surmounts these redolences: light
bounces off her car as the car itself bounces the jolts.
Her eye might ride in an early Gemini spaceship, still-
seeming; below, hundreds of miles a second curving;
she spies her Gemini partner-ship, the one thing
she’s trained her eye precisely to light on, at speed.
Oh, she sees much, indeed;
records, and all the while slow past Ipe-roxo,
vast stands of eucalyptus, camphor, cedar, Pernambuco,
each thing eye-inventoried; her sports car runs look-and-go.
The criss-cross banana thatches, the various verdures, forest green
or verdigris, watermelon-skin or chartreuse,
all patchwork-leavened with near-black or with sheen
pupil-striking with glints, sun-copper or shocking blue bolts
whose one startling use
is to blind, and then submerge,
retracted periscope startle; the eye self-heals.
On, the revolve of wheels. Past the Santos-Dumont house.
From her small car
to actual touch of these broad sleek leaves must seem quite far;
yet she rides rolling quite near. She drives,
as the life all around her to her quick eye unhives.
Dizzy the elevator ups and downs,
the MG sashays and sambas a slo-mo careen,
Samambaia, Mangalarga, Alcobacinha, no telling where to.
Things tripwire, sights invert: shadow glares while sunlight gowns
plants uncharted dark-nimbused in mystery.
This is much of her history,
as the underhood fanbelt swirls like a river ocean
around flywheels greased with ancient grease,
car dancing to the momentum of slow reveal.
She drives and observes without cease.
Her sports car, swerving slow, runs look and go.

*Apologies to John Adams, composer of Short Ride
in a Fast Machine


Today’s LittleNip:
Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.

—Carl Sandburg


—Medusa, with our thanks to Tom Goff and Katy Brown for today’s fine poetry and pix!

 Celebrate the poetry that is the rose!
—Photo by Katy Brown

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, July 24, 2018

Do Not Burden Me With Beauty

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Here I am in my beautiful red stockings, which are painted
on my legs. The red lamplight is burning on the wall behind
me. I am half-dressed, or half undressed. I can’t decide which.
I am in a mood. Do not burden me with beauty—I have no
use for it. I am in the middle of a melancholy. I think I may

have been young once—floating upon a swirl of premonition,
as I do now. Do not look at me. My eyes are closed. My hand
is clenched in my hair as I swoon into scarves of red chiffon.
Do not admire me. Do not pity me. I am here for myself. Do
you not see the flush of grief on my face, the desperation?

(first pub. in Thorny Locust,  2004)



She is here to tease :
the fan, the hanging silks,

the pearls around her throat,
that languid look,

her rumpled white dress

the cushion
that she leans against.

How young is she.
A century perhaps.

A century
takes its time—

remembers as it will.
Though she

is many centuries gone,
she teases still.



Here we are, still in costume, wandering
like two rain clouds through dark trees.

The old white moon is already
high in the sky. I think it follows us.

Should we stay in character?
It makes it easy to know who we are,

all of satin and silk pretension,
easy to find. Don’t leave me or

let go my hand.
Even though the moon is bright,

the trees are dark, The sky
is rumbling and I think we may be lost.

I don’t remember how long it’s been
since the laughter and the applause—

how long since the giddy satisfaction
of our talent—only our costumed

selves now—wandered no farther than
these trees that rustle with such sadness?

 The Blues


Well, all is neat now in the tidied room, fringe of a shawl
hangs down in silky perfectness, she is sitting upon it so
carefully so as not to muss it; she is reading a magazine
with her eyes. She is dressed in dark—she has not smiled
today. She does not know what to do with herself. An old-
fashioned radio on a small end table does not seem to be
playing. Everything is orderly. She is pretending to be
comfortable. It is 1937. Small edges are squeezing in. She
draws her feet up. Her hand is resting on the edge of a page.
Her eyes are not noticing the subtle changing of her time-
lessness. She is in profile to all that is altering the room.
Her mood is untouched by this. She has created it.



She still wears her stockings rolled with dime store
garters above her knees

and tells us of the cherished disasters and triumphs
of her ‘olden days’ with a throaty wheeze,

and oh, she laughs uproariously, and oh, she guffaws
loudly, at the bawdy memories she frees,

and how the whole drunken honest beauty of her
privacy in public reverie does please.



I watch the girl in the silky brown dress and bulky shoes
and heavy purse hanging from her shoulder—standing in
line with her off-staring mother—while her siblings go
chasing in rowdy circles around the display counter.

Her dreaminess is caught in my casual stare as she flicks
the trace of a smile and switches her weight to her other
hip, moving in line with the slow-moving others—as the
line shortens before, and lengthens behind.

The hum of the room fades into the distance of her dis-
traction. She has a ring on her finger that she fiddles with,
and a watch that holds no time but this time of no concern
to her. She catches the path of my glance again.

But I do not exist for her—and I feel that I intrude—
somehow—upon her engrossment—the automatic way
she moves when the line moves—as if nothing of the room’s
murmuring vexation involves her.

 Love Song


Iridescent girl
in path of blue light
in cool attitude
her white stockings
flash a metallic hue.
I think
she is a dancer
or a lady of recent darkness;
I think she is a spy
for sorrows;
I think she knows
a secret
and will tell
only her day-dreamed lover
who looks through his
far, blue eye at her
and sends his shafts
of silent touch
to her patterned hands,
her dress,
her white-blue stockings.

(first pub. in The Poet’s Guild, 1997)


After The Great Dancer by Jean (Hans) Arp, 1926

The whale dances with the amoeba, which dances with
the jellyfish, which dances with the man in the tuxedo
and the woman in the white stockings.

they demonstrate the life they share with the music
that is different to each.

They are so tolerant of each other—with the motion
to guide them—and no end to reach.
They are perfectly secure in each other’s embrace.

The whale comes up for air and to see the sky.
The amoeba follows the curiosity, and the jellyfish
changes shape with every motion of the others.

The tuxedoed-man and the white-stockinged woman
continue to be oblivious to all but the passion of
the dance as they move to the virtual shape of the music.


After Portrait of Xie Kitchin by
Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), 1874

The chaise lounge will someday fit her as a woman, but for
now, she is a child, sensuous and dreamy, held in a spell :
her own mystery—who she is—lying back for the camera’s
interpretation, its loving attention. She wears a white dress and
long white stockings and a white ribbon in her hair. She holds
an open book, slack in her hands, and tells with her eyes what
innocence is—what life and death are. She is but a child in a
fashioned pose of waiting, with a secret story in her eyes. A
small white skull waits patiently by, hidden in what seems
to be a white spill on the portrait, smiling and whispering:
Child, someday you will become a part of me, even as I will
become a part of you.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

“She’s a poet,” my daughter
whispers, hushing them,
“she writes poems.”
And in the other room children‘s chatter
unwinds to an ear-teasing hum.

“What’s a poet?”
one of them stage-whispers.
Another snickers.  A door
as the stampede moves outside.
The silken threads of my poem

(first pub. in
The Archer, 1967)


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and pix as she dances around the idea of our Seed of the Week: Silk Stockings. Our new Seed of the Week is Lady Luck. Send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com. 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.

For more of Lewis Carroll’s portraits, photos and art, see www.pinterest.com/pin/390687336396646649/?lp=true/.

The Poetry Box’s
The Poeming Pigeon is about to release Issue #7 (“In the News”); pre-orders will be taken until Aug. 15 at thepoetrybox.com/bookstore/the-poeming-pigeon-in-the-news?mc_cid=8d19fb048c&mc_eid=b02a0f9fa2/. Starting Aug. 15, submissions for their Fall issue will be accepted at thepoetrybox.com/the-poeming-pigeon?mc_cid=8d19fb048c&mc_eid=b02a0f9fa2/. The Poetry Box has grown by leaps and bounds in its short life; check out all their publications and publication opportunities at thepoetrybox.com/.


 The Great Dancer by Jean (Hans) Arp
For more about Jean Arp, see 
And 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.