Monday, December 31, 2018

Finishing Up 2018

—Anonymous Photos

—Michael H. Brownstein, Chicago, IL

The house on the third quadrant of Mars
Parallel to the polarities of Earth
Perpendicular to the central strategies of Venus
Where are we? Who are we? How are we?
Rock flats, salt crevices, copper linings,
Asteroid one, asteroid two, asteroid three
What are we? Why are we? Where are we?
Travel through cloud storms and ether
Paths of light and dark and solar flares
You can wake to sleep and sleep to wake
In the dreamscape of landscaped spacescape
Look outside the feeding tube, breathing tube,
Breasting tube, beating tube and you still
Won’t know the question from the answers.


—Michael H. Brownstein

The dirty gods never need a bath or haircut.
The dirty gods never learn to shave.
The dirty gods have perfect pearls for teeth,
clean underwear and clean fingernails
The dirty gods breath smells of fresh baked bread,
perfume, the fragrance of a woman in love.

Spine of brick
Flow of water

This is what crushed the water,
this is how the trees died
and do you see in the distance?—
This is how the mud grew up
slipping from limestone and slate.

Water comes between us.

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA

What things may come
Before the dawn
To eyelids closed,
Inside the mind,
To mind’s eye
On its screen?

Brilliant colors,
Flowers emerging,
The touch of
Creeping light
Upon a floor,
A visitation!
These things and
Many more—

Of loved ones
Gently reassuring,
Or worried frowns—
Of a life lived


—Joseph Nolan

There’s always something wrong, eventually.
Cabbage that turns into kim-chee
Grape juice into wine
Or worse yet, vinegar.

Milk into yogurt
Curds into cheese
Smiles into complaints
Feelings to unease.

Unease into avoidance
Avoidance into distance
Distance into departure
For a different existence.

Some people eat these things
On a daily basis.
They say it’s good for your digestion.
If you eat enough of that sort of thing,
You can swallow rusty nails
Without it bothering you much
Or get a job
Chewing barnacles
Off the bottoms of ships.
It toughens you up, they say.

For those who can endure,
There are rewards.

—Joseph Nolan

How many ways        
May light come in,
Into a darkened room,
Into a darkened soul?

How many ways
Might we
Be made whole,
Against the wind,
Against cruel time,
Against a juggler’s
Cursed rhyme,
And how might
We let the light
Come in?

A simple
Might do,
To quell a frown,
Let barriers down,
When hopeful minds
Something new
To occupy our time.


—Joseph Nolan
A hawk,
A dove
A fierce and
Hungry love
Devouring flesh.

Rise refreshed,
A simple giggle
At the window
Through the shades
And curtains,

A turning,
Naked glance
There’s more
To come!

—Caschwa, Sacramento

As long as he is Casey at bat, the
whole game is in the balance, he could
hit the next pitch clear over the tallest
wall for the roaring cheers and the win.

It has been done a few times before,
like people really winning the lottery,
so a cluster of gamblers in the crowd
holds onto that one thread of hope.

With all of that tension in the air, he
swings, and misses, STRIKE THREE!
This one little statistic changes everything.
No longer President, his loyal followers

are drawn to the more pleasing scent of
another trail, of another player who can
also offer heroic tales of winning games,
winning elections, a treasure of fan candy.



We have seen the movement
across many cities to remove
their statues of Confederate
figureheads, as they no longer
represent the will of the majority
of local voters.

Yet there remains one relic from
that same point in history which
still functions to reinforce the
absolute power of privilege that
certain men held over everyone
else:  the Stock Market.

Just try to envision the daily
closing bell ceremony without
also catching a glimpse of entire
families of black slaves on the
auction block…


Number 2 pencil
big, giant eraser
Yes, I am now ready
to draw a conclusion…


No one knows borders
better than a humble
seamstress.  Seek her
counsel before starting
your damn wall.


For Thanksgiving and
Christmas we are supposed
to go to the marketplace for
little reminders that once upon
a time an all-powerful God
made us less so.


Every day we read the
horoscope for each family
member and our President;
one of these invariably defines
a person who is not wired to
understand these thoughts.


Pets are almost poets
Fate made me a father
The sum of our dreams becomes summer
Too much law is a flaw
But there is no pig in a poke.


Today’s LittleNip:


Verb’s pretty wife
was too busy to
give him a conjugal
visit in prison

because she just
couldn’t decline a


Many thanks to today’s poets, and a reminder that there will be no reading at Sac. Poetry Center tonight. On this coming Saturday from 12-2pm, you are cordially invited to enter 3-5 artworks to the SPC fundraiser art show at the Sacramento Poetry Center Art Gallery, entitled Paradise Relief: An Invitational Art Show to Benefit the Camp Fire Victims, curated by Bethanie Humphreys and Heather Judy. Info: 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 in the New Year!

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

Sunday, December 30, 2018


—Photo by David Iribarne, Sacramento, CA


—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento, CA

to move or not to move...
look around at one main room
pocket kitchen, bath, closet aside
I’ve been ten years here, alone

it should be next to nothing 
to go through it all
winnow what to keep
shred, recycle, donate the rest
should take a few months till lease’s end
do a little each day

Be strong!
this rent is too high
there is only one window
carpet was old when I moved here
leaf blowers outside drive me nuts every Thursday

Yet, life has been sweet here
one-room studio like an animal’s winter burrow
dark, warm cave when window blinds closed
sheltered me through mid-life college
finally, teaching work
holding, sustaining, overwhelming me
worked in solitude
late into nights here
year after year

walls with their spider webs
I admit to ignoring
have nurtured hundreds of poems
walls and several rounds
of short-term, gracious neighbors
put up with my playing flute
music both solace and challenge
new shining silver intermediate flute
proudly bought with teaching pay
walls have listened to her sing

pool held me
floating, cooling in raging summer heat
water strewn with rosy petals as summer waned
until management
ripped out the crape myrtle trees 

I’ve cooked delicious meals here
then absently spooned them in
perched on that annoying barstool
no room for a kitchen table

eating while pouring through books
ignoring the hole in my heart
lacking loving discourse, shared meals—
of course, living alone
has meant no fights during dinner, too

in the corner, day bed / night bed has not judged
as I struggled and tossed, cried
napped too often
slept exhausted in warm blankets
some of them friends’ loving gifts
now moving toward threadbare—
another sign that it’s time
or I could buy new blankets

winds bring the call to move
create a new, happier home
rub my eyes, squint to see the way
still unsure of where to place my feet
when the time comes
they will fly down that road
but at this year’s end
I wrap my small, single home
around me, search my heart, wait for the moment
ready myself for inevitable change


—Medusa, with thanks to Ann Wehrman for her fine, Starting Fresh poem, and to David Iribarne for his lovely butterfly!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Open Your Heart

Hawaiian Crow
—Poems by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA
—Crow Photos Courtesy of James Lee Jobe

A book of poems was left on my desk,
The Mountain Poems of Meng Hao-jan.
In the dark before sunrise a wood spider
Walks across the old book cover.
I am up already, working on poems.
I have coffee, some toast, and an apple
Sitting nearby. I nibble, sip, and write,
Sometimes just sitting and thinking
For a while, language moving around
Inside my mind, taking shape.
The spider pauses. Is it watching me?
I don’t know how to tell, of course,
But I leave it alone and just keep working.
I am well into editing a third poem
When I notice that I am again alone
And the morning light is pouring in
From around the closed and dirty curtains.

 Hooded Crows

Loved in hidden rooms, behind delicate curtains.
Held in firm brown arms, the feel of clean sheets.
Every moment we shared still exists
Somewhere in time; stepping across the distance
Is as easy as memory, as easy as passion.
No past, no present, no future.
Just the sensuality of us, ourselves.

 Indian Jungle Crow

In this dream, a nebbish little fellow
Was struggling to reach a pie.
He had already given me a gift
And it seemed the least I could do
To reach down that pie for him.
Perhaps I would even join him
For a slice or two. It’s neighborly.
In the dream I turned to my left
And reached up, and as I did so
I sat upright in my bed and woke up.
I was reaching up, but no pie
Was there, no little fellow. Too bad.
Thinking back, I am pretty sure
That the pie was peach. Delicious.

 Torresian Crows

The winter sky at night. A cold storm blows in.
I raise my arms up to heaven; love and compassion.

Then emptiness. No thought at all
Is the best thought after all.

The idea of giving up all of my absurd ambitions
Seems like a gift to me now. A Christmas present.


In the mirror, in the photographs, a much older man.
Near my ramshackle house is a railroad track,
Still in use with several freight trains a day,
Either direction. If I had my ‘young strength’ again
I would load my frame pack and walk that line north.
Mount Shasta, Oregon, Washington, Canada.
I would walk until I got tired and then I would rest
In the shade of the evergreen trees; pine, fir, red alder.
Hidden by bayberry and shallon shrubs, I would sleep.
Daytime, nighttime, what’s the difference, really?

 Northwestern Crow

On this, the day when your grief made you stronger,
The day when your sorrow opened your being to love,
Say these words when the world around you is empty.

Death will not take me, it will deliver me.
Pain will not change me, but love will.
Yes, I will walk straight into the darkness,
And I will come out on the other side.
I reject the fear, I accept the courage.
I will not deny love, I will proclaim it.

The day comes for each of us to stand or fall,
To open the door or to close it. Friend,
I urge you—open up your heart and live.


Today’s LittleNip:

Chamomile tea and fresh night air—
Walking in brand new slippers!

—James Lee Jobe


—Medusa, with thanks to James Lee Jobe for his fine poems (and upstart crows) on this, the cusp of the new year!

 For more about The Mountain Poems of Meng Hao-jan,
And elebrate poetry!

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

Friday, December 28, 2018

Crying on the Blue Line L

—Poems by John Grochalski, Brooklyn, NY
—Anonymous Photos of the Chicago Blue Line L

the ice cream man

the ice cream man
is drunk on the avenue

he keeps walking past the ice cream shop
where they serve
double-scoop artisan cones
like red velvet donut and green tea

the ice cream man
is shouting at all of the pretty families
finishing up another pretty day
under pretty blue skies
tired from playing in pretty parks

the ice cream man
walks in the middle of traffic
he brings cars to a halt
he runs up behind women
and hugs them until they scream

the ice cream man gets yelled at
by the ice cream shop clerk

some pimply teen kid
who just wants a girlfriend or a boyfriend
who just wants to make a summer buck
slinging scoops of red velvet donut

some dumb kid the craven manager threw out there
to yell at the ice cream man
and chase him away

so that pretty families
can continue eating their ice cream cones in peace

for at least a few minutes

before the ice cream man comes stumbling back
stinking of brandy

trying once again
to ruin america for everyone
who knows how to be tame

and play by the stupid rules.     


this black and blue


man crying on the blue line L (chicago)

it’s probably true
that in big cities
you can sob on a train
and people will most likely
leave you alone
it’s not even rush hour here
in the great city of chicago
and we’re packed on this train
some people coming home from work
others doing touristy things
like me
talking to my wife
about deep dish pizza and wrigley field
about maybe moving
out of new york city and coming here
he’s in a seat midway
down the train car
head buried in his hands
sobbing openly
chest heaving into his knees
the seats around him empty
even though people have to stand
the seats around him diseased
with his sadness
he doesn’t look homeless
so i wonder what else
america has done to him
in these dark days
it could be any number of things
in this country
we treat each other like animals
we watch america chew
someone up
take in the spectacle
like it’s on video and not right before our eyes
then we check the weather
and our twitter feed for more
i don’t know
what’s happened to this guy
but, jesus christ,
there should be some comfort
only i know
i’m not going to be the one
to ask him what’s wrong
i know my role in this hard land
only too well
and that’s to get off the train
at the next stop
just like everyone else
pull myself up
by my worn-out bootstraps
shake that scene out of my mind
his crying
his bellowing into flesh
and metal and plastic
pray to god that’s never me
then turn with a smile
to ask my wife
what it is that she thinks she wants
for lunch.


chew us up
spit us out
every single day


maim yourself
murder yourself
every single day


hurl these lifeless bodies
that you’ve robbed of liberty

back into your violent abyss
and scream.

too old to be

i am
either hungover
or still drunk
but the sun is too much this morning
crossing the street
unwashed and a ball of sweat
smelling of last night’s vodka
i pass the president of the company
close-cropped beard
silver shirt tucked into
designer slacks
he nods at me
and i wave back
a death rattle
of my tingling gaseous hand
in the bodega
that stinks of raw eggs
grabbing gum to cover my breath
and water to keep me from vomiting
up the scent
of hearty american breakfasts on the go
i spy him across the street
playing on his cell phone
still looking like a million bucks in the summer sun
and i think
some people can just keep it together
better than others
how maybe i’m just too old to be
living this way
and i pay for the gum
the water
from an angry bodega owner
who hates my kind upon sight
then hobble back outside
into the glaring gloom
of people racing off to work or nowhere
and wait for the big boss
to go on his merry way
before i even think
of trying to get my shit together
while crossing back
along that sun-soaked street.


Today’s LittleNip:

As if a great creature had grown old without being able to express its feelings. Not that it didn't know how to express them, but rather it didn't know what to express.

—Haruki Murakami,
A Wild Sheep Chase


Welcome back to the Kitchen, John! John Grochalski appeared on Medusa’s Kitchen a few times in the Fall of 2016, and now he’s back with poems from Brooklyn—and we’re all the better for it!

Tonight in Sacramento at the Avid Reader on Broadway, Speak Up: The Art of Storytelling and Poetry will present stories and poems on the theme of New Beginnings, 7pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


 John Grochalski
Celebrate poetry!—and prodigal poets…

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

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Bells In My Head

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Remember when we were stuck in a snow-
bank on the 4W road to the cow-camp.
We couldn’t muscle the truck out—
arms, shovel, boot-stomping the shoulder
of the blade.
       So we camped right there.
Like the time the VW Kombi broke down
on Christmas Eve. Second nature,
to travel with camping gear, when you
go adventuring.
       Our dogs set off exploring, finding
new paths as we made camp. Memory
plays with our stories, mixes them together,
makes them legend.
       Mountain nights are cold as onyx;
dizzy with stars; wind-harps and angel-
scarves in flickering red and green, every
color of Northern Lights.
       Our dogs kept us warm as shepherds’
sheep as we crossed the invisible line
to sleep, to another holy day:
bells not meant to be heard out loud.
       And all those stars! 


    Typewriter Improv Poetry at the Artists Co-op

Ten more shopping days. My Royal has
a blank sheet waiting for a word, a sentence,
poem on-request of a stranger. It all starts
when someone walks in the gallery door, out
of Main Street’s bright garlands hung like
unrung bells. Here, Art is the illumination,
vibrant flow of line, color, words. Oh where’s
a lone seeker among the crowd? just one
traveler of Imagination… Everyone’s heading
head-down preoccupied elsewhere, not into
this gallery, with its watercolor of Waxwings,
its photograph of wild Mustangs in a blizzard;
my unwritten ode to an old moon-eye Dog
at wakeful watch for Master at midnight.


Smudge of storm’s gone behind Baltic Peak.
Breeze sends a fallen leaf skating
on frozen puddle. Silence.
No. Birdsong. Wings bustle in bare limbs
of the great black oak festooned in mistletoe.
Bluebird and titmouse, one after another
plucking snippets of cheer,
berries a Christmas gift for wintering birds.

       at the tree preserve

As I walked among the giant Christmas trees,
a bell rang in my head. Something
out of place. Familiar leaf-feather grace of—
eucalyptus? glimpsed through boughs
of ponderosa pine and white fir. I skirted
the ravine, climbed up the ridge and there—one
eucalyptus among conifers. Its leafy
greenery, its bell-shaped pods.
Back at the station, I asked “what’s
with the eucalyptus?” The keepers insisted,
“Not in our plantation. A fire hazard.
Impossible.” I showed them my iPad photo.
“We never planted it,” they averred.
A bird must have dropped its seed right
where I found it. My pantlegs starred with stick-
tights. Christmas-tree bells in my head.


Chiming in the trees
louder with wind—a pause
then we’re stepping carefully

over fallen leaves and needles step
by step as if each indelible

caught in mud or crystal frost—
a crow overhead—no, the tilt-wing
sweep that brushes clear

the sky, an old year on this earth
beneath our feet, a distance-

haze, and look! a lake
too far below us to be found
on our map, blue waves scoring

music played by wind
a riffle on the mind passing as

morning afternoon and evening
soft and softer fading away to dark
of forest, its silent night vision.

        (a paradelle for year’s end)

The rats hang a-round cause we feed ‘em.
The rats hang a-round cause we feed ‘em…
there’s scuttling in the corners.
There’s scuttling in the corners!
There’s ‘em scuttling round, hangin’
the corners cause-a the rats we feed.

They shred plastic, the important papers.
They shred plastic—the important papers!
They’re gonna take over the world,
they’re gonna take over the world.
They’re over the important plastic world.
Take the papers!—shred they gonna.

They eat the cheese, they trip the trap.
They eat the cheese, they trip the trap,
they get away slick as a rat.
They get away slick as a rat,
they eat the trip-trap,
they slick away the cheese. They rat.

Cause-a the important trap-slick
world, we trip over a rat in the feed.
Eat papers they’re gonna. Hang!
As they take the corners they plastic ‘em.
Away! They the rats scuttling shred
around the cheese. They get!

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Through a reef of oaks on the west hill,
the sky’s a wash of color. Not pink,
not orange, a watercolor mix that wavers
hues between daylight’s bold palette
and night’s black ink. My iPad camera
can never capture sunset. Sky
is ever-tiding ocean above us, changing
shades as we watch. Hold your breath
to see, for just this moment, such color.


Our thanks to Taylor Graham as her poems move us into the twelve days of Christmas—plus a sassy paradelle for the coming new year! The Paradelle is a modern poetic form invented by Billy Collins as a parody of the villanelle. For more about it, go to


 Celebrate poetry!  

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Pallet of Mixed Emotions

—Poems by Ahmad Al-Khatat, Montreal, Quebec, Canada


I will be painting you below
the curious moon next to
a pallet of mixed emotions
with a brush full of feeling
The truth is I am a sad tear
and not a colour of rainbow
in your eyes all the colours
dance all over your canvas
I see the smile of yours truly
similar and the arrival of the
summer sunrise and feel the
thirst of your lips from the rain
Make me your model for a second
catch me with your will for an hour
my soul and eyes must be awake
to feel your touch like an angel kiss
And I will colour your moist
lips with a rare leaf from autumn
with your hair, I will draw the running
horses around your scent forever 


Inside of my dream

there’s a bird flying 

from one nest to an-

other, without wings
Inside of my dream

there’s a man holding 

a sign that says, I 

have serious cancer
Inside of my dream

there’s one refugee 
with tears of grief 

because he lost hope
Inside of my dream
here’s a young lady
smoking, and waiting

for the train to suicide
Inside of my dream

there's a black cat

staring at me, and 

waiting to the end of my dream


Tonight is calm but windy
It feels like someone is around
To murder the drunk man in the bar
Or maybe it will be the death of a poet

Perhaps that means I will die
Death will strip my spirit bare
To see my family and watch their tears
As I observe if my friends are the loyal ones

Unfortunately trust is lost to me
As I have deep sorrows inside my life
My eyes weep with tears flying as
Autumn leaves to the front door of my neighbour

Painful griefs draw my darkness below
The moonlight and colour me with colours
It will be the way to lift me up and be strong
As a flower dancing from the sensual drops of rain

I would love to envision my own funeral
Since there is wrong or right to observe the
Faces will be dark as a raining cloud or the other
Ones that smile as the rainbow is seen from my coffin 


In the cemetery, I was standing on my knees,
reading verses of the holy book to the tombs

I was praying with tears on my cheeks

until the graveyard stopped me and asked me if

I was reading verses or reading sorrows 

with an emotionless face, he asked to repeat

I started reading again and his face was getting 

red as his eyes were dropping my unrhymed tears

he stopped me with anger and screamed out

why more griefs, why more death and less peace

I responded to him, why did hope sell us to traitors 

why life is struggling with us, why did the wars rape us 

we cried together as he was saying that he’s listening to

spirits weeping with us, as the clouds will rain again

he asked me again why our world is no longer bright, 

instead it’s full of darkness and lots of bloody cuts

our grandparents were the farmers who lifted the sunshine 

and brunt themselves to death, just to protect the seeds

our mothers stole the moon from the wall of the night 

they hid in their coffins and the stars after our fathers

turned the rainbow into a solider in the zone of death 

and made the snow into a drinkable water to survive


Next week,
I will be older than usual
Tuesday coming,
I will meet with a sign of a bitter end

Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem
Are in my mind and heart growing
With no strength to talk about them to anyone
I can't offer to meet with a psychological

I tattoo love, joys, and inspiration to
The people I love and to the ones that
Still have a death wish against me without
Realizing that I can't be happy anymore

In my days, I met with so many clowns
Some they taught me how to cry with
No falling tears, I have learned how to
Hold my broken heart like a homeless

I always wanted to live a life of a angel
No worries, no more stress from haters
I wish I could chose to live a quiet,
Simple, and basic survival of the day

I can never judge my life as wonderful
It's full of downs more than ups
Even though, I don't go to clubs or
Bars to meet with priceless bodies

I'm very sensitive and my friends stab me
As if I won't bleed by myself in darkness
My problem is I never appreciate my life
And I can't weep for my own griefs

The rain forces me to dance in the mist
Without the moon and the stars I see you
From the lights of my homeland in which
Death could observe well and not you

Five of my good friends passed away
I will be the sixth to reach them soon
But I can't because you are my true love 
I learned from you to be stronger than ever


When I was a teenager

I donated to a little orphan

since then I made a vow that 

I would adopt her, and marry her
Days go by and nights come 

I learned how to hurt myself 

by doing bad habits that will 

guide me to die below the bridge
I lost count of my harmful cuts 

I lost all the joyful memories and 

moments from weeping beneath 

the lights of the miserable bar
My mother thought that I was well,

As my smile hid the tears that 

damaged my physical therapist 

within minutes after hearing me
I lost many chances and luck

until I met a broken heart,

she cried when she knew that I 

found what was missing of me
I found her 

between all of my poetry

between all of my cigarette smoke 

I tried to lose her

as I saw my shadow following her
Ann, you didn't adopted a regular girl

you have definitely raised one angel
that showed me life with colours

From your love and care for my princess
the grief inside of me has smiled when
your daughter kissed my salty lips and 

wiped my tears, hopefully she will

close my eyes after my smiling face rests


Today’s LittleNip:

Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.

—Rainer Maria Rilke


Welcome, Ahmad Al-Khatat, to the Kitchen! Ahmad Al-Khatat was born in Baghdad, Iraq on May 8th, 1989. He moved to Canada with his family at the age of 10. He has been published in several press publications and anthologies all over the world and has poems translated into several languages. He has published two poetry books,
The Bleeding Heart Poet and Love On The War’s Frontline which are available on Amazon ( Most of his new and old poems are also available on his official Facebook page, Bleeding Heart Poet ( He now lives in Montreal, Quebec. Thanks for your poems, Ahmad, and don’t be a stranger!


 Ahmad Al-Khatat
Celebrate Poetry!

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Go With Joy

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


My grandmother sings the blues to my mother in
heaven.  Lullabies. Hymns. Toneless and beautiful.
How did they find each other?

This is how long it is between stories never told.
Who makes the rules for memory?  Soft, folding
things that make up patterns.

Once there was a riddle. Its name was love. It
carried a long distance, like faith and loneliness.
A riddle solved is a disappointment.

Sometimes I carry a tune for years, remember it
differently—think I composed it. My grandmother
holds my infant mother and asks about me.

She is almost complete now and I feel a ravel begin,
a slow sensation.  I tie another knot and move more

My mother used to teach me embroidery: “This is a
French Knot,” she would tell me, “for the centers of
flowers, and this is a Satin Stitch for their leaves.”

And we would sit in my childhood for hours, making
arm rests, and head-rests, pillow cases
and pretty dresser scarves.


After Child on Horse by William M. Duff

drawn simply

like a primitive mural
on a gray wall:

a thin-legged, feisty horse,
rounding its back—

joyous child

and flinging

Watch Me arms
out wide.



This exalting music—its power—
to be moved beyond listening,
to merge into and become
what it is—find my soul—
weep for the healing
I trust to find
in this sad



The Dying Note
Listening still to music’s echo  
fill the long-empty theatre  
where the old violinist—
in his last performance,  
holds the bow just a    
bit longer—all    
his music    

The Cacophony               

Raucous music, holding its noise still,  
like a metronome at a loss,
before the measuring of
the echo—the silence
that rings in the room

The Still Air        

All the driven winds have done their worst,
wind chimes have quit their clamoring,
the air no longer trembles,
tiny breezes steal in,
two unbroken chimes
touch each other—
make little                                

In Loving Memory       

Do you remember how the old bell
of the tiny church would echo
to all the listening dead
and those who did not stay,
how the church tower
can still echo
its heart out
to the

 Not Necessarily a Bramble


late at night

we wept
in each other’s arms

and you
comforted me

for a reason

why I wept, and I wept the harder…



Fragmentary. This old light out of older light. Repetitions.
Believe in it. Let it lead you into its farther self. You can
go as deep as you dare. Its name is night. It has many stars.
Count them. Take forever. A child sits watching you, blow-
ing soap bubbles into planets. Wings without angels fly
everywhere. Oh, this is such a night. Go with joy, that old
foe of sorrow. Tell the child not to cry. The child does not
listen. The child rubs an old tear into its eye, watching you
for pity. You are both lost and at home in this night-city
which has opened up its wing for you. Do not try to under-
stand this—you are not here. The child has dreamed you.
Hold the child until you die.

(first pub. in Blue Violin, 1999)



The music that haunts the most
is always blue, the kind of blue
that merges into black and gray,

that comes from every ragged hurt
there is to share and what the
inarticulate will ever try to say;

some city-street-musician plays it
every day—wailing inward like a
winter soul, long-beaten down and

long-removed from hymn or lullaby,
though, here, the lost still try to
pray—too poor for more than what

they have become, scavenging at
emptiness with hungry hands, being
everything the street blues say.



It is only a thought away—and reachable—this
horizon. There is enough strength and enough
breath. There is the path, already traveled. Oh,
how many, and how many more. I dig into
memory. Have I passed here before—is there
a valley beyond—another mountain?

 The Glory Of


what ringing,
what singing sound

what silence to fill
from where
and why

not then—
for then is now
time for the celebration

someone has told the bells
and they ring
who will come

from where do they come
—all this echoing—

silence now . . . .


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

My feet are bare—
     it is another winter.
          but where am I—

I am on a far hill
     counting cows
          that moo at me—

they frighten
          but I love them —

the soft grass of distance
     the strange maneuver
          of my winter mind.


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for her bells and music on this Christmas Day, 2018! Joyce says the tremolo form is “a gradation form of nine lines in descending order of 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 syllables with subject matter that evokes a tension of human emotion as can be felt in response to music (such as a perfectly-executed ‘tremolo’ of a violin).

Our new Seed of the Week is for New Year’s: Starting Fresh. 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.


 Celebrate poetry. . .
. . . and let there be peace.

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


Monday, December 24, 2018

No More Unring A Bell . . .

—Anonymous Photos

(part-song by Bax for double choir, 1921)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

Devotion, for this pagan, comes easy and clear.
What can his secret be? Look at the words
behind the song. In colors as of bright birds,
the meaning. This God’s Son, here and not here.

Mother, pray thy Son that, after exile,
He may grant us the utmost of all joys,
a place with the Blessed Ones, in joyful noise.
Exile, worked into the weave, with harmonious guile…

In what sense exile for Jesus? Here on Earth,
doomed soon to meet with torments and with mocks
of roughness undreamed where a cradle softly rocks?
Exile to a Heaven uncaring for human worth?

So painful-gentle the weaving. Simple tunes,
one tapestry: close is the night to the breath of beasts
in straw, young mother in no condition for feasts,
the air yet to ignite with so much more than moon.

Propped on one elbow Mary greets the strange kings.
The white stars turn gold. Night, palpably intense,
spins air into myrrh. Breeze wafts us frankincense.
To high C, a brave singing angel clings and clings.

Why climax on the rich largesse kings bestow?
Symbolic perhaps: for one instant, curtains part.
In seraphs’ faces, song, this once, visual art.
We sing One Whose Rise proceeds from Buried Below.

What Babe, so blessed, could descend to a world of gray,
of straw, of splintered wood and thorn-strewn bloom,
without a gathering-sandstorm sense of doom?
The cow’s moaning low, her echo the donkey’s bray…

From heartsore dismay must love regather fire.
Eight voices, three octaves, Amen: to reaffirm
that in This One, we lose our terror of the Worm.
No more unring a bell than unsing this choir. 

(symphonic poem)
—Tom Goff

This is, Bax insists, no holiday, seasonal song.
We know by inflection the Irishly keening tune
as, isolate under the chill December moon,
a traveler shivers with aches more wintry strong
than any the mutable County Dublin weather
can offer in upended urns of storm and wet,
more piercing of bone than all that razor net
of frost there, or by turns frost and storm together.
Then all is changed: as if from Bethlehem
a beam encircling the world lit on this soul,
changing him for the span of a spell to foal
new-rising on limbs that shudder, or to one gem
of skin turned ruby: derivative Wagner notes
dissolve in new distillations, drifts and floats. 


—Dewell H. Byrd, Central Point, OR

A young couple filled with hope built
a log cabin with square nails and
planted rosebushes by the yard door.

Now the pecan tree shelters them
beneath marble markers that sum their lives.
Two more headstones simply say, “Baby.”

An autumn breeze quilts the farm pond.
Vanilla light leans into the hour
as the chimney’s shadow creeps long.

Seasons turn by faith alone and
children scatter leaving time at rest
like an hour glass reclining on its side.

An old man, exiled by winter, leans
on his cane, picks the last rose
from the bush that entwines yesterday.

I wish television at Christmastime would have something humorous about Jesus’s birth
      I’m sure Jesus Christ, who was born Jewish by the way, probably loved a good laugh too
      He wouldn’t be offended by any comedy that was about him—   
      Jesus would especially probably love to hear jokes that would acknowledge His vital role in history—
      including that about he was Jewish,     
      For instance adding Yiddish to the Christmas carol that says “Born Is The King of Israel”, “O’Vey!"   
      or Jesus as a child celebrating “Hanukkah” as a child proclaiming that he will be “the great miracle” rather than Maccabees and oil
      Anything poking fun of "the nativity” is also absent—
      it is like they don’t want to talk about it at all
      The 1965’s Charles Shultz’s animated “It’s Christmas, Charlie Brown”
      no one else since appears to make such a bold move on a “comedy" to proclaim “Jesus’s Birthday” 
      "Saturday Night Live" could have by now made a “classic” and beloved episode about Christmas nativity and Jesus
       but even SNL won’t go there, perhaps fearing it will offend too much
       Many of those television writers who are afraid of offending religion
       ought to realize that, unlike that calling itself the voice of “Islam”,
       one can make jokes about Jesus without getting death threats for blasphemy
       So far I’m hoping for networks who will dare to air the animated 2017 movie, The Star
       even though it has animals discussing the Savior who came to save people’s lives.   
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

(Composed of elements found in Joyce Odam’s
“A History of Tears”, “Recall”, and “A Small Bridge
Over Quietness”, December 11, 2018, Medusa’s

Recently axed willows, rolling with laughter,
heading downriver to the saw mills while
their weeping widows, having faced this
before, hastily build a cocoon made from a
card table and butterfly folding chairs to
engage in a small bridge game played in

complete quietness.

—Joseph Nolan

Fleet of foot,
Fast runners go,
Upon the beach,
As though
Through snow,
Lightly and
Into sundown,
On a beach
They know.

Running faster
As the day
Goes down,
Shadows that
Creep over sand,
Betray the end
That calls, demand!
To runners
To run farther,
Faster, longer!

From the beach
To Sea
The runners
Run on easily
Into the evening’s sand!


Today's LittleNip:

—Nora Staklis, Carmichael, CA

There once was a writer, “Shakespeare,”
whose true name was held back, left unclear;
he kept on with his quill
by the nom de plume, “Will,”
but he really was Edward de Vere.


Many thanks to today’s poets as we celebrate in visuals our Seed of the Week: Christmas Bells! Sac. Poetry Center will NOT have a reading tonight, but I’m assuming Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe will meet on Thursday at 8pm. Speak Up will meet at The Avid Reader on Friday, 7pm; this month’s theme will be New Beginnings. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


 The Perfect Gift...
Celebrate poetry!

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