Thursday, January 31, 2019

Listening for the Oracle

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


The artist [Kim Abeles] enlisted female inmate firefighters….
                               —LA Magazine

Make a valise to pack up her life, to move on.
Make it a segment of pine log—count the rings
like years. Split it open, to show two opposing
rectangles holding dioramas of forest: one green
and thriving; the opposite, blackened snags
under mahogany sky after the inferno.

Her life as tree. Graceful pine sapling
full of expectations, of hope—then, a mistake
thoughtless as a cigarette in dry tinder;
a wrong choice; dead end; burn scars. Now,
in this camp with other women who made
bad choices—does this determine their lives?

The valise holds living forest and burned land-
scape. Incorporated in this space, tools 
crafted by hand, and experience of hard labor:
axe, shovel for fighting wildland fire. She
and her friends—women she lives with—
inmates learning to save a forest. Themselves.


after reading “Someone else’s war” by Mackenzie Myers, Mountain Democrat

Her kids run ahead as she walks them to school, another day of classes. Her husband—the kids’ father—is stuck across the border, can’t come home. Kids safe in school, she’s off to work. She does what she must in this land of the free where she was born; he wasn’t. It’s very complicated, a realm of shifting parameters; a legal maze of walls and more walls leading to dead ends. Today she’ll work two jobs, care for her kids before and after; tomorrow the same.

this winter morning
her breakfast table is sun
smile, peaches, love


A darkling cloud passed over. The deputy shuffled papers on the hood of his 4WD as if to neaten the situation, find the significant detail to create a scenario to explain why he’d called us here, to a turnout by the Wench Creek bridge. A fisherman had found some clothes. We followed deputy and our dogs up-creek over fallen logs, through thickets. A mile, two miles? in a clearing, a pile of pink—complete outfit, skivvies to scarf and high heel shoes. So far from any road. Our dogs sniffed around, wandered at random. No scent trail, no direction. Dead end. Back at the bridge the deputy shuffled his papers. Did that pile of clothes mean a missing person, foul play?

cloud passes over
forest in dogwood blossom
creek flows wordless down


We didn’t plan in advance, just headed up the scenic highway—traffic unnerving over the Spur—then pulled off at a sandy dead-end, beyond sight of pavement; parked the truck. Sun-chilly no-glove day. No trail. We started climbing, young dog Cody in the lead; and old Taco, veteran of so many searches, toddling along behind, pausing to sniff how things had changed since last time. Timberline. Easy wind adagio through scattered lodgepole and a few lightning-rod junipers that looked almost as ancient as the landscape. This old juniper, fractured—split down the middle—still alive. I climbed inside, implanted myself in juniper; looked out over the world, listened for the oracle. 

loud thin air breathing—
old dog circles, tests the breeze,
finds me lost in tree.


Our new kitten stretches long and black
by a sunny windowpane dreaming,
maybe, of mice in the dark of pantry. Then
in a blink he’s paw-dancing
the kitchen counter, Master of Latches,
prowler of the mysteries
of cupboards and boxes. On occasion
he graces your lap, purring
against your wrist, then rising,
holding his tail aloft like a lantern unlit,
turning so you can admire
his behind. He has no decency.
From the arm of your chair he’s teasing
the dog to frantic chase—around the living
room, over your lap.
We adopted him to catch rodents.
Since he came, our house is desolate
of mice. The mouse-cartographer must
have marked on the mouse-map
Here Be Cat.


He lays trails for our dogs through deserted
schoolyards, running into dead-ends—an alcove
that looked like a corridor, a locked gate
that used to be open passageway.
Then he has to double-back, wondering
if the dogs will figure it out, if they’ll trace
each hairpin back-track, his impromptu
labyrinth; or if they’ll cut directly to the fresher
scent. Oh, the intricate calculations
programmed into a dog’s brain. I follow Loki,
watching as she factors each turn. “How
did you find me so fast?” he wants to know.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

January chill,
this morning light’s aslant
so many people
in black coats huddled in sun—
those crows on a leafless tree


Thanks to Taylor Graham for jumping onboard our recent Seeds of the Week, Dead Ends, the Haibun, and of course her new kitten, Latches, who has been quite the inspiration to her. For more about the Haibun form, go to

I have been remiss in announcing the MoSt Poetry Festival this year, and thanks to Stockton's Joseph Nolan for alerting me. It will take place this Saturday, Feb. 2, from 9:30am-4pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Oakdale Rd. in Modesto. For more info and reg., see Indigo Moor will be the special guest.

And of course Thursday night meanss the long-running Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe, with featured readers and open mic, 1414 16th St., 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.

—Medusa (Celebrate Poetry!)

Beware, O ye Rodents! Here Be Cat!
—Photo by Taylor Graham

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, January 30, 2019

Cupping Abundance

—Driftwood Photos by John Westling

(Triple Quintilla)
—Janet L. Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

Rows of purple flowers lure me
with their aroma.  I inhale. . .
ah. . . a fragrance so heavenly
I nearly swoon, but then exhale
glorious lavender I see

everywhere, and I move slowly
up and down through a narrow trail
absorbing all the scenery,
imagining myself a snail. . .
unhurried. . . my pace leisurely.

But time passes very quickly,
and twilight will soon assail.
I then return reluctantly,
saddened now that I must curtail
moments that were so savory.

Klaskimo Inlet
Vancouver Island, B.C.

(Couplet Sonnet)
—Jennifer Fenn, Fresno, CA

How does one write the world inside these lines?
Its forests do not fit in these confines.
Its winds that sound the chimes and play in trees
cannot be put in metered one-two-threes.
The foaming of its waves and waterfalls
that freely flow to us with crashing calls
are hard to fit inside some made-up forms,
just like it is with rain in streaming storms.
And then the fleeting rainbow’s bright array,
reflected through each dot of misty spray
just disappears too fast to capture here,
while we are left beneath the sun’s dry sear.
Each tiny mouse or hummingbird
cannot be trapped or caught within a word.


(Triple Quintilla)
—Carol Louise Moon, Placerville, CA

We’re gaining time! Today’s the day
to set our clocks in such a way
to gain an hour. But I have found
that hour-for-hour and pound-for-pound
it’s all the same. This fine Sunday

before we go to church we’ll stay
in bed an hour. At night we’ll pay
the hour we stole when we were gowned
and pillow-fluffed. We have been bound
like all of those in this foray

and through summer we’ve had to play
along with this charade. We say
that this is how it is—we’ve wound
our clocks like this for years—we’ve crowned
our summer hours in sun’s bright ray.

(Couplet Sonnet)
—Carol Eve Ford, Kenai, AK

The winter beach is crouched along
                                 the strand
with fisted kelp in tangles on the sand.
Cemented tight above the tidal zones
are frost-encrusted summer skipping stones.
‘Mid ice the tide has scattered in its wake
dark exclamation points the ravens make,
while eagles pose like effigies in brass
on each abandoned rooftop peak I pass.
Cold winter sun is slant against the day
and casts my shadow far and thin away.
A sanderling, alone, except for me,
bustles busy by among the scree.
So small and quick and scurrying is she,
that summer—sudden—
              floods the beach, the sea.

(Couplet Sonnet)
—Carol Eve Ford, Kenai, AK

They swell and rise and roll across the deep,
and I can hear them calling in my sleep.
They crest and crash and splash against
                             the shore,
my heart resounds and echoes to their roar.
Like wild stallions running in the wind,
again, again, again, and yet again.
Their flying manes, their arching necks
                             they bend,
then plunge and shatter only to ascent—
explode in celebration, all delight.
They never tire of joy, all day, all night.
They foam and lace and linger at my feet,
then silently and flirting they retreat.
They toss their hidden treasures on the sand.
I stoop to cup abundance in my hand.


Today’s LittleNip:

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
there is rapture in the lonely shore,
there is society where none intrudes,
by the deep sea, and music in its roar;
I love not Man the less, but Nature more.

—Lord Byron


Thanks to Carol Louise Moon for organizing today’s contribution to the Kitchen! She writes, “Here is a project completed by the Pantoja Sonnet Circle, a sampling of five poems by Janet Pantoja, Carol Eve Ford, Jennifer Fenn and Carol Louise Moon, with photos by John Westling. In this project, these poets shared and critiqued each other's poetry in two forms: Triple Quintillas and Couplet Sonnets. With the exception of John, all are previous Medusa's Kitchen contributors.”

Quintilla: Syllabic verse, octasyllabic (8 syllable lines). Stanzaic, written in any number of quintains (5 line stanzas). Rhymed. In each quintain only 2 rhymes can be used and it cannot end in a rhyming couplet.

Couplet Sonnet: aa/bb/cc/etc., 14 lines

A reminder that MarieWriters Workshop meets at Sac. Poetry Center, two doors down in Women’s Wisdom Room, 6pm tonight. This week’s workshop is facilitated by Patricia Wentzel. 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.

—Medusa (Celebrate Poetry!)

—Anonymous Photo

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, January 29, 2019


—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Here we are with all that we deplore—this low-tide
shore, a small impatient boat creaks in the moonlight
like a metaphor—could we steal it—could we simply
float away from lives that Fate so badly wrote—change
an ending, could we still resist—just sail away—just
sail away from this?



And the heart beats with longing, even as
the blood flows. What does love know
of this—or hate—or any passion? 

It is all slow completion, even as it begins.
Take fear, which is delicious—
surface and depth—like a terrible wish.

Is it death we know—
cat and toy—
the prize on the end of a question?

And the blood goes round and round
the body’s universe,
bearing the life along like a tireless swimmer.

 Evidence of Rain


somewhere the
endless sorrow
like a long blue pain

moans my name
for it thinks
it knows me

and that I am
its reason to remain
a sorrow

(first pub. in Oblong Press, 1992)  



Do not ask them anything—the women of silences wrap
their tongues in cotton syllables. The women of silences
phrase their eyes with secret blindfolds. The women of
silences mask their faces with feigned expressions. The
women of silences shape their love into heavy wings.
The women of silences cannot fly through walls. The
women of silences cannot break their own strings.



I …, alone …, walk among others
and am alone

I walk with my shadow
which forgives me my singularity

which has no wish to become part of
any other shadow

thus, we are never
estranged from one another

and are ever faithful
to our singular existence.

 A Calling


A child
going into a fairy tale,
that woods
of deep light,
the playground
full of childhood rules
and riddles…

what waits in the center?
                    a way out?
a way never to return?

the child goes in
and becomes a part
of what is there,
becomes the hushed sound,
the figment of light,
the different ending
to the story.

(first pub. in Red Cedar Review, 1993)



She rose from herself on a true day of being—healed and
forlorn for all days done—for all loves loved—for all
false seeing, and opened herself like a door and went
through to her own freeing, where, for a moment, she
held fast, and was not harmed, and was not sent back to
any rending.

 Early Evening


Let us begin a poem and never finish 
it—just let it dwindle off the page as if 
there is more to be said, but when you 
turn the page another one begins. And 
let us title it “Poem Without an Ending” 
and give it only that one page to struggle 
on, ending there, maybe with the word 
and, or at least no punctuation-mark in 
a punctuated poem. And let it enjamb—
and have too big a gap of meaning—built 
up to, but not quite conveyed. And it will 
be intense rough draft—the way first 
thought comes, so quick and obscure we 
can only follow to see where it leads.  
And it will lead us away from itself, as if 
it resented our awakening—though it is 
the one that came to us—tossing like 
stones at our window, our faces frozen 
there against the darkness, looking out to 
see—as if this is the way life is— on its 
single page the long quick scribbling—the—

(first pub. in Poetry Now, 1999)


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

How frail we were
falling like petals
into each other’s tearing love,

we only wanted
our miracles to happen,
our dreams to come true,

our fairy tales
to have
happy endings.


A big thank-you to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and photos, as she explores endings, happy or otherwise, for our Seed of the Week: Dead End. Our new Seed of the Week is the poetry form, the Haibun; for an explanation and example, go to Send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from.

—Medusa (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.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Heralds of Spring

—Anonymous Photo

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento, CA

just a bunch of violets
made from words and love
still too early to find them growing
tender purple petals in
a nest of dark green leaves
humble and wild
stems taste sweet
shy, shocking, heralds of spring

—Photo by Ann Privateer, Davis, CA

—Ann Privateer

dirt where I play
in Summer's heat
by moonlight
in Winter's remorse

dirt collects under nails
toes free from clean
roam with insects
fly with birds

all grow where planted
all share abundances
all labor rewarded
all returns return

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer

Where my father stands
In front of a tool shed
That looks like a tiny house
And he is gigantic
As fathers are to their little girls.
His pose, serious on this Sunday
Ready to pick tomatoes
It must be August
The old black and white
Does not divulge the season
Yet feelings communicate
To the camera
Through the photographer
Caught in time on paper.

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer

With ubiquitous flare
Under a silver moon
Umbrella plants whirl
Their delicate leaves.

Unctuous and ingratiating
They uncurl then recoil
Underscoring an unconscionable
Underbelly, so wooly and white.

Not to be underhanded
Nor underscored
They undulate, wasted by undue
Dances of uniformity. 

 —Photo by Carol Louise Moon, Placerville, CA

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

    1)  Take a few dice-size blank cubes
    2)  On each face of each cube print one weather word,
               such as Clear, Dry, Rain, Fog, Cloudy
    3)  Put the cubes in a cup
    4)  Have a chimpanzee shake the cup
    5)  Let the chimp spill the cubes from the cup onto a
               level surface
    6)  Populate the weather forecast for each day using
               whatever weather words are facing up
    7)  Feed the chimp, you’ll need again him tomorrow.



(Response to “Domestic Mysticism”
by Lucie Brock-Broido, Medusa’s
Kitchen, January 27, 2019)

Unleash the Kingdom of Arbitrary
Conventions and virtually everything
we sense is some excerpt of fiction
from a storybook, whether the behavior
of alley cats or the location and rotation
of the planets.

As storybooks go, an ordinary piece of
granite stone could describe itself much
the same as a stunningly beautiful, rare
diamond.  If we could only run a DNA
test on both materials, it would surely
show some distinct family connection.

So are we humans the brilliant idea of
some higher power?  Or was that higher
power itself our own poem, troubled into
its making?  For an answer, just ask that
granite stone and be very, very patient. 
Rocks don’t think fast.

 —Photo by Carol Louise Moon


(following Joyce Odam’s
“Thinking of the Sea”, Medusa’s
Kitchen, Jan. 15, 2019)

What if earth, sea, and sky are
all really one element in its
different forms, such as ice,
water, and vapor? 

Maybe our entire universe is just
one little part of a much larger
construction of similar parts…

On a much smaller scale, consider
how often the family of businesses in
a shopping center will include a dental
office conveniently close to a donut

It is not so bad, though, to be
marooned on Earth, with so many
consumable feasts to tickle our
fancy.  Ice cream, hot tea, snow cones,
all part of the same family.



As we live and learn it has become
more and more obvious that ants
are more like people than we may
care to admit:

Ants totally ignore any and all rules
of grammar, punctuation, and
spelling, with no apologies

Ants retreat from foul weather to
the cozy confines of our abodes

Ants take out the trash, one little
speck at a time, don’t rush me

Ants form trails that fastidiously
maneuver around barriers, much
like some humans who artfully
salvage the usable portions of
moldy bread

Nowhere will you find farmers who
are harder working or lower paid

Their ranks include unsung heroes
who sacrifice their very all for the
benefit of the colony

It takes only one to spoil all those
elaborate preparations for a perfect

 —Photo by Carol Louise Moon

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA
Abstruse chartreuse
On the loose!
Catch that wilding color
Before it leaves
The page!

We all need
Random colors.
Chartreuse is
Just a stage
On the way
To Maroon.

We all feel
But maroon is
So less painful
Than simple

So tell me,
Wouldn’t you?
Rather float
On azure
In pink
Sunset hue
Than to be,
Black and blue?


—Joseph Nolan

I walk
Dragoon Gulch Trail
In sandals
In the summer.

I linger
In the long view
From the top.
I look to see
The things I know
And soak
In all the beauty.

I thank my
Able knees
And thighs
For carrying me,
So willingly,
To my perch
I fill
With .........sighs!

 —Photo by Carol Louise Moon

—Joseph Nolan

I’m spending some time in my body!
I’m putting the world on the shelf.
I’m devoting a quiet hour
To relaxing, renewing myself.

It won’t hurt to be guided along
Deeply, in deep relaxation,
After I’m all stretched out on the floor,
Comfortable and warm.

If, when I am done,
And it’s time to go back home,
I’m floating, instead of walking,
I’ll know I had a good OM!


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joseph Nolan

So short,
Will strike you

Of pleasure,
Like a

From pleasure
As the nights
Grow darker.


Thanks to our contributors today, our photographers and poets, some of whom have worked with recent Seeds of the Week, and some of whom are thinking of spring and their awakening gardens!

Poetry events in our area begin tonight with Poetry in Motion in Placerville at the Sr. Center, 6-7pm; then you can drive down to Sac. Poetry Center to share the release of Josh McKinney’s new book (he says “with accomplices”) plus open mic., 7:30pm. On Wednesday, also at SPC but two doors down in the Women’s Wisdom Room, MarieWriters Generative Writing Workshop will meet at 6pm, facilitated this week by Patricia Wentzel. And Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe meets on Thursday at 8pm with featured readers and open mic, 1414 16th St., Sac.

Back in Placerville on Friday: this time at the Good Earth Movement on Main St., Ladies of the Knight will be featured from 6:30-8pm. And on Saturday in Elk Grove, Word Candy presents a number of poets at the KAST Academy on Grant Line Road, 9-11:30pm. 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.

—Medusa (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.

Sunday, January 27, 2019


—Lucie Brock-Broido (1956-2018)

In thrice 10,000 seasons, I will come back to this world
In a white cotton dress. Kingdom of After My Own Heart.
Kingdom of Fragile. Kingdom of Dwarves. When I come home,
Teacups will quiver in their Dresden saucers, pentatonic chimes
Will move in wind. A covey of alley cats will swarm on the side
Porch & perch there, portents with quickened heartbeats
You will feel against your ankles as you pass through.

After the first millennium, we were supposed to die out.
You had your face pressed up against the coarse dyed velvet
Of the curtain, always looking out for your own transmigration:
What colors you would wear, what cut of jewel,
What kind of pageantry, if your legs would be tied
Down, if there would be wandering tribes of minstrels
Following with woodwinds in your wake.

This work of mine, the kind of work which takes no arms to do,
Is least noble of all. It’s peopled by Wizards, the Forlorn,
The Awkward, the Blinkers, the Spoon-Fingered, Agnostic Lispers,
Stutterers of Prayer, the Flatulent, the Closet Weepers,
The Charlatans. I am one of those. In January, the month the owls
Nest in, I am a witness & a small thing altogether. The Kingdom
Of Ingratitude. Kingdom of Lies. Kingdom of How Dare I.
I go on dropping words like little pink fish eggs, unawares, slightly
Illiterate, often on the mark. Waiting for the clear whoosh
Of fluid to descend & cover them. A train like a silver
Russian love pill for the sick at heart passes by
My bedroom window in the night at the speed of mirage.
In the next millenium, I will be middle aged. I do not do well
In the marrow of things. Kingdom of Trick. Kingdom of Drug.

In a lung-shaped suburb of Virginia, my sister will be childless
Inside the ice storm, forcing the narcissus. We will send
Each other valentines. The radio blowing out
Vaughan Williams on the highway’s purple moor.
At nine o’clock, we will put away our sewing to speak
Of lofty things while, in the pantry, little plants will nudge
Their frail tips toward the light we made last century.

When I come home, the dwarves will be long
In their shadows & promiscuous. The alley cats will sneak
Inside, curl about the legs of furniture, close the skins
Inside their eyelids, sleep. Orchids will be intercrossed & sturdy.
The sun will go down as I sit, thin armed, small breasted
In my cotton dress, poked with eyelet stitches, a little lace,
In the queer light left when a room snuffs out.

I draw a bath, enter the water as a god enters water:
Fertile, knowing, kind, surrounded by glass objects
Which could break easily if mishandled or ill-touched.
Everyone knows an unworshipped woman will betray you.
There is always that promise, I like that. Kingdom of Kinesis.
Kingdom of Benevolent. I will betray as a god betrays,
With tenderheartedness. I’ve got this mystic streak in me.



For more about Lucie Brock-Broido, see

Saturday, January 26, 2019

That Man in the Mirror

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


Haibun, the Japanese form combining short prose and haiku, is a favorite of mine to read, especially those of Bashō in Japan three hundred years ago, and in the last couple of years I have worked on some of my own.
                                                                 —James Lee Jobe

I live in the Sacramento Valley, it is tremendous, it goes on and on. Each of us here walks through the valley the same way, and yet each of us is different. A life is a life, yet no two are truly the same. And my life? In summer, I trust the morning dew, and in winter I trust the valley tule fog. I put my faith in the deer grass and manzanita, in the blue oak and the grey pine. I live in this valley, a part of it.

In summer, the dew—
In winter, the tule fog.
Listen now, the crows!

It’s mid-July in California’s huge central valley, and it’s hot. Well over 100 degrees. If you’re walking the sidewalks of downtown Davis, there is something in your favor; there are nine or ten places within a few blocks of each other to sip on an iced coffee in the air conditioning. In fact, there so many coffee houses that three are my favorites; a three-way tie.

A frosty cold drink
On a day as hot as Texas.
Yes, I eat the ice.

It is that time of the summer when the sunflowers in the field are looking down, away from the sun. A rare summer rain would lift them again. It happens to all of us. That man in the bathroom mirror, don’t I know him from somewhere? If so, he’s changed, like the sunflowers. Still, it’s good to see him there. Maybe he knows something that I can learn, perhaps something about rain.

Bending down I see
A million dewdrops, each one
Reflects my own face.


Before they built the Berryessa dam, Putah Creek slipped along through the Vaca Hills like a lovely snake, from one low spot to the next lower spot, and then so on into the valley. Now, in the hills, the creek canyon is a big lake and everything below is changed. And by man, not by nature; or, since man is a part of nature, does that count?

This old creek moves slow
Below the huge dam they built—
My son's ashes drift.

It was not a night meant for sleeping. It was very late before the July heat of the day even began to cool down. Then I tried to go to bed too early, I wasn’t sleepy and ended reading Gary Snyder poems in bed for a couple of hours, then getting back up and watching part of some weird 1950s sit-com on TV, called I Married Joan. It was awful and I fell asleep in the chair. This was followed by troublesome dreams, an adventure I just couldn't work out. I have a pet conure, a noisy pet, and he woke me prior to sunrise, screeching for fresh food and for his cage to be uncovered. This is where things turned around for me. It was beautiful and cool as the sun came up. It might be 100 degrees later, but now, getting into my coffee and breakfast, it is 65 and cool. A lovely day begins in Davis, California.

Dawn, perfect and cool.
And for my breakfast? Peaches
Picked fresh from my tree! 

I was recovering from a bad bout with vertigo, and for the first time in days I was outside having a walk by myself. It was a beautiful summer day here in the valley and I was walking across the UC Davis campus, something I have done many times over twenty years. I had water and a walking stick. A shady hat. So, of course I got lost; my sense of direction was a joke. The short walk which would have been good for me became a hellish staggering journey. A fool wandering the Sahara. Until I finally remembered that my phone has GPS. I rested until a valley oak for an hour, drinking water and reading the Diamond Sutra. Then I found my way to a nearby bus stop and went home.

Exhausted, resting
Under an oak, above me
All eternity.


Today’s LittleNip:

The mind is a Trickster, fools us, but the breath
Is always true. Which one will you follow?

—James Lee Jobe


Thank you, James, for today’s poems and photos! On yesterday’s post, Carol Louise Moon talked about the haibun poetry form, and James Lee Jobe has served us some fine examples of this form here in the Kitchen this morning.

It’s a busy day in NorCal poetry today! Sierra Writes’ Conference will take place in Grass Valley from 9:15am-4:15pm; Writers on the Air will meet at Sac. Poetry Center from 9:30am-1pm; Poetic License will meet in Placerville at the Sr. Center from 2-4pm; and Women’s Wisdom Art will present Poetry, Prose & Art at the Brazilian Center, 2420 N St., Sac. 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.

—Medusa (Celebrate Poetry!)

 —Anonymous Wooden Panel, Buddha's Face

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, January 25, 2019

Songs of Birds and Shadows

Bird of Prey
—Photo by Chris Moon
—Poems by Carol Louise Moon, Placerville, CA


There is a place in your childhood house
where, among dust bunnies you found
three things:

1)  a paperclip, only slightly bent
      from its original shape

2)  a copper penny, tails up

3)  a blue and pale yellow marble
      that reminded you of your homeland
      between seas.

You managed to reuse the paperclip, and
you saved the penny in an army tank
piggy bank.

When you left your homeland between seas
and never returned, your neighborhood
buddies all cried real hard.  Paul still has a
POW sticker on his pale yellow microbus.

(first pub. in Grist, Anthology of the MSPS, 2012)

        “... where poems are born in the souls of birds;
        where old trees listen to the songs of shadows”
                                                          —Joyce Odam

Where poems are born in the souls of birds
is a crisp green meadow with herds
of cattle chewing on the green of words;

where bright yellow gowen bloom in the spring,
the cows all chew and the birds all sing,
is where I’d want to be found nesting.

Where old trees listen to the songs of shadows
and tell their stories to the fox and the crows—
in a place like this I could lose my sorrows

and gain some insight, or philosophy.  I would
listen, while sitting in the great elm tree,
to the leaves as they whisper back to me.

(first pub. on Medusa’s Kitchen, 2012)

             Birds of North America
(Found poem created by Carol Louise Moon
with a recipe from
Sunset: Wok Cook Book,
pg.89, Lane Publication Company)

Spread two teaspoons of sesame seeds in a pan:
A Roseate Spoonbill of pink and white coloration
found in mangroves, swamps, and shallow
lagoons moves its partly opened bill from side to
side through water, or mud, feeling for its prey.

Cook over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally
until seeds turn golden:
  The song of the Oven
Bird, teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher... begins
softly and builds to a ringing crescendo!

In a bowl mix 4 tablespoons of white vinegar,
3 teaspoons of sugar:
  In spite of the Snowy
Egret’s quick darting motions and “golden
slippers”, it is often confused with the immature
Little Blue Heron, a white bird with green legs.

Add 1 teaspoon of salad oil and 2 teaspoons
each of soy sauce and lemon peel:
  The hand-
some Yellow-headed Black Bird weaves its nest
of soggy blades of dead grass, and slings it
between reed stems.

 On a Mission

A Hai-Moon created by Carol Louise Moon

Grandma and Grandpa took Cooper to the
barber shop for his first haircut, and saved
some in an envelope. The older two are
growing tall “like sunflowers,” Grandma said.
Coming home, Grandma noticed I’d planted
her favorite little white flowers by the steps.

    cut green onion tops
    lengthwise into strips
    chop the white and set aside

Thanksgiving found all nine of us crammed
into Grandma’s tiny dining room.  She wanted
so much to serve us this year.  Except for setting
the yam-and-marshmallows on fire, it was a
delightful time.  Grandma honestly believes it
will be her last.  Each made sure to hug the
other before departing.

    flake crab into bowl
    add browned cracker crumbs
    shape mixture with your hands

The tumor in Grandma’s throat is threatening;
the brain tumor sits by, watching the clock.
Meantime, Grandma writes letters, pastes more
pictures into scrapbooks for each grandchild.
After fainting in the bathroom, she told Grandpa,
“Hold on another day—paste up another page.”
Grandpa took down the kitchen calendar.

    delicate, crisp
    celery-like stalks
    pale green leaves

My sister is secretly seeking a small apartment
near her house.  The newspaper offers little
hope for prospects, but Grandpa’s going to
need a smaller place after... you know...
Grandma’s gone.

    serve kidney beans
    and plum sauce
    in separate bowls


I lie here near tree roots on moss-laden
lawn, cracked tree bark, yellowed leaves.

I am remembering you, Father—
the last time.  Hospital beds are for
clinging to, and for letting go of… flying away.

And wasps fly at the base of this tree on
this summer day.  Do angels fly prone, or
upright?  Forward, or backward like memory?

I turn on this summer grass, blades pricking
my belly, and I inquire of the angels.

We all have questions about the afterlife,
even the wasp, his stinger engaged. 
Is he so informed?

The gray squirrel knows of these things
better than I.  He flicks his tail, buries
a large seed, then scurries off.

 Gotta Go

Today’s LittleNip:

—Carol Louise Moon

Sit beside her in your alpine cabin,
snow packed to windows.
Sip cider together and tell her
September Truths—that her breast
surgery in autumn moves a
single mountain, keeps her near in
spring, you sighing on her one breast.

(first pub. in
September Truths Chapbook, 2014)

Thanks today to Carol Louise Moon for her fine poems and rock ring photo, and to her brother, Chris Moon, for his wonderful bird photos. To see more of the work the Moons have done together, go to

About her poems, Carol Louise says that “Recipe for Relationship" is what she calls a Hai-Moon, a take-off on the Haibun. Instead of prose paragraphs about a journey interlaced with haiku, she has designed a poem with paragraphs about family relationships interlaced with three recipe lines (no syllabic count required). Just like the haiku reflecting the previous paragraph, so the three recipe lines reflect the previous paragraph of the poem about family relationships.

Tonight from 7-8:30pm, Speak Up: The Art of Storytelling and Poetry will meet at Avid Reader on Broadway in Sac., featuring poems, stories, and open mic on the theme of “Resolutions”. 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.


 Rock Ring
—Photo by Carol Louise Moon
(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.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Black Cats and Paper People

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Morning dawned gray as twilit snow.
No sun. No lights—power’s out.
Oak trees weighted down by comforters
of cold.
       Scrape the windshield—no.
Driveway’s blocked, a jackstraw heap
of fallen trees & broken branches all the way
down to the gate. Live oak can’t bear snow.
Nobody’s plowed the road.
                It’s not supposed to snow
like this, so low. Remember up the mountain—
6 days snowbound without power, road,
or phone. But who expected it here?
        Back in the house, throw another log
on the fire, we’re not going anywhere.
                Water beads popping
on the wood-stove, kettle simmering for tea,
toast in the cast-iron skillet.
        No TV news? it’s all bad anyway.
No phone? no robo calls! The room’s
warm with scent of oak cozying to flame,
faint fragrance of woodsmoke.
                Primal smells to take us
back—maybe this won’t last 6 days.
        Enjoy it while it lasts.


Three wild turkeys foraged the lawn at Human
Services, strolling Spring St. Always three,
at home in this easy-going part of town.

Last week—two wild turkeys poised on Spring
St. centerline gazing off in opposite directions.

Lost. Yesterday, two turkeys wandering slowly,
slowly giving long-drawn urgent unmusical calls.

Has hope given up to grief? Are those the
proper terms, in speaking of turkeys?


Find the path that’s mossed,
sunlit on the climbing side,
and shadowed under.
It beckons us to follow
the way the winter woods go.


Black kitten, image of indolence stretched out
on the chair. Kudos to whoever said
“Love is a four-legged word.”
Still, in an instant—imperceptibly, a flowing—
he’s under the table with a pen, pencil,
bird-quill stolen from the stoneware bowl—
batting it out of sight.
Now fumbling the kitchen cabinet
to slither inside, hunt the dark, clink the glass-
ware. I retrieve my pencil
and put the cupboard to rights
and he’s at the sliding glass door
jabbering his kitty “chit-chit-chitter” at birds
scrabbling seed right in front of him
on the other side of glass—
a tease that throws him into a race
around the room causing
the dog to chase him. Immediate
gratification as he leaps beyond her reach,
sending a lamp flying, and we humans
blame the dog. Look! is a four-legged word.


Sunlight filters his sleep through glass,
pinpoint pupils alight-wakeful.

We picked him on faith not asking
his provenance.

A latch is proof
he needs no wrench to enter.

Don’t confuse him with mini-panther.
He sweetens your lap with purr.

 Paper Person


inspired by D.R. Wagner’s “Open Channel”
and “Paper Person” sculpture by Kim Abeles

He pursues in white-shadow flight
my footsteps in the hollow hall. Terrible
knowledge in his heart, his paper innards—
collected transcripts of our lives, bills paid
or not, plates and straws, maps and wipes,
homework assignments and old drafts,
memos and memories put down black on
white. He’s made, they say, of a single
day’s paper-trash, but he’s heavy as fate.
Suspended above the great hall he pursues
us. With no mouth he screams my name,
our collective names salvaged from
the dumpster, cleaned and ironed flat,
fabricated as monster Man.

Note: Paper Person Sculpture made from paper trash that was generated by visitors to California Science Center on Earth Day 2009, 5’ x 40’ x 48’ (


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Oak woods and weedy
field—cover for small creatures—
hawk sits on fencepost
not moving except for her
quicker-than-iPad-lens eyes.


A big thank-you to Taylor Graham for today’s fine poems and pix! Tonight’s poetry event in Sacramento is Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, with featured readers and open mic, 8pm. 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
Love is in the air…
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.