Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Onomatopoeia of Flowers

Mary Oliver and pal

MARY OLIVER (1935-2019)

—who wrote my favorite volume of poetry, The Leaf and the Cloud

She will always be the onomatopoeia of flowers,
the metaphor of fourteen-year old locusts and the old oak branch,
an alliteration of dogs, unleashed, exploring
swamp, puddle, briar patch, bramble of leaf, sieve of earth:

Can you not see her in black snake
dipping herself into black pond too early for dawn?
In the imprint of bent clover wet with dew?
Near the stone of the slug where garden snail glistens?
In the soft petals of the apple tree painting both tree and earth?

Ants and thorns, love and stars, moon and a litter of light across water,
fox and her teeth, wolf and her courage, spider and her thick strands of silk.

—Michael H. Brownstein, Chicago, IL


Many thanks to Michael Brownstein for today's loving poem about Mary Oliver, who passed away in late January at the age of 93. Her poetry was much admired, and the Internet is full of sites about her. Here are three examples:

—Medusa (Celebrate those who have gone before us!)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

If I Just Say Yes

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

Orange sun, pale, in a gray sky.
Davis, California, in the big valley.
The biting odor of burning wood.
There is a forest fire about 100 miles away,
North by east.
Paradise, California, in the Sierra foothills.
A wind out of the north
Has brought the smoke here.
My wife is coughing, many people
On the streets are wearing breathing masks.
Several people dead in the fire, so far,
Some more people are missing.
And nearly 7 thousand buildings lost.
Homes, schools, businesses.
“Did you see the sunset?”
A friend wants to know.
“An orange sun, pale, in a gray sky.
If the fire keeps up I’ll get some pictures tomorrow.”

I quickly decide against chastising him;
What’s the point? He means no harm.
I see the homeless and the dead,
He sees a unique sunset.
Both are there, from a fire 100 miles away.
Settling down in a quiet room, alone,
I begin the Loving Kindness prayer.

 Wintun Village Tule Mat Grass Houses

From whose house does the sound of the blues escape
Through an open Spring window?
From my house.
Duane Allman’s slide guitar catches the breeze
And slips through the trees,
Through the multicolored leaves.
The voice of Howlin’ Wolf rasps
As the squirrels check on their caches and hordes.
Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker growl
As the winds change and grow cooler.
And if I get cold and have to close the window,
I turn up the volume all the more.
Spring isn’t the only one
With unusual gifts to share.

 Maidu Cedar Bark Shelter

Starlight to guide my steps,
An owl to call me home—
Foolish owl, every step is my home.
Walking late at night.


The lamp is bright, cutting through
The darkness, and I have lit the incense.
I have prepared a simple meal;
All awaits your return. The early evening
Passes by like an old man on the highway.
Oh no—I am the old man on the highway.

 Maidu Basket

Geese overhead, you can them talking
As they pass. A season is passing, too.
And here on Earth we go on: loving,
Living, being. Opposable thumbs
And laughter. But sorrow, too.
Yes, of course, sorrow, too.
23 months since my son left this Earth.

 Wintun Basket

If I just say yes
I will have it all.
All the joy, all the sorrow,
Every pain, every truth.
And if I say yes
Then I am in for good.
No one gets just the happy
And no one bears all the weight.
Life is not a menu,
You're in or you're out.
And I say yes.

 Miwok Basket

Decade after decade, human lives
Are growing longer. People live longer.
But are they living better?
It’s the old quandary; quantity or quality.
Slow down. Learn the plants and animals.
Break the soil, insert a seed.
And take your time with it.


Today’s LittleNip:

May I be thankful for the kindness that comes to me,
And then return that kindness to the world tenfold,
And then tenfold again.

—James Lee Jobe


Saturday again, and gratitude to Davis Poet Laureate James Lee Jobe for some fine poetry today and photos to go with it. Tonight, Laura Martin and The Soft Offs will bring their Moetry (Music + Poetry) to Sac. Poetry Center in Sacramento to raise money for SPC and to raise the roof with their blend of music and words. 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!)

 Buddha sits, even in the rain…
—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.

Friday, March 29, 2019

What Lurks in the Shadows

—Bowls by Richard Billiet, Placerville, CA
—Poems and Photos by Carol Louise Moon, Placerville, CA


Five Russian men chatter in Russian
at a restaurant table, gingham cloth,
silverware and napkins neatly placed.

At a restaurant table, gingham cloth
aprons of waitresses welcome us
as we sit down to dinner.

Aprons of waitresses say VELKOMMEN
but I hear a French greeting and I smile,
responding with, Muy bien, gracias.

I hear another French greeting and smile.
My husband holds one of my hands, then
suddenly a sugar packet appears.

My husband holds one of my hands, then
suddenly the sugar packet disappears
reappearing from his left ear.

The sugar packet disappears again,
reappearing from behind his right ear.
I love this place. I love his way.

Responding with Muy bien, gracias,
we remain seated and finish our dinner,
silverware and napkins neatly replaced.
With sugar suddenly appearing
and reappearing from behind his ears
I love this pace, his way with sugar.


With ears perked and eyes wide
a white goat stands in stillness,
two hooves on the pavement.

The goat stands in stillness
near an old gray country house
whose windows are wide open.

Near the old gray country house
a curious hoot owl hoots,
shutters flap in the wind.

The old hoot owl hoots, and
shouts heard from a window,
and the shattering of dinner plates.

Shouts from the kitchen window,
the ancient story retold,
frighten the goat who has

eyes, as windows, wide open.
With the shattering of dinner plates
and shutters flapping in the wind,
the frightened goat now has
all hooves on the pavement.

SAND SNAKE (Rhymed Pantoum)

This golden snake is rarely seen,
except in early September
when I survey this sand citrine,
its rippling waves of amber.

What if early next September
he rests, becomes trapped and caught
while slithering through the amber?
Does he wonder, perhaps not,

what he’d become if he was caught?
A snake-hide purse with winking eye!
And so he wanders and dares not
rest, only to be caught and die.

He watches me with blinking eye
surveying all his sand citrine.
Slithering by to hide, not die,
this golden snake is rarely seen.

(prev. pub. in Rattlesnake Review, Vol. 10)


I was relieved to find a white cat
whose eyes have shown yellow and lit
the way I should walk home at night
to my cold, cold cottage in town.

Whose eyes have shown yellow and lit
as much as the white cat in the alley?
To my cold, cold cottage in town
I depend on every sign and token of luck

as much as the white cat in the alley:
the coin in my boot, my cloak and swagger.
I depend on every sign and token of luck.
All these, plus a green moon, fool-proof as

the coin in my boot, my cloak and swagger.
One never knows what lurks in the shadows—
all these—plus a green moon, fool-proof as
a fool with DT’s, now a limp not a swagger.

One never knows what lurks in the shadows,
the way I should walk home at night.
A fool with DT’s now, a limp not a swagger,
I was relieved to find a white cat.

Today’s LittleNip:

Snakes in the ancient world, because of their skin-shedding ability, often symbolized immortality or eternal youth.

―Alice K. Turner,
The History of Hell


Our thanks to Carol Louise Moon for her pantoums and tartoums this morning, and her beautiful photos of Richard Billiet’s wooden bowls! For more info about pantoums, see The tartoum is a variation of the pantoum; see if you can make out the difference.

Poetry events in Sacramento tonight include Sandy McIntosh and Mary Mackey with the Marsh Hawk Press Chapter One Project, poets writing about how they decided to become poets. Sac Poetry Center, 6pm. Also: Speak Up: The Art of Storytelling and Poetry at The Avid Reader on Broadway, 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.

—Medusa (Celebrate Poetry!)

 —Anonymous Photo of Goat’s Eye

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, March 28, 2019

Dancing Mid-Air

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


We take a turnoff out of sight and that dreadful shock of commuter traffic; highway bridge just a frame now for seemingly endless gray water. We keep driving—rough dirt track, a takeout point; a heap of broken concrete like fallen headstones—till we reach a quiet place, muddy matrix of spring just budding. Fluorescent flash of wings in willow. On shore, wild geese gaggling. A portly gander. Swaggering old Falstaff, you say. You’ve been reading too much Shakespeare. Look and listen. It’s the first of spring, this brand new day.

small bird-prints in mud
pointing this way and that, gone
to water or sky


Traces of old mining, the grab-and-get,
the rush for gold. Tailings tell of disturbance;
rock dug up, left on the surface. Hummocks and
holes, a pocked meadow with topsoil
washed away. That stunted oak—compare
to a sturdy specimen perched on its tiny island
of original earth. Careful where you step.
No quicksand, but water springs here and there
underground, a fluid treasure.
Muddy walking if you leave the path.
No wildflowers yet, mid-March. A strange
spring this year. Where are the nesting birds?
Overhead, a crow bears one dry thread
of grass away. Enjoy spring while it lasts.


Early Saturday. Some bird calls like a dial
tone. A breezy morning on the meadow,
anything can happen.
       I clip my dog in harness, open
a ziplock bag with scrap of written paper.
Cowboy doesn’t care for words, just scent
that lingers from the girl who wrote
them: Brie.
      He snuffles grasses damp with rain—
fragments, fragrances of passing.
Across meadow he pulls me out of breath.
Muddy dirt-track squiggled by beetle, worm,
boot-tread; vernal pool with secrets
of yet-undiscovered life.
                Which way? Cowboy harks—
sniffs—takes off toward the pond, full-tilt.
Beyond bulrush and willow, two wild swans—
black swans floating offshore. Swans?
the mystic silhouette. The word surfacing like
a glance at letters in a ziplock bag.
      So close is mystery. As if something
called across waves of sky, and a phone
answered. Slip-shot synapse of wind. Swans
lift off on huge dark wings. Gone.
      Cowboy turns off the path and there,
sitting behind a live-oak, is Brie, giggling
without a sound.
      Swans? I ask. Yes, swans.


Two dozen cars in the parking lot, we’re waiting for instruction. One raven arrives by air, perches on a leafless oak; observes us from his center of the compass rose. 2-minute history at each station of our hike. Original natives, land stewards for thousands of years, driven away by Gold Rush. Loud chirping from overhead—what bird, what chiding message? Our guide points out mounds of mine tailings, creeks diverted into ditches. The whole landscape revised a century and a half ago. Overhead, high out of sight, red-shoulder screams anger or hunger. Our tour returns us to our cars.

two wild geese circle
low over my head. This way!
they call, then they’re gone.


A pair of wild turkeys
on our back deck—good safe place
for nesting? Probably not.
By now I’ve circled the house, hoping
to surprise them with my iPad.
Already they’re at the edge of woods,
finding private ways down
through rocks and oaks, speaking
to each other in Turkey, maybe berating
this butt-in human with suspicious-
looking scoping device.
Might they choose our wooded hill
for nesting? Probably not.
Already they’re out of sight. The tom
didn’t even bother with a tail display.


The kitten has wrapped himself
in snuggie on the chair. (How did he do
that?—Latches can manage any conundrum
of the physical world, it seems.) He seems
to be asleep, except one eye. He’s one-
eye dreaming of spring, of birds in nest
or on the fly. That sleepless eye
imagining April love-birds, birds wishing
to be left in peace; happy birds, angry
birds, it’s all the same to Latches.
Soon he’ll shed his snuggie and solve
the latches of those doors that keep
him from a world of birds.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Two robins mid-air
in their spring mating dance
fencepost to mailbox.

What do birds
care for letters locked tight
in a box?

Our spring robins
without written words, see how
they dance mid-air.


Spring-time thanks to Taylor Graham this morning for her beautiful poems celebrating the new season. Her LittleNip is a series of three “lunes”, called “the American haiku” by some. Surely you can write one or four or six of these? More info about lunes and the variants thereof:

The 2019 issue of Sac. Poetry Center's journal, Tule Review, is here. See

Don’t forget that Poetry Unplugged happens tonight at Luna’s Cafe and Juice Bar, 1414 16th St., Sac., 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.


 Robins! Spring is Here...?
—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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Working On Those Popeyes

—Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Lake Eliot, Ontario, Canada
—Anonymous Photos (and no, this is not Ryan...)


It is winter in the arctic north.
I am shovelling almost every other day.
Plugging the truck into the house
so it will start in the morning.

And the snow just keeps piling up.
No need for gym pass.
I have these silly Popeye arms
from taking my shovel
and building 12-ft. walls of snow.

And ramming an ice breaker into the end of the drive.
Slamming it down into a glacier of ice for
almost an hour trying to keep the path open.

And when she gets home,
she compliments my efforts.
Knows the fingers at the end of these arms
are built on endurance.

Which women love
more than anything else.

Lasting power
and all those silly Popeye
muscles which they squeeze
in horny disbelief

while you


how nice,
an umbrella should be there
to catch the rain

or that storefront awning
you crowd under
sharing an awkward

everyone checking their phones
pretending to be somewhere

but there is always a talker
in the bunch

it’s verbal torture
until a few just run out
deciding to brave
the rains

and the ones left behind
are jealous
but they are cowards

so they stand still as statues
hoping everyone will forget they
are even there.


Things realized, I need a trophy.
Something to hold over my head
like raising my arms
from the dead.

Trophies with the small plastic likeness
of a baseball player at bat
or some other stupid rendering
that helps you return

over and over

To that time
when you were
on top.

Of course it’s ego.
Show me a single human
being that doesn’t
have it.

Even in some small measure.

You should see all my trophies.
I was really good at sports
when I was


in the tall grass
for a long

playing with the scope

until everything
is right

taking the shot
when he
has it

before posing
for pictures

with the


You knew Ibsen was coming from the left
of everything
and still the many right-handers all
lined up
with ticket in wrong hand
screaming their seats back to life

Tennessee Williams
in love with his own sister
but no one seemed to care
as long as there were streetcars
to catch and places to go

Harold Pinter pissing everyone off
with his conscientious Hackney objections,
hiding his Hothouse in a tiny desk of absurdism
for 22 years

the many rootless characters of Sam Shepard
like rotten vegetables torn from a
screaming garden

Strindberg always making everything so personal,
the firing squads of Europe could never understand that

Dumas with that absurdly fat face
and ridiculous crumpled
bow tie

lose the scarf, Genet,
we can’t see your heaving barrel chest
from the balcony

Comrade Brecht,
I guess the revolution
has to start somewhere
and the playwright

Chekhov waiting in the wings
of flightless birds

George Bernard Shaw
losing the George
to a basket of props

all those masks and gestures and lines
each night
cues and lighting and Xs taped to the creaky 
stage floor so transformation knows
where to begin

and the critics, don’t forget them,
always bringing old age
to the baby shower.


We started so early
the sun was still and hour away
and they made me sit on this single
blue milk crate in the back of the
work van that threw me around
with each sharp turn because
they wouldn’t slow down and needed
to have their fun and at the end of the day 
I would wind all the muddy power cords
around my arms and climb into the back
of the van with them, trying to hold the
bottom of the blue milk crate still
with my hands as my tired bones were
tossed around the back of the van
all over again.


We are driving back in from the border.
There is a car in the ditch outside Thessalon.
A body still inside.
No one appears to be injured.

The police are on the scene.
One cruiser pulled over onto the shoulder
with its lights flashing.

There is a light snow.
Nothing serious

How did the car get into the ditch?
I ask my wife.

I don’t know,
she says.

Look, the snowbank is perfectly intact.
It should be run through with tracks
or some impact but there is nothing.

Just the car in the ditch.
And no other sign that it went
off the road at all.
I’ve never seen that before,
says my wife.

Me neither,
I say.

It’s very strange.

Later outside Blind River
we get stuck behind the
road salter.

We are very tired from driving.
Down to one lane.
Brought to a crawl.

Watching the salty pebbles bounce up
off the pavement.

Animal tracks in the snow
from the night before.

Still an hour from home.
A Conga line of cars behind us.
Twenty deep or more.

The radio turned off with impatience.
Crawling along in silence.

Two chips in the windshield
on the driver’s side.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Brain activity


learn an activity

suspicious activity

paranormal activity

seismic activity

gang activity

physical activity

finish an activity
like this.


Many, many thanks to Ryan Flanagan for his poems, including today’s taste of snow and the hard work it takes to live in it.

Don’t forget tonight’s MarieWriters Workshop at Sac. Poetry Center, 6-8pm, facilitated this week by Christin O’Cuddehy. 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.



Writing Poems...

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, March 26, 2019

Birds of Light

The Gang's All Here
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


All night the birds
sang against the carrying dark,
sang for themselves and each other;
sang against my sequestered heart—  
bittersweet with listening.  They
sang for their love

and not for mine.
Mine had been surrendered to some
lost song—kept in the sheltered dark
in a little dark box that lay
in a safe place . . . in a safe place . . .
in a safe place.

(first pub. in Ship of Fools, 2003)

 Burgundy Wine

After Birds and Flowers by Shen Chuan 
(c. 1682-1760)
(Two Butterflies on Lilies)

At night, on the dream river,        
where has sleep taken me?       
What is meant by waking?       

I have been of two lives—            
bewildered in both.                        
At night—on the dream river,               

I meet another self,                         
with passage between the two.     
Then what is meant by waking?       

If one becomes the stronger,        
does one release the other,                
created by night’s twisting river?      

Should I not want to return,           
would something still hold me?          
What, then, is meant by waking?     

If I had a choice,                             
would something relinquish me?    
At night—on the disturbed river—   
would there be a waking?

  Beulah and Rose


This is the sky of winter—this slow and heavy
gray, with its weight of ghostly birds that sift
into each other’s cries—and lose their way.


After Pleasure 1926 by René Magritte

Nothing is certain, though the birds are significant, and
the girl is mysterious. And the tree. The sky is merely a
backdrop. It means nothing. There is no explanation.
The girl is emotionless, examining the bird in her hands
that has quit flailing its wings. Hunger is suggested. Or
even a disinterest beyond the moment. Behind her, the
tree moves a bit, an illusion to establish her stillness,
which is absolute. Her eyes are expressionless, looking
down at the bird. The other birds freeze into meaning.
The sky moves, shifting the white clouds around. The
tree darkens. The birds shift into shadow. The girl can-
not stop looking at the bird in its frozen helplessness.

 Maisie and Daisy

After Peaceful Harbor by Kathy Mitchell (Mouth Painter)

In a little sea-town, the white boats; only their reflections
move with the deep movement of the water. Diluted colors
take on the floating colors of the sky; match the strange
absence of sound in the indeterminate hour. Is this a mirage
of memory—a stopping of time that waits for this? Why
such stillness? Why such quiet: where are the people; where
are the birds; where the slow-moving shapes of fish in their
element, swimming through the white clouds and the shim-
mering masts with no curiosity? Who but the very patiently
dedicated could capture all I remember from that long ago? 
I grow homesick for the reality in the mirage.

 Purple Number Five


In little steps across the day—small
measurements to mark the way from
wing to shadow in helpless flutter,
for the dream that’s ever waiting there . . .

The birdless days (which days are they)
are seasonless, or not yet here.
We check our sadness. All we wanted
was to fly in the heavy, laden sky.

Love was spent on little wars, the ones that
grieve for centuries. The devastations were
extreme. We tried to blame it on the dream.
It was the hopeless. Hope was ours.

Today the birds returned. The trees
exulted with their singing. Once more
we listen, listen loudly. All we wanted
was their being—all we wanted all along.



He draws a pair of white birds in the air.
They do not fly away. He has them trained.
They simply rise and hover and as keeps them
frozen there—yet fears their vacant eyes.

The day is white—a blank page for his art;
the art is his : he lets them come alive—
to feel their lift. He adds migrating swans
to free his heart and give life ownership.

 Last Call

After Young Girl Writing at Her Desk with Birds
                       —Painting by Henriette Brown

Let not the cage
confine the thought, door open,
bird released, much like a poem, uncaught.

To trick the word, prepare another word.
Coax it.  Let it surprise.
Say thank you.

Begin with daydream.  Begin with stare.
Begin with pen raised over page.
Wait for page to rustle with excitement.

The page lies flat.  Refuses.  Songbird
becomes Muse—pulls your attention
to its nearness—does not sing.

The cage hangs on the wall,
shares its emptiness with the quiet room.
Song waits.  Poem waits.  They will happen.


Today’s LittleNip:

Bald Mountain by 
Herbert Saslow, 1920 (American )

      birds of pure light
       claim two trees
     on a desolate peak

           *   *   *

   sheer rock mountain
       offers two trees
    to the birds of light


Our thanks to Joyce Odam as she sends her birds soaring in our Seed of the Week, Blue Skies, White Clouds. Our new Seed of the Week is an ekphrastic one; see the photo below. And don’t forget to think metaphorically: wearing many hats, hat in the ring, and so on. (Remember “she set her cap for him”?) 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.


 This Week’s Seed of the Week.

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, March 25, 2019

Tomorrow, Another Chance

Photos of Pier 39 in San Francisco 
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA
A somber cup of coffee,
Waiting for
Light to creep in,
In my early morning,
Well before
Dawn begins.

I wish you were
Still with me.
I’d be still
With you,
In bed,
My tender darling,

But I’m alone,

With my cup of coffee,
Facing a day I dread!

When I must meet
Your family,

A hearse
And a stone-head!


—Joseph Nolan
Another chance.
Another chance to dance
With a beloved—
Another chance to win
A fine romance!

Blessed be the sun
That comes
To bring the day.

Let morning’s virtue
Summon you to greet the
Dawn’s cold fog.
Don’t be a log!

Don’t lie too long,
Lost sideways.
Come away,
From evening’s bed-clothes;
Greet the day!

The day is making way,
As morning
Comes on brightly
Into day.

—Joseph Nolan

Heat, grease,
Scraping spatulas,
Scratching spoons,
The slightest taste-remnants
Of a thousand dishes
Cooked well or ill
Over the years,
Darkened into blackness,

A mother’s warm expectancy,
Coaxing things toward edibility,
Hopefully to tasty!
To please the tongues
And gullets of her young,
The fire
Softly burning,
Down below,
Carefully managed,
Periodically observed,
To let it not
Get out of control,
Despite a thousand distractions,

All these things
Go into
A well-seasoned pan.


—Joseph Nolan

I was the last one she’d tell
The details of her love-life,
But things weren’t going well.

A new one came to visit
When the old one went away,
But the new one didn’t fit so well,
So she had a lot to tell.

So, even I,
Her Mother,
Who’d waited oh-so long!
To hear her open up to me
Finally heard
Her raindrops spatter,
Building, as we took a walk,
Building into little rivers,
Into trickle-down talk. 

Seeing a squirming and suffering earthworm
      lying on the cement pavement after a rainstorm
      Makes me hesitate to consider to help
      But then I hear the birds out singing
      And I realize if I send this worm back to the soil
      I will be denying the songbirds a possible meal
      That’s the nature of some things 
      So I leave the suffering worm and walk on
—Michelle Kunert

—Michael Ceraolo, Euclid, OH

Nature is the greatest sculptor:
some of her work permanent,
at least on the human scale,
thousands or even millions of years;
other of her work temporary,
lasting only a few days
Some of the latter,
in the medium of ice,
were documented by
an enterprising photojournalist
and featured in the local weekly paper

A storm blew across the lake
the third weekend of January,
the windswept spray froze on
whatever was handy on the shore
Three interesting pieces were exhibited
near the mouth of the creek:

         on the pier,
up to six inches of ice in places
on some structures,
a white beard on the pier's arch
and icicles of varying lengths
dangling from the pier,
even reaching down to the chunks of ice
thrown onto the shore;

almost in the shape of a house
in a Gothic horror movie,
decorated for the season
with grossly overgrown hanging ice
instead of grossly overgrown vegetation;

on a railing,
                  ice like
the jagged uneven teeth
of a snow monster with three jaws,
one for each rail
(there may be other rails
cropped out of the photo)

The weather warmed in a few days
and all were gone,
they remain in the paper's archives
and in this poem

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

We all know those awful anti-semicolon remarks when we hear them…

To be boldly dangling a split participle, protestors postulate infinitive.

Careful writers pre-position prepositions before reaching the end.

Another form of verbal abuse is to use adverbs but not endorse the product.

I studied self-defense techniques with the help of a personal pronoun.



Driving around the city, state, and country
I see streets, apartment houses, and gated
communities with names reflecting parts of
the natural beauty of the area, like Meadows,
Vistas, Vineyards, Falls, and such. 

The sad truth is that much of that natural beauty
has been literally taken away in favor of real
estate developments, leaving behind only the
pretty names to remind us.

Will this also be the future for our great land of
democracy, freedom, and peace?  Will foreign,
corporate investors raze and level Capitol Hill
and replace that prized tract of land with a new
shopping mall/auto mall bearing that name?


Put on your fighting clothes and
grab your killer weapons because
The Cradle of Civilization has
opened up its mosh pit to welcome
visitors of any faith as long as it is
your deepest desire to vanquish
anyone who gets in your way.

One conquest after another has Jews,
Christians, Muslims, and others making
an abundant assortment of holy, smoly
declarations and statements of authority
meant to rid the land of all intruders who
just don’t accept whose truth should rule
the world.

There is only one God, but damnit if we
don’t have thousands of versions and
variations as to which is the highest and
best use of that heavenly domain. So
enjoy your visit, then go home and lick
your wounds.



Part and parcel of our constitutional right to
bear arms, the framers explicitly included the
expectation that gun bearers would belong to
a well ordered militia.  Giving no support to
the “well ordered” component is like ripping
away the frame from a skyscraper.

So now America is left with gazillions of guns
in the hands of gazillions of people who are
anything but well ordered, and who in turn
leave a deadly trail of misuse, neglect, and

The situation has gotten so out of hand, law
enforcement officers routinely presume that
anyone who is acting out of line is likely also
toting a gun.

Case in point:  one evening when Sacramento
police responded to complaints of vandalism,
two officers saw the flash of a cell phone in
the subject’s hands and reacted desperately
as if their own lives were about to end in a hail
of gunfire.  So they did as they had been duly
trained and “returned” fire, killing the suspect.

Just assigning blame to these two officers will
not solve the larger problem.  One way or the
other, we need to enact and enforce effective
gun control laws.                           End of rant.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joseph Nolan

So many things about which
I stopped thinking
When I was
No older than nine;
Still, that level of thinking
Inhabits my mind.
It takes too much time
To keep thinking.
I’m a little too busy for thinking.
In my world, I’m still nine.


Our thanks to today’s potpourri of contributors! We’re on the cusp of April, which is National Poetry Month; more about that later. April also includes Earth Day on the 27th, and the calendar has events in Georgetown, Placerville, Sacramento, Davis, Grass Valley and elsewhere. First up, though, on April 6, is Sac. Poetry Center’s Spring Conference, celebrating the Center’s 40th year! (Info/reg: And April always brings a plethora of poetry events in our area, too; be sure to let me know ( about yours!
This Week's poetry events in our area begin tonight, 6pm, with Poetry in Motion at the Placerville Sr. Center in Placerville, then continue at Sac. Poetry Center with Gene Berson, Even Lourie, and Judie Rae plus open mic, 7:30pm.

SPC workshops this week include Tuesday Night Workshop for critiquing of poems at the Hart Center (27th and J Sts.) on Tuesday, 7:30-9pm (call Danyen Powell at 530-681-0026 for info); and MarieWriters Generative Writing Workshop on Wednesday at SPC for writing poems, facilitated this week by Christin O’Cuddehy, 6-8pm.

On Friday, SPC presents Sandy McIntosh and Mary Mackey at 6pm, and Speak Up: The Art of Storytelling and Poetry meets at 7pm at The Avid Reader in Sacramento. Then on Saturday, The Soft Offs present An Evening of Moetry as a fundraiser for SPC, 25th & R Sts., 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.

Last Friday, Neil Fullwood visited the Kitchen, and I posted photos of pubs from his hometown of Nottingham, England, saying I hoped I had gotten them all correct. Neil writes back, “Yes, all of them are still open and serving pints. I thought I’d send you a more recent photograph of the Robin Hood and Little John Inn, in the suburb of Arnold, only a mile or two from where I live.” So check out the photo below for Neil’s update picture of the R.H. and Little John. And thanks, Neil!

—Medusa (Celebrate Poetry!)

 Robin Hood (and) Little John, Arnold, England

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, March 24, 2019

Not This World

—Joseph Nolan

I can imagine a world in which unicorns exist
And dance across rainbows in the sky,
Where tiny fairies lure children
Away with them, into the woods
To dance around campfires
To the sounds of pipes and flutes until dawn,
But it is not this world.

I can imagine a world where one day
The Left split
And anarchists and communists
Began shooting at each other,
On purpose, for some reason,
Now obscure,
In the Spanish Civil War,
While fascist, Franco,
And the Nationalist forces
Laughed out loud,
And that world is this world.

I can imagine a world where
Trotsky, the leader of the Red Army
In the War of the Whites against the Reds,
Who proved clever enough
To bring the army he led
To victory
Would later be murdered
By an assassin,
Sent by his former comrade,
With an ice-pick in his head,
To die a slow and painful death,
And that world is this one.

I can imagine a world in which
Bolsheviks cannibalized each other
In vast purges
To overcome internal dissension in the Party,
Capitalist Roaders, Revisionists,
Reactionary Elements, Crypto-Monarchists,
And saboteurs,
And war against the Kulaks,
And starve the peasants into submission,
And force them into collective agriculture,
With over three million starved unto death,
And that world is this world.

I can imagine a world in which
God exists,
God, Who Is Love,
Who looks down on our tiny planet
And nurtures each and every living thing,
Where there has never been a war
A genocide or murder,
Or any other form of evil or cruelty,
But that world is not this world.
We live in the other world.


—Medusa, with thanks to Joseph Nolan for today’s fine poem!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Praying for Merwin in the Bardo

Time for Planting, Yolo County
—Poems and Photos by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA

Strong coffee, Thelonious Monk playing solo,
And some poems by W.S. Merwin.
We lost Merwin last week, 91 years old.
He’s been on my mind;
The poetry, his work with the trees,
Restoring a piece of the earth.
And a Buddhist like me.
Keeping his own practice, I’m sure.
I turn off the music and close the book.
I did my morning zazen hours ago,
But another quiet time has come.
I can feel it. Prayer beads
And the Loving Kindness Sutra—
I’ve worked out my own ritual with them.
Praying for W.S. Merwin in the Bardo.

 Olive Trees, Yolo County

My skeleton is walking under the valley oaks,
Half past October already,
But the leaves still are green and firm.
Autumn in the Sacramento Valley is brief and late.
My bones move along through the shade.
The leaves will turn and fall soon enough;
Perhaps they are whispering among themselves
And I am not allowed to listen in.
On skeletal feet I move into the pines,
Their green lasts all year. There comes a breeze
And from the pines comes a lovely scent.

 Yolo County Countryside

Valley sky. Like a steel sword, silver.
Valley floor. Like a tilled field, rich soil.
Valley man. I haunt the creeks and woods.
Valley poems. Words growing like corn.
Like sunflowers.
And I am here for the harvest.


“Who were you?” —I ask the younger me.
“You, but not completely,” he says.
I didn’t want to look at him anymore, you know.
I didn’t want to hear his words, as foolish
As I already knew him to be.
Late afternoon. Dust mites
Were floating in the softly sunlit room.

 Walnut Trees, Yolo County

I could have spent my life making hammers;
It’s honest work, and someone has to do it.
No crimes are committed in hammer making,
Even the wood is replanted.
And so it might be that as I drive down the valley
I could see a fine house or a tool shed
Build with one of my hammers.
Wouldn’t that be nice? To be a part of someone’s home?
Or maybe a big red barn with the loft open
And a young lad up there,
Forking hay down to the waiting cows,
Sweating even though it is a cool morning
In earliest days of Spring.

 Sacramento River, from the Yolo County Bank

Boulders in the shallow water, covered
In clean white snow. The Yuba River
In the depths of winter. The sounds
Of water on rock is as true
As the Dharma. Ssh. Listen.


Today’s LittleNip:

Let me be small, let me be empty.
That I might be but a breath in the wind.

—James Lee Jobe


Our thanks to James Lee Jobe for his quiet thoughts and images on a NorCal Saturday.

Starting at 10am today, Writers on the Air presents The Celtic Hour at Sac. Poetry Center, with readers, storytellers, and open mic. Then from 2-4pm, Poetic License poetry read-around meets in Placerville at the Sr. Center. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


For more about W.S. Merwin, go to

 W.S. Merwin (1927-2019)
—Photo of Merwin on his land in Hawaii

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.