Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Diamond Birds

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


a flurry of birds
a white fence
a house

an old road stretching by with no one on it
a time of day
not noted for this verse
. . . all that motion . . . all that stillness . . .

a wide play of sky to hold the birds
a frame of land to hold the house
a boundary to hold the fence

an isolation so severe the birds break free to escape it

a house
a fence
a lack of birds

two disappearing ends for the road that stretches by
with no one on it



and on the landscape
the birds are singing
invisible in the trees
it is morning
and the sharp songs are everywhere
the sunlight cannot find them
though it looks and
quickens the shadows
of things that are growing

the singing of the birds
is like shouts of diamonds
celebrating their voices
the green leaves
answer with
swift protective flutterings
within which
the diamond birds are hiding

and in the center
of the landscape
a man in a pair of shorts
is sitting on a chair
that is growing from the earth
his body made golden by the sun
his soft hair lifting to the light
and he is sitting there
in all that sound
reading the newspaper

(prev. pub. in Jam Today, 1977)

 Even in the World


are the days
of stillness.
The birds
fly strangely.
There is
a fragment only
of their singing.
It falls
through grayness.
Even the leaves
hang darkly.
And there is
that is not
but a dream
of light
upon the mind.
the landscape figures
who turn
to look at the sky
move slowly
and recede
as if they were
far away
in this vast



The birds are dying in our poisoned air,
hitting the ground with useless, folded wings:
If God can’t save them from such visionings,
how is it only Man can sound despair?

The loss of them is more than loss can bear,
the sky gone empty now where nothing sings.
In shadow-memory, some motion clings;
the sky remembers and looks everywhere.

 Rain For Thirst

After “Water” (Photo enhancement
by D.R. Wagner, Medusa’s Kitchen)

Now water separates against the land.
Now earth has broken away.

Now there is only sky and water;
there is only dream,
with its ancient illusion.

The sky is caught in blue reflection
of nothing there.

Where is the gasp of warning—
the change that will change
again—surge back against

the awesome beauty of destruction.
Is this but a held breath:

time’s elasticity
that lets go a cosmic sigh
that settles back into forgiveness?

 Promise Through Barbed Wire


There is a crease where something moves
that has not moved before,

a shiver in the sky
where the white birds cross,

a hollow in the dream
where the mind lets something out,

an old desire
that fades and does not grieve.



when the birds
were young as spring
they grew gray feathers
and their eyes went dim
they brought love to my window
in little diamonds of singing

That was the season of my joy

Now in
the loose cages
of the trees
the birds are older than
all reflective distances
their song is broken glass
the bloodless leaves turn gray
and are heavily falling

(prev. pub. in Broccoli, 1970)

 Unto Heaven


Oh, Lovers, now you embark—pitifully alone
in each other—
and often you do hark to other callings,

such as purr, and moan,
and stroke, abstractedly, 
each other’s whims and meanings—

believing all the mirrors of
each other’s eyes
that hold your mirrored face

with moods,
to subtle questionings:

Do you love me? Yes!
Or tone you mishear as a No—
or Maybe—playful jealousies

and empty praise for your abstractions.
How can this compare with lack
when uncertainty is ever ready to deflect.

Oh, soon, the veils will lift
and habit take the course of expectation:
It’s all a game with rules

you’ll tend to disobey
with their exceptions that you claim
by the weariness it takes to stay in love.



This deep red water,
full of blue reflections,
drowning trees and clouds,
it is sunset
and the colors
bleed and bleed
but cannot dilute.
Water shadows
fret at the bank edges—
lap against green—
try to eat the earth away.
The trees lean out to test themselves.
The bank holds them in place.
The river turns where the light ends.
It is sunset and the river
has vanished into the sky.
The sky has swallowed the river
and the last bend of color.
All is peaceful now.
The trees can rest
and the shadows
repair themselves–
everything that was—
still is : this is the myth
of all that has no sensation—
only the sad awareness of your watching.

 There is Always the World

Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

There are always the flowers . . .

There are always the birds . . .

There is always the extinction . . .

There is always the world . . . .


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her poems and photos on the Seed of the Week: Mother Earth, as she mourns the absence of songbirds around her house this year with her usual mix of grief and hope. Her rispetto is defined as follows: Rispetto: Any complete poem consisting of two rhyming quatrains often rhyming abab ccdd. In iambic pentameter it can combine heroic forms: Sicilian (abab) & Italian (abba) quatrains—or a Sicilian quatrain (abab) and two heroic couplets (ccdd).

Our new Seed of the Week is May Day—either in nautical SOS terms, or springtime, or labor issues, or children dancing around maypoles, or even just big baskets of spring flowers. Send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from.

You might enjoy tonight’s Poets and Writers’ roundtable meeting tonight, 6-8pm at Sac. Poetry Center. As their blurb says, “This free, informal meeting is a great way to connect with fellow presenters, presses, teachers, and writers… to exchange ideas, news, and resources.” Sacramento Poet Laureate Indigo Moor will also speak about his projects and answer questions. They would like you to RSVP to jfitzgerald@pw.org to reserve your seat. 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.

And Diamond Springs neighbor and poet Loch Henson has a new paperback out, entitled Hungry Ghosts, a fine collection of her poetry which is available at www.amazon.com/Hungry-Ghosts-Collected-Poems-Loch-Henson/dp/1982211962/. Check it out!

—Medusa, celebrating!


 There is always the extinction . . .
There is always the world . . . .
—Anonymous Robin Photo 

For more about birdsong, go to 

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in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Creaky Joints, Water Dreams, and Bigfoot

Nana with the Poet's Brother, Matt, 
and Smokey the Cat in 1963
—Additional Garden Photos by 
Caschwa, Sacramento, CA


—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento, CA

remembering summer visits
just Nana and I, in her St. Louis apartment

watching her sit and smoke in her chair
hair a delicate cirrus cloud
nylons rolled down around her ankles
housedress comfortable, bourbon at her side

I waited in a thirteen-year-old’s impatience
for her “programs” to finish
so that we could run another marathon of Bolivia
this time, I’d win!

in her seventies, heart disease haunting her
having survived her husband for decades
she stood firm, unassailable protector
alternating treating me like a sister
reminding me of my worth
with spoiling me, cooking my favorite foods
buying my school clothes for the coming year

in my sixties now, so many decades after
she died in the night at my parent’s home
I realize that I’ve followed her example
living decades alone
maintaining my voice, integrity, dreams
meeting sorrow and joy
with an Amazon’s passionate strength

when I catch myself sharing laughter
with younger musicians in orchestra
spending late nights writing detailed comments
on my English students’ writing
carefully managing my bills
cooking for myself and enjoying it
seeking vision, understanding, transcendence
I recognize my grandmotherly nature in bloom
each day’s new creaks in joints, slower gait
overshadowed by ever-deepening love, devotion, desire

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA

“Come in!” said Pain,
“Come in!
It’s time for us to meet.”

“I hope you didn’t expect
To miss me all your life?”

“Have a seat
Next to my friend,
She wants to touch you
But be careful with her:
She doesn’t like to let go.
She’ll spread herself
All over your body
Before long!

“What can we tell you?
This waiting room
Is where we wait
For everyone lucky enough
To live long enough to
Meet us.

Consider yourself lucky!”

—Joseph Nolan

Bigfoot wanders through our forests
On this, our Planet of the Apes.
We wish our ethics and morals
To remain formless,
Innocuous, amorphous,
Powerless to obstruct a primal drive,
Entirely relative
To our closest living relatives.

What care we
If apes mate in trees
Or give each other fleas
When they do?
To each his own, we say,
Or to each, some other,

What care we
What preferences Bigfoot displays
In Simian parades,
On Zoo-Liberation Day?
No doubt some will clap and cheer
Just like last year
And the year before
Our Father-Ape conquered
By crossing across in his underwear.

—Joseph Nolan

Does water have sweet dreams
Of running down tall mountains
In small streams?
In running brooks,
Gurgling and babbling
Around trout fishers’ hooks?

Noodling and swishing
Over rocks,
Sweeping past smooth boulders
All washed clean
By years of cresting waters
Summer rain
And storms of Fall!

Does water dream in white?
Frozen things, like snow
And sleet and ice?
Frozen twice:
Once in the sky,
Again on land.
For warm Spring
To lay its hand
On icy back
And send it running
Swiftly to the sea. 

—Joseph Nolan

Slow, silent,
Invisible steam
As water wafts away
When gently mixed
With heat
Over time
The puddle disappears
Into sky.
How easily, peacefully,
Into thin air!


This morning I         from my bed to go outside

                          raised bed
and tend to the                    where we had

            several veggies and irrigation lines.


No, it is not God’s plan
nor was it to become president
it is not about improving health care
or about immigration or the border

It is the polar opposite of unity
and inclusiveness
and kindness
or anything humane

The one trick in his hat,
his sole inspiration, is to find
people who are tormented by
their circumstances

and make it worse for them.
That brings a smile to his face,
no red ink for his business deals,
and above all, no collusion. 


(after Joyce Odam’s “Random” from
Medusa’s Kitchen, April 2, 2019) 

She lived in the suburbs in a track home,
3 bedroom, 2 bath, kitchen, dining, den,
3 boys, 2 cats, bitching, whining, men.

Then something went wrong with the
medicine…oh, where is that team of top
lawyers and experts when you need them?

The source of the problem might have been
bad raw stock, the manufacturing process,
flawed packaging, delayed shipping, improper
storage, faulty labelling, the busy doctor,
another pharmacy snafu, climate change,
tampering, the ever-present confusion…no
one stands up to raise their hand and confess.

Now she walks around all day with her gold
hat somewhere on the outskirts of town, with
not even a cardboard box to call home, unable
to distinguish her own ragged, bare feet from
the cement sidewalk.


Today’s LittleNip(s):


Aalenian aside, now
aardvarks have some ants for chow
Aasvogel scans over each
aapamoor mound within reach
Aalesund, port of Norway
Aabenraa, so the Danes say
Aalsmeer, North Holland, good day.

* * *


A mosque in Basque or a
bright marque in Albuquerque

enough mystique in the physique
to pique interest in unique antiques
from boutiques in Mozambique


Good morning, good morning, and thanks to our contributors today! Monday brings a ratatouille of fine poems and pix on many subjects—a colorful beginning to any week. And those roses, irises…. Thanks for the spring photos, Carl!

Davis Past-Poet Laureate Eve West Bessier has posted on Facebook that she has just become the new Poet Laureate of Silver City, New Mexico. Congratulations to her; girlfriend is racking up the PL credits!

Our week of poetry activities begins at Sac. Poetry Center tonight with a fundraiser for Sacramento’s Stop Stigma, featuring poets Kevin Dobbs and Lee Rossi, plus open mic, 7:30pm. On Tuesday, the last day of April, Sac. Poetry Center will host the Poets & Writers' Sacramento Literary Roundtable w/Indigo Moor. 6-8pm. Check out this opportunity for conversation at www.facebook.com/events/366859007245310/.

On Wednesday morning, May Day, join Frank Graham and some Davis writers for more opportunity for literary conversation at Coffee with Writers, Poets and Literature & Language Instructors. That's at Philz Coffee on 2nd St., 9:45-11:15am, Davis.

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 at SPC for writing poems, 6-8pm on Wednesday.

Thursday presents a wide variety of activities, starting with Big Day of Giving, a 24-hour marathon of donating to the Sac. non-profit of your choice at www.bigdayofgiving.org/, followed by a thank-you party at Sac. Poetry Center from 5:30-8:30pm, with food, drink, poetry, live music, raffle.

Also on Thursday, Poetry Night in Davis will feature a book release of
Kubaba by Jackie Carroll, 8pm, plus open mic. Also at 8pm, in Sacramento, go down to Old Sac. to Laughs Unlimited for The Love Jones “Best Love Poem” Competition. And of course Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe and Juice Bar also meets at 8pm in Sacramento, with featured readers and lots of open mic.

Friday will bring another of Sac. Poetry Center’s Random Fridays, this one featuring readers from Aaron Bradford’s American River College poetry workshop, 6-8pm. Then on Saturday, there will be a release party and reading from
Levee Magazine’s second issue, 7:30pm at Sac. Poetry 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.

—Medusa, celebrating poetry as National Poetry Month comes to a close—but NorCal poetry keeps going strong!

Selfie of Bigfoot, chillin’ in the redwoods…

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
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Sunday, April 28, 2019

True Hunger

—Anonymous Photos
—Poems by W.S. Merwin (1927-2019)


       for Wendell Berry

Each face in the street is a slice of bread
wandering on

somewhere in the light the true hunger
appears to be passing them by
they clutch

have they forgotten the pale caves
they dreamed of hiding in
their own caves
full of the waiting of their footprints
hung with the hollow marks of their groping
full of their sleep and their hiding

have they forgotten the ragged tunnels
they dreamed of following in out of the light
to hear step after step

the heart of bread
to be sustained by its dark breath
and emerge

to find themselves alone
before a wheat field
raising its radiance to the moon


The night the world was going to end
when we heard those explosions not far away
and the loudspeakers telling us
about the vast fires on the backwater
consuming undisclosed remnants
and warning us over and over
to stay indoors and make no signals
you stood at the open window
the light of one candle back in the room
we put on high boots to be ready
for wherever we might have to go
and we got out the oysters and sat
at the small table feeding them
to each other first with the fork
then from our mouths to each other
until there were none and we stood up
and started to dance without music
slowly we danced around and around
in circles and after a while we hummed
when the world was about to end
all those years all those nights ago


I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war

don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice

he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry

he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't

you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write


Today’s LittleNip:

—W.S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.


Today in the Kitchen we pay tribute to poet/writer/translator/US Poet LaureateX2 W.S. Merwin, who passed away in March of this year at the age of 91. Merwin won most of the awards available to American poets, including the Bollingen Prize, two Pulitzer Prizes, the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, a Ford Foundation grant, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the PEN Translation Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. He has also been awarded fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation. He is a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and two-time U.S. poet laureate (1999-2000, 2010-2011).

Merwin was once asked what social role a poet plays—if any—in America. He commented: “I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry now that one really wants, hopelessly, to save the world. One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time. I think that’s a social role, don’t you? ... We keep expressing our anger and our love, and we hope, hopelessly perhaps, that it will have some effect. But I certainly have moved beyond the despair, or the searing, dumb vision that I felt after writing "The Lice"; one can’t live only in despair and anger without eventually destroying the thing one is angry in defense of. The world is still here, and there are aspects of human life that are not purely destructive, and there is a need to pay attention to the things around us while they are still around us. And you know, in a way, if you don’t pay that attention, the anger is just bitterness.”

For more about Merwin, go to www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/w-s-merwin/ OR www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/w-s-merwin?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvPiplfzn4QIVCarsCh2TEAtCEAAYASAAEgJLX_D_BwE/.

Today in area poetry, you have your choice of attending the book release/reading for
Tough Enough from Cold River Press, w/"Tough Old Broads" Victoria Dalkey, Kathryn Hohlwein, Viola Weinberg Spencer, and Sue Menebroker McElligott (reading for her mother, Annie Menebroker). That’s at Harlow's, 2708 J St., Sac.

Or head up to Diamond Springs (southeast of Placerville) for Poetry of the Sierra Foothills, with readers from the book of California ecopoetry,
Fire and Rain, plus open mic (stories and poems about the natural world). Caffe Santoro, 493 Pleasant Valley Rd., Diamond Springs.

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.


W.S. Merwin

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Sip Some Coffee, Write a Poem

 Still Life With Hammer and Egg
—Poems by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA
—Photos Courtesy of James Lee Jobe


A fog hangs over the flat farmland;
While watching through my window
I can hear the sound of geese above me.
Somehow this makes me sad again,
And so another long, slow day begins.

 Still Life With Cups

It is still early in the Spring, yet
It is as hot as Summer.
Children in the park stare at the pool,
It won’t open for more than a month.
I am becoming an old man,
What can I do with this world but laugh?

 Still Life With Apple and Pear

I will take this holy poverty to the grave
And then, if I am even remembered at all,
People can say that I was never burdened
By money. You know, some people, money
Is all they ever have, the poor bastards.

 Still Life With Water

Crossing the Bridge of Dreams again,
It is very late at night—
My third attempt to go to sleep.
Walking over the river of my mind.
And it is a perfect night; clear and cool,
But not cold. A bright moon.
A few small, white clouds. Scattered stars.
I am not aware of which moment
It is that I finally close my eyes.

 Still Life With Wooden Beams

It might be more fashionable not to live;
Who doesn’t love a dead, failed poet?
Still, I had a nice dinner with my family,
And it was a fine day. Lovely.
Perhaps I’ll just keep writing.


If my spell is successful
And it storms during my funeral,
Please feel free to stay home.
Be safe. Relax.
Light a candle for me,
Sip some coffee and a write a poem.
Nothing lasts forever.


Today’s LittleNip:

Set sail for The Islands of Self. You don’t
Even need a boat or a map. Just sail.


Thank you, James Lee Jobe, for these fine poems and pix, and for your exhortions to keep writing!

Today is the 49th Earth Day! Celebrate it with one of the various festivals in our area, including one in Sacramento (www.seecalifornia.com/events/earthday/sacramento.html); Arts in Nature in Georgetown; and Sierra Poetry Festival in Grass Valley. Or head over to Sac. Poetry Center for Writers on the Air this morning, featuring frank andrick, Stuart Canton and Lynette Blumhardt, plus open mic, beginning at 9:30am. 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.

And click on the link below for a history of Earth Day.

—Medusa (Celebrate poetry and our Mother Earth!)

 For more about the history of Earth Day, see 

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in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Color Conspiracy

John Westling's Wind Chimes
—Poems by Carol Louise Moon, Placerville, CA
—Photo by Carol Louise Moon


One color sits there
having gathered purple,
orange, and gray:
mauve, I suppose.

Another gathers only
light blue and pink,
conceding to lilac.

Green disguised as blue
conspires to march
against my eyes
invading my sensibilities
with turquoise.

The last bares all:
simply red.

(prev. pub. in littlesnake broadside #43,
Rattlesnake Press, 2008)

 Peanut Butter on Rye
—Photo by Carol Louise Moon


My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Brown
wagged her finger in my face, Why
have you finger-painted with peanut
butter, instead of finger paints?

I’ll teach that teacher not to wag
her finger-painted finger in my face.
Let’s face it, I wagged, There’s no
better peanut-butter-brown than
peanut butter, Mrs. Brown.

 Canada Goose
—Photo by Carol Louise Moon


Turquoise, being the curious color
of the future, propels me forward.
It’s the stuff of dreams in visions of
turquoise: flying geese which
usually waddle are now riding blue-
green bicycles down cherry lanes
in teal garden parks. London-blue
dogs sniff at turquoise nuggets which
dot the off-blue landscape. Sprinklers
sprinkle lawns at 5 am with a pale
version of aquamarine.

By now, I suspect the very nerves
of my spinal cord are a deeper shade
of turquoise. Turquoise won’t
leave me alone.

 Hot Pink
—Photo by Chris Moon


Hot pink—it’s comin’ at me.
Hot pink—it’s all around me.
All I see is hot pink.

All I did all afternoon
with all those hot pink beads
was make hot pink bead bracelet
after hot pink bead necklace

until my mind is pink.
I think my mind is pink;
at least, I think too much pink.

I close my eyes, my hot pink eyes,
and see all those hot pink beads,
and feel the necklace
around my neck.

The hot pink necklace is not
a necklace I should be wearing,
at least not wearing to bed.

 Sepia Laser Art
—Photo by Carol Louise Moon


When one first absorbs Sepia
there is a settling at the center.
I suppose the emotion is best
described as a settling in.
However, over-absorption
causes confusion, an unsettling
of the settling.

I have often wandered away
from Sepia into a desire for
complicated color—a shaking-up
of my focus, and a misguided
guiding of my direction.
Without Sepia, my Compass,
I am simply lost.

 Indigo Glasses
—Photo by Carol Louise Moon


Hints of Spelunking: dripping
dark waters of an underground
tavern where they serve beer
and pretzels from a dark
bluish-purple box. One can hear
an echoed crunch sound,
and the sound of boots hitting
rock, as ropes tighten and sway
on the way down.

Dark Indigo, indicative of a
certain Captain Nemo, so far
under water he had to form a
League of 20,000—sort of a
League of Nations, except the
only citizens were sea urchins...
which are light indigo. They
had no voting rights, no one is
certain who was represented.
But it is well-known that
Captain Nemo’s favorite color
was Dark Indigo.

 Red, White Quartz/Red Quartzite
—Photo by Carol Louise Moon

Today’s LittleNip:

—Carol Louise Moon

Ice white is too close for comfort.  It
begs perfection, daring me to mark or
mar. It’s stiff ease betrays a weakness
(I’m sure) due to the fact that it
requires light to fulfill its austerity.


Our thanks to Carol Louise Moon for sharing some poems and pix with us from her fine “Color Conspiracy” series!

Tonight at 6pm is the last of the NaPoWriMo prompt-writing workshops at Sac. Poetry Center, facilitated tonight by Bethanie Humphreys. And at 7pm, Speak Up presents poems and stories on the theme of “Tributes” at Avid Reader on Broadway in 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.


 Teaching us about color . . .
—Anonymous Photo

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
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Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Word Continues

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


In the nature of beasts, a donkey
broke free of his fences to forage fields
and woodlots in a season of ice.
Arriving in town, he was caught up
with townsfolk hurrying toward some
unspoken destination. With holly sprig
in his mane from journeying brush
and hedge, he looked a festive beggar
in the rushing crowd. Hooves
up stone steps to an edifice. From its
vestibule he could see the hall a-light
as if with candles but all fluorescent;
exchange of paper, crisp or tattered,
all printed a cheerless green.
Fall of dead leaves, no sweet scent
of growing grass inside the walls.
Donkey keeps moving along


He had a tag on his collar
when you saw him running free, edge
of blacktop, mountain-road dark,
Mars hanging red in the night.
You stopped, wrote down the number
on his tag. And then he
disappeared again into dark of ridge
and canyon where dog-license
has no purchase.
You wake in the night listening
for coyote, cougar, the owl’s wild call.
At dawn you search for dog-
prints in dust. In spite of leash laws
and metal tag,
a dog running free. 

      a Zejel

Beyond the classrooms there’s no fence
where forest rustles every sense

letting kids roam among the pines,
a path that each day realigns
itself, shifting shadow designs
where forest rustles every sense.

And here’s a tepee, built in style
of who lived such a long-long while
ago, for musings that beguile
where forest rustles every sense

and there’s a hobby horse to ride
imagination, right beside
the tepee. Questions still abide
where forest rustles every sense.


Someday the woman across the road
will no longer appear in her muck-out boots
to pitch hay to her sorrel mare, who
will be long gone; and the dark curly-headed
man will be gone too, with his shepherd-
dog who loves to chase sticks over grass
by the frog-pond. But wild turkeys still
find paths down the hill’s rocky backside,
where yesterday I found three
savaged turkey eggs and an empty nest,
and the raccoon, the skunk, the fox—long
gone—will still be hungry for a fresh
nest of wild turkeys still surviving.


A twig sticks out of the nest-box entrance hole. I can’t look inside to count eggs or birdlings when they hatch. But that twig tells me it’s a wren nest packed so full, I couldn’t see anything but jackstraw twigs if I peeked inside. I’ll catch surmises if I see the wren bobbing in and out of the box carrying more twigs to fortify—conceal—her nest of eggs, her babies safe from being caught by a jay, a snake, a cat.

soon, glimpse of young wrens
on the woodpile, and phrases
of sweet bubbling song


A smoking pile, a fallen spire
on the other side of the globe—a world
in mourning.
Decades ago, I lugged my suitcase
heavy with Royal manual portable, study-
year abroad; sidewalks
from train station to Métro, great historic
sites. Stone wings
and sleepless gargoyles,
a holy flame inside the cathedral.
Its towers. Quasimodo. Could an inspired
pen ensure immortality?
Yesterday I sat at my Royal 
on another sidewalk, keystroke by heavy
keystroke composing poems
for passersby.
The word continues. What brings a world
back together, if only briefly? Loss.
Must spirit catch fire,
disperse like ash over the countryside?
What remains? Rebuilding,
telling the story again,
with a new chapter. Faith, hope, love.
In our selves, the brightest flame.

Today’s LittleNip:

    for Margaret

I with litter-bags, my dog with saddlebags,
she with her horse and 12 pack mules—
hauling trash out of the wilderness.


—Medusa, with a warm spring thank-you to Taylor Graham for the wilderness she brings to the Kitchen today, this week of the Earth Mother!

 House Wren Nest
—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, April 24, 2019

Muses of Fire

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

North Bloomfield, California, c. 1850

The term for these rough breakers of tall hills,
how strange. Called monitors, these tools that…warn?
Does “monitor” suit instruments which kill
by water blasts drained from a mountain tarn?
As if the admonition of a scold,
flame of that lashing tongue that works to scald
poor sinners, weighed like these jets of ice-cold
which strip the gold-concealing ridges bald. 
We read the Book of Nature, but this hose
acts like the man who counts no tome quite read
till he’s ripped out each mastered page, and mows
of floor-strewn, excavated brains lie spread.
Archaic layer on layer just peels away.
Here, Chaos remains. No sign of any First Day. 


In Arnold Bax’s Piano Quintet, G minor
attacks with a two-fisted piano hammer,
then cello unfolds its multi-story melodic
fireman’s ladder. What a concatenation
of influences, where Germanic aggressive
gesture, a wee bit frosted by Grieg,
commingles with Irish lament. This great
work, summoned or channeled with whirlwind
youthfulness from regions no young sorcerer
should penetrate, whips up premonitory
clouds: the thrust toward mobilizing armies,
the Sarajevo assassination, the muddle in England.
Since Ireland’s a brooding quiet not-yet-front,
the second movement’s a quiet song, a slow
stepdance in tipple meter, nothing too much of brogue.
Dark panic from Russia intervenes: Lisztian
diminished-chord tremolos, with Ravel-style
upper intervals, deposit us in deep forest
or on windswept steppes: then, full-throated
flame with a freight-train undersong only
woodland firefighters truly know; a Dance
of Death in Mother Russia and Ukraine, in France,
in Alsace-Lorraine, in Belgium. Scorched-earth
cataclysm, then, brakes applied with a screech:
the tremors again, fortissimo. At last descent
into the decrescendo depths. On the CD
a Baxian friend kindly burned for me,
applause is the fourth movement. Not
the yahooing and roaring we hear from American
concertgoers, but steady flames emitted
from respectful palms, and we are in
Cologne, where pianist Michael Endres
and his string quartet partners from the Hochschule
have swept the auditorium with golden
conflagration. Bax’s posthumous friends,
gathered in that erstwhile fortress town,
poised at distance from, but opposite to, Verdun.
All this in what Germans call Köln,
which registers in my non-Teutonic ear as kiln. 


In the college parking lot
all spaces empty, end of day.
Dark-shrouded sun is free to play
—once it has shrugged clouds off, come out—
across the paved expanse with light
shot silver-gray. And, beyond that,
stored in that sun, enough éclat
to catch a perched hawk in the bright.
The beam glows orange red across
the hawk’s breast, where it’s taloned still,
serene, not moving one lone quill.
Atop a lamppost, sunset gloss
highlighting individual plumes,
it peers for game in all these glooms.
The least grass-shiver’s a dead loss
for the unwary creature snapped
up in the beak, transfixed, enrapt
at one pounce in the deadly claws.
But that’s not come to pass this instant:
motionless of body, hawk’s
unstatuesque work is to clock
by swift head-swivels all the distant
grass and ground for signs. I let
my gaze go soft, leave bird alone;
eyes focus on the earthen tones,
greenbelt hues. Into my glance-net
saunters an iridescent shape.
A turkey pecks and pokes the ground,
so diligent he makes no sound
albeit paved & unpaved landscape
is quick to echo. Lumbering,
he could be a ring-fenced denizen,
rough customer, rank citizen:
Shakespeare’s disdain, ye old groundling.
And as black night starts to disrobe
of sunset gauze, loft-seated lords
and lowlifes gather, sticks and swords:
lamplight’s shadow-doubling probe
turns parking lot the world’s great Globe.
As if to outdo the skyward shire,
through sundown darts a hummingbird,
head, neck, and gorget fiercely girt
in coppery red…a Muse of fire…?  

FOR W.S. MERWIN (1927-2019)

who never lived not quite to see this week’s
New Yorker article bringing a South African painter
to attention the way his artworks draw light
attentive to his patient work of unearthing
the word unearthing is two parts the same as
unearthly but then you surely knew the painter
also a poet and his wife a poet you were all your life
even before the cry within you we call vocation engaged

in one work with that couple and with all who perform
elegy that burial which is also a resummoning of
the gone life to move again forward edging again
almost into light

                You held inside you reservation
concern for what you must have thought error in lives
lives such as Pound Berryman Plath Hughes
yet knew respect and reverence dwelled in you all
the while never unaware their ways were never yours

you took it upon you to restore ground others
maniacally tilled yield upon yield for that swelling
cylinder whose tang and sweet liquidity
intricately chambered held a warning it may
never have meant but you chose to heed

arrowed as it was in a skin of spines
you who knew this mania to cultivate
solely for human use yet one more error
you who believed it right never to distort
nor exaggerate not even in metaphor


(the painter, also a poet, and his wife, a poet = Peter Sacks and Jorie Graham)


Today’s LittleNip:

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.



Our thanks to Tom Goff, that kindler of poetic fire whose work shimmers with rhymes—both end-rhymes and internal! Head over to Sac. Poetry Center tonight, 6pm, to polish your own poetry at the MarieWriters Generative Writing Workshop! And 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, celebrating the Muses of Fire; may they ignite our poetry!

 (Nothing like an old flame….)

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.