Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Waiting in Line for the Roller Coaster

—Poetry and Art by Norman J. Olson, Maplewood, MN

walking down Freemont Street at 7 a.m.

on this cold February morning…  the gray
floor looks deader than the corpse
of the moon…  only me and
a Japanese tourist walk between
the pathetic blinking lights
of washed-out casinos…

a beggar in a power wheelchair looks
like a bundle of rags with a rattling cup…

a crippled pigeon scrabbles
across the gray floor,
limping like all the
in the history of the universe…

flying to Las Vegas via Salt Lake City
of course in February,
it is cold at MSP… 
nonchalant ramp workers
in coveralls and
face masks toss bags on
the conveyor…  the wing of
the big 757, broad as a football
field, painted gray…  slants toward
a gray sky…

soon the power of thrust kicks in and we
are rolling fast down the runway
until suddenly the bumps stop and we
are airborne…  South Minneapolis
becomes neat triangles, then Richfield
and the vast jagged lake, Minnetonka
where the rich people live…  I can
see the roofs of their mansions…

soupy clouds skip past and then we are
one with the brittle, sun-bright sky…

later, we come in over the
Great Salt Lake…  over
white mounds of snowy mountains
almost too bright to see
through the plastic
windows…  and over
empty highways
like shoelaces
dropped on the snowy city…

in the Museo del Prado

I saw an El Greco man
in the museum today, dangling
I saw pictures of flying
gods swarming like all the monkeys
of Oz…  pictures of
in gilt frames
on guilty walls…  genocidal nazis, yes, but
for all of that, tough sons of bitches,
in gray-painted grieves reflecting
specks of
16th-Century light…  imagine that light
hopping like a rabbit down mullioned halls,
through vast webs
of empty and black-painted space…

a woman with a face like a seashell
closed a shutter to keep the evening sun from touching
the wall…  imagine…

I heard a voice crying out
in English…  too loud
the echoing galleries…  cursing…
I hoped it was not my voice…
I hoped it was not my bloody hands
tearing at the gray-painted
of light
and time…

St. Augustine at the Mega-Mall

Tiny sticks of light stab through
the leaves
of potted trees, lost in a sea of

St. Augustine (reincarnated as a
skinny girl with chewing gum) is waiting
in line to ride the roller-coaster.

Far away in the sky, above the peaked glass
which is two hundred feet above the floor,
a vee of geese, Canadian honkers is
heading silently south.

I think of the whole scene as a little
mechanical device where you turn the crank
and the roller coaster clatters around
the ceiling, geese silently move in an
undulating vee across the sky and a skinny
girl chews her gum, shuffles along with the
line and contemplates the divine in the mundane.

letter to the future

imagine this planet 2.4 billion
years ago, if time on that
scale has any meaning at all…  was
there a snowball Earth??  a planet covered
with ice and snow…
all the water turned solid
until volcanoes finally put enough
carbon dioxide into the air
to warm things up
a bit…  for 3 or 4 hundred million years
snow and ice
covered the planet, according to
scientists, or, maybe not… they cannot agree,
but whatever happened, we have had both
and ice free poles…  and through it all,
tiny bits of life survived (lucky for us, I guess)…

will we be around for the next glaciation?  will
our home again become snowball Earth…  will humans somehow
survive through the millennia?  well,
the odds are against us…  a meteor or
even a giant volcano could mean the end of us…
not to mention our own
self-destructive militarism and idiocy…
drought, flood and famine are always
just around the corner… our tolerances
of heat and cold
are small…  for much of our brief tenure on this planet
starvation has been our companion, death and disease,
our daily lot…  will that change in the long term,
or are we in a brief golden age of medical miracles

even the scientists and fortune tellers do not know for sure…

so, my children’s children’s children x 2000…  I hope
you survive and if you do, good luck with the


Today’s LittleNip:

in a room at the California Hotel
—Norman J. Olson

the louvered blinds cast
a shadow like horizontal
prison bars
Duchamp’s stairway…

the ventilation system sounds
like a 757 with a broken spring…

I see an old face in
the mirror with gray/green eyes
and cropped
gray hair…  sipping a Diet Coke
that tastes almost exactly
like cooked rubber…


Many thanks and welcome back to Norman Olson, with his fine artwork and also-fine poems from his book,
44 Image Poems (

Tonight, The Big Show in Sacramento will feature poets, comedy and music, 8pm at Celebration Arts, 1717 B St. Admission: $10, but only $5 with this link:
And this just in: On Friday, 5:30-8pm, Cal. Lawyers for the Arts will hold their 12th Annual Artistic License Awards benefit at Sierra 2 Center, 2791 24th St., Sac. The evening’s events include a reception and awards program honoring Supervisor Phil Serna, Royal Chicano Air Force, Daniel Yamshon, Esq., Buck Busfield, and Dr. Sheree Meyer; also featuring music by Jazz Pianist Dave Bass. General admission is $100, but artist-priced tickets are available at $35. Info/reg:

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 and Art!

 Medusa Roller Coaster at Six Flags, Vallejo, CA
—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.