Friday, January 31, 2020

Shifting Pathways

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


A woman sets the supper table
with one place empty.

It may be years before her husband—
her children’s father—crosses the border,
sits down with them to supper.

Some of the kids at school make fun
of her little boy; draw imaginary borders
like lines separating figures in a coloring book.

Dr. King’s dream:
little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of
their skin but by the content of their character.

For now, her babes’ father can’t
come home. It’s very complicated, a legal maze.
Shifting pathways, sudden dead-ends.

She works two jobs, she makes do; keeps
a healthy table. Fresh peaches, tempting as hope. 


They didn’t get here by whim but on foot,
shadows moving under star-light, maybe ducking
out of sight at the growl of approaching vehicles.
They carry what they can—a child
too young to walk; water for crossing a saline
desert, its sand hot enough to cauterize
their soles. No vouchers, no passports, only
their reasons for traveling. The trip unravels
at the border. Can they hear marching
bands on the 4th, grand speeches exhorting
“let Freedom ring”? 


Cold hands in pockets,
I’m walking Main Street’s back-door
cut into bedrock.
So cold! but miner’s lettuce
greens among stone; and—poppies? 


Scant traces those Gold Rush ghosts might leave—
our Downtown still remembering its Past
in this Present that’s moving way too fast.

Traffic on Main Street you wouldn’t believe,
parking spots exhausted, spirits aghast—
scant traces those Gold Rush ghosts might leave
our downtown, still remembering its past

but bound in the Now. No moment’s reprieve.
My dog sniffs crevices for scents amassed
out of time, yesterdays grown dim and vast.
Scant traces those Gold Rush ghosts might leave
our downtown, still remembering its past
in this present that’s moving way too fast. 


On TV news, crowds gathered
at the courthouse steps. Jostling and noise.
But I was headed for a hill. Incense cedar,
red-bark madrone. Wild vines buttressing oaks
in a ravine; fallen trees creating natural
bridges. A searcher leaves the common path.
The hill wholly silent but for skitter
of spotted towhee in the brush. At the heights,
what a view! Somewhere, crowds were
dispersing into city-loud.
Blue sky absorbed the sound. 

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Historic hotel
is haunted, its old brick walls
webbed by leafless vines
deader than ghosts, you’d say—soon
springing back to their green lives.


Thank you, Taylor Graham, for Friday’s fine poems and photos, come of which have to do with our recent Seed of the Week: Through the Back Door of the Castle. Castles and back doors and all that mysterious stuff…

Taylor says she “read ‘Sweet Love’ at the MLK commemoration at Town Hall on the 20th; [Placerville poets] Irene Lipshin and Lara Gularte read poems also. Nice for poetry to have a voice there.”

For up-coming poetry events in our area, scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info—and note that more may be added at the last minute.



It’s time for more contributions from Form Fiddlers! Each Friday for awhile, there will be poems posted here from some of our readers using forms—either ones which were mentioned on Medusa during the previous week, or whatever else floats through the Kitchen and the perpetually stoned mind of Medusa. If these instructions are vague, it's because they're meant to be. Just fiddle around with some forms and get them posted in the Kitchen.

How’s your Welsh? About her poetry forms today, Taylor Graham says that “Close and Far” is a Tawddgyrch Cadwynog (supposedly pronounced TOWD-girch ca-DOY-nog)—another of those tricky Welsh forms with alternate versions; see Also today is “Madrigal”  in Madrigal form (which also has various versions). See

For her "Madrigal" Madrigal, see the post above. Below is a Tawddgyrch Cadwynog:

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
A small boy’s lost
not far from here.
Come searchers near
and tramping far,

dead oak leaves tossed
to make things clear.
Our winter fear.
A dying star.

Last week we talked about the Boketto form, and it lit a fire under Carl Schwartz (Caschwa). He sent us two of them, plus a double one, plus a triple one! Check these out:

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

party boat leaving harbor
brisk wind, crisp air, happiness
heading out to fishing spot
seagulls flying
at exact same pace

this will be a lucky day
for humans and birds alike
lots of fish

* * *


was playing the slot machines
coin in, crank handle, watch spin
the numbers came up for me
Wow! three sevens
a winning combo

real loud bells started ringing
an attendant came over…..
paid ten bucks

* * *


was on my way home from work
right-turn-ready in curb lane
suddenly another car
made a right turn
from suicide lane

across three lanes of traffic
until right across my path
I hit it

other car rolled to its side
driver removed to gurney
complaining of pain in back
the police said
it was not my fault

across three lanes of traffic
until right across my path
I hit it

[In double and triple Bokettos (Boketti?), the second stanza often becomes a refrain.]

* * *


(response to “For Your Safety” by EG Ted Davis, Boise, ID,
Medusa’s Kitchen, 01/27/2020)

The Democratic Experiment
allowed us guns to keep our
slaves in line

then they took the slaves away
to experiment whether
that was fine

the experiment continues
something different
every day

now talk has spawned more talk
about taking our guns
clear away

we are having another election
for Experimenter
In Chief

maybe we’ll find good answers
under the next
turned leaf

And Joseph Nolan has sent us a jaunty rhyming poem about our current Seed of the Week: Peach. (Taylor Graham worked peaches into her Madrigal, too, clever girl.)

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA        
The happy gnome,
Felt well at home,
In the garden
Of sweet-tree peaches.

Sweet they were,
And covered with fur,
Their juices
Ran in trenches.

From out the mouth,
And further south,
Drenching waiting chins,
With sweet sublime,
No word could rhyme,
The sweetness of their drenches!

Happy-oh, the eaters of peaches!
Whose splendor is beyond all reaches!
The sweet dribble down,
Where one’s joy is found,
Underneath the peach tree’s embraces.


Thanks to today’s Form Fiddlers; there’s always more room at the Kitchen table for fiddlers of all sorts!

—Medusa, also known as Peaches ~

 —Mysterious 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.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

As Natural As Breath

—Poems by Ann Wehrman, Sacramento, CA
—Photos by Chris Feldman



spindly strider’s legs balance
slide across lake’s liquid surface
holds himself just above water
teen high on hormones
dancing on balls of his feet
propels forward
leaves far shore in his wake
shadows of his jointed legs
draw black hexagram on silver lake
his walk magic
as natural as breath


I perched on the bus bench, squinting into late afternoon sun
tired and footsore after hours of miscellaneous tasks
ready for a quiet night alone in my small studio
writing, reading, listening to music
hugging my pillow through the night

instead of the bus, a tall, shapely Black woman approached
nicely dressed in clean casual wear and boots
hair and make-up in place
pulling a black cart filled with boxes and bags
in her outstretched hand, a plastic bag
of frozen chicken breasts from the market
Here, can you use some frozen chicken;
I don’t want to throw it away,
she entreated

I answered her straightforwardly
No thanks on the chicken
she went on to explain that she is now homeless
after paying rent for seven years,
because her sister evicted her without notice
public assistance avenues all let her down
and she is done with Sacramento
on her way to put her cart of boxes in storage, then to the hospital
leaving this city for a smaller town
where people might care, her next goal

the bus still had not come
she was still grasping the bag of chicken, partly resting it on the cart
she started to explain why she couldn’t put the chicken—
which she’d never have bought
if she’d known her sister was planning to throw her out—in storage 
I told her that I saw her point
and was sorry about her sister

the bus rolled up, we got on
an elderly lady in a headscarf
surreptitiously handed out pamphlets for her church
one passenger accepted the frozen chicken
we finally reached my stop
sun having tucked under the Earth
sky slowly darkening
as I left the bus, I stopped, squeezed her hand
whispered, Hang in there, good luck!
although she recoiled from my touch, startled

            At Humboldt State University, 1999

the English building’s old bricks exude cold
breath that insinuates into my nose and mouth
fresh paint fails to seal crumbling walls
from corners, memories of blood, urine, vomit
pervade this morning’s nicotine-soaked halls
Queen Dragon’s whisper draws me up steep, winding stairs
and deep within the black hole of her lair
sword drawn, I confront her
then recognize she wears my face, and must defer


Quiet; the quiet of seduction, of heat, of the long, horizontal, burnt-blond, liquid summer sun’s rays flowing, pouring over this small pool, the side pool.  The water here remains cleaner than at the crowded large pool, the trees grow closer, create more shade; one beauty resembles bushes of lilacs but is not, despite blossoms that converge into dangling lavender cones, like stamens bearing their rich yellow pollen, but the color of lilacs.

A young black couple, lovely, silent in what seems post-or pre-coital communion, tender with each other, test the water.  I encourage her, “Come in, it’s warm,” and it is—pristine, glistening.  They smile, assured, tolerant of me, but in truth oblivious, bound within their own dance, close, touching each other lightly.  Besides us three, only a pair of young boys.

This pool’s solitude, tucked as it is into our apartment’s quiet corner, contrasts with the larger pool that rocks and cranks with hilarity, barbeque, residents’ hard-edged, late-Sunday desperation to release, to connect; families grab what they can, too loud, too many to make room for my determined twenty laps, my glorious breathing and all-over stretching, underwater gliding—like them, I need to release. 

At first, I crawl fast, hard, this smaller pool’s length in two breaths; then tiring already, switch to side, an easy stroke for me; then flip onto my back, extending my arms their full scope around my head like making snow angels in water, legs a slow mirror, back arched; I glide and float.

Rolling over for another lap of crawl, drinking in the late breeze, a turtle dove’s cooing, the flickering sun, I glide over the two boys, who, like minnows, dart past each other underwater, perpendicular to me.  After a few laps like this, and after one boy stops in front of me, so that I must pause and wait; I am sad but sure of their pre-adolescent voyeurism, whatever that might mean towards this middle-aged swimmer, solitary in my one-piece, blue tank.  One boy complains, “I can’t see, under there,” and I just know.  I look at them hard, make sure they understand I’m on to them.

My body craving the missed laps, the challenge for heart and breath, I steer to the pool’s edge and paddle around, reluctant to leave the few laps un-swum, the lilac trees, white sun and blue breeze.  Slipping from the water, I grab sandals and towel, push through the black iron gate and pad back to my building, caught between the fullness of my unarticulated passion and my hard-won, knife-edged refusal to be an object of lust and scorn.


ceiling fan whirs, circles
wafts air, cools naked shoulders
sweat-soaked ropes
of hair pinned up

glasses slip, I sink within
three AM, silent outside
lowered blinds, windows open

Today’s LittleNip:

—Ann Wehrman

a singular subject
takes a singular verb
take me, I am singular
ripe like spring’s glistening
first plum

a subject must take a verb—
without verbs,
subjects just dance in the wind
like laundry drying on a line
whip-snapping fresh in the sun

take me and run
thought and motion as one


Our thanks to Ann Wehrman and Chris Feldman for today’s fine posting!

Drop in to Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe and Juice Bar tonight, 8pm, for Ike Torres Live, plus open mic. That’s 1414 16th St. in Sacramento. 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 poetry (and poets) every day of the week!

 Caveperson Poetry Reading

 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 29, 2020

Corrie And Her Jersey

—Poems by Kimberly Bolton, Jefferson City, MO
—Anonymous Photos


It ain’t nothin’ but a wide spot in the road.
Couldn’t find it if you was to look for it.
If you’re out drivin’ around these parts,
and happen to come through say at fifty
miles per, and blink your eyes, well, you’ve
missed it.

Still, it’s a pretty lil’ place.
Always was, no matter the time of year.

Ain’t hard to find if you growed up out
there, mind you.

Even if you moved away—and lots of folks
did after a while—

And even if you wasn’t to come back for
forty years or so,

You still might could find the old home
place, just by followin’ the dirt roads in your

City folks, now, out takin’ a jaunt in the
countryside to see how the other half lives,
well, they’d have a hard time locatin’ it.

They just might run into the place by
accident, sure, but they won’t find it any
other way, and that’s all there is to it.

I ‘spect that’s how the first pioneers outta
Tennessee and the Carolinas found the place
to begin with, by accident.

They come through the Cumberland Gap,
most of ‘em, in their covered wagons and

Came on out here to Missouri and kept
travelin’ westward, til they come down
through the foothills and into the open

Wasn’t lookin’ for it, I’ll wager.
Probably wouldn’t have found it if they had

but it’s where they decided to call home.


The first time she came to this little shot-gun shanty
She was already in the family way.
Harry carried her across the threshold more for custom’s sake
Than wedded bliss.

He set her on her feet and they both got to work,
Believing in something back then.

Over the years, Harry plowed the landscape of her body
Same way he plowed those fields out there, with due diligence
And no emotion to spare.

It got so Corrie resigned herself to the sound of his denim overalls
Hitting the floor beside the bed at night.
She knew by next morning she’d be pregnant again.

Even so, they still believed in something, though that belief began to waver
On the horizon because there was always another horizon behind that one and
Another beyond that.
And what happiness bloomed now and again, desperation was always at the calyx of it.

They both kept at their marriage the way they kept at the land,
Out of sheer contrariness.
Harry out in the fields reaping what he wasn’t taking to market,
Just to feed the hunger that had them by the belly.   
Corrie stabbing at the dirt with her hoe, like she was stabbing at the hardship
That was their life.

They lived, it seemed, by the devil’s own luck,
And it was getting harder to believe any good could come out of
This hardscrabble life,
As the cradle filled each year, the rocking chair wearing a groove
Into the sagging floor.

Corrie remembered how just that afternoon,
Standing at the window above the kitchen sink,
She watched Harry come in from the fields,
All raw-boned and long shadow,
Making slow progress toward the house, oblivious to the grasshoppers
Jumping out of his way.

His broad shoulders bowed under the ache of the sun,
His lantern-jawed visage hidden by the wide bill of his cap.
And watching him, Corrie felt a cold finger trace down her spine,
Making her shiver despite the heat and humidity.

Someone walking over her grave?
Or his?

This was the thing she believed in now after all these years of marriage:
Life itself was a near-death experience.


It was that Jersey cow what saved
her and them younguns.
Corrie bought it in ‘thirty-nine,
right after ole Harry done hisself in,
and that insurance man from over in
Boonville doctored the form so she
could git the insurance money.
Six hundred dollars was what she got
to buy the farm and that cow with.

‘Course, she had them chickens too,
what the bank done forgot to take
along with the rest-a the stock.
Harry wasn’t even cold in the ground
before they come ‘round collectin’
what was owed.
Corrie May didn’t bother to remind
‘em neither, about them chickens.
Her boy, Charlie, had done raised
them pullets hisself, and it woulda
broke his heart to give ‘em up.

So, she packed up Charlie, and the
them two older boys and that girl of
and they lit out for Cotton.
Corrie May bought the cow same
time she laid down money for that
broke down ole farmhouse up Maxey
Pert near took ever penny of that six
hundred dollars.
But the smartest thing she did was
buy that cow.
Aw, we all though it a durn shame
what Harry done,
leavin’ her and them kids to go
through it by theirselves,
but it was the Depression, and poor
was poor.
Aint no rich folk around Cotton, not
then and not now.
Poor was poor, as I said, and we
didn’t know no different.
Times was hard, and more’n one
man left his family stranded
one way or t’other.

But we all knew Corrie May. She
was one of our own.

She was a right smart woman, if I do
say so myself.
Bought that Jersey cow so there was
milk for the girl, and butter and
cottage cheese.
She put the cream in a crock and
would hitch a ride up to Tipton to
sell to the cream’ry,
just to have a little money to put by.

She could of done better’n ole Harry,
and that’s the truth of it.
Ever-body said so.
Whatever else you might say about
her, the woman had gumption
when it come to takin’ care of her

Yessirree-bob, it was that Jersey cow
what saved her.


Kimberly A. Bolton’s first book of poetry, entitled Folk, was published independently in 2018. She was also one of 43 poets worldwide to be published in PHS’s annual Yom Hashoah issue for 2019. Her narrative poem, "The Tale of Mercy Periwinkle", was presented as a theatrical production in the autumn of 2019. She lives in Jefferson City, Missouri near her beloved Missouri River. These poems are included in her independently published book, Folk.

Welcome to the Kitchen, Kimberly, and don’t be a stranger!

For up-coming poetry events in our area, scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

—Medusa, celebrating the creatures that save us ~

—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 28, 2020

The Reliability of Doorways

The Castle's Moon
—Poems and Original Art by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


These trees stand burning from the center
with a molten glow,

we arrive, time-frozen,
from roads that dwindle here.

The legend is that one has to approach
from myth or superstition—

everything is circular—even
the familiar singing of the fire-birds 

that exist here.
We are not to enter, though enticement

is everywhere—the soft wavering—
the clouds that emulate,

as if to argue this, two white trees
stand at the entrance,

stripped of their leaves;
they are the sacrifice—

untouched by any knowing :
that must remain a question.

 The Door Locks


Through a bramble of desire
the life enters and absorbs
the shape and color of the need.

The distance through, lengthens.
Space separates and closes.
The air breathes through.

There is more to be. The question forms.
The bramble feels the passage of the other.
Force against force.

There is a parting as something yields
and something resists. From the outside,
all is the same and feels no effect from

this common tableau . . .
where a bramble of desire enters
and absorbs the shape and color of the need.    

 The Escape of the Dream


It was the hollow world we entered
with our dream of entering,
with our knowledge of being there

It was the far room at the end
with its wavering wall
that held firm for our entrance

It was the vast potential—:
we could paint everything with our minds
mountains,   sky,   earth,   our own seas,

we could invent eternity.
How eager we were,
pouring over imagined blueprints.

Oh, the birds we created,
the marvelous jungles and cities,
children of no cruelty

The weather was divided into seasons
with no extremes.
We balanced everything

to perfection . . . and then,
we left it there . . . slipped out
of our world before it knew of us.



The Being is here at the entrance
of the promise of the dream
that repeats me again and again
when I ask my question.

The need is large,
then narrow—
I am waking
into the same old words
I cannot get right—
My poor soul is so tired
of my burrowing—
old and less than a shadow.

My dream dreams without me.
I know this—for I look through
the two mirrors
and see myself everywhere.

 The Old Maps

Back in some beginning,

so far away—the dignity of the word—
the departing into some unknown factor,

the felicity to love and its arguments—
the one staying, feeling the same meaning

of the word—with its forever—its never,
or its someday. The wave, the wave back.

What need provides is a language to use,
or misuse, albeit foreign to someone—

somewhere—some other being of place,
a round far place—or nowhere 

but in mind, in curiosity. There is always
somewhere else, or here, that is meant

to protect—for the love—for the known,
which begins another word.

(After “Going” by W.S. Merwin)


Parodied after Animal Farm by George Orwell

Another image on another city wall,
huge and gray
and slightly breathing there,
as if alive—not advertised.

Who or what is there? 
Is it a she?    A he?      
A beast or robot
from somewhere mythical?

Lights flash it back and forth—
almost alive—almost real—almost
what we need now to believe in.
And now it covers

wall after wall of the city—
bearing the same public notice,
in our heads now—even the sky—
even the sky—and all of everywhere.

 The Exit


these levels of hills
beyond which reach the sky
and my yen for distance
one blue upon the other
shades of distance recede into the
pale-to-darkening sky
the hills come to me now with their
overlapping tones and shadows
old twilight hills that I am watching
a thin line of river flows up the mountain
leaving behind a small lake
upon which a small island is floating

 The Wooden Door


Through doorway after doorway
life enters—lingers—continues—

the sunlight slanting over the floor
like a path inviting you through,

here and there a chair on the way—
empty, or filled with someone reading,

or sewing, or only resting—testing
an impulse to simply let time pass

while the hours change the look
of time, and the slow dust

settles, and a clock ticks softly
to assert its dependability.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Leave us alone.
We are delicate and alive.
We mean only to survive.

We are many, as we are one.
Together, we are reef.
We make the sea beautiful.

Divers may admire us,
but not to touch.
We are fragile and alive.

Leave us alone.


Thank you, Joyce Odam, for your artwork and your talk of doorways and where they might—or might not—lead, a conversation about our Seed of the Week: Through the Back Door of the Castle.

Our new Seed of the Week is Peach. It’s a fruit, a color, many foods (jam, syrup, pie, cobbler, ice cream), a make-up color (and fashions) and a stage in life ("peach fuzz"). Also a label (“she’s a peach”, "peachy-keen”), a name (“Peaches”), a book title (“James and the Giant Peach”), and of course that good ol’ Georgia Peach. 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. Well, isn’t that just peachy? (Hey—you wanna peach of me?)

For up-coming poetry events in our area, scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

—Medusa, wishing you a peachy-keen day!


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 27, 2020

No Drooling, Please

American River
—Photo by Caschwa, Sacramento, CA


(response to Jame Lee Jobe’s
“flooded roadway” comment,
Medusa’s Kitchen, Dec. 21, 2019) 

This was about 20 years ago when it
was just another daily commute home
from Torrance to Long Beach, but it
wasn’t at all just another day, it was
torrential rains and flooding

so I approached an intersection I had
gone through with no issue every prior
day, and paused to gauge whether the
depth of the water in the middle was in
fact safe to cross

no, not at all

it was easy to conclude this rather
quickly because right there in the middle
of the intersection was a stranded pickup
truck that clearly had a higher suspension
than my little sedan

despite it being so tempting to take the
very much shorter route straight across
the intersection, I was forced to detour
many miles out of my way to get home

I found a bar and grill on my extended
way back that made for a pleasant pit stop,
and telephoned home to explain my delay



when you volunteer again to go
pick up other peoples’ trash at

the beach or the parkway and
both the volume and hideous

nature of discards has grown
since the last time, as if your

noble efforts only cleared the
path for litterers

to litter



 —Photo by Caschwa


only one letter
editors say
is worth 200 voices

there is none better
to brag or sway
our great nation of choices

grift one letter
just take it away
regift it to a swindler

pass on to a debtor
unable to pay
add to the list of Schindler

Hey, ho, the merry-o
jolly and gay
welcome to America

happy two-O two-O
a brand new day
sis-bang-boom, oom pah pah!


once in a while I make a purchase
from a vending machine, and when
I reach for my change, there is
obviously more there than from my
purchase alone,

but I would be ashamed if I let this
define me

finally, a female candidate for
President of the United States wins
the popular vote by a 3 million count,

but we know what happened next

maybe happy moments are only
meant to be enjoyed like a snowflake
on the tongue 

 —Photo by Caschwa

—Michael Ceraolo, S. Euclid, OH
He was a politician hearty
Not of the Anti-Bullshit Party

* * *

He wears his pants way down on his butt
I hope his ass crack does not freeze shut

* * *

He was an exemplar of the dictum,
of which there has been many a victim:
there's very little chance of your being found out
if you sound like you know what you're talking about

* * *

is not anti-intellectual

* * *

You say that
opinions are like assholes:
everybody has one
If that's indeed the case,
then yours are hemorrhoids

* * *

He need not have wondered or worried
about people coming to his funeral
His grave would make the Guiness Record Book
as the world's largest outdoor urinal

* * *

Well, things could always be worse
An adage meant to console,
not a personal challenge
to attempt to make them so

 —Anonymous Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA

—Joseph Nolan

I wrote a poem
Of and for a
Very nice lady
Who is also a poet,
Whose poems I have heard
Her read a number of times,
And she did so quite nicely,
I thought,

But when I mentioned
In my own writings,
How she had moved me,
And she found out
I wrote about her,
She reproved me,
And rebuked me,

Explaining how inappropriate it was
To drool
On the shoe-tops of another, from afar,
And that it was a waste of
Otherwise fine saliva,
And that I should save it
For some other lady
Who might appreciate it more.


—Joseph Nolan

Is poetry
More flower or weed?
Filled with inner beauty
Or overgrowing need?

Is it just kvetching?
Strange literary breed,
Out of beat, rhyme, and meter,
Just another theater,
To show how much we bleed?


—Joseph Nolan

To be able to fly
In a dream,
One needs a heart
That somehow sings.

To judge whether
You can make it
Over the telephone wires,
With a single, floating flight,
You must check
The purring motor
In your chest
To see if it is
Humming, afire,
To make a night-time
Jumping right.

It’s not always the case
That you can fully trace
Your course in a night-time flight
From the murmuring in your chest.

Sometimes, you can’t be sure,
And stepping off,
Sometimes, land short
Of where you planned to go
When you run out of heart. 

 —Anonymous Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Joseph Nolan
I make myself feel taller
By cutting off friends’s legs,
Just how this might better me,
A harder question begs:
What is wrong with me?
What is it I have to prove?

Lovers get a twisted arm
Or lump to wear
Beneath their hair
Or some discoloration
At which others stare.

It really is embarrassing
To be a friend of mine.
Best to call a taxi
And have another wine.


—Joseph Nolan

Some believe
The world is evolving;
Others, that it’s
Just revolving.

Some see political revolution
As evolution.

Others feel involution
Offers no solution
And that the world
Is lost in space.

If we had a picture
Of the Milky Way Galaxy,
And wanted to find the Earth,
We would need a large-drawn arrow
To help us connect the dot
We see on the map
With our field of vision,
Because it’s
Oh-so small!
Barely noticeable, at all.

But a cosmos
Always cares
And draws its arrows
Here and there
To help us
Know a way

To uncover, discover, recover,
A place for you and me.


Today’s LittleNip:

—EG Ted Davis, Boise, ID

Shall we arise one morning;
to a hammering of
fists upon our doors,
to commanding voices
demanding the guns we own...

stating it is for
our own protection.


Many thanks to our contributors today for starting off our week in fine fashion, and welcome to newcomer EG Ted Davis, all the way from Boise! Poetry in our area begins tonight with Poetry in Motion poetry read-around in the Placerville Sr. Center lobby, 6-7pm, Spring St. in Placerville. Then in Sacramento at 7:30pm, there will be a reading at Sac. Poetry Center featuring Camille Norton, Barbara Swift Brauer, and open mic.

On Thursday at 8pm, Ike Torres will be featured at Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe & Juice Bar, 1414 16th St. in Sacramento. Lots of open mic, too, but get there early to sign up. 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.

Interested in workshops? Check the green box at the right for a listing of local ones which will be held this week and/or later. And here are some annual doozies coming up:

•••Thurs. (2/13), 9am-10pm: San Francisco Writers Poetry Summit, hosted as part of the 4-day SF Writers Conference. A day to focus on writing/publishing of poetry. Hyatt Regency SF, 5 Embarcadero Ctr., SF. Tickets ($195) and info (including speakers) at (scroll down to the Poetry Summit box).

•••Sat. (4/18), 9am-5pm: 2020 Sierra Poetry Festival w/readings, workshops, music—preceded by a month of pop-up performance events. Miners Foundry Cultural Center, 325 Spring St., Nevada City, hosted by Nevada County Arts Council & Miners Foundry Cultural Center. Info:

•••Sat. (4/4/2020): Sac. Poetry Center’s Spring Writing Conference, 25th & R Sts., Sac. More info to come…

—Medusa, hoping to “…uncover, discover, recover/A place for you and me.”

 Morning Yoga, Anyone?
—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.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Year of the Rat

Chrysanthemum Flower Tea
—Anonymous Photo

—Lynda Hull (1954-1984)

The dragon is in the street dancing beneath windows
   pasted with colored squares, past the man
who leans into the phone booth’s red pagoda, past
   crates of doves and roosters veiled

until dawn. Fireworks complicate the streets
   with sulphur as people exchange gold
and silver foil, money to appease ghosts
   who linger, needy even in death. I am

almost invisible. Hands could pass through me
   effortlessly. This is how it is
to be so alien that my name falls from me, grows
   untranslatable as the shop signs,

the odors of ginseng and black fungus that idle
   in the stairwell, the corridor where
the doors are blue months ajar. Hands
   gesture in the smoke, the partial moon

of a face. For hours the soft numeric
   click of mah-jongg tiles drifts
down the hallway where languid Mai trails
   her musk of sex and narcotics.

There is no grief in this, only the old year
   consuming itself, the door knob blazing
in my hand beneath the lightbulb’s electric jewel.
   Between voices and fireworks

wind works bricks to dust—hush, hush—
   no language I want to learn. I can touch
the sill worn by hands I’ll never know
   in this room with its low table

where I brew chrysanthemum tea. The sign
   for Jade Palace sheds green corollas
on the floor. It’s dangerous to stand here
   in the chastening glow, darkening

my eyes in the mirror with the gulf of the rest
   of my life widening away from me, waiting
for the man I married to pass beneath
   the sign of the building, to climb

the five flights and say his Chinese name for me.
   He’ll rise up out of the puzzling streets
where men pass bottles of rice liquor, where
   the new year is liquor, the black bottle

the whole district is waiting for, like
   some benevolent arrest—the moment
when men and women turn to each other and dissolve
   each bad bet, every sly mischance,

the dalliance of hands. They turn in lamplight
   the way I turn now. Wai Min is in the doorway.
He brings fish. He brings lotus root.
   He brings me ghost money.

(prev. pub. in Poetry, 1986)


—Medusa, wishing you Gung Hay Fat Choy!

For more about Lynda Hull, see
For instructions for making chrysanthemum flower tea, go to

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.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Beams of Light

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

Winter solstice, night slowly drove
Up the street in an old Toyota Corolla, 

And parked in front of my house. 

My wife said, "It gets dark early this time of year."
I stole a glance from behind the curtain; 
Night was just sitting there in the car. 

The engine was idling and I could hear
That the car radio was on. 

There was the small light of a cigarette. 

"Yes," I told her, “it looks like another long night."

The strong north wind has me on the move. Nothing to tether me, I am one speck of pollen lost in the wild strength of the sky, in the flex of muscle that lives above creation. Is there danger in this life? Certainly, but also there is a weight of joy that comes from the freedom of letting go, from simply following the wind.


Your skin, your flesh; this is a shell, and your mind is shell also. You are the earth, the sky, the water. You live in the universe, but also know that the universe lives in you. One and again. One and again. Do you wish to live? Then live.

We live in these houses of flesh and bone,
Walled in by the soul of our own existence,
Roofed by that love which we can create
With our own hearts, our own experience.
In time, we leave these houses and move
Into the atoms of some other far moment,
A moment beyond our measure and sight,
As if we only continue on in the passing
Of one second into the next, in between
The breaths of our different thoughts.
Here, we are men, we are women.
There, we are the beams of light sent
From one heaven to another heaven,
And there are millions of these heavens,
And the beams of light illuminate the road
That our souls walk through space. 

Writing prose poems as an act of resistance. Counting and naming the clouds as an act of defiance. Telling children to believe their own eyes as an act of opposition to those who rule. Exiting through the entrance as an act of revolution. Choosing a new flag as a way to stand against the fascists supporting the old flag. Painting the creek in flamboyant colors as an act of artistic freedom. Refusing to accept any rules that are not self-made, self-imposed, and self-nurtured as an act of self-love. Writing prose poems as an act of resistance. Always resisting.

Let me live content without a lot of money. Let me be a tool to help replenish the earth and heal its wounds. Let me share of myself whenever there is need without seeking applause or reward. And let me embrace you in friendship with open arms. This I do pray.


Today’s LittleNip:
The tail end of the afternoon, resting in the shade. The cicadas boldly announce that evening is on the way. Preach, my little friends.

—James Lee Jobe


Our thanks to James Lee Jobe for the beams of light that are his poetry this morning!

Lots of poetry events in our area today: from 9:30am to 1pm, Writers on the Air features Michele Drier plus open mic at Sac. Poetry Center, hosted by Todd Boyd. Also this morning, from 9:30-11am, there will be a group discussion of The Beats at Identity Coffees on 28th St. in Sac., hosted by Frank Graham.

This afternoon at 2pm, Creative Minds spoken word gathering of artists of all genres meets at GOS Art Gallery on Del Paso Blvd. in Sacramento. And from 2-4pm in Placerville, Poetic License poetry read-around meets at the Placerville Sr. Center on Spring St. The suggested topic for this month is "excite”, but other subjects are also welcome. 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, celebrating, celebrating!

 “Preach, my little friends.”
—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, January 24, 2020

Living Forever

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Gray concrete underpass wall beneath Hwy 50—overnight appeared a dragon spray-painted in red, white, and blue, undulating under speeding traffic; the legend: “Tribute to El Dorado’s Asian History.” Dragon elemental, whisper-skimming waves and foam, sky and sea under four lanes divided. Newspaper reported people stopping to admire, to capture the art with their cell phones. By Tuesday it was gone, worried-away; over-painted gray, the fate of graffiti.

a dragon lives for-
ever—cyberspace, memory,


A small boy’s missing from the town.
You hear about it every night;
the TV news keeps coming down
with details, everybody’s fright
about the neighborhood, the talk
says: it’s not safe to take a walk.

You hear about it every night
and wake to hear if he’s been found
and everything’s turned out alright.
But still they’re covering the ground
on foot and from the air: still lost
as fallen leaves on storm-winds tossed,

the TV news keeps coming down.
There was a boy, decades ago—
dark-bright eyes, hair disheveled brown,
alive with all his life to go—
Our earth is such a worry-ground,
each hillock, hollow, grassy mound

of details—everybody’s fright—
unseen. What might be hidden there,
kept secret from the morning’s light?
A boy has vanished into air.
We searched the woods, a vacant yard.
Beyond the fence, a dog on guard.

About the neighborhood the talk
was Billy, Larry, now Ramon.
(Above the field, a hunting hawk.)
Each one of them left us. Alone.
The night is wild and dark,
as, at each dawn, the meadowlark

says. It’s not safe to take a walk,
I’ve heard. Pick flowers for the grave,
you leave many a broken stalk.
We’re losing as we try to save.
And yet we search, because we must,
and look for footprints in the dust. 


Arched for a vaulting roof,
one dollhouse wall still standing—
girl just five years old. 


At edge of switchback
two crows in a barren tree—
where to go but up? 


Old man and small girl
on ATV—they both wave
at you, a stranger
and you wave back, you’re smiling
all the way to town. 


She worries about things. Glass breaks. Wood splinters. Ceramics crack and chip. She likes plastic, it lasts forever. Strong but durable, lightweight, weather-resistant. It keeps its shape. Dozens of plastic containers nest together in a stack, take up hardly any space. Her pantry’s full of plastic. But what she hears on TV causes worry. Don’t dare use plastic in the microwave. Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic. A thousand years to decompose in landfills. Microplastics in the ocean, in Arctic snow. It’s a caution,

more worrisome than
rats in the pantry, plastic
survives forever 

Today’s LittleNip:
—Taylor Graham

The old oak scatters
uncounted acorns—its faith
in next spring’s rebirth. 


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for fun forms making lovely poems this morning, plus photos riding alongside. About today’s poems, she says, “’Remembering’ is a Trenta-sei (invented by [John] Ciardi). Otherwise, just Haibun, Haiku, Tanka this time.” She has also brought in Worry, our Seed of the Week last week.

For more about the Trenta-Sei, go to For more about the Tanka, see


It’s time for more contributions from Form Fiddlers! Each Friday for awhile, there will be poems posted here from some of our readers using forms—either ones which were mentioned on Medusa during the previous week, or whatever else floats through the Kitchen and the perpetually stoned mind of Medusa. If these instructions are vague, it's because they're meant to be. Just fiddle around with some forms and get them posted in the Kitchen.

This week, Carl Schwartz (Caschwa) has sent us a Tuanortsa (“astronaut” spelled backwards), a Palindromic poem which reads the same from front to back as from back to front. In this case, there is a couplet in the middle before the poem turns itself around. The poem is based on our Seed of the Week: Through the Back Door of the Castle:

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

the proud Bishop
never one for
following all the rules
dropped his pants and
attempted to penetrate
through the back door of the Castle

while the King and Queen slept
Knight came and went

through the back door of the Castle
attempted to penetrate
dropped his pants and
following all the rules
never one for
the proud Bishop

Bravo, CS! Also in the Wordplay Department, Joseph Nolan fiddles with sounds and rhymes, both at the end of poems and in the middle of lines. Good plan; too many end-rhymes can get sing-songy really fast:

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA
On top of
The bottom,
The fresher fruit
Grows rotten,
Its baser base!

Oh! How vanity
Finds its place,
On every, single ladder,
Leaving not a trace
Of humility,
Or grace,
To support the base,
Who live at minimum-wage

* * *

—Joseph Nolan
The inevitability of infinity:
If there were a final boundary
What would lie beyond it?

And what about within?
Does a finite form of infinity
Go on and on,
Deep inside your skin?

The enormity of deformity
As defining characteristic:
Surely a wolf-pack knows
Which beasts run on
And which are easy meat,
For which they can’t be faulted.

They're just like
The blue-light shoppers at K-Mart
Prowling the aisles in search
Of something to take down
From shelves, up-vaulted,
To take home
To consume.
No sin


Thanks to today’s Form Fiddlers, and don’t be shy about bringing other such tasty dishes to the Kitchen!

For up-coming poetry events in our area, scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

—Medusa, celebrating the special sound of every word ~

 —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.