Sunday, May 31, 2020

Time, That Clown

   —Public Domain Photo

—Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell (1887-1964)

BENEATH the flat and paper sky
The sun, a demon's eye,
Glowed through the air, that mask of glass;
All wand'ring sounds that pass

Seemed out of tune, as if the light
Were fiddle-strings pulled tight.
The market-square with spire and bell
Clanged out the hour in Hell;

The busy chatter of the heat
Shrilled like a parakeet;
And shuddering at the noonday light
The dust lay dead and white

As powder on a mummy's face,
Or fawned with simian grace
Round booths with many a hard bright toy
And wooden brittle joy:

The cap and bells of Time the Clown
That, jangling, whistled down
Young cherubs hidden in the guise
Of every bird that flies;

And star-bright masks for youth to wear,
Lest any dream that fare
--Bright pilgrim--past our ken, should see
Hints of Reality.

Upon the sharp-set grass, shrill-green,
Tall trees like rattles lean,
And jangle sharp and dissily;
But when night falls they sign

Till Pierrot moon steals slyly in,
His face more white than sin,
Black-masked, and with cool touch lays bare
Each cherry, plum, and pear.

Then underneath the veiled eyes
Of houses, darkness lies--
Tall houses; like a hopeless prayer
They cleave the sly dumb air.

Blind are those houses, paper-thin
Old shadows hid therein,
With sly and crazy movements creep
Like marionettes, and weep.

Tall windows show Infinity;
And, hard reality,
The candles weep and pry and dance
Like lives mocked at by Chance.

The rooms are vast as Sleep within;
When once I ventured in,
Chill Silence, like a surging sea,
Slowly enveloped me.



For more about Dame Sitwell, 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, May 30, 2020

Joining Hands

—Poetry by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy of James Lee Jobe

The Sacramento Valley shares its beauty in all seasons. It is a January morning and the ethereal beauty of a winter fog lays across the fields, and the earth feels cold to the touch. Looking up, there are shades of gray and silver. Nearby, the sweet twitter of a goldfinch.


I love the dawn and the dusk, the starlight and the moonlight.
 I love the wind and I love the stillness. And I love that which is, and I try to not desire that which isn't. Another day is here, and all I need to do is live it.


We are the warmth of life, of living, the flame of existence, each one of us.
 We are beauty, we are grace, the richness of the field, the blessing of rain and light. And we must use our time well so that this wonder is not wasted. Friends, please join me now in thanks.


Stepping away from my mind for a moment, I explode from all of the love in my body, into thousands of pieces. James' love bits. And there is enough love here for everyone. Come. And bring a mop. I'm willing to share.

A family? Yes. I have one. One son is dead, another is somewhat less than sane. (Something whispers in my ear that I failed them both.) There is a daughter, sober, who also has a daughter; the little one is a delight and commands more magic than the rest of us put together. And my wife still puts up with me. Can you imagine? Married to the most minor of poets! Poor dear.

Family, come and bring the mops! I will pour the soapy water on the floor, the same old floor as always, and together we shall begin to mop.

Let’s meet in the field tonight; you walk in from one side and I will walk in from the other. Come summer, the field will be filled with sunflowers, or maybe tomatoes. Tonight? Just you and me, joining hands. Friends. 

The sound of drums, this journey is at an end. The elders have come to paint my face, and to paint my body, so that I am not naked when I face the light. Now the people begin the chant, and now I take a few steps toward them. Now I am letting go, and there is a feeling of peace.


Today’s LittleNip:

A heavy rain today; every drop holds the grace of a billion lives.


—Medusa, giving gratitude and thanks to James Lee Jobe this morning for bringing, well, Gratitude and Thanks into Medusa’s Kitchen!

 “the grace of a billion lives.”
—Public Domain 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, May 29, 2020

Dewless Morning

—Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA



Red sun-splinter, vein-&-membrane wing, huge eyes focused
on the dead tip of an oleander twig on which you balance,
red as oleander blossom about to open,
mimicking your flame.
What draws you to this dead twig-tip
long lost to red?
You poise and angle your pairs of wings,
tire of me with my iPad,
dart off then return to the twig
and pose—not for me.
You stay, betraying nothing, no curiosity
at me and my lens. You’re live-red twig while oleander
awaits full bloom. You flirt, flit, leave, return again
to balance, red angel on head of the dead,
then fly, taking oleander’s color
with you. 


tiny startle-rockets launching all at once
beside the well-house.

At first of dewless-morning,
after my stint of weed-eating I find you
wearing Nature’s dark mask,

socially-distant on the leaf,
a verdant blade
I missed in mowing.

You’re a caution
against my whip-string
upsetting dawn’s thin peace.

You, whose pale green I wore
at Japanese festival, bowing to wind
in wide sleeves,

bowing to blue-oak shade
and beyond, bowing at midday
to unanswerable sun.


“Work is the scythe of time,” Napoleon said but maybe not standing knee-high in annual grasses going dry and flammable, in need of mowing. Was he thinking of The Grim Reaper in a field of battle? Or some peasant harvest-song? “Nothing runs like a Deere,” they say. I have no Deere, but

rip-gut brome, foxtail
and wild oat shoving up lush
and heady as spring

Time’s scythe rusts in our shed. I fit my hands to its S-curve snath. Imagine peasant-soldiers ripping ripe grain with scythes, women with sickles, children gathering fallen seed-heads. Their songs mimic the swing of grass whispering to grasses. Swing and dip of blade on its snath, a dance of S’s. Knee-high green falls in tangles with purple vetch; dies to rise again from seed—

soundless in shadow
wild deer run—a scythe sighs through
silent grass at noon 


Golden field flowers—
look close, is it butterweed?
no, an imposter
invading garden—vibrant,
jungle-tough, tiger whiskers.


Brittling foxtails grow
over rusty barb-wire coils
leaned against an oak—
man’s incursions on the wild
where no fence remains.

And here, red-purple
snakeweed among spring grasses,
twining without barbs. 


News alerts, sabotage or incompetence,
another mass shooting; betrayals of
trust; press conferences mixing reality
with fantasy. Too many deaths by number
without a solitary walk among
tombstones scribed and weathered.
Have we been sheltering with ourselves
too long? The hue of faces
on the screen’s gone pasty, pekid,
out of style waiting for
the salons to open. Flick off the TV,
let’s walk outside. Sun is shining.
Grass in need of mowing is blowing
in the breeze. At ease.
We’ve got a long way to go. 

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

That socially-distant girl, Mingy,
wore fashion both threadbare and dingy,
thus no one would ask
her to take off her mask
when the world was again gay and bingy. 


Good morning and thank you to Taylor Graham as she sings to us of late spring in the foothills, and her never-ending task of trying to keep those hardy weeds (snakeweed!) from taking over the property that she and Hatch call theirs. “… a scythe sighs through silent grass at noon”. Can’t you just hear the scythe?

Don’t forget James Lee Jobe’s online reading on Facebook tonight at 7:30pm, featuring some Tomas Tranströmer (, or Nick LeForce’s workshop on Zoom at 4pm. Reg. in advance for the latter at After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. (If you have registered before, use the same link.)

For other upcoming poetry readings and workshops available online while we stay at home, 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. In other words:

   A Frenzy of Forms for

Thanks, Caschwa (Carl Schwartz of Sacramento), for this wee-est of poems about my hunt/peck typing these days, due to my fractured arm. But at least our poetry hive continues to produce sweet poetry with its usual flurry. Tom Goff, for example, has sent us a Paradelle (

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

The moon looms large as the crater drifts across.
The moon looms large as the crater drifts across.
A lavender sky yields young raccoons in the oak-branch crook.
A lavender sky yields young raccoons in the oak-branch crook.
The moon yields raccoons. In an oak-branch crook,
across lavender looms, a crater drifts, large as the young sky.

What we thought only great blue herons knew here.
What we thought only great blue herons knew here.
Drought-dry grasses, star thistle, heat shivers and high dust.
Drought-dry grasses, star thistle, heat shivers and high dust.
Great blue shivers, high star-and-thistle dust here.
Drought-dry herons knew what grasses we only thought.

Then a crone, all knucklebones, branch-reaching us.
Then a crone, all knucklebones, branch-reaching us.
Wild figs dangling, none too green to tongue-test, to devour.
Wild figs dangling, none too green to tongue-test, to devour.
Crone, tongue-test all branch-reaching, dangling
green, us none too wild: devour figs to knucklebones.

All, only none, across drought-dry star thistle, crook large
what the grasses knew, branch-reaching here, shivers
us to devour. An oak-branch, dangling in, yields the dust-high figs.
We tongue-test a lavender all-crater heat. The great green yields
            thought raccoons.
As the sky too drifts, then looms the crone moon. Young
            blue herons, wild, all knucklebones.

(prev. pub. in Poetry Now and, I believe, Medusa's Kitchen)

The Crone, All Knucklebones . . . 


Caschwa has tackled the Ghazal this week. Here are a few links for that tricky form:

MOMENTS (It’s a Ghazal puzzle!)
supersonic booms above, tectonic plates
shifting bombastically below

four generations attended the wedding
meaning statistically hollow

we moved both Heaven and Earth to consummate
love that would drastically mellow

my feelings for your touch grow stronger daily
you say sarcastically hello

Pier 39, the alpha, male sea lions
join to fantastically bellow

back home, big on small talk and lying in bed
Caschwa from Italy, well, no 



Also from Carl, some Haibuns:


way, way back in ancient times
before there were databases or
instantaneous computer retrieval
of digital bytes, people actually
stored information about what they
saw or heard in their own memory

one nanosecond
reach into the canopy
and rain the results

a large, ugly bug was on the
bathroom floor, and I, the palace
guard, was called upon for duty
grabbing one panel of paper towel,
swooping down with immense
force and slaying the rascal

our survival mode
has us killing creatures all,
no ceremony

I used to eat out a lot and got
terrific service from one young,
blonde waitress with a pony tail
held in place by a bright, red,
ribbon, who would place my usual
order when she saw me parking
my bicycle; by rights, I should owe
her a fortune in tips

forest fruits from hard-
working trees nourished by the
sun, take all you can

The "large, ugly bug on the bathroom floor . . ." 


And here are some treasures that are, as Carl says, “Aiming to portray some nature in my Haikus”:


a bearded iris
doesn’t wait for an invite
to spring up and shine

night blooming jasmine
competes with the decadent
chocolate truffles

coffee, freshly brewed
asking for a larger mug
to dunk the donuts

berries covered with
straw to shield them overnight
ripe, ready to pick

plum tree branches rise
like castle spires reaching for
white, magical clouds

ants hard at work to
carry away discarded
matter of all kinds

squirrels planting their
pecans in the raised bed soil
patiently waiting


Thanks again to all of today’s Fine and Fancy Form Fiddlers on Medusa's 15th birthday! And don’t you be shy—send us your renditions of any forms and join us on Friday’s Medusa’s Kitchen! Those Snakes are always peckish, especially on their birthday…

—Medusa, that troubled teen . . .

 Happy Birthday, Medusa!
—Public Domain Cartoon

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, May 28, 2020


—Poems by Carol Louise Moon, Placerville, CA
—Photo Series entitled “Charmed, I’m Sure!” 

by Carol Louise Moon


I make a habit to carry
a whisk broom when I’m out
cycling. Broken glass, wet
leaves—you don’t know what
you’ll find needs sweeping
to create a smoother path.

Rains are coming, gonna wash
debris right onto this path
soon. I make a habit of using
a whisk broom out on the road
cycling, also on car carpeting.
Mom’s been gone thirty years,

You don’t know what you’ll
find needs sweeping: memories
of her cancer treatments. . . the
grief. Talking to my deceased
mother isn’t easy, but I make
it a habit.

Carrying a whisk broom in my
backpack’s a good idea;
dwelling so much on the end
of Mom’s life isn’t such a good

I don’t know why I find myself
sweeping away those years
before her cancer diagnosis—
an announcement that time is
quickly ticking. Out of habit,
I carry a whisk broom for all
the life issues need sweeping.

(prev. pub. in Peeking Cat Poetry, #22)


They say our sun is one big star.
That’s hard to believe because
we’re looking at it up close—
well, closer than other stars.

So, instead of twinkling, the sun
looks to be a lamp without a cord.
Don’t stare at the sun and hurt
your eyes, Mom would say.
Looking directly at the sun could
make a person see stars. Just
star-gaze through a telescope
the more distant stars—

sort of the way you spend all day
looking through those John
Wayne movie star magazines,
instead of time with little brother
who looks left-out-of-all-the-star-
gazing and big-kid fun things.
Looks like he’s got you on a
pedestal—you, a star brighter
than all other stars. 


Tonight this mother
tips two wooden chairs
on their backs on the lawn,
just as she and he had done
so long ago. And, once
again, she lies in one.

Gazing into the heavens
she sees visions of her
teenaged son full of life
and love, as if he were
not gone, as if he
had not slammed into
a tree and left her alone.

This was his special night
so long ago, when prom
kings and prom queens stood
silent in their regal attire
accepting the honor bestowed
from friends and colleagues.

Yellow carnations in a vase,
in a field encircled by an iron
fence, are still fresh from her
graveyard visit.

The sky expands, as if sighing,
and somehow she knows
he hears: Good night,
My Sweet Prince. 

White against a ruddy cliff
you stand, chalcedony on sard.
       —“The Cameo” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

White against a ruddy cliff you stand
on a rock in the surf of the bay. Time
has engraved this image of you.

A cameo pin sticks in a groove of my
heart. Black is the ribbon which
binds up my throat—Mother,

my friend, my medallion of life:
your profile looks away. Though
you are gone, I see you still in
chalcedony and sard.

(prev. pub. in Peeking Cat Poetry)


This browned and fallen magnolia
petal reminds me of an elephant’s
ear, and elephants never forget, or
at least they seem to remember—
the way I often remember the look
and feel of my mother’s thick brown
hair as she sat in the cushioned
wood chair—which I remember.

I am reminded that elephants with
ears that look like magnolia petals
have burial grounds, like the burial
ground where my mother lies.

I hold this elephant petal in my hand
and remember her long, soft brown
hair flowing over her shoulders
onto the old cushioned wood chair. 

Today’s LittleNip:

—Carol Louise Moon

The ringing of a large brass bell,
parlor cards that we would play,
two coins tossed in a wishing well,
of these we’d draw a parallel.

Let’s decide, then, we would say:
the ringing of the large brass bell
or tossing coins into the well
will determine how we pray.

For you and me, to heav’n or hell
will be our fate! This I say,
let the coin-toss point the way.

The ringing of the large brass bell
is too predictable; we’d make
it sway
and mean what we foretell.

The coin-toss, too, is not the way.
Alas, the card-toss—this will stay!
We’d not ring the large brass bell,
but read the cards by how
they fell.

(prev. pub in
Spare Mule Online, Missouri
Hart Center Anthology)


Medusa, thanking Carol Louise Moon for her “charming” collection today!

For information about how to donate to Sacramento poet Indigo Moore's birthday project (happy belated birthday, Indigo!), go to

 Am I too late for May Day?
 —Public Domain 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, May 27, 2020

Pastorals and Oatmeal

—Poetry by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
—Public  Domain Artwork


For no clear reason I can tell,
the pastoral, from hill to dell,
depends on shepherds playing flutes,
a tad more portable than lutes.
First question is about this prop:
why call a flute an “oaten stop?”
Next query, less ethereal:
why oats, made milk and cereal?
I’ve eaten oats in my oatmeal;
oatmeal with oat milk, sheer surreal.
The off-white whiteness goes down smooth
as pamphlets from kiosk or booth
stuffed with Jehovah down my throat.
What gives my gullet rights to gloat
of blenders crammed with oaten liquid?
Or spooned-out bowlfuls thick and viscid?
I gulp no dream of rural flutes:
I muse how the glutinous bulges glutes.
If malt does more than Milton can
to justify God’s ways to man,
the same cannot be claimed for oats.
I won’t eat kids, the young of goats,
but sooner that, or bite raw sheep,
than greet day with a too-long steep
of overnight oats: to torture airy
dawn with chilled and mortuary
oat-mess from the kitchen morgue
on prompts from
what’s pastoral about all that?
More shepherd-like to tread the vat
and press the grapes, ferment the wine
than eat or drink this swill for swine.
Like swallowing gobbets, Grendel’s meat,
though Stevia-flavored to be sweet.
Sam Johnson says this feeds a horse,
though Scottish folk call it—main course.
Get thee behind me, oaten stop
for stomachs who can stand the plop
of oatmeal into porcelain bowls
that might more fitly fatten foals.

 A Shepherd Playing Flute
  Painting by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1897

(Sir Edward Downes and the London Symphony, early Seventies)

What a happy Happy Forest for once!
Appropriate rollicking tempo, woodwinds rustic
friendly, so tipsy that, an ounce more giddy, fistic
riot would run. Then, languorous as nuns
of less religious, more amorous persuasion;
last, heels kick up again centaur more than monk.
Now Third Symphony. Woodland-crowned elation
abruptly broken off for Nietzschean funk,
descent toward Nibelungen-dark negation,
ascent toward Alpenheim. The conflagration-
anvil-climax a bit Tinker Toy
where it should be a Giftzwerg’s sledgehammer,
split Siegfried’s sword, the anvil, the forge. The joy
of the second lyric theme needs lammergeier
glide for its lento clock not to run down.
Nonetheless, what balance and legato
(how we underpraise Seventies stereo!);
the second movement, steady Alpenglow,
patient brushstrokes, long-breathed phrasal flow.
If any ever was, a caring rendition,
inspecting detail even as eyes lift toward Vision.
Third movement’s equipoise, lightness and speed
reined in at dressage, midair-suspended steed:
the perfect Epilogue. All stately pace,
the three-four “march,” all tension subdued to: grace.
Fireflies, water-shivers, transhuman lauds;
Sidhe-beings in Irish processional, AE’s “gawds…”


Movement Two of Symphony One means war.
Civil War roils within all who ache like Bax,
a man lashed to twin horses lashed to gallop afar
in rending directions: neither beast towards Pax.
Worse than that, anarchy loosed, as William Yeats
has lately sung: drunk Lords of Misrule in Ireland
kick over all barrels restraining archaic Fates;
like gasoline drums that spill, touched off by firebrand,

then combust into storm.  Mute films loom: shades of heroes,
wind-whipped silhouettes. Superimposed, this war
on scrims of old revolts. Uproot wet corpses
ripe from the boneyard: D flat minor forces
its crowbar into C major. Discord scars
(a hotel Bax stays in, scored with bullet zeros):

All ancient green magic, immanent Sidhe of Eire,
defaced: quintessentially British Ruined Monastery.

 Painting by Pauca Verba

(John Ireland)

The rapture sobers down to a mild flare
(Graham’s Greene wood, last choked embers of affair?),
still, Helen Perkin, virtuosic girl
induced by your tutelage to free from its tight furl
passion once giddy, strides the stage to play
this not-so-tour-de-force, a morning grey
suffusing the strings. A melancholic horn
first lights vast musicscapes bare as Samson shorn.
You hark back all the same to that grey spring
that promises not much of anything,
which, maugre all that cloud-feather, is yet spring,
without her who’s adrift in your peevish mind.
Her, grace itself, though clad in storm’s gradgrind…
Your thoughts run slow, half leaden, run aground
from that good overlarge lunch on Sussex Downs.
What do you see? Snapped awake as, chin to chest,
the body seizures with spasms of broken rest.
Who are They who come trooping so near you?
Swift children, white-garbed, elusive to the view?
Because composed, composer, of dust motes
all the world knows for swirls, lit-through sunfloats.
Tambourines half audible tug at strands
of gust until they fray at you like sands.
In such a ring, baby John of Gaunt, in bands
of infancy King Henry Sixth, Lacklands
as yet unrisen to wealth or place, their handstands,
their springs and step-dances ring around the rose
turn mazy circles—how their sheer white glows…
and in the midst fair Helen, Queen of the May
to crown and consummate this shepherd’s hey.
Then flown, one flirt as in Pope’s poetic frown,
stage center, a girl in black-flowing soloist’s gown…


           [W]e are the makers of manners, Kate.
                     —Shakespeare, Henry V

Charlton Ogburn, Jr., in This Star
of England’s foreword, credits Edward de Vere
with human prototypes who’d soon shine far
in eloquence, whimsy, passion, courage, fear,
all but inventing customs, ways to spar
or quarrel, juggle their jests, endow, endear;
then misconducts, facades, hypocrisies to scar
the angel within. New people would soon appear
to match them in life. Now, Harold Bloom has read
this, Dorothy’s, Charlton Sr.’s magnum opus,
or how could he so go after them, his focus
on vilifying? Yet something all theirs has fed
his Shakespeare-conception…Invention…of the human?
Hmm…there’s a vein to mine, diamonds from bitumen.


Today’s LittleNip:
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

I need to practice writing like a bard
don’t skip a beat or leave your feet each line
it should not be a feat that is too hard
just type some words and hope they come out fine

okay I get the point you’re trying to make
the form they wrote a thousand years ago
before they thought to call a loch a lake
when coins could mean you had a lot of dough

ahoy, aha, there’s land within our reach
that looks all well and good for us to roam
if we could only land upon that beach
we’ll take it for our own and make it home

now free from being subjects to a king
we make the rules and sell the land, ka-ching!


Tonight from 7-8:30pm, go to Zoom online at (Meeting ID: 575 758 0081) to hear a reading by Ellen Bass and Jericho Brown. Host: Society of the Muse of the Southwest. Info:

—Medusa, thanking our cheeky Pan-poets for today’s fine music!

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Dolan, Stockton, CA

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, May 26, 2020

Riding The Spiral

We're Talking About Weeds Here
—Poetry and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Once more we enter the spiral
that whirls us inward
and down

into the coil
of invisible dark
that we expect, through the

heart, bitter with love,
and the eyes that pool—
and there we are

in another whirlpool

through the resisting center.
So many depths to pass through,
each one a condition of time

that stays unaccountable—
we can never recall
the return of all such promise—

it seems by our
need to test once more

the spiral with its sweet vertigo
which now has become
an addiction needing us as well.

 Weed Bouquet


They were lovers, though they had never met.
One was cruel, the other had a heart as soft as

need; their paths would never cross; their
children would be born to others, theirs was

a tragedy that would never happen. Once, they
met in mirrors—a glance that would let itself

be distracted—that would enter other mirrors
and allow them to miss each other. They would

always regret this, would tell it as a sad part of
their lives. They even had a song for it that kept

their love alive—they would look off into the
distance—they even betrayed each other

—and never forgave.



This is the mirror my husband shot
when he was careless, or angry, or thought
perhaps I had betrayed him and caught
my image in his sights and wrought
symbolic vengeance there. I don’t know what
to say of it—why we keep it—surely not
my obsession with this torn glass. It’s got
so I love to look in it; I ought
to pull my face away. We never fought
after that—just bore the silent, hot,
look of his stare, and my stare back, an old plot :
what he delivered—what I never bought.
He likes to stand behind me. There’s a lot
more to this than this small, round dot
in the center of this mirror that my husband shot.



A woman made of snow cannot love a man of fire,
with all the difference that will torture them
with harsh desire.

A man of snow with all his melting ways,
his summer moods, will always blame
a woman without praise, who also broods.

Alas again, for all inequities by which
imbalances betray. Take music, or take silence;
expect of this what words can never say.

The hollow heart will echo till it fails. What has
abandoned it? Why can’t it listen? It gave and gave
and gave, and gave again, and nothing back will give.

How selfish are the sufferers who have no right to woe.
How helpless, too, the inability of sympathy
to ease a single throe.

Words are useless—fire and snow—
a window placed between a love that streams and ends
at last as rain—the tears love comes to know.



You see these scars, the way they dramatize
my beauty and my age, the way they shine
against the softest light when I implore
toward all those who stare—who will believe
what they believe of scars? I can’t explain.
I simply woke one year and they were there,
all healed, but sensitive to certain touch,
the way they ache when I am cold, or scared,
as if some memory still works its way
toward the obvious—or better yet—
the lurid-gossip of some history

that some suppose. I simply own these scars.
Whatever life inflicts is what they mean—
whatever I have suffered or suppressed—
or given up as sacrifice—or turned
away from some destruction that I sought
when I betrayed myself—oh, long ago
before my mirror pulled against my life—
though not with vanity, but with some truth
of having learned what one can never learn
except for scars. I’m not ashamed—or proud—
I simply own them. How they mesmerize

my staring when I study them and wonder
why I never noticed them before. What scars?
What scars? You ask. What scars? Why these,
these long white marks that crisscross everywhere,
that raise and pucker—that never will lie smooth
beneath my eyes that see—my hands that touch—
these scars. And you—now that you see them too,
you turn away. Your hand recoils, your eyes
avert, and you have nothing more to say.
You wanted love. You wanted truth. And, yes,
you even wanted me—but not with scars.



They had ordinary names, the kind you never remem-
ber; and their lives were ordinary, uneventful lives—
not the stuff of novels—just small stories, with little
morals in conclusion, like childhood at its dearest.

And they could be counted on for sameness. Careful
was their direction, and Moderation was their theme.
Their ambitions were domestic; their undertakings not
beyond their means. They never coveted or blamed.
They barely loved, but it was comfortable.

Life was not Feast or Famine, and in their secret hearts,
it was the same—no great betrayal or despair to try to
fathom. Their illnesses were mild and common. Nothing
chronic. They liked classical music and they liked to
stare out windows at the weather.

They killed each other with kindness, finally; and I guess
that broke the pattern of their lives : They could not be-
lieve their grief—their great relief.



the way we play
against Death
with all our charms
our arms held out
for holding
how empty they become
the way life moves through us
like a harm
beginning slowly
then all those years
gaining their soft momentum
crying into mirrors
taking pieces of laughter down
time after time
like finished pictures
of precious calendars
oh, we are not to blame
life is blameless
we are all composed of error
used clay reformed
of thought and air
cold in the winter
because winter is so
synonymous with death
we know that
we fit together
in separate misery
our own error-choices
put away
in little memory boxes
our bones vibrating with effort
shall we dance
oh, what a complicated harmony
we have become
shall we dance
another music has begun

(prev. pub. in Coffee and Chicory, 1997)

 What It Is

After Green Landscape by Marc Chagall, 1949

Call it green, like youth,
like love before it betrays itself,
like any place together or apart—

like any sentiment
before it turns to cynicism,
or the bitter taste that will be next.

Erase this from your heart—you have
a chance—impossible at best—despite all
love’s disclaimers who will preach and preach.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

I talk again to old blue stones
that don’t respond, but shift and stare
from their blue depth, deflecting light
as secretive as what I write—
with all the meanings hidden where
nothing betrays…  nothing atones…

(prev. pub. on Medusa’s Kitchen, 3/16)


Joyce Odam is talking to us today about love and our Current Seed of the Week: Betrayal, with its ups and downs and “crying into mirrors”. Thank you, Joyce, and thanks for the flowers masquerading as weeds—or is it the other way around?

Our new Seed of the Week is Clowns. What do you think? Creepy? Cuddly? (Check out this article from 3 years ago in Santa Clara:…  then ponder your stance on clowns, or tell about clowns you’ve known, for better or worse, or whatever about clowns, and send your poems, photos & a
rtwork 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.

And don’t forget to put on your poet’s cap and think in metaphors! Not all clowns wear clown suits, you know…

For upcoming poetry readings and workshops available online while we stay at home, 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.



 Green Landscape (Paysage Vert)
—Painting by Marc Chagall (1877-1985)

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, May 25, 2020

What A Spring!

—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA

—Sue Crisp, Shingle Springs,  CA

We have waited...waited...waited, for the settling
of spring.  To see our new garden plants thrive day
by day.  To see their leaves reach for the warming
rays of the approaching summer sun.

The nutrient rich soil warms from a wave of false
late springtime days, and the garden settles in.  We
take time to settle in, too.  We do our daily garden
tending, unaware of nature’s silent approaching
betrayal of our sense of security.

Overnight, she sends her angry gray clouds, filled
with cold wet tears primed to spill.  Our tears spill
too.  Our garden has no defense against this late
storm.  Betrayal is an ugly word.  But, this time
Nature has earned it.

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Sue Crisp

—Joseph Nolan

Oh, my!
What a spring!

This Spring
Has brought a dismal thing
That makes us all stay home,
Mostly alone,
With our thoughts,
With our daydreams,
With our worries for
Our futures,
Collapsed like tents
You pack away
When you leave
A campsite.

Without a clue
What we’re supposed to do
If this goes on past Winter?

 Mt. Everest visible from Kathmandu, Nepal, 
for first time in living memory
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Joseph Nolan

Nothing serious—
Merely willing
To engage
And exchange
Over coffee,
Eating scones,
Telling personal secrets
Of overdue loans,
Divorces and payments,
Well-laundered dreams—
All the starch
Gone out of them.

No need to mix
Batches of offspring
At this stage of life.
They wouldn’t
Want us to,

An easy good-bye
Sets us off walking
Back to our separate lives. 

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Joseph Nolan

The only part
I can’t control
Is the one
That’s in command.

Come aboard my space-ship.
We’re about to land
Somewhere time
Has left behind

Banish from your mind
All doubt;
Dance the high-wire, tight!
If your faith
Is full of strength,
You will clear the span. 

 —Public Domain Photo 
Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Joseph Nolan

There are caterpillars
That never change
To butterflies.

They have found
Enough to eat,
Very comfortable
On their many feet,
Feel their lives
Are very sweet,

They harbor not
A dream of flight.
Life on leaves
And branches
For them,
Is quite
All right.

For them,
The light
Is just to
Make things grow—
Things for
Them to eat.

They do not need to fly
Happy thus, until they die,
They love
Things as they are.
They bless each day,
And wouldn’t have things
Any other way!

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Joseph Nolan

It’s only a matter of imagination,
Or else,
Of frequency,
How the thoughts and dreams
That flow through you
Might also flow through me.

And though we might
Each claim them,
They’re really
Not our own

And neither are
Our muscles, skins,
Blood or bones.

We shall leave them all,
One day,
When we lose our minds.

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

A well beloved fictional movie character said
     “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get.."
      But life of course for real people is never that sweet,
      and especially also the Bible never promises a life made of “chocolate" for believers 
      My personal experience is that life is really like a bunch of shit being hurled at you
      and only having faith in Jesus can help one get through it

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

—Public Domain Painting Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

Jackie Mitchell
—Michael Ceraolo, S. Euclid, OH

Only the Babe and Lou and maybe Mr. Engel
know if the two Yankees struck out on purpose;
the only pre-arrangement on my part
was to ask them not to hit it back at me
Growing up, Mr. Vance had taught me
how to throw a drop ball,
so I think the strikeouts were legit
But the Commissioner took no chances:
only a few days after the game he voided my contract,
forcing me thereafter to pitch only in games
outside organized baseball marketed as sideshows,
and I could only take so much of that,
so I retired after a few years

(from Michael's collection of baseball poems entitled Dugout Anthology)

 Social Distancing
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

I was born in the maternity ward
of a local hospital on a certain
date and time. Of course I was
not then a competent, percipient
witness to the event, so I trust
the documents and family lore.

Over time I would experience
life-changing moments of mental
and physical growth, and the
local hospital also implemented
its own changes, including the
conversion of its maternity ward
into an ICU.

In the summer after completing
high school, I was hit by a car
while riding my motorcycle and
was rushed comatose to the
ER of the local hospital, then
placed in the ICU.

My mother was also hit, but for
her it was by the recognition
that the very same room where
I lay on life support had once
been the maternity ward where
she lay giving birth to me!

The good news is, I recovered
and was able to enjoy almost
another half century of sharing
stories and memories with my

 Social Distancing 2
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan



with your scientific facts,
because the fact of creation
that we witness daily already
supplies us with all the facts
we will ever need to know

we see flowers blooming in
the sunlight, no help from any
fancy laboratory devices, and
lowly tadpoles, themselves,
are the best experts on how to
become a frog.

what more do we need?

first take away the patent
office and that whole profit-
driven stream of marketing
products, and then offer
your testimony about how
one particular man-made
thing has special value

and just so you don’t get
any wrong ideas, take note
of hula dancers, flashing
their diamond engagement
rings through their grass skirts

we see and we know what
the light atop the taxi cab means

don’t bother me

 Don't you dare pull that handle!
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan


in a better world
the ability to raise children
would come in higher than
the ability to raise money

but in politics, and in public
services, and in drug sales
a board of directors trumps
the private sector,

leaving us with the best
and the worst money can
buy, and no hope for change

transforming people into
rodents who are supposed
to duck out of sight into
their holes whenever money

 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan


was in by ten and out by five
cleaned, pressed, starched collar in a box
add a tie and it came alive
small expense to feel like Fort Knox

later, all is permanent press
Casual Friday, what a mess

shiny leather shoes and laces
even if no one saw your feet
adorned in all the right places
ready for royalty to meet

now retired, unattired at home
lots of room for bare feet to roam

I wore a hat to shield the sun
while harvesting backyard berries
my hands were red when I was done
in case you should pose me queries

no gloves were worn to pick the fruit
I only had myself to suit


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joseph Nolan

I play with feathers
And also
Falling leaves.

I’m dancing
In a mystery
Made of
False beliefs.

I rise in smoke
And drift through sky.
I’m sure to disappear
And never,
Ever know why.


Back again, busted arm and all, pecking away w/my right hand, and thinking about Memorial Days of the past. Stay safe, and think for a moment about all those who protect us, both in the military and in the medical profession.

For now, still, poetry is mainly online for us. Here in our area, Sac. Poetry Center uses Zoom for weekly readings and workshops. For more info, go to This week, SPC features:

•••Mon., 10am: Writers on the Air is hosted by Todd Boyd: RSVP in advance via email to Zoom link:    
(Meeting ID: 358 106 078/Password: 025674)

•••Mon. 7:15pm: SPC Monday Night Poetry From Coast to Coast, featuring Tom Daley, Lea C. Deschenes, Victor D. Infante, Tony Brown. Info: Zoom:
(Meeting ID: 763 873 3462 ("P O E T R E E I N C")/ Password: spcsdv2020)

•••SPC Tuesday night workshop hosted by Danyen Powell: Bring a poem for critique: (Meeting ID: 346 316 163)

•••Wed., 6pm: MarieWriters workshop (prompts) hosted by Nick LeForce:

•••Fri., 4pm: Writing from the Inside Out workshop. Reg. in advance at:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. (If you have registered before, use the same link.)

Also this week:
•••Fri., 7:30pm: Video poetry reading on Facebook by Davis Poet Laureate James Lee Jobe at

For other upcoming poetry readings and workshops available online while we stay at home, 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.

Our thanks today to our mighty contributors, and apologies to Caschwa, who writes: The form for my poem, “Half Sonnet” [posted Friday, 5/22/20], was inspired by the Sonnette written by Carol Louise Moon that was posted in the Kitchen on Friday, May 15th. That has the rhyme scheme abbacbc, [but it was posted as abbacbc. By the way,] when I looked up the form online, it said the inventor was Sherman Ripley, and the Sonnette was 'essentially a half sonnet' (" So sorry, Carl. No excuses for the typo, and that was before I broke my arm, even!



  —Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

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.