Friday, January 14, 2022

Letters From The Forest

—Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
—And scroll down for Form Fiddlers' Friday!!


On this chilly old-year morning, just past
winter solstice, I walk among our oaks.
A temple—I’ve been reading Baudelaire.
One pillar has fallen, a live-oak dead

of fungus and drought. But today the stones
and living trees are vibrant green in shades
of lichen and moss rejoicing for storm.
It’s cloudy, muffled and introspective.

The oaks have let their leaf-messages loose
on wind and rain to settle underfoot.
The muse’s chair sits silent with dead leaves
fallen in her lap. She’ll read them in time.

These missives passing between sky, earth, and
oak-woods wanderer—a letter for me.

From a distance it looked like
amethyst, a crystal pink-purple gleam
sparked by sun in the midst of ashy gray.
Underfoot, the prickle of mountain-misery,
so many stiff but innocuous charred spikes
where the resinous olive-green vine had spread.
I imagined deer and bear running from the flames—
but that was months ago. The ridgetop
still a moonscape except here and there,
on disturbed soil, fine green hairs of grass
and forest forbs pushed up, promising new life.
And that crystal glint of pink-purple?
a bit of cellophane, miraculously spared by fire.


moving not
a blink—but did
I see its nose twitch?
Non-native white bunny,
some distant neighbor’s pet, sits
by a heap of boulders, entrance
to an old fox-den. Where is the fox?

       Fairbanks, winter 1974

This bare winter brings the beasts
to our outskirts
scenting tame meat: the lynx
after cats, the wolves
in packs after dogs.

With the first few
pets dragged screaming back
to the mouth of nature,
we brought the rest
indoors, wintered in,
ourselves sleeping with
our beasts, feeding them
along with the babies, very
very well.


It’s the season of virtual: masks
and imagination. Never
have I been to Hell Hole, deep
canyon under a lake
now. Remote, rugged.
I’ll go outside,
watch stars flow
free of


Is vengeance something plants can understand?
a rooted grudge against our presence, or
an ill-will at our treatment of the land?

A savage snowstorm—as if on command
great oaks collapsed the roof onto the floor.
Is vengeance something plants can understand?

How many new developments we’ve planned,
moved earth, spread asphalt, cut the trees. Who swore
an ill-will at our treatment of the land?

You called that creeper growing on bare sand
a weed? now on your field it’s come ashore.
Is vengeance something plants can understand?

Those undercover shrooms—still they expand
their network; are they spies who ever bore
an ill-will at our treatment of the land?

Those vines with tendrils clever as a hand,
see how they climb and cling to brick and door.
Is vengeance something plants can understand,
an ill-will at our treatment of the land?

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Rush hour in the fog. Big black pickup
without lights, tailgating the car
ahead that’s keeping up with
traffic. Truck flashes its
brights, impatient for
an accident?
Black truck lost
in the


Our thanks to Taylor Graham this morning for her poetry (including a lovely Villanelle) and photos about what she sees in these glorious Sierra foothills. (It’s mushroom time!) She has written to us in forms: a Blank Verse Sonnet (“Correspondences”); a Word-Can Poem (“In the Burn Scar”); a Nonet (“To Hell Hole with It” & “Hellish Commute”); a Villanelle (“Who's the Villain Villanelle”); and an Etheree (“Questions on Air”). Her poems about hell refer to Medusa's recent Seed of the Week: "To Hell With It!"

And now it’s time for . . .

It’s time for more contributions from Form Fiddlers, in addition to those sent to us by Taylor Graham! Each Friday, there will be poems posted here from our readers using forms—either ones which were sent to 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, by golly! (See Medusa’s Form Finder at the end of this post for resources and for links to poetry terms used today.)

Joseph Nolan has sent a TriCube, a form developed by Sacramento’s Phillip Larrea:

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA

Spinning top
Would soon drop
On its side.

Garage door,
Open wide,
What’s inside?

Open mind,
Left behind,
In wartime.

Joseph likes to play around with rhythm and rhyme beyond “formal forms”. Here is an example of the kinds of things he likes to do:

—Joseph Nolan

When you dance
The dance you dance,
In trance,
Up in your tree,
I look up and
I see you, there,
From eternity,
In a state of timelessness,
Out of context,
Out of time,
And wonder how to
Tell your story
In rhythm and in rhyme?

* * *

This photo was last Friday’s Ekphrastic Challenge, along with Joseph’s response:

—Joseph Nolan
Scattered cartons,
In pursuit of
Contained treasure,
So much paper!
Torn apart!

But what
Really mattered
Was the thought,
The feelings, the heart!

So much
Goes into
Getting Christmas
Off to its start.

* * *

Here is Stephen Kingsnorth’s portrayal of Christmas in his house—one might say a backstage picture—which is also a response to the Ekphrastic Challenge:

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Annual visit to the loft, tentative on attic steps,
shining torch to search above, clear dust, cobwebs, shading far.
Labelled clearly, felt-tip pen, heave, retrieve, when, if, required,
drag old case to living room, corrugated, flexible—
know my Xmas, down to earth, kitchen sink and then the doze.
Christmas tree of plastic pine, toilet brush turned upside down,
angel, fairy for the top, both our myth until some death.
Baubles, tinsel on the top, stable, crib of olive wood
underneath, that tourist gift, Palestine, made refugees.
Flex is worn, those strung out lights—tinkle bright then blackout crash;
easier to buy new set than sort the problem, check our wires.
Carrot stick by chimney stack; how’s the coming, thermostat?
Red nose of the sleigh reindeer; red wine stain on grandpa’s face.
Midnight altar rite for some; ‘even Christmas’, church cash-in.
Watch your words in front of kids—what’s truth, magic—who’s to know?
Of this season, Mum’s Luke-warm; crooked necks toward the stars,
lion, bull and bear on site, woolly jumpers, counting sheep.
Then that train, punctual this time; eastern standard, Westward Star.
Light, sounds, signs and symphonies; ELO has broken through.
They saw more than others view—birthrights blind the eyes you see—
and there beyond their narrow fields, dung revealing scented air,
they saw real power in helplessness, all that offered, needing love.
Mistletoe and kiss me quick, short-term fun in long-term pain,
unwrapped baby, rapt unseen, rolled in newsprint yesteryear.
Santa’s beard sent packing, up to its boxed space, dark, aloft.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Those house hallways, when I a boy,
were marked as dark, mere transit points,
one long grim tunnel, always cool,
from front door frosting, heavy swing,
by coat stand and mahogany,
vast framed engravings, never seen,
tiles laid through to the scullery.

Edwardian—our host as well—
with coal fire glowing, tepid room,
a bell push for the long-gone maid,
and aspic waiting for the end.
But that my Saturday encased,
until she transferred to her bed,
as pink beached whale, shawl, bolster head.

That’s why my father, ill at ease,
all twelve nights on beyond The Queen,
cannot term panelled timber gloss,
the bright light glare on central heat,
fawn tape from rolls where ribboned bows,
duvets for bedspread, eiderdown.
Comfort is unfamiliar.

* * *

Carl Schwartz (Caschwa) (Happy Birthday, Carl!) sent a poem that responds to both challenges last Friday: the Ekphrastic Challenge and the Fiddlers’ Challenge, the Trilonnet. Carl noted that Santa left his milk behind in the photo [note Carl’s last verse here]; I suggested that Santa may be lactose-intolerant:


—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA  

the man in red brought stuff that wouldn’t fit
in any chimney in the whole wide world
his elves worked hard to box up all the gifts

and pack them on the sleigh so nothing shifts
‘twas stacked just so before it would be hurled
beneath the tree that was so brightly lit

all kids tucked in just know that this is it
new hopes and dreams are spun while they lay curled
sweet odors reach them with the morning drifts

a magic fills the air as spirit lifts
cyclonic force appears and leaves things whirled
around the sweater grandma gently knit

the glass of milk stayed where it was left out
perhaps next time they’ll leave a pint of stout

About the next poem, Carl wrote “I was contemplating a 24-line Acrostic, then looked in Turco to find forms for 24 lines, and he cited only one, the Roundelay. So I dumped the Acrostic plan for now, and went with the Roundelay:”


erect a sign and post it high
a new republic’s in the works
blue ribbon to the best baked pie
formality yields way to quirks
we’re done at last with mold and die
let history throw out the jerks

blue ribbon to the best baked pie
formality yields way to quirks
there are new things we need to try
while evil threatens, growls, and lurks
we’re done at last with mold and die
let history throw out the jerks

there are new things we need to try
while evil threatens, growls, and lurks
we must keep honor in our eye
our contribution gives us perks
we’re done at last with mold and die
let history throw out the jerks

we must keep honor in our eye
our contribution gives us perks
erect a sign and post it high
a new republic’s in the works
we’re done at last with mold and die
let history throw out the jerks 

Eventually, Carl came up with his 24-line Acrostic:


Every good boy does fine
Men, though, have to keep trying
And maybe, eventually, avoid the
Nasty temptations all around
Competing with those halos we see
In the mirror each morning, before we
Put on our big-boy pants
Act your age, we are
Told by figures of great
Imagination and trust
One day, then another
Nasty temptations all around
Prepare to be exposed
Rub your itches now, not
Out in public, act like you
Care about your image,
Like it, love it
Accumulate good will, you’re a
Man, at last!
Act your age, we are
Told by figures of great
Imagination and trust
One day, then another
Nasty temptations all around

* * *

The next photo was the Fiddlers’ Ekphrastic Challenge a couple of weeks ago, and Stephen Kingsnorth has written a response to it (love the "nasty temptations"). “… for all of us, the time does count.”—You got that right, Stephen. (Remember, in Medusa’s Kitchen, unlike in life, there are no deadlines:)

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Hands moving, metacarpal bones,
though wrist-worn, style—not for the hour—
yet fixed to us, time carries on,
small silver frame, pin prong, string holes,
wristbands, campaigns, a friendship rôle.

Colours of earth, air, water, fire,
will lonely green, holistic hold,
suffice to keep the world around,
the cycle, spring burst from the ground,
the movement, season turn around?

Now given time to contemplate,
these pieces laid out on a shelf,
like grander clocks on mantelpiece,
tall father, grandest, stand alone,
unless some cuckoo laid in nest.

This hessian production line,
for those who, maybe, strapped for cash,
a wider choice, from mass produced;—
or limit choice for wider mass—
so long ago fobbed off as wear.

Although for nurse pinned to the chest—
watch out for signposts, calling time,
devices, time checks, everywhere,
so toe the line or breakaway—
though poets tend stray latter way.

Clock timeout dial above the court,
the final score to be pronounced,
blackcap draped wig as sentence passed,
that buckled belt soon holding close;
for all of us, the time does count.


Many thanks to our SnakePals for their brave fiddling! Would you like to be a SnakePal? All you have to do is send poetry—forms or not—and/or photos and artwork to We post work from all over the world, including that which was previously-published. Just remember: the snakes of Medusa are always hungry!



See what you can make of this week’s poetry form, and send it to! (No deadline.) This week's challenge:


AND/OR the form Carl Schwartz used today [above]:

* * *

Carl mentioned Turco; this is who he was talking about:

•••Lewis Turco:
•••Purchase (be sure to get 2020 edition):

* * *

And see the bottom of this post for another challenge, this one an Ekphrastic one!


MEDUSA’S FORM FINDER: Links to poetry terms mentioned today:

•••Acrostic Poem:
•••Blank Verse Sonnet:
•••Ekphrastic Poem:
•••TriCube by Phillip Larrea: Each stanza is three lines, three syllables per line, any subject.
•••Villanelle (rhymed; can be done unrhymed):
•••Word-Can Poem: putting random words on slips of paper into a can, then drawing out a few and making a poem out of them.


•••Shadow Poetry:
•••Poets’ Collective:
•••Poetry Foundation:
•••Bob’s Byway:
•••Desolation Poems by Sacramento’s Jan Haag:
•••The Poets Garret:
•••Lewis Turco:
Writer’s Digest: (just type in the form you want in the search bar at upper right) OR


•••Annie Finch: "Listening to Poetry":
•••"What is Poetic Form?" by Emily Jarvis, a short description of how/why poetry is structured into forms: Also by the same author: “Examples of Musical Devices in Poetry”:
The Guardian Poem of the Week:



Today's Ekphrastic Challenge! 

See what you can make of the above 
photo, and
send your poetic results to 
 (No deadline.
* * *
—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.