Thursday, March 31, 2022

Shoelaces and Eight-Stone Weaklings


—Poetry by Mike Hickman, York, England 
—Sketches Courtesy of Public Domain

Today, Jeffrey Boils is mostly angry with:
The number of eyelets in his brogues, the length of his own shoelaces, and their capacity to undo themselves precisely eight minutes into his walk to work;
The pending update on his laptop that says it will be for his convenience  
When nothing computer-related is ever for his convenience;
And the half-hour wait that might force him to acknowledge Martin from the next-door office
When he can’t face another conversation about Chelsea this year.
Or any year.
Today, Jeffrey Boils is mostly angry with:
The red dot appearing on his email tab when there is no new email (there is a special circle of hell for the people responsible for notifications. At least there is in Jeffrey’s world);
The quality of the bread in his Tesco meal deal cheese ploughman’s;
The drizzle over lunchtime that meant he had shelter at the bus stop for fifteen minutes,
Which was still better than risking a conversation with Martin in the kitchen;
Every single one of the emails he has received that he didn’t need to receive because he was copied in, say, or because they were just acknowledgements, say, or because he wasn’t interested in them, say.
So that was all of them, then.
And, of course, the number of eyelets in his brogues, the length of his own shoelaces, and their capacity of undo themselves precisely eight minutes into his walk home.  
In the torrential rain.  
And after having to wait half an hour for his laptop to update.
Whilst Martin decided to fill him in on the progress of Chelsea F.C. since 19-fucking-63.
And why, we ask, because he won’t, is Jeffrey Boils so angry with all these things today and every day?
Why the focus on the brogues and the laces and the sandwiches and on the need to avoid punching Martin right in his doughy mush?
Because Jeffrey Boils needs to keep up his anger on these things,
So he gets nowhere near the anger he knows he might otherwise feel
About so much else.
But, then, you knew that, didn’t you?

(prev. pub. by Doctor Funny





I kept the receipts for my group therapy and my EMDR.
I can give you the dates for the Cognitive Analytical Therapy,
And my mindfulness raisin-gazing.
I waited out the waiting list for DBT and Peer Support,
And I kept myself going with the Buddhist nun's sessions
At the Quaker Centre.
So, forgive me, but when you "have a problem"
With what I think or believe or who I am,
Even though it ought to have nothing to do with you
If I read those words or I eat less meat;
When you need me to account for being something you're not
Because that's somehow stopping you from being
Whatever the hell you think you are,
And it threatens you that there are people
Who might be different in one way or another
As if their difference from you is what is important here,
Let me tell you again:
I kept the receipts.
I worked on my shit in my own time.
So what makes you think any of us
Should provide the same service for free for you?

(prev. pub. by The Haven




What do you expect me to do with this?
That you got ten out of ten on the multiple choice internet thing
You clicked on because you thought it was a news story
And then couldn’t bloody leave until fifty clicks later,
Because your self-worth is apparently bound up with
The kind of site that brings you
51 Best Celebrity Knees
And 43 people you didn’t know who’d died
(But might actually still be alive, because they haven’t checked).
They’re always an odd number, aren’t they?
Have you noticed?
It’s like they don’t care,
As long as you keep clicking,
And then you start liking,
And then your bloody score pops up in front of me
For some kind of response.
But what?
Dear God, tell me, what?
Do you want a pat on the back? A gold star? A slow hand-clap?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased you know who Shakespeare is.
Your skill with the multiple choice clickbait crap is obviously impressive.
Any fule can see that from your Twitter feed,
Even if it’s doubtful the question setters know what they’re talking about
When they think only a genius could tell Boris Johnson from David Cameron
Just four bloody years on from Cameron leaving, for Chrissakes.
And when their questions surf only the scum from the surface of Wikipedia
And half of them are taunting you for how old you are—  
“We can guess your age, if you remember Spangles and Grange Hill and President Reagan.”
And then you can feel proud about that (proud? Really?)
And then you can tell me.
I mean, I’ve got something like 100 million neurons in my brain—
(Or is it billion? You see, I’m not one for stupid certainties)—  
And you’re presenting me with this,
And you’re asking me to Do Something With It,
And I’ve no idea what it even means.
And now I’m clicking the bloody thing to see the questions,
And now I’m skipping past the 37 Celebrity Armpits,
And now I’ve got the bloody questions in front of me,
And now—  
Oh, I get it.
Firstly, it’s not ten out of ten.
It’s 23 out of 23, because they really don’t give a damn how many, do they?
They just give up when the next dumb thing comes along they need to write.
And secondly—
It’s done. I’ve got my score.
I press Share.
And it’s over to the rest of them—thank God.
What do I expect you to do with this, then?
Frankly, I couldn’t care less.
Which is the whole point, isn’t it?

(prev. pub. by the Daily Drunk)





Her reminders ping to multiple CCs; to her, all are subordinate.   
She administers the stationery; she admonishes those misusing it.   
She oversees the office; she officiates at disputes.  
She punishes with impunity, no crime is too minute.  
If they complain that she is petty, that there is more to life than this,  
She’ll remind them of her authority; that their presence won’t be missed.
But when she comes home at eight
After watching in the car park,
As the last one out locks the gate—  
Regrets another day ending after dark,
She’ll have the first of many (Casillero Del Diablo)
As she circles the intention to let her consciousness slide to shadow.
But the words that will still come to her,
When she slides back on the sofa,
Are the ones she’s heard from waking up,
Each day since the post was offered to her.
They’re the words she hears in everything,
That the staff would know, too:
Belinda Manners is managing
So, at some level, that must be true. 

(prev. pub. by





All you seem in all you are
in the pictures that you post
of the times you won’t recall,
with one finger on record
so compelled to share it all,
with the friends you don’t know,
who themselves do the same,
Like, Share, Post, Like, Pout
False faces in the Frame.
But the selfies aren’t you
and the faces aren’t yours
and the places you’ve been
are so many closed doors
in the Black of the night
when you flick through the fictions
and you block out the sight
of the lying depictions
of a life lived whilst absent
so obsessed with the scores
that you’ve never been there.
Whose life? Not yours.
(prev. pub. by the Daily Drunk





Like a used hatchback with bald tyres negotiating the Matterhorn.
Like a Poundland water pistol against rampaging rhinos.
Like a can of Coke Zero versus a Vesuvian eruption.
Like a block of processed cheese attempting to comprehend nuclear physics.
I keep going with the analogies, in the hope that there will be one that might fit the image we’ve so often seen on our screens this last year.
Like an eight-stone weakling against the Rock.
Like a meringue sitting its viva.
Like a wedding speech using only the lyrics of “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”
Like a parachute made from used napkins.
There are plenty more where those came from.
But perhaps they’re not needed.
Because there it is again, on the screen right now—
That look.
On the prime minister’s face.
Trying to comprehend where he’s gone wrong
As if the question is in English,
But he needs to answer in interpretive dance.
And he’s tied his own shoelaces together.

(prev. pub. by
Little Old Lady Comedy)

Today’s LittleNip:

—Mike Hickman
Dear shovel-faced angry customer,
what exactly have you added today
to the sum of human kindness?
Or do you see that as just the responsibility of others?
(Silly question, I know, but I thought I’d get it out there.)
So he messed up your order
so you weren’t presented with perfection
But where’s the agreement you signed
that said it was your entitlement?
And, frankly, what the fuck does it matter?
Well, actually, it does, and I care enough to want to ask
who’s actually brought down, made miserable by this?
Whose face is more shovel-like as a result?
Please see, why can’t you, it hurts you as much as anyone.
And much more than him.
For your own sake, be kind.

(prev. pub. by the
Daily Drunk)

Welcome back to the Kitchen, Mike Hickman, and many thanks for your passel of poems today, flying to us all the way from York-over-the-sea. Medusa is thoroughly enjoying the terms and usages of British poetry (eight-stone weakling!) from our friends in the British Isles. Such differences make us look closer at our own version of “English”. Thanks again, Mike, and—well said!—for our own sakes, let us be kind.





—Cartoon Courtesy of Public Domain











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.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
All you have to do is send poetry and/or
photos and artwork to We post
work from all over the world—including
that which was previously published—
and collaborations are welcome.
Just remember:
the snakes of Medusa are always hungry—
for poetry, of course! 


Clothes make the snake . . .
(No need for brogues, though~)

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Ears to Listen, Eyes to See

—Poetry by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal, West Covina, CA
—Original Photos by Luis Berriozabal and Caschwa


I find the darkness
when I head out
to work at five
in the morning.
The stars and moon
in the sky greet
my weary eyes.
The darkness is
soothing. I think
walking out to
a ray of sun-
shine might not be
as soothing to
me. I like to
start the day off
slow with a veil
across the sky.
I can wait a
little longer
for the sun. The
veil will come off
and these weary
eyes will focus
better at noon.
—Photo by Caschwa (Carl Schwartz), Sacramento, CA


Walking on a Friday
morning. Staring at
the full moon as a
blackbird photobombs
my curious snapshot.

Cars speeding off
to their scheduled
destinations. On an
off-day I have no place
to go and that is fine.

I might catch up on
sleep when I get back
home. The day is full
of possibilities. Perhaps
I will play with it by ear.
—Photo by Caschwa


Do you wish for night to come?
Do you wish for a giant shadow
to throw its arms around the sun?

The pain is unbearable in daylight
when your tears are more visible
as they roll from your eyes and

fall to the floor. The day is not
your friend as you conjure a cloud,
dark and full. You wish the blue
skies away so no one can see you

weep. The pain and despair breaks
you when you only want to bend.
You are far from happiness in this
world that barely knows your name.
—Photo by Caschwa


Step inside
my shoes and
feel how small
I feel. Try
to take one
step and feel
the world’s weight
on your toes.
It is best
to go on
your bare feet
on hot coals.
Feel my pain.
It is the
only thing
not so small.
—Photo by Caschwa


Give me ears
to listen.
Give me ink
and paper.
Leave me to
myself now.
I will write
it all down.
When I am
done I may
share it with
you if you
like. I am
a poet
just like you.
You have ears
to listen.
You can write
it all down.
Ink is cheap,
paper too,
it is your
thoughts that have
real value.
Put them all
and create
from all the
beauty that
surrounds you.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal

I walked around in my dream
with my hands disappearing.
My head and torso were gone
next. I walked still, until all
that was left were two feet.
They walked a long way. I
awoke to write about this.


Our thanks to Luis Berriozabal for his poetry and artwork today. Good to have you visiting the Kitchen, Luis!
And don't forget our Seed of the Week: Nonsense!



—Original Art by Luis Berriozabal

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.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
All you have to do is send poetry and/or
photos and artwork to We post
work from all over the world—including
that which was previously published—
and collaborations are welcome.
Just remember:
the snakes of Medusa are always hungry—
for poetry, of course!



Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Red Persuasion

The Composition
—Poetry and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


emanating out of the last rim of sunset—arms raised in
gestures that could be imploring someone to save them,
or waving last good-byes—faces stricken with calls

we cannot hear—mouths frozen open on those silences
that cover everything—blending together as if conjured
out of the far-red hills that hang in red perspectives

as the sunset deepens—perhaps only cloud shadows,
wavering together like old nightmares, grown so thin
that we know they must be starving. But a tide of dis-

tance is pulling us away, as if we are carried off in time-
less boats, as the red ghosts of sunset stare, and writhe,
and flare with dying light as we drift out of sight of them.


The words are all red
this morning, red for love,
and lack of love, and for the
word itself. Look how intense
they appear on the page—shaped
like that—awkward like that,
meaning what they mean,
even as they question
what they mean.
they are,
as if to win by
their very boldness
—their red persuasion.


Natural redheads. Natural
response. Mirrors confirm.

All eyes go toward, admire,
hair of fiery look.

Audacity of self-assurance.
hair that lifts to light,

has sheen, pulls self and
others in same distraction.

Admiration : Hey...! Red…!
Target for helpless hearts.

love that look. Movies, too.

Little Egyptian bottle.

Promise to cure dullness,
ignite with sexy color.



Lipstick would never
stay on my mouth,

wearing away
as soon as applied—   

even the
liquid black lipstick

of the 1940’s
that went on like nail polish.
I never learned to smoke,

so could not be

leaving my lip-prints
on smoldering white cigarettes.
The Arrival


The family friend stands in the doorway
watching the children play dress-up
from a large tumbled box of clothing
in the open closet.
The girls feel like movie stars
as they costume and pose for each other.

Then they realize he is standing there
watching them
and they grow silly
and don’t know how to act.
They feel a power from his interest.
They say they are hot and thirsty
and ask him to go buy them some ginger ale
from the corner store before it closes.

(prev. pub. in Medusa's Kitchen, 10/16/10)
The Role of Darkness

Something holy lifts us, takes us—
on a long white board to a playful
cemetery where death is a laughing
child, clapping its hands upon our
reality—our yelling falls silent,
we stare at the coming rule
of darkness, full of stars . . .

Mothers ! call us in . . . 

(prev. pub. in Calliope, 1990)



Part of her is broken
by the incompletion of his eyes—a visual
fragmentation from the engrossment of his art.

She holds her child in the cradle of her lap.
Gaze to gaze.
They center their connection.

Inside the composition
she protects her stillness while he
agitates the colors in his desire to complete her.

Color by color he depicts her,
but he cannot touch
the child.

The child is in a white center
that she safeguards with the power of her life.
Her eyes stay centered on the child.

He dare not damage this. It has taken him too long
to be born of her—to let her out of
his mind and free them from the torment of his heart.


You sit in the floor-light
of the lamp and talk to me,

saying how madness claims you.
The doorway outlines you

to a graven performer—
I cannot recede into mind-darkness,

you have it all
at the gesturing end

of your fingers that twist so
in your agitation . . .

while I am the one
in bent and inconsolable sadness,

curving inward to a deafness
while you articulate

and perform
your charming pain for me.
The Candle


My fear talks to me in a different mirror,
haunting my image with his,
if indeed there is a gender.  

His under-voice is a hum in my head
as though thinking to himself
but knowing I hear.

is behind me in the glass
is behind him in the opposite glass.

Why two mirrors
for this? I think. And his eyes
respond. Must I console him? I wonder.


After The Still Life with Ginger Pot II, 1912
—Painting by Piet Mondrian

Lines break apart to explore the center, which is calm,
which is ‘thought’ in moment of ‘clarity’, where a
round thing defines—is defined—a union of answer
and question. The lines maintain their design of being—
whatever they are to meaning, which is not immed-
iate—or meant, which is only chaos of beginning and
continuance. All is relevance seen by blindness, form-
ing the center truth, which is and is not, what you
thought—curved and perfect—circular—on the ledge
that supports it safely, will not let it topple into the
compositional chaos of lines around it, that allows it
the revelation that reveals and protects it.


I think one had to be there. The joke was private,
the reference obscure—it didn’t quite come off
as gossip, or as anecdote of relevance to gain a
chuckle at, no, one really had to be there in
the original experience.

The story had a lag to it—required an explanation,
or revision to accommodate its newer audience. It
might as well have been Greek—or dialect—with
foreign terms interspersed throughout. The innuen-
do didn’t work.

Well, we laughed anyway because the others did,
and others seemed to get the point, though we did
not, and who wants to look foolish in sophisticated
gatherings of charming talk-swap that one is not
quite up on. The joke? It doesn’t bear retelling
and anyway, you get the point, don’t you?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Here I come with my words in a bonnet to 
fling at winter across the warming weather 
. . . white rose petals . . . strewn by me . . . 
anxious to be liable for all this joy you are 
feeling from the po-e-tries . . .  


Spicy red Ginger is our Seed of the Week, and Joyce captured much of it on the page. She even thought of a ginger I missed—ginger ale—and used it in her poem, “The Family Friend Drops By”. Thank you, Joyce, for the red-hot poems and pix!

Our new Seed of the Week is “Nonsense”. 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.

(For a dandy list of nonsense words, see



The Still Life with Ginger Pot II, 1912
—Painting by Piet Mondrian, 1872-1944

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, March 28, 2022

Looking Into Someone Else's Woods

—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joe Nolan
—Poetry by 
Stephen Kingsnorth,
Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) 
Harold Asner
Joe Nolan 
Michael Ceraolo

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales, UK

‘Run’, scream, ‘Run, as fast as you can’,
the stuff of nightmare, bedtime read,
tagline beyond the chase, tag named,
for traybake rising, come to life.
What do you bite first, from the plate,
head or arm, or lick the face?
The taste for horror, plot in place,
slow dough spare shaped, runaway bake.
The gingerbread man sounds off-course,
like pied piper, Hameln seduced,
primaeval fears, child stolen, lost,
who is at fault, the baker, baked?
Is our creation tearaway?

Exotic spice to tantalise,
pods cardamom mixed turmeric,
tanned tawny cut out, flex or snap,
why has this fable taken root,
myth or legend, class of its own?
With piping portrait, iced on top,
burnt umber background, colour scheme,
some shock of hair, wound solenoid,
a cupric under Verdigris,
I see adoption, action groups,
to stir some spirit from the grey,
add zest, to the complacent, start,
and jump the system into gear.

Adrenalin for fight or fright,
seep enzymes stinging under tongue,
all consuming, we’ve gained control,
but at the price of eating lad.
I’m still uneasy, chomping head,
always study the limbless form,
thankful that this lopsided son,
mouth melts, duly, ceases to be.
I guess, for cook, a complement,
for me, unsure, old guilt so sweet?
Of course, at party time, delight,
and no one cares from where it came,
but hear shrill, thrill, eat body parts. 
—Photo by Caschwa

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

the wrath of impatient
opening skies, blowing
beer cans and paper plates
always chasing buses
the world gone upside down
as if too much sunlight
would injure our ginger
to Hell with it! angry winter
nights in the city are just
the new normal, says our
114-year-old house 
 —Photo by Caschwa


rode a horse all of one time in my
over 7 decades on this Earth, and
don’t have a clue how to saddle one

looked it up online and found the process
is comprised of at least 13 different steps,
each loaded with glaring new vocabulary,
and carrying the prerequisite of calling into
play some muscle groups that have never
before received any messages from my
brain to apply to a task

compare to reading books, where everybody
already knows how to number the pages, but
they do that for you anyway, like it really, really
matters to the reader to have a page-by-page
epiphany: “Page 23, ah yes, I knew that!
Ergo, I’m on the same page as the award-
winning expert author whose name is featured
on the cover.”
—Photo by Caschwa

—Harold Asner, Overland Park, KS

When sending young men off to war
Tell them what they’re fighting for
At first they may believe the lies
About a training exercise
The fact is that one man’s ambition
Is the reason for this mission
Soldiers blindly taking orders
Begin invading sovereign borders
It seems that no one in command
Knows why they’re in their neighbors’ land
The battle plan has many flaws
Men at war with no just cause
Soon these lads might lose the will
To shoot and bomb and maim and kill
A weary soldier asks, “Once more,
What is it we’re fighting for?”
Having received no clear reply
He soldiers on, not knowing why,
To kill his brothers, perhaps to die
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joe Nolan

—Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

To take a stab
At vague ambivalence...
Abnormal shadings
Play in shadow’s faint embrace;
Halfway home,
We wonder if we’ll even get there...

Along a winding forest road,
We find ourselves
Looking into someone else’s woods
Wondering if we’ll
Ever have time
To ourselves—
If anyone would let us,
Now that things are how they are,
Where people worship weapons
Instead of conciliation.

Must we always push
For more and more,
At the risk of war?
Crushing into each other’s boundaries,
We claim we have the right
To make it so the other
Has no room to live or to breathe,

Even though the other
Has massive numbers
Of nuclear weapons
Up his sleeve,
Enough to kill us all
In just an hour?
What is this for?
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joe Nolan

—Joe Nolan

By conventional arms,
We could hold
Each other at bay,
Would we, then,
Nuke each other,
So each
Could have his way?

How desperate,
Are we?
How ready to kill and destroy?
By which means of mass-destruction?
How easy to deploy?
 —Public Domain Photo 

—Joe Nolan
Have you ever
Had a lover
Who went this way
And that way
And this way
And that way
As though
Love's a waltz?
If you’ve ever
Had a lover
Who went this way
And that way
And this way
And that way,
Then you know
How much
Love can cost. 
—Public Domain Photo (Trucker Spirit) by Joe Nolan
—Joe Nolan

We’re not
Actually present.
We only appear,
We’re prone
To disappear,
For many
Different reasons.

How can you make
Any claim
Against a phantom,
“Maxx Headroom,”
Off somewhere
In cyberspace,
Cultivating a personal image,
To stand in place, in place.
Without any personal trace?
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joe Nolan

—Joe Nolan
Why come floating clouds
Without a whisper?

Dementia setting in,
Without an overt sign.

Smiling in a rocking chair—
A picture of contentment.

The lights are on,
But no one’s home.

Soon, off to hospice
He will go.

They will mind him
And watch him,
Fading, gray to white,
Into snow.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Michael Ceraolo, S. Euclid, OH

Report of the Committee on Cliches:

                    the adage
Those who can, do; those who can't, teach,
though applicable in certain instances,
is demonstrably untrue in far more,
the following is proposed to replace it:

Those who can't teach become education bureaucrats


Our thanks to today’s poets for starting off our Monday with their thoughts and talents, mostly about Ukraine (don’t say “the Ukraine; it’s now “Ukraine”— Some of these poets have ties to Ukraine, such as Harold Asner and his mother’s family.

About his poem, “Don’t Know What’s Missing”, Caschwa writes, “I know all about the emphasis elementary schools place on rote repetition. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any programs or lessons or other classroom training dealing with the next step, which is to help and encourage kids to think independently.”

On a lighter note, Stephen Kingsnorth is responding to our Seed of the Week, Ginger, as is Caschwa (“injure our ginger”). See our post tomorrow (and every Tuesday) for our new Seed of the Week.

National Poetry Month starts this Friday, April 1! Mark your calendars and go to for all the scoop and skinny from Academy of American Poets about “30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month“, including Poem-a-Day, Poem in Your Pocket Day, and how to obtain a free National Poetry Month poster.

•••Tonight (Mon. (3/28), 7:30pm, Sac. Poetry Center Socially Distant Verse features Maureen O’Leary and Tom Goff plus open mic. Zoom at (Meeting ID: 763 873 3462 / pass: r3trnofsdv/.) Info:

•••For info about El Dorado County poetry events, check Western Slope El Dorado on Facebook:

—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joe Nolan  
 This elephant picked up a baby lion who was dehydrated 
and carried it to the nearest water—
showing we CAN all help each other, actually…


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.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
All you have to do is send poetry and/or
photos and artwork to We post
work from all over the world—including
that which was previously published—
and collaborations are welcome.
Just remember:
the snakes of Medusa are always hungry—
for poetry, of course!


Sunday, March 27, 2022

That Thing With Feathers

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - (314)
—Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet—never—in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of me.


—Medusa, with thanks to Katy Brown for her dash of hope in a poppy this morning ~

March 31 is the end of Women’s History Month. “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope” is this year’s theme; for more about that, see For two articles about poetry and the healing and hope it can provide, go to “Poetry, Permeability, and Healing” by Jane Hirschfield ( and “Finding the Words to Say It: The Healing Power of Poetry” by Robert Carroll at


Saturday, March 26, 2022

Knock Me Over


Northern Flicker With Tongue
—Poetry by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
—Flicker Photos Courtesy of Public Domain

A feather-hammer gives a double knock.
                         —Robert Frost

In Frost’s New England, it’s called feather-hammer,
Eccentric nickname for a Northern Flicker.
I could be kayoed by a weather-hammer,
But this word-apparition’s Katzenjammer,
Off-kilter. Sure, we know the joke’s immense,
To morph plume-soft this avian, boned, beak-dense
—As if we had only the brown-and-tan plume sheath
That swathes the small, tough knot of bird beneath—
Recruited as a trope, of ancient weather,
In service to, Knock me over with a feather,
But quirked and tricked out by such name-nonsense
As might be Iron Cotton, Blizzard Picnicker.  




Where the blind white sea-snakes are.
                        —Rudyard Kipling

There’s a Kipling poem somewhere
On the ocean-floor telegraph cables.
He compares them to white sea-snakes;
Technology, morphed into fables.
The snakes were thick spirals of wire,
Wrapped and coiled to thrive, not to yield:
The inventor who sank them down fathoms?
My ancestor Cyrus Field.
So it said in a big fat volume,
A Rosetta-Stoned genealogy
Packed with lore of long-moldy old nobles,
A fine family theology.
My grandmother worshiped that doorstop
Without cracking the spine, riffling pages;
Took for granted it said what she wanted,
That our clan was a clan for the ages.
In those fabulous mildewing pages
The book praised our kin’s fortunate star:
Dukes of Somerset (and Cyrus Field!)
With never a sinister bar.                                       
My grandma a member, Mom qualified:
From the Lees of Virginia, no bar
Or bend sinister to deny Granny
Racist space in the D.A.R.  
Such, our pride in the doings imagined
Of our clan with heraldic shield,
Partly bogus and partly offal;
We’re the children of dead Cyrus Field.




(See Amy Lowell’s John Keats, Vol. 2, p. 421)
Keats, under doctor’s orders to speak low
Or not to speak, is at the Leigh Hunts’. A party:
One Mrs. Gisborne starts a topic—so:
In music reigned the castrato Farinelli,
Whose vocal splendor, his capacity
To hold high notes ad infinitum, swelled
Or diminished, he could lengthen by his hearty
Pair of bellows, breath control, but spelled
By cyclical breathing, intake and exhale
Made simultaneous by constant practice,
Braced with support deep as his tensile belly.
Keats’ being here is sheer tenacity.
This Mrs. Gisborne cannot help but fail
To gauge how sensitive the breath-holding act is
To Keats, indeed she’s not certain he’s that Keats.
Gamely—for the ill poet broods on such
Prolonged sostenutos—he declares these feats
A trial for both singer and hearer. Touch
The subject, and you poke his damaged lungs
—Like under-the-fingernail skin pricked with pins.
How equable, though, the bob of both their tongues
With fascination on the listener’s fears:
The way a too-long-sustained cadenza spins
Unbidden empathic dreads of suffocation.
In murmurs, Keats must assent to what she says;
How can she know a publication nears:
Verses of his where a pearl diver descends,
Bare body exposed to the sharks, to the stingrays?
Hands filled or empty from oyster beds, his ration
Is risk for meager pay, risk of the bends
When full-to-bursting lungs must surface regardless
Though blood runs from his ears. The party chatter
Submerges these two talkers with hands cardless;
What earnest discussion of a most primal matter
Implicit in music as in poetry,
The instinct to gasp for air, the strain to be
Good and suspend the fermata; near to death,
Has Keats not always known how recitative
Is paid out silkworm? How like the spun shirtsleeve
Spun stanzas are threads, of unbearably thin breath?

[Mrs. Gisborne = Maria Gisborne, friend of Percy and Mary Shelley]
—Posted online in a Tiger’s Eye Press “Welcome Back” feature, 2/22 




(the Cornish mine situation c. 1595, through
Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford’s eyes)

In Cornwall lie the mines of tin
From which Her Majesty should gain
Long-needed revenue: the din
Of war, much flood-ruined, sodden grain
To counteract. De Vere’s proposed
To farm Her “Matey’s” tin mines, part
To raise large sums against her foes
Of Spain in Holland; partly to chart
And halt much cheating against the tinners
—Not by poor miners, but men whose fraud
Against the Queen enriches their dinners
With fine wines fetched by the day-broad
Theft of whole slabs of glittering tin
Stamped with the royal lion stamp.
De Vere recruits more honest men
(Though merchants) he thinks fit to clamp
Down on the cheat, down on the waste.
Idealism stops not there:
He means to see poor miners graced
With steady work, more wages’ share.
Alas, my lord of Buckhurst has
Opposing plans; he stands against.
The Queen’s own kinsman—somewhat crass?—
For when allusions, parsed or flensed
From “Shakespeare’s” plays, are understood,
He stands exposed—Sir Toby Belch!
His plan’s deceitful, nothing good,
Yet prods Elizabeth to welch
On pledges hinted to De Vere;
She weighs this kinsman equal with
One merely an earl, of words severe,
Not jovial-bragging like her kith.
Typical indecision works
Its will with this poor aging Queen:
Careless as ever, by her own quirks
Too soon cutpursed, with mind serene.
The loss is hers: great gains do lie
Unharvested, as crops are left
Till rain down-rains: like wheat and rye
By mold bit—so is this Queen bereft.

—For Dr. Michael Delahoyde on his
Oxfordian edition of
Twelfth Night
(ID’ing Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst,
as Sir Toby Belch)


Today's LittleNip:

A pickpocket is obviously a champion of private enterprise. But it would be an exaggeration to say that a pickpocket is a champion of private property. The point about Capitalism and Commmercialism, as conducted of late, is that they have really preached the extension of business rather than the preservation of belongings; and have at best tried to disguise the pickpocket with some of the virtues of the pirate.

—G.K. Chesterton


SO— when was the last time you used the term, “catpursed”, in a poem? Not more than twice this week, I reckon… Thanks to Tom Goff for waking us up with his skillful juggling of language! Tom will be reading this Monday on Sac. Poetry Center’s Socially Distant Verse, 7:30pm. Zoom: (Meeting ID: 763 873 3462; Passcode: r3trnofsdv).

•••Meanwhile, today (Sat., 3/26), 2pm: Poetry of the Sierra Foothills features Dianna McKinnon Henning and Lara Gularte, plus open mic, at Love Birds Coffee & Tea Co., 4181 Hwy 49, Diamond Springs, CA (where Hwy 49 meets Pleasant Valley Rd.). Host: Lara Gularte.



•••Also today (Sat., 3/26), 4pm: Sac. Poetry Alliance features Susan Kelly-DeWitt and Albert Garcia at The Library of MusicLandria, 1219 S St., Sacramento, CA. Info:





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