Wednesday, August 31, 2022

What Are You Waiting For?

—Poetry by Jonathan B . Zeitlin, 
Granite Bay, CA
—Tall Ships Courtesy of Public Domain

From the shore I watched the ship
And imagined I was there.
Closed my eyes and felt the spray
Of ocean in my face and hair.
“One day,” I said to myself,
“I will be there.”
From the ship I glanced at the shore
And saw a boy standing there
And I remembered that once,
That boy was me,
Dreaming of the day
I would be free.
From the shore
I watch the sea.
Gone was the ship that carried me
Away, that grand yesterday,
When I was alive and free,
But tomorrow I will return here
 To the shore.
“Is gray a color?” the pigeon asked the clouds.
“We’re not sure,” said the clouds, then asked, “Why?”
The pigeon shrugged and said, “See the robin, brown and red?”
“And the yellow finch flying by?”
“Such color and beauty they have, to me,
And I am but gray and drab instead.”
“Is gray a color?” the clouds asked themselves,
And watched the pigeon fly,
They thought about the question again,
And said, “We don’t know, but you should ask the sky.”
So the pigeon asked the sky.
The sky looked down at the robin and the finch,
Then looked down at the ground,
Saw the grass, the earth, the buildings,
And was surprised at what he found.
“I see many things, said the sky,
Blues and browns, reds and greens,
Blacks and whites, too. And grays,
Just like you.”
“And I think,” said the sky, “who am I to decide
What is a color, and what is not?
Sometimes I am white, and sometimes, blue
And sometimes black, or even silver, like you.
So if all of these things are colors,
Why not gray, too?”
And the clouds listened very carefully,
Because the clouds needed the answer, too.

Protest until we can no longer feel,
Throats parched,
Eyes cast down, away from the sun.
Even terror can be a gift for the lonely one.
Beaten down until we learn to heal
And like waking things
We forget what crept in the darkness
While the moonflowers shake their heads.
There's no time to grow old
And if you think you can leave a mark,
Be bold, shake your fist,
But know you’re wasting your time.
There’s this dream of mine,
I’m free again, on a clear path,
But all dreams come to an end,
And if you’re smart, my friend,
You will keep one eye on the shore. 

Nobody has ever died.
The dread at the end is a waste of time
And tomorrow is always on the table
And when you’re able, you will see,
Crystal clear.
Have no fear. You will always be here
The truth about time is that it isn’t
One long line
But a swirl, a blob, 
A drunken slob stumbling
Through the bar,
And hitting every patron along the way.
The key, of course,
Is to dig down deep
And see that your life
Is one big lie, one big dream,
Lulling you into believing
What you do makes a difference.
So wake up!
Life, death, the hum
Of a butterfly’s wings
And all those things you think are real
Are just part of the program,
Designed to make you feel like it all matters.
Take a shower, go to work,
Come home, make dinner,
We are all alone;
A high school girl
Waiting for the phone to ring,
The call that will change her life.
We all want meaning.
We all want answers.
We want someone to tell us that it all mattered,
Or at least some of it.
But alas, only a few of us actually
Go looking for it.  
 What are you waiting for?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Jonathan B. Zeitlin

just a couple of seeds we planted
with a little soil
and some sun
and rain
sprinkled with a lot of love
we waited
and readied
and then they came
just sprouts at first
but with some luck
and with some love
they grew
and those sprouts
grew into something new
strong and beautiful
just like you

Jonathan Zeitlin has dropped by the Kitchen for the first time today, and we’re glad to have him, a local NorCal, Sacramento-area poet! Jonathan is a thirty-year veteran in county, state, and federal service, and an avid writer on the side. He lives in Granite Bay, CA with his wife, kids, dogs, and one lazy and fat pet frog. Welcome to the Kitchen, Jonathan, and don’t be a stranger!


Jonathan B. Zeitlin
Self-Photo Cartoon

For upcoming poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
click on
in the links at the top of this page.

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, August 30, 2022

What Are The Solutions?

Time And Place
—Poetry and Photos by Joyce Odam, 
Sacramento, CA


Why do we keep personifying
why do we keep asking
why do we pretend,
try to end . . .

    the solutions . . .
       what are the solutions
          where are the solutions
               why are the solutions

impossible to see
to realize
to scorn
to refuse
to need, Oh

     need,   need,   need,
         that is what we need,
                more need,
                     more solutions.



You have come with your gift of black roses
for my midnight joy. Now the house
is full of flowers that die after all,
no matter how I loved them.

All of my rooms are thick with their dying
and I am sad now. Flowers cannot
heal me, yet you keep bringing
these impossible black roses.

(prev. pub. in My Best Regret, Mini-Chap, 2008)
 Rain Or Weeping


It was winter. It was dark. She sat
in a hospital wheelchair. It rained,   
the streets, the doors, the windows—
all ways of arriving and leaving.
Her eyes refused—would not

see or follow, became obsessed with
her sleeves, her pockets, her small
table of possessions. Hours clung
together, like stuck pages hard to

separate one from the other. Rain or
weeping made this impossible.
It was winter. No one came.

She knew, or did not know—the
windows looked in with the rain.

(prev. pub in Poet’s Guild Quarterly, 1998)



Mother, I am clambering right behind you over
perilous distance. We are competitors. Loose stones
fall behind us; I mutter and
follow, grabbing at anything.

You laugh and gain a better hold.  

If I fall, you will be angry, scold my unskilled
clumsiness. If you fall, I will have to hear forever
your impossible descent, our echoes mingling.   

(prev. pub. in
Medusa’s Kitchen, 5/17/16)
 To Love Without Regret


He wants to be rescued from his own
bitterness. He wants to love without
regret. He wants someone to save him.

He will wear his darkest countenance
to prove how impossible this is—
fold his arms against embrace—

mask his face with cynicism—
narrow his eyes, and watch your eyes
for what he needs.

He will fight you to prove him right,
dare you to prove him wrong.
Though pierced with Cupid’s arrows,

he will not bleed—
he has blood of stone. Dare to love him
and you will love alone.


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.
 The Journal


Misfortune—that old hag, her gleaming presence,
what she wears to introduce herself, those semi-
precious birds she keeps on risky pedestals, the
charming echoes they have learned.

What does she want of me, I’ve nothing more to
lose or give. I’ve paid my dues to her demands—
those lies she told—those mis-directions that she
gave when she was all cajole and promise.

But now that I see her true face in her own mirror,
I all but lose my nerve : her costume in rags, her
makeup ruined. She turns to me again—this time
contrite—and once again I ask her to save me.

After “Misfortune”,
Selected Poems by Luis Cernuda
Between Then And Twilight


You gave me this rose from
your desk because I admired it.

Not a sacrifice-rose
from a jealous garden,

but a nameless gift-rose
of impossible hue.

“Ooh,” I said, and I touched it
to show my awe;

and when you left for the day
you brought me the lavender rose

in its plastic crystal vase
and said,

“Take it home
and write a poem about it.”
The Dreaming Window


Who do you think I am in the moonlight every night
by the dreaming window, watching stars leap
above ghostly cows,
the moon growing dizzy with love?

Who do you think dries the bones of light
that shudder the curtains?

And who do you think howls the dogs to sleep?

Who do you think is in love with impossible sounds
from the mouths of flowers,
those moans of dying in unfamiliar vases
on moon-dusted surfaces?

Watch with me—help me remember—since you
are the one who started all this with your sighing
and crying—refusing to enter
the terrible dreams.

There is only one more hour before light
comes swaying over the distance that is night . . .
Say this again to yourself: only the distance
of the night . . .   Now you can sleep . . .
The Hour Of Now

After Rumi (“to form one pearl”)

Personified word.

Belief in shadow,
in struck vision.

Light of imagination.
Of faith, of doubt.

How brief to be real—

a flicker of sound
to the silent mind.

Even now,

all that questioning
of the impossible.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

    1.    Love. The word is love.
What do we know of it?

    2.    For some, it is the start,
the middle, and the end.
It is enough.

    3.    It sometimes comes in knots,
hard to untie, impossible to send
through love’s old needle-eye.


Impossible, says Joyce! We have poetry and photos from Joyce Odam today, chiming in on our Seed of the Week, “Impossible”—and we thank her for the fine work she brings to the Kitchen, as always. Be sure to check each Tuesday for the week’s Seed of the Week, and for more wonderful work by Joyce Odam!

Our new SOW is “Choices”. 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. And see every Form Fiddlers’ Friday for poetry form challenges, including those of the Ekphrastic type.


Green Landscape
—Marc Chagall

For upcoming poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
click on
in the links at the top of this page.

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, August 29, 2022

This Hurtling Earth

—Poetry from Claire J. Baker, Joe Nolan,
Nolcha Fox, Michael Ceraolo, Caschwa,
Sayani Mukherjee, Stephen Kingsnorth,
Michael H. Brownstein
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy of
Joe Nolan and Nolcha Fox


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

No camera or cell phone in my backpack,
yet craving remembrances, I made my eyes
twin lenses for distant and close-up shots.

Between each extreme concentration
on my desired subject, the vision
captured, I rested my eyes and
the fingers I’d circled,
to frame my scene.

Ask me about Sierra light and shadows,
the depth of field required for mountains. . .
I’ll mention that the wind decreased
to a whisper for remembering wildflowers.
And animals seemed to pose before my eyes.

Ask, my friend,
if you’ve time enough to believe in
the magi of my imagination.



NEWSFLASH! Earth Hurtles Incessantly
Through Nothingness!
—Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

There is nothing in a vacuum.
Nothing, nothing....nothing
And no gravity in space.

Vacuums have a tremendous power
To draw things into themselves—
Strong enough to overcome gravity.

The vacuum of space seems large enough
To suck in the entire Earth.
Why it doesn’t I don’t know
Or maybe it does?

Is it because of vacuum’s power
that Earth hurtles incessantly
Through nothingness?

And what of those
Hungry Ghosts
Who allow a vacuum
To rule the center of their being
Like a black-hole at the center of a galaxy?

Don’t stand too close! 



—Joe Nolan

Where in the world
Is Oman?

It’s across the water
From Iran—
One side of the Hormuz Strait.

Who can believe its fate?
To be flooded by rains
Twice this year,
January and July,
With a child swept away
In the rushing waters,
A desert country
Not prepared to endure
Such freak-shows of nature.

Can someone tell me why
Nothing old
Is true

Why we can’t find
Any reason
What any of this
Is for?



—Joe Nolan

Why do misty mountains
Fall into salty seas,
Majestic in their contour—
Just rocks to you and me?

A way to climb to Heaven,
But first,
Must cross the sea,
With heart kept pure
Or else tossed-down,
You will be,

As oft, half-hearted pilgrim
Finds bars across his path
As he prepares to mount the heights,
But never reaches land. 



—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

I don’t have to travel
to have a wandering eye.
I don’t look at other men,
but ramble in my mind.
And so I dream of other climes
and watch the real estate.
I know he doesn’t want to move,
so I can only dream
of where that other road might go,
what I might take to get there.



—Nolcha Fox

Somewhere is the land
of lost everything.
It stores the big stuff
I’ve misplaced.

One day I’ll visit,
bring everything home.

All the many minds I lost
will be romping
through clover.

All the many hearts I lost,
and all the folks I lost to death
will be drying off
from a swim in spilled tears.

All the patience I lost
will be waiting in a room
with no chairs or doors.

All the time I frittered away
will grow back in a field
of watches, each set
to a different time.

I’ll need at least
three moving trucks
and all my friends
to clean the place out.



—Nolcha Fox

I can believe
money buys happiness
as long as I know
where to shop.

I can be
that kamikaze pilot
wearing a helmet,
betting I’ll survive the fall.

I can aim
for a bull’s eye,
and call what I hit
the target.

Yes, I can,
all I need
is optimism
and a dose of
poor judgment.



A car passes on a rainy street

and it’s not you.
are owl’s eyes
blinking through
shimmering waterfalls.
Windshield wipers
can’t swim against
this downpour
of tears.

—Nolcha Fox



—Michael Ceraolo, South Euclid, Ohio

Dottie Wiltse

I know a number of male pitchers
have pitched and won both games of a doubleheader,
but I have them all beat:
on August 28, 1945
I not only did that but also
met the man who would become my husband

* * *

Audrey Wagner

I was only fifteen when the league started,
so for the first few seasons I didn't start play
until after the school year ended
And since baseball was a means to an end
(and what a glorious means, one I was good at),
I kept that same routine through college:
my last season was at the ripe old age of twenty-one
Disagreements with management led me
to play in a competing league after that
More money and no travel also played into it,
making it easier for me to attend medical school
I sometimes wonder why I'm not listed
among the players who died in a plane crash

* * *

Clair Schillace

I was one of the first players
signed by the league
And I think I was the first
to hold out for more money:
after my rookie year
I asked for ten dollars more a week,
but eventually settled for five



—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

we are a proud nation of laws
cue the fanfare, raise the flag
recite the propaganda
repeat by rote
print and post
more laws

our dear lawmakers huddled all day
and all night to give us laws about
every wrong thing we might think
to do, overflowing the shelves of
law libraries with new, old,
revised, rescinded,
updated, restated,

and with all that time and effort
it has become apparent that
they missed one, a dangerous
wrong that needs to be righted,
that is best
not ignored

they came close by imposing
restrictions on carrying concealed
weapons, open carry gives notice:
due process

the teeth of sharks, the talons of
jungle cats, the ground-shaking
thunder of a raging bull
all fine, if out
in the open

but our proud nation of laws has
not one single law on the books
about carrying
a concealed grudge

it is not a hate crime, no peacekeeper
will come calling to demand proof of
compliance or any kind of certificate
go ahead, perfectly legal
they missed it 


Can you please stop that?



takes the fears everyone has
about too much governmental
control and uses them to incite
aggressive protest

takes the apathy everyone also
has about too much protest and
uses that to grab control

fans the flames always burning
since the “end” of the Civil War
and uses that heat to smother
any silly notions of peaceful
transfer of power

aligns with people who are ready
to grab their guns to settle problems,
and distances himself from people
who are more inclined to study an
issue and understand the other
side’s arguments before it reaches
a call to arms

models himself after mob bosses
who treat their underlings like junk
yard dogs, ensuring that they are
constantly angry and mean by
starving them of any reasonable
measure of food or love

replicates the Nazi movement by
using the “feel good” Chautauqua
element that arises from unity of
purpose, to do the opposite and fuel
actions borne of evil

micromanages all the above protest,
control, power, call to arms, mood,
and actions, then disavows any
knowledge of the details, which works
for him now, because it always has




yep, that’s right, I matched
the Powerball number
no more
just one

makes me equal to
a mountain climber
at base camp
staring up,
way, way
up at the




went the longest time without
knowing upgrades were even
available, but soon as I heard
I made the change from that
old, dated, analog sophagus to
a state-of-the-art, fully digital

now anxiously awaiting the
roll-out of the inevitable
e-junioragus, and e-senioragus



—Sayani Mukherjee, Chandannagar,
W. Bengal, India

Grim lights on the table
A smooth texture
When you peel an orange
You can see its
Insides, fragile nuances.
A whole new universe
Under the parapet of
False consciousness.
Hiding the precious jewel
On a gravel of ego
Self and the binary
Life and antilife
Little dusts
The seed and the shadow.
Wordsmiths architects dreamers
Feed us up
Until we peel.
Unravel the orange
Once more
Holding a world under a bridge
Looking through the
Forests from a soft glance
Of my chestnut pencil.
I break the human laws of seeing
Far ahead
Hiding under
Scalpel of an operation
Sinews and skin-dipped submission
Under law, customs, conducts
So I dare to see
Hooking a fish through the ocean.
I know the jewel. 



I’m not so keen when im in place.
—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

To cull the ludo, dull the lines,
when spun is done and won the frame;
if tongue has sung, strung ladder rungs,
and I have plumbed from numb to thrum,
flying, sighing, catch my breath.
“It’s ’im”, they cry, lead letter lost—
(though I think Wesley, hymnody,
or Cockney laze that trims the first)
then im the one, negates the sum
total of what might versify,
writer’s block, if ever tried,
impossible while heart beats mind.

Impressable, late teenage me,
impassable that mountain road,
implausible my version sold,
improbable that Dad thought gold,
impossible, deceit achieved.

I do expect grave earth to roll,
the sun arising, as it seems,
a light to, after black night, shine
where wonder creatures populate.
I’ll not deny the tooth and claw,
that jungle rules predominate,
but also folk in their best dress,
serving in community.

Frameworks and limits, recognised—
genetic codes and common sense,
which if we’re mindful, adept, adopt,
learned wisdom of our species’ course.
For muscle memory in mind,
though flailing, failing, learning slow—
least not automatons on show,
and not so righteous as to bore—
wine-bibbing claims sound heritage,
and lunch Zacchaeus, menu spread.

I’m weary of religious care
as bridges gaps, pontificates
that all is well, and will be so,
for nought impossible to God.
I’d give it that—a zero score,
recalling cup that did not pass,
as will unleashed from puppet strings,
and choices bring us where we are—
it is an art, as we should know.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Michael H. Brownstein, Jefferson City, MO

this morning
the sun's great brightness
burned my shadow


Impossible! That’s our current Seed of the Week, and it sums up our contributions today: Impossibly fine poetry! Our thanks to them on this late-August day, as Autumn lingers in the wings, waiting for its turn onstage . . .  Be sure to check each Tuesday for the week’s Seed of the Week.

Congratulations to Steve Talbert for having his poem, "Firewood Pantoum”, named Placerville’s Mountain Democrat Poem of the Month. See 
Soul Bone Literary Festival continues online until Sept. 4, with readings and master classes. Readings around here include tonight’s online Sac. Poetry Center readers Kendall Johnson and John Brantingham, plus open mic; and on Thursday, Poetry in Davis will feature Laura Martin and Bill Gainer (plus open mic) at the John Natsoulas Gallery. This coming weekend is Labor Day, so the next Saturday “The Way of Poetry” workshop will be postponed until Saturday the 10th. Click UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS at the top of this column for details about these and other future poetry events in the NorCal area.

On Thursdays, Sept. 1-29, 4-6pm: T.S. Eliot “The Waste Land” 5-week online course will take place with Brenda Hillman and Robert Hass. Tuition is $300; limited financial aid is available. Info/reg: Sponsored by Community of Writers; supported by the International T.S. Eliot Society ( 

While you’re looking at the UPCOMING calendar, be sure to check out the information at the top about Sacramento Poetry Day (10/26) celebrations which have been announced by Sacramento Poet Laureate Andru Defeye. Lots will be going on, including a collection of poetry of YOURS, which has a September 26 deadline. I’m glad to see that this auspicious day will not be ignored this year. For the story of how Sac. Poetry Day got started in 1986, see Patrick Grizzell’s telling of the tale at




Toyota or toy Yoda—that is the question. . .














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, August 28, 2022

Dancing With The Wall

—Poetry by Dr. Anissa Sboui,
Sousse, Tunisia
—Photos Courtesy of Public Domain  



At dawn, the father carries the sacred book
Accompanies his son to the quasi-academic institute
Ignoring he’d be caught like a fish hook
What a bluff, the wicked Islamic clerics constitute

At noon, #humblebrag diffuses the news
Enlightening the ordinary citizens’ minds
Childhood desecrated: check the host’s interviews
Of most alarming situation, she reminds:
Dogma of dark brews,
Destructive ideas mirror tainted behinds

At night,   father   ,  unable to sleep
Nightmarish days do creep
His wife begins to weep
A foggy future where shame is deep…


If I read, I lead
Mediocrity, I supersede
Footprints of bad faith, I exceed
To drown the past, I need

If I read, I lead
Stretched cells to bleed
Searching for wit, I heed
Like the surgeon in the Operating Room, I proceed

If I read, I lead
Soul is freed
Mind is geed
Useless seed
Pulled like weed
For insight I speed

If I read, I lead
Book nerd, indeed
On pages, I feed
Delivering no screed

If I read, I lead
Learning is the greed
The current creed
Is to succeed


A woman,    alone    , in the fall
White wall waits, wanting warm waste
Legs left the ground
Bounces like a magnetic doll
A swift plastic train
Rolling ‘round the room
Children catch not its wagons
Vaporized like fake foam

A woman,  alone   , in summer keeps

Wrapping ‘bra-burning’ around her breast
Tapping the sick back
To rhyme with the swinging neck
Swollen thighs are like balloons
Needy of deflating the deadly fat

A woman    , alone    , in spring can
The wall is her safe fence
To drop her to dormant romance
Rosy radiation
Follows the rhythmic beat
Projection of silence, in defense


Along the warm way
Excitement contains their boredom
Like the infringement
Of the Pirate Bay
How to allay
The fear of uttering an insane bray

That woeful day
When folks betray
Squander the excessive bounty
Balls of cotton
Shift into streams of gray

That sad day
Twists into startling decay
Trust is now thrown away
Nothing is left to convey
But to worship God and pray

Shadows are swallowed by
The encroaching ray
The stealing foray
A misdeed to relay
A little thief, they portray,
Swerves their holiday

Like a macaque, not allowed to stay
As her eyes, to the white cellular, do stray
Not knowing how much they pay
Thinking it is a mere parlay
To bring joy to sweet Jay


Today’s LittleNip:

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

―Albert Camus


Welcome back to the Kitchen today to Dr. Anissa Sboui, as she writes to us from Tunisia. Thanks, Anissa!

And a reminder that Poetry of the Sierra Foothills meets at a new location today: Chateau Davell in the Love Shack, 3020 Vista Tierra Dr., Camino, CA. They will be featuring poets Linda Scheller and Gary Thomas, plus open mic. Click UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS at the top of this column for details about this and other future poetry events in the NorCal area.


—Public Domain Photo Courtesy
of Joe Nolan, 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.

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!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Old History Lives On

—Poetry by Kimberly Bolton, 
Jefferson City, MO
—Photos by Katy Brown, 
Davis, CA


Old history lives here, recorded rung
by painstaking rung in the heart of the trees,
those ancient historians.
Old history lives on here, secreted in the creases
and folds of the hills, sown and reaped in
the fields, season after season.

Long ago, the people of the Big Canoe
came up from the river to roam and to hunt,
to build their burial mounds to honor their dead.
After them came the covered wagons driving
down out of the hills into the Nile Valley of the Ozarks
Plateau in this new territory called the Missouri.

They came here with hearts brimful of hope
for forgiveness of past failures,
leaving behind them thin soil dibbled with rock,
and an uncharitable sky tight-fisted with rain.
They came here with faces hardened by disappointment
and heartache, yet outlined with a strong sense of
yearning for better times to come,
uplifted by a buoyant faith that this just might
be the place to do it.

It was this faith that made the months-long journey
more worthwhile, even as hardship followed
in the ruts of their wagon tracks.
Yet, their innate human need to make
a better life for themselves and their children,
and their children’s children, spurred them onward.

They did not see themselves as the heroes
and heroines of their own story,
but simple, ordinary people rising with the sun,
imbued with the desire to lay claim to this land,
even as it was the land itself that claimed them
for its own.


Once, this remote land was settled by those
seeking shelter among the hills and trees here.
Those who came from ‘back east’, from Appalachia,
and the Blue Ridge, and from farther away,
the wild moors of England, the fens of Scotland,
the fells of Ireland.

They came here to the Ozarks Plateau,
because deep in their ancestral memory
this place, with its camel-humped hills, its
shadowed valleys thick with dark woods,
reminded them of their ancient homelands.

Farms thrived on soil rich and loamy.
Families begat families.
The village center, with its grist mill for
grinding wheat, its general store for purchasing
what couldn’t be grown at home, its communal well 
at the crossroads upon which cows were herded
to market and farm horses plodded with sedate dignity,
was once the beating heart of this place.

No could imagine, or would want to,
living anywhere else.
Life was hard, as life was apt to be,
but there was comfort and familiarity, too.
Why live in a city that gave outsiders like themselves
the cold shoulder?
Why live among strangers they dare not confide in,
who smirked or sneered at what was to them their
strange ways, when here everyone knew everyone else,
and they all shared the same story?

Time, that merciless invader who waits for no one
and treats all equally, marched down out of the hills
into the valley, taking over.
Economic downturns, the chokehold of debt,
wars that claimed their men, crops that failed,
were followed by enticements of better pay, taking
children and grandchildren out of the fields
and onto factory floors.

Once, this land was rich with folk customs
and traditions of a people who lived here,
now remembered no more.
Suburbia, with all its conveniences of modern life,
has left this land abandoned.

Farmhouses stand empty, windows resembling forlorn eyes
looking out onto a world it does not recognize any more.
Derelict barns sag in on themselves as if they no longer
have the heart to withstand the abandonment.
Tall weeds have choked the once thriving fields
and pastures.

Nature encroaches a little more each year,
reclaiming this land for her own,
as it always was, as it will be again.
One can still come here, listen to the sound
of a stream rushing over rocks in its way,
the chirring song of insects in the deep grass,
the wing-beat of a bird taking off in flight,
the low voice of the wind conversing with trees,
the trees in turn conferring with one another,
as they remember what once was and is no more.

This is what is left behind.
This is what is left behind.


The poetry of the hill folk speaks eloquently
of small places like this,
where once the weather was determined by
woolly caterpillars, or kitchen habiliments
hidden deep within the heart of a persimmon.
They planted by the phases of the moon,
living out lives in rhythm with the seasons.

Nearly unknown to the larger, outside world,
small places like this take up a large space
in the hearts of those of us intimately familiar with them,
where once our ancestors called home.
I can’t say that I am not glad of it.
To others, this is the crossroads of emptiness on
the road to nowhere.
To the ancestors it had been all the world most
of them would ever know or care to.

Tucked into the hills among the trees,
they were content on this parcel of land;
tho’ it was little enough they had,
their needs, by comparison to ours, were few:
A roof overhead to keep out the rain.
Food grown themselves to stave off hunger.
A fire in the hearth to ward off the chill,
with plenty of elbow room to breathe.
From out of the Appalachian mountain range,
from deep in the Shenandoah Valley,
from out of the green hills of Ireland,
and the rocky crags of Scotland, homelands
of their forebears, they brought the songs
of hardship and survival into the Ozarks Plateau.

They sang of simple lives engaged in struggle
and strife, of small hearts grown large over time
with an inbred nostalgia for the old homesteads far and away,
which they may never have known themselves
except in their songs and stories,
and which this place, deep in the dark Ozark hills,
soon became loved and beloved in all its particulars,
which an outsider could never come to understand.
or take to heart.

Here, there was no need for the grand gesture,
or the complexities of city life.
Simplicity was a creed folks lived by.
To extend a hand to those who had less than themselves.
To revere and respect the nature of nature itself.

Cities shout to be heard over their own noise.
Here in the hill country, a subtle whisper will do.
Pay attention.
The trees will tell you.
They were here once. They are here still.

Est. 2002

How lucky we are to have such a place,
this small parcel of shady green,
all to ourselves, right here in town.
Long ago, the trees made a place for themselves,
made themselves right at home on this
gentle green slope that flows like a sea of green
onto flat grassy ground,
where sometimes deer come out to graze
because they feel safe with us,
even pose for pictures on the odd occasion.

An old badger who took up residence
under the shed last year will, once in a while,
come out to check on the state of things.
Birds and squirrels wreak havoc with
their chatter and song, which is the way we like it.

The trees practically drip green,
with a liquid green light that spills
out onto the ground in deep black pools of shade,
hence the name we have given this place:
Shady Green.
When it rains, this place transforms into
a Cezanne masterpiece.

I cannot imagine living anywhere else,
or living here without you.
Our trees hold close the great secret of
why we are in this life.


Today’s LittleNip:

The best path is the one that’s not there, because we are in the process of creating it.
―Craig D. Lounsbrough


Kimberly Bolton is visiting us today, bringing tales of pioneers and the Midwestern land of their lives, and we thank her for that. Thanks also to Katy Brown for her photos which, although not taken in the Midwest, bring it to mind with their prairie vegetation.

Last Monday I posted some misinformation, saying that this weekend's Poetry of the Sierra Foothills reading would be on Saturday. But that's incorrect. It will be tomorrow, Sunday, Aug. 28, in their new venue in Camino. Check it out on the UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS link at the top of this column.

NorCal poets will be saddened to learn that James Den Boer passed away on Thursday night. In addition to being a fine poet, James was a fine publisher (Swan Scythe Press), and he will be missed.


—Cartoon Courtesy of
Public Domain

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