Friday, June 30, 2023

Trash Talking

Under the Bridge
—Poetry by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
—And then scroll down to
Form Fiddlers’ Friday, with poetry by
Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth, 
Claire J. Baker and Robert Nimmo

Where can one park, to walk or rest?
A path, a nest….

Here in the town is one slot found?
Welcoming ground….

A weary journeyer asks, where?
Here’s empty air.

Up the hill, POSTED signs up there
and all along the alley too,
but yes, the sky is free and blue.
A path, a nest, welcoming ground, here’s empty air. 


From this perspective the world
might be awakening to primeval daylight.
Below the bridge, it goes about its business,
carving its way between banks
into an overlay of ages—vestige of a buried
ancient river. Such slow progress,
gathering rain from the high hills, eroding
boulder to gravel, lugging it downstream
as it tries to filter whatever toxic
it bears, speaking in cryptic water-tongue
between bike path and courthouse,
afraid of nothing but drought. 


From the paved bike trail above, I looked
for the safest way down to the town’s creek
through almost tropical wild growth.
Peavine and blackberry bramble. A dirt seat-of-
the-pants way down; hopefully I’d manage
the descent with my river-cleanup bag. A noble
desire, I thought when I signed up for this.
Old hiking boots for footing on slippery rocks,
sturdy gloves, a trash-picker for cigarette
butts flipped into creekside mud, and who
knows what other toxic contamination.
Hopefully, I’ll be ridding the creek of all that,
if only along my stretch of shoreline
and shallow but secretive water.
How much longer till the current flows
free and clear? A noble dream. 


Ten times thirteen trucks towing trailers, toting
tons—torn tents, trashed toys, TVs, toasters,
tarpaper, tattered toupees, teapots, thermometers,
threadbare tank-tops, tasteless ties, tired tools,
transfer tokens, troubled toilets, tawdry turnouts,
tautograms—trash transmogrifies, translates 
tremors to towns toppling topsy-turvy turned toxic 


An anonymous angel
allows Ailanthus altissima
an accipiter aerie
and an avian approach
advancing across any airborne
apparatus as an aperture, an aim,
an acceptance.

* * *


One owl on old oak
opens ocular orbs, observes,
offers obverse oratory:
ooooh—ooh ooh—ooooh.
Ode, omen or oracle?
Only one owl. 


            Hypericum concinnum

A single flower unbending to chill wind
on its hill scraped bare—fire safe in a ring
of towering manzanita. What does a golden
flower care for shrubs impersonating trees?
this one flower on its stem holding aloft
the dream of gold among dead glory holes
chainlink-fenced so children won’t fall in.
This flower invites them—not to pick
but to bow on their knees before it,
to marvel at its spray of gold filaments;
to listen to its story, how it only exists
in the Golden State, how brief its life,
its blossoming; a spring, a summer,
then gone like a poke of gold nuggets.
Yet it will come again next year,
small awesome crown of this barren hill. 


Name your whereabouts by the Raven
of your homeLand nobody could guess
the name of 1 first love & (Special
character) in upper case reVerse
the day you wondered how who when why
sprinkle Randomly w/ numbers, rhymes
change confiGurations on the nth
day of every quaRter of the moon
on aXis of each website’s spider
be The elusive fly Write nOthing
down for anyone 2 catch Simply
trust your self-effacing meMory.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

on hold
phone to ear
just one hand to
count my syllables—
may be forever
thus hand-icapped
on hold to
write this


Good morning and thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s poems and photos; she definitely sank her teeth into the Tautogram, with charming results! Forms she has sent today include some Normative Syllabics (“Passwords”); a Word-Can Poem (A Noble Desire); 1/2 a Double Etheree (for lack of a better name: “One-Handed Poet”); three Tautograms (“Obscure”; “Along an Abysmal Alleyway”; “Talking Trash”); and an Ovillejo “(No Parking”). The Tautogram and the Ovillejo were last week’s Triple-F Challenges.

Don’t forget that on Sunday, July 9 (a week from this Sunday), Taylor Graham and Katy Brown will facilitate another Wakamatsu workshop at Wakamatsu Farm in Placerville from 10am-noon. It’s not too late to register; for details, and info about what else is going on in poetry in El Dorado County, go to Western Slope El Dorado on Facebook: Plus, Lara Gularte has a Facebook page to announce poetry events and all things poetic in the county—see You can also click on Medusa's UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS ( for details about future poetry events in the NorCal area—and keep an eye on this link and on the Kitchen for happenings that might pop up during the week.

El Dorado County thanks Lara Gularte for her service as EDH Poet Laureate, 2021-2023; last Sunday’s Chateau Davell reading in Camino was her final event as Poet Laureate. Lara has served us well, putting together many poetry events over her two-year tenure, and we're grateful for her time and energy. She's going to be a tough act to follow!

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 challenges—  Whaddaya got to lose… ? If you send ‘em, I’ll post ‘em! (See Medusa’s Form Finder at the end of this post for resources and for links to poetry terms used in today’s post.)

There’s also a page at the top of Medusa’s Kitchen called, “FORMS! OMG!!!” which expresses some of my (take ‘em or leave 'em) opinions about the use of forms in poetry writing, as well as listing some more resources to help you navigate through Form Quicksand. Got any more resources to add to our list? Send them to for the benefit of all man/woman/poetkind!
* * * 

Last Week’s Ekphrastic Photo
Here are responses to last week’s Ekphrastic photo from Nolcha Fox and Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

They lick in places that would make
the neighbors wonder if I did
the same thing in the yard.
They take up the entire bed
and leave me sleeping on the floor.
They run in circles, chasing bugs,
or maybe it’s their tails.
They run to greet me, knowing
they’re the center of my life.
A little food, their day’s complete,
they rub against me,
leaving tracks of white.
No matter wealth or status,
I’ll never be as happy as
my darling dog and cat.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

Familiar, witch black is that,
or is the wight a shade in fact,
so maybe ten lives on the grass—
though unfamiliar, the hound.

Why is it I so dislike cats—
air independent, of disdain,
appearing after bird-time done,
for my provision, break-fast dine?

And as for dog, what pedigree?
Some paws for thought, tongue loll about,
red setter reset, I first sought—
but barking up the wrong tree, branch.

This neither privet, private hedge,
nor crazy paving leading in,
with puss to boot and tail to tell;
dog’s shaggy story come to nought.

* * *

Claire Baker’s poem today is a response to Medusa’s current Tuesday Seed of the Week: Crickets, and she has sent it in the form of a A Sliding Fiver:

from Pinocchio
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

Jiminy Cricket,
I’ve now hit ninety,
repenting my fibs,
waning humbler than
a baked potato.

I whisper with pride,
Jiminy Cricket,
see the leaves I’ve turned?
They’re pressed in a book
named Be Truer, Me.

Conscience ever tweaked,
I take the high road.
Jiminy Cricket,
I thrive in thin air.
Nose shortening yet?

Rising with the sun
tabula rasa—
it’s a nifty lift!
Jiminy Cricket,
I feel expansive,

grant favors unasked:
child, here’s a bouquet.
Make amends, Amen.
Hey, you crazy world—
Jiminy Cricket!

* * *

Here is an Ars Poetica from Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Why did I reach back, heartfelt search,
my boyhood breaks in grandma’s home,
those playful trips to park, the creek,
our sibling trips till tea called home?
The kitchen dinge, well pump still sink,
a parlour, unknown what its use,
a chain-pull cistern, frosted glass,
and love unbounded, known in full.
Found paradise in pebbled beach
’mongst jellyfish and stub end toes,
jam sanded sandwich, bucket loo,
Aladdin smells, beach hut review.
But though I checked, confirmed the rules,
before I delved, revealed the horde;
was disallowed, not living there,
my precious roots of learning shelved.
Of course, I’m sad; though glad I wrote,
recovered joys of sixty past,
but now in limbo, story told,
no ears to hear, no eyes unfold,
so none will know my early thrill
of grandma simply being there.

* * *

And we close today with a Sonnet about yours truly by Robert Nimmo from Christchurch, New Zealand. Robert is a newcomer to the Kitchen; check in tomorrow for more from him:

—Robert Nimmo, Christchurch, New Zealand

There is a lady on our boulevard
Whose self-styled mission’s to protect the town;
She pins two eyes on ev’ryone’s backyard,
And rumbles both the druggee and the clown.

A mastiff bitch, her gown a glossy sheen,
Behave and you will have a newfound friend;
But some maintain offenders she had seen
Met foul disaster and a sticky end.

One day two bullies thundered down the street
And caught our lady’s cold and baleful stare,
They hit a child, knocked oldies off their feet
Then headed for the beach but none knew where.

Months later found two clumps as white as bone
That someone or something had turned to stone.


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 these challenge, and send it/them to! (No deadline.) Here—give a Novem a shot:


•••AND/OR write an Occasional Poem—that is, one written for special occasions. (It does NOT mean writing only once in a while…)

•••Occasional Poem:

•••See also the bottom of this post for another challenge, this one an Ekphrastic photo.

•••And don’t forget each Tuesday’s Seed of the Week! This week it’s “Crickets”.


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

•••Ars Poetica:
•••Ekphrastic Poem:   
•••Normative Syllabics: AND/OR
•••Occasional Poem:
•••Sliding Fiver: 5 stanzas, 5 lines, 5 syllables per line. First line slides down a line 5 times, to become the last line. (Martha Bosworth, via Claire J. Baker)
•••Sonnet Forms: AND/OR AND/OR
•••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


 Today's Ekphrastic Challenge!
 Make what you can of today's
photo, and send your poetic results to (No deadline.)

* * *

—Photo Courtesy of Public Domain

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.


Thursday, June 29, 2023

Of Dragons and Unicorns

Three-Headed Dragon, Libetsk, Russia
—Poetry by Alexieva Petrouchka, 
Los Angeles, CA
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy  
of Alexieva Petroucha
Змеюв Род
(in Bulgarian)

Мойта пра-баба, стара пророчица,
ведма, знахарка и врачка добра -
както си баеше беше ми казала,
че нейната баба змей я е крал.

Дошъл на герана, вода ѝ поискал -
грабнал я, литнал с големи криле,
после се върнали, сватба ѝ вдигнал –
и тъй род го има за векове.

Той силен, тя блага като медена пита;
той пазел селото, тя лечител била –
на врага с люта сеч, а на госта с постилка
и така всеки знаел на Змея дома.

Нямал прошка за злия, имал хляб за добрия,
с огън и меч побеждавал врага.
Още има зад хълма Змеюва нива,
и нас още ни има во веки
за гордост на тая свещенна земя!

* * *

(in English)

My grandma was old hexa and healer;
She knew the herbs, she healed the wounds.
She was doing her magic and spells
When she said that a dragon once stole
Her distant grandma when she was a maid.

He came for the water to the village well.
He grabbed her and flew her far-far away.
Then came back and married her in a lavish
This is the way began my kin—
For centuries ahead to be.

He was strong; she was sweet like a 
honey-bread pita;
He protected the village, she cured the 
To the invaders he threw fires and fought
them with swords;
To strangers in need, she gave shelter and 

So, everyone knew their place. Today,
The valley still carries his Dragon’s name.
People make legends and sing cheerful songs.
But we are alive and we still stay;
We never give up, in his Dragon’s way.  

* * *


I wish I was a three-headed fiery dragon
And could solve all my problems at once.
As you know, all my brothers travel at night
Due to traffic control. That’s right!

The first head could lie down
On a heavenly cloud
Avoiding my insomniac time.
So, I could get my beauty sleep
Way above the commoner-crowd.

Meanwhile, the second head
Could blow flames on the neck
Of the people who only exist
To inflict pain on the others. I have a list
And I’d give them a glimpse of
How the furnace below really is.

A note of delight: Dante was right
About hell, but my list is longer.
My flames might be faster and stronger—
Because I carry at once three hells.

I almost forgot! I would have a third head!
It would be flame-buoyant and wild.
The two heads could stay sober and dry.
In fact, I don’t mind turning my domain
Into a beer-marathon den.

Folks, I would have no problem hosting
Everyday Barbie-cute in my back yard.
Oh, pardon my spelling. What I was telling?
I meant “b-b-q” and…you’ve got the clue.

I swear! I’m not going to steal sexy maidens.
Oh, Holy heavens! This is an outdated fashion
For this Internet age, but I’ll party with no
And keep on my deck
Boys from fire-fighting descent.

They’ll point out a hose. Of course,
It would be great if, on every event
I could get free swimming lake there,
Just bursting my breath in the air.

No, no, no! I’m not going to flap my wings
And silently disappear!
My happy and dizzy third head
Would weave its long neck and cheer:
"Oh, what the heck!
Hey man, toss me another barrel of beer!"
Fantasie: Riding a Unicorn

In my mid-night lavender dreams
Crispy-white unicorn comes.
It emerges from the shimmering mist
Showered with stardust from above.

I am touching his twisted horn,
Gliding palm on his waterfall mane,
Whispering “Where were you born?
Are you coming from heaven, my friend?”

I am riding with wings of a fairy,
One little star lands in my heart
Crossing paths with a sparkling rainbow.
Fireflies lighten my way in love.

* * *


I am riding my crispy-white unicorn
With sparkling star on his horn.

Where am I going?

Silver moonlight from above
Is painting a path
Among blossoming meadows
Of my dreams and desires.

I am riding my unicorn
Through the mist;
Barefooted, with veils on my hips,
Softly wearing my morning tiara,  
Cleansing gently my soul
In the whispering creek.

Where am I going?

I am riding
Towards the morning.
Don’t wake me up, please…


Today’s LittleNip:

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

—Neil Gaiman,


Surprise—a bit of Bulgarian to wake us up this morning! Welcome back to the Kitchen, Alexieva Petrouchka! In addition to her fiery poems today, Alexieva has sent us some information:

Note regarding Dragons: Dragon’s myths are part of the cultural belief system. They appear to be one-headed (as in Asia and Northern Europe), two-headed (as in parts of Europe), and three-headed ones, broadly popular among Slavic verbal folk traditions, as in Bulgaria and Russia (for example). Dragons could be bad or good. The big folk heroes fight them and win. Dragons steal beautiful maidens and live with them. They might become protectors of villages. Or might become human-like.

Note regarding Unicorns: The legend of the unicorn is 10,000 years old. Some versions exist in China, Africa, South America, Greece, and in parts of Europe. It is said that the unicorns come down to earth from heaven once a year to fulfill one wish. A wish could be fulfilled by touching his twisted horn, and if the person has a pure heart, the wish will come true. The unicorn with huge wings is named Pegasus, a symbol of writers and poets.

Photo Credits/Links:
1.  A statue of a three-headed fire breathing dragon in Lipetsk region, Russia (about 15 meters tall)
More info:
 2.  Fantasie

Thanks, Alexieva!




A reminder that
Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe
meets in Sacramento tonight at 8pm, 
working its way toward its August closing. (See 
for info about that).
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!
Riding a Unicorn



Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Perfectly Still

—Poetry and Visuals by Aaron Bowker, U.S.
overwhelming waves
blissfully drowning
in music

* * *

never ending rain
creating a backyard pool
for ducks

* * *

early storm clouds
washing away years of
bad memories


cemetery pond
centuries of secrets 

* * *

snow recedes
revealing the
potholes of life

* * *

staring at night’s sky
beautiful freckles cover
her face
morning coffee
enjoying the soft white foam
of her skin

* * *

a kiss follows
a beautiful freckled map
to her lips

warm breeze
the feeling of
a gentle kiss


Today’s LittleNip:

iris petals
open new memories
every spring

—Aaron Bowker


Aaron Bowker says he is a super-self-critical Virgo, walking a path between worlds while dabbling in art, photography, and poetry. Poems of his have been featured in
Failed Haiku, Cold Moon Journal, The Wombwell Rainbow, and Heterodox Haiku Journal, with art and poetry featured in The Hooghly Review, The Wombwell Rainbow, and Black & White Haifa/Haisha. Aaron sends a “special thank-you to Jerome Berglund for being my mentor and pushing me to limits otherwise unexplored”. Welcome to the Kitchen, Aaron, and don’t be a stranger!


 Aaron Bowker

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, June 27, 2023

First Note of the Last Rhythm

The War Goes On 
—Poetry by Joyce Odam and Robin Gale Odam,
 Sacramento, CA
 —Photos by Robin Gale Odam

—Joyce Odam

heart beats, the true heart slows.
it was music where silence listens
to every beat—every force of

listening. music hums in the
brain, shudder listens, feels the
pace. music feels the slow changes.

this is only a beat of tempo in slow
change—the rhythm slows for the
listening. the moon and sound feel  

the touch of distance, the sky moving
slowly behind a raising of the lone
note waited for—waiting now.

the music touches an old gray
cloud, only weeping now, spreading
for distance, no purpose now, no end

to listening, no cry of surrender for
the singing of the far voice finding the
first note of the last rhythm of now.


Children on the Swings


 —Robin Gale Odam

navigating the course of emotions
and the briny consequence of moving
upstream—not yet clear as purity,
still holding fast to saline dreams,
crossing the current, diving deeper

(prev. pub. in Brevities, June 2018)


—Robin Gale Odam

riding in silence
staring into separate dreams
words too far away
or too close
it used to be different

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, March 25, 2011)


The Slow Changes


—Robin Gale Odam

Did you wait for me?
Listen for my footsteps?
Feel time
through the moment?
Did you sink?
Just a little?
Did you?


—Robin Gale Odam

Found him out there alone,
tangled in his thoughts.

I’ll take him a lifeline—

Corona, silence,
wisp of blue silk.

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen,
February 15, 2011) 


Let The Self Be Wise


—Robin Gale Odam

I am plunging down the falling road.
I cannot fall fast enough.
There are slow things in my way.
The minutes race ahead of me.
I scream profanities no one will hear.
My lips are cool rose.
I grip tightly.
My nails are luscious lilac.
My stop is far ahead.
Someone waits impatiently.
When I arrive I will be invisible.
Someone will look through me
at the swift hands of the clock
spinning the circle
that will not let me go.


The Inner Self

—Robin Gale Odam

I heard the most beautiful song, so
many voices, women . . . poets . . . singing.
You should have heard it.

I called because I just wondered,
well . . . if I’d vanished.
Your silence turned me . . . there were
more directions than before.
I couldn’t figure which way I was.
I thought I remembered your arms
around me.

I was thinking, well . . . the music filled me,
lifted me back from . . . somewhere.

I lit the candle and twisted
pieces of paper into little blossoms,
blackened their edges in the flame . . .
little fire flowers. For you.
I wondered if the fire was painful . . .
pain is an art . . . it inspires . . . am I
making sense?
The flowers are lovely.

How did the grandmothers do this dance?
Did they have potions? Did they pray?
Did they dream and awaken to kisses
in nightfall? Nightfall—am I rambling?

I placed the burned flowers in that little
vase. I lifted the tiny porcelain baby and
danced around . . . in the voices of poets.
And I wanted to ask you to remember . . .

I should be going. I left ashes. Ok, then.
Yes, they are asleep. Everything is
locked up. You’re welcome.

You will rejoin your company, make
light conversation, look into the night sky . . .
I have not vanished. The spotlight will
follow us, you in form and me in your eyes.


 —Robin Gale Odam

You took the bones of my hours
and wound them into your time piece.
I’ve kept the seconds, for your return
—each morning I count them.

(prev. pub. in Brevities, January 2015)


The Grace of Time 

—Joyce Odam

Give me the night-cry from the
crying. The day is full of time. The
night wind will unwind the grace of
time—slow its need, feel the dark
surrender, let the mood through.

Soon the blend will erase all its
loss with all its struggles. If this is
a quarrel with the self, let the self be
wise and with the repent deep in the
quarrel, deep in the deepier quarrel,
human and out of fear—fear is
too much to carry under the world,
every where and no where in life
is accustomed to be.

Slide inward, wipe the wanting tears,
no tears for the inner self nor the escape
from the war goes on beyond memory—
the end has come and gone—the whirl
is fun—even the time left in the new
beginning has a way to go, all ways
are the only way anymore.

“I say,—I think and say, for the real
reality alone now in love’s remorse and,
forgive the failures. I hear the wheels turning.
I thank and bless the only God forever and
AMEN . . . from my heart to your heart. AMEN.”


Today’s LittleNip:

—Robin Gale Odam

You are
writing material.



The Odam Poets have joined us this morning with tales of the toxic, our Seed of the Week, and our thanks to them for their fine work. About Joyce’s poem, “Night Crying, Robin writes, “… her word, deepier, is not a typo, it is creative imaging.”

Our new Seed of the Week is “Crickets”. 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. Be sure to check each Tuesday for the latest Seed of the Week.




Twila-Star, the newest addition
to the Odam Family










A reminder that
Twin Lotus Thai Fourth Tuesdays meets tonight
in Sacramento, 6pm—reservations strongly
For more 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.

“. . . from my heart to your heart . . .”

Monday, June 26, 2023


Harbinger of a Crooked Domain
—Poetry by Donald R. Anderson, Claire J. Baker,
Stephen Kingsnorth, Lauren McBride, Caschwa,
Joe Nolan and Nolcha Fox
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy 
of Joe Nolan
—Donald R. Anderson, Stockton, CA

like a brick vintage historical landmark
weighty and cumbersome
I dwell on the inner peace
a bubble of air free of the world
the ocean in my mind
the trees sea sighing in my mind
the far-away cry of electric guitar from
musicians yearning angst driven to the ends of the
world it crashes in
it crashes, toxic,
and you are my perfect sphere,
a Holy place of peace
where your golden arms embrace my eccentricities
and the smooth soft night glides over moon clouds
I wander into i into infinity into humility
and rest near your arms
our bodies too burdened to carry each other too far
but rest is the inertia
we have found the zen paradise of two in love
me and you
husband and wife
in a safe bubble of heaven
together the strength of the form
keeps physical and spiritual
connected closer than air

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

Relievedly the harsh word toxic
in half pig Latin reads tick-toks.
A candle clips its noxious wick.
How easily the harsh word toxic
sours the air, deflates a brick,
so I would rather write of clocks.
Gratefully the harsh word toxic
in half pig Latin reads tick-toks. 

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

Yew bow for bull, each arrow tipped,
more than the pierce, brief quiver, death,
a poison bleeding where the shaft
had sliced through flesh, split muscle spit,
like venom sucked from open wound.

But do you bow, kowtow affect,
when faced, effect, slow seeping show,
first signs of would-be toxic creep,
the mongers, gossip, rumour flow,
insinuating, I’ve been told?

Less obvious, unlabelled waste,
no skull or crossbones on the can,
but who is able to foresee
that green light should be showing red,
plumes belch fumes, razed floe flumes raise seas? 

—Lauren McBride, Texas

no cure known

muscle turns to bone

children freeze to stone

(prev. pub. in 15 Words or Less, 2010)

—Lauren McBride
Please take a minute
to not breathe.
One minute of your day—
sixty seconds.
Now three deep breaths—
inhale, exhale, again and hold . . .
lungs full, diaphragm strong, heartbeat steady.
1, 2, 3 starting off easy
            croup, asthma, cystic fibrosis
4, 5, 6 seconds speeding by
                 COVID-19, pertussis, pneumonia

10, 15 seconds ticking slower
                      tuberculosis, pulmonary edema,

20, 25 straining now
                              COPD, lung cancer,
                              idiopathic pulmonary 

30, 35 heart racing
                  coughing, choking, short of breath,
                  respiratory arrest

40, 50 lungs burning, diaphragm twitching
            inhaler, bottled oxygen, ventilator
60 seconds
Now breathe!
Inhale. Exhale.
Again. Breathe deeply
in and out,    in    and    out
and be grateful
that you can.

(prev. pub. version in
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, 2018)

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

The medium is the message. The very energy
expended is expected to win the argument.

            —The Medium is the Massage:
                An Inventory of Effects, 1967, by
                Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore

    1) Too Big to Fail, go ahead, pour in the
    2) Stand Your Ground, otherwise known as 
            pull the trigger first, explain later (just like
            big auto does with rolling out new cars and
            then recalling millions that don’t work right)
    3) The South Will Rise Again, many still salute 
        the Confederate flag and will go to any
            extremes to achieve their goals
    4) LGBTQ+, one could simply choose to ignore
            these individuals, like sitting in a coffee
            shop next to someone that flavors their 
            coffee differently than you, but a simple 
            Target display of Pride apparel seems to 
            trigger heated, physical responses
    5) Playground bullies, rules are tossed aside 
        and it is all about do as I say, or else!
    6) Abortion Ban, don’t ever forget that women
        are the tools of men, period.
    7) “A woman’s place is”, with this beginning,
            there is no winning argument
    8) Temper Tantrums, all force, no substance
    9) Military might, leverage at the highest level
    10) Railway crossings, right and wrong are

—Shiva Neupane, Melbourne, Australia
What a cute creature,
skipping with the big strides.
In the majestic biological tunnel
The joey is slouching.
This astounding design
Baffled me artistically.
As I walked past the roads,
Kangaroos were minced by vehicles.
Everyone is rushing for home
But no one is slowing their vehicles.
Save the animals
By slowing your vehicles. 
No, you can’t roller-skate….

—Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA
Bad for you.
Makes you vomit.
Body rejects assimilation,
Has some phobia
About what it’s ingested.
Won’t be digested.
Must be rejected.
Up and out
The down-tube-spout.
Won’t be allowed
To pass the gate
Into the nether regions.
Ejectus dilectus immediatum!

Can’t we just all get along?
Maybe not.
Some things just don’t mix—
Oil and water.

Some things just make things worse
For one another—
Pouring gasoline on a fire
Or stealing candy
From a baby.

—Joe Nolan

Unforeseen contingencies—
Godzilla is in town.
He’s knocked down
Half of Tokyo
By whipping
His tail around.

It’s an actuarial’s nightmare!
Who could have foreseen
The comeback of Godzilla
And man, he’s really mean!

This time will be
Wore than before—
Worse than you
Can imagine!

He got no limit
To his endless rage
And now he wants to explain it
All over downtown Tokyo.

—Sayani Mukherjee, Chandannagar, W. Bengal, India

The morning June
Everything is White
I smell of fresh Roses.
Jasmine white lotus
That bloom in jannah
Everything pours in
Angelic substances
White sepulchral lights
Divine madness
Angelic frequency
June is my very existence
Green then white
Blue then oblivion
The morning is pure
A white lotus
I smell of fresh Roses.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

Her breath heavy
with gin and the wrong
side of the bed,
she blows cigarette
smoke in my face,
grinds smoldering stub
in my palm.
Want some more?
she whispers,
wilting my ear.

She is not the s’more
of my campfire.


Toxic! Warning: It’s Toxic in the Kitchen today—our Seed of the Week. Some of our contributors have taken shovels to the occasion and provided us with poems on the subject, and we are grateful for that. Them. Those. Be sure to check each Tuesday for the latest Seed of the Week.

Shiva Neupane reminds us that autos can be toxic to kangaroos, so be sure to avoid them if you see one in, oh, say, Carmichael. That includes other creatures, of course. A car is such a lethal (toxic!) weapon.

Caschwa’s poem is based on Marshall McLuhan’s book. And no, the book title is not supposed to be “Message”—a trap I fell into. See

About her work today, newcomer Lauren McBride writes “… the following two poems [were] inspired by the post of Stephen Kingsnorth, 6/7/23 o MK, about Parkinson’s … hoping to add my voice to the awareness/mindfulness of diseases through poetry.” About her first poem, Lauren writes, “Sadly, this is a real disease:” Lauren’s chapbook,
Aliens, Magic, and Monsters, is forthcoming from Hiraeth Publishing (2023). Welcome to the Kitchen, Lauren, and don’t be a stranger!

And, after all that toxicity (including Godzilla!), it’s refreshing to hear Sayani Mukherjee bring in some cool, cleansing white…

Michael Czarnecki reads at Sac. Poetry Center tonight, 7:30pm; Twin Lotus Thai’s Fourth Tuesday Poetry is action-packed on Tuesday at 6pm (reservations advised); and Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe has it goin’ on this Thursday at 8pm, working its way toward its closing in August. (See for info about Luna’s closing). Click on Medusa's UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS ( for details about these and other future poetry events in the NorCal area—and keep an eye on this link and on the Kitchen for happenings that might pop up during the week.




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