Friday, October 20, 2023

October Magic

—Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham,
Placerville, CA
—And then scroll down for
Form Fiddlers’ Friday, with poetry by
Joe Nolan, Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth,
and Claire J. Baker


A misty morning
on the trail, summer-drained buffs,
olive-drabs, drear-grays—
all are touched with water-brush,
scents of oak-fall, needle-duff. 


Acorns plug the tree’s skin,
another in bird’s bill
adding to winter’s-worth,
and I think of woodstove
as dawn chills to the bone,
a trek to wood pile—but
after sun lights the way.


It’s October 13, not even the Ides
of the month yet.

It feels like winter, should I build a fire
in the woodstove?

Take my walk first—long johns, but
gloves too binding, make me feel trapped.

Acorns & horse apples litter the trail,
woodpeckers at work.

Lady walking poodle & rancher in pickup
wave good day.

By end of walk I’m feeling cozy,
forget the woodstove fire. 


Around a bend in the trail up ahead,
man and woman pushing strollers, with a dark
dog on leash,
            advancing slow as a ship
                       whose port & starboard
don’t quite connect.
Man in the lead, woman behind
gripping the leash & speaking
            sternly to her stroller.

Loki’s intently focused, telling me
            something’s off.
                        Dog growls as we slip by.
One crow passes overhead.

            The man’s off-trail at edge of brush
as if searching a way thru.
Strollers heaped high as homeless
carts. If there were
             babies could they breathe?
Woman’s face locked tight.

             What question could I ask?
What should I wonder? 


An easy walk I promised us,
there’s really not much to discuss.
You lead the way as dogs will do.
You always show me something new—
four crows who sit appraising us in corvid talk—
but we keep moving right along, an easy walk,

the lovely view of pond below.
A kingfisher puts on a show
of diving—does it make you wish
to plummet down and catch a fish?
No, no! don’t roil & spoil the water’s peaceful blue.
We’d get all muddy and disturb the lovely view. 


       annular solar eclipse 10/14/23

Time won’t stand still moving across
burned landscape, Moon rising up the ridge
to meet our Sun, tryst brief as a kiss.

Alone. I’m driving like last time, you alive
but blind, seeing how light fades as life does.
My shadow transparent as ghost on ground.

This time, eclipse is cloaked, storm-clouds
moving dark across sky, skeleton ridges,
burn-scar bare on every side. I stand

waiting for an opening in cloud, a blink.
Sky blue eye ringed with a sliver
of bright. Could it be you up there? 

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

On the trail we find cougar scat
and domestic cats turned feral—
is this a trap for me and dog,
this big-cat wonderland?


Autumnal thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine October Magic! Forms she has sent us this week include a Ryūka (“Felinity”); a Waka (“October Magic”); a Just 15s (“Warmup Exercises”); a Pleiades that is also a response to our recent Ekphrastic photo (“Autumn”); and a Wrapped Refrain (“With Loki at Lumsden Pond”). “Ships in the Night” is in response to our recent Seed of the Week, Connections. The Wrapped Refrain and the Pleiades are responses to last week’s Triple-F Challenges.

It’s not too late to sign up for this Sunday’s Capturing Wakamatsu workshop with Taylor Graham and Katy Brown at Wakamatsu Farm in Placerville; info/reg at For details about these events, and news about El Dorado County poetry, past (photos!) and future, see Taylor Graham’s Western Slope El Dorado poetry on Facebook at And for more news about NorCal poetry, click on Medusa's UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS (

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 

We received responses to last week’s Ekphrastic photo from Joe Nolan, Nolcha Fox, and Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

How do you like my
“Christmas-Card Tree,”
Where I’m saving my
Acorns for Winter?

I save up all my acorns
Right where I can see them.
I couldn’t bear
To miss a single one.

It reminds me of fruitcake,
The way they tightly fit,

But that’s not all of it—
I live in fear of squirrels.
I’m thankful they are blind,
It’s the almost part that worries me.

They have a good sense of smell.
I hope they do not smell my tree
Deep in the cold days of Winter
When I’ll need to eat my stash.

* * *

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

While birds may love the holes they peck
to store their winter bounty.
Poor trees, too pimpled, scarred for life
are passed up for the party.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

Why would woodpecker bore a hole
to store an acorn, pantry food,
or even deepfreeze, winter fare,
cork cambium as oaken cloak,
for uncorked leaves the vessels dry?
To expect fall before the nest
is even built—and Acorn Rest
seems better name, retirement home,
than ever, nursery for clutch—
sounds like a gamble—‘Draw the Straw’—
as if to claw what’s in the store
is party game at bingo hall.

From Cali to Colombia,
these stunning studs say more than all,
along with ‘helpers of the nest’
(appointee, ornithology)
incestuous communities,
which eat old eggs till optimum,
like Orwell, 1984,
an Animal Farm merger too.
Sap drilling, filling shrinking holes,
granary trees and cracks in bark,
these clown-faced tampers of the wedge,
leave sentry, watching over whole.

So where’s the point—save beak of course?
I never heard—though that’s not much—
such social construct in a bird,
this spectacle where breed unknown;
a cork to seal up xylem flow—
or was it phloem, biology?—
a stopper blocking too dry air,
so shrunken cobs refitted there.
The bird has learnt, or knows it all,
the bio, physics, chemistry,
that heart of oak, a bole of food,
and storage space, as vacuum-packed.

• • •

Here’s a Cinquain from Claire Baker:
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

learning close-up just how
a wave looks when it curls, ready
to break.

* * *

And an Ars Poetica from Stephen Kingsnorth: “verse drawn by our dreams”…

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Our art outlasts the reign of states,
words, observations, questions posed,
the printer’s eroteme on page,
or brushwork sweeping dust away,
an armature for raising shapes
to re-design our outlook scene.
We hear of street art, urban scape,
but rarely peer where parkour leaps—
its brick and tiles, or frieze outline
changes perspective on our town.
The marbled grace released from block,
or crafted verse drawn by our dreams—
the best outlast brief kingdom schemes
through power addressing minds and hearts.


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 challenges, and send your results to! (No deadline.) The Mirror Sestet has a nice rhythm to it; again, don’t get too hung up in the explanation, just follow the example.

•••Mirror Sestet:

•••AND/OR the Clarity Pyramid, which looks like fun:

•••Clarity Pyramid:

•••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 “Fear”.


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

•••Ars Poetica:
•••Cinquain: AND/OR See for info about its inventor, Adelaide Crapsey.
•••Clarity Pyramid:
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Just 15s: poem or stanza of 15 syllables
•••Mirror Sestet:
•••Wrapped Refrain:


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

* * *

—Public Domain Photo Courtesy
of Joe Nolan


Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.

Find previous four-or-so posts by scrolling down
under today; or there's an "Older Posts" button
at the bottom of this column; or find previous poets
by typing the name of the poet or poem
 into the little beige box at the top 
left-hand side of today’s post; or go to 
Medusa’s Rapsheet at the bottom of
the blue column at the right
 to find the date you want.
LittleSnake’s Glimmer of Hope
(A cookie from the Kitchen for today)

Cat purring in the tree?
No, just the
woodpecker family,
deep in dusky