—Photos Courtesy of Public Domain
So Zeus immortalized his BFFs—
throwing handfuls of diamonds across
the black velvet cloth of night.
Castor and Pollux—two brothers, one
murdered, one alive—now the twinned
Mega-mammals, Taurus and Ursa
Major—one a philandering Zeus
and the second his lover,
transformed by righteous Hera—
both walk Autumn skies.
Pegasus, sprung from Medusa’s
slain body—now Poseidon’s steed
Orion, the Heaven’s hunter,
and sea God’s son.
Stories all—that warm November
Surrounded by patterns—but
do we see?
Last January the Virgin Mary waved
hello from my pre-bed-time cocoa.
Or perhaps it’s just apophenia—
“The tendency to perceive
a connection or meaningful pattern
between unrelated or random things
(such as objects or ideas).”
—Merriam Webster Dictionary 2022
It is the most common unseen snake,
sliding through the work of last year’s
red oak and maple, taupe leaves now asleep
under my azaleas and Dutch irises.
DeKay’s is the shy kid in the
serpent seventh grade. The tween
bracing the green gymnasium
wall at the ophidian school dance.
Not just shy, but short, like so many
middle-schoolers—typical max. size
a foot, with occasional giants of
twenty inches—like the six-foot kid
who flunked eighth grade and was held back.
Its chitinous scales are pastel, not oil—
tan, cream, and brown, sometimes a handful
of black-spots, as if Shelley’s fountain
pen mistakenly spurted on a blank
page—mottled skin disappearing
into the Piedmont duff.
Typically, I hear their rustling before sighting—
they are cryptic as a fired principal.
Eight years ago I picked up a fat female
and two-dozen young parachuted out,
only to scatter in October’s leaves
like camoed members of some covert
Navy Seal action.
I’m at a loss for its love of slugs.
Gardening twenty years, I’ve
given up planting squash—all hope
exhaled from years of deflated
stems. Vine borers—like so much
Old South—veneer of oaken
courtesy—over a hollow, angry, core.
Then a friend said “Seminole
Pumpkins”—historic gift of Calusa,
Seminole, and Creek—seeds planted
at the bases of pines and oaks—they
watched vines snake-up twenty plus
feet—pumpkins dangling like party
lights on a humid August night.
Toes bathed in dew—I walk to
the garden, to find foot-wide leaves
the color of fast chlorophyll,
guarding seven ripening
“Chassahowitzka” the Seminoles
said—“hanging pumpkin”, now
also river, and region.
Like many gifts, this is
undeserved, but given anyway.
Heading north to the western
Blue Ridge—shielding California
cousins from August in Georgia.
Kids strapped in, we’re an hour down the road,
when the afternoon thunderstorm rhumbas
in, flexes twice, and spews three inches
of soupy rain. Having driven this road
for seventeen years, I’m on autopilot,
then I notice a box turtle trying
to cross both lanes of this curved knife that
slices through piney forest—roadside sourwoods
decked with glowing yellow flower spikes.
Rain halted, steam swirls from pavement—
heat wraiths—while this Triassic relic
plods on. Red eyes tell me his pronouns are
he/him—he’s halfway across, and I
pull our Subaru to the shoulder,
beginning the rescue.
Whoosh—a car approaches, maybe
50, 55—quick swerve—a hollow
pop—a sound like an old pumpkin
Turtle parts explode like brown fireworks—
an unbidden scene comes to mind—Mom’s
loud scream as her Karmen Ghia vaults
the thirty foot embankment on Baja
Highway One, just outside Tecate.
Never miss a chance to say “I love you”.
Mid-February and the red-tails
and red-shoulders dance across
the sky, shouting kiah, kiah
birdtalk for “look at me, look at me”.
A pick-up bar in a cobalt
sky, with raptors circling and
chanting “hey baby, hey baby”.
Mating is a cloacal kiss
an uninspired and rapid
act of amour—white-bread sex—
butts touching for just a few
seconds, male on the female’s back
bending downward bussing his
cloaca with hers, and the next
generation is off to the races.
Cloaca, ancestral orifice,
a single opening for genital
and excretory pores. Birds, fish,
snakes and amphibians.
Which reminds me of the old adage
that humans must have been designed
by an engineer, because only an
engineer would have put the sewage
treatment plant adjacent to the
. . . when a good poet is confronted with difficult facts that he knows to be true but also are inimical to poetry, he has no choice but to flee to the margins; it was . . . this very retreat that allowed him to hear the hidden music that is the source of all art.
―Orhan Pamuk, Snow
—Medusa, welcoming Gary Grossman back to the Kitchen with thanks for today’s fine poetry!
Loud Mouths Spoken Word
& Stand-Up Comedy
features Oswaldo Vargas tonight
in Sacramento, 8:30pm.
For upcoming poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS
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.
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the snakes of Medusa are always hungry—
for poetry, of course!
(A cookie from the Kitchen for today):
fury in the treetops—
hawk and jay