Friday, December 15, 2023

Do Not Touch!

 —Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham,
Placerville, CA
—And then scroll down to
Form Fiddlers’ Friday, with poetry by
Caschwa, Nolcha Fox, Joe Nolan,
Stephen Kingsnorth, and Joyce Odam


On our walk this morning
on and off the trodden county trail, I found
a single plain white mushroom which
my phone app couldn’t name; I did not touch.
And later, Amanita muscaria causing
tasters to fly away in hallucinatory spirit sleighs—
I do not touch. Back home, I feel the fungi
rising in places I walked just yesterday. Right here,
Amanita velosa which I will not touch.
Nor Amanita novinupta on our western hill.
Nor Amanita ocreata skirting the eastern treeline.
And almost everywhere are plain white
mushrooms (phone app couldn’t name,
I do not touch), and delicate fawn-colored
Gymnopus dryophilus which may or may not
be edible. I take their pictures. I will not touch.


She’s drawn to fungi, pure white blossoming
from dark soil, rot become earth.
Toxic? So beautiful.


From city street the trail turns briskly inward. Wooden bridge into dark woods and lotic wetland. Old man willow bends in blessing or admonishment. Native cattail bursts with white seed-fluff as if competing with this pampas grass—a noxious invader. Gray of winter brush smitten with yellow cottonwood. Tarnish-gold oak set off by scarlet poison oak—toxic relation in name only, and look-alike leaves. Vibrant green palm tree; does it belong here? Nature-walk sign might tell me but its legend’s weathered away; someone has painted Know Thy Self.

where are the wetland
edges? cattail says water,
blackberry says earth

    for Latches

I know you prefer dry to canned.
A heaping bowl should last you. But no,
you take one piece of kibble between your teeth,
swallow one crumb, spit out the rest. Repeat
till you’ve got a heap of crumbs. I’d call you
impossible but that doesn’t pertain to cats.
I can’t refuse to feed you, you’d cry and holler
and maunder around tapping my shoulder,
snagging my sleeve. Your patience for bothering
has no limit. Now, I place one fresh piece
of kibble—straight from the bag—on the dish.
See? Now another, and another. I don’t allow
any two pieces to touch each other. Now I watch
you eat. Marvelous, you only leave a few
crumbs. You’re still hungry. I repeat
the process, no two pieces of kibble touching
each other. This could take half an hour
before you’ve had enough and mosey off
to your basket by the woodstove.
How long till you’ll be hungry again?
No need to answer, I already know.


What’s there to say about this place we’ve known
by walks in summer swelter, winter damps,
new green in spring, and autumn’s oak-leaf lamps,
each turning and which side-path’s overgrown?
That guy absorbed in ear-buds and his phone.
Two grizzled everyone-outpacing gramps.
The furtive come-and-gone of homeless camps.
That young girl’s face-set: wrinkles on a stone.
But who’s this wig-wagging around the curve?
Small, rainbow-swaddled, riding on a trike
as happy as a day we don’t need sun
to warm us from the inside out, pure verve—
and here come strolling parents of the tyke
content to share the walk, the woods, the fun. 


The path leads through a climbing aisle
of great dark oaks that make me smile—
beloved black oaks. How I’d hate
an autumn gone without their late
leaves turning gold. And is it wrong
to ask an oak tree for its song?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Sun sparkles frost
on this cold morning wakening.
Sun sparkles frost,
our yesterday’s footprints embossed
in earth like iron hardening.
And yet our Earth’s bright blossoming—
Sun sparkles frost.


We’re ‘shrooming with Taylor Graham today, and our thanks go to her for poems about our recent mycorrhizae conversations—which also echo our current Seed of the Week, Toxic Relationships. Forms TG has sent us today include her use of a Repetend (“Mushroom Walk”); a Haibun (“Walking the Wetland Trail”); a Kimo (“Not Knowing Its Name”); an Italian Sonnet (“Gray Day Walk”); a Bouts-Rime (“Oak Music”); a Conversation Poem (“To Feed the Cat”); and a Rondelet (“Outside the Glass”). The Bouts-Rime and the Conversation Poem were last week’s Triple-F Challenge, and I might note that TG successfully used the Bouts-Rime’s six end-word rhymes that I gave in the challenge.

Don’t get so wrapped up in the holidays that you forget the upcoming Wakamatsu workshop which will be facilitated January 21 by Taylor Graham and Katy Brown. Right after the turn of the year, though, on Jan. 4, Lara Gularte will be hosting an Ekphrastic Workshop at the Switchboard Gallery in Placerville, followed on Jan. 11 by a reading of the works produced at that workshop. For news about El Dorado County poetry—past (photos!) and future—see Taylor Graham’s Western Slope El Dorado on Facebook at, or see Lara Gularte’s Facebook page at (Poetry is Gold in El Dorado County!) And of course you can always click on Medusa's UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS ( for details about future poetry events in the NorCal area.

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 Caschwa, Nolcha Fox, Joe Nolan, and two from Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

after all the tow-aways have
been towed away, heaps of
snow found their place to rest
on tops of cars or the rooves
(one stofe, two stoves)
or ledges of buildings

everyone around knows
(or read in the knewspaper)
about someone who took
their last walk alongside
a building laden with ice and
snow, then absent warning,
(or red rooster to formally
introduce and announce morning)
some of that ice and snow slid
away with no conscience to
splatter whomever or whatever
happened to be on the walkway

therefore, putting aside all the
local laws, ordinances, statutes,
and regulations, one pedestrian
decided that the middle of the
street would be the best safe zone
and he had someone take a photo
just to prove it

* * *

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

He came just for the weekend, but stayed for
several months.
He dropped his suitcase on the floor and scattered
white shirts everywhere.
They landed on the cars, in trees, on sidewalks,
and on streets.
We couldn’t even wear them to get warm when
he turned off the heat,
and turned on all the fans and set the air con-
ditioner to high.
He plugged in his guitar and sang off-key to
what he twanged.
He said it was to bring us joy, but only made us
He was so loud he shook the stars, they landed
on the trees.
He ate the turkey in the fridge, he drank up all
the milk.
He spooned the ice cream into bowls and gave
them to the cats.
By the time he packed his bags, the rooms were
The shoes hung from the ceiling, and coats were
in the stove.
He said he would stay longer, but had to go to
He promised to come back next year. I’m sure
we looked quite stunned.
We waved goodbye and bought a mobile home
we hitched to our RV.
We drove away with all we had to live some-
where with no address,
and hoped he’d find another mom and dad who  
had no clue that he was such a jerk.

* * *

—Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

It’s winter again
In Beacon Hill.
Snow is on the ground.
Parking is on one side, only
To let the snow-plows through.

Shovels clear a path to go.
Wear your warmest walking boots
Made to wade through snow,
Mittens for the cold.

It’s white, outside,
But warm within
When you’re with your dear ones,
Face to face,
Year to year.
You’ve made it home
Once more.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

Though poles apart, snow, ice the norm,
whilst equatorial, sun burns,
but temperate must take fair share,
until, unless, changed climate found
to cause disorder, our backyard.

So in this mean time, in between,
whilst some deny, and others sink,
though many think God’s will enhanced—
those current floes yet few affect;
but nature moved as many slept.

The traffic slows, so fumes reduce,
except in temper from inside,
exhausting all with slip and slide;
the which for why pillow preferred,
and bed spread laid our attitude.

The blanket drifts but bed recalls,
so ours is lie-in, buried state;
will we awake to paler shades,
far ghosts of coral, reefs in grief,
our habit, tat, upcycled ware?

You see far off, middle of road,
fired legs take pace, where tyres have tried;
for now that might be fine, indeed,
but soon, experience will turn
tired walker back, track pilgrim path.

—Stephen Kingsnorth

My father bought toboggan—class;
first bobsleigh run next Saturday.
He motorbiked, me pillion,
BSA Super Bantam wheels—
tyre slalom to St Martin’s Fields.
Soft crumble over skate rink glass,
hill chock-a-block with cheap tin trays,
flat hardware float; cut runners deep
through powder, sheen fast underneath,
like crevasse-covered scenic glow.
Peak summit, set launch down laid scree,
a pristine wooden sledge with rope,
quite unaware how brakes applied,
though knew to steer, extended leg.

And so we crashed at breakneck speed,
for hurtled down to chain-link fence,
struck cement stake, bold sentry post.
Crash helmet domes crowned overhead—
where else to store our cycle ware—
as we were thrown to concrete edge,
Dad’s footbrake striking pile, full force,
his gauntlets thrown down, foot of strut,
as if a challenge to stockade,
a break-out hope beyond the pale.
So stunned with shock, we weakly smiled -
more gentle slope glide final sop
to expedition’s grand intent,
poor rescue, battered dignity.

We returned home, he driving bike,
me passenger along with sleigh,
his swollen foot, leg puffed out fast,
a broken ankle, knee-high cast.
So such our swift decent on pack,
our trudging back, clamber high tump,
our Super Bantam icy road,
175cc return.
It never snowed that way again,
at least while health, cc’s aligned;
that sled gave firewood, up in smoke,
the dreams of father, son at peak
performance, before downward slide.
’Twas winter, ’63 indeed.

* * *

And here is an Ottava Rima by Joyce Odam. She describes the form as: a b a b a b c c, then second verse d e d e d e f f, then third is g h g h g h i i, etc. (Isn’t that cool!?)

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA   

Sweet cups of brimming light, and should we drink
from all the goblet-flowers of this place,
would we, like Alice, grow in size—or shrink—
lose our senses—feel ourselves erase . . . ?
Oh, careful one, how pale you turn to think
I’d poison you by urging you to taste   
such heady light—intoxicate your soul—
risk some addiction you could not control.

(prev. pub. in Hidden Oak, 2003, and
Medusa’s Kitchen, January 29, 2013)


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.) Did someone say shepherds? ’Tis the season! Write a Pastorale poem to celebrate them and their bucolic scenes:

•••Pastorale: AND/OR AND/OR A short pastoral poem is called an Eclogue (, also an Idyll or a Madrigal.

•••AND/OR let’s follow Joyce Odam’s lead [see above] and write an Ottava Rima (they’re such fun with their jaunty rhymes):

•••Ottava Rima:

•••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 “Revelations”.


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

•••Conversation Poem:
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Kimo: AND/OR
•••Ottava Rima:
•••Sonnet, Italian (Petrarchan): AND/OR


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


For info about 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.

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)

office cat claims
this whole place—
makes every
every desk,
every human
his very own…