Friday, December 08, 2023

In Murmur of Song

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



Overcast morning on the trail. Nothing new
since last time and the time before
except it’s neither raining nor sunny. Gray
day. How many times must I walk
this trail before I see something? There
in a little corner of landlocked ravine
between elevated RR grade & Hwy 50—
coyotebush is just budding out in a clearing
of low grasses and forbs. I never noticed
before, this tiny microbiome surrounded
by ponderosa and oak woodland—a life
to itself. Sort of like that young couple I just
passed, walking on the wrong side
of the trail, not smiling, totally absorbed
in what must have been a deadly serious talk—
deaf and blind to anything else. No,
not like them! Coyotebush in its little enclave
is budding out for winter—snow-white
blooms to wake the bees from hibernation,
to rejoice and pollinate the sleepy world. 




From the woodland edge,
sound of wooden beads rolling
against each other—
solitary sentinel
keeper of woods, one Raven. 


inspired by Andrea Kowch’s “Solitude”  

You’re walking alone in winter wilderness
in your best coat not rated for storm.
Did you need to get away, think something out
in silence? Cold wind whips the coat-flaps
from your knees and sends fringed ends
of your scarf flying like a pair of feathered birds.
Wind sweeps the tracks your boots make
in snow, wiping out your traces. Won’t you stop
to look around and get your bearings? Look
behind, the way you’ve come. Have you ever
seen such a flight of birds? a dark ever-changing
cloud—must be thousands, synchronized
to a whistling avian chorus like ocean waves,
this wild ballet plunging almost to earth,
then rising, making figure-eights, crests, swirls.
All these birds thinking out their course
in communal wingbeats and murmur of song.
And where are you in your flyaway coat going? 



wheeled flatbed
wagon, bathroom sink,
rotating table fan—they might
come in handy someday somehow somewhere for




Along the road a month ago
these fungi popped up then dissolved
in forest, reborn in meadow
as in a mushroom dream. 



clip and a
pencil dropped by chance
on empty schoolyard in the rain.
They look lonely, unwanted. I write this in pencil. 



Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

So much flies beyond
our sight in murmurations
of their secret kinds.


Taylor Graham has been taking note of all the ‘shrooms popping up in the forest, and the glories thereof. Thank you, TG, and may your morning walks remain poetically fruitful!

Forms TG has sent this week include a Tanka (“Forest Surveillance”); two Fibonaccis (“Greenhouse Boneyard”; “Finding a Home”); an Ekphrastic response to our most recent Tuesday's Seed of the Week topic (“Murmuration”); a Haiku (“To Discover”); and a Ryūka (“Strange Flowerings”).

This Sunday in Placerville’s Town Hall from 2-4pm, readers and artists will celebrate International  Human Rights Day. 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 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, and Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

I love Asian food!
as do I love my
Swiss Army knife

though I can adeptly
play “Chopsticks” on
the piano, I’m a complete
fumble bumble if I attempt
using them for eating

so out comes the
Swiss Army knife
with a handy fork
and spoon, so I can
fully enjoy the
wonderful meal

* * *

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

I sit down to a lovely dish of pasta-something-
with little bits of things that may have crawled 
up from the ground.
This is the best Italian fare for miles and 
miles around.
My tummy rumbles, turns and runs, it knows 
it’s in for trouble.
It sees a plate of worms and clumps of awful 

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

A square meal this, but not for me;
to summit, garnish, half the dish.
Spaghetti’s problem with a fork;
but my Thai noodles, texture, squish.
So chopsticks for the parsley top?
As for reservoir—is it just—
I’ll drain it off, lift plate to mouth;
could pasta slip down the same flue?
Many a slip ’twixt cup and lip.

But if mine host has Thailand home,
or if I’m guest at other’s cost,
then courtesy, manners demand
my normal strategy is lost.
I hope food local custom holds—
to finish meal, still hungry means;
full satisfaction if some left—
remains, a portion, served cuisines.
Many a slip ’twixt cup and lip.

Discretion with a valour edge,
distract the table from your brew
while chew a morsel, mouthful chomp,
as feign delight in tasty stew.
Point to a feature on the wall,
ensure their converse, fellowship
long drawn, as finger fish to tongue,
new angle on companionship.
Many a slip ’twixt cup and lip.
Thai dye colour, red spotted rim,
some sloppy transfer, ladle drips,
or chef’s design, presented art—
admire or scrape, lift to the lips?
My sticks laid down, hypotenuse,
as calculate calory count,
and if sufficient intake met,
slim metric, fast end, paramount.
Many a slip ’twixt cup and lip.

* * *

Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) has been working through some of our past Tuesday's Seeds of the Week. (See the above link, “Calliope’s Closet” or go to This poem was a response to “The Art of Listening”:

—Illustration Courtesy of
of Public Domain

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

my bell has been rung
a couple times, once as
a toddler tossing bricks
into the air…..don’t ask

again as a teen, motorcycle
crash, coma, crutches,
the whole 9 yards

now I’m a senior, a widower
confronted with the dilemma
that very high pitched sounds
hurt my ears

squeaky high violins, sopranos,
an abundance of skill involved in
creating those sounds, only to
be rejected by me because
it hurts my ears

a wave of relief comes over me
when a performing artist is listed
as mezzo soprano, that is most
agreeable, I’ll stay tuned in

sure, I could wear headphones
like they wear at the shooting range,
(and I have a pair in the shed)
but that would make me look kind
of funny in a concert setting

still love music, and the sound of
women’s voices, until it reaches
the point where it hurts my ears

* * *
Here is a lovely Rondelet from Joyce Odam; its formula is A,  b,  A,  a,  b,  b,  A (refrain lines: tetrameter or dimeter; other lines: octosyllabic or tetrameter):

  —Illustration Courtesy 
of Public Domain

 —Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

Teach me your song,
winds that have known the farthest seas,
teach me your song.
Out of the east you bring along
a nightingale’s tune that distance frees,
leaving me stirred and on my knees.
Teach me your song.

(prev. pub. in
Hartford Times, January 3, 1961
and in Medusa’s Kitchen 12/11/09; 10/1/19)

* * *

And an Ars Poetica about writing winter verse from Stephen Kingsnorth. A winter’s tale!


  —Photo Courtesy of Public Domain

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Heart, intellect entwined,
term austerity, tools
succinct, vital words, each
well-used, parable, stripe
strata excavate, dig
deep mine or open-cast,
reflect, mind-set reshape,
to inspire, blood red, then
expire new-sound, fresh-fed
insight, Perdita found,
unbound, a winter’s tale,
Illyria, summer
beach breached, find Caliban?


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.) Ready to try a Bouts-rime (Boo-reem)? Here is your list of rhyming words (I’ll keep it short to make it easy): aisle, smile, hate, late, wrong, song.


AND/OR lighten things up with a Conversation Poem:

•••Conversation 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 “Toxic Relations”.


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

•••Ars Poetica:
•••Conversation Poem:
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Fibonacci (Fib):
•••Tuesday's Seed of the Week: a prompt listed in Medusa’s Kitchen every Tuesday; poems may be any shape or size, form or no form. No deadlines; past ones are listed at Send your fabulous results to





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, Stockton, CA





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)

autumn sun—
seven veils
turn into eight
then nine
then ten~