Friday, December 01, 2023

Thanks For This Land

Comma Butterfly
—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


You wake with a vague regret, a zero
in the mind, casualty of bad attitude
lingering. So you walk outside to trample
fallen leaves, bounty of the season
still bright with autumn colors yellow
orange brown. Dead. Hear their crepitus
as you step.
Suddenly a tattered leaf rises,
fluttering brown orange yellow
as if to rejoin the tree. Do you know
the Comma Butterfly? alive
from hibernation, come as if
to break your spell. 


Today we’re headed for the Institute of Forest
Genetics, its Arboretum and beyond—
acres of forest for research, wildlife, solitary
walking. I’ve got my pen and scratch-paper,
though it’s hard to take notes while being pulled
onward and aside at my dog’s pace and whims.
She’s drawn to scents that air, soil, vegetation
hold. What unknown bounty to discover.
I with my apps for plant ID and birdsong.
And now we’re off among the silent trees
to follow where this morning leads. 


They’ve been here 6 months, half a year
of grazing & browsing all through
dry summer after consuming
my garden. My dog’s shut inside.
Right now doe and fawn are washing,
grooming, caressing each other’s
faces just outside my window.
Perfectly at ease and at home.
Scratch garden bounty from my list. 


Always asking questions.
Why isn’t there a place to park to walk the trail?
Questions I can’t always answer.
Why are the leaves so bright yellow?
They captured all the summer’s sun.
Why an empty yogurt cup by the trail?
Somebody was hungry.
Why these tiny tables with dome tops?
They’re magic sacred mushrooms. Don’t touch.
Why all this flat cardboard on dead leaves?
Maybe a homeless camp.
Why homeless?
All the houses flew out of reach.
Why do leaves blow around like crazy?
Wind listens to human news, he’s angry.

Raven cocks his head and croaks
but my birdsong app refuses to hear him.
Raven speaks bird-truth we humans won’t believe.
Some mornings I’m the wonder child. 


The last of sunset colors fly,
Capella rules the northern sky

and now the rising of the moon,
its full bright glory coming soon

but where’s the raptor of the night,
its piercing eye, its silent flight?


I drive up the steep, one-lane
with no shoulder, track cut thru tangles
of manzanita. This is National Forest,
a place to walk for free. Find a wide spot—
a landing—where I can park. Let the dog out,
no leash laws here. No fences, locked gates,
No Parking signs, No Trespassing signs.
We walk among ponderosa and sugar pines,
incense cedar, black and live oaks.
Everlasting still blooming in November.
Bountiful nature. Deer prints on game trail.
A raven calls. We climb to a high spot
and look around. Green verges to lavender
across the gorge. So high! River’s
out of sight far below. Thanks for this
land that’s open for walking free! 

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Unseen around us,
snuggeries of birds at rest
and the great horned owl
winging secretly thru dark
as dead stars shine the brightest.


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s autumnal poetry and photos as we begin this month of the Winter Solstice! Forms TG has sent us this week include some Normative Syllabics (“Deer Haven”); a Word-Can Poem (“Fallen Leaves”); a Nocturnette (“Lights of the Dark”); and a Tanka that is also a Nocturne (“Night Walk”). The Nocturne and Nocturnette were two of last week’s Triple-F Challenges.

For news about El Dorado County poetry—past (photos!) and future—see Taylor Graham’s Western Slope El Dorado on Facebook at

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 Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth and Caschwa:

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

I don’t know who owns all the coats on the hallway coat rack. They appear from nowhere whenever the weather gets chilly. I never hear the door open, or the rustle of a leather or fabric when the door closes. I never hear footsteps, or the clacking of hangers. I never smell the must of mothballs, or feel the chill of wind on the latest coat to appear.

Here we are, me and my cat and 40 coats. Coats from another decade. Men’s coats. Women’s coats. Coats that don’t fit. I’ve tried some of them on. The hems drag on the ground. The sleeves flap when I walk.

Here’s the funny thing. As soon as the snow melts, the coats disappear in twos and threes. As soon as the first flower lifts its sleepy head, the coat rack is empty.

I stuffed a note listing my size and preferences in all the coat pockets. I hope I get what I want. I especially hope one of my seasonal guests is a fur coat.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

Cherry blossom in an urn,
breakout, snap it, we were there
as we were the year before,
floral scent, sent tour maybe;
but of the vase, Keats an ode—
what of classic, Greeks returned?
Both of cycle, seasonal,
latter of an empire lore.

Shadow passed along the row,
sheepskin, suede, and leather too,
hats of fashion capping all,
wealth parading, hung by neck.
Ostentation on display,
not an English closet space—
cistern for the water flush—
but a wrap-up show racked up.

Where would I invest today?
Not where shades have played across,
but aroma’s ancient tales,
missed small corner, cherrypicked.
These help us breathe, learn mistakes,
offer choice when most at stake,
plead, invite a focus shift,
from today, eternity.

That’s why seers have second sight,
stop and stare, bring to the light
this thing ignored, vanish point,
most valuable, closeted.
Take a second look in time,
key to learn what’s gone before,
Sakura promise, urned as well,
subject, as designed intent.

* * *

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

     I.  every greenskeepeer who fails
to water the potted plant must leave
his hat and coat at the end of his shift.

     II.  if the potted plant dies from lack
of watering, all left hats and coats will
be sold at auction to raise funds to buy
a new potted plant

     III.  and to hire a new greenskeeper.

* * *

Joe Nolan sent an Ekphrastic response to our challenge from two weeks ago, the little girl in the pilgrim outfit:

—Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

Surely she must be a princess?
She looks so perfect,
With a sprightly,
Slightly-mischievous smile
And bright, blue eyes......
Surely, she must be a princess?

Which country she hails from,
Nobody knows,
Some say she popped from an egg
Dropped by a lonesome platypus
Who befriended a unicorn.
Is that where she came from?
Or maybe it’s outer space?

We’ve never seen anything
Like this girl.
When she grows up,
We might make her queen.

* * *

Here is an Ars Poetica from Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Why are the works of early hours
my best, quite wonderful to hear,
as pulling strings, nostalgia wings,
a maudlin recall, childish things?
But waking, shower, night fumes dispersed,
no cover for that loosened tongue,
when discipline renewed again,
the rambling spirit is restored
and spirit of my writing lost.   
But maybe muse was in the haze
a Kubla Khan pre-Porlock man,
amazing ways of darker daze,
the phase of reading as by write.
You say my stupor, lost control—
tell that to Coleridge et al.,
or Ginsburg and a host beside—
can tell that I’m a sixties lad—
but LSD was money then
and my work, not pot-boiler stuff.
You think dyslexia in play,
Alz, caverns measureless to man,
dementia, synapse on the loose,
or strobe lights playing with my mind,
some syncopated rhythm, sprung,
a Gerard Manley Hopkins sting?
Associations, strung along,
are how the legends, lore of dreams,
present themselves, reel poetry.

* * *

And here is an Italian Sonnet by Joyce Odam:

After “Holidays” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
—Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

A sonnet is a trap—a trick to lure
the unwary poet who has love to say—
who gathers up his words to while away
the woeful efforts that he must endure.

He would ‘bespeak! bespeak!’ to keep love pure,
in all its longings—let the mind give sway—
entreat—but keep the promises at bay—
and swear that love alone is love’s own cure.

He calls upon the flowers and the birds
to help create a setting for his pleas—
to cage the songs—to fill the empty bowers—

of all he would express . . .  if only words
would wax poetic to support his pleas . . .
he would create such lovely, lovely hours.


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.) Try writing a poem that has a Repetend:


Or play around with some Mosaic Rhyme:

Mosaic Rhyme:

•••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 “Murmurations”.


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

•••Ars Poetica:
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Mosaic Rhyme:
•••Nocturnette: 6 lines broken into 3 couplets; each couplet rhymed aa bb cc; 4 iambic feet to a line
•••Normative Syllabics: AND/OR
•••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.)

* * *

—Public Domain Photo


For info about upcoming 
poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
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on that devil