Friday, January 05, 2024

As The Land Slips Into Winter

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


Starting our walk, my dog stops
to graze—like those horses across the fence.
Leaf by leaf, grass fresh green tender
from winter rain.
But I’m impatient.
We have half an hour, how many steps,
doctors’ orders.
But look! Indian lettuce—
Wedakdaka to the Maidu.
At home I put it in salad.
Here, in this verge
between pasture and trail,
fertilized by horse runoff no doubt,
the lushest crop of winter!
I grab a handful. Green-heart leaves
stuffed in my mouth as if I were starving
for green. The savor
is comfort soft as a horse’s muzzle
nuzzling grass.
It does the body good,
the heart, the head, the spirit,
the feet to walk more mindfully
of what they tread.


on the road driving up and east,
vision shattered by sunup
over a ridge of sentinel conifers, flare
so sudden it rips
open a gift that was wrapped
in darkness. This day
is special because I hope it so;
it’s mine to focus
eyes for seeing what it
and I could be.


and carried her piggyback to there,
her carefully, holding her steady
on the top rail of whitewash wooden
ranch fence—
how high can a toddler joggle,
she’s riding the little pinto, king of
    for the Seek app by iNaturalist

My phone’s Nature app froze on a mushroom—
dog and I keep running, fast—
now the app says Aves....

    —Jonathan M. Lehrer, AP

So many acorns littering the ground—
watch where you step —dead leaves
crackle like so many small bones.

It’s the land slipping into its winter,
so many acorns littering the ground
for deer, turkey, squirrel, and crow....

the land is busy gathering for its long
sleep, oak trees gifting their future,
so many acorns littering the ground.
The Prince


Gold as a Rococo apple, gold
as the doorknob to riches, as
a goddess’s dimpled cheek,
a work of art, beauty
being its reward
now withering
and soon


Today’s LittleNip:

    for D.R.

Adventurer in
so many arts, gentle man,
impish smiling friend—
may you still create beauty
in the roomless space beyond.


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine poetry and photos! “Exiting the Room” is for Poet D.R. Wagner, who recently passed away. He used to use the term, “exiting the room”, to describe anyone’s leaving this earth.

Forms TG has used today include a Waltmarie (“He Stopped the Car for Her”); a Tanka (“Exiting the Room”); a Viator ("As Plants Go, We Go”); a Kimo (“It Thinks We're a Bird”); and a Nonet / Serpentine Verse / Ekphrastic based on a previous Ekphrastic challenge (“The Prince Mushroom”). Serpentine Verse was one of last week’s Triple-F Challenges.

Last night at the Switchboard Gallery in Placerville, Lara Gularte facilitated an Ekphrastic workshop, and the resulting poems of that workshop will be read at the Gallery next Thursday, 1/11. 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 Nolcha Fox and Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

Words spill out, but they’re not mine.
Other beings guide my hand to write
a poem that comes from someone else
who died before he finished all his poems.
He uses me to give them life.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

My daily workout, two-arm stretch,
flexed fingers work arthritic joints;
for silver surf, wrist weights applied,
just tabletop for exercise,
routine enough with cup caffeine.

This pattern, type, my template laid,
with tools of trade duly displayed—
a pen, pad, spec’s, and keys for screen—
so all required is brain in gear
and mercy shown by muse mystique.

Yet not so; more—poor, unprepared,
as slumber’s shocked, or pane view shows,
when plate fork raised, or restroom stalls.
In inconvenience I’m called
to note, observe, watch quirk in play.

So catch, clutch, clasp, clench norms as strange,
get under skin that masks, claims real,
to turn the temp, posterity,
be unafraid of surreal,
of such the task, poetic post.

Here’s trivia that’s oyster grit,
amalgam to constituents,
an aggregate refined, defined,
first time in matrix, vein of awe,
fool’s gold assumed—but jewel in crown.

The transient, eternal dress,
a lifted lid which sees revealed
inconsequential, part for art,
exotic phrase that sums display,
and shines new light for those who may.

* * *

One of week-before-last’s challenges was the Three Moon Pattern. Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) sent one which I neglected to post, so here it is (sorry, Carl):

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

A piece of bread is all I want
with ample wine to wash it down
we’ll call it a bread rendezvous
the finest eats in any town

we’ll call it a bread rendezvous
wheat, white, and old world Russian rye
let’s open up the dining room
while light shines freely from the sky

let’s open up the dining room
they’re ready to start the pouring
unfold the napkins, take a sip
and politely mask the snoring

* * *

Carl has been busy this week. Here is a Double Acrostic (first word, first initial) from him:


Dirty clothes can be cleaned
Old things can be renewed
Man over matter
In a few more generations
Nasty smog may be history
Attitude warming
Toward climate change
Everyone will be healthier

* * *

And here is a passel of Haiku, also from Carl:

breaking down a fence
because it was in the way
that’s how my dog thinks

breaking even while
playing cards puts one back to
ante up, who’s in?

breaking in a new
pair of boots can require much
patience and planning

breaking off part of
your favorite candy bar
is a nice gesture

breaking out the best
China and crystal can set
a marvelous mood

breaking through stacks of
paperwork with a pocket
calculator, nice!

breaking up routines
into smaller amusements
makes life easier

sounds like a criminal thing,
opening chips bag

breaking the bank was
the charge, when all I asked for
was a roll of dimes

breaking bridges in
a dental waiting room while
waiting to be seen

breaking earth gently
to not disturb the earthworms
our friends under foot

breaking ground for a
brand new, fancy, skyscraper
“before” pics show trees

breaking habits means
you’ll need generosity
from all whom you meet

breaking hearts, for some,
is a pass-fail exercise
graded on a curve

breaking ice, old way,
involved using special tools
and lots of curse words

breaking laws begins
with what the teacher tells us:
don’t disrupt the class

breaking news all day
tests the outer limits of

breaking rank is fun
until consequences hit
let’s do it again

breaking waves hit shore
waiting for just the right one
then pack up and go

breaking wind from where?
no, it could not have been me
unless I misjudged

* * *

Joe Nolan has some comments to make about Haiku:

—Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

The secret of haiku
Is to start with something
Really dense,
Cause it to implode
Into its nuclear matter,
Toss away electrons,
Eliminate space,
Devastate time,
Until you get to
Incredible, sublime,
Crumpled down
Into three lines.

* * *

Claire Baker loves the Cinquain; here is one from her:


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

How to
consider the
last few stars: afterthoughts
that, if fully heard, weighed, could save
the world?

* * *

And Claire devised this new form she’s calling a Graduated Cinquain (Syllables: 4,8,4,8,4), and she sent us a 5-line poem to illustrate it:

—Claire J. Baker

Neighbor squirrel
scurries atop Nirvana fence.
When last shadows lift,
his tail, wildly unfurled, blossoms:
in fresh year flair.


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 a French Virelai:


•••AND/OR try Claire Baker’s Graduated Cinquain—see her example above:

•••Graduated Cinquain: Syllables 4,8,4,8,4

•••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 “Matrimony”.


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

•••Acrostic Poem:
•••Cinquain: AND/OR See for info about its inventor, Adelaide Crapsey.
•••Cinquain, Graduated (Claire J. Baker): syllables 4, 8, 4, 8, 4
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Kimo: AND/OR
•••Serpentine Verse:
•••Three Moon Pattern: Syllabic, three quatrains, 8-syllable lines; x a BR a  |  BR  c  DR  c  |  DR  e  x  e  | DR  e  x  e. Content based on the Chinese Quatrain, as follows:
   • Opening line introduces an idea.
   • Second line extends the idea
   • Third line introduces a new idea
   • Fourth line brings first three lines together


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

* * *

—Photo Courtesy of Public Domain

A reminder that Write Free Fridays
returns to Sac. Poetry Center
tonight, 6pm. Come read, write, study.
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
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