Friday, January 12, 2024

Cold January

 —Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham,
Placerville, CA
—And then scroll down to
FORM FIDDLERS’ FRIDAY, with poetry by
Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth,
Joyce Odam, and Joe Nolan


One blue glove lies forlorn at trail’s
edge &, farther, one blue-&-gray
glove. Will their owners come back to
reunite them in respective
pairs of fabric matrimony?



This rainy morning
wild geese gaggle on the lawn—
one lone goose calling....


Four geese and one gull
converge, claiming right-of-way—
groceries road-spilled.


When Loki came
to us, her greeting was with teeth.
“No teeth on skin!”
She learned, and transferred to my cuff.
“No teeth on cloth!”

Loki learns quick.
She switched to the watch on my wrist.
“No teeth on Time!”
I gave it up—the watch—and now
my phone tells time.


On the blacktop trail,
centerline writes messages
if I could read them—

if I could read them

eroded by weather, time
& footsteps, pavement
lift-&-settling, this journal
of all our miles of journeys


I was a bride married to amazement.
                       —Mary Oliver

The man I married has moved on
thru the one gate that only opens for us
when it’s time. Half a century of gates he opened
into worlds and ways I hadn’t known,
whether sunrise were phlogiston or only
seemed so. The freshness of heart’s metronome
when it’s engaged in the curl of a bighorn’s crown,
or that peak that sharpens into thundercloud
Vertiginous goat-trail—caesura in our quest to find
a goldminer alive. Arctostaphylos resurrecting
to clog the firebreak. A butterfly-lily
of triune petals with a drop of dried blood
at the center, wondrous, audacious, rooted in scree.
Hauntings of the ones we didn’t find.
Fledging mountain chickadees from our open hands.
Slogging thru willow thicket, the man I married
breaking trail, opening a natural green gate.
Gates giddy with altitude. The courage
to walk thru.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

There they are, just off
the paved and centerlined bike-
&-hiking trail, two
gray-haired individuals
having sex! Are they
married? Does anyone care?
After all, they’re just
a pair of Gray Squirrels trying
to keep their species going.


Taylor Graham talks about matrimony today, including this stunning poem about Hatch, her husband who passed earlier this year. We thank her for that, for all her poems and photos, and for the forms she has sent, including some Normative Syllabics (“Chilly Morning Walk”); a Hainka that is also an Ekphrastic Poem on her photo of a yellow centerline (“Yellow Script”); a Haiku (“Where Is Its Mate?”); a Senryu (“Intersection”); a set of Graduated Cinquains (“Puppy Vocabulary”); and a Choka (“Question in Cold January”). Claire Baker’s Graduated Cinquain was one of the Triple-F Challenges last week.

Taylor Graham and Katy Brown will be facilitating another Wakamatsu workshop on Sunday, Jan. 21; there’s time to sign up at But Poetry in Motion read-around in Placerville will be cancelled this Monday, due to Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. For news about El Dorado County poetry—past (photos!) and future—see TG’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 a response to last week’s Ekphrastic photo from Nolcha Fox and Stephen Kingsnorth. Nolcha sent us three Prose Poems ("Grief is a bad haircut..."):

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

You broke your hands escaping time. Your hands circle the clock in casts and braces. The face clock is grief-stained frayed denim. You are afraid. You are the clock I never learned to read. Time took you by the second hand. Time wouldn’t let you go. I couldn’t stop time long enough to buy him a new suit for the funeral.


You ran the race to obliteration. You crossed the finish line. Grief is the ribbon you broke through. I cut the ribbon, cracked the bottle against the brigantine you boarded. It was time to cut the ties that blind, time to leave, sail away without us. Grief is the empty dock you left behind. I stood behind the ribbon and watched you run out of time.


Grief is a bad haircut I can’t stuff under a hat. People stare at the bird building a nest on the top of my head. The bird refuses to fly away. Grief is warmer than a telephone wire. Wet drops fall on my hair. The bird sings the tears I can’t cry. Or maybe it’s the cemetery rain of flowers and black hats. Black hats can’t cover a bad haircut. Black hats can’t hide grief.

* * *
—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

Do misers wear their gold too much,
so all is frayed through being worn?
Is cotton picked to reveal wrist,
exhibit status from concealed?
Apparent mismatch may be told,
grandfather’s clock, bequest of old?
Affray perhaps within the house,
such treasure horde before their fare?
Forget the golden thread run though,
indeed afraid the cuff’s been shorn.
We prove assumption, not the whole,
concluding quickly, QED.
I am afraid, like weevil’s boll,
the planted—wool pulled over eyes.
So is it fool’s gold on display,
just five past four though upside down?
The thumb says lefthand wrist deployed,
so raised to sight the watch seems wrong?
The hour’s at ten, yet thirty four
is what the second hand points to?
Perhaps the light, my reading’s wrong—
as others say—what’s focal point?
So, watch your reading, writing too,
or so much time proofreading nought.

* * *

Here is a Pantoum from Joyce Odam on the theme of Matrimony, our recent Seed of the Week:

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA
Your face was masked in gray;
I wore a mask of blue.
It was a funeral day.
I would not look at you.

I wore a mask of blue;
my face was not my own.
I would not look at you;
the mask let forth a moan.

My face was not my own.
I was a mask with eyes;
the mask let forth a moan.
You wore your own disguise.

I was a mask with eyes.
It was a funeral day.
You wore your own disguise;
your face was masked in gray.

* * *

Here is a poem from Joe Nolan that strikes a humorous tone and uses rhyme in unconventional ways:
—Public Domain Photo 
Courtesy of Joe Nolan

—Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

A house-cat came to greet me
When I got down on my knees
And asked me, quite politely,
“If I would like some fleas”

I said, “Well, of course not!
Who do you think I am?
I was not born to receive your fleas.
I’m part of Uncle Sam.

I am here to pray.
That’s why I
Have got down, this way,
Although I’m missing a rug.
But I wouldn’t sell my soul
To some biting-bugs
That you might have to share.

I try to avoid
Flea-bag hotels,
Pirate-ships and
Poisoned wells,
Wherever I might travel.

It’s all the same to me
If I never
A flea,
Except when I’m in the bag.

Then I let them bite me,
To might relieve my tension,
Since blood-letting is a cure.”

* * *

We had a poetry prompt a while back that had something to do with fleas, and I still have some of Stephen Kingsnorth’s poems on the subject. Here's one of them:
—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

You’ve seen the chimp search fellow’s fur,
a bonding, says the search for clues;
but who foresaw that shared concern—
team Fleas United in the match—
you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
What do they do with fleas disturbed,
pinch then nibble or toss to earth?
That’s what I want on camera,
the still life that I itch to see.

* * *

And here is an Ars Poetica from Stephen:

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Govern in prose, campaign in verse;
such is the politicians’ style,
deploying tools as suit the call—
appeal through feeling, logic rule.
There is the license, giving sway,
which lies in wait for those who weigh.
Translating poetry from muse
is harsh, as rhyme, reason transpose.

Here’s Brutus and Mark Anthony;
forensic one, prosaic part,
but fails to turn assembled mood.
while other, rhetoric of verse,
quickens core pulses of the heart.
Will knew which forms to use, how play,
which art conspires to win the day.
What will we use and at which stage?

There are the parts our art displays,
a chosen voice to suit the rôle—
if only loan of ears in place,
our presentation apropos.
So casting spells, conjuring tricks
our operating manual;
the tromp l’oeil our words create
the sorcerer’s apprentice, meat.


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.) Since nobody tried a French Virelai from last week, let’s give it another shot:


•••AND/OR follow Joyce Odam’s example and write a Pantoum:

•••Pantoum: AND/OR

•••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 “Dreamscape”.


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

•••Ars Poetica:
•••Cinquain: AND/OR See for info about its inventor, Adelaide Crapsey.
•••Cinquain, Graduated (Claire J. Baker): syllables 4, 8, 4, 8, 4
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Normative Syllabics: AND/OR
•••Pantoum: AND/OR
•••Prose Poem:
 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


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