Friday, January 19, 2024

January Looking Back

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

First of the morning coffee’s black as soil,
as horizon where darkness will fade
to daylight, sun erupting out of the ridge

like mushrooms I’ll find along the trail
pressing themselves up, straight or splayed,
heads white, red, tawny, black edged

with curl, shaking off bits of earthy spoil
they’re born of. Dirt, rot, as we are made
of dust, ash, blood, nutrients dredged

from depths, the death of stars, of toil
and rupture, rapture—a strange brocade.
Dawn moves across the darkest bridge.


How must I dress to walk today,
bundled in wools of bygone times,
parka, caution not to slip away
to cold and not wake up again?
It’s not Alaska, past-life when
we reverenced boreal climes—
    harbor for a sun-blazing crystal Zen.

Can this be Climate Change that slips
our latitudes from where they’d been?
the latitude to walk— thighs, hips
all moving freely on the trail,
leaving the mind, too, free to sail
side-pathways dark, secrets within
    blackberry thickets where wind plays violin.

Storm-fall is frozen on the earth,
a chancy way to take our walk
and yet a chance for sight rebirth—
a trail we’ve walked so many times
reciting its natural rhymes
till they become just double-talk.
    I’ll set foot so lightly, I might be a hawk.


This morning January’s looking back
on Main Street. It’s a cold and rainy day,
shops aren’t open but a Halloween Jack
grins from a shopfront window, come to stay

on Main Street on a cold and rainy day.

And sugar skulls, as if a fixture here,
grin from a storefront window, here to stay
if not forever, beyond this New Year,

white sugar skulls. As if a fixture here,
a Raven in his black rain-slicker croaks
his not forever beyond this New Year,
calling us out—oh, we’re fair weather folks.

A Raven in his black rain-slicker croaks
shops must open for a Halloween-Jack—
calling us out. Oh we’re fair weather folks
this morning, January looking back.



Overhead, a crow—
dark bird flying low
then high—
hole in wing as though
someone shot it, so
clear sky
shines through wing-window.
Earth’s a world of woe,
a sigh

of the winds that fly
bird-like, passing by.
Winds flow
and a crow’s dark eye
refutes alibi.
Guns know
not truth from lie.
Crow’s wings clarify


Walk here so often, drift
as in a dreamscape inventing pictures.
Tiptoe past ramshackle treehouse,
don’t disturb little Alice making tea
in her green-forest suite.
Old gnarled pine, Dragon clicking teeth
against scales to strike magic fire.
What’s that just off the trail?
Blown-off door-plug of 737 fuselage
they’ve been combing square miles
to find? Not likely.


Ashen sky holds down scent pooling, diffusing. Ghost breath in mist, my dog intent to discover what almost isn’t there. I catch a whiff—dead. Under a cut branch of ghost pine. Look closer. Face dissolved—snout or beak? Feathers or fur under weight of pine as short-shrift burial. At far end, two cloven hooves. Roadkill, driver’s attention drifted from traffic moving fast, deer crossing fast, seeking home woods. Deer body under arm of pine decomposing to nothing, to everything.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Old as an elephant
all its ventures & wanderings
as if set in stone as gray as patience
hide & heartwood
scars & scabs & lifelines
darker growths not cancer but
impassive moss,
unlobed leaves breathing in
breathing out uncountably
wise this live


Thanks to Taylor Graham for ushering us out of January with her fine, seasonal poems and photos! Forms she has used this week include the Virelai (“Wing-Hole”); a Rimas Dissolutas (“Out of the Dark”); a Canzonetta (“Hail Frozen on the Steps”); a Prose Poem (“Arm of the Pine”); a Word-Can Poem (“The Same Old Trail”); a Pantoum (“Saturday in the Rain”); and an Ekphrastic Poem on the photo posted above it (“Trunks & Limbs”). The Virelai and the Pantoum were last week’s Triple-F Challenges.

Taylor Graham and Katy Brown's Wakamatsu workshop, scheduled for this coming Sunday, Jan. 21, has been postponed until Sunday the 28th, due to probable rainy weather. There’s still time to sign up at Also in El Dorado County this Sunday: Storytelling Sundays at The Green Room Social Club in Placerville. 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 Joe Nolan, Nolcha Fox and Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA
In front of Ye Olde Antique Shoppe,
Yester-years' contraptions
Decorate the brick-paved road.   
But metal rims
And rock-hard seat
Remind us that
It was no treat
To rattle down the roadways,
Over cobblestones or bricks,
Without inflatable tires.
Still, we must admire
How inventors started
With just some plain ideas
Crafted into metal things
That still could do the job,
Run down the track,
Not too fast
Or you might fall.
It's great to love adventure,
But try not to lose it all.   

* * *

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

Old bikes will rattle aching bones
on streets of cobblestone.
It’s best to tarry, smell the breeze
and look into shop windows.
There is no prize to go so fast,
we all end at death’s door.
Enjoy the ride, don’t race your thoughts,
chase butterflies instead.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

These setts too smooth for history,
a pretence cobbled for the view
of tourists buying filmset scene,
a bicycle, bespoke for age.

Dun door retains those classic styles,
panels, frieze, stiles, mullions,
an architecture, past holds fast.

Two circles ’gainst prevailing lines -
bold verticals, pre-moulded drops,
with slab strip marking curtilage
till footfall oversteps the mark.

Beware where track unworn before,
of journeymen, untested feats,
apprentices who know it all.

The would-be trestle, labels, trays,
do I detect hint, glassware curve,
a dare to share where soles have trod
on cement clods, crude, heavy slopped.

Then through the pane, knick-knackery,
antiques or baubles, trinket bits,
wight shades of old, lined vessel wraiths.

So poor proportioned, framed in glass,
and laid beside those metal rims,
are these so rare they sell themselves,
despite slip saddle, handle bar.

So is it dear, all cheap inside,
and are the wheels sufficient draw
to beckon where no wish to go?

* * *

This poem sent by Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) is composed (mostly) of 8-syllable lines:
—Photo of Eye Candy
Courtesy of Public Domain

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

today some things outside the store
adorn the view with thoughts of yore
will they be safe from hands of thieves,
or fly away like Autumn’s leaves?

the hospital where I was born
had changed its name, became too worn
the corner drug store’s owners died
and none with talent since applied

habit would have me hold Mom’s hand
like this and that’s tight ampersand
teased by colors, yellow and blue
if it looked good, it was taboo

prices, costs, financial planning
hands off goods or get a tanning
gray haired shoppers would admire art
my connoisseur gene, yet to start

* * *

Here is a Cinquain from Claire Baker, anticipating Spring:
—Photo Courtesy of Public Domain 

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

We watch
rain rivering
pollen spore fuzz to where
need whimpers: the season, chance act
or God?

* * *

And here is an Ars Poetica from Stephen Kingsnorth:
—Illustration Courtesy of Public Domain

—Stephen Kingsnorth

I keep those Wordles to myself,
another word game on the prowl,
just like the poems no one reads,
more aide memoir of how things seemed.
My prompt when I don’t understand,
all rhyme and reason gone to pot—
when life’s a drag without the drug—
so unclear what I meant by that,
and unsure which way leant with that,
but careless now—there’s more import.

My old verse keeps its meaning close,
read thrice fore realise its scheme,
so unobtrusive, subtle, I,
it ’scapes me, like intended lie.
Awaiting input, fill the gaps,
when I’m freefall before insert
the definite, articulate;
it’s poets’ licensed friction day,
free verse without blank asterisk.

Thus here, without impinging voice,
fair certain that tomorrow’s leaks
will not unleash my secrets’ store,
both why and wherefore quite my own.
I’ll not divulge. unknown to me,
now safely in dementia wrapped—
it’s lost from brain, all scandalous,
in privy corner of my own.
If something slips as synapse flips
they’ll read my mutter as a dream.


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.)
•••7/5 Trochee:

•••AND/OR follow Taylor Graham’s lead (see above: “Out of the Dark”) and write a Rimas Dissolutas:

•••Rimas Dissolutas:

•••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 “A Peaceful Place”.


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

•••Ars Poetica:
•••Canzonet, Canzonetta, Canzonetta Prime:
•••Cinquain: AND/OR See for info about its inventor, Adelaide Crapsey.
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Normative Syllabics: AND/OR
•••Pantoum: AND/OR
•••Prose Poem:
•••Rimas Dissolutas:
•••7/5 Trochee:
•••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
Courtesy of Joe Nolan

A reminder that Fox and Goose
will host a reading of Chuck Dalldorf’s
Notes From the Green Man today, 4pm.
For info about this and other
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.