Friday, April 26, 2024

The Wisdom of Trees

 —Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham,
Placerville, CA
—And than scroll down to
Form Fiddlers’ Friday, with poetry by
Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth,
Caschwa, Joshua C. Frank,
and Joyce Odam
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy of
Stephen Kingsnorth and Joe Nolan

Dawn turns the light on weedy field, the open
book—our earth so hungry

Dawn with its golden promises aslant
turns the back pasture to adventure, to
a battlefield of man and nature, whose
light makes all things, thistle and paradise
on just five acres. And the birds tune up,
weedy or not, morning songs for the bugs
that field and woodland provide, fat bugs for
the phoebe and swallow hawking above
open new-mown grass. Meditating the
book of green providence before it burns
our summer, shall I whack weeds to the bare
earth while the morning passes into noon
so shadows dwindle under winged vultures
hungry as is the wild law of this land.


“Arborists with the nonprofit Archangel Ancient Tree Archive are embarking on a mission to clone the resilient southern live oak…”
        —Christopher Cann, USA

That ancient live oak weathered hurricanes
and lightning strikes, still healthy, still alive.
We need such trees in time of climate change.
At timberline I climbed into a tree,
a juniper, quite hollowed out by storm.

In spite of summit wind, inside was warm
as wisdom of the ages spoke to me—
or so it seemed. You might think this strange
or not, this sylvan power to survive
and speak its secret wordless to our brains—

we humans still discovering our earth,
each step of progress like a death or birth.


miners lettuce turned
inedible, golden as
some old miners’ dreams


Narrowbody he is, though not
consuming less fuel (his appetite’s
voracious); he’s quicker boarding
(lickety split straight up
into sky); he’s jet-
black but for the white cloud
on his chest, feet splashed
with earth landing,
and dirty brown nose
from digging ground squirrels.


a maze of trails loses us   

two corvids overhead
cast shadows through tall treetops
giving no answer


how much granola
and water must we carry?
bees don’t pack a lunch

a slogging hot climb
up bare transmission-line ridge—
ravens sailing high

listen to the sweet
chirps, twitters, humming praise songs—
Sure you locked the door?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Easter’s past, its plastic wreaths lie
silent as the dead. But nature’s
blue dicks rise thru rotting asphalt
assuring us of life. 
Blue Dick
(Dipterostemon capitatus)
—Photo Courtesy of Public Domain


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for her fine poems and pix today, as we celebrate Arbor Day. TG says her new dog, Otis, has, puppy-like, a lot to learn and unlearn. Me too, Sistah. I still have a lot I need to both learn and unlearn…

Forms TG has used this week include a Ryūka (“Old Graveyard in the Rain”); a Sonnet ("This Tree Is a Survivor”); a Haiku (“Outside the Roofless Camp”); a Quadrille (“My Dog as Aircraft”); a Gambun (“Nature Area”); a Haiku Chain (“Birds, Bees, & the Hike”); and an American Sentence Acrostic that is also an Unrhymed Sonnet (“April Mowing”). “My Dog as Aircraft” also has hints of a Definition Poem. The Gambun and the Definition Poem were two of last week’s Triple-F Challenges.

An American Sentence Acrostic is a
Poetry Super Highway prompt from Jen Karetnick ( Write a 17-syllable American sentence, as per Allen Ginsberg's definition. (See…) Then, write down each word of the sentence in order vertically, like an acrostic but with words instead of letters. They will become the first word in each line of a poem. You can also think of it as a reverse Golden Shovel.

This week in El Dorado County poetry, readers from the Ripe Area Project will red at Chateau Davell in Camino Sunday afternoon at 2pm. Also on Sunday, Georgetown will hold its annual Arts in Nature Festival, starting at 10am.
Free. The Poets Squad (members of Tues. & Two workshop from Placerville and Thursday & Two workshop from Georgetown) will be reading poems onstage at 12:30pm; before that, come to Poets Gathering (informal poem-sharing) down by the Nature Area by the upper ponds and Nisenan Village. Everyone welcome!  
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, including a buncha stuff in the Sacramento area this weekend.

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

This week, we received Ekphrastic poems  from Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth, and Caschwa (Carl Schwartz):

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

Nature is too good to me,
she’s left me quite a feast.
Rows and rows of vegetables,
much more than I can eat.
I am a hungry caterpillar.
Goodness knows, I tried.
All I got was heartburn
and an invite to lose weight.
I’ll have to build a cozy nest
and sleep the whole thing off.
Let’s hope when I wake up
I’ll have transformed for the better.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

Of work, a lot for garden growth—
allotment, yet behind the house;
a model transferred to backyard,
where tastebuds take priority—
for floral tributes die away,
give way to brassicas as sprout,
and cabbage whites will have their day.

Borne movement, part ‘to grow your own’,
a self-sufficiency in war;
associations came to front,
and to fruition, battlelines;
another set of trenches dug,
with starburst, though our nearer sun,
a no-man’s-land, nature alone.

Those gardens of community,
the green and pleasant land preserved,
in urban scape, an escape plot,
another Eden, worms for snake.
It’s weedless, pristine, that regard,
as though the veg are measured too,
and not to stray beyond their clay.

For lots are portioned, border-lined,
as if the cropping pre-defined;
the patches also colour schemed,
shape, order, lines and area—
but each seed, new leaf turned over,
unique unfolding pattern-wise,
a chaos principle contained.

More nine bean rows, composted soil,
but Innisfree if bag your own;
The Innes, thirties, nation owned,
its loam based rating, one to four.
With runners high and lettuce low,
butt, broad bean, hoedown, outcrop, glass,
this not of cottage garden class.

So what is posed when there’s no rose?
That war dictates you eat as grow,
but blooms too help the world go round?
Community can build with bricks,
unique the folk though look alike,
and dreaming stretches focal length,
our dust, our clay at best when mixed?

(Note: what is called a Community Garden in the U.S. is in the UK called an allotment.)

* * *

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

when we bought the place
it had 4 magnificent lawns
so we got a hearty lawnmower
to keep them manicured

then we grew rows and rows
of crops, and added a full-
sized green house to enjoy
the freshest of ingredients for
our soups and salads

now the lawnmower sits lonely
in a corner of a tool shed, no
longer needed, no purpose
obsolete, abandoned, still

maybe a retired landscaper
would be the best match to
grab up this retired lawnmower?

they could take little walks
together and share dreams of
the good old days when both
were needed and had purpose

* * *

This plaintive poem from Carl is a Baccresiezé:

magazines still come for my wife
though disease has ended her life
but subscriptions go on and on

there’s no room here for such a store
little house crowded with old stuff
magazines still come for my wife

reached the customer service line
told them of my predicament
they cancelled my wife’s subscription

* * *

Carl has also sent a Lannet:


had some extra time too sublime to lose
so I embarked on a journey to write
poetry that might cause people to care
what is really in the air when you sleep
on your back, turn to your side, then inhale
unidentified missing particles
from that stale piece of bread you won’t throw out
mail order bakery hack, pissing your
dough instead of remaining in the know
read the articles, don’t go all blindly
aiming for bulls eyes that are not really
there, only to learn you were their target
and they were unkindly taking you to
the cleaners, ugly burn, cannot fix it

* * *

Here is a Daisy Chain from Carl:


Up in the attic lives strange, weird and dusty
Dusty shoes from trails less travelled

Travelled too long, away from home sweet home
Home delivery when you are not there to get it

It may walk away from your front porch forever
Forever gone, like it was never ordered in the first

Place your head in your palms, you hold the secret
Secret you are forbidden from sharing with family

Family picnic or other gathering, you know the kind
Kind-hearted and sweet kin, along with monsters

Monsters from the deep who ascend to light with-
out invite
Invite all present to irritate and bother your very

Soul that you were polishing up to shine brightly
Brightly singing off-key, too loudly like a garage

Band of skeptics and snipers who will shoot you
Down the river where there is no stairway up.

* * *

This week, Joyce Odam has sent us a Couplet Sonnet. (Dare she pluck a string?) A Couplet Sonnet is, well, a Sonnet rhymed in couplets. Joyce chose not to separate these couplets, space-wise:
—Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA
Untitled by Frederick Dielman, c. 1879   
        (painted and glazed earthenware, 8” x 8”,
        American Art Review, Sept. 1999)

She must be patient.  Dare she pluck a string;
dare she strum a chord and start to sing;
dare she fill a silence with her song—
so eloquently silent for so long—
turning to porcelain where the brooding gaze
of one who loves no music never strays
as if to give permission to be lured.
Indifference will keep his heart inured.
She’s but a pose of waiting—though the light
adores her—and the all-surrounding night—
and the shadows in the courtyard where she waits
—servant of music—mis-sent by the fates.
Does the deaf one also have no eyes?
A night wind plucks a string.  An echo sighs.

* * *

Here is a Rhupunt from Joshua Frank:

—Joshua C. Frank

When women’s plans
Are like a man’s,
So they act trans,
What’s left to say?

When folks believe
That to conceive
Is cause to grieve,
What’s left to say?

When Mother’s womb
Is a place of doom,
The trash the tomb,
What’s left to say?

When faithful priests
Must be released
And God is least,
What’s left to say?

When men replace
That empty space,
Our folk to erase,
What’s left to say?

(First published in The Society of Classical Poets)

* * *

And here is a Villanelle from Josh:
—Public Domain Illustration

—Joshua C. Frank

Robert Hoogland was arrested for calling his female-to-male transgender daughter female.

Their mouths are gagged, their hands are bound;
Their children taken by the state,
These parents have no legal ground.
While children run and play around
The lip of Hell’s wide, yawning gate,
Their mouths are gagged, their hands are bound.
If they should ever make a sound,
They’ll age in jail for crimes of hate;
These parents have no legal ground.
Their efforts will be quickly drowned
As red tape seals their children’s fate. 

Their mouths are gagged, their hands are bound.
Their children seized, locked in the pound,
Can’t help them now, for it’s too late,
These parents have no legal ground.
Must we raise our kids unsound
And watch them eat the devil’s bait?
Our mouths are gagged, our hands are bound;
We parents have no legal ground.

(First published in The Society of Classical Poets)

* * *

Here is an Ekphrastic poem from Stephen Kingsnorth, based on this photo he found:
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy
of Stephen Kingsnorth

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Who trod these boards, and at what stage,
patina layered, dust to dust,
the weak creak furniture ignored,
a scene, neglect, forgotten acts?   

See slant of legs from table sloped,
wide gait to help the balanced weight,
as seek, specific, gravity;
flats, foot, cove beading, indistinct—
as bottles, so glass, carpentry,
if smile by shoulder, lost in shades.

Such place to make their presence felt,
what wights, wraith-shapes once framed this space,
grey outlook onto living street
through splattered panes of globule rain
with window smear, veiled grainy beer,
and drear hung drapes to draw across.
A bier for long past days and ways,
departed glory in the waste.

That alcove panelled, sill and grill,
grand papered wall now less defined,
Lincrusta, anaglypta died,
a skip from grandeur as its end.
Did taller lounge on emptied kegs,
pair cooper’s casks, their barrelled hoops
withstand the years, unlike the chair,
whose spindles bowed, with split ends seat,
a farmhouse air now littered, passed
those legs galore from tops to floor,  
a drinker’s dozen, maybe more?

What filtered mood supplied to us
as we decide what route to take,
the studio or rested place,
with stagecraft props or history?
So trace if reckon real or reel,
to beckon us or leave us cold;
grant grace to face the questions asked,
and if we find none, move us, on?

* * *

And last, an Ars Poetica from Stephen:
 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy
of Stephen Kingsnorth

—Stephen Kingsnorth

As review our spending hours,
the costly lessons, learning hard,
delete them from our past
for leisure, rest, slacking part?
If so, read no further;
my harshest terms served, celebrate,
this through craft and heart;
if doing, worth, work well.


Many thanks to today’s writers for their lively contributions! Wouldn’t you like to join them? 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.) Let’s join in the American Sentence Acrostic challenge from Jen Karetnick in Poetry Super Highway ( See Taylor Graham’s example today (above):

•••American Sentence Acrostic: 17-syllable American sentence, as per Allen Ginsberg's definition. (See…) Then, write down each word of the sentence in order vertically, like an acrostic but with words instead of letters. They will become the first word in each line of a poem, similar to a Reverse Golden Shovel.

•••AND/OR re-visit the Rhupunt such as the one from Josh Frank (above):


•••AND/OR the form with the fancy French name, the Baccresiezé, such as the one from Caschwa today (above). I like that indented repeated word. Poe-ish, yes?


•••AND/OR you can always do the Daisy Chain like Caschwa did (above). Daisies are for spring…

•••Daisy Chain:

•••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 “Trees”.


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

•••American Sentence Acrostic: 17-syllable American sentence, as per Allen Ginsberg's definition. (See…) Then, write down each word of the sentence in order vertically, like an acrostic but with words instead of letters. They will become the first word in each line of a poem, similar to a Reverse Golden Shovel.
•••Ars Poetica:
•••Daisy Chain:
•••Definition Poem (Carl Schwartz): has the appearance of a dictionary definition, but actual definition is humorous or unexpected
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Gambun: either a one-word first line or anything up to one sentence, capped by a Haiku of up to four lines. Samples:
•••Golden Shovel:
•••Lannet (Sonnet Form): AND/OR AND/OR
•••Quadrille: 44 words (not counting the title) and includes one word the host provides to you
•••Sonnet Forms: AND/OR AND/OR
•••Villanelle (rhymed; can be unrhymed):


—Medusa, wishing trees everywhere peace and prosperity, and may all of us escape the woodsman’s ax~
 This Week's Ekphrastic Challenge!
 Make what you can of today's
picture, and send your poetic results to (No deadline.)

* * *

—Public Domain Photo
Courtesy of Joe Nolan


A reminder that
Cal. Poet Laureate Lee Herrick
will read at Sac. Poetry Center
tonight with Nyeree Boyadjian, 6pm.
For info about this and other
future poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
click on
in the links at the top of this page—
and keep an eye on this link and on
the daily Kitchen for happenings
that might pop up
—or get changed!—
 during the week.

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.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
Guidelines are at the top of this page
at the Placating the Gorgon link;
send poetry and/or photos and artwork
to We post
work from all over the world—including
that which was previously published—
and collaborations are welcome.
Just remember:
the snakes of Medusa are always hungry—
for poetry, of course!