Friday, May 03, 2024

Every Word Counts

 —Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham,
Placerville, CA
—And then scroll down to
Form Fiddlers’ Friday, for poetry by 
Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth, Caschwa, 
and Michael H. Brownstein


So much of Mother Nature is beyond me.
But my dog finds me birds in flight
and pricks his ears to hum of machinery
from a wood-lot out of sight. He samples new grass
tasty to a canine’s palate, and then he’s gung-ho
pawing the earth, throwing up soil—does he sense
ground squirrel underneath by scent or by hearing?
or some hunter’s instinct that escapes me?
Headed back to the car, he shows me what looks
like fresh lion scat on the trail we’re back-
tracking. He puts on speed. Does he know
for sure the big cat was traveling in another
direction? I’ll follow my dog. 


two corvid shadows
passing too high for the up-
lift eyes to follow 


The meadow’s green, a peaceful scene—what might
we glean of nature here?

Some lupine blue, the purple hue of twining rue,
its message clear:

Don’t sow the seed that sticks like greed when you
have need of sweeter cheer.

A trail of grass—we let it pass untrod, alas—what
should we fear?

The clouds drop low, and winds that blow cause us
to know we’ve no rain gear. 


High in the burn-scar, overlooking
ridge on ridge of skeleton trees—
no lake or river in sight—
I find a motorboat
uncharred. Much too new
and modern to
be Noah’s,
and no


I’m wrinkled and gray-skinned, sentinel
over meadow; I’m wise survivor, though dead.
Alive in spirit. My corpse gives life to life
around me. Wildlife-tree, nesting and shelter
for birds and small beasts. I’m a totem.
From different angles, a great lizard, or raptor
with fearsome beak; or bear lifting one paw
begging to let me remain here. My old friend
trees are long gone, fallen, or cut down
in their prime. I’m an anachronism. I know
the world is changing. We green beings
have our underground networks; we get news
on the wind in our leaves. In this wildflower
meadow are plates with words pressed into metal:
Sanitary Sewer. Man-holes. Soon this meadow
will be gone to streets, houses, garages. I’ll
be gone—not left to bow to nature’s plan,
becoming soil and new life, but felled
by chainsaw, hauled from my homeland
in pieces. Useless. 


30 minutes is what my doctor ordered,
ordered a brisk walk for bone health.
Health is important, so I walk.
Walk timed by clock and counting steps,
steps on city streets get boring. On the trail—
trail through woods and field—time flies,
flies like birds overhead. What is time?
Time is numbers. In a poem, each word counts.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Dog is left home alone while human
walks out the door with day pack. Now
dog sleeps on pack so his human
can’t get away alone.


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s spring poems and photos! Forms she has used this week include a Haiku (“In Tall Conifers”); a Persona Poem (“The Old Snag Speaks”); a Rhupunt (“Late April Walk”); a Daisy Chain that is also an Ars Poetica (“What Counts”); a Nonet (“On the Eldorado”); and a Ryūka (“Dog Logic”). The Rhupunt and the Daisy Chain were two of last week’s Triple-F Challenges, and we’ve been talking about trees in honor of last Friday’s Arbor Day.

In El Dorado poetry this coming week, Cameron Park Library Poets and Writers Workshop takes place at 5:30pm; an Ekphrastic workshop with Lara Gularte will meet on Wednesday at the Switchboard Gallery in Placerville; and there will be a reading and open mic at the Cameron Park Library on Thursday at 5:30pm, featuring Beatrice Pizer and Annette Carasco plus open mic. 
For more news about El Dorado County poetry—past (photos!) and future—see Taylor Graham’s Western Slope El Dorado Poetry 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

This week, we received Ekphrastic poems  from Nolcha Fox and Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

I’m an old cast-iron stove,
made to last forever.
I was your grandma’s pride and joy.
She gave me to your mother.
Mom passed me to you
in her will, you’ll give me
to your daughter.
When Old Joe knocks on the door,
you know he’s not on business.
It’s not to tinker with my works,
he’s hoping for a slice
of your state-fair-winning
apple rhubarb pie.
I’m not much to look at,
but everybody knows
that I’m the heartbeat of this house,
I make this house a home.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

Preparing food, what sweat from cook
glazed latticed pie for those upstairs?
While downstairs, lobster thermidor,
still living, head first, boiling raw,
provided, served to those above
with crail claws, curtsey, all the frills.
Cold dish revenge in scullery?

Here’s range of ovens, blacked in block,
with drawers, keys, cubby holes galore,
behind shine silvered handled ware,
for resting bread, exotic fare.
But is it fair, that under-crew,
with scuttle, bucket, sweeping brush
as haul jet coal, stored bunker slack?

Museum piece as practise too,
for now less blacking, servants’ hall;
play snooker upstairs—pot the black—
while kettle, kitchen, calls me back.
Wrought iron furniture has changed,
equipment being à la mode,
wage minimum, on paper, raised.

My mother’s mother had bellpush,
her station, platform, training maids.
But father’s Mum was one, must needs,
so aproned, scrubbed, war widows’ weeds;
then later life, a Mayoress,
as class distinction shifted gears.
It seems some chains have changed their links.

* * *

Here is an American Sentence Acrostic from Caschwa (Carl Schwartz). (Skip the indented words—they’re just a result of long lines having to spill over.) The American Sentence Acrostic was one of last week’s Triple-F Challenges:

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

I have a bachelor’s degree in music, and
know the art of writing and reading it
how the piece is
to be played in order to
accomplish what the composer intended;
success appears reachable
until it imposes the requirement of sight reading,
It proves to be quite beyond my natural talents
gets all haywire tangled up in
complicated knots

* * *

Caschwa also sent us a Joseph’s Star:


you think it’s
going to rain today
please tell us exactly that,
not discussions and lingo
from a science class
years in the

you wish to
focus on Israel’s
war crimes and punish us for
being way too disruptive,
we are going to need

more rockets
will be fired at us
while we’re peacefully sleeping
within recognized borders,
else we must defend
ourselves from


* * *

Michael Brownstein has sent some Prime 53 poems, a form that is new to us. Here are the rules that Michael sent: Total syllable count of 53; Eleven total lines; First three stanzas are three lines each with a 7 / 5 / 3 syllable count. Final stanza must be two lines with a 5 / 3 syllable count, for a total syllable count of—you guessed it—53. There should also be some kind of rhyme scheme—abc dec efc gc, for example. Here are four examples from Michael:

—Michael H. Brownstein, Jefferson City, MO

We wake to what is done,
the wind frozen stone,

We walk across fields of frost,
snow drifts climb the trees,

In the back forty, mule deer,
nearby, wolves,

Each day's sacrifice,

* * *

—Michael H. Brownstein

Under the apple tree's limbs
a bounty in fruit

Somehow pink ladies hold on
as galas salute

Where is Braeburn and Fuji?
hiding in the root?

I am in hiding
tasting loot

* * *

—Michael H. Brownstein

Under the fruit tree's bounty
sits Isaac Newton
pear in hand.

Johnny Watermelon Seed
drops them everywhere
on the land.

With a mango on her head,
William Tell's daughter
takes a stand.

...apples? I've got them.
Ain't I grand?

* * *

—Michael H. Brownstein

This is the way of our world:
jugglers, dancers, gin,
kick boxers—

look!—a grand ship with great sin:
peppermint of sound,
quiet spin—

and when the great oak fell hard
(nobody could win)
silent songs

like men with no skin,
lost lovers.

* * *

And here is an Ars Poetica from Stephen K.:

—Stephen Kingsnorth

I hunger for ekphrastic prompt,
a call of nature, instinct romp,
rich lode of words, mined idioms,
associations, mind controlled.
Set image, imprint, opens store,
a gallery of fruits displayed,
a hazel twig, diviner’s rod,
releases spring held underground.

Is it that picture aids the terms,
a complement to understand?
Perhaps the image stirs the cause,
an inspiration lost before.
Maybe imagination brewed,
a story culled from history,
or fantasy of future called,
an episode, freed zeitgeist, told.

The enforced rest of Parkinson,
a muscle waste, but mindful wrest,
is that unsettled brain at work,
provokes the need, self-castigate?
So should I paste my own bill-post,
and prosecute the case myself,
and so dispose my ill-at-ease,
some comfort for myself at least?


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.) Try the Prime 53, of which Michael Brownstein sent us several examples (see above):

•••Prime 53:

•••AND/OR the Persona Poem—see Taylor Graham’s example above:

•••Persona Poem:

•••AND/OR re-visit the form with the lovely name, the Joseph’s Star, like Caschwa did (see above):

•••Joseph’s Star:

•••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 “Yolks”.


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:
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Joseph’s Star:
 Today's Ekphrastic Challenge!
 Make what you can of today's
picture, and send your poetic results to (No deadline.)

* * *

—Public Domain Photo


For info 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.

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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!