Friday, May 17, 2024

Mothering the Vine

  —Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham,
Placerville, CA
—And then scroll down for
Form Fiddlers’ Friday, with poetry by
Stephen Kingsnorth, Nolcha Fox, Caschwa,
and Joshua C. Frank
After New Growth by Pamela Findleton,
Watercolor, 2022

Look at her face—
like a mother pondering hopes
and fears for the child in her hands, a vine
just above heart’s level.
How much can go wrong in spite
of best efforts? Weather, pests, disease.
Her head bowed, wistful. A halo
of sunshine. Still, she almost
blends in—colors and brushstrokes—
with the background: over her shoulder,
the impassive peaks,
crags and chutes, rock and snow,
even in a hopeful season.
Lady Merlot

After Lady Merlot by Pamela Findleton,
Watercolor, 2004

She can hardly get enough
of those purple clusters hanging from the vine.
I think of her as I walk our fence-line
lush with twining vetch, its sprays of purple
blossoms on lacy green vines—invasive
but beneficial. Beautiful; hard to mow.
Vetch gives early nectar for honey bees,
food for quail, wild turkey and rabbits.
It’s a nitrogen-fixer, good for the soil.
This year we have a bounty crop on field
and fence. It challenges my weed-eater,
winding wreaths and garlands
around the trimmer head. If only
its clusters of purple blooms were grapes!
 Vetch (Vicia villosa)


I arrived too late.
They lack staying powers,
the lovely blooms of spring.
Now pesky Scotch broom
 Scotch Broom


This poem won’t make me his lost mother,
how many mothers, good or evil,
in his young life. Mother-dog—what breed,
I wonder, purebred or mix of wild and tame?
She disappeared into landscape
when a charitable stranger found him
abandoned along the road. She mothered him
till he grew too tall and strong, too wild.
At animal-rescue—in a kennel, not a home –
he was mothered as a foster child
until I picked him, brought him home.
Does this make him my own? We’re working
on that, together. Learning. Does a poem
help, and all the other poems?
Mother’s Day our six-week anniversary.
Does a poem come together better now?


You’re so alert to everything—
a slightest flick or flutter in the trees—
bird? squirrel? Isn’t that what a dog-partner
does, look out for danger on the trail?
Now what’s that coming at us at a good clip?
two young mothers pushing strollers,
you call it joggin’?—and I could respond,
“the scrub-jay’s making music to watch
the girls go by.” I didn’t pay much attention
till there was you, Otis, leading the way
with your ultrasensory senses. What’s
to fear or chase, or greet “good morning”?
It’s getting hot, let’s find a cool green
side-path for an interlude, a secret place
untrod, unjogged, in shade of oaks.


In the photo Otis is all ears, head tilted
trying to understand. What’s to understand
when you’ve already lost three homes
in your first 14 months of life? Those black
ears make me think of a bat. But he’s a dog.
A wolf in shepherd-dog’s clothing? or a pearl
among swine? I brought him home, leash
in hand—MyOtis at the end of his rope,
tall lanky bucking bronco. A real piece
of work. Get a grip, give him the benefit
of the doubt. Now he shadows me,
room to room, the sweetest dog. Then
cut to the chase, out of nowhere, he goes bats-
in-the-belfry, dancing on long hind legs,
way too tall for us to see eye-to-eye.
When will we find the silver lining, Cloud 9,
Easy Street an open trail for him, for me?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Springtime walk suddenly turns electric,
poplar leaves dancing palms-up—
wild wind off the mountains.


Taylor Graham continues to celebrate Wild-Child Otis’s story and growth among all the spectacular wildflowers this year, and we thank her (and Otis) for that! They’ve been pals for six weeks, now.

Forms TG has sent us today include an Idiom Poem (“Blessing in Disguise”); an Ekphrastic Poem (“Mothering the Vine”; “Purple Clusters”); a Kimo (“Switch”); an Ars Poetica (“Dog-Mothering”); a Compression Poem (“A Wild Bouquet”); and a Playlist Poem (“Trail Conversation with Otis”). The Compression Poem and the Playlist Poem form from
Poetry Super Highway were two of last week’s Triple-F Challenges. The two Ekphrastics are from the Ars Vinifera exhibition which is currently showing at Arts and Culture El Dorado's Switchboard Gallery in Placerville.  

Tonight at 6pm, the Switchboard Gallery in Placerville will host a poetry reading based on its current exhibition, Ars Vinifera: The Art of the Wine Label. Then, this coming Sunday, Storytelling Sunday features four Poets Laureate at The Green Room Social Club in Placerville, 4pm. And on Monday, Poetry in Motion read-around will meet in Placerville, 10:30am. For more news about these and other 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.
April's National Poetry Month got some of our venues slightly discombobulated, include hard-working Poet News editor Patrick Grizzell, who had to be late with Poet News. (Many thanks to him, both for PN and for all his work on Sac. Poetry Center's Literary Festival.) So some of May's venues didn't get announced in time to go on the Kitchen calendar—like Poetry in Davis last night, Our apologies to those events, and I hope you found out about them in time to go.

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 Stephen Kingsnorth, Nolcha Fox, and Caschwa (Carl Schwartz). Stephen sent some additional photos from his family's trip which his poem is based on:


—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

Burano—there we travelled, stayed,
escaping Venice travel tours—
where tea and lemon, at hotel
was more than lodging on this isle.
We ducked the washing on the lines
hung out between the pastel shades—
and even slung over canals,
this backwater, Murano glass.

Straight blocks of plaster washed with paint,
this was the quaint, gondolaless,
abridged by humps judged meritless;
and brochure free, unknown back then.
Insipid surface mirrors brick,
burnt umber, rainbowed patchwork quilt,
those toytown streets, laced colour strips,
coordinated throughout range.

All owners, given choice of two,
maintains the spectrum of the row,
though not the span, inhabitants.
No Doge’s Palace marks the square,
or Danielli cuppa price,
Rialto or the Bridge of Sighs
grace the turgid waterways,
nor monster cruise ships clog the sink.

But here were cheap and cheerful days,
quite free of boaters in their craft,
and wind-up gramophones set aft
for would-be operetta stars.
The palette, palate, tickled pink
with seafood distant from Lagoon,
Basilica of unknown saints,
and washed sheets slapping window sills.

* * *

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

The lady has no shame at all.
She shows her undies to the world.
For floor and floors she lets them fly.
Perhaps she wants each passerby
to smell her smalls. How fresh they are.
She even grows pink flowers
just in case the savor doesn’t satisfy.
Perhaps she hopes you’ll stop
for tea or something more.
You’ll have to ask her.
I don’t know.

* * *

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

at birth, the twins were
in the maternity ward
one lavished in pink
the other in blue

they developed, girl and boy
along conventional lines
one lavished in pink
the other in blue

later on, they explored
their separate universes
one lavished in pink
the other in blue

the girl tried out being a boy
and the boy tried being a girl
one lavished in blue
the other in pink

eventually they decided they
belonged with their birth gender
one lavished in pink
the other in blue

* * *

A Rhupunt from CS:


windows covered, small birds hovered
life discovered under roofing

delightful goose, with no excuse,
far from abuse, always goofing

here is haven, darkened raven
among the graven constant spoofing

alas my friend, the path won’t bend
to show an end to this riddle

* * *

Nolcha Fox sent an Ekphrastic response to Stephen Kingsnorth’s Ekphrastic response to the photo, “Tamara De Lempika” which was posted last Friday, May 10 (got that?):

Tamara De Lempika

—Nolcha Fox

Green pinwheel lady
brings the wind
to tell the plants
it’s time to bloom.
She whispers
wake up,
it’s spring,
you’ll miss
the best time
of the year!”

* * *

Some poems from Joshua C. Frank: First, a Rispetto:

—Joshua C. Frank

I moved the candies on the screen,
Made rows of three, and solved that level—
Man triumphs over his machine.
That game was programmed by the devil,
For what was offered as reward?
A chance to solve another board,
Another puzzle, near the same—
An endless, Sisyphean game!

(First published in Asses of Parnassus)


Now a Sonnet:

—Joshua C. Frank

I met her jogging in the city park;
I knew I’d seen her somewhere, yes, but where?
“It’s me,” she said, “It’s Bonnie!  Bonnie Clark!”
I said, “It is you!” as I stopped to stare.
She’d been my college buddy, more or less
Accepted as an honorary man,
But now she had long hair, a purse, a dress,
A girlish voice; my wanting her began,
For women’s ways no longer made her scoff.
I asked if she was free to dine at eight
And hoped my boldness wouldn’t chase her off.
She smiled wide and answered, “It’s a date!”
For her, true womanhood for years had tarried,
But late that year, we took our vows and married.

(First published in New English Review)

* * *

And a Triolet:

—Joshua C. Frank

Another girl, another crush
To cast in every thought of mine.
I’ve turned into a romance lush:
Another girl, another crush.
I love the high, I love the rush!
She harshed my love?  No need to pine:
Another girl, another crush
To cast in every thought of mine.

(First published in New English Review)

* * *

And an Ars Poetica from Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Rather like Iona isle
I'm well aware this place is thin.

But slight has meanings, more than one,
to cause offense, as verb or noun,
of small degree, insignificant;
so island slight is spirit close
while in poetry may say poorly posed.

Though reference, metaphor may be dense,
not worth jungle machete wield,
the cadence harsh, the rhythm sad
and free verse captured, neither, nor;
so resultant ill expressed,
for reading strange, deep doggerel,
skeletal frame, poor quality.

If you infiltrate my mind
understanding will be yours;
then, you better things to do,
so let me wallow and declare
stuff I swallowed, now I share
with laptop, brimming thoughts
from saucepan, simmer on the stove,
faggot spilling, gravy ooze.

But I am speaking, at least to self,
my own Iona, thinner space
and that express brings closer real.


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.)

Recently, Sacramento Poet Phillip Larrea passed away. Phillip devised a form known as a TriCube. Let’s honor him by writing some TriCubes; examples by Phillip may be found at (I thought it was sweet that his family mentioned this form in his obituary, something they were all proud of.)

•••TriCube by Phillip Larrea: Each stanza is three lines, three syllables per line, any subject

•••AND/OR follow Taylor Graham’s footsteps for an Idiom Poem (see above):

•••Idiom Poems: AND/OR

•••AND/OR brush off your Rispetti along with Josh Frank (see above):


•••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 “Indulgence”.


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

•••Ars Poetica:
•••Compression Poem:
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Idiom Poems: AND/OR
•••Kimo: AND/OR
•••Playlist Poem:
•••Sonnet Forms: AND/OR AND/OR
•••TriCube by Phillip Larrea: Each stanza is three lines, three syllables per line, any subject


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

* * *

—Public Domain Photo


A reminder that 
there will be a reading
in Placerville tonight at the
Switchboard Gallery, 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!