Friday, June 28, 2024

Drying On The Vine (And It's Only June!)

 —Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham,
Placerville, CA
—And then scroll down for
Form Fiddlers’ Friday, with poetry by
Claire J. Baker, Nolcha Fox, 
Stephen Kingsnorth, Caschwa,
Mitali Chakravarty,
Melissa Lemay, Barbara Leonhard,
and Joshua C. Frank

Drained. Like those peavine blossoms
on the trail, faded, withered, gone too soon.
It’s only June. By mid-morning
it’s too hot for mowing. Got to get going.
By noon we’re unstrung,
blinds closed tight against the sun.
Dog laid flat on the coolest floor
in the house, motionless for hours.
Overhead fan whirring. Don’t feel
like stirring. But what about
this morning’s walk?
Dawn is glowing got to get going
if we’re going to move at all. 


Black trunks of oak giants overlook
the RR track. What sound does a cat make
in these daylight woods deepening
into shadow-dark? We’re walking between
the rails. Ties & ballast. Side paths
thru blackberry bramble and rattle-dry weeds
are too overgrown for walking with a dog—
tickers, foxtails ready to leap and bury
themselves in his black coat.
Two young runners—firefighters on their
morning keep-in-shape—pause to warn me,
rattlesnake on the track ahead.
And big cat in the woods? What sound
does cougar make, stealthy
as the silent flight of owl? It’s morning
daylight, longest day of the year. My dog
leads us at a good fast trot, onward. 


In sleep I wandered a drought-land of stubble
burned pale as sesame seeds. Too much sun.
Already I’d strayed from the festival of birds,
water in my jar undrinkable because their wings
were clipped in the name of human revelry. How
could I explain I was dying of thirst? I came upon
this aquamarine warehouse hunched on treeless
land. Road leading there overgrown with weeds,
storks-bill blading thru cracked pavement.
The structure slumping toward earth, exterior
paint flaking away, an aquamarine mirage midst
of desert without the song of a single bird. 


That phoebe on the fence post sings the catalog
of Tuesday June, a gradually descending
refrain in praise of weather, this early morning
giving a cooler start to the day. And, in keeping
with the integrity of birdsong, she can’t omit
our neighbor’s free-range chickens, bunnies—
even the red hen solidly nestled into dead
dry weeds and field-fence, brooding her eggs
so I don’t dare whack those weeds. 


red hen
never blinked
a feather

display of pluck

my machine cutting
dead grass to stubble but
I stopped in time

ellipses of luck each
brown egg

red hen feathers
scattered like stubble

safety a bonus
in midst of summer wind 



One Raven paces
asphalt calling and calling
searching for what? whom?
What desire could ground him here
with all that bright sky above? 


dim gray silk
curtain parting light
from dark

mouse improvises
fundamental qualms

under mowed stubble
brood the dreams
of earthworm and mole

crazy tunnels
cottages of roots

enriching soil
and a full moon’s sleep

good-ol’ britches
transform the blues to blue
sky dancin’ denim


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Soft blue-white trumpets
of morning just at blooming—
sacred datura.


Many thanks to Taylor Graham for her poems and photos this morning! In addition to her mention of rattlesnakes (her poetry does indeed have fangs!), there are some words about cougars—we do have a few wandering our hills these days, and TG is musing about them.

Forms TG has used this week include a Haiku (“Between College & Wild)”: a Dream Poem (“Aquamarine”); a Word-Can Poem (“Free-Range Songbook”); a Tanka (“Solstice Black”); and two Rengays (“Dawning” & “Against the Fence”). The Rengay was one of our Triple-F Challenges last week. For a Rengay "partner”, TG draws random words. (More about the Dream Poem later.)

For 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.

Be sure to check out our shined-up FORMS! OMG!!! page ( for some recent brush-ups and additions. Taylor Graham, for example, often sees snakes in her travels, and consequently she has devised the Slither: xxxaxxxa/xxxbxxxc/xxxcxxxb/xxxdxxxd/xxxbxxxe, etc., and there's also the Serpentine. TG also is the devisor of the WLT (Weird Little Thing), which is defined as that which is in some sort of form that suits it but doesn’t have an official form title.
However,  I'm not able to include the list of all the forms we've done over the years like I wanted; Blogger says it's too much memory. Darnit! Seems like none of us has enough memory these days.

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 recentl-refurbished page-link at the top of the blog 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 Claire J. Baker, Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth, and Caschwa, as they muse upon the idea that maybe you CAN take it with you. We start with a Cinquain from Claire Baker:

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

with the flow, though
flow veers crazy left/right.
Birth named you heroic. So, love,
swim on.

* * *

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

Sun and surf are in my blood.
I’m at the beach, and here I’ll stay.

My blanket and umbrella show
my territory for the day.

My surfboard’s ready for the waves.
A sandcastle guards my food and chairs.

While drying off, I’ll play guitar,
and wear a hat from Mexico.

In case I want to play around,
I’ve coconuts and a beach ball.

My suitcase has fresh clothes in case
I decide I won’t go home.

The only thing to make me leave
is if my dog must poop or pee.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

A case of labels, sponsorship,
suspected when such scenes are packed;
the rainbow spanning every need,
paraphernalia indeed.

From toe to head, flip-flops, straw hats,
guitar and wireless to annoy,
both food, beer bottles, warm, explode,
when bored the platform, ready, surf.

Shy coconuts, full frontal skin,
sandcastle, intricate design,
ball, book (where’s candle?), exercise,
here even dog gulled and confused.

Unguided tourist, crowded beach,
unguarded props, insurance claim?
Except so little of true worth,
though I see missing, kitchen sink.

A jigsaw of priorities,
or puzzle with too many clues;
the setting, best, for puzzle board,
by barren, sanded, windswept strand?

* * *

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

Back when the civilized world was
like a yawning bear just coming out
of hibernation, people did what other
people told them to do, not because the
advice was credible, but because not
following directions would result in
great physical abuse. And people are
still doing that today.

Some folks pull out their bible, cite
chapter and verse, then close the book
as if the argument was won.

Others pull out a microfiche version of
the Oxford English Dictionary, read out
a heading and some text under it, then
close down the reader as if no more need
be said.

And there are those legal wizards who
claim to have memorized all legal opinions
ever rendered by all the courts, and if you
could only devote the rest of your life to
listening, they wouldn’t mind sharing with
you exactly what it is that makes damning
evidence so powerful.

Now, if one visits the beach on a nice, sunny
afternoon, one may see where a “believer”
came out at low tide and put clusters of their
favorite things, art, music, chairs, even their
favorite dog on the shore right near the water
line, reminiscent of the way ancient Pharaohs
equipped their pyramid tombs for the afterlife.

The birds laugh, the palm trees wave, the tall
buildings housing tourists are abuzz with the
aroma of sunscreen and dreams, while the tide
comes back and slowly, effortlessly, gobbles
up the shoreline and all that was left on it.

* * *

Here is a Haiku chain from Carl, who says that today he’s talking about human nature, not nature nature. Nothing could be finer than to show up at the diner in the moooorning... Carl has devised quite a few forms, all of which are in the new list.


had some breakfast out
tipped the waitress well, plus some
she couldn’t keep it

the manly owner
snatched it from her pocket and
took it as a fee

for the privilege
of working for him daily
she had to abide

or lose her little
opportunity to work
it was all she had

sure, this was wrong, but
I had no authority
to bust the guy’s nose

and no proof to give
to the proper agency
that has the purview

the longer this man
gets away with these bad deeds
the greater the urge

to expand his scheme,
set up a brothel of these
very same young girls

who will get tipped well
and have it taken away
by their mean owner

we are a nation
of laws, or so it is taught
but with all of that

our laws don’t seem to
have the reach they need to have
to right all the wrongs

* * *
Today we have two Limericks from Newcomer Mitali Chakravarty. Welcome to her, and check into the Kitchen tomorrow for more from Mitali:
—Mitali Chakravarty, Singpore

In a planet called Tango,
Inhabitants relish the mango.
They crunch and they munch,
Juicy fruits for dinner and lunch.
And, at breakfast, dance the zambo.

In the distant planet of Ropest,
They lived only to loudly protest.
As they sat down to a meal,
With unchallenged zeal,
They shouted at the food with zest!
* * *

These three SbakePals have sent us another of their Rengay (Revised), in which they followed the line count but not the syllable count. The Rengay was one of the Triple-F Challenges last week. Some of these lines have to spill over, given Medusa’s narrow margins, but that doesn’t mean the original line lengths were incorrect:

—Melissa Lemay, Barbara Leonhard, and
Nolcha Fox

I finally sit
after serving everyone breakfast
The cat drank my coffee

The dog steals all the chocolate
and drinks my coffee while I clean up the

The parrot’s watching my fresh cup of coffee
and will tell me who empties it if I give her
some gluten-free crackers

I taught her to say, “She did it!”
It only bites me in the ass sometimes

Crackers, chocolate, pizza
pancakes, fudge, cherry pie
If I eat it, it sits on my ass or my thighs

When my husband asks who ate his bag of
I say, “She did it!”

* * *

Josh Frank sent us an Ekphrastic response to this painting:

—Joshua C. Frank

Based on the painting “Starving Artist Getting Warm by a Painting of Fire” by Teun Hocks (1990)

I’m warming my hands by a make-believe fire—
I hope to fend off old Jack Frost by a feint,
Pretending that somehow I’ll sate my desire
By staring at yellows and reds mixed in paint.

I can’t sell my paintings, I’ve nothing for spending;
I can’t keep a job, so I’ve nothing to eat,
And somehow, I can’t just warm up by pretending—
I’d rather burn wood for some actual heat!

But wood can’t be had, so it’s back to the acting,
Imagining warmth on my freezing-cold hands.
I’ll soon paint some food and some friends for distracting
Myself from my life in these cold, windy lands.

(First published in New English Review)

* * *

Today we end with am extra bit of class and food for thought in response to our Tuesday Seed of the Week, Lust. Here is Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 129”, and Stephen Kingsnorth’s response to it:

—William Shakespeare

Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murd'rous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight,
Past reason hunted; and, no sooner had
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so,
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

* * *

After “Sonnet 129” by William Shakespeare
—Stephen Kingsnorth

Uneasy page for any age,
as ethics swirl in gender’s plea,
the more, permissive uncaged stage,
our terms transformed, LGBT,
with Q, plus questions followed, delved.
As powers hold, castle keep, Kafka
and Dewey triggers volumes shelved,
near bonfire, Alexandria,
abuse of folk and fears awoke.
When self-confessed loss of control,
how stands the mastery of bloke—
from hinterland, man-kind blamed rôle?
Today Will’s witness words assured,
that social media storm procured.


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 sink our teeth into a Duotrain:


•••AND/OR something dreamy (see Taylor Graham’s example above):

•••Dream Poem:

•••AND/OR in the mood to try a Limerick? They're not as easy as they look:
•••AND/OR feel free to Dribble:


•••See also the bottom of this post for another challenge, this one an Ekphrastic one.

•••And don’t forget each Tuesday’s Seed of the Week! This week it’s “Lust”.


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

•••Ars Poetica:
•••Dream Poem:
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••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
picture, and send your poetic results to (No deadline.)

* * *

—Public Domain Illustration Courtesy
of Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA


A reminder that Sac Arts presents
Art, Poetry & Jazz Night in
Carmichael tonight, 6pm.
For more 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!