Friday, June 07, 2024

Places of Nature's Healing

 —Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham,
Placerville, CA
—And then scroll down for
Form Fiddlers’ Friday, with poetry by
Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth,
Caschwa, Joyce Odam, and
Joshua C. Frank
from ForestSong, RIPE AREA
Arts & Nature Festival, 6/2/24

This morning a mourning dove was calling,
live oaks moving with the rhythm of a breeze,
dappling dead cut stubble underfoot.
This place—like all our places now—in peril.
This place of Nature’s healing.
I think of the black bear crossing the road
from honey hive to chaparral,
the sphinx moth with its unanswerable questions,
columbine blooming in shady corners
among stone,
the gloaming that gathers
a day’s pangs and agonizings,
its disintegrations and re-makings,
our darkness and our light. 


Holiday traffic racing up & down mountain 2-lane—
skeletons of burned conifers to the horizon—
dozer-gouged dirt from fire-fight 3 years ago—
charred & weathered branches, rocks & pebbles,
a few pine seedlings planted in desolation—
one heavy-duty glove,
a carefully constructed stone fire pit with grill,
a milled-plank bench,
three uprights posted in triptych—
a question:
who dared sit here under stars & constellations
shepherding a pit fire
sheltered against wild summit winds
amid the dark around & overhead,
the black that was a forest? 


Memorial Day 2024

O ladybug on leaf
of oak-sprout on this moonscape—burned-out scars—
this stump that won’t give up its root-belief
in soil and sun, as cars

on holiday whiz by,
no reason to be stopping here; dead trees,
no lovely forest scenery under sky.
O ladybug, stay, please. 


The rescue kennel called him goofy. I call him
silly Otis, as he rolls around on the marrowbone
meant to keep him happy while I’m gone.

Now I’m home, he waves big speckled paws
in the air. Bushy tail’s a plume thumping
joyous tattoo as he rolls on his bone.

“Silly” comes from Old English gesaelig,
“happy, prosperous;” he is, with his hollow bone,
marrow extracted. Gesaelig from Proto-Germanic—

Old Saxon & Old High German salig,
to modern German selig, “blessed, happy,
blissful.” Otis rolling on his hollow marrowbone. 


He’s not ornery, just prey-driven,
inheritance of unnamed hunter canines.
The jury isn’t out yet on the question
of his ancestry. His swab-kit is stalled
on its way to the lab, moving thru
the network, in transit to next facility,
arriving late. It’s already
5 days late according to postal updates.
Does frustrated mean ornery?
Or is it just the fruit of our rush-rush
caught-in-traffic anxious lives? 


along the bike & hiking trail

How narrow a swath of wild on either side,
buffering this quiet woodland trail
from industrial park and big box store,

sheltering with ever-changing green of trees
and brush, where once I found a larkspur
I never knew before; where once I saw

a doe turned statue to my spellbound dog,
before she lifted off in spring-leaps
too light for mortal hooves—gone.

Gone like the woods this morning. Just
stumps and severed rounds. Underbrush
cleared away; bare dirt all around;

a sudden view of pavement, walls, roofs
row on row expanding into farther town.
Where does a doe find shelter now?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

canyon lit only
by spring-green leaves capturing
the high morning sun


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for her lovely poetic snapshots this morning! Forms she has used include an Etymology Poem (“Silly Otis”); a Haiku (“Deep Dark”); a List Poem (“A Moonscape, Except”); a Bryant that is also an Ekphrastic response to Medusa's recent ladybug photo (“She's Back in the Burn Scar”); and a Word-Can Poem (“Prayer Flag”), which actually uses ten words chosen from three different cans at last weekend’s RIPE AREA Festival. The Bryant was one of last week’s Triple-F Challenges. I asked TG for resources about Etymology poems, and she said there were none. She thinks she made up the form.

In El Dorado County poetry this week, Poetic License meets in Placerville on Monday morning at 10:30am. For more news about this 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.

Also of interest to Form Fiddlers might be the free five-week workshop at Sacramento Poetry Center, starting Thursday, June 13 at 6pm. Led by Daniel Kemper, it’s called “Meter & Flow”, and is focused on these elements of poetry. Info:

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 responses from Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth, and Caschwa (Carl Schwartz):

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

You don’t have to run to Mommy.
You don’t have to cry and scream.
What you see outside the window
may not be a scary dream.
Don’t you listen to the people
whispering of monsters dark.
Trust your instincts.
You know better.
It’s your Daddy making sure
that you’re ok before
you go to sleep at night.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

Too clear an image for a dream—
sure not the pane, reflection framed?
From dark interior she peers,
so what light shines, her profile, glass?
Is hand supporting body’s rest
or barring entry to her world?
The demon not for beard, bold teeth,
or craggy face, but temple horns.
A preface plate for craft of art,
both spells and magic of the night?

Or are we in the Krampus site,
the toddler neither scared nor cared;
as he tried more for cringe or cry,
the girl but chortled, demon sighed.
The ancients had him with St Nick,
the naughty children’s Christmas cheer,
with rods of birch for punishment,
and not to spare, as scripture told.
But then the wiser woke to threat
as nothing gained in mental health.

Was this goat monster rooted claw,
its German Krampen meaning so—
an irony so close to Claus,
that kindly cousin of St Nick?
How odd that it should have its birth,
Catholic Christian character;
forefathers sad that they embraced
that young be good for fear of him.
It’s when we know God’s on our side
that we should then be most afraid.

* * *

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

when my teeth come in,
apparently some will cause
pain in my gums while others
will overtake my upper lip and
form a bony moustache, one to
compliment my pointed ears
and beady eyes

my teething today is supposed
to become chewing, the routine
cooperative effort of upper and
lower teeth, but can’t see how
that will be possible if my uppers
rest atop my upper lip

is this a computer glitch? an AI
assault? are all mirrors and
windows distortions? Mama,
please don’t forget the straw.

* * *

Caschwa was inspired by Taylor Graham’s journeys with Otis, and sent this poem:
—Photo by Taylor Graham


what a dog sees, hears, and/or smells
while walking right alongside you
neither Power Point, lights nor bells
to share with you what’s in its view

the OED on microfiche
a special reader is required
though greater speed might be our wish
our lowly brain is not so wired

I shall incorporate myself
get deductions, honor, and pride
display my logo on top shelf
my voice in Congress multiplied

we know which people do not vote
despite the changes they could make
to enrich life structured on rote
and add more icing to their cake

in the squat, putting down the signs
directing the flow of a sport
keeping the ball within the lines
churning dirt to trigger the snort

* * *

Remember the Katauta? The form that's so much fun to say? Joyce Odam sent us a chain of them this week:
 —Illustration Courtesy of 
Public Domain

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

Of what use sorrow?
     When Joy steals the poet for
     Joy, the poet writes nothing.

What thoughts control love?
     The mind of the map unfolds . . .
     so many places to go.

What do locks protect?
     Secrets hide.  Windows gossip.
     The police can find nothing.

What is jealousy?
     Flip a coin and it never
     comes down . . . some love-thief steals it.

For what does love grieve?
     Two ornery geese . . . life-mates . . .
     now one is dead.  The dog sleeps.  

What does time recall?
     Fog rolls in . . . land disappears . . .
     cry of something lost cuts through.

Why,   and why,   and why?
     The absolutes do not yield . . .
     only the questions matter.

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 6/5/18)

* * *

Josh Frank has sent us an extended Villanelle:
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Joe Nolan,
Stockton, CA

—Joshua C. Frank

The devil takes the people as his sheep.
Surrounded every day by hellish flocks,
I lie in bed with dread and cannot sleep.

They sell off precious human life for cheap
And weigh your death against the price of stocks—
The devil takes the people as his sheep.

Another mother kills her child; I weep.
Murders tick by like second hands on clocks—
I lie in bed with dread and cannot sleep.

A couple learns the penalties are steep
For right belief as “child welfare” knocks—
The devil takes the people as his sheep.

A woman casts her husband from his keep;
His speaking with his kids, she quickly blocks—
I lie in bed with dread and cannot sleep.

Through Christian doors, satanic toxins seep;
Despite God’s love, each family member mocks—
The devil takes the people as his sheep.

Behind their Jesus masks the demons creep.
Which facts are lies?  Which facts are orthodox?
I lie in bed with dread and cannot sleep.

To God’s small flock, our Shepherd seems asleep
As one more pro-life priest, the Pope defrocks—
The devil takes the people as his sheep.

God says that “as you sow, so shall you reap”
While keeping evil free from bars and locks—
I lie in bed with dread and cannot sleep.

Perhaps I think too much and think too deep
Because I think outside my culture’s box.
The devil takes the people as his sheep;
I lie in bed with dread and cannot sleep.

(First published in The Society of Classical Poets)

* * *

And here is an Ars Poetica from Stephen Kingsnorth in praise of the use of forms and structure—“the poet’s frame”:
—Public Domain Painting Courtesy
of Stephen Kingsnorth

—Stephen Kingsnorth

Some think it hampers flow of verse,
but, discipline, the poet’s frame,
unless would fling out conscious thought?
It is the metre’s feet retained
that traces pulse of rhythmic hearts,
contains our impulse, holds its form,
for readers, yes, but author more,
to give full rein by limits laid,
the risk of border crossing stayed.
Take measure of our prancing words,
trooping our colours, on parade,
as rave becomes an ordered dance,
in ballroom, bluegrass, reeling lines,
terpsichore for musing works.

Some air their humour, open mic,
appealing to vox populi;
such know their space, booksellers’ shelves,
where sell their wares from tabloid stands.
Yet press on; comics have their place,
but working class, a harder part,
must come to terms, need search our souls.

So from the lists I battle on,
and seek to keep my rules in play.
Take soundings—any poet should—
don’t stray where can’t be counted on
(monosyllabic—one distorts).
Avoid distress, less marking point—
’tis said, sung ‘O’, Jerusalem.
Few ending rhymes that jar perforce;
I turned the mangle as a kid—
flat wear wrung out by squeezing tight,
so rhyme and reason rare combined,
More import, campanology;
ring the changes, swing clapper bells,
the beating wings of inner chimes.

Some know the value, more than most
of balance as we walk the line,
of careful mounting, counting steps,
of grasping fleeting phrase that flies
a ready handshake greeting most,
our brand of body meeting mind,
half-empty glass that we refill.


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.) How about another crazy-making Irish form:


•••AND/OR: follow Taylor Graham’s lead (above) and write an Etymology poem. (Etymology, not Entomology—though I suppose you could do an Entomology poem, too...)

•••Etymology Poem
(Taylor Graham): based on the origins of a person, place or thing
•••AND/OR re-visit the always-illusive Katauta (see Joyce Odam's examples 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 “The Unexpected”.


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

•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Etymology Poem (Taylor Graham): based on the origins of a person, place or thing
•••List Poem:
•••Villanelle (rhymed or unrhymed):
•••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


For info about
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
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that might pop up
—or get changed!—
 during the week.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
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Find previous four-or-so posts by scrolling down
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send poetry and/or photos and artwork
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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—
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