Friday, June 14, 2024


 —Poetry and Photos by Taylor Graham,
Placerville, CA
—And then scroll down to
Form Fiddlers’ Friday for poetry by
Nolcha Fox, Stephen Kingsnorth,
Joyce Odam, Joshua C. Frank, 
Caschwa, and Claire J. Baker

        “Shepherd-mix” Otis’s DNA

While waiting for the test results I fantasized
on forebears (not bears! but maybe wolf?). His feet
so big, chest narrow—unlike my former Shepherds.
He leaps straight up. Ears remind me of a bat. Long
legs of a gazelle—that’s too far-fetched. But he’s 
one far-fetching individual. Now Science gives
me an answer: no chimera, my Otis is
mostly German Shepherd mixed with
Siberian Husky nearly half—he’s a dog!
and hundred-percent Otis needs a tummy-rub.


Sudden nudge at my elbow
at the computer.
Growl bark by my ear—
What’s my new dog, Otis, saying?
Maybe he needs to go out.
            Maybe he wants to play tug-o-war.
                Maybe he’s set to roll on his back
            for a good long tummy-rub.
Only Otis knows—
how to really get my attention. 


Wind takes the words from our mouth.
It blows south first, east, then north,
jumbles the fourth—labyrinth
of sounds. “Hyacinth” flits forth.

“Tamarind” took wing and fled.
Gusts shred syllables we pinned
on the tree, each flutter-word
is stirred, flowing free in wind. 


Why does the wind blow?
This morning blue cornflowers
are flocking the dead-dry field.

Must the day be hot?
Even the planets chase their
tails around the summer sun.

What birds are singing?
The trees hold hands full of leaves
their roots know all the secrets. 


Brittle dead vines coiled around
brittle dead grasses—fuel for the horrors
of fire season upon us.
I spent the dawn weed-whacking
down our frontage hill, nature’s rocky road
from house to 2-lane pavement.
There’s no way to give this slope a good
long soaking until rainy season;
no safe flight home from summer.
There’s just this land. 


Stranger on a bike warns me: snake on trail ahead. Gather up loops of leash, keep my dog close. Fresh June morning, pavement barely tepid— feel it with my hand. Early for snakes. But there it is. King snake weaving white & umber rings on asphalt, stops mid-slither on the path. Not a muscle quivering long cursive spine. I can’t read it. Snake a low-slung statue. More bikes on the way. Snick a tiny pebble, fillip just a twig....

can you feel the wind
practicing its scales, flicking
its tongue, singing, gone? 

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

No rattle ripples
morning, its silver rings no
bell. The sun so pale
the ripples pause mid-octave
the pathway only
half-way crossed, the music still
unfinished in song unsung.


Welcome back to Taylor Graham and Otis on this Flag Day, 2024, and thanks for their fine contributions! Our Seed of the Week was “The Unexpected”, and apparently TG and Otis have run into quite a bit of that lately, both in each other and in the larger world. (Oo!—king snake!)

Forms TG has sent include some Normative Syllabics (“Not What I Expected”); a Casbairdne (“Prayer Flags at the Festival”); a Prime 53 (“Again, Always Unexpected”); a Word-Can Poem (“Just June”); a Choka (“King Snake Song”); a Haibun (“How It Disappears”); and a Katauta (“Questions on the Trail”). The Casbairdne was one of the Triple-F Challenges last week.

In El Dorado County poetry this week, Poetry in Motion meets in Placerville on Monday, 10:30am; Tuesday@2 meets in Placerville on—you guessed it—Tuesday at 2pm; and Poets and Writers Workshop meets in Cameron Park on Thursday at 5:30pm.  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 focussed 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 and Stephen Kingsnorth:

—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY

I learned more from summers
with my grandparents on the farm.
Milking cows and pitching hay,
collecting eggs, hanging sheets,
and picking tomatoes off the vine.
The best thing that I ever learned
was saying “Ah, shucks” when we
shucked the peas.

* * *

—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales

There are so many beans about,
broad spectrum comes to mind and lip,
though blackfly too like sip of sap,
discovered when pinch out plant tip.
Grey seeds unpromising in cloak,
pale silver hairs in leather zip,
but my first choice—unless tinned can,
too bland for some in mushy whip.

Then runners, scarlet flower clime,
that father planted, compost trench;
for fingered bundles, cropping well,
set climbing frame, wet welcome drench.
Like stripping cane, sharp knife and aim,
I see him, colander, at bench,
for Sunday lunch, sweet green, seed pink,  
but never learned slice without blench.

For symbiotic nodule fix
legume roots left in soil, the key,
of flavonoids, nitrogen’s source.
Dad did not know the chemistry
but told the stories, garden growth,
as rows in Innes, dreaming free,
held lore degrees in veggie patch,
though butter, doubt cannellini.

Red kidney or our haricot,
he would not know the beans we stew,
hot chili sauce, brew con carne,
the vegan mix known then by few.
They’re worlds apart, that aproned lap,
his harvest, or greengrocer’s view,
and though approve my global hues,
I miss the broad, lap runners too.

* * *

Joyce Odam sent us a titillating Octo:

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

One cannot help but resonate.
The listening becomes the ear.
The mystery becomes the clue.
And something muffles to conceal

the what is false from what is real.
The mystery becomes the clue.
The listening becomes the ear.
One cannot help but resonate.

* * *

Here are some Rispetto stanzas from Josh Frank. Watch for more of Josh’s poetry in the Kitchen this coming Wednesday:
—Joshua C. Frank

A true story from
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris

“Behold not everybody's beauty: and tarry not among women.” —Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 42:12

That long-skirt, apple-pie brunette from Kansas
Whose wholesomeness shone bright like Moses’ face…
I could go on with praise for forty stanzas
About her femininity and grace!
My recent romance crashed and hit its end;
I swore that Chelsea’d only be a friend.
When David saw Bathsheba on the roof,
Did he, too, think his plan was Satan-proof?

Soon camp was over, yet I couldn’t bear
To end the friendship, go home, and forget her.
I fell right into Satan’s subtle snare
Proposing that we correspond by letter.
(It’s just as well we didn’t all have email.)
“She’s just a friend who happens to be female!”
I swore to Mom, Dad, Jesus, Gran, and Gramps,
And yet, I spent a fortune buying stamps.

I guess I was a fool to be dismissive;
Though “Best Regards” would more than have sufficed,
We scattered throughout each poetic missive:
“I miss you so,” and, “I love you in Christ!”
My constant visions of her angel face
Were proof that in my heart she stole God’s place.
Like Icarus, I’d flown too near the sun;
I played with passion, and I thought I’d won.
I flew to Kansas, hoping to propose.
Alas, we didn’t have enough in common.
My room’s a mess; her things all stood in rows.
I aim for healthy meals; she lived on ramen!
She’d met a guy at school; they were “platonic.”
It broke my heart.  That love spell was demonic,
Yet somehow, I still think God’s Word contends:
Young men and women can remain just friends.

(First published in
The Society of Classical Poets)

* * *

Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) sent us a first-letter Acrostic poem (with thanks from the Snake Lady):

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA


* * *

Carl also sent a Recipe poem:

started with a medium to large empty
bowl loaded first with an unpretentious
bed of fresh red bell pepper, chopped
into small units, followed with thin
sliced zucchini cautiously cut from a
new purchase, (the old one limp and
drippy dumped into the compost bin)

then some carved carrots with nice
serrated patterns, a generous helping
of pitted black olives, (always somewhat
smaller than what the package says
they are), bring on the tropical fruit
mix (nuts and dried fruit) full of varied

hearty Romaine lettuce is next, pulled
whole off the head and torn into small
segments, reach in with both hands and
toss (actually mix up) the ingredients,
and then (say goodbye to my diet) a
generous amount of bleu cheese dressing,
plus crackers pretending to be croutons

Add a fork, a favorite beverage (mine is
always iced tea) bring to the table by Papa’s
recliner chair, turn on the TV, look for news
or sports, and then dig in

* * *

Carl writes, "Remember the Dechnad Cummaisc”? How could we forget! Those Irish forms are unforgettable…


we pay to see actors perform
as if they know
just which lines we want to hear
in their big show

and see ourselves being portrayed
on center stage
in finery, past our penny
at any age

the props well guarded at Fort Knox
all locked up well
not in a Hollywood parade’s
unpaid show/tell

* * *

And here is a Katauta chain from Carl:


went against grain and
wore a 3-cornered hat to
the Four Corners, USA

thought I might just see
some explosive reactions
only my folks were upset

do you think that I
shamed my family’s image?
didn’t make the breaking news

only in my own
mind was it more dramatic
women gasping, men drew guns

birds of prey flew wild
horseback cowboys missed a step
the place was shut down

we’ll never go back
there again in my lifetime
or was I just dreaming this?

* * *
In yesterday's Kitchen, Nolcha Fox wrote a Quadrille about being tired of people writing poems with constant complaints—she suggested we all write about bubblegum instead! I quipped that readers would get "extra credit" for such poems, and "double extra credit" for making them Quadrilles, as well. (Who knows what extra credit in the Kitchen means, anyway??) But, bless their hearts, Claire J. Baker and Stephen Kingsnorth both responded with bubblegum poems, and Stephen even tackled a Quadrille, besides! Here is Claire's poem, a Triolet:

        (100 Years Ago)
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

Our blown bubble gum covered our noses,
and smelled like lemon crumble cake.
Again, the way the story goes is:
the bubble we blew had hidden our noses
for sure.  And narry a nip of supposes
was ever left in our wary wake.
The bubbles we blew draped over our noses,
scented like lemon-crumble cake. 

* * *

And here is Stephen's Quadrille, with a sly reference to dear Alice and the lobster quadrille:

—Stephen Kingsnorth

From country dance to noble France,
those steps swept to olde England, then,
New England, where was called, a square.
With picnic gingham, fiddle, hail,
I saw it, graphic, blue grass mall,
when hoedown man in central place,
his heel toe stuck in bubblegum.
* * *
This last poem is from Stephen Kingsnorth about his discovery of poetry at a young age—an Ars Poetica of sorts:
After “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Coleridge
—Stephen Kingsnorth

For what prey was the Porlock call,
as Stevie Smith, a con recalled,
this Warlock Porson, knock at door?
Was this the muse departed, spin,
or drowsed laudanum, mystified?
Had I magnificence in mind
would I call block, door knock in fact?

That’s how it started, sweet sixteen,
vain coursing through those troubled times,
until I heard, and read, and said.
Pandemic body tinnitus,
the world of visions created,
painted by pen and lexicon,
addiction to the sound of words.

My legend, hinterland was screened
and I was drawn in, scenic route,
familial roots on Exmoor sunk
until I caverned, climbed to light,
a measureless that spanned my life,
this Xanadu beyond my class,
beyond all grasp, vox populi.


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 go back and do another Irish form. As always with Irish forms, this one’s a doozy:

•••Droigneach Poem:
•••AND/OR: Join Joyce Odam in constructing an Octo (see above):
•••AND/OR: Along with Caschwa (see above), let’s revisit the Recipe Poem:

•••Recipe Poem: AND/OR

•••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 “Fathering”.


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

•••Acrostic Poem types:
•••Ars Poetica:
•••Ekphrastic Poem: 
•••Normative Syllabics: AND/OR
•••Prime 53:
•••Recipe Poem: AND/OR
•••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 Photo


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
the daily Kitchen for happenings
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—
for poetry, of course!