Thursday, March 08, 2007

Make Room for Softer Voices

Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento

—Jeanine Stevens

I like sitting on the curb between
the burger joint and the gas station.
Sometimes, I get leftovers.
I like to watch people come
for gas, or ice, with kids dressed up
for Halloween. But today, all I can do
is sit, my head in my hands,
remembering. In kindergarten,
my sister was the bride, a paper
bouquet in her little fist. And I,
dressed as Tom Thumb, a miniature
tuxedo and top hat. The other kids
got to be Red Ryder or Batman.
And later, they dressed as other
action figures, while I was a cloudy
Phantom of the Opera. Another year,
I used liner on one eye, long stitches
and single red tear leaking from my brow
like a sad French clown. Now,
year 'round, I wear an old coat,
yellow polka dot tie, my scraggly gray
beard, like a ghost hugging my body.


Thanks, Jeanine! About herself, Jeanine Stevens says: Raised in Indiana. Currently living in Northern California. Graduate degrees in Anthropology and Education. Poems have appeared in The Suisun Valley Review, Poesy, Alehouse, The Tule Review, Poetry Depth Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Ruah, Wavelength, Timber Creek Review, Bardsong, Pegasus, Rattlesnake Review and Valparaiso Review, among others. Three chapbooks: The Meaning of Monoliths (Poet’s Corner Press 2006), The Keeping Room (Rattlesnake Press 2006), and Boundary Waters (The Indian Heritage Council 2005). First Place in Poetry at the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference. Participant in Sacramento’s Poetry Marathon. Besides writing poetry, she spends time Balkan folk dancing and relaxing in the Sierras.

For more of Jeanine's work, see the upcoming Rattlesnake Review (Lucky 13!), due out next week. Her rattlechap (The Keeping Room) is available at The Book Collector or from


Poets in The Bee:

Two articles of poetry-note in The Sacramento Bee today: the first is a big, 'way-cool one in the Metro section by Blair Anthony Robertson about frank andrick, who is suffering from multiple health problems these days. frank also has poetry coming out in the next Snake, and his Lamantia broadside is available free at The Book Collector (or write to me and I'll send you one, free).

The other article is buried in the neighborhoods section (in my case, El Dorado); apparently a poet got up and started reading a political poem about Bush (and who among us hasn't?) at Borders Books in Folsom recently, and management demanded he stop, saying they had customer complaints and that they didn't endorse political poetry. Mind you, it was just political, too, not obscene or otherwise law-bending—something about the nefarious way Bush got elected. (Well, okay, the election was obscene...) Anyway, now the p.r. people for Borders have had second thoughts, and want the anonymous poet to return and read his poem whenever the next reading is (I never saw any ads for the first one). Sorry to sour your morning with such things, but we need to keep our eyes on our freedoms, yes?

Calls for Submissions:

•••The Frank Bette Center for the Arts in Alameda is seeking poems on the themes of their monthly art shows. The winning poem on each theme will be framed and hung in the gallery for that month, and the poet will be invited to read the poem at the show opening. The themes are as follows, and poems must be received by the date on the right:

April: Alameda on Camera, March 31
May: Earth & Sky & Between, April 28
June: Peaches & Cream, May 26
July: Patterns, Portions & Pieces, June 31
August: Plein Air, Landscape, July 28
September: Reading Between the Lines, August 31
October: Celebrating Creativity, Sept 30
November: A Partridge & A Pear Tree, Oct 27

For more info on themes go to
Send poems to: Patricia Edith, Literary Arts at FBCA, 1601 Paru, Alameda CA 94501

•••Another deadline coming up even sooner is next Friday, March 16, the one for Six Ft. Swells Press, which is now accepting poetry submissions for the next chapbook in their famed Cheap Shots Poetry Series. This will be a themed issue featuring a collection of the best poetry that reflects those goodtime evenings of drinking, music, and streetlight love affairs, and/or the painful reality of the morning after and the vague remembrance of what may or may not have occurred in the neon night before. Either way, no apologies are given. "We believe poetry is meant to be a good time, so we are only looking for poems that explore these themes in an entertaining, fun, humorous, and/or enthusiastic manner. We will not accept sappy, depressing, AA recovery, or the evils-of-alcohol poems." Send 3-5 poems with cover letter and SASE to 417 Neal St., Grass Valley, CA 95945 or (preferably) email to Todd (Cirillo) & Julie (Valin) at; please use “Bottoms Up” in the subject line. Poems should not exceed 40 lines; previously-published okay if indicated. Info:


•••Thursday (3/8), 5-8 PM: Friends of Leah Zeff Den Boer are invited to celebrate her life at the Sacramento Poetry Center, 1719 25th St., Sac. In lieu of flowers the family is suggesting donations to Sacramento Peace Action. For additional information, please contact (530) 867-4293.

•••Also Thursday, 8 PM:
Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sac. Open mic before/after, free. Info: 916-441-3931.

New link:

I realized yesterday, to my horror, that the old link to the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission no longer leads to them; it was sending folks to a picture of two dogs on a dog bed. Which was interesting, but slightly off the subject... So it's been replaced by Brad Buchanan's link; check it out. And watch for more about Brad, who has a littlesnake broadside coming out next week, on tomorrow's post.

By the way, since apparently today is my day to have opinions, whatever happened to all those wonderful links to the sound of poets reading their own work that used to be on SMAC's website?


—Jeanine Stevens

Traffic roaring behind my house.
Tide coming in at Goat Rock.

Wind rustling in the Tamaracks.
Windows whispering at midnight.

Treadmill running along the freeway.
Salmon fighting their way upstream.

The shadowlark grows quiet.
Cobwebs crackling at my elbow.

(Jeanine says the Bantus is an African form: one sentence, followed by a related response, usually sung to each other while working in the fields, cooking, etc.)


—Jeanine Stevens

The first winds of autumn come in the night
when you think you hear gusts or rumbling trucks,
but slip back to dreams, and refuse to acknowledge
the sap that began withdrawing weeks ago. At dawn,
the river birch is stripped bare, no more golden hearts
at the window, so steady in their brilliance. And at noon,
ragged maple leaves sprint across the gravel, hit
the house, explode against glass demanding attention.
Just when we need more light—it dims: the eyes, the globes,
the setting sun. And when that sun dips to the south—
notice those few flowers, previously struggling in summer
shade, now blooming: it's their time—warmth and shadow
just the right mix. See what happens when the brightest step
aside, make room for softer voices, and give others a chance.


—Medusa (who remembers that opinions are like [insert body part here]; everybody has one...)

Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their POETRY, PHOTOS and ART, as well as announcements of Northern California poetry events to (or snail ‘em to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726) for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.)