Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thoughts, Sunning

Cleo Griffith

—Cleo Griffith, Salida

I hunger for high-spindly heels,
spangled straps and pleated bows
remembering the way it feels
escalated to my toes.

Spangled straps and pleated bows —
resplendent Catherine Zeta-Jones
escalated to her toes
without a worry of old bones.

Resplendent, Catherine Zeta-Jones
can dance and shimmy nights of play
without a worry of old bones
or stumbling on the straight-away.

To dance and shimmy nights of play
in something more than tennis drabs
where stumbling on the straight-away
I’d flail and find a hand to grab —

oh, something more than tennis drabs —
remembering the way it feels
before I sought a hand to grab,
I hunger for high-spindly heels.


Thanks, Cleo! Cleo Griffith is an active participant in Modesto poetry events and has been widely published. Past publications include The Aurorean, Iodine, Blind Man’s Rainbow, Poetry Depth Quarterly, Iconoclast and Quercus Review. She is Chair of the Editorial Board for the local poetry quarterly, Song of the San Joaquin, a member of the National League of American Pen Women, and serves on the Modesto Culture Commission. Along with Roseville's Cleo Fellers Kocol, Cleo Griffith is also one of the "two Cleos" who publish books of poetry together.

Watch for an upcoming feature on the Song of the San Joaquin folks in Rattlesnake Review 15, due out in mid-September.


This weekend in NorCal Poetry:

•••Saturday (8/18), 7-9 PM: Underground Poetry Series presents Tchaka Muhammad, Rebecca Morrison, Taifa Jamari and Supanova. Underground Books, 2814 35th St., Sacramento. $3. Info: 916-737-3333.

•••Saturday (8/18), Noon-4 PM is the 12th annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival, to be held at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, Berkeley. Since 1996, thousands have gathered together with environmental and literary groups to celebrate writers, nature, and community at the annual Watershed Festival. For an update on the "State of the Planet," join National Book Critics Circle Award-winning poet Robert Hass, reading at Watershed from his poem of the same name. This year's event also features famed Beat poet Michael McClure with saxophonist George Brooks, Montana Poet Laureate Sandra Alcosser, author/cultural historian Rebecca Solnit, Poetry Flash editor/poet Richard Silberg, poet/naturalist Maya Khosla, student and youth poets from River of Words and California Poets in the Schools. Voices of the Watershed Poets, curated by Nevada City poet Chris Olander, presents Guarionex Delgado, Grace Grafton, Indigo Moor, Margo Pepper, Chad Sweeney, and Jennifer K. Sweeney. Smooth Toad, country blues music with G.P. Skratz, Hal Hughes, and Jean Robertson, will play throughout the afternoon. We Are Nature open reading (sign up on site). Environmental updates provided by Kirstin Miller of Ecocity Builders and Kirk Lumpkin from the Ecology Center. Info:

•••Also Saturday (8/18), 7:30 PM: Nevada County Poetry Series presents Harold Roy Miller, Willis Lamm and Ken Gardner for an evening of cowboy poetry. Center for the Arts, 314 Main St., Grass Valley. $10 general, $1 ages 18 and under. Info: 530-274-8384, ext. 14.

•••Sunday (8/19), 2-5 PM: Poetry, hip-hop and R&B event featuring Larry Ukai Johnson-Redd, Candy, Rob Anthony, Claudia Epperson, Noah Hayes, Izreal and Sene. Culture Collection, 6391 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento. Free. Info: 916-427-7715.

•••Saturday (8/18) & Sunday (8/19): Tuolumne Poetry Festival in Tuolumne Meadows (past Yosemite) at the rustic Parsons Memorial Lodge. It's free! Dorianne Laux, David Mas Masumoto, and Kay Ryan are featured poets, and Shira Kammen (violin and vielle) is the musician. There are lodges within an hour of Yosemite, so that's your best bet for overnight, as the camping cabins in the area are usually booked months in advance. Or make it a day trip—! You have to hike in: parking along the main road is fine all day, and then the hike up to the Parsons Lodge is about a half-hour on a good trail, uphill the last stretch, but not too strenuous, as you're in the meadow near the Tuolumne River. Workshops are next to the river in the outdoors, so dress accordingly. No dogs or pets on the trail. Info: for the complete Parsons Memorial Lodge Summer series schedule, or e-mail Monika Rose (

•••Monday (8/20), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents Michael Cluff and Devin Davis at Headquarters for the Arts, 25th & R Sts., Sacramento. Open mic afterwards.


—Cleo Griffith

If I ran all my sentences together in a tight line
across an ebony page, put them all in white light
like my thoughts sunning in the park
pretend this makes them meaningful
to that man in a gray suit staring
and the horse in a stable
neighing as though to urge me
gallop, gallop across the flat black field
hurdle over the tight light lines…

The man’s gray suit becomes
a blanket across the horse’s back
and I ride, ride out of the sudden crevice up into
the black field again,
glints of white letters
spark from the hooves of my mount
sentences run together in a tight white line:
my thoughts,


—Cleo Griffith

As though it is a script,
again today these two men stand
looking at the concrete wall,
lining, surveying, discussing.

Hands up and about, voices nearly to shouts,
day after short vacation day
these two men walk around
the concrete wall.

I lean back in my motel chair, lower them
beneath my window sill,
window closed against their voices,
and see the ocean break into white ridges,

but, now one man stands on the balcony across,
bends over, long hands making lines
above the concrete wall.


—Cleo Griffith

I feel the dryness like a fissure across my head,
no internal spring rises to my stale mind.
My skin crinkles, my eyes stare dry,
and stare, and see only

Sun burns up the rain.
My scalp detaches, tissue-y, from the brain
but it is not my head that breaks me —
my chapped old hands cannot recall
the soft blood of your sweet veins,
coolness of your touch.

The fissure grows: I am all dryness
without your flowing liquid to sustain me.
You never knew the brittleness of my soul,
never guessed you were the river of life.
I am wan, a withered leaf
floating forever on the memory
of your deep moisture.



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.) For more info about the Snake Empire, including guidelines for submitting to or obtaining our publications, click on the link to the right of this column: Rattlesnake Press (

SnakeWatch: Up-to-the-minute Snake news:

ZZZZZZZ: Shh! The Snake is still sleeping! There will be no readings/releases in August, then we return with a bang on September 12, presenting Susan Kelly-DeWitt's new chapbook, Cassiopeia Above the Banyan Tree. (See the online journal, Mudlark, for a hefty sample of poems from her book; that’s

Also coming in mid-September: The new issue of Rattlesnake Review (15), plus a littlesnake broadsides from dawn dibartolo ("Blush"), and a continuation of B.L. Kennedy's Rattlesnake Interview Series—including #4 (frank andrick) and an anthology of interviews to be released for Sacramento Poetry Month (October). Next deadline for Rattlesnake Review is November 15.