Friday, May 02, 2008

Lightning Bugs

—Joyce Carol Oates

palpitations come to life
miniature mocking egos

like flirtations they are,
though said to be alive
and singular
as nerve-twitches
gone placid at last—
calming the mind
because there is no pattern
in their sudden bodies
and the deaths of their bodies

Are they sweetened, like us,
by touches scant
as tongue-tips?
they tease the eye outward
to what is not human but knowable
and then not knowable
and not a pattern
not a thought
not singular


This weekend in NorCal poetry:

•••Tonight (Friday, 5/2), 7:30 PM: The Other Voice, a poetry reading series sponsored by Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, presents readers from The Yolo Crow, a quarterly literary journal celebrating the writings of the people of Yolo County. The journal began with two writers having coffee while thumbing through Writer’s Market. When one expressed a wish for someplace local to send out work, the other said, "So, start something." Three years and ten issues later, here they are, a gift to Yolo County and the world. The featured poets for Friday’s reading (which will be held in the library of the church located at 27074 Patwin Road in Davis) are Chris Campbell, Peter Goblen, Susan Wolbarst, Ronald Lane, and Sherman Stein. Refreshments and Open Mike follow, so bring along a poem or two to share. (By the way, this will be the last Other Voice reading until Sept.)

•••Also tonight (Friday, 5/2), 7:30 PM: May 2 marks the anniversary of the death of mimeo era poet William Wantling. Poet and Wantling Scholar Kevin Jones, joined by Gene Bloom, Richard Lopez and Richard Hansen, will read their favorite Wantling poems and discuss his importance and impact as a poet at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento. Info: 916-442-9295. From a Secret Location on the Lower East Side to Mt. Aukum, CA, mimeo drums rolled out ink onto paper during the ‘60’s to create a literary underground of little magazines, literary journals, and f*ck-the-establishment broadsides. Literary outsiders looking for a voice; Wantling among them. Join us for this, the first in a series of Sick Fly readings and lectures designed to bring focus to the mimeo movement and the poets and writers who pushed it.

•••Also tonight (Friday, 5/2), 7 PM: An evening of entertainment including songs, dance and poetry by the Poets on the Roof in Stockton, followed by the one-act play, Black Country. A time of shotgun shacks, country gardens, juke joints, little churches and good music! Social hour and dance to follow. Valley Brew Co. Banquet Rm., 157 W. Adams, Stockton, CA (off Miracle Mile). Admission $10. Sponsored by The Society of American Heroes. Info: 209-470-5554.

•••Sat. (5/3), 7 PM: Both Susan and Joe Finkleman will be reading individual poems (no two-voice poetry this time) as part of the Sacramento City College literary magazine (Susurrus) reading, to be held on the Sacramento City College campus in Room A6 of the Auditorium Building.

•••Monday (5/5), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents an open mic for Cinco de Mayo. HQ for the Arts, 25th & R Sts., Sacramento.


RD Armstrong writes: A while back I recommended a poetry reading at Beyond Baroque for William S. Gainer and nila northSun. Now you can catch a bit of the reading by going to YouTube. (Special thanks to Bill Gainer for converting my footage into something interesting.) Go to and check it out!

Thanks, RD. Coincidentally, rattlechapper Bill Gainer of Grass Valley will be interviewed in Conversations Vol. 3 of B.L. Kennedy's Rattlesnake Interview Series, due out May 14. Check it out! (And see SnakeWatch below for a complete listing of the poets who will appear in this volume.)


—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

Sea-wives wait for their fishermen.
Small lamplights tat the shoreline like
lace made of flickering fireflies
darning the unraveling waves.

Small lamplights tat the shoreline like
silhouette ghost ships in fog. Still
darning the unraveling waves,
glittery eyes watch for real sails, but see

silhouette ghost ships in fog. Still
the women reach for their husbands, as
glittery eyes watch for real sails, but see
no sign of relief from this pain.

The women reach for their husbands,
each day embroidered with fear,
no sign of relief from this pain.
Dread is the seam of a sea life.

Sea-wives wait for their fishermen—
lace made of flickering fireflies.
Dread is the seam of a sea life,
each day embroidered with fear.


—Joyce Carol Oates

there was nothing
until a junk-yard vast as a kingdom
tossed up light:
a galaxy of particles, glittering
one single explosion
into bits

one glow of light
like a fly's miracle
of an eye

then there was nothing again
except the sign of Highway 98
dull-gleaminig metal
the aftermath of a vision


—Kathy Kieth

Room full of fireflies: red-
hot pinpricks sparking
the universe: wake up

with a start to see them
circling in the dark, slowly
moving in on me: arcs

buzzing closer, closer to
my head… Hot coals with
long stingers—tough little

fangs looking for a spot
to sink in: fiery memories
and need-to’s and shouldn’t-

haves aiming for bare
shoulders, exposed skin,
the nakedness of my sleep…


Today's LittleNip

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

—Mark Twain




(Contributors are welcome to cook something up for any and all of these!)

Monday: Weekly NorCal poetry calendar

Seed of the Week: Tuesday is Medusa's day to post poetry triggers such as quotes, forms, photos, memories, jokes—whatever might tickle somebody's muse. Pick up the gauntlet and send in your poetic results; and don't be shy about sending in your own triggers, too! All poems will be posted and a few of them will go into Medusa's Corner of each Rattlesnake Review. Send your work to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline for SOW; respond today, tomorrow, or whenever the muse arrives. (Print 'em out, maybe, save 'em for a dry spell?) When you send us work, though, just let us know which "seed" it was that inspired you.

Wednesday: HandyStuff Quickies: Resources for the poet, including whatever helps ease the pain of writing and/or publishing. Favorite journals to read and/or submit to; books, etc., about writing; organizational tools—you know—HandyStuff! Tell us about your favorite tools.

Thursday: B.L.'s Drive-Bys: Micro-reviews by our irreverent Reviewer-in-Residence, B.L. Kennedy.
Send books, CDs, DVDs, etc. to him for possible review (either as a Drive-By or in Rattlesnake Review) at P.O. Box 160664, Sacramento, CA 95816.

Friday: NorCal weekend poetry calendar

Daily (except Sunday): LittleNips: SnakeFood for the Poetic Soul: Daily munchables for poetic thought, including short paragraphs, quotes, wonky words, silliness, little-known poetry/poet facts, and other inspiration—yet another way to feed our ever-hungry poetic souls.

And poetry! Every day, poetry from writers near and far! The Snakes of Medusa are always hungry.......!


SnakeWatch: News from Rattlesnake Press

Coming May 14: Join us on Wednesday, May 14 for the release of Among Summer Pines by Quinton Duval; a littlesnake broadside, Before Naming, by Stephani Schaefer; and Volume Three of Conversations, our third book of interviews by B.L. Kennedy, featuring Art Beck, Olivia Costellano, Quinton Duval, William S. Gainer, Mario Ellis Hill, Kathryn Hohlwein, James Jee Jobe, Andy Jones, Rebecca Morrison and Phillip T. Nails. That's at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM.

Also in May: Deadline for Issue #18 of Rattlesnake Review is May 15. Free copies of Issue #17 are available at The Book Collector, or send me two bux and I'll mail you 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.) Medusa cannot vouch for the moral fiber of other publications, contests, etc. that she lists, however, so submit to them at your own risk. 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 ( And be sure to sign up for Snakebytes, our monthly e-newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on all our ophidian chicanery.