Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Our Only Truth

Lowell Jaeger

—Lowell Jaeger, Bigfork, Montana

His mom buys him a truck
for his sweet sixteenth b-day.
And a tattoo
on his right ankle.

He's a whole head
taller than his ol' man.
Shaggy hair dyed
jet black, blue highlights.

It's an attitude
he laces on with his hightop
sneakers. Short pants
to spotlight the tattoo.

An attitude...
if you look him in the eye
he'll let you see right through.

Girlfriends. New wheels. Summers
to pal around. Cruise
up and down Main.
That much should never end.

But there's more.
Another funeral today. For another friend.
And my son rises
in church. Delivers a little speech
about good times past.

Tells me later
he cries now inside
like a man. He'd shouldered
the dead comrade. Feels

he says, it's a dream.
No, he says.

Real life.


Thanks, Lowell! Lowell Jaeger teaches creative writing at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Montana. He has published two collections of poems and several chapbooks. Recently he compiled and edited an anthology of Montana poets, Poems Across the Big Sky, which sold more than a thousand copies in five weeks after publication. Several of his poems are forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Atlanta Review, The Coe Review, Poetry Flash, Georgetown Review, Big Muddy, Antioch Review, Louisiana Review, Pacific Review, Hawaii Review, Poetry East, and The California Quarterly. His third collection of poems, Suddenly Out of a Long Sleep, was published by Arctos Press in 2008. Currently Lowell Jaeger serves as Editor of Many Voices Press and is busy compiling New Poets of the American West, an anthology of poets from western states. Watch for more of Lowell's work in Rattlesnake Review, past and future.


Speaking of submissions:

January 5 is the deadline for the Spring 2009 issue of Convergence, an online journal of poetry and art that has been revived by some Sacramento poets. Send five poems (or less) or fiction (1000 words or less) to Cynthia Linville (clinville@csus.edu) with “Convergence” in the subject line. No simultaneous submissions, please. Photographers and artists should send up to six jpegs of your work (no larger than 4 megabytes each). HINT: work from a series with a common theme has a greater chance of being accepted.

And Poetry Now is always seeking submissions. Send poems and a brief bio to clinville@csus.edu with “Poetry Now” in the subject line, or snail to 1719 25th St., Sacramento, 95816 w/SASE. See also sacramentopoetrycenter.org/.


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

All stories are true stories
Even if the facts
Don't line up
With what others choose
To call reality
That does not mean
The story is not true
All of us see truth
Through a different glass
Filtered by the lens
Of our experience
Of our beliefs
Of our expectations
Stories are our only truth


Thanks, Michelle, for the poem and for the idea for our Seed of the Week: The Museum of My Life. The other day I said something to Sam about how a museum dedicated to my life would have the Snake room, the pig room (my collection/obsession), the

things-I-don't-want-to-remember-so-we-keep-the-door-locked room...

What kind of rooms would your museum have? A whole display devoted to Worries? Kids? Failed affairs? Anger? Which of your experiences and other parts of you do you "stuff" and put on display, pay homage to, or—conversely—lock up and run away from? If you don't want to use the first person, use the generic "he" or "she". I've included a poem of my own about a "monument" to anger, and Lowell Jaeger's below that one has elements of this idea, too.

Anyway, tell us a story, or at least write us a picture. As Michelle says, "stories are our only truth..."

—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

red walls—
glass shards
the floor

no windows
tight fist
of a chest

glass shards
in the soles
of your feet—
dark, red walls…


—Lowell Jaeger

His back turned on the world
where through the glass
on the streets outside
cars go by, go by.
His paper raised to hide
his eyes inside the headlines.

Not two feet away she knits
her fingers around a coffee cup, stares
through him as if mesmerized
by traffic lights—yellow, red, green.

The waitress keeps a level eye
on each water glass, and slides
a breakfast platter beside them.
Head bowed
as if she were tending a memorial.

I send you this snapshot, reader,
of distance between us
even when we're sitting nearby.

We can't fix those two.
At the same table a third party
scribbles postcards.

Look closely:
Is it me?
Is it you?


—Lowell Jaeger

of recognizable names,
book-jacketed good looks,
gather in the stone mansion
on the hill

to converse
and clink wine glasses.
I've made myself useful
uncorking champagne.
From the servants' kitchen,

I keep an ear cocked
to the clamor. In the parlor,
words squeezed from the language
like gulps of sweet juice.

Some nights I tire easily.
Can't read consecutive paragraphs
without staring into the dark
through the window

toward the embers. The camp
behind the stables,
where the gypsy singers
laugh and swap lies.

Till there's nothing but smoke.
And the windows of the mansion go black.
I lie awake on my blankets,
feel the earth lurch through space.

The insignificance of all fictions.
Beneath the mute indifference
of real stars.


Today's LittleNip:

For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth, after all those conflicting nutritional studies!

1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.


Eat and drink what you like—speaking English is apparently what kills you!

(Thanks to Bay Area Poet Richard Angilly for passing this on to us.)



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

October is Sacramento Poetry Month! Be sure to join us this Thursday, Oct. 30, 8 PM, when Rattlesnake Press will release not one, but two SpiralChaps to honor and celebrate Luna’s Café, including a new collection of art and poetry from B.L. Kennedy (Luna’s House of Words) and an anthology of Luna’s poets, artists and photographs (La Luna: Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café) edited by Frank Andrick. Come travel with our Away Team as we leave the Home of the Snake for a brief road trip/time travel to Luna’s Café, 1414 16th St., Sacramento to celebrate Art Luna and the 13 years of Luna's long-running poetry series. Who knows what auspicious adventures await us there??

And check out B.L. Kennedy’s interview with Art Luna in the latest Rattlesnake Review (#19)! Free copies are available at The Book Collector, or send me two bux and I’ll mail you one (address below). Next deadline, by the way, is November 15.

Coming in November: November will feature a new rattlechap from Red Fox Underground Poet Wendy Patrice Williams (Some New Forgetting); a littlesnake broadside from South Lake Tahoe Poet Ray Hadley (Children's Games); our 2009 calendar from Katy Brown (Beyond the Hill: A Poet’s Calendar) as well as Conversations, Vol. 4 of B.L. Kennedy’s Rattlesnake Interview Series. That’s Weds., November 12, 7:30 PM at The Book Collector.

Medusa's Weekly Menu:

(Contributors are welcome to cook up something 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 kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline for SOWs; 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 (sometimes): 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 future issues of 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 ravenous poetic souls.

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


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 kathykieth@hotmail.com (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 (rattlesnakepress.com). And be sure to sign up for Snakebytes, our monthly e-newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on all our ophidian chicanery.