Monday, February 23, 2009

The Magical Cloak of Whisper

Photo by Frank Dixon Graham, Sacramento

—Margaret Ellis Hill, Wilton

Time bends shadows. I watch
the trail of traffic dwindle
past my window. Random glances
look at the lemon and a peeled orange
on my desk, patterns left
by a trail of gerbera petals.
The decision to remain
out of sight, not even
a shirt hem or cup of tea
painted into this still-life—
my choice for freedom.



—Margaret Ellis Hill

An infernal ticking sound keeps me
from sleep like Captain Hook approaching,
sneering, as if I wont hear the alarm.
His metronome 440 becomes a part
of nighttime racket: screech of tree frogs,
leg rubbings of crickets and that damned
peacock, deep in heat not sleep,
yelling ‘help’ from a neighbor’s tree.


Thanks to Peggy Hill and Marie Ross for today's poems (you may recognize some Seeds of the Week in their poems), and to Frank Graham for the spring photo.

This week in NorCal poetry:

•••Monday (2/23), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents Rob Anthony, Vincent Kobelt, Mario Ellis Hill, and Kelly Richardson at HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St., Sacramento. Rob Anthony is the author of Neo-Jasouloetry [] and has a MySpace page here: []. Vincent Kobelt is the coordinator of readings at Carol’s Books and has been a long-time resident of the Sacramento poetry scene. His poem, “Middle Passage”, can be read here: Mario Ellis Hill is a Sacramento poet and a radio personality for KDVS.

Coming Up at SPC:

March 2: Richard Loranger
March 3 [Tues.]: Brian Turner

•••Weds. (2/25), 6-7 PM: Upstairs Poetry Reading at The Upstairs Art Gallery, 420 Main St (2nd floor), Placerville. It's a poetry open-mike read-around, so bring your own poems or those of a favorite poet to share, or just come to listen. No charge.

•••Thursday (2/26), 8 PM: Poetry Unplugged presents Noel Kroeplin, Lytton Bell, V.S. Chochezi and Sandy Thomas. Open mic before/after. Luna’s Café, 1414 16th St., Sac. Info: 441-3931 or Free.

•••Sat. (2/28), 7-9 PM: "The Show" at the Guild Theater, 2828 35th St., Sacramento. $7.00. Poetry, dance and comedy, and more!


Four Up-n-Coming Deadlines:

•••Thurs. (2/26): Deadline for the Suessian poetry contest at the Bee: Carlos Alcala of the Sacramento Bee has put out a call for poems to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2. He wants poems in the Seuss style, but using the theme of today’s difficult economic times. He suggests things like “If I Ran the Zoo”, changed to “If I Ran the State”. He even wrote one himself, based on “One Fish, Two Fish”; it starts:

One debt, two debt
Red ink, new debt.
Layoffs due threat.
It hit you, yet?

Send submissions to by Feb. 26, including your name, town and contact phone number. The Bee will run them online and will publish a selection of the best during the week of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

And if you’re feeling particularly Seussian, there is an exhibit of art by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel at Blue Line Gallery, 405 Vernon St., Roseville, running through May 2. Info: 916-783-4117 or

•••Friday (2/28, postmarked): Deadline for February California Federation of Chaparral Poets, Inc. Monthly Contest; theme is Love. Prizes $25, $15, $10. Except where otherwise indicated, poems are limited to 28 lines of text, not including the title or space following the title. Fee: $2/poem OR 3 poems/$5. (Make checks out to CFCP, Inc.) There is no limit to the number of poems submitted each month with the appropriate fees. Poems for the monthly contests must be postmarked by the last day of the month for that category. For those entrants who use a post-office that does not date-stamp mail, a written date beneath the return address will suffice. All forms accepted for all categories, within line limits.

Send TWO copies of each poem with author's name and address front upper right corner on ONE copy only. Put no identification on the second copy. Poems must not have previously been awarded a money prize. If previously published please state where. Print contest month on outside of mailing envelope, at the front right top corner of both copies of each poem. If you wish to receive a winners’ list, please send SASE with proper postage and note the contest month on the envelope.

Send entries to Cleo Griffith, Monthly Contest Editor, CFCP, Inc., 4409 Diamond Court, Salida, CA 95368. Info: (209) 543-1776.

2009 Themes:

Feb.: Love
March: Nature
April: Light, Humorous
May: Journeys
June: Vacation
August: Any subject, any style
Sept.: Harvest
Oct.: Portraits
Nov.: Holidays

•••Deadline is March 15 for the next issue of Song of the San Joaquin, a quarterly publication of the poets of the San Joaquin chapter of the California Federation of Chaparral Poets, Inc. that accepts submissions of poetry having to do with life in the San Joaquin Valley of California. This area is defined geographically as the region from Fresno to Stockton, and from the foothills on the west to those on the east. E-mail submissions are preferred. Please put all identification on each separate poem including mailing address. If unable to e-mail, send typed manuscripts to: Editor, Song of the San Joaquin, PO Box 1161, Modesto, CA 95353-1161. Please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) for return of unused poems and/or notification of acceptance. Be sure your return envelopes have the right amount of postage. Notification time may range from three weeks to three months. Send up to three poems per issue, name and contact information on each poem. Poem length is limited to 40 lines. Please send a three to five line bio. For more information, e-mail or call (209) 543-1776. For samples of poetry from previous issues: To send for a copy or to subscribe: a single issue is $5.00, the annual subscription $18. Send to address above. Make checks out to Song of the San Joaquin.

•••Deadline for the Tiger's Eye Annual Poetry Contest has been changed from Feb. 28 to March 31! Send 3 of your finest, short bio, SASE, and $10 to Tiger's Eye 2009 Contest, P.O. Box 2935, Eugene, OR 97402. Judge will be Thomas D. Patterson. First prize is $500, 2nd is $100, 3rd is $50. Click to the link on the right for more info. Feb. 28 is still the deadline for submitting poems for their mid-Spring issue, though.


—Margaret Ellis Hill

Edward G. sat down on the bench,
opened an ordinary brown bag, retrieved
a wax-paper wrapped sandwich,
took a bite, then noticed the small boy
watching him. Eyes twinkling, he smiled,
gave the boy a half of his ham and cheese.
They shared time and silence, until a man yelled,
Come on Robinson, you’re gonna be late.
He tossed the boy his Grape Nehi.
Coveted and unopened, the bottle shattered
during an earthquake thirty years later.

(from Stories from My Father)


—Margaret Ellis Hill

Mother knows what she wants.
Through trifocals she fingers fabrics—
velvets and suede, knits and satins,
cottons and crepe, linen and challis.
She considers maroon, gray and puce,
lingers by silk paisley patterns.
She figures yardage,
mumbles that prices
are not like thirty years ago.

After two hours of searching
she begins again
to see what she might have missed.
My father returns to the car,
his novel open to page ninety-three.

(previously appeared in Rattlesnake Review #11)


—Marie J. Ross, Stockton

In purple satin form-fitted dress he observed me,
approached with gleam in his eyes and suave European
accent that was music to my ears.
Shiny blond hair, strong handsome face, broad shoulders,
and he said “I noticed you from across the room;
would you like to dance?”
I danced and danced into a ten-year relationship of rainy days
and moon-lit nights.
There was never that deep pounding in my heart for him, like
Cupid beating her drum, or that moment when I knew I could
live with him forever.
He had twisted my low self-esteem like a pretzel in coals, belittling
and controlling the fire.
Why did my heart surrender to the fear of loneliness; why couldn’t
I have opened the door to myself and turned my face away?
Love was fire in disguise on the Island of Hell.


—Marie J. Ross

I hear a cloak of silence weave
And see it touch the stars.

The night orb interrupts darkness
As I watch him breathe his silver face.

At this stage of life I sit and observe
A reflected wink through the drapes;

The night sheet rummaging space for
Rhapsodies of romantic intrigue.


I listen to the cadence hung on stars;
Each night singing hymns to the magical
Cloak of whisper.


Today's LittleNip:

The poet doesn't invent. He listens.

~Jean Cocteau



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

Rattlesnake Review: The latest issue (RR20) is currently available at The Book Collector, or send me four bux and I'll mail you one. Deadline for RR21 was Sunday, Feb. 15; the issue will appear in mid-March. Next deadline is May 15 for RR22: send 3-5 poems, smallish art pieces and/or photos (no bio, no cover letter, no simultaneous submissions or previously-published poems) to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. E-mail attachments are preferred, but be sure to include all contact info, including snail address. Meanwhile, the snakes of Medusa are always hungry; let us know if your submission is for the Review or for Medusa, or for either one.

Also available (free): littlesnake broadside #46: Snake Secrets: Getting Your Poetry Published in Rattlesnake Press (and lots of other places, besides!): A compendium of ideas for brushing up on your submissions process so as to make editors everywhere more happy, thereby increasing the likelihood of getting your poetry published. Pick up a copy at The Book Collector or write to me and I'll send you one. Free!

New for February: Now available! A new rattlechap from Sacramento's Poet Laureate, Julia Connor (Oar); a free littlesnake broadside from Josh Fernandez (In The End, It’s A Worthless Machine); and the premiere of our new Rattlesnake Reprints, featuring The Dimensions of the Morning by D.R. Wagner, which was first published by Black Rabbit Press in 1969. Available from the poets or at The Book Collector (1008 24th St., Sacramento) or (soon) from

WTF is out!

Be sure to stop by The Book Collector to pick up your free copy of Rattlesnake Press's latest spawn, WTF—our new quarterly journal which premiered last night in a rousing event hosted by frank andrick which ran into the wee hours at Luna's Cafe. WTF #1 features 22 poets, artists and photogs from the Poetry Unplugged scene; next deadline is April 15 ( day!). Guidelines are pretty much the same as the RR ones listed below, except that frank wants three poems (instead of 3-5), and you must be over 18 to submit. Send poems, artwork, and photos to or the RPress snail address. If you can't get to The Book Collector, send me two bux and I'll mail you one, or I suspect they're available at Luna's.

What's the difference between Rattlesnake Review and WTF? The over-18 thing should give you a clue. And if you ever go to Poetry Unplugged on Thursday nights at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento, you'll see what I mean. The Review is big and fat, has articles and other features, and represents a wide variety of styles and genres. WTF is leaner (smaller), meaner, and more geared to the "Luna's voice", if there is such a thing. Its material also tends to be more X-rated. If you're over 18, you're welcome to submit to either one. I edit the Review; frank andrick edits WTF.

Coming in March: On Wednesday, March 11, Rattlesnake Press will be releasing a new chapbook from Norma Kohout (All Aboard); a littlesnake broadside from Patricia Hickerson (At Grail Castle Hotel); and a new issue of Rattlesnake Review (the Snake turns 21)! Join us at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30. Refreshments and a read-around will follow; bring your own poems or somebody else's.

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 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, or any other day!): 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 (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.