Friday, February 13, 2009

Watch Out For Black Cats!

"Rainbow scarab", a dung beetle,
Phanaeus vindex MacLachlan (Coleoptera: Scarabeidae),
male (horned) and female.

Photo by Drees.
That's Phanny on the right.

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

Is it really a sin
to envy you, darling Phanny,
heroine of centuries' hard labor?
I'm talking to you, Phanaeus vindex,
beloved rainbow scarab
carved in Egyptian stone
your Mardi Gras colors
green purple gold
straight from the bayou
and every dung heap of the world
your heroic feed
chews up pestilent germs
carried to us by mosquitoes and flies
that would kill
were it not for your gluttonous beetling
at the dirtbanks of disease


Thanks, Pat, for the photo and today's poems! Patricia Hickerson will be reading tonight at A Marathon of Love Poems, a reading of poems about Love, Lust and Heartbreak at HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St., Sacramento, 7-8:30 PM, hosted by Cynthia Linville. Other readers include frank andrick, Joyce Odam, James DenBoer, Josh Fernandez, Katy Brown, Allegra Silberstein, Carol Louise Moon, and many more! Free. [I'm thinking about Pat today because I'm putting together her littlesnake broadside, At Grail Castle Hotel, which will be released on March 11.]

Be careful out there—it's Friday the 13th! Better stay indoors and get your submission together for Rattlesnake Review #21; deadline is this Sunday! Scroll down below the kitties for guidelines.

Also this weekend in NorCal poetry:

•••Friday (2/13), 7:30-9 PM: What Is This Thing Called Love? An Evening of Love Poems presented by Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol, featuring Alejandro Murguia, Winner of the American Book Award; Poet, Writer, and Publisher; Curator, 2008 S.F. International Poetry Festival and Founding editor, Tin Tan Magazine, plus Milta Ortiz, Slam Poet/ Performer and Playwright Member, "Las Manas Tres" Spoken Word Troupe; Finalist, San Jose Slam Finals; Semi-Finalist, San Francisco Slam Finals; plus The Poets of Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol. La Raza Galeria Posada Gallery & Bookstore, 1022 22nd St. (Between J & K), Sacramento. $5 donation.

•••Sat. (2/14), 6-9 PM: Opening Exhibition Reception for "What Is This Thing Called Love?" An Exhibition of art and words from the heart, featuring 22 artists, curated by Juan M. Carrillo. Come enjoy art, music, and spirits at the opening of the new exhibit at La Raza Galeria Posada, 1022 22nd St., Sacramento.

•••Sat. (2/14), 2 PM: Open mic: A Poetic Love Fest sponsored by CHAPS (Citrus Heights Area Poets) at Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Citrus Heights (on Sunrise Blvd. across from Macy’s). They will discuss the stories/myths surrounding the observation of Valentine's Day and will feature readings of love poems, and will also provide some printed copies of poems to be picked up by people who visit the store that day. CHAPS is a cooperative venture providing an open mic venue for poets as well as active support for other creative artists. Open Mic meetings have been scheduled for the second Saturday of every month in 2009. They expect, also, to be working cooperatively with teachers and students in the San Juan School District as well as the local Commission on History and Arts; students interested in creative arts are encouraged to attend.

•••Sat. (2/14), 7-9 PM: Final poetry night at the Culture Collection Poetry Series: Valentine’s Day/Black History Month Reading featuring Rob Anthony, Jasmine Culp and Claudia Epperson. 6391 Riverside Blvd, Sacramento. Free.

•••Sat. (2/14), 1:30-3:30 PM: Reading of Song of the San Joaquin Winter Issue, 2008-2009 at the McHenry Museum, 1402 “I” St., Modesto. There will be an open mike following the program. Info: Cleo Griffith, or (209) 543-1776.

•••Sat. (2/14), 10-11:30 AM: 2nd and 4th Poetry Center Saturday Poetry Workshop, 10-11:30 AM at the South Natomas Community Center (next to the library), 2901 S. Truxel Rd., Sacramento. Bring 10 copies of your one-page poem for workshopping. Contact Frank Graham or Emmanuel Sigauke, facilitators. FREE!

•••Sat. (2/14), 10 AM-Noon: Davis Town & Gown Sonnet Walk around downtown Davis. UC Davis Dept. of Theatre & Dance, along with UC Davis Arboretum and the Mondavi Center, presents a walking celebration of Wm. Shakespeare’s most beloved love poems. For all ages. Free, but reservations required. Info: 866-754-2787, (enter promo code “Sonnet”).

•••Sat. (2/14): Writers Unlimited of Calaveras Country presents “Between the Sheets”, an all-day Romantic Prose and Poetry Writing Workshop at the Leger Hotel in Mokelumne Hill, with workshop leaders Lucy Sanna, fiction, and Monika Rose with Ed Cline, poetry. The Workshop, Luncheon and Public Reading begins at 9 AM, with lunch at noon, and culminating in the reading at 2 PM. For workshop reservations:; for hotel reservations: Cost: $50.00 per person, plus hotel. There will be a Leger Hotel Discount (15%) for workshop participants for overnight stays at the Leger Hotel. If you just want to come for the luncheon and reading open to the public, from noon to four, then it's $25.00. Reservations required!

•••Sun. (2/15), 7 PM: No-holds-barred Open Mic and art show hosted by Jim Ricks at the Blackwater Cafe in Stockton on Yosemite Avenue near Acacia St.

•••Sun. (2/15): Deadline for Rattlesnake Review 21 (the Snake turns 21!!) is February 15. 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.

•••Monday (2/16), 7:30 PM: African-American Poetry Night with Terry Moore, Khiry Malik Moore, Indigo Moor, Mario Ellis Hill, Dawn DiBartolo, V. S. Chochezi and others. That’s at HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St., Sacramento. Non-alcoholic refreshments available. Terry Moore is a dynamic and electrifying nationally known, experienced, and respected performer. [] Khiry Malik Moore is a fan of Nina Simone and able to say this: "In the '70's we were raised against the stereotypes of dumb and stupid, but now in 2008, dumb and stupid got a movement." []
Indigo Moor is a poet, author, and playwright. His first book of poetry, Tap-Root, was published in 2006 []. Mario Ellis Hill is a host at Luna’s [] and a Sacramento poet. Dawn DiBartolo has a rattlechap coming up from Rattlesnake Press next fall. Her work can be read at


Medusa blows it!

One of the many things that causes the cranky Medusa to snarl and whip out her Bad Hair is MISTAKES, and (at least) two of them crept into the Kitchen this week. Must be the snow—brain freeze—or a little bit of Friday the 13th trickery. Anyway, Sibilla Hershey wrote and pointed out that, although her poem appeared, correctly credited, on Tuesday's post, it also appeared right below that as Mitz Sackman's. Argh! So here is Mitz's poem, properly presented, I hope... Sorry, ladies.

Error #2 was referring to Chris Campbell as "he". Nope. 'Tis a "she".


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

I ride my horse
Of fears
Face them
Move through
The terrors
Night fears
Are day worrys
In new garb
Fears of loss
Fears of capture
Wanting to know
My way through
Not accepting
Having to float
With no guarantees
My life through
This sea of confusion
Tell me
When I am not facing
My truth
Straight on
Palpitations warn me
To be aware of feelings
Daily work
Must be done
To clear the deep unknown
We live more deeply
Than we imagine
We skate the surface
In the day
Night reality
Is different
Honor the difference
Honor nightmares
They are deep teachers



but sanctuary
for those half asleep
waiting for Spring

will we ever know it again—
a winter of recovery?

mounds of deep fur
resting in caves
hidden by snow
density of shadows
bears giving birth
suckling cubs
tucked into cubbyholes of pelt and gristle
cradled at ease in a blind-struck hideaway
deaf to the crackle of ice
limbs curled
heartbeats slowed
season of stillness...

—Patricia Hickerson


—Patricia Hickerson

everything held in abeyance
no bells ringing
dogs barking
voices calling

stroking the sky
kissing the stars
hugging the moon
happy cradling dark treasure...but

sad not to hear babies crying out for me


—Patricia Hickerson

Great Grandma is dying
up there in Aunt Ethel's old house
and we cousins
scramble down the bluff below
pegging our way down the rickety
wooden staircase
that brings us to the river.
As we rock into the rowboat
a fat brown moccasin awakens from its depths
Neva rakes him over the edge with an oar
back onto the mud bank
that matches his skin.
We settle into the boat where it tipples
on the sluggish water
lapping lazy against us
Neva and Eugene at the oars
Gladys and I in the prow

summer of 1942
young men going off to war
their women crying piteously
at the train station

the Cumberland,
sleepy river under hazy summer moonlight
a sullen breeze strikes up
along we go
leaving Great Grandma behind
she is old, almost 90
with bright red ravening peonies
blooming across the ruined garden
of her face now hung with wet cloths
Ethel, bring me another co-cola please
living on soda pop and a few stringbeans
boiled all day with a bit of lard
she will live another year
come sit with me, darlin'
we are now moving upstream
under the bridge
that leads to town
then we go on up the broadening river

Great Grandma had lived her life
mostly on the farm at Jellico Creek
she still grieved for the children
long ago lost
Laura Belle who died of cancer
Edward and Albert married and gone West
though she never spoke of them
except once to say
how she put baby Elmer
(Aunt Ethel's twin) across her knees
spanked him hard
when he kept fussing
and clinging to her legs
while she was trying to iron clothes
Elmer died that night
of diphtheria...

we ride on and on
up the wide silent river
cradled in its steep bluffs and weedy banks—
midnight on the Cumberland
never ended for me


Today's LittleNip:

Love exists not in what is embraced, but in what is released.

—Stephen Dobyns


—Medusa (watch out for black cats!)

SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

Rattlesnake Review: The latest issue (#20) is currently available at The Book Collector, or send me four bux and I'll mail you one. Deadline for RR21 is this Sunday, February 15: 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

And on February 19, the premiere of our new, free Poetry Unplugged quarterly, WTF, edited by frank andrick, will be celebrated at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento, 8 PM. (For those of you just tuning in, Poetry Unplugged is the long-running reading series at Luna's Cafe.)

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.