Thursday, May 07, 2009

Setting Angels Free

Tom Goff


rain-gutter the sunbeams
downthigh. Revulsed by his British
officer guide on Gibraltar, Patton
wrote of “a skinny old fart in shorts.”
Knee knobs bare to the solstice scorch,
I expose in their moral shortcomings
my Gandhi shins. These brevities
blaspheme when donned by men
in Baghdad. I bet that “old fart”
Colonel Bogey was tough as
a Gibraltar bearded vulture. Hot item,
I khaki along the alleys in the knee pants
my mama done told me No.

—Tom Goff, Carmichael


Thanks, Tom! Our Historian-in-Residence, Tom Goff, is an instructional assistant in the Reading and Writing Center at Folsom Lake College. He is the author of two previous poetry chapbooks, and of poetry book reviews and other articles in such periodicals as Rattlesnake Review, Poetry Now, and Jacket Magazine. A professional trumpet player, Tom is married to poet and artist Nora Laila Staklis.

Next Wednesday, May 13, Rattlesnake Press will be releasing Tom's newest chapbook, Sinfonietta, at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, at 7:30 PM. Join us to celebrate this beautiful offering of his; Nora contributed one of her art pieces for the cover. And watch for Tom's poetry and ongoing articles about California poets of the past in each issue of Rattlesnake Review.

Tom also sent us this little ditty, about which he says: I was reading a good translation of Michelangelo's poems by John Frederick Nims, and the idea for these companion poems came. There are just enough images of the rediscovered statue online that I think I prefer it to its replacement.

—Tom Goff

I. The Risen Christ (1519-20) in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome

I am the second creation. Risen Christ
set free, nude white, from marble. But, unpleased
to claim me, he shaped me no proud half-Hercules,
my maker. That was my ruined brother, brawn
typhoon-rippling his sailor frame. Slim dawn,
its lightshaft liquid quicksilver, sculpts my form:
just musculature enough to boast no worm
corrupts one plunged into Hell yet Earth-born twice.
No doubt less loved, I thank my maker still
for sculpting with his great integrity
my taut yet dimly glimmering crystal skin.
But what of the motives of those who could install
me here, with all their shamefaced piety?
They trick me in loincloth—as if my loins could sin.

II. The Risen Christ (c. 1516) in the church of San Vincenzo Martire, Bassano di Sutri—the recently rediscovered first version of the statue speaking above

You who believe my whole achievement small,
reflect how often I fashioned an artwork twice:
rueful the day I noticed—oh, chills of ice
rubbed over my skin!—this angry blackened vein
creep up my risen Christ’s white face. In vain
the love, the chisel, the labor, the hammer. Spent,
drained, wasted—no brag now how the intent,
the intellect sparks a life immured in marble
to strain for perfect release. But that sweet Face!
The poised, pure calm of the naked sacred Statue
lightly embracing His Cross. This was no rummage
item, no remainder. With poor grace
I gave Him away. In this church, gazing at you,
He beams great pain serenely. Give Him some homage.


—Tom Goff

The rain clouds make amorphous paragraphs
in westerly unending student essays
I feel obliged to correct; but can’t. What paths
they float, these crowded ranks and banks of strays,
their own blown destiny decides. But you
and I, not being such airy tumbleweeds,
can lead or follow, plot where we’re going to.
Of our free will and partnered love and needs
is the why-we-drift. But if we should confuse
sky-boundaries, each disintegrate into the other,
how shall we return to form? What mist renews
its frazzled lace, what nimbus outlives rogue weather?

There’s a knowing that no dissolving can veil or evade:
of cloud you and cloud me is the one cloud made.

Tom Goff and Nora Laila Staklis


Today's LittleNip:

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.




SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

Rattlesnake Review: The latest Snake (RR21) is now available (free) at The Book Collector, or send me four bux and I'll mail you one. 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, and please—only one submission per issue.

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!

WTF!: Join us on Thursday, May 21 at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento for the unveiling of the second issue of WTF, the free quarterly journal from Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe that is edited by frank andrick.
Next deadline, for issue #3, is July 15. Submission guidelines are the same as for the Snake, but send your poems, photos, smallish art or prose pieces (500 words or less) to (attachments preferred) or, if you’re snailing, to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. And be forewarned: this publication is for adults only, so you must be over 18 years of age to submit. Copies of the first issue are at The Book Collector, or send me two bux and I'll mail you one.

ALSO COMING IN MAY: Join us Weds., May 13 for a new rattlechap, Sinfonietta, from Tom Goff; Vol. 5 of Conversations, the Rattlesnake Interview Series by B.L. Kennedy; and the inauguration of a new series, Rattlesnake LittleBooks, with Shorts: Quatrains and Epigrams by Iven Lourie. That’s at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM. Free!

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.