Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wayward Squirrels, Pt. 2

Jeff Dutko

—Jeff Dutko, Farmington, Connecticut

It’s early and you pour your coffee
on top of the milk already in the cup
and it devours that heavy white color as it darkens
through shades called Taupe, Sombrero Tan
Almond Cream, Caramel Kiss and Chocolate Fudge
by the swatches of paint sample come-ons left in your living room
And you realize this is why you’re up while the moon’s still visible
with the ache of yesterday still in your bones
Not because your boss has set up a time
for you to earn from your toil
No, you’re outside before you lose the white
of last night’s snow to the brown hues of the mechanized world

The day, as they all do, will travel fast at you
and this is your one chance to dance in purity
to practice the step-crunch-scrape-slide shuffle
The rhythm the speeds the movement of chest
while the rest of your body discovers its pulse and purpose
baling bundles of snow by hand
and losing what you thought you knew by heart
With every extended heave, every exhale
you lose to gain, to gain that tautness in your shoulders and thighs
to gain even that sting in your palms when the business end of the shovel
slams into an unseen ridge in the covered asphalt
shaking your whole arm into shivers joining you to the tool
This brings the work into your hands for good this morning

Now you wonder if you can remember the last time
your hands hurt from a rendezvous with force
was it when you still believed contact connected you to something manly?
(of course it’s manly, would a woman do that?
this is the wisdom you’ve worked at for so long)
Yet it feels good to incur the stings of a young man once again
Not so much that you don’t eye a landmark to remember the spot
You’re an older man, long past any of that foolishness

You throw again
while your dog wags his tail over the blade and ball
An icy, saliva coated rime over his aging muzzle
but that’s another poem, as you pause
from throwing that thread of thought
onto the unhomogenized crystals
that form an edge, a place of emancipation
and a blanketed boundary
Where another thought is lost unto the pile
more poems tossed into this accumulation of clearing


Thanks, Jeff! Jeff Dutko writes: Right now my bio should read, “Jeff Dutko has threatened to beat his computer more times than any other human.” However, a more pleasant bio would go something like this:

Jeff Dutko has written and published poetry for over a quarter-century, but only in the last few years has he taken it with consistency to the mail box. Much of his poetry attempts to give voice to the special needs students he teaches, but these poems deal with a wider variety of themes and issues. He recently moved back to Farmington, Connecticut where he lives with his with his wife, two children and their very crazy dog who enjoys chasing a red rubber ball when not reading Whitman to the neighborhood squirrels.

[Ed. note: For appropriate squirrel photo, see yesterday's post.]


—Jeff Dutko

Shake it out, far and wide
your area rug of understanding
stretch the corners tight
so that it may cover the most of me
and the mess of me you can sweep it under

sit on the spots you find
most familiar and comprehensible
flatten that out and smooth them
the way you like
tuck the choices in at the edges

from your spot,
you can skip stones
into the vast and undulating sea
of my complexities and irregularities
turning your back on the ripples
as the both grow distant and near


—Jeff Dutko

In the post neon, pre-sunlit hours
I awaken to the sonorous sounds
of untuned guitars strummed
from the nasal passages
of my wife and dog

The love of my life
pregnant with both
neo-natal machinations
and the bass notes of birth

The dog, unexcused and billowing
provides counterpoint
as well as the percussive
sounds of foot tapping
as he runs an imaginary solo
mission after wayward squirrels

I lie awake listening
to this duet in awe
Then I just lie awake
waiting for the right time
to walk out on this performance


—Jeff Dutko

Mother and child weaving in their love quietly in the sun
crossing fraying loops of shoelace into tight bouquets
and I always the leaving line, pulling the knot undone

Their paths begin spiraling over into repetition
the larger laps outside the other, to herd in her stray
mother and child weaving in their love quietly in the sun

Signs of infinity form from the circles they had begun
by linking together the sandy ovals pressed into the clay
and I constant the leaving line, pulling the knot undone

Moving on by linear lines, spoking in every direction
forming an endless wheel on a map that spins me away
mother and child weaving in their love, quietly in the sun

as fingers lock with fingers, they tumble through their run
only to finish innocently bound in the space left in the day
and I always the leaving line, pulling the knot undone

enclosed in a world rapt tight in its own revolution
that exacts a recompense for every minute of delay
mother and child weaving in their love quietly in the sun
and I the constant leaving line, pulling the knot undone


B.L.'s Drive-Bys: A Micro-Review from B.L. Kennedy:

The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel
by Barbara Foster and Michael Foster
Overlook Press
329 pp, $16. 95
ISBN: 0-87951-774-3

My partner Genelle tells me of a conversation she had with her father about people climbing Mt. Everest. To paraphrase her father: “When we talk about an assault on Everest, for example, we really mean the Anglo-Saxon explorer, not the natives that the mountain belongs to.” This brings me to our next book, The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Nee. Without sounding like a sexist, I have to say that Alexandra David-Neel had some serious balls! For example, this basically dismissed explorer was the first female to cross Everest by herself with just a canteen, a blanket and a pistol—in 1902—and entered the city of Lasha—a transgression, I may add, that even the peaceful Buddhist inhabitants of the city would have put her to death for, because she was a woman.

The story of Alexandra David-Neel is rich in content and a gripping narrative which should satisfy any contemporary reader of Women’s Studies, Cultural Studies, or Buddhist Studies, for it is the story of a woman who simply said “No” to the labels society stamped on her forehead. In short, she should be considered a hero to every imaginative, adventurous, and open-minded person, female and male alike. I highly recommend this book. My copy had to be special-ordered from Powell’s Books online, but if you have the chance, and want a compelling read, purchase The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel and find out just how easy it is to be everything that you currently doubt yourself as being.

—B.L. Kennedy, Reviewer-in-Residence

[Be sure to watch for many more reviews from B.L. Kennedy in the up-coming issue of Rattlesnake Review, as well as his Drive-Bys on Medusa's Kitchen each Thursday. Say!—the deadline for the next issue of RR is tomorrow—Friday, May 15! Don't forget!]


Today's LittleNip:

Spring goes, and the hundred flowers.
Spring comes, and the hundred flowers.
My eyes watch things passing,
my head fills with years.
But when spring has gone not all the flowers follow.
Last night a plum branch blossomed by my door.

—Man Giac (1051-1096)

(translated from the Vietnamese by Nguyen Ngoc Bich with W.S. Merwin)



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 NEW FOR MAY: 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. Now available at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, or from the authors, or [soon] from

COMING IN JUNE: Walt Whitman Orders a Cheeseburger, a rattlechap by Bob Stanley; Mandoria: A Prelude, a littlesnake broadside from frank andrick, and a brand-new issue of Rattlesnake Review! All at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30, on Wednesday, June 10. Free!

Medusa's Weekly Menu:

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

Monday: Weekly NorCal poetry calendar

Tuesday: 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.