Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Curioser and Curioser

Photo by Steph Schaefer, Los Molinos

(on Independence Trail)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael

We press our silent steps along a trail
laid for a water-blasting miner’s flume,
parts of it rebuilt planks and struts of trestle.

What keeps our spirits high as hats in plume?
Greenery, greenery, greenery lights the eye
and softens the angry sunburst without gloom.

The last of the foothill spring is bold to try
still running its floral festival full tilt,
as little bedraggled strews and stems must pry

out crevice-holds in which to spurt and wilt,
as mustang sprays of breakless waterfall
still rush into Rush Creek and leave scant silt.

These first June days should burn, but under a caul
this month is born: a canopy of cloud,
not seeding itself by force on leaves in thrall,

now sublimates in soft cool thrusts of blossom.
Buckeye’s thick ranks in bakery-sugar spikes
pierce ravines far above Auburn, far beyond Folsom.

What sights, now large, now small, festoon our hike
like lambswool gathered a-saunter, while our knees
turn sore to flaming on this miner’s pike?

Mugwort and slender wild oats have seized
small crests and spurs along the trailside berm
where, inspecting with every crowsfoot crease

of squint, trailbosses once looked sternly to turn
earthwork and rock one leakproof length of gun
aimed at forcing each liquid ounce to earn;

no longer does the implacable bombard stun
sheepfolds of gold into riffle or sluice or tailrace.
Nora and I now filter a skim gold run

in flecks of life eyestrained through the gazing face:
bright California Sister butterflies
paddle the undercurrents of air to trace

aromas to where warm nectar pools inside
a precious few Indian Pinks or monkeyflowers.
And praise be most to the naturalist, my sweet guide:

if we pinball zigzag towards roaring showers
—Ponce-de-Leóning like the source of youth—
down the loose gangplanks with Rube Goldberg power,

and if my stumble kneecaps matchhead truth
that singes the filament time thus snapping a stone
straight at the derringer of John Wilkes Booth,

yours is a more antique magic, graceful one
whose Orpheus harp I femininely now follow
stooping through underpass. Ventriloquist tones

beckon me, thrown a faint someplace else by hollow
throat-floated O. Dark backbone, shoulder blades,
and somberly working hips are drink I swallow

thirstily as a scooped-up-from-the-shades bride.
Don’t look back at me involved in linen gloom:
I’m hoping for lighter air, and the brighter glades.


Thanks to Steph and the two TG's for today's offerings, following our Seed of the Week: Curious Journeys. Join us tonight for the release of a brand-new issue of Rattlesnake Review (#22), including the columns of both Tom Goff and Taylor Graham, along with new photos by Steph Schaefer. We are also proud to present Walt Whitman Orders a Cheeseburger (a rattlechap by Bob Stanley) and Mandorla: A Prelude (a littlesnake broadside from frank andrick). All at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30, tonight, Wednesday, June 10. Free!


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

How much of mechanical science, as well as brute force of human
sinews, was brought to bear upon the quarrying, transporting,
hewing, sculpturing and raising of the vast blocks of stone?
—Elihu Burritt, "A Walk from London to Land’s End" (1865)

At Lord Radnor’s cottage-village, you calculate
the cost of dwelling vs annual rent; size
and comfort for a laboring family.

From Highworth, you walk beside a man
with head bent down by his burden; his wages
allow nothing for old age or sickness.

Past Swindon, you discuss piece-work
with a man trimming hedge; how a hard worker
can’t pay for a slice of meat on Sunday.

Along one of the Avons, you bid Godspeed
to a wooden-legged man working a turnip field.
Then you ascend the great chalk wall

to Salisbury Plain, where, so many centuries ago,
man labored – for what wages, at what cost? –
this stone pile that still haunts a traveler’s mind.


—Taylor Graham

[The boy] could not read, nor could his father afford to send him
to school, as he needed his earnings for the support of younger children.
—Elihu Burritt, "Walks in the Black Country" (1868)

You’ll set out from this country inn at noon.
For now, you sit at a little round deal-table,
while sun of a late-spring window overlooks
your writing, and lark-song filters in.

You’ll set out from this country inn at noon,
and find the nailer’s barefoot lad of nine
breast-high at the anvil, with smutty hair
and smile, but not a studied letter to his name.

For now, you sit at a little round deal-table
that holds letters enough – your own words
to broadcast what you see: brick-works girls
who slave ten hours, six days every week,

while sun of a late-spring window overlooks
a coal-world’s foundries, a green land blacked
for iron. This is how you earn a few pence
by your writing, with lark-song filtered in.

You’ll set out from this country inn at noon.
For now, you sit at a little round deal-table,
while sun of a late-spring window overlooks
your writing, and lark-song filters in.


—Taylor Graham

At about noon, I came suddenly down upon the town,
which seemed remarkably similar to the one I had left.
—Elihu Burritt, "A Walk from London to John O’Groats"

From Greater Bardfield to Saffron Walden, 12 miles.
You’ve walked all morning, since breakfasting
with a Friend in Bardfield. So this must be Thaxted –
how these Essex villages all look alike! The hills,
the parish church, the inn where you stop at midday
for rest and refreshment – so like Greater Bardfield.

How far, you ask, to Saffron Walden? Twelve miles,
says the waiting-maid. How can this be? It’s 12 miles
from Bardfield, and all morning you’ve been walking
footpaths through wheat and clover – pleasant, and
shorter than the trafficked thoroughfare. Thaxted?
Why, not at all, she says, this is Greater Bardfield.

So you’ve spent the morning circling about from
where you started. And your Friend’s footpath?
A farmer plowed it under, along with his fields.
So much for shortcuts. Now you’ve got one glorious
summer afternoon, the Essex countryside, and 12
miles still to go, before you get to Saffron Walden.


Today's LittleNip:

Let the artist show his universe, which never was, yet ever will be.
(from a story by Romain Rolland)



(thanks to Claire J. Baker for the LittleNip)

SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

COMING JUNE 10: Walt Whitman Orders a Cheeseburger, a rattlechap by Bob Stanley; Mandorla: 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!

Rattlesnake Review: Snake (RR21) is now available (free) at The Book Collector, or send me four bux and I'll mail you one. RR22 will be available next Wednesday, June 10, at The Book Collector. Deadline is July 15 for RR23: 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!: The second issue of WTF, the free quarterly journal from Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe that is edited by frank andrick, is now available at The Book Collector, or send me two bux and I'll mail you one. 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.

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.