Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Is This Loneliness Or Solitude?

A Capitol Idea
Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Discovered April 2006, San Francisco
—Jane Blue, Sacramento

There was no skull in the treehouse,
but skeletal remains
with some clothing attached. The hand
alone has 27 bones. Was it open
or grasping?

I see you motherless, I see you feral.

You disappeared into the cypress, like Ceos
of myth, weaving a floor of branches,
enmeshing yourself,
below Eagle’s Point, below the museum.

Your work boots slung over limb-rafters,
text books splayed open randomly,
an ID in the name of Frank Pangelinan Cruz, born
Oct. 7, 1943, in Guam. Your sister
was looking for you, Frank,
since 1984.

The hollering of gulls,
their silver and white bodies reeling
over the Land’s End trail, over the precipice,
the blue or green or gunmetal gray depths,
calm, or more likely, bustling with whitecaps.

You’d installed shades on your windows of air
against a pelt of wind. Your ceiling
the turning Zodiac
or the cold wool of fog.

You could have been dead for a year, your skull
bouncing down to the spectacular Pacific, the plates,
the closed fontanelle, the occipital bones

I see you with hair like lichen, a raccoon
befriending you, stealing food
from the museum café, tarts
with fruit glazes, half a ham sandwich
on sourdough bread; the creature
masked, an offering
in the clawed cup of her hands.

You were traced to McAllister Street
but no one there could even imagine you.

You were traced to the swept plain outside Petaluma
where even the grasses are lonely.

I’ve been there.

And in the round drive of the museum,
the saltfish wind and pungence of cypress;
so close, so close…


“Monogamous voles depressed when parted”
(Headline, Sacramento Bee)
—Jane Blue

Scientists reap voles from the prairie
and watch them mate in the laboratory.
Monogamous, they are pulled apart as they bond,
a control group given a pill of forgetfulness
for the terrible pain of parting. What if
you were the vole? This would be a science
fiction tale, aliens siphoning you up from your car
on a desolate road, where they’d experiment
in their space ship, to see where your sex lay,
your digestive system, your glands. You would be
angry and frightened the rest of your life.
Poor voles—the controls laughing like demented
patients who’ve forgotten the names of their spouses.
The others are held upside down in water
and don’t struggle; they would just as soon die
as to live unmated—sleek little mice stolen
from their love nests in the sweet prairie grass.
Soon we’ll be given the pill too, never
having to experience the loss of love.
Who will write poetry? Poets experiment
only with words. I love words, for instance,
those that begin with “v”—voracious: voracious love;
verdant: verdant young love; village: the village
of fairy tales where the scrub maid marries
the king. And vole: the monogamous prairie vole.
Vole, you’ll notice, is an anagram of love.


Thanks to Jane Blue and today's other poets for their responses to our Seed of the Week: Loneliness. Send your Seeds to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline.

And thanks to Katy Brown for today's photo of our state capitol building. This fall, Katy will be releasing #4 in her series of blank journals for our HandyStuff series, this one entitled A Capitol Affair, about—you guessed it—Sacramento. Watch for it!


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

From the clinic, a bad connection.
Did he say “don’t wait for me”?
Turn off the evening news, its tragedies.
The speechless phone, his voice gone
to imagination:
He won’t be coming home.
They’re going to operate right now.
No, worse, there’s nothing they can do.
Set the phone down in its cradle,
turn off the burner under the stew.

No, that’s not it at all.
Over the airwave static, his voice
from far-off as a husband riding west,
looking for a place the two of you can settle.
He’ll send back word.
No phone, no telegraph, no mail.
Keep yourself alive; eat a bit of stew.
Turn off every light but one.
Leave the phone rocking in its cradle;
walk outside and count each star.


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

Stalwart in the field, she stands
For the bleak, black onslaught
Of duty
Is this loneliness
Or solitude
She ponders the question
Awaiting the flocks of crows and starlings
Which bring meaning to her life
Giving sense to her loneliness


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

You say that you are lonely; ah, but wait,
and let the loneliness take heavy hold,
heavy, but with its massiveness of gold
inside you more like liquid, less like plate,
tending quickly to cool and to abate
just as it’s crested, magmalike in bold
red-seething fury. Make your mind go cold
then fist the burden, grasp your orb of state.
And if the stabbing assassin deep inside
should overwhelm your native self-command,
be royal, fling into the darkest oubliette
those thoughts both suicide and homicide,
you piercing you with your own knives in your own net.
Suffer instead for your people and your land.

Trouble your head for your people and your land,
but thrust the melancholy devils out of you,
chase them, expel them, banish each last lout of you
responsible for this brooding, moody-grand
insufferable self-burning that turns bland,
your turmoil’s been so long a part of you,
lodged like a hurdy-gurdy by some art of you
to grind and whine an internal sarabande.
I know that you are lonely, feel unloved,
your boundaries have been transgressed against:
suffering long stored can all but make immune
the numb lone sufferer—toxin so condensed,
your touch stuns into a lethal reel one gloved.
You must first cleanse yourself of the deadly fumes.

You must first cleanse yourself of the deadly fumes,
but how? Drink water, shoot drugs, or swallow tears?
Is it a matter of choking down old fears,
or is the cure more airing out a room?
If I were your antitoxin, I would doom
your suffering like forest floor to a burning clear;
but, scorched of all fuel, those fears are still one fear
whose heaped gray-black makes thunderhead: it looms.
Yet you have copper wire for blood; the bolt
can run hot within, and ground itself, and die.
Just will yourself; say, Me, I am the state;
quiver your limbs, but arrow their actions: fly.
If loudly governed, quietly revolt.
You say that you are lonely: love, learn—wait.


Today's LittleNip:

this lone iris
in spring twilight




SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

NEW FOR JUNE: 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.

COMING FOR SUMMER: There will be no rattle-read in July, while the Snake enjoys a little summer hibernation. (Stay current on Sacramento poetry, though, by way of Medusa's Kitchen.) Then join us Weds., August 12 to celebrate Joyce Odam’s birthday month with two new books from her: a collection of prose poems (illustrated by Charlotte Vincent) and Rattlesnake LittleBook #2 (Noir Love). That’s at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM. Free!

RATTLESNAKE REVIEW: Issue #22 is now available (free) at The Book Collector, or send me four bux and I'll mail you one. Or you can order copies of current or past issues through Contributor and subscription copies will go into the mail this week and next. Deadline is August 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 add all contact info, including snail address. Meanwhile, the snakes of the on-going Medusa are always hungry; keep that poetry comin', rain or shine! Just let us know if your submission is for the Review or for Medusa, or for either one, and please—only one submission packet per issue of the quarterly Review. (More info at

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 through, 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 (clearly marked for WTF). And be forewarned: this publication is for adults only, so you must be over 18 years of age to submit. (More info at

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.