My father built over me a worry big as a shipyard
and I left it once, before I was finished,
and he remained there with his big, empty worry.
And my mother was like a tree on the shore
between her arms that stretched out toward me.
And in '31 my hands were joyous and small
and in '41 they learned to use a gun
and when I first fell in love
my thoughts were like a bunch of colored balloons
and the girl's white hand held them all
by a thin string—then let them fly away.
And in '51 the motion of my life
was like the motion of many slaves chained to a ship,
and my father's face like the headlight on the front of a train
growing smaller and smaller in the distance,
and my mother closed all the many clouds inside her brown closet,
and as I walked up my street
the twentieth century was the blood in my veins,
blood that wanted to get out in many wars
and through many openings,
that's why it knocks against my head from the inside
and reaches my heart in angry waves.
But now, in the spring of '52, I see
that more birds have returned than left last winter.
And I walk back down the hill to my house.
And in my room: the woman, whose body is heavy
and filled with time.
Seed of the Week: Autobiography. You can't get a more wide-open topic than that—ALL poetry is autobiographical, right? (Whose else would it be...?) But try to get personal this week, tell us a little something about who you are, and maybe why. No deadline on SOWs; send 'em to email@example.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.
Tonight in Stockton:
•••Tonight (Tues., 7/14), 6:30 PM: Donald R. Anderson, long-standing editor of poetsespresso, is co-hosting with Chinetana Nana Phounsavath an Open Mic called S.O.S. (Slam or Stage), open to poets, musicians, dramatists, spoken word, and more! It is on Pacific Ave.'s “Miracle Mile” in the coffee house that used to house the lobby of Stockton Royale Theatre, which is now Empresso Coffeehouse, 1825 Pacific Ave., Stockton. The readings plan to recur on the 2nd Tuesday of the month. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.405.4041. Website: http://poetsespresso.com/.
Donald writes that Poet's Espresso newsletter (or, more recently foreshortened to the one-word "poetsespresso" newsletter) has for the July issue shortened its print run to 250 sets in black and white, and separated as a project from the Writers' Guild of San Joaquin Delta College. In future issues, it looks like it may resort to subscription-only print runs in order to continue in this economy. Info: email@example.com/.
WHEN I WAS A CHILD
When I was a child
grasses and masts stood at the seashore,
and as I lay there
I thought they were all the same
because all of them rose into the sky above me.
Only my mother's words went with me
like a sandwich wrapped in rustling waxpaper,
and I didn't know when my father would come back
because there was another forest beyond the clearing.
Everything stretched out a hand,
a bull gored the sun with its horns,
and in the nights the light of the streets caressed
my cheeks along with the walls,
and the moon, like a large pitcher, leaned over
and watered my thirsty sleep.
TOWN OF NIAGARA – LATE 1940’S
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
Here is where the railroad tore
Through the edge of our town.
Black earth, black air and the perfect
Angel, steam, sung by whistle
Toots and a language of flags,
Brakemen’s lanterns and the booming
Freight cars tearing dark holes
Through all the seasons.
We were Town of Niagara boys.
The city boys knew it because
We walked in the streets when
We crossed Hyde Park Bridge
To go into the city together.
We didn’t have sidewalks.
Our barber shop in a drear
Apartment building called
The Ten Commandments.
Mr. Brunetti’s grocery store,
Where he reigned, cigar mashed
In his face, his wife, small,
Watching from the shadows.
Brownie’s gas station: “If you can’t stop,
Smile as you go by”, the sign
Facing cobblestones of Hyde Park
Blvd. There was a war in Europe,
Japan. It seemed exotic until
The dead came home and we
Knew their names and faces,
Their mothers and fathers.
The flag-draped boxes and crisp
Ceremony. Taps at Riverdale.
It was good to be from there
Where the air always smelled.
Chemicals and hot slag in the night
Poured into open fields from
Midnight trams, glowing as our
Lives glowed, brighter than radio
Dials tuned to the news and spoken
Fictions churning it all together.
The town, the trains, the Ten
Commandments, the cigar, the dull
Gas station and nights filled
With the crazy wonder of it all.
When I was sixteen, lean
And bright as a naming,
The clock, round about, a face
Of what’s new and yes to everything
False and true, as if it came
Untied with each passing of the hands
And clapped themselves
Before me. Joy, in rising in the morning
full of grace and Hail Mary to the tune
Of Introit bells and Sext and None.
I’d launch myself into each afternoon
As if the world depended on my being there.
In a chair, curled with book and book
Or, off across a blank of lizard
Mesas, undone by sage and the blasting
Light of Albuquerque in July. And I,
Off to see how full of insects such
A day could be or build some secret
Fires in the smallest spaces I could
Find. A ritual of heat within a heat.
White flame inside a ground squirrel hole.
A mouth inside, that said itself, that said
My name. Oh, I was there, alone
And heard the time, slipshod in '50’s boots,
Come clumping by on half-marked paths and trails
To catch my neck by scruff and wrest me
To the changes, to landscapes full of burning holes.
THE LITTLE ROOM
I once told you there were places
Like this. All wound round
With the green foot of the seasons.
The roof over the heart
And the whole body also,
Clothed in stars and heavenly things.
We can say all of the names,
Calling the morning to us. Place
Our lips upon the mysteries.
“How shall all this change?”
“We are the turning of the year.”
“Where shall we gather?”
“Upon the golden seas,
When the morning is come.”
“How shall we know each other?”
“There will be light enough.
Do not fear.”
The marks of teeth upon a thigh bone.
A handful of rotted hair and a bunch
Of dried flowers. Surely there is more
To this vale than an endless coming
And going between door after door.
“Look, my father, it is a star on fire.”
“No, my child, it is only someone
Writing on the sky. It is only the talking.
It is not the story.”
“But father, it burns so brightly.”
“We know nothing. the rains come
At times. The voices in the wind are
The wind only. The breaking of the dawn
Is the dawn itself and that only.”
“But father, look how the light
Gathers by that one tree.”
Before the conversation
Ends, we are raising our heads and eyes,
Looking into the next room and smelling
The lateness of the evening. We think this
Fact is somehow more important than what
We are hearing. I place my arm
Over your shoulder and kiss your cheek.
“Look at this,” you say and we are
The next moment, our lips upon each other's.
FIELDS OF SUNFLOWERS
Fields of sunflowers, ripe and withering,
don't need the warmth of the sun anymore,
they're brown and wise already. They need
sweet shadow, the inwardness
of death, the interior of a drawer, a sack
deep as the sky. Their world to come
the innermost dark of a dark house,
the inside of a man.
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: Peripherals: Prose Poems by Joyce Odam (illustrated by Charlotte Vincent) and Rattlesnake LittleBook #2 (Noir Love).
That’s at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM. 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 rattlesnakepress.com, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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 rattlesnakepress.com/.)
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 rattlesnakepress.com/.
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 email@example.com 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 rattlesnakepress.com/.)
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com (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 (rattlesnakepress.com). And be sure to sign up for Snakebytes, our monthly e-newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on all our ophidian chicanery.