Saturday, July 25, 2009

Unrumpled On Our Stems

Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros
Painting by Adolphe William Bougeureau

—Edna St. Vincent Millay

I know my mind and I have made my choice;
Not from your temper does my doom depend;
Love me or love me not, you have no voice
In this, which is my portion to the end.
Your presence and your favours, the full part
That you could give, you now can take away:
What lies between your beauty and my heart
Not even you can trouble or betray.
Mistake me not—unto my inmost core
I do desire your kiss upon my mouth;
They have not craved a cup of water more
That bleach upon the deserts of the south;
Here might you bless me; what you cannot do
Is bow me down, who have been loved by you.


—May Swenson

A bee
in the yellow
Does she
invite his hairy

He scrubs
in her creamy
a bullet, soft, imposes
her spiral and, spinning, burrows
to her dewy

The gold
grooves almost
the yellow
Does his touch
or scratch?

When he's
his honey-
at her matrix,
whirs free
tall, chill,
unrumpled on her stem.


—May Swenson

Heat of the sun on wood of the deck. Spread flat,
my body accommodates to hardness on the worn boards.
Cat fools with my foot, trying to make my big toe
stay in her ear. She gets bored when you're not here.

House feels hollow, without vibration, asleep.
No sudden bumps or door-slams, no shuffled dishes,
no water rushing in the tub, or outside from the hose.
Vacuum's snarling inhale, hedge clipper's chatter—
any welcome racket would make the little cat leap up,

land four-footed like a springbok, and race downstairs
to see what you are making happen. Instead, all is
neat and peaceful. Phone never rings. Or, if it does,
receiver waits long to be raised.

If you were here, I wouldn't be this flat, sunbathing
a whole morning on the deck, half hearing the far
gargle of a helicopter over the bay. I get lazy when
you're away. I have to feel guilty that I don't do
all the Things To Do on today's list.

Whether I ought, or not, I'm blaming it on you
that kitten doesn't spring. Slow, from inside, wags
the old Seth Thomas pendulum. And from below I hear
the suspended slaps of the tide.

Kitten has quit fooling with my toe. She's collapsed
in the shade under the overhang, her blond belly-frill
barely moving with her breath, heavy little bucket-head
dropped on paws. The crossed blue eyes are shut.


—May Swenson

On the Cliff

I'm sawing a slice off that hard dark knobby loaf
form Zabar's—black molasses and raisins in it—
to have with Tilsit cheese. You left a pumpkin and
autumn leaves on the stripped wood table, you filled
the birdfeeder hanging from the eaves. The window
is clean, the sill is varnished, white impatiens
in a brick clay pot smile above the sink. Our terrace
lined with boulders, the slate bath with pachysandra
you planted. Storm doors are on, in front and back,
it's snug in here. I'm chewing, looking at the shelves
you cut and hung to hold our books and decoys.
You're strong, you twist off the lids of jars.
Cold nights you're a stove in bed.

By the Canal

For Valentine's Day a whole studio and library!
Shelves built to the ceiling, there's space for every
thing: papers, folders, files and books, books, books.
Binoculars and chess set, tape recorders, tapes and
jigsaw. Telephone that's a blue car has a shelf
of its own. The old maple sawhorse table fits right in
and looks brand new. Curly ivy on the sill and outside
an entire alphabet of birds, on the porch, in the yard.
You put pink ribbons of sunrise in the back window,
scarlet bands of sunset in the front, the moon above our
bed at night. It snowed. You made a path. The Christmas
poinsettia blooms all year.


—Edna St. Vincent Millay

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
Give back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,
"What a big book for such a little head!"
Come, I will show you now my newest hat,
And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!
Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.
I never again shall tell you what I think.
I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more:
I shall be called a wife to pattern by;
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.


Today's LittleNip:

No woman was ever ruined by a book.

—Jimmy Walker, ex-Mayor of New York City



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

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, or send me two bux and I'll mail you one.
Deadline for Issue #3 (which will be available August 21) was July 15; next deadline will be Oct. 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

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 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!


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.