Friday, August 21, 2009

Let Us Sing The Hard Songs

Photo by Stephani Schaefer, Los Molinos
[Quilting Bee?]

—SLiC, Sacramento

They smoulder;
a faint light
fighting to survive
in the gutter.

They all start
fresh and new,
carefully made
by nature and man

Standing tall
with potential—
eager to give themselves
eager for a spark

But they're burned,
inhaled and exhaled,
their use sucked out
till they're just a stub—

Still they burn;
the lust for air continues
till they are flicked aside
and the cherry falls off.

A glorious American Spirit
covered in dirt, ash, and spit;
the flame is not quite gone
but resignation sets in.

People walk by
and step on them
the city tries to
wash them away

no one wants to see
a dying light
or an empty shell

(first appeared in SLiC’s new
Last Call)



Drinking Jack—
missing Jameson.

(first appeared in Last Call)


Thanks, SLiC, for a coupla poems; Stuart read "Cigarette Butts" at last night's premiere of WTF3 at Luna's Cafe in Sacramento, and he'll be reading again tonight at the Vox (see below). The new WTF should be available for free in The Book Collector in the next day or so. Next deadline is October 15.

Thanks also to Steph Schaefer for yet another wonderful photo, and to Emmanual Sigauke and D.R. Wagner for a few poems to tide us over until Tuesday. Yes, Medusa is turning off the light in her kitchen for a few days. Hopefully, it'll come back on again when she asks it to, and not have her Internet access cut off for a week or so like last time she tried to briefly tiptoe out. Meanwhile, like D.R. says, let us sing the hard songs...

Coming up in NorCal poetry:

•••Friday (8/21), 7:30 PM: A Bay Area Poetry Reading to celebrate the release of Sometimes in the Open, an anthology of poems from Sacramento Poetry Center’s Sacramento Poetry Press (2009) that includes many of the Poets Laureate of California cities and counties. To be held at Mrs. Dalloway's Literary & Garden Arts, 2904 College Avenue Berkeley. Info: 510/704-8222 or Hosted by Former California Poet Laureate Al Young and Sacramento Poet Laureate/Sacramento Poetry Center President/Poet/Editor of Sometimes in the Open Bob Stanley, with featured readings by Al Young; Robert M. Shelby, Poet Laureate of Benicia; Connie Post, former Poet Laureate of Livermore; Mary Rudge, Poet Laureate of Alameda; Martha Meltzer, former Poet Laureate of Pleasanton; Albert Flynn DeSilver, Poet Laureate of Marin County; Rod Clark, former Poet Laureate of Pacifica; and Christina Hutchins, Poet Laureate of Albany.

•••Friday (8/20), 6-9 PM: Poetry at the Vox meets this time at 1931 H St. (at 20th), Sacramento, featuring SLiC, Laura Bauman, Shawn Pittard, Traci Gourdine, Bill Carr, Sibilla Hershey, and Ann Privateer. Hosted by Cynthia Linville at or Free.

•••Monday (8/24), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents Mari L’Esperance and Rebecca Foust at HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St. (at R), Sacramento. Born in Kobe, Japan and raised in California, Guam, and Japan, Mari L’Esperance’s first full-length collection, The Darkened Temple, was selected by Hilda Raz for the 2007 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and published by University of Nebraska Press in September 2008. A chapbook, Begin Here, was awarded a Sarasota Poetry Theatre Press Chapbook Prize and published in 2000. L’Esperance’s poems have appeared in several literary journals, including the Beloit Poetry Journal, Many Mountains Moving, Poetry Kanto, and Salamander and in Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry by Sage Cohen (Writer’s Digest Books) and are forthcoming in the anthology, When the Muse Calls: Poems for the Creative Life, edited by Kathryn Ridall. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, graduate of New York University's Creative Writing Program, former New York Times Company Foundation Creative Writing Fellow, and recipient of residency grants from Hedgebrook and Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, L’Esperance lives and writes in Oakland, California and is training to be a psychotherapist.

Rebecca Foust was born in Altoona, formerly one of the country’s great railroad towns, located in the Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania. Her teen years were spent in nearby Hollidaysburg, a tiny town surrounded by farmlands and forests, quarries and strip mines. After attending Smith College and Stanford Law School on scholarships, She practiced law in San Francisco for ten years. She lives now with her husband and three teenagers in Northern California. Before starting Warren Wilson’s MFA program in 2008, her work was in advocacy and as a grass roots political organizer for parents
of children with autism and other learning disorders. Her recent poetry is widely published or forthcoming in small press journals including Margie, Nimrod, Poetry East, North American Review, The Hudson Review, Alehouse Press and Women’s Review of Books, earning awards including two Pushcart nominations in 2008. Her chapbooks, Dark Card and Mom’s Canoe won the 2007 and 2008 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prizes.

•••Weds. (8/26), 6-7 PM: Upstairs Poetry reading at The Upstairs Art Gallery, 420 Main St. (2nd floor), Placerville. It's a poetry open-mike read-around, so bring your own poems or those of a favorite poet to share, or just come to listen. No charge.

•••Wed. (8/26), 8-11 PM: Mahogany Urban Poetry Series at Queen Sheba's Restaurant, 1704 Broadway (17th and Broadway), Sacramento. DJ Rock Bottom spins at 8, with open mic poetry at 9. $5 cover, all ages.

•••Thurs. (8/27), 8 PM: Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café, 1414 16th St., Sacramento. Featured readers include Pat Grizzell, Bob Stanley, and Carol Louise Moon, with open mic before and after.


—Emmanuel Sigauke, Sacramento

Two boys, one girl,
A cave: joy in the blanket
Of youth.

These frequenters
Don't see the fury of the bees
Whose hive they always invade,
Only today
The swarm has a plan.

Two boys, one girl—
The chase,
Cave mouth too tight
For the younger, bigger,
Slower boy
On whom the bees will feast
Once they discover
He is the only culprit.

He dims; then a week later
Recovers, not willing
To tell this to anyone
But to shelve it
In the cabinet of experience.

Soon, the three return
To their playground
And the bees brew fury anew
The sweeter their hive becomes.

And this time it's two girls
One boy
And a splinter of memory
As the older boy from before
Has grown too harmful
To mix darkness, cave, and honey.


—Emmanuel Sigauke

Once, we pretended
To be one, walked side by side,
like we had been sculpted
to fit in each other's grooves.

Those days, one or two,
when we were husband and wife—
are why I call you
from a restricted number.
Sorry, I always hang up.


—Emmanuel Sigauke

Jetro arrived in a yellow, coughing
Mazda, driven first to Mototi Primary
where he circled the soccer ground
till the teachers asked about rides to town.

He laughed, shook their hands
and took off, leaving a trail of dust,
which caught up with him
on the dirt road to Mototi, his village.

Its thunder roused the villagers,
who laughed at the yellow thing
to which they stampeded
when they saw it belonged to Jetro.

Jetro jumped out,
opened the passenger door
To reveal a woman
who fanned herself and sniffed the air.

“Beautiful, isn’t she?” he asked.
The villagers drew closer
To look at yet another new one,
Who sat, cooling down.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

The hard songs come through
Holes in the night sky,
An impending electricity of purpose
Gathers into patterns, constellations
Remembered from dares we took
As children, stories around
The night time fires;
The stars, reminders of our bone,
Dust congealed within our sorry bodies.

Touched with grace for a moment,
They are able to form a mouth,
Then a music, then a welter of instruments.

We hear them as animal voices,
Frogs and loons, crow talk,
The coughing of a cat,
Slap of fish on quiet water.

Oh let us sing the hard songs.
Songs of goodbye and of parting,
Of winds on the moors and
Mists moving across bogs
Where plants eat meat,
Dreaming they are gods,
Where love flees a room
Dense with violins and clarinet
Laments. Pieces of loves across
Ages of time; dead ancestors
And friends turn from our embrace
To ride the night sky forever,
To pour through shining holes in the night sky.


Today's LittleNip:

—Emmanuel Sigauke

Trash these half-cooked thoughts
& let doubts pout
like wounds into inquiry.

Save reason from the territory
of the ordinary; a little rigor,
duration you never imagined.

A day may set after
you have conceived one or two
words to tell the world. Even where it

wouldn't matter to anyone,
let words—with their doubts— burrow
their way to the core.



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:


Now available: two new chapbooks from Joyce Odam:
Peripherals: Prose Poems
(illustrated by Charlotte Vincent)
and Rattlesnake LittleBook #2 (Noir Love).

That’s at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento.

WTF!!: The third 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.

Deadline for Issue #4 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
Issue #23 will be available at The Book Collector the night of Sept. 9.
Deadline is November 15 for RR24: 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 (include snail address) and I'll send you one. Free!


Join us at The Book Collector Wednesday, September 9 at 7:30 PM
for the release of a new chapbook by
Susan Finkleman
(Mirror, Mirror: Poems Of The Mother-Daughter Relationship, illustrated by Joseph Finkleman);
plus a new HandyStuff blank journal from Katy Brown (A Capital Affair);
a littlesnake broadside from Marie Reynolds (Late Harvest);
and a brand new issue of Rattlesnake Review (#23)!


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.