—Patricia L. Nichol, Sacramento
The jack-in-the-box had just got his limbs
rearranged the way they were supposed
to be, when the little boy cranked the box
and Jack popped up for the fiftieth time that day.
He had never bargained for this in the toy
factory: this popping up and popping up
no matter how well—and how often—
he had reorganized his legs and arms.
He was an orderly fellow: everything with a place
and everything in its place; legs folded carefully
beneath him and arms settled across his chest, head
bent just right, smile at a jaunty angle.
And then the whirring, grating, fury of the crank,
relentless, relentless, enough to make a fellow
cranky himself, unlike his usual, placid self,
unlike the dignified jack-in-the-box that he was.
Enough. He would do it no longer. When
the cranking came again, he kept his arms and legs
folded, his head angled and his smile jaunty.
He was nobody’s plaything. He was his own man.
“Mommy! Mommy! The jack-in-the-box doesn’t
come up! Mommy! Mommy!” How the child
could screech! Jack was glad his ears were
relatively well-protected in the box’s deep interior.
The mother could not get the blasted toy
to work either, and the jack-in-the-box was set
at the back of the shelf to be given away
at Christmas with other broken and recalcitrant toys.
A little girl deep in the East End received
the jack-in-the-box for Christmas. She was a child
who fancied order and who lived in chaos.
She was glad to crank the box and see Jack pop up.
She’d then arrange his limbs herself before settling
him back inside his metal burrow, and for the first
time Jack fell in love with a child and became
a happy fellow, yearning to hear the whirring of the crank.
Thanks, Pat! Patricia L. Nichol is retired after teaching thirty years, including two years in the Peace Corps in the 1960s. After considering herself a fiction writer for many years, she realized that she was also a poet and has been writing poetry seriously for about six years. She has published poetry and prose in various journals, including Rattlesnake Review, Tiger's Eye, and Poetry Depth Quarterly, and anthologies, including Sambatyon and Writing Our Way out of the Dark. She has a Master's Degree in English.
THE TONI DOLL
—Patricia L. Nichol
Mrs. Cartwright was a collector of old dolls.
She checked the special display case at Thrifty
Village once every two weeks. She especially
liked it when she found a bargain. Mrs. Cartwright
liked old dolls, but she loved money more.
Jenelle was a Toni doll from 1955. She had long
brown hair that felt almost real. It could be combed
and braided. She had once had elegant clothes,
including a green taffeta gown made especially
for her when she was new. She was wearing
that gown, tattered and filthy, when she
found herself at Thrifty Village, tossed into a bin
with other wrecked and abandoned dolls
and teddy bears. It hurt Jenelle deeply to
know that that she was an orphan in a bin
of orphans. A small girl named Lupe found
Jenelle the third day the doll had been
in the bin. The first two days had been rough,
and Jenelle was way past weary: she was
very frightened. The little girl fell in love
with Jenelle the moment her little fingers touched
the doll. Jenelle found herself coming back to life
as the child caressed her face. Mrs. Cartwright
had checked the special display case that day;
nothing had been worth having the case unlocked.
Mrs. Cartwright began wandering the store
aimlessly; you never knew what you might find.
She came to the bin just as Lupe bent to kiss
Jenelle’s small lips. A Toni doll—it was a Toni doll
from the fifties. A real find. It was the real thing.
Mrs. Cartwright reached toward Jenelle
just as Jenelle’s arms reached slowly toward Lupe.
The doll moved, thought Mrs. Cartwright.
as Lupe and Jenelle moved away toward
Lupe’s mother who had recently decided
that Lupe needed a new doll, a doll that Lupe
herself had chosen. . . . Jenelle went home
with Lupe and her mother. After that,
Mrs. Cartwright always checked the bin first,
before going to the display case. . . .
You never knew what you might find.
POEM FOR THE FEINT OF ART
—Patricia L. Nichol
I could not find a poem to write;
I stayed up working half the night. 1/2
I stared at the computer screen;
words have never looked so mean. :(
Then I had a brilliant thought: !
here’s what I should do. I ought
to make the letters real, real big a b c d . . . .
(not that no one would care a fig),
and folks would think my poem was great,
full of meaning, full of weight.
Yes sirree, I’ve got this plan
which just now I’ve just began:
to write the best poem of the year
full of rhymes and full of cheer, :)
full of prettiness and glitz,
and all would think I knew my biz.
—Patricia L. Nichol $.05
—Patricia L. Nichol
Was Gertrude faithful?
The queen is now in heaven.
She has drunk the fated cup.
Was the steward wise?
The wall hangings were threadbare,
scarcely hiding fool or sage.
Was Horatio true?
Good-night, sweet prince. Fare you well.
Yours will be a soldier’s dirge.
Does Hamlet love her?
She lies in flowered water
with whispered songs of madness.
Has Hamlet prevailed?
The throne is awash in blood.
The prince of Norway will reign.
This week in NorCal poetry:
•••Monday (8/3), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents Noah “Supanova” Hayes and Stuart “SLiC” Canton at HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St., Sacramento (25th and R Sts.). [See last Friday's post for bios.]
Coming up at SPC on Monday, August 10:
Mariano Castro de Ali and Terry a O Neal
•••Weds. (8/5), 9 PM: Poetry Night at Bistro 33 presents D.R. Wagner. Poetry Night at Bistro 33 (223 F St., Davis), hosted Andy Jones and produced by Brad Henderson, occurs on the first and third Wednesdays of every month, including an Open Mic at 10 PM. Poetry Night events are free and open to the public.
•••Friday (8/7), 6-8:30 PM: Art Reception at the Lodi Public Library, where some poetry will be read. It is free and open to the public. Sponsored by the National League of American Pen Women.
•••Sat. (8/8), 2 PM: Open Mic at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, Sunrise Boulevard, Citrus Heights.
•••Saturday (8/8), 7:30 PM: Nevada County Poetry Series is having a Rent Party featuring the poets Julie Valin, Shawn Aveningo and Marilyn Souza. Bill Gainer says, "Yes, it is that time of year again—for us to start fundraising. And this year, with all the funding cuts from the state and granting agencies and the wider base of needs for the environment, social programs and community support organizations, the support of the arts and literary community as become ever so fragile. By repeating your generosity of the past, you will assure the Nevada County Poetry Series' success in the future. Donate what you can, we'll take it! If it can be spent, sold or pawned—we can use it! As long as we don't have to feed it—we'll take it!" Of the readers, Gainer says, "These women will turns hearts when they step on stage—break them when they leave. Their poems know the power of who they are. At night's end, we will too..."
Julie Valin comes from a long line of gypsies. Their settled work in the sugarcane fields is what has brought on her enormous sweet tooth. She hunkers for sweet poetic words on a daily basis and when she can't create them herself—despite the necessary accoutrements: John Coltrane on iTunes, soft lamplight, a cold beer—she turns to Bukowski on YouTube, soft lamplight, a cold beer. Valin is on the executive board of the Nevada County Poetry Series and is the co-founder and editor of Six Ft. Swells Press. Her work can be found in: Watershed, The Spoleto Anthology, Rattlesnake Review, Heavy Bear and more. Her chapbook, Night Songs for Heavy Dreamers has been well-received by a few midnight readers. She lives in Nevada County with her soul mate, their baby daughter and a furry Chihuahua.
Shawn Aveningo is a forty-something soccer mom who is passionate about poetry. About her work Aveningo says, "I mostly find inspiration in the ups and downs of life and often fine myself writing about the voices around me." Aveningo writes for a diverse audience, delivering complex and clever surprises for those willing to ponder and explore. Her work can be seen in The Rattlesnake Review, WTF, Poetry Now, Survivor’s Review, POETZ and Medusa’s Kitchen, or catch her (most Thursdays) at Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café in Sacramento. She recently published her first collection of poetry, She Has Something to Say, and is working on her second, Stripped. Visit her at www.poeticallyurs.net.
Marilyn Souza was born in beautiful downtown Truckee, California to a tow truck driving father and a waitress mother. Her childhood was spent in the middle of a cornfield in Nebraska, until her life was swept out from under her. Moving to Nevada, Souza spent her adolescence and early adulthood in Las Vegas, trying not to drown in the desert. That was yesterday, today, Souza is back—back in the mountains, living in the wildness of Nevada City. This time around, she has a smile on her face and a story in her heart, which she says, "Is begging to be heard." Souza still believes she can move mountains with her words. Of Souza, Bill Gainer says, "This young woman tears up the page. Her words are violently sensual, loving and disarming. As for moving mountains, come and see her, you'll find out why most of Nevada is flat!"
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $5 general, seniors and students, and $1 for those under 18—bring whatever spare change you have to throw into the pot... Refreshments and open-mic included. The show will be in the Main Theater at the Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley. Info: (530) 432-8196 or (530) 274-8384.
•••Sat. (8/8), 1:30 PM: Poetry reading: Summer 2009 Issue of Song of the San Joaquin. McHenry Museum, 1402 “I” St., Modesto, (209) 577-5366. Free. Open Mike to follow. Light refreshments. Info: Cleo Griffith, email@example.com/ or (209) 543-1776.
LOST ON PAPER
—Marie J. Ross, Stockton
I inhale the white plateau
unfriendly and uncomprehensible.
My words sit on its plain
unfertile, and on a crossing without sun.
Trails are crooked, paths filled with gravel,
inviting my brain to party with little-known characters.
I'm lost in the valley of green;
waiting for words buried in the dictionary of nature.
My creativity hugs the pen
like a dead branch in winter, snapping the point
and freezing the ink.
Maybe when rain trickles through spires of sun,
the sound of its mellow drops might inspire my
critical mind to write.
—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento
I am not grass, doing the work at Flanders
Fields, Gettysburg, or Pine Ridge. I say
Bulldoze them under, layer bodies in strata
Mottled khaki fabric, trenches eons deep,
A nomad’s unmarked grave: Chaldea,
Kirkuk, Haladja, Tobruk. Strands, threads,
And tallow Barely audible voices
Tumble from hanging towers, dimmest
Shapes, then, wise men leaving on horseback.
In five years or ten, other caravans will ask,
“Was this a city, a village, a tribe?”
Maybe in 4,000 years, storms will come again,
Travelers scattering glass between two rivers.
I obliterate borders. I am sand, let me work.
(Originally published in Poetry Depth Quarterly, Final Issue, 2006-2007)
Thanks to Marie Ross and Jeanine Stevens for two poems about being "lost", last week's Seed of the Week. About her poem, Jeanine says it was written "In honor of Navy Capt. Michael 'Scott' Speicher, first casualty of Operation Desert Storm, shot down Jan 1991, who was apparently buried by nomadic Bedoins and hidden in the sand from the world's mightiest army until July 2009.
POETRY TO THE RESCUE
You must be
nearly lost to
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.
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 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 encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their POETRY, PHOTOS and ART, as well as announcements of Northern California poetry events, to firstname.lastname@example.org (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.