Thursday, August 20, 2009

Useable Art

David Gay

—David Gay, Sacramento

Picture yourself standing in a circle, shoulder to shoulder with others,
and me displayed at the center. See me, know me, assemble
me with your curious imagination until you have my naked
form, and certainly could glue me together if ever I fell apart.

Still all you’ve seen is yourself. The me that stands in the center,
shoulder to shoulder with no one, can see what you cannot.
I see what covers your eye. The silver film that caulks your eye
reflects your eye to itself. Only I can see, only I’m unbound.

I see you standing naked, shoulder to shoulder with no one,
a cloud your only cloak, and everything you cherish
trembles in my hands, a fledgling in my fingers.
Take it. Why would I give this back to you? On altruistic

impulse? Bah. If that alone could move me, you’d ever
be limed in your caul. I give this back to scrape you free,
to show you look like me: naked, wet, afraid, lost, unloved,
dying, dirty, unbelieving, questioning new and ancient

lies. Our gods have left the building. Only the cold remains.
Our truth is in each other. So let our eyes meet and stay.


Thanks, David! David Gay grew up near the American River in Carmichael. He graduated from San Francisco State with an English Lit degree back in 1990. More recently he studied poetry under Molly Fisk and Susan Kelly Dewitt. Nowadays he works as the Web Manager for the State's Department of Personnel Administration. His poetry has appeared in Rattlesnake Review and on Medusa’s Kitchen. Occasionally you can catch him reading at the open mic at Luna’s Café. Recently he read at the Best Minds of My Generation Allen Ginsberg Tribute hosted by B.L. Kennedy. David's married to the award-winning, ever-witty Sacramento poet, Lytton Bell.


—David Gay

Looking down in the infant's eyes, the king declared,
This is my son, but what would hatch from those tiny hands
or what scenes of ruin pass those blue windows
the king could never guess.

I have a problem placing the holocaust of empire
on the shoulders of one woman-born prince
when I picture him in diapers, nursing, grasping
with tiny hands for baubles.

The columns of ancient Rome did not shake
when his ambitions first swelled to colossal proportions,
that man of living stone, that two-fisted tornado
with two huge hands and an army.

No. At first Rome spread wide for him, whispering lascivious oaths
in his German ear, promising slips of girls slight as boys
and baubles like frozen stars to juggle from his fingers,
if his army were ready for pain.

And he became their solution, battling their foes
on the cheap, red with blood, drunk with wine, rubies
for his fingers, his eyes distracted by girls
slender as Roman oaths.

After he won, they laughed at their human solution,
their barbarian, calling him fool, for he knew not law,
and laughed at his rough, crude talk, his raw thirsts and superstitions,
his mingling of Christ with Odin.

But forty years earlier the king couldn't guess what hell
his son would ring the Romans with, what darkness
he'd cast for centuries on praetor and plebe alike,
nor could the king have cared.

This is my son, this is my son, this is my son!
The words rose to the roof beam
like a cry pealed from forty thousand tongues.
I can still hear them today.


B.L.'s Drive-Bys: A Micro-Review from B.L. Kennedy:

by Robert Grossklaus
Polymer Grove

Robert Grossklaus is a poet; that I will say, hands down. I have long been a fan of his work, his unique utilization of image and line balance. Robert also happens to be one of the more introspective poets on the Sacramento scene. He writes short, to-the-point philosophical bloodspilt toybox images that tend to wrap themselves around the reader’s throat like a tightened noose. I love Grossklaus' work. I love his flight between title, word, image, word because it all seems almost numerical in its patterns. Do I recommend Glint? You bet your blue ass I do. So hop down to The Book Collector or write to the publisher and get a copy of this chapbook. You will not regret the purchase.

—B.L. Kennedy, Interviewer-in-Residence


WTF3 unveils herself tonight at Luna's!

Join us tonight, Thurs. (8/20) at 8 PM for Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento for the premiere of Issue #3 of WTF, the free quarterly journal of Luna's folks (and others) from Rattlesnake Press. Featured readers from this issue, plus other goodies hosted by frank andrick. Open mic before and after. Come get your free copy! Next deadline is November 15; see below for details.


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

I run my hands over
This quilt from the family
Made by my grandmother
Back in the early 1950s

Small squares of cloth
From Grandmother’s
Carefully pieced
Meticulous stitch
By meticulous stitch
Creating memories
In this colorful top

Grandmother brought it
On Wednesday
To the quilting bee
A potluck lunch
Four hours of work
That afternoon
Busy hands
Busy mouths
Playing children in the yard
Twelve women
In tiny stitches
Attach this top
Now a finished quilt

An effort of many hands
An American tradition
Family history
Writ in a creation of beauty
Useable art


—David Gay

The palm trees shade the bungalows in this iconic
golden sunset of the last honeyed day of summer.
It's almost enough to rock you back to the idyllic
pre-Gold Rush days of icy black water flying from stone

to stone. Not a waste sewage treatment plant
in sight. It's almost enough to sock you back between
your teeth to think how many people huddle here now,
how many peak demand air conditioners they've got

blowing now, and not a windmill in sight.
It's almost enough to talk you back into the good
old days when you could muddy your toes down
by Arcade Creek and sing under Garfield bridge

where the giant white egret once flew.
And not a bastard in sight to blame
you when you reach right up the trail side
to pluck berries of cherries, plump and warm,

unburden the boughs of wild dwarf pears,
or pinch the plum-laden branches above
the scum-laden stream where tadpoles swarm.
No one to blame when you scratch

your arm striving to tease blackberries
off the vine or take clusters of grapes, some pine
nut-shaped, bunched on the college fence.
Where did he go, that giant white egret?

The valley elderberry longhorn beetles
made a stunning recovery when he left.
In the last twilight before night settles in
I'll tell you where he's gone. I am him, I am him, I am him.


—David Gay

the music stopped when I turned
off the radio after you left this morning
and I drove past the graveyard where my mom
will be buried beside my dad

I saw the August sun burn cement
with an ochre filtered through ashes
I saw the air heave cremation against the sidewalk
I saw the runoff puddle reflect a new grammar

I want to learn a new grammar, a lingua franca
a skeleton key for this damned mausoleum
of state-owned cubicles and paper cuts
where I'm 5/7ths dissolved in a monkey suit

telling myself I got 'em all fooled from 9 to 5
they think I'm one of them but I'm not
and yet by Death's own trowel I swear
I've fooled myself much worse

I'm a 555 phone number
I pitch people out of work with a grin
and a flick of my Garcia tie
while my fading soul claws up cadavers

scrambling to unearth my joy
because I have nothing
to say and know
just how to say it

inevitably at the end of the day
I remember the language
you taught me from your lips
and the music begins again


Today's LittleNip:

Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves—that's the truth. We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn't seem at the time that anyone else has been caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald



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 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 at Luna's Cafe on
Thursday, August 20
) 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 (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.