Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Keeping Shadows As Guests

Thinking about our friends in Auburn
Photo by Frank Dixon Graham, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

From the turnpike, it was hidden
by Virginia curtains of green.
Beyond a stone gate-house with cobwebbed
windows, the two-story house that once
was grand. Now, sumac bled
on the steps. Front hall too dark
for light-bulbs.
We climbed the stairs
and shut the door behind us.
Bathroom floor decomposing
in linoleum flakes, September sun caught
in rusty screens. Humid canopies
of grandfather oak.
Sleep wrapped in sweaty sheets.
Downstairs, from kitchen to
parlor to locked back door, I knew
the lady of the house silently
patrolled by flashlight
her corridors, her home.


—Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Tehama

You stepped down from the banged-up
yellow Ryder rental truck
with its missing window, red
gaffer-taped side mirror, fish-tailed
car trailer and gave me
the biggest smile I’ve seen on your face
since you were six.
Heading out of here, you said,
stretching tight limbs until they popped,
the nose of the truck and your eyes
pointing north. I filled you up
with home-cooked food, gave you
jugs of tea on the creek deck
and stayed myself from flinging my arms
too many times around your grown-up neck.
The cats kept you company all night.
Breakfast among flowers
and great blue heron and kingfisher
then you stepped back up
into that big yellow truck
and were gone.

(First published in All Things Girl, Oct. 2002)


—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

Somehow feel
That you
A pillar
Of the community
When you
See in the
Rearview of the U-Haul
The neighbors
Dancing in the street.


—David Milnor, Sacramento

Sestinas find a curious way to tell
a story using end words that repeat
and follow with a soft hypnotic beat,
as if to catch the reader in a spell—
a spell of ancient wizards who would dwell
in magic lands where one might sometimes meet
giants, trolls and knights whose every feat
was told in misty hollows on the fell.
Some like to write sestinas in our day,
with no more trolls and giants living now—
no shining knights in suits of burnished mail.
We wonder then if anyone can say
if latter day sestinas can allow
some wondrous hidden dream world to unveil.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

A night train grinds
The edges of our understanding.

We make light of it, thinking
It is only a small disturbance,
Something we can overcome,
A brightness there in that late occurrence.

We are given to know many things.
Why I cry being so much different
Than why you cry and how would
We know what fills the heart or leaves
It open for visitations by miracles.

Somewhere it comes together, where
The tracks seem to converge in a distance.
But that is a place we cannot reach
Given all things, from sleep and dreams
To heated arguments and cursing at one another.

Eventually the sounds recede, a long
Hollow road into a further darkness.
We essay to bring songs, some kind of gift
To it; it remains an unknown god,
A blistering of angels just before consciousness
Decides we have had enough and leaves.


—D.R. Wagner

The lights come on.
They insist we move toward them.

We cannot recall that everything
Around them is without sound.

We follow them. Sometimes they are people,
Sometimes they are a fulfillment upon
The spine, enticing and crippling simultaneously,
As if it were a dance we learned
In grammar school between naps,
Between learning and listening to stories.

Sometimes we can go no further.
Everything is pain. Everything has finer
Clothing than we could ever wear.
We can barely stand to look at one another.

We keep shadows as guests.
Night after night they tell us
Beautiful tales of death and suffering.

Knowing they are lies,
We believe them.


Today's LittleNip:

A man said to the universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

—Steven Crane



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:


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 Idea);
a littlesnake broadside from Marie Reynolds (Late Harvest);
and a brand new issue of Rattlesnake Review (#23)!

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!


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.