Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day: Song of the Saw

Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

This is the summer that the valley
and all the hills and mountains rising around it

the summer that the valley was shrouded
in smoke so dense it blocked the sun
and turned the daylight red.

And the hills and mountains rising, as if to escape
the burning air, were trapped in granite waves:
and they burned, too.

Hills and mountains covered with dry grass and trees
wore embered cloaks for weeks on end.
Even the sky burned.

And in the drying bypass, among the weeds and
between the rice paddies, miniature suns
call a truce with fire.


—Katy Brown

She puts her unwound watch,
her rings and the last days of April
on her nightstand.

She drops her nightgown
over her head and pauses
at the edge of her bed —

tightly made with matching
comforter and curtains
and last year’s dust

under the ruffled skirt.
She tucks her daydreams
in the cool underside

of her pillow
and whispers his name
into the damask rose room.


—Katy Brown

Keep Away is a lively game
as long as the rules remain the same:
someone is short and someone tall
(who tries to be the master of all. . . .)

until the short one uses her head
employs a different tactic instead:
there are ways that height can be opposed
many places are left exposed . . . .

by extending his arm, he’s in a pickle
all she has to do is tickle . . . . .


Thanks, Katy! Join us this coming Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 7:30 PM at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, for the release of Katy's latest HandyStuff blank journal with photos and poetry prompts: A Capital Idea. Katy Brown is a Social Work Supervisor with Adult Protective Services in Sacramento. She is a columnist for Rattlesnake Review and a frequent contributor to Medusa’s Kitchen. Her poems have appeared in the Song of the San Joaquin, Harp Strings Review, Rattlesnake Review and Brevities. She has won awards in the International Dancing Poetry Contest and the Ina Coolbrith, Berkeley Poets’ Dinner and Chaparral Poets contests. Her workbook for children, Poetry Potions, is being reissued in digital format. She was featured on Medusa on March 24, 2007—check her out in the archives!

Woe is me, though—I'm running out of ink. For the laser printer, that is—and it's a holiday, so the mails aren't working, so I can't get any more 'til Tuesday. Therefore, the new issue of Rattlesnake Review won't be appearing on Tuesday as advertised; it'll have to wait a week. I'll let you know when it'll be in The Book Collector, and contributors and subscribers will get theirs in the mail.

It's Labor Day: as poets, our "labor" is poetry:

—Christine E. Hemp

Building a poem is like building a house
where raw material, pointed word and nail,
are laid out—in piles, and mixed without a rule,
two-by-fours stacked in readiness for the saw,
and words anticipate order, in order to beam
the page as nails await the hammer.

Then I hear the sounds start to form and the hammer
whams and bangs the sill down to ground the house
in a form which will hold every rafter and beam
in place. And the poem takes shape as I nail
my thoughts and stud the page with images I saw
while framing a closet, not in the book of rules.

In my house I rule
out all excess lines, and simplify as I hammer
on the plate with sixteen-penny nails, and saw
the rafters, one by one, careful not to cut too much as I house
possibility with walls and roof. A fingernail
of a moon shines on the skeleton of frame and beams

light on a poem in my mind and I beam
to think of a couplet or a slant rhyme that will fit the rule
of a sonnet or sestina just like the beveled banisters I nail
to the stairs. I hear the singing of those hammer
sounds, like words that leap to dance as they house
the music of the poem, an up-down cadence like the song of the saw.


This week in NorCal poetry:

•••Monday (9/7), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center’s Book Release Event for Tim Kahl’s new book, Possessing Yourself. HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St., Sacramento. Drinks and a tantalizing spread will be offered. Tim Kahl’s work has been published in Prairie Schooner, American Letters & Commentary, Berkeley Poetry Review, Caliban, Connecticut Review, Fourteen Hills, George Washington Review, Illuminations, Indiana Review, The Journal, Limestone, Nimrod, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, Parthenon West Review, South Dakota Quarterly, The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Texas Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He has translated German poet Rolf Haufs, Austrian avant-gardist, Friederike Mayröcker; Brazilian poets Lêdo Ivo and Marly de Oliveira; and the poems of the Portuguese language’s only Nobel Laureate, José Saramago. He also appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog, The Great American Pinup ( Additionally, he is the editor for Bald Trickster Press. He can also be found online at

Coming up at SPC:

September 12 [Sat.]: Sinag-tala presents its first-ever Poetry Kapihan, 2:30-4:30 PM
September 12 [Sat.]: Art Sale Benefit for California Stage and SPC, 5-8 PM
September 14 [Mon.]: Kick-off of poets’ college tour—Maya Khosla, Indigo Moor, Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Dennis Hock, 7:30 PM

•••Tuesdays, 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center Workshop at the Hart Center, 27th & J Sts., Sacramento. Free; bring 13 copies of your one-page poem to be read/critiqued. Info: Danyen Powell at 530-756-6228.

•••Wed. (9/9), 7:30 PM: Rattlesnake Press announces the release of a new chapbook by Susan Finkleman (Mirror, Mirror: Poems Of The Mother-Daughter Relationship, illustrated by Joseph Finkleman); a new HandyStuff blank journal from Katy Brown (A Capital Idea); and a littlesnake broadside from Marie Reynolds (Late Harvest). That's 1008 24th St., Sacramento. Be there!

•••Wednesdays, 9 PM: Mahogany Urban Poetry Series at Queen Sheba's Restaurant, 1704 Broadway (17th and Broadway), Sacramento. $5 cover, all ages.

•••Wednesdays, 5 PM: Dr. Andy’s Technology and Poetry Hour, KDVS radio station (90.3 FM) or http://www/

•••Thursdays, 8 PM: Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café, 1414 16th St., Sacramento. Featured readers, with open mic before and after.

•••Thursdays, 7 PM: “Life Sentence” reading at The Coffee Garden, 2904 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento. Open mic.

•••Thursdays, 10-11 AM (replayed Sundays 10-11 AM): Mountain Mama’s Earth Music with Nancy Bodily on 95.7 FM. Music/poetry woven around a central theme deeply tied to mountains/earth.

•••Sat. (9/12 and every 2nd and 4th Sat.), 10-11:30 AM: Sacramento Poetry Center 2nd and 4th Sat. workshop with Emmanuel Sigauke and Frank Dixon Graham. South Natomas Community Center (next door to S. Natomas Library), 2921 Truxel Rd., Sacramento. Bring ten copies of your one-page poem to read/critique. Info:

•••Sat. (9/12), 2 PM: The Chat Line: A Citrus Heights Art Talk, sponsored by Citrus Heights Area Poets. Barnes & Noble, Sunrise Av., Citrus Heights. Open mic. Lines forming now for readers and writers; which one will you be in?—Life Line, Laugh Line, Love Line, Liberty Line, Listening Line?

•••Sunday (9/13), 4-6 PM: Valona Deli 2nd Sun. Poetry Series in Crockett (1327 Pomona St., Crockett) features Kim Addonizio, the author of four poetry collections including Tell Me, A National Book Award Finalist. Her fifth collection, Lucifer at the Starlite, will be published by W.W. Norton in October 2009. Addonizio has also authored two instructional books on writing poetry: The Poet's Companion (with Dorianne Laux), and Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, both from W.W. Norton. Ordinary Genius will be available at the reading on September 13th. Her awards include two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship,a Pushcart Prize, a Commonwealth Club Poetry Medal, and the John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared widely in anthologies, literary journals, and textbooks, including Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, Bad Girls, Chick-Lit, Gettysburg Review, Paris Review, Poetry, and Threepenny Review. She teaches private workshops in Oakland and online. For open mic, please always bring a "back up" short poem (20 lines or less)—In case of a very large crowd, everyone can be heard with the "lightning round" open mic if necessary! Otherwise, bring a poem of 40 lines or less for open mic. And remember to stay for the wonderful Jazz at 6 PM. Info: Connie Post at


—Katy Brown

You are the soaring eagle to my burrowing sand crab:
we might as well be two species
gazing through the night mist toward Andromeda.

You are the elegant one — ordering from the French menu;
while I dribble consonants like a toddler talking through porridge.
You soar with angels while I burrow in the shoreline.

You always know the diplomatic path, the clear way
to reach consensus. Where you lead the way, I get lost,
gazing through the mist for a glimpse of stars.

You are always prompt, well prepared, impeccably dressed.
My entrances are late — sticky notes clinging to my sneakers.
Eagles fly with preened feathers. Crabs sleep in sandy beds.

I know I test your patience, mincing along my rocky path;
my sideways progress an annoyance for a skillful hunter —
circling in the void toward Andromeda.

But I whisper to you of moonlight in the tides, and midnight-
colored pearls cast up from the deep.
You are a soaring eagle, and I the shoreline crab, watching
for your return in the misty sky: a silhouette against Andromeda.


Today's LittleNip:

Life is intrisically boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that's what makes it so boring.

—Edward Gorey



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),
and a littlesnake broadside from Marie Reynolds (Late Harvest).

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.