The house inside still looks like a house
but the blank rectangle of light
through the propped wide open front door
means emptiness. Inside, the slow men
move like mourners, noncommittal
among the labeled furniture, once decent
but today grown strangely shabby. Each table
is listed "scratched." In brightening
room to room, our pine-planked voices echo
as if they never spoke here before.
We watch moments of our lives move out
piece by piece through the front door
carelessly handled with care
by, for the moment, members of the family
(moving out, they move in
helplessly intimate, their big arms
touching our things, hauling
the weight of what we are).
We feel apologetic to be so heavy
and stand around like guests being served
saying, "Yes, that," and, "No, not that,"
watching decor become debris, and sunlight
sanding the floors already.
I drove by your house today at about 5 AM; pre-dawn trip down from Pollock to the airport to drop off Mom-in-Law Sammie Robertson-Corp, a loyal reader of Medusa (since we don't call her, that's how she knows we're still alive) who has even been known to tack up a poem on the Kitchen wall now and then. After five years by the Bay of Coos, she's moving back to Sac-environs, which brings us to our Seed of the Week: Moving Day. Write about your best moves, your worst, most painful, most traumatic, most exhilarating. We have several birdhouses on the property, and our local chickadee pair raised a brood in one house and then moved to another for the second brood. Stuff like that. Send your moving fruits to email@example.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOW's; here are a couple from last week's What Remains by Peggy Hill (who just moved, herself, in fact!).
BADWATER, DEATH VALLEY, CA
—Margaret Ellis Hill, Fair Oaks
I was there stepping on the land—
a dry inland sea, larger
than eyes could imagine.
Many brave men tried to cross
this wilderness alone, eyes
on calico canyons and mountains,
but never coming closer to safety.
A place called Stovepipe dunes,
skeletons lie exposed, bones found
in places named: Hell’s Gate,
Starvation Canyon, Dead Man Pass.
SILENCE HURTS THE EARS
—Margaret Ellis Hill
On rocks, I decipher petroglyphs,
Shoshone stories of life here—
visible footpaths that wind through
somber red-hued hills.
I find myself walking with them,
adjusting to the harshness of the valley.
I watch heat waves, listen to murmurs
those ghost echoes undulate.
I hear the Shaman song, try to
understand the words,
how to dance for the gods.
NOTE TO THE PREVIOUS TENANTS
Thank you for leaving the bar of soap,
the roll of paper towels,
the sponge mop, the bucket.
I tried to scrub the white floor clean,
discovered it impossible
and realized you had tried too.
Often, no doubt. The long hair in the sink
was a clue to what? Were you
boys or girls or what?
How often did you dance on the floor?
The place was broom clean. Your lives
were a great wind that has swept by.
Thank you; even the dirt
seemed a gift, a continuity
underlying the breaking of leases.
And the soap, green in veins
like meltable marble, and curved
like a bit of an ideal woman.
Lone, I took a bath with your soap
and had no towel not paper ones
and dried in the air like the floor.
THE NEW HOUSE
This place is not ours:
the window sill refuses
to wear our drying wishbone
and the floors don't fit
the worn spot for carpets
we seem to take
everywhere we go.
The house still sings
its own tune, sending
our footsteps along the floor
through timbers that creak
to keep the basement washer
company, peopling that lair
of webs and laundry
where the furnace lifts
its arms to warm
the room. But the rooms
are cold, bent
other hands caressing
woodwork with soft cloths
and feet that always
the places where
their pictures hung.
Soon enough, we know,
the rooms will give in.
Our own mice will shatter
cupboards and later
we will sprain our wrists
opening new bills.
But last night
to bring in the storm
and the back door banged
and banged, giving us
a message we could understand,
something menacing and wooden
that spoke, asking us to travel
to the storm's blind, silent eye.
GRANDMA CHOOSES HER PLOT AT
THE COUNTRY CEMETERY
If it can't be out on the hill somewhere
I guess it'll have to be here.
I don't expect where really matters,
only not next to him, not close:
life was too hard for him,
he's soured the soil. Over by
that leaning oak would do, though
the shade won't count—sun, shade,
and shower won't matter then—
and digging them roots'll be hard.
Fine, I want them to suffer putting me down.
And you can find me better next to it,
if you've a mind to come here again
after I'm under and the hill's gone.
And I don't care what you say:
you'll sell that farm and never go back.
It never was nothing to any of you.
By that leaning oak will be just fine;
and make my box simply and cheap,
pine or gum if you can get it, never
liked them shiny steel things: God can't
get to you and you can't get out.
When he splits the sky with the judgment sound,
I want the busting out easy. I want
the coming up easier than the going down.
...the whole world is a sky-blue butterfly
And words are the nets to capture it.
—Muhammad al-Ghuzzi, Tunis
COMING IN SEPTEMBER:
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 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/.
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 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 (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 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.