Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CitySongs, II

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—SLiC, Sacramento

(to be read to the wailing of a didgeridoo)

Click shick!

the windblown flame of the battered Zippo

fills the doorway of the dark hotel;
My cigarette glows like the last log on the hearth.

I close my eyes—

my ears

are taken

Helicopter blades slice the night

circling like vultures,

they put guns to the city's head;

a motorcycle snarls

patrolling its territory;
neon signs hum nonsense
about flickering dreams;

I try to focus on the smoke that

fills my lungs and burns like home.
a Volkswagen on its last leg;

a tow truck wanting to go home;
a fading street lamp buzzes
buzzes buzzes

loud in my ears—

but not louder than my brain

my buzzing screaming brain

I'm trying to set it on fire
another breath

set it on fire on fire fire

radiators boil over;

bats everywhere;

a lost brass horn;

the symphony is constant;

when I run to the back of my eyelids,

the city still sings—
dissonant, mad,
warm like blood;

every night like a final performance:

desperate and tense

a street sweeper moans and shuffles by

this cigarette is too small to hide behind

when it's burned out I'll

head to the diner, play some Elvis,

wait for the next high


Thanks, Stuart Livingston Canton! We're singing about the city this week, though Taylor Graham says: I didn't want to go to a city to be inspired, so fell back on one of Vitkovsky's weird paintings. Besides, with the anniversary of the Loma Prieta, I guess I've got earthquake on my mind. Mitz Sackman echoes TG's sentiments about country life, then Patricia Wellingham-Jones and Patricia Hickerson remember what we used to call The City—San Francisco (Baghdad by the Bay):

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

See how skyline cuts through the girth
of houses, cinder-block and mortar, horizon
that calls for an angel

on earthquake wings. Inhale
the afterscent of smog pressing earth. Air
expressed from lungs. Who could sing

under the weight of so much sky?
On the ground, under the threat of wings
a man with a guitar is playing

as if the angel dispensed dreams in his sleep.
Jackstraw timbers and beams.
This morning the earth woke him shaking.

Did he dream that memory, or
did he wake remembering how sky over city
shatters to let heaven through?


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

I have been so long in the forest
I can barely remember the song
The sounds, the rhythm, the heartbeat
Of city streets
Visiting New York City a couple of years back
Renewed memories
Steep stairwells with echoing voices and footsteps
Conversations in the bar below
Flashing neon lights, no stars above
Sirens yowling 24/7
A pace that no longer suits my country soul


—Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Tehama

My nose rubs a pattern
of drips and longing
against a window pane frosted
by raincoat-covered breath.

Inside paradise an old man putters,
wrinkled in clothing, gray in skin,
his is the dream
creating my vision.

Room a white shoebox
striped floor to ceiling
in shelves. Fragile spines
march to rafters.

From the narrow back wall,
over doors and meager window,
volumes' muted voices
whisper under the door.

Two cracked leather chairs,
scrap of Persian carpet,
small desk frowning
at frivolity.

White light from a crystal center
probes the saturated night.
Core unguarded, helpless—

Weeks later, miles away, I yearn
to throw pallet on Persian,
oust the bookworm in possession,
bring French bread, wine and beans

and simply stay.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

poor Bobby had a bullet in his thigh
he wouldn’t tell me who had put it there
we lit up joints to reach a mellow high
then danced till dawn and scarcely had a care

he wouldn’t tell me who had put it there
his girlfriend’s flat was soon filled up with folks
we danced till dawn and scarcely had a care
we never had a shortage of shared tokes

his girlfriend’s flat was soon filled up with folks
I hoped this night would never have an end
we never had a shortage of shared tokes
to leave at dawn would on a cab depend

I hoped this night would never have an end
but Clarence had the money so we left
to leave at dawn would on a cab depend
I mourned for Bobby; and I felt bereft

but Clarence had the money so we left
poor Bobby had a bullet in his thigh
I mourned for Bobby, and I felt bereft
we shared a final joint and said goodbye


Today's LittleNip:

Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.




SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:


RR23 is now available free at The Book Collector,
and contributor and subscription copies
will go into the mail by the end of this week.
You may also order a copy through

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!


Now available at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento:
A new chapbook from Brad Buchanan (The War Groom)
and a new Rattlesnake LittleBook from
William S. Gainer: Joining the Demented.

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

Then gear up the flivver for a ROAD TRIP on Monday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 PM
as we all travel over to HQ for the Arts, 25th & R Sts., Sacramento
for Rattlesnake Press's release of the new SPC anthology,
Keepers of the Flame: The First 30 Years of the Sacramento Poetry Center.
Editor-in-Chief Mary Zeppa and her helpers have put together
many, many documents and photos
from SPC's history, and the resulting anthology (and SPC's 30th anniversary!)
will be celebrated that night. Be there!


Join us on Wednesday, November 11
for a new chapbook from dawn di bartolo (Secrets of a Violet Sky);
Rattlesnake Reprint #2, this one from frank andrick (Triptych);
plus our 2010 calendar from Katy Brown (Wind in the Yarrow)!
That's 7:30 PM at The Book Collector. Be there!


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.