Saturday, October 31, 2009

For All Souls

Photo by Art Beck

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

She filled her hands
With winter light and November's
Crows, a cacophany of wings
Against the blue of early evening.

Children used to come here.
There were hills and copses and woods
Challenging the imagination with shadows
Caught alive in stories of the Fall.

The road ended at her mouth,
Full of weeds and drifting terrors
Searching for a body to accompany
During the dark evenings of the waning year.

Shaken, she reaches for the twilight
As if it were a vessel of some kind,
Easy on any sea, unmoved and with sails
Painted in the colors of forgetting.

To dream was to vanish into memory,
The twinkle of an eye,
The brush of a hand across a shoulder,
No place for sharing stories, whispering.

This time of year is full of stuff
Like this, fine of hand and bathed
In a crystal construct made of wood,
Made of fire, made of singing.

She was not given to understand
More of this than her hands covered
With the cool and brilliant light.
She wishes us luck as we continue

Toward the shoreline, the same light
Glinting off the water, infecting
Our minds, making everything in life
A challenge and the turning of the days
Borne on the backs of black birds
Exploding time with cackling and shrieking.


—Art Beck, San Francisco

Something happened to us.
We sense it in our genes.
Whether it was the rebuff
of a secret garden

or an errant spaceship
marooned light years from
home on a hopeless
world—somewhere, somehow, long

ago, we lost something—too painfully
to recall. Something so lovely
our blood can’t forget.

Music remembers, wine
remembers, and lovers, like drunken
angels, console their helpless wings.


—Art Beck

(for Al Masarik)

A lazy, open door Saturday.
The sly, Chinese waitress quietly
flirts with you in painful English
while the cook chops vegetables for the soup.

You flirt with the bacon on your plate.
Your bacon—you think—has already flirted
with disaster, has no further
interest in any of this. But outside,

over the chimneys,
a black Halloween balloon set
free the morning after
sails like the risen Lazarus
into a blue, unsuspecting day.

Behind the bar, under spotless glasses,
the rich purple bottles lounge in rows
like squads of fat cops fingering
their nightsticks, waiting to
march you off to lunch.
And who’s that walking past
the window on legs you can’t
take your eyes off?

What’s in the air that’s so
helpless and promising? Everyone knows
about spring, but that snappy copper
headed woman’s hair really needs
this hard, November, sidewalk light,
this especially anxious breeze to flutter

in that I don’t mind winter come
get me way. Even in November, something
in the blood can’t ever say no,
doesn’t care you can’t say why.


All Souls Day, 2008
—Art Beck

Arranged this way in front of the empty bandstand
in the fog, they’re a convocation of ghosts each with its
own ID tag—the plaques sold by the forever needy City
to mourners abandoned by their dead.

Mother, father, sister, wife, child, husband:
each name inscribed in a brass sodality of sorrow,
whispering to the deaf, brash strollers who sit and ignore
the shocked begging mouths of a speechless wound.

But they’re beyond that now, internees imprisoned
in endless snow, or wincing in a sudden desert of wind
and dust. Their names are all they’ve left behind,

coins from the turned out pockets of the condemned.
If they lived once, they’ll always live, but always
hungry as anything that’s born will always be.

Today's LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner

There are no stars in the sky tonight.
It is not because of the clouds.
The ego is so immense.
I feel I have called this to myself.


Thanks to D.R. Wagner and Art Beck for their musings on Halloween and about tomorrow, All Saints/All Souls Day.


SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:


RR23 is now available free at The Book Collector,
and contributor and subscription copies
have gone into the mail—you should've received yours;
let me know if you haven't.
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 was Oct. 15;
it'll be released at Luna's on Thursday, Nov. 19.
Next deadline (for Issue #5) is Jan. 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

Now available from SPC or at The Book Collector:
Our new 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 30-year history.


Join us on Wednesday, November 11
for a new chapbook from Dawn DiBartolo (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.