Wednesday, October 28, 2009


—Ann Privateer, Davis

Did you ever carve a pumpkin
feel its slimy seeds slither
between fingers and hands?

Did you ever light a candle
watch it flicker inside
the orange cavern?

Did you ever keep a jack-o-lantern
on the porch until it changed
into a blackened web?

Did you ever wonder why
there are never twins
in the pumpkin patch?


—Ann Privateer

Pumpkins by day
are safe enough
for baking a pie

but by night they
become sinister
bodies of fright

lined up on an old
abandoned road

with no place to go
telling scary tales.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Fog filters everything outside
but gray-black of the great oak rooted
snag-silhouette at the edge
where earth drops off to nothing.
A stiff-barked skeleton still standing,
the ghost of Patience.

All day we burned lamps and stoked
the stove while fog dismantled
what we know of solid ground.
This evening, ghosts of the old year
cold, not quite transparent,
gather around our fire.


—Taylor Graham

I listen in the dark to noises muffled
by the house. The wind
shuffling leaves and ancestors
in windfall heaps. Maybe an owl too far
away to say it’s not coyote, or
crazy Aunt Hermione in her starched
old-lady sheets. It’s Halloween.
Time to carve a toothless face in autumn’s
harvest. An acorn hits the roof.
Then something sloughs across beam
or shingle. Flatfooted
ghost, featureless as night thoughts
slipped to dream. By dawn-light,
who will that be
behind my mask in the mirror?
What will I find in the lint
of a pocket’s seam?


—Taylor Graham

I’m walking down Main Street, past the Bell Tower
with its ghosts of three girls murdered, 1984,
to the Hangman’s Tree saloon, built on the stump
of the old hanging-tree. Shielding my eyes
against late sun, I look up at mortise-and-tenon joints
holding rafters and beams in place since 1853.
The lynch-effigy that for hung so long from a rafter
is gone—offensive to modern sensibilities.
A chill wind is window-shopping down Main Street,
speaking in ghost-talk to the dead. A gust peeks
into the old saloon, survivor of earthquake, fire,
flood. Can it survive our notions of progress, our
building codes and declarations of “hazard to public
safety”? A bit of reinforcing here and there,
a new roof, a paint job—it’ll be good for another
150 years. Tear down the old building’s ages,
where will the ghosts go?


—Taylor Graham

Here’s a teddy-bear slipper,
worn the evening she disappeared,
just down the street from this dead-end
on the east edge of town, cistern
for a city’s waste—floral couch sagging
into mire among shards of amber glass
(plinkers’ target practice); a headless
doll; chicken-wire on a frame;
a crimson agate in a spill of broken rock.
Footprints hardened into soil, none
small enough to be a child’s.
Anise and wild celery, willow bent
over standing water.
On ponderous wings a heron rises
from the cattails, long legs
trailing behind. If it could tell us
what it’s seen—no, it’s gone
without a sign.


—Taylor Graham

Indio, California, c 1951. 7 yrs old.
I had 20 cents.
1 plastic horse cost 10 cents (no tax);
2 plastic horses, 20 cents plus tax.
My parents taught me thrift.
I bought 1 plastic horse, buckskin (10 cents).
Then I bought another plastic horse, black (10 cents).
No tax.
I’ve always been low-finance,
I’m a poet.
I still collect horses,
the kind that canter in my mind.


Thanks to Ann Privateer and Taylor Graham for today's post. We're talking about ghosts this week, for some reason... Send your ghost poems to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. You know they're hanging around out there, just waiting for you.........

Photo by Ann Privateer


Today's LittleNip:

A cold autumn night—
I clutch my white robe;
The bright, clear moon covers the sky.




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.