Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If These Walls Could Talk...

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Twenty years ago today,
the Berlin Wall came down, down
but not out of its low yet wide
infinitude in my boy imagination
—“low-browed Homer” was Keats’s
bleary first inspiration in a now famous sonnet—
and, sure as Homer had eyebrows, this thing
beetled, bristled, stopped even JFK with its involutes

of barbed wire. The low-browed creature, for it was
a creature, by sheer emanation of negative thought,
sent brickwork, leg irons, torture cells, Brandenburg Gates,
Cold War spies, or spies with simple colds, like tendrilling
image-clusters all through gray fifty-cent Dell paperbacks.

Soon its thuggish evil vibes coiled and lodged
like a chilled-asleep snake until all of a sudden, the Wall
had vanished! it was European Spring! Orchestras
like thick, lustrous orchids, and, along with touchy-feely
Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa was everywhere:
he pointed with his slender white stick,

and, to the lewd profundities of Orff’s Carmina Burana
—oh, mad young pagan monks (something
thrusting despite ourselves out our robes) we all are—
there was rapturous Kathleen Battle, that sylph
of opera, raising aloft her own (clothed) breasts
and, in effect, singing, Take me, take me now!

I used to have a chunk of the Berlin Wall,
just a big scraggletooth of cement, the smooth outer
part tagged in two swashes, one yellow-green, one black;
but no longer to have that is to have only
the air, the naked and free air we all again own,
now that spring has come and Kathleen sung.


Thanks to Tom Goff and Sal Buttaci for our poetry today. Twenty years ago, at least one wall came tumbling down. To celebrate, let's write about walls: racial walls, political walls, stone walls/stonewalls, garden walls, climbing the walls, wall-to-wall, seawalls, hitting the wall, castle walls, brick walls, the walls have ears, if these walls could talk... Send your Seeds of the Week: Walls to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs.

And don't forget: Today the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission honors Mary Zeppa for her lifetime of valuable contributions and accomplishments in the field of poetry, including her outstanding work to bring poetry to the Sacramento community. A resolution will be presented to Mary in a brief ceremony by the City Council Tuesday at 6 PM in their chambers at 915 I St., Sacramento, and the public is invited.


—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

Somehow I always end up
in a cheap motel: you know the one,
on the edge of town between the tracks
and the Interstate, dank rooms with pea-
soup paint peeling back from some crooked,
faded print—a seascape, maybe,
with yellowing lawn furniture and geraniums,
someplace far from here—

These pea-soup paper walls bulge
with borrowed sounds: shards of sibilants
cut right through that dingy seascape. Scored
mostly for soprano and bass, muffled lumps
of snores and sex and crying babies bump and bang
around my soup-can room as if the ocean
on the wall has roared to life.

I have stayed in ritzier digs, with valets
and free shampoo, and soda machines
that actually work. The cool brass and glass
in such still places reflect only silence; no faded
prints hang in those empty rooms.

So I’m heading back up the Interstate to
the cheap motel. I guess I miss
those seascapes. . .


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Part squarish Romanesque church,
part Rococo, with great spreading
fans or half-fans of ceiling stuccowork
each taking the pinprick of the chandelier
brooch-fashion into its breastlike height,
part polished railing around
the dress-circle above a void
darker than Victorian carriage-houses,

all fancy in its carousel stone Pegasuses,
stained-glass windows like station stops
along a Gaudi bullet-train joyride,
lipped like the exterior’s lovely granite
chorister who supresses the smile
her lips can’t help but impart
in a joyous whole note, conductor just told
a splendid raunchy joke about three violists,

all banisters and pilasters, all columns
in capitals too flamboyant even for Corinth,
all hard shots of notes off all the right
acoustic places, with fretwork stars
and love-knots and splintered orange tile
and Wagner’s sinister countenance
looking on in benignant blessing
of a sister Gesamtkunstwerk,

billiard-ball-pachinko-and-fire palace,
every teeming ingredient basted
and coated with sexual essences of itself,
a New Poem if Rilke had run to architect,
all quark and quirk molded into Pompeiian
flesh turned fossil, not frozen music but music
first frozen, anointed with gasoline liqueur,
then lit hotter than flambé, the spirit of icy play
still alive, still cold, in its brick and crystal heart.


—Salvatore Buttaci, Princeton, WVa

she can make wishes beneath
the evening sky one star at a time
until she covers all she sees
fills her head like a basket
with dreams to last a lifetime

but the stars have no clue
about the wants of a child
the wish list she keeps secret
in the diary pages of her mind
the stars are too far away

too preoccupied with twinkling
in outer space to hear her
too hard-pressed to figure out
what they could do to please her
but every night she shouts
to the sky one more wish


Today's LittleNip (speaking of walls...):

We pass the word around; we ponder how the case is put by different people; we read the poetry; we meditate over the literature; we play the music; we change our minds; we reach an understanding. Society evolves this way, not by shouting each other down, but by the unique capacity of unique, individual human beings to comprehend each other.

—Lewis Thomas, U.S. Biologist



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 rattlesnakepress.com/.

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 kathykieth@hotmail.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 likelihoodof 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.

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.

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 fandrickfabpub@hotmail.com (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/.)


Join us on Wednesday, November 11
for a new chapbook from Dawn DiBartolo
(Secrets of a Violet Sky)
Rattlesnake Reprint #2 from frank andrick
(PariScope: A Triptyche)
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 kathykieth@hotmail.com (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.