Friday, November 13, 2009

Still Wall-Eyed

466 pine needles and sycamore leaf
Photo by Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Tehama

—Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Pine needles
and sycamore leaves
drift from the trees.
Our boots slip
on the steep trail.
We rest on a boulder,
notice images
beneath our feet.
of nature’s patterns
in tones of brown
and gold.


Thanks, Pat, for the most seasonal poem and pic! And the walls came tumbling in—wall poems, that is. Pull up a chair, have a cuppa mochajavafrappacrappuccino and take a look-see at what some of our locals have to say about the subject of walls. But first, check out the reminder of all that's going on this weekend, including the Sac Poetry Festival tonight at the Guild Theater on Broadway.

And don't forget:
Deadline is November 15 for Rattlesnake Review #24: 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.

This weekend in NorCal poetry:

•••Friday (11/13), 6-11 PM: Word: Sacramento Poetry Festival hosted by Terry Moore at Guild Theater, 2828 35th St., Sacramento. Five hours of poetry readers as diverse as Kathleen Lynch, Bob Stanley, B.L. Kennedy and Supernova (and many others, with music in the middle). Sponsored by Sacramento Poetry Center and The Center for Fathers and Families. $2 admission. Info: or

•••Saturday (11/14) from 5 AM to 2 PM, there will be an all-day "Skype" broadcast of Distant Voices: A Virtual Poetry Festival originating in The Byre Theatre, St. Andrews, Scotland ( Poets will read at live events at satellite venues in their own cities around the world and will be linked up online with an audience in St. Andrews. Our own poets Bob Stanley, Rebecca Morrison and Indigo Moor will be reading at The Book Collector at 1 PM, so you could come hear them, but if you arrive at 5 AM, you'll be able to join them for breakfast and watch the entire event on Richard Hansen's computer! Amazing!

•••Meanwhile, cowboy poetry continues through Sun. (11/15) at the 15th Annual Cowpoke Fall Gathering at the Blue Goose Fruit Shed, 3550 Taylor Rd., Loomis. Featuring Bigtime Cowboy Poet Baxter Black, plus Pat Richardson, Rod Erickson, Jeff Severson, Kimberly Hess, Chanda Eubanks. Also opening reception ($30), free Open Mic on Sat. AM and free Cowboy Church Sunday AM. Tickets now on sale for reception, Sat. matinee and other events at Blue Goose Produce, at Foothill Feed and Gift, or at Main Drug in Loomis. Info/schedule: or or call 916-652-4480. Sponsored by Loomis Basin Vet Clinic and High-Hand Nursery to benefit the So. Placer Heritage Foundation and the Blue Goose Fruit Shed Renovation Project.

•••Sat. (11/14), 2 PM: Citrus Heights Area Poets presents Bob (Pinky) Nielsen at Barnes & Noble Books on Sunrise Avenue in Citrus Heights. Bob will read some of his poems and bring copies of his two books: A Wanderer’s Star and Imagination’s Journey. Bob lives in Roseville and writes under the name of R. S. Pinky Nielsen. He inherited his father’s red hair and light complexion, as well as his nickname “Pinky”. As a young “Air Force brat” he lived on different military bases in California, Washington, and on the beautiful Isle of Bermuda. During his senior year of high school, he enlisted in the Naval Air Reserves and was assigned to Whidbey N.A.S. in northwestern Washington. He and his wife enjoy their two grown children who have blessed them with seven grandchildren. Open mic will follow; read your own poems or just listen.

•••Sat. (11/14 and every 2nd and 4th Sat.), 10-11:30 AM: Sacramento Poetry Center 2nd and 4th Sat. workshop with Emmanuel Sigauke and Frank Dixon Graham. South Natomas Community Center (next door to S. Natomas Library), 2921 Truxel Rd., Sacramento. Bring ten copies of your one-page poem to read/critique. Info:

•••Sat. (11/14 and every 2nd Sat.), 3 PM: “Poetic License” meets at Books ‘n’ Bears, 6211-A Pleasant Valley Rd., El Dorado. Poems may be long or short, rhymed or prose, amateur or pro, or anything in between. Listeners welcome! Info: Mari Dunn, 530-621-1766 or

•••Sat. (11/14 and every 2nd Sat.), 1 PM: Writer’s Bloc, a creative writing group, meets in the El Dorado County Main Library, 345 Fair Lane, Placerville. Bring your favorite writing paraphernalia and get your creative juices flowing with a writing session to share, critique and support each other. Creative writing professor Debora Larry-Kearney facilitates. Free, sponsored by Friends of the Library. Teens and adults only. Info: Main Library, 530-621-5540.

•••Sat. (11/14), 10 AM-7 PM: Joe Finkleman and other local artists will be at the Fine Artists and Contemporary Craftspeople Show at Giovanni Hall, 58th & M Sts., Sacramento. Proceeds benefit children/programs of St. Mary School; admission $3 in advance, $5 at the door (kids under 12 free). Info: 916-451-1100 or, or their facebook page: search for “Fine Art and Craft Show”.

•••Sat. (11/14), 1:30 PM: Modesto Poet Laureate Ed Bearden will be one of those reading at the Song of the San Joaquin reading at the McHenry Museum, 1402 “I” Street, Modesto, (209) 577-5366. Free. Open Mike to follow. Light refreshments. Info: Cleo Griffith, or (209) 543-1776. And Song of the San Joaquin is accepting poetry through December 15 for the Winter Issue. Info: Cleo Griffith, (209) 543-1776,

•••Sat. (11/14), 12-9 PM: Tenth Anniversary Celebration of WORDS Performances will be held in Yosemite National Park. All past performers are cordially invited to attend and share again. Please rsvp early, as James Downs would like to set up a schedule of performances ( This will be an all-day coffee house with a formal celebration segment in the evening. Bring your poems, songs, tales, short stories or novel excerpts to share.

•••Sunday (11/15), 7 PM: Mary Mackey and Francisco X. Alarcón read at Time Tested Books, 1114 21st St., Sacramento. The event is free, however a donation—which goes to the poets—is requested. [See last Monday's post for bios.]

•••Monday (11/16), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents two of the West Coast Literary Scene’s most legendary contributors, poets Bill Gainer and R.D. Armstrong. K. St. Marie of R.L. Crow Publications says, "These guys touch all possibility. Their work not only entertains, but enlightens. They remind us what it is to live, love, wish and hope—they remind us what it is to be alive!” Admission is free! Refreshments and open-mic included, at the Sacramento Poetry Center, 1719 25th Street. Call for information: (916) 979-9706.

Bill Gainer is known for the openness of his confessional poetry and is recognized as one of the founding contributors to the modern movement of "After Hours Poetry". He has contributed to the literary scene as a writer, editor, promoter, publicist, publisher and poet. Gainer considers himself forever influenced by an odd mix of outsiders. He says, early on he was swept away by the clarity, boldness, courage and brevity of the works of Richard Brautigan and Michael McClure. Later he found himself enthralled with the storytelling talents of the likes of Tom Waits, William Kennedy, Johnny Cash, Freddy Fender and a legion of “Meat Poets." Gainer has a longstanding love of the short poem, but is often more recognized for his longer pieces. He continues to read and work with a wide range of poets and writers, including readings on KUSF radio with Punk-Rocker Patti Smith and performances with California Poet Laureate, Al Young. Gainer can be previewed at

R.D. Armstrong, aka: Raindog, has published 14 chapbooks and four full-length collections of poetry, his most recent being Fire and Rain Selected Poems, volumes #1 and #2. His poems are widely published and he is a sought-after performer on the Southern California poetry scene. With a laugh, Armstrong says of his poems, "No kids, no wife, no house, no new car—I am not exactly living the American dream. That is kind of what I write about." He is also the editor and publisher of Lummox Press, which produces the online Lummox Journal, the Little Red Book Series (currently at 59 titles) and several stand-alone titles, including: LAST CALL: the Legacy of Charles Bukowski and the recently released anthology, Down this Crooked Road. Check out


—Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Tehama

The young woman’s wobbly voice
said on the message machine
my stepson was in a hospital
states and time zones away.
She gave me a garbled number to call.

The nurse practitioner
at the remote hospital
then phoned with the news.
He’s dying fast, doesn’t know anyone,
nothing to do.

I dialed the first number,
then variations, came up blank.

His son needs to know.
I consulted the ragged slip
in my address book over the years.
Tried to reach an ex-wife,
came up blank.

I phoned his son’s embittered ex-wife,
she said he’d disappeared
but she’d look for a number.
Neither of us held much hope.

I guess I’ve hit a transparent wall,
good intentions get lost in space.
Those numbers built over the years
no longer link the family.


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

(after LADY IN BLUE, 1939—Tamara De Lempicka)

There is a sadness that holds a woman close.
She calls it mood—colors it blue,
sits within until the blue adheres.

The blue is a wall—
flat and
shadowless. It fastens to her like a painting.

Her face does not give you more than this.
She will not let you find her eyes
with yours.

She folds her arms
and looks into a receding distance
from which she may or may not return.

Whatever you would ask
will not be answered.
The blue wall guards against this,

protects her from invasion—
whispers to her—reminds her of its power,
pulls her closer and closer.


—Joyce Odam

(after Dusk by Ben Shawn)

She glides by the long soft wall of twilight with its
graffiti of stars. She pulls her cloak close to her face
and has a hard time holding its folds in place. She is

that vague white movement in the dusk—moving
so slowly one might not think she is moving at all.
The wall is a long one; she is trying to reach the other

end of it, before she is seen, before she is recognized.
She is from another sleep in someone else’s dream.
She cannot find the night she started from. She is

losing definition and starting to blend into the wall.
three stars have fastened to her robe, thinking her part
of the sky. Still, she hides in her cloak, as if invisible.


—Patrica Pashby, Sacramento

The ER is crowded and they keep
coming, filling all the chairs,
leaning against the grungy walls.

Confusion and fear come in quietly,
huddle in the corner, whispering.

Worry and anger push through the doors,
letting them slam behind them.

Suffering and pain whimper softly,
louder sobs coming without warning.

Resignation and defeat sit alone, slumped,
heads down, eyes averted.

Patience and tolerance stand outside on the stairs,
smoking, staring down at their feet.

Loving kindness drives by, glances at the no-parking signs,
makes a U-turn and moves on down the street.


—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

A mid-17th-century proverb says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
My parents had neighbors they got along great with for years
until they got a rowdy dog that practically destroyed the property line fence
The divorced mom with kids mostly left the lab mix alone all day
Out of boredom it attacked and chewed through the wooden beams in between
Finally when the dog punched through its timbers into my parents' yard
Well, that was the end of friendly relations and "war" with them began
since the fence’s weathering couldn't let it hold up to such abuse
Most insulting was that the neighbors would not pay for it to be mended
for they were renters and my parents were property owners
So hence, the fence fell into being entirely my parents' responsibility
even though they weren't the ones at fault for causing the damage
Meanwhile as the neighbors neglected the dog
they outright refused offers to give "Buddy" to someone else
who could provide him plenty of roaming space
rather than the suburban plot he'd outgrown from puppyhood
Buddy refused to be contained within such walls as such a tame pet
So the dog regularly busted its way out of their adjacent front gate
and threatened to attack others, including an elderly lady living next door
(his owners even bailed him out of the pound though they wouldn't "walk" him!)
Perhaps prayers to stay at peace with his owners were answered
when these neighbors decided to move rather than, likely, end up in court…


Today's LittleNip:

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.

—Anais Nin


—Medusa (with thanks again to Claire Baker for Today's LittleNip)

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 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!


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)!

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 (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


The Thread of Dreams,
a new chapbook from
Carol Frith,
will be premiered at
The Book Collector on
December 9, 7:30 PM,
along with the new issue of
Rattlesnake Review.
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.