Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Wahl Named Nancy

Nancy Wahl

—Nancy Wahl, Carmichael

The day your legs betrayed you, dropped you
like a broken doll onto the pavement,

the ambulance came and hurled you into a future
of walkers with “neat little seats” and therapies
to do battle with the ugly and venomous
multiple sclerosis.

Afternoons I haunt Borders, sink into the big armchair
and think of you, my friend,
how you bought those incredibly high heels
the day you were made manager.

Now you go to rehab wearing your red silk pajamas.
I would be desolate.

I can’t force bravado about anything, especially
my own future threatened by blindness.
I sip coffee and watch people flock like paparazzi
around the self-help books.
If it bleeds, it leads.

Are there really sweet uses of adversity?
No one seems to be hanging around
the God books anymore.

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag!

I would search the Forest of Arden, if I could,
to find crested in the head of that ugly toad
the precious jewel. It would be shimmering I think,
like fluid, red, a stigmata
maybe from saints & angels bearing hope

T. S. Eliot worked through a breakdown
and found God.

Thanks, Nancy, for sending us poems in a week when we're talking about walls! Nancy Wahl writes: The picture is of a backyard in Placerville where my son used to live. It is a place where almost ghostly inspirations come into my mind. Like the kind of thoughts that come in voices from Out There. The Muses I guess we call them. I think of T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland whenever I’m there or even just looking at the picture: What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow / Out of this stony rubbish?

I’ve been studying the history of language and according to one theory, that of Julian Jaynes, poetry begins with the divine speech of the bicameral mind. There is controversy about his bicameral mind theory. However, I do believe that poetry is a part of that nostalgia for the absolute and the divine. Modern scholarship regards the language of theIliad to have been sung by the bards and aoidoi around 1230 BCE. Ancient writings were first “heard” then spoken. Even parts of the Old Testament. So I guess it’s kind of holy, being a poet.

Nancy’s previous awards include the Bazzanella award for a short story and a Bazzanella award for poetry, plus prizes from Literature Alive, Tiger’s Eye and a recent New Millennium Honorable Mention. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her work has appeared in
Sacramento Anthology: One Hundred Poems and in Poets Corner Press Anthology, as well as The Tule Review, Convergence, Poetry Now, The Christian Science Monitor, The Suisun Valley Review, Pony Fish and Blueberries on Mars from Poets Corner Press.


—Nancy Wahl

From a story in the Upanishads one bird
eats the fruit and the other merely watches.

I saw a Psychoanalyst years ago
and he kept bringing up

Karen Horney and her theory about the real self
and the idealized self
with its eternal neediness.

Apparently if all doesn’t go well
when one is growing up—
one is emotionally caged in, locked up
developing artificial ways of coping
with others, living
in the imagination and becoming
the hero, the supreme lover,
the saint, the god,
anyone not real,
anything to be safe and not reveal
what you feel.

One hot summer evening when our marriage
was coming apart we walked
to the levee to check on the boys.
There were no words. We had lost words
long ago.
I wanted to tell you how handsome you
looked in the flight jacket you were
wearing and how seeing you that night
in the rosy dusk made me want you.
Things might have turned out differently
if only I had spoken.


—Nancy Wahl

The first seen but the least understood,
the child reaching out in innocence.

If there was pain
it's worth counting, too,

the protons in the nucleus of a feeling
—an element with no matter, no mass, no

Lured into being—
unfolding, impatient,

this species, suckles stars,
devours lights, but not the first one.


—Nancy Wahl

For days I watched the robin mother,
busy little chatelaine!

Three tiny yellow beaks poking into the air
as she frantically flew back and forth
bringing food.
Then they were gone. All but one baby bird,
its rusty down fluttering
as it tumbled to the lawn, and all day

the mother robin’s persistent tut-tut-tuting,
coaxing, scurrying around the poor little thing,
piping out her solemn wail.

When Belle’s mother
searched her teen-age daughter’s room
for clues,
she tells me, No, no, she would never chat
with a stranger on the Internet.

Her friends come, including a young boyfriend
who had given her a pink velvet rabbit,
and they all hold hands and cry and pray.
A detective comes and takes the computer.
In that computer maybe is evidence
of some dark person
with sticky snares and sweet promises,
and the detective almost cries because, he says,
fourteen is such a desperate age for love.

It is said that once a compassionate little robin
flew alongside Jesus and plucked
the thorns from his head.

Belle’s mother took the pink rabbit from
her daughter’s bed and held it close to her heart;
she clutched that rabbit resolutely as she moved
back and forth through the room,
searching for a scrap of paper, something, a note
with an address or a phone number…anything.
She will not stop and she can’t

because it is given to her to keep moving.


—Nancy Wahl

The church I go to is small.
I can wear my orange visor cap
and my Levi jeans,
if they are clean

and raise my hand high singing to Jesus.
It’s the judging,
though, that bothers me
so I argue Wednesday evenings

the admonishments
in Romans 14:
eating meat or not eating meat,
one day holy, a different day holy.

There’s a new church high up the hill,
a small pavilion with a courtyard,
solarium and a coffee kiosk.
The women wear their best dresses.

I’ve thought about going there
some Sunday,
not wearing my orange visor cap
of course.


Today's LittleNip:

Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves...

—Rainer Maria Rilke


My thanks to Nancy Wahl for her wonderful poetry, to Claire J. Baker for Today's LittleNip, and to the readers and community for last night's rattleread, including David Houston for helping out on the theremin.

There's LOTS going on in area poetry this week (see Monday's post), but we need to add the following: On 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!


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.