Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mr. Death and Other Secrets

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Yep, in Sacramento it's the week following the 25th of December
The kids out of school don't know what to do—
maybe get into a fight or decide to break a light display
if not attempt to break into cars left in a parking lot
The shopping mall stores just have well-picked-over leftovers
that aren't any better for even half the price they were before
(also likely being made by sweatshop slaves)
Clothing made of thin materials that could even fall apart in the wash
I was interested in a plain black summer T-shirt at a Marshalls
because it had a carnitured skull and read "Dead Poets Society"
but, being a "designer", they wouldn't let it go for less than $10
I left it behind like the piles of Chinese-made berets at Macy's
(even though usually I like wearing hats a lot)
and the digital cameras on sale for $69 at Best Buy
which were not Macintosh compatible
I think I'd be better just sticking with second-hand stores
and not waste the little money I was gifted

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


Thanks to all our artists and poets today; a potpourri of the poetically-inclined!


My Big Printer has roared back to life! Like Rumpelstiltskin, it seems like it was asleep for 100 years. The death of my computer caused a total reconfiguration of the house system, and we ended up having to move not only me and all my almost-lost files (to Sam's computer), but both printers and my scanner into one of his work rooms, as well. But now all is moved, all is solved, and all of this vagabond equipment actually consented to work with the new computer! In short, the last of the current issue of Rattlesnake Review will go into the mail this week and next.

Poetry Doings of Note:

•••The 84th Annual Berkeley Poets’ Dinner/Contest will be held in Oakland on March 20, 2010. This is a long-standing (well, 84 years!) event that some of our Sacramento/environs poets attend—and our area poets usually win quite a few of the prizes. The deadline is January 10 to enter the contest, and then you must be present at the lunch on March 20 to claim your prize. Write to me if you’d like a copy of the information sheet (and registration for the lunch).

•••CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Canuckifornia, an anthology of Canadian writings about California, seeks short stories, essays (personal or academic) and/or poems (or groups of up to 10 poems). Contributors should be natives of Canada, former or current Canadian citizens, or former or current permanent residents of Canada. The purpose of this collection is to display a range of Canadian reactions to (and appropriations of) the myths and realities of California, a state where many expatriates have gathered. Canadians have migrated to the Golden State to pursue careers in the entertainment industry, Silicon Valley, academia and many other fields, and they have brought their own sensibilities to bear on the so-called “Golden State.” At the same time, California’s laid-back image, individualistic ethos and new mixture of ethnic influences have forced many Canadians to confront and question their own approach to life, both on the professional and the personal levels. Yet California’s high cultural profile in North America means that no Canadian with any degree of interest in life abroad can have failed to form a vivid impression of its influence. Thus contributors need not have resided in (or even visited) California to be considered. Submissions or questions may be sent via regular mail to Roan Press, P.O. Box 160406, Sacramento, CA 95816 (USA) or via email to roanpress@gmail.com/. Submissions received by Jan. 1, 2010, will be considered for inclusion. The collection will be edited by Dr. Bradley Buchanan, Associate Professor of English at California State University Sacramento. Professor Buchanan is a native of Windsor, Ontario.

•••Sun. (1/17), 2-4 PM: Getting Your Poetry Published Workshop by Connie Post at Towne Center Books, 555 Main St., Pleasanton. So you've written some poems. Ready for some for some common sense advice and strategies on how to navigate the path to publication? Connie Post, the first City of Livermore Poet Laureate (2005-2009), has been published in over 30 national print journals in the past four years. Learn how to navigate editors, submissions guidelines—and rejection—and get your poems published! Cost: $10.00. Reservations recommended; info@townecenterbooks.com or (925) 846-8826.

Seed of the Week: Give-away: Lira for the New Year!

Send us a lira about the New Year and I'll send you a copy of Dawn DiBartolo's recent rattlechap, Secrets of a Violet Sky (or any other rattlechap of your choosing). There's a deadline on this: midnight on Sunday, Jan. 3. Send 'em to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.

What's a lira?

a. stanzaic: popularly written in one or a short number of quintains (5-line stanzas). The form is occasionally found in sixains and on rare occasions, quatrains. (In other words, 4-6 lines, but let's go with five. Can be just one stanza or several.)

b. syllabic: the lines are usually in a fixed pattern of 7 and 11 syllables: 7, 11, 7, 7, 11. The last line of the stanza is always 11 syllables. If more than one stanza, the first stanza establishes the fixed pattern.

c. often written with Line 2 repeated as Line 5. (Ooo, goody! Repeated lines!)

d. rhymed: several possibilities, but let's go with 7a, 11b, 7a, 7a, 11b—or last line can repeat line 2.

Here's an example [note: this one has an alternate rhyme scheme]:

—Judi Van Gorder

Fingertips rapidly tap,
chosen letters appear in black on the screen.
Words are formed to fill the gap
between thoughts and sounds unseen.
Chosen letters appear in black on the screen.

And here's another one from Sacramento's Elsie Feliz, who was kind enough to give us this background information:

—Elsie Whitlow Feliz

I yearn for blossoming spring:
those pastels, and pink, softening the season.
I want to follow the string
through life's labyrinth, and sing
a heavenly hymn for no earthly reason.


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

I blurred miserably
in Zoology a million
years ago. But now

I'd like to place
under a microscope
spider silk, my soul.


—Claire J. Baker

The fragile woman I take to church
gives me a tall stout candle—
a golden wick & wax.

I support her up to my truck,
take her big purse, tuck her in,
fasten her seat belt,

then she reminds me of my belt:
we're like a long-married couple
with a set boarding pattern...

And now a monstrous candle
between us to cast cheer
over English tea & crumpets.


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

Bought at a garage sale…he sits on the
front room table. Tall and sleek, with
a tubular shape…hips no wider than
his shoulders. A dark gray ceramic cat.

Large eared with pointed face…delicate
Asian features. The royal cat of Siam.
favorite of kings and priests…thought
to bring good luck to its owners.

Carefully rubbing the head of his ceramic cat,
Fred smiles. Fred is wrapped in the fabric of
superstition, the religion of weak minds. He
believes the ceramic cat brings good luck.

Feeling old age, and pain sneaking up on him,
he fears death as a child fears the dark. A fear
that is naturally increased by his superstitions.
Fred thinks Mr. Death is waiting nearby.

He knows that Mr. Death wears black. When
there’s a knock on his door, he goes and rubs
the ceramic cat and peeks out the window…
if he sees a man in black, he won’t answer.

On Sunday, Fred is rushed to the hospital,
unconscious. Next day, when his eyes open,
the puzzled Fred sees, standing over his bed,
a priest in black, and a nurse in a white dress.


—Joanna Rosinska, Corvallis, OR

It’s nearly midnight,
my anxiety raises in the waxing moon penumbra
(too much coffee with dinner).
Lots of lonely, overwhelming feelings
brew rebellious curiosity in my mailbox
of self-serving philosophy,
beckoning me to the possibility of rare finds in neighbor’s trash.

My neighborhood is a crime watch area;
police patrol cars frequent our streets.
My friends say it’s a matter of time
before I get busted for trash sniffing.

But the challenge of practicing safely my misdemeanor
sustains me in my boring weekends.
It’s only thirty yards to the nearest garbage can
and I only need a moment with it.

Last summer, I spent a night in the county jail
on the suspicion of theft.
Set free, now I’m smarter
about my misunderstood adventures.
And…I have brand new neighbors to the north!

It is chilly outside,
I’m delighted with the brightness of my new headlamp
(an early Christmas present to myself).
The plastic lid of the can squeaks softly,
the delicate smell teases my nostrils.
A closer look reveals some ancient half-ripped box of baking soda,
packaging peanuts and a bundle of spoiled green beans.
What a shame, they don’t have a compost pile.
Below, some envelopes with a bank stamp in a bag with kitty litter
that smells of petroleum.
Of course! They have an old, incontinent truck in their driveway.
A wrinkled plastic and Styrofoam tray slimed with old fat
speaks gingerly of its past as prepackaged bacon wrap.
Apparently, the neighbors don’t have high cholesterol,
and they are not vegetarians.
A familiar, pleasant feeling enters my chest, a satisfaction of a task completed,
and a need for some fresh air at last.

So quiet around.
A shadow moves by the adjacent tree.
A grunt.
A deer in rut? A person?
Another grunt.
Aha! Moonlight reflects the differential
of my neighbor parked on the other side of my house.
I guess his toilet is on the fritz again.
When nature calls he goes to nature.
We’ll keep each other’s secrets safe.


Cartoon by Joanna Rosinska


Today's LittleNip:

"A planet doesn't explode of itself," said drily
The Martian astronomer, gazing off into the air—
"That they were able to do it is proof that highly
Intelligent beings must have been living there."

—John Hall Wheelock



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

The Thread of Dreams,
a new chapbook from Sacramento's
Carol Frith, is now available at The Book Collector,
1008 24th St., Sacramento.


Issue #24 is now available (free) at The Book Collector
or may be ordered through rattlesnakepress.com—
or send me 4 bux and I'll mail you one as soon as I'm able
(computer troubles).
Contributor and subscription copies
will go into the mail this week and next.

After this issue, Rattlesnake Review and most of our
other print projects will be taking
a few months off for remodeling—but not Medusa's Kitchen,
WTF (see below) or the 2nd Weds. reading series (except for January).
Watch this spot for further developments!—I suspect that the break
will be short-lived and will engender lots of activity,
including calls for submissions
to some exciting new projects.
Don't miss 'em!

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!


The fourth 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.

Next deadline (for Issue #5) is Jan. 15.

Send 3 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).
No simultaneous submissions, previously published work,
bios or cover letters.
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/.)


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.