Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Prisoners of the Air

—Tom Kryss, Ravenna, OH

A butterfly visited me at St. Remy,
I couldn’t believe my luck, I had torn
up some linens and was stretching
them to the back of the frame, looked
up, and noticed that it was paying
attention to my every move It also
sat on the stone sill during a rain
storm, once, and even came close,
swimming through the grate, one evening
when I had rigged up a candle to paint
past the commanded hour, it stood, if
that’s what a butterfly does, at the
top of the chair near my hand as I
extended a bit of ochre with turpentine,
it was definitely interested, I could
have given it lessons, but believe
it had more to teach me than I could
have imparted to it, no, you couldn’t
depend on it but, by the same token,
it seemed to show up at the optimum
unexpected moment, I began to look
forward to my little pretense of giving
it lessons, I was sick and it visited
me, mad with life and it told me that
it was alright to have that kind of
madness, blue is yellow and yellow is
red, and when I saw it for the last time
I didn’t know that the time of a butterfly
on earth is not as great as the number
of stars and I may have not paid quite
as much attention to it as it was in the
habit of giving to me, they say it
was unreasonable to expect it to stay,
that my canvasses have regressed, I don’t
care what they say, it was my friend
and there are certain friends you just
don’t ask to sit still for a portrait


Thanks to Tom Kryss for "Vincent's" butterfly, to D.R. Wagner for his mill and his prisoners of the air, and to Taylor Graham and Richard Zimmer for tackling the Portuguese lira head-on.

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 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
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.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

What are those birds? Two, no, three—
the winter morning’s a-light with flights of wings
from lawn to brush-pile to tree.
This new year, I’ll learn to see
the winter morning’s a-light with flights of wings.


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

New Year's Eve, love happened fast.
They met by chance, he thought she was alluring.
His soul mate was found at last.
Then his passion quickly passed.
Sadly, that new-found love was not enduring.


—Richard Zimmer

Drink up my friend, have some wine!
Last year passed by as swiftly as a river.
Drink a toast to Auld Lang Syne!
Drink, and leave your cares behind!
May our friendship last longer than my liver.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

The stands of trees engage
The evening birds like tongues
Of fire. They revel in an electricity
Made of feathers and nervous squalling.

How thick is the atmosphere?
Thin as a dream, swirling blue
One could cover with a thumb
When seen from cold space.

All of life can rise to this ceiling
And no further, prisoners of the air.
Dancing in the colors made from light,
Made from the longing of light
To bend around all things and pleading
For a naming. How can we explain this
To our children? Light upon the oceans?

We walk along the edge of the great seas
Unwilling to drive the required knowledge
Deep into our lungs. Our mouths opening
And closing like fish. We forget how to drown.

The sky breaks open and allows
Us to see the moon and its
Stars through a million clouds
And once again we do not know
Where we are. All of life depending.


Today's LittleNip:

You can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you... As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew.

—Erwin Schrödinger

Mill at Alta, California
Photo by D.R. Wagner



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—
or send me 4 bux and I'll mail you one.
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 (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


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.