Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sleep Train of Thought

Photo by Bob Dreizler, Sacramento

—Shawn Aveningo, Rescue

On cotton candy
pillow tops I sleep.
reality away,
where demons of disease
can’t claw at me.

I welcome your fingernails
down my back,
a slumbering tremor,
whimper of delight
exposing my pleasure,
like rubbing the underbelly
of my puppy on the lawn.

Sinking deeper
on a synaptic escapade,
memories folding upon each other,
lineage of time

Daddy lets go of the banana seat,
I fly
peddling faster, faster,
pushing up hill
pushing, pushing,
'til my baby and I
both cry.

I’m walking
down the school hall
orange, red, yellow lockers
surround me, naked
and without my completed essay
“The Industrial Revolution: How It Fed
Our Need for Efficiency to Quench
Our Thirst for Immediacy”.

And I’m coughing.
No, I’m choking
on money, drowning
in a deluge of dollar bills,
spitting up cherry stems
tied in knots.
Looking down
at my feet, adorning
black satin ribbon laced
around my ankles, pointed
slippers with taps on the toes,
'cause it don’t mean a thing
if it ain’t got that swing,
and I was never graceful
enough for Swan Lake.

Is she really gone?
I saw her mother yesterday
and we held hands
in solemn remembrance,
but last night she was alive
and all of her hair had returned.
We laughed,
oh how we laughed,
until the morning sun,
or was it the alarm clock
that stirred me?

I awoke confused.
happy then
anxious but paralyzed,
wanting nothing more
than to return
to my slumber.


Thanks to Bob, Shawn and Lowell for today's offerings. Click on Bob Dreizler's link at the right of this column to see more of his wonderful photos.

Special invitation to Medusa readers: Let me know if you'd like to read a seasonal poem—yours or somebody else's—at the Book Collector reading and Christmas party next Wednesday, Dec. 9. We don't normally have open mics at rattle-reads, but heck—it's the holidays! By seasonal I mean anything appropriate to the season, from Thanksgiving through New Year's and all the holidays (including solstice) and weather (snow? rain? sleet?) in between. Just lemme know so I can put you on The List.


—Lowell Jaeger, Bigfork, Montana

Two bowls of oatmeal cooling on the stove.
as I stand at the beach house window.
Should I call to her, Grandma come home?
I step out on the deck. Let the wind
flag my baggy PJ sleeves and pant legs.

She’s perched on a root protruding
from a sandy slope above the bright plash
of daylight on the waves’ lap.
Eyes narrowed to catch the sparkles
and bathe her face in slant rays.

In the casket she’s the same late-summer yellow
of the grassy dunes. Cheekbones, sculpted
clay. Limbs of straw. I narrow
my lids, let the sun play stained-glass
rainbows through tears. Till again

she strains to stand and straighten
cliff-side. Unwraps the turban
that masks her baldness. Raises it
like a banner. And lets it fly.


—Lowell Jaeger

“Not my fault. Far back as kids
I paled around with at school.
Made me join in throwing rocks,
breaking glass. Got fired from work
‘cause my boss hated me. The jerk.
Couldn’t help I fell asleep and crashed
his damn van. Just plain cruel.
My wife? She’s paranoid.
The other woman came on to me, flirted
first. My brats treat me like dirt
since the divorce. So I won’t pay support.
Some folks is just lucky, others not.
That’s how I mostly understood.
Screw Jesus. He never done me no good.”


—Lowell Jaeger

Had he not risen up, a giant
—the old farmer in greasy coveralls—
when he parked his pickup, strode
across his pasture straight for us
and asked, What you boys want out here;

had we not moments earlier crawled
under his barbed wire
and shoo-shooed his cows away;
had we not been toting fishpoles
and buckets of nothing and answered,
Huntin’ frogs for bait;
and had we not been set to bolt
into the woods like rabbits when . . .

he wiped his brow with a rag, spit,
mumbled, Well . . . gotta look in the weasel shit;
drove off, left us guessing
as to what weasel excrement looked like
let alone where to find it and why
frogs would likely be located nearby;

then my brother and I might not have wasted
a sunburnt afternoon poking sticks
at feces, re-inventing the science of scatology
—cow pies, dog turds, deer droppings—
but no weasel shit, no frogs. No where.
Until it struck us both, in being caught
trespassing we’d heard “weasel shit”
when, in less demanding circumstances
our ears might not have been thrumming
and we’d have decoded it right—
“look in the weeds and shit.”

And we’d have searched down in the cattails
near the pond, found our bait,
hooked a pike or two.
But now it was late toward supper
and a long, silent walk home.



in my head
whispers, Say nothing,
when she stands
at the reunion to tell us
we should all be thankful
to live as the greatest
people in the greatest
nation ever and favored
by her god.

On the tube, genocide explodes
with the sound turned off.
Famine. Contagion.
People like us
lounge on sofas
while people like us

What can be done?

She’s pregnant.
Thirty years my junior.

What can be done?

Don’t you think so?
she says, Don’t you?

—Lowell Jaeger


—Lowell Jaeger

Sundays after shooting hoops we’d collapse
in the shade, guzzle cokes,
wipe sweat from our faces and beg
our dads to tell—and tell it straight—
tales of marching with Patton’s army.

Saucy frauleins, smuggled beers.
And tragedy: the hysterical farmer
beseeching GI’s who knocked at his door,
Don’t kill my children! Poor bastard,
propagandized, expecting Allied barbarians.

Hung himself from the rafters in the barn,
having smothered the children
to save them. Next morning dead as cordwood
stacked side by side, gazing upward beneath him.
My dad prefaced that story, Someone told me . . .

Half a century after, I consider the facts:
Was it my father who’d knocked?
He spoke German. Crossed from the homeland
in his mother’s arms. Claimed he recognized
die farmen upon his return. Once,

with no one else’s ears nearby, I asked,
Did you see Nazis? We bobbed in our rowboat.
He pretended to unravel
a knot in his line.
No, he said, I just saw Germans.


Today's LittleNip:

Every grain of sand, every tip of a leaf, even an atom contains the entire universe. Conversely, the universe can be perceived as the tip of a leaf.

—Gerhard Staguhn, U.S. physicist

What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all four of them to me? And me to you?

—Gregory Bateson



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:


Deadline was November 15 for RR24; join us
for its unveiling and get your free copy at
The Book Collector on
Wednesday, December 9.
After this issue, Rattlesnake Review will be taking
a few months off for remodeling—
watch this spot for further developments!

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!


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 newest 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 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.

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.