Monday, January 11, 2010

Mysteriously Happy

Janet Pantoja

—Janet Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

Talking with my friend
our talk took us to the wetland
and recent deluge of rain . . .
Would Cody Creek be just a trickle
or swollen—dashing under the culvert?
He queried.
Let's find out now.
I responded.

Walking with my friend
our walk took us to the wetland
and down country road . . .
crunching gravel under foot.
Trees glowed with vibrant fall colors against evergreens.
I marveled.
What a sight!
He sighed.

Talking with my friend
our talk took us to the wetland
and Cody Creek . . .
dashing helter skelter under the culvert.
Friendship glowed with lively conversation as
I walked.
I conversed via cell phone with my friend in his hospital bed.
I worried.

*Sacramento's David Milnor, who passed away in Oct. of 2009


Thanks, Janet! A native Californian, Janet Lar Rieu Pantoja was born in Oakland, CA. In 1960, her family moved to Sacramento. Janet graduated from El Camino High School then earned a B.A./M.A. in Inter-Amer. Studies/Spanish/Teaching ESL from Covell College at the U. of the Pacific (1969/70). At Covell College, Janet met her husband, Jose Pantoja, a native of El Salvador, Central America. They were married at UOP in March 1970. They began married life in San Salvador, El Salvador, where Janet taught English and played cello in the National Symphony. They returned to Sacramento in 1974 with their two young children, William and Jennifer.

In the ensuing years, besides being a Mom, Janet pursued a career in music. She has played cello in the Stockton Symphony (3 years), Camellia Symphony (15 years), Auburn Symphony (8 years), and the Camellia String Quartet (27 years). In 1984, she earned a B.M. in Music Performance from CSUS. In addition, she worked part time and full time in the clerical/administrative field, using her bilingual skills whenever she could. In the year 2000, Janet became a grandmother for the first time and again in 2003 with grand twins! Janet and her husband moved to Woodinville, WA in 2003 to be near their daughter and her family. In the Seattle area, Janet played with the Sammamish Symphony (3 years) and performs regularly with The Music Performance Group and Special Occasions Strings.

A poet and musician from an early age, writing her first poem at age 8, poetry and music have always been a part of Janet's life. Janet writes in English and Spanish, using a variety of forms: ballad, ode, sonnet, haiku, katuta, mondo, acrostic, cinquain, lira, free-verse villanelle, concrete poems and others. She writes on topics ranging from tragic to inspirational, light-hearted to mundane, and for special occasions. She has written at least two dozen children's stories as well. Janet's poetry is published in the Rattlesnake Review (Dec. 2009), Medusa's Kitchen (Jan. 2, 2010), and Dad's Desk (Vol. I, 2009). She is a member of the El Camino Chapter of the California Federation of Chaparral Poets, Inc. In 1987, Janet's husband's sister, Gloria, came to live with them. Through Janet's mother, Janet came to know David Milnor and she brought David and Gloria together. They were married a year later. In 2006, Janet encouraged David to write poetry which he did. David in turn introduced Janet to the El Camino Chapter of Chaparral Poets. The rest is history.


This week in NorCal poetry:

•••Monday (1/11), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents James DenBoer and Cynthia Broshi at HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St., Sacramento. [See last Friday's post for bios.]

Coming Up at SPC on January 18: Keith Ratzlaff and Jeff Knorr

•••Tues. (1/12), 6 PM: Ed Bearden and Connie Post will read at the Barkin' Dog Grill (940 11th Street, Modesto). Ed Bearden is the current Modesto Poet Laureate and has been an active member of the Poets of the San Joaquin for many years. He's been honored by the Stanislaus Arts Council and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Connie Post was the Poet Laureate for Livermore until earlier this year. She is widely published and has a book coming out from Finishing Line Press later in 2010. Ed and Connie's reading will be followed by an Open Mic. Sign up for the Open Mic at the reading.

•••Tuesdays, 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center Workshop at the Hart Center, 27th & J Sts., Sacramento. Free; bring 13 copies of your one-page poem to be read/critiqued. Info: Danyen Powell at 530-756-6228.

•••Tues (1/12 and every 2nd Tues.), 7:30 PM: Open mic at the Empresso Coffeehouse off the Miracle Mile, 1826 Pacific Ave. Stockton. Hosts Chinetana 'Nana' Phounsavath and Donald Anderson would like to welcome everyone to enjoy an evening of poetry, essays, music and more.

•••Wednesdays, 9 PM: Mahogany Urban Poetry Series at Queen Sheba's Restaurant, 1704 Broadway (17th and Broadway), Sacramento. $5 cover, all ages.

•••Wednesdays, 5 PM: Dr. Andy’s Technology and Poetry Hour, KDVS radio station (90.3 FM) or

•••Thursdays, 8 PM: Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café, 1414 16th St., Sacramento. Featured readers, with open mic before and after.

•••Thursdays, 7 PM: “Life Sentence” reading at The Coffee Garden, 2904 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento. Open mic.

•••Thursdays, 10-11 AM (replayed Sundays 10-11 AM): Mountain Mama’s Earth Music with Nancy Bodily on 95.7 FM. Music/poetry woven around a central theme deeply tied to mountains/earth.

•••Friday (1/15), 7:30-9 PM: The Other Voice, sponsored by the UU Church of Davis, proudly presents two award-winning poets, Danyen Powell and Shawn Pittard, in the library of the church located at 27074 Patwin Road in Davis. Refreshments and open mike follow the reading, so bring along a poem or two to share. Danyen Powell was born and raised in Sacramento but now lives in Davis. In 1977 he began a construction business with his father and in 1992 formed a carpet cleaning business that serves Yolo County. He also finds time to write great poems and leads the Sacramento Poetry Center Workshop that meets on Tuesday evenings at the Hart Senior Center in Sacramento. His poems have been published in The Poet’s Guild, Poetry Depth Quarterly, Chrysanthemum, Brevities, Rattlesnake Review, and others. He was the featured poet in Pudding Magazine #38 in 1998. Rattlesnake Press has published two of his chapbooks: Anvil in 2004 (an expanded version came out in 2005) and Blue Sky Flies Out in 2008.

Shawn Pittard
also has a chapbook, These Rivers, published by Rattlesnake Press. He divides his time between his home in Sacramento and his family's cabin outside Flagstaff Arizona. His poems, essays, and book reviews have appeared in The Chrysallis Reader, Confrontation, North American Review, Runes, Spillway, Web Del Sol Review of Books, and elsewhere. He writes a quarterly column for Rattlesnake Review and blogs about his back-country ramblings at These Rivers ( Recently, he co-wrote a screenplay, Junk Sick, with his brother, Trent.

•••Sat. (and every 3rd Sat.), 10 AM: Writers of the New Sun/Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol, potluck meetings at La Raza Galeria Posada, 1024 22nd St., Sacramento. Members of all levels support each other via readings, exercises, critiques and info, plus open mic; writing in Spanish, English or both. Call ahead to confirm: 916-456-5323.

•••Sat. (and every 3rd Sat.), 7 PM: Celebration of Word, Sound and Paint at Carol’s Books, 1913 Del Paso, Sacramento.

•••Sun. (and every 3rd Sun.): 3rd Sunday Poetry Workshop. Info: Rebecca Morrison or Nancy W. at


—Janet Pantoja

Her solemn face stares back
from a shattered oval mirror—
a face bereft of life, expressionless and blank.
Her eyelids are lowered to half mast position,
over lusterless blue eyes that seem to be without vision.
Her ruby lips are parted slightly,
allowing a single sigh to escape through her pearly
white teeth.

The mirror has shattered, but has her soul?
The image is not shattered nor the original—
only the mirror in between has sustained a fracture.
Untouched by life’s trials and tribulations,
the original remains true and perfectly intact.
The reflection then is not, and cannot be, cracked.

When on her consciousness dawns Reality—
Eternal Life and Soul that know no tragedy
or pain--she’ll cease to sigh over what appears to be
but is not. Her eyes will shine and sparkle with radiant joy:
Ever-Present Goodness will make her lips burst forth
into a smile so beautiful . . . that she’ll forget the moment
when she thought she had a shattered soul.

Artwork: Oils by Jen (Jennifer Pantoja Daneman 2006)


—Janet Pantoja

I'm having a dinner dilemma.
Great! I'm staring at a black "Earth Choice—Caution May Be Hot" take-out box of leftovers.
I can eat the last piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top instead.

I open the box and sniff--spaghetti and crusted chicken scent tickles my nostrils, entices me.
Yum! Caution . . . The food is not hot of course—it's cold right out of the refrigerator. Duh.
I'm having a dinner dilemma.

I eat a small amount of cold chicken noodle soup left over from lunch.
Hmm. What about the leftovers in the black box marked recycle (triangle 5)?
I can eat the last piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top instead.

I spy two crisp red radishes staring at me from inside a small plastic container.
Aha! I devour the radishes, still thinking about spaghetti and crusted chicken.
I'm having a dinner dilemma.

I should leave the spaghetti and crusted chicken for tomorrow.
Ha! That would be so easy—dinner for two ready-made in a box (microwave not included).
I can eat the last piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top instead though.

After having eaten cold chicken noodle soup and two red radishes, a carton of milk beckons.
Yes! I down a glass of ice cold milk (cheers!) while staring at the square black box of leftovers.
I'm having a dinner dilemma.
I can eat the last piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top instead.


—Janet Pantoja

it's raining
it's pouring
the rain is loud on the roof. . . . . . . . .

it woke me up

the rain is too loud on the roof . . . . . . . . .
i can't sleep
in the

How can I sleep with thousands of drummers drumming on the roof?

i can't!

i write poetry
about the rain which is so loud on the roof . . . . . . . . .
it woke me up
from my beauty sleep
we need the rain
i need the sleep

the rain has lessened on the roof . . . . . .
pitter patter . . .
pitter patter . .
it's quieter .

the rain is a lullaby on the roof
putting me to sleep

i can't write
any more


Today's LittleNip:

A poet's mission is to make others confound fiction and reality in order to render them, for an hour, mysteriously happy.

—Isek Dineson



SnakeWatch: A New Year with Rattlesnake Press:


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. Let me know if you don't get yours by the end of the week.

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 our 2nd Weds. reading series (except for no reading in January). Watch Medusa's Kitchen for further developments, and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, Snakebytes, by writing to me at


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.
WTF is the only Rattlesnake print publication that will keep going during our break; 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


During our hiatus from most print publications (except WTF), Medusa will keep cooking in the Kitchen every day. (Check out our updated format! Did you know that, if you click on the pictures we post, they'll enlarge for you?) Only a few of our poets have picked up on the fact, though, that Medusa's Kitchen is a great way to get your work out there on a very frequent basis; the snakes of Medusa are always hungry, especially for NorCal poetry. Plus, we accept previously-published work—such a deal!—(please cite publication and be sure you own the rights)
and, like our other journals, no bios or cover letters are required; just mark it for Medusa. Send it all to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. (No simultaneous submissions, though, please.)

I'm convinced that the 'Net is the future of poetry; print may continue, and of course has its benefits, but where else can your work be seen by an almost unlimited number of people (including your relatives) with this kind of speed and frequency?? Where else can you connect with Duluth or Greece or Zimbabwe for free, day by day, liberated from the vicissitudes of the postal service???

So keep sending poetry, photos, art, cartoons, events, mini-reviews of poetry and books about poetry (100 words or less), and other handy resources such as books, websites and submissions opportunities—whatever poetry goings-on that can be posted. Watch line lengths on poetry, though; they are limited on the blog. Blogspot does refuse to indent, too; work must be justified left.

Need to find a poet who posted in the past, including yourself? Go to the search bar at the upper left of the blog and type in the name. Voila! Or, if you know the date, go to the archives column at the right, click on the year and scroll down to the month, then the day.
Plus, be sure to check out the links in the right-hand column for more poetry and poetry news, local and otherwise. You can also become a "follower", or click on the pix of the followers to see what's going on with them (D.R. Wagner and Donald Anderson, e.g.) or send Medusa to somebody else.

So watch for an expansion of offerings and opportunities as the Kitchen gets remodeled along with everything else ophidian— 2010 is going to be a
Big Year for the Snake!

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 in print and otherwise. Pick up a copy at The Book Collector or write to me (include snail address) and I'll send you one. Free! See for a complete listing of all our other publications, free and otherwise.


Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their POETRY, PHOTOS and ART, as well as REVIEWS, RESOURCES and 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.