—Charles H. Halsted, Davis
Warm perfumed Paris summer twilight
Women of all ages stand in doorways
He avoids the younger ones his age
Bulging breasts recall past fumbling failures
His head filled with father’s advice
Find an older woman for instruction
In the mysteries of sex
A thin Piaf-like woman
“Vous couchez avec moi?”
(His best college French)
“Oui, cent francs.”
Clicking high heels, ancient wooden stairs
Dim bulb, cracked plaster ceiling
Iron bed, water basin by the window
Overlooks the lights, the noisy crowd below
He sits bare buttocks on cold mattress
Washed, swollen, helpless
Enveloped by wet lips
A single flick
He’s spent and undone
Still fully dressed, she announces
“C’est tout fini.”
Under warm hostel blanket he watches
French student, girlfriend in tow
Hears their musical language
The rhythmic song of bedsprings
Thanks, Charles, for your debut in Medusa's Kitchen! Charles H. Halsted is a physician-scientist who started writing poetry two years ago. He lives in Davis and is happily married with three grown children and three grandchildren.
Lots of remodeling in the Kitchen!
The right (blue/green) side of our posts used to be a bit of a wasteland, but suddenly—it’s alive! To wit:
•••more pix! Oh yeah;
•••beefed-up links! Oh YEAH;
•••R-Press’s current business (SnakeWatch) confined to the bottom of the post in a big blue box so I don’t have to cut and paste it every morning;
•••a couple of whimsicals: Life in Pollock Pines, and Fellow Travelers on Planet Earth;
•••some new features, like (so far): Not Just a Pretty Face; Where are YOU publishing?; shameless promotion from the Snake (of course); and Calliope’s Closet.
What’s in Calliope’s Closet? A grab-bag of stuff to try on, throw away—maybe even write about. Not exactly triggers—not formal ones, anyway—just, well, thisnthat. More like accessories than tuxedos or tiaras. Calliope will premiere tomorrow.
What’s the difference between the right side of Medusa (the blues and greens) and the usual traffic on the left (cream-colored) side? The cream side (that’s you—the cream of the crop!) will pretty much go on the way it has, with poetry, visuals and announcements changing every day. The left side will hang around a bit longer than one day, though; some of it, like the links, will stay a lot longer, in fact. This format gives us the flexibility to change some things quickly and other things less often, while the main business of the Kitchen goes on triumphantly—in cream. And I know some people don’t/can’t check in every day, so this gives me a spot like a bulletin board to leave things pinned up, make sure you see them.
But—I’m only leaving one post up on the screen on the cream side at a time, instead of the usual week; you’ll have to go to the archives to find the rest of the week or month. It’s tidier that way. Write to me if you don’t know how to use the archives or the searchbar in the upper left.
About dated events: as I said last week, Medusa will go back to publishing only those calendar items I’ve been specifically sent; be sure you get them to me (and sooner than the day of) if you want them posted. Calendars are hell, frankly—especially the on-going weekly/monthly events, which at any point may cancel, quit, move, change times, get arrested, all without telling us. Over the years, Rebecca Morrison (Eskimo Pie Girl) has made an effort to maintain a very thorough calendar for our community, so I’m going to refer you to her (eskimopie.net) for a more complete listing of NorCal events. (Thanks, Rebecca!)
More tomorrow, including a give-away to celebrate our new look (“Kick-off for Calliope”). Meanwhile, get a load-a them HOTLINKS! And take heed: all this new space means even MORE need for you to send poetry, visuals, LittleNips, and you’ll get the hang of sending in accessories for the Closet, eventually, too. I think of Medusa as a community bulletin board. As I always say, I’m just the typissssssst…
This week in NorCal poetry:
(for a more complete calendar listing, go to eskimopie.net)
•••Monday (1/25), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents Katie Cappello and Pam Richmond at HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St., Sacramento. [See last Friday's post for bios.]
•••Weds. (1/27), 6-7 PM: Upstairs Poetry Reading at The Upstairs Art Gallery, 420 Main St. (2nd floor), Placerville. It's a poetry open-mike read-around, so bring your own poems or those of a favorite poet to share, or just come to listen. No charge.
•••Friday (1/29): Debut of Sacramento's newest monthly reading series, Stories on Stage, focusing upon short fiction by writers from Sacramento and surrounding areas. Each event will feature two short stories, introduced by their authors and read by actors, beginning with the work of Jodi Angel, author of The History of Vegas, and UC Davis alumni Naomi Williams, featuring readers/actors Bill Kay and Cynthia Speakman. The series will run on the last Friday of every month, beginning January 29 at HQ for the Arts, 25th & R Sts., Sacramento. Info: valeriefioravanti.com/SoS.aspx
•••Sat. (1/30), 4-6 PM: Women's Writing Salon at Valentina’s Bistro and Bakery, 1041 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, featuring poetry and prose penned by the foothills community of women writers, including Elizabeth Appell, Shirley Dickard, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, Dianna Henning and Julie Valin. The event is free, and while we feature women readers, men are enthusiastically welcomed. Gather at 3:30 for food and drink (available at the café); reading begins at 4:00. Info: Patricia Miller, 530-265-5165 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Betsy Fasbinder, 530-613-9947 (email@example.com). Our special thanks to Valentina Masterz for hosting this event.
•••Sat. (2/6) 8:30 AM-? (deadline for reservations is 2/1): Between the Sheets: A Romantic Writing Workshop Event and Dinner at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys (for those 18 and older). Hosted by Ironstone Vineyards and Manzanita Writers Press/Writers Unlimited, an affiliate of the Calaveras County Arts Council. Workshop leaders include Conrad Levasseur, Monika Rose, Antoinette May, Linda Trapp, Zoe Keithley, Paula Sheil. Evening reading by Julia Holzer and workshop leaders/participants. Full workshop day includes two workshops, lunch, wine and chocolate sampling, romantic dinner and poetry reception w/public reading, $100; or choose two workshops and lunch only for $65, or dinner/reception only for $65. Reservations required: 209-728-1251 or rsvp directly to firstname.lastname@example.org; workshops and dinner need to be pre-paid by Feb. 1 to avoid an extra $20 charge. Info: 209-754-0577 or ironstonevineyards.com
•••Jan. 28-31: 11th Annual Snow Goose Festival in Chico, including field trips, workshops, nature activities for children, and “The Loon’s Necklace”, a film that tells the story of how the loon got the distinctive band around its neck. Various locations; fees from $2-$42. For a complete schedule, go to snowgoosefestival.org
—Charles H. Halsted
Both nineteen, they
spent summer school
together in New England,
living in his mother’s house
at the family estate on the shore.
A class in logic
toughened their minds, as
she, a California girl,
exulted in her strange surroundings,
and he reveled in showing off
his favorite childhood places.
He was sure she was the one,
certain through stolen kisses,
deepening rhythms of
shared thoughts and feelings,
her fragrance always fresh,
her never-touched breasts
starched white blouses.
At the end of term, his heart ached as
her plane vanished in the western sky.
Later he wrote his mother
of a September visit
to her parents in LA;
he could learn to like
her gruff businessman dad
and high-intellect mom,
in his mind future parents in law.
Back in college with separate lives,
he in his fraternity and she a sorority girl,
his phone calls were never returned;
friends said she had become engaged
to her high-school math teacher.
—Charles H. Halsted
Ne m’oubliez pas
Do not forget me
She spoke in soft voice
The mountain flowers of France
A garland from her hair
Passed between us
In that tiny alpine village
A larger than life
Wooden crucifix hung
Under the church roof
We climbed the mountain
On their saint’s day
To a chapel by a lake in the sky
Held hands all the way down
That summer of ‘58
For two weeks
We spoke her language without end
Writers and philosophers
Voltaire Sartre Camus
The meanings of our lives
Now and to come
Our minds then souls mingled
With the mountain flowers
On sputtering motorbike I was off
To my future
My other world
My first real love
I never turned back
Do you still go
To that little village so far away?
Je ne t’ai jamais oublie—
I never forgot you
NOT OF WOMAN BORN
—Charles H. Halsted
Taken by scalpel
From his mother’s womb
The pangs of birth passage
And never a taste of her milk
Still he seeks the
Inner wisdom of women
And comfort of their breasts