Photo by Bob Dreizler, Sacramento
I burned my life, that I might find
A passion wholly of the mind,
Thought divorced from eye and bone,
Ecstasy come to breath alone.
I broke my life, to seek relief
From the flawed light of love and grief.
With mounting beat the utter fire
Charred existence and desire.
It died low, ceased its sudden thresh.
I had found unmysterious flesh—
Not the mind's avid substance—still
Passionate beyond the will.
Ever burned down your life? Set the whole thing on fire by way of significant change, looking for a phoenix? I have, several times, with varying results. Tell us about it for our Seed of the Week: I Burned My Life. Send your poems to email@example.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on this one because it's not a giveaway.
GOING TO SANTA CRUZ
—Paul Lojeski, Port Jefferson, NY
If you don’t know what a field full
of Brussels sprouts smells like drive
down the coast highway from San
Francisco till you’re a tad north
of Santa Cruz. Peer out rolled down
windows at migrants working clouds
of manure-scented dust settling
now over your soggy, sleepy head.
Smile at cows loping over green hills
and a tie-dyed woman laughing as her
children go for the long-haired man getting
out of a rusty, red pickup. Hear Hells Angels
rumble past and surfers rip across waves
near seals barking on sharp rocks.
Oh, man, take me down that curved
articulation of highway suspending all
things real in hazy veil. Rod Serling’s
smoking in the rear view mirror, winking
amidst the magnetic magic of internal
engines spinning, melting black tires
on grooved asphalt. You’re free, free
in speeding space, whipped around
the sun, gone from gravity, dreaming,
dancing, just above Santa Cruz.
Thanks, Paul! Paul Lojeski was born and raised in Lakewood, Ohio and was formerly educated at the public schools there. He attended Oberlin College, lived in many places including San Francisco and New York City, and was employed in a variety of jobs from factory shift work to stand-up comedy. He lives with his wife and ten-year-old daughter on Long Island's North Shore.
A QUESTION OF WHAT
You turn on the TV and you think,
shit, there’s got to be something,
something about moving off the
dime, a message of advancing
with meaning and hope but all there
is is the Price Is Right with the fat guy
and news of tire fires in Phoenix
and tornadoes in Indiana. And it’s the
same no matter what time it is or what
day it is; it’s always that lifeless noise
drilling you in the head, humming out
there in space. And you wonder if this
is the best we’ve got, if all those
slaughtered souls and all that science
adds up to nothing but Midas Muffler
and whores hawking weight loss
and diamonds to the deaf and dumb.
And don’t forget the blind. Us, the blind.
I’m just asking because I’m sitting here
in winter’s fist with trees cursing fate
while on TV those big heads are smiling
ear-to-ear and everyone’s winning
shiny new cars and look another quaint
California family just got murdered.
I read the other day someone
said we’ve got to protest the
war (he didn’t specify which
of the dozens he meant)
and I had to laugh real loud
because that deluded sap
must’ve been watching
the wrong channel.
Hell, boy, we live for war
and the music of the battle-
field: the dying moaning
through summer nights,
the distant pop of a sniper’s
shot hanging in morning’s
frosty air. Protest? Ain’t
gonna happen, son
and that’s a fact. If you don’t
believe me go down to the
hardware and ask the boys
and they’ll tell you. It’s the
way of things and it’s all
natural, so quit griping
and have a drink. Hell, boy,
have a bunch of'em.
MY NAME'S STEVE
Kessler and I live on Staten Island
in a shabby bungalow with a woman
who collects bottles and smokes two
packs-a-day and makes me crappy
baloney and salami sandwiches for
the job and they have me bulging
at the middle but it’s not all her fault
entirely because I keep my desk
drawers full of peanut butter cups
and potato chips. I take the ferry to
Manhattan early and then two subways
full of beauties I stare at dreamily but I’m
a little stubby guy with a puffy frog face
so they never look back and even if they
did and even if one of’em spoke to me it
wouldn’t matter ‘cause my voice is squeaky
like a mouse’s so it’s better this way but
by the time I get to work on Madison Ave.
I’m depressed as usual by all the rejection
and who wouldn’t be. Shit. But I recover
quickly because I accept the fate dealt me
by this cold-hearted place since my mother
said God knew best and my father said
guys like us (he was actually shorter
than me) were losers because the world
needed losers just as much as it needed
winners to keep the balance and give
perspective so I do the best I can not
to fuck everything up with emotional
scenes of one kind or another, the scenes
of violence I sometimes imagine on empty
afternoons when it’s getting a bit much
to handle. The job that is. Or maybe
the whole damn thing, I don’t know.
Anyway, I have a little office with glass
walls so I can watch my guys dialing
in their cubicles, pounding away at the
gates of law firms out in Kansas or San Fran,
trying to get some shyster to buy on a free
45-day-trial one of our books on Bankruptcy
or Environmental law or some other legal
thriller. See, I’m sales manager for Garner
Publishing’s outbound division and I’m under
the gun every minute to keep my numbers up
which isn’t easy when your staff’s mostly
wannabe actors and comics and writers,
this being Manhattan which if you didn’t know,
is a tiny island hellhole packed with the most
desperate seekers of success this side of LA
so it’s not easy getting them to stay focused
on the job when all they can think about is
that big break waiting just there in the dark
to blow them into the riches and fame they’re
dying for. I feel sorry for them sometimes
when I look into their frightened eyes and see
the terror growing with each passing day
that break doesn’t happen and they’re another
day older and they can feel it slipping away
but none of them will ever have it as bad as me.
Never. ‘Cause at least they lived the delusion
and that’s no small thing. Beats the hell outta
taking that fucking ferry everyday between here
and her. Take my word for it, friend.
Between the Sheets!
•••Sat. (2/6) 8:30 AM-?: 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. [Hey—Medusa readers can now click on addresses in the text and get right through to the website! And if you’d like to see the Ironstone workshop leaders’ bios, write to me and I’ll send them to you.]
Speaking of Monika Rose, she sends us this cartoon:
What’s Up With The Tiger?
Tiger's Eye Press's Spring-Summer contest deadline is Feb. 28. Send 3 poems, short bio, SASE, $10. Prizes are $500, $100 and $50! 2010 judge is Cheryl Loetscher. Send all work to: Tiger's Eye Journal, P.O. Box 2935, Eugene, OR 97402.
Available now: In the Year of the Crab: poems about breast cancer by Victoria A. Harkovitch. Order your copy for $8.
Join us at The Book Collector on February 10 at 7:30 PM, when The Snake Salutes the Tiger: Tiger’s Eye Press visits Sacramento that night, co-editors Colette Jonopulos and JoAn Osborne read, and the Tiger releases a new chapbook by Kathy Kieth (Emily and the High Cost of Living).
Send orders and submissions to Tiger's Eye, P.O. Box 2935, Eugene, OR 97402. For more information, go to tigerseyejournal.com.
Speaking of Oregonian poets, here’s another poem by Joanna Rosinska of Corvallis, and be sure to check out the feature about them in RR24, now available at The Book Collector or from rattlesnakepress.com. Or, hell, send me $4 and I'll mail you one.
A NIGHT SQUATTER IN MODERN ART EXHIBIT
(A Monologue of an Ampere)
—Joanna Rosinska, Corvallis
I’m looking for a 220 outlet
I can withstand more juice now.
But I can only get high on voltage when nobody is around.
I guess my high also comes from stealing the electric power
from unsuspecting users.
First time I stuck my fingers in the light socket
my hair stood up and turned curly.
I watched my reflection
with the slowly disappearing nimbus of a peacock tail.
Gravity versus electricity.
The next flash could have been the fatal one
but still I was willing to try again
to experience the jolt of scare turned pleasure.
Just a find of the electric outlet
or an empty light socket
camouflaged somewhere in the lighting store
gives me a rush.
Electricity has always had this effect on me.
But I love the thrill of stealing, too.
I steal other people’s electricity.
I can rattle off dozens of instances when
I got high on other people’s juice.
Does this make me a drone?
Heck no, not if there are no witnesses.
On the opposite wall a pair of eyes of a distorted face
painted within a bicycle wheel rim, a makeshift frame,
obviously from a salvage yard,
is staring at me. Or is it?
The face sometime looks like a real visage and other times like
a roulette with spokes instead of red and black dividers.
I‘m coming closer, to stare back at it.
From this short distance it seems to be
a jigsaw puzzle of misplaced intentions
a camouflage of shapes and colors
a kaleidoscope of tantrums and smiles.
Like my own face, I suppose, when I was evicted from my last place
for endangering the building and other tenants.
My urge rises. I am pregnant with my obsession.
And the prodigal resources of this museum that floods
hundreds of art pieces with light
will facilitate my fulfillment.
I‘ve been coming to this museum for months.
Looking for an opportunity to be locked in for the night …
Ah, there is the custodian closet
Well, well what do we have here?
220 outlet, it’s just you and me now.
A friend is a rare book of which but one copy is made.
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.
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 email@example.com/.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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/.)
WORKING WITH MEDUSA:
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 email@example.com 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.
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:
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 rattlesnakepress.com for a complete listing of all our other
publications, free and otherwise. There's a link to the right.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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.