Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lizards & Ice Tea

Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

—Jane Blue, Sacramento

In El Paso
a wind blows off the mesa
and the stones of garden walls
sparkle with mica; even in October
in the relative cool of morning
the impersonal eye of the sun
blazes too close, dogs
leap onto the walls
of second-story gardens
barking and baring their teeth
and no one walks through the streets
except me, or the maids, waiting
in the ostensible city
for a bus to take them home
across the bridge to Juàrez.

Driving into Mexico is like driving
into my subconscious, Verona says,
raised in South America, glimpsing
Somoza at cocktail parties
as in Juàrez a woman hip-swivels
wearing a black cat suit
cut open at the back, her back
to the sun, walking happy
with a man into the blitzed city
rebuilding as if after a war—

and when I finally left on the train
white smoke of chemicals
from a maquiladora plumed
into the shared sky
and in the no-man’s land
between tracks and the border
the stiff white corpse
of a long-horned cow, legs
in the air like an overturned table
the vanishing, whitewashed
pine tables of Mexico
lay, without a struggle
as if blown there . . .

the train was late
so we drove back up
the west side of Mt. Franklin
in a clattering ammunition of hail
to her house with a corridor kitchen
a door on the desert, the mesa beyond—
my father used to read palms, she said
trying to explain the bright auras
on the wall, her outlined hands
colored in with chalk, for they were in pain
and she had done this as a way to heal them.

At sunset every night sounds
of birds timid at first
then swelling; you don’t expect
so many birds in the desert
and flowers: asters
Black-eyed Susans, verbena
purple in twilight
and we walked into the arroyo
on a ditch like a secret highway
lined with the runes of graffiti—

How the sky had opened for us
approaching Albuquerque earlier in the week
with pygmies of the rain forest blasting
child-sized voices through the tape
and lightning sheared
out of the black black sky
into the ring of mountains!

Finally on board the Sunset Limited
halted on the mesa, I imagined
the sight from her house
the train hanging there
close to the color-streaked sky
and what it would be like to hear
for the first time the roar
of flash flood crashing
through the arroyo with a force
to carry houses away, even be caught
down in the rip-rap, stripped
of everything, the past
when it came.


Thanks to Carl Schwartz, Jane Blue, and Richard Zimmer for the desert riffs on our Seed of the Week: Deserts.

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The Birth of The Ophidian:

Rattlesnake Press is proud to announce a new publication, The Ophidian, an online anthology of NorCal poetry, art and photography, co-edited by Kathy Kieth and Richard Hansen and scheduled to appear online this summer. This is, for now, a one-time e-publication that we're putting out in order to see how we/you like the whole online-journal process. It is NOT, repeat NOT, an effort to replace our beloved flagship, Rattlesnake Review, which remains in drydock but is by no means dead.

In order to be part of this adventure, send 3-5 poems to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726 by June 9, 2010. No bios or cover letters needed; also no previously-published work or simultaneous submissions, please. Include name, snail address and e-address on every cyber-page. Art and photography also welcome: send to

SPC Brown Bag Lunch Series TODAY:

•••Today (4/15), 12 noon: Sacramento Poetry Center’s Brown Bag Lunch Series meets at the Downtown Library, 828 I St., Sacramento, with Mary Zeppa and Lawrence Dinkins hosting. They say: Our next Third Thursday reading falls on Tax Day. Distract yourself from what you have to pay! Celebrate what you may be owed! Bring your favorite poems (preferably by a writer other than yourself) about things which must be dealt with, which are inevitable. Think metaphorically as well as literally. And/or choose poems which deal in some way with an aspect or quality of the month of April. Let your mind run free!

Today is also the deadline for WTF!!

Sorry—this slipped right by me—but today (4/15) is our deadline for WTF #6. See the Bigger Blue Box at the bottom of the Kitchen for details.

New reading series in town, starting tomorrow night

•••Friday (4/16 and every third Friday), 7pm: A Showcase of Poetry and Music, a new monthly showcase for literary, musical, performance and visual arts hosted by author/songwriter R.S. Marquez. This month features Rachel Leibrock, frank andrick and Joe Montoya, with music by Ruben Reveles and Professor Esteban Villa. Film projections by Picasso and Renoir. Meet and greet at 7, performances to follow. La Raza Galeria Posada, 1022 22nd St. (between J and K). Free. Info: 209-337-5960 or 916-446-5133 or

El Dorado County Library Celebrates Poetry Month:

Come to the Placerville library at 345 Fair Lane in Placerville and join in for Poetry Month activities during April:

•••Write a poem for the “No Rhyme or Reason” wall display: haiku, limericks, sonnets or any style are welcome.
•••Sat. (4/18), 11:30am: Stop by the “Poetry Aloud” reading for the whole family; bring poetry of your own or favorites by somebody else.
•••Weds. (4/28), 6:30pm: Teens are invited to play the “Exquisite Corpse” game and design a poetry bag. Info: 530-621-5540 or


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

The desert sun can cook your brain.
After a while, things seem strange.
Crawling lizards are everywhere,
watching you with a glassy stare.

I don’t know why, but I said hello to one,
who looked at me, flicking his tongue.
What happened next, I swear is true.
The critter stood up and said, Howdy do!

It made my hair stand right up on end.
I’ve never had a lizard for a friend.
Now I knew that it wasn’t very wise,
but I started taking that lizard’s advice.

He’d tell me what stocks to buy and sell.
I lost all my money when the market fell,
so I grabbed a piece of old dead wood
to fix that stupid lying lizard good.

When he saw the look upon my face,
he thought it best to leave the place.
Now remember…lizards can be fun,
but when they’re near, stay out of the sun.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

My camera took me
over to Joshua Tree
to capture images of things
that just don’t really know
how improbable it is to grow
in such adverse conditions.

Plants rise from rocks and sand
sinking roots in a rain deprived land
where stones resemble faces.
The full sun, always the sun,
there’s more heat than is fun
to lose your inhibitions.

Cactus, from a Latin word,
cactii, even more absurd;
we must stay and take more pictures.
Frightened clouds chased from the sky,
no shadows taller than ankle high,
dry bones from prior expeditions.

Finally we leave this place,
back to AC, iced tea, the human race;
photos don’t tell the whole story.
Some day I know I must return
to this arid, open house of burn
where all the walls are mere partitions.

Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz

Today's LittleNip:

By seeking to make art his ladder, he made it into a well.

—Stephen Dobyns