Monday, May 17, 2010

Constructing an Alphabet

—Charles Mariano, Sacramento

where’s the sun?
where’d spring go?

what happened to
t-shirts, cutoffs,
seasonal views
of female skin?

what’s the deal
with all these
rain-slapping storms?

enough already!

coming soon…

why’s it so damn hot?


JoAnn Anglin writes: One of the poems chosen by Kay Ryan, national Poet Laureate, to be posted on the Library of Congress website was submitted by Heather Hutcheson & Lisa Dominguez Abraham, and can be seen at: The poem is "In Defense of Poetry" by John Hesselbein of Cosumnes River College. Thanks to JoAnn's tip, I checked it out and discovered an inordinate number of winners from community colleges in our area, including poets from (in addition to Cosumnes) American River College, Folsom Lake College, Lake Tahoe Community College, Modesto Junior College, San Joaquin Delta College and Sierra College. These poets were some of the winners in Kay Ryan's Poetry for the Mind's Joy project. Read them yourself at and listen to Kay Ryan talk about why she chose this project.

This week in NorCal poetry:

•••Monday (5/17), 7pm: Sacramento Poetry Center presents Hot Poetry in the Park at Fremont Park (between 15th and 16th Sts. and Q and P Sts., Sacramento). Rebecca Morrison hosts as Carrie Rudzinski, April Ranger and Terryl Wheat read. Guests are encouraged to bring a picnic to eat during the reading, which takes the place of the usual Monday night reading at SPC on 25th and R. (In case of rain, the reading will be held at SPC.) Info: [See last Friday's post for bios.]

Next Monday at SPC (5/24): Christopher Buckley, C. E. Chaffin

•••Weds. (5/19), 9:45-11pm: Kelly Richardson features at Mahogany Urban Poetry Series at Queen Sheba's Restaurant, 1704 Broadway (17th and Broadway), Sacramento. Hosted by NSAA.

•••Weds. (5/19), 7-8:30pm: Our House Gallery Poetry Series at Our House Gallery, 1004 White Rock Rd. # 400, El Dorado Hills in the Montano de El Dorado Center (south of Hwy 50 on Latrobe Rd. at White Rock Rd.). Please join us for a fun-filled evening of poetry open mic. This is a FREE community event intended for all ages. If you would like to share your stuff or that of others, please sign in for time on the mic by 7pm. Info: 916-933-4278 or

•••Thurs. (5/20), 12noon: Sacramento Poetry Center’s Third Thursday Brown Bag poetry reading at the Central Library. Bring your favorite poems written by other people to read and share with everyone else. 828 I St., Sacramento. Hosted by Mary Zeppa and Lawrence Dinkins. Info: 916-979-9706 or

•••Thurs. (5/20), 8pm: Rattlesnake Press's WTF#6 will premiere at Poetry Unplugged (Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento), hosted by Editor frank andrick. Check out the b-board for more info.

•••Thurs. (5/20), 8pm: Boston poets Carrie Rudzinski and April Ranger present powerful performance pieces. Open mic at 9. Free. John Natsoulas Art Gallery, 521 First St., Davis, (530) 756-3938, or 530-756-4556 or Attendees are encouraged to arrive early at the John Natsoulas Gallery to secure a table and to sign up for a spot on the Open Mic list.

•••Sat. (5/22), 8pm and Sun. (5/23), 3pm: As part of their last performance of the season, the Sacramento Master Singers will present I, Too, Sing America: A Celebration of American Poets and Composers to be held at the First United Methodist Church at 21st & J Sts., Sacramento. Poets represented will be e.e. cummings and Dorothy Parker, whose works have been set to music by Eric Whitacre, Clifford Shockney, and Carol Barnett. Click on Dorothy Parker's pic (over on the b-bd at the right) for yesterday's Sac. Bee article by Edward Ortiz; go to for tickets.

•••Sat. (5/22), 7-11pm: The Social-Poetry Slam hosted by Khiry Malik at Sol Collective, 2574 21st St. (Broadway and 19th Sts.), Sacramento, 916-476-3628,

•••Sun. (5/23), 2-4:30pm: A Starry Night Poetry Series in Lodi, featuring Wallace Condon, plus open mic. At the Lodi Library, 201 West Locust St., Lodi. Info: Co-sponsored by the Lodi Library.

(for a more complete listing of workshops and events, go to


—Jeff Dutko, Farmington, CT

How often we forget to look to the heavens
to disclose the guts of our secrets

Our own eyelevel the ceiling of our exploration
loftier vision scoffed at or eliminated as escapism

As in this church, capacity on Christmas Eve
the mass, silent in their seats, priest on the horizon

Above them, the arching, exposed buttresses and joists
resembling the cleaned carcass of a capsized ark

Upended here to provide shelter for parishioners in peril
from the torrents of the imposed flood waters outside

And shielding their antinomian ascent to the surface for air
keeping them safe and breathing inside the rib cage of God


—Jeff Dutko

America, you are all
starting forward from the days
when you put the fiduciary full-nelson on our
Cold War lovers and asphyxiated all of our imported grappling partners.
Then we lost the youthful factions that believed in de-sanctioning
exportation of your pubescent ideals.
After the Civil War, America became “are” not “is”
the Cold War slow burned us all down from “you”
into the ingested enzyme of “we.”
Must this always be the case here? We lose, we gap
the hole with whatever we hope to find.
Clean fill wanted.
You usurped us and we went along groping
in the dark together for a light switch
and that made confessions no fun anymore.
We weren’t even allowed the luxury of our own private psychoses.
I wanted you to be my right mind
but too many displaced labcoats left unchecked
loose from the rat cages of chemo war
blinking, bleary-eyed faded red
coddling a genome project to rearrange
the cells of the left and the right, lay us all down
in the mire that is the middle, I didn’t ask for that
but, here we are together.

America, there is nothing we aren’t now if not aloof.
America I can’t even laugh at you anymore.
It’s too much like making fun of the stench of my own body
only no one can stand close enough to hear the punch lines.
America, when will we stop forgiving
the gift box of legacy, the chocolates
of open war policy.
All the creamy centers of state poked open
to test their weak underbellies.
When will we all eat at the table
of oil oligarchies and uncover
the coveys of clansman masquerading
without sheets and pass the porridge
on the laps of the patriarchs
say, “God bless you, but sorry, no thanks to your paternalism.”
When will we bother to shake the ice from our hair
and admit we don’t give a shit what we owe
for Chernobyl?
When will we stare out the window
for days on end, hopelessly lost?
When will our right mind come
to finish this swirling poem, America?

America, when will we let Christ go
as our investment banker and realize
he looks better naked then any of us?
When will we disengage this atom bomb
neo-natally stuck up our ass and
believe we can detonate this poem instead?
Only when we are in our write mind.
Desperate Housewives must die. America
understand that petrodollars buy barrels as well as Barbies.
When can we go back to wearing tights?
Realize it’s too cold to bare our teeth any longer.

America, when will you raise your voice
and sing angelic?
When, America, will you let Allen Ginsberg
lift his queerly tired shoulder from this wheel
and rest in peace?


—Jeff Dutko

All that is measurable
is not measured
All that is measured
is often done so
with the wrong instrument

Carnival tickets make an appropriate substitution
for those requiring special measurements
eleven tickets is the equivalent
of two standard sheets of paper

According to the tables, eleven tickets
distributed appropriately allots one
to each student in need
with a single ticket in remainder

The two standard pieces of paper
were stood atop each other
by the remaining students in good standing

The twenty-two inches of paper, placed on a table
stood around average shoulder height
approximately four feet above the floor
where the eleven inch-long tickets
had fallen in exchange
for a measure of separation


—Jeff Dutko

The irascible winds of April
howling through this colonnade
of hollowed out calcium
that, so far, has buttressed
my body against capitulation
to this season’s bluster
finally licks out any flames
that fanned hope of surviving
intact against another winter

A somber stray tomcat
stealing through weathered
and bone-picked barn doors
to catch the last drops of milk
from the sow suddenly
unburdened of its heavy
and once creamy biography


Today's LittleNip:

Soon I will speak through ravens
but first I must gather my bones
and construct an alphabet.

—from her poem, "Addiction", by Cindy Goff