Thursday, July 15, 2010

Look Up and Search Deep

Little Painting
—Carolyn Krzywkowski

—Tom Kryss

My wife purchased a recessed wood and glass frame—almost a shadow box
but not quite as deep—and inserted several items that were still lying about
in the nooks of our trailer: a magic marker drawing of a butterfly, announcement
cards from the funeral home, a photograph showing to some advantage the gap
where a tooth had fallen out of our granddaughter’s smile. The framed arrangement
sits on a shelf near the door. You can’t miss it when you walk in.

A friend of mine to whom I mentioned this frame shook his head sadly, as if it referenced
some part of a past better gently laid to the side. It’s true the glassed frame awards the
objects some sense of a shrine but it is neither shrine nor custodian of shadows.

In the spring three saplings and a number of flowers were planted in a mound of wood
chips and mulch. The landscaping timbers are actually fenceposts sawed off at the pencil
marks. Now arranged on their sides, around the small garden. We never had much luck
with trees, but these, as small as they are, show promise. The flowers have already filled
out the spaces between them, and the craziest thing: the other morning I stood and watched
bees and butterflies arriving on the tops of the flowers, the flower heads slightly but perceptibly
bending with each shift in even these negligible weights and counterweights.

At first I had the indistinct impression they had come to visit the little girl’s garden.
Then it occurred—a computer file I have grown accustomed to using won’t let me delete
this—that no, in some fundamental, overreaching sense they are the little girl.


Thanks, Tom, for adding some class to the Kitchen with your poetry, your wife’s (Carolyn Krzywkowski’s) fine artwork, and a dab of the Aeneid for our Seed of the Week: Consulting the Oracle. Again, our condolences on the passing of your wife such a short time ago.

Interested in reading more of Tom’s work? Click for a peek into one of his many books, The Search For The Reason Why. Or go to for a bio and the Tom Kryss Papers.

Deadline for Rattlesnake Press’s WTF#7, edited by frank andrick, is midnight tonight. See the Bigger Blue Box at the Bottom of Medusa’s Kitchen for details. frank will be hosting Michael Gorman at Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café tonight (8pm, 1414 16th St., Sacramento). Michael R. Gorman is a National Lambda Literary Award winning author, poet, journalist, civil rights activist, artist, editor, musician, storyteller, Celtic scholar, and ordained Druid. He says with a smile, "Someone once called me a Renaissance Man, which I think means I'm good at a lot of stuff and can't focus." Mr. Gorman was affectionately dubbed "the Poet Laureate of Lavender Heights." Though his poetry covers a wide range of styles and topics, his upcoming reading will include a retrospective of his more edgy political poetry. (And don't forget to Brown Bag it at the Library today at noon!—See b-board for details.)

Connie Post sends us this SF Examiner article about Youth Poetry in the Bay Area and about the Ravenswood event that is coming up this Sunday (7/18) from 2-4pm:

Lovin’ the Tule!

SPC's new Tule Review is out, and it rocks! Be sure to come to the reading for this new, perfect-bound issue (edited by Linda Collins and Theresa McCourt) at the Sacramento Poetry Center on August 2, when 14 of 38 contributors from California and beyond will read their work. Copies will be on sale for $10.

The Sacramento Poetry Center welcomes all styles of strong, well-crafted poems for the next issue, the winter Tule Review, now 50-60 pages and perfect-bound with an anticipated completion in January 2011. Deadline is Sept. 15. Please note: As of June 16, 2010, submission guidelines have changed! Go to for info.

And lovin’ Michael Hettich…

One of my all-time favorite poets is Michael Hettich (, and I see he is one of the contributors to the Poets for Living Waters site ( that addresses, through poetry, the Gulf oil spill (see b-board). This poem of his charmed me so much that I’m posting it here:

—Michael Hettich

There are more barrels of oil spewing into our waters
than the number of days you will live, or breaths

you will take; more barrels than times you will blink
your eyes. When you walk across a field, just think

of all the blades your feet crush. But the blades stand up tall again,
unless there’s too much walking.

Think of all the days you’ve lived in the half-light
of someday and maybe and when I find myself.
Think of all the people you’ve touched without meaning to,

brushed up against in passing. Think of all the leaves

in any small forest, all the insects there. Think
of the breezes, of the fragrances they carry, the silences

inside them. The rivers and oceans you’ve tasted.
The windows you’ve opened; the doors you’ve walked through.

Your dust is scattered everywhere.

More barrels than that. This morning when I woke up,
so many birds were singing I couldn’t
ignore them, for once. Think of all the times

you’ve stood still to listen. Think of the times
you only heard chatter: Every heartbeat is the end

of something that is always ending and the start
of something else, something new. More barrels than that too.

(previously appeared on


(from Virgil's epic poem, the Aeneid, Book VI, lines 98-148)
Translation by Seamus Heaney

So from the back of her shrine the Sibyl of Cumae
Chanted fearful equivocal words and made the cave echo
With sayings where clear truths and mysteries
Were inextricably twined. Apollo turned and twisted
His spurs at her breast, gave her her head, then reined
in her spasms.

As soon as her fit passed away and the mad mouthings
Heroic Aeneas began: ‘No ordeal, O Priestess,
That you can imagine would ever surprise me,
For already I have foreseen and foresuffered all.
But one thing I pray for especially: since they say it is
That the King of the Underworld’s gateway is to be found,
Among these shadowy marshes where Acheron comes
flooding through,
I pray for one look, one face-to-face meeting with my
dear father.
Teach me the way and open the holy doors wide.
I carried him on these shoulders through flames
And thousands of enemy spears. In the thick of battle I
saved him
And he was at my side then through all my sea-journeys,
A man in old age, worn out yet holding out always.
And he too it was who half-prayed and half-ordered me
To make this approach, to find and petition you.
So therefore, Vestal, I beseech you take pity
On a son and a father, for nothing is out of your power
Whom Hecate appointed the Keeper of wooded Avernus.
If Orpheus could call back the shade of a wife through
his faith
In the loudly plucked strings of his Thracian lyre,
If Pollux could redeem a brother by going in turns
Backwards and forwards so often to the land of the dead,
And if Theseus too, and great Hercules . . . But why
speak of them?
I myself am of highest birth, a descendant of Jove.’

He was praying like that and holding on to the altar
When the prophetess started to speak: ‘Blood relation of
Trojan, son of Anchises, the way down to Avernus is easy.
Day and night black Pluto’s door stands open.
But to retrace your steps and get back to upper air,
This is the real task and the real undertaking.
A few have been able to do it, sons of gods
Favoured by Jupiter the Just, or exalted to heaven
In a blaze of heroic glory. Forests spread midway down,
And Cocytus winds through the dark, licking its banks.
Still, if love torments you so much and you so much need
To sail the Stygian lake twice and twice to inspect
The murk of Tartarus, if you will go beyond the limit,
Understand what you must do beforehand.
Hidden in the thick of a tree is a bough made of gold
And its leaves and pliable twigs are made of it too.
It is sacred to underworld Juno, who is its patron,
And it is roofed in by a grove, where deep shadows mass
Along far wooded valleys. No one is ever permitted
To go down to earth’s hidden places unless he has first
Plucked this golden-fledged growth out of its tree
And handed it over to fair Proserpina, to whom it belongs
By decree, her own special gift. And when it is plucked,
A second one always grows in its place, golden again,
And the foliage growing on it has the same metal sheen.
Therefore look up and search deep and when you have
found it
Take hold of it boldly and duly. If fate has called you,
The bough will come away easily, of its own accord.
Otherwise, no matter how much strength you muster,
you never will
Manage to quell it or cut it down with the toughest of


—Tom Kryss

Charlestown: one of those unexpected destinations you sometimes
reach accidentally and yet with delusions of control, like a driver
hedging the wheel of an automobile as it runs out of gas, ploughing
over an embankment, and coasting to a stop in a field. Wild flowers
hug the tires—they do not wish to let go. In the distance there are
forests, a stream flashing like a handheld signal mirror; cows. Nice
place but a bit unusual, like a working belief in the car’s supply gages.

One of the first orders of business in our new trailer is to rip out the old
door and replace it with a large glass sliding panel. While the attempt is
being made to dislodge the old with prizing bars, handsaws, and hammers,
our neighbor wanders over and introduces himself. Then he asks if he can
have the old door, the door which to us is no longer necessary. Of course!
Later, I assist him in carrying it across the street and return to find my wife
polishing the new glass, disenfranchising it of our fingerprints. It avails us
of a certain standard view, much like a framed Monet which persists in making
the same eminently tolerable statement no matter where it is hung.

For the longest time our former door sits on the neighbor’s porch, propped against
the outer wall, somewhat like an extra door to be fitted into the wall in the event
of an emergency. Memories of its previous existence fade slowly the way dispersing
clouds suggest some basis for reincarnation.

In town, in search of curtains to hang over the door, we stop at a traffic light and are
confronted by an apparition of a cow staring at us from the back of a semi-enclosed
trailer rig. Enthusiastically, I tell my wife this is the type of apparition one rarely gets
to see in Cleveland and she agrees, not quite so enthusiastically. Naturally, the cow
does not know what to make of us. It stands on its moveable platform, its wide soulful
eyes peering out of a square porthole, regarding our front windshield, perplexed— no,
profoundly unmoved—like the Russian monkey which once orbited the earth.


Today's LittleNip:

Think you mid all this mighty sum
Of things forever speaking,
That nothing of itself will come,
But we must still be seeking?

—William Wordsworth, "Exposition and Reply", 1798


—Medusa (with thanks to Carl Schwartz for Today's LittleNip)

Two Rabbits
Painting by Carolyn Krzywkowski