Saturday, August 28, 2010

Apologies & Finding Poetry

Robert Roden

—Robert Roden, Roseville

At the airport, I got the pat down
by a cute young man named Terry,
who looked like Elliott Smith: black, greasy hair,
thin, pale face, and a knowing smile.

He touched me softly with his thin gloves
and offered me the private screening
that wouldn’t cost me twenty bucks.

Last time I was here, a different guard asked,
Are there any parts of your body
that are sensitive to the touch?

Just about all of them, I confessed
to myself, shaking my head
while getting full body massage,
every surface of me inspected
as the man rubbed his condomed fingers
over the only bulge I couldn’t remove.

All of this for free? It’s what freedom’s about—
ah, how I love post-9/11 America—
even if I can’t take K-Y Jelly on board.


Thanks, Robert! Robert Roden lives in Roseville and teaches at American River College. He is married to Melisa and father to his six children: Kira, Holly, Cohen, Logan, Nova, and Ewan. His poems have appeared in Nerve Cowboy, Pearl, Bender, Tears in the Fence, Chiron Review, Rattle, First Class, and Staplegun Press. You may also remember Robert from Temporary Vandalism Recordings and Aphasia Press, and from The Silt Reader, which ran from 2000 to 2009 and was preceded by Freedom Isn’t Free, which ran from 1994-1999. For more about Robert’s poetry and publishing, go to

Robert Roden, Cynthia Linville and Kara Synhorst will be reading at the Sacramento Poetry Center this Monday, Aug. 30, 7:30pm. That’s at 25th & R Sts., Sacramento. CSUS Lecturer, Convergence Editor, Poetry Now Poetry Editor, SnakePal and frequent contributor Cynthia Linville has been featured twice in the Kitchen: July 30, 2008 and February 15, 2010. Check her out in our Archives, or go to and read all the nice things Bob Stanley has to say about her.

Two out-of-town workshops of note:

This Fall, Sebastopol Center for the Arts presents Writers’ Sampler XXIII at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 6780 Depot St., Sebastopol. Two of the four Monday night workshops seem poetry-pertinent:

•••The first workshop will be given Monday, Sept. 27 from 7-9pm by Connie Post: “In the Body” Poems: Writing Poems About Our Body’s Response to the World We Live in. Every experience in our lives passes through our body in some way or another. In this workshop we will explore how to effectively capture what moves through us and what stays inside of us. We will examine the ways to give our bodies a voice, and how to integrate inventive metaphor into our poetry. There will be writing exercises and some examination of published “in the body” poems. Bring a writing pad, a pencil and a few experiences about the stories “your body could tell.” Connie Post, Poet Laureate Emerita of Livermore (2005–2009), has been published widely, most recently in: Calyx, Kalliope, Cold Mountain Review, Chiron Review, Crab Creek Review, Comstock Review, & The Toronto Quarterly. In 2009 she won the Cover Prize of The Dirty Napkin, and the Caesura Poetry Award from Poetry Center of San Jose. She hosts a popular reading series in the Bay Area and teaches writing workshops. Connie’s most recent book is Trip Wires (Finishing Line Press, August 2010).

•••Another workshop of note will be given at SCA Monday, October 4 from 7-9pm by Kim Rosen: Giving Voice: The Art of Reading Aloud. What does it take to read your work (or anyone else's) aloud with authenticity and presence? How do you show up in person with the same freedom? [Frankly, Medusa thinks we could all use a little help in this area from time to time!]

Fees: $15 per class. Call 707-829-4797 for details. [The website,] doesn’t have the info posted yet.] Writer’s Sampler XXIII is supported by Poets & Writers, Inc. through a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.


—Robert Roden

I’m flipping through the newspaper
when I come across an ad circular
for an upscale discount store
touting its annual White Sale.

No surprise. There’s always a White Sale.
But on the cover, beneath the company’s
circular logo, is the picture of a pick-up
truck parked conveniently in a field,

with a freshly-linened mattress:
a bed within a bed. From this point-
of-view I can see the tailgate
down, and the back of the cab.

A couple of indistinct faces pose,
frozen in the cab’s rear window.
His head is cocked to the side,
as if he’s in the middle of saying,

Since we’re stuck here, we might as well
make the best of it. Or, more bluntly,
Put out, or get out. Her head is mostly
forward. She might be about to answer,

I wouldn’t sleep with you if you were the last
man in Minnesota. Or maybe she’s reaching
to yank on the door handle, ready to jump,
hoping someone will save her, someone is watching.


—Robert Roden

I see you softly swaying
your Saturday away
on the corner
of Fairway and Galleria Blvd.,
holding your post like a cross
gripped in both hands.

But I don’t see the sign
for it’s facing the opposite way,
and you’re reading a paperback book.

There is so much I cannot read here.
Your ad for American Furnishings:
Final Days.
Everything Must Go.
Your book—certainly not the first volume
of Remembrance of Things Past
or its newest translation:
In Search of Lost Time,
but a book nonetheless.

Usually, I think the apocalypse is nigh,
but seeing you rocking there, reading,
I feel a sense of hope, almost faith.


—Robert Roden

I wish you didn’t have to
stand there
wearing that pickle costume.
You look frickin’


—Robert Roden

It is such a sad sight
to see you

on the street
corners of America,

flinging your signs
for homes
for sale, pizza
for cheap, etc.

I guess that job

flipping burgers.

At least you get to listen
to The Decemberists,
Placebo, Skinny Puppy,
Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos,
The Afghan Whigs,
Mindless Self Indulgence,
or whatever

you fill your ears
with . . .


—Robert Roden

I am so sorry
you have to stand

in the heat

dressed—if you can call it that—
as a big plastic cell phone.


—Robert Roden

Once in a while, walk around
like you’re not from this planet.
Position your hips at awkward angles
like the gravity of our world
is foreign to you. Slow down.

Walk at half your normal speed.
Drag your feet and pretend
you’ve been in bed all day
or on your feet or knees
for 10 to 12 hours. Or don’t
pretend—make this
a prerequisite; then
go for the walk.

Make sure there are many people
around—try the airport,
a mall, college. Look at all
the fascinating creatures
circumambulating you—
humans—stare at them
for a while, even after they notice
you staring, but be sure
to keep walking while you look—
the movement of your gait
remains essential. Feel your vertebrae
sliding out of place; lose the hold
on your backbone and open up
your lungs and heart.
Now breathe deeply—even if you choke
on cigarette smoke, especially
if there’s perfume in the air.

Try cupping your hands
over your ears—flap them
like wings while you walk.
Do you hear that? Do you hear that?
This is how the best poets do it.
See a pair of lovers kissing
like you used to, awkwardly
oblivious, and avoid the temptation
to say Get a room. Instead,
smile and join them.

Let your eyes be their lips,
your breath their hands.
Keep walking and walking.

If someone asks What
are you doing? pause
for a moment
while you fill
with the language; then
answer Everything is
so beautiful here.
Keep walking before they ask
what you mean by that.

If these instructions aren’t clear,
watch a film with Kevin Spacey in it;
almost any one will do,
but especially K-Pax;
practice your method acting.
As you’re shuffling through the crowd,
don’t say anything too obvious,
like What a peculiar planet this is.

In the meantime,
keep your eyes open. This
is the kind of reading
you should be doing
in and out of books.


Today's LittleNip:

Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.

—Thomas Alva Edison



Photo by Katy Brown, Davis