Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ophiuchus, Hold On To Your Serpent!

Photo by Robin Gale Odam

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

I live in a cartoon.
My hilarious broom
sweeps dust over blacktop.
Dust and weeds.
Broken cobwebs.
Brittle twigs.
Particles of years.

You fiddle with
rust, faded boxes,
missing treasures.
You arrange secrets
on a shelf.
You are serious.
I forgot to tell you
it’s a joke.
My stifled laugh hisses
into the dark night.

I surprise myself
and listen...our
Music in the dark.
Always on time,
in the late night,
he plays it low.
Feel the hunger.

I slide my broom,
cling to my
wisp of sanity,
align myself with
a thin line,
pull a long breath for
the next caption.

Cartoons can be deadly.
One can become
missing from the next frame.
I vanish and reappear.

You place our chairs
beneath the little tree
and bring something you found,
some words, ones we said
countless times.


Thanks, Robin, Janet, TG, and other contributors today who responded to our Seed of the Week: Cosmic Kerfuffles, or who are still musing about dreams and water. Great to hear from Mitz Sackman again, after a long hiatus!

Medusa’s Bulletin Board (the skinny blue box on the right) is bursting with readings these days; yesterday I spent lots of time posting new ones. The foothills are especially alive with the sound of poetry, including lots of events this month in Placerville, El Dorado Hills, and Grass Valley. And Manzanita Writers, based in San Andreas, have a reading this Saturday to celebrate another Manzanita anthology (Wild Edges); a workshop Jan. 29 (EBook It!); another workshop February 12 (Between the Sheets); and their Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate contest with its Feb. 28 deadline. You can find details about area workshops and contests in the appropriate “pages” on Medusa if you scroll down to the SNAKE ON A ROD section of our bulletin board.

Pleasanton Poetry, Prose and Arts Fest March 26-27:

The brochure with full info on contests, workshops and activities for the Pleasanton Poetry, Prose and the Arts Festival on March 26th and 27th is now available! This year's program is packed with literary talent: Al Young, Calif. Poet Laureate Emeritus, is the keynote speaker and a workshop leader. Poetry, prose and screenwriting workshops for adults, teens and youth with be led by Adair Lara, David Alpaugh, Connie Post, Lisa Gentile, Susan Wooldridge, Lee Rossi, Nina Schuyler, Alison Luterman, Kathryn Reiss, Kim Rosen, and Julia Connor. To register, print out the form at (online registration is not available.)

Submission Opportunities for Stanislaus County Residents and beyond:

The Poets' Corner Contest for Stanislaus County Residents submission period is February 1 through 4pm on Wednesday, March 16. Entry forms can be obtained beginning Feb. 1 at Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department, 10th Street Place in Modesto; The McHenry Mansion, The McHenry Museum; Stanislaus County Library; Maddux Youth Center; King Kennedy Memorial Center or online at

For a forthcoming anthology of Modesto-area poetry, Quercus Review Press is seeking poems from poets who reside, have resided, or have some connection to the Modesto area. Work does not have to be about the Modesto area. Please send 3-5 unpublished or published poems, plus an SASE, to Quercus Review Press c/o Modesto Poets Anthology, 435 College Ave., Modesto, CA 95350. Include a cover letter that reflects your connection to the Modesto poetry scene and include your name, address, and email on all pages of submission. For previously published poems, please include the place and date of publication and the name of the copyright holder. Deadline: postmarked by April 1, 2011.

Speaking of Quercus, its editors are still putting together the first issue of Snail Mail Review, but they’re so enthusiastic about their journal that they’re going to be accepting submissions for Issue Two starting February 1. So watch for details about that (and for Issue One!)—you don’t have to be a resident of Stanislaus County to submit.

Stanislaus Connections ( is seeking submissions for its "A Gathering of Voices" page. The themes are peace, justice, and/or a sustainable environment. We ask for poets to be from the area or connected to our community in some way, like featured readers at a local reading or participation with shared activism or...originally form the valley or...? If interested, please email Tina Driskill at

And finally…

Song of the San Joaquin is accepting poetry for the Spring Issue through March 15, and you don’t need to be a San Joaquin County resident to submit! Send 3 poems to (preferred) or PO Box 1161, Modesto, CA. For more information, see


—Robin Gale Odam

Oh, my stars, a new and ominous 13th sign;
how far away from the burning sun were we
on the day we were born?

Ophiuchus, hold on to your serpent—he’s
sliding through the cosmos shedding kerfuffles.

Seems we’re a-wobble on our axis, out of line
for eons of time, and now someone has gone
dizzy and changed the zodiac.

There are reports of crises; people are crying,
and kerfuffles are falling, that’s all we know.

Appears kerfuffles cause upheaval and tumult.
In such commotion we don’t know who we are.
We don’t know if we like each other; turns out
we may not be compatible, after all.

Maybe a 13th sign is a sign. We can have a 13th
floor; think of all the extra living space.
And everyone who professed 13 as their lucky
number will be vindicated—they were probably
Ophiuchusians all along.

I once read that I was born on a rotten day.
This may be good news—I may like being a
snake, flicking my silver tongue and staring with
my new steely eyes.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Kerfuffle: a commotion or fuss.
In earlier days, curfuffle, carfuffle, cafuffle,
cafoufle, gefuffle, settling at last,
like our place under the eternal stars
and their signs, aspects, and whatnot, as
Compare kerplop,
kerplunk (ker for onomatopoeic
emphasis with maybe a hint of crash.
From Scots Gaelic car
and fuffle
to twist, bend, throw into disorder,
dishevel, ruffle, related to fuff, puffs
of smoke or steam going
off in a huff. And what’s this
about throwing our horoscopes
into a fluffle?

(with apologies to Michael Quinion & his World Wide Words)


—Taylor Graham

At 5:03 a.m., a low-level scream.
In the dark, in the left-hand
corner of the room where January light
first hits the window, the cat
is calling up the sun.

I wish I could explain to her
the notion of a gag-rule, of silence
before dawn. She has no concept
of the nuts & bolts of the cosmos,
the moment of sunup, quirks of fog.

All winter she keeps her vigil.
No placating her by playing
the masseur, stroking her
the length of aging black fur.
At 7:09 a.m. the sun will find her.


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

Ah what is the world coming to
That old question
Not even the heavens stand still
Am I a Gemini or not?
Astronomically speaking, never in my lifetime
Now we have moved along twice
What is all the fuss
Chronic slow news days
Something to titillate us
The earth wobbles on
We laugh at our certainties
Horoscope kerfluffles
Cosmic comic life


Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Robin Gale Odam

describe the river homework due
wade through abstract nouns
slippery root words sink and hide
compound sentence branches endlessly
rapid words merge into unruly paragraph
crowded adjectives describe motion
wonder imagines force could tell it better
tangled roots twist in the turbulent deep
opening statement arrives late with
confusing current thick to tread
skim the surface hold your breath
better not swim here wake up
it’s due tomorrow


—Janet Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

Khaos disturbs most of the
Kosmos of astronomic
Konfused people, wobbling Earth
Kreate a big fuss, maybe
Konsciously, or not . . . the same
Kraziness—star gazers lost?


Today's LittleNip: 

—Robin Gale Odam

Lady with tangles for hair calls out to me
in the morning. I tell her I must go. I tell her
I am not my own. Speak, she pleads, tell me
of your heart...cry to me, I will listen...I am
combing my tangles and waiting...



(and no, "Poe's toaster" didn't show up on his birthday—once again. See

Grave of Edgar Allan Poe on his birthday in 2008 with, 
as per tradition, its two roses and cognac from 
a mysterious visitor