Friday, July 01, 2011

Happy Fiscal New Year!

Hatch Graham Giving Us Van Gogh
(at the Lodi "A Starry Night" reading, 
Sunday, June 26)
—Photo by D.R. Wagner


I found this garden
caught in the circle of the past:
time apertures here.

Heat is running out into night.
Chose the last memory fairly:
even the sweetest pilgrimage shatters
under too much light.

The moon makes me thirsty.
Venus whispers in my ear:
Go ahead, bite into the plum.
What is there to fear?

—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento


In the fever of closing up some of the departments of Rattlesnake Press (at least for now), I sent out a letter thanking those who have been central to its workings over these seven years. Of course I knew I’d have regrets, that I’d forget some. One was Robbie Grossklaus: I thanked him for editing Fangs I, but I completely forgot the good work he did on editing our teen journal, VYPER, and other projects he worked on for us. Thanks, RG; here’s to ya!

The other person I’d like to thank is Patricia Wellingham-Jones, whose PWJ Publishing was an inspiration to me as a viable micropress, and whose advice and encouragement were vital, especially during the early hatchings of the Snake. Thanks, Pat! Hope to see you soon.

Last Monday I posted the news that Modesto has a new reading series on the third Thursdays of the month at the St. Clair Theatre. Gary Thomas has volunteered to be its coordinator, so if you’d like to read there, contact him at

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Reno has some serious, industrial-strength arts activities going on in their Reno is Artown festival during July. I don’t see a lot of poetry and literature, other than “Discover cowboy poetry” tonight and a little bit later in the month, but July is packed with dance; theater (everything from Shakespeare to Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, which sounds intriguing because you have to be over 18 to get in); children’s and adult art projects, from recycled materials to gelatin printing to making snow globes; music from organ concerts to opera in bluejeans to hip hop to world music to ukuleles to Pink Martini and the Marchfourth Marching Band; movies; and ongoing exhibits—and much, much more, closing on July 31 with Playing for Change, a concert by the global music collective. Go to for a complete schedule, or send for their lovely, free brochure (or maybe you can find one around here). It’s worth a trip over the hill, and there probably won’t be any snow—though this year we have no guarantees!

Hey—check out SPAM’s (Sac. Poetry and Music by Rebecca Moos) new calendar format. Excellent! And just click on any entry to get the full info. That’s, or click on the Beatnik Snake on our bulletin board.

Thanks to today’s contributors, including these poems from Don Feliz. They were first published in the SnakeRings SpiralChap Don did with his wife, Elsie, for Rattlesnake Press, entitled To Berlin With Love. If you want to know what Katy Brown’s Badger Hill is, you’ll have to scroll down on the bulletin board, all the way to “Life in Pollock Pines”. And for more Starry Night photos, go to Medusa’s Facebook page. (By the way, I stole today’s post title from Carol Frith.)


—Don Feliz, Sacramento

On your feet; don fatigues.
Make the bed smooth and tight.
Time to shave. Clean barracks.

Hurry up. Wait in hall until
Sergeant shouts. Jump downstairs
like paratroopers out of planes.

Stand in ranks. Listen for orders of
the day. Watch the red sun rise over
Sarge marching us to breakfast.


February, 1961
—Don Feliz

Thousands of miles from California,
chilled in an open truck, bouncing over
cobble stones with five other soldiers
from Headquarters to McNair Barracks;

patches of snow, huge leafless trees,
ancient stone buildings among new ones,
bicycles everywhere, and wide streets.
Berliners wave at us. We wave back,

envy their winter coats. Our truck
drops each of us at his new company.
When it’s my turn, I jump off, report
inside for hot cakes and hotter coffee.


—Don Feliz

Waiting for checkpoint
clearance leaving Berlin,
we dismount our convoy.

Walk by motor freighters
large as railroad cars
stopped for cargo checks.

The drivers’ families squeezed
together on one bench seat.
Children confined inside wave.


—Don Feliz

Among legions of fallen leaves
soldiers stare at movement
in bands of sunlight and shadows.

A phantom floats two meters high,
comes nearer. A young woman:
white silk blouse and brown breeches,
long blond hair tied with bright ribbon.

Subdued sons of conquerors
watch her dissolve into sunlight.
Elegance on horseback,
an aristocrat above her subjects.


—Katy Brown, Davis

The mocking bird begins early—
examining his soul in a reedy hymn
sung from a branch outside my window

while the moon still shines silver
on the apricot tree.
Dawn unlocks surprising secrets

gathered in the shadowy night.
Like pebbles in a pewter bowl,
the hours scrape together

and collect to build the day:
each hour unique—
a different hue and shape.

Morning sun on Badger Hill
comes slowly through the stand
of ancient cedar trees,

a slant of light that tricks the eye
into seeing wonder in a fox’s hole
and diamonds in a bowl of sand.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

A nephic breath moved
Toward me like a cello
Playing alone in a room filled
Only with late evening light
And a sure sound of mirage
Could be said to be understood.

I began to think to the rhythms
Of the wind and changed the way
I looked upon the day. It indeed
Would change and a liquid kind
Of light would move from behind
The curve of the clouds and moil
Upward toward the stillness
One can know no other way.

In that moment I will come to talk
To you, surrounded by this weather.
You will understand what I am trying
To say and you will listen for a moment
To the cello as well, come to tell
Me about it. You will say

“Rain is coming,” and touch the back
Of your head to feel the damp
In your hair. Smoke too will help
Tell the story and we will lean
Against that red oak near the
Small sheep meadow and fall in love
With the crystal air, the quality
The light displays and we will be
Whisked to leeward in wild streamers
And float, for a thousand miles
On the layers of air we think
Such a simple thing we hardly
Recall the great country we dare to roam.


—D.R. Wagner

Tonight you are in my heart.
I can feel you inside me
Touching the walls as they expand and contract.
And you will take my dreams,

Bending the fetters that bind them.
They have taken the ladder and lowered
It down to where you are
But you are not interested in relieving yourself
With a higher view.

The lions cough from the cliffs.
The driest of winds unwinds like a snake
Into deserts of sand. The storm
Lasts for days, the “darkness
That can be felt” obscures everything.

They bring the children out to the cemetery
To watch the dead men move from their deep confines.
There are parades of them.
Birds in the air tumble over one
Another, exclaiming as they would
At a fire or the shaking of the earth.

The treasures are uncovered.
My heart has its own fossils.
There is a creaking in the masts
As the winds thread the sails
And the sails beg for reefing.

I do not know how long
You will be here. Desperate
I find my way back to the simple
Things of the day, wash and
Dress myself, extend my hand
To greet someone and pretend
These feelings no longer come
As they do, and they do,
And push myself to see me through.

*a sail generally used in very light breezes.
It is just above the topgallant on square rigged ships.


—D.R. Wagner

You said this blue sky was imperishable
But now it is gone and there is frost on
The edges of the pond every morning.

All these thoughts I had of you have gone
Away suddenly. There is nothing left to think.
I can only look out across the valley now.

I’ll sing a little song to myself, one
That you used to enjoy. It is about
The sound the oars make when they
Scrape the gravel in the shallow water.

Maybe that sound will stop my sighing.


Today's LittleNip: 

It is senseless to speak of optimism or pessimism. The only important thing to remember is that if one works well in a potato field, the potatoes will grow. If one works well among men, they will grow. That's reality. The rest is smoke.

—Danilo Dolci



—Photo by D.R. Wagner