Friday, May 11, 2007

Of Mothers & Zucchini

—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

She has scars on her face, but she's learned
to dodge the coyote, the hawk pair, the rest-
less fox. . . She knows just where to hide

her busy chicks in the tall grass while she
pick-picks through the scattered corn, horse-
tail, the scurry of beetles. . . And late

in the day, her broad wings fan her brood
back up into the oaks, into the long,
sheltering arms of a sultry summer dusk. . .


Well, okay, that one was about turkeys, and the picture is ducks. But motherhood is motherhood, yes?

—Kathy Kieth

Pregnant: miserable, damp
hair in her face, she leans
on the grocery cart, tired feet
and swollen hands waiting
for her harvest, counting hours
until she will ripen: produce,
procreate, proliferate . . .

She feels like a factory
that works to capacity 'round
the clock—like wartime, she
thinks, or slave-traders, or
maybe just that final push
of plenty: fat fruit growing
heavier day by day . . .

This weekend:

•••Saturday, (5/12), 7:30 PM: Book release party and reading by Jacquelyn Shaffer and Robbie Grossklaus at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento.

•••Also Saturday (5/12), 7 PM: Hosts Todd Cirillo, Julie Valin and Matt Amott of Six Ft. Swells Press present the third chapbook in their Cheap Shots Poetry Series: Cocktails and Confessions: A collection of the greatest poetry inspired by lust and libations. This is After Hours Poetry at its finest, featuring contributors such as Christine Irving, Laura and Dave Pendell, Bill Gainer, Chris Olander, Will Staple, and other special surprise guests. Jason's Studio Cafe (at Booktown Books), 134 S. Auburn St., Grass Valley. Free. Info: or or 530-271-0662.

And next week:

•••Monday (5/14), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center will host a reading by Cheryl Smith's CSUS Creative Writing Class. HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St., Sacramento. Info: 916.451.5569.

•••Wednesday (5/16), 7:30 PM: Leah DenBoer Memorial Peace Poetry Reading. James DenBoer, Julia Connor, Dennis Schmitz, Jeff Knorr, Hannah Stein, Mary Zeppa, Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Quinton Duval, Katherine Hohlwein and others. You are welcome to share your own peace poems or reminiscences of Leah DenBoer. The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento.

•••Thursday (5/17), 8 PM: Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento. Open mic before and after featured reader.

•••Friday (5/18), 7 PM: Our House Poetry Reading. Featured readers are Todd Mann and Leslie Kramer. An open mike follows. There is no charge. Our House Gallery & Framing is located at 4510 Post St., Ste. 330 in Town Center in El Dorado Hills Town Center. From Sacramento, take the Latrobe exit south for a block or so, then turn left into the shopping center. The gallery is on the northern edge of the Town Center. Info: 916-933-4ART or

Last Call(s):

•••May 15 (postmark) is the deadline for this year’s Artists Embassy International Poetry Contest! 43 Cash Awards! Artists Embassy International’s annual Poetry Contest has moved its deadline one month earlier this year. Contest entry forms are provided on our website at All 43 Poetry Contest winners will be honored at the 14th Annual Dancing Poetry Festival on Sept. 29 at the prestigious podium in the elegant California Palace of the Legion of Honor Art Museum. Forty-three poems will be chosen to receive a cumulative total of over $1,000 and free entry into the festival, plus a printed award certificate. The top three poems chosen as Grand Prizes will also be choreographed, costumed and videotaped live in an on-stage performance at the Festival. The entry fee is $5 per poem or $10 for 3 poems. Each poem may be up to 40 lines long. Send two copies of each poem. One copy should be anonymous (just title and poem), the other should have your name, address, phone, email address and where you heard about this contest.

•••May 15 (postmark) is also the deadline for Rattlesnake Review #14! Send 3-5 poems or photos or art pieces to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No cover letters, no bios—just those dandy poems. But no simultaneous submissions or previously-published poems, either, please.

And do the poor wrangler a favor: Send your submissions in one bunch, not dribbling in one at a time. And no do-overs—the Snake HATES HATES HATES it when you send a poem, then send an edited version. "Could you please change that comma in Stanza 94 to an ampersand...."

Anyway, Medusa and her reptilian friends will be snoozing for a week. We'll be back in motion next Saturday, May 19. I shall leave you with more musings about Mom, including the last one, by Michael Hettich, one of my all-time favorite poets. (Yes, I know, I posted it last year, but it bears repeating.) Be good while I'm gone. Or productive, at least. Or, hell, just have a good time! While the Snake's away...


—Kathy Kieth

—breaks himself open; paramedics swarm
while he shrieks in pain and terror
at what has befallen him . . . The rest of us

lift our heads from grazing: fifty noses
test the air for this danger to one of
the herd. Especially the women: wary

creatures (mothers or not) who never forgot
the sound of a panicky child; women
whose eyes start to glisten, sparkle as tears

of fear pull on that string in their guts, that
umbilicus tied to every mother's child . . .


—Kathy Kieth

Standing in the kitchen: sweat-soaked bra, wet
hair in my eyes: the last five zucchini
lined up on the table like bullets waiting
to go off. This steamy room will kill me

some summer. . . Why anybody would plant
these little green demons, these instruments
of torture: how much ratatouille can one family
eat? And why do good things always come piled up

all at once, like the peaches and plums and pears
and apricots—all that fruit my mother used to
slave over on hot August days: pointless fan
blowing steam around the room, into her eyes,

rolling down her face: canning and canning
those damn peaches and plums and pears and
apricots, those instruments of torture. . . Because
she knew good things always come piled up

all at once, just like these damned zucchini.
And somehow it's criminal not to try
to save every bit of it. . .

(originally appeared in Nanny Fanny)


—Michael Hettich

Your mother sings
an old song as she
hangs the wash. She looks around—

And when she is sure
no one is watching
(but you are watching) she lets the pigeons

she keeps at the bottom of her laundry basket
fly free—
Each has a note

in its beak. And now a pigeon
flies in your window, dies at your feet.
The note says: I live alone, please

come, please help me. But she doesn’t live
alone, your mother
is downstairs now

moving pots and pans, starting
dinner, singing
a song she sang,

you imagine, when you couldn’t sleep.
You hear her down there
singing. You see the pigeon on the floor.



Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their POETRY, PHOTOS and ART, as well as announcements of Northern California poetry events to (or snail ‘em to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726) for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.)

SnakeWatch: Up-to-the-minute Snake news:

Journals (free publications): Rattlesnake Review #13 is available at The Book Collector; next deadline is Tuesday, May 15. The new VYPER #6 (for youth 13-19) is in The Book Collector; next deadline is Nov. 1. Snakelets #9 (for kids 0-12) is available; Snakelets #10 will be out this month. Next deadline is Oct. 1.

Books/broadsides: May's releases are Grass Valley Poet Ron Tranquilla’s Playing Favorites: Selected Poems, 1971-2006, plus a littlesnake broadside by Julie Valin (Still Life With Sun) and a Rattlesnake Interview Broadside (#2) featuring Khiry Malik Moore and B.L. Kennedy. All are now available at The Book Collector. Rattlechaps are $5; broadsides are free. Or contact or for ordering information.

Next rattle-read: Rattlesnake Press will present Sacramento Poet Tom Miner at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, on Wednesday, June 20 from 7:30-9 PM to celebrate the release of his new chapbook, North of Everything. Also featured that night will be a new littlesnake broadside (Cominciare Adagio) from Stockton Poet and Publisher David Humphreys, plus #3 in the Rattlesnake Interview Series by B.L. Kennedy, this one featuring Sacramento Poet Jane Blue. Refreshments and a read-around will follow; bring your own poems or somebody else's. More info: NOTE: For June, and for June only, our monthly Rattlesnake reading will be on the THIRD Weds. instead of the second one.