Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bear in the Woods

—Mary Oliver

There's a bear in the Truro woods.
People have seen it—three or four,
or two, or one. I think
of the thickness of the serious woods
around the dark bowls of the Truro ponds;
I think of the blueberry fields, the blackberry tangles,
the cranberry bogs. And the sky
with its new moon, its familiar star-trails,
burns down like a brand-new heaven,
while everywhere I look on the scratchy hillsides
shadows seem to grow shoulders. Surely
a beast might be clever, be lucky, move quietly
through the woods for years, learning to stay away
from roads and houses. Common sense mutters:
it can't be true, it must be somebody's
runaway dog. But the seed
has been planted, and when has happiness ever
required much evidence to begin
its leaf-green breathing?


Which is my way of saying that last night Sam looked out our front window and there was a bear on our deck, snuffling around in the birdseed—our first in these woods of ours. Precautions must be taken, of course; we are below them on the food chain, or at least on the territorial one. But both of us stood and watched him/her for at least a full minute, frozen in the awe of that moment, gelling it in our file cards of time to hang onto for the rest of our lives. This holiday season, I wish you many such moments—many such visitors—many such bears.


this vale of stars
—dawn m. dibartolo,
citrus heights

valley life…
distant mountains;
gather the detritus
of 100-acre burns,
or winter’s bitter mist ~

gray suck
that hollows out the soul ~

sometimes the sun
is lost for days…

and dampened skin
cries out for heat,
vaporous dreams
cry out for clarity;
and all you can do
is look to the forecast,

knowing the sun
will smile here again.


Thanks, dawn, for the response to our Seed of the Week: When The Fog Lifts. Check out the new Rattlesnake Review for another poem of dawn dibartolo's on Medusa's page. Well, after Saturday, check out RR... I took almost 50 to the reading at The Book Collector last night, but nary a one was left after the dust settled, and there won't be any more there until Saturday afternoon. But contributors' and subscribers' copies will go into the mail this week and next. (The reading, by the way, was scrumptious!)

B.L.'s Drive-by: A Micro-Review by B.L. Kennedy

ed. by Peter Straub
Doubleday Books
534 pp, hardcover, $24.95

Peter Straub is a master poet and writer. I need to get that out of the way because most poets and most readers of Horror fiction simply do not make the connection. Poetry has always been a part of Horror fiction as has Horror fiction always been a part of poetry; all you need to do is read Poe. This new anthology, Poe’s Children, does just that in its tip of the hat to the master. The twenty-plus stories included in this collection are from some magnificent writers such as Elizabeth Hand, Joe Hill, Melanie Tem, Kelly Link, Stephen King, John Crowley, Tia V. Travis, and of course, Peter Straub. These are stories that will leave you crying with fear, keeping the lights on and wondering just what is that sound you hear in the wall? So, if you happen to be in some bookstore and you happen to have eyes that fall unto this title…BUY IT! The book will quickly become the perfect bedmate for that dark, rainy evening.

—B.L. Kennedy, Reviewer-in-Residence


—Sylvia Plath

The fountains are dry and the roses over.
Incense of death. Your day approaches.
The ears fatten like little buddhas.
A blue mist is dragging the lake.

You move through the era of fishes,
The smug centuries of the pig—
Head, toe and finger
Come clear of the shadow. History

Nourishes these broken flutings,
These crowns of acanthus,
And the crow settles her garments.
You inherit white heather, a bee's wing,

Two suicides, the family wolves,
Hours of blankness. Some hard stars
Already yellow the heavens.
The spider on its own string

Crosses the lake. The worms
Quit their usual habitations.
The small birds converge, converge
With their gifts to a difficult borning.


—Sylvia Plath

At this wharf there are no grand landings to speak of.
Red and orange barges list and blister
Shackled to the dock, outmoded, gaudy,
And apparently indestructible.
The sea pulses under a skin of oil.

A gull holds his pose on a shanty ridgepole,
Riding the tide of the wind, steady
As wood and formal, in a jacket of ashes,
The whole flat harbor anchored in
The round of his yellow eye-button.

A blimp swims up like a day-moon or tin
Cigar over his rink of fishes.
The prospect is dull as an old etching.
They are unloading three barrels of little crabs.
The pier pilings seem about to collapse

And with them that rickety edifice
Of warehouses, derricks, smokestacks and bridges
In the distance. All around us the water slips
And gossips in its loose vernacular,
Ferrying the smells of dead cod and tar.

Farther out, the waves will be mouthing icecakes—
A poor month for park-sleepers and lovers.
Even our shadows are blue with cold.
We wanted to see the sun come up
And are met, instead, by this iceribbed ship,

Bearded and blown, and albatross of frost,
Relic of tough weather, every winch and stay
Encased in a glassy pellicle.
The sun will diminish it soon enough:
Each wave-tip glitters like a knife.


Today's LittleNip:

All day and night, music,
a quiet, bright
reedsong. If it
fades, we fade.




SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

Rattlesnake Review: The latest issue (#20) is currently rattling around in the SnakePit; more copies will be available at The Book Collector on Saturday, December 13. Contributors' and subscribers' copies are going into the mail this week and next. Deadline for RR21 is February 15: send 3-5 poems, smallish art pieces and/or photos (no bio, no cover letter, no simultaneous submissions or previously-published poems) to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. E-mail attachments are preferred, but be sure to include all contact info, including snail address. Meanwhile, the snakes of Medusa are always hungry!

NEW in December: A new chapbook from Danyen Powell (Blue Sky Flies Out); a littlesnake broadside from Kevin Jones (Low-Rent Dojo), and a brand-new issue of Rattlesnake Review (#20)!

Also available (free): littlesnake broadside #46: Snake Secrets: Getting Your Poetry Published in Rattlesnake Press (and lots of other places, besides!): A compendium of ideas for brushing up on your submissions process so as to make editors everywhere more happy, thereby increasing the likelihood of getting your poetry published. Write to me and I'll send you one. Free!

Coming in January: The Snake will be snoozing during January; no releases or readings. But our October road trips inspired a new Rattlesnake publication, WTF, to be edited by frank andrick. This 30-page, chapbook-style quarterly journal will primarily showcase the talents of readers at Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café, but anyone is welcome to submit. Deadline is Jan. 15 for a Feb. 19 premiere at Luna’s. Submission guidelines are the same as for the Snake, but send three poems (each one page or less in length), photos, smallish art or prose pieces (500 words or less) to (attachments preferred) or, if you’re snailing, to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. And be forewarned: this publication will be for adults only! so you must be over 18 years of age to submit.

Medusa's Weekly Menu:

(Contributors are welcome to cook up something for any and all of these!)

Monday: Weekly NorCal poetry calendar

Seed of the Week: Tuesday is Medusa's day to post poetry triggers such as quotes, forms, photos, memories, jokes—whatever might tickle somebody's muse. Pick up the gauntlet and send in your poetic results; and don't be shy about sending in your own triggers, too! All poems will be posted and a few of them will go into Medusa's Corner of each Rattlesnake Review. Send your work to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline for SOWs; respond today, tomorrow, or whenever the muse arrives. (Print 'em out, maybe, save 'em for a dry spell?) When you send us work, though, just let us know which "seed" it was that inspired you.

Wednesday (sometimes): HandyStuff Quickies: Resources for the poet, including whatever helps ease the pain of writing and/or publishing: favorite journals to read and/or submit to; books, etc., about writing; organizational tools—you know—HandyStuff! Tell us about your favorite tools.

Thursday: B.L.'s Drive-Bys: Micro-reviews by our irreverent Reviewer-in-Residence, B.L. Kennedy.
Send books, CDs, DVDs, etc. to him for possible review (either as a Drive-By or in future issues of Rattlesnake Review) at P.O. Box 160664, Sacramento, CA 95816.

Friday: NorCal weekend poetry calendar

Daily (except Sunday): LittleNips: SnakeFood for the Poetic Soul: Daily munchables for poetic thought, including short paragraphs, quotes, wonky words, silliness, little-known poetry/poet facts, and other inspiration—yet another way to feed our ravenous poetic souls.

And poetry! Every day, poetry from writers near and far and in-between! The Snakes of Medusa are always hungry.......!


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.) Medusa cannot vouch for the moral fiber of other publications, contests, etc. that she lists, however, so submit to them at your own risk. For more info about the Snake Empire, including guidelines for submitting to or obtaining our publications, click on the link to the right of this column: Rattlesnake Press ( And be sure to sign up for Snakebytes, our monthly e-newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on all our ophidian chicanery.