Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Too Beautiful For Adjectives

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Superstitious, I cross my shadow with
words, giving it a taste of sentience,

exchanging myself with its non-texture.
Shadow, I say, teach me not to feel.

And Shadow does a formless dance
on the wall, which I emulate.

And Shadow says,
teach me how to feel

and we writhe together
in shuddering candlelight.

Tonight I become my shadow.
My shadow does the weeping this time.


Thanks, Joyce, and thanks to the rest of today's contributors for finishing up our talk of Black Sheep. Today we have three beautiful photos from D.R. Wagner. Can you write a poem about them (or anything else!) without using any adjectives? One of my first poems was so full of adjectives that Joyce Odam said it was “too pretty”—I’ve never forgotten that. Too much of a good thing! So our Seed of the Week is No Adjectives—try going without them for once and see what that’s like, then send the results to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs, though; if this one hurts your head too much, scroll down to the SNAKE ON A ROD on the B-Board and click on Calliope’s Closet for all our past SOWs.

Rae Gouirand writes that her up-coming Davis workshops are full, but she still has room in the SPC workshops, plus the October Cache Creek 'Shop: While you're in the SNAKE ON A ROD, click on Workshops/Retreats for all that's going on this Fall.

SPC Announces Its Manuscript Contest Winner

Sacramento Poetry Center announces that the winner of the 2010 Sacramento Poetry Center Manuscript Contest is Melissa Morphew for her manuscript, Bluster, which our final judge, Indigo Moor, has just selected as the winner. Melissa Morphew, a graduate of the University of Georgia's Ph.D. program in English, is the recipient of several national and international poetry prizes, including: The Academy of American Poets College Prize, The Randall Jarrell International Poetry Prize, The Cecil J. Hackney Literary Award in Poetry, The W.B. Yeats' Society Poetry Prize, and several Pushcart Prize nominations. In 2006, her full-length collection of poems, Fathom, was published by Turning Point Press. Morphew's poems can be found in the pages of the most respected U.S. literary journals, including The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, and Prairie Schooner. She is currently a professor of creative writing at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, TX. She also has a Wikipedia page: wikipedia.org/wiki/Melissa_Morphew

Photo by D.R. Wagner


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Strolling through the “good” part of Sacramento
where even the sidewalks are kept sparkling
clean, one finds the Capitol and some taller buildings
housing financial services for the high rollers.

Renowned hotels and eateries with valet
parking boast so many stars as to be the envy of
kindergarten high achievers worldwide.

Here is home to a virtual cascade of money
backed by the full faith and credit of the
United States of America, which appears to
be intercepted near the top by a strict pecking
order of highly placed individuals.

Just a few steps over is the poorer part of town
where black sheep freely roam. This area plays
host to tattoo parlors and sidewalk vendors,
transients, gaudy sex shops, mass transit depots,
seedy liquor stores, newly released convicts, and
of course fund challenged public facilities to at
once aid and confine those who have lost their way.

Locals casually walk from one part to the other
and back again like chameleons, just blending
in with whatever surrounds them. Pimps and
poets alike unknowingly rub shoulders on the
street, harboring diametrically opposed concerns
about being discovered.

There is little worry that the black sheep will
exceed their station, only that they will
detract from the cascade of money cherished
by their neighbors.


—Hunferth (Chris Kaiser), Narberth, PA

Black is the new white
Pulling the wool over the world’s eyes?
Or transmuting thru aged alchemy?

After decades of glory
Gory with dreams of defiance
Ashen-covered from the fringe
They awaken in the smelting cave

Shedding skins of past lives
Living for moment-by-moment bliss
They seek the light
And the light seeks them

Can a life unfulfilled, unpromised, uncompromised

Of course

Black is the new white


—Joyce Odam

(After "The Art of Poetry" by Yves Bonnefoy)

The curse is part of the mouth.
The mouth is innocent and led by the word.
The word is innocent of the mind,

The mind is contorted by the mouth.

The word must be uttered to escape.
The mind must free the word through the mouth.

The mouth is obedient to the curse.


—Joyce Odam

(After “Man Eating” by Jane Kenyon)

on a slow afternoon in a shady spot with sunlight
patterns flickering all about—a pause in time
that removes from the time of others—that simply

suspends—and the one with the ice cream cone
sits at a round stone table in the small breezeway
and licks the drips at the edge of the cone

and licks at the thumb the ice cream has melted
down, and a leaf decides to fall right then onto
the table where it is duly noticed and admired


—Joyce Odam

It’s not as if they spun the daylight down—
dizzy with love’s sweet vertigo—and young
—brash as children—but he broke his crown

and she forgot the little song she’d sung.
And they forgave themselves their little folly:
how they tumbled; how they wept and clung

—he as hero. She could not stay jolly.
There was no metaphoric pail of water—
no such chore. He had heard a volley:

War, he whispered. She was someone’s daughter;
he a wayward son, and they rewrote their story.
And there was one more lesson that he taught her:

love is full of tears, and war is gory—
and if they told the truth, they would be sorry.


—Joyce Odam

Hang onto it, baby, don’t let it go.
It means something to you; don’t let it go.
Don’t let it take you away from your low.

Hang onto it, baby, give it a sigh.
Hang onto it, baby—don’t let a high
deprive you of all that chance to cry.


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Take a word, and bless the word alive.
Make it sing, and never let it hide.
Wear it like a talisman—wear it
all your life. And when it binds—
ah, when it binds—cut it with a knife.



Photo by D.R. Wagner

Monday, August 30, 2010

Speaking Snake

Catfish McDaris, left, with Ray Bremser

—Catfish McDaris, W. Allis, WI

The rattlesnake lay on a boulder
sunning its diamond back
watching prairie dogs yip & wrestle
blue quail dozing under mesquite

A coyote paws the air
running in a dream
horned toads licking
ants from prickly pear

Waiting for the sun to set
to gossip at the water hole
with the other rattlers

The snake sees a human
a famous poet of some renown
the poet asks in rattlesnake
"Where are you going?" he hisses

"To tell my friends what I saw
today," replied the snake

"A poet that speaks snake?"
asked the human very proud
of his accomplishment

"No, a human that thinks
he's a poet," the snake
slithered away.


Thanks, Catfish! Catfish McDaris say: My guardian poet angel was from Tulare, Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel. I grew up in New Mexico & lived in Monterey for a year; I now live in Wisconsin, but I love California. I also did a chapbook with Jack Micheline & Charles Bukowski called Prying. I'm a journeyman bricklayer & recently retired (after 30 years) from the Milwaukee post office. I'm married to a beautiful Mexican lady & have a 22-year-old daughter. I've been nominated for 15 Pushcart Prizes (many times by Gerald Locklin) in poetry & prose. I've had 20 chapbooks out & last year won the flash fiction contest from Unlikely Stories, judged by the Poet Laureate of the U.S. In ‘99 I won the Uprising Award. I read at Ginsberg's farm in NY in ‘97 with all the beatniks left alive, and I read two years ago in Paris at The Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore & will read again next month in NYC at The KGB Bar & The Nuyorican Poetry Cafe. I enclose a photo with me (on the left) & Ray Bremser, an infamous bank robber beatnik poet. [Read more about Catfish at catfishgringoriver.blogspot.com or email him at Mcdar3@aol.com]

Cynthia Linville, Kara Synhorst and Robert Roden are reading tonight at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm. You may remember that Robert was featured on MK last Friday, at which time we talked about his publication from the past, The Silt Reader. Looking over the Aphasia Press website (home.surewest.net/aphasiapress), I notice that Catfish was a frequent contributor to that fine journal. A small world it is, at least in poetry.

Several deadlines coming up August 31, including Tiger's Eye; scroll down to the SNAKE ON A ROD in the skinny blue box at the right and click on "Upcoming Deadlines".


—Catfish McDaris

As I paint
I think about

Van Gogh painting
sunflowers & irises

Degas painting ballerinas

Cezanne painting fruit

Gauguin 's Tahitian women

Frida Kahlo capturing sadness

Neruda & Li Po painting
with words

I wonder if any
of them ever

Painted a bathroom
with ordinary
white latex.


—Catfish McDaris

It was the time of
the magician
the juggler
the ancient serpent
the jester
the philosopher
the blind

Dark thoughts existed
in tumultuous clouds

The elusive words hid
in the shadowy rain

Difficult to grasp

Almost impossible to transcribe

Brooding thoughts prevail


—Catfish McDaris

When life becomes
too hard & it
always does

Death seems an easy choice

Death is selfish
a coward
a one way ticket

Almost irresistible

the right thing
to do to yourself

I've been there

Staggering on a razor's edge.


—Catfish McDaris

The drug dealer answered
the door wearing a bulletproof
vest, 45 auto in one hand
38 snub nose in the other

The cop shot him 3 times
in the chest, drug man
shot the cop in the elbow

Cop shot druggie once
in the forehead, blowing
off both his ears, they
stuck to the walls

A brunette lady reporter
in a tight yellow dress
with melon knockers

Said, "Apparently only
the shot to the head worked."


—Catfish McDaris

Going to the grocery store
with my ladies, I notice a
beautiful woman gliding
majestically behind
her shopping cart

Ending up in the line
behind her, she sticks
her long lovely red polished
fingernail into her ear

Digging out a chunk of
wax, she flicks it & it
lands on my nose

I say, "Lady" & point
at the yellow glob

She says, "You're sick"

My wife gives me a
hard elbow, our daughter
tries not to grin.


Today's LittleNip:

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

Pay little
or no attention
to what people
say they have done,
plan to do
or definitely will do.
Focus instead on
what they do do.



Sign by the road in Somerset
Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Once I got a postcard from the Fiji Islands
with a picture of sugar cane harvest. Then I realized
that nothing at all is exotic in itself.
There is no difference between digging potatoes in our
Mutiku garden
and sugar cane harvesting in Viti Levu.
Everything that is is very ordinary
or, rather, neither ordinary nor strange.
Far-off lands and foreign peoples are a dream,
a dreaming with open eyes
somebody does not wake from.
It's the same with poetry—seen from afar
it's something special, mysterious, festive.
No, poetry is even less
special than a sugar cane plantation or potato field.
Poetry is like sawdust coming from under the saw
or soft yellowish shavings from a plane.
Poetry is washing hands in the evening
or a clean handkerchief that my late aunt
never forgot to put in my pocket.

—Jaan Kaplinski



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 home.surewest.net/aphasiapress/roden.html

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 www.sacramentopress.com/headline/17941/Cynthia_Linville 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, www.sebarts.org] 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

Friday, August 27, 2010

Still Dreaming of El Salvador

Photos by Janet Pantoja

—Janet Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

colorful, large
hanging, relaxing, inviting
beach, gazebo, deck, office,
sitting, reclining, working
easy, functional


—Janet Pantoja

Hammock hangs empty.
Waiting for some company.
It's time for a nap!


—Janet Pantoja

Heaven on earth
Awaits the vacationer
Midday under the hot sun
Midnight under the moonlight
Ocean waves caress the shore
Consciousness waxes and wanes
Killing all sense of stress and strain



—Janet Pantoja

Have you ever heard
of a small parrot that is
a carnivore—meat eater?

Paquita eats meat.
She’s a small parrot
and lives in El Salvador.

MONDO (Katautas 1 & 2)

Have you ever heard
of a small parrot that is
a carnivore—meat eater?
Paquita eats meat.
She’s a small parrot
and lives in El Salvador.


"Dichoso fuí"*
—Janet Pantoja

bird voices clear and true
pierce the roar and rumble
of buses, buzz of motorcycles,
constant passage of traffic—

beyond cement walls
barred windows
steel doors . . .
faceless houses in
San Salvador, El Salvador.

*"Happy was I" is the call of the national bird of El Salvador


Today's LittleNip:

Kill all my demons, and my angels might die too.

—Tennessee Williams


—Medusa (with thanks to Janet Pantoja for more of her "travelogue" from Costa Del Rey, El Salvador. Coincidentally enough, I used to have a conure that looked exactly like Paquita!—and yes, she loved chicken, the little cannibal. To see the first part of the series, go to last Saturday's post—Aug. 21.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where Speech Stops Attending Us

Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

So many voices. A chorus
Speaking together. There is
Grace in the way the words
Form here. We have no idea
What is being said. But there

It is, pure and outlandish
As late June with its
Dreams of water and Summer
Love caught in its loins.

We walk along the sidewalks
On the edges of the park.
The fireflies are just starting
To be seen so we sit and wait
For the dark to consume everything.

I am in love with you, you
The one reading this. I want to
Take you in my arms and touch
You intimately, make love with you
With great ceremony and unbridled lust,
To be a chorus within you, not
Singing at all, but speaking so we
May hear in our core, abandoning gender,
Fine and carnal, pleading another kind
Of Summer, another mouth upon yours
Where speech stops attending us
Where all becomes sensation,
Steam rising from the ocean surface
Even before dawn is aware of it.


Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
—Tom Goff, Carmichael

…[known as] the black sheep of the [de Vere] family…stripped of the authorship of Shakespeare he must indeed appear a black sheep.
—Charlton Ogburn, The Mysterious William Shakespeare

He will bear the blame all his life that,
rather than turn straightway
to arms and politics, he deals his great
strokes of conquest ringing in the tiltyard;
the top of his politics, to sit at the tribunal
of a Scottish queen, and again at tribunal
when his beloved, a younger earl, stands
to lose his head befriending a rebel,
Her Majesty’s disgraced (of course) favorite
(of course).

His warship will launch heroically out
and come back unblooded to harbor,
storm-drenched, just days before
luckier keels find and destroy
the Spanish Armada.

He will bear the blame all his life
that, at seventeen, a fencing sword he grasps
quite lightly will leap out at the thigh of a playmate,
touching off a fatal geyser. He knows
the “primal eldest curse.” He will listen,
stricken, to the maneuver of law
that gets him scot-free of all charges
—se defendendo, or se offendendo
(in a gravedigger’s mouth)…

He will bear the blame all his life
that he has stripped his ancestral castle,
outbuildings and parks, trees, timbers
bargained away, the very lead roofs to be
melted down and sold, for Italy
resonates in him like a guitarful
of Harlequins. For travel expenses he
lines his purse on the noble splendors
generations of ancestors amassed.

(His father died, leaving him ward
to Queen Elizabeth. Therefore she seizes
—“safeguards”—his legacy for Leicester, her lover,
to use: this swindle, perfectly legal, tears down
far more ancestral lead roofs than he’s ever done.)

He savors poetry, consorts with boy actors,
playwrights, scholars of Greek and Latin.
He drinks, he brags he can out-Cicero Cicero,
cast Alexander’s battles in the shade. He will
marry the first semi-meek woman
to capture his hand in a soft snare,
the Lord Treasurer’s daughter,
favorite child of the original Polonius;

he will forever doubt having fathered her
first child, born soon after his departure
for Italy. (The young wife, while he gallivants
Padua and Venice and Verona, will beg
abortion drugs from her physician, fearful
“[Edward] will not pass upon me or the babe.”)

He will decant all Italy into splendid gold verse,
zany or solemn actions for the stage. He
will know the Venetian byways and ferryboats,
the serving of dishes of doves, the way fierce
Rialto merchants shut their lively young
daughters indoors. He will feel like
a dark-skinned man in a world of whites,
a lover the hue of night whose hands close
in a steely grip around a wife’s white throat.

Soon, his Jewish lender will tell a tale
of Jacob swindling Laban out of all
the spotted sheep in the flock. A little
prestidigitation with peeled wood “wands”
to put sex-woozy ewes in the right mood,
and “parti-colored” lambs drop by dozens
into Jacob’s lap. Oh, Edward sighs, if only

he belonged, just another courtier, parti-color,
styled black or white as the shepherd queen’s
fickle humor decides, revenue value undeniable,
easy to conceal, adaptable part of her
movable stock. Yet what wouldn’t he give
never to have been one of the flock,
let alone black?


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

Hiking in Berkeley hills
I tremble nearing the old
Nike Missile Site.

Once I shot photographs.
Now I see deeper
using the poet's lens.

Jane, a few have held a
fallen leaf to its branch.
But you wrote it down—

or, long having reveled
in your work,
do I imagine this...


—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

She is a tangle
of doubts, conflicting affairs,
seesaw sensations;
turning herself inside out—
the proverbial black sheep.


—D.R. Wagner

Brave little moment repeating
Itself, waiting for the mind
With its fine tigers to parade
Through, earnest in their spectacles
Of calm madness hovering
Along the same roads we travel,
Waiting for the mind, for us
To find the crowded streets
Sweating like skin tattooed
With a symbol that will lead
Us through these same stone
Streets always expecting,
Always arranging them one
After another, as if they could
Mean something more than
The borders of our madness,
Our rush to see them sorted out
Hoping this means we really exist.


Today's LittleNip:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

—Jalal-ad-Din Rumi


—Medusa (with thanks to today's contributors, including Pat Pashby for the LittleNip)

Photo by D.R. Wagner

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Black Sheep, Cont.

Photo by Bob Dreizler, Sacramento
For info and more photos, go to

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

In black wrinkles of nubbin-wool
he frolics
from mother to garden gate.

The other lamb was stillborn.
Does she meditate
on justice as she chews her cud?

Tragedies of a tilted globe.
Lambs in winter storm.

Thousands of miles away
an earthquake tears a city
from its womb, kills so many

mothers’ daughters.
Windfall branches splinter
from the oak.

Betsy shepherds her living


—Taylor Graham

Just three weeks old – it’ll be months
before he fledges, loses his lamb-wings,
becomes a stodgy sheep; melts into
the mold of his sire, his dam – both white.

He’s a mismatch, “Charcoal” slurred to
“Chuckle”; dark as his new friend,
“Boogie,” who hotdogs around the edges
of the flock. Neither one fits in.

The mother-ewe stamps to drive away
the dog. There’s no honesty in a canine,
no guarantee he won’t devour her child.
Is it instinct, or corrosion of curiosity?

Just imagine, this unfledged lamb
is trying his best to fly,
to perform unspeakable
miracles, to play with the enemy.


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

Fred was cast as a black sheep by his family.
Rejecting reality, he lived in a dream world.
In the big city, he felt all alone. He would
visit museums to enjoy beautiful pictures.

He came upon an Edward Hopper painting
of a city scene that had wall-to-wall brick
buildings. Fred thought the windows all
looked like blank eyes staring at him.

In big cities, there are people everywhere,
but in the painting not a soul could be seen.
There was only emptiness. Nervously, Fred
clasped his hands and recited a child’s verse:

This is the church. This is the steeple.
Open your hands. See all the people.

Fred watched his wriggling fingers,
smiled and sighed.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

I went to the baa baa to cut my Afro
and he said, yours is a North American
so that will be an extra charge.
OK, start cutting, I told him.

He removed a lot of hair so
big black curls fell to the floor and
formed little cliques that hung tightly
together, but not so snugly as to mask
the gray hairs, those telltale markers
of my personal grooming history.

When he was finally done he asked me
to check the mirror to see if he had
gotten it straight in back…or at least
what was left of the back…

which now looked like one of those
WW II ships that opened up gaping
wide to release hoards of viciously armed
men on the beaches to bring an even
larger enemy under control.

How’s that? Pretty cool? he said.
I kept looking at the mirror, and then
away from it, finding nothing I could
fixate on for more than two seconds.

You’re an artist, I confided, and then I
paid him the fee and a commensurate tip.
I’ll see what my friends and family say,
I thought, as I donned my visor cap and
emerged into the sunlight.


Today's LittleNip:

As his wisdom increased, so did his sense of fragility.

—Stephen Dobyns



Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bugs, Sheep, & Whistle Pens

Photo by Taylor Graham

—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Life itself just comes and goes
like oceanic tides and waves,
smashing land, carving sand
retreating and repeating
over and over again.

In this grand scheme, what in life
is not a fleeting moment?
Well I’ll tell you ma’am,
I’ll tell you sir, just try making

an inappropriate comment
or a bad choice of actions
and the repercussions will last
past your life, longer than even
cockroaches and Styrofoam,

etched forever in the memory
of the universe on the Wall of
All Time Losers, that carefully
documented archive of pathetic
dimwits who just don’t get it.


Thanks to Carl Schwartz for more on last week's Seed of the Week: Fleeting Moments, and Taylor Graham for kicking off this week's Seed: Black Sheep. A lot of poets feel like "black sheep"— unusual, that is, in the world they move in. Then again, some poets HAVE black sheep, like Taylor Graham! (Moments are fleeting, though—"Chuckle" is no longer a wee black lamb but now a big black ram.) Anyway, tell us about black-sheepness, literally or metaphorically. Send 'em to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs, though—click on the Calliope's Closet "page" over in the skinny blue box to see all the SOWs we've done in the past. Maybe some of them will inspire you in other directions.

While you're exploring those pages, be sure to check out all the workshops happening in our area this fall! Bob Stanley just sent me a big list, and they're posted on the Workshops/Retreats page. Many of them are part of Sacramento Poetry Center's new "Room to Write" series. Lots to think about!

Yesterday's article about Honey Bee Haven in Davis inspired Pat Hickerson to send us a bee poem from a series of hers; this is Part Three, and she says Part One is in the current Yolo Crow. So I tacked on a bee poem of my own. Then Michelle Kunert sent us her poem in the Insects Who Are Less Popular Department [see also Carl's cockroaches]... And thanks to Claire Baker from Pinole By The Bay for our LittleNip. Oh—and I couldn't resist a Russell Edson poem about sheep. Is there anybody else in the world like Russell Edson?


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

what happened to Honey?
it was a sad story
Queen Bea told it many times
she was heroic, the Queen buzzed,
and what a worker! she
oozed more honey than anyone
she was the essence of the hive:
sleek-smooth and amber-sweet—but look out!
when she went on the warpath…

Honey took part in the legendary Bee Wars
an Amazon of the tribe
carried her lancet like a warrior
always poised
pheromones at the ready
fight or flight!
mostly fight

her barbs were bold
chitinous plates dissolved
at her valiant penetration

but when in the heat of battle
she mistook human hide for enemy cover:
her barb flesh-embedded,
her insides yanked out,
she fell to the ground
lost to the hive, Queen Bea sobbed,
my sweet darling Honey…


—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

Raw material from
last night’s dream:
hundreds of bees
spread out ahead,
the only way to cross being

straight across, over
all those bodies—dead-
ahead through tomorrow’s
pain: dreamy night-flotsam that
doesn’t matter now except for

this residue of
wincing along through
today’s sinister grass:
stingers left in soles—

all those painful
moments /memories
piercing calluses,
just like
walking on bees…


I learned on the radio bedbugs like fleas and lice
don't discriminate whoever they may hitch a ride on
or if their hosts be rich or poor
For instance they can hide anywhere
such as on upholstered theatre chairs
then they bite when one brings them home
leaving their feed sites as itchy, swollen red spots
all while one thinks they have some skin condition
World-wide there is an increase in such parasitic Cimicidae
(maybe as a sign or plague of the "last days"?)
No I don't want to be a manic germ-phobe
I guess after being at the movies
I should immediately go bathe and clean my clothes
Better safe than sorry

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—Russell Edson

They are in the house. They move like clouds over the floors.
They are in the bedrooms. They return from the cellar. They wander in the attic like balls of dust.

A man is sitting in the kitchen, his face in his hands. He is crying, his tears wetting through his fingers.
The sheep baa and to him gather, licking his hands for salt.

A ewe then sweetly offers herself in heat.
He turns her on her back, his face in the wool of her breast . . .


Today's LittleNip:

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

A round black hole
atop new pen's cap;
can make it whistle
if purse lips, blow lightly
in pause-search for key
word in poem's line.
In thought and whistle
trying for truer, sharper.



Another Black Lamb
That Isn't Chuckle

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wading Through Today

Busy Bee
Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

What do I know of images, which are scenic at best,
made of appropriate colors for their time, made of
shape and symmetry in flash of brief reality?

What do I learn from scenery it compels my
collecting eye, that it diminishes from me as I pass
in time or car? What do I lose that I cannot contain

or take with me—that belongs to itself, and not my
love of it—like that stationary brown horse in the
field, or that hawk suspending in the timeless sky?


Turtlerama last Saturday at the Belle Cooledge Library was small but well-attended, with lots of kids ogling different-sized turtles and tortoises. ‘Way cool. One of the good things about living near a big city (which Sacramento is, whether it thinks so or not), is taking advantage of quirky happenings like the Banana Fest or Turtlerama; artistically, I find such things inspiring. Next on the list is Honey Bee Haven: Officially opening Sept. 11 (from 10am-2pm), Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven in Davis is now available for visits and strolls. It’s a half-acre housing more than 6 million bees, representing up to 55 species for study at UCDavis’s Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility. Honey Bee Haven is located on Bee Biology Road on UC Davis’s west campus. It’s open to the public daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free. Take I-80 to Hwy 113 north; exit at Hutchison Dr. and go west to Hopkins Rd., then rt. on Bee Biology Rd. Info: beebiology.ucdavis.edu/HAVEN/index.html/. Honey bees in this country are in the midst of many troubles; think good thoughts for them.

Check the b-board for what’s happening this week, including
William O’Daly featuring at ArtSpace, 459 Main Street, Placerville, 530-295-3496, www.eldoradoarts.com/index.shtml. Free. In El Dorado Art Council’s (EDAC’s) new space, Red Fox Underground will feature William O’Daly reading new poetry and translations in this (happily) revived reading series. After the unfortunate demise of Raven’s Tale Books in Placerville last year, the long-standing Red Fox reading series went in search of a new venue. EDAC’s own search for an appropriate physical space, which spanned 10 years, came to fruition in the summer of 2009, and now both EDAC and the Foxes’ reading series have a well-designed, handsome home. Come visit the new gallery and listen as William takes us through various geographies, relationships, perceptions and cadences, tells a few stories, and celebrates community support for the arts. He’ll be reading from his own poems as well as his translations of the Chilean Nobel laureate, Pablo Neruda. An open mic follows the featured reader; sign up before the feature.

[In looking at the El Dorado Art Council’s calendar on the website, I see presentations by Sacramento Pal
Kit Knight, Artist in Residence at So. Lake Tahoe, too. Check that out!]

Other events this week include two events at
Luna's (both Thurs. and Friday nights), Escritores or an Upstairs read-around in Placerville on Weds., and two Terry Moore events this weekend—plus Londonberry at SPC tonight. Details on Medusa's b-board, the skinny blue box at the right of this column.


—Joyce Odam

It was the lift through the wings of sorrow
that drew us upward, and we allowed the
transformation, and did not know ourselves…

we were awe and vanity… a train poured
between us with its haunting… I would have
spoken of this, but it was gone…
You were indifferent. “Look at this,” you said,
and put your finger to the glass surface of the
mirror, and we broke like water.
Abruptly, I come back to the moment – or
near enough. (How long had I been gone?)
I looked around, and someone lowered a glass,

and someone was saying something just before
the laugh, and someone was turning toward me,
urgent and consoling.


C H I L D ~

I hear you crying
in the frightening world
of yourself,
but unless you come to me
I cannot make anything
easier for you.

If you let me,
I will hold you for a moment
and you will feel better.

—Joyce Odam


—Joyce Odam

The horse jumps the red gate poles
with ease, and being proud,
holds himself there
while the cameras take his picture;

and the rider, high and weightless
in the stirrups,
feels the held moment
and balances with the horse;

and the white flag holds its flutter
in the breeze, and the halted shadow
on the ground, waits to reconnect
when the hooves come down.


—Joyce Odam

Wading through today,
I gave you a smile—

two strangers on a
path of dark weather—

you startled for a moment,
then returned the smile


—Joyce Odam

Now that I living in the moment—
all my forgetfulness assured—
vague distances of past to present,
the present borrowing no future,
all excruciatingly of the moment,

—the very now—the now forever—

speak to me in the now
and I will answer;
I may forget you in the later
as I have the then,
though sometime remains familiar.


—Joyce Odam

The power of the moment
is not that it's here
but that it’s gone.

All over the cold mornings
the far sirens are sounding,
hot and loud.

The curtains speak to nothing
but only hang still or flutter-in
for my quiet staring.

Such a day is this one
with its sad brink
upon which I do nothing.

(A Triversen form)
Title poem from chapbook, The Power of the Moment,
1998 by Roger Langton, Red Cedar Press (of Colorado)


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

we each get a century
we each get a year
we each get a moment
to be here



Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Sunday, August 22, 2010

That's The Way It Was

—Anonymous Inuit Poet/Songwriter

In the very earliest time,
when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to
and an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this:
That's the way it was.

(Translated from the Inuit by Edward Field)



Saturday, August 21, 2010

¡Dichoso fuí!

—Janet Pantoja

I awake . . .
water gurgles in the pipes
buses roar and rumble
a horn honks
a motorcycle buzzes by
a dove softly coos
a lone trumpet entones a descending scale at nearby Cuartel San Carlos
Don Rua church bells chime in the distance
parrots gleefully squawk and chatter
pots and pans clatter next door
a siren sounds.

I look out . . .
through lacey curtains and louvered barred windows
into the small side patio with high walls
topped with large coils of twisted barbed wire—
morning sunshine makes banana leaf shadows on the red brick wall
a gecko makes kissing sounds
insects buzz in the warmth and humidity
¡Dichoso fuí!— "Happy was I!" —cries the national bird.

I face the shower . . .
brace myself for a rude awakening—
cold water—in San Salvador, El Salvador.


—Janet Pantoja

row boat
coconut palm trees
red-roofed cement shelter

—Janet Pantoja

brown cow
white cow cast cool
shadows on hot white sand
while one wanders off before the



two cows
one brown, one white
cast shadows on the sand
while meandering along beach



a brown
cow casting cool
shadows on hot white sand
wanders aimlessly along the



Two cows
one brown, one white
cast shadows on the sand
one wanders away before I


—Janet Pantoja

tropical, colorful,
waning, fading, disappearing
behind a bamboo shade and a coconut palm


Today's LittleNip:

To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall.

—Thomas H. Huxley


—Medusa (with thanks to Janet Pantoja of Woodville, WA for today's travelogue in poetry and photos from her trip to Costa Del Sol, El Salvador. More to come!)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rooms With No Air

Connie Post

—Connie Post, Livermore

All the rooms in the house
are flooding
but there is no water

all of the people are drowning
but the lifeguard
is in an irreversible coma

We walk around
as if floating matters
as if there is a surface
to find

we look for a syringe of air,
a breathing tube of decency
but there are barely audible gasps
that pretend to be language

there are lost fish
swimming at our feet

It’s as if only the walls understand
why we get the bends every morning
when we rise too fast

It’s as if
the last boat
has pulled up its anchor

we are left
to watch the ceilings crumble
with the weight of our own water

we sink to the bottom,
grow gills
and swim past the lifeguard
who has forgotten
how to survive
in a room
with no air

(Special Merit: Comstock Review Muriel Craft Bailey Awards 2008;
Published in Jan. 2009 issue)


Thanks, Connie! Connie Post served as Poet Laureate of Livermore, California from 2005 to June, 2009. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Kalliope, Cold Mountain Review, Chiron Review, Crab Creek Review, Comstock Review, DMQ Review, Dogwood, Iodine Poetry Journal, Main Street Rag, Tipton Poetry Journal, RiverSedge, Up The Staircase, Wild Goose Poetry Review, The Pedestal Magazine and The Toronto Quarterly. She was the winner of the Cover Prize for the Spring 2009 issue of The Dirty Napkin and the winner of the 2009 Caesura Poetry Awards from Poetry Center of San Jose. She currently hosts the popular Valona Deli Second Sunday Poetry Series in Crockett. For more about Connie, go to www.poetrypost.com

This Saturday (8/21), you can hear Connie read (along with several other Bay Area poets) at the Celebration of the Arts in the Blackhawk Plaza in Danville: A day of art, poetry, dance, music, and wine tasting presented by the Alamo-Danville Artists' Society (www.adas4art.org/calendar.htm) and the Blackhawk Plaza Management (www.shopblackhawkplaza.com/). During the Celebration, the Poets Society of Danville will give two poetry readings at The Read Bookstore in Danville (3630 Blackhawk Plaza Circle). See last Monday’s post for a list of readers.

Looking for a workshop this Fall?

There are plenty around; click on Workshops/Retreats over to the right, under the Snake on a Rod. Here are two out-of-town self-publishing ‘shops: The first is more technically oriented, and not for beginners:

•••8/28-29: Be Your Own Publisher workshop w/Tom Johnson in Mokelumne Hill: www.indiepubwest.com

•••Sun. (9/19), 2-4pm: How to Self-Publish a Poetry Chapbook, Benicia Public Library, 150 E. L St., Benicia in the Dona Benicia Room (benicialibrary.org/poet/events). Taught by past Bay Area Poets Laureate Robert Shelby and Joel Fallon. This workshop will present ways to make your own book from start to finish.

Where did the Big Blue Box go???

Well, it's no longer down there on the floor of the Kitchen; its parts have been absorbed into the Snake on a Rod section of the b-board. Click on Current Snake News and Placating the Gorgon for all those meanderings—and more!


—Connie Post

All of the telephone booths
are disappearing

the sidewalks
have forgotten how to

there will be no businessmen
finding shelter
during the rain
calling wives, girlfriends
kids they have forgotten

people will pass and never
notice him crying into the receiver
saying he never meant
for it to turn out this way

there will be no mothers
making sure their daughters
have dimes, quarters
—a pocket with no holes

the hinges have rusted
like years we cannot close
the curbs are growing
and there is no place for
old women to put on their coats
after dusk

there is no where to go
when you need
one person to hand you
a slim coin, nod silently
and understand

watch you close
the thin doors around you

(First published in Oberon, 2008)


—Connie Post

I drank the sky today

emulsified blue
frosty, hazy shake
melting in my paper cup

clouds so thick
they stuck in my straw

so cold, I froze my forehead

I polished it off
in ten minutes
ingesting the wing of a lost bird,
a tornado never descended

It was the last item
on the menu
in a café of crumbling counters

It was the last chance
for a horizon to feign liquidity

as the quiet, small framed
handed me the cup

I asked her to drink with me
but she turned away

told me
from the silence of her swollen back

that not moments ago
she swallowed
the last crumb of earth

(First published in Karamu, Spring 2010)


—Connie Post

I still see you
sitting on the back porch
putting on your work boots
glaring at me
as if I had sinned for being young

I wondered why
you sat there, for so long
before you left for work

fastening each leather lace
as if it were a sacrament

Each morning
you would leave me
and my dented Charlie Brown
lunch pail
waiting for the bus,
the milk in the thermos
already turning warm
the bread hardening

I can still hear the gravel
beneath the bus tires
as if each stone
knew the weight of a child

As I walk paved streets
more often these days

my feet hurt every night

I look back and realize,
you already understood
the ground,
how the earthworms
were laced inside of it

how they were begging
for quieter steps
from you and I

(First published in Cold Mountain Review, Fall 2008)


“Their Plane Crashed into a Cemetery in Montana”
—cnn.com, Mar. 2009

If the earth had arms
would they have encircled the plane
held it close

smothered the flames
with its own blanket

If the earth had language
would it translate
the dialect of endings

would the scattered flowers
around the grave sites
remember how they too
were brought here
carried by shaking hands
then—left behind on a
crumbling Saturday afternoon

how each stem
was plucked from the ground
too soon

how each yearned
for the placenta of soil

each one knowing
how to break
into bloom
like a body
upon arrival

—Connie Post
(First published in California Quarterly, Summer 2010)


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

Everything is too far.
Why do I know that now
after the longest
and the briefest farewell?


Time is not traveled alone.
It goes between us
like wind in the years . . .
like conversation.



Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pain of a Poem

Photo by Frank Dixon Graham, Sacramento


can be an annoyance
can be a death

it is easy to find poems in roses,
swaying pines, hummingbirds

the problem is, how to hate
and honor the soft cages

that thicken more slowly
around us, humbling structures

the glue of phlegm, spit, sweat
sticking us to where we always are

—JoAnn Anglin, Sacramento


Thanks, JoAnn! Wow—our first mucus poem! JoAnn Anglin reminds us that Los Escritores is having a special presentation next Wednesday; see the b-board. And while you're scrolling around down there, be sure to check out all the goings-on at Swan Scythe Press!


“Other guests were expected.”
—W.S. Merwin

Other place settings, washed sheets,
swept porches.
Puffs of dust in the distance were given
Fresh fruit sliced and arranged.
Money was spent, the air freshened.
The dogs were quieted and the cars
were polished, the bad child shaken.
Rehearsals were frequent: playing the
scales, stretching, conversations
inside the head.
Glimpses came from the corners of eyes.
A sound that sounded like knocking.
Cobwebs did not last long, nor weeds,
nor cursing.
Lists were written, invitations sent,
the tablecloths ironed again for the
expected guests.

—JoAnn Anglin


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

I cried for madder music
and for stronger wine.
—Ernest Dowson

Music was his wine. It brought
him fleeting moments of joy.

He’d be lost in the swirling sound
of the waltz, floating
freely in a world without bounds.

He’d be lost in the soft music of
Brahms' Lullaby, enchanting him
with its quiet solitude.

He’d be lost in the music of the
Sleeping Beauty waltz, and not
wanting it to ever finish.

Beautiful Dreamer evoked sweet
memories of friends who passed
on. Music was his wine.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

when I wake
to the warning moan…
the 3 a.m. train you loved,
I dream you are no longer
boxed ashes in a closet
but an impatient spirit
hurried across singing rails
to the New York sunrise
where you were born


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Getting out of the way so I could see
The children once again when they
Were babies. Able to pick them up
Hold them, say things to them in
Secret language and fly them
Around the room as if they were dreams.

Hello kids. Here we are again.
Shall we go for a walk and see
If we find any tigers or elephants
Tonight? Don’t let the watermelons bite.


—D.R. Wagner

Whatever went wrong went
Terribly wrong. The road just
Ended. No signs at all, no rails,
Just stopped as if there was something
Much more important to do than
Be a road any longer. It was only
About a third of a mile long and
Had begun to attempt a passage
Through a small wooded area.

It looked as if it hasn’t mattered
Much, that no one had come that way.
There was no garbage, no dumping. Just
A stopping, a way of saying that this
Could happen anywhere just as unexpectedly.


—D.R. Wagner

Trees, trees, trees and still more
Trees. They are everywhere we
Look. In some places the trees are
So thick the sunlight must strain to reach
The plants on the floor of the forest.
Trees press against all of the space.

This poem was supposed to show
A small herd of deer, two does, three
Fawns and a buck who steps carefully
As if testing each move against the ground.

But we can barely see them. The trees
Are so thick these deer can stand right in the
Middle of everything and unless we are
Truly looking they will be lost to us.


Today's LittleNip:

—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

Sight of the variant blues of a mountain lake
scent of a pine forest after a spring shower
sound of a loved-one’s long awaited call
taste of the salty tears of euphoria
feel of wrap-around hugs
pain of a poem.



Photo by Frank Dixon Graham