Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Taking Care

Oak Leaves
Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

“Take care,” you said.
So I took Care
with me all day,
all through the traffic
and the offices,
all through the
and aggravations.
I took Care
like a charm
and everywhere I went
I was safe
because of your blessing.

(First published in My Legacy, Nov. 1991)

The Winter 10 Issue of CONVERGENCE is online!

Look for work by Janet Shell Anderson, Myles Boisen, Marlene Burns, Josh Chesney, Tim Keane, Claudia Lamar, Sophia Pandeya, Peycho Kanev, Wendy Rivara, Allyson Seconds, and Jasmine Dreame Wagner in the Winter 2010 issue: www.convergence-journal.com/winter10

In addition, Editors' Choice pages and photos throughout the website are updated monthly, so stop by often; a link to both Convergence and its Editors' Choice is permanently posted on Medusa's bulletin board.  The site currently features new work by poet Catherine Fraga (on Linville's page) and photographers Myles Boisen, Allyson Seconds, Brent Wiggans, Baxter Jackson, Lynn Crouse, and artist Francis Raven.


—Joyce Odam

“Do you think the clams
have diamonds in them?”

“Of course.
These are clams
brought from the river at night
when the wind came and
would not let us stay.

We shall unfold them later.
We are not yet poor enough."

(From Frog Perspective, Mini-Chap by Joyce Odam)


—Joyce Odam

(Based on
Discernment, Mixed Media by Mary Burke King)

Whatever speaks. Whatever listens.
The blessing between.
Extended. Received.

There is a moment.
Closed eyes open.

Mute voice finds word.
Gesture means.
A frail stillness is what is.

So is motion. One builds on the other.
Call this power.

Look through the presence you call ghost
as it flows through you.
Now you are one.

Even here, separation
will exist.
The longing toward the unobtainable.


—Joyce Odam

I am gold. Midas has praised me.
He wanted me held to his eye.
I posed and he touched me.

He tried to hold me. I was only gold.
His eye has gotten enough of me.
To no avail—I am what he favored,
forever of this value, but he is not happy.

He weeps and he cannot wipe his tears.
They are too heavy for his sadness,
but he keeps on weeping. Poor Midas,
hating me now for his weeping.
How can I melt myself to console him?

(First Published in Whole Notes)


—Joyce Odam

I belong to you now,
you with your kindness,
saving my worthless life,

pulling me from the edge
to show me level ground—
no dreamless fall.

How can I thank you—
with my love?
Okay then,

with my love.
I will surround,

and measure you in love.
How will you
ever be able to be rid of me?


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

These trees, upside-down in a
tremble of water—drowning sky—
what has happened to this world.



P.S. Our Seed of the Week is Shop 'Til You Drop, by the way. What's your take on all this holiday shopping nonsense? Annoyed? Thrilled? Disgusted? Heart-warmed? Send your SOWs to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs that are not give-aways.

Palms behind Joyce Odam's house
Photo by Katy Brown

Monday, November 29, 2010

Always/Never Enough

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Ann Privateer, Davis

Am I not your mother,
were you not born on the first day of
my maturity?

Love, the perfect rose;
flesh beckons, our moles press
close, producing a son
then a daughter; the rose
dries, the petals fall.

You won’t believe what happened (change)
I put my foot down this time (stress)
We are trying to figure it out (change)
I hope that it will work (stress)
I’m keeping important things on the back burner (change)
So, hey, whatever works (stress)
Stuff comes up, like, ok, good to see you (change)
Yea, settle down, take a deep breath, good to see you too (stress)

Hope takes a holiday,
the road
sets prisoners free
for a while,
hope builds a smile,
invades, retreats,
recedes again

due for a come back
in fall.  Spring

blooms eternal,
winter hopes it will
not be late.  Stay hopeful;
when light shines,
Soul, enters the yard.


Thanks, Ann, and the rest of today's contributors. Ann Privateer is tweaking Medusa with her use of words that last week's Poetry Trap warned about—words that can get sentimental in the blink of a gnat. A.R. Ammons used to say that the minute he hears a rule, he sets about to break it, and Ann is following in his footsteps...  And rightly so! And having fun doing it.

Lots to ponder this busy week; see the b-board on the right for a boatload of poetry readings! Davis PL Allegra Silberstein will be here, there and everywhere, and she celebrates her 80th birthday on Saturday, too! Happy Birthday, SnakePal! And don't forget to send in five lines for the book-length renga SPC is putting out called The Sacramento Poem; deadline is Wednesday, which is also their Annual Fundraiser at the Millers. It's all there on the b-board.

The rest of today's poems are for our Seed of the Week: Enough. The first two are from Trina Drotar, Poetry Now Editor, whose broadside from Rattlesnake Press will be coming out in February:

—Trina Drotar, Sacramento

Every time I close the door
New books appear
Old ones never stay
Unless they’ve been
Genial to neighbors
Hidden two rows away


—Trina Drotar

Copper-bottom pans
hand-crank food mill
sugar, cinnamon, jars
and, of course,
Tart, sour, no good for eating.
Buy only in August.
Use in September.

Grandmother’s hands still
core each apple with deft movements.
Once cored, each apple then quartered
placed into pans of boiling water
atop her gas stove.
Boiled down, ready for mashing.
Child’s hand cranks the handle,
slow       and hard.

Cooked apples,
never more than a few slices,
forced under the blades,
through the holes.
Still beige apples ooze and drip
into the bowl beneath.
Back to pan.
Back to stove.
Add sugar
and cinnamon.
Just enough to taste.

Grandmother hands the child a spoon.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

At once minding and manipulating the forces
of nature, we tunnel through mountains, change
the course of rivers, answer cancer with rigorous
therapy, aggressively develop replacement body
parts, and continuously wield tremendous forces
on each other for better or for worse. 

On the roadway, bumps, lumps, humps,
undulations, and speed tables don’t waste any
words explaining what the consequences are
for driving too fast:  they just shake and scrape
your bottom as you cross them to create a
memorable experience.

To protect one’s property it does not suffice to
merely follow the academic exercise of posting
a sign that legally advises No Trespassing in
bold red letters on a black background.   For
compliance to rise to the level of a statistical
probability, we must also erect a tall, strong
fence topped with barbed wire, electrify it with
killer high voltage, add a team of armed guards,
mean dogs, security lights and cameras, and of
course install some beefy locks.

In the shadow of all these power plays the deeper
wisdom of those who whisper is lost to silence,
much the same as for the deafened soldier who
has run out of ammunition and now stands alone
and dazed alongside a cooling cannon, unable to
hear that the conflict is over.


—Sandy Thomas, Sacramento

the spirit

the temple

sky roof
the mind

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

your touch, your voice,
your eyes, your body moving
over mine, within mine

I will never be sated
loving you

smile, knowing
passion will endure
rich our union
boundless our love


Today's LittleNip(s)

—Sandy Thomas

two palms
face to face

a gentle bow
a simple grace



Photo by D.R. Wagner

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Like Traveling Minstrels

Poets in Hats (Mikey West and Bill Gainer)
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis



I want both of us
To start talking about this great love

As if you, I, and the Sun were all married
And living in a tiny room,

Helping each other to cook
Do the wash,
Weave and sew,
Care for our beautiful 

We all leave each morning
To labor on the earth's field.
No one does not lift a great pack.

I want both of us to start singing like two
Traveling minstrels
About this extraordinary existence
We share,

As if
You, I, and God were all married

And living in
A tiny

(Translated from the Farsi [Persian]
by Daniel Ladinsky)



Allegra Silberstein, Kathy Kieth, Joyce Odam,
Trina Drotar, Carol Louise Moon
—Photo by Katy Brown

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Enough, Indeed

With the passion of tides
A palette of life
A canvas of sand
—Ronald Edwin Lane, Weimar


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

The sand has the name of the journey
For it has known the seas, can speak
Their names and tell the storms
The secret places where the wind hides
Its stormy jewels and sings its terrible
Songs.  Oh the night.  Oh the night.

And we hold the sand within our hands
And we let it go between our fingers
Making patterns with its soft body,
Its gleaming eyes, the mantle of
The waves.  Oh hear, we die in seas
So cold the ice itself grows teeth
And spells our ship till it
Commands and we, even climbing
High into the masts can see no
Land and fall, oh yes we fall
For twenty leagues and call
One to another across the loom
Time makes with water and here
You came, and they, dear friend,
My dear, dear friend are made of sand
Are made of sand.


Thanks to today's contributors, and remember our Seed of the Week give-away continues through midnight tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 28. Send me your poems about "enough", and I'll send you a rattlechap of your choosing: kathykieth@hotmail.com

December 8 is the next Rattle-Read at The Book Collector; Ron H. Peat will release his new book from XLibris. Also on the menu is a new broadside, A Bench Called Henry (our first in over a year), from Richard Zimmer. Richard remains in the hospital, though, and could use your good wishes. 



that invisible wind
sweeps auburn leaves
along a dappled roadway;

that birdsong fills
the crystal void
between bare branches;

that the dazzling sun
pins a great blue heron
to its reflection on a flat pond;

that Sierra peaks
rise in a citadel of winter
against the remote horizon;

that, without intervention,
season follows season
in this valley of light.

—Katy Brown, Davis


Pruned by the drone, drone, drone
of stingless bees,
I now resent
the flugelhorn, ocarina and kazoo
that sound only
to hear themselves
disreguarding cellos
and harmonicas
that cool the edge of the air
meeting at the juncture
of north to east walls.

Rocks of slush
are tossled
between the bridgework
of an acrobat
with palsied mind
and torpid finger.

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA


—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.

—D.R. Wagner

We were not supposed to compare
The miracles when they occurred.
One was certainly not better than another;
The roses of Juan Diego to those of Theresa
of Lisieux.  We were not to crumple at the
Tiniest comment.  What of tears anyway?

We should be able to rise up to the very
Top of buildings without moving our legs.
Surely there would be the burning that carries
Us higher and higher to where
We could finally become less and less.

So we spill over and flush the earth
With our tears and quiet sorrows.
We will open the serape of Juan Diego
To see the face of the Virgin, we will find
Joy in the smallest things as we watch our
Hearts empty and fill with love like the locks
On a canal, lifting us up or lowering us

To the clear way around all obstacles,
The way singing does or looking into the eyes
of the beloved, the light reflecting, souls dancing.


Today's LittleNip:

—William S. Gainer, Grass Valley

They pick the fruit
of well harvested trees,
pile their plates high
and bitch—
about everything...

Stop it,
it’s not my fault—

eat your pie
and shut
the fuck



Last Apples 4
—Photo by Katy Brown

Friday, November 26, 2010

Leftover Turkey

Before Winter

Aspen tremble
Pines scratch
While the mountain accepts
The changing of the guard
—Ronald Edwin Lane, Weimar

—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

Let's not talk—
here, take my hand—
let's just walk.

Rain filters the night
through soft porch light shadows
as we stroll into the mist
in balance and harmony.

Let's not talk—
here, take my hand—
let's just walk.


Thanksgiving's over, but our give-away isn't; send your own poems about "enough" to kathykieth@hotmail.com by midnight, Sunday, Nov. 28 and I'll send you a free rattlechap of your choosing.

Michelle Kunert has had it with the shopping mania thing:


I wish I could join this "Reverend Billy" guy in New York
(no, well, he's not really a "minister" though you could say that)
His "Church of Life After Shopping"
starts with Black Fridays as Buy Nothing Day
and begs for the rest of the holiday shopping season
to dodge the crass consumer culture
telling people what they need to buy
He travels with "choirs" around towns
who sing about simple joys such as not getting in debt
and how buying a lot less is of course kinder to the earth
Interesting, when considering that despite the repression
around 13.6 million people
have not yet paid up their shopping debt from last year!


People could instead consider that,
while it is a blessing to give rather than receive,
maybe merely spending one's time on someone can also be a gift
because once again there will be a lot of "lonely" people
—those who need to be visited
in a lot less-than-desirable places than shopping malls,
including nursing homes and prisons
or even those who need someone to welcome them at their residence
and possibly, even better yet, share a lunch or dinner.

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


Sometimes I feel like leftover turkey
cold dried-up meat and bones
Lesser desired pieces
to be used up or else thrown away
wedged between pieces of bread,
the taste hidden with condiments
and beginning smells of decay

—Michelle Kunert


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

The trees had had quite enough
of just standing around while the
carefree wind was whistling through
their branches.  It was time to change
So they reached upward as only
trees can do and prayed for a miracle.
It came in the form of a tornado.
Suddenly the trees were uprooted and
they whistled loudly and boldly right
alongside the wind:  dancing partners.


Where is it written that we must be
alarmed about waking up? 

Sage scientists report about how essential
it is we get enough sleep.  Each alarm
clock should be imprinted with a warning
label like the cancer warnings on cigarette
packages that their use could actually be
harmful to our health. 


Call me hard to please, but I believe that
when we pay athletes and performing
artists a super abundance of money, we
deserve a super performance.  Every time.

Good is unacceptable.  Better than ever
before is still not nearly enough.  The
lowest effort to justify the obscene money
changing hands must be a new high
standard of best, and that will only be
good enough once.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Carl Brnard Schwartz

I got an “ ” for ffort, but somon stol it.



Ancient Peruvian art-carved stone
Photo by Michelle Kunert

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Married to Amazement

—Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.


—Medusa, with hopes that you may remain married to amazement...!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pumpkins and Butterballs

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

The butterballs
attract me
so much more room
for what I need
to stuff into their insides.

Nuts are my favorite
they increase the taste
of the pale, then tanned
meat surrounding them.

The breasts inveigh
my allegiance to what
come below
and I have no problem
with dark or white pieces
as long as
they are succulent enough
for my pugnacious palette.


Lots of contributors today (thankfully), including some for our Seed of the Week: Enough. Send your "enough" poems to kathykieth@hotmail.com by midnight on Sunday, Nov. 28 and I'll send you a free rattlechap of your choosing.

Jack Frost has settled in here, there and everywhere on the West Coast; Janet Pantoja (Woodinville, WA) sends us her pic of frost on the pumpkin; Jane Blue (Sacramento) says she rushed her geraniums into the house; and Ann Privateer (Davis) brought in her massive, 30-lb. squash (see below). Still, it's the cold that makes for good persimmons and beautiful tulips.

THE WRITING LIFE with Ellen Bass in January at Esalen, Big Sur, Jan. 28-30:

From beginners to experienced, all writers are welcome. Whether you are interested in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or journal writing, this workshop will provide an opportunity to explore and expand your writing world.    

Esalen fees cover tuition, food and lodging and vary according to accommodations—ranging from $360 to $695 (and more for premium rooms). The sleeping bag space is an incredible bargain and usually goes fast, as do some of the less expensive rooms, so it's good to register early. Please register directly with Esalen at 831-667-3005 or at www.esalen.org/. Some work-scholarship assistance is available, as well as small prepayment discounts and senior discounts. All arrangements and registration must be made directly with Esalen, but if you have questions about the content of the workshop, please email ellen@ellenbass.com or call her at 831-426-8006.

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

what a gift you’ve given me, Rachel
as I circle the traffic of our life
the drawings, photos, letters
the dolls we loved
the book of poems we created
all that you left behind
in the wake of your death…

let’s face it, honey
much as I hated you at times
resented you born too soon
in my haunted marriage
jealous of your talent your beauty
even put a curse on you when you had cancer,
called you the evil malignant bitch…
you storming into my room
a swolled-up virago
your quarrel with my buoyancy
you said I lived Daddy’s bad boy life

we’ve had a rough 60 years, haven’t we?

you were everything to me
you enflamed me
your fire in madness and sanity

you and I limped across the street
to our favorite café trying to find happiness 
in a piece of cake
you called us the wonkapotami
we’re wonky, you said—
I, the old one on a cane, legs going,
still feeding on your mind
you, the sick one, your mind eaten up by disease

I pull a cloak of sadness around me
it’s just you and me again
little golden baby I mourn for both of us


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Almost home, I’m trying to beat late-
November light turning fields
and bramble-thickets amber-golden,
leaf-fall cottonwoods
shivering before a storm—

when across the two-lane
loping up the cutbank—
a bear, black as night coming,
disappearing into brush as easy as
a wild beast closing in on home.


—Taylor Graham

Vertigo of edges, hawk’s-
beak vista: drought and downpour,
water’s insistent urges
against rock; adagio of freeze and thaw—

thanks-giving song
to a goat-trail, the rhythm
of my couplet feet
to carry me back home.


—Janet Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

Positively delightful!
Pumpkin is snow-capped by flakes
Precipitated by cold—
Peculiar sight to behold
Pleasing incongruity
Privileged orange squash not yet
Perished under frost and snow.


—Ann Privateer, Davis
I give thanks for glowing red sunsets
for baby's first laugh
for the way California voted
for my winter squash
for sonny calling home
for Lilas sleeping with her poem
for all of Renee's reminders
for my very own messy room
for friendship and for umbrellas.


Today's LittleNip:

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.  

~W.J. Cameron



Poet Angela James at the Tellebration Festival
at Carol's Books in Sacramento in November
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gray Silk Days

Snow fell upon the lily …
… but she still bloomed
—Ronald Edwin Lane, Weimar


Where air-silk flows like dreams
over the gray moiré
of this soft morning—

the wet leaves tipped with
light—everywhere flashing amid
the golden music of tiny songbirds

through the perfect light
where no sorrow is allowed—

where the smallest flower
will blossom because you find it
and the gray silk days

will soften into evening
and the sky will ring with stars,
so bright you’ll praise them openly.

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento


Thanks to Ron and Joyce for today's symphony of pictures and sound, still celebrating Tiny Moments of Joy. Wet morning—you got that right!—up here on the mountain I'm looking out at snowy gray and another day with the snowplow. Remember that photo of our deck I posted last week? Multiply it times four; we've seen about three feet of snow since then. Yesterday the power was out all day, too; we have a whole-house generator, so we were fine, but then the Internet/TV went out right after I posted Medusa... oy. They're back in operation today, though, and people are fumbling through the snow, continuing their daily lives—as are the other critters! Right now the jays and squirrels are lined up at their feeding station, ready for breakfast, so I'd better hurry with this.

Still, tiny moments of joy, right? Thanksgiving for our snow (which will result it your water) and the cycle that's keeps our earth going, including the squirrels and the jays. Gratitude: Enough. Our Seed of the Week. Give-away! Send me poems about Enough by midnight on Sunday, Nov. 28 and I'll send you a rattlechap of your choosing: that's kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.


—Joyce Odam

The car floats on the calm water.
Floating under the car is a raft.

Island to island they go like that—

in tranquil departure
and arrival—where roads await.


—Joyce Odam

The clearest way into the universe is
through a forest wilderness.
     —John Muir

Follow the music of the trees.
Follow the music of the birds.
Follow the music of the
ever-deepening winds

that pull you deeper
into the waiting universe
of mind, and heart, and soul,
to where the promised love is.

(First published in Poets' Forum Magazine)


—Joyce Odam

where I am thin
sorrow pours through
I permit
the passage of sunlight
through these holes
I fold my darkness
like an old quilt of winter
all those squares
taken from old garments
I have been cold
all my life
now I am cured
of my unhappiness
I permit birds to sing
across my landscape
I open my trees for them

(First Published in Poet News, 1989)

—Joyce Odam

(After reading Standing and Knowing
          by William Stafford) 

I take the stillness you offer
and praise the finding,

Seeing was never like this.
Hearing was never like this.

What has risen in me!
I cannot bear it.


—Joyce Odam

(after a Max Tharpe photo)

The leaves are too many;
the boy’s hands
are too small.

There is
a slowness around him
that he tries to fill.

But the leaves will not wait. 
They say,  Now!  Now!
And they fall.

And the boys’ face
wears a gathering smile
for the leaves are

everywhere—just as he is,
with his swift evolution—
with the arrogance of

his joy and power, for he will
reach into the falling leaves
and catch them all.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

Religion has touched your throat.
              —William Stafford

Spring now,
a bird interviews the morning:

an ordinary exchange, full of religion,
telling me,    telling me…

how there is joy in its little life.
I listen to its hymn.



Some leaves …
… Really can …
—Ronald Edwin Lane

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Shape of the Future Snake

—Louise Bogan

I had come to the house, in a cave of trees,
Facing a sheer sky.
Everything moved,—a bell hung ready to strike,
Sun and reflection wheeled by.

When the bare eyes were before me
And the hissing hair,
Held up at a window, seen through a door,
The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead
Formed in the air.

This is a dead scene forever now.
Nothing will ever stir.
The end will never brighten it more than this,
Nor the rain blur.

The water will always fall, and will not fall,
And the tipped bell make no sound.
The grass will always be growing for hay
Deep on the ground.

And I shall stand here like a shadow
Under the great balanced day,
My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind,
And does not drift away.


Thanks to D.R. Wagner for the Medusa pic (taken on one of her bad hair days). Unlike in the pic, my world doesn't turn to stone; change is a given, and the yellow dust in my mind has finally cleared a bit this month. The Ophidian is so beautiful, thanks to Richard Hansen; the release party Nov. 10 reminded me that this community is very unique, and that Rattlesnake Press could probably never have happened anywhere else. The Sacramento area (and environs) is so rich with fine poets who love and support each other! These poetic fields are ripe for “picking” by any small publishing operation that wants to stay local. And I see many more poets around here who need to be added to the pantheon of bards lined up on the Snake rack at The Book Collector.

I also realized that Rattlesnake Press has developed, in spite of me, into a well-oiled machine. I don’t take particular credit for this; sometimes ideas evolve in a rhythm of their own. Frank Andrick has put out eight issues now of WTF, even weathering the Great Computer Melt-Down of 2010, and has added a “staff” member to help him (welcome, Rachel Leibrock!); Richard did a wonderful job on The Ophidian (and of course The Book Collector remains a welcoming, cozy home for the Snake); Medusa has a steady, daily in-flow of poetry, pix and announcements (local and otherwise) with over 300 “hits” a day of viewers checking in. These Snake Departments have toodled along just fine for the past year, and look promising for the future.

Some of my musings, you’ll recall, had to do with online vs. paper publishing, and I've come to think that decision depends on the publication. I think The Ophidian works better without being printed out; there is no replacement for art that appears on computer with that fine lighting behind it. On the other hand, WTF seems to need hard copies to hand out/pass around at Luna’s (though we probably will start making it available online), too. These are, of course, free publications, so online is fine.

On the other hand, I don’t think there is any replacement for the print chapbook or broadside. These need to have a physical form for handing out or selling—for snuggling up with on a snowy day, or for mailing to friends as the love letters they’re intended to be. Or for poets to sell or hand out at readings as tokens of their work. So I’ve started up the Rattlechaps department again, and we’ll be publishing chapbooks (including LittleBooks and SkinnyBooks) and free broadsides this spring, along with the monthly reading series (second Wednesdays; save the dates). Caveat: no SpiralChaps or other print publications using photographs (except WTF) until Sam and I replace our laser printer, maybe next summer; for now I’ll be limping along with inkjets. And, as always, our chapbooks are published by invitation only; no unsolicited manuscripts, please.

Right now, the biggest question mark remains Rattlesnake Review. It had simply become too expensive to publish in the form it had evolved to, but where to go from here remains a question in my mind. Online only? Or I could run a few copies and sell them... but what about contributors? If you run any hard copies, shouldn’t contributors get them? With 60 or more having to be mailed out, ouch! I dunno… that’s food for another day’s thought. I do know that the Shape of the Future Snake will be leaner and meaner—I’ll be a real cheapskate!—and that we’ll take full advantage of online opportunities, partly to save money, but also to spread the word about NorCal poets even farther and wider than was previously possible.

So right now I’m happy with the way things have settled in my mind, and I hope you’ll keep hanging in there with us: staying in touch with your community through the daily Medusa; coming to the reading series; and above all sending us your work! The Snake is, after all, your publication. So Carpe viperidae—seize the Snake (poetry with fangs!).


—Amy Lowell, 1919


When I looked into your eyes,
I saw a garden
With peopnies, and tinkling pagodas,
And round-arched bridges
Over still lakes.
A woman sat beside the water
In a rain-blue silken garment.
She reached through the water
To pluck the crimson peonies
Beneath the surface,
But as she grasped the stems,
They jarred and broke into white-green ripples;
And as she drew out her hand,
The water drops dripping from it
Stained her rain-blue dress like tears.

Falling Snow

The snow whispers about me,
And my wooden clogs
Leave holes behind me in the snow.
But no one will pass this way
Seeking my footsteps,
And when the temple bell rings again
They will be covered and gone.


In the cloud-gray mornings
I heard the herons flying;
And when I came into my garden,
My silken outer garment
Trailed over withered leaves.
A dried leaf crumbles at a touch,
But I have seen many Autumns
With herons blowing like smoke
Across the sky.


—Mari Evans, 1970

Where have you gone

with your confident
walk with
your crooked smile

why did you leave
when you took your
and departed

are you aware that
with you
went the sun
all light
and what few stars
there were?

where have you gone
with your confident
walk your
crooked smile the
rent money
in one pocket and
my heart
in another . . .


Today's LittleNip: 

—Mari Evans

If there be sorrow
let it be
for things undone . . .
to these add one:
Love withheld . . .
    . . . restrained



From an old Duncan yoyo book 
found by Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks—
Click/pic to enlarge.
(Practice—there will be a test.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Which I Is I?

View from Hubble Telescope

—Theodore Roethke, 1960

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.

I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks—is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is—
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.



Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Slept With The Wind

The Kieths' back deck this a.m.

—Rolf Jacobsen

My soul is hard as stone. I slept with the wind.
He's an unfaithful lover. Now he's with someone else.
He hummed words, prattled in my ear
and stroked my hair. I gave him all my whiteness.
I let him chisel dreams in my soul—of clouds,
fierce seas, and soft flowery hills.
Now I see, cold, it was them he loved.
Where is he now? Tonight my heart froze.

(translated from the Norwegian by Olav Grinde)


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

(for D.R. Wagner, inspired by his photo 
of the Datura)

A student is writing about Sylvia Plath.
Some of what the Ariel poet knows,
this young lady knows. The knowledge—no,
wisdom—screens her subtly from others,
as inside petals: the walls of a golden flower,
inverted, hems just touching soft earth,
the calyx tall and broad enough to tent
her slender figure, seated at a computer.
In this chamber constructed entirely
of slender golden petals, wonders transpire:
Lakmé, in the opera, transgresses against
her vows as temple maiden, loving instead
a British officer. She loves and sings
under a dangling screen of datura flowers, under
steady rain, little bells. Her aria, bell song,
comes rich with rippling Asian raptures, little bells
ring inside her maiden sex: Lily Pons, Lily Pons,
Lily Pons is all we hear, the coloratura Himalayas.
Lakmé will suffer for her trespass, her delicate
foot across the magic threshold into
the sadder meadow where Gérald, her officer,
hears amid their tryst the distant trumpets,
trumpets to obliterate all the delicate temple bells
ever made to ring clingingly. She gathers
and nibbles ominous nibbles of datura petal,
perfect small teeth whitely working at blossoms,
as the stamens, prongs of the datura, bite hard
into her breast, as the sweet and deadly golden
bell jar descends, bleeding away air and the girl
goes on tapping intricate thoughts into the college keyboard.


—Tom Goff

Tippy is sick; the cancer leaves its taint
on her cockapoo skin, signalling
far worse internally. She has been
the best of companions. She eagerly
sniffs Billy after his walk: Where
did you go? Fiercest of happy dogs,
she plays, eats, will not refrain
from running, leaping, pouncing,
but in the early morning hours,
her eyes are always tired now. Why
must it befall me, me to authorize
her “putting down,” her execution
two days hence? “Put her to sleep?”
As the asp cuddles with Cleopatra! Now
Tippy picks up her little pony toy.
Eeyorish little thing, it fits and squeaks
in Tippy’s mouth perfectly; but
oh, the pity: Pony’s mane and tail,
mere squirts of loose lank yarn!


Thanks, Tom, and today's other contributors, for their poems. As you can see, the Kieths have a bit of shoveling to do this morning. Taylor Graham says the first snow calls for a hot buttered rum; maybe after I drive the snowplow around...

We're dreaming of the tropics here, and Sandy Thomas is in Maui. The bottom photo is of Napili Bay, where she's visiting, wherein dropped my first wedding ring about fifteen years ago while I was dreaming with a snorkel and the humuhumunukunukuapuaa. Pat Pashby, too, is dreaming of the sea—and thanks, Pat, for today's LittleNip. She tells us that Richard Zimmer has had a pacemaker "installed" and will be home from the hospital soon.

Hey—tune in Monday for some info about The Shape of the Future Snake—some musings from the usually stone-faced Medusa about where Rattlesnake Press is headed (for the next few months, at least). After almost a year of noodling around, some things have come clear, like after a snowstorm.........


—Sandy Thomas, Sacramento

South sea
golden pearl
housed in crater
the volcano cloud
into the red lava sky

—Sandy Thomas

White pearl above
palm tree sky
on the crescent shore


—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

surrender to the
constant movement
of the sea below—

hear the breakers
as they draw
a frothy edge in the sand

see the swells

before the fog
tucks it in


Today's LittleNip:

True words are often not beautiful, just as beautiful words are often not true.

—Japanese proverb



Napili Bay, Maui

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kindling—Or Embers?

Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Proud whole families support
Pop Warner football.
Pancakes, waffles, and fritters are
Packed with flavor.
Pirates wander freely over
Powdery white froth,
Pummeling, wounding, fighting, under
Pompously wicked flags.
Pagan witch fantasies
Paint women falsely, until
Priests wearing frocks
Punish when frightened.
People wish for
Perfection without frills,
Perhaps waiting forever.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Evidence carefully gathered
from early through modern
history supports the proposition
that rain is more likely to fall
in areas where English is spoken
predominantly with a British accent.

It is truly astounding that struggling
farmers in the Dust Bowl region of
the United States of America have
not picked up on this truth and
staunchly launched a drive to
encourage everyone, young and old,
to adopt the British accent as their
everyday tongue. 

Perhaps the federal Department of
Agriculture needs to take a vanguard
role in changing the culture and hire a
Prime Minister of Rain Bearing Clouds,
whose prime mission would be to adjust
the dialects spoken in these United States
until they more appropriately reflect the
weather we both need and desire to have.



—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Sinking, drowning in a
sea of self doubt

Forget about lowering a
lifeboat, too weak to
climb in, too dazed to
set a course, bitten from
head to toe by constant
attacks from failure and
apathy, sinking, drowning

Need far more help than
was earned, all those
bridges that were left to

A line is thrown, another
gaff?  No, this one is a
ring, maybe some help to
safety or maybe just another
bullet point on someone
else’s agenda

For now it is a joy so small
it defies measure,
so very, very small


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

A foursome of neighborhood
grade-school kids came to the door
and asked, Rake your leaves?
How much?
Two dollars, sir.

With their three rakes and a shovel
they quickly created several large
piles of golden, yellow leaves and
I helped put them in the dumpster,
which rose beyond their reach. 

The four lads took turns climbing in
atop the leaves to stomp them down,
doing much better than I could have
done, and having more fun doing it.
They chatted about what groceries
they might purchase with their earnings.

The next day, more wind, more
leaves fallen. I hope those kids


Today's LittleNip:

Joy can be kindling for larger warm feelings, or it can be their dying embers.
—Carl Bernard Schwartz



Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thy Windy Will

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

corrected vision
—dawn diBartolo, citrus heights

when asked if
the change in weather
had inspired me today ~
admitting that it hadn’t ~
I realized that I had become
one of those people ~

those who do not see
that wind dancing within the tree-
tops as a majestic mating
of the created ~

those that sleep thru
the changing colors of the sky ~
indigo to amber to orange and pink again ~
being only blue, remaining only blue ~

those that hear the wind-chime
of children’s tinkling laughter
and rest as cold stone upon the
unfertile dirt of the earth,
unaffected, sowing nothing,
reaping the same in return.

and then I penned this poem
so that I may see again…


if there was a you
—dawn diBartolo

(after “Packet” by Jamie Ross)

wanting to write it
like “a green light that comes
when you never saw it coming, never
heard it, felt it…”
but expecting it

at some point, genuine like
the outstretched hand in greeting,
the un-whitened teeth beaming
from between the mocha lips

of “nice to finally meet you,”
wanting to taste it
like hot cinnamon tea in
the depths of a lonely winter night

burning memories into the back
of your throat, or embrace it like
the blanket pulled up to your ears and
tucked under your chin,

wanting it to go full speed
into the night, hair whipping out
behind, scent rushing to my nose
in intimations of you…always

…wanting it to be you.


life lesson
—dawn diBartolo

yesterday the heavens wept
with such fury and frustration,
thrashing things about
like a temperamental child.
rage-fueled winds filled
the rooftops with sorrow,
spilling over onto the streets;
concrete soaked it up
like the shoulder forever
cried upon.

then today…
the sun smiled as if
autumn had no hold ~
a lesson for us all
…to just let go.


keep bleeding
—dawn diBartolo

I’ve lost myself again
in the changing colors
of the autumn sky,
refusing to be named ~

coasting into the pink,
each kiss is like the
dying sun, each
orange, an explosion
back into the rise.

I could simply give in
to topaz, but I find
little solace, no discovery
in the way things “should” be ~
are, quite regularly.

as the day sets,
I go willing with it.


the lesson of Emily
—dawn diBartolo

(after reading #131, Emily Dickinson)

days are growing damp
and short of time;
I wallow in the pits,

lost to the farce
of pantomime,
clinging to one wish.

my soul swells grey
and full of winter;
I’m longing for the sun.

yet heartaches endured
have caused a fissure,
thus, efforts all undone.

in poetry I find,
with prayer combined,
aid beyond compare:

grant me, Oh Lord,
a sunny mind ~
thy windy will to bear.


Today's LittleNip:

Whatever its nature, beauty is the treasure that we value—a pattern of qualities in harmony with our spirits, something that vibrates on the same wave length as the living stuff of which we are composed.

—Edmund W. Sinnott, U.S. Biologist



Thanks to today's contributors, and be sure to check out the huge array of readings in our area today and tomorrow, include a "first" at Logos Books in Davis and the release of WTF8 at Luna's Cafe in Sacramento.

Poetry at the Crocker:
Trina Drotar reads Kathy Kieth's ekphrastic poem
based on Wayne Thiebaud's painting, "Coastal Farms",
November, 2010
Photo by Betsy Powell

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Little Bits of Joy

Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Sometimes there is a long thunder
That comes down from the hills.
It seems quite quiet at first, then

Builds, rolling off the tops of the high
Places and tracking across the valley
As if it were a floor of dreams,

Not the kinds of things one normally
Thinks of as dream, but more refined
As if years had taught the sound

Exactly how to lean this way so our
Ears could find the voice there, that
Of rain, that of electricity, that of change.

It was the change that made the difference
For it came without desire, dressed
In plain clothing and limping slightly

As it reached down through the weather
And softened the air for the water.
How quietly it came upon the thunder

One would think it was something expected
But still surprising in a particular way
Like falling in love or dying.


—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks
Though I’d been
On the job
For years,
The new dean
Insisted on
Interviewing me
As though I were
A new hire.

She asked,
And so I talked
Through a lunch
I eventually bought.
She smirked as only
A college dean
Can, rolled
Her eyes.  “So—
Has anything good
Ever happened
To you?”

I shrugged.  “I’m
Done,” I thought.
And a short
Time later
She resigned.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

How shall I re-engineer hope
after the morning news?

Shark attack in a tranquil bay.
On our globe’s winter-side,
sheepmen tending their frozen flocks.

As if all creature-kind were foster
children of sore distress.
The boy binding his father’s leg,

the shepherd-dog
nudging the lamb back to life.


—Taylor Graham

Awake at 2 a.m. to silver-soft
song of the house-wren tipping her tail.

No birds in the dark. An unfamiliar
scent through the screens. Is it

the cat purring in the crook of my knee,
this sound, steady – no,

hesitant as stepping down splintered
stairs, the barefoot end

of summer turning everything
and thorn;

what we thought perpetual – our
Earth – so brittle, antique and fading into

joy. Open every
window, listen to the rain.


—D.R. Wagner

What, that we could look across the harbor
And still see the boat that brought us here
Steaming away like a black maggot, belching
Diesel and left-over evening, splashing red and lurid
Blues all around the upper air.  We would be here

Forever and we knew it. Someone lit a cigarette,
Passed it around until it was nothing as well.
We were not seeking.  We weren’t even saying.

It was mostly that it was cold and we were without
Features now that night had taken the brush,
Painting furiously to get ahead of a moon that
Would be pale, almost green as it tried to overcome
The entrance hymn that night had prepared.

Somewhere someone began to play an old tango,
El Amanecer, I think it was.  It felt like blood coming
From a cut wrist as it inched it way closer.  If we
Hadn’t been so distracted by the situation we 
Might have tried to forget the little bird sounds
That filled its middle, but we were unable to do so.

Better to stay huddled here, away from all
Conversation, dedicating ourselves to leaving
Rather than looking for Albion.  Pierre suggested
We try to dance.  I took a long drink and stood up.
“Two step or waltz, tango or polka?” I bowed to everyone
Gathered there in the black and imagined they did so as well.


—D.R. Wagner

I can always hold you in the thrall
Where your own dreams are the commander,
Where the drums lighting the frames of waking
Trip across your legs and your eyes and pull
You down closer to the earth, to smell the actual

Dirt of the Renaissance of understanding
That comes with our waking in the morning:

“Look, look the beautiful redbreast is making
The thrush song just above our bed where we
Are loving such as never has been seen before.”

This will drain our blood, make us remark to
Our loved ones that words such as these are
Dark and without attempt to make them beat
Upon the doors of our daily lives and resonate
With the perfect clarity they might bring to any
Literary situation.  “Psst...take this gun, may it

Serve you well.” But we do not adopt this kind
Of reason, instead we use our lips and loins to
Describe to one another the thrill as it moves
Into these very dreams.  It is here

I will disarm you finally, look across the gadget
That is time, past this pathetic renaissance
I will speak to you purely here.  Come here!
Here, hold me as I tell you to, believe
That we can actually communicate this way.

I will touch you where you most desire to be
Touched and you will do the same.  We will work
Our mouths to elicit this intensity of contact.

We will grind together like the graphite against
Paper that made the drawings of Piranesi—
Those very things within we wished to be lost.


Today's LittleNip:

If next year nobody can remember my name, I can still work hard. Because I know how to work hard. If nobody likes my next book, I'll put it in the drawer and I'll write the next book.

—Tama Janowitz



Photo by D.R. Wagner