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The Ophidian p o e t r y +  a r t  a n t h o l o g y  • 2 0 1 2


Katy Brown Salvatore Buttaci Kate Campbell Laura Paine Carr Trina Drotar William S. Gainer Tom Goff Taylor Graham Richard Hansen Be Davison Herrera Patricia Hickerson William D. Hicks Jolena Holt Colette Jonopulos Kathy Kieth Arthur Knight Kit Knight Cleo Fellers Kocol Ronald Edwin Lane Gail Larrick Cynthia Linville Paul Lojeski Ann Menebroker

rattlesnake press

L The Ophidian 02 — 

continues back cover

The Ophidian 02 2012

Published by Rattlesnake Press Kathy Kieth, Editor and Publisher Richard Hansen, Co-editor and Designer Contents Š 2012 Rights revert to artists upon publication. Cover snake illustration: Sam Kieth Cover photograph: Richard Hansen

 — The Ophidian 02

Sam Kieth | oPhidian logo

Katy Brown Salvatore Buttaci Kate Campbell Laura Paine Carr Trina Drotar William S. Gainer Tom Goff Taylor Graham Richard Hansen Be Davison Herrera Patricia Hickerson William D. Hicks Jolena Holt Colette Jonopulos Kathy Kieth Arthur Knight Kit Knight Cleo Fellers Kocol Ronald Edwin Lane Gail Larrick Cynthia Linville Paul Lojeski Ann Menebroker

07 08 11 13 14 17 19 20 78 22 24 26 29 30 05 32 33 34 35 37 38 39 40

Carol Louise Moon Evan Myquest Patricia L. Nichol Nancy Norton Joyce Odam Janet L. Pantoja Chris Piper Linda Marie Prather Marie J. Ross Mary Rudig Mitz Sackman Carl Bernard Schwartz Allegra Silberstein Jeanine Stevens Rod Steiger Kara Synhorst Sandy Thomas D.R. Wagner Ann Wehrman Patricia Wellingham-Jones Daniel Williams Mary Zeppa



Poetry 01

42 43 44 46 48 49 50 52 53 54 55 56 58 61 64 67 62 68 71 72 76 77


katy Brown 6

mary Mills 20

laura paine carr 36

Janet Pantoja 9 10 16 23

Trina Drotar 14 74

sandy thomas 06 22 60 68

Sam Kieth 01 02 04

D.r. wagner 12 69

Richard Hansen 01 18 25 27 28 31 41 57 59 60 65 66

The Ophidian 02 — 

L  — The Ophidian 02 Sam Kieth | oPhidian logo (Sinister variant)

KathyKieth Diamond Springs, ca

continues continued

Sometimes life gets in the way of, well, life, and that’s what happened with this issue of The Ophidian. Richard Hansen’s mother became very ill, necessitating his hasty trip to Scotland to be with her. Then, unfortunately, she passed away, and he stayed in Scotland to close up her estate. After several months, he returned to Sacramento and underwent surgery of his own (from which he is now successfully recovering) while his wife, Rachel, adjusted to her promotion to midwife. So the last year and a half have been very full for the Hansens. The good news is that he brought back many wonderful photos of Scotland, some of which are included here. A lot can happen in a year and a half. For example, the Kieths moved from Pollock Pines to Diamond Springs, escaping the snowplow once and for all. Carl Bernard Schwartz, whose poem was mistakenly left out of Ophidian One, took on the pen name of Caschwa; his poem is included here, but I left his “old” name on it because that’s how it was submitted. And sadly, Arthur Winfield Knight passed away this summer. Both he and his wife, Kit, have poems in this issue, for which we are grateful. Rest in peace, Arthur, and our thoughts are with you, Kit. I hope everyone else’s year and a half has been a fruitful one, poetrywise at least. The Snake continues to live on in the form of WTF (edited by frank andrick with help from Rachel Leibrock) and Medusa’s Kitchen ( Don’t forget about us, and thanks for so patiently waiting for this issue of Ophidian. And thanks, Richard, for putting together this beautiful issue in spite of your busy life. Kathy Kieth Wrangler-in-Chief


Medusa’s Kitchen

Daily news from the Snakepit of Rattlesnake Press (poetry with fangs!) and the cauldron that boils over with the rich poetry stew The Ophidian 02 —that  is Northern California.

Katy Brown | Building 16  — The Ophidian 02

Katy Brown davis, CA

REFLECTIONS Shadow people in sky cages post digital updates to multinational accounts while I take pictures of light as it bounces between towers of glass. To the lens the reflected sky is more real than the work or the people behind the glass. Millions of dollars may rise or fall while the shutter flicks another shot. On this side, only the wind is real.

L The Ophidian 02 — 

Salvatore Buttaci Princeton, WV

My Prayer The river slides by; it’s my own prayer, traveling on, staying right here in the dazzle of this day’s chores where it adds steel to my spirits, helps me steer the course unafraid of harmless waves or icebergs too far to be perilous. The river slides by: this land-ahoy prayer shouted from the deck of my voyage to all of nature and super-nature, an admission that I am a sailor who can brave the currents of this life, take on sky and sea and not let pirates toss me overboard because I pray.

 — The Ophidian 02


L Janet Pantoja Crater Lake 2009

The Ophidian 02 — 

Janet Pantoja stonehenge 10 — The Ophidian 02

Kate Campbell Sacramento, CA

Mother-Of-Pearl For Dorothy Ellen Coupe, June 17, 1929-Nov. 3, 1987 She cut them away, small pearl buttons from children’s clothes, horn buttons from men’s car coats, tortoise shell disks with punched holes, carved antlers, glass I dream about her little maroon button baskets, tightly woven, with snug-fitting lids, pink and blue beady buttons tied on top: I come from women who snip buttons off rags Running fingers through the button box, I’m a child again, sifting the remnants of my family’s life, the dress shirt, the fancy skirt, the burpy baby dress, what happened a hundred years ago, today. I’m standing in my grandmother’s hallway, under the skylight, barefoot, sorting buttons, candies with colorful icings. Tasty morsels. Cinnamon hearts, red-hots. I tell mother about the dream, listen to her shallow breathing, skin like old ivory against the white hospice pillow. Her blue eyes pop open, search my grief, close as if impatient I want her to see the colors, taste the textures, feel the shapes, black and rhinestone buttons, sky-colored orbs, relish the metallic lick of our history Mother puffs, rattles, flutters her lips. Stops. . . . I finger the pearl button in my pocket, pop it in my mouth, swallow, call the nurse.

L The Ophidian 02 — 11

D.R. Wagner

12 — The Ophidian 02

Laura Paine Carr Cloverdale, CA

OFFERING she brings me strawberries when I am dying falling, falling, falling into the same abyss into which I’ve tumbled many times come, come, she says, have a little red treat I will always love you bruised or panic stricken, disappeared or found presenting to me, resting on open palm a small woven basket heaped high with passionate blushing berries she offers me strawberries when I’m desolate my heart broken, my sleeve torn ruby red invitation to Life under low leaves, nestled among white blossoms and meadow lark nests, tender red berries grow familiar with the likes of me

L The Ophidian 02 — 13

Trina Drotar sacramento, CA

IN THE TOP DRAWER of a three-drawer desk I found an envelope, a sealed envelope with a stamp, a stamp that cost eight cents. Inside the envelope might have been a letter addressed to a serviceman stationed far from the girl he promised to always love, the girl he didn’t marry because he never returned. Or Inside the envelope might have been a letter addressed to a woman who remained stateside while he was in a country he’d never heard of until he was told to report, a country where his remains would lie. Or Inside the envelope might have been a letter addressed to a father or mother stationed far away, gone yet another Christmas. A fourth birthday. This letter might have included a photo which could have fit inside a wallet. Or Inside the envelope might be a letter addressed to a child, a child who doesn’t understand why the parent had to travel to another country, had to leave four years earlier, and why the parent will never return.

14 — The Ophidian 02


trina drotar Sunset at San Greg The Ophidian 02 — 15

Janet Pantoja prosser 2009 16 — The Ophidian 02

William S. Gainer Grass Valley, CA

THE MAD MOON It was there last night, the moon, full and smiling. But, tonight, nothing. Somebody must have said something pissed it off. Now we got another month of fumbling in the dark, hoping to bump into each other and it could


have been so easy.

The Ophidian 02 — 17

Richard Hansen scotland in sepia

18 — The Ophidian 02

Tom Goff Carmichael, CA

PLEAS’D WITH THE QUAKERESS (1855) Pleas’d with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet and talks melodiously... —Walt Whitman

Walt squints over his page, needing a talking-all-of-a-sudden Quakeress in his image-inventory... Picture first the music box [Walt tells himself], unadorn’d with dancing sylph or fairy figure, a plain box lid, a flick of the hand to the already open tinkling box and the lid shuts and the sound is squelch’d, yet simply raise the lid and the melody chimes right on as if never before stopt. [a valv’d spigot of speech? a monsoon or gully-washer of talk?] Not satisfied, again Walt says, Picture the long-handled cone of the candle-snuffer dowsing the flame, let the snuffer be lifted from atop the eternal, the inextinguishable (phlogiston? chemical?) flame: lo, oxygen gushes in, flame re-ignites, and the candle her soft tallowy mouth and the fire all words... No, no, he tells himself, all wrong, too foofoo by half, and in the finish’d picture she just lifts up her bonnet (a few stray hairs tousl’d?) and the bright talk talks. Walt’s been having a lively Quaker meeting inside him...

L The Ophidian 02 — 19

Taylor Graham placerville, ca

WHAT THE MOON SAID There you are, another moon-eyed human standing in the dark. You think you know the names of stars and planets. You call me Harvest Moon, or Honey. When I’m the Wolf, you bundle in woolens and watch me for a winter moment; then bolt your door and curl up under comforters. Across the ridge and down another canyon, a benighted couple watches as I pass above clouds. They’ve stared at me for hours, whispering plans and wishes, asking me questions I’ll never answer. Shall I tell them they’re lost? What shall I say to you tonight?

20 — The Ophidian 02

mary Mills

L The Ophidian 02 — 21

Be Davison Herrera Corvallis, OR

a small suite of haiku in Japanese & American styles


Flat Mountain challenges snow powers as day breaks visiting clouds ski her shoulders

2. guitar music my dreams are on fire this snowy day mermaids sing of summer coming rant


today my garden is ocean yesterday the mountain tomorrow yet unknown requires silence gardens always sing 4. ...when Jack died my skin felt turned inside out...

22 — The Ophidian 02

L Janet Pantoja wall of water

The Ophidian 02 — 23

Patricia Hickerson davis, CA



snow in the prison yard and the long corridors snow on the landings on the windowsills snow sliding off the roof powdering the gutters snow on the stairs snow on the ledges, on tree branches

you Cumberland, wild river of the mountains, you’ve made a deep cut between the bluffs then up the raddled rungs to the house of dark slats where Grandma died at 89 old lady tho she be in long black cotton face stricken we sat in corners all day hid the tears water coursing hit war for the best, her last words

snow on the floor— he thought it was horse a horse to ride he scooped it up along the corridor he thought he could sniff it at least remembering high on his horse riding along some other corridor where it rained a lot

old river to the creeks that feed you Marsh/Jellico (where Grandma was born, then married) their farms the coal-studded hills

her Ma rousted a marauding Yankee soldier beat him over the head with a shotgun as he poked up from under the puncheon floor here tho she cared nothing for the Confederacy where he was safe from rain and snow only for corn and tobacco it wasn’t good enough hogs in the smokehouse some kind of white dust on these long corridors timbered glacierland tower the guard laughed of rock cliffs lipped over the road & beyond rocking green valley of the Gap moonbow falls slip waterward under a jut of pale flat rocks where we fall into the past carry her body into a fertile grave row our boats down, then up

24 — The Ophidian 02

L Richard The Ophidian 02 Hansen — 25

William D. Hicks Arlington Heights, IL

I FLOATED I floated

then I floated

on a wind

with a seed to where

to Glasgow and saw

Chaucer, Shakespeare, Twain

a friend who was

and God made appearances

never more than

and acted out scenes

a fog-coated,

from mud-covered books.

dreamless sky. one last time then I floated

I floated


back to understand

to London

what belonged

and Big Ben

to only me.

was in bed with long-interred

and that’s


when I awoke.

26 — The Ophidian 02

L Richard The Ophidian 02 Hansen — 27

28 — The Ophidian 02

Richard Hansen Flamingoes in scotland

Jolena Holt fair oaks, CA

THE FIRST 300 KISSES Maybe there have been 23 kisses (or maybe 223) I am not sure I have lost count I do know this many, many, many kisses too many to count Too many lips too many rows of two lips (plummeting toward me) basted in the glow of saliva reddish brown lips golden lips lips with purple hues These days there are one pair of lips for me The lips I kiss these days are held upon an aging face Both pair of lips are worn and thinner now When first I met these lips they held our love like tiny particles of dust in air that every breath reconstitutes within the lungs swished all around inside the arteries up thru the ventricles and each skin cell The fleshy parts that are still there remember well the warm first kiss on mattress pad, on floor, in creaking travel trailer We rocked the wood and metal frame all night until the neighbors held a rally and protested Their lonely nights disturbed by many kisses, much, much bliss Kisses upon four lips, two faces

L The Ophidian 02 — 29

Colette Jonopulos DEnver, CO

THE BODY OPENING (for Dorothy)

I My son sends a message—our communication polite, and when he leaves the capitals off words, I bite my lower lip questioning how mothering might have been done better, how little I knew of physical pain, the body opening, the opening body; when he was small, I pushed him—just once when he would not stop crying—and slapped his brother just once— all of those bloated months—nipples bitten and sucked—all of that giving gone to blue rage—such a small thing: capital letters the body’s own forgetfulness.

II I am working off the front porch growing things—I am not coming at this right. I am trying to grow things without a pot, lavender roots transplanted into soil loamy and bitter; I break away dead twigs until the green center of the plant is wild like hope, like anything you touch and want to touch again—the not knowing makes me squat lower push my face in close to examine the segment where life decides which way to go.

III One summer my mother-in-law called the magpies evil as they snatched at her corn, brushed along her migrant fears, and now I find myself loving them with unreasonable intent, the length of them flashing yellow; when they eat I think devour— no languishing over meals—small vertebrates swallowed —birds, dammit mother, the beauty of the kill.

30 — The Ophidian 02

L Richard Hansen The Ophidian 02 — 31

Arthur Knight Yerington, NV

We’ve been here four years now. The first month, we found some mouse droppings in the garage, so we moved the dog food into the spare room. We thought that was that, but we were wrong. When we cleaned out the space below the kitchen sink last week, we found two dead mice in the wastebasket, but didn’t see signs of any others. I dumped their bodies into the garbage can next to the garage while Kit watched. She said, “They must have died horrible deaths.” 32 — The Ophidian 02



Kit Knight


Yerington, NV

THE GRINCH OF SPIDER MITES Huge and lit up snowflakes dangled from poles and Santas danced in shop windows. Signs of the season were unmistakable. Arthur and I walked our greyhound past the post office. Nikkie sniffing at everything. The maintenance man was hosing trees. “Gary,” I said, “what are you doing? No one waters anything in December.” Nikkie’s bell jingled as she stretched her neck to be scratched. Reaching for the dog, Gary said, “Spider mites live in these pines, so every couple months I rinse the trees.” I told him, “Everything needs a home in December, so let it go till next month.” Gary shook his head, saying, “No, these are nice trees and it’s my job to take care of them.” Jingling the bell and petting Nikkie, Gary grinned, adding, “I don’t mind being the Grinch of spider mites.”

L The Ophidian 02 — 33

Cleo Fellers Kocol Roseville, CA

TO MAKE THEM NOTICE Once she drank sundowners and ate paté and truffles, and spoke with élan—educated, erudite. Now, she dodges the voices in her head, stays away from strangers and shelters. No room for her kind at the Inn. Days are best. She drowses on a bench, naps on the grass, hopes it doesn’t rain. In a sudden shower she stands in an upscale doorway where all the hungry diners order in French. As she’s chased away, she shouts, “There’s cockroaches in the kitchen.” Shouts it in three languages, stumbles at the curb and falls into the rain-choked gutter. Lying there, she hears the doorman say, “Just a drunk.” Struggling, she pushes up carefully. Worry lines define her faithfully; her hair is gray. In Chez Gourmet: black and white stark interior, no weak paintings to spoil the theme, patrons correctly curb emotion and continue eating sedately. “As if I don’t exist,” she shouts, listening to her voices advising big-clip gun-sight solutions.

34 — The Ophidian 02

colfax, CA

SHADOWS OF THE DEAD Outside my window, wind bends palm fans, like multi-fingered hands, and leaves, long dead, autumn browned, ovate and lanceolate, flutter past, casting shadows across the window screen that fly— I swear those shadows are … alive.


Ronald Edwin Lane

L The Ophidian 02 — 35

36 — Paine The Ophidian Laura Carr 02 flight

Gail Larrick Cloverdale, ca

HOW TO LIVE IN NATURE Dig up the moonlight

Grunt like the javalina

over the grizzled green plant,

rooting for food.

stinkweed, grown out of dark loam.

Shudder under the eagle, you small bird, and the hawk.

Leap the boulder and run like a hunted deer.

Let the sun’s hot kiss ignite the vision

Stand under the thunder

of every place you’ve ever loved.

and yowl a coyote howl that ripples, like heat

Be the earth, be the soil

over a dry lake bed

you are made of, the water.

before the annual rain.

Remember, you come from the dust of stars.

Stretch, scratch, fumble like the slow-moving porcupine as he rolls along night’s edge, hunting.

L The Ophidian 02 — 37

Cynthia Linville sacramento, CA

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK I watch bees dance in the shade of this desert rock where fingernails of the gods have scratched blood-red lines and I think about your scars. I would like to learn you by touch. I love the stillness here: a place quiet enough to hear each other’s thoughts but an obscure bird call teases us a fragrance puzzles us (sage mixed with desert thyme?) and all I can think about is the jalapeño slice you carefully quartered and placed on my tongue one bite at a time. I want to climb inside your skin curl up next to your heart ride the slow-wave of blood rising without crest.


rushing in

Somewhere the future has already happened— I just don’t remember it yet.

38 — The Ophidian 02

Paul Lojeski Port Jefferson, NY

rolling in regret (for Santa Cruz) wise guys say

I want to breathe

regret is a killer,

those mistakes,

a soulless stalker

rub them all over

of dreams.

me, dance with them, hold them tight

let the past go,

in moon glow.

they cry from robed

come closer


I croon.

and breezy

come to me, my


sweet regrets, my dark angels.

but why? why should I pretend I didn’t want that other life or that one


over there, still smiling in bejeweled memory like it was yesterday?

L The Ophidian 02 — 39

Ann Menebroker Sacramento, CA


Maybe he wasn’t there to hear what was said about him, being dead for over one hundred years but who he was walked through that room sat in our laps caressed us, kissed us full on the mouths made us tingle, and lean forward in our borrowed chairs. He spoke through other’s lips, man or woman. We know where he is buried and where he was that afternoon.

40 — The Ophidian 02

L richard Hansen scotland illuminated The Ophidian 02 — 41

Carol Louise Moon sacramento, CA

RUSSET TARTOUM Russet, the color of a hint or a hunch, is sometimes used when glazing a pear. A hunch is sometimes used when guessing what russet is. Russet can’t always sustain the day. When guessing what russet is one imagines a mix of pink and rust, like a kiss and an embrace. One imagines the mix of pink and rust, like two lovers on an ocean pier at the end of a sunset. Like two lovers on an ocean pier glazing a pear at the end of a sunset, russet has sustained their day— and has held them in an embrace.

42 — The Ophidian 02

Evan Myquest


rancho murieta, cA

yesterday still todays love stooge how do i love you when i cannot measure measures so rich if there is a way to stretch the truth beyond a wagging tongue making googly eyes fingers pulling at the corners of ones mouth thumb on nose stretched fingers vertical wiggle nanner index fingers circle ears eyes crossed with a freddie the freeloader greasepaint grin tongue stuck out gets painted hair parted in the middle bowl cut frustrated squint three faces get slapped at once rolling on floor pratfalls monkey shines monkey food fight head bowing forehead boinks sledge hammered watermelon all over lady finger firecrackers in the tent jerry lewis j fred muggs rose parade horse apples large window pane carried across the busy street beanie hat on a sea serpent americas funniest golf shot to the crotch cousin it with a perm mary tyler moore oh rob rocketship flies with janitors poking buttons sinatra & dean say how did all these people get in my room harpo dances while chico plays piano harpo dances yes yes harpo dancing i think that pretty much sums it up for now

L The Ophidian 02 — 43

Patricia L. Nichol sacramento, CA

ABSINTHE (after Pablo Picasso, “The Absinthe Drinker”) Everyone has left me: father, mother, husband . . . It does not matter: absinthe remains: green liquid. Brittle blue bottle. Shiny goblet. I hold myself together. I am in two pieces. They have broken me in half. They took my daughter: Pablo picasso the Absinthe drinker

Lizbeth is dead, they said. She is not dead, I said. But they took her anyway, and I have begotten my salvation in the company of luminaries. Emerald spirit. Now I again pour absinthe from the blue bottle over the perforated spoon of sugar into this shiny goblet . . .

44 — The Ophidian 02

Blue bottle. Orange walls. Blue dress. Orange skin which I use to hold myself together. . . . the green liquor becomes white. I smell the anise. I drink the bitter taste of paradise . . . I would like to butcher the world. Break it asunder. My child is gone. My Lizzie is gone. . . . I breathe the bitter stench of paradise. The spirit dances on the promenade, inviting in its cadence the harsh emerald light. The green devil twirls into opalescence. I am gathered into eerie ghostly arms. I call my daughter’s name. She answers in the reverie of all the spirits. Come, mother, she calls. Come and bring me from the arms of death. I am coming, Lizbeth, I call back. I will meet you. First, let me drain the bitter cup. Then I will join you.

L The Ophidian 02 — 45

Nancy Norton Healdsburg, CA

TOWN CHARACTER Ichabod-thin, jaundiced yellow skin, buttless. He’s got the Jim Beam shuffle but he’s bone dry. He rides a big, rattletrap tricycle; cardboard boxes bungeed to the back, a child-sized, rainbow umbrella sheltering his abandoned scalp. He sweats his way in dogged industry from village square


to food pantry to town dump, even on 100-degree days. I remember him when his mother was still alive, skiing up the ramp to the door of my cafe in thick-soled shoes rubbed to a dull shine, standing outside, waiting for permission to enter. His short-sleeved shirt and pants stayprest, his clip-on bowtie stringy. He was willing to tackle any sort of small job. I couldn’t find anything for him to do.


46 — The Ophidian 02





The Ophidian 02 — 47


Joyce Odam sacramento, CA

BEFORE THE MASTECTOMY She must have held her breasts in her hands all night. She must have looked at them in the mirror—

their shape in her dress. She must have been very conscious of them now. So large they made her back ache, she always said— laughing—shoulders back, as she posed for her life. Her old brassiere is stuffed with cotton now. She won’t even wear the new one—saving it for something special. But she never goes anywhere. She wears a fat blouse with pockets for tissue and cigarettes and sits in her house and is old— but alive. Everybody wants to live, she told the doctor when he asked her.

48 — The Ophidian 02

Janet L. Pantoja


Woodinville, WA

WETLAND SWAMP WALK in early Springtime yields pungent skunk cabbage

elephantine leaves

perky daisy mushrooms on a log

nice green moss

slippery log-walk balancing act multitude of birds in full chirp a ribitt or two from

green tree frog residents

hesitant sun peeking out from behind the clouds

to check on swamp walk

Cody Creek swiftly on the run…

over and underground

distant barking of a dog sticky mud sucking at my knee-high boots a fallen evergreen giant burned-out hollow spires—

blackened shells of evergreens past.

L The Ophidian 02 — 49

Chris Piper napa, ca

DOWN AN OLD ROAD (2010) . . . needle on “E,” leaving the highway

bending with an old road

one exit too far or not far enough,

past progressively older tracts

decelerating down the ramp,

and bank-owned for sale signs,

slowing for an old road,

passing a passé strip mall,

laboring against pulse

on and on along an old road,

and the push of a right foot

coasting to a stop at the light

both inculcated to the throb and pace

not a soul in sight,

of the interstate,

going on the green into some town,

slowing for an old road,

not counting the concentric rings of the stump,

looking for gasoline,

crossing a river into a shabby district

ebbing beneath a setting sun

of vintage 1950’s commerce,

into housing developments

the faded remains of promises

abandoned as if hammers

made to boys come home from war

halted mid-swing and dropped,

to find themselves at the intersection

50 — The Ophidian 02

of Hope and Endeavor,

seeing a block to the right

looking for gasoline;

in the yellow caste of flickering sodium vapor

downtown around a corner,

a station empty as the streets but open;

site of the original settlement

taking a straight route to the freeway

founded by families who braved

with a full tank of fuel,

bare prairies for a better life

passing time, approaching the frontage road,

on the river’s fertile flood plane—

considering a washed-out pastel motor inn

a shuttered factory there now,

as the horizon closes for the night;

the heartwood dead and gray

rejecting the idea, fleeing the thought,

at the center of the dendrochronology—

accelerating up the ramp like a frightened buck,

dodging history in fading daylight,

needing the throb and pace and pulse again

emerging tentatively into the outward progression

of something going somewhere . . .

of irregular growth rings, looking for gasoline,


L The Ophidian 02 — 51

Linda Marie Prather Modesto, CA

GOD USES DONKEYS Half moon and An airplane Shine down on me from above My spot in the dusty chaparral Evening summer breeze Finds me walking The Dry Creek path again Not much to say anymore About paths Except Often they lead somewhere Sometimes they don’t I suppose the somewhere Could be a dead-end Brick wall Nowhere In which case My destination becomes a stop My arrival might be An invitation to rest Contemplate my direction Or study the wall. See if there’s any handwriting on it

52 — The Ophidian 02

stockton, CA

MESMERIZED She was mystifying, with hypnotic eyes and hair the color of night. Women of this sort indulge in flirtatious conversation under moonlight; their voices soften, tricking you into Q and A. She crimps her scented hair around her finger, gazes into your eyes. Do you look to the stars, summon the moon, the giver of romantic light?


Marie J. Ross

She sips a bit of wine, sparkle from the long-stem glass, reflecting mystery. Do you forego the attraction so plain to see: converse in conversation too private for the occasion, or bow to the magic of her mystique?‌ mesmerized.

L The Ophidian 02 — 53

Mary Rudig Austin, Tx

REGARDING HER CANCER Last fall we ate oranges in her garden, Even then the news was not good. She had just painted The walls In her kitchen, I had just bought a new stove. We talked about paint chips, And Maytag and Whirlpool And GE. Today, I stare at rows of cards. Not one card smells of oranges.


54 — The Ophidian 02

Mitz Sackman Murphys, CA

CANDLEMASS Feast of candles Day of waxing light Hope in the dark soul of winter Spring lights The tunnels end Cold fog days Stretch on in the imagination The foreverness of now Gray and brown Subtract soul light Light a candle Sing a song of hope Dance springs to the soul Raise the energy Open up to light Dark is ending Wheel turns Bright life ahead Light a candle Tonight

L The Ophidian 02 — 55

Carl Bernard Schwartz sacramento, CA

OLFACTORY The smell of the burning incense factory walls gone bones charred skin sizzling nostrils tortured. There is no way to mask that smell

56 — The Ophidian 02

Richard Hansen

L The Ophidian 02 — 57

Allegra Silberstein Davis, CA

EMBERS In your other-ness you cling to the slender branch holding on through dedicated years immune to variations of chance until a certain wild glint seen in the eyes of that someone who echoes the other in you not quite smothered in devotion sets fantasy lights smoldering: longing that may not be confessed, ecstasy no drug could bring like riding the wave’s high crest and the body’s willingness to be tumbled to be pummeled onto the gritty shore naked desire tearing against vows you kept through the years before captive in the rhythm of the waves you rise like the black swan the green fuse blossoming embers held in the palm of your hand.

58 — The Ophidian 02

Richard Hansen | Giraffes, Edinburgh

L The Ophidian 02 — 59

60 — The Ophidian 02

Richard Hansen

Jeanine Stevens sacramento, CA

DECLARATION I believe in getting up early, Kurt Vonnegut’s advice about sunscreen and dental floss. I believe the sexiest part of a man is the inner thigh, high up, just where skin begins to change color. I believe in trees, the way they survive on their own terms, in clay or on the unexpected side of the hill. I believe in women’s right to wear midnight blue toenail polish, to carve the salmon tattoo on her right ankle. I still love Lee J. Cobb and Farley Granger, but believe I am newly excited by Edward Norton and Matthew McFadden. I believe in friendship, that fire laid in the depths of winter: the stews, soups, and Greek chicken delivered to my door. I believe in new love at any age, the placement of a single flower on a worn pillow. I believe in compost—all kinds of shavings like coffee grounds and rejected poems. I believe in home remedies and drip systems.

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Sandy Thomas sacramento, CA

EIGHT I pass a giant inflated eight ball the double eights highway and the eight mile road half of 8 is 3, a mirror of itself sideways 8 is infinity eight arms on an octopus at half past eight

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sandy thomas | various images

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Rod Steiger Grass Valley, CA

WORDLESS Somehow we want a ‘Big Picture’ to carry us FORWARD— we want our lives to add up to something But smiling! Is that Kasyapa who understood when Guatama wordless lifted the blue poppy

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Richard Hansen Portobello

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Richard Hansen

Kara Synhorst Sacramento, CA

WHEN SHIT WORE OUT The other day I pulled up next to a car and glanced at the driver. He wore bib overalls and a full beard. For a moment, it was like seeing my uncle again only in 1979. But his ears, this driver’s, had big plugs in the lobes and I realized… it was a put-on. He was doing it for the irony. You buy your jeans now with holes already, the seams artfully sanded. My uncle’s overalls were worn. My dad’s sweatshirt, stained. My grandpa’s jeans, faded. And I can still hear my grandpa thumping around in the garage, occasionally muttering “son of a bitch,” until he came out and the small tools were all neatly hung on the pegboard. My dad split firewood, built our couch from a pattern in Sunset magazine, helped my uncles as they re-roofed their houses. My uncles, the men I knew, they paddled canoes and dug gardens and played team sports—not wiffle ball— and moved furniture and drove rusted vans and had jumper cables and bungee cords and had fucked-up toes from dropping train couplers on their feet and ran the grill and cleaned the grease trap and did stupid stuff like dig a pool one weekend and line it with a tarpaulin or build shelving out of cinderblocks when shelving was needed.

And when they wore out their shit? When bleach spilled on the blue sweatshirt and formed a pattern like clouds, or when the jeans tore out at the knees and they cut them off into shorts or when the overalls’ snap broke so they wore them with just one strap or when the floor of the van gave a clear view of the street… When shit wore out, it wore out fair and square. When shit wore out, it wore out good.

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D.R.Wagner elk grove, CA

LIVING IN THE SACRAMENTO VALLEY Out here we can see the rice fields Burning. They look as if a war Was birthing itself, piles of smoke, Red kernels, the heart of fire Scattered at its roots. The fine rituals of Summer: The tinkling of bells caught upon the afternoon As it wraps itself into the heat. From Here, silence, husks of sound roll Through the sky. The are mistaken for clouds, Old raiments of dreams, no longer Joined and planed and dovetailed. They jostle one moment into the next. The trees on the horizon are less Than one inch tall. The sky is as wide As our arms outstretched. Fountains Of breeze blow up the river, through The delta, across our skin.

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d.r. wagner

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Sandy Thomas coral heart

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AnnWehrman sacramento, CA

SYNESTHESIA when I am with you, I see music hear colors when you hold me when I wrap my arms around you bury myself in your body my heart swells emerald blue notes of love tumble from my lips my womb and hips flame clear red hot, as you fill me we move together eyes open, blue violet amethyst shared, from your eyes to mine white, triumphant we come together our love expressed to God and all creation

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PatriciaWellingham-Jones Tehama, CA

SUNFLOWER QUILT The sunflower bursts out of its square, fiery petals stripe the basic yellow. Green leaves are purple-veined, the background a sunset glow. Ah, that dark rich center— beaded with black seeds and two turquoise drops— a cup that pulls me forward and in. Wavy background lines shift like sand on a beach. The throb at the heart of the flower sets up an echo in my body. I feel myself melt into the vivid sun of the flower, gathered in and hushed.

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Trina Drotar Hippocamp

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Daniel Williams PERSEIDS IN THE RIVER A perfect moonless square My window lures me out onto The meadow past the woodshed Stacked with the labor of Dried and checking firewood I stand and look up Expecting fireworks It seems it takes so Long to catch nature at her finest— On a chance I stroll to the river Long since the tangerine peaks Of a slanted setting sun The oaks full of birds making Songs for sunset Then a slow demise of color Everywhere and faded afterglow The river is content to float Upon its boulders as big as houses Its water moving slowly through Its restrictions and settling into Gunmetal pools over Jade and purple and apricot stones Cold air of pine scent and bracken A breathable delicacy Before all is black Then quick magical lines Faint electrons fading in dark water

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wawona, CA

Mary Zeppa sacramento, CA

MY BROTHER-OUTLAW CHRIS KEEPS DANCING: My sister’s perpetual “fiancé” (squatty-

out on his own, center stage

awkward, sweet-natured and 4’11”)

where he beckons in partners:

can’t stop tapping his ready toes:

one after another spun under

through our nephew’s bright-October

his camel’s hair arm. His fiancée

wedding, through the lush bride’s

isn’t jealous. He beckons

long walk dad-to-groom, through

a six-foot brunette! We

the tears, through the radiant

are sweaty, exultant and shouting

plighting of troths, through

along. One by one, the man

the lunch, through the toasts,

wears us all out. My sister’s

through the cake: till bride-and-groom

man born to be dancing,

(at last) take the floor, dazzle us

his I-am-Chris grin

with their wedding-day-smooth.

blazing forth.

My brother-outlaw Chris takes his fiancée


by her eager, warm, freckled hand. Now, they’re shaking their shiny

Thin woman leans into window wanting

tail feathers to beat just about

a look at the sea. 10,000

any old band. He has lost all

miles, yet she catches

of his squatty-awkward and

a glimpse because she wants it

he’s light on those wide, tiny feet. He works the floor, my brother-outlaw Chris, dancing

so much.

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Richard Hansen Edinburgh, Scotland

Mea Culpa There are always excuses. And while mine are valid enough—trips to Scotland to care for a dying mother, etc.—I have been disappointed with how long it has taken me to get out this, the second issue of Ophidian. I say me because I take full responsiblity for the delay in publication. Kathy, my patient co-editor, did everything she was supposed to do. She wrangled poems from poets; collected the illustrations and photos.

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I alone am to blame for such a long delay in publication. To all of you who have submitted your work and waited (and waited) I sincerely apologize. You’ve all been very patient. Thank you. I hope this finally finished Ophidian was worth the wait. It was such a pleasure to work with so many fine poems, illustrations, and photographs.

Rattlesnake Press Poetry with fangs!

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The Ophidian p o e t r y +  a r t  a n t h o l o g y  • 2 0 1 2

contributors continued

Carol Louise Moon Evan Myquest Patricia L. Nichol Nancy Norton Joyce Odam Janet L. Pantoja Chris Piper Linda Marie Prather Marie J. Ross Mary Rudig Mitz Sackman Carl Bernard Schwartz Allegra Silberstein Jeanine Stevens Rod Steiger Kara Synhorst Sandy Thomas D.R. Wagner Ann Wehrman Patricia Wellingham-Jones Daniel Williams Mary Zeppa 80 — The Ophidian 02

poetry with fangs

“Inflatable gendarme” City centre, Brussels, 2010. (Richard Hansen)

Ophidian - Two  

An online journal of poetry & art published by Rattlesnake Press. Editors: Kathy Kieth, Richard Hansen.