June 28, 2017

Sarah Satterlee

TRAVELER

I used to think my mother was sad
used to think the dried
sponges she’d stack in piles beneath the sink were sad
the shaken bowls of pasta salad
the way her wrist paused while writing a check
her face scrunched up
as if the numbers were making excuses for themselves
as if she was disappointed that they never got into graduate school
as if she had caught them in bed with that boy from the gas station
the one whose teeth are bent who rings up the cigarettes
who steals scratch tickets from behind the counter
scrapes the metallic sheen
with his fingernails
brushes the silver dust to the floor.

Now,
I am the kind of person who will never leave the continent,
when it comes to disappointment I’ve got it in my bag,
I carry it from the store
in pieces, walk home in darkness, shut the door,
sit at the table, assemble it, smooth my hands
over the undulating spine.
It looks up at me, I feed it
and it sleeps in my lap.

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017

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Sarah Satterlee: “To me, poetry is the subterranean language of our collective humanity. When I read a good poem, I connect with it in a way I never do in everyday conversation with others. Each time I write, I try to submerge myself in the undercurrent of truth that runs through all of us, even if it isn’t pretty.” (website)

June 27, 2017

Meghann Plunkett

IN WHICH I NAME MY ABUSER PUBLICLY

and they appear from the under-eaves.      A litter of women
herding toward the full-stop      of his name.    Tall,

pretty,      they are      stained with his sweat too.
I say his name and pull strands of other women’s hair

from my mouth.      All of us dusked and      outstretched,
lapping at our wounds. One of them yanking his tooth

from her thigh,      another flinching      at blue-birds, trying
to remember what isn’t      dangerous.              Look

at the batch of us he devoured    two by two.    How he found
us like a bomber’s screen scanning the land

for human heat–              reaching down for us under the heel
of his boot.              One, with the scent of him still

stinking off of her,      sobs out a full      cask of wine.   
Look at what he made              brick      by      brick,

a parade of fraying,  a brothel on our breath,  dresses tailored 
to fit an unnamed grief.      We know what it means

to jewel out our doubt in a thick,      silent shucking.      What
happened?      What      happened?      That sulfur residue

of match-light. Here we are. The girl with a spine like a church
staircase,      the girl who snapped like a guitar string.

And the last one he sought out to look just like me.      Beaten
into the same speech impediment,      wearing my face

like a bathrobe.      I say his name and here we are. Here we are.

Poets Respond
June 27, 2017

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__________

Meghann Plunkett: “This poem is in response to a bill in North Carolina that is currently under scrutiny. The bill removes a loophole from a 1979 North Carolina Supreme Court ruling that meant a person who originally gave consent at the start could not revoke their consent during the act. If the act became violent, for instance, and the victim said ‘stop,’ the predator was under no legal obligation to do so. This poem deals with how common abuse is, especially for women. How often violations are not realized until after the fact, and how often there is a long line of victims when an abuser is not held accountable, or has the ability to deflect accusations. This is why we often see a bevy of women coming forward together.” (website)

June 26, 2017

Christine Potter

RECEPTIONIST (1972)

The men weren’t in charge. My mother was,
at her desk by the tall Third Avenue window:
Executive Secretary. The men tried to get me
drunk at lunch on magnums of cheap white wine

at the Indian restaurant by the river, and kept
taxidermied piranhas on their giant desks. I sat
out front, behind an even larger desk, guarding
a door two guys high, all summer. I was nineteen.

Mom had already taught me to drink Beck’s Dark
and whiskey sours. Fun City! said the mayor. I
was no easy prey. My acid-addled ex-boyfriend
cried on the couch in the lobby when I told him

to go away, his muddy eyes matching the awful
wall panelling. He seemed a nice young man,
someone said. The pay was good. I typed poems
on the Correcting Selectric with its magic white

ribbon that could lift mistakes right off the page.
The phone seldom rang. It was fine to crack jokes
when it did. I thought the job easy. Once, I watched
a solar eclipse with Mom, from her desk, and the

midtown air went grey as someone dying. There’s
a blackness in everything, Mom said, even light.
The real receptionist came back from vacation. I
went back to school. As always, my mother was right.

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017

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__________

Christine Potter: “There were a number of things you weren’t supposed to do in my family: ride in Volkswagens (my dad was sure they were instant death), read comic books, or tell anyone anything about what went on in our house. And writing down that stuff? The ultimate no-no, the plutonium of taboos. The truth was, what went on in our house went on in everyone else’s house. The power was in the telling of it. How could I possibly have become anything but a writer and poet?” (website)

June 25, 2017

Olga Dermott-Bond

GRENFELL

We are throwing our children
out of windows.

Knotted bedsheets are falling
short
and we are
wrapped in choking blankets
high in this tower—

before this moment
muffled important men
ticked each blind box
sat on their cold hands
covered their ears
kept their distance
reclined in chairs the colour
of expensive coffee
climbed inside airy committees
insulated themselves in
someone else’s bureaucracy
flimsy as the lids on their drinks
that they abandoned
after the meetings
on budget cuts

leaving us groping
in the darkness of these thin-
lipped walls
and now the stairs are
crumbling coals
and we are faltering
on the edge
of these burning cliffs
that we wanted to call home.

We are throwing our children
out of windows

feeling for the last time
those hot desperate hands
that first cradled our little fingers
as their own
starry universe.

We are pulling them
from our sobbing
necks and reaching as far out
from the molten frames
as we can
our arms stretched taut and flat as a fledging’s neck
trembling with our most precious selves
who are falling
so suddenly
as we are letting them go
into the darkness
ripping our histories
in two.

We are fighting every instinct
and crying to strangers to

catch them
catch them
catch them

We are praying
that someone
will one day love them
as we are loving them.

We are throwing our children
out of windows.

Before this moment
muffled important men—

but perhaps now
it will be harder to
ignore the messages
written tomorrow morning
in the curled ashes
at their feet.

Poets Respond
June 25, 2017

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__________

Olga Dermott-Bond: “My reaction to the Grenfell Tower tragedy was one of horror, disbelief, shock, grief. My immediate response was to write about it, through angry tears. Writing can be an act of empathy, and this was my way of connecting with this terrible event; reaching out to the victims; asking the question: why? Last night, I went to a lecture by Michael Rosen about ‘Why Writing Matters.’ He talked about ‘impossible writing.’ I live over one hundred miles away from Grenfell Tower and, of course, it is impossible for me to ever fully understand or carry the grief of the victims and their families. However, to me poetry is a way to try and express—to inhabit—the impossible sadness and insanity of this tragedy, to show those people who lost their lives or their loved ones that they are not alone.” (twitter)

June 23, 2017

Jennifer Perrine

I TELL DEATH, EVENTUALLY

when he comes for my friend but stares at me,
looks me over like a tasty treat. He’s

standing in the doorway of her hospice
room, leaning against the jamb. He’s got a

pie in his hand. He’s, unsurprisingly,
a very old man. When I first spot him

from the corner of my eye, I expect
only an underlayer of bone, scythe

and cowl no mortal may see. But he’s dressed
neatly: checked button-down shirt, faded jeans.

He’s no threat to any reasonable
person, especially holding a pie

like it’s a Fourth of July picnic, like
it’s harvest time, and we’re all giving thanks

for the bounty we’ve received. My friend’s still
in her bed, silent save her breath. Death

does not approach, only holds out the pie
as if to say, Come, eat. His big dentures

flop loose in his mouth. I want to tell him
go home, it’s not her time yet, keep your eyes

to yourself. Those aren’t the words that come out.
All I say is, eventually,

which is, of course, what he’s saying to me
each time he shows up for a friend. That’s it—

eventually—as if shrugging off
a lover’s touch—not tonight—not to say

it will never happen, but that the time
must be right. But I’ll have no more say than

my friend. At the end, I believe she’ll wake,
even after the monitors switch off.

Death no longer stands watch, just a man who
caught sight of me crying and doesn’t know

whether to leave me alone. He lingers,
aftershave crisp in the fusty air. When

I am ready, when I would say to Death,
take me, too, he is gone, leaving only

the pie, still warm, the cloying smell of peach,
and what can I do in my grief but dig

a finger through the crust, pull up a crook
of cinnamon muck, and suck so I’ll know

what Death will taste like, tart but ripe as spring,
as birds gathering in trees to collect

every last fruit, the trappings of Death not
tie and suit, not black robes, but flour sack,

winding sheet rolled thin by hand, vents so steam
might rise like our breaths. Crumbs drop to the floor.

I look at what’s left of my friend, the mess
I’ve made of my own hands, the room’s empty

threshold, the nothing standing at the door.

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017

[download audio]

__________

Jennifer Perrine: “I love a poem that slows me down. So much of life feels like imposed haste; I want poems that give me no choice but to slow my pace. I often feel overwhelmed by the social pressure to be quicker, do more, multitask, but a good poem reminds me that I don’t really value that way of moving in the world.” (website)