October 20, 2017

Steve Abbott

THIS SHOULD BE A GOOD POEM

I’d never heard of a fire tornado until a late-summer newscast
explained how large dust devils mix with brush fires to create
a column of flame, and I thought of Israelites leaving Egypt.  
My wife looked up. Said, “That would make a good poem.”

This week, same story. Not the newscast, but once again
a family member or friend suggests a casual remark
on some fragment of living would “make a good poem.” 
Surprising new fact or everyday irony? That, too, they say.

Most of them are normal people, largely immune to poetry
except as a courtesy to me. But I still admire their reaching
to connect with what words can do. How they keep me out of
mischief, those flaming emails and irate letters to the editor.

It’s not that I want to ignore or dismiss the good intentions
of those who identify my vocation with the small things in
life, moving through our brief time together like field scouts
for the Muse, scouring the blue highways of America for

a promising quarterback to move this art down the field.
So much depends, after all, on our noticing what Neruda saw,
what Williams made remarkable in remarking on it—lemons
and forks and salt shakers, the nail in a woman’s shoe,

brown paper almost human in its tumbling down the street.  
I suppose I should be grateful, and appreciate how brief 
nods of others acknowledge and encourage this work, in that
awareness blessing themselves more than me or anything

as weightless as a poem. How strings of words can reveal
a mosaic’s host of fragments, bright shards that spark a return
to the everyday and find there reassurance in how small pieces
support the great weight of the world. That, too, a poem.

from Rattle #57, Summer 2017
Tribute to Rust Belt Poets

[download audio]

__________

Steve Abbott: “The Rust Belt encompasses, depending on how you look at it, the northernmost Southern states or the easternmost Plains states. Right now, particularly in Ohio where I’ve lived my life, it’s a swath of nostalgia, resentment, and disorientation polluted by political opportunism and corporate venality. Some see the struggle here as rural vs. urban, but it’s actually conflict between those who want to keep living with people just like themselves and those who are accustomed or open to interacting with people of different races, cultures, religions, ideas, and appearances. The proximity of the two groups provides a high-resolution lens a poet can use to view contemporary American life—sometimes appalling, sometimes inspiring, but always deeply human.”

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October 14, 2017

Alexa Rakow (grade 6)

WHEN I WAS YOUNG

When I was young I was a brook
I bubbled over everything
then became a fox and
ran the endless run.
I became invincible
then a blue jay,
a flower, rose to be exact
now am a wild goose
I flap my wings as softly
as the fog
I wonder
if I will become a shooting star
and have tea with him.

I wanted to talk with trees
and I became a deer.
Once when I was a giant I cried the tear
of loneliness and made the ocean.

I was Abraham Lincoln and gave
The Gettysburg Address.
I got bored and found lightning
was electricity. Benjamin Franklin
took all the credit.

I was Shakespeare’s inspiration
Picasso’s subject
the sky’s reflection in the water,
when I was young …

from Rattle #9, Summer 1998
Tribute to Children

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October 10, 2017

Carol B. DeCanio

NOTHING IS REAL IN OCTOBER

The weather itself
undecided
warm, full
but on the way out

By now all school
resolutions
in tarnish
why study for the test
when I can open the book
tomorrow

even new clothes
in the closet
beginning to slouch
en masse

Everyone in the halls
becoming a pair
now who’s left
for the dance

nothing goes on in October
even candy comes in
at the end

I’m
hanging out
in October
waiting for November
to begin

from Rattle #19, Summer 2003
Tribute to the Twenty-Minute Poem

__________

Carol B. DeCanio: “When a bleakness reigns at 2 a.m. and comfort seems all past, or when standing in a landscape of extensive beauty, or when fury rakes at thought inside, it’s the writing of poems that helps me find my way home again.”

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September 30, 2017

Mariah Young (grade 10)

POOR PINOCCHIO

I guess if you think about it,
Pinocchio had a troubled childhood.

I mean, wouldn’t you feel a
little confused if
your best friend were a cricket,
you were held prisoner by a greedy puppeteer,
had your nose grow 12 ft.,
nearly turned into a donkey,
and swallowed by a whale
before you were 10?
It must have had some impact to know
that he was a block of wood
before a fairy turned him
into a boy.

As an adult,
he probably had
2 or 3 troubled marriages,
a bad job as a postal worker,
dysfunctional relationships with his kids,
and at least one midlife crisis.

I bet at one point or another,
he wished that he were still a puppet,
that his limbs, his thoughts, his life
were still controlled by Gepetto’s strings
I am sure he would have
asked his fairy godmother,
Hey! Why didn’t you tell me
about all the stuff that people go through?!?
or he would have called on the
counsel of Jiminy Cricket,
had he not accidentally
crushed him underfoot
one sunny afternoon when he was 12.

Oh, Poor Pinocchio
perhaps it is better to be a puppet

Maybe he would finally have gone crazy,
blowing away his boss and
17 innocent bystanders with an AK-47
after thinking about Jiminy Cricket,
and browsing through a copy of Soldier of Fortune
I would read in the paper
of the 3 hour standoff,
how he made a bonfire
out of the outgoing mail,
and began to plaster
sets of collector stamps over the walls
“Sort This! Deliver That!
I’m gonna Make You All Pay!!”
he would begin to shout before
he would finally be shot by a sniper

On the way to the hospital,
he’d mumble of his fear
that he had disappointed
his fairy godmother.

from Rattle #9, Summer 1998
Tribute to Children

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September 26, 2017

Perie Longo

A WIDOW DISCOVERS HER TIRES ARE BALD WHEN THE “CHECK ENGINE” LIGHT COMES ON

Just days before he slipped off, he asked
if she had the loose piece of side chrome attached,
the oil changed, he didn’t want his car falling apart,
never mind her, the unmechanical one, who rode this life
alongside him, each with their separate tasks
and now they’re all hers. She thinks the car might need oil
again, like she could use some zip, but can’t figure out
where the hood latch is. On her knees, she squeezes her head
under the driving wheel panel, such a mystery of gadgets,
so many mysteries to solve to keep things running in his loss.
No latch to be found she sits back on her heels,
then notices the tires are almost bald, something like her hair
coming out in clumps these months, and wonders
how that happened overnight. She barely goes anywhere
while he just up and vanishes—with no directions.
Maybe he travels while she sleeps, letting the good times roll.

from Rattle #19, Summer 2003
Tribute to the Twenty-Minute Poem

[download audio]

__________

Perie Longo: “A friend recently sent me a card of a woman jumping in the air at the sight of a mountain range, with the saying, ‘Life is too short to take seriously.’ I’m trying to laugh at myself a little more often, especially in unguarded moments, and trying, too, to capture those times in poetry.” (website)

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September 20, 2017

Jess Weitz

THE KNIFE

I have a knife stuck in my heart

at work I tried to button my cardigan around it
I can’t lie on my stomach in bed

when my kids sit on my lap
I ask them to stay on the right knee

my husband tried to hang a spatula off it
but I said the extra weight didn’t feel good

yesterday, gliding through the pond water
I almost forgot it was there

from Rattle #56, Summer 2017
Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness

[download audio]

__________

Jess Weitz: “I live in the woods of Vermont with my family of humans and animals. Art, writing, and nature have been my strongest allies in navigating the waves of depression. I come from a long line of people who have a beautiful, creative eccentricity and feel the deep pain and despair of life. We all have moments of being eaten up by our emotions and creating with an open heart to the world. Many of us are women, which adds an additional layer of absorbing cultural messages that we are mad when really we are just sensing all the sadness and paradox of our worlds.” (website)

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September 18, 2017

Mark Lee Webb

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T WEAR GLOVES

Trimming oleander along the back fence
might be easier than a few too many pills.
They’d say he forgot to wear gloves. Whatever
happens after that is none of my business.
Let my new wife handle the details:
sparklers maybe. Taquitos fried just right.
Hire a juggler—the man from Venice Beach
with a hand hanging from his elbow.
Invite vatos in Eldorados selling pulque
liquor brewed in milk bottles. Thursday:
a classified ad for the antique shaving stand
I stored in the shed. She always liked the back
left leg, how it wobbled. And the lacquer finish
(not original). It’s worth two-fifty but she’ll
take seventy-five. That’s why I married her.

from Rattle #56, Summer 2017
Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness

[download audio]

__________

Mark Lee Webb: “I have experienced mental illness from both sides of the window: as an intern in a state mental hospital while in college, and with my own personal bipolar episodes and depression as an adult. If nothing else, this gives me a lot of material for my poetry! When I am depressed nothing works; words lie flat on the page. When I’m on my bipolar ‘A’ game, my writing is fluid and in touch with the universe. Somewhere in the middle are my best poems.”

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