“Revisiting My Vita” by Grace Bauer

Grace Bauer

REVISING MY VITA

Life should be a novel, not a resume.
—Dave Toomey

I’m trying to get the years to justify
along the right-hand column of the page,
to sum up my accomplishments concisely
in neat lists that spell success, make progress
apparent at a glance. It’s a strange brand of fiction,
this genre, in which chapters are reduced
to paragraphs, decades to mere lines.
The narrative
leaves out joy and pain, love and loss—
all the spaces between events deemed pertinent
to this plot we call the profession. Tradition demands
we maintain the illusion our actions will always
continue to rise. The very possibility of denouement
must be scrupulously (or un) avoided. And as for climaxes,
well, the less said about extracurricular activities,
the happier most colleagues are.
Character is best left
sketchy, defined by doing, since evidence
of an inner life is considered extraneous to the point.
What is required is exposition reduced to outline—
all the intended reader has interest in or time for.
In fact, one will often be asked to edit the story
down to less than bare bones—three pages max
I was asked for just last year.
But the version
I am fleshing out now is, supposedly, the full one,
and I’ve finally got my categories straight:
teaching and research and service lined-up like
dutiful soldiers prepared for parade or battle—
I’m not sure which. My headings are tabbed in.
In CAPS. In BOLD. I eye this representation
of myself scrolling down my pc screen.
That’s me,
all right—or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Me, with a tidy, organized past. Me, with memories
selected to leave out detours and diversions.
It’s a story sans heart—that ambiguous antagonist
that always lays herself too wide open to critique,
her messy text too easy to deconstruct.

I print
the document that bears my name and scan
for correctable errors, knowing life is a course
of study I’ll never really be sure
I have passed. Until I have.

from Rattle #18, Winter 2002
Tribute to Teachers

“The Spool: A Prisoner’s Lament” by Frederic W. Bertoff

Federic W. Bertoff

THE SPOOL: A PRISONER’S LAMENT

There are many ways
to mark time
though most claim they don’t
preferring the myth
of living each day just for itself

And never counting
but I count
and measure the time in ticking seconds
in empty instant coffee jars
in socks with slowly widening holes
in calendar girls

Counting out lovely monthly mermaids
Miss Christmas, New Year’s, Halloween
I’m staring out the window again
or measuring lengths of dental floss
one spool (a hundred yards)
goes about a year or less

While each night hurtling through the galaxy
I floss that grinning death mask,
pink gums sanguine in his dim reflection
and supposing I ought to re-use that floss
at four cents an hour (the going wage)
I consider cost

But, with dramatic dispatch, throw it all away
one Last Grand Gesture
in hopes of burning up that spool
just a little quicker
with fifteen more to go

from Rattle #10, Winter 1998
Tribute to Poets in Prison

“Pathetic” by Suzanne Zeitman

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Suzanne Zeitman

PATHETIC

How long have I been sitting on the couch, in a nightgown with a worn-out cardigan on top? Across from me hang seven pictures: two of my dead parents, five more of my daughter (also dead). All I have to do is look at any one of them to shrink inside with feeling there is much I should have done but didn’t. I hear a child outside yell what sounds like I don’t want to be lonely. If this were a poem, I think, now would be the time for some tiny joy of nature to appear and mitigate the speaker’s pain. Perhaps a crimson cardinal on the window sill. But if the cardinal won’t show up, what then? Or if it does, but keeps colliding with the window while attacking its reflection in the glass? What if nothing, surely no deluded cardinal, soothes you, and it’s you who wants to scream because you’re lonely, and there is no cheery cardinal, child or grandchild to sustain you? Maybe your life really is random and meaningless and thus irredeemable, and you can’t turn it or the poem around—but the poem, at least, doesn’t have to go on like this.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists

[download audio]

__________

Suzanne Zeitman: “Although I usually avoid attempts to relate mathematics and poetry, this particular poem exhibits a kind of self-reference, something that occurs in mathematics, especially in mathematical logic. I have spent more of my life on mathematics than on writing or other literary pursuits, although I have always been drawn slightly more to the literary. I have a master’s degree in mathematics, a PhD in computer science, and an MFA in writing from Vermont College. I recently retired after working twenty years as an editor of Mathematical Reviews, a review journal for research in mathematics.”

“There Have Come Soft Rains” by John Philip Johnson and Julian Peters

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A Graphic Poem

 

Soft Rains #1

 

Soft Rains #2

 

Soft Rains #3

 

Soft Rains #4

[download in full resolution: 1, 2, 3, 4]

 

poem from Rattle #45, Fall 2014

[download audio]

__________

John Philip Johnson’sThere Have Come Soft Rains” originally appeared in our 2014 Poets of Faith issue. John has been working with a group of talented illustrators, including Marvel Comics legend Bob Hall, and Julian Peters, whose work appears above, to create a book of graphic poetry, which is available at his website. We published the title poem from that book, “Stairs Appear in a Whole Outside of Town,” in comic form in 2014.

Julian Peters is currently working on a 24-page comic adaption of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which can be previewed at his website, where you’ll also find full comic versions of many great poems, including Rimbaud’s “The Drunken Boat,” Seamus Heaney’s “The Given Note,” and more.

“Five Types of Confidence” by Arthur J. Stewart

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Arthur J. Stewart

FIVE TYPES OF CONFIDENCE

1.

Accidentally I attended an off-
the-wall flash mob event in the
lobby of the mall last week and at pre-
cisely the appointed time a loud bang

happened and

everyone in on it turned and froze

in place staring east, com-
pletely cap-
tivating the persons attending and I

took a quick glance west.

 

2.

I turn and re-
turn to the slip of water
along the submersed hull, the soft
near-silent thud of the great

engine reverberating, almost
feeling it. With the command up periscope, it
slides up. In the con-
trol room, eyes scan

green numbers and orange bars on electronic charts.
A muted discussion and from that
a decision is made: turn starboard,
twenty degrees.

 

3.

We think
we know, we take a
good hard guess—such is
the power of logic.

In some other dimension the wise
Greek philosopher frowns and
shakes his shaggy head.

 

4.

Our confidence
is a function of spatial scale. A massive
thing, when on the move,
will move

according to a pre-
cisely calculated plan; a sub-
atomic particle

won’t.

 

5.

I am confident
in love and I so love
her and her curves and
the delicate ways she thinks.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists

[download audio]

__________

Arthur J. Stewart: “I am an aquatic ecologist: It’s what I was trained to do, at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station, and it’s what I love. From my science perch first at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and more recently at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, I’ve been able to write poetry, in addition to writing technical papers. I devise poems to convey the beauty of science to the public, and to remind scientists, again and again, that there is more than science as a valid way to think.” (website)