“Channellock Pliers” by Amy Miller

Amy Miller


They came in a box
Dad gave me one Christmas,
nestled among the level
and awl and putty knife
and changeable screwdriver
and wire cutters and tin snips.
I went home and weighed
each in my hand and finally
put the Channellocks
under my pillow,
their heft just right
for splitting a skull
in a blind swing
out of a startled sleep.
I never told my father
this. Their handles
dipped in red rubber still hush
their clank when I hold them
in the night.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets

[download audio]


Amy Miller: “I’ve been turned down for jobs because I was a woman. I’ve been sexually harassed at work and on the street. Men have exposed themselves to me in parking lots, public parks, and my own driveway. I’ve been in relationships where I was expected to cook because I was the only person in the house with ovaries. I’ve cut hikes short because the trail got too desolate; I walk with pepper spray in supposedly safe neighborhoods. And none of this is uncommon—ask any woman. I don’t know how you can be alive in the world today and not be a feminist.” (website)

“After Easter” by Sandra Kohler

Sandra Kohler


At an Easter party yesterday, one friend
says she’s a closet Buddhist. Her husband,
scholar and priest, is in a nursing home
suffering with dementia. He tells a hospice
worker he’s a devil worshipper, murmurs
the Lord’s Prayer under his breath all day.
Another friend says her whole family’s
visiting and she doesn’t know who she is:
daughter sister mother aunt grandmother
wife. What holds these selves together? I
name Jewish roots when I’m asked about
my religion, add I’m a vicarious Buddhist.
When we praise our potluck feast we’re
told by one cook all her recipes come from
Google, her secret is to always enter “easy”
as the first word. What can’t Google do?
Visit the sick, remember the dead, order
the day, cure a single sorrow. Our mind’s
search engines create the mirror we hold
up to the day, compounded of griefs,
unburied dead hopes, walking wounds.
In dreams of reckoning and recognitions,
we return to ancient houses where we
played and suffered as children. The past
is not dead. It is disguised, distorted,
embalmed, enshrined. We gather at
its tomb, in the light of refusal, of held
breath, of waiting for a coming
which does not come.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets

[download audio]


Sandra Kohler: “I am 75 years old, and I’ve been writing poems for about 65 of those years. I have written about women’s experiences as female bodies, as lovers, wives, mothers, grandmothers, about their private world; I have written about the public world I live in from what seems to me an inevitably feminist perspective. My earliest poems came out of family life, out of painful experiences of loss, drawing on my emotional life; as my life and work has unfolded I have tried to include a wider world and a wider self in my work. Recently I have found my two grandchildren muses for another kind of poem about personal life.”

“When I Say I Bruise Easily” by Kelsey Hagarman

Kelsey Hagarman


I mean you played movies when you wanted
sex. Abstinence in the temporary form
of Tarantino bloodbaths we had seen
before. After you led me by the hand
straight to the dark basement, I met the epileptic dog
you were paid too much to watch over summer
vacation. Work was easy then—rich white boy
house-sitting turned couch-sitting on red leather,
smooth enough for gawky limbs to slide
across the basement distance. Near the film’s middle,
you pulled me to your lap and kissed to keep me
quiet. Speak, I want to hear about the time
I couldn’t tell the difference from your bruises
and the dog’s again. Once, you were in New York
and said the city reminded you of me—
today I found a welt on my arm
and thought of you and your girlfriend—
she’s happy she makes you happy,
according to her Twitter, everything is
better. Worse things have happened:
the same fingers made warm inside yours
also trembled to type the lie I found someone else too
then tried to write a poem with nails
to rake down your skinny thighs like a dog or a boy
who will never say sorry, but are really only fingers
that can’t stop the poem from ending
with the shame of somehow I still miss you.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets


Kelsey Hagarman: “When I was twelve, my sister and I went on a walk around our neighborhood. A man followed us. Every time I looked into the glass windows of storefronts, his reflection trailed ours. We ran and didn’t stop until we locked our front door. Besides the fear, I remember the wonder that I wasn’t even wearing makeup. As a feminist, I write against gender expectations, to make sense of memories, for myself and any reader who wants to understand the fear and self-loathing of girlhood.”

“Apron Strings” by Beth Gylys

Beth Gylys


I have lied about my mother.
She never wore aprons,
regularly burned dinners.
A student and teacher
with four young kids, she broke
multiple watches—wound
too tight—made lists she’d forget
on countertops and tables.

Forever distracted, forever
rushing about with heels
in one hand, a baby in the other,
who could blame her
for not meeting us at the door
with a hug and a cookie?

Number-cruncher, maker
of money, a modern woman
before the phrase was de rigueur,
my mother opened doors
in business and in solitude.
She would shape our lives
forever by leaving us alone.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets

[download audio]


Beth Gylys: “I began to self-identify as a feminist while an undergraduate during the ’80s when I took several courses, which would now have been labeled ‘Women’s Studies’ courses. The women faculty I was drawn to and who taught those classes were first-wave feminists and they (the women and the courses) had a tremendous impact on me. I read Erica Jong, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, and Adrienne Rich. Even before that, though, I had a feminist sensibility. While raising four children, my mother pursued a master’s degree and worked full time. She shaped my belief that women should not be defined only by their relationships. I write about any number of subjects, and I hope as a feminist, my poetry complicates my/our understanding of women.”

“The C-Section” by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Alexis Pauline Gumbs


for V.M., who gave birth to a healthy baby who the state immediately took away, charging cruelty and neglect due to her choice not to have a C-section

(words used in the post-appeal court decision confirming the ruling)


clerk copy credible
custody concession
child-protective contraction

critical cut
care completed

colleagues conceded
consistent counsel
certify copy consent
clear convincing comprehended

control compliance consent

conduct contends
concepts constitutional
citing crisis clothing color
caseworker cleared
claim care

case confirmed
concepts committed
condone conclude confront condition
cognitive competency
college–educated consequences

confront uncontrollable combative
control care
critical cause

control care carefully

calling counsel calling
Charchman calling
Chancery calling Christopher
calling clerk counsel colleagues
calling Coleman
calling Collier
claim credibility
claim consent
class compliance
conduct control
consider coping

culpable criminal cruelty
countervailing color conditions
clearly conflicts
childhood cancelled

civil compelling
clarified concern
cooperate counsel
confirm cruelty
contact court
confront childhood
culpable civil
comprehensive cruelty
clearly conflict
central complaint
compensation cured

confer color
confer cruelty
confer contraditions
cut corpus
citing compelling comprehensive court-ordered complications

call cruelty care
call cruelty concern
chronic court cruelty
cause crisis
call concession

construct cocaine connection
construct criminal corpus
construct conditions
continuously comment
considering color
cannot contemplate

(words nowhere/to be found)

calm circle




crazy constellation
complicit complacency
complete confabulation
cement confusion
cloaked co-optation
common cattle
choke crush cram choice
clinical close-mindedness
cowards cowards cowards
crooked core
corrupt crumbs
cold closure
cornered contained
cloistered caged

cord chorus
congregation cry
challenge classism
capture conscience

cry courage
cry coercion
clap choir clemency
cry capable courageous champion
crucible carrying confidence

crucial chain

cry craving
cry creation


from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets

[download audio]


Alexis Pauline Gumbs: “I am a queer black troublemaker and a black feminist love evangelist in Durham, North Carolina. My poetry follows the tradition of the black feminist poets whom I research and study. This set of poems is inspired by Toni Morrison, June Jordan, Marlene Nourbese Philip and many more.” (website)