December 23, 2016

Darren Morris

A HANDBOOK FOR THE BLIND

1. This is nobody’s fault, unless it is, in which case, you might try a different handbook. Seek your revenge and then you may be ready.

2. Be grateful that this is the only sense you are losing, unless you are not limited to one such affliction, in which case, you will need an additional handbook, or an entire series.

3. Next to taste or smell, sight might be the best sense to lose. Most people lose feeling and hearing on purpose.

4. Blindness seems noble. Really, it isn’t, but it seems noble. As if all blind people are keeping a particular secret, a deeper world beneath this world, a richness, to themselves.

5. Poets, pianists, wine tasters, and those who foretell the future are sometimes excellent professions for the blind. Just as are code breakers and lie detectors. There is a film about blind photographers to which you might listen. Most likely, you will be hated by Libertarians. Probably you will be nothing and exist in nothingness. Probably you will not be great at anything a sighted person couldn’t do better. Except to feel and to remember.

6. Mostly you will remember images you once knew and you will cling to them because they will constantly be fading and finally you will not be sure what they ever were.

7. Were you lucky enough to make friends or to marry? Forget their names and drive them away. These people should not be asked to be your caregivers. You love them too much to turn them into something functional.

8. Try not to compare yourself with Helen Keller or any other great blind person. You can’t even find your pants in the morning. Don’t forget that Helen was also deaf and born that way, into soundless darkness. How did she learn language? Her teacher drew the letters of the alphabet into the palm of her hand until she understood. Now that was a poet.

9. You will never truly know when you are alone. The night has a thousand eyes, none of which are yours.

10. Keep your head down in case you missed something. Don’t mess things up for people who can see. They do enough for you already (see #7). Without them, you will die quickly, only quicker if they murder you.

11. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Sighted people can smell it on you, not to mention other blind people. You think you deserve something more? You will be humbled by doorjambs, all immovable objects, traffic lights, crowds of strangers who have no idea.

12. There are not numbers enough to list your losses. Consider your pleasures: reading indiscriminately from your shelves, seeing your lover’s face, addressing your lover’s need to be seen, his or her delicate vanity. They will all be gone.

13. At some point you will become lost on a cold night after taking a wrong turn and may walk off a pier. And, if you do, you may land in a small paper boat with no captain. This is the only way. For as you sail out onto the black open sea, you may dip in your hand and feel the words that finally name and beckon you to divulge your terrifying and noble secrets.

14. Henceforth, in your dreams, you will also be blind. As with learning a foreign language, this is the point at which you know you have become fluent with darkness.

from Rattle #53, Fall 2016

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Darren Morris: “I have been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retina disease that leads to vision loss and often blindness. The poems reflect my new way of seeing the world, but I try not to dwell on the negative.”

December 17, 2016

Emma Wilkins (age 15)

HIDDEN LIGHT

He sits in the back of class,
Hard to miss
For all the wrong reasons.
Our world cannot relate
To his mindless talk of
Death and murder,
And the cynical humor
That suffocates every word he utters.

Dreary clouds hang aloft his head,
Threatening the rage of a storm.
Any sudden movement
Instigating the first of many dominoes
To collapse to the floor,
Amongst his other sorrows.
There is light hidden within
His painted skin.
It beams when he talks
About his passions.

Passion of books,
And his love for the girl
Whom he sits behind in class,
And even his love of poetry.
A light that is hidden thoroughly
Behind blood red curtains,
Stained by his childhood
And wrinkled by the hands of death.
And when I see this
I quietly sympathize—
His hidden light.

from 2016 Rattle Young Poets Anthology

__________

Why do you like to write poetry?

Emma Wilkins: “I fell in love with writing after taking an advanced English class my sophomore year of high school. I know that what I have written will be interpreted in more than one way and I love that. To me, I feel as though how my writing is interpreted is more important than what I write. When I write poetry, I always focus on writing something that is raw and personal but that can also be interpreted differently in alignment of others situations.”

December 11, 2016

Sonia Greenfield

GHOST SHIP

I have been that young, that electrified
by the bohemian scene of a city spilling its lights
all around me. I have been to parties
in sketchy spaces where painters have work
on the walls that should be seen by millions
but is seen by the few of us figuring out
who we’re going to fuck after too much cheap wine
drunk from plastic tumblers, figuring out
how we’re going to make it a country’s width away
from families, struck out on our own
like explorers getting comfortable with being alone
in a wilderness that is actually just a room
rented in a house of strangers. I have been
that woman high on E, my eyes doll-dark, jaw
clenched, body ready to swallow pleasure
in a million lusty gulps. I know any space we inhabit
can become a ghost ship. I have read enough
to know stories of wildfires, of boats found
empty, of the soul yanked whole-cloth from
its innocent wearer. But you can’t live in fear
of the apparition, the adventurers afloat on
their rickety structure and cast to a sea
of flames. It can happen at any time to anyone,
so when music flares up and takes a hold of you,
when a swirl of colored spot lights sets you
spinning, you have to dance as if
the very act of living depends on it.

Poets Respond
December 11, 2016

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__________

Sonia Greenfield: “When I read of the ‘Ghost Ship’ fire in Oakland at the artists’ warehouse, and I read of the individuals who were lost in the fire, I realized how much those people were like me twenty years ago, trying to make it in the Bay Area, in love with life on my own and the creativity and melodrama of being young in the city. Besides the years between us—the then and now—the only thing that separates them from me is chance: my luck and their misfortune. It’s a terrible story and too true in terms of how fate works.” (website)

December 8, 2016

April Salzano

RATTLE, ISSUE 47, PAGE 8

My niece has scoliosis. I had just read the best poem of my life
before my sister texted to tell me that. I was laughing out loud
one minute, crying the next because the poem was so funny,
because the poem was so sad. Having not seen it coming
added to the effect. I am sure there is a name for that,
it should be called the Carver effect, I always thought, but now
I’ve decided that maybe it should be named after this guy I just read.
I am not going to say his name because I feel like that would be stealing
something from him, but there I was, laughing in the kitchen,
and he punched me right in the face when nobody was
looking like he was saying, here take this. My dad used to
do that when we laughed too much. All I know of scoliosis is that
it means a bending of the spine, a kind of comma-stance, a bit of a lean,
like a semicolon for a lower body. My heart is broken. My son
just got kicked out of public school for aggression and raging nudity.
Someday it will be funny, I hope, like when we look back
and picture him tearing his pants and underwear off in a rage,
streaking down the hall all bare-assed and determined
to escape the four-person floor restraint this one time,
knowing they would never hold a naked kid down. Who would
do that? Maybe he was just tired of the humming
noise the florescent lights make, of trying to explain
that specific pain mixed with hunger and deficit
of language when using a picture schedule, of choice-boards
with inadequate choices. And maybe we will laugh even harder
when we think of the administration thinking
that a nine-year-old autistic boy could intend to choke
his teacher until she nearly fainted, that he could mean anything
sexual by disrobing, as they called it in the report they sent home,
and would have called it in the police report they didn’t file.
They could have pressed charges, they reminded me,
as they drew up paperwork for alternate placement
while I waited at home, curved like a full
set of parenthesis around the naked body of my boy,
telling him in whispers that everything was going to be okay,
my face aching from laughter, my eyes stinging from pain.

from Turn Left Before Morning
2016 Rattle Chapbook Prize Selection

[download audio]

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April Salzano lives with her husband and two sons in rural Pennsylvania. (website)

December 6, 2016

Heather Bell

HAIRCUT

and it is morning. You start with the scissors
pressed to your jaw. It is like there are 
thousands of tourists falling from your head 
to the floor. By afternoon, one cigarette and 
a baby diapered five times, you have 
neatened up your eyebrows, waxing them 

thinner and thinner until you are feeling 
bottomless like the way space seems 
to be in the movies, like Heaven, each 
planet retracting away from us like 

tongues. By 4 p.m., you start rushing, your 
husband will be home soon and he 
disapproves of things like this: the rough
angle of hairs at your ears, seeming 
bitten by weird hybrid animals. Every hair

is short enough now. You get the razor.
There is something primal about it: woman 
at mirror with weapon. A half an hour goes 
by, you’re digging at the scalp: the 
clutter there, the coats that have been hung,
heavy with rain, for years. It is never enough 

to say I wasn’t ready for a baby, or you.
You need to show the teeth marks around 
your hairline: you were dragged here in the 
mouth of something big and wild. And it is dark 
out now, your hairless head is a heron or red 
moon. You hand your husband that which 

you have removed, like a murmur. And it is dark, 
the baby is weeping like a sad old woman 
seated in the other room

from Kill the Dogs
2016 Rattle Chapbook Prize Selection

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__________

Heather Bell: “Once upon a time there was a six-foot-tall woman with blue hair and a sense of smallness. In her house was a teacup saying ‘girl, you got this!’ and on her wall was a kitten hanging from a clothesline. The kitten’s word balloon said something like, ‘Hang in there!’ or ‘Don’t let go!’ Always something with an exclamation mark. Isn’t that the moral of the story, always? There is always a small woman, hiding her grandness, trying to fill up on uplifting wordplay. But today, this small woman sits down and writes a poem in which she details her smallness and why she came to be that way. Another small woman reads it, and from the tip of her hair a fire starts, but just as quickly dies. Isn’t that why we are here? To write another poem for a small woman to read, and then another. Until the amount of sparks are too much for the quick extinguishing, and she is a woman on fire, exploding into the world.”