September 21, 2017

Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2017: Artist’s Choice


Street Folks by Jennifer O'Neill Pickering

Image: “Street Folks” by Jennifer O’Neill Pickering. “Trajectory” was written by Ann Giard-Chase for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2017, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

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Ann Giard-Chase


We were young once and beautiful,
wandering loose as stones—Jed loping

along beside me, the beret he loved
like a lopsided lily pad plopped

on his head. We’re lost, I’d say as we
drifted from city to city. We’re free,

he’d mumble, cigarette dangling
like a toothpick between his lips. Nights

with him, I’d lie on city pavements,
neon sizzling in the darkness. I’d tell him

I could have been a tree or a planet fixed
to a fiery star. I’d tell him dragonflies

are in season and Monarchs migrate
along ghostly trails returning year after year

to the same forest. You think too much,
he’d mutter. But one day I knew

what I had to do and I loosened the sails
and he drifted away and that night I grew

thick roots sinking them deep into bedrock
while far above me the constellations

lit their luminous lamps and burned away
the darkness and I thought—life is full

of many hungers knowing they too are tied
by invisible strings swirling them into orbits,

looping them into galaxies, calling them
home from the vast and racing universe.

from Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2017
Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Jennifer O’Neill Pickering, on this selection: “Many of the poems reflected the visual narrative of my pastel, but what I particularly liked about ‘Trajectory’ was the positive outcome for one of the characters. This left me feeling hopeful. I think we can use a bit of hope now.”

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September 20, 2017

Jess Weitz


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

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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 19, 2017

Raye Hendrix


Cassini           you cosmic firefly
you vacuum-empty           space bowl

manufactured metal comet
Saturn’s brief           demystifying moon:

I suppose even robots
have a time to die           but if

you’ve got to go           (and you do
I’m sorry, you do)           at least

you’re going beautifully:
jet-propulsion           burnout

gravity slung arc into           oblivion
probably           (I’m sorry) we won’t

come to collect           your body
probably there won’t be           a body

left to collect           you
returned to stardust           vaporized

before the atmosphere gives out           but
that’s alright           isn’t it?

after all           we’ve catalogued
your memories:           geyser moons

hula-hooping sixth planet
from the sun           and somewhere

even us on the black non-horizon
of void:           a speck of light

a blue-pinprick yesterday
calling your name

from Poets Respond
September 19, 2017

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Raye Hendrix: “I never thought I could feel sad for a robot (I honestly dislike them as a general rule—especially if they have faces), and then I read about the impending destruction of the Cassini spacecraft early Friday morning. There was something so human in the article I read: the author called it a ‘suicide,’ and it got me thinking about the nature of people, and what it really means to be human. Here’s this spacecraft, barely younger than I am, and it’s seen things I never will—except I will, because it shared them with me. Even as it plummets to its death in Saturn’s atmosphere, it’s beaming back images, ‘clearing its memory,’ as the article put it. And isn’t that so beautiful? Isn’t that so human? Don’t we all try to pass on stories, memories, to the people who will be left behind when we’re gone? For the first time in my memory, my heart broke for a robot. A poem seemed a good way to say thank you.” (twitter)

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September 18, 2017

Mark Lee Webb


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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September 17, 2017

Devon Balwit


The falling man falls through the feed while, beneath him,
female soldiers serve in a bunker. Then, someone reposts,

and the order reverses, the women behind the blast door
now above the man who plummets. Both make the heart

hammer: the dead man, not yet dead, and the women, living,
but standing ready to dispense death. They are not the same,

yet they are juxtaposed. Coming upon them, our fingers
hover a moment; how much do we want to know, and what

will it cost us? For sixteen years, the falling man has triggered
panic: his knowing, his choosing, his leaping. We carry his death

like a burden we can never put down. We did nothing to stop it.
We think by not watching we are somehow absolved, but he falls

regardless. So too, the missiles. We will not launch them. Neither
can we stop them. Yet we are implicated in our Age, born into it;

its hectic pulse hammers within us. We shake. We tremble.
Our lines quiver across the page. No one wants to claim

the falling man. We refuse him, his helplessness, his nakedness
before our lenses, the wind pulling the clothes off his body,

our eyes doing the same. So too, the women, deep underground.
It was better before we knew they were there, each with her half

of the code, ready to key in the launch, ten missiles on standby.
Maybe their fingers will hover forever, poised for our generation

and for that of our children. We hope our hearts will quiet.
We have that guilty feeling as if we have done something wrong.

from Poets Respond
September 17, 2017

[download audio]


Devon Balwit: “Oh, the images from 9/11. The feed pummels us. To log on is to ask for a beating.”

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