November 20, 2017

Kelly Fordon


I have eaten all your almonds
because you left them
on the counter. A better person
would not have done it.
A slightly better person
would have done it,
but left a note.
You would have eaten
mine though you say
you would not rob a bank.
I would only rob a bank
if I ran out of other options.
I go to church
and copy the rules out
on my hand.
When I break one,
I get absolution
from the priest.
When I say penance,
I feel better right away.
I shouldn’t have yelled
at that woman, but she
is a bitch. I shouldn’t have
slapped her, but she deserved it.
I am going to pray
until I am no longer angry,
and if I am still angry,
I will take it out on the maid,
who is stupid,
who should have learned
to speak English,
and then she would not
have had to be a maid.
I should not buy
(insert word here)
But I never buy myself
anything really.
I have not bought anything
since last year when I
purchased the Mac.
I needed that for
my foundation.
It’s a non-profit
dedicated to helping
people with problems.
There are so many.

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

[download audio]


Kelly Fordon: “Even though I spent a lot of time in the Midwest as a child, I was not truly a resident of the Rust Belt until I moved to Michigan in the ’90s with my husband and settled in the suburbs of Detroit. At that time, I was shocked by the divisiveness between the city and suburbs. I remain in shock. This poem reflects some of what I have witnessed in terms of privileged sensibility and racism in the suburbs.” (website)

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November 19, 2017

Devi S. Laskar


after E.E. Cummings

People worry over it as if it were a heavy object,
Atlas carrying the world on his back, always
a black and white sketch of the yoked oxen
next to the definition in the illustrated dictionary—

Atlas carrying the world on his back, always
it is as big and small as you wish it to be,
next to the definition in the illustrated dictionary.
The roll of the years and the quick tick of the hours.

It is as big and small as you wish it to be:
a thin scratch where the skin is torn open,
the roll of the hours and the quick tick of the years
and at once a gash that scars, requiring stitches.

A thin scratch where the skin is torn open.
Carry it as if it were a dream, half-remembered,
and at once a gash that scars requiring stitches
silvery around the measures, sometimes sweet.

Carry it as if it were a dream, half-remembered,
carry it as if it were a song, auld lang syne
silvery around the measures, sometimes sweet—
your tongue tripping over the last line.

Carry it as if it were a song, auld lang syne,
carry it the way a tree would carry it,
your tongue tripping over the last line
all bark, all roots, all sticky gold sap.

Carry it the way a tree would carry it,
stooping to it but not breaking its boughs—
all bark, all roots, all sticky gold sap.
Carry it as if you had life expectancy

stooping to it but not breaking its boughs;
and freedom of an ocean breeze:
Carry it as if you had life expectancy
and a sunset to look forward to

and freedom of an ocean breeze.
A black and white sketch of the yoked oxen
and a sunset to look forward to.
People worship it as if it were a heavy object.

from Poets Respond
November 19, 2017

[download audio]


Devi S. Laskar: “This is my response to a series of mass-killings, and the grief and the guilt for living while people so young were murdered.” (website)

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November 18, 2017

Matthew Kinzelberg (grade 6)


At the beach
The last moment
Watching the waves
That crash against
The sand
My dad watching over me
Like a star
The sunset going down
I felt like I was
Taking my last breath
Like my dad did
I will never forget him
I have a task he asked
Me to do
To play baseball
The way he taught me.

from Rattle #9, Summer 1998
Tribute to Children

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November 17, 2017

William Evans


Over winter break, Frank put a shotgun
in his mouth and killed himself in his mother’s
home, which was not his home, but I can under-
stand not wanting to die in a place you’re not sure

will care for your bones after you’ve left them.
Maybe break is a generous word because I was
back in the home my father had left and I was 
never going back to school, but ghosts have 

a way of knowing where all keys are hidden,
what kind of pacification the most guarded
beasts will submit to. It is 2 a.m. and a person 
I have left behind is telling me someone I had

lived with is trapped behind the present tense
forever. Now it is four days later and I am
in my best clothes driving into Fairfield County
where I was once called nigger on the baseball

field, where I once needed a coach to walk
with me to the bus to avoid my own purging
and a teammate told me that it wasn’t because
I was Black, but because I was that good,

because I was not old enough to be two
things at one time yet. Frank loved Wu-Tang
and once argued me who had the best verse
on Triumph, but no one at this funeral knows

this story, at least not the part where Frank
once kissed my forehead at a party while
we re-enacted Ghost and Rae over the music
too loud for anyone to be truly sober that night.

There is a humming here, whenever another
mourner approaches me, with a trespass glare
and I hope that Frank knows that I came here,
again to a tree that looks at my neck and misremembers

gravity, to see him lowered into the world that
tries to claim me, each and every day. I don’t want
him to see me as brave, but to know that I, too,
understand what it means to walk into a cathedral

and hear every lock turn behind you, that the stained 
glass is sometimes just light born in a better neighborhood
and I can still smell the gunpowder you swallowed every time 
I startle a flock of birds, that will never again be still.

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


William Evans: “I think being from the Midwest is a unique negotiation for a writer as I often find myself putting forth an idea that isn’t so much profound as it is making a statement of awareness for readers. I often feel that the aesthetic of many poets outside of the Rust Belt is an affirming action that confirms or reinforces what we may believe about the location already. In my part of the country, I think the writers are often defending their home. It’s a pursuit of not only relevance but of reverence of where our voice fits in the national conversation. This poem, ‘I Say Cathedral When I Mean Gunpowder,’ feels particularly Midwest when it encounters the shifting environments, hard-to-penetrate culture, and realities of what being in the middle of the country demands.” (website)

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November 16, 2017

Mike Catalano


He could fish before he walked;
and he was more attuned to the speech
of Sockeye salmon than any human.
It surprised no Athabaskan
that his fish were hooked
before bait spanked the white rapids.
When he became one with the water
without ripple or bubble,
he petrified himself like a totem
and speared the most unruly Cohoe.
But the legend of Lonni Little River,
long after his death,
came when he snagged fish
with one hand. Some say he trained
his hand hours a day playing a game
akin to jacks. Some say he plucked a bee
from a grizzly’s paw, becoming the bear
with all its instincts.
I say he kissed the land, the water,
and all therein, never wasting his spirit,
long drained by settlers.
So the river rewarded him
as one of their own with more
than Houdini’s hands,
with a love none dare equal.

from Rattle #11, Summer 1999
Tribute to Editors


Mike Catalano: “I killed my first deer this past winter—going 65 mph in a driving rainstorm. I’m thankful to the Iowan people who helped scrape the remains from my totaled Toyota. I’ve been on a two-year sabbatical writing and researching my family’s biography. I’m happy to be writing history instead of being history, after hitting that deer.”

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November 15, 2017

Sarah Wylder Deshpande


As compensation for a boring life, he received a job
in heaven in the department of tropical fruits
and quickly moved up to miracles.
When all the excitement is too much,
he slips down to Earth
and doodles in the back of math books
or goes to Mass and finds
the two-year-olds who crawl beneath
the pews picking at stale gum.

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

[download audio]


Sarah Wylder Deshpande: “I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, the recreational vehicle manufacturing capital of the world. It’s an industrial town with two rivers, the Elkhart and the St. Joe. I spent my childhood exploring rivers and abandoned factories and riding trains. I live outside the Midwest now, but I miss the wide-openess of landscape and driving along the highway with cornfields on either side, always being able to see the horizon.” (twitter)

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November 14, 2017

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley


Boys like us don’t make national news.
That’s what we’d tell each other, fleeing

the long blue arms of police LEDs.
Our hightop Reeboks kissed gravel

miles of Central Pennsylvania Street. Us
not old enough to have kissed a lover. Boys

like us, cops shoot & ask questions never,
we laughed. We ran. We laughed. We hollered

“Pig!” as if it was just another pickup game
of basketball on the blacktop. We were so young—

how young is too young to teach a boy never
turn his index finger & thumb into the hammered steel

of a gun. You might die. I breathe for decades,
older & older & now when I close my eyes

I can see Jason Pero isn’t with us boys—us running
from cops. Jason is at home. He was a teddy bear,

said his grandpa. He teased his little nephews once
in a while but that was the meanest part he had.

Jason Pero is in his front yard making the best
of Bad River Reservation, turning porch boughs

into a drum set, each stick cracking stained wood.
He imagines making it all the way to high school

drumline. & here comes that cop with report
“of a man carrying a knife.” & here is Jason drumming.

& here there will be no justice for death, no video
evidence of Jason’s dying. Just this one that plays out

endlessly in my head. The greatest horror
writers know it’s worse when you can’t see the monster:

jaws that catch, claws that bite, hidden in darkness.
In Onondaga, our clan mother says kahséhtha’ I hide

something akweriákon in my heart. But tonight, I am done
with hiding. Jason Pero was shot once in the shoulder

& once in the heart. & my heart beats faster the longer
I sleep. The longer I close my eyes. The longer we hide.

from Poets Respond
November 14, 2017

[download audio]


Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley: “Jason Pero, a middle schooler, was shot by a cop twice and killed in his home on Bad River Reservation.” (twitter)

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