“The Space Traveler’s Crush” by Benjamin S. Grossberg

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Benjamin S. Grossberg


Interestingly, it puns the same
in my language, too. Think
soda cans, think trash compactor,
think an enormous industrial
apparatus that squeezes and stacks
old cars. And how all these shrivel
beside the compaction of a heart
in the twin grinding knuckles
of desire. He wants to tell me
it doesn’t work that way, not
at my age—though he and I
reckon years by different suns,
so he has no idea how old I am,
not really. I want to tell him
I am as old as the wisdom
he hopes for in a lover, as young
as the incarnation of desire:
which must be beyond age, as
beyond gender, beyond species—
a lithe blue flame that manages
to warm even those parts of the body
decades cold. Listen, I tell him,
speaking into the intercom,
my voice moving out beyond
the ship—vector as the crow flies—
I don’t want to compromise
our friendship, but I’m willing to try
if you are. Except I don’t tell him,
and it’s the air vent I’m speaking into,
not the intercom, getting dust bunnies
in my face. Soon we will meet
to hike an asteroid. Then
I will swing by his planet to watch
a flick on his world’s crude
Internet. We’ll sit on his couch,
as we do, and he’ll lean his head
to the side—over a little further, then
a little further, until it seems almost
inevitable that it would float
to a soft landing on my shoulder,
like how you can cut the engines
and let your ship drift those last
few feet before touchdown.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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Benjamin S. Grossberg: “I wrote ‘The Space Traveler’s Crush’ after an evening with a ‘friend’—the last time we socialized—that helped clarify the nature of our relationship. We watched the HBO series Spartacus, and he was mesmerized and exclaiming about the gladiators, but not about me.”

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“The Sacred Lane” by Pasquale Verdicchio

Pasquale Verdicchio


for Antonio Porta

We felt it
the sisma
poetic temblor
that radiated from the capital
of capitals of church and state
and wrapped the body of
that man lost among angels
for what did he know of lanes
and what did he think of percourses
only that it was a freeway
like no other and it led
from one end of a dream
to the other of a nightmare
it was his notebook
to carry across the notions
the smuggled thoughts about it
america this america that america
but an america that was only
what we wanted to find
and so from fast food
to slow drivers it opened the door
to nothing more than a view
our own window and we drank
and ate with them
those who had not come
but were just there
unlike us who had flown driven
hundreds thousands of miles
across continents and countries
rivers and oceans
states and cities and county lines
because that is part of it
the county line crossing it
not knowing on the other side
the welcome the distance between
and so we continued to the cities
all names but initials
hell, hey! as they say and frisco
which they don’t say
on a cold day is not California
but it still holds the foreigner
in the gold of that orange bridge
the size beyond the bridge of the county
and Marin becomes something altogether
different but it is the place of the dream
and it must be noted
recorded and seen
a photograph does not quite capture it
and so all of it is done and then reported
back by phone across thousands of miles
in late night calls that defy deny and construct
and that’s the book
that’s the poem
and that’s what we remember
for it is not a travel diary
it is a travel life
a nomadism put on paper
a nomadism with stakes
to keep it from walking off
out of one’s memory
out of one’s reach
and back into the place from where
it did not come

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
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“And Have I Loved You?” by Conrad Geller

Conrad Geller


And have I loved you long enough by now?
A nod, a touch, our portion is all spent,
but that is what the grudging years allow.

No one can make an everlasting vow
to love, since only meager time is lent.
So, have I loved you long enough by now?

Experience alone does not endow
strong spirit in a mortal element,
but that is all the grudging years allow.

There is no axiom to teach us how
to bear the mystery of slow descent.
Can I have loved you long enough by now?

Only the trembling hand, the withered brow
remain to show us where the music went,
but that is all the grudging years allow.

In spite of everything, then, let us bow,
begin the dance, defying precedent,
for I have loved you long and long by now,
no matter what the grudging years allow.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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Conrad Geller: “I stopped wanting to be a basketball player and started wanting to be a poet when, at twelve, I found a ten-cent copy of some Poe poems in a used bookstore. How did he do that? Why couldn’t I make something similar out of the bits of language rushing around up there? Well, I found out I couldn’t, not like that, but I have been trying ever since.”

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“The Valhalla Machine” by Jehanne Dubrow

Jehanne Dubrow


Trying to speak, they are like the machine
built for an opera—girders of steel
and more than ninety thousand pounds of steel-
on-steel, two towers on which planks machine
thanks to hydraulics and redundant breaks,
the whole contraption slowly grinding to
a stop or winding up, between the two
of them an axis just about to break.

Against this wall of metal can be screened
all kinds of scenes. Night. Rivers of light.
A pair of giant hands that bridge the air.
Marriage, it seems, is a great blank screen.
And what’s projected there—a ring, twilight
of the gods—can barely fill the empty air.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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Jehanne Dubrow: “The daughter of American diplomats, I was born in Italy and raised in Yugoslavia, Zaire, Poland, Belgium, Austria, and the United States. As a nomad-child, I quickly learned that books were a portable home to take with me wherever I traveled. Now, grown up, I stay (mostly) put and my poems are the ones that do the wandering.”

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“Summer Storm in Sicily” by Laura Stortoni-Hager

Laura Stortoni-Hager


After the summer storm
the South wind carried from Africa
the fragrance of a thousand jasmines. In the streets
small pools of water glittered in the sunlight
like jewels in a copper setting. And there I saw
the reflections
of the golden cities of Revelations—
walls inlaid with precious stones ablaze:
ruby and jasper, topaz and agate,
emerald and amethyst.

Sometimes after the storm
there was no moon. The night fell swiftly
on the wide plain. Peacocks cried in the
distant fields, sensing
the loneliness of approaching dusk.

I know that I am still tied to that land
by something stronger than blood—
that land where truth is a dangerous thing.
I shall always be
two people fighting within one skin:
one, the sun worshipper,
the other muted, devoted to the moon,
in the palace of the wind.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
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