“Three Weeks with Etheridge Knight” by Pamela Rasso

Pamela Rasso

THREE WEEKS WITH ETHERIDGE KNIGHT

The first time we met, Etheridge eyed me with suspicion, said “O a white picket fence white girl.” And “White Paper Doll.” He had been to prison. I told him I had never known anyone who had been to prison. He called me “Starch.” He said he had snatched an old lady’s pocketbook. I told him that stealing was wrong. He called me “White Sunday School Teacher.” He said he had been given 25 years for stealing an old lady’s pocketbook. I agreed that was too harsh. He called everyone “Brother” and “Sister” such as “Brother Bill” or “Sister Sue.” He said white girls flashed their shiny white thighs at him. He said he saw my white short shorts, tube top, white titties. He said was I trying to burn some coal? I told him I liked his haiku very much, thought his poems were rough jolt raw red meat. He said “You dig my haiku? You dig my haiku. Wow.” He called me “Smarty Pink Ass.” He read my poems. I said growing up Italian wasn’t so easy either. He said “O, Mafia White Girl.” I said “Exactly my point.” He signed his book for me writing “The stars are free/ & WE gonna be,/ Too.” Then he called me “Refined White Sugar.” He called me “Top Shelf Woman.”

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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Pamela Rasso: “Growing up I read a lot of books. I was extremely shy so I began writing poetry as a way of communicating. My 9th grade English teacher told me how good he thought my poems were and published them in the high school literary magazine. In 12th grade I was selected as editor. Next I had the privilege of studying with several poets, including Robert Hayden and Jack Gilbert. I realized how important it was not to be afraid to take risks in my work. My poem on Etheridge Knight is from a collection of prose poems that are unified by a single theme.”



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“The Difference at Cafe D’Arthe” by John Poch

John Poch

THE DIFFERENCE AT CAFE D’ARTHE

Seville, Spain

Except for coffee, light never forgives the dark.
Here, at the bar, even a driver of dangerous liquids
can find a robust, fertile rest so river deep,
his gaze darkens like the old air between two lenses
in a telescope. He has time to smoke, to talk
to the milk and carbon, to think without thinking how
an olive oil spill can make a napkin into
some private window, the most temporary stained glass
in the world, a window made
not to see through, but to.
It is not odd when from his mouth
comes the muffled sound of steel
in a mattress, or is it a guitar?
Sparrows flutter in the date palm pollen and dust.
What a bath!
The professional young hurry by outside thin-soled
toward the engine block of downtown.
They are faceless as umbrellas. That important.
This one’s lover must be rough, her hair the scent
of a midnight sea-port, her love-talk
a dirty old story of graffiti on graffiti.
When she dances for him some nights, she must look like
the aftermath of math. The answer, naked
and not wanting. Now, the driver has words:
That’s the ground, that’s the sidewalk, and that’s the love.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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John Poch: “I was studying nuclear engineering. I found myself writing poems rather than studying my formulas. The phrase ‘word problems’ took on a different meaning for me, a positive meaning. I transferred schools and began this path of poetry, and I rarely have looked back.”



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“Why I Like Marriage” by George Ovitt

George Ovitt

WHY I LIKE MARRIAGE

At breakfast I tell my wife
To bury me in my new suit.
“The gray one?” she asks,
“Yes, with the pinstripes,”
“Fine,” and she sips her tea.

This is what I like about marriage—
The not-being-surprised part of it,
As in how I can decide on my
Funeral attire, then read aloud
A Times review of a restaurant
In Paris that we will never visit,
And a moment later suggest a
Walk in the snow—why not?

By lunchtime I will have decided
Against the gray suit and burial
Altogether, having seen a billboard
For cremations—$850, complete;
“On second thought,” I begin,
And my wife will nod, and sip her tea,
And say, “I know,” and mean it.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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George Ovitt: “The immediate inspiration for ‘Why I Like Marriage’—aside, of course, from my wife—is a billboard for the American Cremation Society that I bike past on my way to work each morning. I liked the line ‘$850, Complete!’ so well that I knew I had to get it into a poem. I write poetry so I can put the bits and pieces of my odd-ball perceptions in some kind of order at the end of each day. My notebooks are full of such scraps, some of which, through a process I don’t understand, join other scraps of my attention to make a poem.” (website)



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“Optimist” by Leonard Orr

Leonard Orr

OPTIMIST

Each time I vote, I pretend that this time
everything I hope for will take place, that
not only will everyone I vote for win,
but they will turn out more liberal than anyone
expected, that the evil half of the Supreme Court
will take a powder, wars will end, oil will die.
Every night, I visit your side of the bed
to pretend that you are just away for a moment,
it is warm from you and you will rush back to
place your head back on the pillow beside mine,
my nose nuzzling into your hair, to breathe you in,
my arms around you while you push sleepily
back into me, surrounded by my heat,
not fully waking by your brief absence,
and for some minutes I am whole again.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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Leonard Orr: “Around 2000, I assessed the poetry I had written up to that point and decided I needed to change direction completely, turning from the typical and impersonal. I resolved to write poetry about which I was passionate, and with a particular reader in my mind. I have kept this focus, and the device of direct address, ever since. My models in following this path include Sharon Olds and Pablo Neruda.”



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“Something Beautiful” by Emily Montgomery

Emily Montgomery

SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

for Chris

I wanted to save something beautiful for you.
The last three jewels of glistening pomegranate
balanced in the palm of my hand before I ate them.
The morning birdsong in the lemon tree after you left for work,
the memory of last night’s rain still written on the lawn.
Or earlier, the haunting roundness of the moon
over the canyon just before dawn when I couldn’t sleep,
standing at the window, looking back at you, your body
floating in the watery moonlight of our sheets.
I mean something really beautiful, my love.
The stillness in the house after the washing machine
ceased to hum. The last line from a slender book of poems,
a hardback from the library barely worn, repeated aloud for you,
its bitter sweetness still lingering on my tongue.
Or the way the baby slept so deeply while I read,
burying himself in the secret scent of his favorite blanket.
One arm thrown across that woolen teddy my mother gave us
in those final weeks of waiting before his birth.
The other hand open wide, fingers outstretched in a dancer’s
graceful, expectant pose. I wanted to save all of this for you.
But I couldn’t. It didn’t last. It never does.
That brief moment of grace when the ordinary shines so exquisitely.
At the end of the day you will return to us, as you always do,
and we will both be tired, empty, distracted, spent.
Everything more chaotic, more fragile, than when you left.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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Emily Montgomery died of cancer December 3rd, 2012, at the age of 34. She is deeply missed by her husband Chris Wakeham; her son, Miles (3); her daughter, Eloise (1), born eleven weeks early due to Emily’s illness; her mother; and her many, many friends. A romantic at heart, Emily captured the fleeting beauty and poignancy of daily life in her poetry.



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