“My Father Asks Me to Kill Him” by Lauren Schmidt

Lauren Schmidt

MY FATHER ASKS ME TO KILL HIM

When our neighbor rolled past,
or the mold of him, much older
from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
you noted, over your shoulder, how it’s only

been a year. A year since he could hear
his name and nod, a year since he could
believe in a reason for being here,
on this beach street, alive, or seeming.

You looked at me. Something pushed up
through you like a wave of hooks. You took

your fingers, your index and middle,
slid them underneath your chin. Pressed
deeply, the skin sinking in,

cocked your thumb, locked and loaded,
you blew your top off, rocked
your head back. Your lips popped

a fake gun. You made me say
I’d take your days away, your pain,
you made me say I’d shame you less

than a disease like ALS. Except, not a weapon.
Instead, a push down the steps or a deft wrench
of your neck, a heavy deck to your head.

I’d drop a drug in your blood, bludgeon
you till you’re the ruddy muck of you,
stuff your head in the bathtub till the bubbles
won’t come. Out of love, father, out of love,

because you asked me to. I would
ruin you. Because you asked me to,
I would ruin you. Because you
asked me to, because you asked me to.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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__________

Lauren Schmidt: “I volunteer teaching a weekly poetry workshop at a transitional housing program for homeless mothers. In these sessions, we read poetry, we write poetry, and sometimes, when I’m lucky, I can convince local poets to read their work to the women and talk about why poetry is so essential to survival. And every week something miraculous happens. The women say something they weren’t able to say, or they give themselves permission to feel something they’ve never felt, or they find the kind of validation they need to defend themselves against their difficult circumstances. Over and over again, poetry makes these miracles happen.”



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“Orange Marmalade” by Timothy Schirmer

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Timothy Schirmer

ORANGE MARMALADE

Inside you I think there must be a dented little trashcan overflowing with flowers, spitting up wilted but still lovely peach & yellow roses. & inside you I think there must be a grand old dresser, the drawers packed with dark, silky dirt. Sometimes you add water and you’ve got mud. Sometimes you steal something you want and write what it should’ve cost in a little pink ledger. Inside you I don’t think anything is where it should be, but who am I to say where things should be inside you? First item inside your little pink ledger: little pink ledger – $10.99.

Yes, it’s true, sometimes I think I’ve got it all figured out, but then I see what looks like someone’s lopped off ear baking on the sun-struck ground. Or I have one of those shit days when I lay in bed with your laptop & watch fifty-something YouTube videos of atomic bombs tearing open like Monarch wings on nothing islands, in remote deserts. Column of skinned light. Heat knifing out in every direction. If there’s a fabricated barn, it flies apart. If there are trees, they bend in synchronicity to kiss the earth. What is the weight of the world with us, I wonder, & without? The goddamned perfect harmony from start to finish! The mushroom cloud, its underside: a lava-orange canopy, like the hot lush inner-parts of a body, turning slowly—completely—inside out. The shockwave swabs the earth moonishly clean.

You come home, hike up your skirt & sit half out the window while smoking a cigarette. You’re always eating the strangest things. Yesterday: Captain Crunch with a heavy spoonful of guacamole. I can’t imagine how skewed things are inside you: flowers in the trash; mud in the drawers. You assure me that nobody lived on those islands; the barn was built to be exploded; the trees, well, millions die in forest fires anyhow. You remind me that it wasn’t an ear we saw on the sidewalk that day, but a dead baby bird, & in your head that’s better, or easier somehow.

You’re eating Saltines slathered in stolen orange marmalade, still halfway out the window sucking on a cigarette, one bare foot on the warm iron of the fire escape. You want to shift the subject away from nuclear war. I wonder how often in the last 70 years has there been a man who wanted to talk about the bomb & a woman who wanted to change the subject? You want to discuss the muttering old lady who sits at the bus stop but never gets on the bus. I know who you mean, I’ve seen her too, but I don’t say so. She reminds you of someone, but you don’t say so.

We’re always telling each other not to worry, that maybe the world outside of us is just as fucked up as the one inside of us. You drop your cigarette onto the street below, the street that takes all of your cigarette-ends into an unseen current. Where do they flow to? I’m afraid it’s much less random than I’d like to think. You feed me a cracker with jam & touch my cheek while I eat it. Mmm, I say, can I have another one? Orange Marmalade – $7.49.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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Timothy Schirmer: “I feel elegant when I’m writing a poem, more handsome than I am, closer to this life. Who doesn’t want all of those things?” (website)



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“Speaking in Code” by Christine Rhein

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Christine Rhein

SPEAKING IN CODE

For fun and to try to mix this up a little, you two might develop a verbal or visual cue that is more subtle than simply asking for sex. For instance, when one of you mentions Vice President Richard Cheney, that’s your code.
—Amy Dickinson, Chicago Tribune

Imagine the possibilities! I could whisper
Rush Limbaugh in your ear and, if it happens
to sound good to you, you could counter
with a breathy Ralph Nader, and go on
to, well, the Better Business Bureau,
nudging us toward Liberty Mutual
and Full Fire Insurance. Of course,
we might want to try something more
scientific, like perhaps Mr. Gizmo
or Miss Motion Engineer, a sigh
of reciprocating oscillation. I guess
we could go a bit wild too, daring to speak
aardvark or walrus, the kinky tangles
of kudzu or cabbage. We could even practice
our French, Soupe du jour, oh là là!
or Italian, Pronto! There’ll be no asking
for sugar, honey, what’s cookin’? in this house.
None of that old hocus pocus, hokey
pokey, hula hula for us. I mean, why dance
around on tiptoe when we can Do the
funky gibbon! The resurrection shuffle!
The tikkabilla jive! And seriously,
since it’s only you and me here,
we might as well scream a little
climate change, stressing the need
for renewable energy or, at least, See me
turn off the TV. We shouldn’t waste time,
dear, wishing to ignite something new
when there are so many hot buttons
already at hand. I say, what the hell—
Let’s build a bridge to tomorrow! Or to Finland!
Because it seems anything is better than oh,
nothing. Not worth the candle. Don’t be silly.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
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Christine Rhein: “My background as an auto engineer seems to play a part in my writing. Each poem presents a puzzle, with its components and features needing to fit and operate together just so in order to give the reader the best possible ride down the page. Of course, tinkering with poems is boundless, while cars come with constraints. When I write, I want a ride that’s not safe, smooth, or even steerable, but rather one that’s full of unexpected lunges, turns, and spins.” (website)



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“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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