“The Alteration of Love” by Myra Shapiro

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Myra Shapiro


I was crying—I mean
tears came—about love,
old love, long marriage
spilling past impediments of
who wants what for dinner or
in the bedroom—ins and outs
my father’s coarse humor

made a joke of: you put it in,
you pull it out, the story’s over,
only in Yiddish it rhymed,
words I don’t recall. Over,
he is. So is my mother. We
were never to be them.
Now they want me

to stop crying. I was trying
to say something about love—
how one day one of us
will disappear. That’s when
my eyes hauled up the sea,
and my mother and father came
to make a child of me.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

[download audio]


Myra Shapiro: “These days I can’t get over being old. It’s new to me, that my life like a book has to end. And because I’ve always lived in books, lines and phrases others have written stay close to me. Shakespeare’s ‘Love is not love/ Which alters when it alteration finds’ spoke as I tried to grasp how fragile a very old marriage is.”

Love the Poetry / Share the Poetry

“Valediction, on Arriving in a Distant Land” by Eric Paul Shaffer

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Eric Paul Shaffer


I am not one to travel with no destination. No city or continent
charms me with the vague glee of flight. Nor would I go alone,
for every day, we wake warmth to warmth, your breath in my ear,

my hand on your thigh. Yesterday, the planet bowed before us,
and cool distance clarified a curve measurable in miles, in feet
pacing dutifully through the world. I’ve crossed deserts and seas,

rivers and peaks from which the waters flow, the sun westering
and a moon pierced by sky while morning melts into noon. All
space intensifies, blue, absolute, definite and dismal, magnified

by our finite human measures when we mark our roads with signs
and lines and lights that regulate. Even now, with old mountains
at my back and a thin river lost in a valley of dust, I am with you.

The rays from stars cascade through darkness limitless and lit
too little. Light is slow beside the speed with which my thoughts
turn to you. And no world is large enough to come between us.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

[download audio]


Eric Paul Shaffer: “I love love poems, yet my theory is that the more love poems composed, the fewer good love poems there are. So I watch for and seek good ones. To no one’s surprise, the English Renaissance is a great place to look. I particularly admire Sir John Suckling, who had the courage to rhyme ‘heart’ with ‘fart’ (surely a telling match) and John Donne, a great master, whose compass in ‘A Valediction, Forbidding Mourning’ is magical. My poem is about arriving in my beloved town of Albuquerque without my beloved.”

Love the Poetry / Share the Poetry

“Bright Red Big” by Charlotte Seley

Charlotte Seley


When our beta died, we dumped him
bowl and all into the Susquehanna. O
I was so sad without a fish. The dark bellowing
ring in the wood where the bowl once was—
Why didn’t we save even one marble?
As I sprinkled his food into the river, Jeff said
You killed it and I knew he didn’t mean the fish.
Sometimes I’d walk down Hawley if only
to see if a bowl was floating in the glints
of diurnal water. I like to think our fish is in
the river now and I swear I saw a bright red bit
at the bottom, unlike how we found him—
cadaver grey. When I die, I do not really want
my possessions with me down there, returned to earth.
Just stuff I pulverized into a nurturing. My home,
for one, as rotten as it was. The red Solo cups
on the porch, the secondhand bed, dirty
tube socks and loose threads of tobacco in the carpet.
I left before the flood but I hoped our fish
would come back, a message in a bottle
uncorked. The message might’ve said: Always
be an endless stream of regeneration,
which was sad since that was impossible
for us. We were more like the glass bowl, might’ve been
screaming until it broke. I was always underwater
with our fish swimming through the little crevices of
the plastic castle and the rainbow flakes of food,
the debris in the river and the cardboard boxes full
of things I could never take with me when I die.
If I could give you a message from the Susquehanna,
it would say that there’s a limit to perseverance.
How our fish must’ve known his sighs were numbered
when I noticed his tattered fins as fragile as broken harps
while unhooking frames from the wall, packing boxes.
That fish was what I loved about the Southern Tier
and there is nothing like the love for something
that will never love you back.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems


Charlotte Seley: “I’m not sure why I write but I know it began with Robert Creeley. And even that is a poor response since what drew me to Creeley was the clever way he broke his lines and forced the reader to think of all the words that weren’t there or perhaps fell off in the enjambment. Nonetheless, it’s an obsession now, and I served as poetry editor and editor-in-chief of Redivider and I am a current poetry reader for Ploughshares.”

Love the Poetry / Share the Poetry

“Free-Form Bolero” by Mather Schneider

Mather Schneider


We eat nopalitos
for lunch
pruned from our hard yard

and we love the afternoon away
both of us hunter
both of us prey

then sleep.

I dream about pueblos
with names of women
and a smoky cantina with flowered curtains
and ironwood tables
polished by a million brown elbows.

The floor fan blows the hair on my legs
whispers chicken skin goodbyes
to my sweat
and as the heat rises with the finale of April
I am at peace with what will come:

wormy compost of May
foul-smelling hat
sunburned deeds
mesquite syrup and cactus jelly
sealed in jars like preserved lust

the throat-burning flames of bacanora June
sour stains of July
lime and onion tears
of August

the desert stretched out like an endless
mockery of self-importance.

Funneled into the triumph
of now

the sun floats down
into the other
a popped balloon at a gala ball

and as I wake up
it’s like I’m face to face
with the prettiest girl
at the last dance of the world

and she’s looking at me
like she just woke up too.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems


Mather Schneider: “Well, I tried growing broccoli in our desert yard and that didn’t work, then realized that we could eat the prickly pear cactus that grew naturally right there in front. You prune the soft young pads, skin off the spines, boil them or fry them with salt and chili sauce or whatever you want, and there you go. This, combined with a nice siesta on a day off from work with the woman you love, is more than enough for me.”

Love the Poetry / Share the Poetry

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

Lauren Schmidt


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
Tribute to Love Poems


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.”

Love the Poetry / Share the Poetry