December 16, 2017

Saul Bennett


We remain together,
Though on a vessel now,
In a shallow waterway, a tributary,

Berthed eternally at mocha dusk. It warms so

She’s a deck below,
Biding, grooming, imagined

When she ventures up
And starboard toward us,
We shall assure the world, corresponding
Flags aloft, our child has not died.

from Rattle #18, Winter 2002


Saul Bennett: “I had never written a poem. Then, following the sudden death of my oldest child, 24, from a brain aneurysm, poetry found me in my grief.”

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December 15, 2017

Joseph A. Chelius


It was a privilege those first afternoons
to bag groceries for the cashiers
and be sent like a shepherd
after a herd of carts that had strayed
from the pasture of the parking lot—
carts he found adrift on corners,
left to graze at curbs, against telephone poles. 

And later, to have the honor 
of going out again in his zippered fleece
to clean up the boxes
the full-timers had been flinging
out the back door and into the driveway—

empty boxes of Contadina tomato paste
and Smucker’s jam with broken jars
that brought out the bees
like late bargain hunters to market—
picking over the remnants. 

So lucky for him to have been given this job,
his parents reminded him each night at dinner,
when instead of frittering away time after school,
playing touch football with his friends,

he was gaining valuable experience in the work force,
carrying boxes to the squat compactor
in a dank-smelling shed among mildewed pallets,

glancing skyward every so often
as geese flew by in their straight formations,
the leaders sounding remarkably 
like the store manager, honking orders,
with him turning a doleful eye toward the stragglers—
wary and uncertain, awaiting the next turn.

from Rattle #57, Summer 2017


Joseph A. Chelius: “I am drawn to poems and stories about work—the physical details involved in office life or in unskilled laboring jobs, such as loading a van, stocking grocery shelves, or scouring lockers with steel wool. My earliest jobs taught me how to get along in this world—how to submit myself to routines of a working day and to treat my co-workers with dignity and respect.”

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December 14, 2017

Di Brandt


Today I am made of water, touch my shoulder and I leak,
my belly a lake, my bones an open river flowing toward
sea, all this salt in me, who would have thought,
dissolving into flesh, tears, an open wound, rubbed raw.

The wind of February sweeps the air clean, the sky with
its fugitive clouds, its murky definitions, vaguely white,
soon the clear pale lemon yellow fading into dark rose
and then blue black, the night, with its cold sparkle, its
spectacular consolation.

And me in early spring thaw, gasping for new air,

imagine, in all this snow, melting.

from Rattle #18, Winter 2002


Di Brandt: “I spend my winters in a university and factory town in Ontario, Canada, and my summers in the wild-minded Manitoba prairie, where I was born and raised, where my heart is, and where my poems come from.”

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December 13, 2017

Karen J. Weyant


The wind is always warm here. Breezes snap
through their T-shirts, hot metal and sun burn

their arms and bare legs. They stand
near the cabs, kneel by the rattling tailgates.

It’s here where they learn how to catch maple seeds
in their teeth, and how to spit them out.

Here, they learn how to dig pebbles
and bits of gravel from beneath their skin.

Some say that their bodies turn hollow,
that one can hear wind whistling through their collar bones

and shoulder blades. Some say they almost sprout wings.
But they never fly. They only learn how to balance.

Even now, you will know them, these girls
who survived quick trips to grocery stores,

wrong turns on narrow one-way streets,
even moving days, when they sat propped up,

steadying chipped coffee tables and couches.
Their ponytails are tangled with knots

that never unraveled from the way the wind
always combed through their long hair.

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


Karen J. Weyant: “Born and raised in the Rust Belt, I know that rust runs through my veins. Rust coats my work, my studies, and my car. Even now, as an English professor in a small Rust Belt community college, I tell my students not to be ashamed of rust. It can make the world look at things in a different way.” (website)

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December 12, 2017

Amy Miller


In the pink video the rabbit
keeps moving and the man
could be a hunter or a drunk until
you see what he’s doing—he’s saving
you, world, the singed pelt of your panic
that’s running toward the fire.
You have this crazy impulse to go
home, regardless of how it burned,
is burning even now. The safe
little room remains in your mind,
the quiet, the bed. So you turn back
to the flaming ground, trees
screaming, blood sky, back
to what’s gone and what
you remember. But the man
won’t stop calling, as obsessed
as you, so now you run
toward him and his hand
finds some loose part of you
to pull and then suddenly
he’s warm and telling you
I have you. You don’t know
where he’s carrying you—
the camera stops too soon—
and it was only random math,
spark, ignition, two arcs,
trajectories that brought you
both here, but now
he’s walking you right out
of hell, both of you
so alive and surprised.

from Poets Respond
December 12, 2017

[download audio]


Amy Miller: “Out of the horrible news of this week’s fires in Southern California came this wonderful, strangely moving video footage of an unidentified man saving a panicked rabbit from a raging fire along a roadside in La Conchita, CA. It’s hard to watch it and not think of metaphors of a world in flames and one person compelled to bravery to save just one soul, the one that’s in peril right in front of him. It brought to my mind the old adage of ‘Whoever saves a life saves the world entire,’ attributed variously to the Talmud, the Quran, and Oskar Schindler.” (website)

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December 11, 2017

Laszlo Slomovits


He sat at a table in the bookstore signing autographs.
We stood all around, awkward, clinging, fawning,
and he was kind, quite patient, understanding,
and separate as a sun that keeps its planets in orbit,

until she walked in. Tall, gorgeous, not looking for
our attention nor shielding from it. He stood up, said,
“Excuse me,” and walked to meet her. When they
embraced it was clear they’d once been lovers.
Long ago. Neither of them hid or flaunted it.
They stood pressed together for a long time.

Stepping back, they held each other at arm’s length,
without hunger, regret, or words. Then they both
let go, turned and walked back, she to the door
and he to the table. And we continued standing near,
even more awkward, smiling, warmed throughout,
while he continued signing his name in our books.

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

[download audio]


Laszlo Slomovits: “Born in Budapest, Hungary, I left after the 1956 Revolution with my twin brother and Holocaust-surviving parents, lived in Israel for three years, then moved to Kingston, New York, at age eleven. I went to college at the University of Rochester in upstate New York, where as a senior, I met my wife. She was accepted to grad school at the University of Michigan, so we moved to Ann Arbor thinking we’d be here a year or two—and never left. Perhaps because of all my traveling as a child, and learning three languages early on, inner regions of memory and imagination have often been more important to me than outer locales and their dialects. I’ve thought often about the effect of living here on my writing; so many writers talk about the value and even necessity of a sense of place. But all I’ve arrived at after 44 years, is that something of the grounded, pragmatic nature of this region and its people has combined with my underlying sense of rootless everywhere-ness. Voices and subjects that attempt to weave the secretly symbolic with the down to earth are what I’m always looking for. Throughout these years, working as a folk musician with my twin brother, I have traveled throughout Michigan, nearby Rust Belt states, and many other regions of the U.S. and Canada. At some point I recognized Ann Arbor as a place I could call home, for which I feel very grateful.” (website)

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December 10, 2017

Mia Kang


Because the edges don’t obtain
in the would-be winter

something in me
goes the way of the world

Climbing at a normal pace
toward a figure on the stairs

something in me
gets everywhere

from Poets Respond
December 10, 2017

[download audio]


Mia Kang: “From wherever we stand, it’s hard to know what to say, or do, or how to stand, and especially how to love, or how to withstand love, under threat.” (website)

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