November 26, 2022

Mike White

HAPPINESS

fills
half a room

no one around
to lift the thing

all those parts

after a while
you give up

even dusting

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006

___________

Mike White: “For me, the writing of poems requires an equal measure of trust and luck. I write to see what will happen. Some days are better than others. It’s like fishing. The first line is the reluctant worm. I have a cooler full of worms. A head full of fish.”

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November 25, 2022

Amira Antoun Salameh

MY BODY IS MINE

In that dark, the light
 
strike startled my mirror.
 
I saw nudity—by accident—
 
& did not understand myself
 
without fabric.
 
Thunder boomed & rain released 
 
bright streaks—again, again. &,
 
I froze. Stared
 
openly—exhausted 
 
by dark devouring 
 
lightning, my mirror,
 
me.
 
 
Translated from the Arabic by Jennifer Jean and Yafa al-Shayeb
 

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022
Tribute to Translation

__________

Amira Antoun Salameh, from Damascus in Syria, has published and won awards for her poetry, children’s stories, and puppet theater; as well, she writes theatrical scripts and directs plays for the Cultural Center in Latakia. | Jennifer Jean & Yafa al-Shayeb: “Jordanian writer Yafa al-Shayab and I have co-translated Amira Salameh’s poem for a bilingual anthology that I am co-editing along with poet Kirun Kapur—which is tentatively titled: Other Paths for Shahrazad: Contemporary Poems by Arab Women. This is a project of the Her Story Is collective. HSI is led by independent women writers and artists from primarily Iraq and the United States; it promotes projects aimed at expanding linguistic, artistic, and cultural boundaries in response to global conflict, with a focus on centralizing the experience of women. We believe our process transforms established power structures, creates new grounds for learning, and builds a community of equals across borders.”

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November 24, 2022

Take Heart by 
Bonnie Riedinger, abstract watercolor painting of two figures above pine trees

Image: “Ballet Above the Bay” by René Bohnen. “Fault Lines” was written by Margaret Malochleb for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2022, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)

__________

Margaret Malochleb

FAULT LINES

To negotiate the terrain
of devotion’s darker
questions, we set out
in search of knowledge
buried inside the mountain.
Together we climbed
the treacherous path
littered with thistle,
bindweed, cheatgrass.
Held out our hands
to pull each other up
to the next outcropping.
And as we tended
our hunger, our thirst,
our need for rest,
the mountain watched,
held its breath
and waited for us
to look down and see
that the unwritten history
inside every living thing
is a borderless boundary
that can never be breached.
 

from Ekphrastic Challenge
October 2022, Artist’s Choice

__________

Comment from the artist, René Bohnen: “I had quite a job selecting a shortlist from the shortlist and eventually my favourite. In many of the poems I found beautiful imagery, as well as poignant moments and situations. I let the spirit and definitions of ekphrastic verse guide me in my final decision. I chose ‘Fault Lines’ as the poem which in my opinion amplifies and expands a core idea. The poet has cleverly used the different meanings of a geological concept to develop parallel perceptions in the reader’s mind. The poem becomes much more than mere description of the picture provided. Oxford Dictionaries offers this definition of fault lines: 1) a place where there is a long break in the rock that forms the surface of the earth and where earthquakes are more likely to happen, and 2) an issue that people disagree about and may, as a result, lead to conflict. Already in the first stanza we find the darker questions of devotion linked to the quest of going inside a mountain. Geology and emotional danger in association or perhaps juxtaposition, the reader has to read to find out. Judging technically, I enjoyed the sound effects in the poem. Without becoming clumsy or heavy, the little echoes, assonance and alliteration drive the action along. A line such as ‘littered with thistle’ tickles the mind’s eye and the poetic ear. In the last stanza, the b-alliteration (‘borderless boundary that can never be breached’) emphasises the profound wisdom that is presented as the poem’s closing viewpoint. Details and specifics anchor the narrative (‘bindweed, cheatgrass’) while also alluding to unpleasant situations or events between two people. The couple is hungry and thirsty, they pull each other up. They negotiate out croppings. This is no vague journey. The last stanza returns to the ‘mountain’ that appeared in stanza 1. The arching that is thus created echoes the shape of the arms in the artwork. The emotion of dismay, surprise, horror or despair that may be implied by the artwork, is subtly prompted by the openendedness of the last stanza, when the mountain waits for realization to dawn on the two tired people. I can write much more on this poem, but will leave the other readers the opportunity to analyse and enjoy an intricate poem that reads so effortlessly, one is initially mislead to think that it is simple.”

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November 23, 2022

Ron Koertge

THINGS AND HOW THEY WORK

1
 
In grade school a girl who could draw
guided my hand while I tried for a horse
that resembled a horse.
 
I didn’t mind that she was better at drawing.
I could play shortstop and she couldn’t.
 
I told my parents about her. They said, “Well, 
maybe she could draw blueprints.” 
 
They were practical. Art was just short
for Arthur. From school right to work. 
Like the thigh bone connected to some
other bone.
 
Everybody worked. All the time. My math 
teacher, Mr. Taylor, put on a white apron, 
a paper hat and handed ice cream cones 
across a counter all summer.
 
My hometown wasn’t much, but one part
of it was a real Christmas card: Miller’s pond 
froze over every winter and we could skate there. 
With a fire and everything. 
 
Mr. Taylor showed up with his littlest daughter.
He was a really good skater. Graceful.
Not a word I’d say out loud then, but he was.
 
My mother was there, just waiting for me 
and watching. When I sat down for a minute 
she said, “He’s been to Rome. Isn’t that 
something?”
 
How did he end up in a small town east
of the Mississippi, a town that worshipped
high school basketball and especially 
our skyscraper center who could score outside 
the paint, too?
 
I didn’t actually ask but my mom whispered, 
“Things don’t always work out, honey.”
 
I started to ride my bike by Mr. Taylor’s house. 
What things didn’t work out for him, the skater 
from Rome?
 
Sometimes he waved, sometimes not, probably 
lost in thought. I liked taking phrases like that
apart:
 
Thought as a place someone could get lost
in, like a national park, but with no bears. 
Not real ones, anyway.
 
Once I saw his wife standing in a blow-up kiddy 
pool smoking a cigarette and crying, holding 
her house dress up around her knees. 
 
And then I’d think house dress house dress
house dress until it turned into somebody
whispering in another language.
 
 
2
 
Basketball was a language everybody understood.
Jack, Marcus, and I listened to away games on
 the radio and went to home games. 
 
We liked being at the high school where we’d
end up. The halls were wide and didn’t smell 
like disinfectant so much.
There were trophy cases. Famous graduates.
Some not so famous who we could see every
day behind a counter or fixing a car.
 
Friday nights, the gym was a madhouse. 
Jack’s mom went to Mass every day and twice 
on Sunday, so he called the gym
 
Shrine of the Deadly Hook Shot because Terry
Armstrong besides being six-ten was unstoppable 
with his left hand.
 
The town was like a graveyard during home games.
Even the cops and the firemen were there, hoping
nobody called in, then taking it easy on the parties
afterward.
 
“Going to state,” everybody said. “Terry’ll win
it for us. It’s his last year!” 
 
Then the team went to Oak Park for the regionals.
They looked big even on the radio. They outscored
us, and outran us. Their center blocked shot after
shot. We lost 102–68. And that was that.
 
Things don’t always work out.
 
The old guys who drank coffee every morning
at Gus’s dug a grave and pushed Terry into it.
They called him a traitor and a coward and a
fuck-up. 
 
He finished the year, graduated and got a job
selling Oldsmobiles.
 
My friends and I rode by the car lot, saw him 
standing around in a suit that belonged to a giant. 
 
Then Simic Motors put up a rim behind
the service bays and a customer could go
one-on-one with the star salesman.
 
We watched Terry in hard-soled shoes
handle fat guys at lunchtime, hitting from
anywhere until one day he got into it 
under the basket and broke some guy’s nose 
with an elbow. A guy who did not drive off 
the lot in a new Rocket 88. 
 
After that, the backstop came down.
Terry kind of melted into the town
like everybody else who lived there
and probably planned to die there.
 
He married Marsha Noyse from Troy. 
They went to St. Louis for their honeymoon.
 
Jack, Marcus, and I got together every night
We roamed the town on our bikes, knew back 
streets and alleys. 
 
Terry’s house was our last stop because he shot 
100 free throws after dinner. One miss before 
he got to 100 and he’d start over. 
 
Almost dark, the sound the ball made 
dropping through the net so fast was like
people whispering in church. 
 
If he saw us over there he didn’t let on,
or maybe he liked spectators—three where
there used to be hundreds. 
 
Once the ball bounced off the rim and,
glowing like a planet, rolled out of the driveway 
and toward us, 
 
“Little help,” he said finally. One of us tossed 
it to him. Marsha came out of the back door, 
holding a baby. She watched him start over.
“What the fuck, Terry.” We looked at each other,
me and Marcus and Jack I mean, and grinned.
 
We said “What the fuck, Terry,” all the time
for awhile. We’d stare at a giant cone from
Dairy Delight and say it. 
 
A girl we knew would look at us and smile
so we’d say it. Jack would make a circus
catch in left field and we’d say it. 
 
Terry stopped shooting free throws.
When we cruised by, we heard the baby crying
and them arguing. So we didn’t want to say 
it anymore. 
 
Then one night there he was again. Marsha
on the back steps with the kid on her lap,  
counting for Terry, waving the baby’s arms 
at one, two, twenty-two, forty-five.
 
We counted, too. Not loud but we did it. 
“Don’t miss,” Jack whispered. Seventy-five, 
eighty-three.
 
A wind pushed the trees around.
Their shadows came for us, then stepped
back. We held our breath at ninety-nine. 
 
Swish.
 
Marsha stood up. Held out the baby, and Terry
took it.
 
“See you guys,” he said without looking at us.
The door closed behind them. The porch
light went out. 
 

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022

__________

Ron Koertge: “In the Midwest, people live for basketball. NCAA stuff, of course, but also high school ball. Stats filled the pages of local newspapers. Fans drove hundreds of miles for away games. Identification with a local team and a local hero was standard fare. ‘Things and How They Work’ chronicles a period of madness, both March Madness and generic basketball madness. The boys in the poem see how things work as they watch Terry’s star rise and quickly fall.” (web)

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November 22, 2022

Michael Bazzett

THE DISINTEGRATED MAN

for Marvin Bell

The disintegrated man was, at one time, integrated.
He was as solid as a river stone, as the white pages of a manuscript
stacked like a brick on the table.
His edges were crisp.
Now the disintegrated man crumbles like softened wood,
like the toppled oak melting into loam.
His trunk seethes with the shining backs of beetles, burrowing.
No, there is nothing staccato about the disintegrated man.

In his dream, black hominids scuttle over mountains in a landfill.
They move along invisible trails, like endless trains of ants.
The black hominids move with the monotonous momentum
of unpunctuated sentences.
Their dark lines seem to sizzle.
Though the disintegrated man dreams, he does not sleep. He is vigilant,
and numb.
The banjo strum of his heart is not plucked.
Even poignant melodies bounce off his lungs, unable to seize them
with yearning.

His identical cousin, the dead man, is more blasé. He floats
in the chamber of memory, iridescent
as veils of oil spread on a pond.
The disintegrated man does not float. He is corporeal
and becomes the hibiscus, the stamen, the waxy egg of the butterfly.

The dead man dwells within a synapse. He flickers
across the white screen of the synapse, but does not change.
The disintegrated man wonders why, once at rest,
Jesus bothered to come back.

The dead man does not wonder, but reflects.
Sometimes he is young, and sprints like a dog across the open fields.
He does not crumple, or snag his toe on a root.

The disintegrated man has no time for such shenanigans.
He is feeding the horde of thousands that depend upon him.
He feeds the grub, and the meaty root, and returns, in increments, to the world.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009

__________

Michael Bazzett: “When I feel that someone’s opened up my head, without using any tools, and somehow given me a new set of eyes, that’s how I know it’s poetry.”

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November 21, 2022

Endre Ruset

from DERETTER

 
 
                   After a veil of rain,
               butterflies rise from
       the ground.  She runs with my
       blow                               n kiss, but its
      moi                                           sture in the
      air                                                    drifts     a
   part.                                  W           here  autumn
      sm          ould                                           ers paper
                                                                            aeroplanes fly
            out                                                     of a bonfire’s white
            ashes.              We gasp             for breath and stamp
      at the clouds                                        try to step on their faces
    like treading after                            plastic bags, run halting
   ly, before we release                    them and grab each other. 
These days I think we’ll             stick to each other like fire
   until we go out. How mo    bile phones go out. How a
      blown kiss goes out.             The way the light around us goes
   out. Until we run around     and around in the dark searching
for the switch marked              Spring at the back
               of our minds.
 
 
Translated from the Norwegian by Harry Man
 

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022
Tribute to Translation

__________

Endre Ruset lives in Molde, Norway. He has written six collections of poetry, including both elegies and poems after the veteran Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai. His latest collection Deretter (Thereafter) was a Dagblaget Book of the Year 2021. (web) | Harry Man: “On the 22nd of July, 2011, two attacks took place in Norway, the first a bombing in the Government Quarter of Oslo that killed eight and injured a further 209, followed by a mass shooting, the worst in European history. An extreme right-wing terrorist armed with a hunting rifle, a pistol, and jerry cans filled with diesel took a ferry to the remote island of Utøya where a summer camp was taking place. There they opened fire on children, teenagers, organisers, and volunteers, killing 69 people. The senselessness of the attacks shook Norway and Europe to its core. For the past five years I’ve been working with the Norwegian poet Endre Ruset to translate his poems. These are poems that not only commemorate, but that also look to ask deeper questions about the enduring effects of such tragedies on survivors, the bereaved, local communities, and how this ongoing process of PTSD treatment, grief counselling, taking part in studies, workshops, group and physical therapy for so many is profoundly a form of second survival.” (web)

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November 20, 2022

Dante Di Stefano

AS THE WORLD POPULATION SURPASSES 8 BILLION, I PURPOSELY MISREMEMBER A LINE FROM ANNE CARSON’S SAPPHO AND HEAR IN ITS UTTERANCE THE SONG OF THE HUMPBACK WHALE

More of us than ever before walk
the Earth at once. All over the globe more
men and women fall in and out of love,
 
and open windows frame more rain-facing
faces than ever before in the history of
storms. There are more children learning the sad
 
math of growing up than ever before,
more dead goldfishes flushed down toilets, more
middle schoolers unlearning the bass
 
guitar, string by string. There are more old men
eating canned peaches beneath olive trees,
more family trees scrawled by red crayon
 
in the script and meter of ancient seas.
Strikingly beautiful gray-haired women
bow over raised beds of roses with much
 
more frequency than in any other
era. There are more mothers and more kisses,
more eyelashes fluttering mascara
 
butterflies, more desires, more hands both slapped
and held, more kids praying beneath covers
in the middle of the night. There’s more tears
 
by millions of liters, much more despair,
and surprisingly much more stupid hope
to cling to, to flip-kick off the wall of—
 
more smudged pencil x-es on love letters,
more lipstick traces on coffee cups, more
hips, thighs, breasts, sighs, biceps, collarbones, aches
 
in the groin, in the knuckles, in the beat
of breeze against branch, of throat against verb,
more to fear, to love, to praise, to sing with—
 
to thread into the horizon’s pink hem,
to pull from pine needle and leaf alike
this hymn of the planet spinning into us.
 

from Poets Respond
November 20, 2022

__________

Dante Di Stefano: “I wrote this after reading an article about the world population surpassing 8 billion.

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