December 11, 2017

Laszlo Slomovits

AFTER THE READING BY THE FAMOUS POET

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

GRADUATE STUDENT, AGE 27, WITH A HISTORY OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT BY PROFESSORS AND EMPLOYERS, ATTENDS A POETRY READING FOUR DAYS AFTER THE TAX HEIST, FALLING FOR A MAN WHO ISN’T HER LOVER, TEMPERATURE 54º F, NEW HAVEN, CT, DECEMBER 5, 2017

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

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__________

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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December 9, 2017

Joel Chace

CALCULUS

impossible to have sat
through class after class
to have scrawled a reams
worth of lined paper with
homework that would look
like Arabic now to have
taken an actual goddamn
final exam jesus and not
just pass it but end
up with a flying mothercolor
grade 35 years ago 35
years all burned
away like valley fog
to remember nothing except
that Mrs. Barnhart the teacher
already near the end
of her long road over
the math mountains and had
cranked around far too
many switchbacks would
say at miraculously random
moments the words “value” or
“and yet” it’s absolutely
true and it was like a
whacky gift she kept on
giving for instance
she’d say turning away
from the rune-crammed
blackboard chalk dust misting
off her fingertips and cheeks she’d
say “that’s the
way we lick that
problem … value” or
“just remember this
formula you’ll
be all right … and
yet” 23 “values”
and 21 “and yets” the
record for one forty-minute
period Mary Pat Doyle with
the jet black hair kept
track her face still floats
up in dreams still
that young and stunning and so
does Mrs. Barnhart’s still hard
and thick like granite like
marble which she’s definitely
mouldering under by now what would
it be like to find both
of them again Mrs. Barnhart and say
“there was something of
value after all” and Mary
Pat Doyle and say “look
we can’t undo a thing we
followed certain signs
and countersigns and we are
where we are and yet
if we’d ended
up together that might
have been a perfect solution
too”

from Rattle #11, Summer 1999
Tribute to Editors

__________

Joel Chace: “My maternal grandparents were farmers and staunch Upstate New York Republicans. Across town, however, lived my paternal grandparents, who I would visit regularly. This grandfather was a brakeman on the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, and he voted for Eugene V. Debs every time Debs ran for president. My grandmother was a painter. My mother worked for a time on Wall Street. My father was a jazz trombonist and vocalist, who was on the road for a dozen years until his marriage in 1942. I write in order to come closer to understanding my own origin and being, out of the vortex of these lives.”

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December 8, 2017

Ed Ruzicka

PALIMONY

That winter I lived with a woman on a hill hit hard
by winds off Lake Michigan as it sat and thrashed
and spat. Jammed mammoth slabs of ice one atop another.
Formed a frozen shelf wide and jagged as wave-works
themselves and run over by razors, sirens, blasts of wind
that tore into flesh and against which our heater
rattled out its weak defense. We huddled together
under quilts to read and make love in the ambergris
glow of shallow lamp light. She rose to steam the kitchen
with soups and teas we took in half lotus on the bed.

I worked in a factory made of cinder blocks and racket.
Men, women stood eight hours at machines tall as elevators,
gun-metal grey and dripping oil. Machinists cut, drilled,
punched, formed, joined steel, aluminum, tin. Each
to the same task weeks on end at machines precision
set by foremen that skulked about, growling or
quietly absorbed. A dim cast relieved only by what
eked out of florescent tubes or wafted down from
high-set panes no one had ever been paid to clean.

I was hired to move parts station to station.
A “trucker” who shared my weekly check with
barkeeps while the Blackhawks or the Packers
blared above. She bought the vegetables, cubed beef,
seven-grain loaves of bread that kept us going.

There was a tiny gas heater beside the tub that
had to be lit to flame for twenty minutes. She
always bathed by candle light and had an oval
daguerreotype hung in there showing a bare shouldered
belle who tucked her chin demurely.
Next to that her gray cat would perch to stick its paw
out and catch drips of silver from the leaky spout.
Which was then and is now more beauty
than I could hold or ever hope to deserve.
When I left, streets were still walled with snow
that city plows had mashed to the curb. I hitched
out I-94 toward El Paso. She kept my books and
a few LPs because I was going to come back.
It wasn’t much, that palimony of freezing sheets.

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

[download audio]

__________

Ed Ruzicka: “When, where I grew up, factories and foundries stood as the inveterate core of American industry, behemoth maws consuming hours, lives. Men, women did work by the back, muscle, hand. No one relied on anybody but themselves. I learned that by dad’s absence, by how mom darned socks. At twenty I went to work to find America, write America. I left. Leaving was part of it. I go back. Especially in the poems I go back. I hope like hell I’ve got sweat in these poems. And loss. Lust and bewilderment. An honest day, an honest word.” (website)

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December 7, 2017

Taylor Mali

NEWS OF MY DIVORCE REMINDS ME OF YOUR DEATH

Tonight I found out that I am divorced.
My second try at marriage, and it’s through.
Relief is what I feel most, mixed with pain, of course,
remorse, and just plain grief, which makes me think of you,
you who knew such sorrow in your life
and all the ways that love can come undone,
who was the first to call yourself my wife
and battled demons daily until they won.
And though I miss you hard tonight, old friend,
that’s not the only reason that I cry.
Rather, I know a marriage now can end
and there’s no need for anyone to die.
Lover, at last, please leave me, after all these years.
You have cried enough. Leave me to these tears.

from The Whetting Stone
2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner

[download audio]

__________

Taylor Mali: “In both of the books of poetry I published after Rebecca’s death I tried to include a few poems about her. But they were always so unlike the rest of the manuscript that they couldn’t stay in. I’ve known for a decade that all my poems about Rebecca would need to be published in a collection by themselves. The Whetting Stone is that collection.” (website)

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December 6, 2017

Christine Rhein

IN DETROIT, WHAT COUNTS AS GRACE

Trees growing from the roofs
of empty factories and houses,
birds nesting deep inside.

Children at their desks
without breakfast, busy adding
and subtracting, the lunch bell
not ringing until 12:45.

The teacher, mid-morning,
with snack mix from home,
pouring a little extra
into the shyest cupped hands.

The men who stand and fish,
casting lines into the river,
office towers soaring at their backs.

New farmers, in their agri-hoods,
watering and weeding, growing
peas, beans, Motor City Kale,
making Wild Detroit Honey.

The cooks who serve up
Coney Dogs, burritos,
shawarma—even at 3 a.m.—
singing out the orders.

And the woman at Cass and Forest
dancing by her boom box
every afternoon, her feet 
sliding on the sidewalk, 
trailing through the snow.

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

[download audio]

__________

Christine Rhein: “I grew up in Detroit, and I’ve always lived in southeastern Michigan. When I began studying and writing poetry, in my mid-30s, I discovered the work of Philip Levine. I was inspired not only by his poems, but also by the circumstances of his early life. As a daughter of immigrants and as an automotive engineer, I suddenly saw, through Levine, that I might dare write poems.” (website)

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December 5, 2017

Diana Goetsch

IN AMERICA

“Why don’t you go to Japan and ask the cats?” I said
to the TSA agent when she asked if I was Amish,
because I believe in answering a non-sequitur

with a non-sequitur. I only said it
after I’d been cleared, after I’d been strip-searched
behind frosted glass, and then posted

the bitch’s face on Facebook along with her name.
Maybe being trans is like being Amish,
or maybe I went pale when I missed my flight

as Security Agent Pamela E. Starks
conferred with Explosives Expert Gary Pickering
to discuss, based on the “soft anomaly”

picked up by the body scanner, which of them
needs to search me (at one point she
suggested they each take “half”).

I suppose I could have come from Amish country,
a place so deep in the heart of America it can’t be seen,
and delivered to the airport by horse and buggy—

an Amish horse, oblivious to traffic. Maybe
it’s because of my long black dress, or makeup
that makes it look like I’m not wearing makeup—

a goal whose purpose used to elude me,
though I totally get it now, but please don’t ask.
You could go and ask the cats in Japan,

though it’s bound to earn you a contemptuous frown,
by which they mean to say, “Eat my ass
in Macy’s window.” How do cats in Japan

know about Macy’s? you must be asking.
Beats the hell outta me. They have
no tails—did you know?

Neither do the Amish. Just kidding.
I’m still waiting to hear about
the complaint I filed, the one that,

along with the viral video of them
repeatedly calling me “it,” shut down
the TSA website for three days

while they rewrote the rules about me.
“You could be charged for this,”
friends warn me, but in America

it can’t be libel if it’s true. I learned that
from the cats in Japan, who you can ask—
though it’s best not to disturb them.

from In America
2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize Selection

[download audio]

__________

Diana Goetsch: “I’m basically a love poet. I’ve started to understand that after all these years. No matter the subject, I think my mission has something to do with redemption. And I just go for the hardest thing to redeem.” (website)

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