February 8, 2023

Jeanne Yu

AMONG THE BABY BOK CHOY

for my dad, Yu Tseh-An

My dad loves the grocery store.
He wanders the aisles in absolute amazement 
at what can be done with food
and fully embraces the concept of Stop and Shop.
 
My mom latches on to the concept 
of running errands which is me jogging in 
while she waits behind the wheel of her Mercury Bobcat 
ready to pull out in the getaway car.
 
Ahhh, the produce department, my dad’s favorite, 
his concentration in the misted spray as he sorts out
all the possibilities of Chinese greens for dinner 
this would be good with soup, yeah?
 
Smelling the roots, pushing on their tender heels,
the scratching sound of the garlic sleeves as he makes his pick, 
Napa cabbage, A-choy and a puzzled look at a fennel bulb 
with a long stalk that he says smells like anise.
 
Eventually, he finds his way into meats and dry goods,
reading labels, taking in the dextrose, xanthan gum, Yellow No. 5, Red 40
referencing it against his 40 years in the food industry 
what’s this mean? contains a bioengineered food ingredient.
 
When I acquired an allergy to yeast, he said, 
how can you be allergic to yeast? I’m not and your mom’s not.
Rather than show him the privacy of my rashes in Aisle 16,
I decided it was best to move on to dairy.
 
My mom tells us that Barbara T. called her yesterday
to tell her about Asians being shot in the grocery store, 
my mom, finally with a winning point to rush my dad along, 
he retorts you can’t change fate or be afraid.
 
We queue up at checkout,
and my dad wanders off 
again
but we know where to find him.
 

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022

__________

Jeanne Yu: “I write to make sense of life in this world … and to make sure I am paying attention to the little things that matter as well as the big things, because I have come to know they are all connected. I’m an engineer, mom, and environmentalist, every day trying my best—some days are harder than others—to live from a place of my hope for the world.”

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February 7, 2023

James Arthur

SAD ROBOTS

clean steel: inflexible, but
where they’re strong

is where they’re weak. ginsu knives,
not flesh, they cut themselves, and fall apart.

what do they want?
to be waterfalls or give new leaf

to bend, unclench
to grow a peach

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011
Tribute to Canadian Poets

__________

James Arthur: “Some poems take me years to finish, because even after a dozen bouts of revision, I can tell that something about the poem isn’t right. Eventually, I persuade myself that the poem is done, and I send it out into the world, but maybe I never fully forgive my reluctant poems for having caused me so much grief, because the poems of my own that I like best are the ones that seemed to arrive effortlessly, sometimes in a single afternoon. ‘Sad Robots’ is one. It was fun to write, and it still brings me pleasure.” (web)

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February 6, 2023

Joshua Eric Williams

IN A RECENT DREAM, I MET STEPHEN KING

He said he loved one of my poems, so I asked him which one. He responded, “The one about dying.” I told him he’d have to be more specific. He smiled and quoted the following, which I’d never written:
 
SCABBARD
 
A knife sinks 
in my chest
a little 
every day.
 
My flesh gives
to the blade
and whets it
on the way.
 
I don’t fear
the descent
or hurry
what I say—
 
A knife sinks 
in my chest
and sharpens
all it may.
 

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022

__________

Joshua Eric Williams: “Dreams sometimes spark my poems. A snippet of a haiku or a line of poetry will enter my dreamworlds, but I’d never had one come to me mostly formed until I met Stephen King in the dream I describe in this piece. Apparently, he also loves a formal poem. If I ever have the privilege of meeting the master of horror, I hope this true story inspires him as much as it inspired me.” (web)

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February 5, 2023

Alejandro Aguirre

SAMBA DA SUA TERRA

Light as swash, her soles
left no trace in the sand,
sandals pelagic like caravels.
She had tossed hers
 
to the sea as if they
had always belonged there,
sailing on their cloth straps,
and she here, barefoot,
 
teaching samba. She spread
her sarong from luff to leech
and, laying it by my feet,
said that I was not dancing
 
if it puckered at my heels.
I wasn’t dancing; we tuned
the radio to a Portuguese station,
the host speaking too quickly
 
for me. Listening, my instructor
confessed that she missed
being a fisherman’s daughter
and how wrong she was to dream
 
of what lay beyond Laguna,
saudade like dolphin clicks
felt against the shin
with no net to cast.
 

from Poets Respond
February 5, 2023

__________

Alejandro Aguirre: “A new study suggests that the dolphins that have been helping Brazilian fishermen catch mullet fish since potentially as early as the 1850s live longer than other dolphins. I’ve only ever made one catch: a catfish about the size of my forearm. How much is a ticket to Laguna?” (web)

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February 4, 2023

Virgil Suárez

AXIOM OF THE OUTSIDER

Sometimes you surrender to your destiny,
a scratched-torn cardboard suitcase, black

as your shadow, places where travel seems
uncertain, these dead-hour porches, parasols

snapped shut like the lips of your dead lover.
What hardens in you keeps you hungry,

though your tongue can no longer taste
bitter coffee or recoil from a salted cracker.

These are, in fact, the last days of your spent
youth. Look at the tattered map, if you must—

those lines converging can only spell trouble.
The road ahead turns as dark as your days.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004

_________

Virgil Suárez: “When I’m not writing, I’m restoring a ’55 Chevy with which I plan to visit my favorite poets across North America and make a film documentary.” (web)

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February 3, 2023

Martin Vest

NORMAL IN WYOMING

from a letter to Jay

My doctor says I’m doing fine. He tells me everything
is normal. Honestly, I no longer know how to rattle him,
and it scares me. I miss the days when my physical 
problems were unusual for my age. As you know, 
I walked with a cane by the time I was forty-five. 
Everyone knew it wasn’t normal. Everyone knew it 
was the result of an injury. Now people just expect it. 
Women look at me as if I’m a starter home they can’t 
believe they once lived in. I miss my wife. My ex-wife. 
My second ex-wife. But when I remember touching her
I imagine my now-hand on her then-body and I shudder. 
I mean, just wait until you see the thing. My hand. Good god 
and my nipples. Not that I’ll show you. But wow! 
And they droop and kind of reach out, somehow eager 
and worried at the same time. Like a tourist at Sea World 
puckering for a kiss from a dolphin. My breasts, in general. 
They’re breasts now. And I have throatum. A portmanteau 
I made of “throat” and “scrotum.” Because that’s exactly 
what it looks like. You know the thing. Like Ronald Reagan’s. 
All the irony is gone from my hat. The On Golden Pond hat 
I used to wear. I still wear it but now it’s just befitting. 
Sometimes I think I’ll buy another, a different style, 
but then I just think why bother. There’s no getting that back. 
The last time I saw my doctor I told him. He was politely 
trying to usher me out of his office. So I stopped 
in the doorway. I stood up, kind of sputtered up my cane 
like a spark up a damp fuse, and I lingered, and I decided 
to mention about the weird screaming and hissing 
in my legs where the liquor did the damage. 
I finally said, “My legs … I can’t quite reach them, somehow. 
They feel like radio stations in the middle of Wyoming.” 
He just kind of half-smiled and eased me into the hall.
That’s perfectly normal, he said.
 

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022

__________

Martin Vest: “Sometimes just the mention of ‘poem’ brings unwanted baggage, unwelcome pressure. I don’t feel that crap when I’m writing a letter to a friend.”

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February 2, 2023

CooXooEii Black

MY UNCLE TEACHES ME ABOUT PRAYER

the early blue-sky bird sings
and in my half-sleep i say
hohou!
my uncle taught me “thank you”
is prayer in and of itself.
 
the first sip of morning coffee,
a long day’s work, a rise-before-the-sun hunt,
old country, and pepsi cans.
hohou!
 
the russian olive tree
reveals yellow flowers
against red bark.
tribal workers leave early,
a slow evening.
hohou hohou!
in the distance a dog,
always a dog barking,
you come to hear one
even if there isn’t.
 
my uncle asks for help.
a tool, a truck,
some money, or laughter.
after hitting an animal
with his gold 1990s hyundai,
i give him gold duct tape.
 
the dragging part of his front bumper
taped up by a star.
hohou hohou!
us arapahos always use symmetry in our art, he says.
 
the sun sneaks behind the mountain
as someone tells a joke.
everyone erupts into laughter.
there’s water ambiance just beyond the road.
kids swim in a ditch
and it flows green and alive.
no, wait.
it’s a river.
hohou hohou!
 
my cousin is tired of the rust
eating his bike.
i offer him the gold duct tape to cover his frame.
hohou hohou!
he says, partly to me,
partly to God because he provided again.
it won’t stay golden forever i tell him
but right now it looks bright
in the moon’s budding grey.
 

from The Morning You Saw a Train of Stars Streaking Across the Sky

__________

CooXooEii Black: “I’ve always been interested in emotionally compelling stories, whether it was music, movies, or tv. I constantly got into trouble in elementary school for telling stories, singing songs, and acting. Then in high school, I watched a spoken word video, and for the first time, I found a medium that incorporated everything I love to do. So I put a few images down on a page, and I haven’t stopped since. Because it was God who gave me the ability to write, I daily return it to Him as a form of worship.” (web)

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