February 23, 2024

Amy Miller

UMBRELLA

Someone said Watch
the baby, so I watched her
sleep, small mouth with 
a bubble at the edge. Hands
 
like little double OKs. All
of human history pulsing
in the shallow vein
of her temple. A thin beige
 
umbrella over her head, 
raindrops exploding 
themselves against it, 
trying to touch her.
 

from Rattle #82, Winter 2023
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

__________

Amy Miller: “I am not a baby person. Grew up the youngest kid in my extended family, never liked babysitting, never had kids of my own. When somebody passes me a baby I freeze, holding this squirmy little creature. And yet … I was a school photographer’s assistant in my 20s, and found that I loved working with kids, especially the little ones who needed help blowing their noses and combing their eyebrows (that’s a thing in photography). It was actually one of the most thought-provoking jobs I ever had, although I constantly had the flu. Now when somebody hands me a baby, it’s still awkward but also sort of epic. Time and galaxies collide.” (web)

Rattle Logo

February 22, 2024

Desperado by G.J. Gillespie, abstract portrait of a cubist-like figure in blues and pinks

Image: “Desperado” by G.J. Gillespie. “Emergence” was written by Chris Kaiser for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2024, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)

__________

Chris Kaiser

EMERGENCE

I remember you nude, descending
a staircase, the Times glued
to your hip. What was that four-letter
word beginning with “o”? Oh, I
 
remember your pentimento skin,
a collage of silent wounds that spoke
to my tongue in the pink moments
of dawn, your stitched body,
 
a patchwork quilt of stop-gap
bloodletting. But too often you
covered truth with hope: “Can I
escape the mechanized chime
 
of church bells that take their toll
on each dying day?” Oh, I wish I
had tasted the gasoline in your veins,
believed in the violence of hope,
 
drowned in the rich delta of tears.
Maybe I’d’ve risen like the salmon-pink
moon over the radius of your pain
and burrowed like a winter squirrel
 
into the geometry
of your sorrow and love.
 

from Ekphrastic Challenge
January 2024, Artist’s Choice

__________

Comment from the artist, G.J. Gillespie: “While some poems evoked violence or disease, which wasn’t my initial intention, ‘Emergence’ resonated with the deeper layers of existential perplexity in my artwork. The poem’s rich and sensual imagery, like ‘pentimento skin’ and ‘the rich delta of tears,’ captures the emotional complexity I aimed to portray. The allusion to ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ adds a layer of historical context and artistic dialogue. While other poems responded to the collaged nature of the artwork, none incorporated unique elements like the ‘geometry’ of sorrow and love, which beautifully reflects the fragmented yet interconnectedness of the figure. More importantly, the poem’s undercurrent of longing and the speaker’s desire to delve deeper into the subject’s pain mirror the sense of mystery and invitation I hoped to create in my viewers. It’s a poem that lingers in the mind and invites repeated exploration, much like my artwork.”

Rattle Logo

February 21, 2024

Meredith Mason

USE YOUR WORDS

My son looks up from drawing plants with teeth,
says, “You’re long-gone when we’re at Dad’s,” then tries
to find a better green. I think I’ll weep,
or maybe raise my hand and give him five.
 
He’s used his words. I want to hand him back 
some other words, remind him that he’s fine,
but nights when he’s not here I jolt awake;
the other side of his long-gone is mine.
 
I burrow underneath my blanket pile,
remind myself he’s safe, we’re fine, and … and …
the research shows, blah, blah, that kids can thrive …
Outside the maples wave their empty hands.
 
My son sleeps on the river’s other side.
I cannot swim across. It’s cold, and wide.
 

from Rattle #82, Winter 2023
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

__________

Meredith Mason: “I love the way that sound and meaning are in conversation with each other in the making of a poem, how they inform and guide each other. The process of weaving something whole and surprising from the varied sounds and symbols that make it feels like a chance to become more whole myself, feels like a kind of relief I crave. It’s a little like if you had a terrible itch in your duodenum, or right under your left kneecap, and poetry was the only thing that could relieve it, you would have to write poems, and read poems.”

Rattle Logo

February 20, 2024

Chera Hammons

ASTEROIDS AS BIG AS SKYSCRAPERS

We should come up with better ways
to define the size of an asteroid.
One headline likens Asteroid 2008 OS7
to a football stadium, as if we are in the habit
of measuring distance in sports arenas set end-to-end;
as if they are all the same,
the small-town stadium like the professional one
in its acreage, parking lots, and concessions,
and how many disappointments it can hold.
 
Asteroid 2007 EG is said to be the size
of sixty-four Canada geese,
with no indication of whether those geese,
for purposes of this illustration, fly in formation,
or rest beside each other in the grass,
or are stacked like sandbags in a heap.
 
The asteroid in the news today
is a city-killer the size of two love boats, they say,
but we must guess at what a love boat is,
whether it means the cruise ship in an old sitcom,
or a swan boat on a white-flowered pond,
or any yacht or rowboat or ferry or aircraft carrier
capable of carrying someone affectionate.
Some readers must assume two boats to move in tandem,
others side-by-side, through water either
calm or white-capped, or blooming with blue light.
 
Minor planets mix too many metaphors.
This is an imperfect knowledge, impossible to manage.
Today is both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day.
To observe one, you must give up the other.
There is an asteroid hanging above us
right now, annihilation the size of two love boats,
and the Wordle answer today happens to be TALON,
which took me five turns to guess.
I almost arrived there too late. A talon
clings to a bare branch in the winter wind.
 
A talon slices through slippery muscle to the bone.
Everywhere, we find signs that show we must pass
through a world full of people
who had believed there would be no surviving the loss
of someone they loved, until they did it;
 
people who have Googled the stages of grief
to find out how much more there is to get through,
 
only to find there are either five or seven stages,
depending on who you ask, and they are not in linear order,
and the best guide to the process of mourning
is the map of a forest with no paths,
only landmarks you must pass again and again
during a single journey.
 
And always above us, somewhere in the darkness,
the silent weight of metal, mineral, and undrinkable water,
a strange stone frozen and airless and alone,
hurtles fathomless past the green warm places where life is.
Like holiness, the only way to measure it, a guess
based on how brightly it appears to us,
translated into what little we already know—
 
We, who can’t even define the boundaries of our own grief,
though it carries the heft of a high school football stadium
once the crowds have gone, the empty parking lot,
the unnoticed dandelions growing in cracked cement.
Though it is the height of the Empire State Building,
and sways the way it sways.
Though it is the size of sixty-four Canada geese,
flying in a V toward a far horizon.
Though it is the size of two lifeboats
which pass each other in the night,
and the dark water moves
like a mystery between them.
 

from Poets Respond
February 20, 2024

__________

Chera Hammons: “There was a weird confluence of events this week. The Super Bowl. Another high profile mass shooting. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday were the same day. I saw several different stories about asteroids (one saying that water had been found, but the water molecules are chemically bonded to the minerals in the asteroid; one about how an asteroid might hit earth on Valentine’s Day 2046; and one about an asteroid ‘the size of two love boats’ passing by). Every time there’s a story about an asteroid nearing earth on my news feed, I take a screenshot because the measurements used to define them are so bizarre. I have quite a collection now, but my favorite is the asteroid said to be the size of 64 Canada geese.” (web)

Rattle Logo

February 19, 2024

Diana Goetsch

MOTEL SURRENDER

Lovers come best together when they come
undone, empty-handed, rendered dumb,
come down to their last card, a turning
way past desperation and cleaner burning.
They show up in the doorways of motels,
sights for sore eyes in sunken orbitals,
solemn as animals, far from all thought
of anything that can be learned or taught.
Lovers show up best after they’ve used
up their excuses, returning bruised
in a cold season, in a darkening room,
in threadbare clothes absent of perfume,
and even these will soon go up in flames
along with their bones, their dreams, their names.
 

from Rattle #82, Winter 2023
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

__________

Diana Goetsch: “I began writing poetry at four or five a.m. on the NYC subway after nights spent shooting pool. I was wasting my life. Then phrases, lines came to me. They weren’t lines of Whitman or Yeats or Eliot, so I figured they must be mine. They cycled through my head as I walked my Brooklyn neighborhood among a million sleeping people, feeling like I was treading the afterlife. Once home, I jotted the lines in a notebook, added some more, and started playing with them. That was 30 years ago.” (web)

Rattle Logo

February 18, 2024

Alixa Brobbey

COCOA GHAZAL

Metaphor: my skin and my hair taste like cocoa.
Real life: grandparents kiss under trees heavy with cocoa.
 
As girls, we’d creak down the steep Dutch stairs,
return with mugs bursting with creamy hot cocoa.
 
Before the tasting date, I drench my skin
in pale butter squeezed from fatty crushed cocoa.
 
We tour the factory and learn in each room
how sweetness is squeezed from bitter beaned cocoa.
 
I think of the videos on my screen: scythed
children harvest but have never tasted rich cocoa.
 
When we moved home, everything sat strange on our
tongues. Took months to adjust to the new, brittle cocoa.
 
In another life, our family tree hugs the equator.
So, I learn to harvest pulpy raw cocoa.
 
In this life: the air conditioned room. Spirited
debates about abstract supply chains of cocoa.
 

from Poets Respond
February 18, 2024

__________

Alixa Brobbey: “There is currently a cocoa shortage. I cannot think of chocolate, or Valentine’s Day, without thinking about child labor in my father’s homeland, Ghana.” (web)

Rattle Logo

February 17, 2024

Julie Bruck

LOVE TO BUT

Our very important neighbor’s
fused to his new Cingular headset:
Now he can talk and walk.
Blah-blah-blah goes Mr. de Broff.
This makes it hard to hear
even the packs of feral dogs
howling all night, or the cats
doing what they do in our dark
fog-bound city gardens.
The world needs its chemistry
checked, that’s for sure.
The poisoned river is high,
fast at this time of year.
Fences between houses are down,
and we all like our boundaries.
Pharmacies? Closed.
All essential services, shut.
Time to fetch my daughter
from a birthday party which
ended in 1963, but she runs late.
Sometimes, I have to pry her
from the door-jamb, carry
her to the car like a small,
warm totem pole with sneakers.
A yellow Hummer slipped
through a crack in our street
on Tuesday: not seen nor
heard from since, despite
the crowd of looky-lu’s,
still milling around out there.
Love to. But these are
strange times. I could
expire before I meet
you at the gate. Yessir.
Love to. Toothache.
Can’t.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011
Tribute to Canadian Poets

_________

Julie Bruck: “To decline, to refuse, dig in one’s heels, to resist like a small dog its leash—I find that gesture so alluring, such a sweet, guilty pleasure. Writing ‘Love to But’ also furnished an opportunity to complain (another underrated pastime) about a neighbor who considers mobile phone use a public harangue even as the world ends. Doh! I guess Mr. de B. and the speaker of this poem aren’t so different.”

Rattle Logo