September 30, 2023

Rose Pone (age 11)


Nighttime is when the monsters come out,
With their claws and their jaws
That gnash all about.
They watch you sleep,
All peaceful and deep,
But maybe they’re not as bad as you think.
Maybe they’re sad
And too scared to blink.
Maybe they like to roam in the dark.
Your small room
Is their
Amusement park.

from 2023 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Rose Pone: “I enjoy writing poetry for multiple reasons. First of all, I’m simply a creative person, but writing poetry also requires knowledge and intelligence. This causes both sides of the brain to work in a manner that can only be described as satisfactory, or thirst quenching. As well as this, I enjoy the effortless escape from reality. In poetry, you can incorporate things from your life, but tamper with them however you may wish.”

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September 29, 2023

John Brehm


     coming unstitched—
even the fake flowers
     grow old
      the pain is still there
weeping willow
      my father cut down
      regretting something I said 
I turn the lampshade 
      to hide the seam
     scattered crocuses 
as if someone had planted 
      cold spring morning—
close the window
      or listen to the warbler?
      not so different
veined spring leaf
      and my ancient hand
      fifty years ago: seeds
before that, nothing—
      oak trees outside my window  

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023


John Brehm: “I write poetry for many reasons: to get beyond what I think I know, to pay attention, to experience flow states of consciousness, to delight in the music and texture of language, to connect with something larger and more mysterious than myself, to remember my true nature. But mostly I do it for the money.” (web)

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September 28, 2023

Seamstress by Lily Prigioniero, oil painting of an elderly woman sewing by a window

Image: “Seamstress” by Lily Prigioniero. “To the Child Watching His Grandmother Sew” was written by Bradford Kimball for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2023, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Bradford Kimball


The whir of the sewing machine fades
Like a faltering metronome.
If you can imagine each stitch
As a note,
You can hear a lone melody.
But you don’t know that yet.
You are too young, and it is too dark.
She’ll wait until the lights burn out,
And when she thinks you are asleep,
She’ll play that tune again.
One day, you’ll hear
Some love song on the radio
And understand.
The music crescendos—
The lights burn out, one by one,
And you remember
The needle’s steady hum:
The first love song you ever heard.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
August 2023, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the series editor, Megan O’Reilly: “There is a profound sense of warmth, both emotionally and visually, in this beautiful image, which is reflected in ‘To the Child Watching his Grandmother Sew.’ The simple yet extraordinary idea of a grandmother’s sewing as a child’s first music is elegantly executed, never overdone or heavy-handed. I also love the way the poet uses light: The grandmother waits until ‘the lights burn out’ to run the sewing machine so she doesn’t wake the child, which for me conjures a picture of the child listening to this ‘music’ while in a dreamlike state in another room—a deeply resonant image. There is a great deal of love in this poem—it makes me miss the ‘steady hum’ of my own grandmother.”

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September 27, 2023

Caitlin Buxbaum


However difficult a door may be to open,
once you find the key it becomes easy.
—Enta Kusakabe

The lock
on your battered mouth
is not
its only weakness;
every door has hinges.

Prompt: “This poem was written in response to a picture of a door posted to Instagram by the poet Adam Clay.”

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023
Tribute to Prompt Poems


Caitlin Buxbaum: “Prompts have a way of pulling poems out of me, like the needle that pushes a splinter from the skin; the further the prompt is from the ideas I most need to express, the more likely it is to get those words on paper. I don’t know if any of that makes sense.” (web)

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September 26, 2023

Arthur Russell


With a bucket of sealant and a spent mop on a slow day,
my father sent Prince McMichael and me to muck the buckled seams
along the carpet rolls of pebbled roofing winter freeze and thaw left leaking.
I watched him swab the tar around the skylights and scuppers,
and asked him about his life, what he wanted, why he worked at the car wash.
It was my boss’s son privilege to do so.
He said he didn’t care what work he did, the older men were drunks
who wasted their money on the numbers. He jabbed his blackened mop
for punctuation. He called women bitches, but it was women
he cared about most. He lived with his moms, his sister, and her son.
When the sealant was used up, we sat on the parapet where the roof
looked out over Konwaler’s Drugs to the white brick row houses on East 8th.
We smoked unfiltered cigarettes. Below us, the cars turned into the car wash.
I asked him why he hadn’t come to work the day before.
He said he’d hung out with his moms, his sister, and her son all morning
and waited for a girl all afternoon at the entrance to the Union Avenue station.
He’d talked to her the night before, but he didn’t know where she lived,
only that she worked in Manhattan and got off at five.
It seemed to me an inconceivable romantic strategy to take a day off from work
on such a thin hope, and yet I could imagine him in the guayabera he changed into after work,
with his hair picked to a smooth dome and a cigarette dangling from his mouth,
passing a calm hour with one foot up on the rail around the subway entrance.
I started to tell him about the woman in Syracuse who’d cheated on her husband
with me, but he showed no interest.

from At the Car Wash
2023 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner


Arthur Russell: “I thought I could escape my father and his car wash in Brooklyn, run away to Manhattan and succeed as an actor or as a writer and never have to reckon, as an adult, with his cruel opinions of people and the world, but I fell back into his orbit and worked closely with him for many years, and when I did escape, it was only through the door that led to law school, the profession he had chosen for all three of his children, possibly because he had dropped out of law school himself. At the Car Wash is a book of poems written over the last eight years, poems that I continue writing beyond the work between these covers, dredging, sorting, reordering and sometimes celebrating, but always reckoning, almost forty years on, with the reckoning that made me.”

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September 25, 2023

José A. Alcántara


Neither do I, but yesterday, in the hospital,
for two hours, I held the hand of a dying woman—
my friend’s grandmother, 94, barely intelligible,
and in unrelenting pain. Every few seconds,
she slurred what could only be, Help me.
Help me. Help me. Over and over. Nothing
we did worked: not water, not raising or lowering
the bed, not massage, nothing but canned pineapple,
the little piece we would place in her mouth,
the chewing, something she could do; the juice,
a blessing on her dry tongue. But all too soon
the pain bit back down—the moaning, the grimace,
the Help me. The human remembering the animal.
Suffering and more suffering. Until my friend
placed her phone next to her grandmother’s ear
and played Alan Jackson singing “What a Friend
We Have in Jesus,” when, from the first chord
on the guitar, her body stilled, her face went slack.
For two minutes, she went somewhere else,
somewhere quiet, beautiful, free of pain.
We played it again. And again. And when
she fell asleep, when her breathing deepened,
her mouth and eyes still open; when the Furies
stopped their gorging, we were so grateful,
not to God, but to her faith, to her belief in something
better, something kinder, and with fewer teeth.

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023


José A. Alcántara: “It’s quite a gift to be there for someone when they are pushed beyond what they can bear. My sister did that for me once in a hospital in Costa Rica. This was my turn to be there for this lady whom I had met just two weeks before. On that earlier day, she kept saying what a wonderful driver I was. Who knew where it was that I would soon be taking her?” (web)

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September 24, 2023

Lisa Majaj


for Sabra and Shatila

The trees burned first, ablaze in the inferno of exile.
The tsunami of death drowned the ones washed up by exile.
Soldiers surrounded the camps, then set up flares for the killers.
Knives shone in the dark, a steely passage to exile.
The killers hated them because they were in their land.
They came because they were refugees, forced into exile.
The alleys were littered with bodies, knifed, machine-gunned.
The corpses twisted in choreographed despair: oh exile!
Dust settled thick on the broken stones. Flies clustered everywhere.
Wrecked buildings marked the camp’s collapse into exile.
The reporters stopped counting bodies after they reached a hundred.
Children and grandparents sprawled in death’s terrible exile.
The orchestrators watched through binoculars as the murderers worked.
They wanted the victims dead, not just in exile.
Youth taken by surprise fell like crumpled puppets, limbs outflung.
Blood pooled beneath their bodies, staining the dirt of exile.
Pregnant women lay with their bellies slashed open—
babes torn from their wombs, condemned to a lifeless exile.
The bodies piled up in stacks: horses and corpses.
Bulldozers scooped the dead to rubble-filled exile.
Word traveled across oceans in time for the evening news.
TV corpses brought the dead to their families in echoes of exile.
Hands flung wide, mourners still clutch at the broken air.
Their lungs struggle for breath in the vacuum of exile.
Who will comfort the children of Sabra, the mothers of Shatila?
What light can they find in the ravaged lanes of exile?
At the port there is no boat waiting, only sailors with dirges.
Memory sinks to the depths, carrying the grief of exile.
The days and the years glided away with my loved ones.
Oh Palestinians, it is a departure without return from exile!

from Poets Respond
September 24, 2023


Lisa Majaj: “In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, led by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. In September, as Israeli soldiers watched through binoculars and lit flares to light the dark, Christian militias friendly to Israel massacred thousands of Palestinian civilians at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut. Palestinian fighters had already been evacuated and the camps were defenseless. A UN commission of inquiry found Israel and several individuals, including Sharon, bore responsibility for the massacres. I was a college student in Beirut 1978-1982, and evacuated out during the invasion (our refugee boat was arrested and taken to Israel by an Israeli navy ship for interrogation). By September I had settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for graduate school. When the massacre happened I was stunned by the images of bloated bodies on the TV screen. There was no context for my grief on that calm campus of grass and squirrels. Later I learned that someone I knew learned her uncle had died when she saw his corpse on a pile of bodies in the lane of the camp on the evening news. This year marks 41 years since the massacre. News agencies in various places in the world marked the anniversary. Reading the news from the distance of decades, now on the island of Cyprus—the place my refugee boat brought me to at last during my evacuation in 1982—I found my anguish rising potent as ever: over the massacres, and over the fact that Palestinians are still exiles. The italicized lines in the poem are from a lament by a Palestinian woman after the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, quoted in Laleh Khalili, Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration, 2007.”

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