June 14, 2024

Erik Campbell

ANNIVERSARY

for Alex Dimitrov

I was crying in front of the Quick Trip
because I was out of cigarettes

and left my wallet at home and
it was my anniversary and so it was

New Year’s Eve, and already too much
had gone wrong for me too often

to feel conspicuous about it,
crying, I mean, since it is the end

of articulate speech and why
one leaves most crying men alone.

I didn’t look up from my hands
for almost an hour, and when I did,

my eyes two fish-eyed lenses, I saw
the blurred moon and another man

crying, filling up his car, looking at me.
“I’m crying because you are,” he whispered

loudly over. “I’m also crying because
maybe it means one of us must stop soon.”

from Rattle #47, Spring 2015

__________

Erik Campbell: “I read and write poetry to remind myself that I have a soul that needs a periodic tune-up.” (web)

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June 13, 2024

Hannah Craig

SAVING FOR SLEEP

Night’s pitch-rolled on a deck of blight,
and hands, they call, all hands aboard.
Here’s the rigging of a dream—
you, and you, and a naked girl
before a throne of apples, gardens. A sway
in the sail—here we are, the boat
of my room, the belly, the bone stern
and prow. These gulls above me, heading south.

Oysters play cuckold to the beams,
pitch fostered to every knot and seam. The give-out-give-in
of cider press, the bellows honking incessantly.
Listen, I will make you a fisher
of men, if you follow me. The lines play out;

your hammy fist, rib-cage
catching the butt-end and bruised, the full
body of you above, swaying in earnest,
the rip-tide yanking down, the silver
scanting of your prey. I say the good hang on
long past their useful days.
Here’s the dive, the dark-skinned boys of sleep
with fistfuls of pearl, with fistfuls of deep, deep.

Now say this is my body and mean it.
Not the dark room and sailors, not a platter
of maggot and bread. Just an arm, here,
a figurehead, and you on the deck,
hauling in your catch.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004

__________

Hannah Craig: “Yesterday, while reading the newspaper, I saw a photo of a big-eyed youngster reading a book. The caption underneath read ‘… opens his eyes wide.’ I think that’s what reading poetry does for me … it teaches me to keep my eyes wide open. To pay attention. As Lorca writes in his City That Does Not Sleep, ‘If someone does close his eyes / a whip, boys, a whip! / Let there be a landscape of open eyes …’” (web)

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June 12, 2024

Mike Maniquiz

COOKING FRUTTI DI MARE ON THIS EARLY EVENING BEFORE THE NIGHT FALLS ON KENTUCKY HILLSIDES

Today, as the locals love to say,
is so cold the wolves ate the sheep for the wool.
I open the bag.
The contents of the sea come frozen
and packed in plastic from Taiwan:
squid mantles cut into rings,
triangular fins, peeled shrimps,
octopus tentacles and mussel meat.
Garlic and onion sautéing
take the sound of rain.
I pour seafood into the wok
and the smell takes me to the sea.
I ride on the waves of brine
to a place bigger than all this white.
I am in America, cooking Italian,
a Filipino, outside is snow.
Frutti di Mare won’t go over pasta
but rice. This is my version of it.

The watery-sweet scent
lets me know rice is cooked. I lift
the lid and find pasty grains stout
and clumped, take last evening’s rice,
dry, left standing uncovered in my
kitchen all night. I grab a plastic ladle
and scoop chunks into the still
steaming cooker. Worlds ago
my grandmother reminded me never
to put yesterday’s rice
on top of recently cooked:
something about life
not prospering as you keep
putting the old above the new,
the old pressing down on the new.
These days sun is hard to come by,
rare as stalks of fresh green onions,
as I keep opening the door and walking
into the past, into old man weather,
a colonizer whipping my back.
My heart is a warm plate tonight.
Outside the snow is like cold rice.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets

__________

Mike Maniquiz: “Poetry is water. Let me explain. When I started writing, the results were initially gratifying. But as I got deeper into it, reading more poetry and writing poems that tried to shout back to poetry I was reading (Merwin, Vallejo, Levis, Hernandez, Wright), I found myself unsatisfied like a tree whose roots have to dig further down to find water.”

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June 11, 2024

David James

HOW TO MAKE AMENDS

He was hungry, so he ate the couch, the one with the pull-out bed. Of course, when the wife came home, she was disgusted.

“Now what will we sit on, asshole? Last week it was the coffee table; the week before, two kitchen chairs and a lamp. What next, the bed?”

He hadn’t thought of eating the bed, but the idea was appealing. It probably would taste like sleep. Comfort food. He couldn’t respond to her–she was always right, so he went upstairs to lie down. Somehow, the bed knew what was coming. It shivered in fear. The man stroked the mattress, saying, “Don’t worry. I won’t eat you. I promise.” As the bed settled down, the man fell asleep and dreamed of eating the bed, mattress, baseboard, springs, pillows. He stuffed everything in his mouth, chewing, crunching, swallowing until he could no longer stand up. He laid there on the floor in the bedroom. When his wife came home after work, she undressed, climbed on top of him, slid under some loose sheets and slept. His chest rose and fell in time to her steady breathing. Wrapping himself around her, he knew she would be next. He would eat her and finally there would be peace between them, which was all he ever really wanted.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004

__________

David James: “As I reach the half-century mark in September, I see more clearly how important each day is, each poem, each kiss. In fact, I like to think of each day as a poem, each poem as a kiss, each kiss as a chance to get it right, again.” (web)

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June 10, 2024

Lizabeth Yandel

VILLANELLE OVER SPILLED MILK

every evening the milk spills at dinner.
my puny hand grabs the plastic chalice, fails.
dad swings his fist down like a hammer.
 
the plates shiver and the tinny silver-
ware shrieks. sister’s wide eyes silently wail
don’t you spill that fucking milk at dinner
 
but we both know i’m the baby sinner,
i put my hand between my legs like a tail.
dad slams down like a white-knuckle pastor.
 
tv’s ted danson & kelsey grammer
rerunning dad’s good old tavern days,
now they gulp sorry milk with their liquor.
 
my milky heart jumps out onto a platter.
tv jingles our troubles are all the same!
sad dad’s mad fist, a wind-up doll of anger
 
we can’t unwind. & ever after, the danger
rerunning where everybody knows your _____
where the milk is ever spilling at dinner
where all the hands are fists are hammers
 

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024

__________

Lizabeth Yandel: “Poetry allows me to reach beyond the precipice of human consciousness into the abyss of what we don’t yet understand and siphon something back. If there’s a point to art, I believe this is it. Even if it’s just the sense of something new, a faint silhouette, I feel I’ve done my job as an artist. Also, I seem to just write poems compulsively. I can’t help myself.” (web)

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June 9, 2024

Chad Frame

WE DON’T CALL IT A RIOT

for the Stonewall Inn, New York, 1969

That summer was an oven on self-clean—
beyond hot. The cops raided clubs for weeks.
Huddled, frightened men and men and women
 
and women and human and human held
at the end of a nightstick in contempt,
being held in the arms of a lover
 
in a brick-faced bar on Christopher Street
the night they’d had enough of this treatment.
We don’t call it a riot. No. Riot,
 
noun: violent disturbance of the peace
by a crowd. Like the peace of gathering
with your friends and family in a home
 
away from home, the peace of the jukebox
playing Let the Sun Shine, a trusted friend
behind the bar mixing you a cocktail,
 
of dancing free and uninhibited
when the crowds march in to bash down the door,
bash in your skull, bash-bash open the peace
 
hard-fought-won so you can be standing here,
unafraid for the first time in your life,
perhaps, and not the family who threw
 
you out on the street, not the government
who threw your card to the draft, not the men
and women who threw slurs at you walking
 
down that same street, not the church who threw fire
and brimstone proclamations, nor these thugs
marching heavy-booted with their badges
 
and balled fists can take it away from you.
Each brick of this place is home, each bottle
is nourishment. Fingers close around them
 
reflexively. And given fight or flight,
when you’ve always picked the latter—and where
has that ever gotten you, anyway?
 
fingers close around bricks and bottles, words
of defiance bubble up to your lips
from somewhere deep in the boiling cauldron
 
of your belly, you find the voice to say
No. We don’t call this a riot. Call this
being cornered and lashing out. Call this
 
being pushed to the brink. Past it. Call this
resisting systematic oppression.
Call this a rubber band stretched to snapping.
 
Call this a blessing that I can stand here
fifty-five years later unmolested
and read you this beneath a flag flying
 
my colors—all of our colors. No one
can wrest a rainbow from the sky. Call this
a memorial for everyone
 
whose sacrifice has gifted us the life
and freedom to stand here, proud, and call this
what it really is. It’s not a riot—
 
it’s rebellion. And it’s not finished
until we can all stand here, together,
hand holding hand, and simply call it love.
 

from Poets Respond

__________

Chad Frame: “This month marks the 55th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Earlier this week, I was invited to read a poem at my county’s pride flag raising ceremony, and I felt the need to write something to commemorate the occasion. I live in a small town in suburban Pennsylvania, and growing up here as a gay man, I never thought I’d see the day when an event like this would be held, let alone be invited to participate. But when I was sent the prepared remarks of the Commissioners beforehand, and saw that there were repeated references to the ‘Stonewall Riots,’ I knew I needed to address it, even if it ruffled some bureaucratic feathers. Veterans of Stonewall have repeatedly stated that they prefer the term ‘uprising’ or ‘rebellion.’ And so, at the end of the ceremony, when it was my turn to speak, I read this poem. And later, when the local news reported on the event, they used the right terms. Every education and breakthrough is a victory, no matter how small.” (web)

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June 8, 2024

Susanna Mishler

THE AFTERLIFE: IN THE SUMMER HOUSE

A scrap of canvas tacked to the kitchen wall
reads, in Russian and English:
AT THE DARK TIME
PULL OUT THE CORD.

A slim arrow points toward
some lost device that shifts now
in a north coast ice pack, or
was crushed and swallowed

by a flock of Arctic terns
and migrates from pole to pole in
thousands of fibers radiating through
food chains: the broken strings

hanging from closet lights. Lines
that raise half a window blind.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007

___________

Susanna Mishler: “I write as an act of rebellion against fruit flies, snobbery, and Newton’s 2nd law of motion.”

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