June 12, 2024

Mike Maniquiz


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


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


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


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


A scrap of canvas tacked to the kitchen wall
reads, in Russian and English:

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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June 7, 2024

Florence Weinberger


I was just out of high school.
Yes, I said, I am a bookkeeper,
when I’d had only one year of
numbers a few decimals short
of failure.
They hired me, sent me upstairs,
sat me at a desk cantilevered
over the body shop, a pack of
condoms in one of the drawers,
a fountain pen—
and below me, all day,
banging away, fixing wrecks,
the men cursed, fuck this,
fuck that, fuck the crankshaft,
fuck these fucking valves, until
one or another would remember
I was up there, an embodied angel
sent to keep an eye on them
and would sheepishly apologize,
and soon forget.
That was the fifties, fuck still a
dirty word. Even cock. Even
vagina. No longer obscene, fuck
reprises on movie screens, college
campuses, the news.
What is this loon fever that flies off
tongues ad nauseam, mumbled,
thundered, sung and rapped, tattooed on
knuckles, slapped on walls? Wikipedia
calls it profane, but not as bad as cunt in
England, where it’s first. Motherfucker
comes in second, but back to fuck, still
censored in some quarters, as if it causes
skin to peel, as if it comes with grief, for
the seeping out of tenderness, abandonment
of the long caress, promises whispered,
time given, held back, given over to the
rise that came with love and want. When
motherfucker eructs, the rage that rises in the
throat is only love, begging to be won again.

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024


Florence Weinberger: “When I was eight years old, I said ‘fuck you’ to my mother; the beating I got baffled me. Of course I had no clue, only that it was a bad word, not yet in general use when I graduated from high school in 1950. Hearing it spewed with such gleeful abandon on the floor of a body shop in the Bronx, it still had its power to shake me. ‘Grist for the mill,’ as Ram Dass said of just about everything. I took it to include a poem kept waiting for all these years.”

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June 6, 2024

Roberto Ascalon


or How Come Some Brown
Boys Get Blazed Right
Before Class and Other
Questions Without Marks

how much damn broke
does it take to want to
burn just before class
lung green with chaos
how many times the
police come to the door
way past late, your auntie
face forlorn and flashing
in the turning blue, how
much knuckle in a boy
fist gotta break cheek till
body want to go numb
how much brave you
gotta front, pay forward
like a hard stare, like a
work muscle jaw
how many legal papers
say stay or go, right or
nothing, home or jail
love or palm skin
how many words
or promises did dad
mom and god knows
who else have to crush
so that you spit out
your eyes and slouch
like a demon, daring
me to call out your
name, as if it had
power anyway, as if
your own name, when
you strangle it out
your throat spill god
stuff, god, like a broke
egg, baby born into
fire, how come fire
put you to bed instead
of sweet hands, good
hands, why they put bad
hands, why bad hands
why the fire this time
god, why, we ain’t done
nothing, nothing yet
nothing yet and nothing
wrong, except the babies
are on fire, on fire, babies
burning by the stairs
before school begins

from Rattle #42, Winter 2013
Rattle Poetry Prize Winner


Roberto Ascalon: “I’ve taught a poetry class in this one school for the last eight years. It’s been fantastic. But hard sometimes—it’s a credit retrieval school—the last ditch for kids who’ve been expelled for being angry or being sad or being high or for fighting or cursing out a teacher or not speaking English well enough or scratching fuck you on the bathroom mirror or being pregnant or skipping school for weeks—conditions and actions that often haunt the poor and the black and the brown. With lots of love, freedom, encouragement and a safe space, I find most kids want desperately to read their work out loud. But recently I had this one boy, who, by his very presence, prevented others from reading their poetry. Class fizzled when he was in the room. He’d talk brazenly on the phone during class or slouch deep in his chair and make offhandedly cruel comments under his breath. His swagger and arrogance conveyed total disrespect—all with this amazing smile and high cheek bones. Infuriatingly, he could have been a leader if he’d wanted to—but instead chose to laugh at other folks when they read. One day I had enough. I stepped to him, suited up in manly-man aggression, kicked him out. After he left the room, to my deep shock and surprise, the other youth called me out and argued with me. They said I wasn’t being right. They said that he needed the class as much, even more, than they did. They saw how unfair it was—all of it. So, I let him back in the next day. There was an uneasy détente. The other kids eventually read their poems. He wrote a handful of lines that year, maybe ten or twelve. A win. I wrote this poem for him—and for the other youth who wanted him back in the room. For Miss Diane and Lasheera and Romeo and Rica. For all of the brown boys that get denied by people like me. For James Baldwin’s nephew.”

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