June 8, 2023

Tim Skeen


I’m not psychotic; I’m just hungry.
—Peter Lorre

The rhythm of the photocopier
and the clarity of the images
excite me. The first page of semicolons
appears in the document tray.
12 point type gives me 5,934 semicolons.
Anything smaller than 12 point type
is pornography. I examine the page
for flaws. The paper warms my fingers.
I run 50 pages, which I spread out
on the table. 296,700 semicolons.
How disappointing. I thought
there would be more, but there are reams
left on the shelf, and after they’re gone,
whole catalogues devoted to more paper
and toner. There’s even a maintenance
agreement. I am perhaps two decades
from retirement, and not at all selfish
or unreasonable or obsessed with numbers
or size. At 72 point type I can get 147
semicolons on each page. Between
12 point and 72 point, between Arial
and Harrington and Verdana,
there are so many possibilities,
all delightful and mine.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006


Tim Skeen: “For me, reading and writing poetry is searching for ecstasy; Rattle is one of the places I look.”

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June 7, 2023

Tanvi Roberts


There was never any evidence of it, between 
them: my parents slept with their door wide open, in case 
we should call, my father’s breath so close 
I could hear the scrape of his snoring, which he would deny 
in the morning. I heard how my mother woke early and turned 
her body again and again, like a dog 
trying to rest. When things were given—at birthdays and 
Christmas—they would stumble, tilt forwards 
and clasp their arms around each other, 
like putting on a necklace. The only time the word was spoken, 
beneath a winter skylight, the stars hid their faces, and my father 
said I’m sorry, it was a joke. Sweat prickled thistles 
into my armpits, which were growing hair before 
everyone else, and I was at the worst stage of puberty, 
all hair and no breasts, which meant girls at birthday parties 
called me monkey. The only time I heard of it, 
from my mother, was when I was grown, and had 
a boyfriend—I knew she had seen, 
sometimes, like a child who does not know yet, 
me sitting on his lap, on the far-off sofa, the shag 
tartan blanket thrown over us—she had heard, through the paneled 
glass window, small moans, and asked why 
cuttings of pubic hair wrapped in tissue—as if 
they might grow into flowers—appeared 
in the foot-closed bins before I left 
home. So she sat me down in my bedroom and asked 
how far I would go with this boy, as if there was an answer 
apart from no. Well obviously I wouldn’t—I said—she stopped me 
before the word was spoken—I was 
glad—she had protected us both. In her life, 
there had been no one to guide her before that first night, 
and even the loss of blood each month was a trauma. When it happened, 
I wanted to go to her with jasmine in my hair 
and in my hands pulihora, the roar of curryleaf in oil. I wanted to go 
after headbath, shoes left at the door, and tell her 
how soft my skin was, afterwards, how little 
could not be washed away. I wanted to take her and hold 
her, not flinching, but I knew 
that was not the way in our house, where we dealt in everything 
except. So I stitched my mouth shut and found 
I was hers—I had made myself her daughter 
by my denial of it.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


Tanvi Roberts: “Once I was at a reading by the English poet Lavinia Greenlaw. An audience member asked her why she wrote poetry, and she answered elliptically, ‘Poets are often people who have difficulty with words.’ Several years later, I can’t find any better reason than this: Poetry allows us to struggle and play with words, to devote our attention to trying to capture the ones that cause us less difficulty, and to create an alternate world populated by those words.” (web)

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June 6, 2023

John Herschel


Things don’t happen, they appear.
When I ask for a spoon,
they bring me a fork;
waiting has turned my spoon
into a fork.
The phone rings,
a huge distance between your head
and your other head.
There’s a place in the desert
where people go and shoot their cars,
discovered by De Anza on his perfumed horse.
My step-father in an orange vest
is still directing traffic in my head.
You can drown on the staircase,
you can wait for the desert to arrive.
The sky is a hat that neither covers nor hides.
I have a long conversation with the wall,
the longest lunar eclipse
in 123 years,
an Abyssinian moon that shatters windows.
My sleeve has a long memory.
I change my point of view
from one napkin to another.
My neighbor says
people are polite to the degree
they’re repressing an impulse
to kill you.
Mules are carrying the load
for no reason at all.
The rain in the gutter turns north,
a dog shakes himself in the rain.
It is a world ruled by the god of armored cars
and men in yellow shorts
taking pictures of the sunset.
My other neighbor says
it’s almost as if life were meant to be wasted,
as if you hadn’t lived enough
until you’d wasted your life.
I hear the little voice inside my head:
Hurry up and die, hurry up and die.
But the little voice inside my head
is like that guy in the Midwest
who writes everything down:
5:47 PM, earwax on the phone;
there’s an ant on my wrist.
His life is about three seconds
ahead of his diary.
And it’s beautiful tonight.
Every chance I get
I wish I didn’t have to die.
The plucky dog is still scratching his ear,
the asparagus fern is coming back.
A skunk came into the kitchen
and ate the cat food.
My two cats and I looked at him,
and then we looked at each other.
Now only little thoughts
are running after me,
wanting to be watered
and wanting to be fed,
like a quick tide
that raises and lowers
the level of the glass.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006
Tribute to the Best of Rattle


John Herschel: “If you write poems, even your best friends won’t care. Your enemies might notice, but their attention will inevitably wander. Freedom of speech is also the freedom not to listen. People who think writing poetry is therapeutic are not writing poetry. Maybe more poets have been driven mad by trying to get a line right, than the mad have been driven well by writing a good line. In America we don’t like useless things. Ours is a culture of uplift and good intentions. The pathologically optimistic are suspicious of a poem’s reluctance to sing along. But maybe useless is useful in a world blind to its own impermanence. Anger is probably the only reliable substitute for inspiration, and given what’s happening to this country, everyone should be sublimely inspired.”

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June 5, 2023

Aleyna Rentz


made this place.
Providence Canyon:
one of the seven wonders of Georgia,
a two-hundred-foot dent in the ground
of Stewart County, courtesy of farmers
with bad irrigation techniques. 
Imagine the luck: fucking up
so massively your failure
is designated a state park
where millennial couples
in hiking boots climb down
the valleys of your ineptitude,
taking selfies, smiling,
and park rangers 
in khaki shorts and bucket hats
patrol the edges of your shame
so nobody else falls in.
A photographer twists her lens
and aims—merciless!
The world is cratered
with quieter fuckups: 
your footsteps, mine.
A pillow’s soft sinkhole. 
A body missing 
like a ditch dug out of air. 
Every fist an asteroid, 
every low mood a trench.
And sometimes red clay and limestone
gape at the sky like an idiot’s drooling mouth,
dumbfounded and asking forgiveness.
Believe me, it will come: in cairns and tents 
and kids who pay a quarter to look 
through a set of fixed binoculars,
seeing magnified nothing 
but what’s right there. 

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


Aleyna Rentz: “A few years ago, I visited Providence Canyon (or what Georgians like to call the ‘Little Grand Canyon’) with my family. Though we’d lived near Providence Canyon my whole life, I’d never been, and I was stunned—who knew we had such an incredible landscape so close to home? I thought it was hilarious that a whole 1,000-acre state park existed solely because some farmers back in the day didn’t know what they were doing. It also made me feel a bit better about myself. I wrote this poem in the car on the way home.” (web)

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June 4, 2023

Thomas Mixon


You can quit.
We can help.
Times are bad,
but what else
is new? You
clue us in,
with each breath,
to what more
we must do.
We failed you.
We want you
strong and full
of vim. Life
gasps, and veers
off the road
when you suck
in the smoke.
We suck, we
have let you
down, got you
hooked, raised tax
on your vice,
blew the dough
on false threats,
big flags, grabbed
land and now
stand with signs,
small, to stamp
on your grave
stones, your soot
sticks, your kind,
while you die.
Who was it
who said fate
is the same
as a hill
built by ants?
Was hope part
of the quote?
That’s one more
thing that goes,
your mind. Some
types of fumes
are wrong, some
less so. Firms
pay a fine
to shoot gas
way up high.
We must be
stern with you.
We gave you
goals you lit
with a match.
If you choose
to kiss flames,
we will boost
the font, words
so big no
one will see
your gaunt face,
your cheeks stuck
next to text.
We will taunt
you to raise
your mood. There
is no phrase
we won’t use.
Why waste time
and ask whose
fault this is?
We aimed too
high, grand schemes
that dropped out
of the sky,
like fire ants
at the peak
of a vent
that coughed, burst
from fixed screens
while the clock
tick tocked. Shame
is the last
chance we have.
Your charred lungs
are not clean.
We don’t aim
to be mean,
but it is
all the same.
If it works.

from Poets Respond
June 4, 2023


Thomas Mixon: “The title and first two lines of this poem come from the warnings that Canada will soon be printing not only on boxes, but on individual cigarettes. I lost a set a grandparents to Big Tobacco and am in favor of anything that can help people quit. But I don’t think anything could’ve made them stop. When I was in 3rd grade, I wrote that what I wanted most for Christmas was for everyone in the world to stop smoking, and if they didn’t I would make them. My younger self would have loved these warnings, but now it just makes me sad.” (web)

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June 3, 2023

Anne Swannell


Plums, heavy
in a copper bowl.

A copper bowl,
heavy with plums.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Tribute to Buddhist Poets


Anne Swannell: “I am a mosaicist with Zen Buddhist leanings. I become the plate and the china teapot I smash with a hammer. Then I put myself back together again in the form of a flower, of many flowers arranged in a vase and framed in square-cut tile.” (web)

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June 2, 2023

Josh Parish


Do you know what is never the right tool for the job?
Needle-nose pliers. Anytime I use needle-nose pliers
it is with hopeless resignation. I stare at a thing 
needing fixing, shake my head, and say, “I guess I could try 
needle-nose pliers.” I do not blame whoever invented them.
They look like a very good tool. Would you like to twist, pull, 
or push something small in a tight little space? Here is a tool 
where one end fits your palm and the other end grabs tiny things.
In the middle are even wire-cutters, should you need to cut wire 
or something similar. The truth is: Would you like to strip, shred, 
or otherwise destroy a thing, plus also pinch all hell out of that 
soft cushion of flesh at the base of your index finger? 
Then here. Here are the needle-nose pliers.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


Josh Parish: “For me, a good poem delivers the same feelings as other small, simple things that surprise you with their potency: ships in bottles, old music boxes, wool sweaters, hornet stings, well-practiced card tricks, 7-Layer Burritos, hangnails, etc. I write hoping to evoke similar feelings, occasion to occasion, in the reader.” (web)

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