April 20, 2024

Colette Inez


for E.C.

Choose how the forest
was deprived of a tree.
Blight, wind, fire?
I once lost a cantankerous man,
who tuned pianos.
Tall, an oak to me,
he goaded music from the keys.
I almost see him biting on his pipe,
tamping down the London Dock.
Blown back leaves, birds, moths,
the gestures here.
Pendulum, tool box auctioned off.
Summer roars another blast of green.
“I like to see a piano perspire,”
he’d say to me, slamming the lid
of the Baldwin.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009


Colette Inez: “A poem is born right here, somewhere in my heart, in my blood vessels, in my gut. It comes to the brain much later. I have to feel them actually pulsing in my body, and then when they get shaped, when the brain, the controller, the pilot, whoever one’s metaphor, however this metaphor can extend, takes over. I like to think that my brain is the lesser part of my poems and that my heart, in the best of my poems, is the one that rules.” (web)

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April 19, 2024

Michael Dylan Welch, C.R. Manley & Tanya McDonald


a rengay written on a Washington State Ferry

salmon time—
the path to the creek
free of cobwebs
he warns us again—
don’t eat the pufferfish
field trip—
the cold stare
of the passing shark
the guppy circling
down the toilet
motionless angelfish—
still waiting
for my order
one fish, two fish
I switch off her bedside lamp

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024
Tribute to Collaboration


Michael Dylan Welch, C.R. Manley, & Tanya McDonald: “‘Something Fishy’ is a rengay we wrote mostly on the ferry between Edmonds and Kingston, Washington. Fish seemed like a natural theme to write about while we crossed the Puget Sound. Michael wrote the first rengay with Garry Gay, its inventor, in 1992, and has been promoting the form ever since, with essays and my website. Renku always links and shifts between the verses as it seeks to taste all of life, but rengay deliberately focuses on a single theme, which we had fun exploring in various fishy nuances.”

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April 18, 2024

Patricia Smith


I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.
—Mitt Romney

Strange we should forget. Once between the covers of a worn leather binder
a black girl languished, her limbs linked by iron, her feet and breasts
and muscle measured, written. Back then, white men underlined her
name, then dared her price. They bellowed their gold, tried to combine her

with cattle or grain or another child to make her worth their while. Behind her,
a hundred hard eyes teared at the mere sweet of her bound landscape.
The maybe buyers stretched open her mouth, peered in, calmly assigned her
a number. For hours, in the hissing Carolina sun, they confined her

to the block, demanded she succumb, pirouette on cue. They fought to mine her
for treasure, computed the width of her bare hips with their chapped hands,
predicted her belly tight with child and child and child and child, declined her
a cure for thirst. Out loud, their spittle a wall in her face, they redesigned her,

scribbled her arithmetic on crammed pages, tried hard not to mind her
father, a foot away, grimacing as his penis was handled, as he was pronounced
too old for anything and led away. There was absolutely no need to remind her
to swallow that scream. This is merely business, they said. We are not unkind. Her

father, after all, was mercifully allowed a backward glance. Resigned, her
future now screeched in numbers, she scanned the men’s faces, the unbridled pink
of foreign skin. One locked a wet gaze, saw their bodies already intertwined. Her
purchase slipped the heat from her shoulders. He grinned, wrote her new name,
and closed his binder.

from Rattle #42, Winter 2013
2013 Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Patricia Smith: “‘Women in binders’ became an infuriating and unintentionally hilarious catchphrase during Mitt Romney’s hapless presidential campaign. Once my feminist furor died down (which coincided, incidentally, with the realization that Mittsy had a Tea Partyer’s chance in heaven of being prez, I remembered a time when a black woman’s entire worth was could be written in a single line of text.” (web)

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April 17, 2024

Matthew Shelton & Timothy Liu


Scattered across the islands of the Galápagos archipelago there are half a dozen species of lizard that rely upon a method of communication comprised of what can only be called “push-ups.” When one lizard encounters another, each takes its turn bobbing head and torso up and down in a complex and jerky system of frantic interaction. By this means, lizards of each species establish territorial authority, reinforce social hierarchies, even engage in mating rituals. 
It appears that these lizards evolved from a single species settling the islands from the mainland some 34 million years ago in what scientists have identified as two major waves of colonization. A small “Eastern Radiation” left two species endemic to San Cristóbal and Marchena, while the majority of lizards have come to inhabit the southern and western islands, spreading over time to the younger islands as the older were transported eastward, eventually eroding below sea level. 
Each species has developed its own particular vocabulary, its own dialect of body language, to such an extent that each species might be said to “speak a different language.” Suffice it to say, when a lizard from one species encounters a lizard from another, bobbing head and torso up and down in a complex and jerky attempt at frantic interaction, try as they might they cannot understand each other. Lizards from one island are consequently unable to interbreed with lizards from another island. Without communication, it appears, there can be no intercourse.

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024
Tribute to Collaboration


Matthew Shelton & Timothy Liu: “For the past five years, we have been collaborating on poems and performances that incorporate music with verse. The texts for the project include pieces performed both acapella and with instrumentation (tabla, shruti box, log drum, singing bowl) in the tradition of the Sufis. Through the use of repetition and incantation, a single sonnet can be stretched and pulled beyond recognition into a hypnotic and improvisational rhythmic space.”

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April 16, 2024

Kathleen A. Wakefield


Cithern, lyre, lute, viola d’amore—
all her life she’s dreamt of playing
something she can stroke
and pluck, pass her hand over like a god.
She lifts her bow in the empty hall,
dark but for the circle of light she stands in.
How easily the notes spiral out, as if drawn from her throat,
then descend in a near ruinous scale, quiver
and soar until she’s lifted out of herself, out of this world
without a word.
She’s learned this piece by heart.
Now she invents as she goes, swaying
at the knees, glissando,
She wonders if there’s someone in the darkness
listening to the jazz riff she’s arrived at,
sweet licks of sound, hot, sexy,
a little sad, the voice
she didn’t know she had.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012


Kathleen A. Wakefield: “The Invisible Stenographer is a persona that found me a few years ago. Some people say poetry can’t change a life, but I beg to differ. She (the Gregg shorthand gal) kept me going at a time when my life was horrible. She was fun to write about, crazy, sometimes terribly sad. I’m giving her an awful lot of credit and it sounds ridiculous, I know …” (web)

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April 15, 2024

Michele Root-Bernstein, Laszlo Slomovits & Jennifer Burd


smalle raine downe
        … this longing
   for a change
       shall I compare thee
       sunlight caught in the web
              new preferred pronoun
              did gyre and gimble
              in the wabe
let us go then, you and I  
(motorized wheelchairs)
       forked lightning
       … took the one
       less traveled by
              outside the checkbox                                                          
              the hill we climb

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024
Tribute to Collaboration


Michele Root-Bernstein, Laszlo Slomovits & Jennifer Burd: “We have been writing rengay together since the start of the pandemic in 2020. A rengay is a six-verse collaborative poem, using a set alternating pattern of three-line and two-line haiku. Usually two poets compose a rengay; a threesome like ours is unusual. For each rengay, we begin by suggesting some opening haiku and posing a theme. Then the round-robin begins, as we respond to, link with, and shift from each other’s haiku. When we complete a rengay, we work together to clarify the theme, hone the language, and safeguard the space between lines and verses which allows the poem as a whole to breathe. When the rengay takes off in a direction none of us could envision on our own, it’s a sheer delight.”

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April 14, 2024

Alejandro Escudé


It’s a black swath that cuts across
A part of the country that’s a myth.
Does Ohio even exist? Not here,
Where the post office blends
With the sky and the cops drive
Black and white cars off freeway
Overpasses. In one photo, a man
Peers down at a brass contraption
Like some 21st century Galileo,
A pinprick on the sun shadowed
By that communist rock in the sky.
Or was it the other way around?
I can’t recall. It’s all mathematical
Gibberish, if you ask me. A train
Stopped the traffic the other day
And that was more real than the
Eclipse. The sun is like an orange
At the grocery store at age fifty.
Who still buys the citrusy orbs?
If fact, the supermarket aisles
Are too bright these days. I should
Wear those ISO glasses they all
Wore to observe the eclipse.
See what? Nature? Apocalypse?
Down on this planet, it’s light
Pandemonium. Hysteria denied.
I’ve had enough of branded news.
Music mimicking music. It’s called
The cosmos. That death-trap
Beyond the atmosphere. Boneless
Graveyard, aqueduct to nothingness.
Honestly, I’ll take God. He’s not
In fashion right now. But I prefer
The ambiguity of faith to ignorance,
Which is what you see in crowds,
Lawn chairs and binoculars, tents,
Motorhomes, a sheet afloat, the sun
Figured there, reflected, swallowed
By time’s stupid, arcing mouth.

from Poets Respond
April 14, 2024


Alejandro Escudé: “Human beings, in my point of view, are absolute masters of denial and distraction. The eclipse was just another event that reminded me of how well society can turn its gaze up and away from real societal issues, personal problems, true miracles, thought, insight, love, in order to participate in one more pointless venture.” (web)

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