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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April 13, 2024

Dick Allen


The world grew stranger … he had almost lost the feeling of
being on a strange planet; here it returned upon him with
desolating force. It was no longer ‘the world,’ scarcely even ‘a
world’: it was a planet, a star, a waste place in the universe,
millions of miles from the world of men …”
—C.S. Lewis

When we interviewed them, we found they had no insurance
and believed in great acts of page turning.
“The heavens are filled with dead end runs,” they said,
“angel-headed hipsters, old washing machines.
Sometimes you can see the outline of a woman’s elbow
and sometimes you can’t.” They greeted our arrival
with bemused tolerance. “Box Watchers,” they called us,
and “People Who Hold Metal to Their Ears,”
“Roller Coasters” and “Replacement Parts”
and “Crazy Mothers.” In their dimension
four hundred plus five hundred equals one gold tooth,
the moon is shaped like a half-eaten tuna fish sandwich.
“What is so funny as a tuna fish sandwich?”
is one of their sayings. Also,
“Rain always falls on the feet of goats”
and “Once in danger, always in danger” and
“Too many poems can spoil a mountain picnic.”
It was observed by C.S. Lewis
that one of humanity’s main problems is its lack
of other sentient beings to bounce off of,
thus we fail to have a much needed sense of perspective
and that’s why we sometimes call our children
“little monsters” and our wives “cows” or “shrews”
and our husbands “pigs” or “brutes” or “Dagwoods.”
… They procreated, we found out, only in public places
such as football stadiums and shopping malls and historical mansions
and always in broad daylight, watched by thousands
whenever possible. Food was their secret thing,
always to be eaten in silence and solitude
and never with neckties.
Also, they forever turned their backs on each other
whenever they drank, during which time they rolled their eyes
and twitched their eyebrows. What they found beautiful
were exceptions to rules, undersides of bridges,
all kinds of clattering sounds, and most especially
paintings of fire escapes. Hundreds of articles have been published
about the symbolism of fire escapes, their vine-like clingings,
their amounts of rust, how they looked in sunlight
or shadow, whether they should be lined with flower pots or not
and huge books about fire escapes also, amply illustrated.
One evening
we asked them if it was true their lives were governed
only by signs and they told us it was so. A tree branch falling
meant you should go home and speak with your cat.
An itch in the right shoulder blade
indicated you should not trust your best friend
further than the nearest gravy boat. If you came upon
three descended fire escapes in one day
you should hide under a water tower, but if it was five
plus a cracked window,
tomorrow would be filled with endives,
trestles and historical mansions … We left them
by their side of the portal, their small fingers
still holding it open for a while
and when we went back home to our boxes and our wheels,
our cell phones and our wild variety
of clothes beneath our clothes, our darknesses
and gods and landscapes stretching out to rain-swept horizons,
taking with us a bottle of the Trebonites’ fantastic rum
from their Valley of the Stinking Life,
that lies just beyond Hey, There
(those wonderful translated names similar to those of our racehorses),
carrying with us a few bite marks, some images of bridges,
and several regrets, but none we could not shake.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008


Dick Allen: “The Chronicles of Narnia movie led me to Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which led me back to his SF novel, Out of the Silent Planet, which deranged my mind enough for the Trebonites. As is often noted, all SF descriptions of alien culture are really commentaries on Earth life.”

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April 12, 2024

Ansuya Patel & Batya Weinbaum


When I wrote a check for fifty dollars, 
that’s all I have I said to the taxi driver
who locked the doors of his black Mercedes.
He drove like a maniac down a dirt road.
Shall I drive, I asked. Don’t you trust me.
I’m not going to kill you, he yelled like 
he was doing me a favour. This is where 
you hang up faith, watch it somersault into air. 
He placed a hand on my thigh. You don’t want 
to touch me, I may have some awful disease. 
His fist hit the steering wheel. Crazy bitch, 
shut up. Give me all the money you have.
I swallowed my curses he unlocked the door,
I got out fast, fear he’d run me down. I walked 
for what seemed miles. A car passed by 
and stopped. You ok? I need a cab, I said.
Not around here. Get in, I’ll drop you. I talked 
music, he said he was off to steal wheels.
He turned up the music to electro beats. My feet 
tapped courage, I prayed all the way to neon lights.
Once home I picked up a pair of scissors, cut off 
my hair, it fell like a curtain at the end of the show.

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024
Tribute to Collaboration


Ansuya Patel & Batya Weinbaum: “We chose the theme courage. We both wrote a draft initially and used couplets to weave our experiences into one story. We had both been attacked by a stranger in a car many years ago. Writing in couplets allowed us to create the journey that changed us forever and remind us that courage has no gender. We have reclaimed our lives and the open road, proving that resilience is a formidable force in the face of adversity, and that no experience however dark can define the boundless potential within every individual.”

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April 11, 2024

Nancy Beagle


She boxed me—saving me, she said, for the wedding.
She shall be my centerpiece, stand next to the cake.
That was when she was twelve.
I was a birthday gift to a girl who loved dolls. A girl who had
dreams, pictured herself, apron-clad, in a sunny kitchen
fixing pot roast for a husband, four children.
It is now 65 years later, and I’m stuck up in the attic,
like a child’s cradle outgrown or a rocking horse
no longer needed. And I am still in the turquoise box
with magenta lettering proclaiming Madame Alexander.
We, the most cherished dolls of the era. This was
before Barbie, Cabbage Patch kids, and American Girl.
My box itself has begun to collapse, its corners broken,
its top dented from move after move. The wedding dress
I wear now is tainted—tea brown with age. The lace
delicate, ready to dissolve at the touch. My face, too, is
cracked, but my blue eyes are still open. She takes me
out now and then and witnesses time, acknowledges
that I never got that center spotlight—nor did she.
How do I feel having been boxed for decades? How does
she feel never having had a man to hold at night,
children to embrace? She, too, has been in a box. Hers
constructed of societal expectations. No less imprisoned
than I. Do I pity her? Not really. She had choices whereas
I had none. She could have, at any time, lifted her lid,
flown over the edge.

from Prompt Poem of the Month
March 2024


Prompt: Write a poem from the perspective of one of your childhood toys.

Note from the series editor, Katie Dozier: “The twirling between the doll and the speaker in Nancy’s poem invites us to get lost in the ruffles of regret. At once exploring our need to cherish and to be cherished, as well as to love and to be loved, the honesty in this poem unboxes a trove of emotion.”

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