September 14, 2022

Maia Siegel


We argued over what an “elite” was
because you wanted to be included
in that category and I didn’t, because
I had branded myself as Appalachian
and poor in order to be different from
the billionaires I dated. I silently waited
for the billionaires to buy me things, but
they didn’t. I said I would let them have
my virginity if they bought me a boat, but
that’s not a gift, that’s a trade. If there’s any
thing a billionaire can do, it’s bargain. No,
barter. The billionaires would argue me down
to a jet ski and then I’d freak out in bed so
we’d never have sex anyway, and I’d never
get a jet ski. A jet ski is an elite purchase.
At first I tried to get them to buy me
a microwave and I felt so provincial
and cute and said things like We heat up
our food in pots and it takes a long time,
and I waited for them to offer up elite
kitchen appliances, but they did not.
I told you that elites all had microwaves
and fridges that make ice. We had neither
and we really did live in Appalachia, and
not in the nice area with the farm-to-table
restaurant, either. But we pretended like
this was all temporary and maybe even
ironic, because we were The New Yorker
subscribers, and we had even eaten
corn ice cream and charcoal ash
ice cream and ice cream with little bits
of meat in it. I liked to tell the billionaires
about the fancy ice cream we had tried,
how gold flecks honestly didn’t taste
so good. They tasted dull and metallic. Sort of
like blood, I guess. I waited for them to offer
to get me something really good, some rare,
rich sweetness. Maybe some of that adrenochrome
that conspiracy theorists say they have. They said
they were broke. They said that a lot. I told
my Appalachian friends about the billionaires
and they said I bought a belt bedazzled with tons
of little gems once, and that was when they knew
I was different. None of them had microwaves either,
or jet skis, and especially not bedazzled belts. I told you
we were not elites, but God did it feel good to think,
for a second, that maybe we had been them this whole time.

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022


Maia Siegel: “I like to tell people that poetry is ‘a quiet way to scream.’ To put it simply, I just can’t stop screaming.”

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August 24, 2021

Dave Bonta


imperial sunset
my shadow
waving back

one by one the stars
of generals

on the evening news
telling us
it’s morning

giving air support
to ghost soldiers

what better hell
have we bombed
into existence

moon cradling that darkness
called earthshine

from Poets Respond
August 24, 2021


Dave Bonta: “I’ve been appalled but not surprised by the slanted coverage of the U.S. and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. War hawks are invited to opine on cable news and in elite media without revealing their ties to the ‘defense’ industry. My response is heavily influenced by renku and Black Sabbath’s classic song ‘War Pigs.’” (web)


We met Dave Bonta on this week’s Rattlecast, just before our main guest, Marcela Sulak. Watch the reply here!

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May 30, 2022

Tribute to Prisoner Express

Conversation with
Gary Fine

The Summer 2022 issue of Rattle features a Tribute to Prisoner Express, a non-profit program based in Ithaca, New York, which sends books into prisons, allowing prisoners to communicate with each other creatively through a newsletter. Last year, Elizabeth S. Wolf donated her Rattle Chapbook Prize-winning collect, Did You Know?, to the program, and encouraged participants to write chapbooks of their own. The resulting poems were so powerful we had to share. The issue includes an introduction by Elizabeth, and a conversation with the program’s director, Gary Fine, where we discuss the profound role expressive writing can play in rehabilitation.

The open section features the usual wide range of poetry from 24 poets.


Prisoner Express

Elizabeth S. Wolf Introduction
Robert Andrew Bartlett Sr. Pamela’s Query
Shaun Duane Blake The Walk
Jorge Luis Corella Nana
Matthew Feeney Phone Sox
Cesar Hernandez from Nobody Cares
Cory Lambing Behind the Wall
Scott Madoulet Burnt
Frank Olms Miss Miranda
Is That a Bug in My Drink?
Keith Pertusio Pratikriyasana
Rolf Rathmann Through New Year’s Eve
Doon Saetern Gaps in Résumé
James Stevahn A Time to Heal
Andre D. Underwood Kalifornia

Open Poetry

Nicelle Davis Honey Pot
William Virgil Davis Overheard
Audio Available Kristina Erny Bad Friday
Mark Fitzpatrick Under the Bo Tree
David Galloway Thought, on Viewing Zinaida Serebriakova’s …
Audio Available Lola Haskins The Very Fortunate Girl
Audio Available Emily Ruth Hazel Out There
Audio Available Alexis V. Jackson What We Carry off the Sea …
Audio Available Shawn Jones Soprano from the Junior Choir at the Protest
Laura Judge Speculation at 50
Audio Available Lynne Knight The Warm Bed
Audio Available Milica Mijatovič Pedestrian Bridge over the Train Tracks …
Abby E. Murray A Note from Your Friendly Poetry Instructor
Audio Available Valerie Nies He Asks About My Kinks
Eri Okoye My Mother’s Son
Audio Available Kathryn Paulson Coal Smoke
Audio Available Erin Redfern Crosswalk
Mather Schneider Uncle Neto
Audio Available George J. Searles The First Annual AHS Wipeout 5K Run
Audio Available Maia Siegel Elites
Audio Available Elizabeth Spenst Poem for Myself
Audio Available Susan Vespoli Orange
Wendy Videlock On the Practice of Opine
Audio Available Arhm Choi Wild One Good Memory


Gary Fine

Cover Art

Neena Sethia

May 22, 2022

Gordon Taylor


Once, I was appointed alternate valedictorian
in case the main boy got sick. I was a scholar
of sex then—glossy men in magazines stacked
at the back of a tobacco store on Queen Street.
A guidance counselor scratched a penis onto
a chalkboard but never explained pleasure or
HIV or how silence equals death—sign bouncing
in a documentary we weren’t allowed to watch.
Today, another valedictorian stares, speechless
into a Florida crowd. He can’t say the word
gay and—you show me a stone leopard
in a book, poking through sand, memorial
to the Sacred Band of Thebes, pairs of male
lovers, elite warriors enlisted to defeat an army
of Macedonians. It was expected they’d fight
harder to defend ardent bonds. They were all
slain at Chaeronea: cameo concluded.
Once, my brother hated me, though
his smothering never succeeded. In my teenaged
bedroom, floor littered with books and socks,
magazines hidden in a box in the closet,
his hands circled my throat when he shared
a belief that the honor of loving someone
means his voice belongs to you.
You sound like a girl.
Today, My Best Friend’s Wedding whines on TV.
I gripe about queer sidekicks in Hollywood movies:
He has no arc. He speaks just to make the hero
laugh. My husband hisses, quiet, you’re ruining the film—
plus, you don’t need this rage anymore. Our clasped
fingers made of centuries of holding. Our legs braided,
a dialogue, on our sofa. His own brother, our best
man—but I still feel hands crushing my larynx.
Once, I ran up an ancient green hill but tripped,
dropping my spear, just here for you. You looked
back at me, protective but annoyed. We reached
a crowd of clanging and slicing at the top. I lost
sight for hours in a scrum of shields, and pink
cloaks, avoiding cuts, pretending to be dead,
beside your hushed head in the purpled grass.

from Poets Respond
May 22, 2022


Gordon Taylor: “This is in response to the news story out of Florida, in which a gay youth was appointed valedictorian, but due to the ‘don’t say gay’ laws, cannot refer to his activism or gayness in his speech. For me it harkened back to the eighties when I was a closeted teenager trying to come out in the onset of the AIDS epidemic, when it seemed being quiet was the only way to ‘stay safe.’ Are we moving backward? Has anything changed?”

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August 20, 2018

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley


Barberry bushes have been trampled all day
and some boys along the creek
pretending it is the barbed wire of an Indian prison
lay prone clutching nickel-plated revolvers
imaginary of course. Unlike our Reservations
about choosing the wrong side of this battlefield.
Cowboys gallop red across the stripped horses
of their pink legs embarrassing Indians
into a shirtless whoop of bows and
arrows falling dead BANG BANG
barbs fired from prepubescent lips.
Swimming in the music of a clear October
morning eagles handcuff the sun
bald as our understanding
of war never ending ever was.

from Rattle #60, Summer 2018
Tribute to Athlete Poets


Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley: “I am an elite level powerlifter (meaning top 1% of all competitors in the United States). Powerlifting consists of the bench press, squat, and deadlift. I love this sport because it’s you against yourself. Your opponent is an inanimate piece of metal, just as the poet’s opponent is perhaps—forgive the cliché—either the blank page or themselves, and certainly not other poets: both forge a strong community of fellowship around their craft.” (web)

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September 9, 2018

Seth Simons


the old man died    how terrible    to be alive
    for so long    & then dead    suddenly forever
dragging a small plow    across a hardening field   
    senator    war-bringer    at the comedy show
nobody mentioned you    what a lovely day   
    drinking vodka & ginger beer    buying chocolate
& comic books    markets soaring    bombs falling
    elsewhere thankfully    as they always have
bless you john    for the lotteries i did not enter
    & keep winning    & to which i owe
my small imperfect kingdom    my lilacs & blood
    money    so easy to forget    whose backs
we broke for this    doom approaching    surely
    you did years ago    what a pity    your own body
killed you    i do not think i will be so lucky    oh
    john    air thinning    fires everywhere    children
wailing in the streets    what you wrought swiftly
    we will suffer slowly    what was taken must be
reclaimed    it sucks honestly    i love being alive
    on planet earth    all its dogs & rock formations
goldenrods    lamplight    swallows in the creekside
    mist    i mean fuck    everything is so good
& you stole it    that’s okay though    i’m not mad
    tonight we light one candle    to your memory
vanishing    like the mist    we are presently
    drifting into    gravedigger    deceiver    angel
who fell    unlike you    we have time   

from Poets Respond


Seth Simons: “This week we were subjected to the spectacle of our political class celebrating John McCain, a corrupt, war-mongering imperialist who made the world measurably worse for all but an elite few. This poem is about the world he left behind.” (web)

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March 27, 2018

Stephen Gibson


Saturday, March 24, 2018

After the opera, my two friends start to talk about the war,
drafted, neither back then a dove or hawk about the war.

Our waiter takes drink orders—one wife asks for water;
then another asks that the table talk not be about the war.

One went on the last troop transport to sail to Vietnam—
flying back, he felt like an outline in chalk because of the war.

The other, in intelligence, remembers his first time in Saigon—
a half-kid swinging between his own arms on the sidewalk. War.

The waiter brings the first one’s martini—olives not on the side—
this time the five of us watch him balk—there won’t be war.

Over the bar, it’s the last of tonight’s Elite Eight on the four TVs—
just three of us watch a coach’s widow walk at the end of his war.

Earlier today, March for Our Lives was split-screen everywhere—
Emma Gonzalez’s long silence mocked by a chicken hawk. War.

from Poets Respond


Stephen Gibson: “The poem is self-explanatory. March Madness. March for Our Lives. Opera.”

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