September 23, 2023

Ziqr Peehu (age 10)


My mother says
Her dog visited her in her dream,
The night it died. Death is a tragedy till you can’t go back. Till you can’t go forward
I am not a spiritual person but
I wish to touch my mother in her dream
The night I die too.
My mother tells me she used to be like me
She’d look at god and she’d look at faith
And she’d spit on it. She’d spit on it in a way that it disintegrates
Like she was hurtling acid.
She says it’s inevitable though, receiving faith.
In Hindi, you don’t have an enlightenment,
It’s something that happens to you.
In Hindi, you don’t become religious, don’t believe in a god,
You go in it. Within it.
You succumb to it.
In Hindi, it’s inevitable.
No wonder, I’ve always preferred English.
My mother knew her dog died before anyone ever told her.
My mother knew her grandmother died before the doctors told us.
My grandmother says, my mother is prone to these things.
That god chose her well and special and made her more sensitive to it.
My grandmother doesn’t say that god forsook me.
He did.
My mother knows when people die because they all visit her.
All of them.
My dog died with her face in my mother’s hands, cupped just as so.
Her dog died and came to visit her.
People do not die on my mother because she does not let them.
My mother was touched by god and in turn she touches everyone around her
She leaves us all connected to god, all of us and then we are forced to visit her when we die.
We all touch my mother when we die.
She wouldn’t have it otherwise.

from 2023 Rattle Young Poets Anthology

Rattle Logo

August 27, 2023

Robin Turner


for Artie

The hottest month of the hottest year
on record. August in Texas. Unrelenting.
Mother had died just the month before.
My mother. The world kept burning.
And on the news, on our phones, all week the photos
of treasonous men, their arrogant mugshots
marring every screen, suffocating each sensible citizen.
How to breathe through the heat, through the spin
and the grief? How to rescue from harm what one loves?
When a red-feathered bird crashed into our window, it fell
like a stone and lay motionless. Little bird, you said
and stepped out to the porch, bent to stroke, to tap tap her still chest,
brought ice, brought tenderness, prayed mercy.
In the morning you spared me
from shoveling parched earth
and gave up the lost creature to ground.
You knew, knew I would not be able to bury her—
one more once beautiful thing.

from Poets Respond
August 27, 2023


Robin Turner: “A poem of gratitude for my husband, his good heart in a time of great personal loss, of grief for our burning world and fear for the fragile future of American democracy.”

Rattle Logo

June 12, 2023

Mark Rubin


She lay at our feet with a metal arrow
through her chest, the arrow angled in
the ground not far from the lilac  
nest where she’d been sitting.  
Because he owned the bow, or that
he went by his last name, 
or that his peach fuzz had darkened, 
Cunningham said he was taking my turn.
He could not wait to show me
how it’s done, the killing.  
If only quick, like turning off a lamp.  
The dove lay gasping in the too sudden
present tense. Cunningham pressed 
his shoe down hard, 
then took the arrow out from her. Because 
I’d not had my heart broken this close up
before, I held the bird extra, said good aim
then placed her back in the lilac bush
so no one could see. I heard my mother’s
dinner bell in the distance wringing 
the dry air in my throat. I walked home and ate all
her steamed kale, because it was good for me.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


Mark Rubin: “I write because it’s a way of rendering the heartaches that come from being alive. As a certified curmudgeon, I have an edgy, ongoing sense of wonder, if not reverence, for small things in the natural world, and big things that move through me as a result. I am most happy when I can get out of my own way.”

Rattle Logo

September 8, 2023

Carson Wolfe


My mother named me Carmen after the opera. 
More exotic than Sarah or Stacey, 
the other white girls jealous of my Latin gift. 
I’m not sure how old I was when I learned 
Carmen was a prostitute, bewitching boys 
in her flamenco dress, red as the apple Eve split 
with her ungovernable mouth. But it all made sense 
how Carmen’s gypsy ghost had followed me 
from room to room singing habanera 
since I was ten, when the first man made an epitaph 
of my body. In high school, she gave blowjob 
tips in the bathroom, carved the toilet stall 
with our namesake. L’amour l’amour
she taught me to love, tossing her rose 
to the boot of Don Jose, the same way I threw 
my skin suit into the chair of a tortured tattooist, 
for him to brand me a whore for looking anywhere 
but the floor the year he claimed me his. 
In Bizet’s ending, Carmen tries to leave Don, 
so he stabs her in the stomach and she bleeds out 
to the song of him pleading her name. 
In Muscato’s ending, Carmen kills Don 
in self-defense, infuriating an audience 
who came to applaud the death of a woman 
on stage. But why? Since you started reading this poem, 
another has been killed in her own home.
In my ending, I sew up the thigh split in her red dress, 
a red flag to the first time I clung to porcelain, retching 
between sobs for daring to check my phone. I unpick bone 
from a corset borrowed from her wardrobe without asking, 
line up the fragments, shape a fossil of a woman 
with my face on. In my ending, I shave her hair so  short, 
the only thing left to twirl, her middle finger—fuck you
In my ending, I bind her tits, asphyxiate ribs. 
I turn that bitch blue. In my ending, I unglue 
letters M and E from the curse of her name. 
Sign, S, O. Carson. In my ending, 
I kill her myself.

from Rattle #80, Summer 2023


Carson Wolfe: “Growing up Carmen in the north of England was unusual. On my mother’s mantel, a figurine of my namesake seduced the room, her dress pulled high up her ceramic thigh, a shrine to hyper-feminine sexuality and power. In Los Angeles, I’d travelled far enough to admire this power from a place that no longer housed me; when I saw a road sign that said Carson, exit here, I did.” (web)

Rattle Logo

March 29, 2023

Éanlaí P. Cronin


the gonzo mug, the first thing for which i reached 
that night when i was twelve and i returned
to the cubicle in the convent i called home 
where one hundred and thirty girls 
shuffled along the marble corridors of this once 
british landlord’s manor, the irony of such a gaggle 
of indigenous women speaking nothing 
but our native tongue in a place where once we 
would have been cailín aimsires, no more than scullery maids, 
no less than always available to the whims and wants 
of some hungry force tossing his occupying seed into unwelcomed 
furrows, here now our victory. our time. irish clambering back 
into the molecules of memory. day by day. phrase by 
repeated phrase. were i there again, it would be 
more than enough, the daily baptism 
of language resurrecting from the bones. back then, its loss 
sauntered along in the blood, the brutality of one native 
against another. who had words for damage done? who dared 
begin the job of that unraveling? the month february. 
the day valentine’s. just told by mother 
superior that the senior girl i adored (let me tell you here 
that this was a love that lasted all of fifteen minutes, beginning 
to finish, no idea in me of its great need, just one embrace 
in the darkness of a music room while others 
scurried past on their way from evening supper to study hall 
so that she and i arrived late and my heart knew 
something it had not known before, someone had claimed 
me entirely as their own). the hooked finger of mother 
superior beckoned from the dais. she whispered in my ear 
in the quietness of that once banquet room 
that this liaison was to cease. 
some snap undone. 
night prayers in church singing 
to a god i hated. climbed the spiral staircase, unearthed
the hidden envelope among my white knee socks. 
emptied the contents of my father’s heart 
pills into the saucer of my palm. filled the gonzo mug 
half way with freezing water. swallowed the lot. watched my reflection 
in the darkness of the window. smiled. 
i remember that. 
smiled at her authority. 
climbed into bed. 
waited. counted each breath. just as i had done 
months before. on the surgeon’s table. count backwards, 
the masked man had asked. 
ten to one, good girl. 
i did the same. 
i can’t remember 
where i stopped.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023
Tribute to Irish Poets


Éanlaí P. Cronin: “Born and reared in a small, Irish-speaking village in the southwest of Ireland, I learned, early in life, that language and land were intertwined. Indeed language and life itself were married in such a way that the singular incantation of a proverb or prayer evoked the nature of the Gael inside the blood, no matter how cold or indifferent one had become to one’s own native origins, no matter how deep a schism history had created in the marrow of the Irish psyche. An Irish verse or a psalm could bring a grown man or woman to tears in our winter kitchen. And I, as a child, could spend hours weeping in a quiet corner at something I didn’t fully understand but knew to be true and real. As real as the thinning carpet on which I sat. Or the small footstool upon which I perched at my mother’s feet by a roaring range. It seemed, back then, in the 1970s, and still to this day, that to hear the native tongue, to sing a traditional song, to recite an epic verse, ‘as Gaeilge,’ was to rebirth within the Irish skin something nearly dead and gone. To make room, not for the terrible beauty Yeats mourned, but for the trembling truth of the savage restored. Savage because we had, even in my childhood, come to view ourselves, through the eyes of long oppression, as mongrels of a kind, uncivilized, shameful, wanting in some way. Yet, not a word of such a thing ever spoken or dissected. As though to be Irish and to be broken were the common weather through which we moved. All of us flawed tokens. My task, as an Irish child, is to pen whatever I can that will rouse the Irish soul in my beloved homeland, and in me. To make sound that which has been silent and dying. To become once more unbound, her and I, in all our original splendor.” (web)

Rattle Logo

July 23, 2023

Alison Luterman


I’m gonna see the Barbie movie tonight
because I had a feminist mother who didn’t buy us Barbies
and when I said I wanted to be a nurse, she said why don’t you be a doctor,
but I really did want to be a nurse
because of the perky hats they got to wear,
bobby-pinned to their sleek, shiny hair,
and I’m going to wear pink to the Barbie movie,
hot pink, the color of cheap candy,
like the chalky sugar cigarettes we pretended to smoke
with their fake red tips,
and I’m going to squeal like a cheerleader on Ecstasy,
I’m going to be silly and girly and super excited,
and all the things you were never supposed to be,
because doing anything like a girl–running,
or throwing, or thinking or writing or talking,
is the worst insult—
an icky, sticky, oozing, bleeding, shrill, smelly girlie-girl.
It means you’re not smart, or cool.
You cry when they throw footballs at your chest
which my boyfriend did in high school
because he wanted to help me toughen up.
It means you’ll be laughed at and dismissed,
so I’ve acted serious and intelligent
and tough for about a thousand years, just to prove them all wrong,
but now I’m begging to be dismissed—please! Dismiss me,
so I can lounge by the pool in a bright pink bikini
while some Ken bring me drinks with little umbrellas.
Because I’m tired of proving my point.
I don’t remember what my point is anyway,
or the point of this whole thing in the first place—
men, women, who cares? I just want to hide under the bed
with my best friend and a flashlight, constructing secret worlds
we can live in forever. I want to grow old on Planet Girl,
painting each of my stubby fingernails a different color of neon.
I have pretended I sprang fully-grown
from the forehead of my father, bristling with armor.
I have worn olive drab and camouflaged the delight I once took
in smearing myself with Vaseline and admiring my new little breast-buds
in the midnight mirror. I have done all the right things,
I have feigned interest in what bored me,
I have feigned politeness. I have pretended that my inner organs
are not all glistening pink, my heart and my liver and my lungs.
Pink as your own tongue, or the pads of your feet, or your palms.

from Poets Respond
July 23, 2023


Alison Luterman: “Like so many women of my generation, I’ve wrestled with the contradictions of who I’m supposed to be, and who I am, what I’m supposed to enjoy, and what I actually do like. I think the Barbie movie is arriving in our world at a great time for all of us, men and women, to start looking at these questions in a new, playful way.” (web)

Rattle Logo

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)

Rattle Logo