December 10, 2014

Sharon Kessler


Seems like every time you turn around,
something else just hit the ground.
—Bob Dylan, “Everything Is Broken”

I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.
—William Stafford

The dvd/cd/cvd/mp player: eject mechanism stuck.
The wily master practicing his martial art
is caught in the eternal
teeth of the machine.

My son’s computer: modem driver
erased itself. Soldiers immobilized in the heat
of battle. The escape velocity
of glass:

When I slammed the window,
the old pane,
in its rot-bitten wood frame,
splintered. (Not

the screen, though. That
disintegrated months ago.) The couch, too, unfolded,
its sprocket sprung, its hinge
unhung, unrefoldable. Everything

is broken, I complained, and my husband smirked,
eyeing that couch-gone-to-bed, and giving me
the lewdest look. The broken things
of the world

have never moved him. I’m the one who collected
the kitten with the punctured lung
from where it lay in the matted leaves: the mother
licked it once and walked away. Nothing

I can do, the vet said. What’s broken
is broken. Only last week
my daughter was watching
Men in Black

on the video when
suddenly the two
towering icons,
lofty and self-evident,

rose up on the screen. Sitting on a bench
in Battery Park, the actors
took no special notice
of what was no more

than conversation’s backdrop. Did you see that? I yelled,
and my daughter rewound the tape. We watched it
over and over, not as they had us do
on CNN. Everything that was broken

we made whole again. I told my daughter, This is a form
of resistance. While the newsreel
is stuck in its groove, our fata morganas

My daughter gathers broken children
like dolls: their apathy
frightens me, but she jumps right in
to their broken hearts and tinkers

until all their complicated machinery
kicks in. But the motor
on the Hoover’s
gone again. The vacuum, or

the broken edge of it. Superimposed on a map:
Master Time Line. Revision #15.
Entry Interface to Coastal Crossing.
Approaching the Coast. Crossing
the California Coast. Mach 18. Crossing Nevada.
Crossing Utah. Crossing New Mexico.
Remote Sensors
Off-Nominal External Event. Momentary Brightening
of Plasma Trail. Crossing North Texas.
Last Pulse
Before Loss of Signal. Last
Recognizable Downlist Frame. The antenna
snapped off in the car wash so I took my son
to the seashore. Twenty video tapes
survived the crash, as did hundreds

of lab worms from a science experiment. One tape shows our hero
floating weightless above the smooth curve of this coastline.
My son is too old for tears
so I cry for him.

He sits on the sand at Caesarea, hot and unhappy,
while I lie down in the water
and let the waves break over me
again and again. Maybe it’s because

I haven’t told him yet, about those
who are lost in sorrow or broken, the way
their shadows draw up darkness
from the sea,

that even when we absent ourselves from
the burning hourglass or webs of salt, that
even when grief unfurls
with a snap of the cord,

whether we stare it down or look away, we are all
travelers on Earth’s dark craft,
husks of speed in the night.
Flaming wings.

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014

[download audio]


Sharon Kessler: “I published my first poem in the 2nd grade, in the P.S. 207 newsletter, but then considered other callings: cryptographer, Mossad spy, chemist, and astronaut. Most of these required math, for which I had scant talent. I hid Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind inside my 11th grade math book. Poetry was like walking on the moon or breaking a code or having a secret identity or discovering a new element. I began writing it with a passion. I eventually moved to Israel and married a mathematician, with whom I coauthored three children. I was happy enough as a poet until, during a writer’s residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, I accidentally stumbled upon a museum exhibit of old printing presses. Amazed by them, I spent the next few years learning to set type and print chapbooks on an antique press, scavenge old equipment, and smuggle related paraphernalia, unavailable in my adopted country, through TSA checkpoints. In my poem published here, the text in the ‘Time Line, Revision #15’ is taken verbatim from a map published in the investigation of the tragic crash of the Columbia space shuttle.” (website)

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February 7, 2013

Suzanne Kessler


darkens the girl
in the green bag.
Mercy the child,
beautiful and deep.
Feed her dirt
with a copper spoon,
paint three finger holes—
a purple dolphin
in her small room.
Touch her curving leg.
Mercy the child,
the noose,
the chair, the table,
the empty space
she was.
Better dead
or blind
or deeply placed
than merciful.
Drive mercy
into bird throats,
tree hands,
the eyes of grasses.
Walk away.
Leave mercy
to the shovels
and fools.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012
Tribute to Law Enforcement Poets


Suzanne Kessler (Police Officer): “I have always had a passion for writing and literature. As a small girl I was an avid reader and writer. Writing poetry has filtered in and out of my entire life. I wrote heavily in college and always shared my love of literature with my children (as an interesting aside: my daughter is a poet and my son a police officer). I made my way into law enforcement through a college required internship. I had never aspired to be in law enforcement, but fell into it while in school. I truly love my job, but still can’t resist my urge to write poetry.”

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October 3, 2010

Stephen Kessler


for Pierre Joris

Sometimes I feel
like a motherless
tongue, an untongue-

tied motherfucker un-
able to lick the but-
ton of my love mere-

ly monolingually but
must multiply my
moves to include all

the landscapes my
restless lips have tra-
versed in the course of

roaming so many worlds
I can’t recall, record,
remember, recount or re-

collect them all, a
long blur in my back-
ground which obscures

my ever questionable
origins because after
all where was I any-

way when speech first
struck me like a lash
across my voracious,

my insatiable mouth, my
mind, my maw that
sucks in everything

in sight only to trans-
late it later into un-
speakably conceptual

yet loud sounds, like air-
craft landing on far-
flung runways or air

conditioners humming
in the depths of hotels
where multilingual

scholars & miscellaneous
scoundrels rendezvous
in momentarily shared

weltanschauungs to sip
martinis and hope
to seduce each other

while exchanging recipes
for revelation, as if
the sudden sight of

ancient schoolmates
were not enough to set
poems homelessly in

motion in pursuit of
what was missed in the
interim, attempting to

trace that unmistakable
outline of aged profiles
whose uncommon ambitions

have branched like
the lines on old maps,
rivers & roads that

changed as they flowed
& unrolled into worlds
their respective travelers

scarcely foresaw when
they set out but now,
in turned-back time,

have ripened &
dropped like sweet
fruit into the mouths

of eloquent orphans
who savor every last

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005


Stephen Kessler: “Pierre and I were student poets together at Bard in the late 1960s and our paths had crossed just once since then when we met again last fall in Las Vegas as translator colleagues at ALTA where he gave me a copy of his book A Nomad Poetics, to which ‘Homeboy Nomad’ is my response.” (web)

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July 13, 2010

Stephen Kessler


Any hack can crank out a hundred sonnets
if he has to; all you have to do
is set up your metronome and start typing,
taking dictation from the day’s small gifts,
whatever presents itself in the street
or dredges itself up from memory
or dreams itself out of your transcribing hand.
It’s an insidious form, because it’s almost
easy, leading you by the wrist through rules
and rhythms as old as the English language
translated down the ages in idioms
transformed by time and driven by dying breaths.
It gives you a false sense of what you meant
when the closing couplet clinches your argument.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
Tribute to the Sonnet


Stephen Kessler: “When I started writing poems in earnest, as a teenager, I had no use for free verse, but the formal structures and rhythms of English poetry—especially that of Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats—provided the models for my own earliest efforts. In time I became more ‘contemporary’ in my approach to form, opening up to more unpredictable lyric structures, but my ear had been trained to hear rhythm and rhyme in a way that continues to serve me more than 40 years later. These sonnets were written during what could be called a cool-off lap after translating about 70 sonnets by Borges for his complete sonnets, to be published in 2010 by Penguin. While they are not formal sonnets in the strictest sense, I think they are close enough to give an illusion of sonnetude.” (website)

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September 15, 2013

Rattle is proud to announce the winner of the 2013 Rattle Poetry Prize:

Roberto Ascalon

“The Fire This Time”
Roberto Ascalon
Seattle, WA



“A Poem for Women Who Don’t Want Children”
Chanel Brenner
Santa Monica, CA

“My Mother Told Us Not to Have Children”
Rebecca Gayle Howell
Lubbock, TX

“Baby Love”
Courtney Kampa
New York, NY

“What He Must Have Seen”
Stephen Kampa
Daytona Beach, FL

“Man on Mad Anthony”
Bea Opengart
Cincinatti, OH

“Laundry List”
Michelle Ornat
Elma, NY

“Man on the Floor”
Jack Powers
Fairfield, CT

“Basic Standards Test”
Danez Smith
St. Paul, MN

“Who Breathed in Binders”
Patricia Smith
Howell, NJ

“Of You”
Wendy Videlock
Grand Junction, CO


These eleven poems will be published in the Winter issue of Rattle this December. Each of the Finalists are also eligible for the $1,000 Readers’ Choice Award, to be selected by entrant and subscriber vote (the voting period is December 1, 2013 – February 15, 2014).

Another nine poems were selected for standard publication, and offered a space in the open section of a future issue. These poets will be notified individually about details, but they are: Jacqueline Berger, Daniel Bohnhorst, Jackleen Holton, Sharon Kessler-Farchi, Michael Meyerhofer, Kathleen Nolan, Charlotte Pence, Sam Sax, and Timothy Schirmer.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the competition, which would not have been a success without your diverse and inspiring poems. We received a record 2,105 entries and well over 8,000 poems, and it was an honor to read each of them.

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May 8, 2001

Tribute to Law Enforcement Poets

Conversations with Amiri Baraka & Rhoda Janzen

Rattle #37Releasing this June, Rattle #37 features a selection of poems by fourteen law enforcement officers. One might not expect any similarity between policing and poetry, but with reams of paperwork, plenty of drama, and a need for attention to fine detail, poets and cops do have much in common. And as retired police officer James Fleming explains in his introduction, “a sparse, carefully-written police report can evoke tears.”

Of course, the Law Enforcement tribute is only part of the issue. Rattle #37’s particularly rich open section features the work of a full 68 poets. And to cap off one of our most diverse issues yet, Alan Fox interviews the controversial political activist and poet Amiri Baraka, and former-Mennonite memoirist and poet Rhoda Janzen.

$10.00 $7.00


Audio Available = audio available

Law Enforcement Poets

James Fleming Cops on the Beat (essay)
Madeline Artenberg Guardians of the Good
Barbara Ann Carle Shots Fired
Sarah Cortez The Secret
Betty Davis Fred Astaire and Betty Davis
James Fleming Working Homocide
Jesse S. Fourmy Duluth
Hans Jewinski Blue Funk
Suzanne Kessler Mercy
Dean Olson Yellow Sailboat
David S. Pointer Hooverites and Jarhead MPs
John J. Powers Proof of Service
G. Emil Reutter Shoulders
Audio Available Vance Voyles After
William Walsh The Old Me
Sarah Cortez More Cops on the Beat (essay)


Audio Available Christeene Alcosiba What Remains Is Given Up to the Fire
Amiri Baraka The Terrorism of Abstraction
Wendy Barker Sterenfall
Joseph Bathanti Praise the Lord
Ben Berman The Underside
Audio Available Darla Biel When My Ex Called in Sick
Ace Boggess Property
Peter Bradley Deus ex Machina
Eric Burger God’s Razors
Erik Campbell Great Caesar’s Ghost
Audio Available Rohan Chhetri Not the Exception
Paul F. Cummins Elegy
Audio Available Weston Cutter Lungs Like a Distance Swimmer
Tiffanie Desmangles In the County for a PR
Richard Donnelly It Would Take
Thomas Dorsett The Pleasures of Age
Audio Available Kathleen Driskell In a Diner Somewhere in Iowa
Patrick Dutcher People You May Know
Jaclyn Dwyer The Fire
Audio Available Alejandro Escude Precis
Alan Fox Tofu Fu & Tofu Fu Two
Fred Fox The Sea
Sarah Freligh Sex Education
Ed Galing Cleaning House
Audio Available Kristin George Bagdanov Holding Light
Audio Available Jennifer Givhan An Editor Advised Me to Stop Writing …
Susan F. Glassmeyer On Old Congress Road
John Gosslee Portrait of an Inner Life
Margaret Green Haiku
Tresha Faye Haefner Tattoos on Young Women in Spring
Theodosia Henney About-to-Rain
Jackleen Holton God Knows I Want to Be Good
Audio Available Jessica Jacobs Primer
Lowell Jaeger Trash
Rhoda Janzen Let’s Say
The Minnesota Multiphastic Personality …
Dave Jarecki The Cosmic Dance
Edmund Jorgensen Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Pepper, Too?
Rose Kelleher Enlightenment
Lynne Knight Almost by Heart
Audio Available Eugenia Leigh Destination: Beautiful
Lyn Lifshin Honeysuckle
Clint Margrave The Famous Atheist
Frank Matagrano Auditing the Heart
Joan Mazza Extremes
Ken Meisel Woman Releasing a Tongueless Swallow…
Audio Available Donald Platt Caddy
Audio Available Christine Poreba Between Missing and Found
Kuno Raeber Nursing & Void
Josh Rathkamp Single Father
Mary Ellen Redmond The Sister of Icarus
Jack Ridl Hardship in a Nice Place
Audio Available Richard Robbins The Tattooed Woman
Mary Anne Rojas Hard Work Pays Off
Sam Sax Reuptake Inhibitors
Rebecca Schumejda How to Classify a Reptile
Ali Shapiro Pittsburgh
Janice D. Soderling Real Men Don’t Take No Shit from Nobody
Alan Soldofsky Recovery at Lake Tahoe
Rob Stephens Dammit and the Placenta
Bruce Taylor Fast Facts About Famous People
Craig van Rooyen Reading Exodus
Richard Vargas The Company Provides a Free Lunch…
David Wagoner The Plumber’s Nightmare
Kathleen A. Wakefield While Taking a Nap …
Rediscovers the Wheel
Listens to the Dead
A.D. Winans Media Blues
Scott Withiam Watching Deer in a Snowstorm
Jeff Worley How to Become a Professional Folk Singer

A Bit of Color

Guy Kettelhack My Problem with Your Hat


Amiri Baraka
Rhoda Janzen


Jarrett Blaustein

March 7, 2001

Yankee Doodle Blue Tooth
& the Deadliest Catch


Rattle e.9Rattle e.9 released in early September 2010, with a preview of six poems from Rattle #34’s Tribute to Mental Health Workers. The book feature focuses on frequent Rattle contributor Gary Lemons’ Bristol Bay and Other Poems, with an interview about his eclectic life in poetry and his years fishing off the Alaskan coast. Also in the issue, Stephen Kessler complains about our “touchy-feely” rejection letter, Art Beck wrestles with translating the idiom (illuminating a wealth of our own idioms in the process), and Dan Waber introduces us to the “nature” poems of John Martone. Artwork throughout by Charles Farrell.

Click the cover or here for the free download (1.2 MB pdf)