August 12, 2022

Rolf Rathmann


1999—Prince sang about it.
Media over-conflated it, remember?
Y2K—computers worldwide would
Expectations were high
and I
threw my worst party ever,
a royal dud! Few people showed
and those who did watched CNN
all night, as the world
rang in without incident
I felt responsible for the awful
night I was sure my friends had.
Growing up, it was a special 
night; instilling her Dutch heritage,
mom would prepare apple
beignets and oliebollen, a dumpling,
with a whispered dusting of 
powdered sugar. The next day—ooooh
how they tasted great 1, 2, even 3
days old—we watched on television
the Tournament of Roses Parade and then
brother and mom: college football. Pop
took us once, I’ve been told, to see it
live in Pasadena—but I don’t remember.
I’m sure I must’ve loved it—all those
floats, and flowers, and people!
One New Year’s, flying the Friendly
Skies—not a very prescient slogan—
I had a four-day layover in Paris.
At the midnight hour, autos everywhere
came to a halt, blaring their horns
and I 
alone in a taxi
continued to a club in my
most magical of cities. 
“Write what you’re afraid to say,” 
I’ve been advised by more than one. 
Okay.                 I’ve
spent too many New Year’s 
in prison.
But I alone 
am responsible. 

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022
Tribute to Prisoner Express


Rolf Rathmann: “For myself, poetry is writing stripped bare—raw, vulnerable, frightening. It also challenges me to be more concise, a trait I lack verbally. Whether it be childhood loss, the angst of coming out, or the pangs of addiction then recovery, poetry helps me release the pain, and capture the joy. This contribution is dedicated to my family—by birth and the family I choose, my friends, for seeing light in me when I so often saw dark.”

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August 11, 2022

Greg Kosmicki


Sometimes you can be so happy and it’s inexplicable,
driving your car down the freeway
or sitting in your kitchen eating an apple

or say you just completed a mundane task
like putting two stacks of paper into order.
It has nothing to do with that probably

probably it has nothing to do with anything.
You can actually be happy for no real reason
just as you can breathe for no reason

or take a dump for no reason
I mean, other than the obvious reasons
or maybe it’s only because you can say reason

at least as many times as you’d like
at the end of a line for no reason.
If someone tells you you can’t be happy

tell him take a hike, there is no reason
not to be because if you want it to be it can be
and you don’t even have to have a reason

to be happy, you can just be
kind of like a spider might be happy
sitting up in a corner in her web

trying to think about whether or not
she can understand the concept or even
if she cares or not. There is the web,

and the corner, and someplace flying toward her, lunch,
and someplace a poem that ends with the word lunch.

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010
Tribute to Humor


Greg Kosmicki: “I write poems because I’ve found that it’s the easiest way to agitate my wife of 36 years.”

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August 10, 2022

Madeleine Tully


What’s new? Dr. M asks 
like we talk all the time—
then Scoot down a bit, and I do,
tensing. Speculum inserted,
I say, “I didn’t get my period for three months,
but then I did.” So, it’s starting, she says.
I feel the cold plastic, then the swab.
It hurts like everything hurts this week.
“I actually thought I might be pregnant—
but not really.” Highly unlikely, she adds.
Dr. M asks about the man,
and I wish I had remained silent
like someone arrested.
I tell her we broke up a week ago. 
He couldn’t commit, she says with conviction,
so much so that I say, “No, he had a wife—
I didn’t know.” She takes the speculum out
and her gloved fingers slip inside to feel my ovaries.
Then I start to fucking cry.
She says, Don’t cry. 
She moves on to the breast exam. 
“He was too committed,” I say, laughing a little.
How’d you find out? she asks. 
I tell her about the pictures on Instagram, 
and she asks what I said to him. 
I don’t lie because I am so naked,
as transparent as my skin,
the blue veins of my breasts 
exposed. “I messaged his wife.” 
She kneads my other breast, lifts my arm,
kneads again. What I don’t say is that 
I fell in love once—this once. 
When he asked about my day, 
he really wanted to know, his questions 
roving freely, as though they were 
his hands. I sit up, pull at the strings 
of my blue gown, look at my clothes
crumpled on the chair beside me.
He taught me to pronounce “ebullient,” 
the word I used to describe his laugh.
Her back to me, Dr. M washes her hands.
I will see you in a year. Feel better
she says, then turns to toss 
the gloves and paper scraps into the trash. 

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022


Madeleine Tully: “I’d like to sound more intellectual about things, but the truth is that writing poetry saves me. This poem found me at my most vulnerable, hunted me actually. Then it helped heal me.”

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August 9, 2022

Alejandro Escudé


Once, I told my son, you pay for credits
in college, but you must learn on your own.
Learning was locked up in a clear glass case.
I recall pressing the button at my university,
waiting for the lecturer to hand me the Derrida
deodorant or Foucault contraceptives.
I’d feel embarrassed of course, standing
in that forbidden aisle under bright lights.
I read Kerouac in the dormitory where there
was one chair in which to sit, the dining hall,
where they locked up the burgers, the dogs,
the meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Now,
they’ve got love locked up behind the glass
case of the internet. You click on the product
you want but no one comes with the key.
It’s so fun to look at it all behind the glass,
but quickly, no browsing, you’ve to got
to know what you want! America itself
behind glass—with the toothpaste, lipstick,
detergent, razors blades, those bold colors,
oranges, reds, purples, blues. I’d like
to slow down enough to take a selfie
with the locked up store shelves, but
you’d never want to stand there too long.
So I’m not one to ring and wait—I’d rather
go without it, take my citizen sadness home,
stocked in the aisles inside my cranium,
somewhere between the democratic milk,
the highway of meats, the fruits of joy.

from Poets Respond
August 9, 2022


Alejandro Escudé: “I think the practice of secure store shelving is interesting because of the products themselves. They are things that human beings need to coexist. To me, this says a lot about capitalism as a general system of human organization. It says a lot about desire, consumption, beauty, survival, self esteem.” (web)

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August 8, 2022

Cesar Hernandez


Step 310
Physically present,
mentally absent.
The government’s overriding
interest is that justice shall 
be done and that the
prosecutor is the servant of
the law, the twofold aim
of which is that guilt shall
not escape or innocence
Not true.
Nobody cares. 
It is subject to the
kind of
blunt abrogation
that would occur
with the recognition
of a due process
to post conviction
access to evidence.
Nobody cares.
Step 23
Time to fly home.
Two detectives.
At McCarren,
they’re twenty feet
There’s fourteen
chances for me
to escape.
Nobody cares.

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022
Tribute to Prisoner Express


Cesar Hernandez: “I discovered writing in prison. I didn’t think my words mattered to anyone. I was completely taken by surprise when one of my fellow inmates said my words are meaningful to her. Catherine La Fleur inspired me to become a better writer. Now I take writing seriously and constantly revise to make sure each piece is perfect. Over time I am surprised at how much I have opened up about myself.”

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August 7, 2022

Bob Hicok


We give hummingbirds sugar water
in defiance of dentists’ recommendations
everywhere, and in return
for our sweetness, have been gifted a nest
of thistle and dandelion down
attached with spider silk
to a plant on the front porch
that holds a peeping chick
I’m afraid to look at
lest my giant face and eyes
scare the tiniest heart for miles.
You probably know by now
of the extinction of birds
and the growing similarity
of those that remain, who are becoming
more and more crow-
and sparrow-like, snowy egrets
soon gone, griffon vultures, says thems
that study such things. Forgive me
for making the plural pluraler,
I just want more of everything
in this time of lessening
and to keep us from erasing
the world’s green and red plumage,
its blue and wild defiance of gravity.
And forgive us, for we are big-brained
and small-wisdomed, mostly inadvertently deadly
and largely incapable
of understanding the complexity of life,
yet we have bulldozers, earth movers,
power plants, car and swizzle stick factories,
can dam or redirect rivers, cut off
the tops of mountains and drill miles
below the sea, can even make matter
explode, smash the stuff of all stuff
to bits, making us gods
in diapers, magicians who have no clue
what we’ve pulled out of the hat,
and we need help. In addition to their zip
and chittering, their air wars
at the feeder over the four fake flowers
to sip from, what I love about the hummingbirds
is also what I fear about nature,
the constant demonstration
of human inability
to find a modest niche
and nestle among the other breaths. Are we
an amazing blaze, an evolutionary
oops-a-daisy so devoted to the pursuit
of comfort and ease
that for the sake of hummingbirds
and stoats, bats and bears, waterfalls
and evergreens and everglades
we have to go, or can we change,
can we share, I ask you now,
since my Magic 8 Ball shrugged
at the question, and the river
mumbled something about being late,
and I’m lost somewhere between
the reasonableness of indoor plumbing
and air-conditioning and the insanity
of buying toilet paper on-line. Another way
to put this: how many lives
and species are single-serving puddings
worth? I know: yum. But is yum

from Poets Respond
August 7, 2022


Bob Hicok: “This poem was written in response to this article: ‘As More Bird Species Go Extinct Those That Are Left May Be More Alike.’”

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