August 7, 2022

Bob Hicok

ON STICKING OUT LIKE A SORE OPPOSABLE THUMB

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
enough?
 

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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August 6, 2022

Holly Haeck  (age 15)

HEAT ADVISORY FOR ROME AND SURROUNDING AREAS

There is a beehive rotting somewhere under
the Colosseum. Resident hornets come out
sometimes in the summer, and they are furious
and they are starving. When it is sweltering
hot and the streets are lined with seventeen
different versions of the same cart selling
Coke and lemonade to the tourist whose wallet
was just stolen twenty minutes ago and they haven’t
noticed, the bees crawl into people’s ears
and into their Burberry handbags and every stolen
thing, and they sting and they bite and your skin
is like the inside of a blood orange and it’s just
nature. Some people never go to Rome.
Some people only hear about it from
Travel and Leisure and some people
never go back. Some people visit
the Colosseum and send a postcard
back to their friends: Having an amazing
time, wish you were here.
 

from 2022 Rattle Young Poets Anthology

__________

Why do you like to write poetry?

Holly Haeck: “I write poetry to preserve intense thoughts and emotions in a single moment of time. I can arrange the words in a way that makes sense to my mind lyrically and visually on a page, and share it with others in hopes that they will understand, too. Poetry is my own unique way of communicating with others, with myself, and with the world around me.”

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August 5, 2022

Shawn R. Jones

SOPRANO FROM THE JUNIOR CHOIR AT THE PROTEST

Her larynx is raw from chanting. 
Every diphthong and syllable aflame. 
Each vowel broken. She cannot sing, 
 
We Shall Overcome. That was 
her grandmother’s song. And she 
is not her grandmother. 
 
So forgive her for wanting 
the police precinct destroyed. 
Forgive her for cheering 
 
as patrol cars scream between 
flames. Forgive her for looting 
the Smoke Shop in the alley 
 
on James Street. Forgive her 
for listening to Floyd cry, 
“Momma” four hundred times 
 
on her cell phone as she fills 
a bong with kerosene. 
Forgive her as she sticks a rag 
 
in its petite mouth and turns 
the soft pink cloth into wick. 
Forgive her. Forgive her 
 
as she leans back, 
steps forward, shifts 
her full body weight, 
 
twists her torso, 
drives her elbow forward, 
and releases the bong— 
 
a torched bird 
with variegated wings.
 

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022

__________

Shawn Jones: “My poetry tells a story of survival as an ongoing journey—rather than destination.” (web)

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August 4, 2022

Joe Weil

MORNING AT THE ELIZABETH ARCH

The winos rise as beautiful as deer.
Look how they stagger from their sleep
as if the morning were a river
against which they contend.

This is not a sentiment
filled with the disdain
of human pity.
They turn in the mind,
they turn
beyond the human order.

One scratches his head and yawns.
Another rakes a hand
through slick mats of thinning hair.
They blink and the street litter moves
its slow, liturgical way.
A third falls back
bracing himself on an arm.

At river’s edge, the deer stand poised.
One breaks the spell of his reflection with a hoof
and, struggling, begins to cross.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007

__________

Joe Weil: “I’m a fairly good piano player and I fake it on guitar. I play a five string, mostly to incite obsessive-compulsive guitarists to riot. As I’ve told them, you only need three strings to make a chord. When I’m not playing piano or faking it on the guitar, I work as an instructor in the Graduate and Undergraduate Creative Writing program at SUNY, Binghamton. I have one hot chili pepper on rate my professor dot com. Since my mother is dead, I can’t possibly figure out who gave it to me.”

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August 3, 2022

Frank Olms

MISS MIRANDA

Hey there, Miss Miranda
I don’t know how lucky I feel,
For without a heart to guide me
I don’t know what feelings are real.
Yes, I am the Tin Man
And yes, I have no heart,
But we should get together,
Then you won’t fall apart.
 
Hey there, Miss Miranda
I’m not sure how lucky I feel,
But if we could get together,
Then your heart—I could help it heal.
My armor is slightly dented
And is showing some signs of rust.
If you give me your broken heart
I’ll rebuild it with love and trust.
 
Hey there, Miss Miranda
Not every cloud had rain,
But a broken heart needs love
And care and time to heal the pain.
So come let’s get together
And please don’t fall apart,
I’ll take your heart and mend it,
And we’ll both get a brand new start.
 

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022
Tribute to Prisoner Express

__________

Frank Olms: “During the mid-1960s, I became self-employed and, except for a few brief periods, had remained self-employed until 2011, when I became incarcerated: a bizarre change. While going through the court system for 30 months, I remained in a cell directly opposite the classroom. Some of the cellmates were attending a class on writing but possessed no creativity, so I started writing stories for them. One week I wrote three different stories on the same subject. And that started my creative writing. Each story was supposed to be about 400 words. I continued one story to 240 pages. To interject poetry was a natural extension to add some texture, feeling, and color.”

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August 2, 2022

James Longenbach

SPRING BREAK

For three days, Friday
Plus the weekend,
I pulled up roots.
I wandered

Freely among women in velvet dresses,
Men in cutaways.
When I signed the guest book

One bowed, one lifted
Fingers to my lips—I was

A field of poppies
Blossoming, then blown.
A blind man gabbling on the bus.
A bicycle colliding with a taxi—lost,

I could be rescued,
Therefore seen.
Vainly I disguised the letters

In my name.
Streets, people’s
Faces, the movement
Of their bodies suddenly
Vivid: spindly

Thighs, the cut
Of muscles
In their arms, fingers

Clutching the key.
One licked her teeth.
A crust of bread was dipped in oil.
For whom I had returned to the streets of Maiano

They knew, but they remembered
Ascalaphus.
When I had enough secrets
I also had pity.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004

__________

James Longenbach: “I wrote ‘Spring Break’ while living in Florence, near the village of Maiano.” (web)

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August 1, 2022

Alexis V. Jackson

WHAT WE CARRY OFF THE SEA: ZONG SURVIVOR’S CHILD TAKES A BATH

after Wang Ping’s “Things We Carry on the Sea”

It was Sesame Street,
Ernie particularly,
who taught me how to covet
the company of a floating vessel–
his, duckling shaped and filled with air;
mine, always a ship-like boat;
both always smiling and squeaking.
 
Splish splash I was taking a bath,
Ernie and I would sing—
Bing-bang, Elmo saw the whole gang
a song about embarrassment,
a song about being stuck in the water
after invasion, while the unwelcome
party while we are too naked and too
surprised and too out-armed and then
we join them.
A-splishin’ and a-splashin’
 
On wash days, when
I was allowed to soap soak my body and hair,
you could catch me trying to float in the tub—
trying to be a life raft for the Barbies
lying in a row on my tummy. Tug
Boat would watch from the soap dish
and the pink- and green-haired trolls would take
audience next to the spigot as I sank
to the bottom—nappy and knotted—a splash,
small-bodied and black.
 
How long can a child at sea,
hold her breath? or float? or try
to float? Without a bright rubber boat,
without the company of others
co-hoping to reach a friendly shore,
how long does she splish and splash
before she acquiesces?
 
We was a-movin’ and a-grovin’
We was a-rollin’ and a-strollin’
Why, even here, must all the dolls be Black?
And the language be Black?
It is 1995. Do any still have to jump
and sink?
 
A-splishin’ and a-splashin’
 
How long does a body
hold memory of a body?
 
How often does a body reenact
someone else’s memory?
 
How many songs and sounds tangle
us in something like home
where we have reason
to greet the sated water with nothing
to covet.
 

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022

__________

Alexis V. Jackson: “Song and scent, for me, are the strongest connections to memory. My mother taught me how to remember things with song and verse; so, I’m conditioned to connect hymns and rap verses to blood memory and lived experiences. This poem is about what we see M. NourbeSe Philip ‘exaqua[s]’ in Zong, what Philip and Ping invited me to do with language and memory, what my mother has conditioned me to do, what conversations with water about their memory looks like.” (web)

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