September 24, 2022

Reagan Rafferty (age 13)


My grandmother’s eyes are very dark,
And most think that they are brown;
But I can see specks of sun,
That make them green and golden;
The wrinkles around her eyes,
Remind me of what she has seen;
And the deep lines on her forehead,
Tell me where she’s been.
And her hands are warm and old,
For they’ve held so many treasures before;
They’ve given love to a new life,
And felt an old one slip away.
My grandmother’s smile is bright,
Like it’s seen all the beauties in the world;
Like the sun knelt down upon it,
Surrendering its worth.

from 2022 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Reagan Rafferty: “Poetry has always been a meaningful outlet for me to express what I truly feel. I write poetry when I don’t know exactly what to say; when normal and monotonous words don’t carry the same meaning as a poem’s beautiful rhythm; when my window is rainy and my insides feel small, I write poetry so I can feel. I write poetry because of its melodic sounds and impactful words that make the ears feel soothed and the soul feel heard. So much of my life consists of poems, both literal and figurative. Poetry is a lifestyle and a philosophy. Poetry is art, so much more personable than normal words and so much more beautiful. Without the rhythmic support of my familiar stanzas, my emotions wouldn’t have a place to live freely.”

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September 23, 2022

Noah Arhm Choi


It’s Sunday afternoon with too many people wearing white
for a barbeque. The sweet smoke floats up into the trees from the galbi
on the grill, the picnic tables lined with kimchi, lettuce wraps, polite 
Tupperware fighting for space. The girls are called away
to pick flowers for the tables as the boys
ready to muddy their knees around the baseball diamond.
I’m wearing a Space Jam T-shirt two sizes too big,
cargo shorts and a bowl haircut. I don’t hate flowers
but I do hate watching my father walk away towards the field and so
I run up to him, tears suddenly mixing with summer sweat,
beg him to let me play with the sons catching praise 
like pop flies. I’m surprised he says yes, dares 
the other fathers to say something
to his beer-easy sneer.
How is this the memory that comes up when I think of him in summer,
not the cigarette held too close to my shoulder, not the way his face stills
before it sprays spit. He leads me to the plate, cheers too loud
as I run to first base, never says a word as he watches
me part my hair like him, or jump on home base like the other boys,
daring someone to say I should be anywhere but here.

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022


Noah Arhm Choi: “The ways we are socialized to define the world in a binary of good/bad or right/wrong leaves little room for the nuanced knot of emotions that is most often, for me, the true center of an influential experience. Sometimes we are validated by people who have otherwise harmed us and vice versa. This poem is an attempt to nurture what is positive and affirming without shying away from violence.” (web)

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September 22, 2022

Worm by Enne Tesse, black and white drawing of a worm turning into a mushroom

Image: “Worm” by Enne Tesse. “Identity Politics” was written by Drea for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2022, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)




i don’t always know
which of us is
consuming the other
but as yet
we’re still connected

from Ekphrastic Challenge
August 2022, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Enne Tesse: “In this minimal and complex poem the possibilities of thought are left open while connecting visually with the unusual aspects of the image.”

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September 21, 2022

Wendy Videlock


So many blessings,
so many complaints—
be honest if
were a religion
we’d all be saints

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022


Wendy Videlock: “I think I am a devotee of poetry in large part because it refuses paraphrase, has little interest in good manners, and doesn’t have a dress code.” (web)

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September 20, 2022

Janice D. Soderling


Oh, let the ground be muddy.
Oh, let the mild rains fall.
It’s winter in the oblast
And there’s writing on the wall.
But no one can interpret it.
A threat? Or folderol?
Only Putin in his fox lair knows.
En garde? Advance? Withdraw?
Oh, may oil be delivered
On bobsled or on skis.
Winter war like winter sports
Requires an awesome freeze.
So let the ground be muddy.
Let the Arctic tundra thaw.
Let’s fly the aspidistra now
And frack one last hurrah!
Bow down before the money god.
We’ve worshipped there before.
Excuse me one brief minute.
Someone’s knocking on the door.
Back now. It was that Orwell chap
With pizzas, strangely grinning.
Turn up the heat. And pass the beer.
What did I miss? Who’s winning?

from Poets Respond
September 20, 2022


Janice D. Soderling: “In winter wars, as in winter sports, weather is often a determining factor. As cold weather approaches, there is considerable speculation about the future of the war in Ukraine and Europe’s ability to withstand the impending energy crisis, about Putin’s next move, about which countries might choose oil over promises, about future energy sources (nuclear plants reopening, fracking, Arctic drilling). In much of the reporting, as in private opining, the war is entertainment. George Orwell wrote a socially critical novel, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, in which the protagonist declares war on the money god, but later surrenders his ideals.”

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September 19, 2022

Susan Vespoli


I’m the mother of the man 
living at the park off 57th Avenue,
a man who found religion and wants to pray 
with those he meets on the street,
those who buy five-dollar hits 
of fentanyl and contemplate suicide
like he once did. I’m the mother 
of a man who carries a bag 
of oranges from the 24-hour WinCo, 
where he walks to wash his face,
a man who sleeps upright on a cement bench 
beneath a ramada, eyes closed, head 
drooped forward. I’m the mother 
of a man I hear breathe in the backseat, 
nodded off next to his backpack
and jug of water as I look out 
the windshield at traffic lights, 
pigeons on lampposts, clouds—
but he’s not there; he’s back at the park, 
head bowed, peeling an orange 
at a concrete table in the shade.

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022


Susan Vespoli: “Every homeless person you pass on the street or in the park is someone’s beloved kid. One of them is mine.” (web)

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September 18, 2022

Lisa Muloma


On the drive home, Mom calls
and you resent her for doing it,
answer anyway. The joy
in her voice when you answer
on the first ring. She asks how
the day was, and you say no,
you first and she goes first,
says she’s been thinking about
the election, the way Aunty
and the intercessors prayed it in,
how Ruto is a professing evangelical,
charismatic, has a chapel
in his home, how the chief justice
of the Kenyan supreme court said
Ruto’s confirmation was an act
of God. Only God and your mother
prioritize you lately. Your friends
have entered their terminal
relationships, are retreating into
their homes, are adopting pets.
You think of that boy who does not
love you. He has replaced you
with another Kenyan girl from Philly.
In your new apartment, empty
of furniture, full of boxes
and shopping bags, you open your
phone, searching for food. The sushi
place has low ratings and expensive
food. You had tacos yesterday.
Salad is risky and also too expensive.
You settle on Taste of East Africa,
and on the phone you order nyama choma,
pronounce it correctly. And sukuma wiki.
Ugali. You imagine, on the other side
of the phone, a girl like you. Maybe
Ethiopian, maybe Kenyan or Tanzanian.
You’ll walk into the place and they’ll
recognize you by your forehead, your skin,
something about your ears. They’ll understand
why you don’t speak Swahili anymore,
load you with extra samosas, give you
their numbers, say come back anytime.
In the car, you put on afrobeats, feel
your heart lift a little. There are palm
trees in North Park. This is the California
everyone dreams of. Mom said the climate
in San Diego is as close to Kenya’s as it gets
without actually going home. At Taste
of East Africa, the cashier is a white woman
with a brown ponytail, the chef is a flustered
looking white man. You want to ask who
the hell started this restaurant. But a woman,
also white, arrives to pick up her order
and you don’t tip and leave quickly
and think of the most recent man who officially
doesn’t love you as of last week. The salesperson
at the wine shop smiles with his lips
only, and you look for wine from South Africa,
cringing at the Austrian colonizer wine,
the French and Italian and New Zealand
junk. Nothing from the continent, looks like we can’t
have anything nice today. You pull yourself out
of it, decide to choose a red based on the
cuteness of the sticker label, but
all the cute ones are expensive so
you choose an okay Italian and go home
to eat standing up in your kitchen empty
of furniture and Mom texts goodnight
and you think maybe you will talk to God
and unpack and sleep.

from Poets Respond
September 18, 2022


Lisa Muloma: “As of today, Kenya inaugurated William Ruto as president in a peaceful transfer of power that was notable because of Kenya’s history of post-election violence. I’m still moody though.”

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