December 8, 2021

Salome Kokoladze

HOW WE ALL FALL

They should have given him a chair to sit on,
writes Michael Jackson’s fan on YouTube. In the video 
Michael Jackson powers through his performance 
despite repeatedly fainting on stage. 

Hope can be ugly. One girl fell in love with a bridge 
and married its model when she grew up. 
Another woman believed she was a chair 
and stood still for hours against a wall. 

I fantasize about sleeping with a weighted blanket. 
It feels like you are being held, a friend tells me. 
Where do people go? Not after they die, 
but when they are alive and well, where do they go? 

I imagine the happy ones. They are opening their mouths 
in search of air pockets under a hot shower. 
They have the eyes of the mother 
monkey that carried her dead baby with one hand 

and with the other ate a mango. All the upright bodies 
fall a little with each step. My grandmother told me 
she’s been to the moon. She went there all by herself. 
And I am the only one in the U.S. remembering 

her name. This makes me slightly lonelier 
than I usually am. Who knows my history here 
unless it’s about wars. I remember the sun 
at its brightest. 

My friend and I at the beach, pretending 
to be Egyptian pharaohs. I was mummified 
numerous times and before that 
I had conquered the Black Sea. 

It was then that the world had slowly started 
to become mine. Imagine that child, her animal-headed 
gods, she is burying her body in sand. Hope is her, 
in that shallow grave, with eyes looking up.

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021

__________

Salome Kokoladze: “Poetry begins with the failure of language. A creature of both the symbolic and the material worlds, poetry helps me reconcile with moments when speaking is irrelevant, insufficient, or unimaginable.” (web)

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December 7, 2021

Kurt Luchs

ALL OF MY FATHERS

for Robert Bly, 1926–2021

All of my fathers are dead now.
If I have any further questions
there is no one to ask, no one
whose answer might matter to me.
But then it was you who taught me

that the deader a father is, the more
he lives inside us, and the more urgent
it becomes to build a room for him
in the house of the psyche,
lest we be ruled unknowingly by a monster

chained and howling in the basement
or a madman hiding in the attic,
eating dead spiders and dust.
Thanks to you, I built such a room
for my earthly father, and so reclaimed

the life and light and joy
he had stolen from his seven children.
Only then was I able to follow you
and all of my real fathers
through the open door in the soul

to the beauty of the word.
From you I also learned that the good father
contains a mother made of earth
and air and fire and water,
but that’s a story for another day,

perhaps another life. Right now I need
to revisit the room I built for you,
the one lined with books and lit
by a single round window facing the sun
and looking out on new snow and silence.

from Poets Respond
December 7, 2021

__________

Kurt Luchs: “It would be impossible to overstate Robert Bly’s influence as a poet, translator, critic, anthologist, antiwar activist and founder of the men’s movement. His effect on my life and my writing was equally profound. At the age of 14 I encountered his essay ‘A Wrong Turning in American Poetry’ in the magazine Choice. That and his wonderful first book, Silence in the Snowy Fields, did much to shape my views on poetry and my growing desire to write it. I continued to look on him as one of my real fathers, and still do and always will.” (web)

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December 6, 2021

Mark Jarman

GOOD FOR THE SOUL

      Confession is good for the soul. And suffering is good, as long as it ends. So is waiting. Toys, bread and circuses, are good. Alfresco meals with lovemaking afterwards, very good. Huge hangar-sized quiet is good, but only on paper, only there. Autobahns where fast, blinking cars blare you aside are good, very good for the soul, once you’re out of the way. Brinks and thresholds, balancing a dwindling glass for another’s thirst, these are good for the soul. And a night so dark and clear you can read by starlight is more than good. What else is good for the soul? Another soul coming close, another figment believing the stubborn illusion of time, is good. And every atom listening within a pebble where there is no time. Yes, no time, that will be good for the soul, like a long vacation. The entire void outside of space and time, where the soul is going when it retires, that will be good. So, is everything good for the soul? Yes. Everything and nothing.  

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021

__________

Mark Jarman: “‘Good for the Soul’ is one of a series of prose poems I have been slowly gathering for years. The form seems ideal for a parable, a fable, or a homily.”

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December 5, 2021

Jack Ridl

THE LAST DAY OF NOVEMBER

My wife is at her spinning wheel. She
first cleans, dries, and combs the fleece,
then dyes the wool. She will spin yarn to make

a shawl, stocking cap, socks. She disappears
into her gentle quiet. I am a third of the way
through reading four books, but I don’t want

to read any of them. I want what I know you
want: to be happy, actually happy, to love
in a happy world. Today there was yet another

school shooting. Some students felt it coming.
Three kids who thought they were grown up,
dead. One more thought likely to die, did. The

others will live. The news dares to say recover.
Tonight we played Christmas carols for the first
time this season. Yes, ’tis the season. This morning

surgeons at three different hospitals awakened
assuming yet another routine day of rounds and
operations. When they were seventeen, did they

imagine advent would offer them the inevitable
impossibility of saving the assumption of a future,
that they would never again be able to say, “Happy

Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,”
“Happy New Year” without being caught in an ambush
of memory? Tonight thousands of parents will be unable

to sleep, or tomorrow, or on into ever. Teachers
who each day hope it will not, cannot happen again
will think again about construction or an office job.

And guns? They will sleep in the garage, a cabinet,
on the top shelf. They will rest and be at the ready.
No, I don’t want to read; I don’t want to hear again

about God’s mercy, the peace that comes from above
or meditation, Calvin’s endlessly facile legacy of blame,
the need for prayer and legislation. I am tired of pursuing

happiness. I want to breathe it in as ubiquitous as air.
And while we’re at it, I want the curriculum revised
to teach sentimentality, that it is not any more false

feeling than the unguarded synapses in the shooter’s brain.
Scholars, put away the safety of secondary sources. Sit
with your students, abandon the inhumane hideaway of

objective distance. Throw open your hearts. Let sentiment
break our shielded souls before another rifle and surgeon’s
words have to. My wife never asks for the meaning. She

sits in silence at her wheel twisting a lamb’s wool into
yarn to knit whatever it takes to keep another warm.
Our dog is asleep, head on his paws. The twin sister cats

curl together. I’m not going to pick up my books. I’m
going to begin to trim the tree wondering how many
five-year-olds will sit on Santa’s lap and when he asks

“What do you want for Christmas?” will answer, “A gun.”

from Poets Respond
December 5, 2021

__________

Jack Ridl: “The news story is the school shooting just outside of Detroit. Our daughter is an art teacher. Her room is the first room after the huge entry at the school. Not a day goes by that this father doesn’t fear for her. She tries to believe all her students would never carry out a killing.” (web)

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December 4, 2021

Perry Sloan (age 9)

FIERCENESS OF THE NIGHT

The three rhinos standing peacefully in the water
As the lightning flashes
Like thousands of tiny lights formed together
To make one long string of electricity
The whole sky was lit up
And the lightning shined like lights
On a Christmas tree
The trees in the distance were dark silhouettes
Against the brilliant sky
The thousands of rocks joined together on the ground
To make one big rock
And the rhinos still stood patiently
Together against the fierceness of the night
As the wind raged on
And the sky grew dimmer
The rhinos still stood together
Against the fierceness of the night

from 2021 Rattle Young Poets Anthology

__________

Why do you like to write poetry?

Perry Sloan: “I like to be able to express my emotions. I like letting my mind wander and explore.”

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December 3, 2021

Tony Gloeggler

AFTERMATH

The siren speeds by my morning
window, makes me, half asleep, think
it’s racing to Jersey to rescue Ted
when I remember building maintenance
had already been called, found him
dead a week ago and he’s going to be
dead from now on. The last time I sat
with him in a diner was early March,
before Covid hit, after the usual Sunday
Parkside afternoon reading. One feature
was solid, the other sucked. Ted tried
a new one that cracked the audience up
and I liked how my new one sounded
coming out of my mouth. Ted’s talking
to the waitress. She’s maybe 25, Hispanic,
with a hint of attitude spicing her words.
He orders a turkey burger all the time,
asks if they got sweet potato fries even
though he knows they do to keep her
nearby. I’m deciding between eggs up
over corned beef hash or a turkey club
with fries, a black and white shake
to help it go down. Ted, a germ-a-phobe,
washes his hands. A bit of a slob, I don’t.

We agree about the reading. Francine
read two strong ones and it’s always
good to hear a new one from Puma
with or without music. We both wanted
to assassinate the political ranter, ignored
the guy who rhymed. We wanted someone
to gong the woman whose introduction
lasted twice as long as her harmless poem
and the kid scrolling the poem he finished
as the F pulled into Delancey Street needed
to reconsider the sanctity of the first draft.
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” filters through the sound
system and Ted calls the waitress over, asks
nicely if she could please change the channel,
that this song makes him sick to his stomach.
The waitress walks away shaking her head,
smiling, while he tells me how he can’t stand
fucking Stills, re-tells his story about the night
him and his friends threw snowballs at Buffalo
Springfield after a show and how the Buffalos
chased them down the street until they reached
their apartment building safely. Tough Bronx
boys my ass I laugh, tell him Steven was a better
songwriter than Neil back then. I stop talking,
sing along to the dododot ending while he hoped
his snowball missed Young, hit Stills. Baseball’s
next. Alonso or Judge, deGrom, Cole. Though
I know Jacob is the best pitcher on the planet
I pump up Cole because it’s more fun to argue
and it cracks me up to see Ted agitated, loud.
He gets up to hit the bathroom before his trip
to Jersey. I hold it in, prefer my home bowl.

We should have talked about suicide. Optimistic
me against Ted’s darkness. The idea of control,
dignity, the freeing from hopelessness and constant
suffering, peace at last, finally, versus everybody
dies, why help it out and hurry it along, the finality,
the no-going-back of it, just tough your way through
like we always do, holding onto the little things
that lift us momentarily and if you get to a point
you’re thinking about it, say something. I’ll Uber
to Jersey, beat you with a stick ball bat, knock
some sense into your cement-hard head, alright?

It’s March, 70 degrees, Covid’s loosening its grip.
Go for a brisk walk, lift your hands out of pockets.
Women and girls parade Avenues looking more
wonderful than ever after all this covering up,
isolation. It’s time to get out of Jersey, head to
Brighton Beach, that apartment you talked about.
Sit on the boardwalk. Smell the ocean, hang out
with Al Gal, down a few cold ones. Opening
Day is three weeks away, the Mets are certain
contenders, even the Knicks are watchable. Ted,
you dumb fuck, where are you? There are poems
only you could write, people who want to read them.
I just finished a new one. I want to email it to you.
I am waiting for you to tear it apart or love it a lot.

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021

__________

Tony Gloeggler: “My closest friend died a couple of months ago. I was shocked, but not surprised when I heard the news that Friday afternoon. He had been having a terrible time since Covid, but I figured he would tough his way through just like he fought his way through everything else in his life. We met through poetry, and we exchanged poems for at least a dozen years with unwavering support and stinging criticism—‘you’re joking with this shit, right?’ But it was everything else that drew us closer. I saw a lot of myself in him, and some things I wished I had more of, and I thought he felt that way about me. He was just a unique, no-bullshit kind of guy with a scary sense of humor and a tender heart he was willing to show as he went through life or put down on a page. He was really good at being himself. That’s what I’m going to miss most.”

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December 2, 2021

Dan Johnson

BETWEEN THE WARS

June 6, 1944

When I was small I waited for an old man
who helped me cross the street. I remember him fishing,
telling me how the dace had grown cunning since

the first war, since half of Paris had fished them
for food. “Now we can starve again,” he said,
with flies for his bait.

I remember like a blind boy, catching every sound,
sniffing the air of childhood—the baking bread, the pearled
and perfumed women in cars; the adults grappling,

their voices altered, spilling to the sidewalk at night,
raucously drunk and reeling around, softer by the river.
I was never sure of what they said.

Much later I heard—when the armada was ready to move,
iron-green in rows across the sea—that they planted
a dead sailor in the water

and his pockets bloomed with papers, secret and false,
and he rolled close-mouthed with the tide
into the melting dark.

from Rattle #15, Summer 2001

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