January 27, 2023

Idman Omar


At nine years old, a woman I love made tea as
men married her off to an eighteen-year-old gent.
At fourteen she moved in. Her husband’s two front teeth


were now red from fluoride, a personal collection of
precious gemstones, or a reminder of roses she was owed
each time he took a new wife. There were ten


in total, each woman a password unlocked with his
name; a hungry thinker, preoccupied with numerous mixed berry pies.
She was strong and built a family of nine


troubled children. Three slipped down the toilet even though
she clenched her mouth too. She had five siblings, same
mother and father, and six more from dad and second


best. She was fifty-three when her husband died,
alone and living in snow. As if uncertain of the
heat of affection anymore or like
a ghost kissed her brain,
she couldn’t remember any of the children for
whom she had lived.

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022


Idman Omar: “I wrote this poem thinking about all the Somali women from my grandmother’s generation whose lives were very different to mine. It’s about the sacrifices they make simply to survive, ending up perpetually nomads for their whole lives and following a life plan that they don’t map out for themselves at all. Ultimately, they live eternally for everyone but themselves.”

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January 26, 2023

Unsatisfied Externals by J. Stormer, etching of a room in still life in green and yellow, with a square section in black and white suggesting a different time

Image: “Unsatisfied Externals” by J. Stormer. “Resolution of Memory” was written by Sara Dallmayr for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, December 2022, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Sara Dallmayr


Once upon a heart lived a heart
within a muted room
of yellows and greens.
Once upon a love
stopped matter, matter
stops, heartbeat warm
against the wall.
Once upon a said I timed
how often we spoke,
then how often we didn’t.
Grey is the presence
of re-collection, of night,
mise en abyme
slide like feet down a sand dune.
How you stood before the window
and waxed your decency,
watered the last plant alive,
waited for tea to steep.
How neatly remembering fits
before it spills sideways
into the squares of time.
Once upon a door
I waited for you
to open, then close.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
December 2022, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Megan O’Reilly: “There is a great deal of ambiguity and mystery in J. Stormer’s etching; I felt it needed a poem that was not too narrative or structured, but more experimental and open to interpretation. Sara Dallmayr’s ‘Resolution of Memory’ fit the bill: I love the way it subverts convention without leaning too far into abstraction, the way it combines concepts like ‘waxed your decency’ with concrete images like ‘watered the last plant alive, waited for tea to steep.’ Like its inspiration, ‘Resolution of Memory’ is just enigmatic enough to be compelling.”

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January 25, 2023

Ted Kooser


What once was the Trailways depot is a sports-bar today,
and no one remembers the last coach for Grand Island 
pulling out and away, or recalls its last passenger, ghostly 
in profile at one of the windows, turning to take one last look 
at the oil-stained cement platform and the green metal bench 
where he’d waited, shoes toed in under his duffle, then from
that high window looking down upon just one more place
where he’d been. Today’s door’s the same door as always, 
all glass, and just now it’s wedged open to a cool breeze, 
this in the slow hour just after lunch, with nothing or no one 
expected until later, the schedule of Arrivals and Departures 
gone from high on the wall, replaced by a flat-screen TV, 
the attendant’s desk gone, exchanged for a long, glass-ringed 
bar, and just now the smell of beer seeping out into the street 
from the shadows, where some other ghost on a barstool
is waiting for someone to roll in from somewhere, and talking  
to whoever will listen about going somewhere better some
day, but not yet, not till the time’s really right, and for now 
just having another of whatever’s on tap, turning the stool 
a half-turn to squint into the glare from all possible worlds.

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022


Ted Kooser: “Many years ago I published a poem about field mice moving their nests out of the way of a plow in early spring, and a woman who saw the poem wrote to me and said that she would never again pass a freshly-plowed field without thinking about those mice, and I said to myself, ‘Well, this is to be my job!’ and I have been working at it ever since.” (web)

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January 24, 2023

David Wagoner


It was supposed to be open,
but it’s shut. The handle says Hot,
but it’s cold. It was supposed to be
open all the time, but something
is turning it off and on
and off. It was guaranteed
and certified to be solid,
sealed, and leak-proof,
but it’s leaking. It’s cracked
and porous, and someone forgot
to check the easily read
punched date on the service
calendar wired to the neck
of the only switch in full view
of the owner of the building
who is watching and lamenting
what he thought was meant to be
the foundation of running water
he could still almost believe in,
including you and yours,
so what can you do now
but look for the main valve
to shut down everything
connected to the rain?

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012


David Wagoner: “My father was his own home handyman during the Depression, and he wasn’t always successful at it, as our frequently flooded basement often proved. I tried to do the same during my early married years. I sympathize with plumbers, and this poem came out of those feelings.” (web)

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January 23, 2023

Jasmine Khaliq


what is this, pulling me back the other way
to strip malls, highways, and treetops?
—Caroline Polachek, “Parachute”

for my twenty-fifth birthday I’d like to skydive
off vasco road they take people up
my dad did this once before I was
ever born; the hill opened up
his right knee. my mom watched, pregnant with me,
still unnamed, unsexed, surely the size of recognizable fruit, 
surely recognizable fruit, every possibility. I’ll never do 
that again, he says, but I haven’t gone, I want to go
skydiving; I think I would jump; I want to know california that way,
unnaturally; I want to rattle like shucked corn inside myself;
I want to see what my dad must have seen—after this,
he bought a house in the country; he bought my sister and I a childhood
drawing on our wrists with sap from gerbera daisies,
or that’s what I remember—I want to see all of it at once—
the last two decades mount diablo a movie theater new lots new lawns
two golf clubs on the other side of town—I went to high school
there my dad bought me a childhood here my sister and I,
but he never took us cherry picking. every spring
I fell in love with people who could never understand me,
and they’re reappearing in my dreams.
I’m still in love; we’re at any one of our old houses.
I used to drive to get you. dark blue chrysler with no a/c
in the worst of our summers.
those roads to your house I drive in my sleep.
o’hara, fairview, minnesota, lone tree. I liked to watch
you drive me. I still would. your jaw.
what was that alchemy? only proximity?
to write sometimes I put on lipstick, jewelry, vivaldi.
today: slow-motion videos of parachutes deploying:
birds of paradise above us, color by color peeling. I want it—
east bay rushing up toward me, unnaturally; those roads
I took; tense walks along deer creek. I wanted to disappear
here so many times. barely april and it’s hot enough to change
how the air smells—more animal,
more alive. would you have imagined me
making it to twenty-five? smaller in the sky than any recognizable fruit,
poppy blooming overhead, able finally to see these strip malls,
highways, our childhoods, endless, green, 
every line—parallel, intersecting.

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022


Jasmine Khaliq: “During the pandemic, I moved back to my hometown. By April 2021, I knew I was moving away again by July to enter my PhD program at University of Utah, and that I was moving for good, away from my family and the place of my childhood. I wrote every day in April in an effort to preserve my time there, both present and past. That overlapping sense of time I felt being there, and the inability to capture or see everything, despite my best efforts, came out in this poem on April 3rd (while I listened to Caroline Polachek on repeat). Poetry for me is always about this—trying to understand the relationships between the self and others, past selves, place, language itself—all of it, an alchemy.” (web)

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January 22, 2023

Chris Kaiser


The manager I’m shadowing tosses
five steaming slices of fresh cut prime rib
in the trash, as calmly as tech bosses
laying off 10,000 workers at a clip.
I know he’s memorized the thick binder
of exacting rules. He wants to rule the world.
His flopped ears and underbite, though, reminders,
he’s more shih tzu than snarling rottweiler.
“Nine ounces,” he says, tossing the first slice.
Each slice thereafter thrown on the ‘ounce’ cue.
“Not ten. Not eight. But nine. To be precise.”
His eyes lock with mine, smug with his coup.
I imagine his sweet mother ignoring
his skinned cats and other such cruel whoring.
I then recalled helping some elderly.
To say they reeked would be impolite.
No cats, but cat food, a peculiarity.
“It almost tastes like tuna, ain’t that right?”
I recalled seeing handwritten entries
in rural homes to casserole squirrel.
Dogless men bird-dogging squirrels up trees,
hoping buckshot only went subdermal.
The manager walks away, droning on:
“Nine ounces of medium-rare beef,
au jus, baked potato, sauteed onion,
steak knife, dessert fork, lucky cloverleaf …”
I think, Best to parboil squirrel, large size,
with a glug of vinegar to tenderize.

from Poets Respond
January 22, 2023


Chris Kaiser: “When I heard a piece on NPR’s Think about food waste, I remembered an incident that happened to me when I thought I’d want to pursue restaurant management. It also jogged my memory of times I’ve come face to face with people devising creative ways to assuage their hunger when their income is below the poverty line.”

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January 21, 2023

Heather Bell


The photos taken from helicopters are really
quite beautiful: the weird orange waves, the way
it bends back like a spinal cord. It isn’t that I
am not sympathetic to the ocean, but it
touches the tips of birds, taking them from
naked to casket. I have always been attracted

to power in that way: fortressing my house
with brick fences and mines. The abusive
burn victims as boyfriends. Building a garden
all spring, only to maniacally cover it in poison
at the season’s end.

I wonder how the oil sounds when it speaks.
Perhaps quiet as a star. Perhaps sad as a
Wurlitzer. Perhaps it just wants to go home,
moans and cries for its mother. Maybe it is

not what it seems: its dark marigold is
its way of saying don’t leave me because
of who I am. And animals are dying and
the algae has crumbled up in the shape
and color of human blood. I find, within all the
salvage and darkness, that it has fingers.

I touch them lightly like I would
touch the skeleton of a person that I
once loved, frightened and hoping
this one doesn’t belong to me, but
it does.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011


Heather Bell: “It’s not that current events were ever something I wanted to dwell on, but I got to thinking about all the news articles out there with their sad lines and accusatory photos and I just wanted to stop all of it, right there. Is it wrong to see a deadly thing as beautiful? Maybe that was my point all along—poetry is like that: a news article gone awry that you and only you can rewrite to help someone get through it all, stop crying, begin taking his or her child to the grocery store again and just, in general, wake up.” (web)

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