May 14, 2022

Taylor Mali

MAGNIFIES AN OBJECT TEN TIMES

is what it clearly said
on the handle of the magnifying glass
my father received on his fifth birthday.
He took it as a warning; the birthday gift
would only work its magic ten times
and no more, becoming, after that,
just a small round window with no miracle,
toy giant’s monocle, a circle of simple glass.
 
And so he went about his days with curious thrift,
weighing how much he needed to see any part
of the world up close, observing as best he could
with his own eyes first, thinking, Do I need to see
that dead bug big? That dandelion, that blade
of grass, that wriggling moth in the spider’s web?
I can imagine most of nature’s gifts and crimes.
Best not to waste one of my ten precious times. 
 
He lost count of how many miracles he’d left,
and for weeks after half-expected the magic of the glass
to simply stop. And I have asked him to tell me 
of the thrilling moment he realized, or was told,
“ten times” in this context simply meant tenfold
and not ten instances, but he cannot remember. 
Likewise the joy that must have come with such
a limitless epiphany. But what he does recall
and says most he misses still is the way the magic
made him see the world the rest of the time,
not through the glass, but all the time
he thought that magic would not last. 
 

from Rattle #42, Winter 2013

__________

Taylor Mali: “I define spoken word as ‘poetry written first for the ear, and then for the eye,’ and that’s the kind of poetry I write. But the older I get, the more those two become the same. Still, I curate a series in New York City called Page Meets Stage (where the Pulitzer Prize meets the Poetry Slam), and those nights are magic for me.” (web)

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May 13, 2022

Stewart Shaw

MY BREATH IS RECYCLED

“I can’t breathe.”
—Eric Garner’s last words

I would have loved Eric Garner!
Is this wrong to say?
 
Taken the weight of him in— 
An emotional grounding;
 
Catching his fall, 
His sweat calamitous and sparking on my skin.
 
Would have let him call me sanctuary,
Nestling safe beneath my skin.
 
Trayvon, Amadou, Michael, John
I would have ingested—
 
Holy Communion. Just to spit
Them out again
 
Into the world, whole
And safe and beautiful. 
 
I want black boys to live inside of me, to hold them 
Until it is time for them to come out of hiding.
 
Want them to call me home,
Friend, brother.
 
Want Eric safe and heavy breathing
His name into my lungs.
 
My breath is not my own.
My breath is recycled. 
 
OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE!
 

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022
Tribute to Librarians

__________

Stewart Shaw: “Libraries have always been about more than books and magazines and microfilm, but also places of sanctuary, safety, and peace. Growing up, my local neighborhood library was a place of comfort and personal exploration. It was where I ran to explore books on being black in America, being a boy with queer feelings—where I read books I would be too ashamed to let anyone else know I read. It was a place where I was treated like I belonged with no questions asked. Going from a reader to a library worker to a librarian came naturally to me and I have now worked in public libraries for around 30 years. Public libraries are one of the last free places that invite everyone in—staff might correct your behavior, but the doors are always open to everyone. That public libraries are the every-person’s free university and safe space and community center where neighbors go to chat, catch up, and grow has made me love library spaces even more throughout the years. I have worked as a librarian in juvenile, teen, and adult services. All along the way, I’ve incorporated poetry and poetry events in everything that I have done. Poetry has a function of exposing truths—both hard and gentle to the touch. This is what I see myself as a librarian doing. Public libraries are where two of my loves come together to help me feed my communities.”

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May 12, 2022

Tonya Lailey

LA BELLE ÉPOQUE OF GOLDFISH

In the fish world many things are told by sound waves.
—Rachel Carson

On the radio I hear goldfish
are out and about to take over
waterways they’ve been making
hay in stormwater ponds gone thick
with themselves I listen to the story
about the photographer who walked past
a pond spread with marmalade
and did a double take took a picture
presumed the citrus light belonged
to the water which it did though
not only and the thing we keep missing
that bodies touch bodies embody
that there’s a whole free
from the bowl the bag the fish get big
67 oz. pop bottle big they make more
of themselves—surprise!—Carlos K.
Krinklebine on steroids on repeat 20,000
in a slough the length of a football
field water a slurry murk like turf
and not a bad turn out for the game
considering it assembled from a few
forsaken souls that had been bobbing
in a slosh of inches in plastic tied-off
slight golden caudal lobes and fin
rays fluttering as petals in a breeze harmless
the furthest tissues from a threat
now on the other side of the clear
in numbers competing
fierce for the wild for the 1000
years lost to bowls to being decorative
to living their littlest lives as jewels
in the eyes of children, grown ups
just as starved for a way out
into the web of living waters.

from Poets Respond
May 12, 2022

__________

Tonya Lailey: “We seem to operate in wild switches between control and abandon, neglect. I keep coming back to our common sense of feeling unrelated to everything else, like we’ve forgotten our kinship with other lives. And, oh, the ravenous growth of the goldfish given the right opportunity, given an environment, given favourable environmental conditions. The goldfish seem to be having their day in the sun. I can’t help imagining a running list of creatures all having their own Belle Époques.”

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May 11, 2022

Oli Isaac

HYACINTH IN HEAVEN WONDERING WHY HE HAD TO BE FIRST

for he was the first man to love another
—Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus

hyacinth was the first gay man so he was the first gay martyr, 
of course. he was into other stuff that other gay men are into 
 
like, other men; flowers blossoming 
from your blood as you lay dying; 
 
being mourned and adored and reinvented. 
what makes a man a martyr if they didn’t choose to die? 
 
hyacinth and apollo were playing frisbee in the park when it happened
how pathetic. a jealous god  
 
disguised as the wind blew the frisbee into hyacinth’s head 
hyacinth collapsed with the sun in his eyes
 
a new wetness at the back of his head 
his life fading cradled in apollo’s arms. 
 
hyacinth sat in heaven, wondered why 
he was killed when things were just getting good 
 
was it because he was so beautiful 
even the wind wanted nothing more than to hold him?  
 
were the gods jealous or just bored? 
an olympian writer’s room
 
of course the god of wind would be jealous 
when he had to compete with apollo—all corporeal and not-windy. 
 
have you ever tried to hook up with wind? it’s hard 
too poetic 
 
hyacinth sat in heaven, desperate
his gift of prophecy now a curse as he saw he was just the first 
 
of many. saw his name used by secret police in poland in the ’80s 
to round up homosexuals and force them underground
 
saw the bodies that wouldn’t become flowers.
hyacinth sat in heaven wondering why his death was all people wanted 
 
to make art about. 
hyacinth, tired of breathing in 
 
dirt. of being an empty shell 
others can pour themselves into. 
 
instead paint me in love and alive 
paint me changing bedsheets and arguing over dinner 

paint me throwing tantrums and climbing mountains 
paint me picking flowers and making plans 

paint me still 
warm. 
 

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022

__________

Oli Isaac: “Poetry, to me, has always meant possibility. Poems gave my young stuttering mouth a chance to speak; its flow and pace and free form were a green light to thoughts that were too often stuck in my throat. The tragedy of Hyacinth was this idea of the first gay death. It was a great way to speak about all these different things. I wanted to speak to this young, beautiful man, who learned the art of prophecy from the gods but, even then, couldn’t foresee his own death. He couldn’t foresee that all the Renaissance painters would want from him was his death, that he couldn’t foresee the erasure, the epidemic, and the loss—that he was just the first.” (web)

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May 10, 2022

Dmitry Blizniuk

WALLS TREMBLING LIKE HORSES

The sounds grow;
they are the teeth of a vehemently rotating circular saw.
And the bomber
folds the sky like a book,
cuts the sky in two,
and you, seized with terror,
shrivel up into “I,” into “We,”
like into a lifeboat sent by God,
but you are too big to squeeze in.
Quickly and rudely, you cover your mom with your body.
Your stunned guardian angel
blindly thumps its wings against the linoleum,
like an albatross on the deck.
Where are you? Are you still here?
Still alive?
My dear people.
The sky bursts with explosions.
The sky gets filled with pink manganese solution.
The oblong eyes of the beast of the horizon.
It’s the trepanation of the despairing city
with pneumatic picks.
The walls of your house tremble like horses
that caught the smell of a wolf.

translated from Russian by Sergey Gerasimov

from Poets Respond
May 10, 2022

__________

Dmitry Blizniuk: “I am in Kharkov, which has been bombed and shelled by Russian troops for 67 days in a row. Here I try to survive and write poetry.” (web)

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May 9, 2022

Jessy Randall

SYLVIA PLATH’S HANDWRITING

You thought she was your friend
and then you saw her s.
Her lower case i, with the
circle, the actual circle
instead of a dot.
 
Your whole idea of her went
crashing sideways.
She’s not your friend. She would never
have been your friend.
 
She would’ve made fun of you maybe,
or not even noticed you.
Her handwriting says popular girl.
It says sweater set. It says Barbie, Ken, 
cheerleader, sorority, peacoat.
 
It says cruelty. It says mean.
Or rather it says nice, nice, nice.
And maybe she hid behind it. 
And maybe she grew out of it,
or would have, if she’d had time.

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022
Tribute to Librarians

__________

Jessy Randall: “I’m the Curator of Special Collections at Colorado College, a position I’ve held for the past twenty years. I have an MLS from UNC-Chapel Hill and have worked at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the rare book libraries of Harvard and Columbia. Many of my poems, comics, essays, and stories involve libraries, overtly or covertly. My most recent book is built from images in old library books. My next book consists of poems on women in STEM fields; I couldn’t have done the research for that book without libraries.” (web)

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May 8, 2022

Jean Prokott

NEON SHADES OF YOUTH

With lines from my high school students’ conversations after the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS leak.

it’s not ohvulation it’s awvulation.
 
I am a young woman
in America.
 
this is my neon youth.
 
there is a man in a black coat at the back of the dark alley,
 
and I fear I am only waiting
my turn.
 
you cannot build a human from my organs after I die—
 
a man’s body,
seminal vesicles like a tiny brain
behind his bladder.
no one has ever taken his straight-cis-white-rights.
 
a woman’s heartbeat, as red as a wax seal,
hides a letter they won’t let us read.
 
where does the egg go?
are we shells or are we roots or are we buildings or are we torches.

from Poets Respond
May 8, 2022

__________

Jean Prokott: “I wasn’t sure how to write about the leaked opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade—there’s too much to say—so I put it off. But when I heard my students talk about their fears and their futures so openly and passionately, I realized I needed to blend their words with my own.” (web)

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