September 26, 2022

Frank Báez

IN THE BIBLE NO ONE APPEARS SMOKING

But what if God or those who wrote the Bible
forgot to include the cigarettes
and in reality those Biblical figures 
spent the day puff-puff-puffing
just like how in the ’50s one could smoke
onboard airplanes and even on television
and I imagine those glorious Jews
raising cigs to their lips
and expelling smoke from their nostrils
while awaiting 
visions or God to speak to them,
and I imagine David plucking the harp
in a smoke-webbed temple, 
and Abraham chain-smoking
before deciding to kill Isaac, 
and Maria lighting up before breaking 
the news to Joseph that she was pregnant,
heck, I even imagine Jesus pulling out a cigarette
from behind his ear and scratching a match 
to take a breather before addressing the masses
gathered around him. 
I’m not a smoker. 
But sometimes I get the urge and I smoke
just like this moment as I watch the rain
pouring outside the window
and I feel like I’m Noah when he was waiting
for the flood to cease, and how he walked 
up and down the ark just
trying to figure out where he had left
that damned pack. 
 
 
Translated from the Spanish by Anthony Seidman
 

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022
Tribute to Translation

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Frank Báez (Dominican Republic, 1978) is one of the leading poets of his generation, and the recipient of the Salomé Ureña National Prize for Literature in 2009. He is also a founding member of the experimental rock group El Hombrecito. | Anthony Seidman: “In the poetry of Frank Báez, I value the sense of humor, zest for life, fearlessness in melding pop culture with high culture, his fusion of spoken word energy with traditional verse, and his vision rooted in the quisqueyano experience. It was my attempt to recreate his tone by incorporating American slang and humor, and it was an easy fit, as contemporary North American poetry (in English) has influenced his verse. Dominican poetry has been surviving on the periphery of Latin American literature, despite the presence of such luminaries as Juan Bosch, Pedro Mir, and Manuel del Cabral. Frank Báez possesses a major voice, and it is my pleasure to spread the news among Anglophone readers.”

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September 25, 2022

Susan Sue

HOW MANY TIMES

To live is to count.
He concluded when we clasped
on my apartment bed.
He was a fireman, a man
who touched my legs
like tracing
a bruised star.
At night, he talked about people
disappeared in the smoke.
We were in that burning building.
Seven of us, only six
made back to life.
He always paused
here as if he still felt the fire
licking over his lap, blurred
voices counting down
to his face.
I am always thinking of seven … you know? But I only
count to six.
 
It was August. After sex,
he let me wet his wounds
with my lips and told me
an old Chinese myth:
Time is a ferry adrift
on Lethe. People lose
track of their property. The day
they stop counting, they fall
into bare-black stones and become
the flower of fire,
Manjusaka.
 
He had large hands, large enough
to scoop the moon when
he cupped my face.
I was reminded of my grandpa.
He was a tough man. His face
was never shaved in the right way, black
stubble sprouted out like tendrils until
he was put under treatment.
I counted: four
fingernails, two teeth, no hair, only
a small shard of his face
belonged to him.
 
They shoveled a stone
to place his ashes.
I watched him grow back again.
This time, he was red.
 
I count: half-
pair of teeth brace, additional
aspirins, keys, three nail cutters, no
mole on my left knee, inside a new
red suitcase I put D.H.Lawrence’s
Sons and Lovers, which he gave to me
last winter. We have broken up
long enough.
 
I think of him
when I watch the news tonight:
A bus turned down to the ground.
Twenty-seven people died.
I am not sure if he still stays in his job if he does
he will be there—
lug up the burned-black bus, pull
the locked windows, press
against the hot iron crust.
What you have touched,
he once told me,
will grow in you.
 
Years later,
He will bring up the night:
how he took off his gloves and touched
the bus shards. All
the rubble, the red rearview, soft shreds
of lives goldened his hands. In the dark,
another woman will wet his wounds
with her lips until fire grows
back in his fissures until
he whispers that story—
 
But how many times should we count
to bring them back?
 

from Poets Respond
September 25, 2022

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Susan Sue: “September 18, 2:40 a.m. On the highway of Guizhou province, a bus carrying 47 people ‘flipped onto its side.’ Twenty people were injured. Twenty-seven people died. I wish the dead find peace in eternal rest, and I send my deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones. My grief and anguish forced me to write this poem. It was the only thing I could do.”

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September 24, 2022

Reagan Rafferty (age 13)

MY GRANDMOTHER’S EYES

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

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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

ONE GOOD MEMORY

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

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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)

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Drea

IDENTITY POLITICS

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

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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

ON THE PRACTICE OF OPINE

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

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022

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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

WAR AS A SPECTATOR SPORT

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

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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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