November 24, 2021

Brendan Constantine

A TOUR DE FORCE

I got a book and can’t
make myself read it, even
though my lover swears
it’s good, even though
the cover says we might
all beautifully belong
somewhere. Imagine if
everything you saw was
printed inside your skull
where people could see it
after you died. When
you do a lot of cocaine
it feels like that’s true, like
the gallery is struggling
to stay open because pipes
keep breaking and the floor
is always wet. That’s what
I remember, anyway. It’s
been a while since I had
enough money to be that
beautiful and echoing.
Of course, you can’t find
anything in my head that looks
like a sunset or a toy horse,
it’s all just goo in there,
that’s what memories become,
dark water and milk. You
could no more read it back
than you could drink the ink
from a novel and know
who loved who.

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021

__________

Brendan Constantine: “I don’t have a single approach to poetry. That is, whether the thing I’m making is a poem isn’t even on my mind. I’m just writing, and the longer I do, chances are I’ll discover what is on my mind. Sometimes it feels like walking against water, each word difficult and liable to fall away. Other times, it can feel like the poem already exists and I’m merely ‘negotiating’ with it, to see how it would like to be born. This piece is in the ‘where the hell did that come from’ category. It seemed just to appear at the end of my pen. My third book was like that; the speakers just barged in at odd hours and said, ‘Take this down …’ In this case, I almost felt goaded. What I wrote made me uncomfortable and my discomfort became my guide. I hope this doesn’t sound ‘too’ crazy. Just the usual amount.” (web)

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November 23, 2021

Abby E. Murray

HOW TO BE TOGETHER

Ask a second grader.
Mine stood at the top
of the stairs, masked,
looking down at me
in the basement, masked,
unable to hold her,
my skin white-green
and slick with virus.
I am teaching her
how to be separate,
how not to hug me
until the doctor says.
When she told me
she missed my arms
so much her knees
wobbled, her eyes
were two wet pebbles
dropped in a gutter.
For what do pebbles
give thanks? How does
a gutter say grace?
I couldn’t even ask
these questions aloud,
so how she discovered
the answer is a mystery
to me: she ran outside,
around the house
to the basement window.
All I had to do was
open it, and that was,
in fact, all I could do.
She found two stones
in the yard, one smaller
than the other, both
of them rough and cold,
then hopped them toward
each other on the bricks
of the window ledge:
uno, dos, aquí. Here we are,
she said, this is you
and this is me, together.
Simple and exact.
People, you know you
are not a child anymore
when love shocks you.
I laid there, amazed
by how much light
two chunks of rock
could give, dazed
by the feast of blankets
glowing around me.
Each shallow breath
was a divine bite.
My daughter was
curled up with me
outside in the late
November sun,
which becomes a new
shade of gold even
on grey surfaces, even
when you think
those colors couldn’t
be further apart.

from Poets Respond
November 23, 2021

__________

Abby E. Murray: “This is a poem of thanksgiving—maybe not so much in honor of the holiday as in celebration of people who know how to be together through a crisis. In my case, I’m thinking of my seven-year-old daughter. Although I’m vaccinated, I contracted Covid and it’s been brutal. I wrote this on a good day.” (web)

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November 22, 2021

Sean Cho A.

WHEN I ASK YOU TO TELL ME WHAT I DID LAST NIGHT

“The payphone rings. You pick it up. We can now assume this is a dream. It’s windy and just hot enough for you to take off your shirt. So you do. You almost have a six pack. You love your body. This is a dream, so why not? All of this is about want. The man on your ear sounds a lot like your father, or the man whose house you snuck out of last night, boxers in hand, clumsy, and unsatisfied. He says, ​come back. You hang up the phone, because you can, after all, this is your dream. There’s blood on the phone cord. You notice blood on your hand. You search the body for a wound: chest fine, arms fine, legs fine. You become preoccupied with the fineness of your body. Context matters. In this situation, ​fine ​does not mean wound-free. It’s that years of waking early, choking on raw yolks, throwing rusty free weights over your head, dry chicken breasts for every dinner kind of fine. There’s a bird at your feet. You pick up the limp body. Wipe your hand blood into its beak, toss him in the air, and he flies away. ​Look at you little saint! The phone rings again, reminder: none of this is real. So you pick up the phone, ​are you leaving yet? This time it’s cold. This time you’re wearing a blue sweater, one red mitten, one white mitten. Logic would lead you to assume that your hand is bleeding. But you don’t want logic. Logic is boring. Logic is that 2% bank interest, but you want scratch cards. You want to take a week’s worth of pocket change, slam it on the gas station countertop demanding luck. Then scrape the ridges of laundry quarters against silver cardboard, and reveal filthy delight in ten more ugly could-be-surprises worth of delights. It’s a cycle. The phone rings, but you don’t want to answer. You know he will be yelling, impatiently yelling—so you don’t. You can’t. This time you don’t have hands. The sky is empty. The temperature is invisible. You want familiar, so you imagine a bird. Bower bird, bower bird: collector of shiny things. You dream him a tree, and soft twigs for a nest. You down cold beer and flip him the bottle caps. The phone rings, you tell him       wait.”

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021

__________

Sean Cho A.: “I mainly write short poems. I wanted to challenge myself to see how ‘long’ of a poem I could write in a single sitting, and this is what manifested. I found the use of repeated language and phrases both interesting and expected.” (web)

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November 21, 2021

Tamara Kreutz

THE BODY COLLECTOR OF SPAIN

When migrants die at sea, he gets them home.
—Nicholas Casey and Leire Ariz Sarasketa

I washed to shore without my name.
It had drifted away, while I floated for weeks
off the coast of Tarifa.

I was zipped in a bag, hefted into a hearse
and driven past pines and sunflower fields
to be shoved in a freezer

where I shivered for months beside others like me.
Remember! Remember! Imploring ourselves
to recall who we were.

Who we are now: bodies in waiting with eyes
eaten by fish, fingers wrapped up in kelp,
seafoam laced in our hair.

Frost sprouts from our noses,
feathers our lashes, our lips. We wait here for him—
Martín Zamora, the body collector

for those who don’t make it to Spain alive, the mortician
who knows when we wash up on beaches
we each have a history and names suspended beyond

reach. He will come to find us, embalm us, to sprinkle
our bodies with herbs, and shroud us in green
sheets, as a local imam taught him to do.

“I get the feeling,” Martín whispers
to our empty ears, “The future will see us as monsters
for letting you die this way.”

He will search out our past
through clues in clothing draped on the bones
of our shoulders and backs.

Martín sends our clothes across the sea
back to our homes, where he lays them out in market
squares, like museum exhibits

of the dead—one purple canvas shoe, an orange jersey
with a Nike swoosh, men’s stonewashed blue
jeans, size thirty-six, a gold plated heart

necklace engraved with a lover’s name—believing
someone will pass by and remember
a familiar shirt or gift. And there now

a mother weeps her daughters’ name
into an empty dress, a wife caresses the jacket
that once held the man she loved.

A father rocks a pair of trainers,
remembering when the feet that wore them
were barely larger than his thumb.

My sister grasps gray overalls, stained with oil
from the auto shop where I worked, and my name returns
to me, alights on my body, gives back memory of life.

I am not an Unknown to be thrown in a grave with the nameless.
I am twenty-seven years old, a mechanic from Tangier.
I am Achraf Ameer—

I remember, remember. Remember.

from Poets Respond
November 21, 2021

__________

Tamara Kreutz: “During my morning walks, I listen to The Daily podcast by The New York Times. Sometimes an episode is so moving, I have to stop and sit down on the curb to let my mind process the story. Last week, I learned about a man, Martín Zamora, a seemingly unremarkable man, a mortician in southern Spain who is quietly, all on his own, finding the identities of drowned migrants who wash up on the shoreline near his hometown. He deals in death as a profession but understands that the dead are not nameless. They have histories, homes, and families who love them. He brings loved ones’ closure and delivers bodies back home for burial. While thinking about Martín’s story and reading more about him, I wondered what the unknown dead might think of this man who advocates for them when no one else cares to, who gives their humanity back by finding their memories and names.” (web)

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November 20, 2021

Josephine Miner (age 5)

I TRAVEL THROUGH THE MOON

as sung to her mother

Yes I go through the places
I go see out into the dark side
I travel through the moon

After I travel through the moon
I go through a tree
And I get stuck and just jump out
I’m not afraid

Then I go through the bushes
And see my house
Where I belong

And after I go through my home
I go into it and say hi 
And see my family’s heart

Then I go through the jungle
And get inspired by something scary
I say I won’t hurt you
I’ll be nice to you and stuff

After that I will just go through over the earth
And I’ll fly over space
And I’ll just go right into God’s heart
Into the fire  

Then I’ll see my friend 
And then I’ll see my past

And so I travel through the moon
And I never see my destination again
And then I take a right step
For everything I know
And take One. More. Trip. Through the moon. 

from 2021 Rattle Young Poets Anthology

__________

Why do you like to write poetry?

Josephine Miner: “I like writing songs because it makes me happy and joyful. I like the movement they make you want to do. You can turn anything into a song.”

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November 19, 2021

Pragya Vishnoi

SHE HAD SOME SISTERS

after Joy Harjo

Dedicated to Kashmiri Pandits who faced massacre and exodus from their homeland in 1990.

She had some sisters
She had sisters who were yellow summer noons
She had sisters who had camphor bones
She had sisters who spit out sun each dawn
She had sisters who made love like a smothered star
She had sisters who called themselves Pandit
She had sisters who called themselves nothing
She had sisters who thought their neighbors would save them
She had sisters who knew their neighbors would rape them
She had sisters who said no and got killed
She had sisters who said yes and got killed

The fish are hurling themselves out of the river and wild geese are falling from the sky filling our laps with armfuls of white blossoms. Mountain wolves have given birth to lambs who are allergic to both grass and meat.

She had sisters who made a santoor from their bones and sang the sweetest dirges
She had sisters who filled maswal flowers in their lovers’ headless bodies and slept in shamshaans
She had sisters who smelled like saffron
She had sisters who smelled like burning orchards
She had sisters who made a shrine of their sisters’ cut tongues

Swords chased lambs out of our wombs and filled them with the sound of a thousand crows flapping wings.

She had sisters who braided their brothers’ veins in the manes of horses
She had sisters who coaxed the spirits of our ancestors back at the kitchen table
She had sisters who grew corpses in their homes
She had sisters who carried razed temples in their bones
She had sisters who had nothing to lose
She had sisters who had nothing to gain
She had sisters who danced in a gathering of ghosts
She had sisters who knew the song to bring dead lovers’ back
She had sisters who knew the song to break their rapists’ backs
She had sisters who used to drink kahwa
She had sisters who swallowed the decapitated idols of their gods

We wake up and everyday it’s spring. The dawn has teeth and our bodies are inside out with our organs exposed.

She had sisters who wanted to go back
She had sisters who never wanted to go back
She had sisters who wanted both
She had sisters whose skins bristled like a wish rubbed raw
She had sisters whose skins burned like dry ice
She had sisters who cracked moon with their fist, warm and molten.
She had sisters who slept like ghost fish.
She had sisters who woke up like a static hum
She had sisters who laughed like a bombed school
She had sisters who leapt across the edge of worlds
She had sisters who kept in their purses our dead sisters’ curls
She had some sisters who were Pandit

She had some sisters

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021
Tribute to Indian Poets

__________

Pragya Vishnoi: “As an Indian poet, I was more inspired by short stories and novels especially by Dharmveer Bharti Ji, Jai Shankar Prasad Ji, Premchand Ji, and Rabindranath Tagore Ji. As a child, I didn’t enjoy poetry as much as I loved prose. Then I stumbled upon Jai Shankar Prasad Ji’s poem ‘Chhaya Mat Choona’ when I was 14 years old. I was stunned by the melancholic beauty of the poem and the magic weaved by the poet. When I was 18, I read poems by Russian women poets, and it was then poetry became something divine for me. My country has been invaded multiple times, and we were captives of invaders for a thousand years. Even today, there’s no week when we don’t lose our soldiers to terrorist attacks. The wounds of oppression and massacres are still present in our collective psyche and, as a result, I became interested in Indian gothic poetry. I’m a practicing Hindu and our religious texts place a greater importance in cosmology, so cosmology is not just a dry subject based on only tangible equations. The meeting of cosmology, spirituality, and futurism is something I’m very much interested in exploring.”

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November 18, 2021

Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2021: Artist’s Choice

 

Family by Gouri Prakash, photograph of ducks swimming in opposite directions

Image: “Family” by Gouri Prakash. “Grief” was written by Susan Carroll Jewell for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2021, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)

__________

Susan Carroll Jewell

GRIEF

She lands with the others, but now has turned away
without ruffling this pond. Each feather carries its own

reflection, wings tucked, tails up, self-involved,
unaware that she is drifting clumsy and tired

into a marshy space. You watch, guessing at the patterns
beneath the surface, how legs rhythmically punch webs

through water, the complicated currents she cannot navigate.
Her hollow bones fill with heaviness. The others move on.

She drifts away in the open, abandoned like the egg
that never hatched, the unfamiliar commonplace of loss.

You want to tell her that nothing lasts forever, show her
the brilliant colors of this day, but a blind eye cannot see

even if it tries. You want to believe in science, that simple
observation can affect what happens, that your attention

can make a difference, alter her direction. If this were true,
we could clear the heavy air. We are so small on this tiny pond.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
October 2021, Artist’s Choice

__________

Comment from the artist, Gouri Prakash: “As I read the poems, I felt like I was looking through a kaleidoscope of perspectives. No two poems had the same idea or interpretation. In line, ‘Grief’ is a poem that reminds me of a different situation or a new context every time I read it. The central idea of how another’s grief can be so palpable that it leads to one’s own feelings of hopelessness at being unable to serve as a source of respite, is gracefully renditioned. The last line, ‘We are so small on this tiny pond,’ underlines the sense of despair that pervades our tightly-knit worlds.”

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