June 29, 2024

Claire Beeli (age 15)


above the hood of this
beetle of a car, the sky
carries itself lightly. hugely. blue. i
don’t know where we’re going. i don’t think you do,
either, with your fine
ears like the ends of mustaches and your
eyes, round and dark and as slow to
fall as the night. i don’t know where we’re
going but i don’t think it’s there. we can’t
grieve yet because we don’t know what for. because we don’t know
how it even began;
how to even begin. the desert here could be enough,
i think, for us. if we could
just tilt the wheel a bit too far right, to
knife through the barriers
like the rain, when it comes. i can’t stay here.
my legs ache from disuse and i keep
nudging the early sky but it won’t wake. there,
over the ridge somewhere, could be a herd, a
place for us to go. for the taste of air beyond this
quiet, far from this soft rush of
rubber on the morning. you could
start with your hooves in the sands and
the sun on your coat, light
unfiltered by the windows of this dark
van. i could start without sunscreen, with
waves of heat that hold me like a womb.
we can start here, if you want. there is no numbered-lettered
exit. there is no too late, no number of
years. there is only now, and the wheel, and the
yell that is pounding hooves, and the hot
zenith of living,
so free it hurts.

from 2024 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Claire Beeli: “I write poetry as a sort of record, and as a medium for working out complex ideas. Each image, clever phrase, and stanza becomes a permanent record of a thought, an emotion I’ve observed, or an experience I’ve had, rendering them immortal. I’d like to think that I’ll be able to look back in 10, 20, or even 50 years to what I’ve written as a teenager and recognize each poem as a time capsule. I use writing to tease out the connections between varied, nuanced concepts, too—to form unlikely pairings of images and ideas or work out the kinks in a kind of philosophical argument. To me, it’s the most useful art form there is.”

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June 28, 2024

Maaz Bin Bilal


How can one ever begin at the end?
—Death is regeneration at the end
Waiz lives piety, prays five times a day
He knows not the joys of sin at the end
How do I sin—I am no Catholic
I will have no confession at the end
I am Muslim but don’t bow at the mosque
Will He give me salvation at the end?
Try but you cannot kill me, I’m Hindu
I have reincarnation at the end
Please bury me next to the synagogue
I too faced crucifixion at the end
The Pharaohs built palatial pyramids
They’d go in style they’d reckon at the end
Don’t burn, don’t bury, sink me in the sea
Maaz, no commemoration at the end

Notes: Waiz, in Urdu from Arabic, means preacher, homilist, adviser, admonisher, exhorter. Maaz is my takhallus (penname), from Arabic, and means asylum, refuge.

from Rattle #84, Summer 2024


Maaz Bin Bilal (from the conversation): “Poetry exists even in our cinema, for example, as most of our films, especially until recently, used to be musicals, so all the film songwriters are often poets from Urdu, which is my mother tongue. Urdu ghazals, which are derived from Persian ghazals, and which in turn are derived from Arabic ghazals, are sung often and set to music. As I was growing up in my own house, my father would often play the ghazal genre of music on the record or cassette player. So Urdu poetry, and film songs also, which are derived from particularly Urdu poetry and ghazals, were all around me. … [W]hile growing up, the ghazal was the kind of poetry that I was most in tune with. I soaked in the rhythms, the rhymes, the ideas.” (web)

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June 27, 2024

Bird Ascending the Fire by Barbara Hageman Sarvis, painting in oranges and purples of a bird flying over a woodland lake

Image: “Bird Ascending the Fire” by Barbara Hageman Sarvis. “An Early Autumn Light that Unburies You” was written by Steven Pan for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, May 2024, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.


Steven Pan


On earth, everything no longer
here is here in some variation
of light. An ice age
half-gone, all geography
shaved off youngest to oldest:
craters and lakes telling time
in reverse. Someday we’ll end
up there, you used to say,
pointing to the sun setting
over the strand. The season
and the leaves, starting
over again in a dream
with everything that lived
before this. Is it strange,
how a hurt that looked back
at you, looks like all of you
in the amber slowness
before evening. The detour
of your shadow
somewhere, casting a hook
over the water, perception
as imprecise as memory
or the autumn lingering
inside of it. Any year
straying no further
than the line of a robin’s
wings, the slight lean
of the trees that said life
held on. If I could call
you back, would this shore
be the one you’d wait on? How often
I mistake the sound of the wind
for the sound of your answer.
Your answer for a goodbye said
aloud. Goodbye for a matter
of time, or maybe a matter
of timing. Like a bird caught
mid-flight in the light
of the sky, brimming with everything
and nothing at once.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
May 2024, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Megan O’Reilly: “There are many aspects of ‘An Early Autumn Light that Unburies You’ that left an impression, from its smooth flow and musicality to its depth of meaning, but what stands out most, perhaps, is the way it’s peppered with gorgeous and brilliant turns of phrase–so many the effect could be overwhelming in the hands of a less adept poet. In the very same sentence, we find ‘The detour / of your shadow,’ ‘perception / as imprecise as memory’ (a stunningly insightful description), and ‘the autumn lingering / inside of it.’ One could read these lines many times and still be taken by the beauty and profundity of the poet’s language. When I first saw this image, I thought such a dramatic and striking piece of art would be challenging to match. I can’t imagine a better partner than this poem.”

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June 26, 2024

M.P. Carver


The train 
cuts across 
the marsh. 
The fence 
cuts across 
the forest.
The bridge
cuts across
the river.
Our stone, steel, 
and electric bones 
grow and grow.  
we rib 
the planet.
The rib cage 
the chest.  
The chest 
the heart.  
Our hearts 
beat and beat.
We know
that someday
they won’t, still
we can’t help 
but think 
that this, 
is something 
we can cut 

from Rattle #84, Summer 2024


M.P. Carver: “I write because I’ve never found anything that sidles up closer to the ineffable than poetry. A beautiful failure.” (web)

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June 25, 2024

Karen Braucher


That was the summer I fell asleep in German
 and woke up in French. I lay down on the earth,
  stared up through a three-dimensional labyrinth
   of dark branches stretching toward sky.
    Curves are so much more caressing than
     straight lines, n’est-ce pas? Who has time
      to look at parabolas? Could I express only
       a parade of diversionary questions? Nein, nein,
        the German inside demanded, Gib mir Antworten!
         I went to a party and tried only to ask questions
          and answer none. I was a spy, intimidating
         to at least two persons. Questions are curves,
        without closure. Could one spend a whole evening
       on a stroll through someone else’s mind? How
      refreshing to encounter unfamiliar corridors.
     No one is throwing up skeet and asking me
    to shoot. The parade massed and snapped
   to attention, goose-stepped away. Replaced by
  tendrils, drifting pine needles. When I awoke, I was
 la belle étrangère, omnipotent in my voluptuous
listening. I could coax even the waves to speak.


Gib mir Antworten! means “Give me answers!”
la belle étrangère means “the beautiful stranger.”

from Rattle #23, Spring 2005


Karen Braucher: “Robert Frost once said that a poem should surprise the poet writing it. On Sept. 11th, 2001, I founded a poets’ collaborative that meets not to critique but to create new poems. We have tried smells, music, videos, writing exercises, you name it. Some surprising poems (including ‘Curves’) have come out of the collaborative and we’ll never forget our anniversary.” (web)

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June 24, 2024

Stephen Allen


When the beloved is present, presence lights a burning fire.
When the beloved is absent, memory sparks a yearning fire.
Swirls of summer dresses. Delicate beauty catches the eye.
Be more cautious of her scorn than Cupid returning fire.
Lust is easier to manage than purified love, sometimes.
Saint Francis flung his tempted body into a churning fire.
An education in nature starts with the basic elements:
learning earth and air, learning water, learning fire.
A tattered manuscript covered in something not quite leather.
Scattered fragments of an archaic treatise concerning fire.
Driving home at midnight, staggered lights on the northern horizon:
a rare Aurora Borealis, a wall of upturning fire.
Between this world and all it holds and the floating world of illusion
lie nothing more than shadows cast by the mind’s discerning fire. 
Whose vision of heaven do you want? What geometries?
The saints and angels circle, their paths an arc of turning fire.
And whose Hell is this? A space of silent loneliness.
Boredom much worse torture than tradition’s interning fire.
Face it, Stephen, the only fire in the belly you have is heartburn.
You should fall in love some time. Embrace the affirming fire.

from Rattle #84, Summer 2024


Stephen Allen: “Experimenting with forms is always fun for me, a chance to bring some order into my life. Writing ghazals, in particular, has been very satisfying: the jumps between couplets mirror the way my mind works, and the traditional subject matter of lost love is one I find very sympathetic at this point in my life.”

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June 23, 2024

Talley Kayser


To mirror the desert, you must wear away.
I learned this on a long walk, long ago.
My skin went dark past bronze. My hair grew dust.
Sun washed my clothes into rock-colored gauze.
When only the wet of my eyes and mouth
could reveal me—suddenly bighorn
bimbled cliffs. Suddenly lions
eased among the creosote. I learned
to be gentler when shaking scorpions
from my boots. To mirror this desert
you need an edge you trust
to crumble, need to feel
each blooded life surviving desert
as your kindred. Desert will pit you
against winds you cannot withstand
by standing. Desert will topple all your light
with greater light. Desert will swallow
whole your pilgrims. Look how alien
you are—I say your glare
is no protection and less art. I say
desert (fiercer art)
will not abide reflection.

from Poets Respond


Talley Kayser: “The mysterious metal monoliths appearing in remote locations around the world—including, this past week, in my home desert—are easy to read as wry, sci-fi inflected jokes. This is especially true of the current monolith (illegally) installed near Gass Peak, Nevada. Its hyper-shiny surface reflects the desert at odd angles; the color palette matches, but the lines don’t. It looks, at a strangely visceral level, like a glitch. I’m always disappointed by how common it is for artists in this region to use highly reflective surfaces (think Airstream trailer) as sculptural material. I imagine the impulse is grounded in an appreciative tension: the reflection echoes the vastness of the desert landscape, while the smooth texture provides a sharp contrast to the desert’s natural materials. But as someone who has spent a great deal of time walking the Mojave desert, I chafe at how this strategy flirts with cultural narratives that write desert as only space: as empty, as wasteland, even as ‘unearthly.’ It seems that art about the Mojave rarely engages with its aliveness and intimacy—with how the extreme conditions here shape every living thing, including the rocks, into specialized beings worthy of attention and awe. In Nevada, the story of desert-as-empty has real impacts; it’s why Nevada was repeatedly bombed with nuclear weapons, why Nevada only narrowly staved off becoming the nation’s nuclear waste dump, and why large-scale lithium mining is being greenlighted in Nevada despite strong objections about its environmental consequences. I know the desert-as-empty story will also empower interested parties to seek out this new monolith with relatively literal regard for the desert itself; a similar installation in Utah attracted would-be admirers in hordes, most of whom had no problem driving their vehicles through protected areas and leaving their (literal) shit wherever they liked on their quest to find the Big Shiny Thing. Into this cluster of associations, I wrote ‘Advice to a Monolith.’ It’s a poem about minding your manners in a place with every capacity to eat you alive. I wonder, if it were left to stand, how long the surface of this monolith would stay mirror-bright. On its own time, I know the desert always wins.” (web)

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