June 14, 2022

Jeff Hardin

AT LEAST SOMETHING

Politics is but a narrow field …
—Thoreau

Politics sounds like geese honking
inside an oil drum, calling it a sanctuary.
Politics is performing surgery on a thing
already dead. A Shaker chair is art,
and art is not business, and business
is not theology, although some people
act like it is. They split words’ interiors,
to blow up other people’s worlds.
Politics is 1862, 1945, 1968, this
very moment which rebukes every
other moment. A doxology plays,
heard by fewer and fewer. I would
prefer things work, but they don’t.
They burst, collapse, disintegrate.
Politics obliterates hymns. Politics
is a window onto a wall supporting
a dome keeping the heavens out.
Rhetoric is not rumination but ruination.
It runs roughshod and ruins a nation.
The connotative overtakes the denotative.
The figurative stands no chance against
the literal. Rhetoric isn’t an orchard
where stillness reigns. How lovely,
a word like reigns. It sounds inside
the inner ear and seems to solemn
ever outward, touching blossoms
bees visit, hillsides streaming away,
and hollowed-out beech trunks found
by jays and vireos. How lovely, too,
the idea of hollowness, how absence
is all it is, but at least that’s something,
as it was in the beginning when a word
spoke, and everything began to happen.
 

from Poets Respond
June 14, 2022

__________

Jeff Hardin: “Our current moment seems more and more shaped by and interpreted through rhetoric intended only to further a ‘narrative.’ The possibilities of language, it seems to me, are thus diminished so that we all must live in an impoverishment of meaning and of connection to others. In a world where talking points hurt my soul, I write and read poems to remind myself that I have one and that language can have other purposes beyond the political.” (web)

Rattle Logo

June 13, 2022

Brian Morrison

LIGHTING THE ROCKET

It was almost finished, the rocket fuse
nearly lit. Wind blew flame to my thumb,
blackened it. A woman walking in Grape
Ape purple headphones crossed the street,
then sped into a jog. We yelled, “Run
faster, bitch!” Or we didn’t. What was said
was maybe worse. I don’t know
what I said, but my mouth is a casket for it.
What boys say to women should stop
their hearts. The woman’s husband
stomped over not ten minutes later, while she
sat in the car behind sunglasses,
and the shitty rocket was still grounded.
He told us with a sharp finger
we were “punks” and “the worst kids
in the neighborhood.” Maybe we were.
We traded black eyes and split lips
just for fun. We threw ice cubes and eggs
at the gas station that sold us cigarettes.
Misogyny was a word we didn’t yet know,
and we were heart-shaped, beating ourselves
against ribcages to end the moment.
The man was one of us, and we knew it.
My grandpa used to say, “He held his mouth
right,” and he did—the lips just so, teeth
set in seethe. The polyurethane
caked on his chest from the fridge factory
on Stolle Lane was proof enough. “Stupid,”
he said. We knew our fathers’ fists
better than any teacher’s best efforts.
The man eyed the rocket, us. He saw
the shame in our faces, said “Fuck it, let me,”
and he grabbed the lighter out of my hand
quick as rainfall. The brush of his watch
over my thumb was lightning to sand
and left what felt like a jagged glass shard
spiked into my skin. He said, “Women
shouldn’t be afraid to walk the sidewalks
around you idiots,” as he hiked up his gray
Saturday sweatpants, picked up the rocket,
shook it, pulled the fuse out (it pulls
out?), and lit the fucker. We all watched
close-lipped (we held our mouths right)
as the white-blue cylinder flew up unsteady
in a high wave, was left-thrown by the wind,
then thudded down like a shot bird
across the field. The woman, headphones
looped around her neck, stepped out,
picked up the rocket, and set it at our feet
with a shark-eye glare under raised
shades. “You’d be cuter kids
if you smiled more.” The rocket smoked
right there until it didn’t.
 

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022

__________

Brian Morrison: “Poetry gives me the chance to consider the more confusing parts of life. I like lyric that leaves ears ringing.”

Rattle Logo

June 12, 2022

Alison Luterman

THE INSURRECTIONISTS WERE RIGHT

something was stolen—not
the election, counted and recounted, nor
their livelihoods, abandoned, it seems,
without a second glance; not their womenfolk
who turned their cell-phone boasts and Facebook posts
over to the FBI, nor the Confederate statue, lassoed
by a million ropes and toppled
into the river, not even the fewer
and fewer white children playing cowboys
and Indians in vacant lots, or the more
and more Black youth winning
Merit scholarships—but something
aches, a phantom limb, the tongue
searching for its gone tooth, the stomach
ringing hollow no matter how many Big Macs
were eaten—something
has been mislaid, like a wallet
or the one set of keys
that unlocks the only car that still runs; something
once thought valueless, handed over
too easily, the way we relinquished
our wildness as children to sit behind little desks
made of molded plastic,
miniature businessmen in training. Something
that has vanished like youth, elusive
as a coyote’s howl; open the door, there’s nothing
in the bare back yard but plundered
American desert where even now a jackrabbit
pauses to sniff the air—where is it where is it,
do you miss it too? I do. I miss
knowing what belonging to the land
might have felt like, long ago. I miss the honor
of shaping my footsteps to the pine needle path—
so even if I hate
what they did, I understand
that something is missing in the maelstrom of the lie
that made us American, something like an umbilicus
connecting us to this earth, something like innocence;
once gone you can never get it back.
 

from Poets Respond
June 12, 2022

__________

Alison Luterman: “This last week we heard again about the January 6th assault on the Capitol. This poem seeks to empathize with the grief of the insurrectionists, if not their grievance.” (web)

Rattle Logo

June 11, 2022

Teddy Macker

SYCAMORE CANYON

for Vaughn Montgomery

The dead doe on the Pacific Coast Highway
was lying on her left side. She was almost
the same color as the dirt around her.
Whenever a car passed—it was Sunday
and people were driving the coast—
the fur on her neck would rise in the wind.
Her eyes were dry and cracked; they looked
like the skin of baked apples. They did not shine.
Her left hind leg was so broken it looked absurd.
A car must’ve hit. The doe defecated.
Windblown pebbles stuck to the shit.
The hooves were dusty and large. They did not seem
like the hooves of something dead.
When I reached down and picked up a front leg
I could feel the clarity of her old running.
She made me nervous. I was afraid she would stand up
and come alive. How many cars will pass tonight,
I wondered, and make the fur on her neck rise?
It saddened me no one would be there
to document every time this happened,
that no one would say, There, look.
The fur on her neck, it’s rising in the wind.
 

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007

__________

Teddy Macker: “Two phrases come to mind when I think of this poem: ‘reverence for life’ and ‘big clarity.’ Lately I’ve been trying to write poetry that possesses both.”

Rattle Logo

June 10, 2022

Elizabeth S. Wolf

WHEN THE PHONE RINGS

while you’re visiting your father,
and I know it’s you because
it’s your ringtone, the notes in a tune
you chose, so it would be bright and
I would know it was you, and
answer my phone, so it’s a sound
both buoyant and urgent, it’s a
need in three notes, and while I wish
you weren’t visiting your father,
since it upsets you when you do, there’s
always some part of the story you’ll
tell me that’s off, that raises an
alarm, a flag, but after all this time
we don’t need subtle clues, do we,
we know he’s not right, so is it wise
to visit him again but in the back
of our minds is the night he was so
stoned on the phone and then dead
on the men’s room floor—
but they brought him back—
and so you go, again, to his new
sober living apartment because what if
next time he is gone, what if, and so
you go visit and I answer the ringing phone
for you to tell me you hiked up a hill
so high you saw all the way to Boston and
there were clouds reflected in the glass
of the Hancock building, like the blue sky
was both solid as a tower and as
gossamer as hope and anyway
you are on the road and your
favorite artist just dropped an album
so you need me to stay off our shared
Spotify so you can sing out loud
all the way home.
 

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022
Tribute to Librarians

__________

Elizabeth S. Wolf: “I got my MLS in the long-ago times, before the internet, back when electronic searches were expensive and cool and run by librarians. I wrote a hypertext glossary for the National Agricultural Library as a beta tester for this radical new tool. I worked the reference desk at a university, the circulation desk at a high school, and moved into database design, marketing, and technical support. At EBSCO I worked on the Literary Reference Center and the Poetry and Short Story Reference Center. One of my bucket-list goals is to get one of my poetry books included in their collections. ‘When the Phone Rings’ was written at Fall Writerfest at the Pyramid Life Center in response to a close reading of Ross Gay. It was great to get away and write and there was no Wi-Fi or cell service. A plus for concentration but frustrating when you’re used to being able to google definitions and synonyms and etymology to validate word choices. I left the retreat and went straight to a public library in the Adirondacks. True story. Shout out to the library on the second floor of town hall, across from the public beach at Schroon Lake.”

Rattle Logo

June 9, 2022

KHDM

TRANSITORY

When it rains for days
the value of water plummets,
and it can rain anything—
slices of American cheese
sail down from the sky.
The supermarkets black out their windows
and the mice take an early retirement
from collecting our crumbs.
The hoarders are Dickens’s villains
that paid less for their toilet paper
because they bought it last week.
People argue red or blue
instead of seeing economic shapes.
The most ominous stormcloud of all
is the inflation of our vocabulary—
Brits have over a hundred words for “rain.”
My five-year-old daughter crinkles the empty
plastic stomach lining a cereal box
and sighs, “Shrinkflation.”
 

from Poets Respond
June 9, 2022

__________

KHDM (Katie Dozier Moshman): “Like so many Americans, I am tired of the politicizing of everything—including the basic economic principle of supply and demand. I read this news story while seeking shelter in a rain storm after a breakfast where my homeschooled daughter exhibited an economic vocabulary well beyond her years. Inflation may not be the most naturally suited subject for poetry but I hope you find the diction to be cost-effective.” (web)

Rattle Logo

June 8, 2022

Linda Michel-Cassidy

BUOYANT

The Great Salt Lake was not as beautiful as I expected.
 
The drive through the desert,
the white-edged saline crust,
the scrubby in-way speckled 
with wildlife warnings. 
 
I had to know about the floating,
what my body would do. How 
like outer space it could feel.
Whether I’d believe I had the water all to myself.
 
 
I’d been to a sensory deprivation tank, once, on a whim. I never stopped being aware of the edges, my toes and fingertips brushing the walls, the piped-in New Age music I hadn’t picked. I’d wanted to hear my own blood flowing. To feel solitary and inside-out. In it, I’d felt more physical than usual. Here is a body. You own this mess.
 
Yes, it has gravity and mass, but you can never truly know how it works. Inside, maybe some cells are up to no good, plotting their next cruel alliance.
 
 
I was sent for a CAT scan, 
so the doctors could be sure 
they were knifing the right thing.
They offered me Valium, 
saying it holds off panic attacks,
but I wanted to feel all of it.
 
How to describe the pleasures of
stillness and gravity, yet somehow floating
while nestled in that tube 
with thoughts of my insides: 
rattling and clicking,
flowing and stretching.
The hum, the darkness, the muffled voices—
and me, the science experiment 
only wanting to be left alone.
 
 
In Iceland, there were floating parties. “Fljota!” said the sign at the pool, with foam bonnets and knee pads, somehow enough to keep us aloft. All these pale bodies safely adrift and gorgeous in the midnight sun. Gentle background in a language I cannot speak. All those swallowed final syllables, lulling. My presence accepted, but not noticed.
 
Crazed with wakefulness, I’d swim my daily laps tranced by my exhales. I memorized the cracks on the bottom of the pool in Laugarvatn. Lane two’s gentle warp. The faint odor of sulphur bubbling throughout the town. 
 

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022

__________

Linda Michel-Cassidy: “This poem began, of course, with a visit to the Great Salt Lake. This was around mile 5,000 of a West-to-East-Coast-and-back road trip. I thought I would have some epiphany about landscape, yet all I could think about was how much I liked floating. How I needed to float. It is perfect; to be at once held and not, to be both supported and untethered. Beyond simply gravity and water, floating includes sound, time, and vibration­—a multi-sensory event not unlike writing poetry. The pleasure in both comes from the willingness to be set adrift.” (web)

Rattle Logo