November 13, 2022

Wheeler Light


Once I loved you. Seven
and what did I know about sex?
I howled at your laserdisc moon,
found a boy with frosted tips
and kissed the fantasy of you
for all of second grade.
I didn’t grow up to be gay,
a disappointment to only the poems
I write about you.
The boy with your hair grew up
to be an alcoholic,
I grew up to get sober at 22,
and you grew up to be dead.
Aaron Carter, I don’t know where
they will hold your funeral
but tonight I am wearing black
wandering Greenwich Village
wanting to hear “I Want Candy”
behind the ambient curtains of jazz.
I want every basketball court to cut
the net down. I want Shaq to take
a knee and still be taller than me.
I want Leslie to whisper your name
and find you. Tonight, I pray to your pop
and the world is a bisexual opera
harmonizing cock. Tonight, I worry
about Nick, every anxious addict knows
what it is to mourn a stranger they loved.
Tonight, I want candy. Say lick.
Tonight, I want high spirits, say lift.
Tonight, I want your memory to say live.
Your fruity-loop ambitions, slender wrists.
The first CD I ever owned, the poster
on the inside of my closet door. My first show.
Oh Aaron Carter, patron ghost, a bright warning.
Popstar shooting across the past’s sky waning.
Tonight I place a wish on you, a kiss
on the shiny moon. Rewind the track.
The car is in the driveway.
Clean up the house.
The party is over.
You are coming home.

from Poets Respond
November 13, 2022


Wheeler Light: “Aaron Carter died last week, which is tragic. Aaron Carter was a musician, addict, and my first celebrity crush. When I was a child, his music opened up a world of love to me and began my personal exploration/discovery. His story is a story of exploitation and neglect, but his effect was a ubiquitous joy that befell many millennials. I wrote a chapbook about him called I Want Candy, which was accepted for publication by two presses, but I pulled the chapbook both times, because I didn’t feel comfortable with anyone having access to it. This poem is elegy, a follow-up, a tabloid about a musician’s work the world was lucky to have.” (web)

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November 11, 2022

Francesco Petrarca


May Heaven’s brimstone rain down, reprobate,
upon your hair since sin is such a thrill—
you who ate acorns, drank the river’s swill,
then robbed the poor to be both rich and great!
You nest of treachery, you incubate
for everybody almost every ill!
Slave to wine, beds and food, your overkill
produces proof that is beyond debate!
Girls and old goats cavort in every room, 
which for their frolics Satan has arrayed
with bellows, mirrors and the flames of doom.
You were not raised with cushions in the shade,
but nude and shoeless where the briars bloom—
may God now smell the stench your life has made!
Translated from the Italian by A.M. Juster

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022
Tribute to Translation


Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374), commonly anglicized as Petrarch, was a scholar and poet of early Renaissance Italy, and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch’s rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is often credited with initiating the Italian Renaissance and the founding of Renaissance humanism. | A.M. Juster: “This translation comes from my complete translation of Petrarch’s Canzoniere due out next year from W.W. Norton, in which I closely match the exact rhymes, meter, and line lengths of all 366 poems, and try to do so in clearer, more colloquial language than has usually been the case in the past. This poem, part of angry three-poem sequence against papal corruption, shows the more political side of the poet; it was banned by the Vatican for more than a century.” (web)

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November 10, 2022

Reeves Keyworth


Don’t bother yourselves. Really.
We’re not “clinging,” as you put it
with your gentle scorn for the inept—
“clinging to life” like a minnow too dumb
to expire when a rain pool dries up.
And we’re not sticking around because
we fear to disappoint you.
We’re scratching out a bit of life here,
here on our planet, the bed.
Yes, it’s dimmed, stripped, ugly,
and the pain is awful, but we’re sipping air,
we’re blood and bone; the pulse,
though thready, still twitches.
You think our lack of vanity and ambition
is a handicap to pleasure;
but we’re mostly in thrall
to an inward delirium of memory:
a forest stream flashing with sunlight;
Mother, smoking and reading on the couch;
an Iowa paper boy, wading through
snowdrifts in the winter dawn.
A vivid presence, that mounded snow,
blue-shadowed, marred only by the boy’s
laboring passage, and removed from the muffled
room lights here going off and on,
the muffled, anticipatory sadness.
Meanwhile, your whispered encouragement
to get going, stop hanging around inside
the shell of a dead yesterday,
ascend to a higher plane, et cetera—
it’s scaring us. You used to like us
well enough, and now you’re unlatching
the door to our soul and leaving it open,
like a cheerful volunteer summoning
the rehabbed hawk to leave its cage.
Next week you’ll be having dinner
and pulling closed the solid weft
of curtains against the washed-out
twilight of your sorrow. Solid dinner, solid you.
Remember that the last sound we heard on earth
was you, beloved, hissing in our ear:
Time to go. Time to go.

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010


Reeves Keyworth: “I’d been thinking about this subject for a long time, although I’d never considered writing about it. Then one day the title and the first line arrived together, along with a sardonic narrative voice which I could ride to the end of the poem. The appealing idea that the dying may experience visions from their past came from Oliver Sachs’s essay, ‘Passage to India,’ which discusses a phenomenon called ‘involuntary reminiscence.’”

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November 8, 2022

Danny Mask

This is the day.
So says the curtain
that darkens the room
as we lie on the floor
like wet towels
with our mouths full
of each other.


from Poets Respond
November 8, 2022


Danny Mask: “This poem came about after reading an article about voting the night before, as well as a list of what makes Americans happy, in a discussion after having sex with my wife. We asked each other, as we lay on the floor, what makes us happier: Sex or voting? We both agreed, sex. But it’s also important to get up off the floor and vote.”

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November 7, 2022

Federico García Lorca


Every afternoon in Granada,
every afternoon, a boy dies.
Every afternoon, the water sits down
to speak with his friends.
The dead wear moss wings.
The clouded wind and the cleaned wind
are two pheasants that fly through towers
and the day is a wounded little boy.
Left in the air not a lark wisp
when I found you by the wine caves.
Not left anywhere on the earth a cloud crumb
when you choked yourself with the river.
A water colossus fell over the mountains
and the valley went turning with stray dogs and lilies.
Your body, in the violet shadow of my hands,
was, cold on the bank, an indifferent archangel.
Translated from the Spanish by Robert Eric Shoemaker

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022
Tribute to Translation


Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) was a Spanish poet and playwright who, in a career that spanned just 19 years, resurrected and revitalized the most basic strains of Spanish poetry and theatre. He was executed by a Nationalist firing squad in the first months of the Spanish Civil War. | Robert Eric Shoemaker: “There’s a very healthy, ongoing lineage of poets channeling, referencing, and bastardizing the work of and personae of other poets, particularly that of queer poets, and perhaps no poet more so than Lorca. So many poets including Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Jerome Rothenberg, Amiri Baraka, and Nathaniel Mackey have talked back to Lorca that it can become hard to track which reference is to Lorca and which is to another Lorca reference. This, I find, is the point of enmeshing oneself with Lorca; you become Lorca’s ghost, too, part of the Lorquian matrix. In being After Lorca, to pay homage to Spicer’s pivotal work, I translate to find myself in Lorca’s midst, among his friends (named above, and those beyond). As a queer poet, in which I mean queerness as a turn away from [insert hegemony here] as well as an identity, I find myself among kindred spirits by channeling, another word for translating, and locating their words in my words and vice versa. Though all of the poets in the Lorca Matrix might not identify as ‘queer,’ I do think they would appreciate the counter-maneuvers of queerness and of queer translation—the rubbing against the grain of languages, which is the work we translators and poets are constantly finding ourselves through.” (web)

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November 1, 2022

Tony Gloeggler


Sometime during Sunday’s phone call
my mom says tomorrow makes
25 years since Daddy died, right?
Her math, perfect this one time.
He was 64, like my grandfather,
she says. I remember his heart 
stopped working. My brother John 
swears it was the hospital’s fault,
a medication mix-up. I never knew
if I should believe him. I remember 
sitting by his bed hoping the nurse 
with the endless legs or the one
I sat next to in sixth grade, Ann Zanca,
was on shift so we could talk about kids
I hadn’t seen since I stopped playing 
softball and how fucked up they all
turned out to be. I think I thought 
my father was dying since I always
try to prepare for the worst, rehearse 
how to act. I kept trying to get him 
to eat or drink so he wouldn’t die
while I was there. I finished his food 
most nights. The roast turkey tasted 
best, but threw out anything trying to be
Italian. He hardly talked and I didn’t 
know what to say. One night, the nurse
hooked him up to a different machine 
and it was my job to make sure he kept
still. I pulled my chair closer, shut 
the TV off. When he heard Ann leave, 
he opened his eyes, tensed his arms 
and his eyeballs darted across 
their sockets as if he was telling me 
he wanted to run to the window, jump. 
I popped forward, grabbed his hand.
His lips made this half smile, saying
something like sorry, but he had to try.
I could tell you a lot of great things 
about my dad: working two jobs 
he hated, us kids opening every gift 
we ever wanted Christmas mornings, 
all those twilights getting in a crouch
playing catch with me, how he beat me
in the 100 until he turned 40, the way 
my friends thought he was the coolest 
neighborhood father, how he took care 
of my grandfather and great uncle Dom, 
took them in when their Brooklyn house 
burned down, always doing what he said 
he would, never letting me get away 
with anything, pressing me hard until 
standing up for myself became natural,
now and then pretending I was almost 
as tough as him. I could tell you as many 
bad things too. Just not right now, OK?

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022


Tony Gloeggler: “I started writing poetry because I was always pretty quiet and no one was really talking about things I was feeling and thinking. Trying to turn my thoughts into a poem helped me understand myself and how I fitted and didn’t fit in the world. That’s still what I’m doing whenever I write. I’ve written a lot of poems about people in my life and no one seems too happy about it. I’ve got a number of poems  about my father and nearly all of them have focused on our differences, conflicts. But I’m thinking he might like this one. My mom too. If they ever saw it.”

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October 31, 2022

Take Heart by 
Bonnie Riedinger, abstract painting with blue on top and gold on bottom

Image: “Take Heart” by Bonnie Riedinger. “Fibers” was written by Ashley Caspermeyer for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2022, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Ashley Caspermeyer


My silk dress.
My mother’s voice
tickles my memory.
You should have changed.
I’m a crack in the sidewalk
noticed for the wrong reasons
avoided at the cost—
of ruining something beautiful.
Tackle the stain before it sets.
Blot out your mistake before
it seeps into the delicate fabric
of what you’re remembered for.
My fingers tremble at the task.
My cautious smear paints
the blue poppies in pollen,
penetrating their petals,
heavy with the weight
of living.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
September 2022, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Megan O’Reilly: “Both the craft and emotion of Bonnie Riedinger’s painting are delicately reflected in Ashley Caspermeyer’s ‘Fibers.’ As the painting ebbs and flows visually, the structure and music of the poem moves with it. The imagistic contrast of yellow and blue is beautifully suggested in lines like ‘ruining something beautiful’ and ‘petals/heavy.’ While each piece is strong on its own, together they create an elegant, resonant harmony.”

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