August 14, 2022

Karan Kapoor

SALMAN, BOMBAY

I do think of Bombay as my hometown. Those are the streets I walked when I was learning to walk. And it’s the place that my imagination has returned to more than anywhere else.
—Salman Rushdie

I have spent almost a month in Bombay with
Midnight’s Children on my bookstack, taunting
me. Each time I think let me open the first page,
I remember another place I have to be. You called
it your love letter to India. Being from Delhi, I don’t
understand why anyone would write a love letter
to India. Sky, a tarpit of cancer. Yamuna, more
akin to a block of frozen sewage than waving black
water. Each small street bloated with buildings
and people like a starving child’s belly
sick with kwashiorkor. Bombay is more
polluted than Delhi but it boasts an ocean.
Is Bombay rain different from Delhi rain?
It is a question of lily or acid. The sun appears
here like answered prayers—unpredictable,
infrequent, and always more beautiful falling
on your face through a veil than stitched into skin.
Outside my window, above your book, the clouds are
compliant, smoothening through the grayblue sky
like children off to school. Wind bulldozes through
a banyan’s dreadlocks. Isn’t it funny how telling
the truth often feels the most like lying, like doing
something wrong? Here, it is midnight and I am
awake because in New York you have been stabbed
they-aren’t-sure-how-many times. I glance again
outside the window and think of water think
of thirst think of opening my mouth think
of moths think how could anything
as birdlight as music make one a criminal.
A child, blue beneath half-aglow streetlight
is trying to stretch a blanket over his body
in the hopes that it might become fire, engulf
his cold. His father snores nearby. No mother
in sight. I refresh my screen. Ghost a hand
into the sticky air, feel pinpricks of light salt rain.
Wonder, are you allowed back in India?
Please, come back with your eyes open.
 

from Poets Respond
August 14, 2022

__________

Karan Kapoor: “As of now, 2:31am in Bombay and 5:01pm in New York, Salman Rushdie’s condition is unclear. Last month, I brought his book with me to a Bombay visit, thinking his hometown would be an excellent place to enter into his most prized fictional world. While here, I have amassed even more of his books. My partner and I recently studied his Masterclass, eagerly discussing his wisdom and wit. The many articles and statements coming out at present about this deplorable attack speak volumes. I am sitting here and have only my sadness and this poem to offer. Without Salman Rushdie, the literary canon would have been a monochromatic field of bright stars. His works, and the works they inspired, and the diverse works that he endorsed, have shone the sun on the South Asian literary world. We cannot lose him.” (web)

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August 12, 2022

Rolf Rathmann

THROUGH NEW YEAR’S EVE

1999—Prince sang about it.
Media over-conflated it, remember?
Y2K—computers worldwide would
crash.
Expectations were high
and I
threw my worst party ever,
a royal dud! Few people showed
and those who did watched CNN
all night, as the world
rang in without incident
I felt responsible for the awful
night I was sure my friends had.
 
Growing up, it was a special 
night; instilling her Dutch heritage,
mom would prepare apple
beignets and oliebollen, a dumpling,
with a whispered dusting of 
powdered sugar. The next day—ooooh
how they tasted great 1, 2, even 3
days old—we watched on television
the Tournament of Roses Parade and then
brother and mom: college football. Pop
took us once, I’ve been told, to see it
live in Pasadena—but I don’t remember.
I’m sure I must’ve loved it—all those
floats, and flowers, and people!
 
One New Year’s, flying the Friendly
Skies—not a very prescient slogan—
I had a four-day layover in Paris.
At the midnight hour, autos everywhere
came to a halt, blaring their horns
and I 
alone in a taxi
continued to a club in my
most magical of cities. 
 
“Write what you’re afraid to say,” 
I’ve been advised by more than one. 
Okay.                 I’ve
spent too many New Year’s 
Eves
in prison.
It’s—different,
discordant. 
 
But I alone 
am responsible. 
 

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022
Tribute to Prisoner Express

__________

Rolf Rathmann: “For myself, poetry is writing stripped bare—raw, vulnerable, frightening. It also challenges me to be more concise, a trait I lack verbally. Whether it be childhood loss, the angst of coming out, or the pangs of addiction then recovery, poetry helps me release the pain, and capture the joy. This contribution is dedicated to my family—by birth and the family I choose, my friends, for seeing light in me when I so often saw dark.”

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August 11, 2022

Greg Kosmicki

A HAZARDOUS BRUSH WITH AN ABNORMALLY EXTENDED FEELING OF WELL-BEING

Sometimes you can be so happy and it’s inexplicable,
driving your car down the freeway
or sitting in your kitchen eating an apple

or say you just completed a mundane task
like putting two stacks of paper into order.
It has nothing to do with that probably

probably it has nothing to do with anything.
You can actually be happy for no real reason
just as you can breathe for no reason

or take a dump for no reason
I mean, other than the obvious reasons
or maybe it’s only because you can say reason

at least as many times as you’d like
at the end of a line for no reason.
If someone tells you you can’t be happy

tell him take a hike, there is no reason
not to be because if you want it to be it can be
and you don’t even have to have a reason

to be happy, you can just be
kind of like a spider might be happy
sitting up in a corner in her web

trying to think about whether or not
she can understand the concept or even
if she cares or not. There is the web,

and the corner, and someplace flying toward her, lunch,
and someplace a poem that ends with the word lunch.

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010
Tribute to Humor

__________

Greg Kosmicki: “I write poems because I’ve found that it’s the easiest way to agitate my wife of 36 years.”

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August 10, 2022

Madeleine Tully

SPECULATION AT 50

What’s new? Dr. M asks 
like we talk all the time—
then Scoot down a bit, and I do,
tensing. Speculum inserted,
 
I say, “I didn’t get my period for three months,
but then I did.” So, it’s starting, she says.
I feel the cold plastic, then the swab.
It hurts like everything hurts this week.
 
“I actually thought I might be pregnant—
but not really.” Highly unlikely, she adds.
Dr. M asks about the man,
and I wish I had remained silent
 
like someone arrested.
I tell her we broke up a week ago. 
He couldn’t commit, she says with conviction,
so much so that I say, “No, he had a wife—
 
I didn’t know.” She takes the speculum out
and her gloved fingers slip inside to feel my ovaries.
Then I start to fucking cry.
She says, Don’t cry. 
 
She moves on to the breast exam. 
“He was too committed,” I say, laughing a little.
How’d you find out? she asks. 
I tell her about the pictures on Instagram, 
 
and she asks what I said to him. 
I don’t lie because I am so naked,
as transparent as my skin,
the blue veins of my breasts 
 
exposed. “I messaged his wife.” 
She kneads my other breast, lifts my arm,
kneads again. What I don’t say is that 
I fell in love once—this once. 
 
When he asked about my day, 
he really wanted to know, his questions 
roving freely, as though they were 
his hands. I sit up, pull at the strings 
 
of my blue gown, look at my clothes
crumpled on the chair beside me.
He taught me to pronounce “ebullient,” 
the word I used to describe his laugh.
 
Her back to me, Dr. M washes her hands.
I will see you in a year. Feel better
she says, then turns to toss 
the gloves and paper scraps into the trash. 
 

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022

__________

Madeleine Tully: “I’d like to sound more intellectual about things, but the truth is that writing poetry saves me. This poem found me at my most vulnerable, hunted me actually. Then it helped heal me.”

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August 9, 2022

Alejandro Escudé

AMERICA BEHIND THE GLASS

Once, I told my son, you pay for credits
in college, but you must learn on your own.
Learning was locked up in a clear glass case.
I recall pressing the button at my university,
waiting for the lecturer to hand me the Derrida
deodorant or Foucault contraceptives.
I’d feel embarrassed of course, standing
in that forbidden aisle under bright lights.
I read Kerouac in the dormitory where there
was one chair in which to sit, the dining hall,
where they locked up the burgers, the dogs,
the meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Now,
they’ve got love locked up behind the glass
case of the internet. You click on the product
you want but no one comes with the key.
It’s so fun to look at it all behind the glass,
but quickly, no browsing, you’ve got
to know what you want! America itself
behind glass—with the toothpaste, lipstick,
detergent, razor blades, those bold colors,
oranges, reds, purples, blues. I’d like
to slow down enough to take a selfie
with the locked up store shelves, but
you’d never want to stand there too long.
So I’m not one to ring and wait—I’d rather
go without it, take my citizen sadness home,
stocked in the aisles inside my cranium,
somewhere between the democratic milk,
the highway of meats, the fruits of joy.
 

from Poets Respond
August 9, 2022

__________

Alejandro Escudé: “I think the practice of secure store shelving is interesting because of the products themselves. They are things that human beings need to coexist. To me, this says a lot about capitalism as a general system of human organization. It says a lot about desire, consumption, beauty, survival, self esteem.” (web)

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August 8, 2022

Cesar Hernandez

from NOBODY CARES

Step 310
 
Trial.
Physically present,
mentally absent.
 
I.
 
Don’t. 
 
Care.
 
 
 
 
Prosecutor
 
The government’s overriding
interest is that justice shall 
be done and that the
prosecutor is the servant of
the law, the twofold aim
of which is that guilt shall
not escape or innocence
suffer.
 
Not true.
 
Nobody cares. 
 
It is subject to the
kind of
blunt abrogation
that would occur
with the recognition
of a due process
entitlement
to post conviction
access to evidence.
 
Nobody cares.
 
 
 
 
Step 23
 
Time to fly home.
Two detectives.
 
At McCarren,
they’re twenty feet
ahead.
 
There’s fourteen
chances for me
to escape.
 
Nobody cares.
 

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022
Tribute to Prisoner Express

__________

Cesar Hernandez: “I discovered writing in prison. I didn’t think my words mattered to anyone. I was completely taken by surprise when one of my fellow inmates said my words are meaningful to her. Catherine La Fleur inspired me to become a better writer. Now I take writing seriously and constantly revise to make sure each piece is perfect. Over time I am surprised at how much I have opened up about myself.”

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