November 16, 2022

Alireza Roshan

TWO POEMS

 
In the river
are fish
 
In me
loneliness
 
 
 
 
 
 
Altho’ parallel lines
may never meet
they’re headed
in the same direction
 
 
Translated from the Farsi by Gary Gach and Erfan Mojb
 

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022
Tribute to Translation

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Alireza Roshan was born in Tehran and now lives in Hamburg, Germany. The author of 10 books of poetry and fiction, he made his literary debut in 2011, posting one brief poem a day on the internet. | Gary Gach & Erfan Mojb: “Amidst the thousands of his followers he attracted, we were struck by the timeliness of his poems, and their uncanny wedding of classical Persian poetry with Modernism, like Sufi haiku.”

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November 15, 2022

Hayden Saunier

SELF-PORTRAIT WITH THE SMITHFIELD HAM WE HAD TO CUT ON THE BANDSAW

Mother, for once, it wasn’t your fault.
You always said you can’t soak hams
long enough and one full day and night
seemed adequate, but we gave it two,
scrubbed mold, rind, salt away, changed
the water, tucked it like a baby in its bath;
another day, rinsed, patted dry, made ready.
Butter and brown sugar coated all our hands.
Let’s face it; it was ancient, not just aged.
The woman at the ham shack must have seen
my husband’s Pennsylvania plates and figured
what the hell, he won’t be coming back.
Or it was just bad luck. But wasn’t
our discussion on life with Lewis and Clark
educational for the children? Ham jerky!
Ham shoelaces! Ham-flavored chewing gum
to last a winter portage through the Bitterroots!
Oh, we were jolly then, those spots still undiscovered
on your lungs. Yes, my Yankee husband
sliced it on the band saw but so would any man
faced with that ham who had a power tool in reach.
That was Easter. It’s November now.
You’re dead and I am making black bean soup,
beginning with a frozen cut of that disaster
sizzling in a taste of olive oil. No other
seasoning is needed for this winter’s portage,
Mother, just my store of crosscut sections:
meat and marrow, sugar, grease and bone.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008

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Hayden Saunier: “I am an actress and theatre is always sending me to poetry and poetry to theatre. ‘Self-Portrait With the Smithfield Ham…’ evolved from that intersection. I was interested in the self-portrait less as image and more as inner monologue, a kind of private soliloquy.” (web)

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November 14, 2022

Karan Kapoor

GHAZAL FOR DIDA

There is no harm, in times of darkness, to use god.
Light, love, is seized time and again, else we lose god.
 
The devil measured every pain he could draw from our bodies;
straightened his back, and asked: Now, who’s god?
 
He stood at your door—you averted your eyes.
O dying mother, with whom did you confuse god?
 
On certain nights she screams curses at Krishna.
There are times, O despair, when we cannot choose god.
 
You blew on the first morsel, then offered each idol. Now 
your unfaithful tongue burns each time you abuse god.
 
Best to let the past remain in the past—she
weighs the beads of her rosary to seduce god.
 
Take me into your arms, O omniscient one! 
With endless prayers all night, unafraid she cues god.
 
The world is full of binaries. God is singular. 
Who divides better than morning news? God.
 
On each of our arms, the black moment we are born,
the words suffering, sorrow, and death tattoos god.
 
As a child I was told there’s one answer to all:
chaos, caste, guilt, grief, grace, a bruise—god.
 
At the end, we forget more than we remember.
It counts we are blessed—who cares by whose god?
 
My mother sits by the moon, sister a candle—
I know I am not alone who interviews god.
 
His crimes forgiven for centuries, enough now!
We’ll execute—fetch the hangman, bring a noose—god.
 
Your name is her offering, Karan. The day she dies
you will lose your name, and you will lose god.
 

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022

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Karan Kapoor: “Dida (my paternal grandmother) was sick for six months before she died, three years ago. In that time, I moved between weeping, massaging her feet, and writing. That death inspires poetry is not new. Whether as journalistic expression, ritual purgation, or literary experience. When I began working on my collection of poems for Dida, I found myself shifting through these three states. I wrote to survive her death. The strict form of the ghazal allowed me to channel (and give structure to) the chaos that severe inexplicable illnesses bring to a house. I started with 21 couplets and brought them down to 14. While traditionally a song of longing and love, and at times political advocacy—the ghazal—mastered by Agha Shahid Ali in English—is a form that defies what we think is possible in poetry today. At once dramatic, self-aware, subtle, musical, excessively emotional, and then quietly metaphysical—it is emblematic of poetic community. Death, too, does not happen alone. Especially in India—it brings together families, beliefs, doubts. Nor is writing truly a solitary act. All poems remain unfinished if unread.” (web)

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November 13, 2022

Wheeler Light

AARON CARTER YOU ARE DEAD AND NEVER READ THE BOOK I WROTE ABOUT YOU

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

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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 12, 2022

Avery Yoder-Wells (age 15)

THROUGH THEY CALLED US TWO MAIDENS

This summer we try out manhood
like chlorophyll, a veneer on the fields.
Would you kiss him if he asked,
would you hold hands if you wanted to,
warm them as we wander the streets of Pompeii?
 
Your birthday comes just when the air gets cold,
our bulging pockets dripping with summer zest.
they’re not paid enough to care. Neither do we,
I have nail polish in every color of the sunset.
moments taste sweeter stolen.
No one would give us the world
if we didn’t take it—
if we didn’t know they’re not looking.
 
We don’t answer
the men who call for our outlines.
they don’t know our names yet
We haven’t chosen them. Names stink
like cigarette ash and sugar, dead giveaways,
too crisp and bitter for childhood.
our last hours flash with stolen colors
We are laughing, dry as leaves.
We are gangly skeins of bones.
the summer shadows are long on the football fields
we are curled deep between the ashes.
 
And until fall comes, we have excuses
 
blank slates for our secrets.
sweet as sap, rich as veins.
Tell me you love me,
tell me a joke
tell me you’ll do anything
as long as I don’t let you fall
into the pool—
As long as I only kiss you in the summer
as long as I hold your drunk hands close
your chin up high.
 
We started the summer together
and we pull autumn into our hands,
the sunset dripping from our nails
as we drag it under the horizon
looking for closure.
but our dead city is dying again
sinking us deeper underground.
I kiss you so quietly nobody can hear.
The edges of the leaves crinkle with laughter
and we are nothing but open wounds.

from 2022 Rattle Young Poets Anthology

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Why do you like to write poetry?

Avery Yoder-Wells: “I like to write poetry because it’s such a dance between writer and reader. I imagine poetry as a wine glass, beginning broadly, then narrowing until the poem reveals what it’s really been about this whole time. Poetry has so few rules—grammar, structure, and even punctuation are subjective. All that matters is enjoying what you’ve created, and leaving the reader in a different place than they began.”

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November 11, 2022

Francesco Petrarca

from THE BANNED BABYLON SONNETS OF PETRARCH

136
 
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

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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

ON LOVED ONES TELLING THE DYING TO “LET GO”

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

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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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