September 6, 2022

Amy Miller


Sleep now. The city
you were building in your head,
its shouting and conveyances,
its strikers and unhelpful signs,
its cops with their stern citations,
rest. Rest the piteous call
from your sister and the words
you boiled in the pot
all day.
deer fatten in a sudden
thaw. A lake floats hundreds
of Russians in bathing suits.
And your dreams—no one can take
those wild paintings
and unbelievable music,
or your lashes dropping
their feathers, or the factory
of your own lungs,
quietly working into the night.

from Rattle #46, Winter 2014


Amy Miller: “I love a lot of things: a dense tower of Blue Lake pole beans in August, that shoulder season when we hear both frogs and crickets, pretty much every dog I’ve ever met, racquetball and playing fiddle. But that Big Bang moment that happens when I’m writing a poem, when suddenly something exists that wasn’t there before … that’s a different kind of thrill and addiction. And like that lover you can’t get out of your system, its maddening unpredictability only makes it more desirable.” (web)

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September 5, 2022

Kathryn Paulson


Through an open window
You spy a coal colored dog
Curled up on a plain rug
Smoke billows from the chimney
Silvery clouds floating in the sky
Silvery windows frame
Coal smoke floating in the sky
The plain dog curled up by the chimney
An open rug billows
Through clouds and dreams
Like a spy
A spy opens a window
And curls up a coal colored rug
The plain chimney floats clouds
Through the dog’s dreams
Smoke billows
Silvery sky
The plain clouds curl through a coal colored sky
The window and chimney opened
The silver dog spies
Dreams float, billowing
On a rug of smoke

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022


Kathryn Paulson: “I grew up in a tiny town in Wisconsin. Was poetry ever in my life plan? Nope, but neither was my traumatic brain injury. I fell on black ice in December of 2016 and fractured my skull and had a subarachnoid brain bleed. My life changed. Not every aspect, but enough. I have dealt with a myriad of issues that I wouldn’t want to hand to my worst enemy. But I have also gained some amazing things that I wouldn’t trade for ‘my old brain’ … one of those things is BBIG (Blugold Brain Injury Group) and the people associated with it. They have become some of my biggest cheerleaders. Having cheerleaders in your life is vital. These people have my back and don’t judge me on my bad brain days, and celebrate with me on my good brain days. The facilitator, Dr. Jerry Hoepner, has also introduced me to many new experiences that help me in my daily life, that help develop my coping skills, and that enrich me. One of those experiences was meeting Brendan Constantine, the Los Angeles-based poet. Jerry put together a couple Zoom meetings for us to ‘explore’ poetry. I don’t know what made me go; I have never been a writer. Brendan has taken our little brain injury poetry group under his wing and encouraged all of us to fly. I consider myself a creative being, but struggle with feelings of adequacy. I tend to think I’m not quite good enough for recognition, but I continue to find ways to let my creativity fly. Poetry has become one of those things to me. I have only been writing for about five months. I honestly don’t have a huge amount of time or brain power to dedicate to it. But under Brendan’s watchful eye, all of us in the group have blossomed. ‘Coal Smoke’ was done based on a challenge presented to me based on Richard Shelton’s poem, ‘From a Room.’”

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September 4, 2022

Kate MacQueen


Many people call these the dog days. In North Carolina we have our own names for the seasons and we call this one Hell’s Front Porch. Hot and humid August can make a dog inclined to hide under the porch. But that’s not why these are called dog days. The real story is that this is the time of year when Sirius, the Dog Star, first rises with the sun and is then the brightest star in the morning sky. Imagine the dogs with their backs up on an August morning, a little boy held in his grandmother’s embrace, the heat quickly rising, and Lucifer watching from the front porch.
that patch of dirt
where everything dies
Hiroshima Day

from Poets Respond
September 4th, 2022


Kate MacQueen: “Things have a way of heating up in August in the Northern Hemisphere. This week it was the Washington Post noting that ‘The largest nuclear power plant in Europe, Zaporizhzhia, lies in southeastern Ukraine. It has been held by Russian forces since March, but amplified fighting over recent weeks has led to an unprecedented fear of a nuclear catastrophe coinciding with a brutal war.’ I guess the fear of ‘a nuclear catastrophe coinciding with a brutal war’ could be described as unprecedented since few people knew they needed to fear such a thing until 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, when a bombardier from North Carolina dropped the first atomic bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, from a plane named for the pilot’s grandmother, Enola Gay, on Hiroshima. History doesn’t repeat itself, exactly, but it does provide inspiration in ways that really should be anticipated.”

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September 3, 2022

Anna Meister  (age 15)


i came across a garden 
one day, guarded by a 
gate of glass at the top
of the stairs. i walked 
backwards through them, 
and wonder how many 
people have done the 
same. i step into a world 
of veils, covered in sugar-
water hoping to wear a 
coat of dragonflies. your 
words are etched in every 
yellow brick that stands 
in front of me as my ruby-
red shoes walk down 
this road you paved for 
me, wishing i could just 
turn around and go home 
to you. the birds flying 
close to my shoulders
remind me of when i was 
a baby, and my parents 
bathed me in a bird bath. 
but I never got to grow 
up and fly away like my 
childhood friends. there’s 
a run-down church just 
outside the garden. if i 
squint, my eyes can paint 
it. my mind rings with 
ghost bells, recordings of 
my long-lost selves who 
once ran the clock tower 
implanted in my imagination. 
as i stare at the grass, i 
remember that i like to 
think of myself as a four-
leaf clover but i know 
inside, i’m only three-
leafed hiding behind the 
crowd. i’m looking at my 
reflection in the pond but 
i’m no Narcissus, i’d rather 
ripple myself away. hello 
my love, i’ll be waiting 
here for you, until i
become sisters with the 
statue dressed in moss.

from 2022 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Anna Meister: “I like to write poetry because it allows me to share how I feel in a way I wouldn’t get to otherwise. Writing keeps me calm, and I like how I get to experiment with different words and formats.”

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September 2, 2022

Eri Okoye


I was 19 when I first started to look like my mother;
cupid’s bow forming flat above my lip and
tear filled eyes going over and over pages of numbers, 
looking for new ways to crunch.
I began to learn a new and adult way to become afraid.
I’d always known about money and the way that it kills,
from an early age I saw it slit my mother’s throat and drain her raw
and I’d always known that we were poor.
But growing up now, and almost grown too,
I was reminded again whilst doing things like renting homes;
I had always worked, always paid my own phone bill with extra to spare
so it became easy to forget the weight of debt.
Debt weighs as if you carry the universe upon your back—
my mother looks like Atlas and I have my mother’s eyes: 
wearisome and tired but brown and alive—
and I have the same worry lines
though I was just a child two years ago.
It goes that money can’t buy you happiness but I can’t agree,
because I am too young to be afraid of debt,
too young to be afraid of the green that does not grow on trees,
Yet debt weighs like feet trampling down roots,
it is like chemicals and acids poured upon the place 
where things grow;
I am far too young to feel this stunted
but at least I finally look like my mother.

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022


Eri Okoye: “I write poetry because turning things into metaphor and lyric is the only way I’m able to rationalize and make sense of my issues. I treat it like medicine.”

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September 1, 2022

Andre D. Underwood


She told me that she loved me.
I was only 8 years old.
She spoke of getting married
After we were grown.
We were both living at the shelter.
The year was 2000.
She was 14—
Damn near a grown woman.
She told me I was kind.
She said that I was sweet.
She told me those were the things
That she loved most about me.
I was so young;
I was naive. 
Blinded through affection,
I could not see.
She only loved the feelings—
Kalifornia never did love me.

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022
Tribute to Prisoner Express


Andre D. Underwood: “I started writing poems back in 2005, because I needed a positive way to express my emotions. So I started channeling how I feel about everything. I channeled the pain, the happiness, the love, the disgust, the fear, and the joy. I wrote about girlfriends, my mom, my brother, my father, my sister, my baby mothers, my enemies, my friends … I even wrote about nature. Poetry is my outlet for my emotions, my freedom of expression—a place where I’m not bound by anything but free to spill my thoughts without consequences.”

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August 31, 2022

Alexandra Umlas


This morning’s stories include a bald eagle
about to board a Southwest plane, his handler
taking him through the TSA checkpoint
in North Carolina, him flexing his wings, as if to say
look what I can do. I can fly and I can fly
Some things still surprise us, this Eagle’s flight,
how delicious my breakfast tastes today, green
olives stuffed with almonds and fresh-striped
figs, their skins filled with August-ripeness,
and Fagles’ translation of Homer’s The Iliad open
to page 265, Achilles, always dying, and also always
living, speaking (again), two fates bear me on
to the day of death. One, a journey home
with no glory. Another, a journey away from life
but with everlasting glory—Oh the choices
we must make in any life! And I wonder
what Homer would have to say about an eagle
on a plane, the pages he might have filled today
with wings being winged in an aluminum miracle,
everything so different and everything the same,
how we still get from one place to the next
or don’t, how an eagle is even now an eagle
and an omen that tells us there is always something
new to see—open your wings and look—

from Poets Respond
August 31, 2022


Alexandra Umlas: “I’m grateful to books and to the authors of books, who show us that we are not alone in our vacillation between delight and despair—and that delight often wins! Or, if it doesn’t win, it at least surprises us into momentary joy. I found myself delighted (and perplexed) by the idea of this Eagle on a plane, who is now also on a page, which is its own kind of journey.” (web)

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