May 21, 2023

Amy Miller


Of course I picture the actual house, my little peaked roof
riding the plate southward back through Neocene, Cretaceous,
beachfront, then sub-marine, and passing through the dinosaurs
so fast—they were only our granddads, but there before
the flowers began. So long—but what is long, when before them
everything felt the world die off, a 76 percent extinction,
and that’s not even the big one before that, when almost
all of the plants died. What I thought would be wonder
instead has me thinking about lab tests
and art and sitting with friends and laughing and the speck-
ness of us all, and the fathoms of space. And us,
just wisps, white forms on an x-ray, nature riffing out another sub-
species, us with wild impractical hair and voices
that sing at the kitchen window while we’re doing the dishes.
And although my neighbors have a new sound system
and The Lord of the Rings on endless replay, I feel
forgiving toward them tonight, with their magic
and sleepy brotherhood. I mean, it’s all extinction
eventually, and look at us, we made movies about
dinosaurs, and a boy walking by the water found the tooth
of a mammoth just last month—that recent in the blink
of life in the vast dry eye of the planet. It’s possible
to think more than one thing at once—that’s
evolution for you—and fear of leaving this life
rides right along with a oneness with the megalodons
and the algae. And the die-offs—I can hardly say
the word—we have all fallen, cancered, arterially
seized so many many times, entire oceans
of loss and leaving. Tonight four pillows
on the couch lie together like a pile of sleeping
cats. The prayer plant closes its long hands.
The Christmas lights will have to come down
from the doorway, dark bulbs from another
season, while the house moves swiftly through the year.

from Poets Respond
May 21, 2023


Amy Miller: “An interactive map that shows you where your town was in relation to landmasses and oceans millions of years ago has been making the rounds of social media this week. What begins as a fun diversion—‘My house was beachfront property in the Late Cretaceous!’—becomes an existential rabbit hole when you start reading the descriptions (lower left corner) of what was happening on the planet at that time. At many times, what was happening were mass extinctions. Pondering the massive die-offs and how many millions of years it took for life to rebound each time, and how often that has happened—it’s a staggering, sobering perspective. I probably learned this all in school, but I was young and it didn’t stick. It’s sticking now.” (web)

Rattle Logo

May 20, 2023

Luke Johnson


The jack sits low in the grass. We’re dead drunk,
cannonballing across the lawn, gouging
handful divots, each of us still nursing
a tumbler of scotch brought home from the wake.
We sons and brothers and cousins. I spin
my ice and let that black-tie loosening
buzz swarm. The others choose the sky, looping
pop-flies that swirl with backspin, an earthen
thud answering grunts while the soft dirt caves.
I bowl instead, slow-ride hidden ridges—
the swells buried beneath the grass—carving
a curve, a line from start to stop, finish.
The heart, like a bocce ball, is fist-sized
and firm; ours clunk together, then divide.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
Tribute to the Sonnet


Luke Johnson: “Recently, I spent the summer living in a tent in the woods of West Virginia. Nights, I read poetry by headlamp: James Galvin, Elizabeth Bishop, Fred Chappell. Rain storms drummed tarps strung above me, and the poems joined those rhythms, those gales. I’d like to believe they’re equally necessary, poetry and rain, with the same capacity to ease and to overwhelm.” (web)

Rattle Logo

May 19, 2023

Deborah Ketai


No one, not even God, was fully souled
before being Named. The oldest name was
breath: aah first, then breathed back
in, through her ears, her name
speckled through the breezing,
sounding the depths, no longer deaf
to soul and self.
So in and out and in and out again 
the name begat The Names.
But after seven days or billions of years,
after 40 days, 40 years,
two temples, many prophets, and one carpenter,
after empires and bloodbaths and plagues
and a litany of everyday complaints, everyone forgot,
even God. 
We are not truly known or touched or reached 
until someone calls us by our name.
Say my name, God pleads, say my name.
What is it like to lose your name? God knows.
Like my great-grandmother
whom no one had called Rebecca for decades before she died.
She answered to Mrs. Newman or Mom or Grandma.
How did she think of herself?
“Rebecca” slowly faded. The aah, first to come,
was also the last to go, like the wicked witch
in the Wizard of Oz. That’s why witches need familiars:
no family or friends to remember their name.
Not invoked or evoked, not provocative, not vocative at all, 
not even the old bozhe moi, bozhe moi,
their voices, souls, breath, names, stolen by time.
Golosa, dushy, dykhaniya, imeni, vremya ukralo.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


Deborah Ketai: “I believe that our given names help forge our identities. They come into being with us, but often lose currency as we age. So what happens—to humans or to God—when names fade into oblivion? Let’s continue to acknowledge each other completely, even as we age.”

Rattle Logo

May 18, 2023

All of Us by Lou Storey, a complex pastoral landscape of simplified images of towns and fields with a quilt-like quality

Image: “All of Us” by Lou Storey. “Sestina” was written by Amanda Quaid for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, April 2023, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Amanda Quaid


We buried him behind the church
before the carnies came to town.
Now at night, you can hear the laughter
all the way to Lover’s Lane and past my house.
I miss the quiet, if I ever really had it.
They tell me it’s the sound of progress.
My Daddy once measured my progress
on a worn-down wall inside the church.
He used a pencil to mark it,
confirming that I was the shortest kid in town.
Then he drove us back to our house—
the way was longer then—and laughter
bandied back and forth between us, laughter
like there had been progress
toward something like friendship, our house
a little more like a home than a church
that day. At that time in our town,
men kept to themselves, and that’s all there was to it.
I’ve heard there’s a village, though I’ve never seen it,
where boys run naked by the sea, and laughter
tumbles forth from the carnelian huts in town.
On warm June days, I wonder if progress
will take me there, where church
can be found not in a building or house
but in bodies, in eyes and in beauties that house
secrets, and some days I want that so much that it
hurts. Could bodies be church,
I wonder, could voices, could laughter
be church, and is it a yielding to progress
to forfeit this town
and find, I suppose, a different town,
a brightly-colored candy apple house
where I could feel the call of progress
move in me and with it
joy and life and song and laughter
in this body I could come to call my church?
But a town, in spite of progress, has a gate, and it
becomes a little higher every year. At night, the laughter
reaches all the way to my house past the church.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
April 2023, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Lou Storey: “I don’t paint to know myself better, but the poem ‘Sestina’ somehow excavates a hidden (and true) foundation of emotion beneath my painting ‘All of Us,’ offering a narrative fueled with longing, a need to be free of all unjust measures, to be someplace ‘where boys run naked by the sea, and laughter / tumbles forth from the carnelian huts in town’—a place unreachable, like the ‘candy apple’ house, a landscape of if only. This poem prompts a kaleidoscope of feelings and I love that.”

Rattle Logo

May 17, 2023

Michael Hettich


For years my sister spoke only backwards 
while our brother, her twin, talked like any normal boy. 
Though she spoke clearly, no one but he 
could understand her, as they wove their strange braid 
of language, laughing as happy children do.
Our dad went off to work at first light
and he often came home with the darkness.
Our mother mostly leaned against the counter, 
smoking and trying to mimic her daughter,
asking our brother to tell her what she’d said. 
I spent my days reading and looking out the window. 
Sometimes a small herd of deer—a family—
ventured out of the woods, to stand 
quietly watching our house, while I
reread my favorite novels, mostly
tales of adventure and death in the far north. 
I stayed up late, beyond everyone else,
imagining those hearty young men trying 
to survive in a cold so intense their spit 
froze before it hit the ground; their words 
froze like snow in their beards. Would that be
another form of silence? And what about their eyes?
Sometimes they gave up and lay themselves down 
in the snow to fall asleep there, dreaming of their families 
back home in sunny California 
or somewhere in the South where it was always warm.
Only then would I close my book and slip it 
beside the others on the shelf; I’d turn off 
my night light and wander through our big house trying 
to hear them breathing, this small group of people 
who made me part of a family, these strangers
who resembled me like my own hands resembled 
each other. Sometimes I’d lie down beside 
my sister for a while, without disturbing 
her dreams, then get up to lie beside her twin, 
but I never dared slip into my parents’ bedroom, 
since my dad’s night-breathing was a strangled sort of growl,
a howling that made me imagine a wilderness
I had no desire to enter, after all,
though sometimes I got up and listened at their door
until fell I asleep there, curled up on the floor,
shivering a little in that drafty hallway
but happy to be lying there near them.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


Michael Hettich: “When I was a child, my father would sometimes read poems to me, in the evening before dinner, while he sipped a cocktail. T.S. Eliot was his favorite. Though I didn’t understand what they were about, the cadences and images charmed and moved me deeply. They also haunted me. Then, 15 years later, in a creative writing class taught by James Crenner, I came across Casar Vallejo’s ‘Black Stone Lying on a White Stone,’ in the Bly Knopf translation, and was transfixed and transformed by the language, and by the possibilities. I knew then that I wanted to try to do something like that, someday. Maybe, if I was lucky …” (web)

Rattle Logo

May 16, 2023

Matt Dhillon


Because a penis is just like a gun,
the cowboy walks onscreen with a heavy iron.
Because a penis is just like a gun,
boys are born with fingers on triggers,
and the so many deer ripple in knee-high grass
as if shaken out of a dream 2,4,5.
Because a penis is just like a gun,
the boy knows desire is a kind of violence,
leaving him laterally through a barrel.
There will be holes in the steel
of road signs and chipped from trees;
you could walk back and forth in the
emptiness he makes of love.
Because a gun is just like a penis
you know a man invented violence,
his body a weapon, powder
and a flower of fire on his lips.
Because a gun is the shape of a penis,
power is the shape of a gun, and killing
is the shape of power, and his body
is a fight waiting to happen, and it was
through scab and bruise and fractured
bone that he passed into manhood.
Because a penis is just like a gun,
he holds one, its smooth chrome a call,
Here is a hurt made just for you. You
will know yourself by the wound.

from Poets Respond
May 16, 2023


Matt Dhillon: “There’s been a scary number of shootings in the news recently. It made me think about how often strength is equated to a capacity for violence, especially among men.”

Rattle Logo

May 15, 2023

William Harry Harding


for my daughter, who worries

Life got it wrong—
not a Boss double-barreled shotgun
from Abercrombie & Fitch,
but a pigeon gun, a W&C Scott & Son
long barrel, side-by-side 12 gauge,
the one he hunted ducks with in Italy,
took on safari in East Africa.
After Ketchum, a local welder cut up
the steel pieces with an oxy-acetylene torch,
smashed the stock, buried everything
in a local Idaho field. Some souvenirs, though,
kept in a match box, bits so small, yet enough
to identify the weapon. His favorite, but
not his only gun. His first, a gift at age 5
and costing 75 cents, was a Markham King
air rifle, circa 1904 and a far cry
from the Thompson submachine gun he used
to shoot at sharks in the Gulf Stream to keep them off
a just-caught prize Marlin. He relied on his .22 rifle
to wound an intruder crawling out a bathroom window
at Finca Vigía, that house in the outskirts of Havana,
the place he got the news he’d won the Nobel Prize.
My shotgun is a Pointer semiautomatic 20 gauge.
Less kick than Hemingway’s, and lighter. It won’t travel
to Italy or Africa or anywhere beyond my property.
It accepts five rounds. First, and ready in the chamber,
bird shot: not enough to wound a coyote, just scare it off.
The remaining rounds are lethal, just in case. I carry it
hoisted on a shoulder, safety on, as I walk the swales
of this little paradise, hoping
never to have to pull the trigger, hoping
things don’t get that bad or dark or scary or hopeless.
Each morning it feels cold to the touch.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


William Harry Harding: “Sometimes, writing poems connects me to my heroes and my demons in ways that writing novels can’t. This poem helped my daughter and me bring suicidal ideation to the kitchen table, where we discuss it as if it was ordinary, like breakfast, and something to be discussed head-on.”

Rattle Logo