June 21, 2016

Jackleen Holton


A child the age of our child was taken by an alligator.
The boy’s father fought to free his son, but the reptile
took him under, drowned him. We sit on the couch,
our mouths agape. It’s been a long week
of staring at the TV this way. I’ve gone off Facebook
for a few days, because all my relatives are afraid
that someone’s coming to take away their guns.
But their guns are as safe as alligators

in a bog. And all I can think about is how my little girl
loves to stomp her feet in the water, and when music
plays, she has to dance. Today, she said the word yellow
and pointed to a toy boat in the pool. She doesn’t
know that if we lived in Syria, a crowded
boat might be our best hope.

Last night, I read her a book called Alligators All Around.
She doesn’t know it’s a book about terror,
or that, in Florida last week, a hundred dancers
were shot because it was easier for a troubled man
to get an assault rifle than it was for him to remember
how to dance. I’m calling for a ban on all alligators.
Because how can it be that even a lake
in Disney World is not safe for a child?

Once, I was a tourist in my worst nightmare.
At the Everglades Holiday Park, the guide told us
to keep our limbs inside the boat at all times,
he said the gators didn’t really want to hurt
us, but they wouldn’t hesitate if they perceived
a threat. This was before I had anything I loved
more than my own arms and legs.

I hate politics now. I hate the news.
I can’t bear to see another overturned boat,
another child dead on the shore.
And now I find myself dreading the day
I’ll have to tell my daughter about alligators,
because that’s what I can’t stop thinking about
tonight—can’t stop the tears for the mother
and father flying home, an empty seat between them.

And now, I’m remembering how the state of Florida
looks from the window of a plane—thin strip of land, ocean
on both sides, boats dragging the white trails
of their wakes across the water, and how, all the way home
from that trip, my mind kept going back to the swamp, that warning
to stay inside the tiny, inadequate boat. And all around
us, the rock islands of those prehistoric bodies,
their black eyes watchful, gleaming.

from Poets Respond


Jackleen Holton: “The news that two-year-old Lane Graves, wading in a man-made lake at a Walt Disney World resort near Orlando, was snatched by an alligator and drowned shook me to the core in a week that had already brought the terrible news of a terrorist attack at an LGBTQ nightclub, also in Orlando. Meanwhile, both sides of the gun debate raged. Maurice Sendak’s classic book Alligators All Around, of course, is not about terror, but is a very terrifying idea if you give such matters any thought, which, unfortunately, I do all too often, especially after watching the news or going on Facebook too late at night.” (website)

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April 5, 2015

Jackleen Holton


for Steve Kowit, June 30, 1938 – April 2, 2015

Steal a line from a great poem
because the best poets don’t pay
Homage—that word like the godly He,
spelled with a capital H—they take
as if the whole world was their smorgasbord.
Yes, that’s what it felt like on that day we hiked
in the Cuyamacas, and all of nature
seemed to be slyly winking
as it sent us bluebird after bluebird, wild
turkey, deer, and that wounded lizard
we found on the path, the one you gently
moved aside with a stick as you swore
to the squeamish among us that its torn-off tail
would regenerate itself in a week. Our group
was mostly poetry students, and you, winking back,
as if you had summoned the gods, arranged
for a lesson so perfect it would be impossible not to write
a poem. So this is mine, the one I’m trying to shape
from your teachings, the day after learning you’ve gone,
your books spread out over my cluttered desk.
That’s another one of your tricks: include in your poem
a reference to the writing of it, like a camera
pulling back to reveal the soundstage, gaffers,
boom mikes and floodlights. After the hike,
a few of us drove to a small lake where your friend Jack
set up a telescope, and we waited to catch
a glimpse of the fledgling eaglet
whose parents had forged a temporary
nest in the brambles. Here’s what I remember:
my stomach rumbling as we took turns gazing
into the eyepiece. I wasn’t thinking of eaglets,
but Julian apple pie. I was going to have mine à la mode
with Dutch crumble crust. (Notice how I’ve used
assonance and consonance, the mimicking sounds
of brambles/rumbling/crumble/crust?)
But when that large nest rustled, and the fledgling
rose, its new wings flapping, and landed, briefly
on a branch, I forgot about everything
I planned to do later: have lunch
at that roadside café where we always ended up,
the lively political discussion that would ensue,
even the exquisite dessert, its perfect blending
of hot and cold. But, then just as quickly
as it had appeared, the little eagle
dropped back into its nest, out of sight.
Would this be a good place to address
the reader, to instruct?
Listen! When the beauty of a thing insists
on being seen, you must give yourself over
to it, for this is the shimmering everything: the moment
and its volumes of unwritten poems.
But here’s the part where I make my confession:
I lied. I never saw that eaglet.
The stupid guy I was dating left his backpack
at the trailhead. And I, being even stupider,
drove him back instead of letting him take my car,
going with you and Jack to see the bird.
But everything else is true: the lizard,
the café where you told us of your miraculous
sighting, the steaming apple pie. I saw you last month
at a workshop you taught. It never occurred to me,
not for a second, that it would be the last time.
You said, Here’s a trick, a really cheap trick:
End your poem with a rhyme.

from Poets Respond


Jackleen Holton: “This poem is for my first poetry teacher, Steve Kowit, who passed away on April 2nd. He was a great poet, mentor, and one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. Steve had several ‘tricks’ for writing poems, which he used in his own work, and I have tried my best to include in this tribute piece. My favorite is this: Tell at least one lie in your poem.”

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September 24, 2014

Jackleen Holton


I’m at Hooters, you tell me when I call, and I make you repeat it because I’m sure that I misheard. But on your third attempt, I catch the word. Oh, Hooters, I say, and wonder if this is the beginning of the end. And the waitress is there, trying to take your order. Can I call you back? Sure, I say and hang up. Go ahead, ogle her, in her little orange shorts and white tank, pulled tight, those owl eyes bulging. She’s probably flirting with you now, the way they’re trained to do, commenting on your accent, asking you where you’re from. And I know she’s not pretty or even beautiful, but gorgeous, because I knew a guy who worked construction at the franchise before it opened, who watched as the girls came in for their interviews, and there was this one who smiled at him, and he remarked to a co-worker, she’s hot, but the other guy shook his head and said maybe, but she wasn’t Hooters-quality gorgeous. And just after college I met a Hooters girl named Stephanie who was a few years younger than me. And as we sat in the Italian restaurant with our mutual friends, an older man stopped by our table to call her that very word: gorgeous. Envy prickled in me, not because I wanted to work at Hooters, but because I probably wouldn’t make the cut, what with the little bump in the center of my nose, my eyes set a bit too close together, not to mention my cup size too small for their requirements. But that was nearly twenty years ago. Even Stephanie the Hooters girl is now past forty, as are you, sitting there waiting for some terrible food to be delivered as you watch the parade. What’s next, I wonder, strip clubs and lap dances? My old boyfriend Dave had a drawer full of other women’s numbers. Is that where we’re headed? The phone rings. You should come here, you say. It’s such a typical American spectacle. I laugh. I’m good. While shopping at Target, you got hungry. Outside, the first thing you saw was Hooters. Of course, I reply, those big eyes. In college, the opening of the restaurant sparked many a debate in my women’s studies classes about the objectification of the female body. But now I’ve accepted the fact that women will continue to objectify themselves. If anything pisses me off about it anymore, it’s that they’ve co-opted the owl. You tell me you’ll try to come by later. But later you call again, your stomach aching. Too much salt on that chicken breast sandwich. You’re going to bed early. Poor baby. I hope you feel better, I say, and mostly I mean it. I look out the window, thinking of owls, the real kind, like the one I saw last week flying from a dark eucalyptus, over my balcony into the canyon; the sound it made, less of a hoot than a harrowing shriek as it flashed a momentary silver then disappeared into a copse of black trees.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems


Jackleen Holton: “I was trying to write a poem for a class I was taking. I think we had five different prompts that week, and I was coming up with nothing. So, to distract myself from the task, I called my boyfriend. From his first sentence, ‘I’m at Hooters,’ the poem sprang forth and, by the end of the evening after he called me back with a stomach ache, it had pretty much written itself.” (web)

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January 24, 2013

Jackleen Holton


That’s why last year I went out with Michael
who drove a white Prius
and wore beige vegetarian shoes. And when
we’d meet at a tofu bistro the same distance
from both of our houses, we’d go dutch because
we knew the importance of sexual equality. We had good
conversations, talked about dwindling
rainforests and fragile ecosystems. We liked
the same movies and poems.
God knows I want to be good, so I tried
to ignore that boorish guy Mark at the party who bragged
that he once caught a trout with his bare hands. I mean,
what an asshole, what a hairy-chest-beating
Neanderthal. So why did I let him
pull me into the bathroom, shove those
fish-snatching hands under my shirt?
The other day, a friend told me that Michael’s
engaged. I said good, good for him,
and nodded my head like a chicken. As for Mark,
it’s been a whole week since the night I groped
around on his bedroom floor in search
of my underwear. Tonight, I lie
by the window, my body still
humming like a long dial tone
in the dark.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012

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September 15, 2013

Rattle is proud to announce the winner of the 2013 Rattle Poetry Prize:

Roberto Ascalon

“The Fire This Time”
Roberto Ascalon
Seattle, WA



“A Poem for Women Who Don’t Want Children”
Chanel Brenner
Santa Monica, CA

“My Mother Told Us Not to Have Children”
Rebecca Gayle Howell
Lubbock, TX

“Baby Love”
Courtney Kampa
New York, NY

“What He Must Have Seen”
Stephen Kampa
Daytona Beach, FL

“Man on Mad Anthony”
Bea Opengart
Cincinatti, OH

“Laundry List”
Michelle Ornat
Elma, NY

“Man on the Floor”
Jack Powers
Fairfield, CT

“Basic Standards Test”
Danez Smith
St. Paul, MN

“Who Breathed in Binders”
Patricia Smith
Howell, NJ

“Of You”
Wendy Videlock
Grand Junction, CO


These eleven poems will be published in the Winter issue of Rattle this December. Each of the Finalists are also eligible for the $1,000 Readers’ Choice Award, to be selected by entrant and subscriber vote (the voting period is December 1, 2013 – February 15, 2014).

Another nine poems were selected for standard publication, and offered a space in the open section of a future issue. These poets will be notified individually about details, but they are: Jacqueline Berger, Daniel Bohnhorst, Jackleen Holton, Sharon Kessler-Farchi, Michael Meyerhofer, Kathleen Nolan, Charlotte Pence, Sam Sax, and Timothy Schirmer.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the competition, which would not have been a success without your diverse and inspiring poems. We received a record 2,105 entries and well over 8,000 poems, and it was an honor to read each of them.

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August 10, 2002

Service Workers

Conversation with
Jan Beatty

Rattle #69 cover, photo of service worker at a restaurant with other workers moving blurred behind herThe Fall 2020 issue features a timely tribute to service workers—those working in the lodging, food service, tourism, customer service and other industries in direct service to customers. Though planned long before the pandemic, service workers have been hit particularly hard this year, and we’re happy to be honoring poets who work in those fields. The conversation features Jan Beatty, covering her decades of experience working as a waitress, as well as the topics of adoption and the writing process.

Another eclectic open section features 22 poems in a range of styles that are sure to make you laugh or cry.


Service Workers

Audio Available Jan Beatty On the 101
Sam Burt Hummingbird
Audio Available Lewis Crawford To the Man Who May or May Not Be My Father
Audio Available Granddaddy (for Nana)
Audio Available Marylisa DeDomenicis Excuse Me
Claire Donzelli Promotion
Audio Available Joshua Gottlieb-Miller Staring at the Lake with My Wife …
Audio Available Maria Guzman Riding the B-Line
Audio Available Atar J. Hadari Letter from Home about a Friend’s Business …
Audio Available Jackleen Holton The Hunter
Audio Available Craig Kenworthy I Am an Innocent Bellman
Audio Available Andrew Miller Let There Be Light a Little 
Audio Available T.R. Poulson I Want to Date a Man Who’s Like a Dog
Audio Available Grant Quackenbush American Dream
Audio Available Fred Shaw Worst. Shift. Ever.
Audio Available Laurie Uttich To My Student with the Dime-Sized Bruises …
Audio Available Andre Le Mont Wilson How Long Have You Been Doing This?

Open Poetry

Audio Available Mary Angelino Remodeling
Audio Available Belén Atienza Solitude Is a Life’s Work
Audio Available Erin Bealmear David Bowie Eyes
Audio Available Leela Chantrelle Pit
Grant Clauser Thoroughbred
Audio Available Richard Cole How Much Does Your House Weigh?
Audio Available Chard deNiord The Lack
Audio Available The Mantle
Audio Available Chad Frame Smoking Shelter
Valentina Gnup It’s a Sad Story
Audio Available Jessica Goodfellow Love in Terminal 3D
Audio Available Andrew Kane How to Be a Dog
Michelle Lesniak The Only Sign of Trauma
Amit Majmudar Naming the Child
David Mason Long Haul
Note to Self
Mi-Mi Monahan Holy Water
Jeffrey Morgan My Love, Though the Smart Speaker …
Marc Pietrzykowski Pedagogy
Michelle Roberti-West Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
David Romtvedt Remembering the Wedding
Vivian Shipley Poetry Workshop


Jan Beatty (web)

Cover Art

Piotr Lewandowski (web)


May 8, 2001

Tribute to Law Enforcement Poets

Conversations with Amiri Baraka & Rhoda Janzen

Rattle #37Releasing this June, Rattle #37 features a selection of poems by fourteen law enforcement officers. One might not expect any similarity between policing and poetry, but with reams of paperwork, plenty of drama, and a need for attention to fine detail, poets and cops do have much in common. And as retired police officer James Fleming explains in his introduction, “a sparse, carefully-written police report can evoke tears.”

Of course, the Law Enforcement tribute is only part of the issue. Rattle #37’s particularly rich open section features the work of a full 68 poets. And to cap off one of our most diverse issues yet, Alan Fox interviews the controversial political activist and poet Amiri Baraka, and former-Mennonite memoirist and poet Rhoda Janzen.


Audio Available = audio available

Law Enforcement Poets

James Fleming Cops on the Beat (essay)
Madeline Artenberg Guardians of the Good
Barbara Ann Carle Shots Fired
Sarah Cortez The Secret
Betty Davis Fred Astaire and Betty Davis
James Fleming Working Homocide
Jesse S. Fourmy Duluth
Hans Jewinski Blue Funk
Suzanne Kessler Mercy
Dean Olson Yellow Sailboat
David S. Pointer Hooverites and Jarhead MPs
John J. Powers Proof of Service
G. Emil Reutter Shoulders
Audio Available Vance Voyles After
William Walsh The Old Me
Sarah Cortez More Cops on the Beat (essay)


Audio Available Christeene Alcosiba What Remains Is Given Up to the Fire
Amiri Baraka The Terrorism of Abstraction
Wendy Barker Sterenfall
Joseph Bathanti Praise the Lord
Ben Berman The Underside
Audio Available Darla Biel When My Ex Called in Sick
Ace Boggess Property
Peter Bradley Deus ex Machina
Eric Burger God’s Razors
Erik Campbell Great Caesar’s Ghost
Audio Available Rohan Chhetri Not the Exception
Paul F. Cummins Elegy
Audio Available Weston Cutter Lungs Like a Distance Swimmer
Tiffanie Desmangles In the County for a PR
Richard Donnelly It Would Take
Thomas Dorsett The Pleasures of Age
Audio Available Kathleen Driskell In a Diner Somewhere in Iowa
Patrick Dutcher People You May Know
Jaclyn Dwyer The Fire
Audio Available Alejandro Escude Precis
Alan Fox Tofu Fu & Tofu Fu Two
Fred Fox The Sea
Sarah Freligh Sex Education
Ed Galing Cleaning House
Audio Available Kristin George Bagdanov Holding Light
Audio Available Jennifer Givhan An Editor Advised Me to Stop Writing …
Susan F. Glassmeyer On Old Congress Road
John Gosslee Portrait of an Inner Life
Margaret Green Haiku
Tresha Faye Haefner Tattoos on Young Women in Spring
Theodosia Henney About-to-Rain
Jackleen Holton God Knows I Want to Be Good
Audio Available Jessica Jacobs Primer
Lowell Jaeger Trash
Rhoda Janzen Let’s Say
The Minnesota Multiphastic Personality …
Dave Jarecki The Cosmic Dance
Edmund Jorgensen Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Pepper, Too?
Rose Kelleher Enlightenment
Lynne Knight Almost by Heart
Audio Available Eugenia Leigh Destination: Beautiful
Lyn Lifshin Honeysuckle
Clint Margrave The Famous Atheist
Frank Matagrano Auditing the Heart
Joan Mazza Extremes
Ken Meisel Woman Releasing a Tongueless Swallow…
Audio Available Donald Platt Caddy
Audio Available Christine Poreba Between Missing and Found
Kuno Raeber Nursing & Void
Josh Rathkamp Single Father
Mary Ellen Redmond The Sister of Icarus
Jack Ridl Hardship in a Nice Place
Audio Available Richard Robbins The Tattooed Woman
Mary Anne Rojas Hard Work Pays Off
Sam Sax Reuptake Inhibitors
Rebecca Schumejda How to Classify a Reptile
Ali Shapiro Pittsburgh
Janice D. Soderling Real Men Don’t Take No Shit from Nobody
Alan Soldofsky Recovery at Lake Tahoe
Rob Stephens Dammit and the Placenta
Bruce Taylor Fast Facts About Famous People
Craig van Rooyen Reading Exodus
Richard Vargas The Company Provides a Free Lunch…
David Wagoner The Plumber’s Nightmare
Kathleen A. Wakefield While Taking a Nap …
Rediscovers the Wheel
Listens to the Dead
A.D. Winans Media Blues
Scott Withiam Watching Deer in a Snowstorm
Jeff Worley How to Become a Professional Folk Singer

A Bit of Color

Guy Kettelhack My Problem with Your Hat


Amiri Baraka
Rhoda Janzen


Jarrett Blaustein