February 16, 2022

Leticia Priebe Rocha


Maybe because my mom and I always fight
over the indecipherable instructions and missing screws, the
hammers meeting fingers that give way to fuck-shit-fuck

Maybe it’s the fact that IKEA uses 1% of the world’s lumber,
exploits laborers in the global south, was founded by a Nazi,
and the sheer impossibility of living ethically—living at all—under
capitalist imperialism threatens to drown me every second.

Maybe it’s the memory of our first big furniture shopping trip,
or, more accurately, its disruption. We could finally afford
a couch, dressers, and bed frames after two years in this country,
the four of us happily stuffed inside our paint-chipped

2000 Toyota Camry, windows down in the sweltering Miami
heat because the AC never worked. The clashing yellow and blue
logo had just come into sight when the sound I heard in my
nightmares blasted behind us, the sickening woop-woop

of a police car. See, at the age of 10 I had memorized the date
my father’s license would expire, the seconds ticking down
to when the unspeakable would be possible. It was 4 months past
that date, and as an 11-year-old I faced my father’s imminent

deportation in the now-infinite distance between us and the IKEA
parking lot one stoplight ahead. Hiccupping sobs erupted in my chest,
eliciting panicked wails from my then-baby sister. My mother turned
to hold our hands, her own tears spilling over as she fearfully eyed

the two officers advancing with relish, slowly closing in
on their latest prey. My father remained stony-faced, lowered the front
windows and his head. License and registration please, said the one
next to my dad’s window. The other on my mother’s side frowned

into the spectacle of tears, barking out:
Why are you all crying?
Stop. Why are you crying?
Why do you keep crying?

Maybe it’s because we couldn’t
find the right colored dressers and
our couch was delivered 2 weeks later
with a gaping hole on the side.

from Rattle #74, Winter 2021


Leticia Priebe Rocha: “My affinity with writing emerged as poetry became the only way I could truly untangle my experience as a highly politicized being in this country and move towards understanding the world. My greatest hope is that my work can help others fulfill the same impulse.” (web)

Rattle Logo

November 24, 2022

Take Heart by 
Bonnie Riedinger, abstract watercolor painting of two figures above pine trees

Image: “Ballet Above the Bay” by René Bohnen. “Fault Lines” was written by Margaret Malochleb for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2022, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Margaret Malochleb


To negotiate the terrain
of devotion’s darker
questions, we set out
in search of knowledge
buried inside the mountain.
Together we climbed
the treacherous path
littered with thistle,
bindweed, cheatgrass.
Held out our hands
to pull each other up
to the next outcropping.
And as we tended
our hunger, our thirst,
our need for rest,
the mountain watched,
held its breath
and waited for us
to look down and see
that the unwritten history
inside every living thing
is a borderless boundary
that can never be breached.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
October 2022, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, René Bohnen: “I had quite a job selecting a shortlist from the shortlist and eventually my favourite. In many of the poems I found beautiful imagery, as well as poignant moments and situations. I let the spirit and definitions of ekphrastic verse guide me in my final decision. I chose ‘Fault Lines’ as the poem which in my opinion amplifies and expands a core idea. The poet has cleverly used the different meanings of a geological concept to develop parallel perceptions in the reader’s mind. The poem becomes much more than mere description of the picture provided. Oxford Dictionaries offers this definition of fault lines: 1) a place where there is a long break in the rock that forms the surface of the earth and where earthquakes are more likely to happen, and 2) an issue that people disagree about and may, as a result, lead to conflict. Already in the first stanza we find the darker questions of devotion linked to the quest of going inside a mountain. Geology and emotional danger in association or perhaps juxtaposition, the reader has to read to find out. Judging technically, I enjoyed the sound effects in the poem. Without becoming clumsy or heavy, the little echoes, assonance and alliteration drive the action along. A line such as ‘littered with thistle’ tickles the mind’s eye and the poetic ear. In the last stanza, the b-alliteration (‘borderless boundary that can never be breached’) emphasises the profound wisdom that is presented as the poem’s closing viewpoint. Details and specifics anchor the narrative (‘bindweed, cheatgrass’) while also alluding to unpleasant situations or events between two people. The couple is hungry and thirsty, they pull each other up. They negotiate out croppings. This is no vague journey. The last stanza returns to the ‘mountain’ that appeared in stanza 1. The arching that is thus created echoes the shape of the arms in the artwork. The emotion of dismay, surprise, horror or despair that may be implied by the artwork, is subtly prompted by the openendedness of the last stanza, when the mountain waits for realization to dawn on the two tired people. I can write much more on this poem, but will leave the other readers the opportunity to analyse and enjoy an intricate poem that reads so effortlessly, one is initially mislead to think that it is simple.”

Rattle Logo

May 23, 2023

Bill Christophersen



When the toddler disappeared (the septic tank’s
countersunk manhole cover not quite centered
and so become a revolving door), the May
sun was drying the grass of the bed-and-breakfast’s
manicured front lawn. A gardener
was coaxing a power mower up the property’s
street-side incline, one hand on the throttle,
the other on the driving wheel’s black dish.

When the father disappeared (down the same hole,
self-preservation trumped by something else
more limbic still, some gut-level imperative
or sense that hell had got him by the balls,
no matter how he played it), the mother, alone
and shaking, screamed with her whole body.
The gardener jammed the stick in park and hove
his lumbering, sweating self from the metal seat.

Then the mother disappeared (belayed
by the gardener’s sausage fingers round her ankles,
arms flailing the stinking darkness; flailing
and groping, the acrid stench suffocating
as her terror of the epiphany that life,
into which we bring these ones we love,
can snatch them by the toe and eat them whole;
can leach their little hides, do what we will).

Then the child reappeared (hauled up bodily,
the mother, arms extended like a midwife’s,
seizing it in midair from the father,
who, plunging deep, had gone to work, feeling
past turds till hand touched skull, then tugged
the curled-up infant from the pissy muck
and raised it above his head, a living trophy―
delivered to its mother, then babe and mom delivered

by the puffing gardener, whose yells of “Help! Baby!”
brought a passing mom-and-stroller, hence clean
water, disinfectant wipes, cell phone and the steady
voice required to summon 911).
Below, the father, treading bilious sludge,
barked knuckles on cement, then struck a rung―
egress from that twilight zone of filth;
chimney to pure light, sun-drenched salvation.

And so the father reappeared (climbing
out of deeper shit than I or anyone
I know has ever been encompassed by).
One doesn’t think, they say, at times like this;
one reacts. One thinks all sorts of things: How deep?
Well? Cesspool? Caustic chemicals? Will I
land on him? Break his back? My back? Is he
dead already? Am I committing suicide?

The ambulance arrived in a minute-thirty.
Son and father had stomachs pumped, got meds,
caught colds, got better. All three wake up screaming
more often than most of us. The parents shower
way more than they need to. The two-year-old
climbs the walls at the mention of bath time but
otherwise is doing fine. Turns out babies
hold their breath instinctively under water.



One wants the tale to end there, and perhaps
it does, a centerpiece of family lore, a
miracle of love, bravery, a special
dispensation all three share going forward.
But perhaps the enormity of the episode,
like a dark star, warps the space around it,
and the debt of love incurred toward the father
smothers the wife, and later the child, in guilt.

Perhaps the father, a dozen or more years later,
watching his teenage son do reckless things,
thinks, “What right’s he got to pull this kind
of shit on me?” Or, seething at the wife’s
obiter dicta and bickering retorts,
thinks, “Why was it up to me to take the plunge?
Was my life more expendable than yours?”
Perhaps the boy, unable at last to abide

the horror of that day, its happy ending
notwithstanding, loses the knack for trust,
without which nothing much is ever ventured,
fought for, wrestled with, maintained in spite
of obstacles? Perhaps no foothold ever
fully persuades; no morning sun on green
lawn but signifies some nightmare’s mise-
en-scène; no darkness seems negotiable.



A miracle is deceptive. Isolated,
it can make all history seem foreordained,
as if the jeweled part stands for the whole
bloody mess, that far less scintillating
prospect. There’s the chance, of course, that life’s
a latticework, a series of intersecting
miracles or miracle plays whose characters
appear/disappear within the larger structure,

a glimpse of which we’re occasionally afforded:
no clockwork universe but one ably directed
by the playwright himself, who, understandably
perhaps, bends over backward to retain
his privacy, anonymity, invisibility,
though peering, now and then, from a wing to nod
or appearing, like Alfred Hitchcock, in a cameo―
as grandfather, gardener, deus ex machina.

A tempting proposition, this invisible
script, this hidden teleology
in which each of us plays an unwitting part.
But over and against it is the hole―
unspeakable; mephitic; defiling;
predatory, one almost wants to say;
lying there beneath resplendent grass
on which young couples and their babies play.

from Rattle #40, Summer 2013


Bill Christophersen: “‘Crossing the Bar’ and ‘Ozymandias’ floored me in ninth grade, and hearing Bill Zavatsky and Gregory Orr read when I was in college helped me realize poems weren’t made by gray-bearded deities. When I turned 23, the country band I was playing in dissolved, the girl I was seeing walked, and I was alone in eastern Long Island with winter coming on. It was write or start drinking, and I’m not a drinking man.”

Rattle Logo

April 26, 2022

Amy Miller


When the movie starts, cross yourself
for all the nights and weekends
lost by the long lists of workers, for the ones
who got sick and quit the business, who blew
all their money on shrinks, for the one
who got beaned by an ashtray thrown
by the petulant star.

Walking by a playground, throw bark
over your left shoulder as you watch
the little boy tease the girl, the budding man
inside him rising like a fist.

Wear your lucky slob clothing while you watch
the movie of the man playing a slob, his sideways
sneer like your own while you crash daily
into the obstacles of love and faith, while you try
to balance a coffee in one hand and your childish
expectations in the other, while holding
in the fold of your belly a fear of being made a fool,
of loving a photo of someone or maybe an actual body
living right there with you, who has always set off
your alarms but you choose to think they’re only
your own irrational blood pounding
in your ears for no real reason.

On the sidewalk, step over every doubt. You have
no room for them. You are busy and you want
to like what you like and go to bed without
a nagging thought that burrows in and wakes up
your body at 2 a.m., whirring in the dark.

Do not walk under the ladder of your friendly
neighbor, who has always been too friendly and
damn it, you don’t want to think that, you want to be
stoned on kindness like a yoga teacher, but you also
have caught him looking down from his upstairs window
late at night while you’re bringing in the trash can and
damn it, that’s never felt right.

If you break your car’s side mirror you’ll get seven years
of some guy watching you eat lunch as you sit in the safety
of your ’67 Cougar before you realize his face hasn’t moved
from his mirror and he’s watching you steadily, sitting
in his car in the next row in the lot, bouncing you off
a 45-degree angle and making some motion you see
just enough of to know, and you start your car
and drive away nonchalantly as if you didn’t notice,
watching in your mirror to make sure he doesn’t follow.

While you watch the movie, light incense to bring you
back to yourself, to remind you that you are living here
now, that the world has always had dickheads, that you
are not sitting with one right now, and outside a frog
has started up croaking behind the hawthorn bush,
and he’s talking about sex and maybe some aggression
but you know exactly where he’s coming from,
and you’re not a frog so it’s just a song, something
that lulls you to sleep, as all lullabies are darker
and more dangerous than you once believed, but even
sleep is now something different, not entirely pure
but it has its pleasures, its emptying, its motionless beauty.

from Poets Respond
April 26, 2022


Amy Miller: “I saw the news this week that Bill Murray has been fired from his current movie project due to ‘inappropriate behavior.’ The article goes on to describe decades of aggressive and violent behavior toward fellow actors, artists, and his ex-wife. Reading this brought back—as so many things do—the hypervigilance that women live with daily; you can’t live as a woman in the U.S. and not know about that. It’s exhausting to see one pop icon after another bite the dust; there seems no point in admiring anyone. Our culture of celebrity heroes is flawed at its center, engineered to break our hearts. More vigilance.” (web)

Rattle Logo

December 21, 2021

Jean L. Kreiling


With half our faces covered, and six feet
from most other sources of body heat,
we navigate “new normal” in our own
germ-fearing bubbles, freakishly alone
or feigning human contact via screen,
as months of tragedy make dread routine.
Our past and future both grow vague. The counting
of days confounds us, as the death toll, mounting
obscenely, renders numbers both abstruse
and cruel, and new variants reduce
the quantity of breaths we each might take,
how many years we each might get to make
a life, a home, a work of art, a dent
in our to-do lists. We cannot invent
a kindly clock, and it’s not a surprise
when time turns blurry: it both creeps and flies,
it twists into unmeasured shapes, it flouts
the laws of physics, and threatens redoubts
of certainty and order. Has it been
six months, a year, or two since you were in
a restaurant, a plane, a concert hall?
Since you shook someone’s hand? Can you recall
when you began to forego pedicures?
Like sci-fi movies, this weird life obscures
the clock, the calendar, reality
itself, and though we are apparently
the stars of this film, we’re oblivious—
the ending certainly unknown to us,
the plot a murky, convoluted mess;
the running time is anybody’s guess.

from Poets Respond
December 21, 2021


Jean L. Kreiling: “The surreal quality of pandemic life strains the brain, and recent news of spikes in infections and deaths has exacerbated the stress. While I’m grateful that Covid-19 has not affected me or my loved ones in any dire physical way, I suspect I’m not the only one who feels as if I’m living in some alien universe—some unimaginably difficult world from which I cannot escape, where time (among other things) doesn’t function properly.”

Rattle Logo

October 20, 2021

Amlanjyoti Goswami


Would take to Twitter like fish to water
But grow out of it
And use it as a protest tool.
Once in a while, he would take breaks with vows of silence.
He would use the extra time
To sort out, ends and means
The broken strings.
He would be wise to know 
Greed remains greed and power is now
Like electricity, everywhere,
From the clerk to the high heavens.
He would look for a place to start— 
And it would be with himself.
Cleaning the toilet on a weekday, 
Making plants grow with bare hands. 
Not using a sensor to figure it out.
He would be wary of AI, robots, anything that takes the mind away.
They take the soul out, he would say.
But he would take to planes more easily, for the utility.
He would still write letters, with a fountain pen
And send postcards, to children.
He would recycle paper and look inside, for answers. 
He would be worried about
Climate change.
He would pass the street and you wouldn’t even know.
He would travel incognito. 

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021
Tribute to Indian Poets


Amlanjyoti Goswami: “India pervades my experiences and poetry. This is about living, breathing, and thinking deeply about things around me. Where I come from and where I am going. Traditions, histories, ways of seeing, hearing, and knowing. I draw upon rich traditions of Indian aesthetic in my work and am not afraid to cross borders. This is about the neem tree as much as the new Mercedes on the street, busy with street vendors selling you dim sums. There is an aesthetic in all this I wouldn’t find in New York or London. Layers more than strict lines. A lot of colour.”

Rattle Logo

August 2, 2021

Amanda Gaines


As girls, our mother tied us into our Sunday dresses 
like she was solving a math problem. She taught us how to be
still, lifting our spine strings, pretty marionettes,
cheeks palm-print rosy. I’d like to explain why
you’ll want to be held  
by the neck, why the things you don’t say
will line your ribs like blue china.  
I’d like to explain why 
unearned love will feel like the finger of a boy
snapping your first bra strap, 
why that baby copperhead beneath the zucchini leaves
could have killed us faster than its mother. 
I’d like to explain why perfume looks best in round bottles,
why a bee goes where it goes. 
I’d like to explain why when you draw blood 
from him, and him, and the other, 
his expression will look like a sunset.
But for today, blow the dandelion and don’t wish.
Trace the parachute’s descent with a white-gloved hand.
Lift the teacup to your lips, careful. Adjust 
your straw hat. Sit up straight
like your mother taught you. Press a hand to your cheek.
A daydream: in the distance, a house is on fire.
Foxes cry in the night. Or maybe, 
a woman screaming.  

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021
Tribute to Appalachian Poets


Amanda Gaines: “Even when I’m not writing about West Virginia, bits of flora find their way in. I just moved to Oklahoma to get my PhD. The first thing I noticed upon leaving home was how short the trees were, how low-slung the hills ran. That kind of openness leaves little room for mystery. A poem, I think, should be curious. A surprise, a discovery. West Virginia’s landscape lends itself to finding. Most writing has to do with place, at least a little. My whole life has been spent inside Appalachia, and I’m still finding wonder in whippoorwills, in silver minnows, in blackberry thickets along the highway. Now more than ever, I find myself revisiting the mountains in my prose. There’s some strange magic that comes from living in a place so often forgotten, a place hidden. There’s a quiet wildness that can be found in West Virginia. My poetry, at its best, tries to preserve this. Fireflies in a jar, the fuzzy blooms on zucchini, the way red clay dries in cracked hands.”

Rattle Logo