February 11, 2024

Maryann Corbett

PICTURES OF OURSELVES AT TWENTY-ONE

a meditation on the current Facebook meme

Those were the days we had amazing hair.
And bodies. And ambitions. Chutzpah, too.
“Look on our manes, ye mighty, and despair!”
 
we cry, smirking disdain like Baudelaire
from yearbook-picture ranks and files. We grew
it lush, that long-ago amazing hair,
 
while choruses wailed Gimme down to there
hair! Though in our hippie hearts we knew
we’d have to tame it someday soon, despair
 
spared us. In shoulder pads, Dynasty flair,
the Farrah Fawcett shag, the Rachel do,
we offered up our still-abundant hair
 
to workdays. To quotidian wear and tear,
crimpers and curling irons, styling goo.
And then one day the mirror sighed: Despair.
 
Are these our offspring, whose inventions blare
from TikTok posts in floof and curlicue,
strange new explosions of amazing hair
 
half-shaved, half rainbow striped? (Try not to stare,
though they return your gawk, peering straight through
your brow lines, fashion failures, gray despair …)
 
Who were we? Do we remember? Do we care,
you with your naked pate, I with my two-
toned thatch? Is time the low road to despair?
Look at us, though: we had amazing hair.
 

from Poets Respond
February 11, 2024

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Maryann Corbett: “Although this ‘event’ has not been the subject of any story in the mainstream media, most of us have seen it happening: on Facebook, people are posting pictures of themselves at age 21. We can’t seem to resist it. I decided to write a poem instead.” (web)

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February 10, 2024

C. Wade Bentley

STORYTELLING

The morning they saw the body in the river
on the way to school was also the day Jessica
said how she’d known all along that Seth
was gay and she was perfectly fine with it
and Kaylie said well me too but if you knew
why didn’t you say something before we went out
for two months but just before Jessica could answer
was when Jared said what the hell? and pointed
down along the banks of the river where half hidden
in the grass was what they would soon know was the naked
body of a young woman maybe a few years older
than they were and where for a still and silent minute
they just looked at the way her hair had woven
itself into the weeds the way her head would nudge
gently against the shore and then retreat
how the little ripples in this quiet section of water
would splash onto her right hip all purple and grey
shiny and taut with a look on her face
and her wide eyes that said nothing at all
that said I have no opinion I will have nothing to say
on that matter and it’s no use waiting for it you will
tell the police your story now and play it up big
for your mates at school later but you won’t hear it
from me that story that love story that fantasy
I had hoped to tell had begun to tell has now moved
to mid-stream and will be out to sea sooner or later
where old couples who are even now walking
along the shore will pause from time to time
their faces into the wind, listening.

from Rattle #40, Summer 2013

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C. Wade Bentley: “There are three things I can count on to make me happy: playing with my grandsons, hiking in the mountains, and writing poetry. Even when the end result of my poetic effort is crap—as it often is—I am never quite so happy as when lost and wallowing in the mud of a possible poem, trying to write my way out. And when the alchemy actually works, that’s a bonus. That’s magic.” (web)

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February 9, 2024

Lisa Bass

MAKEUP

after C.K. Williams

We were afraid to jinx it, so when my daughter emerged
from her dark bedroom for the first time in what felt like months
and came to the table with her soft face caked in cosmetics,
we all stilled our gazes, made certain not to react,
except for her youngest sister, who’d been scarfing
a breakfast burrito, but now gasped then grimaced
and gestured with a burrito-holding hand toward desperate
layers of foundation, liquid cat-eye already cracking,
and my daughter’s face, hovering over her empty chair,
started to crumple until she stopped herself and instead
closed her eyes, then gently and with a focused intensity,
ran her fingertips across one overly contour-powdered cheekbone
and then the other, the way an astronaut, before releasing herself
from the confining safety of a pressurized airlock, must check
the seals on her unwieldy but necessary-for-survival space suit.
 

from Rattle #82, Winter 2023
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

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Lisa Bass: “I write poems for the thrill and comfort of finding out what I think and feel.” (web)

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February 8, 2024

John Yohe

THE GHOST OF FRANK O’HARA

The ghost of Frank O’Hara taps me on
the shoulder whispering
and what about
the humor what about talks with the sun
and things that happen at the movies out
of sight of parents don’t forget the thirst
of being in Manhattan in the heat
and Coke the drink
remember too your first
love passion music though it might not come out
in words it’s there in you but I was sad
and said what good is humor in a poem
when people die Manhattan Fire Island
we
bought falafels which we thought weren’t bad
and walked to Central Park for space and some
children were laughing and he said ask them

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
Tribute to the Sonnet

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John Yohe: “I wrote this poem in late 2001 or early 2002, and found working within a form helped me say things I wouldn’t have normally said. I had been thinking about the 9/11 attacks, wondering how Frank O’Hara would have responded and, in the same way he talked to the sun, I decided to talk to him. The phrase ‘the ghost of Frank O’Hara’ was in iambic, the rest of the poem sort of flowed out.” (web)

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February 7, 2024

River Adams

A LESSON IN METAPHOR

Another name for a penis is a microphone.
No one told me this. The radio had to pull me aside.
 
It’s a metaphor, of course. Anything a woman loves
can be made sexual. In this instance, singing
 
refers to giving pleasure. The voice is not involved.
Even in the safety of a simile, our voices are not our own.
 
A famous poet, a man, said for a metaphor
to be successful, the object has to bear
 
some resemblance to the new image.
For example, I am wearing a sweater the color
 
of wind chimes. A shade of reddish-brown
named by the designer. This metaphor fails.
 
My body, if cut down to be shaped
into a thing that makes music for someone else,
 
would not make a sound when it falls.
It does not make a sound as it leaves the room.
 

from Rattle #82, Winter 2023
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

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River Adams: “I started thinking more deeply about the crafting of metaphors after Ocean Vuong shared a lesson on his Instagram story. In the time since, I’ve heard three songs use this particular euphemism. Do I like the songs? Yes, but maybe we can put this phrase into retirement, or at least come up with an equivalent metaphor for vaginas.” (web)

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February 6, 2024

Lynne Knight

BODY TALK

Sometimes in airports I leave my body behind—
my old body, I mean. I step into the younger version,
 
the one where I flirt with just about anybody,
who cares, because nobody knows me—
 
it has to be a big airport, preferably international—
and I carry on as if I’m not even thirty yet, so whoever
 
stares back at me can trust me and start imagining
how hot it will be to ditch the flight and head for
 
an airport hotel. This happened the other day.
He was maybe late 40s, no gut, but nothing
 
too fit—just a nice-looking guy who wouldn’t
make a quick fuck complicated or need to ask
 
my name afterward, just to be polite. So I smiled.
He smiled back. Maybe not at me—the gate
 
was jammed with people trying to rebook after
storms the day before. Still, the 20-something me
 
went right on trying to woo. I decided to pull
my carry-on closer, wanting to be sure he meant
 
his smile for me. I moved closer, closer.
And he stood, offering the old lady his seat.
 

from Prompt Poem of the Month
January 2024

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Prompt: Write a poem that tells a story about a silent interaction with a stranger.

Note from the series editor, Katie Dozier: “Lynne’s note accompanying her submission was simply, ‘Just having some fun with this one.’ Here, the fun for the writer becomes positively seductive for us readers. The sharp turn of the last line volts us from an initial reaction of laughter to a lingering exploration of what it means to age.”

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February 5, 2024

John Wojtowicz

FRUIT GUY

Each morning my son and I pass
an orchard on the way
to his preschool 
 
and this morning, he asks 
what type of forest is that? 
 
and I tell him
it’s an orchard, a fruit farm
and he declares: 
 
Farms. Have. Animals.
 
I tell him some farms have fruit 
but again, he insists 
that this cannot be true. 
 
And because I know 
better, I ask, who grows the fruit 
if not the farmer?
 
And my son responds, 
the fruit guy grows the fruit. 
 
And believing I have him cornered 
I declare, a fruit guy 
is a type of farmer
 
but my son retorts—
the fruit guy 
is a watermelon named Mr. Banana.
 
I am silent 
imagining 
a humpty-dumpty-type 
watermelon 
with an unfortunate surname 
waking up 
next to his watermelon wife 
donning overalls 
and straw hat
before heading out into his fields 
with basket 
and stepladder. 
 
And because this 
is a reality worth escaping into—
 
I let Mr. Banana live.
 

from Rattle #82, Winter 2023

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John Wojtowicz: “I write poetry because I don’t like fishing, but I do like casting a line into the void and throwing most of what I catch back.” (web)

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