May 12, 2022

Tonya Lailey

LA BELLE ÉPOQUE OF GOLDFISH

In the fish world many things are told by sound waves.
—Rachel Carson

On the radio I hear goldfish
are out and about to take over
waterways they’ve been making
hay in stormwater ponds gone thick
with themselves I listen to the story
about the photographer who walked past
a pond spread with marmalade
and did a double take took a picture
presumed the citrus light belonged
to the water which it did though
not only and the thing we keep missing
that bodies touch bodies embody
that there’s a whole free
from the bowl the bag the fish get big
67 oz. pop bottle big they make more
of themselves—surprise!—Carlos K.
Krinklebine on steroids on repeat 20,000
in a slough the length of a football
field water a slurry murk like turf
and not a bad turn out for the game
considering it assembled from a few
forsaken souls that had been bobbing
in a slosh of inches in plastic tied-off
slight golden caudal lobes and fin
rays fluttering as petals in a breeze harmless
the furthest tissues from a threat
now on the other side of the clear
in numbers competing
fierce for the wild for the 1000
years lost to bowls to being decorative
to living their littlest lives as jewels
in the eyes of children, grown ups
just as starved for a way out
into the web of living waters.

from Poets Respond
May 12, 2022

__________

Tonya Lailey: “We seem to operate in wild switches between control and abandon, neglect. I keep coming back to our common sense of feeling unrelated to everything else, like we’ve forgotten our kinship with other lives. And, oh, the ravenous growth of the goldfish given the right opportunity, given an environment, given favourable environmental conditions. The goldfish seem to be having their day in the sun. I can’t help imagining a running list of creatures all having their own Belle Époques.”

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May 11, 2022

Oli Isaac

HYACINTH IN HEAVEN WONDERING WHY HE HAD TO BE FIRST

for he was the first man to love another
—Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus

hyacinth was the first gay man so he was the first gay martyr, 
of course. he was into other stuff that other gay men are into 
 
like, other men; flowers blossoming 
from your blood as you lay dying; 
 
being mourned and adored and reinvented. 
what makes a man a martyr if they didn’t choose to die? 
 
hyacinth and apollo were playing frisbee in the park when it happened
how pathetic. a jealous god  
 
disguised as the wind blew the frisbee into hyacinth’s head 
hyacinth collapsed with the sun in his eyes
 
a new wetness at the back of his head 
his life fading cradled in apollo’s arms. 
 
hyacinth sat in heaven, wondered why 
he was killed when things were just getting good 
 
was it because he was so beautiful 
even the wind wanted nothing more than to hold him?  
 
were the gods jealous or just bored? 
an olympian writer’s room
 
of course the god of wind would be jealous 
when he had to compete with apollo—all corporeal and not-windy. 
 
have you ever tried to hook up with wind? it’s hard 
too poetic 
 
hyacinth sat in heaven, desperate
his gift of prophecy now a curse as he saw he was just the first 
 
of many. saw his name used by secret police in poland in the ’80s 
to round up homosexuals and force them underground
 
saw the bodies that wouldn’t become flowers.
hyacinth sat in heaven wondering why his death was all people wanted 
 
to make art about. 
hyacinth, tired of breathing in 
 
dirt. of being an empty shell 
others can pour themselves into. 
 
instead paint me in love and alive 
paint me changing bedsheets and arguing over dinner 

paint me throwing tantrums and climbing mountains 
paint me picking flowers and making plans 

paint me still 
warm. 
 

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022

__________

Oli Isaac: “Poetry, to me, has always meant possibility. Poems gave my young stuttering mouth a chance to speak; its flow and pace and free form were a green light to thoughts that were too often stuck in my throat. The tragedy of Hyacinth was this idea of the first gay death. It was a great way to speak about all these different things. I wanted to speak to this young, beautiful man, who learned the art of prophecy from the gods but, even then, couldn’t foresee his own death. He couldn’t foresee that all the Renaissance painters would want from him was his death, that he couldn’t foresee the erasure, the epidemic, and the loss—that he was just the first.” (web)

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May 10, 2022

Dmitry Blizniuk

WALLS TREMBLING LIKE HORSES

The sounds grow;
they are the teeth of a vehemently rotating circular saw.
And the bomber
folds the sky like a book,
cuts the sky in two,
and you, seized with terror,
shrivel up into “I,” into “We,”
like into a lifeboat sent by God,
but you are too big to squeeze in.
Quickly and rudely, you cover your mom with your body.
Your stunned guardian angel
blindly thumps its wings against the linoleum,
like an albatross on the deck.
Where are you? Are you still here?
Still alive?
My dear people.
The sky bursts with explosions.
The sky gets filled with pink manganese solution.
The oblong eyes of the beast of the horizon.
It’s the trepanation of the despairing city
with pneumatic picks.
The walls of your house tremble like horses
that caught the smell of a wolf.

translated from Russian by Sergey Gerasimov

from Poets Respond
May 10, 2022

__________

Dmitry Blizniuk: “I am in Kharkov, which has been bombed and shelled by Russian troops for 67 days in a row. Here I try to survive and write poetry.” (web)

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May 9, 2022

Jessy Randall

SYLVIA PLATH’S HANDWRITING

You thought she was your friend
and then you saw her s.
Her lower case i, with the
circle, the actual circle
instead of a dot.
 
Your whole idea of her went
crashing sideways.
She’s not your friend. She would never
have been your friend.
 
She would’ve made fun of you maybe,
or not even noticed you.
Her handwriting says popular girl.
It says sweater set. It says Barbie, Ken, 
cheerleader, sorority, peacoat.
 
It says cruelty. It says mean.
Or rather it says nice, nice, nice.
And maybe she hid behind it. 
And maybe she grew out of it,
or would have, if she’d had time.

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022
Tribute to Librarians

__________

Jessy Randall: “I’m the Curator of Special Collections at Colorado College, a position I’ve held for the past twenty years. I have an MLS from UNC-Chapel Hill and have worked at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the rare book libraries of Harvard and Columbia. Many of my poems, comics, essays, and stories involve libraries, overtly or covertly. My most recent book is built from images in old library books. My next book consists of poems on women in STEM fields; I couldn’t have done the research for that book without libraries.” (web)

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May 8, 2022

Jean Prokott

NEON SHADES OF YOUTH

With lines from my high school students’ conversations after the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS leak.

it’s not ohvulation it’s awvulation.
 
I am a young woman
in America.
 
this is my neon youth.
 
there is a man in a black coat at the back of the dark alley,
 
and I fear I am only waiting
my turn.
 
you cannot build a human from my organs after I die—
 
a man’s body,
seminal vesicles like a tiny brain
behind his bladder.
no one has ever taken his straight-cis-white-rights.
 
a woman’s heartbeat, as red as a wax seal,
hides a letter they won’t let us read.
 
where does the egg go?
are we shells or are we roots or are we buildings or are we torches.

from Poets Respond
May 8, 2022

__________

Jean Prokott: “I wasn’t sure how to write about the leaked opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade—there’s too much to say—so I put it off. But when I heard my students talk about their fears and their futures so openly and passionately, I realized I needed to blend their words with my own.” (web)

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May 7, 2022

Chris Anderson

THE JUNCO AND THE BOY

Over the weekend I shot a bird. A deranged, obsessive junco
that had been banging against our window for weeks, fluttering
in and up again and again, hundreds of times a day, enraged
by its own reflection. You can’t reason with a bird, and this one
we couldn’t scare away, with flags or foil or glittering strips.

Nothing worked. After a while even Barb wanted me to kill it.
We woke up Saturday at five when it started hurling itself
at us again, for another day, and she said get a gun. So I went
to a friend of mine, our lawyer, a Republican, and he loaned me
a rifle, patiently demonstrating how to load the birdshot

and find the target, and I spent the afternoon stalking through
my own backyard, firing and missing, firing and missing.
It’s been forty years since I shot a gun—at scout camp
one summer, at the lake, when I got my shooting merit badge.
We were the sort of parents who never even let our kids

have toy guns, who wouldn’t let them make sticks into guns,
even though in the end our oldest son became a soldier
and went to Iraq and is on his way there now a second time,
an expert with an M-16 and a 50-caliber machine gun
they call the “saw.” My son. I’d never even been on

an army base until we went to Fort Benning to watch him
graduate from infantry training. We sat in the bleachers
like at a football game, and the loudspeakers started blaring
“Bad to the Bone,” and then these soldiers came out
of the woods firing blanks at the crowd through an orange

and yellow smoke screen. I was kind of impressed at first,
I have to admit, though Barb just wept. What bothered me
was that we couldn’t tell where he was in all the blocks
of marching soldiers, later, on the parade ground, all of them
sheared and pressed and squared, all of them the same. It was

the knob on the back of his head that gave him away, and
even then it was like he was older somehow, older and younger
at the same time, and in a kind of time warp, too. It was like
we were all somehow trapped inside a World War II movie.
Pearl Harbor had been bombed and we were striking back.

I couldn’t shake this feeling. When I finally hit the junco,
on something like my fifteenth try, I think—he had flown into
a magnolia, next to the deck, and maybe it was luck or maybe
I was getting the hang of it again, but I squeezed the trigger
and the rifle fired, and the bird twitched, then dropped,

straight down, into the backyard—when I finally hit it
I didn’t feel guilty exactly. I’m not sure what I felt. I know
I wanted to get rid of that bird. I know how frustrated I was
with the fluttering and the banging. I know how embarrassed
I’d been all afternoon, firing and missing, firing and missing.

Later I drove our four-year-old grandson into town, to the store.
I haven’t done this in a long time either. He’s our stepgrandson.
The woman John married before he left this weekend
has two little boys. So we have these new, instant grandsons
and I’m still adjusting. But it was good to know that I could

do this still. Strap a little boy into a car seat. Talk to him
on the way, looking into the rearview mirror. Bribe him
and pace him and manage him through the aisles of the store
as we got our cereal and butter and bread. All the way home,
driving through the fields, I had this feeling that the Honda

hardly weighed a thing, it was light as a feather, and so was
that little boy. His small, brown knees. His skinny,
brown arms. Everything was hollow. Everything was light.
I thought, when we get back home and I reach in to get him,
he’ll be no trouble at all. I’ll be able to lift him with one hand.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010

__________

Chris Anderson: “Recently my experience as a Catholic deacon has led me to think about what it would be like to write poems not just for other poets but also for people I serve in my parish—poems that are as good as they can be as poems but that are also open and accessible to everyone. Then I had the experience of shooting the bird and I realized, this was my chance. My effort was to describe the experience as fully and clearly as possible. To tell the story. To make all the leaps clear—yet without getting too preachy or explicit either. To write a poem for the parish that also worked as a poem, as craft.” (web)

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May 6, 2022

Raquel Franco

AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE WHERE SAFETY IS SOMETHING I GET TO KEEP

The boy does not grab my ass 
with shark teeth hands as I walk to class.
I am in second grade. Just a girl, 
untouched. He waves, offers a smile and 
 
fear does not hug the roof of my mouth. 
I get to keep safety in the pocket of my cardigan.
In social studies I do not get called 
into the counselor’s office where eyes 
 
bore into me a guilty verdict. He does not tell me 
I have to go home, have to change my shirt. My body is 
not deemed inappropriate. I am not banned for 
the space my chest takes up. 
 
Standing in his unlit kitchen he does not 
ignore my lips when they say, 
“I don’t want to do this.” When I pull his trespassing hand 
out of my jeans he does not force it back down. He does not prefer 
 
my silence over the crowd of his own voice. He tells me 
I am remarkable, offers to drive me home, opens the 
passenger door with gentle palms, kisses me 
on the front porch. When he leaves, I climb into
 
bed with safety and I dream of beautiful things.
I sit on a barstool snug in a little black dress 
and it does not mean consent. Men do not offer 
me mock drinks of hope with the intention 
 
of taking what I did not offer. I keep my confidence 
and shame does not get an invitation. I am safe.
I am on the phone with a publisher who makes corrupt 
promises to poets. My wrists excited and eager as I grip the phone 
 
like a prayer. He does not use my ear as a place 
to build his ego, does not take advantage 
of my wanting dreams, does not send the dick pic. 
We only discuss my art, and I am safe. 
 
My boss does not take my arm and pull me 
into the stock room closet sick with palpable danger.
He does not look at me with 
counterfeit eyes of sincerity and tell me 
 
I’d be so much prettier if I lost some weight. Instead 
the only line he crosses is the one on the way 
to my desk to tell me he’s impressed by my hard work.
At a party on campus where the air is thick with thirst 
 
and wild lust, my friend, Andrew, does not leave me.
After the beers and shots of Fireball have coaxed 
my limbs to soften, he holds my hand, calls me 
a cab. I do not pass out in an empty guest room 
 
and wake up to a bed with strange and hungry hands.
Here I do not have to stitch the word mine 
across my neck, forget the aftertaste of
anxiety from the pepper spray pressed 
 
in my small palm. My teeth release the grip 
of my pink tongue. Here my voice carries 
bite. Women no longer drink rainwater from 
wine glasses served by trespassing hands. Safety hangs 
 
like traffic lights where men no longer see green 
when they look at you. Men take the time to learn 
the language of a woman, offer up worship, jars for our tears, 
a soft place to land if you need it. Here we are not
 
hanging apples. We are the trunk. We wear red lips 
and it is not an alarm for promiscuity. We are given space 
to take up, an untamed kingdom of girls.
We are safe here. We get to keep our safety.
 

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022

__________

Raquel Franco: “I wish I truly knew what this alternate universe looked like or felt like, a world where women were not objectified and made to feel small. I don’t think men realize that even the smallest of acts can shrink us. I hope this piece sheds a light on the world we are in and maybe how it can change.” (web)

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