November 19, 2023

Francesca Moroney


Before you died, you promised me
a book of poetry. It was the day
we planted the maple. We sprawled
in the dirt beside our newest sapling.
You asked what I wanted for
my birthday. A pair of wooly socks?
Vial of sandalwood oil?
Tube of rose-scented cream?
I watched you smile, waiting
for me to decide. On the street
over your left shoulder, passing cars,
a dog and its human, pollen
painting everything green.
Perhaps some sonnets?
I grew warm, anticipating
thinly-veiled eroticism
oozing from each sestet. Oh!
Free verse! I declared, excited now,
wanting poems a bit subversive,
poems as unafraid as you and I,
poems loud enough to declare
our most basic desires: fuck, cum,
on your knees. What is it that I miss
the most? The feel of your mouth
moving over me while I
read Neruda to you beneath
the duvet? Or the way we loved
to lie beneath the trees?
In today’s fantasy, you have lived
long enough for us to lounge
again in the yard. You teach me
Cornus florida and Aesculu pavia.
We have already identified
Acer palmatum, with leaves
so red I sometimes tremble
in the presence of all that heat.
In today’s fantasy, we unwrap
the book you have given me,
and then we take the poems
to bed. We tear them
with our teeth. We suck
each stanza and caesura
until the poems glow
rich and red, as fierce
and fiery as the bloom
of Japanese maple.
In today’s fantasy, you and I
are the leaves blazing through
this late autumnal light,
moments before we fall.

from Poets Respond
November 19, 2023


Francesca Moroney: “Kenya’s plan to plant 100 million trees strikes me as an act of both great optimism and great mourning. The fact that our earth is in such dire need of replenishment merely underscores the extent of all that has been stripped from it. Sometimes it feels like that on a personal level, as well. No matter how much we plant, we will never find a way to compensate for all that has been lost. ” (web)

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November 18, 2023

Michael Meyerhofer


Poetry keeps wine and milk from spoiling
and has prevented countless deaths
since its invention in 1892. It works

by heating substances to just a bit
below the boiling point—not enough
to curdle but still hot enough to kill off

most of the bacteria that can hurt you.
Some health nuts blame poetry for disease,
saying a natural vocabulary is better,

though modern doctors disagree.
Other foods saved by poetry include juice,
syrup, vinegar, and canned foods.

Poetry was invented by Louis Pasteur
who lost three children to typhoid.
While working on a vaccine for rabies,

he once impressed onlookers
by extracting saliva from a crazed dog
without armoring his hands.

He also made a vaccine for anthrax
though some accuse him of plagiarism.
The poetry process involves lots

of pipes and vats and rapid cooling.
Poetry doesn’t seem all that complicated
to us, more like common sense,

but our ancestors didn’t have it
which is why so many of them died,
young and beautiful and always afraid.

from Rattle #38, Winter 2012


Michael Meyerhofer: “The first time I read the poems in What the Living Do by Marie Howe, I was so blown away that I said something like ‘Holy shit…’ after pretty much every one. This was followed, naturally, by a desire to share those poems with everyone—and to try and pull off the same miracle, if humanly possible. There’s a lot to be said for making somebody so stunned (hopefully in a good way) by something as seemingly innocuous as writing that all they can do is raise their eyebrows and swear like a sailor.” (web)

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November 17, 2023

Lisa Stice


He’d work in the summer with steam
rising from new roads, climbing up 
and down from loaders and scrapers,
fixing whatever needed fixing then
he’d come home to us smelling of
oil with his arms dirty, clean up to his
t-shirt sleeves, and he’d wash with
green Lava soap in the utility sink,
gray water swirling down the drain—
his nightly ritual before dinner and
TV and sometimes he’d fall asleep
on the couch, his snores so loud we’d
have to nudge him to be able to hear
the sitcom, and he always went to bed
far earlier than us anyway because he
would be gone again before we woke.

Prompt: “From The Daily Poet by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano (Two Sylvias Press, 2013): April 13—‘In honor of Seamus Heaney’s birthday … write a poem about your native land … focus on details about … what your parents and/or grandparents did for a living.’”

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023
Tribute to Prompt Poems


Lisa Stice: “There are 365 prompts in The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano (Two Sylvias Press, 2013), and I have actually revisited the book several times, and so written two or three different poems per prompt. It’s a lot of fun!” (web)

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November 16, 2023

Mark Jarman


Almost grasped what Grandmother Grace knew
Last Sunday sitting in church, almost knew
What Alexander Campbell grasped when, confronted
With the desolate orphan, he told her, “You
Are a child of God. Go claim your inheritance.”
Almost got it. There it was in the sunlight,
Squared in the clear glass windows, on the durable leaves
Of the magnolia outside. Almost grasped the weather
That turns clear and crystallized in Hans Küng’s brain.
Almost held it in the ellipses and measure
Of my almost understanding. I see the moment
There in my notebook, then the next day’s anxiety
Spilling like something wet across the ink.
I almost put in my hand a vast acceptance
And almost blessed myself, then it slipped away.
All that colossal animal vivacity—smoke
Of the distant horizon, most of it, haze.
But to have known in any place or time
What they knew is worth a record, a few notes.
Almost knew what they knew. Almost got it.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006


Mark Jarman: “It took me years to figure out that one of the biggest influences on me as a writer had been the fact that I lived in a house with someone who had to write something every week, get up in front of bunch of people, and basically perform it. It was my father writing sermons.” (web)

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November 15, 2023

Andrew Shattuck McBride


It’s a quiet Sunday morning. I’m alone,
startled to see a female figure, hear her exclaim,
He sees us, he feels us. I knew he would, eventually! 
She looks over her shoulder briefly. Involuntarily,
I look past her, say, Who are you? What are you doing here? 
She turns back to me. Hello, Father. I’ve missed you.
Then, a male voice, What did I tell you, Sis?
All attitude. He looks at me and says, Yo, Pops,
heads for the kitchen. What’s in the fridge?
Got any beer? I’m aghast. No, I don’t have any beer.
Hey, you’re too young to drink beer!
He says, You’re right, pauses for effect.
Some of this coffee liqueur will do.
At my alarm, he adds, Just kidding, Pops.
His smile flashes. I recognize it immediately.
The daughter I’ll never have is laughing, quietly.
Her laughter charms me. I notice their ease
with each other. Camaraderie, unforced.
No estrangement. They are close
enough in age to be peers.
“Pops” sets me on edge. I’m not too happy
with “Father,” either. My urge, to seek control. 
First things first: call me ‘Dad’ or ‘Daddy,’ 
not ‘Father’ and definitely not ‘Pops.’
The son I’ll never have tries it out. Dad, he murmurs.
The daughter I’ll never have tries it out, too. OK, Daddy.
I soften momentarily, but have to be a hard-ass.
That’s better. You still haven’t answered my question. 
What are you doing here? The son I’ll never have
speaks up; I see now that he’s older.
Well, Dad, we’re family. I mean, where else would we be?
For a moment, I’m speechless. I finally recognize them.
They are the children I’ll never have.
They have been here with me all along.

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023


Andrew Shattuck McBride: “I write poetry to help me figure things out, to understand how I’m feeling. The love of poetry was beaten out of me pretty much before I left for college. I never dreamed I’d write any poetry. In 2009, I was struggling to write an essay; it wasn’t crystalizing. I realized that my drafts contained poetic elements, so I recast the essay as a poem. The poem was much more successful, and I was hooked.”

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November 14, 2023

Prartho Sereno


He’s enchanted with the idea
of reaching through space,
wants me to wait by the window
while he climbs the far-off mountain,
sets up the light, flashes something back
in Morse code. He says we should begin
studying our dots and dashes, along with
smoke signals, the extravagantly long rolled r’s
of Spanish. Hand gestures of the deaf.

Or we could take the rim trail,
one of us staying on the southern lip
while the other heads north till our bodies
shrink to the size of tree-frogs. Then we can converse
across the canyon without effort, no need
to raise our voices. He is certain this will work,
that the atmosphere at these heights
will bear our words with a clarity
as yet unknown to us.
My faith in these things is weaker.
I dare not tell him the Far Eastern stories—
the one where the poet builds two houses
on opposite shores of the lake. Gives one
to his sweetheart, who he tells to go in,
take up dulcimer or needlework, learn to love
the lonely ways. Think of the surprise,
he says. One of our faces suddenly shining
between the black birds and reeds.

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007


Prartho Sereno: “When I first read that so much depended on a red wheelbarrow beside the white chickens, I breathed a sigh of relief. My inner whisperer seemed to know this kind of thing, but I had always felt her murmurings to be of no use. Now I could scramble through an odd labyrinth of life-hoops—psychologist, cab driver, head cook, single parent, housecleaner, palmist, phys. ed teacher, Poet in the Schools—with someone I could trust inside. She’s the one who writes my poems.” (web)

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November 13, 2023

Matthew Buckley Smith


for C.

Although your fingers and my eyes agree,
It is unheard of, Cameron, what you see—
Describing scenes of color, form, and light
Which you perceive by any means but sight.
We cannot know the god’s unheard-of head,
Protested Rilke, when he should have said
Unseen, because we hear of it from him
In carnal terms, becoming of a hymn
To any of those bad old gods, the kind
That loved man’s form but not his living mind,
Delighting in some tyrant’s blinding wrath,
Then disappearing in the aftermath.

Prompt: “I wrote this in response to one of two suggestions made to my writing group. I had been reading a lot of Horace, and at two different sessions I brought up the idea of imitating something he did in his odes. In one, I proposed that we each write a poem that argues with an existing poem. In another, I proposed that we each write a poem addressed to a friend. I cannot remember which prompt inspired this poem.”

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023
Tribute to Prompt Poems


Matthew Buckley Smith: “Every week, I meet for an hour by Zoom with two women I got to know through a poetry anthology we were all in. One of us supplies a prompt, and then we write for an hour in response. Sometimes the prompt is an image. Sometimes it’s a line from a book we’re reading. Sometimes it’s an idea drawn from an existing poem. I save the results of my efforts in a file that I examine some months later. Roughly one draft in ten is worth revising.” (web)

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