April 2, 2024

Chris Green

MY BROTHER BURIES HIS DOG

He moves furniture for a living, oversized bureaus and beds for the rich. He is big now and dumb with love that animals sense—cats, dogs, squirrels, birds, his pygmy turtles and rabbits, tree frogs—they all take him in, nuzzle his childhood scars, forgive his bad jobs and girlfriends. The middle child who grew up telling us all to fuck off—now a grown man, calls me crying, Why my puppy! (His Great Dane is dead.) He sobs, and I remember how we beat him—Mom, Dad, nuns, coaches, teachers—I know I did. And like animals before a storm, he has premonitions—this time a dream of me crying over Nina’s corpse. He says, I want you to think about that. He says it because I’m the godless eldest son who knows everything. So we carry his huge dead dog from the vet to his truck to his backyard. He digs a hole all day then lays her black body in the dark. Weeping, he seals her in with a last block of sod, and between the kiddy pool and the garage we embrace. He whispers, I love you. And in that moment I knew what animals know.

from Rattle #21, Summer 2004

__________

Chris Green: “I began writing poetry without knowing it. I feared poems my whole life, until I spent six months after graduate school writing a horrible essay about my grandfather. I read and reread trying to see what went wrong—then I realized there were poems embedded in the prose. I soon learned that poetry was in me, and bad essays can make great poetry.” (web)

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April 1, 2024

Richard Gilbert & Jennifer Hambrick

DISASTER WIRELESS

broadcast from the village loudspeakers, far away, like a scratchy 1940s radio. a language for bees or aliens. the nashi in the village orchards are coming into their sweetness. half the farmers are retired or dead. long lives swallowed by the soil. 
 
there’s no war in the forest, just trees disordered in their own way, steep hills, sculpted terraces. old, old stone walls bedded in volcanic loam. the echo of chisels. weaponry would be inhuman. 
 
I tend these woods like the man before me, subtracting myself from inoshishi trails, sightlines the doves fly through. the forest breathes all the time. shifting. familiar, yet ever-distant. 
 
cicada susurrus 
an alphabet of evening 
bells
 

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024
Tribute to Collaboration

__________

Richard Gilbert & Jennifer Hambrick: “We enjoy a synergy at once powerful and playful and revel in making words dance across the page and across the thousands of miles between us. Richard lives in Japan, Jennifer lives in Ohio, and our colleagueship, friendship, and multi-dimensional poetic collaboration have unfolded entirely via email. The immediacy of email enables us to work quickly, and also gives us time to consider and research our responses before sending them. Beyond the logistics of our unique collaboration, we are quite intentional about fostering for each other a safe creative space. We give each other total freedom to play, suggest, question, and experiment, and we undergird that freedom with deep mutual affirmation. The positivity of our work together results in writing full of authentic feeling across the full range of emotions.”

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March 31, 2024

Miguel Barretto Garcia

EXODUS 15:21

There are pages of home
work left open on the table.
The way there are plenty
of leftovers in the fridge.
Here I am left on the fringes.
 
This desolate place I call
home. The TV at some point
started to hiss. No more reality
show kissing scenes. No more
breaking news. Reality is white
 
noise with a white dress dancing
to a Poltergeist. Kitchen cabinets
stocked with bottles of
prescriptions. White tablets
of antacids for upset stomachs.
 
Light blue sertraline pills
for the nerves. In the morning
I break the fast. All I know
that something is broken:
The yellow bus no longer passes by
 
my street. My teacher keeps
calling our landline but my mother
is wearing thick black headphones,
cancelling all her appointments
including motherhood.
 
I crack the egg and whisk it
until my mother stops breaking down.
I learned how to change the oil
of our car, but I’m still figuring
the ways to keep the ballerina figurines
 
from falling onto the hardwood floor.
Our house leaves no secrets
and our house has plenty of them.
All of them demons in the freezer
waiting for the day the social
 
worker knocks on our door
and takes me to another version
of hell. I do have faith
in our Protective Services just as I
have faith in the God
 
Moses prayed to. The last
time I was in Sunday School
the needle screeched on the turntable
and the living room was the sound
of old ‘50s Hollywood. My father
 
used to be a happy man. My father
used to be alive. When he checked
out from this world, I checked out
the cold silence of my mother’s bed.
Death sleeps beside my mother
 
the way a child clings to their mother
to the sound of thunder.
My mother is the child. Nothing
in our textbooks prepared me
to mother my mother.
 
Nothing is the mother
I bring close to my milkless bosom.
Here, I sing to the Lord America’s
requiem. Here, I hold her close as if
we were no longer the parted sea.
 

from Poets Respond
March 31, 2024

__________

Miguel Barretto Garcia: “I wrote this poem as a form of response to the problem of chronic absenteeism in US schools. Currently, the student absences have only exacerbated since the pandemic. I feel like there is more to the story. The pandemic not only affected children’s relationship with schools, but it has also affected the way families have to navigate through the frictions in the workforce. Post-pandemic, parents also suffer from anxieties and work-related imposter’s syndrome in ways that are similar or even more concerning. In several cases, it’s the children that end up buffering the internal struggles that parents have to deal with, and in some instances, they end up stepping up to the role of parent, and consequently foregoing their education. This is a dimension of post-pandemic life that I wanted to explore through this poem.”

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March 30, 2024

Tony Barnstone

JACK LOGAN, FIGHTING AIRMAN: THE CASE OF THE RED BORDELLO

It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick
a hole in a stained glass window.
—Raymond Chandler

ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT

The streets are dark with something more than night.
I walk out in the rain—and back in rain.
Though I outwalk the furthest city light
I can’t outwalk my shadow, outwalk pain
of Lizzie’s death. An interrupted cry
comes over houses from another street.
I know that cry. You hear it when men die,
when something sharp turns them from flesh to meat.
A knot of beggars, drunks and prostitutes
around a body, but what takes my eye
is her—the type that takes away your breath.
A luminary clock against the sky
is ringing bells out to the time of death.
A drunk man leers at her, “What’s your name, toots?”

Music: “On the Cool Side & Mystery!,” by Kevin McLeod

 

TRICKS AND STAG FLICKS

A drunk man leers at me. What else is new?
It’s happened all my life, or at least since
my breasts came in. It makes me want to rinse.
But I can’t let these people misconstrue
the reason why I’m here, by the dead man,
so I hitch up my chest and play the part.
I guess seduction is a kind of art,
though men like that would make a garbage can
out of my body, fill it with desires,
with acts they learned from taking in stag flicks.
Well, I can act as well, and make the tricks
believe in me. And that is what transpires.
I strike my most convincing hooker pose
and, sweet as I can, lie, “My name is Rose.”

Music: “Hot Swing,” by Kevin McLeod

Mike Casy by Tony Barnstone

 

THE NAME OF THE ROSE

“My name is Rose,” she sweetly grins.
“You should come up and visit us sometime.
My girls know how to wash away your sins.”
The lighted church clock bangs out one last chime,
then’s silent as the galaxy above.
I learned in school that galaxy means milk,
that some Greek goddess leaked stars out of
her breasts. I’ve known some goddesses, the silk
kimono at the crack of noon type, but
this one, well, I’d join her religion. She
goes back inside the Red Bordello, shut
inside like fantasy (though that is free).
Then there’s the corpse. I check: still dead. One clue:
red rose on a white matchbook. It’ll do.

Music: “Bad Ideas,” by Kevin McLeod

 

THE TRICK TURNS

The matchbook’s blank except for a red rose
but that’s sufficient to suggest the fellow
with the switchblade in him was the sort goes
to do his business at the Red Bordello.
It’s quite a garden there, each color rose
planted around the bar for men to pluck.
When I walk in, the door-tough strikes a pose.
I laugh and slip the waiter a sawbuck,
“There is a man outside who’s so darn sick,
he’s dead. I found this matchbook in his clothes.
I’m not a cop, I’m not a private dick,
I’m just the curious type.” “Then talk to Rose.”
Rose talks to me all night without her clothes.
By morning I’m her man. That’s quite a trick.

Music: “Fast Talkin,” by Kevin McLeod

 

THE ACT

Living’s an act of faith, not just a trick
the body plays on us and I have trust
that loving’s also faith, not just the bust
and bicep, the nude dance, that makes us click.
Living’s an act for me—of theater.
I’ve always played the role of woman for
an audience of men, a kind of whore
in my own right, and now I’m playing her.
Poor Rose was sick. The worms who found her bed
at night, the choices she had, destitute
and battered, sickened her. Like Rose, I’m sick
of men (and yet, there’s Jack). But Rose is dead
and Jack must think I’m just a prostitute
performing passion for another trick.

Music: “Babylon,” by Kevin McLeod

 

TWO BLACK BOOKS AND A STACK OF CASH

She is tricked out in something scanty, looks
like a light wind would rip it like a cloud.
From bed, I watch through lashes: two black books,
a stack of cash, a gun. I give a loud
yawn, as if surfacing from a dream,
and stretch and wave my arms in semaphore.
Just then boots clomp on the wood stairs, a scream,
a shout, a scuffle outside of the door.
“Jack, this way, fast!” she hisses, climbing out
the window to the fire escape. “Spider
Floyd’s on his way.” No time. I spin about
and step in front the window so’s to hide her.
“Give up the frail,” the gunman scowls. Instead,
I look at him and smile, “Ah, shut your head.”

Music: “Nerves,” by Kevin McLeod

 

ANGELS AND BUTTERCUPS

“I’ll open up your head,” says Spider, hard,
“and you’ll be leaking plenty, ’less you spill.”
I casually sit upon the windowsill
and stare at him. A knife glints like a shard
of glass, then quivers next to my left ear.
Another throwing blade is in his hand.
“Sure, buttercup, I think I understand,”
I say, “But I think I need atmosphere,”
and I roll back and out. The next knife clangs
the fire escape but I’m already sliding
down the steel ladder and then quickly hiding
behind rank rows of trash cans. Spider bangs
down to the alley, curses. I’m discrete.
I tail him to a place on Angel Street.

Music: “Walking Along,” by Kevin McLeod

 

ANGEL FACE

The face of Spider Floyd is like an angel,
the sort of angel offers you an apple.
He’s flash, he’s jazz, he’s angling for an angle.
His eyes are dead. He’d sooner shoot than grapple,
being the dapper, slender sort of thug
—doesn’t want to break his polished nails.
Framed in the door is Spider’s pretty mug,
a pistol in his hand. “I don’t like tails,”
he growls. “That’s funny. I heard you was born
with one,” I smile. He smiles back with a smile
should be in a movie, maybe porn,
commences pistol-whipping me a while.
I wake up to a choir of devils singing.
Either my head or else a phone is ringing.

Music: “Backed Vibes Clean,” by Kevin McLeod

 

O'Malley in the Alley by Tony Barnstone

A HEAP OF BROKEN IMAGES

A phone is ringing somewhere in my head,
or maybe someone’s banging hammers on
an iron oven. Spider must be gone
somewhere, and I guess maybe I’m not dead.
The heap of broken images goes round
till I decipher I’m tossed in a chair,
pretty messed up. “I see they mussed your hair,”
comes Rose’s voice. “Behave. Spider went down
to the first floor, and I snuck up the back.”
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
she holds an automatic in her hand,
you answer what she asks: “You a cop, Jack?”
“No, Rose.” “Like hell. I’ve seen just how it goes
with cops. You won’t pin murder on this Rose.”

Music: “Backed Vibes Clean,” by Kevin McLeod

 

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

But how can you pin murder on a dead
woman? The problem is I cannot prove
that I’m not Rose, now Al is dead. Well, you’ve
got to admit the irony. I said
to him when I went in no one could tell
me from my sister; after years on stage,
playing gun molls and madams, four engagements
each six weeks, I’d trip no warning bell.
But now I’ve played the part with so much art
I can’t establish my identity,
can’t prove it’s not my name on the marquee.
They never could tell Rose and me apart.
And now, it’s curtains, Rose. The curtain falls,
and you won’t rise again for curtain calls.

Music: “Dreamy Flashback,” by Kevin McLeod

 

TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW

The curtain rises on a scene. Here’s Jack,
his lovely face so swollen it’s inflated.
Here is the heroine. Here is a shack,
abandoned, knocked askew, dilapidated,
a bare room barely lit by a bare light.
Here is a desk and hidden in the back
the white book scribbled with a code that might
uncode the black books, putting me on track
to find out why my sister Rose was killed.
I can’t let Jack catch on, don’t trust him yet.
Someone in all this mess turned coat and spilled.
It’s all an act, this acting rough
but I act well. I light a cigarette,
put on a pin-up smile, and then get tough.

Music: “Comfortable Mystery,” by Kevin McLeod

 

THE KISS

She pins a smile onto her face the way
you’d pin a butterfly to a cork board,
and sweetly says, “If I hear just one word
from you, I’ll make you a new mouth, okay?”
pressing the Luger up against my Adam’s
apple. And she is one sweet apple herself,
in her tight-laced corset rimmed with fur
and tiny skirt, a looker among Madams.
She has a face to make a reprobate
out of an archbishop. I’m a believer.
I can’t take her, and yet I can’t leave her,
though I’m no priest. “I love you, Rose,” I state,
with tenderness. She dips the gun, her wrist
gone weak. That’s when I kiss her with my fist.

Music: “Just as Soon,” by Kevin McLeod

 

THE DISTRESSED ROSE

I kiss her with my fist and she goes slack
the way a hooker’s dress drops to the floor.
I kick the gun away and lock the door.
She mumbles something weakly, “Me, too, Jack.
I love you, too.” Aw, hell. What a swell dame.
Outside of prostitution, gambling, oh
and just a little homicide, a Joe
could take her home to Mom. I’m not to blame,
she is a whore, and with a heart of tin,
no kind of damsel. When she looks distressed
her face would make a stockbroker divest
of money, make a saint invest in sin.
But still, I just can’t leave her here for them.
I guess I’ve fallen for this fatal femme.

Music: “Just as Soon,” by Kevin McLeod

 

TOUGH GUISE

I’m not the type who falls for muscle guys,
and something’s off with Jack, that he would want
a madam or a murderer, disguise
or not. Or something’s off with me. I can’t
pretend I don’t enjoy pretending, that
tending to Rose’s garden at the Red
Bordello as a madam with a gat
inside her purse, an airman in her bedroom,
hasn’t knocked my head askew. But Jack
must see too many movies, thinks he’ll own
this rose. We both are trapped inside our poses,
the tough guy fighting mobsters on our track,
the bad girl lounging in her dressing gown.
An insect in the bed will kill the roses.

Music: “Night on the Docks,” by Kevin McLeod

 

Bleed Edge by Tony Barnstone

THE DEATH TRAP

Falling for Rose just might be fatal, but
what’s not? I’m just an airman with a knack
for trouble and a killer uppercut;
I know that Spider Floyd is on our track,
but spend the afternoon in Rose’s dive,
because you can’t keep days inside a box.
Maybe to love a tramp’s a paradox,
but no one’s getting out of here alive.
I’m not just killing time with Rose. Time does
the murdering. Rose stitches up the cut
across my heart. I hold her tight in bed,
because I’ve learned of love one thing: it goes.
It’s true that time is a great teacher, but
unfortunately kills its students dead.

Music: “Private Reflection,” by Kevin McLeod

 

THE CITY DEAD-HOUSE

“I am a student of death,” mortician
Joe Martin says, “the pistol, bomb and knife
and their particular effects. If life
is sickness, you can cure it with a gun.
The fellow over there with a switchblade
stuck in his heart had bigger problems than
four inches of sharp steel. The gentleman
was killed and later stabbed—a masquerade.
It took a while to figure how he died.”
Joe turns away from where the corpse is flayed
in autopsy, and hands me the switchblade,
smiling. He looks a bit self-satisfied.
“Stop dancing, Joe. Just tell me what you found.”
“Seawater in his lungs. The fellow drowned.”

Music: “Back Vibes,” by Kevin McLeod

 

DRESSING THE MEAT

“The fellow drowned? Who was he, Joe, a sailor?”
“Hardly. How many sailors do you know
who have five large in their billfolds? Who blow
their noses on fine silk? Who have a tailor
fit their suits? No, the man there’s moniker
is Algernon Byrne Westlander III.
A stuffed shirt type. Now more of a stuffed bird,
but was the Deputy Commissioner.”
I whistle at the news. Why’s a white shirt
like Algie pitching woo out at the Red
Bordello? His type gets a dame in bed
with just his name. He don’t need a pro skirt.
“Thanks, Joe. Let’s snort some giggle juice.” “Oh, no.
I gotta fit Al for his wood kimono.”

Music: “Back Vibes,” by Kevin McLeod

 

FROM TEMPEST TO OTHELLO

Algernon, or as I dub him, Algie,
got tossed into the drink and drank a lung
or two of salt water and ocean algae,
but here’s the little thing that has me hung:
we live in Chi-town—no salt water for
a thousand miles—so tell me how this fellow
sucked sea? I’m stumped. I knock on Rose’s door.
“Culture tonight,” she says, takes me to Othello.
Uh-huh, I know. O-what-o? It’s a play.
I ain’t from Cultureville. I’m from Chicago,
like Al Capone. But Rose has some great gams
so I will play her way, though I should say
just like that fella in the play, Iago
(or was it Popeye?) “I ams that I ams.”

Music: “Laconic Granny,” by Kevin McLeod

 

SPIDER CAT AND BAD EYE

I am the guy I am, so at the theater
I’m watching all the high hats in the crowd.
One man bad-eyes Rose as if he ate her
for lunch and got a bellyache. The loud
gee on the stage is spitting wind in slang
so jingle-brained there ain’t no tail or head
to it. At intermission I go hang
my elbows on the bar. “Get to the shed,”
a whisper comes from to my back. I know
that voice—it’s Spider Floyd. “The boss is at
the opening.” Spider and Bad Eye go
and Rose come gets me. “Rose, that Spider cat …”
“I know. This theater’s being shaken down,
like every other business in Chi-town.”

Music: “No Good Layabout,” by Kevin McLeod

 

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS

“In Chi-town every store shakes out the cash
or else the Big Guy who’s behind the scenes
will whack you, blast your place to smithereens,
or angel-face will burn the store to ash,”
says Rose. “He’s like a gangster God. The law
can’t touch him.” Snow is sifting down outdoors
like salt. Joe Morton made a salt that pours
instead of clumps, he found the formula.
If they had that at Sodom and Gomorrah
when fire and brimstone rained and cities burned,
that woman who looked back would not have turned
to a salt pillar, right? Well, I’m not sure a’
this stuff. Maybe the dame would still have bought
the farm. As things shake out, it was her lot.

Music: “No Good Layabout,” by Kevin McLeod

 

ANIMALS

Back on the farm I taught myself a lot
by watching animals. My sister Rose
protected me against our dad. She taught
me sacrifice, and when he ripped her clothes
I heard the screams like mating cats, the weeping.
At fourteen I took off. My pop was found,
a kitchen knife stuck in his back, blood seeping
from the icebox to the back door. Around
the pool the starving animals collected,
lapping it up, as later men drew round
to drink Rose in. I think that I’ve detected
her killer and the place where she was drowned:
the Shedd Aquarium and Al Capone.
I leave Jack sleeping, and drive there, alone.

Music: “A Singular Perversion,” by Kevin McLeod

 

NOTE LEFT PINNED TO THE PILLOW (SIGNED “VIOLET”)

Dear Jack, you’re lovely, sleeping on the bed,
and all I want to do is crawl inside
the covers next to you. But I can’t hide
from what I have to do. I’m at the Shedd
Aquarium. Ten thousand gallons of
salt water, right? It must be where poor Al
and Rose were drowned. How strange that you should call
me by my sister’s name and fall in love
with her. Rose is a part I’m acting, Jack,
to make her murderer think she’s alive.
When Spider tried to kill me in that dive,
I knew Capone had ordered the attack.
Dear Jack, you’re lovely, sleeping on the bed.
Don’t follow me. If I’m not back, I’m dead.

Music: “Long Road Ahead,” by Kevin McLeod

 

SMALL FRY, BIG FISH, AND THE DISH

I follow, but the opening party’s done.
There’s just the wilting tinsel, empty glasses,
a janitor, and my false Rose is gone.
I grab the janitor’s arm as he passes,
and twist. He screams, and I twist harder. “Where?”
I ask. “Where what?” he moans. I twist until
I hear a crack. And “Where?” I ask, and stare
him in the eyes till he knows that I’ll kill
him soon, unless he gives it up. “The bim?”
he asks. “You want to know about the dish?
Al’s gunsels grabbed her coming up to him,
gun in her fist. I don’t know where she is.”
I wrench his arm until I hear it break.
He shrieks, “She’s at his hideout on the lake!”

Music: “Devastation and Revenge & News of Sorrow,” by Kevin McLeod

 

ANGELS FALLING FROM THE SKY

I’ve found the secret island hideout. Now
two speedboats jet from the bay, opening
up with machine guns mounted on the bow.
I nudge the wind in my red biplane, slingshot
on an updraft, dodge the first barrage,
then bank and dive right down their throats.
The hissing bullets rip my fuselage,
but I let loose with bombs and now the boats
are bloody flame and so the good guy wins
—until a black plane dives out of the void
and shreds my wings. The handsome pilot grins
as smoke and flame decant. It’s Spider Floyd.
I stall to make him smash my plane, the brute,
then grin, too, dropping in my parachute.

Music: “Rising Game,” by Kevin McLeod

 

Fatal Femme by Tony Barnstone

TAXES AND DEATH

My parachute drifts toward the high treetops
and as I float it all begins to gel,
how Rose was drowned for working with the cops.
They must have tortured her to make her tell
who she was working for. So Algernon
is next, but meantime here is Violet
running the Red Bordello. Rose is gone
and stiffs don’t walk, but they can’t take that bet,
because there is the matter of the books
that Rose got off a drunken gangster trick—
Capone’s accountant—the white book ascrawl
with fake expenses, and the two black books
of real accounts. Capone. Nothing will stick
to him. I drop, but swear he’ll take the fall.

Music: “Rising Game,” by Kevin McLeod

 

A BOUQUET OF VIOLENCE

I clip the guard behind the ear. He falls.
I’m through the window with my silencer
spitting hushed death and spattering walls
with abstract paintings all in red. A stir
in the hallway. Two men burst in and taste
two bullets. I leap over them and find
the stairs down to the underground. I waste
a shot on shadows, then—cat feet behind
me. A knife scrapes my ribcage, but I whirl
and slam the knifeman up against stone,
gun to his neck, and grit, “Where is the girl?”
He spills the dope, and then spills blood. Alone
in a locked room, I find my Violet.
“Hi Jack,” she smiles, “You got a cigarette?”

Music: “Dirt Rhodes,” by Kevin McLeod

 

VIOLETS ARE BLACK AND BLUE

“Hi Jack,” she smiles, “You got a cigarette?”
She’s chained up to a chair and bruised blue-black,
her dress torn down her shoulder ’cross her back,
and that’s how I first meet my Violet.
But then I see her eyes flick to something
behind me and her smile congeals to ice.
I spin too slow and catch the knifeblade twice,
once in my arm, once in my chest, but bring
the gun around and just before I shoot
his large brown eyes expand, his lips form “No!”
Before he dies he grips my leg below
the knee. I kick his hand off with my boot,
grab Violet and run down to the pier,
steal a speedboat and shoot off in high gear.

Music: “Dirt Rhodes,” by Kevin McLeod

 

UNTOUCHABLE

We stole a speedboat and kept going till
we got to Canada, where we laid low
until we thought the heat was off, but how
I had to plead with Jack not to go kill
Capone and get himself blipped off in turn.
Now I’m off Broadway, playing a gun moll
again, and Jack and I have found a small
bungalow in New Jersey, and we burn
up the dance halls and we are happy here.
Jack couldn’t quite believe I was alive
when he arrived, but as I tell him, “Love,
they couldn’t kill me till they found out where
I’d stashed the books, but how could I confess
I mailed the two black books to Eliot Ness?”

Music: “Unanswered Questions & Night on the Docks with Piano,” by Kevin McLeod

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010

CREDITS:

All Music by Kevin McLeod
Under Creative Commons License

Actors:

Jack Logan: Tony Barnstone
Spider Floyd: Tony Barnstone
Street Drunk: Tony Barnstone
Mortician Joe Martin: Tony Barnstone
Red Bordello Waiter: Tony Barnstone
Shedd Aquarium Janitor: Tony Barnstone
Rose: Jennifer Sage Holmes
Violet: Jennifer Sage Holmes

___________

Tony Barnstone: “This sequence comes from my manuscript, Pulp Sonnets, and is the product of extensive research into 20th century American pulp fiction, noir, and comics, with particular attention to the spy, detective, crime, horror, sword and sorcery, vigilante, and pulp action genres. My approach is modeled on Robert Browning and Robert Frost, using dramatic monologue to let the characters speak for themselves in the vernacular of their class, location, and social situation. I research primary materials (including pulp short stories and novels, and original crime reports) in order to develop these voices, and secondary materials (theoretical, sociological, anthropological, psychological, philosophical, and theological studies of the pulps and the comics) to develop the larger themes of the project. I see the ‘Jack Logan’ story as fun (particularly in its wild plot and use of gangster vernacular), but not uncritical fun. It is meant to deconstruct pulp depictions of gender roles—in particular the femme fatale and the men caught up in their ‘tough guise.’” (web)

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March 29, 2024

Denise Duhamel & Julie Marie Wade

GIVE-AND-TAKE GHAZAL

I would like to give more than I take 
in this world of takers. I forgive  
 
others for being snippy or falling short, 
then blame myself when I mistake  
 
tolerance for interest. It’s hard to be humored  
and still be gracious. My smile gives 
 
away my misgivings, yet frowning feels  
like I’m auditioning. Here are the outtakes  
 
of my outreach: forced laughter and awkward  
nods of the head. Give me a break, give  
 
me a hug—but don’t: it’s the era of social distance 
and curbside pick-up and take-out. Take 
  
your time, but don’t leave me waiting too long.
Come on, democracy. Give me liberty, or give 
 
me a free lunch with sushi rolls, sashimi,
and seaweed salad. Take my advice—take 
 
a breather (when was your last deep breath?),
then exhale as slow as you can. Give in, give 
 
out or away but not up. Never up. Enduring is
giving it your all, taking your time to take.
 

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024
Tribute to Collaboration

__________

Denise Duhamel & Julie Marie Wade: “We have been collaborating on poetry and prose for several years. For this ghazal, we picked an end-word ahead of time (as well as a subject, though sometimes the subjects are open-ended) and then we began, alternating couplets and sending those lines by email to one another.”

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March 28, 2024

Graphing Uncertainty V by Christine Crockett, abstract painting of lines and triangles in red and black

Image: “Graphing Uncertainty V” by Christine Crockett. “Shoulder MRI” was written by Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, February 2024, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)

__________

Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco

SHOULDER MRI

It doesn’t hurt it is
abstract.
 
The pain
is toothaches, but
 
displaced.
A refugee. There is
 
a word.
It’s like a hammer
 
and a nail, how everything
 
becomes your
pain. It sleeps and wakes.
 
It wakes you up. It goes all
 
egg-shaped, tastes
of blood. You
 
picture pain
in little threads, tender
 
as clams. Papier maché. You see
 
the torn part. No
 
one knows that it is there. It hates
this too.
 

from Ekphrastic Challenge
February 2024, Editor’s Choice

__________

Comment from the series editor, Megan O’Reilly: “Even the title of this poem alone seems to me to resonate with the enigmatically compelling image—the abstract, angular, black-and-white tone reminiscent of an MRI scan. As the piece unfolds, I see an even stronger connection between the two: There’s an objectivity, a detachment, to the way the speaker describes pain, and yet also a vulnerable rawness that comes through, a contrast that reflects the distinction between the black-and-white angularity and the rounded red shape in the center. I love the way the poet writes in mostly clipped, staccato phrases—‘A refugee. There is / a word. / It’s like a hammer’–that don’t bely any feeling, and then the last line is the first time emotion is explicitly introduced, a surprising ending that renders the poem suddenly personal. In image and words alike, there is a beating heart under all this abstraction.”

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March 27, 2024

Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton

SHORTHAND 6-PAK RONDELET

TL;DR
 
Too long; didn’t read
Didn’t want to miss Stranger Things
Too long; didn’t read
Watched Batman on YouTube instead
Of reading about men with wings
Or women having flings with kings
Too long; didn’t read
 
 
 
STFU
 
Shut the fuck up
Can’t you see I’m taking a nap?
Shut the fuck up
I’m dreaming of a hot hookup 
I made through my X-rated app 
I’m awake now in her jockstrap
Shut the fuck up
 
 
 
FWIW
 
For what it’s worth
I can’t make up an alibi
For what it’s worth
There’s nothing on this big old earth
Makes me weep worse and wonder why
I microwaved a butterfly
(For what it’s worth)
 
 
 
IMHO  
 
In my humble opinion
Joaquin Phoenix is a dreamboat
In my humble opinion
he became vegan—vermilion  
blood from a hook, a fish’s throat
that day dad took him on a boat 
That’s my humble opinion
 
 
 
TBH
 
To be honest
I prefer my GRNS FRSH, my STK
(To be honest)
BBQ or BRSD or BNLESS
Nothing tastes BTR than a GR8
Big SAL with a SD of BF
To be honest
 
 
 
WDYT
 
What do you think?
Is the planet going to shit?
What do you think?
I say we’re standing on the brink—
but is our disaster moonlit
so sweetly we keep missing it?
What do you think?
 

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024
Tribute to Collaboration

__________

Denise Duhamel: “We had several memorial readings for Maureen, and my joke is that we had an open relationship and we weren’t monogamous. If you were there and ready to write, and you were a sweet soul, Maureen would write with you. She loved collaboration so much, and often collaborated with her students. Neil de la Flor and Kristine Snodgrass and Maureen were one set of collaborators (a triad), and then she had a foursome collaboration group with Carolina Hospital, Nicole Hospital-Medina, and Holly Iglesias. She also collaborated extensively with Sam Ace. Both Aaron Smith and I completed whole collaborative manuscripts with her while she was ill. She had all these different collaborations going on even through her illness and treatment.”

Maureen Seaton (October 20, 1947 – August 26, 2023) authored fifteen solo books of poetry, co-authored an additional thirteen, and wrote one memoir, Sex Talks to Girls, which won the 2009 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir/Biography. She frequently collaborated with many poets, including Denise Duhamel, Samuel Ace, Neil de la Flor, David Trinidad, Kristine Snodgrass, cin salach, Niki Nolin, and Mia Leonin.

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