June 8, 2016

Sara Watson


If you see a group of crows it’s called a murder.
If you’ve got a group of cows you say a herd.
If your key fits in the lock you say I’m home.
What if you are a bushel of apples and I am the hungriest deer.
Or I am a fistful of hair clogging the drain again.
Already you’re seeing my body a way that’s entirely new.
I’ve been a mess. I’ve had to clean up after.
Two women and a dog is called a family.
Two women with no dog cannot be coaxed from bed.
I see that we already have a problem.
What if every time a woman says there are no happy endings
a person slides her tongue inside another person’s mouth.
A person slides her tongue inside another person’s mouth.
Every time I touch you a little sound comes out.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets


Sara Watson: “Poetry is one of the few safe spaces for queer women. As such, it’s a great space for a queer woman such as myself to play around, to dream, to imagine, to demonstrate and celebrate queer desire. If Poetry were a town, I think I’d like to move there.”

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June 6, 2016

Julie Marie Wade


after Aaron Smith

What I hate most is the I’m-sorry face
when I tell some well-meaning, left-leaning
acquaintance that I’m a queer.
Of course I don’t say it quite that way.
I say softly, and with my signature smile:
“My partner and I have been together
for almost eleven years.”
Translation: I love someone. In case it concerns
you, I am capable of committed love, too.
Notice how I sashay away from the coming-out
spiel, how I hold the word sex deliberately at bay.
Even the phrase “same-sex couple” might put us all
uncomfortably in mind of naked bodies, spin the wheel
of hetero-wonder a little too hard,
thinking who does what to whom?
These new associates don’t realize they are making an I’m-sorry face.
They confuse it with the I-empathize-with-the-challenges-I’m-sure-
you-have-had-to-face face.
They nod and lean in a little closer, to show they
are not afraid. Like expert ventriloquists, they’ll transmit
I’m sorry without ever moving their lips.
Translation: I know you don’t have a choice about this.
But what if I did? What if there was someone to
wave a magic wand and turn me wild with lust
for a man—some men—most men—all men—
until even a little trace of stubble on a square jaw,
a pec flexed, a bulge in a tight pair of slacks—
I’m hopeless! I don’t know what straight women watch
for when they go out hunting for men—sent me reeling,
sent me clawing the walls and calling for all their
manly names and macho numbers.
I’d say, Fairy Godmother, keep your spell. But what
I’d really mean—beneath my soft voice and signature smile—is
Fairy Godmother, you can go straight to hell, and take your goddamn
straight spell with you.
I love who I love, which is what everyone says, but I mean
I love loving her whole being (her body, too) exactly the way
that I do—with my whole being (my body, too).
Translation: I have no regrets, no wish to be otherwise.

That is: If you give me a choice, I’ll choose queer every time.
If you make me flip a dime, I’ll mark the sides GAY and GAYER STILL.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets

[download audio]


Julie Marie Wade: “I happily identify as a feminist and more specifically, a third-wave feminist. I grew up in a family that adhered to strict gender roles and regarded liberation movements, particularly ‘women’s lib,’ with suspicion. In 1997, I arrived at college with the false impression that feminism was something that already happened, a social movement that had come and gone. To my surprise and delight, this was not the case. I read Rebecca Walker’s Becoming the Third Wave and Naomi Wolf’s Radical Heterosexuality. Slowly, it dawned on me that feminism was still alive and well, and I wanted desperately to be a part of this third wave my new feminist heroes described. To me, feminism is about more than equality, which often conjures notions of ‘sameness,’ but rather about justice, which seeks to honor and protect individual integrity and complexity within and beyond the category of gender. One of my early mentors once said to me: ‘If there are two people—one physically agile and one confined to a wheelchair—and you ask them both to climb the same flight of stairs in the same amount of time—you are treating them equally, but you are not treating them justly.’ This example has always stayed with me. Feminism’s first wave centered on women’s equality, but the third wave encompasses the pursuit of justice for all marginalized groups, including people of color, people with disabilities, sexual minorities, and the earth itself.”

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June 3, 2016

Amy Uyematsu


We are a throng of older women—yes, we are silver- and white-haired, or in my case, color-enhanced reddish brown, some with new knees and hips, others sporting flashy neon wristbands to tally how many steps, all of us ready to rumble in our rubber-soled shoes. Our teacher Yvonne used to weigh 300 pounds. Now she zumbas and runs, sports a modified Mohawk, sparkly bracelets stacked from wrist to forearm, and pink, lime, or lavender tank tops and sweats. Her constant command: “Smile! This is spoze to be fun!” And it is, though a few in the crowd just don’t get the steps, their faces so labored and lost. Most of us, though, are having the best time we’ve had in decades, feel like we did in our teens, maybe better since we don’t care anymore if we look uncool—heck, no pressure anymore from ogling adolescents or lascivious men. Now nothing matters more than the way this Latin music pulls us in—our bodies set loose to congas and timbales. We learn salsa, very New York City smooth, while Dominican merengue is frenzied and almost too fast to keep on beat. We all like the song where we gyrate our hips, follow Yvonne in an unhurried blend of hula and belly dance, then raise arms and hands to shoo away something toward the sky, all of us joining the chorus, “amor—amor, amor, amor”—not sure if we’re sending love out to the universe or saying goodbye to a lover, our voices rising as one. But my favorite, as always, is the cha cha, which we got from Cuba. I didn’t know this in the ’60s, when I cha cha cha’d to Chicano and Motown discs, doing it Eastside style with a swivel and dip. Cha cha feels like I’m coming home, so easy and free, just a zumba-crazed grandma with bad knees—that’s me.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets


Amy Uyematsu: “Back in the ’70s, I taught a course at UCLA called ‘Asian Women in America.’ In that class, we studied ‘triple jeopardy’—how Asian American women face issues of racism, sexism, and economic discrimination. I’ve long considered myself an Asian American woman poet, which to me means being an advocate for people of color as well as women.”

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June 1, 2016

Kelly Grace Thomas


And the women said watch as men call us lottery tickets
watch as they cash register us into gamble into played
out combinations of sweaty bills and pocket want
watch as they lick their lips for that better life
watch as they pout, when we don’t pay out.
When the bling of our breasts don’t make them
Cheshire cat the same. When we got our own debts
that gotta be paid, to mirrors, to mammas, to the way our hearts
traffic light in the closet after we sold ourselves

And the women said feel the way we became campfire
how we ghost storied into this dangerous beauty.
How them men can’t scrub out our smoke, how our blue learned
to burn slow, standstill like the moment between beggin and maybe.
Feel the way we soil into shovel, how we let ourselves be held even
after a matchbox tongue misspoke of our flames, even after we told flint,
you don’t live here no more. The women said feel how we are not open
fields waiting for their strike. They cannot not bury us
deep, call us things of war and be surprised
when we land mine.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets
2017 Neil Postman Award Winner


Kelly Grace Thomas: “Feminism is about connected and often quiet power; it took me too many years to understand this. Years of an awkward dance between embracing and apologizing for my femininity. When people think of feminism, many things come to mind. For me, it just means evolution, it just means equality, it means I am gonna exercise my right to express myself as eloquently and openly as anyone else. I coach an all-female youth poetry team and try to be a strong model of feminism for them, and for girls to come. I think to be a feminist you have to be both the mirror and the window; my work in poetry seeks to do just that.” (web)


Kelly Grace Thomas is the guest on episode #30 of the Rattlecast. Click here to watch!

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May 30, 2016

Katherine Barrett Swett


Constance Woolson died
in Venice January 24;
an apparent suicide,
she was not 54.

Henry James said half one’s feeling
for her was anxiety.
He wrote it repeatedly
in letters that scholars find revealing
of James’s ongoing anxiety.

He thought her cheerful manner a facade
as flowers set in the window
have nothing to do with what’s inside.
Did he think how
the pots might fall below,
the careless maid knocking
them off the windowsill?
His metaphor is shocking
as Woolson was the pot that fell.

She would hate the bios and novels
about her love-lorn melancholy.
She was a writer who wanted readers;
and, of course, she was lonely,
living abroad, far from home, to save money.

I reread her novels most years.

I like the smell of old papers and books,
of library stacks, forgotten lives.
I take them like snuff in the afternoon,
the past boxed up like Bluebeard’s wives.

Who isn’t lonely as she grows older?

I clean the embossed spine
of East Angels, bought for nothing
when second-hand books first went online.
I spend hours dusting
and wiping each shelf with lavender oil
to fight off mildew and soil.

The last Christmas she turned down
all invitations. She wanted to be alone
with her things and memories.
Her gondola wound
for miles around the lagoon.

I am now her age, and I don’t believe
she killed herself for love.
Hers was a deeper grief,
and she was not afraid to die;
she wrote that repeatedly.

James couldn’t get over
that suicide is very impolite
—it seemed so out of character—
like refusing to eat your host’s meat.
I think she reached the limit
of memory, writing and stuff.
Even a gentle lady has the right
to say enough, not enough, enough.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets


Katherine Barrett Swett: “For me the most interesting work of feminism is the recovery of lost lives and lost writing. I have studied the writings of 19th century women for 30 years. I am amazed by the bravery and tenacity of women who wrote and still write against enormous pressures to be silent. I love to enter into their worlds and break that silence.”

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May 27, 2016

Lisa Summe


Domesticity is of all our pets together
in one room. Plus me in my plaid pajama pants
and you in no pants. Some people take off their shoes
when they walk in the door, but you,
the first thing you do is take off your pants
because to you, pants = work, and you are home.
There’s cat litter stuck to your feet,
there are my dirty socks on the floor
again, and there’s the floor mat
our guests rarely wipe their feet on.
So the cats scratch it up. So the dog naps there.
There’s a time where your mom doesn’t knock
on our door for Sunday breakfast again,
a time where your sister tells you to please stop talking
about anything related to sex. I want to fit in
with the women in your family,
but I am too reliable. You can count on me,
darling, to wink at you from across the bar
ten years from now. What if every time was like
the first time? By which I mean our lovemaking brings us
to tears in a stranger’s bedroom and we don’t know
when we’ll see each other again, don’t know
what the moon will shine like when it’s been cloudy
for weeks. Just know that I am a garden of boomerangs.
And Ingrid Michaelson is singing all the while.
I listened to that song again where the girl can’t help
falling in love, as a reminder that television
is not a stand-in for affection and neither is
the bowl of cereal one of us silently pours the other.
We crave surprises. Once I mailed you a postcard
from the mailbox down the street, which is to say
my gratitude is the longest day of the year.
Summer solstice is the way your body shines,
which is how my mouth says I was here.
I make you promises, but I don’t
say them out loud. We both know marriage
is overrated. Instead, matching heart tattoos
on our pointer fingers. Instead, a six-pack
of Sierra Nevada in the fridge,
a homemade pizza. So much of love
is consumption. So much of my appetite
is bottomless. I’ve been running.
And, for once, it isn’t away.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets


Lisa Summe: “I am a feminist poet because I am a woman who loves women. My autobiographical poems, while often celebratory, also explore the challenges that come with identifying as a lesbian: homophobia, familial rejection, appearance norms, etc.” (web)

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May 25, 2016

Julie Steiner


Women only write about themselves.
When they compose,
a therapeutic ooze engulfs and salves
a woman’s woes.
That self-absorbed confession self-absolves,
while readers doze.
Women only write about themselves.
Enough of those.

When men say “I”, their “I” is universal.
Their strong hearts bleed
for all the tribe. Applaud their verses’ muscle!
Attend! Give heed!
The female “I” is narcissistic. Facile.
A feeble reed.
When men say “I”, their “I” is universal.
It’s all we need.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets


Julie Steiner: “I consider feminism part of the broader notion that all members of the human race, without exception, should have opportunities and challenges proportionate to their actual, not presumed, abilities. So, yes, I am a feminist. As are most men, I think. But occasionally all of us in positions of traditional privilege—whatever those might be—need reminders that our own worldview is not a universal default, shared by all humanity.”

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