November 5, 2018

Justy Rothe


I was hit by a car. The first time, two years ago, crossing the street
with my sister toward church. Halfway through the crosswalk,
she made a joke about my ability to walk in heels. We were laughing.
The last thing I remember is headlights meeting her face,
seeing her mouth flatten, dimples disappearing, as she looked
straight through me to what I couldn’t see coming.
Then the light was all there was.

This time was different. Lauren was driving, July heat burning my right leg
through the car window rolled half down. We were singing as the wind
whipped our brunette and blonde hair into one. We were singing
some song and eating French fries until we weren’t. Now, it’s as though
I’m hovering, waiting. Calling bullshit on the myth about lightning not
striking the same place twice. Life is lightning.
Either stopping your heart or starting it.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018
Tribute to First Publication


Justy Rothe: “I write to connect my past self and experiences to my current being, to make sense of the world around me while also finding my place within it. But I also write in hopes to connect to other people. To lend a kind hand of comfort or, if just for a moment, a place of quiet shelter.”

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November 2, 2018

Natasha Rao


Tonight I am remembering
the Krishna-skin
skies of summer
& the way your laugh
made a jacaranda tree bloom.
We slept in sheets the color of sea glass &
I woke with the taste of salt
in my mouth.
Happiness is devastating
in the past tense.
I lay these memories, like a fish,
on the cutting board.
Slice them open &
the deepest blue
spills onto this poem.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018
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Natasha Rao: “I often find myself fixated on the ephemeral quality of both the human sphere and the natural world. As such, many of my poems deal with the passage of time and the inevitability of endings. I love the way poetry allows me to revisit moments from the past, colorize what is sepia-tinted, and imbue even the most ordinary memory with a kind of magic.”

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October 31, 2018

Farah Peterson


My group arrived after the site had closed 
So our guides put on Shoah and made plans for the morning
But I insisted I wanted to see what we had come for 
I don’t know why, the monstrosities could have waited
I just didn’t like being cooped up and besides
The ovens were easy enough to find
Simply follow the train tracks, that’s where they led
What the trains were for. The men insisted I take a man with me
I thought the man who came with me a fool 
And so I asked for silence, and then chafed
At walking in tandem where I wanted to walk alone
Chafed that this natterer, impressed by silence, 
Was having a profound experience at my side
But I became glad to have him there
Seeing the isolation of the route
Its graffiti and the abandoned bottles 
Showing where young men, I assumed, had congregated 
This was, after all, a place where people were born, 
Grew up in the same home as their fathers’ fathers, and went to school 
And either escaped or fell to the ruin of small town life
In such a town! When we arrived at the end of the line 
We entered and, not knowing how to mark the occasion, 
I laid a hand on one of the hulking kilns, and thought a prayer
Interrupted by a plainclothes officer
Who emerged and told us first in Polish and then in English
That we would have to leave
His whole body soft, his tone, apologetic
But firm, and we signaled we understood.
He watched us away and I wondered what must it be like
To man that post just waiting for the crazies
Who come in silence or in celebration
Violent or weeping to those humble hillocks
The guard was, no doubt, one of those boys from town
Maybe even had wondered as a youngster 
Whether the chambers’ roofs would make for good winter sledding 
I was reminded of my own time as a museum guard
Telling patrons, “don’t touch the art”
(Although they knew that, they always waited to be told)
The paintings became as familiar as my own furniture
And after a while I looked on them no more
But still I had the sense they looked on me
And now, I cannot open a book of art
Without lingering long over familiar works 
Yes, I would recognize those faces anywhere.

We went to Auschwitz II a few days later
And after a brief guided tour of dormitories
Where local schoolchildren had scrawled, as children do
“Moritz waz here” and other little slogans
We walked a bit of the perimeter together,
Our guide explaining how the barbed wire was regularly replaced
By volunteers from Volkswagen corporation
(Because rusted barbed wire will quickly fall apart)
My eye then caught on every piece of shiny silver
And my mind cluttered with thoughts of those young men 
And women working, perhaps as their grandfathers had done
To repair a line of fence precisely here
It is something I do not think that I could do
And I was also struck, when the tour had ended,
And I was ambling round the site
At what a pretty day we had chosen for our visit
There is a picture taken by a murdered inmate
With a camera that he then buried for posterity
Of the Nazis stacking bodies under the trees
Men and women murdered in the open 
And in haste as the war was ending
I walked there, under the lacey birches, by a pond
The greenery and sunlight and the breeze teasing me 
With animal comforts in the midst of human horror
Seducing my attention from the grave.
I thought, it’s wrong all this time I have been wondering
How can God be good if bad things happen
The answer is simply: I will have God good
Because I refuse to spend all my light on despair
Though evil slaps me in the face!
And this Auschwitz resolution has helped me some
In thinking over my own losses, but only some.
I was a distracted visitor but then
For almost a year after, a low brick building 
Or a train track would undo me. And I had nightmares, too
About what I had not avoided seeing there
Even through the fog of my experience.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018
Tribute to First Publication


Farah Peterson: “As a historian, I am in the business of telling public stories. Now and then a private story emerges as well.” (web)

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October 29, 2018

Thomas Mann


ask for forgiveness again the man with the dark skin
sat in the crevasse of the building and asked for spare
change and you lied again his dry face turned open like
a palm and smacked you with shame and you should feel
ashamed you saw on his face distorted features you still
recognized as human he was no animal other than the
animal each of us is despite the lie we tell that we are not
that lie is a cruelty which you hope dissolves with the wave
of a forgiving god a god who must face you as you faced
the man there but your god appearing within you will also turn 
away and will leave you speechless won’t he just as this man
in his rags is speechless to you.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018
Tribute to First Publication


Thomas Mann: “I am by training a theorist and social scientist. And however much this training claims to get to the quick of experience and relation, something inevitably remains untouched. Poetry, I find, attends most seriously to affective resonances that are so important to human life. Poetry, in other words, is that attempt to utter the impossible thing.”

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October 24, 2018

Caleb M.X. Dance


He was teaching his students
the parts of a plow
while reading the Georgics

in Latin: a learned poem for
learning the parts of
a plow, how to raise trees,

ways to summon bees from
the carcass of a cow.
He was teaching his students

in a town wedged in hills still
tended by farmers
and vintners and modern day

wainwrights (H&J Tire Co.).
But he did not know
what a share-beam was,

what lolium is, what drags do.
He knew, however, that
vomis (“plough”) is another form

of vomer (“plow”) and that both
words can mean “penis”
and that labor (“labor”) conquered

all other meanings over thousands
of years to mean now
that we still work with our hands.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018
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Caleb M.X. Dance: “I teach classical literature and languages at Washington and Lee University, and many of my favorite poems are thousands of years old. I often imagine how Roman poets like Ovid and Horace, as they were drafting poems on wax tablets, would have had to rub out old words for their revisions … perhaps as often as I consult my eraser.”

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October 19, 2018

David Borman


Adorno says fuck form
and I for one believe him;
he was smarter than you and me:
knew before us that the world was broken.

And I for one believe him:
that rhyme in poem is eschatology.
He was smarter than you and me:
he knew that the dead were really dead,

that rhyme in poem is eschatology,
the scandal that happiness must forever be postponed.
He knew that the dead were really dead,
and that some tonight must sleep hungry.

The scandal that happiness must forever be postponed,
this is denied by the completion of form in rhyme.
And that some tonight must sleep hungry
is a fact of the world that can only be mourned.

This is denied by the completion of form in rhyme,
rhyme that fishes for dead in the river Lethe and
is a fact of a world that can only be mourned.
Our grief must be disorderly and prosaic.

Rhyme that fishes for dead in the river Lethe and
recovers somehow only fragrant souls and no corpses, for this
our grief must be disorderly and prosaic
and, anyway, I for one do not believe it. 

Recovers somehow only fragrant souls and no corpses, for this
we are supposed to sing of theodicy. Bullshit
and, anyway, I for one do not believe it.
Beautiful music offends.

We are supposed to sing of theodicy. Bullshit.
Form in poem wants to ration our mourning by metre, but
beautiful music offends.
And I want to offend, too.

Form in poem wants to ration our mourning by metre, but
I intend to swear loudly in the nicest restaurant I can find.
And I want to offend, too,
I intend at all costs to spoil this indecent meal.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018
Tribute to First Publication


David Borman: “It wasn’t until after my first child was born that I found myself, really rather suddenly, feeling a stubborn urge to find the right sorts of words for expressing all the ambiguous feelings connected with bringing someone into this world, with having simultaneous responsibility for them and, to some extent, for the world in which they will find themselves, and also for the feeling of having been transformed in some way by the experience of becoming a father. I set out to try to think about this in some externalized form and ended up starting to write poetry.”

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October 17, 2018

Marvin Artis


“If I’m gonna die, you’re gonna die with me.”
Words waved by Lashanda Armstrong through her van
before she drives herself and her four little children
into the Hudson River on April 12, 2011.

La’Shaun, her ten-year-old son from her first boyfriend,
refused her invitation, most likely in a quiet and polite manner.
There couldn’t have been time for a loud and dramatic departure.

He planned his escape while she attempted to back the van
out of eight feet of water. As he climbed over her lap
and out of the window, she grabbed his leg and admitted,
“I made a mistake. I made a terrible mistake.”

She let him go. Her death proposal sank. Her dying
admission stuck. He made his way through 25 yards
of ugly, cold Hudson River water back to the road of their departure.
“Help me, help me. Somebody please help me,” he screamed
repeatedly, waving his hands from the side of the road.
The night air surrounding him was skeptical, as pairs of eyes
blinked at him from cars that rolled on without stopping.

A woman’s heart screeched to a halt, and so did her car.
He was rescued by a woman who had never cared for him.
A mother successfully kills her child every three days in America.

Purple hearts and medals of courage for those who survive
the attacks of strangers. Nothing for those who survive
the attacks of loved ones.

A few days later, a picture of La’Shaun, smiling,
appears in the newspaper. He looks like a normal
ten-year-old boy because that’s exactly what he was.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018
Tribute to First Publication


Marvin Artis: “I was an English major in college, and I started writing what I thought was fiction about ten years ago. I said to the person I was working with, ‘You know, this stuff I’m writing looks more like poetry than prose. Do you think this is poetry?’ And he said, ‘No, there’s all kinds of prose. I think you should just keep pushing the prose.’ But about six years ago I started writing what was coming to mind, and it was absolutely poetry. I’ve read great poets, and I didn’t think my poems at the time were in the same universe of great poetry. I knew I needed some help, but I didn’t quite know how, or what kind of help I could get. One day I was sitting in a café, and there was an old New Yorker magazine on the table. At one time I was a subscriber, but at some point I’d stopped. So I picked it up, and it just so happened to be an issue with one of Diana Goetsch’s poems in it. And I thought, ‘This is stuff I really like. This is a room of poetry I’d like to be in.’ So I googled the name, didn’t know anything about her. I saw that she happened to give workshops. I called, and it just so happened that there was a workshop starting. Her workshops really helped me to get my poems more in the form I wanted them to be in.”

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