July 17, 2019

Hayden Saunier


That’s me. I’m like my dog.
My full-bred mutt this bright cold day

sharp black against fresh snow,
nose down, hyena hunched,
ruff high and full out following

the scent of fox-fox-fox
her dash and gallop frantic

for the musky funk of clever
packed like liquid copper
into black-tipped fur,

fox-fox-fox-fox, whiff after whiff
hard on the track, losing it,

finding it, losing it, doubling back,
disfiguring with desperate
want and fat footpads

the perfect delicate prints
filled to the brim with deliciousness,

my dog and me, how thoroughly
we muck clean trails
with our own needy stink.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019


Hayden Saunier: “I live on a farm and daily walks with my dog are an unending source of education. This poem came after fresh snow when a fox was trackable—until we showed up. I saw myself so clearly in my dog’s desperation to find the scent again. How often I’ve ruined a poem by frantically working it to death. Luckily, I don’t think poems are ever lost, they just find other, better makers. They’re smart that way, like foxes.” (web)

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December 28, 2016

Hayden Saunier


One good hour, then long days adrift—no rudder,
paddle, outboard, sail—the narrow beds

docked, each in its own tidy berth.
There’s nothing to do but be here.

Sometimes, he finds his long length stretched out
in a canoe on the Chickahominy river,

bright sky above the gunwales, saw grass
brushing the hull, sometimes in the skiff

his father rowed out to the big ships as a boy.
Always he’s tethered.

As are we, alongside, watching
his hands worry the sheets.

We don’t know which knots he needs to untie—
bowline, clove hitch, sheet bend, square—

if his hands hold the bitter end
or the working end of the line,

or if another force holds him—wind, current, tide.
All we know is

his hands were the hands that held us.

from Rattle #53, Fall 2016


Hayden Saunier: “I am lucky to have spent many hours sitting beside people I love as they were dying. Simply being there is a wildly complicated act of love, memory, regret, confusion, wishfulness. On this particular day, I was struck by a sense of beautiful drift woven with stories of my father’s and his father’s boyhoods, of passed-down knowledge, and of the complete helplessness of us all at the end. And, of course, by how hard it is to let go.” (web)

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September 25, 2016

Hayden Saunier


To stay alive do not resist
that’s what you’re told

as if it were a simple act to make yourself
be only meat

and bone
pressed down into an asphalt street

and not a form of suicide
erase yourself be dead enough

that he or she or they’ll decide
there is no need to kill you

though do not resist
can make no guarantee of this

but if you stay alive
do not resist will mean you have to stand

your dead self up
walk out into the world alive

which is another kind of death
and harder every single time

you have to kill yourself enough
(do not resist) to stay alive.

Poets Respond
September 25, 2016

[download audio]


Hayden Saunier: “Two more police shootings … ‘Do not resist’ saved my life years ago when I was raped at knifepoint. Black men and women have historically, repeatedly, and continue to this day to be asked to submit their bodies and selves to the total control of another person under threat of immediate death. It isn’t easy, doesn’t always work, and even when it does, the toll is devastating.” (website)

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August 12, 2012

Hayden Saunier


The child hums as he carries, too late,
his grandmother’s sugar-dusted lemon-glazed cake

down the street to the neighbor who needs to be cheered,
too late for the neighbor

who’s stepped into the air
of her silent front hall from a ladder-backed chair

her church dress just pressed, her head in a loop she tied
into the clothesline, too late

he unlatches the gate,
walks up the brick walk on his tiptoes, avoiding the cracks

toward the door she unlocked, left ajar, who knows why
or for whom, if on purpose

or not, but because he’s too late
she’s gone still when he reaches the door and because

he’s too late, as he calls out and looks, brilliant sun
burns through haze

pours through sidelights and bevels
through chandelier prisms, strikes white sparks and purples

on ceiling and walls, on the overturned chair, on her stockings
her brown and white

spectator shoes on the floor
and because he’s too late he remembers both terror and beauty

but not which came first. But enough of the one
that he ran

and enough of the other
to carefully lay down the cake at her feet.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Rattle Poetry Prize Winner


Hayden Saunier: “I love the way objects and people and ideas find their way together in a poem. An old friend sent me an outrageous pound cake at Christmas and when I described it as sugar-dusted, lemon-glazed, the story of the boy in this poem, told to me years ago, came straight to my mind and stayed there. It was all in the cake: that sunny yellow circle with its center missing, dense, empty, bitter, sweet, the gestures we make too late, the child’s ability to take in everything at the same moment, at once and complete: It was all in the cake.” (web)

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February 15, 2012

Rattle is proud to announce the winner of the 2011 Rattle Poetry Prize:

Hayden Saunier

Hayden Saunier
Doylestown, PA
“The One and the Other”

For the first time in 2011 the Rattle Poetry Prize winner was selected from 15 finalists by subscriber vote.  To prevent ballot-stuffing, only those with subscriptions prior to the announcement of the finalists were eligible.  Of roughly 3,000 possible voters, 680 cast ballots, and Saunier’s poem earned 14.4%.   Here is what some of those readers had to say about their choice:

“In one sparse page, Hayden Saunier has let three nameless, wordless, ordinary people stir up in the rest of us a tart chaos of generosity, cheer, despair, shock, regret, and respect. I am deeply impressed by the skill with which she did that.”
–Anne Ward Jamieson

“I choose ‘The One and the Other’ by Hayden Saunier because of its telling details, its form (in contrast to the awful, out-of-order scene the child finds), its use of sound, including the irregular rhymes, and the fact it is one sentence, cascading downward to that placement of the cake. This is a poem that stays with me.”
–Mary Makofske

“It was a difficult choice, but ultimately the images of the boy with his lemon-glazed cake and the woman hanging from her chandelier refuse to leave me alone. The (relentless) repetition of the phrase ‘too late’ adds to the urgency/tragedy, and details like the boy ‘on tiptoes, avoiding the cracks’, are heartbreaking.”
–Sudasi Clement

“I vote for Hayden Saunier. What an ending! Wonderful that you guys have a prize like this.”
–Chase Twichell

“You know a poem is a winner when it makes you read and re-read it again and again and each time, you say ‘wow’!”
–Lynne Thompson

To read the poem, pick up a copy of Rattle #36, or wait to read it in our free supplemental e-issue this spring (e.12).  We’ll be reprinting the winning poem, along with our summary of the contest, our thoughts on the format and results, and more commentary from the voting subscribers.

Saunier’s “The One and the Other” was the clear winner, but all 15 of the finalist poems received a significant number of votes, and each had their own enthusiastic fans.  No one received less than 4.5% — 1 in 23 readers would have selected any of the poems a winner.  That’s a testament to both the subjective nature of poetic experience, and the quality of all 15 finalists.  Thanks again to each of them: Pia Aliperti, Tony Barnstone, Kim Dower, Courtney Kampa, M, Andrew Nurkin, Charlotte Pence, Laura Read, Diane Seuss, Craig van Rooyen, Bryan Walpert, Anna Lowe Weber, Jeff Vande Zande, and Maya Jewell Zeller.

More on all of this in the spring e-issue next month.

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March 13, 2010

Hayden Saunier


Time is not reading the poem as you
read the poem, but rest assured he’s slipped
inside the room in his soft, polished shoes,
with his little cough, his bowler hat in hand,
so sorry to disturb. It isn’t that he doesn’t like
to read, he loves to lean across your shoulder,
let you feel his breath, a delicate subzero
on your neck, but he’s impatient with anything
but haiku. Ignore him. He’ll pretend
he doesn’t care, proceed to wind the clocks
with tiny keys or stretch out on a sofa, tap
a tree branch on a pane and wait you out.
Meanwhile, the poem persists in its solitary
business of resisting being made, trying
the usual tactics: silence, tantrum, argument
over rules of play until the stuck mind panics,
a tarantula in hot tar, shouts words out
like charades: moon! anapest! plumage! boat!
desperate to drown out that silence accompanying
the figure in the well-cut suit who’s polishing
the gold case of his pocket watch, remarking
how words pile up like big rigs on a fogged-in
freeway: apple! rainfall! pasture! bell! and even
when the poem finds some purchase, scrambles
up a narrow footpath through a field and stands
inside a grassy insect buzz, holding out
a shaky palm of sugar to conjure up a horse,
a distant train will whistle, spooking anything
half wild. You’re back exactly where you started.
Cough-cough. Soft shoes. Tick-tock. No horse.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009


Hayden Saunier: “I had lost my bearings inside the poem I was working on and needed something to power and ground it, but I’d made too big a mess. I’d ruined it. So I let the search take over. The tarantula image is an echo from a poem called ‘Fence’ by Janet Poland and became an apt figure for the mucked, grasping mind.” (web)

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January 2, 2009

Hayden Saunier


Mother, for once, it wasn’t your fault.
You always said you can’t soak hams
long enough and one full day and night
seemed adequate, but we gave it two,
scrubbed mold, rind, salt away, changed
the water, tucked it like a baby in its bath;
another day, rinsed, patted dry, made ready.
Butter and brown sugar coated all our hands.
Let’s face it; it was ancient, not just aged.
The woman at the ham shack must have seen
my husband’s Pennsylvania plates and figured
what the hell, he won’t be coming back.
Or it was just bad luck. But wasn’t
our discussion on life with Lewis and Clark
educational for the children? Ham jerky!
Ham shoelaces! Ham-flavored chewing gum
to last a winter portage through the Bitterroots!
Oh, we were jolly then, those spots still undiscovered
on your lungs. Yes, my Yankee husband
sliced it on the band saw but so would any man
faced with that ham who had a power tool in reach.
That was Easter. It’s November now.
You’re dead and I am making black bean soup,
beginning with a frozen cut of that disaster
sizzling in a taste of olive oil. No other
seasoning is needed for this winter’s portage,
Mother, just my store of crosscut sections:
meat and marrow, sugar, grease and bone.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008


Hayden Saunier: “I am an actress and theatre is always sending me to poetry and poetry to theatre. ‘Self-Portrait With the Smithfield Ham…’ evolved from that intersection. I was interested in the self-portrait less as image and more as inner monologue, a kind of private soliloquy.” (website)

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