October 30, 2014

Myra Shapiro

THE ALTERATION OF LOVE

I was crying—I mean
tears came—about love,
old love, long marriage
spilling past impediments of
who wants what for dinner or
in the bedroom—ins and outs
my father’s coarse humor

made a joke of: you put it in,
you pull it out, the story’s over,
only in Yiddish it rhymed,
words I don’t recall. Over,
he is. So is my mother. We
were never to be them.
Now they want me

to stop crying. I was trying
to say something about love—
how one day one of us
will disappear. That’s when
my eyes hauled up the sea,
and my mother and father came
to make a child of me.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

[download audio]

__________

Myra Shapiro: “These days I can’t get over being old. It’s new to me, that my life like a book has to end. And because I’ve always lived in books, lines and phrases others have written stay close to me. Shakespeare’s ‘Love is not love/ Which alters when it alteration finds’ spoke as I tried to grasp how fragile a very old marriage is.”

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October 29, 2014

Eric Paul Shaffer

VALEDICTION, ON ARRIVING IN A DISTANT LAND

I am not one to travel with no destination. No city or continent
charms me with the vague glee of flight. Nor would I go alone,
for every day, we wake warmth to warmth, your breath in my ear,

my hand on your thigh. Yesterday, the planet bowed before us,
and cool distance clarified a curve measurable in miles, in feet
pacing dutifully through the world. I’ve crossed deserts and seas,

rivers and peaks from which the waters flow, the sun westering
and a moon pierced by sky while morning melts into noon. All
space intensifies, blue, absolute, definite and dismal, magnified

by our finite human measures when we mark our roads with signs
and lines and lights that regulate. Even now, with old mountains
at my back and a thin river lost in a valley of dust, I am with you.

The rays from stars cascade through darkness limitless and lit
too little. Light is slow beside the speed with which my thoughts
turn to you. And no world is large enough to come between us.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

[download audio]

__________

Eric Paul Shaffer: “I love love poems, yet my theory is that the more love poems composed, the fewer good love poems there are. So I watch for and seek good ones. To no one’s surprise, the English Renaissance is a great place to look. I particularly admire Sir John Suckling, who had the courage to rhyme ‘heart’ with ‘fart’ (surely a telling match) and John Donne, a great master, whose compass in ‘A Valediction, Forbidding Mourning’ is magical. My poem is about arriving in my beloved town of Albuquerque without my beloved.”

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October 28, 2014

Charlotte Seley

BRIGHT RED BIT

When our beta died, we dumped him
bowl and all into the Susquehanna. O
I was so sad without a fish. The dark bellowing
ring in the wood where the bowl once was—
Why didn’t we save even one marble?
As I sprinkled his food into the river, Jeff said
You killed it and I knew he didn’t mean the fish.
Sometimes I’d walk down Hawley if only
to see if a bowl was floating in the glints
of diurnal water. I like to think our fish is in
the river now and I swear I saw a bright red bit
at the bottom, unlike how we found him—
cadaver grey. When I die, I do not really want
my possessions with me down there, returned to earth.
Just stuff I pulverized into a nurturing. My home,
for one, as rotten as it was. The red Solo cups
on the porch, the secondhand bed, dirty
tube socks and loose threads of tobacco in the carpet.
I left before the flood but I hoped our fish
would come back, a message in a bottle
uncorked. The message might’ve said: Always
be an endless stream of regeneration,
which was sad since that was impossible
for us. We were more like the glass bowl, might’ve been
screaming until it broke. I was always underwater
with our fish swimming through the little crevices of
the plastic castle and the rainbow flakes of food,
the debris in the river and the cardboard boxes full
of things I could never take with me when I die.
If I could give you a message from the Susquehanna,
it would say that there’s a limit to perseverance.
How our fish must’ve known his sighs were numbered
when I noticed his tattered fins as fragile as broken harps
while unhooking frames from the wall, packing boxes.
That fish was what I loved about the Southern Tier
and there is nothing like the love for something
that will never love you back.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

__________

Charlotte Seley: “I’m not sure why I write but I know it began with Robert Creeley. And even that is a poor response since what drew me to Creeley was the clever way he broke his lines and forced the reader to think of all the words that weren’t there or perhaps fell off in the enjambment. Nonetheless, it’s an obsession now, and I served as poetry editor and editor-in-chief of Redivider and I am a current poetry reader for Ploughshares.”

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October 27, 2014

Mather Schneider

FREE-FORM BOLERO

We eat nopalitos
for lunch
pruned from our hard yard

and we love the afternoon away
both of us hunter
both of us prey

then sleep.

I dream about pueblos
with names of women
and a smoky cantina with flowered curtains
and ironwood tables
polished by a million brown elbows.

The floor fan blows the hair on my legs
whispers chicken skin goodbyes
to my sweat
and as the heat rises with the finale of April
I am at peace with what will come:

wormy compost of May
foul-smelling hat
sunburned deeds
mesquite syrup and cactus jelly
sealed in jars like preserved lust

the throat-burning flames of bacanora June
sour stains of July
lime and onion tears
of August

the desert stretched out like an endless
mockery of self-importance.

Funneled into the triumph
of now

the sun floats down
into the other
a popped balloon at a gala ball

and as I wake up
it’s like I’m face to face
with the prettiest girl
at the last dance of the world

and she’s looking at me
like she just woke up too.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

__________

Mather Schneider: “Well, I tried growing broccoli in our desert yard and that didn’t work, then realized that we could eat the prickly pear cactus that grew naturally right there in front. You prune the soft young pads, skin off the spines, boil them or fry them with salt and chili sauce or whatever you want, and there you go. This, combined with a nice siesta on a day off from work with the woman you love, is more than enough for me.”
(website)

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October 21, 2014

Christine Rhein

SPEAKING IN CODE

For fun and to try to mix this up a little, you two might develop a verbal or visual cue that is more subtle than simply asking for sex. For instance, when one of you mentions Vice President Richard Cheney, that’s your code.
—Amy Dickinson, Chicago Tribune

Imagine the possibilities! I could whisper
Rush Limbaugh in your ear and, if it happens
to sound good to you, you could counter
with a breathy Ralph Nader, and go on
to, well, the Better Business Bureau,
nudging us toward Liberty Mutual
and Full Fire Insurance. Of course,
we might want to try something more
scientific, like perhaps Mr. Gizmo
or Miss Motion Engineer, a sigh
of reciprocating oscillation. I guess
we could go a bit wild too, daring to speak
aardvark or walrus, the kinky tangles
of kudzu or cabbage. We could even practice
our French, Soupe du jour, oh là là!
or Italian, Pronto! There’ll be no asking
for sugar, honey, what’s cookin’? in this house.
None of that old hocus pocus, hokey
pokey, hula hula for us. I mean, why dance
around on tiptoe when we can Do the
funky gibbon! The resurrection shuffle!
The tikkabilla jive! And seriously,
since it’s only you and me here,
we might as well scream a little
climate change, stressing the need
for renewable energy or, at least, See me
turn off the TV. We shouldn’t waste time,
dear, wishing to ignite something new
when there are so many hot buttons
already at hand. I say, what the hell—
Let’s build a bridge to tomorrow! Or to Finland!
Because it seems anything is better than oh,
nothing. Not worth the candle. Don’t be silly.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

[download audio]

__________

Christine Rhein: “My background as an auto engineer seems to play a part in my writing. Each poem presents a puzzle, with its components and features needing to fit and operate together just so in order to give the reader the best possible ride down the page. Of course, tinkering with poems is boundless, while cars come with constraints. When I write, I want a ride that’s not safe, smooth, or even steerable, but rather one that’s full of unexpected lunges, turns, and spins.” (website)

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October 16, 2014

John Poch

THE DIFFERENCE AT CAFE D’ARTHE

Seville, Spain

Except for coffee, light never forgives the dark.
Here, at the bar, even a driver of dangerous liquids
can find a robust, fertile rest so river deep,
his gaze darkens like the old air between two lenses
in a telescope. He has time to smoke, to talk
to the milk and carbon, to think without thinking how
an olive oil spill can make a napkin into
some private window, the most temporary stained glass
in the world, a window made
not to see through, but to.
It is not odd when from his mouth
comes the muffled sound of steel
in a mattress, or is it a guitar?
Sparrows flutter in the date palm pollen and dust.
What a bath!
The professional young hurry by outside thin-soled
toward the engine block of downtown.
They are faceless as umbrellas. That important.
This one’s lover must be rough, her hair the scent
of a midnight sea-port, her love-talk
a dirty old story of graffiti on graffiti.
When she dances for him some nights, she must look like
the aftermath of math. The answer, naked
and not wanting. Now, the driver has words:
That’s the ground, that’s the sidewalk, and that’s the love.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

__________

John Poch: “I was studying nuclear engineering. I found myself writing poems rather than studying my formulas. The phrase ‘word problems’ took on a different meaning for me, a positive meaning. I transferred schools and began this path of poetry, and I rarely have looked back.”

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October 15, 2014

George Ovitt

WHY I LIKE MARRIAGE

At breakfast I tell my wife
To bury me in my new suit.
“The gray one?” she asks,
“Yes, with the pinstripes,”
“Fine,” and she sips her tea.

This is what I like about marriage—
The not-being-surprised part of it,
As in how I can decide on my
Funeral attire, then read aloud
A Times review of a restaurant
In Paris that we will never visit,
And a moment later suggest a
Walk in the snow—why not?

By lunchtime I will have decided
Against the gray suit and burial
Altogether, having seen a billboard
For cremations—$850, complete;
“On second thought,” I begin,
And my wife will nod, and sip her tea,
And say, “I know,” and mean it.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

__________

George Ovitt: “The immediate inspiration for ‘Why I Like Marriage’—aside, of course, from my wife—is a billboard for the American Cremation Society that I bike past on my way to work each morning. I liked the line ‘$850, Complete!’ so well that I knew I had to get it into a poem. I write poetry so I can put the bits and pieces of my odd-ball perceptions in some kind of order at the end of each day. My notebooks are full of such scraps, some of which, through a process I don’t understand, join other scraps of my attention to make a poem.” (web)

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