May 10, 2021

Chris Marchello


I’m afraid the posters exaggerate—
Yes, the Tethys Sea
and outlying archipelagos
of tender hellbeasts
is an option
for premium members,

but consider:
You’ve seen mosquitoes,
but have you ever ridden one?

There’s a certain swamp,
bubbling away at the end
of the Jurassic,
where the rhamporinchus dart,
where the flowers have not yet
evolved for the poets to sing of.

Picture now the grove,
humid, you and your
Other, lost in the way
you can never be
here on the world,
in this, the era of roses.

Everything will be unknown again.
inevitably, even language
will fail.

You will touch them,
for all that has happened
has not happened,
perhaps never may.
You will fall together,
plummeting piano keys
intruding on the guttural
hiss of the circling

You will watch it sail
crisp and crimson—
a whole shingle
of a sunset,

which you will be unable
to recollect,
but for the refamiliar
twist of your lover’s fingers
around yours.

And when the night falls
and the temptation rises,
please do remember—
every hour overtime
is an extra twenty grand.

After all, it’s not my fault
it takes ten thousand
plasma coils
just to sustain an afternoon.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Chris Marchello: “I am on the autism spectrum, specifically with an Asperger’s-type profile. My autism makes it stressful for me to socialize, so poetry and writing have always been ways to show people my inner life. I have a fascination with deep time and all things ancient, partly how the ancient is always present with us even if we don’t recognize it. These poems all attempt to bring the Mesozoic Era into the Anthropocene. My poetry is composed partly through stimming, which is repetitive behavior that autistic people engage in. When I hit on an idea, I feel a surge of energy, and a need to pace and flap my arms in order to work the idea out fully. For me, the act of writing is as much physical as it is mental.”

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May 7, 2021

Eugenia Leigh


I’ve let a regular who tipped alright
fuck me. Standing. In someone else’s bathroom.

Macramé of silver grunions
manic on the sand.

When my father kidnapped us,
I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to be

feral. I wanted to test my luck.
Plane rides fall short of that first plane ride,

bookended by police. Men fail
to meet his standard of surprise. Three a.m. wakings

on school nights. Sometimes to whip us for imagined sins,
sometimes to dance.

I need to see the music
quaking in the furniture. Chair legs jittering, cheap wood

threatening to split.
I took my first steps outside this country with a herd

of church kids on my nineteenth birthday. I convinced them
to drive to Tijuana. That’s how I found the one

I bribed to drag the virgin out of me.
Before I tried to kill him, I saw ten nameless angels

bungling about his dorm. His roommate
(Emmanuel) was never there. Then

the torment set in. I wouldn’t leave my top bunk for weeks.
It’s possible they never loved me. They loved

what I made possible.
Low-hanging harvest moons swing

in swerving windshields. The tint of flushed
skin, biblically red.

We never saw my father sleep
when it was time to sleep. He wound around the house at night,

a broken or horrifying toy that wouldn’t shut off.
Or he slept for weeks.

I was the one who would risk
rousing him to check. Thirty years

I lived with the urge to run into traffic. And did.
Windows thrown open, floor-standing

rosewood speakers flooding our home with rock operas,
we couldn’t hear our voices.

That’s when we knew he was happy.
That’s when we knew we could breathe.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Eugenia Leigh: “I was diagnosed with complex PTSD and bipolar II disorder in my mid-thirties, a few years after my first poetry collection was published. My first book chronicles the speaker’s history of childhood abuse and its ramifications in her young adult self, but now, with the added perspectives of my recent diagnoses and with the privilege of mental health help, my newer poems reexamine and complicate that earlier narrative while asking, ‘How do we live with what we’ve had to live through?’” (web)


Eugenia Leigh was the guest on Rattlecast #91. Click here to watch …

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May 5, 2021

Robin Knight


I swim with others. 
Some are dolphins, some are sharks. 
Which is which depends on the temperature of the water
or the weather. Something: it’s not clear.
From whale song to hammerhead thrash,
they change their tune at the drop of a mask 
over the side, pulled deep by invisible cable 
to pressurised obscurity. 
Before I know it the warm, blue shallows shelve 
into coldness. Gloom wraps me in panic. 
I pray. My prayer says: 
“Even turtles nip if they think you’re edible.”
Overwhelming, but it’s either that 
or swim alone.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Robin Knight: “I am very high functioning ASC (and mixed race). I am hyper-vigilant and my brain is like a grandmother’s fridge—things long forgotten by others remain there preserved. I make very rapid connections between things that other people don’t—it’s like wearing winged sandals. Sometimes though I find myself in the thick of the trees unable to see the sun or the stars, wondering WTF. These ways of remembering, perceiving, and feeling are the materials of my writing.” (web)

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May 3, 2021

Madison Klingbeil


that little thrill i get / from watching that scene in dirty dancing /
where baby comes to johnny’s room / after saving penny
from the botched abortion /

that little thrill i get / moves like that move they do /
when they start to dance / that dip-swing /
that swayful mirroring / that shake of baby’s curls

that look almost like mine /

that also look like vivian’s in pretty woman /
after the blonde wig leaves forever / releasing hair
that’s some kind of red jungle / spreading and spreading /
a reforestation of herself / against a backdrop of ’80s hits and crones in pearls /

that little thrill i get at her hyena laugh /
in the iconic scene where edward snaps the lid shut
on the quarter-million-dollar necklace /

and suddenly she is a beacon in the hotel lobby /
which isn’t new when you remember the scene /
where they kick her from the dress shop in beverly hills /

just like it isn’t new that
i hear her hyena laugh in mine /
her beacon in mine /

and then i think of how i learned / that i am autistic
from old parenting books on my mom’s shelf /

and how i’m really not like these gals /
whose lovers are played by patrick swayze and richard gere /
who are beacons partly because they’re in love /
and know how to say so

and i think comparatively of how i used to cry /
just telling the bookshelf story to my own lovers /
as if they all knew before i did /
obvious like the laugh / or the curls /

obvious like a watermark
running down the center of me /
well meaning but awkward in shape /
awkward in motion /

how it jerks in parallel to our lover’s body /
endlessly unsure of the steps /

the watermark asks / how to feel safe in the sway and dip and shake /
how to live well under the blanket of strange, tender music /
how to dance the right way in love /

i don’t know how to answer all that /
but i always go back to that scene / to that little thrill i get /
from watching johnny and baby get together /
while the man on the radio asks / if i feel like crying /

and i answer as if i’m there with all of them / i say yeah, man /
but first we need to rewind / give me that mirror one more time /

so i can remember how somebody / wanted to make a movie
about strange women in love / about beacons / shining /
always unwillingly, radiantly shining /

how somebody made these gals / these movies /
in my image /

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Madison Klingbeil: “Up until my sophomore year of high school, I was a ravenous hunter for good storytelling in any medium. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think at least part of what made me stop was the shame I began to feel when I saw the way my autism was portrayed (or not portrayed) in the stories I consumed. I started to question whether or not I was being autistic the ‘right way.’ Was I being funny enough? Was I too robotic? Was I smart enough? Was I a bother when I needed a break from the noise? Would things change if I came out? In the summer of 2018, right after graduation, I landed a job as a counselor at the YMCA summer camp I’d been attending since I was in fifth grade. That year, I found a new family amongst my co-workers as well as a new adoration for spoken word poetry. Suddenly, I understood what it meant to feel safe and how to put words to that safety in a way that I couldn’t before. It was like I found my heartbeat again, not even knowing that I had lost it. Now, whenever I miss my summer family I reach for any book of poetry on my shelf and find them again.” (web)

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April 30, 2021

Clarice Hare


Butt-chugging smoke-licking lovebite-
begging ex-lover—

Not taking no no’s, but you take me 
for some dum-dum magic skull cookie?

X-tra spicy like you treat me—
Say I should’ve let you beat me—

Two pounds of mud on my face
for you—doctor pimple popper 
wouldn’t have a clue—so get 
down on your knees and lift your 
squick ass up, eighty-two 
times two

Painting my skin cross 
the asphalt (your fault)—
painting my juice cross 
the face of your pit boss—

Spit and swear no more romances 
with oil-gloved big-boned fist-letches, 
cause never was any last one of them 

Fat-cell ice tea, but 
they want a flambé—yay, 
you did it but you’re burned 
inside—meanwhile your outsides’ve 
never ever been

Like my daddy said 
when I failed second grade: “Well, 
it’s not exactly like we ever 
thought she’d be 
a go-getter.”

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Clarice Hare: “In my lifetime, I have been diagnosed with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, Asperger syndrome, and attention deficit disorder/inattentive type, none of which I feel is exact or comprehensive. The one thing ten out of ten doctors agree on is that I’m not neurotypical. My differences have both spurred me to make many decisions that a ‘sane’ person would probably not have made, thus leading me into adventures that—once survived—have proven fertile ground for my writing, and provided the unique lens through which I view both weird and mundane experiences. This is why I choose to leave the big topics and current events to other poets and instead write the poems that only I can write. Of course, writing at all is only possible now that I’ve reached the point where I’d sincerely and wholeheartedly rather be the way I am than not. I’m grateful for the handful of other people in my life who’ve felt the same.”

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April 28, 2021

Aryk Greenawalt


I. Lobby of the American Museum of Natural History, Manhattan, NYC

On the phone, my mother tells me it is normal to forget everyone I have ever loved. She tells me it is normal to forget I loved them. It is normal to be nine years old, surrounded by red-eyed girls at our very first sleepaway camp, staring into the night while they cried and imagining my mouth as a fist. My mother doesn’t know I keep my bully’s mother’s Facebook on my feed, doesn’t know that when I told my first boyfriend I missed him, I had my fingers crossed. My mother thinks there is a heart in me yet.

I was four when I decided to be a paleontologist, not yet in school, carcharodontosaurus easier on my teeth than my middle name. I sounded out the names. In dreams I was in Nevada or California, working sites in the desert, uncovering trilobites and teeth the size of my arm. My father took me into Manhattan every Christmas Eve, sat on the bench beneath the brachiosaurus while I traced its spine in the air, its smallest vertebra larger than my head. The holiday crowd parted around me. My father followed me from room to room and waited on benches designed for bored parents, but I knew them all—sauropods, theropods—and I could identify skeletons without reading the plaques. 


II. Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs, Fourth Floor

I have forgotten everyone I’ve ever loved. Sediment on riverbeds. Stone and ash. Sweep the mud over my old middle school, the girls in my carpool, the freshman who texted i love u while I was on holiday. New York grinned with plesiosaur teeth. Here, in the American Museum of Natural History, when I look behind me at the teeth and thumbs of people whose numbers I deleted, who I watched walk away and who I walked away from, I see the space where a heart would go. What can I do with all these scattered parts? Drop them behind me like footprints. Make them fossils. Put something beautiful here, and I will piece it together. I will call them each by name. I will give them a name that isn’t theirs and call it into the night. No one remains to tell me I am wrong, to put salt in my eyes and call it love. If I am crying, you are walking away. If you are crying, I am walking away. But the bones stay. Give them distance. Make them fossils. I have never known a love I could hold while it was alive. 

Here, on the archivists’ table, we have human beings reduced to their parts: vertebrae, mandibles, phalanges. Give me the names before I forget altogether; give me a placard, and I will classify them. This is not my history, but I am trying to piece it together: the people who touched me, who wrote their names in yearbooks, whose eyes and hair merge into high school crowds and cinema exoduses; the ribs like crooked evergreens, knees shifting in my hands, my hands in the heart cavity, feeling for something to hold onto.

What’s left of everyone I have ever known could fit in the palm of my hand. I could fill a museum with the people I have split clean through with my chisel and brush. I could fill the halls with textured sweaters, raincoats, the bridges of noses. I invent the details. I can only be trusted to love when no one needs me to love them. 


Interlude: Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals

In a ditch in the woods behind my house, we found a skull: no blood, viscera shriveled on bone. The serrated hollow of its nose, its antlers detached cleanly on the ground. My brother cried the long hike home. I said, Its ribs, its ribs. Maybe I was the only one who saw them. The next time we went into the woods, it was gone. All the while I had been folding myself up to give it myself as a heart. I don’t remember a point in my history where I could say I believed in love, but, looking at the space where there had been a skeleton, I thought I knew.

My brother is the only person who stayed when he could have left, even when I held him down for seven years, thumb and forefinger griping muscle. How can I write this poem without making myself heartless? My bloods say, you are cruel. My bones say you have a claw like a velociraptor, always raised, and you drag it down the face of everyone bold enough to call you theirs. Say, you are bones in the ground. You are bones rising out of the ground. 

You are bones, and I am walking away. 


III. Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs, Fourth Floor

In 2017, a study moves the T-Rex to a new branch of the dinosaur family tree: ornithoscelida, bird-limbed. I imagine paleontologists disassembling him, carrying him in carts to the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs, the glass case left empty behind him, footprints in the sand, claws scraping tile. If he was an ancestor of birds then he is still with us. Goodbye, Meryl Streep, your voice tracing genealogies in a room dark and ridged as the Great Blue above the Hall of Ocean Life. Goodbye Gavin on the bench beside me, our father in the back, his lips moving with the words, the light on our hands. I thought I knew everything. I thought when I moved to a place that did not know the bones and blood of me, I could excavate a new me, pull it from the earth and brush the dust away. I thought I could be someone who did not leave. Strip me of my half a century left; make me bones in the ground; trap my footprints in sediment and say you knew I would come back.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Aryk Greenawalt: “My surreal approach to poetry comes directly from my worldview as a nonbinary autistic person (I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome but choose the label “autistic” to show solidarity with all my siblings on the autism spectrum, and to show that there is no hierarchy of value in autistic people, because we all have innate value). The world is indecipherable, so I make my own riddles and unravel them. People are indecipherable, so I create my own. The world slides around me like shower water, so I slide around it back. I write around it. I make crevasses and write in them. I write it into a world in which I have the control, in which I make the rules, where the world and I are perfectly understood by each other. I pursue amorphism: I eradicate the difference between the Thing and that which is outside the Thing. I tell the world: two can play this game, and I show it the playing field.”

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April 26, 2021

Brendan Egan


All night our mother formed him
from memory. She kneaded the dough
into the body that we knew.
His leg: a sleek, clubbed baguette. 
His belly: a hungry, swollen boule.
With a cup of black caraway
she pocked the skin. Twirled pretzels
would let him hear. To see, she gave
him fat rye eyes basted in egg.
His mouth she left tongue-empty.

In the dark, the oven lifted him, 
chest filling with his sour breath.
We woke to find our father spread
on the kitchen table—a jam jar
and stick of cold butter beside 
the dun brioche that sank in his lap.
We sat, and mother told us, “Eat.”
We held his grissini fingers
in shaking hands. We said kaddish.
He was mute. We broke his flesh.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Brendan Egan: “At about 13, my body seemed to be beginning a revolt against my mind. And not just in the ways predicted by the videos in health class! Whenever I moved suddenly (say, getting out of a chair to answer the door or crossing the street after stopping for traffic), a wave of weird energy moved inside me. Then all the muscles on one side of my body would constrict and contort in familiar patterns, often crashing me onto the ground. A minute or so later, it would be over, leaving me embarrassed and confused but otherwise fine. It took some good doctors and a bunch of uncomfortable tests to determine that I have PKD: paroxysmal kinesegenic dyskinesia. In short, a gene mutation has miswired the path between my brain and body, which shorts out under certain conditions. The diagnosis is rare enough that I’ve never met someone else who has it. I can’t say that as a poet and writer, I could represent a PKD community as no such community, per se, exists. I’ve been hit by a taxi and even arrested because of the bizarre things my body has done in crosswalks, though I’ve never written about these specific episodes, and I’m not sure I feel compelled to. But I do think of myself as ‘strange brained,’ and as such, I’m maybe more interested than most in the uneasy connection between mind and body that governs all of our lives. In my thirties, my PKD attacks have become less frequent (from many times a day down to just a few times a year), but as a parent I find myself preoccupied with a new set of concerns. What if I can’t chase after my toddler as she runs toward a dangerous situation? Will one of my kids develop this condition? What responsibilities do all of us take on regarding the lottery of our children’s inheritances? Thanks so much for the chance to share my work and bring some awareness to the wide variance in the forms of the brain and its effect on the way we experience the world.” (web)

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