June 5, 2019

Larina Warnock


We don’t sell produce that’s pock-marked, bruised,
wilted, or otherwise unusable by the wealthier families
in town. That’s right, son, we throw it all out.

If it’s remotely edible, though, we don’t throw
it in with the rotten or moldy stuff. There’s a bucket
over there for the produce we share with the bag man.

I forgot that you’re new in town. I’ll tell the story, 
but you should sit down, and be prepared for a doozy 
of a tale. The bag man, he’s this town’s biggest failure,

and all of us try to make up for it in our way.
His name is Dr. Marcus Rivane and he had an office
two blocks south of Main where he practiced 

pediatrics for seven years. He was doing his rounds
at the hospital, checking on my daughter and all 
her peers after the Asian flu came through. 

The sheriff was there, too, with his little boy,
and Captain Roy and folks from all around.
When the siren sounded, every volunteer 

firefighter in town was preoccupied 
with their own sad life, myself included. 
We were slow to the station and slower still

to the little house on the hill on the county line.
Dr. Rivane arrived just in time for us to pull
the charred remains of his wife and child

from smoking embers and scattered flames.
He saw the townsfolk through the Asian flu, 
then disappeared. Everyone around here

figured he’d moved on for good, and he probably
should’ve, but after a couple of months, he showed
up all dressed in plastic bags. None of us will

ever, ever forget that. Oh, we tried to take
him in like good neighbors and good friends
would do, but Dr. Rivane doesn’t remember

his own name, much less the lives he saved
or the lives we lost while he did. We keep
expecting him to wake up one day, but meantime

you make sure you put that bucket out each night.
I can’t ever make things right, but I’ve got this
one thing that Marcus’ll take. For my little girl’s

sake, I’ll pay the rest of my life in lettuce,
pray the rest of my life over kale.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Larina Warnock: “I am currently working on a collection of persona poems titled Canterbury Flats. I started this collection because I was trying to understand my attachment to the country even though I’ve never really ‘fit’ there. As I continue writing persona poems, I realize that it also forces me to empathize with people whose belief systems are very different from my own. Persona poems, written carefully, make us more human.” (web)

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June 3, 2019

Jamey Temple



I steal pickles when clearing dishes; Omma doesn’t see
If only I could tell her that I’ve found a man who’d stay
Then my worries wouldn’t feed this baby growing in me.



The Orphanage Van Driver

I drop them off at hotels, flowering like May blossoms
But when I see them again, a baby strapped to the mother’s chest,
They all look like fall, stripped raw; still the mother softly hums.



Foster Mother

My husband tells his friends that my work pays for our son’s studies
But I don’t like to think of my being needed as a job
When I hold Chung-hee, I know he wants to stay; he sees me.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Jamey Temple : “I was a writer before I became a mother, but my work’s focus shifted after the adoptions of our oldest son and daughter who arrived home in 2008 and 2010 respectively. They both had a story before coming home to my husband and me; I felt haunted by their first families and embarrassed by my privilege that made our family possible. I began researching adoption and Korean culture to help us and our children understand their stories. At first, I tried to write our experiences as fictional short stories, but I was never satisfied. I turned to poetry, writing through my point of view. Still, I felt there was more I could do as a ‘witness’ to adoption. My breakthrough came when I wrote my first persona poem through the birthmother’s point of view. From there, I wrote more persona poems and studied Korean poetry, finding the sijo, which is a three-line form that predates the haiku, and this form became one channel for the persona poetry. No matter the form chosen, or whether I write through a persona or not, what strikes me is the strength of women and the importance of knowing one’s story.” (web)

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May 31, 2019

Carrie Shipers


Because this isn’t a formal visit, he prefers
to let the day unfold without a schedule.
Please memorize the attached draft,
make each event spontaneous and fun.
His tour will avoid all areas with leaks,
the second floor unless that smell recedes.
Make sure your desks are neat but not
overly so—perhaps a legal pad and a few
files, a printout flagged with sticky notes.
When introduced, please include
your job title, commitment to the mission
posted in the restrooms for review.

We’d planned a catered lunch but learned
the CEO loves potlucks. Avoid carbs
and condensed soup in covered dishes.
All desserts should look homemade.
When he puts down his fork, discard
your plates and pull your seats into a circle.
If he refers to challenges, uses terms
like shift or swerve, don’t let your faces
show alarm. He’s already said
that he can’t answer process questions,
and we don’t want our guest to feel
uncomfortable. After he departs,
we’ll reconvene to dissect his remarks.

We can’t overstress how vital this
occasion is. It’s rumored there are big
cuts coming, that our office is at risk.
We need to show the CEO why he
should overlook our recent losses,
products we failed to launch on time.
If he enjoys his visit, finds us not only
competent but also warm and kind,
he might decide to fire someone else.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Carrie Shipers : “Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the so-called ‘corporate’ poems I’ve been writing in the past few years are drawn from my experiences in academia. In this piece, I wanted very much to capture the voice of those responsible for planning the CEO’s visit—how even their most obnoxious instructions are actually inspired by good intentions and desperation: if they plan everything exactly right, and also if they can get the ‘you’ to cooperate for the day, then perhaps—perhaps—they can save everyone’s jobs. (For the record, the potluck, the refusal to answer process questions, and the mission statements in the restroom are all true. The happy ending is that I now work elsewhere.)” (web)

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May 29, 2019

Liz Robbins


We’re all electronic now.
Gone, the wire globe and
crank, the worn-out goddess
to turn it. Some call such
games gambling, and it is
addictive, hope. Players
with their numbers
in rows, as if order
were the only good and
goodness makes luck.
Some thumb a silver coin
or cross their fingers,
eyes closed, whispering.
They lose much more
than they win. But it’s
the randomness of chance
that keeps them returning—
how unknown fate may turn
and treat their numbers,
ones they’ve known since
they were children.
That thrill, so close to
fear, like news of a death.
And the ending, familiar—
rarely what they’d hoped for
or pictured, but with the grim
satisfaction of closure.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Liz Robbins: “The greatness of persona poems lies in their double nature: the poet uses an alternate voice to—through metaphor—communicate her own discovered truths. The poet is speaking and not-speaking, like a ventriloquist. The satisfactions are plenty—the research to accumulate details about the real or imagined persona, the striving to weave an unknown world to a known. In these poems, I looked for interesting and unusual occupations that seemed to hold possibilities for metaphor.” (web)

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May 27, 2019

Jennifer Reeser


As I unload each shifting, fertile clod
upon her pale remains, their thudding sound
brings to mind the pounding of that sod
upon my mother’s final resting ground.
Mother Earth, obliging, falls apart
for me. I see, instead of her I bested,
that sweet, blonde thief who cut my mother’s heart,
the one whom—all my life—I have detested.
What were the odds, that I could shoot ahead
of her, this daughter of the Nordic gods?
This educated harlot once struck dread
within me—puzzlingly. What were the odds?
If I can leave the thrill of her foul mouth
filled with my Mother’s milk, I’ll migrate south …

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Jennifer Reeser: “I write a considerable amount of poetry in ‘assumed’ voices. Strong Feather is an American Indian character of my own creation, the center of a collection recently completed, by the same name. I have written these in order to create a new kind of poetry, which gives voice to a long-overlooked—and under-represented—point of view, in a style which has not heretofore existed in literature.” (web)

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May 24, 2019

Alexander Radison


after Sharon Olds

Isn’t it funny, man?
It took me dying, but 
I finally got out of New York.
I know you don’t like
that word, but it is what it is, ya know? 
Death ain’t so bad anyway—
I’ve ridden the autumn wind
through ancient elms in Forest Park.
I’ve hitchhiked across lonely country roads
at dusk, unseen and undisturbed.
I’ve dug deep into the earth,
look for me and you’ll see,
I’m the first tulip in spring,
the pink one.
Think there’s room for two poets in the family?
But enough about me.
I want to talk about you, man.
I love who you’ve become.
Not a stuffy statue sculpted to perfection,
but the one that’s been chipped
again, and again,
the dimensions not quite right,
the color a little off and rusting,
but so fucking what? 
Perfect’s boring.
I know, I know, I’m embarrassing you.
Too bad.
I love even the parts of you 
that are your father—your rage
like furnace flames 
fanned and scorching
under that quiet façade.
Your quiet seething strength,
river raging against the dam.
Yeah, I know they’re cliché,
so sue me.
I love your silence.
Your mouth was always sealed shut
with the glue of social anxiety.
That was the me in you, 
believe it or not.
Oh, what am I saying, of course you knew.
I never would leave the house
until my hair was done.
Too embarrassed for Facebook.
Never remarried.
But anyway, where was I?
That’s right. Your silence.
I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more.
I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.
Couldn’t carry you like a mother kangaroo
and protect you when things got real bad. 
I’m sorry.
I should’ve listened to my gut, I knew
something was wrong that day,
should’ve reached down your throat
and pulled the pills out myself.
I know you never meant to hurt me,
but you did, man. I’ve never
hurt so fucking bad.   
But I forgive you.
Your nanny always said silence talks.
You never could say what you wanted 
to say out loud, but that’s ok man, I knew.
I always knew.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Alexander Radison: “Ever since my mother died, I knew I wanted—needed—to write this poem. But I was terrified. I was afraid of being inauthentic, of getting it wrong somehow, or perhaps worse—getting it so right that it would break me. Beyond that, there was a question of morality—who am I to summon her spirit as if through a séance, to force words out of her like a Ouija, and put them onto the page without her consent? In the end, I’d like to think that she would be ok with it, and happy that her words could help to heal me, even after she was gone.” (web)

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May 22, 2019

Jennifer Perrine


Liberty Takes a Sick Day

Give me a moment of rest. I am tired of this stress position. My poor
arm trembles. Let me huddle in bed, catch my breath. The doctors say I’m free
to leave, but movement makes me wretch. I refuse to pretend that I’m not sore,
that I can’t sense my temperature rise. Tonight, I’ll let this fever toss me.
I’ll drop my lamp at last. Someone else can stand fast, hold open this damn door.



Liberty at the Bar

Give me your finest brandy. Scratch that—I’ll take whatever’s handy. Pour
me enough slugs of the stiff stuff to mute these untruths. Land of the free?
Home of the praise for barricades and bans, for guarded borders and shores.
Send me into senselessness. Line up the shots. Raise a toast! Drinks on me!
I’ll lift my glass to drown the pleas of the ghosts who still stand at my door.



The Huddled Masses Make Their Reply

Give us a break. We were never free.
We were one bad check from homelessness.
We braced ourselves, shored up against loss.
We crossed our hearts, prayed away the poor,
left our mark, smudge upon a glass door.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Jennifer Perrine: “I fell in love with poetry by writing in persona. When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher assigned The Scarlet Letter and asked everyone in the class to write a response. She gave us several options, and among them was the chance to write a poem in the voice of a character from the book. I chose Pearl, Hester Prynne’s daughter, because she was so central to the story and yet hardly spoke in the novel. I discovered that persona poems were a way I could imagine—and help others to imagine—the perspectives of marginalized characters. In this series of poems, written as the status of immigrants is once again contested in public discourse, I was wrestling with how Lady Liberty, standing there on one of the literal margins of our country, might contribute to the current conversation.” (web)

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