November 9, 2015

Suzanne Zeitman


How long have I been sitting on the couch, in a nightgown with a worn-out cardigan on top? Across from me hang seven pictures: two of my dead parents, five more of my daughter (also dead). All I have to do is look at any one of them to shrink inside with feeling there is much I should have done but didn’t. I hear a child outside yell what sounds like I don’t want to be lonely. If this were a poem, I think, now would be the time for some tiny joy of nature to appear and mitigate the speaker’s pain. Perhaps a crimson cardinal on the window sill. But if the cardinal won’t show up, what then? Or if it does, but keeps colliding with the window while attacking its reflection in the glass? What if nothing, surely no deluded cardinal, soothes you, and it’s you who wants to scream because you’re lonely, and there is no cheery cardinal, child or grandchild to sustain you? Maybe your life really is random and meaningless and thus irredeemable, and you can’t turn it or the poem around—but the poem, at least, doesn’t have to go on like this.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
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Suzanne Zeitman: “Although I usually avoid attempts to relate mathematics and poetry, this particular poem exhibits a kind of self-reference, something that occurs in mathematics, especially in mathematical logic. I have spent more of my life on mathematics than on writing or other literary pursuits, although I have always been drawn slightly more to the literary. I have a master’s degree in mathematics, a PhD in computer science, and an MFA in writing from Vermont College. I recently retired after working twenty years as an editor of Mathematical Reviews, a review journal for research in mathematics.”

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November 5, 2015

Arthur J. Stewart



Accidentally I attended an off-
the-wall flash mob event in the
lobby of the mall last week and at pre-
cisely the appointed time a loud bang

happened and

everyone in on it turned and froze

in place staring east, com-
pletely cap-
tivating the persons attending and I

took a quick glance west.



I turn and re-
turn to the slip of water
along the submersed hull, the soft
near-silent thud of the great

engine reverberating, almost
feeling it. With the command up periscope, it
slides up. In the con-
trol room, eyes scan

green numbers and orange bars on electronic charts.
A muted discussion and from that
a decision is made: turn starboard,
twenty degrees.



We think
we know, we take a
good hard guess—such is
the power of logic.

In some other dimension the wise
Greek philosopher frowns and
shakes his shaggy head.



Our confidence
is a function of spatial scale. A massive
thing, when on the move,
will move

according to a pre-
cisely calculated plan; a sub-
atomic particle




I am confident
in love and I so love
her and her curves and
the delicate ways she thinks.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists

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Arthur J. Stewart: “I am an aquatic ecologist: It’s what I was trained to do, at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station, and it’s what I love. From my science perch first at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and more recently at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, I’ve been able to write poetry, in addition to writing technical papers. I devise poems to convey the beauty of science to the public, and to remind scientists, again and again, that there is more than science as a valid way to think.” (website)

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November 4, 2015

Matthew J. Spireng


A black Lab, or, from a moving car at a distance, a mutt
that looks like a black Lab, is sitting in the last remnants
of snow in a field near a country house facing away
from the house. It could be a statue in a field except

its head moves a little as I drive past. It appears to be
looking off into the distance, surveying the far reaches
of neighboring fields for anything that might be there
that would interest it, though it does not have the look

of a dog that will run off and chase what it sees.
It is as if it is waiting for whatever might approach,
perhaps guarding, prepared to bark or growl or
wag its tail depending on what, or who, comes near.

It also might be just enjoying the last of the snow
left from winter, a dog, like my dog, that likes
snow, eats it as a human eats a refreshing Italian ice,
and that is now pondering the change of seasons.

Likely, after I have gone, a human will call
from the door of the house and the dog will reluctantly
rise from its musings and return to the house
where it will find food and companionship,

but none of the smells that come with the end of winter
and beginning of spring, and, though its ties to the house
are strong, it may, if dogs are as smart as they
sometimes seem, consider what might have been.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists


Matthew J. Spireng: “Back when I started out as a mathematics major at Clarkson College of Technology (now Clarkson University) before graduating with a BS in mathematics in 1969, I wasn’t thinking at all about writing poetry. But then, in the summer of 1968, life changed for me as I learned for the first time at age 21 that I was adopted, and, shocked into using the other half of my brain, I began to write poetry. My mathematical bent affects my poetry, though. My work is often structured and almost always follows a logical progression.”

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November 3, 2015

Amy Schrader


—Schrödinger’s cat walks into a bar.
And doesn’t.

You’re talking probabilities & how
the act of observation changes
us. As we argue, the cat meows
to be let out. It’s like a message

from the ether: he loves me, he loves me
not. Rather: I love you means I hate you
but at the very least we can agree
it’s both at the same time. A pas de deux

particular to coexistence. Wave
hello. I mean goodbye. We roll the dice
each time we see each other. Let’s behave
in stranger ways. Pick your poison, break the ice

with jokes we think are pertinent.
A marriage? Indeterminate.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists

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Amy Schrader: “I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1992 with a degree in molecular and cell biology (emphasis in biochemistry). While my career path went one way (barista, accountant) and my vocational path went another (MA in English literature, MFA in poetry), I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the laboratory, the periodic chart of elements, chemical reactions, and other scientific tropes that can serve as astonishing metaphors. One area of scientific inquiry in particular has a powerful and mysterious hold on my imagination: quantum mechanics. More specifically, I am obsessed with the paradoxical thought experiment devised by Erwin Schrödinger about a cat locked in a box with a photon and a gun. The thought experiment illustrates how reality is created solely through the act of observation, which to me sounds very much like poetry.”

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November 2, 2015

Julia Runcie


Strange that for so many years
I walked among the peopled buildings
and did not think of mountains.

I took my comfort
in the streetlight
and the stoplight.
I lay not wakeful
for the owl’s low hooting in the canyon.

I know the city is not less simply
because I want less of it.

But how different it is, now,
to wade across the tumbled creek
when once I crossed
the out-flung arms of bridges
and was speechless at their beauty
and never for a moment thought
of how the river lay
beneath the bridge.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists


Julia Runcie: “As a field biologist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, I work on a project charged with restoring federally-endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep to their historic range. My chief responsibility is to locate and observe Sierra bighorn in the wild, collecting demographic data that indicates the health and growth of the population. My job takes me deep into the mountains for days at a time, and in this simpler world of rocks and creeks and clouds I often startle myself by finding parallels with human cities. My poems reflect my personal understanding of the ways in which our buildings, roads, and machines can mimic the organisms and systems of the natural world, and how the same thrills derived from the drama of civilization can be found within a mountain range, a desert wash, or the grass and trees and birds in my rural backyard.”

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October 29, 2015

Katrina Outland


I almost laughed when I corrected
without thinking
the man on TV describing the proper
way to slice open the body
of a fish. Not, as he said,
starting at the throat slicing down;
it’s much easier, I said
to go the other way and it was you
tiptoeing your eyes towards me
that almost made me laugh
like the maniac you imagined me to be
so I shut up. It’s not your fault
you could never understand how easy
it is to learn the numb sodality with death
how even at that moment

my hand muscles were recalling the precise
grip around the tail, knife point
in the vent—soft opening
for all the unpleasant fluids—
and one smooth slash up
through intestine, stomach, esophagus
blade like an apathetic decision
between asymmetrical liver lobes,
snug into the crook of operculum—
name perfectly round and protective—
around that plate of bone splaying
the brilliant fringe of gills.
The heart a tiny gem tumbling out.

One slice, anus to mouth,
through shit and acid and blood
one smooth motion from whole
to empty.
It’s much easier this way,
to draw that line between
living and hollow
starting at the most
vulnerable point, avoiding
teeth and bone, the death
a clean surprise
ending on a still tongue.

My hands remember each one
became skilled at carving
at recognizing so well the ease
from one side of that delicate
edge to the other.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists


Katrina Outland: “Though I was born in the deserts of Wyoming, I somehow developed a lifelong obsession with the ocean. Directing that love to the sciences, I moved to Hawaii to earn my Bachelor of Science in marine biology, where I first got to dive with sharks in the wild. After that, I moved to Washington state where, for the past eight years, I have been a field sampler for the state Fish and Wildlife Department. Basically, I get to travel around to gorgeous fishing spots and fill out a lot of data sheets with my slime and fish scale-covered hands. One year of my life was also spent gathering fisheries data onboard Alaskan commercial fishing boats for the National Marine Fisheries Service. That was very cold. Both science and poetry have so deeply entrenched themselves into my life since childhood that I find it stranger to try to separate them than to note their differences. Both are different aspects of exploring the truth in life. Just as creative thinking has opened new solutions in my fisheries career, scientific thinking has directed my poetry to be more honest and examine the intricacies beyond the surface appearance of things. Strangely enough, I know a lot of biologists who don’t like to write, and I know a lot of poets who don’t like dissecting things, so I particularly revel in getting both out of their comfort zones.”

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October 28, 2015

Edward Nudelman


It is catalogued in the book of lies.
It is stated categorically in the introduction
and nuanced in experimental method.
You are an ageless battery.
You are a perpetual motion machine.
Yet the sky, the dirt, the galaxy
red shift away from you.
You are brine and bone, the quicksilver
of what you want but can never have.
You are firebrand and dancer.
A concoction of expanding energy.
Yet you are an unbalanced equation.
An inexorable flux, a dandelion
unhinged and vectoring in parabola.
Here I am and here you are.
We could be the wild siphoning night
extracting blue for its black swan sonata.
Or we could be the epiphany of sleep,
the soft tap dance of touching toes.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists

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Edward Nudelman: “I’m a cancer research scientist by trade. One day in the laboratory while homogenizing human liver tumors in chloroform and methanol, the metal canister bumped and the whole concoction hit me in the face and arms. Recovering in the ER (with no lasting damage, thank goodness), lightly sedated but fully conscious, I could overhear our lab head explaining to another coworker that it looked pretty bad for me. This prompted a poem creatively entitled, ‘Lab Accident,’ which later made it into my first published collection of poems.” (website)

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