November 25, 2020

Andre Le Mont Wilson


How long have you been doing this? 
If I were you, I would have left  
twenty-five years of shit and piss. 

Unclamp my leg bag. Hear it hiss.
Remove my diaper. Feel its heft.
How long have you been doing this?

Does this give you eternal bliss? 
Ungoop the poop between my cleft.  
Twenty-five years of shit and piss.

You kneel before my wheels and kiss  
your life away in one grand theft.
How long have you been doing this?

By falling into this abyss, 
has your career left you bereft?
Twenty-five years of shit and piss.  

Of all attendants I will miss
your latexed hands, so light and deft.
How long have you been doing this?
Twenty-five years of shit and piss.

from Rattle #69, Fall 2020
Tribute to Service Workers


Andre Le Mont Wilson: “I work as a backup personal care attendant five days a week at a program for adults with disabilities. Usually, I avoid telling people or writing poems about this aspect of my job. One day, as I was assisting a man in the restroom, he asked, ‘How long have you been doing this?’ I gave an evasive answer, ‘A quarter century.’ He said, ‘If I were you, I would be gone by now!’ His conversation so unnerved me that when I went on vacation to Mexico, his question repeated in my ear. I wrote my first villanelle because its repetition of lines mirrored how the man’s question echoed in my head.” (web)

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November 23, 2020

Laurie Uttich


Oh honey, you can text him, you can like his meme, you can 
follow him on Twitter and to Target, you can ride shotgun, hold 
his anger on your lap, pet his pride, be his ride or die. You can 
wear those jeans he likes. You can discover Victoria’s 
secret, buy a bra with a mind of its own. You can 
recite I’m sorry like it’s a Bible verse and Snapchat the shit out 

of those purple roses he bought you at Publix. You can try 
every one of Cosmo’s 30 Ways to Give an Ultimate Blowjob
You can remember the name of his mother, his best friend 
in 2nd grade, the lunchroom lady who gave him extra 
chicken strips on Tuesdays. You can grow out your bangs, toss 
your hometown over your shoulder, sleep facing north 
with your cheek in his back. 
You can strip yourself for parts.        But, baby, 

it still won’t be enough. You can love him, but you can’t pull 
his story out of the dark and slide your arms into it. You can’t 
wash it and lay it flat in the sun to soften. You can’t 
hold his face in both of your palms and watch tomorrow 
bloom from the sheer wanting and waiting of it. It doesn’t 
matter if his daddy talked with his hands        or his bloodline 
is marinated in booze        or his mama loved his brother best. 
You can’t fix what somebody else broke. 

So, girl, put down your phone and pick up 
your pen. Take a piece of the dark and put it on a page. 
Sylvia Plath waits to wash your feet. And look, 
Virginia Woolf has built you another room and painted 
it pink. There’s a place for you at the table. Sit next to me; 
I got here late.        Oh, baby, don’t you feel it? You were knit 
for wonder in your mother’s womb. 
You were born for the driver’s seat.

from Rattle #69, Fall 2020
Tribute to Service Workers


Laurie Uttich: “At fifteen, I started what would be a ten-plus-year ‘career’ in the service industry. I’ve been a florist assistant, a server, a cocktail waitress, a bartender, a catering assistant, a donut shop worker, a ‘bar cart girl’ at a golf course, and other jobs. I typically worked one or two jobs regularly and then picked up a third when I needed more money. After getting my first ‘real’ job as a copywriter, I continued to work at various service jobs to pay off my student loans (and cover the rent). I don’t know who I’d be without spending so much time under the scrutiny of men (and sometimes women) who first tried to decide if I was attractive enough to hire … and then, later, by men who were customers and often intoxicated. I think about that girl back then and when I imagine my younger self behind a bar or squeezing between two tables balancing a tray, I see myself so clearly as prey, my face frozen into a smile. I suppose the easy response is that being a part of these environments made me a feminist poet, but that’s oversimplifying it. I was always an observer, but being in a situation where it feels as if anything could happen—and you’re supposed to be friendly right up until the second it turns into something else, and who knows when that will be?—shapes how I view situations and how I address them in my work. In prose, I’m always couching reflections—‘not all men’ and that sort of thing. In poems, I just swim in the emotion of the moment and I don’t worry about any global conclusions a reader might make.” (web)

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November 20, 2020

Fred Shaw


The worst shift ever begins before the sun goes down, when, 
with a bead of sweat at the temple, you read the chef’s specials 
to a four-top, already moist, the air conditioner wheezing along 
in a heat wave. They blame you in silence for its lack of function.

On the worst shift ever, you will serve brown water, poured 
because somewhere a main has snapped, and it’s a full house.

On the worst shift ever you will get cut, 
then get asked to cut lemons, a sting that makes you forget
the chafe burning in the crotch of your Dickies.

On the worst shift ever, your guest will find
a used Band-Aid in their onion soup and a dead cricket 
in their field greens. The idiot manager 
will tell them it’s good luck

On the worst shift ever, you will congratulate
a rotund woman on her pregnancy only to be told 
she’s not expecting.

On the worst shift ever, you will get to explain
to one of your former students, seated in your section, 
the one who loved reading Murakami, what it is 
you’re doing here. You will buy him dessert.

The worst shift ever begins 
with you missing the alarm, then arguing with your girl 
before finding that the only clean pair of boxers 
are stretched and sagging at your hips.

The worst shift ever is a summer Sunday afternoon, 
manning a slow double while the rest of the world 
enjoys the sun. You will get busy and want to stab.

On the worst shift ever, you will find out
your father is in the hospital, or
you’ve been diagnosed with lupus
or that your dog’s been found paralyzed.
You will be asked to finish waiting on your tables
before clocking out.

The worst shift ever happens
when your worst hangover gets multiplied 
by a busser who has called off, 
and the other servers are no-call, no-show.

The worst shift ever is a dishwasher 
without any crack to smoke, or when you get
torn cartilage in your ribs, or find a piece of glass 
digging into your toe. The ER visit will take hours.

The worst shift ever isn’t when the staff threatens to quit,
or when the building gets zapped by lightning, leaving you 
in limbo, but might be finding, on the one night 
you finish early, that your car has been towed.
And if it ends, it ends after midnight
with you huddled at a table, working
on some type of a second drink, counting 
the wrinkled bills, getting yourself steeled 
to do it again, and again, and again.

from Rattle #69, Fall 2020
Tribute to Service Workers


Fred Shaw: “When I first punched into work at Papa J’s Ristorante at sixteen years old, how could I have known I’d still be working in the service industry 32 years later? When I started studying for my MFA, I struggled to come up with ideas for poems, as it seemed my peers could write effortlessly about their personal lives while I hadn’t yet felt comfortable doing so. My mentors turned me on to Phillip Levine, James Wright, Robert Gibb, and Jan Beatty, each of whom celebrate ‘what work is’ (to paraphrase Levine) and show that all jobs are worthy of examination and praise. Since then, I’ve set out in my own way to humanize and recognize those often-faceless members of the service industry, who sustain us in our times of hunger and celebration.” (web)

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November 18, 2020

Grant Quackenbush


I like to pretend I’m a billionaire.
It takes the edge off being broke.
When I wake up in my shoebox room
which I share with a family of rats
(I hear them at night
playing Scrabble in the walls)
I say: I choose to live this way. I like rats.
When I go to work and the boss
tells me to move faster or I’m fired
I think: I could buy this shitty company
and sell it to China if I wanted.
Lah di dah dee, trah lah lah.
Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart,
drove a 1979 Ford pickup.
Henry Ford lived modestly in Michigan.
Look Ma! I’m Henry Ford
living modestly in Brooklyn!
I’m wiping my ass with wads of cash!
I’m the richest schmuck in America!
And no one knows it but me.

from Rattle #69, Fall 2020
Tribute to Service Workers


Grant Quackenbush: “I’ve been working in the service industry since I was seventeen years old. I’m now 31. Mostly this has involved working as a bus boy or dishwasher in restaurants. During that time I began to write poetry and eventually got my MFA last year from Boston University. But now, after having gotten my MFA, I’m back to working in the service industry: I’m bartending at a hotel in Tribeca. Working in the service industry has affected my poetry by making it more raw than the average poem. I also try to use common speech and punctuation, and strive to make my poetry accessible rather than opaque and academic.”

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November 16, 2020

T.R. Poulson


confession of a UPS driver

This didn’t begin with dogs, but with a stack
of boxes and the twisting of my knee
between, beneath them, even as they smacked

the pavement, then the doctor’s quick decree:
A contusion (just a bruise). You’ll be mended
in a week or two. My boss agreed

and left me on my route, where dogs friended
me for treats. At first, my knee would tighten
at night until it could not be extended

in the morning without pain, lightened
by ibuprofen. It loosened with every stride
I took, and every box I touched, but heightened

from one day to the next, with the pull and slide
of a torn MCL (the doc was wrong).
I smiled at humans, smothered truth with pride.

I’ve read that dogs can hear a whistled song
from miles away, can smell agony through layers
of flesh. They nosed my knee and used their tongues

to slurp it all away. Those pink conveyors,
wet and unafraid to find something. To feel. To take.

from Rattle #69, Fall 2020
Tribute to Service Workers


T.R. Poulson: “I am a UPS driver, and every day I struggle to find balance between work and writing. But I wouldn’t give it up for anything. My communities of writers provide support for my writing, but it is my blue-collar world that provides inspiration for what to write about. Though I rarely write directly about work, it’s in everything I write: reimagined versions of my customers, my coworkers, the settings I would never discover if I did not do what I do. Covid-19 has changed so many things. I find myself writing about my customers’ dogs—because they are what’s keeping me sane.”

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November 13, 2020

Andrew Miller


That year, each night, in a polyester tuxedo
And a propeller tie, I would climb up
The narrow stairs into the theater’s loft.
Inside the red running-lights,
In the housing of each projector, I opened
The five gates one opens to thread the film.
The 70 mm lens was like a golden idol
We kept in a velvet box when the theater
Was closed. The mechanical gates fed
The god through a thousand sprockets.
They snaked the film before the hot light
And back to the reels where they lay flat
On circling tables of steel. The best ushers
Could lace a movie in under fifteen seconds,
But I was never best, feeling, of course,
That the blankness between films belonged
To me in the way a teenager feels things do,
Staring out into the great empty sail
At the front of the theater below, darkness
Partial and yet primal. No, it was not God
I felt myself to be, who had dropped out
Of college already twice and had the manager
On my case for coming in late stoned.
Still, looking out over the audience below
Awaiting to stare in rows of one direction,
I was God, a little. “Let there be light,”
I said, and with the snapping of a switch
Began not one but many worlds shining
In the darkness. I saw them all,
And said of some that they were good.

from Rattle #69, Fall 2020
Tribute to Service Workers


Andrew Miller: “The poems I have submitted to Rattle’s issue on service work are—for the most part—reportage, and this means that when I look back over my early work-life (perhaps all of my work-life!), I see how it is filled up with what my old teacher, Philip Levine, would call ‘stupid jobs.’ Work as a suburban teenager or young adult in the California of the 1980s was not, for me, filled with dignified labor. My employment history (that modern appellation for the list of jobs that constitute a lifetime) was filled up with jobs that left me feeling I was infinitely replaceable. And I was. Service work guarantees that. No shoe salesman or cashier is irreplaceable. The name tag pinned over an employee’s left breast certifies to this fact; it is something that can be unpinned, the uniform transferred like a faded tabula rasa to the next man or woman who will fit it. So it was that I worked graveyard shifts in a liquor store, reading Ancient Greek literature in translation for my college seminar class; worked in a rat-infested movie theater lacing up the previous season’s releases to empty theaters; worked filling glasses of cheap champagne for the concessions stand at the Fresno Civic Center on Opera Nights; worked selling TV advertisement for time-slots on television stations when no one was likely watching. All of that is perfectly true—or true enough, and most of it is adequately reported in my poems. What is missing is the certainty that once I had left those stupid jobs, there was someone else who took my place as though I had never been there at all. If I could make a succinct dedication at the top of all these poems, it would be for the employees who have replaced me. These poems are for them.”

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November 11, 2020

Craig Kenworthy


The visiting exotic dancers liked room service
before their two shows a night, before trying not
to look too bored as 21st birthdaying college boys
at a downtown club elbowed each other, pulled
out small bills, a shameless passing thrill
at least until they had their own daughters.

I took meals to these women, my other duty warding
off guys who appeared at our front desk asking if
“those strippers might be staying here?” my usual
response a blank look that came easy for me, a harmless
blob so unlikely to ever appear at one of the “girls” tables
that the blonde one, who always smiled at me as she

passed through the lobby, thought it would be funny
one night if she answered my usual three sharp knocks
and call wearing nothing, nothing at all, her soft
teethed laugh holding even as she and I got as close
as we ever would, kneeling down together to address
the remains of a tuna melt, small salad, dressing

on the side and a Diet Coke, which had all cascaded
through the open doorway onto the once upon
a time beige Best Western carpet, the full tray
of her dinner having fallen from the heights
of my shaken, still unschooled
Nebraska boy’s hands.

from Rattle #69, Fall 2020
Tribute to Service Workers


Craig Kenworthy: “I spent several years working as a cook, a waiter, a hotel bellman and a front desk clerk. I learned the high value of providing small joys to people, leaving me with the knowledge that those little jewels and small truths we seek in our poems are always worth fighting for. Plus, I dealt with college football fans, exotic dancers and their fans, and, worst of all, rollerskating conventions. Once you’ve done that, rejections aren’t as hard to take.” (web)

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