August 10, 2021

Wendy Taylor Carlisle

THE CIRCUS OF INCONSOLABLE LOSS

There is only one ring for those sweating horses with the preternaturally
flat backs and the fat smooth rumps from which ladies
                                                                      in stained tights vault onto the sawdust
                                                                                                              or another horse.

Only one ring for the hung-over clowns and their Volkswagen,
a car so old it must be pushed into the one ring
        which is also the one for the acrobats and the tigers and contortionists
                                                                         and dogs that walk on their hind legs,

then stop to scratch their necks, itchy under spangled ruffs. Above them
wire walkers and trapeze guys swing,
                                                                 mayfly-graceful. Under them the one ring
                                               reminds the audience to celebrate, each in their own

constrained and special way,
the emptiness they’ve come to in the spaces where other rings should be.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
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__________

Wendy Taylor Carlisle: “This poem was a gift from the circus backyard in my head where a population of freaks and wire walkers, butchers and roustabouts, folks who work animals, a ringmaster and Tom Thumb are careful to keep the elephant’s trunk up for the photograph, don’t whistle in the dressing room and never look back when marching in a parade. The poem arrived about a year ago, the form later. I write poetry because I can’t help it. Given the choice, I’d be a magician, a jockey, or a diamond cutter.” (web)

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April 6, 2019

Mollycat Jones

UNHOLY SONNET NUMBER ONE

My bowl of lamb and gravy from the can
appears each morning when at last you rise.
An hour ago I batted at your eyes,
and it’s been two since first the birds began.
My brother has already fouled the pan;
you slept right through his scratching and his cries
(their tone suggesting something oversize
and fetid, for which you’d require bran).
Your feet are on the floor. That’s a relief.
Your awkward fingers soon will pop the lid
I yearn for, giving proof to my belief
that God made humans well the way He did.
You Big Ones, lacking claws and feline verve
were clearly planned to open cans—to serve.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
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__________

Mollycat Jones (Christine Potter): “Once I believed that poetry was something to distract my human companion, so I could knock the pens off her desk and swish my tail under her nose. That was before I discovered metrics and rhyme. Christine mostly writes that ridiculous vers libre, for Big Ones as silly as herself. I write for felines everywhere! And I write in form because the anarchic spirit of all cats is an explosive force that needs something powerful to contain it.” (web)

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August 19, 2010

John Yohe

THE GHOST OF FRANK O’HARA

The ghost of Frank O’Hara taps me on
the shoulder whispering
and what about
the humor what about talks with the sun
and things that happen at the movies out
of sight of parents don’t forget the thirst
of being in Manhattan in the heat
and Coke the drink
remember too your first
love passion music though it might not come out
in words it’s there in you but I was sad
and said what good is humor in a poem
when people die Manhattan Fire Island
we
bought falafels which we thought weren’t bad
and walked to Central Park for space and some
children were laughing and he said ask them

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
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__________

John Yohe: “I wrote this poem in late 2001 or early 2002, and found working within a form helped me say things I wouldn’t have normally said. I had been thinking about the 9/11 attacks, wondering how Frank O’Hara would have responded and, in the same way he talked to the sun, I decided to talk to him. The phrase ‘the ghost of Frank O’Hara’ was in iambic, the rest of the poem sort of flowed out.” (web)

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August 17, 2010

Donald Mace Williams

THE VENTURI EFFECT

You may have thought, from visiting art shows,
that canyons squeezed together on their way
downstream. No. That’s only perspective. They
in fact, as any hiker my age knows,
spread out and vanish. Their canyonness goes.
Their vital currents pool up, slacken, splay,
their tall red hoodoos melt into flat gray,
the bankside cottonwoods go, nothing grows.
This one the same. Far downstream now, my feet
have brought me where I see the end. No foam
from water straitened, focused one last time
by rock walls aping art, trying to meet,
but alkali-white flatlands, killdeers’ home,
walls gone, speed gone, all low that was high prime.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
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__________

Donald Mace Williams: “I couldn’t remember the name of the effect that has to do with the speeding up of water when its conduit is narrowed (and therefore the slowing down when the conduit is widened), but a niece of my wife’s who is a hydraulics engineer helped me with the term. Other possibly pertinent facts are that I live close to Palo Duro Canyon in Texas and am 80 years old.”

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August 14, 2010

Thom Ward

RUMPUS, COHESION, MESS

The bed sheet knows the vices I’ve slept.
How quickly it nooses my feet. Someone said,
we’re wrong men in a right world, all that
zigzag anger. Not quite—that’s another movie.
We’re wrong men who’ve built a wrong world,
each with a knapsack full of crushed glass,
cigarette butts. Photos of our children march
off the walls to a music only the dog can hear.
Rumpus minus cohesion equals mess. So many
weapons, I’m waiting for the plunger to make
the first move. Why should the water play fair.
Is that a cross around your neck or the last bird?
Things forgotten scream out for help in dreams
but not as loudly as things remembered.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
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Read by Tim

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August 12, 2010

Elizabeth Klise von Zerneck

FREEDOM

Haight Street

The realtor claimed the flat was lived in once
by Janis Joplin, a quite common claim,

we later learned. The tactic worked on us.
We learned to overlook—that hint of fame!—

the smell of gas, an awkward floor plan, soot
that never scoured. We dwelled not there but on

our plum address and, when fall came, we bought
dark Goodwill coats, the nights much colder than

we had foreseen. Through that long year, we read
Jacques Derrida, and smoked, and grew fresh thyme

on the one sill with light. We baked wheat bread—
well, one loaf anyway—and drank red wine,

and each day died a bit—twenty, confused—
two other words for nothing left to lose.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
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__________

Elizabeth Klise von Zerneck: “I used to write fiction, and the first line of this poem was one I had in my head for years as the first sentence of a story. Nothing came of it. When I started to write poetry, I recalled the line—iambic, after all—and the poem followed quickly, almost as if it wrote itself. It knew what it wanted to be more than I did.”

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August 9, 2010

Catherine Esposito Prescott

TO A HURRICANE

At the right speed wind sounds like a train
straining its brakes as metal grates metal;
but before you imagine sparks raining
circles around the wheels, its voice changes
to a throaty hush. In the early stages, you may
mistake it for the neighbors laughing, then crying.
As doors and windows tremble, as locks labor
to stay closed, you’ll hear the cry of the mother
burying her child by the river, and of widows
who have lost everything to war. And in that moment
what remains of your sense of order is supplicant
like the spine of a palm tree bowed toward earth, fronds beaten, torn,
and the sweet cord of belief that holds your life together
fights like hell not to snap: the tree’s trunk, your back.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
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[download audio]

__________

Catherine Esposito Prescott: “So much life goes into one poem. This was written after a hurricane in 2005. As my family and I took shelter in the bathroom, we heard trees moaning, pots falling, cars tumbling. Not two years later, I revised the poem after a gun was put to my head during a robbery. After both experiences, I arose amazed to be standing—and grateful that most of my world remained intact, but I saw how quickly all I cared about could be stripped away—and this thought still shakes me.”

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