“Self-Portrait as Escape Artist” by Jeannine Hall Gailey

I could say at 42 I’ve escaped death already many times.
Maybe I was due, like a library book,
at an earlier age, but some spirit renewed me.

I almost drowned at three, then twice got scarlet fever
at 6 and 10. I could have died of my rare bleeding disorder
at 12; thanks to modern prescriptions, life prevailed.

I’ve become an expert at dodging tornadoes
and downed planes, traffic accidents and plain old bad luck.
I’ve been in a lot of hospitals, where doctors made mistakes—

but still, woke up every time, little worse for wear.
I’ve been scared of death, but now he seems so familiar,
an old sweater I’ve casually tossed aside so often.

Please remember when I die that I was lucky
to be here at all—my mother’s pregnancy uneasy,
birth difficult and under an ill star, infancy involving

incubators for a little baby blue me. So when I finally
take the fall, I must remember to say thank you
for the breaks that kept me ahead of the game so long.

—from Rattle #58, Winter 2017


[download audio] (link via Rattle.com, or click above link to listen at Rattle.com)


Jeannine Hall Gailey: “I wrote ‘Self-Portrait as Escape Artist’ last year after I was diagnosed with metastasized cancer in my liver. I thought to myself, ‘I’ve escaped death so many times, what’s one more?’ I am happy to say I have already outlived my original prognosis so will continue to practice poetry and escaping for a little while longer.” (web)

“to the man about to put the lampshade on his head” by Ken Wagner

it’s not funny


no matter how much scotch we drink


it’s not funny


the only way you can top yourself at the next party
is to enter in a floral print dress   lipstick   and heels
and that’s even more not funny than the lampshade


so as you finger the fringe on the shade of the table lamp
mustering the courage or more likely squelching your dignity
let us follow the natural progression of your un-comedic arc


you will don the lampshade and say   I feel lightheaded
followed by   Get it   Get it


and then a limerick about the man off the coast of Cape Cod
which we’ve all heard a thousand times before
but some of the men will make the mistake
of giving you an obligatory chuckle


which will only make you try harder
which is even more less funny


then all the women will turn away   and in sync roll their eyes
your wife will leave the room and the men will fan away saying
Classic you


when your wife returns with your coat on her arm
she’ll jingle the keys at you and say   Roger   Come


and you’ll sheepishly walk to the door
keeping the lampshade on as you wave goodbye


and all the men will bend slightly in sympathy pain
and all the women will start to clean up the bar

—Ken Wagner, from Rattle #48, Summer 2015


“Escape” by Linda Whittenberg

Every once in a while one of the neighbors
comes by, rope in hand, looking for horses
that got out. Predictably, ours go for the hay
in Lisa’s barn.
There are few hazards nearby, so, mostly,
no harm is done, but I did have to replace
a cranky lady’s birdfeeder after Doc
went after the millet.
No halter, no bit, no restraints, unfenced
space to explore, smorgasbord of green delights
to cruise—sometimes we hate to round them up
from enjoying the sweet taste of freedom.
The thing is, we can imagine such freedom
for ourselves—no bank account to keep filled,
no day-timer, no obligations—only an open gate,
time and space waiting for us.
Who knows, we might go around the world
or at least to Africa or India or take
a coast-to-coast road trip, or go live
on the Cook Islands for a while.
But, I suspect, we’d miss the familiar,
behave like our mule, who,
after he’s shown he can outsmart us if he wants,
enters the open barn door on his own.


Linda Whittenbergfrom Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith


“Hooters” by Jackleen Holton

I’m at Hooters, you tell me when I call, and I make you repeat it because I’m sure that I misheard. But on your third attempt, I catch the word. Oh, Hooters, I say, and wonder if this is the beginning of the end. And the waitress is there, trying to take your order. Can I call you back? Sure, I say and hang up. Go ahead, ogle her, in her little orange shorts and white tank, pulled tight, those owl eyes bulging. She’s probably flirting with you now, the way they’re trained to do, commenting on your accent, asking you where you’re from. And I know she’s not pretty or even beautiful, but gorgeous, because I knew a guy who worked construction at the franchise before it opened, who watched as the girls came in for their interviews, and there was this one who smiled at him, and he remarked to a co-worker,she’s hot, but the other guy shook his head and said maybe, but she wasn’t Hooters-quality gorgeous. And just after college I met a Hooters girl named Stephanie who was a few years younger than me. And as we sat in the Italian restaurant with our mutual friends, an older man stopped by our table to call her that very word: gorgeous. Envy prickled in me, not because I wanted to work at Hooters, but because I probably wouldn’t make the cut, what with the little bump in the center of my nose, my eyes set a bit too close together, not to mention my cup size too small for their requirements. But that was nearly twenty years ago. Even Stephanie the Hooters girl is now past forty, as are you, sitting there waiting for some terrible food to be delivered as you watch the parade. What’s next, I wonder, strip clubs and lap dances? My old boyfriend Dave had a drawer full of other women’s numbers. Is that where we’re headed? The phone rings. You should come here, you say. It’s such a typical American spectacle. I laugh. I’m good. While shopping at Target, you got hungry. Outside, the first thing you saw was Hooters. Of course, I reply, those big eyes. In college, the opening of the restaurant sparked many a debate in my women’s studies classes about the objectification of the female body. But now I’ve accepted the fact that women will continue to objectify themselves. If anything pisses me off about it anymore, it’s that they’ve co-opted the owl. You tell me you’ll try to come by later. But later you call again, your stomach aching. Too much salt on that chicken breast sandwich. You’re going to bed early. Poor baby. I hope you feel better, I say, and mostly I mean it. I look out the window, thinking of owls, the real kind, like the one I saw last week flying from a dark eucalyptus, over my balcony into the canyon; the sound it made, less of a hoot than a harrowing shriek as it flashed a momentary silver then disappeared into a copse of black trees.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems

“Kissing as a Religion” by Susan Doble Kaluza

In 19th century Rome it was said that the monks
kissed the backs of their hands as a sign of repentance.
Oh, how I repented as a Catholic girl, even as I kissed you—

kissing and repenting, kissing and repenting—as I pulled your top lip
with my teeth, biting ever so gently. How absurd to think
kissing gets any better than the first time you leaned over me,

breath thick with Jack and Coke, that rogue teenage elixir,
and whatever warp speed hormone instigates back seat sex
and what is now considered nothing but a little teasing

in the area of petting. Sounds like a zoo, kissing does, back then
travelling north on the county road just after dusk, after the cattle
lumbered off on their arthritic hocks, kicking up dust that smelled

like manure and left us alone in your idling car in the middle of the pasture.
I’ve fought the urge for years to write a poem about your lips, for which
I can only think in terms of “exquisite” and other adjectives strictly forbidden

in poetry classes—your perfectly aligned teeth, your soft boyish whispers.
Sometimes I think I was never actually there in the afterlife of your words,
those jerry-rigged one-liners bolstering my heart, stopping, not stopping

in my ear as you pulled back my hair. Now I think there was nothing to repent for,
nothing to confess. If ever there was a sin for which penance was required
it would be for never kissing like this not once since.

Susan Doble Kaluza

via Rattle #43, Love Poems