“Mars and Venus” by Kathleen Diane Nolan

so one night I was walking up Madison after the rain and this homeless man was sitting on the sidewalk sobbing so I got him soup and a sandwich and that didn’t seem like enough so I got a brownie too and when I told the cashier it’s for the guy outside she gave me a cup of coffee light and sweet  I brought the food and the coffee to the guy and he said don’t think I’m going to thank you and I said I don’t care if you thank me and he said, bullshit, you do yes you do  truth  he asked if I was from Mars or Venus because I looked intergalactic baby and what do you do up there all day anyway he wanted to know and no way was I saying social work so I said I was a poet and he said he was a poet too  he told me to sit and I did even though the pavement was wet and everything smelled like shit and sour milk  then we watched the skyline crossing the stars for a long time and he said Venus this is not how things are supposed to be and I said yes I know and he said no you don’t you do not  then he told me to remember three things always  we are all transparent with no skin or bones  diamonds come from ashes and hair of the dead  hope is the thing with claws not feathers  he told me to put all of this in a poem and not to walk near Madison and 38th Street ever again  this is my corner he said

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014Kathleen Diane Nolan

“Looking Back” by Sarah Brown Weitzman

I meant to return
long before this
but in looking back
we learn too much
of loss.
I dreaded that.

Now going through the house
and my parents’ lives
too revealed
by what they saved
what they left behind
for me to find
I feel nothing
but pain for the past
trying to separate
like old clothes
crumbling in a chest
what does not last
from what I can keep
trying to understand
how I fell
so short of what I intended
to do with my life.
How life twists and turns
against us. How a childhood
is not really understood
until it is lived
a second time
in memory.
How wonderful
and how terrible
it seems now
because it is gone
and because it was mine.

Sarah Brown Weitzman

from Rattle #14, Summer 1999

“To My Hair” by Alvin Lau

 

i.

I never admired how you grew into thick, resilient strands black as India ink: I used to bleach you so frail or shave you clean under the harsh summer sun. Once in high school I didn’t wash you for ten straight weeks because I thought it would’ve been so cool to be the only Chinese kid in Chicago with dreadlocks. When you started to recede, my worries flew up the Lau family history of hair, recalling grandpa’s pattern baldness, how mom’s whole head turned white like a curtain of ivory needles before she was twenty, and how Uncle Etienne nicknamed Dad Silvermane for the bolt of white streaking across the back of his head, which he always boasted was a sign of his brilliance.

ii.

Though I knew one day I’d have to say goodbye to you, I pictured you slowly retreating over decades like a wounded beach, never thought I’d see you vanish completely in the flashfires of chemotherapy. After the first week, I stood in the bathtub pulling out tiny clumps of you like unraveling the string my head was stitched from. Wiping off half an eyebrow was like holding a handful of bloody teeth, wiping off the other half like looking back at the car crash wondering if I really survived it. It never was the foreshadowing x-rays, or negative blood tests, or sinister words likemalignant that broke me. It was when I saw you blanketing my bathroom floor like bodies strewn across a battlefield that I thought If I am to be devoured, then please, God, Night, Mouth in the Darkness, swallow me faster than one hair at a time.

iii.

I would like you to know that every day, I would still shampoo my naked scalp out of habit in memorial for your shortened life; my fingers would pay respects to a thousand of your gravestones every morning. Maybe this was my ritual to call you back: on my knees, white as the sheet I feared they’d lay over me, an atheist praying for regeneration in cupfuls of hair. How many nights did I run my finger along the rim of my head searching for your return? How many deserts did I cross in my mind?

iv.

Years after, I still catch myself carelessly running my fingers through your nest to see if you’ve held against the wind, promise to never shave you clean, remembering every comb that resembled a baptism. Your patchwork emergence was a flight of blackbirds returning home in the spring; I tattooed a black star on my wrist to remind myself of the beauty of what was barren and reclaimed. I am sorry for never appreciating how stoically you fit to my scalp or how neatly you’d tuck under a baseball cap. Penance comes with every instance my heart surrenders to the commonplace, like how I imagine every brush as silver-plated, think of donating hair for wigs as acts of extraordinary mercy, fall in love with Rogaine commercials, melt when my girl runs her fingers over your tips like grass, break down when I catch your reflection in the mirror and can’t help but mouth the words Welcome Back.

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007
Tribute to Slam Poetry

 

“1969” by Tony Gloeggler

My brother enlisted
in the winter. I pitched
for the sixth-grade Indians
and coach said
I was almost as good
as Johnny. My mother
fingered rosary beads,
watched Cronkite say
and that’s the way it is.
I smoked my first
and last cigarette. My father
kept his promise,
washed Johnny’s Mustang
every weekend. Brenda Whitson
taught me how to French kiss
in her basement. Sundays
we went to ten o’clock Mass,
dipped hands in holy water,
genuflected, walked down
the aisle and received
Communion. Cleon Jones
got down on one knee, caught
the last out and the Mets
won the World Series.
Two white-gloved Marines
rang the bell, stood
on our stoop. My father
watched their car
pull away, then locked
the wooden door. I went
to our room, climbed
into the top bunk,
pounded a hard ball
into his pillow. My mother
found her Bible, took
out my brother’s letters,
put them in the pocket
of her blue robe. My father
started Johnny’s car,
revved the engine
until every tool
hanging in the garage
shook.

~  Tony Gloeggler

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006

“Poetry Swimsuit Issue” by Charles Greenley

Sounds like an unsexy idea at first,
Walt Whitman arching his back with a strategically placed leaf,
or Robert Frost on the road not taken, prancing in a g-string,
but the idea sells itself, handled the right way.

Imagine the typical swimsuit issue fare:
women running on wet sand in bikinis,
topless slovakian blondes self-censoring with their hands,

and if editors can choose women with
hourglass curves and watermelon cleavage
to represent the feminine ideal,

then the poetic version could forsake the big names,
an Olds, a Clifton, or a Dove,
and pick oiled, bronzed poets to help sales.
There must be a twenty-year-old brunette
with Barbie dimensions writing poetry somewhere,
even if it’s a limerick about the Cat in the Hat.

Imagine a poet at the bookstore,
dressed in nothing but anthologies.

Imagine a poet at the library in a two-piece,
holding her book upside down.

Imagine a poet leaning over a typewriter,
her top moist with ink.

And once the pictures are taken,
after the women have selected what poems
appear next to their photo spreads,
once the issue goes to press,

we’ll be able to pinpoint the moment
poetry became cumbersome words
men thumbed past to get back to gawking,
when poetry became popular,
for the same reason most everything else does.

— “Poetry Swimsuit Issue” by Charles Greenley, from Rattle #20, Winter 2003