“The Strings” by Cory Massaro



Cory Massaro


Some of us sang the same;
some differed or were silent,
whatever what was pressing on us wanted.

The pressure came and went,
stretched and relaxed us; slack
became strain, pressure chasing after silence.

Once one of us was stuck
singing the same three clustered little clicks.
Melodies spread from us to suit the stuck one.

Some among us wondered what
profited from our inner play of stress,
what intelligence dreamed or managed it;

others, uncertain that there were observers,
reason, or cause, were content
simply to say we sang and someone listened.

from Rattle #54, Winter 2016


Cory Massaro: “I am fascinated by language: its sounds, its structure, its capacity for both utter honesty and absolute obscurity. I love it particularly when used to advance the sacred, the secret, and myth. Poetry is my interface with mystery, especially the little mysteries that suffuse daily life. It is peace in misunderstanding.” (website)

“When They Come for Us on the 7 Train” by Ananda Lima



Ananda Lima


Past the underground tracks, the railroad rises
our eyes adjust to the sun over Jackson Heights
at the platform, the doors slide open and the winter
comes in with the men in their dark uniforms
silence except for the “please
stand clear of the closing doors,” the weight
of their boots sways the car and I raise my hand
towards the pole, but one of the men grabs my
wrist and I feel the cold of his black gloves
against the grooves of my tendons, the cold
crosses my skin, the cold mixes with my blood,
the cold travels in my veins, to my fingertips
to my elbow and my other hand lets go
of my son before the cold reaches him
I say “I’m an American citizen”
the soft tissue in my mouth cracks
with frost, I say it louder
“I’m an American Citizen” and the frozen edges
of the words scratch as they move through my throat
I shout “I’m an American citizen” and reflected
on the man’s visor, I see my face
I think of my son if they take me
I think of my son if they don’t
as he watches me whisper
“I’m an American citizen”
while others are taken
by the men of ice.

Poets Respond
February 19, 2017

[download audio]


Ananda Lima: “This poem was written as a reaction to news reports of ICE raids taking undocumented immigrants throughout the country, as well as warnings in social media of raids in Queens and cautioning people that the number 7 is no longer safe for undocumented people. As a human being, I am sickened by the hate and targeting of undocumented people. As an immigrant of color, I am also afraid for myself and my family and sometimes end up reminding myself that I am an American citizen to try and cope with my anxiety. Unfortunately, not only does that thought fail to fully reassure me of my safety, but it also makes me ashamed to try to calm myself with my privileges, while more vulnerable immigrants are being targeted. I fear the role of that type of thinking (where the different segments of the population, terrified for themselves, fail to protect those who are more vulnerable) has played and will play in dividing the people, making us weaker and strengthening our oppressors.” (website)

“Dreams” by Nicholas Chritton



Nicholas Chritton (age 7)


One sunny day I asked the ground: “How long have you been sitting here?”
And the ground said: “I do not know. It is rather boring. I wish I could be up in the sky.”
I said: “How about I tie balloons to you, then you can float away.”
And the ground said: “Sure.”
So I did and we floated away.

from 2017 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Nicholas Chritton: “I like poetry because poetry is fun to write and because it can be funny.”

“On Domestic Ecosystems” by Liv Lansdale



Liv Lansdale


This jar
of yours has
people inside.

I feed them
jam. I lick
the knife.

Let’s fold
a map
of the sea

into thirds
and bury it
out back.

like these
the moon

is a round
fact like
a seed or

a lid or
the mark
on your

skin my
mouth will
leave behind.

from Rattle #54, Winter 2016

[download audio]


Liv Lansdale: “Last year I met a poet at AWP, and months later ran into her again under very different circumstances. I’d introduced myself solely as an editor; when she found out I wrote as well, she asked me to write her a poem. Something about anticipating a specific reader—particularly a semi-stranger—gave rise to this one. I doubt I could replicate the circumstances. If I do, I’ll be the woman asking a stranger to write her a poem.” (website)

“Southern Perfection” by Walter Bargen



Walter Bargen


On the map there’s a name
floating on blue.
He travels
to a small island, almost
too small to find.
The plane
plummets through a sea
of clouds. He has just left
his wife
though she says how can
he leave what’s not arrived.
He gives
up arguing and arrives at
his leaving. His first heat-
warped step
is into the glare of the white-
washed decay of colonial
Soon he discovers
the ocean is an ever-opening
vowel that
becomes thick and hot
the longer he lies in
the sand.
It reminds him of
his wife, the sand radiating
an end-
less sigh of dismissal.
Farther down the beach
take off their skins.
The apartment he rents
the nightly neighborhood
gunshots and a tireless steel-drum
Though it’s a stray, the cat
that already lives on
the porch
adopts him. Days later
he finds it dead on
the stoop.
Each evening for
a week there’s a tarantula
nailed through
its abdomen to
the door. He buys a car,
the side
mirror held on
with wire. The first night
parked in
an alley the head-
and taillights are smashed.
It is
a perfection, the breaking
of what’s broken.

from Rattle #16, Winter 2001


Walter Bargen: “Robert Frost said, ‘We shall be known by the delicacy of where we stop short.’ Call it the art of pulling back, that’s what I’m trying to do with the endings to my poems; rather than the ‘big splash’ that drenches the reader, generate the delicate ripple that keeps nudging the reader along after they’ve dried out.” (webpage)

“Linsanity” by Kien Lam



Kien Lam


Part of me is always
ten years old and too small,
puberty-slow and too poor
to be wasting time on games,
so when Lin sinks the winner
in Toronto and the large Asian crowd
goes wild like they’ve never
seen an Asian man be the guy,
like they’ve never seen a caricature
tear a hole in the movie screen
and crawl out, the way cartoons
used to dig through the center
of the Earth and find themselves
in an imagined version of China—
when the shot falls, for just
a moment I see my face
on the screen, the counter
restarted from three
and I set my feet
until two where I pump
my arm up, ninety degrees
the way I was taught
and I ready myself
to jump on one
where I will release
the ball at the very
point I am farthest away
from the Earth, where
for just a moment
it might seem
like the thick iron
ball anchored
in this planet’s heart
will untether me
from its chain,
where for once
it will feel
like there isn’t
above me I’m not
supposed to touch.

from Rattle #54, Winter 2016

[download audio]


Kien Lam: “When the whole Linsanity thing was happening, people were quick to call him overrated. Some pundits hated him. Even his team supposedly didn’t like his newfound stardom. And my white friends wanted the hype to go away. I wanted them to go away. Goddamn if I can’t watch an Asian dude ball out at my favorite sport—the major sport that most prominently features the faces of its stars. It doesn’t hide its people of color like football. It’s not steeped in the same kind of white history as baseball. How cool is that? And how important? I hope @JLin7 tears it up in Brooklyn this year.” (website)

“The End” by Mark Strand



Mark Strand


Not everyone knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not everyone knows what he’ll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not everyone knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.

from Rattle #17, Summer 2002
Tribute to Pulitzer Prize Winners


For more on Mark Strand, visit his webpage.

“How It Feels” by Alan King



Alan King


When your mother-in-law takes your daughter
out of her crib after the crying,

after you said she’s not hungry ’cause she threw up,
after you told her your daughter rocks to sleep easy but cries
when you put her back in the crib,

when your child’s grandmother takes her out
after you told her not to,

you remember the rose bush you and
your wife chopped down—the one that blocked
the living room window, that bullied away sunlight—

and you know this grandmother’s stubborn
love for her grandchild gashes your authority
the way the thorny bush prickled your hand, arms and legs
in its bold resistance, its open disregard
for what you wanted.

No one tells you parenting is like gardening,
where you defend your choices from parasites posing
as unwarranted advice, where insecurities bred by
Judgment and Condescension can brown your confidence.

When you watch your mother-in-law holding
your child after you told her not to,

you know how your wife felt that first night home
from the hospital, when your parents came by and
could only seem to unload their criticisms
at how she handled her child.

And if Compassion’s a deep sorrow for other’s misfortune,
do you forgive the know-it-all grandparents their transgressions,
how they selectively forget their mistakes?

Isn’t Humility an ingredient of Compassion, the one that
asks the grandparents to see themselves as they once were—
green in their new role?

You remember your parents fumbling in the dark
of what they didn’t understand, how their trial and
error traumatized your childhood—

how it pushed your brother into a homeless shelter and
his mental illness, your brother spiraling in his orbit of pain,
light years away from forgiveness.

When your child’s grandmother takes her out
of her crib, you take your child back, say:
“I love you … but I got this.”

from Rattle #54, Winter 2016

[download audio]


Alan King: “In middle school, a friend wrote a poem. I told him I didn’t like it. I took up his challenge to write a better poem. I’ve been writing ever since. Every time I approach the page is a challenge to write a better poem.” (website)

“An Obedience Experiment” by Sonya Taaffe



Sonya Taaffe


At customs, they confiscate your daughter
like a forged passport.

Today they cuff a child in an airport,
tomorrow they throw him from the walls of Troy.

The man on the other side of the one-way mirror
breaks his name open, offering

irrefutable as a half-life in hell
six hundred and thirteen reasons to be kind.

We who have only one reason to be cruel
catch our eyes in the mirror, waiting for our cue.

Poets Respond
February 12, 2017


Sonya Taaffe: “The night before I wrote this poem, I read an article on the implementation of the new administration’s travel ban and knew from the first lines that I would find Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment cited somewhere in it. The citizen infant separated from her non-citizen mother was not mentioned, but I had been thinking of her for some time. The mythological possibilities of Milgram’s name (מילגרוים, milgroym—“pomegranate” in Yiddish) were brought to my attention by Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter: The Stanley Milgram Story, which I recommend to anyone with an interest in either Milgram’s life and research or Brechtian biopics generally. The pomegranate in Jewish tradition is often said to contain 613 seeds, the number of mitzvot in the Torah. The working title of this poem was ‘Stanley Milgram’s Ghost Is Disappoint.’” (website)

“April Rain” by Abigail Rose Cargo



Abigail Rose Cargo (age 13)


The rain stains almost everything darker.
Somehow, leaves seem to get brighter,
as wood and pine straw are slowly dampened.

Rain makes the sky darker too,
and it is the most wonderful privilege
to stay in bed a few extra minutes,

as shadows of morning blend with
the grey lining of sky. The metal roof
slanting below my screen-less window

magnifies the sound of fat drops of water
sliding off the shingles above me. It is cool for April,
but we sometimes have the biggest snows in spring.

The trees outside are very tolerant of rain,
if you look closely, an occasional leaf will flutter
from the weight of water. My window is cracked open,

so that if I want to, I can stick my hand out,
and catch a few drops in the wrinkles of my palm.
I wouldn’t suck the water, it came from the roof

and who knows what happens up there?
Perhaps it is a midnight meeting place for owls.
It isn’t impossible, you know, not impossible at all.

from 2017 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Abigail Rose Cargo: “I like to write poetry because it comes naturally. When I sit down to write, I coordinate different memories and images inside my head, and they come together to form poems.”