I don’t know yet how often I’ll be posting new issues — monthly, quarterly, occasionally, or what — but I have decided that I won’t just post individual poems as I accept them. So here is the first batch of poetry to come out of the Rat’s Ass.
(Actually, none of this qualifies, in my opinion, as ratshit; I think it’s all pretty good, in fact.)
I Need the Dawn
My body wearies of bed.
The moon rabbit cares
nothing for sleep,
with mortar and pestle,
following no recipe.
When rose gold
suffuses the east,
earth bound rabbits
track the snow,
dig under the unpruned
apple tree for a taste
of late summer spice.
The gray owl spills
down, silent on wings
ruffled for such work.
A spray of red
blossoms, the last trace,
becomes part of the legend.
Excuses Being Considered When Not Writing a Poem
The toilet needs cleaning,
cleanser is on the shopping list.
The sheets need washing—
they smell like one night too many.
My husband is still wrapped
in them, rubbing his winter dry feet
together like a sandpaper cricket.
The grocery list looks like this:
birdseed (it has been a hard winter)
cleanser (aforementioned toilet)
kitty litter (the slut cat’s in heat and wakes me in the night, yowling)
limes, chicken, tortillas, red and green peppers, cilantro, shredded cheese (a dinner of fajitas)
coconut cake (reminds me of my childhood)
Clementines (still in season?) maybe bananas?
How can I write a poem
when I have never found an arrowhead?
I have dug up toads, wireworms, pale grubs,
red spider mites like tiny drops of velvet blood.
I have husked sweet corn, found a caterpillar still chewing,
and cut it out, but I can’t put that cob
on my plate, so it goes to the person
who wasn’t there to help with peeling
and silk brushing.
The poems I inherited from my grandmother:
a shadowbox of dead butterflies,
a catalog filled with pressed flowers,
On the news today they report
more than a thousand World War II veterans die every day.
I don’t know a single one to name
in a poem.
Late spring, the mist is almost fog
in the headlamps driving home.
Halos surround farm lights with damp
dogs lying in the dim glow.
Swamp spreads out from the Sugar River
filling ditches, edges of fallow fields.
Climbs up the tires of an abandoned
tractor, put to pasture years ago.
This is where the geese gather,
the sandhill cranes dance mating.
Red winged blackbirds puff
and chatter, painted turtles bask.
In this weather, leopard frogs,
filled with strings of black spotted
eggs, leap across the blacktop.
Pops like gunfire, too many to avoid.
Lisa J. Cihlar’s poems have been published in Word Riot, Qarrtsiluni, Frogpond, Tipton Poetry Journal, and other places. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2008.
In the first three minutes,
nothing to say,
I’ll breathe, seek aspiration, hope
to pass as somewhat loveable.
About minute four
will gather a certain trepidation
(since words — given time-scheme
– must shortly arrive)
and so will stir, strive
through two full minutes of my Fifteen Minute Poem
how I grew, studied, married,
God-awful stuff scored through at once…
and in the next six minutes
write furiously, as dark chords resound,
fetching up with my
default Fifteen Minute Poem
which yet again will praise
wu wei, guys, doing
living in my socks, no
faking of enlightenment
in my act-as-if way.
Barry Spacks has brought out various novels, stories, three poetry-reading CDs and ten poetry collections while teaching literature and writing for years at M.I.T. & U C Santa Barbara. His most recent book of poems, Food for the Journey, appeared from Cherry Grove in August, 2008.
She uncradles the phone with a lyric
for someone who might be calling
if I weren’t calling again from work,
who would be calling, she says,
if five years ago I hadn’t
promised her me.
Five years ago she believed me
and now she has children, four,
a house, my calls each noon.
Five years ago she lied to herself
as I napped on her parents’ porch,
silent yet shouting the truth.
Donal Mahoney has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. He has had poems accepted by Commonweal, Orbis (U.K.), Revival (Ireland), The Christian Science Monitor, The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey), Poetry Super Highway, WOW (Ireland), Public Republic (Bulgaria) and other publications.
Not willing to pay contractor prices
to pull my aging deck apart,
I slam the sledgehammer
into another stringer.
This time a two by four detaches
and cracks me in the shin
so hard I might as well
have just driven the sledge
directly into my leg.
A week later the swollen shin
is still too tender for me to wear socks.
In my Dad it was a ground ball
that caught him halfway
between second base and third.
X-rays showed a dark grey circle
just above his ankle where the bone died.
Forty years he walked with a piece of death
holding him upright.
As I rub the swollen area,
compare today’s pain to yesterday’s,
Has Death moved into me
as he did my Dad?
Is he even now assessing his new digs,
hanging his calendar on my ivory wall?
Roderick Bates is a Vermonter and Dartmouth graduate. He has published
poems in VT Folkus, at Poets Against The War, and in Naugatuck River Review. He also writes prose, and won an award from the International Regional
Magazines Association for an essay published in Vermont Life.
Orbit, the Mother, Thermometer
It revolves around the sun, the earth
so here binding us with its gravity
we rarely see it for what it is.
How can we, can we see our eyes
in their sockets, they are too much with us
gravity and blood, the force the flow
but once they stop, beyond is
the eternal zero of space
the chill of blood congealed in the vein.
One frigid earthbound day I watched my father
hold the hand of death and knew, mother gone
that he would always keep orbiting
the star gone cold
Harry Calhoun’s articles, literary essays, book reviews and poems have been published in magazines including Writer’s Digest and The National Enquirer. Recently, his online chapbook, Dogwalking Poems, went live at The Dead Mule. His trade paperback, I knew Bukowski like you knew a rare leaf, is now available from Trace Publications.
Staring at Beer in the Refrigerator
in this light—something
to eat, something to drink,
but none of it does the trick.
My dad could coast through
often—and if Ed
joined him under the hood
of the Mustang to split more,
then leaving, Ed was warned
of the Greenwich Road cops,
offered coffee first.
You drive careful now,
boy. The same he told me,
the same he cloaked himself. No
avail. It’s time to shut the door.
Andy Fogle has three chapbooks of poetry, teaches English at Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, NY, and is a doctoral student in Educational Theory and Practice at SUNY Albany.
Again? They’re knocking, knocking. The two of them
don’t blink as dawn escapes. I’m barely there,
not yet awake, and trip on my loose hem
again. They’re knocking, knocking. The two of them
stand straight and one relates, “Sorry, Ma’am.”
The details end in “high-speed chase.” I stare
again. They’re knocking, knocking, the two of them.
Don’t blink. As dawn escapes, I’m barely there.
My poetry has been published or is forthcoming in: Measure, 14 by 14, Soundzine, The Raintown Review, Two Review and The Worcester Review, among others. My work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and once for The Best of the Net. I was a finalist for the 2007 Philbrick Award.
The Great War
It’s you and me and we’re fifteen and hysterical
on the train and our classmates dangle from the overhead compartments
and we can’t think with the noise and all this information and the need,
this need to protest something, something. We saw a movie once
where a girl who could have been your mother or my mother
flashed a peace sign at a busload of soldiers on their way to Vietnam
and it was a sign of protest, and they returned obscene gestures,
vicious, sexual. It’s you and me and a busload of soldiers
on an empty road by Arlington Cemetery and all we have is this need
to climb out of our own bodies and we’re protesting the world
and our parents for creating us out of chaos, and in defiance
we flash angry peace signs at the busload of soldiers with their guns
and their uniforms and their following of orders, in defiance we flash peace signs,
and the soldiers smile and flash hopeful peace signs back at us.
It beckons from the pastry shop window,
lovely ripe bananas, cherries, apples,
and though you know it will prickle your tongue
with the cyanide flavor of almonds, you go in anyway
and let the man who thinks he’s in love with you
kiss you over a plate of fake fruit.
Heather Kamins writes poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in Alehouse and The Peralta Press. She enjoys long walks on the beach and reading about quantum physics. You can find her online at shakieranthem.blogspot.com.