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Posts Tagged ‘Alejandro Escude The First Time I Took My Gun’


A fun poem by Scott Beal opens this issue of Rattle, “Ambiguous Antecedents.” “When the kid tells you their new pronoun of choice / is it… you try to see / the kid as the kid sees itself.” I love the tongue-in-cheekiness. Beal goes over how the language is changing. “Partner seems like such an unloaded word… that should make / a harmless click when triggered.” Seems like it’s more rare to see a poet playing with the language recently. But isn’t that what poets are supposed to do? And I relish the joy of the irreverence: “Nick becomes quadratic.”

The next poem also relies on fun, George Bilgere’s “Big Thing,” which starts: “Did you hear about Gary? His new book is supposed to be big. / People are… talking Badger Prize. / Maybe even the Bexley.” It’s a poem about jealousy, and the competitive world of poetry, and how we don’t really know each other well. “And now we have this sense of… being bit players in the Larger Drama of Gary.” Very enjoyable.

Transcending the commonplace might be the theme of “Miraculous Stardust,” by Bonnie Buhrow. “The girl couldn’t speak English… couldn’t whistle or hum, let alone sing… no one paid attention to her at the factory.” The girl remains separate from those around her, everyday workers at everyday jobs. But at noon, “the girl stole outside…where / she practiced levitating… until she reached / a flawless buoyancy.” And the language grows more buoyant along with her. “She was like a flake of cork, a molted feather.” An inspiring, uplifting poem, with an ending that grounds it nicely.

Megan Falley starts “Ode to Red Lipstick,” with: “Cleopatra crushed beetles / to make red lipstick / because… even in 30 BC… speaking 12 languages / would be… more impressive / when the words jumped / through a ring of fire.” This is a poem that grabs your lapel and says, listen to me, here’s some great language, even contemplating a commonplace item. But of course, lipstick, being so intimate, so close, in some places and times has taken on a weight and profundity beyond what we might expect. A poem to make us think.

This issue has a section on immigrant poets, which I enjoyed very much. Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach presents us with “In Praise of Forgetting.” “Forget to turn off the lights and wash the dishes and empty the tub. // Forget the standing water and let it bring ghosts into the home.” Already we know something is going on underneath this list of things to forget — consequences in a life, perhaps, or those who are now gone. “Forget the names you gave them once. How they were taken away.” A melancholy poem, made more powerful by its indirect approach.

Finally, Alejandro Escude writes in “The First Time I Took My Gun To The Range,” “I looked at the gun and it fired… the bullet went… high / so that it left a poof-dust on the ceiling.” The incident spurs the narrator to contemplate the danger a weapon has, the ease with which one can make a mistake. “I thought, what if the gun / had been aiming at me?” But the poem’s conclusion may surprise you.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Blue Collar Review – Fall 2017

The New Yorker – Jan 22 2018

Rattle 58 – Winter 2017

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