Nick Ripatrazone.jpg

Poetry from Nick Ripatrazone

followed by Q&A

Rats

Here in Texas

we’ve got two problems:

you know the first,

now hear the second:

rats.

 

Hispid cotton; cotton

yellow-nosed; marsh rice

and southern plains

and Ord’s kangaroo,

pink tails

 

shifting sand. Norway

rats are the worst.

After police found 

one woman in her kitchen,

dead at the table,

 

they tested the molded bread

and called us in: we

ripped up the floorboards

and the smell nearly

turned me (after

 

fifteen years of breathing it).

Burrow like I’ve never

seen: tunnel like a vine

with chambers the size

of my torso, nests

 

packed with Marlboro filters,

attic insulation, rubber bands

and horsehair wigs. A few 

feet down we found the source,

nearly twenty of them piled

 

like carp at the bottom

of a drained pond, brown,

white and black, dappled

into one color, eyes

closed, hair flittering, alive.  

 

 

Maria Falconetti

After watching it for the third time, Donna wants to play the part. I’ve always wanted

to be Dreyer, leaning forward, deliberate, but she had her own ideas, kneeling 

on the slate outside, rolling up her jeans so skin touches stone. I thought we would joke

around, hold onions out of the shot to coax tears, make a hat of twigs and a sparrow

feather for a pen, but she had all of this planned, telling me where to stand, steadying

the camcorder on my shoulder. Zoom on her face, make it so wide there was nothing

else in the yard, town, world, and keep it there while she produced real tears above

her shaking throat. I looked to the side of the viewfinder to see her hands collected 

against her stomach, turning the bottom of her shirt up and out. She told me the camera

is shaking, so I stayed focused, documenting. She pulled this from somewhere;

was it last week, when I left the bed, or this morning, on the phone with my brother,

laughing. What will we do with this? She will replay the video after dinner, together

on the couch, lights off. But where are her accusers? Should I turn the lens toward

my face? We will be together, then, in the shaking film, black edges pushing us closer.  

 

 

Salem Falls Board of Education: Minutes for Monday, January 12, 1991

(One)

Ellen walks in first

wearing that beige baize

sweater, collar scratching

her pale neck

 

(Two)

next is Alan, hands

pocketed, smothered in cloth

 

(Three)

you can watch the clock all you like, Ellen, but the tick 

doesn’t care about your violet-eyeshadow stare. even

if you pulled over a chair, knocked the clock down, wound

the hands forward, you would be changing your own time,

not ours, so you see such effort is useless. ask Alan.

why do you think his hands are stiff in his pockets?

 

(Four)

and what I am worried about most, really, is the quality

and not the quantity?

of education in our district. we should teach books

that speak to the human experience, books about death

and farming and sex and kaleidoscopes and cherries and

Ellen, your eyeshadow is obnoxious

purple should never come that close to your face

 

(Five)

the librarian wishes to speak

we had no idea that she could

(laughter)

I most certainly can. And I resent

any accusations to the contrary.

 

(Six)

please note that the principal has left the building.

 

 

Nick Ripatrazone is the author of Oblations (Gold Wake Press 2011), a collection of prose poems. His recent work has appeared in Esquire, The Kenyon Review, West Branch, The Mississippi Review, Sou’wester, and Beloit Fiction Journal.

 

 

Q&A:

Q: What was your inspiration for these poems?

A: These three poems were drafted during the same afternoon. I’m not aware of any connection between rodents, silent film stars, and school boards, but perhaps one does exist.

 

Q: Poet as filmmaker: How do you set up your shots?

A: I think phrases are the lifeblood of poetry, so I try to position a narrator who can catalog those brief images with specificity. If phrases could equal shots, then I'd love to reach within a mile of Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven.

 

Q: What direction do you face when you are at work on your writing?

A: I have two answers for that: we're in the process of moving.  At our old house I faced a stream--part of the Paulinskill. Our (hopeful) new house faces woods: perfect place to look at night.

 

Q: Other than rats, do any other creatures haunt your poems?

A: Pigs (if you count them) have made a few appearances. I credit Sylvia Plath's "Sow," Flannery O'Connor's "Resurrection," and Breece Pancake's "Time and Again."