Nick Rattner



In the L.A. River, islands begin 

with single trees, so I lie 

in one’s shade to feel 

the shadow of beginning.

Under me, roots hold 

in their lungs the river,

while my hand rests 

on a stone, taking its pulse. 

When I stand, my steps 

startle ducks, and the order of 

shoes enters the order 

of wings, enters the 

order of sky. Then mallards 

return to mind the eggs 

they’ve hidden in coyote 

brush and blue elder, 

and with tattered blue tarps 

they mend their nests, threading 

the world’s new sleep. 

I walk through plastic blues, 

dwarf nettle, golden currant, 

and hemlock, a lazy saunter

toward translucence, layered

as the haze, maybe. If all

seeing is to be seen back,

I want to see beginning.

I see glinting metal tags 

around a dog’s neck, 

a shepherd beached 

on an otter dam, 

his flank rich enough 

with blowfly songs to rival 

rush hour’s coruscation.

Hunting Season


From woods 

where he’d tried 

training his black lab 

to retrieve ducks 

he imagined shooting,

he arrives in a blue, 

boxy Ford Bronco.

He wears Lee jeans 

and a T-shirt advertising 

his flag business, slams 

the front screen door, 

keeps me quiet 

on the couch while 

he shouts into the face 

of the dog whose fur

the river made shine. 


See what I have learned?

He hands me a beer

so cold it softens 

the sun, which is setting 

behind the lawn chairs,

as if through a day-long rage 

it had learned a cold 

and forgetting tenderness. 

The last of an afternoon 

pulls itself on its elbows 

through grass the town 

can’t afford to cut.


On a flannel couch, 

he passes out. TV muted,

two ball players round

the diamond. In the same

silence, a crowd stands, 

humiliated by its inability 

to roar. I spread

a goose-down comforter 

over him. I gaze into 

the hollow of his throat. 

See what I have learned? 


Even in slumber, we imagine 

applause on our skin.

Even inside, we are outside.

Or maybe it’s the other way.

We hunt in cut grass, 

snouts and tails cloaked

by cathodes. Maybe

we never go anywhere

but rather wait, open-mouthed, 

like blue cellar doors, 

papered by rust.

Nick Rattner lives in Houston, Texas. Recent work can be found in Columbia Poetry Review, Grist, Puerto del Sol, Asymptote, Exchanges, and InTranslation. With Marta del Pozo, he has translated the work of poets Yván Yauri and Czar Gutiérrez. At present, he is translating the work of Spanish poet Juan Andrés García Román and Mexican writer Salvador Elizondo.


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