Steven Ratiner

Gott im Himmel and The Corner of Bellington Street and Sparta
May 22, 2024 Ratiner Steven

Gott im Himmel


Gott was thicket, thorned, glottal,
a vine knotted inside my grandmother’s throat.


im’s pressed lips implied opening, a threshold,
vibration, promise, dispensation.


Himmel channeled sun into my ears, hills
upon fabled green hills, breath-trill, arrival.


Her hovering gaze.  My fingertip tracing the maze
of her furrowed cheek.  Pearl-gray-cloud-tremor: those eyes.


Remembering our days.  How I mouthed syllables as if
I’d understood. Understanding nothing: my blessing in disguise



The Corner of Bellington Street and Sparta


What could be more seemly?
To have three strong sons dress you
in breast plate and greaves, raising you up
on your shield, carrying you downstairs
to the minivan where we can all
drive up to Farnhams’ for fried clams,
and then perhaps the boardwalk above Crane’s,
to watch the brute surf slash and parry,
lunge and retreat, the comely maidens
ditching school and the boys stretched out
across their polished boards as if they were
the prows of dragon ships, venturing out
and returning in triumph.
And so I say goddamn
to the doctors and their blood-work oracles,
goddamn to the festering pancreas, goddamn
to the clamor of battle no longer needing
my strong arms, my courage – and
curse as well the wintery god Metastasis,
all the bloody spoils amassed in His keep,
and what care I if the mechanical bed is my
paltry throne and if, in a week, coma
like an invading army will overwhelm
my defenses and claim my vast lands?  Who
can say I have not earned my sovereign sleep?

STEVEN RATINER’s collection Grief’s Apostrophe will be issued by Beltway Editions in 2025.  He’s previously published three chapbooks––and his poetry has appeared in scores of journals in America and abroad including Parnassus, Agni, Hanging Loose, Poet Lore, Salamander, QRLS (Singapore), HaMusach (Israel), and Poetry Australia. He’s also written poetry criticism for The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and The San Francisco Chronicle.  Giving Their Word – Conversations with Contemporary Poets was re-issued in a paperback edition (University of Massachusetts Press) and features interviews with many of contemporary poetry’s most important figures.  He has just completed his third term as the Poet Laureate for Arlington, Massachusetts.  His weekly Red Letter Poems features a diverse range of poets, from up-and-coming talents to some of the most important voices from America and abroad. (