The Flight from Atlanta to Little Rock– Poetry by Steven Ratiner

“The Flight from Atlanta to Little Rock

and below us, the land is a tight-seamed patchwork –
how men work the earth, stake their claim.

Watching, I sketch new ideas in my notebook.
Next time, I’ll make jade lakes dotting a bed quilt,
mountain ranges in raw silk stair-stepped

in greens and blues and, beyond the peaks, a few
pockets of wilderness in black brocade.
Laying down every night will be my retreat,

like Li Bai in the mountain mist, hovering above
this unraveling world. They’ve told me
this surgeon is the best there is. He’d better be.

I know what’s growing inside my head.
I read somewhere that the Chinese character
for male is composed of two other words:

strength under field. The field is a little quilt square.
Strength wields a long curved blade.
I forget what female is made of.”


©Steven Ratiner






STEVEN RATINER’s writing has appeared in numerous journals in America and abroad including Parnassus, Agni, Hanging Loose, Poet Lore, Salamander, QRLS (Singapore) and Poetry Australia. “The Flight” is from Black Quilt, a new book-length sequence of poems triggered by his sister’s battle with brain cancer; the poems encased in quotation marks are persona pieces written in his sister’s voice. Ratiner has written about poetry for The Christian Science Monitor and their media stations, The San Francisco Chronicle, and currently reviews for The Washington Post.  Giving Their Word, a collection of interviews, was re-issued in a paperback edition from University of Massachusetts Press and includes conversations with some of poetry’s most vital contemporary voices such as Seamus Heaney, Mary Oliver, Bei Dao, and the last full-length interview with Bill Stafford before he died.

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