Sam Rasnake’s poetry has appeared in OCHO, Shampoo, FRiGG, Poets/Artists, Naugatuck River Review, Press 1, Literal Latté, Istanbul Literary Review, BLIP, Portland Review, Otoliths, MiPOesias, Metazen and BluePrintReview, as well as the anthologies Best of the Web 2009 (Dzanc Books), Deep River Apartments (The Private Press) and BOXCAR Poetry Review Anthology 2. He is the author of one collection, Necessary Motions (Sow’s Ear Press), and two chapbooks, Religions of the Blood (Pudding House) and Lessons in Morphology (GOSS183). A chapbook of poems, Inside a Broken Clock, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Rasnake also edits Blue Fifth Review, an online journal of poetry and art.
“Sam Rasnake’s Inside a Broken Clock is rich in poems that show us both his ability to situate himself in the past and present journey of literature and his sharp sense of nature and the human landscape. His poems are precise with things – trout, grackles, moss, steaming bowls of soup – but reflective and strongly self-aware. He never presents himself exactly front and center emoting but is somewhat off to the side, seeing the context as clearly as he sees himself. In some of the work there is a moving sadness and sense of mortality and failure but never self pity.”
– Marge Piercy
“It takes a certain kind of eye to peer into a broken clock and appreciate the beauty of each cog and tooth, the tensions and the precision, all the while knowing this world of inner workings is waiting for repair. The poems in this chapbook are like ‘hidden wave[s] of cicadas in bushes’ as he invokes Bashō, Billy Collins, Flannery O’Connor, and a songbook of other voices as ‘reminders of a deep purpose’. Inside a Broken Clock is a collection you will enjoy, again and again.”
– J.P. Dancing Bear
All My Sins Rising and Other Uncertainties,
after Reading Furious Cooking
All my sins rise like red-winged blackbirds of summer
into the certainty of trees – of maple & cherry
& birch – the wind, a Dorian mode among the leaves’
solitude of thirst. Each branch, a lonely voice for rain,
and there’s been none. The sun will grow fat and purple
the fields again, but what can I say of right or wrong.
And that’s not a question. I’ve locked myself in a room,
watching Black Narcissus over and over – until I feel
the wind or the rain, until I feel the eyes – always
the eyes, determining all truth that’s in the body,
my body, like a fierce star that has no name or number,
unmapped, but burns back the darkness all the same.
What we know doesn’t matter, what we do not know
doesn’t matter. Silence is still silence, and the brick
of my house is eaten away by time in the fester of too many
seasons to count. The fox den at the top of the hill is there
under honeysuckle, walnut leaves, and fence wire,
though the foxes have been gone for years. A congress
of lies comes and goes, singers blurt out their words
to dumb ears, plaids first widen, then shrink – then
swell again, disappear. The pages of a story, so says Aristotle,
will show a beginning, a middle, and an end, though
Godard argues with the order, and we, flicker-shadowed
in our seats, don’t know the difference. All my sins
rise. Think of them as gifts, as ointment for wounds,
as breath that breaks the pond’s surface. What I
would miss most is easy. What is it you most crave?
I’d always feared love’s boldness, but not this moment.
I wear my age like a bruised apple –
the hornet, drunk on the last of my sweetness.
Self-Portrait, Ending with Neruda
The vanishing tribe of the body hates
and loves the body with an ache so tiny
the world dies. They gather
all their things onto backs of animals,
wearied with the need, long column
by long column, for the migrations
into darker regions, worn thin
under footfall, over rivers starved
to rock beds. There used to be wolves
in those parts. And snows, magnificent –
jagged edges of grace under thick skies.
This then is history: the guessing,
no one saying anything, bamboo in a bowl,
bending, the hushed slide of clouds
over mountains and the meadowlark’s throat
calling down autumn. The anthropology
of the moment is shadows across the couch,
photographs and piano, a mirror to end the hall,
footsteps. This is what I carry. This is
what I breathe. When I close my notebook,
the ink dries in secret.
But we hover now, plate to plate.
Exhausted in the doing,
we tongue-to-roof-of-mouth our l’s,
salt and pepper to taste, then eat
the holier portions, such a carnal enterprise.
The cave paintings we leave, though undisturbed,
would tell a story, smoothed over stone,
of those certain dark things beyond music.
Journal of the Plague Year
— for Ann Richman (1929-2005)
my sickness is this war my sickness is
this death my sickness is this war my death
is this sickness is my war my death is
this sickness is my war my death is my
sickness is my plague is my war is my
death is this war is my death my sickness
is this plague I am sick to death of war
I am sick to death of this war I am
death and hell on a black horse I am sick
I am sick my plague is this death my war
is my sickness my plague my plague my plague
my death my sickness I am death I am
death my war and it is you it is you
lily petals floating in a glass jar
Published in Inside a Broken Clock (Finishing Line Press, 2010).