Steven Ratiner

Ballroom Dancing with the Bestial Dark, Citizen (Skeletal Villanelle #2), Teatro Antico: Steven Ratiner

Ballroom Dancing with the Bestial Dark

Emptiness: encircling my waist, clasping
my cold palm, drawing me close – the fox-

trot, the clawed waltz, the lunge-
feint-retreat, into and out of our most

private spaces, wind-combed fur cha-cha-cha.
And her feral perfume: rain, rot, iron

in the blood, terror’s pheromones,
the clinking of our canines, the knot

of wet tongues. Raspy breath now,
head falling back, hair almost sweeping

sky’s polished expanse, I’m death’s
wallflower no more, gliding across this moon-

lit ballroom – minus, suddenly, the music,
moon, partner, and even the feel of the floor.

Citizen (Skeletal Villanelle #2)

able, this white erasure,
our snow-blighted nowhere.

As if we were
evicted from our very
skins, given one bare

room in this barbed wire
subdivision, tenants-at-will
in Rancho Nowhere,

nothing but vacancies, despair
by the week or the month,
whatever the market will bear.

Front door. Frontier.
Refugees whose passports
are stamped Nowhere,

No one, with neither flag nor
homeland. “Show some gratitude,”
the gold-barred lapel pin through bare
flesh: “Citizen Nowhere.”

Teatro Antico

Noon in Siracusa.
Sun-fissured stone tiers.
Rosefinch lights on the steps,
my Aeschylus, his blood-washed face.
Cloud-scud and dry winds through hilltop olive,
our murmuring chorus. Alone here, I am fate, I am audience –
me, and all the insatiable kings I carry within, all the blind fathers
who squander their progeny like spilt wine – so the stingy gods might
bless their fruitless wars, their bountiful carnage – all
for a remembered face, a stolen strand of beauty,
never ours in the first place.

STEVEN RATINER has published three poetry chapbooks, and is completing work on three full-length collections. His work has appeared in scores of journals in America and abroad including Parnassus, Agni, Hanging Loose, Poet Lore, Salamander, QRLS (Singapore) and Poetry Australia. He's also written poetry criticism for The Christian Science Monitor, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post. Giving Their Word – Conversations with Contemporary Poets was re-issued in a paperback edition (University of Massachusetts Press) and features interviews with many of 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 voices to some of America’s most substantial voices. (