Ellen Rachlin’s remarkable debut book of poems, Until Crazy Catches Me, has been greeted enthusiastically by pre-publication reviewers. Elise Paschen has commented that “in Until Crazy Catches Me, Ellen Rachlin imparts her unique take on the things of this world – where the philosophical is rooted in the concrete and where the need for distance is constantly undercut by a desire for proximity. These dueling tendencies play out against Rachlin’s vast canvas, from a domestic childhood scene of canning tomatoes with a grandfather in the Adirondacks to an adult scenario where the speaker observes a beloved swimming out to sea off Corsica. Rachlin establishes her distinct voice throughout these well-wrought, linguistically engaging poems.”   And this from Marjory Wentworth: “Ordinary objects and landscapes seem suddenly brilliant and suffused with meaning and resonance we had never considered. The result is lasting and enormously satisfying.” Phillis Levin has written as follows: “What if Daphne had gotten away? Facing, even pursuing, what she flees, Ellen Rachlin keeps her balance while shuttling between distance and intimacy. Her style is nimble and nervy; her persona lucid, cryptic, whimsical, courageous, and fleet. She has an eye for detours, kinship with netherworlds, radar for the uncanny. Until Crazy Catches Me introduces a poet whose manner is, by turns, deceptively candid and clearly ambiguous. Yet among the dangers and pleasures and mysteries, the glimpse most bittersweet is a pile of lemons ‘dumpling-shaped / with soft pits and shadows’ – a tribute to homegrown sensuous truth, a memory so lush it perfumes the present, ripening our sense of the future. Here we feel and see how the act of dwelling – an art of surrender – elicits transformation.” 

Ellen Rachlin’s first chapbook, Waiting for Here, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2004, and a new chapbook, Captive to Residue, is forthcoming from Flarestack Publishing. Her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies including American Poetry Review, Confrontation, The Comstock Review and Court Green. She received her M.F.A. from Antioch College. Ms. Rachlin serves as Treasurer of The Poetry Society of America and works in finance.

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BOOK STATISTICS

ISBN 978-0-9798451-5-4
56 pages, 5.5" x 8.5" perfect bound

 

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CROCUSES

I gave my sister the perfect
perennial to place among
the cracked, unmatched,
silver stones of her terrace.
The crocus seldom fails
a careless lover of gardens.

Mid-March, chilly dew smothers
mud and grasses while delicate tips
of pink, yellow, and pale purple
grandiflora burst like an argument.
For weeks they blaze
beyond their green skins:
I remain inviolate
until crazy catches me.

I CAN BEAR TO WATCH YOU

During some moments of belief,
I watch shades of blueness

melt on the horizon
or crash against a granite border

while we trace our aspirations
on a route to Bonifacio.

By day, red poppies dot the fields
between the tires and mountainside:

opiates for commitment.
Perfectly, red fish line a copper pan.

Like love of perfection,
we join hands, certain that

our differences are separable.
After all, there are

small clusters of animals
near Calvi content to rest

their heads on one another.
At night, limb to limb we seam

not perfectly.
I can even bear to watch you

alone nearly washed away,
eaten by the waves.

You move well out there,
tiny head dancing among the water’s stars.

Without the stress of love,
I discover my brilliance.

DEPARTURES


Determination,
like underground trains
below street grates,
rattles and hisses:
Don’t lose time!

We run past
newspaper-tent faces
bent into benches,
and dust-faded shoes.
Our bags flap
and papers flutter
like ribbons of smoke.

We’re on our way.

WHILE IN ISRAEL,
I SPEAK WITH MY COUSIN

Our bus threads dirty,
bullet-pocked buildings.
We arrive at a dinner
in honor of our families.

In an oval-shaped courtyard
a pond, trapped in weathered,
mossy concrete, presses
our small tables against a wall.

In the dark we converse
in small thoughts until
we seem unlike cousins
and more like strangers
trying not to be strangers.

We still resist how our family
orders our lives.
My priorities are vague.
Now you know your way:
I study the books of our faith.

You are so oddly eloquent
about your Torah studies,
your section-by-section search
for multiple meanings.

It seems as if when you bow
your head to read, answers
greet you. Duty is as simple
for you as for biblical warriors.
They left their families, then returned
victoriously bruised
or bruised by loss.

All I have is the sense that
the stars burn into our backs.

SOMEWHERE IN HIS CURAÇAO

It’s a rainy summer day
in a dark kitchen.
I roll out cartons
(more than could be seeded)
of $1.99-a-pound tomatoes
and see my grandfather’s vines.
This gray, lethargic air
makes conjuring easy.

It’s a rainy summer day
in a dark kitchen. Memories
make my knife need
this repetitive chopping.
The shallots and parsley beneath
my knife breathe Grandfather’s Giverny.
The mint is a drink from
somewhere in his Curaçao.

In this dark city kitchen,
I fold herbs into Grandfather’s pans
that hang in his Adirondack
lake-house kitchen.

RELATIVITY

Sometimes the sun takes hours to shut down;
I go slower.
In that expansion of a celestial tilting,
I go slower.

The Milky Way pushes its light years hulk
once around
each several hundred million years.

From birthday to ceremony,
season to remembrance,
time alters its spaces.

And the ducks cross Canandaigua Creek
as they did when I was ten,
counting them in their single line.

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