Camera Man by Ethel Rackin

Camera Man

I had to swim part way there because the land was submerged
or maybe hadn’t been there in the first place, for all I knew.
The stripes of blue and gold were the same for both of us—
gender neutral? Not exactly, but close enough.
You wore your best encampment and I wore the jeans
I had left. I couldn’t help myself
from falling asleep: the waves, the paddling,
the fatigue, treated (not very well) by 30 mg.
It was a miracle but only if you could afford it.
All of the new thinking is like…. Anyway, just as
someone stole the only photo I had left of that
time, a photo simultaneously sad and magical,
I lit a fire under us. You wouldn’t have minded
except now you and everyone you knew
had to get involved, to which I responded
by asking exactly who you were and what
business you had taking my picture after all.


Ethel Rackin is the author of three books of poetry: The Forever Notes (Parlor Press, 2013); Go On (Parlor Press, 2016); and Evening (Furniture Press, 2017). Her new teaching text is Crafting Poems and Stories: A Guide to Creative Writing (Broadview Press, 2022).

Six Poems by Ethel Rackin


Some things go with it—
the anxious stares
the desire to attenuate things—
so that a flower in a vase
stands just
as it is
as long as it is
invisibly and because.


The Color of Trees

All these creatures filled
with petrified wood
as I am—little bird—
as I am—snow-filled skull—
ornamental nightingale—
so my early years and late
stretch in a thin line—
break and breathe—
as trees thrown by a river
rise—what’s the difference
bird—call me if you need
any 200-year-old trees.



The forest will take you—
you with your sudden
aching parts
your steely starts
and uneven gait
your unconscious fits—
don’t fret, Friend, walk—
something will roll you
something will lift you up
as if by wind—
a frond.
A river walk.



Something it is that hangs
on the backs of bushes—
laundry-line or vine, half-
occluded woodbine—
or those rotten birches—
the hollow ones—now
that we’ve become
no more useful to them
than this unpredictable sun.


Another Summer

Dogs walked the streets
trees snuck behind shadows
the world was an alley
in my heart a tune played
ice fell and melted
large drinks were served
these were the salad days
but we didn’t yet know it
we were so busy counting
our private miseries
our secret wishes.



What remains in my notebook
now that the day is done
here on this sick planet
I think I’ll pour another
look up at the dim
stars—for tonight
they’re on fire.


Ethel Rackin is the author of three books of poetry: The Forever Notes (Parlor Press, 2013), Go On (Parlor Press, 2016), and Evening (Furniture Press, 2017). Her new text, Crafting Poems and Stories: A Guide to Creative Writing, is forthcoming from Broadview Press. Poems are forthcoming in Allium, Colorado Review, and Guesthouse.

5 poems by Ethel Rackin

This Late

in the day
the sky’s thirsty tilting
staring down on us—
all of it—the drinks—drunk—
as you and I might slip
into the kind of trance
we were in
at the beginning
if we’re not careful
if it’s still possible:
on another side.


A Solitary Box

is arranged
to you it’s just
a box
but to me it holds
so much


A Way Out

The shells you wear you
withdraw into—
by staying motionless
you prepare
a temporary explosion—
not to say whirlwind—
it’s in your nature.



Someday you’ll rise
and face the sun
head into the hills—
your heart’s interest—
nearly stunning
in your vicissitudes
you’ll shun that sun,


Small Things

get to you
wherever you are you are
whether or not you leave
you leave—
this flowering triangle
will come to nothing
if you’re not steadfast
or true. Be the wind
in sail. All precious



Ethel Rackin is the author of three books of poetry: The Forever Notes (Parlor Press, 2013); Go On (Parlor Press, 2016), a National Jewish Book Award finalist; and Evening (Furniture Press, 2017). She is currently at work on Crafting Poems and Stories: A Guide to Creative Writing (Broadview Press). Her collaborative lyric sequence, “Soledad,” written with Elizabeth Savage, was awarded the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred by Elizabeth Robinson, and another collaborative sequence, “Silent e,” is included in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Hotel Amerika, Jacket2, Kenyon Review, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Volt, and other journals. The recipient of a MacDowell Colony fellowship, she has taught at Penn State Brandywine, Haverford College, and Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania, where she is a professor of English.