KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Poem: 198 words


by Bill Ratner

Let’s select someone from your past, 
the doctor says. Someone you trusted. 
I line them all up, 
a spray of snapshots, 
but no one really qualifies. 

Then I remember the miniature being 
who appeared at my shoulder once when I was resting, 
cape fluttering, arms out like Dogoda, 
tiny goddess of the west wind, 

my mother’s and father’s first-born 
who because of their mourning 
was a memory 
I was forbidden to share. 

Gone nine years before my birthday, 
strangled by the umbilical cord, 
the lilac breath of my sister. 

I don’t know what they intended to name her. 
I call her Phoebe, daughter of Gaea. 
Phoebe would have peach fuzz like Mother 
without the cigarette breath. 

She would wear loose-weave wool skirts, 
have long arms and wisdom 
and would be my shepherdess. 

I talk to Phoebe. 
I don’t wait for an answer. 
I tell her everything. 
On my walks, in the car. 

I tell her about Mother and her illness, 
about Dad surviving his way to death. 

Communing with Phoebe 
I remember a photo of me 
holding a small bag of copper hobby wire, 
resigned, unsmiling. 
I put my arms around my neck 
and comfort me. 


Bill Ratner
Issue 12, Summer 2019

is one of Hollywood’s premier voiceover artists and a published author. His book Parenting for the Digital Age: The Truth behind Media’s Effect on Children and What To Do About It (Familius Publications) is a 2016 National Indie Excellence Award Winner, and he is a contributing author of Secrets of Voiceover Success (Sentient Press). His personal essays and short fiction are published in The Baltimore Review, Blue Lake Review, The Chiron Review, The Coachella Review, Coast Magazine, Feminine Collective, Hobo Pancakes, NiteBlade, Papier Maché Press, Pleiades, Southern Anthology, Spork, The Missouri Review, TV Marquee, and Wolfsinger Press.

One of America’s leading storytellers, Bill’s spoken word performances can be heard on National Public Radio’s Good Food, The Business, and KCRW’s Strangers. He is a nine-time winner of The Moth Story SLAM and a two-time winner of The Best of The Hollywood Fringe Festival Extension for solo performance. He has told stories at Comedy Central Stage, National Storytelling Festival, G.I. Joe Con, Long Beach Comic Con, Portland Storytelling Festival, Timpanogos Storytelling Conference, National Storytelling Network Conference, and Los Angeles Unified School District classrooms since 1985.

Author’s website:

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Emily, a poem by Bill Ratner in The Ramingo’s Porch (13 May 2019)

Bill Ratner: More Than Just a Familiar Voice, an interview by Mark Miller in Jewish Journal (14 June 2018)

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