Prime Number Magazine
is a publication of 
Press 53
PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130
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Issue 41, July-September 2013
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
2 Poems
by Rick Marlatt
Followed by Q&A

Desired Altitude

The captain says feel free to move,
but I’m not going anywhere, not with this article
on remote viewing that waits in my lap. 
A woman missing half a wing on her shoulder
pours fatigue into a plastic cup.
We lock eyes as it fizzes. 
I want to tell her how my father used to say
if you could keep Coke on the hood of a car
it would eat through the metal in less than a month.
This is only a two-hour flight. I sip it back,
feel it swarming its rust through the machines
of my insides. It has taken a long time,
but I’ve finally learned to hate my body. 
I wonder who sat here before me. 
Few clues present themselves, though the physics
magazine intrigues me fiercely. Perhaps
this person was strongly loved, & also feared
heights & mountain lions. Was there a father
with a sore back & sage advice like
it be a fickle game & there’s always something.  
Too tired to read, I flick the light off.
It’s just me, dusk, & the cerebral cortex of the Rockies. 
I remote view my wife. She’s reading
about vampires on the couch. The Christmas
tree shimmers behind her head. She looks up
as she turns the page. These aren’t old school
vampires, she explains. They look longingly 
at trees & wear designer jeans. She sneezes.
I’d rather not have it this way, so I try again.
This time she’s in the kitchen, fixing a sandwich.
She pieces tomato & bacon onto wheat,
substituting cabbage for lettuce. BCT she says, 
winking. How does she know I’m there?
How does the sun look so terribly cold & what
do we even call this decade?


A voice detonates my dream
  into groggy molecules

  prepare for landing.

Below me Omaha
  can’t sleep
  perfectly still in a bed 
  of bleeding light.

Golden micromachines 
  in a slow river.

It’s easy to forget
  the destruction we’re
  capable of.

It’s Christmas.

  Omaha is holding its breath.
Omaha gathers in its jazz funny physics 
  native recipes  
  suspicious bodies.

  A hush.

My dream was about a kid
  I knew in grade school.
  Lab glasses. Obsessed 
  with robots.

I examine the mechanics
  of my palm.

Even with all these ancient
  I still
  have no idea where
  to begin.

Rick Marlatt’s third chapbook, November Father, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. His first collection, How We Fall Apart, was named the winner of the 2010 Seven Circle Press Poetry Award, while his second chapbook, Desired Altitude, won the 2012 Standing Rock Cultural Arts prize. Rick is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of California, Riverside, where he served as poetry editor of the Coachella Review. Previously, Rick studied English and Philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where he also earned a MA in Creative Writing. Rick is currently a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A teacher, poet, screenwriter, and literary critic, his work has appeared widely in print and online publications including Rattling Wall, New York Quarterly, and Rattle. Marlatt teaches English in Kearney, where he lives with his wife and their two sons. Read more at


Q: Technology offers us connection and yet isolates us – your poems speak to this beautifully. What technology enhances your life – or plagues it?

A: Thanks! That’s definitely a binary that is only increasing all the time. We can see it everywhere. I see it in my students who have immediate access to unlimited information, unlike any human civilization that has ever existed. But what can a 12-year-old do with that? They can all quote a video about private detective cats they watched on their phones. But they each did that in their own basements. So it’s kind of a false community when you talk about social media. I remember when my dad had the old bag phone with the big black curly cord in the early ’90s. When he pressed a button it was like a close-up of the villain igniting ill-fated destruction upon the western hemisphere because he had to push it all the way in, and there was this iconic dinging sound. It’s amazing because now he’s downloading videos of his grandkids, using Hey Tell for messaging, and everything else. Crazy. I’d say right now the greatest enhancement is our Keurig machine. My wife can make all of her lattes, and I can do Colombian, Italian, espresso, Dark Magic, or whatever, and there’s no mess. Our kids can even make hot chocolate. And one push of a button. We love it. 

Q: Do you have a poet outside the British/American canon who has been an inspiration or influence on your work? In what ways?

A. When I was a Philosophy student at UNK, I took an Eastern Psychology class with a prof who was also a Zen master. He was a well-read scholar and recommended tons of books, more than I could ever get my hands on. We read the Tao Te Ching and lots of ancient Chinese poetry. I found that I loved the work of Thich Nhat Hanh. It was a totally different way of thinking. I was probably a terrible student because I could never really turn my mind off. Trying to do so was like damming up the ocean. The more I tried to silence thoughts, the faster they came rushing in. But that focus, that attention to all the little vibrations, is a tactic I think I use a lot to get into a poem. The trick is working myself out of it. For me, trying to write a poem can be like the experience of trying to meditate. Hopefully, I’m a better at coming up with words than I am at sitting and staring at a wall for a discernible amount of time. 

Q: Give us your best in-flight story.

A. I have had a quite a few interesting experiences in and around airports and airplanes and related to flying in general – the best being the time a bottle of grape jelly I brought back with me to Omaha from Palm Springs exploded in a plastic bag. The flight was full and everyone stood around baggage claim gasping and retching at this disgusting heap. It looked like something Dexter Morgan would toss off of his boat. I let it go around a few times so the crowd would dissipate. But no one would leave. They wanted to see what moron actually thought this would be a good idea. My favorite in-flight story has to be the time my friend and I were flying from Las Vegas to Phoenix. It was late at night, and we were about halfway there when the pilot came on and said that we had hit a bird and were turning around to go back to McCarran. People were groaning and grumbling of course. In the back of my mind I was wondering what kind of bird we were dealing with that wouldn’t get out of the way, and what size of bird it would take to cause serious mechanical malfunction. Was it a pterodactyl? When we landed there were lights everywhere. Fire trucks, ambulances, and cops all surrounding the plane. I was freaking out. This was all protocol, but I was new to flying at the time. So it was fairly formative. Definitely not going to forget that one.