Wonderings / Isaac Rankin



poems by

Isaac Rankin

ISBN: 978-1-59948-944-5, 47 pages, $13 (+ shipping)

Release Date: December 13, 2022

The Advance Sale Discount on this title has expired. For those who prefer to pay by check the price is $17/book (which includes shipping) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 


Isaac Rankin lives in Charlotte, NC, where he works as a financial adviser at Jarman Financial. Isaac spent the first 11 years of his career working at Christ School, an all-boys boarding school outside of Asheville, NC. His poems and short stories have appeared in the Indianapolis Review, Potomac Review, William & Mary Review, and other places. When he’s not writing, Isaac enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons, following sports obsessively, and traveling.

In Isaac Rankin’s Wonderings, we meet a young father conjuring boyhood’s past and young adulthood’s future. These generous and generational poems startle with a distant yet familiar wail and “we hear our organs churning in unison/to push us forward.” Rankin reveals a vast, sinister, and transient first world reality all while reminding that first joys can be certain and centering. After reading, I can’t help but feel and return to their “irrepressible promise.” ~Jesse Breite


A triumph of the imagination, Wonderings presents a portrait of the artist as a young father. Reading these poems will fill you with immense gratitude, not only for Rankin’s lived experience, but also for your own. ~Spenser Simrill



In the picture
he is licking batter off the spatula in the backyard
because something encoded in his DNA tells him:
this is what we do with batter-covered spatulas.
He’s looking more like me than most days so
I text his grandmother the photo to strengthen our side’s case
and because quarantining can be lonely
when spring buzzes and sprouts forth from every living thing in sight.
I can sense her searching for the right emojis
on the other end of the endless ellipsis
and brace myself.
Instead: Did you ever imagine you could love someone so much?
He’s giggling now,
zigzagging sugardrunk through the yard
as I search for the right words…
this tiny human life raft
floating out in the ocean of all loves
between beings of and for one another.



Men with Guns


Bath time and books
and still he won’t sleep

I lie down beside him

Backwards counting
and deep breathing
don’t do the trick

A second round of prayers
before I pretend to sleep

But he nudges me
Shakes me
Presses his face to mine
in the pitch black

His warm toothpaste breath
whispering from his pure mouth:
Wake up, Daddy.
Wake up!

A mouth where straight white teeth
have yet to decay
and his tongue has yet to sharpen
Where cherry lips have yet to be kissed
by someone who will break his heart

A mouth that’s never cursed his father
or screamed at his mother
That’s never inhaled smoke
or tasted wine going down
or wine coming up

A mouth that’s never been bloodied
in a bar fight
or blistered by the sun
That’s never been violated
or covered by a hand from behind
or duct taped shut
A mouth that’s never thirsted in the desert
or starved in the winter
That’s never been silenced by laws
or men with guns
or a finger in the darkness



The Migrants


As sunset teeters along the fence line
A sound startles us from hide-and-seek
We look up to scan dusk for its source
Flapping in formation: a compass pointing home
One more cackle ricochets off our roof
before they disappear above the trees
They’re early this year
I lift baby boy onto my shoulders and turn back in search of others
Only silence and darkness trail behind
Somewhere farther south:
Spring is spreading its wings



Last Call


At Water’s Edge Restaurant, you tell me the menu hasn’t changed but the portions look smaller than when you were a girl. You point to the railing where your brother used to slide down like a charging bull. You scan the specialty cocktails list at 11AM on a Tuesday because this is it before Greenville: there in a laboratory our hopefully future family is frozen— suspended in possibility by a science I don’t really want to understand so long as it works. You order something with tequila and I do the same but there’s no relaxing: The highchair can’t contain our only success story. He’s too damn big and boats are calling his name. I take him out to the boardwalk and follow the long line of vessels with clever names like Knot So Fast and Unsinkable II. Some are pristine, others scarred. Some large and luxurious, others small and subsistent. Our only success story makes a break for it and I hustle to reel him in, still afraid he will vanish into the ether from which he came. I hoist him up on my shoulders like a sail and set course for the table where our fried seafood has surely arrived. You are a speck from this distance, yet infinitely bigger than a frozen possibility. The sky darkens over Shem Creek and I’m wondering, as I sometimes do when the weather turns, how any of us ever survived the impossible journey to being.

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