After the Fact


There’s the Fact,

and After the Fact –
the silence of a new apartment,
hugging the kids too hard,
watching them manipulate.
It’s his telling friends you took him
to the cleaners, cold stares
at soccer games.

After the fact
is buying hundred dollar jeans,
then eating ramen for a week,
lying about your age,
your weight.  It’s wondering
if they’re mama’s boys
or gays still in the closet,
what to do with small talk,
stretch marks,  settling for a 6
because you’re horny.

The Fact’s a piece of cake.

Sarah Russell
First published in Rusty Truck
Painting source

Cusp

Yesterday’s south wind rushed warmth
to February snow. Today the earth
is boggy with new grass, tattered white
in crannies on north sides of things.
Daffodils finger their way toward light,
and old women’s feet no longer tremble
on their way to market.

 

Sarah Russell
First published in Your Daily Poem
Painting by James Coates
For Real Toads TuesdayPlatform

 

La Visite

She sat in a high-backed chair on the nursing home’s veranda, posture perfect for a woman of 95, her hand poised on the gold handle of her cane. She didn’t turn her head to greet me, but when I came into view, she smiled and fluttered a hand toward a chair across from her. “Hello, Lily.”

My name is Amanda, but I didn’t correct her. “Hello, Elizabeth,” I said. I had never called her Grandma.

“You didn’t bring violets, Lily.”

“They weren’t fresh at the florist’s today,” I lied.

“A shame. I do love a violet nosegay. François always brought me a nosegay.”

‘François?”

“The only man I allowed to kiss my hand,” she said. “Most are so crude, you know. They raise one’s hand to their lips. The true gentleman bows to the proffered hand, brushes it with his lips and a tickle of his mustache. Ah yes,” she mused. “François…”

“You never mentioned him before.”

“He was a fairly short-lived liaison à Paris. I was there to visit my cousin Odette.” She paused. “Maman didn’t know Odette’s obsession, you see.”

“And what was that?”

“Me.”

“Oh,” I said. “Of course.”

“Yes, of course.” She met my eyes and leaned forward. “We were very discrete, you understand, unlike Gertrude and Alice. We’d sit apart at their salons. Flirt with the young men there. Unkempt writers and artists still in their smocks. I told Alice they should cover the furniture so it didn’t soil.” She paused. “Ruffians, those boys. Thought themselves intellectual, but they were quite ordinary.”

“And Odette?”

“Yes, she was sometimes a ruffian too. Liked to pull me down by the hair as she kissed me. I still have a scar where she bit me once.” She lifted her hair and I could see a faint crescent outline on her neck. “Un souvenir d’amour,” she smiled.

“When did you decide you weren’t, uh, attracted to women?”

“Oh, I never did decide. I’ve had lovers all my life—boys, girls, young. Always young.”

“But you married…”

“Of course. One must, to legitimize any whelps that come along. Such a bother, pregnancy, children. I don’t recommend it, Lily.”

“I’ll see if I can avoid it,” I said, thinking I probably shouldn’t tell my mother about this visit.

“Yes, do. And now, I must rest a moment before Odette comes by this afternoon. She will undoubtedly want to ravish me. Be a dear, Lily, and play the Strauss, will you?”

I found an old tape of waltzes and put it into the cassette player on the table next to her chair.

“Lovely. Thank you, Lily. You may go now.”

I walked toward the parking lot wondering who Lily was… François… As I got to my car, I saw a stout older woman in trousers striding up the walk. I hesitated, then couldn’t help calling to her. “Odette?”

She turned her head.

 

– Sarah Russell
First published in Mercurial Stories
Photo source

Lawrence – by Robert Ford

A marvelous poem by Robert Ford, voted Reader’s Choice at Algebra of Owls. Both the poet and the journal are worth following. I’m never disappointed by their offerings.

Algebra Of Owls

In Miss Owen’s English class we learned about The Writer,
a local hero, or at least he’d come from a town near ours
we’d heard of, and had written poems and books, and died

abroad. He wrote a novel famous for being about fucking,
she told us – or something – and for having the word cunt in it,
and getting banned. Her fish-batter hair bounced as much as

hair as short as hers could, and her cavegirl face with its dark,
moon-lidded eyes, ground pepper as she said the swear-words,
and feasted on the bony silence they’d milked. After the bell,

we mooched about in the schoolyard like sheep just shorn,
our tongues and lips clumsy with disbelief, the crown jewels of
our vocabulary now strangely blunted in our mucky little mouths.

Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland. His poetry has appeared in both print and…

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Ephemera

I sit at the water’s edge,
draw circles in the sand.

It was almost too civil. Last night
we walked down the beach
to the crab shack,
tied bibs around our necks,
and over a bucket of clams and corn
decided who got what.

Circles, short-lived in the tide,
my wedding ring in the dresser drawer.

 

Sarah Russell
First published in  Red Eft Review
Image source

Mornings after breakfast

This poem was just published in Red Eft Review. My thanks to editor Corey D. Cook for taking three of my poems for publication!

Mother hangs her tea bags on the door,
winds the strings around the knob. Drips,
like paw prints, stain the old wood floor.
I don’t know why she does it. She never
uses them again. After her tea she gets
the big pot and scrubs vegetables for soup.
Her knife is rhythmic against the cutting board,
her felt slippers scuffing from counter to stove
and back again. I see her mouth move sometimes
as she sways, mincing, mincing her life.

Sarah Russell
First published in Red Eft Review
Painting by Dmitri Matkovski
For Poetry Pantry

Mary Oliver

I just learned that Mary Oliver has died. She is one of my favorite poets, and one who inspired me with her plain language and sensitive observations. The world is lonelier without her.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like a hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom; taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

– Mary Oliver
From New and Selected Poems
Photo source

Poet

My friend and fellow State College Poetry Workshop colleague Steve Deutsch received a 2018 Pushcart nomination for this incredible poem recalling a friend and the Vietnam War. Please visit Steve’s blog Stevieslaw to leave a comment.

Poet

I found your first book today
in a second hand store at the Harrisburg Station.
Dingy and age-tanned,
it retained its dustcover,
with a photo of you at 22,
wearing a threadbare corduroy coat
I’m sure is still in your closet,
and what might pass for a smile.
It’s a rare first print from ‘69.

My war.
Your deferment.
You kept to your poetry
like you kept to the old neighborhood,
both mired in bottonless poverty—
an endless scraping by.
Yet, just last year, The Times called you
the Bashful Bard of Brooklyn.

We will lay you out tomorrow
in a sandy plot
in one of those many cemeteries
that dot the flat, emptiness of the mid-island plains.
Bury you next to Mary
your common-law wife of fifty three years
and your only treasure.

Old friend,
I never told you what I felt
when I first held a copy of your book.
I was outside my tent,
less than a mile from the wreckage of Ben Tre.
The package had been waiting for me
while we took that city down.
Not even the rats and the roaches
could have survived our fury.
”That should be me,” I thought,
and tossed that splendid book
on the residue of war.

Steven Deutsch
First published in Eclectica
Photo Source

Tōrō Nagashi

Congratulations to my friend Ryan Stone, who recently received a Pushcart nomination from Poetry Nook for this beautiful poem of sorrow. Please send comments to Ryan at his blog, Days of Stone.

Your flame flickers briefly—
a parting whisper.
Some trick of the river
mimics your laughter.

We stand apart at sunset
lost in natsukashii,
come together in darkness
to watch the dead pass on.

Your light has fallen now
to shadow
beneath the bridge.

By Ryan Stone
First published by Napalm and Novocain
Republished by PoetryNook
photo source

little tree

One of my favorite Christmas poems. Happy Holidays, Everyone!

little tree
by e.e. Cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid

look     the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel”

Image source