Birdman, Colombian

In response to a challenge at Ekphrastic Review. Here are all the poems generated by this photo of a Colombian Breastplate. Thanks, Lorette, for including my poem with the others!

A golden, first century breastplate —
mythic protection in battle. Mortals
have sought aegis from the gods
since time began, it seems.

When my youngest was three,
he wore an Incredible Hulk T-shirt
every day for a year, certain his kinship
with the angry green goliath
could transmogrify a toddler
to a Titan older kids would fear. 

I hope the Columbian warrior
with a flying deity on his chest
found more success than my guileless,
doomed boy, whose brother and sister
held him down and made him smell
the lint in their belly buttons.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Ekphrastic Review
For Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo source: Breastplate
Photo source: Hulk Kid

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Sunset

Last night
clouds turned cantaloupe electric,
backlit in neon.
That must be where God lives, I thought,
though I don’t much believe in God.

Sunsets are reason enough to imagine
that heaven’s in the sky —
a transcendent finale,
coda of the day.

As years count down, I think
about sunsets, seasons —
leaves falling,
branches bare.

       Perhaps I should believe.

The closest I get is sunset —
enough ecstasy,
enough God.

Sarah Russell
For Poets United
Photo source

Chancing Love


Not a dive’s precision arc.
Instead a lemming run and plunge,
oblivious to depth,
temperature, whether
water’s in the pool.

Cynics shake their heads.
“Only a fool…” they say.
“Yes, yes!” I answer,
and drop my towel.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Shot Glass Journal
For Poets United Poetry Pantry

Photo Source
                      

In the dream

in color but colorless,
post-apocalyptic, the world stretches out
with ash and charred hulks of trees.
I am alone. Beside me the world has cracked
like an egg, jagged and stretching over the horizon,
only a foot wide, but an abyss.
There is a whisper of steam coming from it,
and a whisper of something churning below.
That is the only sound except for a bird calling, maybe
for a mate.  I need to get to the other side,
but I am terrified. I can step across easily —
only a foot wide — but I remember a time I tried to jump
a puddle in a long straight skirt.  My leg would go no farther
than the skirt’s width, and I landed in the water in new shoes.
What if I can’t reach across?  The dream won’t leave.
I think of it whenever my mind is alone.

– Sarah Russell
Artist: frankmoth portfolio
For Real Toads “dream” prompt
and for Poets United Poetry Pantry

Confession

There’s a spider in the bathtub.
I saw him last night, and he’s still there
this morning, though I gave him fair warning
when I brushed my teeth before bed.
I need to take a shower.
But there’s a SPIDER.
In the BATHTUB.
My Dr. Schweitzer is arguing with my Eek.
He’s small –
smaller than a shirt button –
and round and 8 legs look like 3 too many.
But he’s in the BATHTUB.
Where I SHOWER.
NAKED.
I turn on the water, and he wiggles
a couple of legs but the spray doesn’t hit him,
so I don’t get a pass from Karma.
Then my Eek takes over,
and I get a piece of toilet paper,
and he wiggles 2 legs again but doesn’t run
so my Eek doesn’t get to plead self-defense.
I try to make it painless –
a squish and done – but then I wonder
if he was just trying to say hello,
and the shower’s kind of lonely
without him in there waving at me.

– Sarah Russell
For Poets United Poetry Pantry
First published in Your Daily Poem
Photo source

Dandelions

“A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place.”
                            George Washington Carver

Spike-haired, brass-blonde,
they invade the bluegrass suburbs
where blades form a passive sameness
if tended as intended.  They strut
across the green of everyday —
strumpets in tattered leafy skirts,
stiletto roots — bestowing downy favors
on the summer breeze.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Your Daily Poem
Photo Source

At 3 a.m.

This poem is a departure for me. I found myself channeling Hemingway after reading for the third or fourth time A Moveable Feast — perhaps the best and least known guidebook for Paris. My thanks to Scot at Rusty Truck for publishing it this week.

At 3 a.m.
after one more day
without words, Paris
takes you in like a whore,
not surprised you’re back
for another fuck in the dark.
November. Brittle rain
scrapes the bone.
You walk the sheen of cobbles
to the Seine, where bodies,
freshly guillotined, once floated,
heads left behind in baskets,
past the great cathedral, gargoyled,
buttressed, to the boîte
on St. Louis where absinthe
and jazz make love, and a girl
comes to rub against you
like she knows your name.

– Sarah Russell
first published in Rusty Truck
Photo by Nicolas Vigier

Bathsheba, Bathing

She doesn’t know King David watches,
doesn’t know his lust — blind
to her virtue, her marriage.

I serve this most beautiful of women,
make the water warm, the soap fragrant.
I pour sweet oil between her breasts,
watch it drip on thighs and belly.

She is wed to Uriah, away at war,
but she’s lonely for men’s praise,
looks often in the basin
to measure her own beauty.

I fear the king’s desire. Their eyes meet,
and I know his will is hers as well.
God will smite them in their coupling.

What will become of me who keeps
their secrets? Are my loyalties to king
or God or to my mistress whom I love
as David loves her, as Uriah loves her.
My secrets must remain more secret still.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Ekphrastic Review
Based on Bathsheba by Jean Leon Gerome, 1899
For dVerse and for Poets United

 

 

 

First Husband

“Poetry is . . . emotion recollected in tranquility.”
― William Wordsworth

I found his obit on Google,
hadn’t seen him, barely thought
of him in forty years
since the day he loaded his car
with half of everything – blankets, pillows,
dishes, albums (we fought over
who’d get “The Graduate” poster of Hoffman
and Anne Bancroft’s leg) – and drove off
to I-didn’t-care-where.

Once, 20 years later I learned where he was
from his buddy John and called.
He still taught drama and directed
summer stock in a small midwestern town.
We laughed together, comfortable,
finally, in our separate skins.

Now an obit with pictures and two columns
in the paper. A well-loved, prominent citizen,
it read, wife, three kids, grandkids. He wrote
a children’s book and “left the town
with memories of comedy and drama
that enriched our lives.”

Our marriage wasn’t mentioned. No need,
I suppose – a youthful take off
and crash landing best forgotten. But I wish
I had a chance to say goodbye.

– Sarah Russell
First published by Silver Birch
Photo Source
for dVerse Poetics