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

 

 

 

Fred Harris – American Small Town Barber

Last year about this time, poets from State College, PA were invited to interview residents of Juniper Village, an assisted living and memory care center and to feature them in a poem.  Here’s my poem about Mr. Fred Harris.

Fred’s blue eyes twinkle,
his lank frame curls into the chair.
He smiles, lost in reverie —
a toddler’s first big boy cut,
the mother picking up a tendril
fine as milkweed silk, to keep…
the mingled scent of Brill Cream,
lather, Bay Rum, Old Spice…
the high school football hero,
proud and sheepish at congratulations
from the men… the rhythmic sound
of straight razor against leather strop…
the businessmen in suits and ties —
just a little off the sides, they’d say,
and Fred obliged.

In the 50’s, it was crew cuts and flat tops,
in the 60’s, duck tails and pompadours.
Then the 70s, when grim-faced dads
dragged in their sons,
and shoulder-length tangles
were made presentable.
“Got another one,” he’d grin.

Fred knew the pulse of Huntingdon,
and if clients sighed a weary sigh,
Fred gave their shoulder an extra pat,
and they’d smile a little, meet his eyes
in the mirror. No music in the shop —
“It runs the batteries down,” he’d say,
but he tuned in to hear the obits read
every day in case a regular died,
so he could pay respects.

After Fred swept the floor at night,
straightened the well-thumbed Argosy’s
and Field and Stream’s, turned the sign
to “Closed” and locked the door,
he drove home to the farm, made dinner
for the kids and Cassie — Mama Cass
he called her — saw to it chores were done,
saddled up Prince for a ride at sunset.
He saw Niagara Falls once,
went to Florida for a couple days,
but that was travel enough.
He had his barber shop, his farm,
people who loved him.
He was useful. He smiles,
remembering.

– Sarah Russell
For Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo Source

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Cat Nap

The cat invited me to fill my lap
with heavy, lithe contentment.
We curled together on the couch,
purring pressure as she arched her neck
against my hand, languid comfort,
her body nestling into mine.
I roused, my hand still stroking lightly
in my sleep, cat vanished to other ventures,
the niche indented by her form
still vibrant with her warmth,
my fingertips caressing air
in silken touch remembrance.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Purrfect Poetry Anthology
Painting by bdelpesco
For dVerse Poets Pub

Sustenance

When glacial bogs blush with berries
it’ll be a hard winter, folks say.

He is cutting down the dead pine near the cabin,
beetle-killed by drought last summer.
His chainsaw knows the hearth’s width
without measuring.

I went to the orchard on Route 5,
bought peaches for canning.
The kitchen smells of sweetness —
furry skins sloughed off with blanching,
floor juice-sticky.

He comes in for lunch,
fills the room with flannel and sawdust.
“A lot of work,” he says.
“Yes,” I answer.
We eat warmed over stew.
He cleans his plate with bread crust and pushes back his chair.
“Back at it,” he mutters and opens the door.

A cold wind makes gooseflesh on my arms
as I set the pint jars of preserves
in steaming water to make them sterile.

 

– Sarah Russell
First published in The Houseboat
Reprinted in WAVES: A Confluence of Women’s Voices
For Poets United
Photo source

 

 

 

 

 

On Kebler Pass

dust the ferns with my ashes —
there, among the aspen
trembling gold against the sky.
Let them settle, sighing,
on the still warm earth of autumn
where the next peak calls your name.

Snow will come. The wind will show me
paths the doe and vixen know. The moon
will call me with her crescent mouth
and share stories of the embered stars.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Poppy Road Review
for Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo Source

Indian Summer

I hike the ridge on the last warm, tousled day,
speckled as a partridge egg,
sun already stilting 
shadows in early afternoon.
The leaves 
are October butterflies, crimson, gold.
I want to stop earth’s tilt-a-whirl right here,
hold this moment that feels so much like love
before the winter’s swordsmith hones his blade.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Poppy Road Review
Photo by Greg A. Hartford
For Poets United Mid-week motif:  Autumn

Augury

I stopped for groceries after work.
Jeff will be late again tonight.
“Don’t wait up,” he always says.

I hate these country roads at night –
twisting, full of ruts. I woke
this morning choking back a scream,
but the dream escaped
with the trembling.

I round a bend, see movement
in the willows.  Slow, I tell myself.
It’s probably nothing.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Black Poppy Review
For Real Toads prompt “chaos theory
Also for Poetry Pantry
Photo: Shutterstock

 

Migrating Geese

Keening in a bruised sky,
ragged chevrons
follow the coastline south –
imperfect V’s, left wanting
on one side or the other –
testament, perhaps, to those taken
by foxes, hunger, double barrels,
their skeins unraveling autumn.

– Sarah Russell

First published in The Houseboat
Republished in Poems in the Waiting Room
Photo:  Sunsetphotosgallery.com

Posted for dVerse Open Link

September

Black-eyed Susans gossip in the gullies
between the road and corn
past harvest,
clouds in feather boas waltz
through pale silk skies, and cows head home
for milking, while
the hawk holds vigil on a fence post.

– Sarah Russell

 First published in The Houseboat
 Republished in Your Daily Poem
 Submitted for Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo source