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 mannish, older woman start 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

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

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