Lauren Russell


                                    She wants to know why I won’t  kiss  anyone &  don’t I want milk
                                    and  sugar with that?  I tell her no,  I drink my coffee black.  Can’t
                                    bear  to pollute the acrid though I know I carry coffee breath along
                                    with  my  cup.  If I wanted to kiss someone, I would make it a slow
                                    roast —  I  would  hover  over  the  preparation.  I  used  to  keep  a
                                    French  press concealed in my thermos but I didn’t learn to use it. I
                                    left it in the sink  at my part-time   paid-in-kind  position & since  I
                                    was  fired  I  never   picked  it  up. I pour   the  coffee   carefully  &
                                    hesitate  before  throwing  out  the  grounds.  I always think I could
                                    make  another  cup,  but  it  would be weakened and less black than


                                    His name is wood.
                                    His name is burnt birch wood.
                                    Her name is freckles-on-the-alleyway.
                                    Her name is wildflower honey.
                                    Her name is chrysanthemum cider press.
                                    Her name is tarantula.
                                    He has never been a wood.
                                    He has only been a carver of wood.


On their last night together, he holds her and points to the three stars of Orion’s belt, then turns
to face the Big and Little Dippers that hang far above the agonized hooting bird and coyotes
moaning in unison across the snow-swept woods.  She grips his sleeve and sings softly, For the
Old Man is a-waitin’ for to carry you to freedom if you follow the Drinkin’ Gourd


He has unwound her locks into thunder.
She has woven his hair into hay.
She has intermittently fastened her buttons.
He has frequently misplaced his head.
He has finally persisted in sunsets.
She has always covered her trail.
She has only jostled the rattle.
He has never rattled the chain.


in redneck drag, their ill-fitting mustaches caked with half-
baked dribble. They left a succession of strangers’ books,
some with undulating blue text and dog portraiture, others
filled with cartoon donkeys and mountain goats, and one
drilled through, bound in wire, and crucified on a board
with purple silk pansies. In a brief poetic statement prior
to his release, they wrote, “An idealized shoelace exists
the moment we no longer have to rely on it for utilitarian reasons.”



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Lauren Russell is the author of the chapbook The Empty-Handed Messenger (Goodbye Better, 2009). Her poems have appeared in Boog City, The Recluse, and Van Gogh's Ear, among others, and her reviews have recently appeared in Harp & Altar and Scapegoat Review. She grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in Brooklyn with her cat, Neruda.




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