You Sink You Glow
The dream in which you drown
gives me ground—lost as you are,
I seek and lonesome set out
down the shore. Ocean screws
a lid about your scalp. You are light,
and as you sink you glow
the water so bottomless
it becomes space, swarming with fishstars
sucking at oxygen. Is your body stored
in the vastness? Else, your picked-apart pieces
float—to where? Above, walking walking
our distance grows: temporal, material, ardent—how am I to
measure? Of each other, we accept so little, so much.
Will Russo received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2020. He is poetry editor at Great Lakes Review. His chapbook, Dreamsoak, is forthcoming from Querencia Press. You can find him at willrusso.com.
The six of us in Omar’s Jeep. Us in the back hip to hip. Packed to the gills, one of us says, to describe the situation. So I’m thinking of slits on each of our throats, a little stack on either side, and this as a kind of amphibious expedition, up from the depths, bubbling, over land in what, for our species, is something akin to space flight, a modern marvel that Omar’s able to drive, with fins for fingers, as high as he is. As high as we all are, and with my thighs making perfect contact with two of my brothers, I can’t help but feel that I’m a part of something larger, heading somewhere, a vague notion confirmed by the semi-frequent appearance of mile markers out the passenger-side window, the slow change of terrain. A mass with multiple knees, as in more than the two I’ve brought, all angled in the same direction along the backseat’s pitted upholstery, four heads and hearts, eight arms working in concert to take down the joint that Marisa, our steadfast navigator, has so graciously prepared for us, separating seeds and stems from the shake on the map. We are, each of us, nodding along in tacit approval of a deafening backbeat. We are in disparate headspaces, each of us silently probing the contours of our respective interiors, but in doing so, together in this physical space, like schooling fish. As we coast along the bend of the interstate on-ramp, we are briefly illuminated, our flank shimmering. We are drawn by streetlight to the reef of the city. By the time we reach its perimeter, I’m sure I’ll have exhausted the metaphor, but for now, I’m still on the fish thing, an anemone thing when I mention our arms working in concert, because sure enough I get to talking about it after my next pass in rotation. The boys have come to expect this kind of thing from me and are patient. Marisa especially is patient.
“Appendages,” I say, “Slits.” Also something about unity and my deep appreciation for everyone in the vehicle. I ask what band we are listening to, what language are they speaking? Omar’s acting like he doesn’t want to tell me.
I say, “Seriously, tell me. I might want to look it up later, so I can remember the moment.”
“Man, I really don’t want to tell you.”
Which is not what you should say to somebody when a band is playing and the band is good. I let him know.
“Just don’t freak out.”
I promise I won’t.
“Fishmans,” he mumbles.
I freak out.
I can’t believe the synchronicity. For a moment, I am certain that someone, somewhere, that God is fucking with me through the weed, that he’d reached down, with his fingers in the soil, or in the suspension medium of whatever hydroponic system, and then up through the roots and leaves into the very molecular structure of the cannabinoids we’d just now combusted, and inhaled, and fucked with me, God, but then again, of course I could believe it, that call it God or synchronicity, something, a force, maybe a feminine force, I nod to Marisa, was guiding all of us, was guiding Omar’s Jeep for instance, down the very tract of road we were now travelling. I took the boys through a condensed version of this entire bullet-train of a thought, and then through a much longer, unabridged version that touched on such topics as fate, destiny, and God’s sometimes-apparent absence from what I termed “The Equation”, omitted here for brevity. Marisa points out that there’s a hospital on the next exit and asks maybe would we like to make a pitstop.
“Japanese,” says Omar. “They’re from Japan.”
When Greg got off work the other day and said he wasn’t coming back, I almost believed him, because this time, when he said it, he was tearing his shirt off, flinging his visor. His chest was real pale under the Rabbit Run fluorescents and when he left, he stole a candy bar. This was in front of customers, mind you. It was five o’clock.
I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, telegraphed across several increasingly impassioned declarations of his discontent, his disgruntlement, plus the few occasions on which I’d seen him punch stuff, the counter, the cash drawer, the ice machine outside, and once, when I think he thought I was in the bathroom, himself. I gotta say, and I guess I oughta formally tell management, Greg hadn’t been gruntled in a long time.
But it wasn’t just the punching stuff that was kinda concerning; Greg and I used to hang out and drink beers and smoke blunts behind the dumpsters, and kinda look out over the embankment a little and talk, and he’d get to saying weird shit after a while, which I took for the beers and blunts and just opening up, but now, looking back, well I’m kinda concerned.
He said, maybe around beer six, blunt three sometime, that he’d found a way to build a time machine. This was not a mechanical guy, mind you. Greg and me, we don’t know anything. He said he’d found a way to build a time machine out of his physical body. His arms and legs and stuff. When I asked him what he was on about, he just kinda laughed, but looking back now, maybe there was also like a tear in his eye. He wasn’t crying, you know, there was just like a wetness there.
He also said, at various points, that he was brushing up on his survival skills, that he’d been a boy scout and had been watching a lot of Youtube videos, guys that go out in the woods with nothing, just like a shirt and pants and I guess video equipment, and build a shelter and a fire and are generally better for it, like psychologically, and that if you extrapolate from that and you’re determined, you could build a whole new society, start at square one, and even if square one was just like a stick-based lean-to, it still had to be better than working at Rabbit Run. Square two could be like a hut.
But Greg didn’t even have a shirt, not when I saw him yesterday. He was way down the embankment out back by the dumpsters, a white speck weaving through the trees. I was out there working on the case I bought and smoking. He might have had a walking stick he’d fashioned from the brush, it was hard to tell. I’m pretty sure it was him, at least. Like I said, he was far away.
Don Television is an American writer. His fiction has been featured in or is forthcoming from Identity Theory, Misery Tourism, Dream Pop, hex, Angel Rust, and Apocalypse Confidential. Reach out: http://www.donatello.vision.
Ode to the Heart Worm
“Mud and water were not present and not any more of either.”
– Gertrude Stein, “MUTTON,” from Tender Buttons
Oh, mermaid of the intercoastal waterway,
how you shimmy, sleuth, swirl
in the undulating tides of pa-pum, pa-pum.
Oh, whirling dervish of the atria’s aria,
Oh, devotee, gangbanger, survivalist–
Bravo on doing you,
And when you muddy the waters…
Really, who hasn’t entangled another’s heart,
killed it with need?
“The tongue and the salmon, there is not salmon when brown is a color, there is salmon when there is no meaning to an early morning being pleasanter.”
– Gertrude Stein, “BREAKFAST,” from Tender Buttons
I will pass the sun
from my mouth to yours
Open your lips,
let my tongue deliver presence
onto your throne.
And as our four lips close
like salmon around the hook,
let us first breathe
then swallow this new day.
Markie Babbott is an ecopsychologist living in western Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals including: Alexandria Quarterly, the Aurorean, Broadsided Press, CAIRN, Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature By Women, Fifth Wednesday Journal, The Gettysburg Review, The Louisville Review, literary mama, Mannequin Envy, Perigee: Publication for the Arts and Stirring: A Literary Collection. She volunteers with River of Words, a place-based program for children that integrates poetry, visual art and the environment.