Arthur Russell

Three Poems – Arthur Russell

The Flat Rock’s First Skip on Sleep’s Lake

Up from the flat rock’s first skip on sleep’s lake,
believing you, hip high, the other way,
behind me, faced, I wondered why I hadn’t
snaked my lower arm beneath your ribs
and drawn your warm back to my needy chest,
until it dawned on me — I had been asleep,
and you, you weren’t there; and then the lake froze,
and I skittered on night’s surface, wide awake.

 

College

Stand here beside the door before we leave,
and let me take your picture one more time
while Mom pulls down the rear hatch with a heave.
Stand here beside the door before we leave;
naïve as August leaves steadfastly cleave
to trees, we hear the hollow wind chime chime.
Stand here beside the door before we leave,
and let me take your picture one more time.

 

Julie Hirsch

Julie Hirsch, the orchestra leader at Midwood,
remonstrated with the parent crowd for quiet.
He closed his eyes briefly as he turned back to us,
and his tux-black arms with white-cuff borders stretched out
to reveal the tendons raised up under his wrists;
we saw his right hand open towards us as in peace
and the thumb of his left hand curled around the cork
knob handle of the dinged-up, ivory white baton

that I had seen abandoned on his music stand
so many times as I left practice, powerless
without him to command the scores and us to play.
His moustache was beautiful; his eyes were so sad;
his smile rose in tandem with his arms. Oh, Mr. Hirsch,
I have that quiet now in my life that I need to begin.

 

Arthur Russell won Brooklyn Poets Poem of the Year in 2015 for his poem “Whales Off Manhattan Beach”, and a runner-up for the same prize in 2021 for his poem “Unencumbered.” His work has appeared in Copper Nickel and is forthcoming in Florida Review. He co-leads the Red Wheelbarrow Poets’ weekly workshop and is one of the editors of the Red Wheelbarrow Journal. He lives in Nutley, New Jersey.

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1 thought on “Three Poems – Arthur Russell”

  1. These are poems I love and would love to reread again and again. The two first poems have a kind of sprung rhythm to them. The third is more prosaic–yet still romantic–but also quite moving.
    “Up from the flat rock’s first skip on sleep’s lake,
    believing you, hip high, the other way,
    behind me, faced…”
    The rhythm there is jagged and intense. This is what I like!
    And…
    “to trees, we hear the hollow wind chime chime.” Sheesh–who dares write like that? Incredible.

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