after Charles Wright
A course of brickwork. Maze of mortar gluing head to head,
bed upon bed
stacked flat towards a sky on which I can’t
lie. Wall’s a cutup, sum of parts. Perfection of right angles
foreboding, forbidding oblongs and obtuses, acute vertices.
Add the corners, they make a circle—tessellations
of box spring, infinity mirror. I’ve said this before:
straightness is manmade. Rod and rhombus, lozenge, square—
they go round and round around
an axis. Planet ever-turning
its head away in shame.
Darkened into so many halves.
Evergreen is bone and pigment. Grows projectile out of ground.
Boughs snapped for thick blood. Resin drains from once-limbs
like beads of paint—is this rumor? Gamboge: top-heavy with unripe fruit,
the tree bears the yellow name without resemblance
like an adopted child.
Did the gum once flow within the tree, or does this method
transplant stillness? Pollen-soaked hot spring
and smaller remedies. Over their bodies, monks fold robes—
the color of alchemy drips shoulder to ankle. Only
a name stitched, very small, in white thread.
How yellow the room became, morning streaking in.
Your fingers on my jagged lines: thick bumps of paint,
as if a song in braille, and blood so dry it flakes.
You fit in my palm like the lightfast colors
of spices, synthetic
tints squeezed from tubes. Our drunken, immortal orpiment
overtaking other yellows—cool oatmeal sheet to a coat of king’s gold.
A field another mirror. An empty search. Even the sun
with its angles, the dipped tip of my arrow
flying, flows through the earth in its veins.
Had a dream. A piano descending, its descent
When my life is over, forget the shortcoming of my dramas.
The hourglass and its many acts. Remember
when we were together, the scene of scratches and scrolls
lining the walls in a sequence memorized
as a saved date. Fluids correctional
and textual. Remember the raw opening
of a tomb; seal mine with poisoned wax. It has awakened
against you. We were alone and I was singing
this song to you. Behold, it comes.
Chronic disease, overwork, sadness: the patience of a brother.
Where’d his letters go?
Overshadowed, flowers’ need not met.
I painted your portrait—another box you fit in. The color
of your shirt and cheeks
the same. I said, I am here
to paint infinity, and made each star a proud printed hoof.
Hair shed from a hide. Grandson,
Illness makes selfishness, giving all we have
Every sport’s a war. Clay court, balls of neon felt,
the path leading nowhere. Ball boys. Be copy now
to men of grosser blood.
Shame—conflicted of the dangers, being seen or being
caught. Let us swear that you are worth
your breeding. Secrets kept, waiting for me to find them
hidden. A jaw broken into as a vault, a fault not of steel
but of what’s to be stolen.
Wasp caught in a web, sticky tangle of wings; spider crawling home
to meet her feast. Combat
of spindly legs and stinger.
Such horrors. Only such horrors.
We were too young for Frank O’Hara—for too much coffee,
too many cigarettes. After sixty years, I still won’t know
where to lie.
In our anxious quarantine, a suicide sold—the hoax
of a priceless, violent relic: gun found by a man who fires
clay. Ceramic puzzle box, repetitious mosaic. The latch
loosens; pulled like a crush, the shackle splits
from its body. A lock is an impasse,
at once sealed and soluble.
Wheel, spun towards a sole code, that adorns what needs holding.
Sky’s a limp blue, cowering and covering the cloud tops.
Albedo, budget, shield, and filter. Then lend the eye
a terrible aspect. Whiplash from the drastic styles
of neighboring houses.
Stems cradle blooms—their tiny beards, flaps shriveling open.
Thread a picked one over a finger, heavy as betrothal.
Now set the teeth
and stretch the nostril wide. We’re alone now. Sunset—
its red flames, bulk and monotone. A flattening.
Twin graves of devotion. Angle and outline.
Such asylums of the garden.
WILL RUSSO is a Chicago-based poet and received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2020. His work has appeared in Watershed Review, Salamander, Berkeley Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He serves as Poetry Editor at Great Lakes Review. Find him on Twitter: @iamthewillrus.