Prior to July
I met a man soapy with sap and story,
sugars and salts spilled from his silver lips,
he called himself the Monarch of Stramonium.
We argued briefly about an unstable mooring,
how it rattled, like a man we both knew
who addressed sadness high on ozone.
The flooding called to mind a mighty recession.
He prayed for me: You dirty sulphurous actor
overflowing with farmlands and charities.
May you be taken to the top of the tarn
where frost, laden with the toxic remains of men,
sharpens old Jews and rare metals.
The entire programme became visible,
its twists and weaknesses, its dead spots,
its files labelled, ‘Here be floods of complaints’.
We bought a newspaper, its twin spectres within.
Vague details unfolded. We saw seven impurities,
we stood in a millpond with men from Ancient Rome,
they compared themselves to the five-eighths of evil
who ran laughing into hell during the epidemic
like men drunk at harvest time.
At last, when the weather returned, hot and diseased,
our companion flipped and flowed back to his bride
on the rising tides of the Sea of Madness.
Mark Russell has published three chapbooks: two with Red Ceilings Press, ا (the book of seals) (2016) and Saturday Morning Pictures (2015), and one with tall-lighthouse, Pursued by Well-being (2013). A fourth is due out later this year with Kattywompus Press. The poem here is from a larger work titled Pistol Lips. Other poems from this work have appeared in Tears in the Fence, A Bad Penny Review, Otoliths, Molly Bloom, Shadowtrain, Three and a half point nine, Moss Trill, and fourfold. https://markrussellat.wordpress.com