Russel Swensen’s work has appeared in Black Clock, Quarterly West, Prick of the Spindle, The Tusculum Review, Anon, The Delinquent, & The Collagist. He lives in Houston with his rat terrier, Zulu.
1. Ekaterina disappearing in the icescape the discarded clothing half-full vodka bottles still lit cigarettes twinkling in the twisted white of the camisoles and skirts and this is how I got to the airport more or less plus plastered.
2. Airport security opening up my chest in the JFK depot (SNAP) looking at each other gravely nodding breaking my forearms like those sticks that start to glow so they can guide the planes in my forearms hissing like electric
3. This here fly on the ceiling spiraled down into me turning in the wound like a small black star in a centrifuge.
3. “What’s wrong” I cried “has the swan of my compassion died” for that was where I kept it adding as an afterthought “did not know what to feed it”
3. This explanation sounding like GUBB GUBB SHUB SBUBG and a cheerful hitch in my breath like remembering a crumb.
4. Kat folding her arms like a peasant while I kiss Jessica in the bar could have happened to anyone she was after all there the husband asks what’s going on here we were lying together on the couch like an electric blanket
5. Jeffrey flexing his fingers in a what-gives gesture, practiced casual, it was all about revenge, he said, it was all about Brooklyn.
6. Her husband mechanically raining blows down upon me he said if it helps you can think of each fist as a noise complaint because your head my friend and what’s worse your THOUGHTS have been keeping us up for weeks not to mention and not in any way trying to minimize the fact that you are in our house well it’s our house now.
7. “I will never forgive you. I have never forgiven you” asked me to pour her another and I
8. Prospect Park made up of ground up katydids all the katydids in the world well you won’t need them anymore anyway.
9. The deer move silently through the alleys on the Upper West Side they turn their headlights off their eyes spin Forrest Gander sways in front of the Amtrak Providence sways in front of the Amtrak like a tattered green flag spins.
10. I set a place for my dead friends I keep a well-scrubbed space in the trunk duct taped and gagged between my subway map & hope of decent vinyl.
11. Or there’s an exhibit at the Met or a slumlord takes you out on a date wipes his mouth with an endless pile of receipts.
12. Or there’s a loss of feeling that starts at your hips. Or shakes you in its yellowing teeth. Waits by the car in a silent suit.
13. Of black felt we can say very little it is a remnant of a time now long past 1990 something tied up in twine dirt at the corner of its mouth—
14. Interview-drunk in the Met suits of armor flex and bulge like Germans I’ve surrounded myself with them I’m not coming out holding up a bouquet like a bullhorn screaming bloody murder you would too if you knew what I knew.
15. The black 90s the gay 90s it’s always the 90s in your overcast ribcage in the dirty little sex shop at the nape of your neck where the waters part and the divers drown.
16. If you can think of a better phrase for it than human trafficking then bully for you that’s what I say goddamn streetwalkers you see what I’m talking about now you see it coming toward you like a matinee circled in lipstick like a shark on the L-train.
17. Pleading for the return of your hat that you lost in the slipstream that was beautiful a knit nest for your brain.
18. Craig Arnold is New York “or what New York meant to me” a few moments snatched from the cross-hatch effaced and scratched but with a faint glisten like the last drop in a pail of water kicked over welcome to the operating theater welcome to the party welcome to herring and vodka in the afternoon welcome to the ATM shaking like a reflection—of itself
19. Because this is pale water this is terrible she asked me to come to Denmark I poured her another I missed her I showed her that I missed her
20. Because these are white spiders running around inside us.
21. I called her Wendybird I called her but she never answered not once the whole time there buying “straight on till morning” by the fucking oz
22. Or someone says you look like you could have modeled “not anymore though” my Indian name was Afterthought in an Umarked Bar—
23. Bloody feed bags in the taxi cabs matronly officers direct me here then there I go where I’m told I stay till I’m sold (here you start to laugh but it sounds like metal on metal) it’s not the way you love me it’s centripetal motion it’s perpetual bliss—
24. Just a few nights or just a few years a few ragged breaths (red as geraniums, red as a dress upon the floor) just a little example drawn in a surprising spring cold while the trash steamed in the gutters and I rubbed my bald head tiredly exhaustively couldn’t find the latch couldn’t turn the key these cigarettes aren’t working but I do motherfucker you know that I can “perpetual bliss” or just one fix
25. And it isn’t because I didn’t care. And it isn’t because I didn’t try. And all of New York is a frantic escape from New York or from Los Angles or from the darkness that comes at noon like a doctor to the tenements.