top of page


whatever leaves us leaves 

its shape in us 


shadows gather

like a pool

of blood beneath our feet

whatever leaves us

assumes our shape

zeno’s arrow an inch’s era away


teeth marks on a shoulder like a black and

white image of a meteor crater taken from space

onion and garlic sing in oil while plump little

gnocchi in boiling water roil the surface like koi

umbrellas bloom along the avenue announcing spring

nice to have you home

she says though neither of us is sure she means it. buried within the

accumulation of every word we’ve added to our shared ledger is the

zero-day flaw we never knew was there


frost climbs window panes like opaque ivy

like eyes overgrown with cataracts

August passed and winter turned the plums to

glass. crows

scatter at the crack of

the first shotgun blast

ash lives in its tray

filled with shed snake’s skin

father is that you I ask and listen for the

absence of an answer. you were a perched bird, a happy

zephyr inflating itself with promises


an emaciated coyote on a high ridgeline

shadows my rhythmic descent into the unforgiving

heat of the valley. one of my toes is bleeding

for more than a mile the coyote matches my human pace

ordinary creatures, the two of us, though one of us expects to

rest. one of us imprinted with a millennia’s

knowledge of which beautiful berries throb with life

and which thicken blood to black tar. one of us builds a

zoo to see the world. one of us lives in it


sorry for everything was the last thing 

Edward Fitzgerald Beale told his wife and children before 

leaving at dawn, the war nearly here, the delicate things ordained to be shattered still 

intact. off in the future the sacred desert meadow blazes 

golden, promising each of us the very limits of our private paradise, saying be patient

meaning most will die out here. the past 

arrives first to claim everything for the 

nation of the dead. back home I know you carry on without me, easier

admit it. the children sing unflinching in every room of the house, the perfect

zero of their mouths counting to infinity    


Krispy Krunchy Chicken from the gas station on Irving

incandescent towers of cold soda and

neon energy drinks. you press your red cheek against the

glass, the oval oil slick you leave behind like the

moon wrapped in a gauze of clouds from an

approaching storm. I’ll come to miss these meals most

napkins turned translucent from the chicken’s juices

amuse bouche of Pizzeria Pretzel Combos and Funyuns

Zebra Cakes for dessert


only after you fall 

asleep do I creep downstairs 

to light 

my little chimney my little 

abyss, factory that mass produces 

nothing but ghosts. I’m meant to live this life 

alone, my little missile defense system, my 

zero-sum game


tall slender stalks of

ocotillo echo in my mind the

photograph of you beneath the surface of the Sea

of Cortez the gilded tendrils of your hair

charged with an electricity that illuminated us once

kelp forest from a long-gone

ancient ocean the soil here rich with death the midnight

zone we lived in before squinting into the sun thirsty and wet and brand new


BRIAN RUSSELL is the author of The Year of What Now (Graywolf), which was a finalist for The Levis Reading Prize. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and Kenyon Review. He lives in St. Louis.


bottom of page