By Now

asleep your fingers twitch
in syncopated rhythm
to a dream   flex and
relax   they grasp at
something I can’t
see   something you can’t
quite hold   it kills me
to know this is only
one of a million things

I never noticed
when I loved you too
easily   when time was a
glass of water the waiter
refilled without even
asking me   I was too busy
with sleep to see you
had already boarded
the train that was taking
you away   one hand waving
the other reaching for
what I was already too far
away by now to see

Physical Therapy

please   you say   don’t look at me
I’m disgusting   emaciated
by the treatments   you swear
they gave you the wrong
body to bring home   here’s something
you’d like to know   who
is this woman wearing your clothes

they don’t even fit her   look at her
she’s a complete mess   lays in bed all day
it’s pathetic   get up   you scream
at her   get up   come on I say   that’s enough
she needs to rest

bullshit you say and grab her arm   pull
her to her feet   walk   you demand
but she can’t   you shove her
a little too hard   she pitches forward
like a wave toward the shore
and shatters across the floor

now look what you’ve done

carefully I piece her back together
from memory

The Royal Society

born from smoldering
Rome came crawling
the wretched infected
swarms   installed by hunger
behind the heavy plow they bowed
before benign and
malignant kings alike and
ate what molded bread came
their way by moon or dying
fire light   their mysterious ailments
gradually abated with equal
doses of accident and circumstance

those who lived were not yet a testament
to the inoculation of infectious agents but
rather to the faith in the impulsive
unknown who seemed to revel in choosing

you but not you
you but not you

it’s a given we’re not living in the dark
ages anymore but a measure of the unexplained
remains as we sit together in the examination
room while you shiver in your open
gown   the unplugged electrodes
attached to your bare back
like leeches

Apollo the Healer

the idea is the ideal
a young man
in the sunlight
of his days
a good boy
falls out of the tree
but doesn’t fall
far   he’s an apple
in the grass   his red
delicious skin   the sun
reaches down through the
clouds as he drifts
to sleep   the sun runs
its fingers down the length
of his thigh and sighs
but lingers too long
the earth begins to burn
everyone wants to be
the sun except the sun

Acceptance

it’s a beautiful thought after
all   to think   with just the right
sense of distance   we’re nearly
nonexistent   that the fingers we use
to count the people who love us
unconditionally will slowly
fold into a fist in which we’ve
caught a drowsy firefly   when
we let it go   a long moment passes
in which it’s lost in the night sky
unconsciously we hold
our breath in the dark and wait

Brian Russell Author PhotoAbout Brian: Brian Russell is the author of The Year of What Now (Graywolf, 2013), winner of the Bakeless Poetry Prize. He lives in Chicago with his wife and dogs.

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