Five Lyric Essays / Legacy Russell

MONTAGUES AND CAPULETS

She dreamt of vacuuming and she spoke the words out loud saying, “I am exhausted from cleaning the carpet.” And, “I think the house is crumbling; there is always dust on the floor.” But the people laughed and so she laughed because, let’s be honest, it was a ludicrous idea. The Dream was taken in for observation, strapped to a table to be dissected and so cavities were sucked dry swept and cleaned left glowing like embers in the salty sky of a Galveston mid-March. She was left with the feeling that something had gone missing. Though the people had laughed at first she realized later that the vacuum had been stolen and when she went hunting for it around the neighborhood she found that husbands were acting awfully suspicious and that wives looked freeze-dried and unusually dust-free. But she laughed and went home to sit out on the grass because, she assumed, it must have all been just an unlucky coincidence.


CREATION STORY

i.

it was at some point that she did not want to love her any longer and maybe it would be safer to forget their love affair altogether perhaps the scars from this fall would help to pad the next one and she delighted in the idea of being thrown into fire again daffodils baptized in butter

ii. 

we went to agent provocateur and talked politics over panties watched all the sluts slaves and housewives leaf their way through appled lace on the shelves priced at several hundred dollars we could only dream that one day we could be wife enough to have strange men in black over-coats alongside us at check-out counters selecting their next fantasy an impulse buy! just another pack of juicy fruit

iii.

he was covered in hair and that made him a real man that is what convinced her to be a woman again and he drove her home and she let him rub lips behind earlobes a bite and a tickle sent shivers but she did not smile a woman does not smile she pouts so she pouted and gave sad eyes and he thought she was crying and so he sang to her the songs that boys sing and looking up she did not want him anymore covered in hair he was back in the pan. that night she found a flood of curls detached clumps and pieces floating on her pillowcase filling her mouth and eyes with stabbing pillars of salt—


AND SHE’LL HAVE A MANHATTAN ON THE ROCKS

i. 

he told me to wear the one with lace and dressed me up until i no longer recognized myself for him, i was all garter belts and lip-gloss never slacks or chap-stick on top of amplifiers i leaned back and let him seize me he drained me pulling red ribbons from between my legs and tied them up about the room like streamers lit candles like birthdays he celebrated me by making me undone he unwound me in strings black strings pouring from cassette tapes mix tapes with songs like Castles Made of Sand and Rebel, Rebel, Rebel and i was muted by the volume of it all the ribbon hung from asbestos-covered ceiling pipes like satin strips of weeping willow i could not see through satin and so i closed my eyes and hung onto the pieces with my fists sediment bubbling up behind my lips like Champagne Supernova waiting for the shudder and jerk of a final finish and removal of a foreign object from the hidden rooms within

ii.

tell me again about those secret summers you know the ones where we watched the little boys through the trees we were little too then don’t you remember and it was hot and we sweat profusely beneath our one-piece suits that hung from breast-less figures like loose skin there was no hair under our arms then or between our legs we looked like little russian dolls and perhaps we were we certainly had a few other little girls if not a full-grown woman or two piled up inside becoming smaller with the reduction of each wooden layer tell me again about the way the light fell through the armed branches dappling bodies with scars of sun that shifted and shook with the air and separated us from one another tell me would we have watched these boys had they been men or would we have turned away in shame for fear that our fathers might emerge from beneath the glassy surfaces of the stream and freeze us in our sin

iii.

you asked me if i remembered what it felt like when i realized first that i needed you those memories are blurry fixed in rooms with dimmed lights your eyes piercing through the shadows your fingers working topographically across the hills and valleys of my body you disrobed me do you remember what that felt like when you first set eyes on me did you see me really then or were you just pretending sometimes i forget what your voice sounded like when you avoided slicing me to pieces and instead placed me in the recesses of your abdomen you stroked the hair on my head i let it fall against you curly and unkempt and was no longer ashamed you asked me if i remembered what it felt like yes yes i do for the first time in seventeen years i exhaled and it was alright you said you said it was alright


SCHADENFREUDE 


The joke is that she woke up first. Her breath smelled like last night’s pale ale, the firefly moon a sticky shade of blue-green. Outside the street was stiffened with dirty snow, mountains of black illuminated with lunacy. The arm across her back had the dead weight of a fridge. In the bathroom the toilet seat gave her a shiver. She was naked and the house was too hot anyway—


FOR YOU, A MIX-TAPE ON YOUR BIRTHDAY

i. 

last night we were sitting somewhere in Maine the air smelled like fish and seaweed it was misty the air was wet and the surface we were balancing on was wooden it had splinters and was rough beneath my fingers you were sitting in front of me or beside me i don’t recall i can’t remember but i could only hear your voice and your voice implied your presence your voice it made the outline of a shadow and i stared through it and saw grass blades kissed with decay and your shadow took my hand and we went running i couldn’t breathe my outline was heaving trying to keep up and when we stopped the oxygen was salty it burnt the inside of my nose there were black rocks there were BLACK ROCKS and rising tides and it was windy and my hair was damp against my neck and from the darkness your hand emerged offering me a cigarette in the wind there were whispers voices asking me if i would like a cup of something hot or bubbles in the bath that foamed and hissed over salty stones below

ii. 

we went to the walker arts center it was a party it was a gala we had been invited  eight o’clock no more like nine and it was pitch black outside not a star in sight we stood on the balcony and tried to imagine giant cherries floating on spoons tried to believe in modern art but we sucked down soupy triangles of cocktails rainbow’d in pastel pinks and greens i let a man who was not you put his hand around my waist i tried to fit into him pushed down my shoulders and slouched he was not much taller than i but i tried to be smaller i wanted to be a PORN STAR i wanted double-d tits and stilettos made of glass that never break and come with ease i wanted pillow talk and bedroom eyes right then and there if it was dim enough for him to touch me would it be dim enough for him to try to take me home tonight and unfold me putting arms and legs away in drawers for safe-keeping could he keep me detach my lips from my face like a toy put them on his night table would he want to or in the morning would he ignore my pleading from within wooden drawers lined with the silky triangles of neckties that rub and burn like ropes cutting corpse with corporation

iii.

he says he meets men for coffee at starbucks in Edina that wear football uniforms but dislike physical activity when it involves a gym he says all i wanted was to be fucked that’s what i want he says my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard and he lets them parade him home little CALIGULA and into bed he lets them strap him down like a mental patient lets them punish him for liking boys for wanting men he never thought his mother was beautiful he spat on her he hated her he watched his father shower once when he was small he thought he looked like marble drenched in moisture and post-cleansing perspiration he wants to be arrested asks to be cavity-checked to be pinched black and blue don’t worry dizzy girl he says to me don’t worry i know when to stop i know the secret password that will make them know i want to breathe again this love is safe i know it this love is real i promise


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