Two poems by Stephanie JT Russell

Drinking With the Rinpoche                                                                                   

Though it’s possible he never uttered it
aloud, you knew that Trungpa liked
the word neat for whisky. You could almost
hear the undiluted vocable thrumming
his eardrum with every silent sip.

Don’t lament the broken samayas
scattered around his slippered feet.
Pity more the empty glass that
teetered from his hand as he nodded off
in a dining room chair halfway through
breakfast, while everyone kept chattering
as if he’d asked for the condiment tray.
Please pass the salt, I am dying.

Rinpoche’s eyes slid open, meeting
mine as I leaned down to pick up his fork.
Near the end, he sighed, you’ll see
our universal bond of affliction
is not disappointment, it’s expectation—
cruel camel-pack of ambition, hoisted
onto the frailest of spines.
It’s useless. Go outside, watch
the grasses hurl their names
into the dusk. They know
it’s useless, too. That’s why
they are so happy. Have a whisky,
you’ll be a new man for a minute
or two. It’ll feel longer, much longer,
the further you run from your wish.
Run, I tell you, and don’t look back.
Eventually, the wish will get tired
and sit down, watching you disappear.


Plain Prairie Gown                                                                                                  

One kick of dust and gone
is the reeling chance of a lifetime
to unskein the ravel of your salt.
Hands in tangle, I gamble my goods
at the cross, crawl that way to service
a legion of stevedores and queens
at the lowliest pier in the harbor,
then beg the fishes eat my bones. […]

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Stephanie JT Russell is a seasoned interdisciplinary artist, published author, editor, essayist, and cultural worker. Russell studied painting at Daemen College, and Interdisciplinary Art and Culture at SUNY Empire State. Her most recent book is One Flash of Lightning: A Samurai Path for Living the Moment (Andrews McMeel). Her poetry has been anthologized in Words Upon the Water and Oakland Out Loud, and has appeared in MR/Metropolitan Review, Friends Journal, Rabbit & Rose (curated by 2018 San Francisco Poet Laureate, Kim Schuck),, Nature Writing, Xavier Review, Peacock Journal, and 11/9: The Fall of American Democracy (2017, ed. by Casey Lawrence), an anthology to benefit the ACLU and RAINN. Stephanie’s visual art, poetry, and performance work have been exhibited and presented at venues such as Hallwalls, Artspace, NAME Gallery Chicago, The Albright Knox Gallery, Max Fish, Bowery Poetry Club, and numerous other spaces in the US, Canada, and overseas. Russell lives in the Mid-Hudson Valley, where she’s happily involved with our community of artists, activists, farmers and fellow eccentrics who have left the wilds of Brooklyn for country living in a small city.