Issue 4: James Russell

Arnos Grove

Free love, eat the rich: two fog-warnings far out

at sea lost under the swell, on some winter festival.

Electric music slides down a camber of cold air

to a carpet of tar. None of us can bear the silence

breaking it with explanations for the present forms

of privilege and curtain cream, with the story

of ‘Mr Dai’, our mad form master serving now

in a tube station florist in  high north London.

He’d threatened some kid with a lump of coal:

the silver sheen of the cut coal. He had to go.

The satin faces of the shop lilies, the putty

light about Friedrich moving still in Lady Sarah

Cohen House. Headlights through fog on the

North  Circular Road. No doubt about it, no

doubt about it: moon-glow/moon-glow.

Sweet Water

On the margin of a couchant fate

we are welcomed sunnily by the

            kind benighted, puckered proud

around it - the sweet water flow.

We glowing and quite fitful, ours

a fine remembering how to love

            the sweet nurture

smiling its mark, frayed as they come.

The bank extends to the trenchant

sea all moss smeared flat, our features reflect

            “quite nicely” our day fuel

and, yes, our bleached accord. All look

for the pearly path, find it falling

dead near some grinding calm. Tension

            cold-call, trick-treat for

greater care, we all sup simple sauce

and its harbour-light. He stuffs bags

till they conceal groin; he stands a Brummel beacon

            goose-fat on his tonsils,

his wrinkled nose caused the stink.

His outfit shines out with the top down

gorged those legs-as-bodies. “Hark my friend

            to my tales.” His lovers

are waistcoats, boot muster he slicks up

always sups to the dredgings. Stands his ground

fire-side, environs immured from slight

            charms a baby, in-

deed, he loves all nice in the room.


One day a war was caused and pain and blood

while London marched on fudge, there runnelled

            guts and cries abroad,

him-goading till the flight to find

the fun to watch from a war horse.

His face hair adorned break-a-fast here, see

            his countenance in melt up to

smoke. He a real-stone kicker!

Or a fire starter! He’s the sweet heir

of a lush-in-the-loins florist,

            dressed loud laughing.

Scones are late in the murderous lounge

party-wrecked, telling  him the all-known:

that the world can cause you, babba, to cease

            to be on this little trip –

no patties, no Malmsey. This is proof

as, limp from thinking, the thought is

plane as muffin ash. All who trouble

            the courts with world-doubting

will face a wind of nihil; for

the causal power is stone right into

the tender, and monkey-browed

            they’ll lose quality.

He fears for his sensory fields and tries

to buy a horse, rides all toad in hardening hours, hard as

ending too soon. Straight home

            to his soft hearth

with its sweet science, to try a pure lie.

Salt in throat, drowned by the living.

Thus was he born: the care too strong

            when careless action’s holy, when

the carefree sword swings by the suckling pig.


He makes the spin ex nihilo, swings low

            the air round bare head; this gulp of

scally-swipe up to gravity. Thus

            is tokened a what-to-do, a swatch

of that which homes on cement, stone free.

Weekends roll by, the café is talking

            wine dregs are washed with thought. They smirk to please

in clothes that wrap a soufflé, walking to the

            earth tug. She lolls in her looks

and dreams of a man, drops into

            gear for some kind soul, is fearful but

shouting her worth of sex to the tappers

            scratching for favour: there are some left

some even normally hacked in life.

Frankly there are no turns, not tumblings

            over drop or on stone passage.

What is left is schwer and bruise-dark, dog

            sniff to canteen excretions. Cheers then!

Some one will turn up to your log, desire,

            suffice – soul of your soul, right?

The Floating Man

The sea camber falls flat beneath his acts

of spray, not making its point, some wind brings

data to him

pendant in raw feel,

up for grabs, by the tourist boat proving

radio presence. Look mate,

there’s a lovely pressure as the somnam-

bulist’s cogito makes grist for the panders

who shrink from these neurotrash sops; blind

drunk all the way to the skip. His nous

bright but encumbered. The milk of conflation

licks over  sensorium quite short.

For pickling the head with doubt his blank

modus drives the point inward, all

atrophied white from thinking.

                                                 This show will

explode myths, each peasant’s lips soon

start shredding all ingrate. His hands flap free

                         as feathers on an oily spitting Aga.

                         He floats a

                         thoughtframe cloud chamber.

Properties are washing out, now that touch

is no meal in this gruel of mulch,

to synthesise all pucka aspect;

his home is Teignmouth, his kids are

blinking to horizon trained. Crowds

raise funds in council house cook outs, while

the strophe commands his piss-poor pen-bites.

All the planning in salt & wife & camera

gives the lie-in-life a soft housing

on a smear of brie.

This is the body whose sway lets in

the sunlight of blue & red convergence.

Why float a heaven off shore?


that this heaven’s a minus sign?

He’s convinced he’s sanctioned all data about him,

frictionless prophylactic movements centre

                                    on a selfish hair-lipped grin

                                    no luscious thrall

to our anchoring stuff.

                                    Now he’s back

by the lie annealed           

                                    bold as air

and half as solid,

                                    but this pink shell-fish

is comfortably no combatant

                                    nor shining mental conjunct;

                                    see gut-ropes now slip

                                    free, the waves caress

                                    and now his feet

feel the kiss of cod scales and green plankton.

This agent folds up pre-drowned & a hero.

James Russell has had poems published in PN Review, Poetry London, Ambit, Thumbscrew and Blackwater (Eire). He published a collection entitled The 64 Seasons with Oleander in 2004. He teaches psychology at the University of Cambridge.