Russel Swensen – Two Poems from What Happens Next

Russel Swensen

Two Poems from What Happens Next


“It will be forever lost.”    The voice rings out
& cracks

a teenage bell.

I thought you were in the bible.

That’s what death means. That you are in
the desert.   The desert was made out of really
bad hymns.

I tried to break you out of the bible.  It was
harder than jail.

It was a puzzle.  I had to solve the bible.
I tried.


“The mind as well. Now that you have dropped
the carrion (the water

thick as muscle) you must pull from it

the same poison you put in. Now your words
do not limn the darkness— they

are— hard as coral, deeply stained.  They
fester like cormorants

in Alaskan oil.”


The cross on the wall shines like
a nectarine, curls like wet paper.  Christ is stretched out
on it:

a scribble of lightning—  when he speaks
I think it will be you. The mouth twists open
a white song

drifts out like something from a fog machine—
it says


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