Mark Russell


There are many-tiered ornamental imitation temples everywhere we look. None are hidden. We misread the words ‘temple of idols’ for the words ‘temple of idiots’ and are none the worse or wiser. Though we develop a taste for misreading. Songs by Madonna and Johnny Cash become deeply offensive; the word ‘cholostomy’ becomes common usage at karaoke parties; street signs are elevated to mythic status; men are dissatisfied with praise and embraces, their children with the many-tiered ornamental imitation temples. All around them, the grandmothers sense that Christmas is next. When they convene at the following service, they declare that they are officially not in the least bit concerned.



You know how to pursue a fearsome object

     wave sticks in its face     crouch on all fours
     outflank it     send it love letters     
     kidnap its children

You are told that surrender is humiliation

     at breakfast     around the fire     
     on billboards     on your house-to-house calls
     by wayward children

These are old-style stimulations     

     pepper and salt     broken mirrors     
     burst pipes     rusty gates on worn hinges
     over-fed children    

Take a step to your left    there is a cure     

     under the milk bottles     if you want it
     it won’t let you live any longer     but it’s there
     with your children

Mark Russell’s publications include Spearmint & Rescue (Pindrop), Shopping for Punks (Hesterglock), ا (the book of seals) (Red Ceilings), and ℵ (the book of moose) (Kattywompus). Other poems have appeared in Tears in the Fence, Butcher’s Dog, Molly Bloom, Shearsman, and elsewhere.