Rustin Larson









A fragmentary manuscript which is a treatise on religious faith:  North Africa, 17th century.  What is the Umm al-Barahin?  Correct.  Jeopardy.  The drums of.  Visualize a leopard.  Eudora Welty did.  That’s OK.  I’ve got a lot of crap in my head.  A barricade in a rainforest.  I just love my students who say I am the best of teachers.  That’s where it all goes wrong, I’m afraid.  A fragmentary manuscript which recovers the winds high in the date palms.  Food from Allah.  The desert rains.  The dryness of the ocean.


The sigh suspended from the ceiling by invisible wires, the sigh swaying at the level of one’s face, says, “Walk slowly.”  The sigh spinning in the breeze of inner space; the sigh twirling in and out of shadow, near Annette’s photographs and the huge potted artificial fern, wants you to slow down, take it all in, rest a spell, even while in motion.






The difference being the heavy snows were not enough to slow the thoughts down, so the hound slept beneath the dead rabbits hanging with the dried herbs near the crackling hearth.  The counterwovenness of our urban disaster feeds forward into the carbon monoxide sunsets and twenty below zero windchill.  Evil was not defeated yet.  We had a long winter ahead of us.  Even, the suggestion of remembering could get one lost on the straightest road.  There was no bringing back those who had already been killed– callowness enclosed the heart like candle wax.  The only answer for some was to kill others:  the ambush, the bombing, the sniper attack.  One man’s terrorist was another man’s freedom fighter.  Sometimes the men in question belonged to the same political party.  There were no clear answers anymore.  And yet, somehow love existed, persisted and endured.  The war ended and 20 years after young couples were picnicking by the river like the war had never happened.  Battlegrounds became soccer fields– mayhem became metaphor– couples sat watching the next narrative unfold before them in glittering color as a bird roasted in the oven.


Hunger.  Stillness.  Fluidity.  I was born into that world already exhausted, knowing the war, the war that undercurrented the surface war, was not over.  But to say it never would be was to negate hope, it would be to ride it (negation) bareback out of the belly bomb bay doors and fall screaming through the chill winter altitudes into a blossom of monstrous fire.


But there was another thing to blame– a monstrous womb-child fed and bred out of our own omissions and neglect, our self-absorption, or hedonism and sloth.  It crowned its gigantic, — ah– you know, one of the nicest things I can remember was sitting with my three daughters in a movie theater, waiting for the show to start.






The wolf loved me.  She let me nuzzle into her clean grey fur which smelled like pine needles and fresh snow.  I hugged her.  She was patient and accepting.  Powerful.  Because I loved her, I thought it best to guide her back to the enclosure where she would be safe from the village and its rifles.  But she nipped me quickly on the thumb and I bled strangely, thick, runny, red and yellow, like a broken egg.  I let her go, knowing I had set something unstoppable upon the sleep of the town.












Rustin Larson’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review, Poetry East, and The American Entomologist Poet’s Guide to the Orders of Insects. He is the author of The Wine-Dark House (Blue Light Press, 2009), Crazy Star (selected for the Loess Hills Book’s Poetry Series in 2005), Bum Cantos, Winter Jazz, & The Collected Discography of Morning, winner of the 2013 Blue Light Book Award (Blue Light Press, San Francisco), The Philosopher Savant (Glass Lyre Press, 2015) and Pavement, winner of the 2016 Blue Light Poetry Prize.


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