Rusty Morrison

in the flood

          say the sky is blue is the sky blue yes
“yes” a thin veneer over
accruing consequences
                    in this outside that is not nature
just your busy scenery
storage system you’d like to
          succeed in escaping but you will lose the manuscript in the process
why does “loss” get tinier
each time you say it louder
                    better than any direct challenge
waking in you what slicks back
its bland substance & shows off
                              that other madness which has no name to enclose it
when you thought the “no name” had
been a safe place to hide it
                    in the abyss of the lost
always more aphoristic
wasps that will sting & not die
          still unable to sleep you spent part of the night looking at the armchair
called it your lucky armchair
now you’re scared to sit in it



everyone is Noah


you wake up more tired try fear          of death as a tactic to
compel you but whose death will          work now that your parents can’t
say you’re killing them & their          ghosts hardly make noise banging

away in the closet &          your guilt ratio to each
death that used to motivate          like a cattle prod is now
declining faster than the          consumption of soft drinks in

the American diet          & can’t get you even so
far as putting your bare feet          in slippers though you’re yearning
for the way green tea & toast          make a few minutes behave

as if your appetites were          at their core appeasable
& noncorrosive with your          cup in hand look out the screen
at the pavement replacement          that killed the street’s last pine since

it’s the deaths you didn’t try          to stop that should be haunting you


Note: syllable-counting constraints:
     In the “everyone is Noah” poems, I’m working in a form that I created (seven-syllable segments; no punctuation; tercets until the last line; with its last segment a single syllable).
     In the “in the flood” poems, there are quotes from Maurice Blanchot that ‘flood’ out of any constriction, but my lines (couplets between the quotes) are each seven syllables in length.
     I’d wanted to write about limits. But I didn’t want to just write about limitation, I wanted to live inside limitation in the work and then see how I handled it. I wanted event, not aftermath. Ann Lauterbach points out that the “convergence of subject matter with form releases content.” I found that these forms create a contentiousness in my use of syntax that forces me to diverge from my more expected trajectories of thought, and so it exposes a content with more contextual resources than I’d had access to.


Rusty Morrison’s poems recently have been accepted or published by Boston Review, Iowa Review, Fence, Colorado Review, Lana Turner & elsewhere. She’s co-publisher of Omnidawn, author of five books, including the true keeps calm biding its story (Ahsahta 2008), which won The Sawtooth Prize, Academy of American Poets Laughlin Award, Northern California Book Award. Her most recent book, Beyond the Chainlink, (Ahsahta) was a finalist for the NCIBA and also for the NCBA Awards in Poetry. Her website