Two Poems from Vol. 10 by Michael Russell

i’ve never seen the ocean

nightly, i dream it
as open sore.
my entire self, plummeting.
an infection.

the moon,
of borrowed light
into the bruise—


i am drowning

in an inhuman
galaxy. my lungs,
this world—

i’m not a fish.
i hate to swim,
this body—
finless & without
shark. my great white heart
like a scissored fin.


chums the water
with rogue arms.
my best friend
shatters the bottomless ceiling again
& again the glass waves
reflect a storm-
sick sky.
prunes my ache
to stay.
my boyfriend bates a love-line
to another, dips his foot
in unstirred water.
he likes it shallow.

the seafloor / calls my name /

/ absent /
the legend / of submerged /
depression / present /
the proof i live / a life /
of anchor /

the sea eats me
to rust, copper
tint of the hopeless,
i sing decay.


the aqua holds a secret,
warm salt brines my brain
a tarnished silver. bronze
trophy of my heart,
graveyard with boneless
fish & shipwreck.

there: an empty treasure
chest, splintered mast, flag
that ripples white
with surrender.

& there: the story of a hook-hand
pirate who chased his lust of gold.

this poem will never breach
the surface, never reach
outside the length
of my arm, these words—
arias of the unimportant,
odes to the useless

i / am / not / worthy /

the myths of men / in monogamy /
are parasitic / nibbles /
of disappointment /

/ a tiger shark / circles / the guild / of little fictions / strikes / the mermaid princess / ariel / sylvia plath / saddles her magnum / opus / & rides / a harpoon / into / sea lion / seahorse / see me / scream / indigo purr / mahogany pool / blood-swamp / of solitude / i glitter & pearl / in kelp / forest / coral reef / i’ve never seen / the cobalt eye / of a rose / its strange pupil / sapphire sting / my man—

pulls me out of the deep.

underneath the soft moss
of a kiss, his lips, tongue
i mistake for oxygen. i love


i’m in love
with him, the sun-

lit shimmer of blue
rose petals, azure scales
of the mythological

we thrive & thrive


mania speaks with cackle & burst

when you ponder who
made the universe, who
shaped this planet livable, who
magically birthed your great grandmother’s
grandmother from a river
of sperm, who called out your nana
& answered with latex palms, ask this,
who did nana carry like fruit?
aunt, uncle, mother.
& why did your mother carry you—
how the moon sits kindly on the edge
of a poem.
wanders the kitchen
& prays
the fat of happiness
won’t harden an artery.
i am the reason,
you can eat all the bacon
& never suffer
a stroke. listen,
my spell
which twists
& knots,
contorts & shocks
pain to poetry.
a bipolar manifesto.
1 – sleep is weak & reckless. 2 – spend all your money: gifts! porn! gifts! porn! 3 – your body is a sugar daddy, gamble it poor on a douche (or two) from grindr.

don’t forget:                 a stud can fall to his knees & welt.

/ don’t forget / revenge / is best served / skinny & hairless / dedicate this poem / to fickle love / dearest boyfriend / the dick / who / crawled into my mouth / before you / shot / his seed like prey / he’s only a message away /

\ do not forget \

Michael Russell is a queer poet with BPD, Bipolar Disorder, and massive jolts of anxiety. His first chapbook Grindr Opera was published by Frog Hollow Press in their Dis / Ability series (2019). He lives in Toronto. His work has appeared in The Maynard, (parenthetical), Prairie Fire, The Quilliad, and untethered, among other places. He thinks you’re fantabulous. Instagram: @michael.russell.poet.


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