Tyler James Russell
If you laid them out fingertip to fingertip like rows of paper dolls the girls would cover the lower half of Manhattan so you try it, you lay them out in a place where there are no city blocks, only fields forgetting if you are supposed to count the hair beehives, ponytails, never cut perhaps, hair like deep space. To keep the estimate conservative, you comb it down, lay them that way, pretty as a picture, the bluish toenails of one against the scalp of another. Now you stroll the borders, maybe push a measure wheel, but measuring is not the same as reckoning. Instead, climb the silo in the neighbor’s yard. Frame the dead, it’s the second floor before you see uncovered earth. Or, kneel, bury your hands in the earth take it to your lips pick one girl and lay her in the hole that you’ve created. Like you, I’m standing in that field, which should be fragrant, marked with sedge, wisteria, but holds instead a crop of loam and flesh, as if just woken in the middle, eyes locked on the skating clouds, and I can’t look down for fear of what is in my hands.
Tyler James Russell is the author of To Drown a Man (2020), a poetry collection, and When Fire Splits the Sky (2022), a novel, both from Unsolicited Press. A high school English teacher and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of British Columbia, he now lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Cat and their children. His work has been nominated for the Rhysling and Best of the Net, and has appeared or is forthcoming in F(r)iction, 365 Tomorrows, and Sepia, among others. You can find him at Tylerjamesrussell.com, or on Twitter at @TJamesRussell.