Mark Russell

From ا (The Book Of Seals) (2015)


they ordered torments
the warnings were clear

second item
on the menu

before the onion ring

after the faith
in the Hereafter


All we ask is that you are straight with us.
Some people say, ‘We want only your bubbles
and scum. We cannot tell the difference
anyway, and suspect that there is none’.

Those people are seeking to pocket you.
We say, ‘We know there is a 23rd ball,
we just don’t know where you hide it, or why
you never use it but still insist on it’.

All we ask is that you provide medicine,
torque for our petulance, revolutions
for the dirty liars who set their clocks
by the lust and thunder of the convict.



we are surrounded

by the assassins

with their fingers

raised above their heads

indicating where the missing ears

might be discovered

if only people would listen


we are surrounded

by the mercenary doctors

with their fingers

up their own arses

indicating a loss of professionalism

could be the result

of too many sentences


we are surrounded

by the sky

with its fingers

forked in fractured splints

indicating your doubts

always the doubts


we are surrounded by the doubts


I never knew the firefighter
could be used as a firelighter.

I never knew the firefighter’s life
partner could also be used as a firelighter.

I suppose what I’m saying about the firefighter
is equally true of people with different professions,

and equally true of people who do not follow any
(because there are many people like this) and who should

be burned for choosing to have a more casual attitude to
that is, of course, if they are lucky enough to be in a
position to choose.

I suppose what I’m saying is living things should not be
used as firelighters,
except if they’re trees; it seems to me that trees are all
right to use as firelighters.

And oil. And gas. And coal. And some forms of uranium.
And maybe even the Sun.
Because though these things are living, I’ll admit that, they
have no actual profession.

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