3 poems by Mark Russell

Men with Lattes

About war, they say, there is nothing new to

download. It is as common to be overwhelmed by

choice, as it is to rage against its perceived scarcity.

It is the romance of long summers passed away in

garden parties, and by equal turns, the polar bear

drifting to its doom on a wafer of ice, that may jab

us in the eye with blackthorn. A man who puts

down his horse without the aid of chemicals may

have been disciplined in this art during his tours of

duty, or be extremely disoriented by hunger and the

alien environment. Two men who put down their

horses without the aid of chemicals may have no

choice due to the barbarities of the battlefield, or be

inside an allegory wrought by an author ill-

disposed to the objections of effete aristocrats.

The Old Silences

It had reached lunchtime on the second, but only full, day and still I had no

idea when I was due to speak, what topic my paper was due to be

addressing, if I had even written it yet, and if so, how I might find a copy

of it. I figured that there must be somebody at one of the three conferences

here in the hotel whom I must know, if only in the most vaguely

acquainted kind of way, so I went looking for them. I began on the Ground

Floor. After checking the bars and eateries, the spa and leisure areas, the

shops and corridors, the conference suites, the meeting rooms, the private

rooms, and the currency exchange kiosk, I took a right into the kitchens

and sat down for a rest. Staff were far too busy to notice me. They

clattered chrome pots and pans, rushed about with steaming trays of broth,

shouted at each other, and waved sharp knives in each other’s faces. ‘Are

you here with one of the conferences?’ a voice behind me said. I looked

around to find an elderly gentleman in a grey suit quite out of breath and

mopping his forehead with a linen napkin. ‘I must be,’ I said. ‘I’m

supposed to be giving a paper on my stone,’ he said, lifting a kilo bag of

coffee beans. ‘That’s not a stone,’ I said. ‘It’s a long story,’ he said, ‘and

half the weight.’ ‘How heavy is it supposed to be?’ I asked, but was

suddenly struck with the boredom of it and didn’t want to hear the answer.

‘Do you really want to know?’ he said, a little surprised by my interest.

‘Yes, of course,’ I said. ‘The stone is the same size and weight as the

average human brain,’ he said. ‘So now you have only half a brain?’

‘Something like that,’ he said. ‘I misplaced the stone when I changed

trains at Crewe, and now I have this coffee.’ He wanted me to ask him

what his paper was about, but I wasn’t playing. ‘I’m with the Geologists

on Epoch-Naming,’ he began, but I cut him off. ‘It’s probably on its way

to Carlisle,’ I offered by way of comfort. ‘Sorry?’ he said. ‘Your stone.’

‘Ah,’ he said. We sat for a while.


What will we do now

the snow has returned

to ask for our submission

as we lie softening in our beds

Ask it for a spit of mercy

a minute to reconsider

as if it might not pierce us through

as if it understood


Mark Russell’s publications include Spearmint & Rescue (Pindrop), Shopping for Punks (Hesterglock), and ا (the book of seals) (Red Ceilings). Other poems have appeared in Stand, Shearsman, The Interpreter’s House, Tears in the Fence, Blackbox Manifold, The Scores, and elsewhere