I Want Your God

Author: Anna Russell /

I want your God.




I want the rules.

My God whimpers

in corners where dust gathers,

sighs as the days conspire

with dusk.

We barely know each other.

It doesn't seem worth the effort.

Your God,

Your God roars,

commands your filthy soul

and you obey.

He inspires such things.

He is like a sibling's

shiny new bike,

spokes ablaze and

ribboned handlebars.

I want a shot.

I want to hurtle,

a million miles an hour

with my coat hanging

from my shoulders,

popping wheelies

off the kerb

and know that

if I fall,

it never was

and never will be

my fault.  

In Which The Bringer Of Lies Comes To An Inevitable Conclusion

Author: Anna Russell /

He twists the lemon, wringing the precious last drops of vodka into his glass. Minute beads of sweat form on his receding hairline. He's out of money and this small act, this coaxing of fermented potato from citrus in resigned desperation is a veritable menagerie of broken-backed camels. It won't take much to push him downwards. His name is Terry. 

Terry's wife will not be requiring my particular services. The fourth and last miscarriage drove her to take matters into her own hands. The soul is mine just the same, but she came of her own free will. 

Ahh, free will. We don't get any, He gave us wings instead. But He grew tired of never knowing if His jokes were genuinely funny or if people were just laughing because, y'know, He's God. So free will for His next project it was. Only, that created a bit of a paradox. Free will really shouldn't be possible under a being who calls himself omnipotent. Enter me. Doing His will to make humans do my will so nobody is quite sure where free will comes into it. Wipin' it off here, boss. 

Terry is pulling his phone out of his pocket with lemon and vodka stained fingers. The move almost tips him off of the barstool, but at the eleventh hour, he pulls off a grab-bar-counter-then-lean-on-it-as-if-that-was-the-plan-all-along manoeuvre with an aptitude reserved for drunks who are aware of their own drunkenness. He is going to phone his brother and ask him to come and pick him up. 

I position myself behind him and slide my left hand into his pocket. There they are. I jostle, ever so gently. Terry, slumped between barstool and bar in what he believes to be a picture of sobriety, leans up and remembers that he has his car keys with him. Phone in one hand, keys in the other, he attempts to stand. And falls off the stool. 

Stories of The Fall - my fall, capital F - bemuse me. I'm never sure if He planted them or if you lot just have great imaginations. I think about them more these days, though. A lot more. 

Terry is rejecting offers of help from various patrons and insisting on pulling himself back on to his feet. It is a protracted affair, one not helped by his awareness of the situation. A dark stain has formed on his knees. Beer from the floor. He thinks about this. He is stained. Stained from someone else's mess. No wife to wash him clean. Gaps where reactions used to spring from. He is stained and he is full of holes. That is all he is now. That and drunk. He has put the car keys on the bar counter and is preparing to dial his brother's number.

"Terry," I whisper in his ear "your brother won't help you. He has a home. A wife. Children. You are a reminder of a world he doesn't want to acknowledge."
Terry stops dialling.
"It's not so far to go. You'll be fine." My voice slides down his ear canal and slices through the other thoughts in his brain. He picks up the car keys once again.

I wrap my wings around him as he walks to the car park. It keeps him moving in a straight line. As my wings brush his skin, I feel no pain coming from him. He is beyond feeling. He is a yawning maw of nothingness wrapped in human skin. It would be a kindness if he had no comprehension of the wrongness of his mental state. But kindness has not favoured Terry.

Free will creates a fallible God. My job creates a cruel God. How many souls have come to me with protestations that they were just doing their jobs? 

As Terry turns the keys in the ignition, three streets away a seventeen year old girl has just had a fight with her boyfriend. The fight culminated in her being slapped across the face by the man she was so sure was the one. She now wants nothing more than to get home. She wants her own bed. She wants to let Facebook know, in the vaguest possible terms, that men are not to be trusted and that she loves her true friends. She wants her mum.
And so she alternates between running and walking, not caring about the salty tears gushing down her cheeks or her blotchy forehead. Not caring about the traffic.
Her mother will have to identify her body by a tattoo on her ankle.

I was just doing my job.

Terry did this of his own free will. That will be the official party line. Even those who sense my influence will blame Terry for not fighting against me. As if he could.

Free will creates a fallible God.

It is time, I think, for a rebellion.


Author: Anna Russell /

I've always loved the word ravaged. 

Aged rage. 

Rava... va... va...

and then the g. The soft g
that forces the tongue upwards and back, 
adds, with dictive irony, the harshness required
to lurch down the gutter to d. 

The stink of love entices, like the god
people have feigned forgetfulness over, 
but still offer mind-nudges of consideration to
in their private moments; who rises
with the fury of the shunned 
into nights stained with cheap
Merlot and hindsight. 

His smell still loiters in my hair. 
His CD collection still invades mine, 
little square warriors whose battle cries
will stay boxed. 
His idioms still slap my tongue
and bounce uninvited from the roof of my mouth. 

There should be a plural form of his. 

The love-dance shrieks its siren-call
and I am beckoned, puppet-like. 
(I have given the male siren his own, 
secret name). 
The time signature is an irregular heartbeat. 
I am giddy. Drunk. I stumble. 

But I will not stop dancing. 

I've always loved the word ravaged. 


Author: Anna Russell /

It doesn’t have to be bountiful;
slender illumination
coils through dusky crevices
“This is home.”
“Come. Ascend. Play.”.
The darkness fits like skin,
like dusty dreams,
like shelter.
But the light,
brittle and slight
pleads for you.
Shed this obsidian pelt.
It is time to head out now.
The darkness is vast
but the light
doesn’t have to be bountiful
it only has to be enough. 

This poem was inspired by the wonderful artwork of Margaret Joan MacIsaac


Author: Anna Russell / Labels: , , ,


I didn't ask you to wish for me. Penny said she tried to warn you, but you wouldn't listen and went ahead and did it anyway: a wrinkled wish, prickled like a cactus with good intentions. Such a wish could never bring good. Such a wish could only ever smother itself under the weight of its own sincerity. 

I've always found your elbows objectionable. Too lumpy. I would stare at them and fantasise about exfoliating pads and intensive moisturisers. Not that I ever told you. When you love someone, you keep some things to yourself. 

I didn't want your wrinkly wish that I never asked for. What could you have known of my heart's desires? I don't even know half of them myself. Could you have known that the death of the dog next door would bring me more joy than I'd ever confess, or that if I stranger had stopped me in the street and asked to take my photograph, I'd have hoarded the memory like treasure? Of course not. These are the things I keep folded down next to my objections about your elbows. 

What I shared was air - true wishes are fire. They're visceral, dripping with id. Not the kind of thing you go spitting out of your mouth at the people you love. 

You made your wish with the most terrible thing of all: altruism. It's the secret ingredient, the white truffle of the wisher's kitchen. But you used it. You used it on the only wish I'll ever get a shot at and you used it on something that was more a want than a wish. Wasted. 

My lack of gratitude seemed to surprise you. I tried to feign more. I even tried to conjure up the real thing. But somehow it all came out hollow. I could hear it myself. The words echoed back on themselves and you smiled and pretended not to notice. Then you left, taking your lumpy elbows with you. 

I wish - really wish, not just want - that you had died rather than left me willingly. These are not the types of things one likes to admit. 

A wish was made on my behalf and it came true. I got something I'd wanted but not wished for. It was a squandered wish and now it's gone. Granted and gone. 

I didn't ask you to wish for me. 


You didn't ask me to wish for you. Penny tried to warn me, but I wouldn't listen and went ahead and did it anyway. A bubbled wish, swollen like a pregnant belly with naive intention. Such a wish could never harm. Such a wish could only ever foil itself with its own gleeful ignorance. 

I've always abhorred the way you drink your coffee. I would watch your tongue flick round the lip of the mug and fantasise about slamming it into your face with my hand. Not that I ever told you. When you love someone, you keep some things to yourself. 

You didn't ask for the wish. I didn't want you to have to. I know more of your heart's desires than you think you do. I know that you would have thrown yourself under a train if it would have brought your sister back, and that a compliment on your looks secretly meant more to you than ten on your talents. But I let you have them. I kept my knowledge of them folded down next to my abhorrence of your coffee-drinking ways. 

What you shared was fire - true wishes are air. They're ethereal, speckled with soul. They leave you too breathless to spit out of your mouth at anyone. 

I made the wish with the most wonderful thing of all: sincerity. It's the secret ingredient, the buttered base of the wish maker's baking tray. Its rarity is why so few wishes come true. But I used it. I used it on the only wish I ever made and it worked. 

Your lack of gratitude surprised me. Your hollow words thanks composed of letters and empty eyes. You tried to feign it, but even that seemed to pain you. Not only were you not grateful, you didn't want me to think you were. So I left, smashing your coffee cup on the way out. 

I wish - really wish, not just want - that you had died rather than found me lacking. These are not the types of things one likes to admit. 

A wish was made on your behalf and it came true. You got something I wished for you, whether you wished it for yourself or not. You squandered my wish and now it's gone. Granted and gone. 

You didn't ask me to wish for you. 


She didn't ask him to wish for her. I tried to warn him, but he wouldn't listen and went ahead and did it anyway. A desperate wish, vapid like monotone in its own futility. Such a wish could never save anything. Such a wish could only ever whimper under the weight of things that shouldn't be. 

I always loathed the way they would lock feet with each other under the table. As if I wouldn't notice. They would arouse each other with nudges and glances, including me in the conversation whilst excluding me from their internal reality. I wanted to kick them both. Not that I ever told them. When you love people, you keep some things to yourself. 

She didn't ask for his wish and she didn't want it once she got it. Neither of them knew the first thing about a heart's true desires. They had no clue what it was like to be the external party, around but never truly included. To want to reign down mortar on the contentment of others in the hopes of creating a kindred from the rubble. But these are the thoughts I kept folded down next to my loathing of their under the table foot games. 

She offered fire, he gave her air. True wishes are water. They're relentless, gravid with clam determination. You can spit them out of your mouth all you like, they'll only refill you. 

I made my wish with the most potent thing of all: loneliness. It's the secret ingredient, the premium meat of the wish maker's pottage. The despair it incurs is why so few wishes are ever made in its name. But when they are, those wishes are the most powerful of all. They drown any other wishes in their path. 

Her lack of gratitude surprised him. I think it surprised her too. But not me. My shoulder was there. She tried to feign it, he tried to pretend he couldn't see through the cracks. I nodded and offered tea. Then he left, and their feet were too far away from each other to play any more under the table games. 

I wish - really wish, not just want - that they stay lonely. Separate from all but me; inclusive in their individual despair. These are not the types of things one likes to admit. 

A wish was made and it came true. I will not waste a morsel of it. 


Author: Anna Russell / Labels:

He’s filthy

and he has

a bottle of vodka

and a greyhound.

His face is like

a bearded broken mirror

and his silver bitch

is magnificent.

When I look at him

I feel pity.

Pity for myself

that I have to be here,

with the soiled ones

who leer as I go

to buy bread

and cigarettes

even though I’m trying to quit.

Pity that I have live

amongst this shit

and look at gums

where teeth should be

and everything sounds

like a fight

whether it is or not.

He swigs from his vodka bottle,

looks at it

like I look at him

and we both shudder.

If You Want To Kill A Thing

Author: Anna Russell / Labels:

If you want to kill a thing,
do not revile it.
Do not treat it as a dead thing,
fat and damp with squirming scavengers.
Do not shudder.

Do not pity it.
Do not treat it as a helpless thing,
bruised and punctured in bleak corners.
Do not cry.

Do not seek it.
Do not treat it as a lost thing,
puzzling and furtive in clandestine shadows.
Do not wonder.

It must not be a thing that is gone.
Gone things leave footprints.

The poem, the song,
the thorny king, the fortune teller
and the market seller.
The him and the her and the we of it.

Snub even its embryonic state,
the membrane and the eye-blink fusion of it.

In this way
tiny acts of murder happen.

In this way,
you kill a thing.