So, You're A Poet, Eh - Where Have I Heard Of You?

Author: Anna Russell / Labels:

Not me. We.
Each of us pours marrow and
sinew, bone and blood through
the last and the next and
the right-there-beside-us.

Without Shakespeare there is no
Bukowski. Without Frost there
is no Clifton. And so on and
on - ad infinitum.

Without You there is
No We.

We are there, in your laughter lines,
in the sweet taste of your wife, the
tree you see silhoutted against the fat moon,
your dreams for your children,
the snot from your sneezes, aches
of unfulfillment and victories.

In your fingertips, noses,
genitals, toes, eyelashes
and foreheads -
We are there.

And your death.
We are there then too,
perhaps especially so.

We will tell you your life
in six stanzas
and a footnote.
And if we tell it just so,
You will believe us.

An Explanation As To Why You Humble Me

Author: Anna Russell / Labels:

Picture yourself in a room full of people.
Actually, it doesn’t even have to be full -
Maybe there are three or four people there.
Maybe just two.
Now, listen to them.
You know these people; their idioms,
the way they’ll tell the story about
the boss you already know they hate.
You know who will pepper their sentences
with what words and who will laugh
at inappropriate places in the conversation.

You love these people.

Now, turn inwards.
Picture yourself in that room
with those people
you love
and feel grateful for their
presence in your life.
Feel the compassion you feel for them.
The desire to connect is so strong it
burns your skin when you think of it.

But you can’t.

Not completely.

There is more to you, to them,
than any of you can ever hope to reconcile.
They laugh and talk, unaware.
But you are aware.
Your thoughts are your own
and you cannot give them away,
cannot even fathom how to.

You watch them,
laugh with them,
say words to them.

But you are lonely.
You are lonely around these people
who you love.

Do you know that feeling?


I have never felt lonely with you.

That is why you humble me.

I Blame The Moon

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: , ,

I blame the moon, of course.
She zeroed in on you, fattened and bored
and made you go quite mad.
Should you have noticed my recent bouts
of temper (although I am sure you did not,
insignificant as they were), forgiveness
would have been foremost on your mind.
But that bloated orb with her beams of
delusion had other ideas and I fear
she may have ruined you.

Then there was that earthquake
in that place. You remember the one?
Perhaps you don’t. Understandable really,
given its effect on your reason.
Say, wouldn’t it be some kind of bittersweet
irony if it was tearing down bridges and setting
them aflame at the same time as we… never mind.
I can tell you what it wasn’t: it wasn’t my doubt;
that could never have expressed itself to you
without my explicit awareness and consent.
Tectonic shifts.
It was the earthquake.

I have also heard that something was in trine
with something else. Jupiter perhaps.
Or was it Mercury? You know how these planets are.
It must have been on that day when I most assuredly
did not convice myself there was someone else
and that noise was not what was left of us
going tha-thunk
down a very steep hill and into a ditch. No, silly,
it was the planets trining. Or whatever you call it.

Your mother’s new hat cannot be entirely discounted
One never knows with previous ownership.
Not that we are the types to believe in curses
and bad energy and the like. But that hat
came into our lives at exactly the same time
as I most definitely did not make any kind of
drunken phonecall to any kind of ex because I wanted
someone to reassure me I could be loved when
you wouldn’t. How else to explain that argument?
It seems to me that cursed hats
are an overlooked threat.

Other factors must be considered:

The soup that may or may not have been out of date,
the birthmark on your hand or the freckle on my knee,
the Moroccan mint tea,
the something-or-other in Mongolia,
the bird that landed on my fence and looked at
me funny,
or the fact that I love you so deeply and dreadfully
and desperately so that it wasn’t me
It wasn’t me.
It wasn’t me.

The Day Of The Fall

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: , ,

The day of The Fall was not accompanied, as one might expect, by ominous snarls of thunder and dramatic smashes of lightning. Nor were there any omens to signify the Coming; no sudden visions from otherwise ordinary people, no Wizard of Oz-type voices appearing from thin air. Of course, there were all the usual wars, murders and natural disasters which many tried, after the fact, to use as clear examples that we were Being Warned (cue incessant calls from certain quarters for us to “Repent!”, coupled with even more incessant denouncements of everything from sex before marriage to high heeled shoes), but as earthquakes had parted the Red Sea for Moses and war has been our favourite sport since the first caveman made a spear, these “examples” could be safely dismissed as the desperate ramblings of those whose lives had been so much better before there were answers with the potential to prove them wrong.
No, the day of The Fall went largely unnoticed by most, creeping so gradually into the collective consciousness that by the time people realised what
was happening, it already had happened.
It had happened before, albeit on a much smaller scale. But that had been… well, a bit of a disaster, what with the giant hybrid babies and all.

Nicole had never met an angel before, and unlike the majority of people she knew, had no real desire to do so now. Naturally she was curious – who wasn’t? – but to her the whole thing was nothing more than an irritating distraction, and even at that, only the latest in a long line of them.
Vague ripples of excitement, of
newness had piqued her interest at the start when the first sightings of winged creatures with humanoid bodies were reported. But by the time Heat magazine had published pictures of Raphael picking his nose in Camden Market on their Spotted! pages, Nicole felt the magic was pretty much gone.
Besides, she had more pressing matters to concern herself with; a mere forty-six days remained until her thirtieth birthday and she, contrary to the vows made by the arrogant fifteen year old version of herself, had not travelled across America on a Harley Davidson, married LL Cool J, become a world famous something-or-other, or even purchased matching cutlery. Instead, she had found herself, fourteen years later, living in a rented bed-sit whilst working in a call centre. She had travelled – to Benidorm when she was twenty, and again to Amsterdam for the weekend when she was twenty-two - both excursions by plane, not hog. As for marriage, she had just finished with the only man who’d ever really loved her because she was bored. Apparently LL Cool J was taken.

Michael would probably have been bleeding from each finger on his left hand and a couple on his right were it not for his angelic body’s incapacity to do so. Nobody had thought to warn him about can-openers. After fifteen minutes of increasing frustration he gave up and poured some cereal into a bowl. It was no ambrosia, but it would have to do. He was sure he could figure out the mysterious workings of the can opener at a later date and didn’t want it to end up suffering the same fate as his three remote controls, Sky+ box and digital alarm clock. It wasn’t Michael’s fault really, he had, after all, been Made to dole out retribution.
A pitiful whine emitted from the bedroom, a child’s cry for help in an adult’s voice. Not that Michael had ever been a child. He set down his half finished bowl of wheat based E-numbers and followed the sound down the narrow hallway and into the room it was escaping from.
“Hey there Luce, ‘sup?”
The Morning Star was hunched with his back against Michael’s headboard, knees gathered tightly to his chest as though he were afraid they would run away from him if he let go, and wailing without in perfect monotonous pitch without pause (no tears though, angels can’t cry).
Lucifer looked up, his beautiful face shorn with agony.
“I can’t take it Michael, I can
not take it. They hate me. Everywhere I go they just spew hatred at me. Why can’t I make them understand?”
“C’mon mate, they’ve had a good couple of millennia to fire the fuel for this, you can’t expect to change their minds in a few months. Besides, not all of them hate you – what about that fan club that was set up by those kids in Denmark? Or the New Goth Society that made you their founding father? They don’t hate you, quite the opposite in fact.”
“I appreciate the effort here, Mikey boy, I really do, but you and I both know these people are crazy. And even if they weren’t, they still only like me for what they think I am, the real me is of no interest to them whatsoever.”
Michael felt an itching glimpse of something he should say, a fleeting shadowy thought of His will, His plan, but he couldn’t grasp anything tangible enough to warrant articulation. Acceptance had been fading daily since The Fall. Hence Lucifer’s current state.
“Maybe you need a change of scenery. Just let me finish my cereal and then we can go and make a Visit.”
“A Visit? You, dear Michael, may be able to partake in such pleasures, but I show up in someone’s living room unannounced and if I actually manage not to give somebody’s grandmother an aneurysm, then it’s the lynch mob for me – and as you well know, I’ve spent most of my time since I got here narrowly escaping those.”
“Yeah, but if you go with me it’ll be different. I can calm down the Visitee before they start phoning any of those hotlines.”
“0800 DIEBEAST? Oh, I just love them.”
Sarcasm was a new one to them, it had developed fairly quickly the more humans they came into contact with. Michael quite liked it. That and swearing – hearing it, not doing it; somehow his celestial lips couldn’t quite form the words. He could get as far as
fffffffffu… but that was about it. Still, he greatly admired the way humans had taken the language they were Given and ladled giant steaming heaps of flavour upon it.
“I’ll take my sword just in case.”

Nicole hated the burning sensation, but she hated the smell even more. She was unsure on what parallel universe roses and lemons smelled like a compost heap in a heatwave, but it sure as hell wasn’t this one. Oh well, only six more minutes. The bathroom's cold linoleum was sending chills through her so she pulled Steve’s (or was it Kevin’s?) old Ramones T-shirt over one of the aforementioned’s old boxers and scampered through to the airing cupboard where she found two socks, one pink and one green. She’d just pulled on the green one when the almighty crash rang out from the living room (which was still technically a bedroom as Nicole had not yet folded up the bed-settee from last night). In lieu of Mace, she grabbed a can of hairspray from the edge of the bath and burst through the door screaming.
The voice came from the darker of the two angels who were perched on the edge of Nicole’s bed-settee, wings peeping out from behind their shoulders. The blonde one looked nervous, the dark one was holding a sword. Nicole did not drop the can of hairspray.
“Oh, I see – I’m being Visited. Well, maybe the rest of the folk you lot do this to don’t have a problem with their homes being intruded by cosmic gatecrashers, but I bloody well do.”
The dark one spoke again.
“Nicole, I’m…”
“I don't care who you are, you can fuck right off.”
“What’s that on your top lip?” This time it was the blonde one who spoke.
Nicole reached her hand up to the offending spot and felt the stinky depilatory paste smeared there. Had it been six minutes yet? Damned angels.
“Yeah… er, excuse me for a minute.” Nicole nipped through to the bathroom and scrubbed ferociously at her face. No ‘tache, but it did look a bit red – although that could be down to the excessive scrubbing she’d just done. She marched back into the living room.
“Right, you two, out. Now.”
“Nicole, I’m Michael and my friend here is Lucifer.”
Lucifer waved and mouthed “hi” at her. Well, this put quite a spin on things.
“The Archangel Michael, closest to the Big Man and all that? Wow. And the Prince of Darkness no less. What the hell do you two want with me?”
“Well Nicole, I thought Luce here could use a little change of scenery and you were the person we were drawn to Visit. These things don’t really come with guidelines, it’s more a feeling, a pull towards a certain person, one that…”
As Michael went on attempting to explain an unexplainable process, Lucifer felt a toasty warmth settle in his solar plexus. This girl wasn’t afraid of him. Yes, she was unhappy at being Visited - there was none of the dropping to knees and offering praise be to God that the others said usually happened – but she was equally as annoyed with Michael as she was with him. Her face showed only irritation, no fear or repulsion. Lucifer had thought he would sit in silence once he got here (save for the accidental slipping out of the top lip question), but something about Nicole’s demeanour encouraged him to speak.
“Nicole, don’t you mind me being here? I mean, obviously you mind the Visit, but it doesn’t bother you that it’s me in particular?”
“Why, because you’re Satan? Give me some credit. You’re just doing your job, right? I get it.”
Lucifer bounced up from the bed-settee and grabbed Nicole.
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” He kissed her repeatedly as he jumped up and down with her in his arms. Michael shook his head.
Nicole couldn’t help but think to herself that life may have just taken a fairly interesting turn. She had no idea.

Two hours of Q & A had followed, during which Nicole had taught Michael how to use a can opener and a digital alarm clock, when the gas man called to read the meter. Lucifer was so enjoying the company of a mortal without fear of lynching that he completely forgot to hide when Nicole answered the door.

“Make no mistake people, The Second Coming is upon us. The Dark One is here and already the Lord has sent His warriors to defend us from the evil that walks in our midst. The time to repent is now! Our Saviour died for us once, and soon he will do it again. So blessed are we. The Antichrist will do everything in his power to stop him, to send us all to Hell – but we will fight him. To save ourselves, we will FIGHT him!”
A vicious chorus of Amens jangled like angry keys as the preacher smashed fist to pulpit repeatedly.

This scene was anywhere, everywhere. Church attendance since The Fall had risen to unprecedented levels; ministers and priests used to preaching to miniscule audiences - whose presences seemed to billow and sway precariously under the weight of drafty pews and dreary hymns, just waiting for the conclusive “Let us pray” that would carry them away on a heathen breeze forevermore – had suddenly found crowds that would have been worthy of two burly bouncers at the church doors queuing and jostling to get in. And not just on Sundays either, most churches had taken to offering weekday sermons in an attempt to reach as many of their new flock as possible. Wednesdays were set aside especially for the Flippers: those who had practised what were now so obviously false religions (said with just a smidgen of smugness) and had joined the fold. The millions who had chosen not to do this were going straight to Hell very soon anyway, and they had no-one to blame but themselves.
The sermons the world over had slight variations in tone and verbage, but the basic message was the same:
Jesus was coming and the Beast must die.

Nicole’s meter was in the tiny cupboard in the living room and the gas man shuffled through with a gruff “Arright hen, get the kettle on”, Nicole trailing behind.
“Whit the…?”
Lucifer took one look at the gas man standing gape-jawed before him and realised too late his mistake – which he belatedly tried to rectify by diving behind Michael, or more specifically, Michael’s sword. It was too late though. Far, far too late.
“I know who you are. You filthy, scummy…well, jist wait till I see aboot this.” The gas man’s face was a veiny palette of disgust. He pulled his mobile phone from the pocket of his greasy overalls and pressed 1 - DIEBEAST’s speed dial service. “Hello? Aye, I’ve got the Beast with me, we’re…”
What happened next would stay in Nicole’s memory as a chopped up series of snapshots, bitty but indelible in her cortex till the day she died:
Lucifer yelped. The gas man gasped. Nicole stared.
And Michael got angry.
Lucifer, being the only one of the assembled company to have previously experienced Michael’s wrath, instinctively stood back, tucking Nicole into the folds of his wings. The gas man barely had time to register his phone in smithereens before finding himself gripped round the throat and raised the eight inches off the floor it took for him to be staring directly into Michael’s fiery eyes. This is not a metaphor: the archangel’s eye sockets had literally morphed into pits of flames, spitting brilliant light and holy judgement directly into the gas man’s limpid gaze. Michael unleashed an Almighty roar as he raised his sword above the now sobbing and piss-soaked man.

And then there was light.

Nicole was unsure how long had passed before she was able to see again, but when the scribbled blurs in front of her began to morph into discernible shapes once more, the first thing to assault her retinas was the sight of the gas man folded like paper on the floor. At first she thought he was dead, but closer inspection revealed tiny twitches shuddering sporadically through his legs.
Michael looked down at the body on the carpet.
“Oh dear. I’d better get a hold of Raphael, he’ll set him right again.”
“Isn’t he in Guatemala healing those…lepers, was it?” Lucifer poked at the gas man with his big toe as he spoke, but was greeted with only more twitches in response.
“Nah, last I heard he’d gone to France to take in the sights. I’ll try him just now.” Michael pulled a mobile phone out of his pocket and began dialling.
“Wait a minute” Nicole interjected “don’t you guys communicate telepathically with each other?”
Michael stared at her.
“I’ve got free minutes.”

A couple of minutes of frantic conversation later, Michael hung up the phone and grabbed Nicole by the arm.
“Right, Raph’s on his way. We need to get out of here. Now.”
“What do you mean
we?” Nicole wrenched her arm back. “It wasn’t me who put the poor guy in that state, and it’s not my fault that he decided to pay a Visit to me.” She pointed an accusatory finger in Lucifer's direction. “Besides, I’ve got work in the morning, I can’t just take off.”
Michael tried his hand at patient negotiation, disobeying every fibre of his celestial being as he did so. Where was Gabriel when you needed him?
“Nicole, this guy has just seen Luce and phoned the DIEBEAST hotline. Now he’s lying in a pool of his own urine, unconscious and quite possibly dying. These DIEBEAST guys don’t mess about, all of the people who phone them are traced and logged the second they dial – then it’s just a quick phone call to the gas company to find out where his last appointment was, and bingo, the lynch mob shows up here and we’re all screwed, you included. Now get dressed and be quick about it. Thank you.”
The threat of a lynch mob was enough. Nicole got dressed.


Raphael felt the life return to the gas man just as the sound of footsteps boomed from the hallway. He knew it was pointless to stay and attempt an explanation: Michael's holy wrath had nothing on human beings who’d decided to hate something enough to form a group in its honour.
“It didn’t have to be this way mate, it really didn’t.” Raphael sighed, checked one last time that his charge was back to full health, then left.

“David? David MacKenzie? You’re safe now, we’ve got you. But David, you must tell us, where did the Beast go?”
The bewildered gas man opened his eyes to find himself slumped against Nicole's living room wall with six strange faces peering at him. The Beast, Michael and the lassie with the odd socks on were gone.
“The Beast…he was here. Him and the angry one – and the girl, she must be with them. And it’s Davey.” Why he’d felt the need to add the last part was unclear even to him, but meeting Satan in the flesh then being attacked by one of his cohorts will do funny things to a guy. Not funny ha-ha mind you, not that at all. The crowd before him opened their mouths and released a sparrow-like warbling of excitement.
“Girl? There was a girl with them?”
“The Whore!”
“Yes, she must be the Beast’s Whore. Must be.”
“We need to find them. We need to know where they’ve gone.”
Unfortunately, Davey could not help them there.

Nicole had expected the residence of the Prince of Darkness to be, well, darker. But this was a basic, run of the mill, two bed and one bath, magnolia walled flat. And it was in Govan. Well, she supposed he could have lived anywhere he felt like, there was no reason it shouldn’t be in Glasgow. She wondered how the city’s residents would feel if they knew Satan himself had been living right under their noses all this time. Probably perfectly nonchalant about it, after all, it’s not like he was English.
“Milk? Sugar?” Lucifer was stirring a steaming mug of tea; he’d heard the natives couldn’t get enough of the stuff in times of adversity.
“Yes to both please, plenty of the latter. So, what now?”
“Well,” he said, handing her the mug “Michael's just off the phone to Raphael and it seems the gas man is going to be fine. The lynch mob arrived just as he was leaving though, so I suppose we should turn on the television and wait for a bulletin. The advantages of teleporting include no-one knowing I live here, so we should be safe for a little while. But you…ahh…may not get off too lightly.”
Nicole was about to ask what he meant by that when Michael switched the television on. Then she saw exactly what he meant by that.
“The Whore now walks among us, the Beast has found her and she is in league with his Dark Forces. This girl, this Whore, must be found and destroyed along with the Beast.” The balding puce-faced man on the screen held up a picture of Nicole and prodded at it as though it were evil personified – or rather, laminated.
“That’s my passport photo! How the hell did they get a hold of that, it’s only been a couple of hours? God, you’d think they could have at least picked a better picture.”
Michael and Lucifer stared at her, waiting for the other, more significant, penny to drop. It only took a couple of seconds.
“Whore? Whore! Who do they think they’re calling a whore?” Another second. “Oh shit. I’m in big trouble, aren't I?” Now she had it.
“Yes Nicole, you are. For now, nobody knows where Lucifer lives, but I wouldn’t imagine that’s going to last to long after this. We’ll need to find somewhere safer to hide, and since it seems as though I’m the only one to have escaped undetected from this whole mess, I should be the one…”
“Er, Mikey, I think you’d better take a look at this.” Lucifer pointed to the T.V set as the balding man on the screen turned an even pucier shade of puce.
“And Michael, he who is closest to the Lord, has betrayed his master and fallen under the Beast’s dark thrall. He did smite an agent of Jesus as he tried to warn us of Satan’s presence, leaving him for dead as he escaped with the Beast and his Whore. Only thanks to the quick thinking and compassionate workers of the DIEBEAST congregation is this beloved member of our flock alive. This is a sad, sad day people. Nobody can be trusted. Nobody!”


The mobs began forming even before the television broadcast was over. On each corner or the globe, and most of the spaces in between, people gathered together themselves, their weapons, and their indignant sense of righteousness and set about finding the Beast and his consorts. For all they knew, the Messiah could be amongst them already and there could be no chances taken in ensuring the Second Coming went smoothly. It was either that or face the uncertainty of the death that would come to all of them one day; a fear that had been the glue of religion since time immemorial.

On the other side were the minority: the supporters of the Beast. They too organised themselves, ignited the spark that lit up the underground networks dedicated to providing safety (and in some hopeful cases a platform) for the much maligned Lucifer. These networks had been in place since The Fall, and its members were just itching for the chance to be put to use.

Of course, there were also the vast numbers of people who couldn’t have cared less about the whole thing and wished everyone would just shut up about it. But those people never seem to get stories written about them, and this occasion is no different.


Nicole found herself standing in a room she thought was a far more fitting living space for the Prince of Darkness. The walls were painted blood red, black candles swarmed like rats on every available surface and there was a giant gold pentagram painted onto the parquet floors. Lucifer, however, looked distinctly unimpressed.
“I can’t believe they did that to the floor – do you have any idea how much flooring like this costs?” he hissed in Nicole's ear. Nicole shrugged. She still wasn’t too sure how she’d gotten here. One minute she’d been sitting on Lucifer's couch in Govan, the next Michael had grabbed her wrist and she’d found herself here. All Michael had offered by way of explanation was that they were in Denmark. Judging by the way the conversation was going, they wouldn’t be staying there for long.
“Yes, I understand that you are not ashamed to be supporters of Lucifer, and I’m sure I’m safe in speaking for Lucifer when I say he appreciates that.”
Lucifer responded with in indecipherable grunt and Nicole already recognised the sound of Michael trying to stay patient.
“It’s just that, did you have to be so, well, public about it? I see posters for your group everywhere, fliers too. We were told this would be a safe place, but frankly, it’s the first place anyone with even half a brain is going to look. I mean, if you go all out to advertise the fact that you’ll take Luce in at the first sight of trouble, who do you think the lynch mob will target first?”
The members of the I Love Satan fan club fidgeted but none of them seemed to have an answer. Truth be told, they’d just been having a laugh and whilst they may have convinced themselves that they were acting in earnest, none of them had really expected Satan to show up on their doorstep. Now that he was here, they weren’t really sure they wanted the hassle.
“C’mon,” said Michael, grabbing Nicole's wrist once more “we’re leaving.”


The nuns of the Blessed Virgin abbey lived a quiet, some may say dull, existence on the quite magnificent Mount Zion. They had no television, did not read newspapers or listen to the radio. Days consisted of prayer interspersed with work in the kitchen and garden and nights were quiet affairs; contemplation following prayer following bed. The Abbess was one Sister Bernadette, an elderly woman who may have been beautiful once, had she ever given it a thought, and whose calm exterior belied the sharp mind behind it.
She sometimes felt she was married more to paperwork than to God and was at that moment in the drudgerous process of adding her signature to the eternal pile of forms that seemed to appear each night as she slept. So pleased was she for an interruption that when she heard the hushed commotion in the hallway she gave a smile of relief and went to investigate immediately.
“Oh!” Sister Bernadette was greeted by the archangel Michael holding a rather bewildered looking young woman by the wrist.
“Sister, we apologise for the intrusion, but we have come to ask for your help.”
The sister, instead of listening to a word Michael was saying, had begun to prostrate herself vigorously before him.
“Sister, there really is no need for that.” Michael helped her to her feet. “We need to ask if we may stay here for a short while. It is a complicated matter, but we need the utmost privacy and ask, should you choose to offer your hospitality, that you tell no-one outside of the abbey that we are here. Do you think that would be possible?”

Well, of course it was possible, and it happened with Sister Bernadette offering praise be to God every step of the way. The only question she asked was:
“Is it just the two of you?”
Michael looked pained, and slightly purple, before replying “Yes, yes it is.”
Even Michael's request that he and Nicole be given adjoining rooms elicited only the merest of frowns and soon they found themselves with a little cot bed each and steaming bowls of soup laid out before them. Nicole waited for Sister Bernadette to leave then took her soup next door to Michael's room. The two of them had just finished the last drops (Michael licked the bowl) when Lucifer appeared.
“Is the coast clear?” he asked, smoothing down his somewhat ruffled feathers.
“Yes Luce, it is. Just as well really, or you’d just have landed us all in it.” Michael looked tetchy, but Nicole was learning that this seemed to be pretty much par for the course with him.
“Sorry Mikey, but I figured the safest place to hide while you guys sorted things in here was the desert. It was… strange out there. Anyway, this was a fantastic idea, nobody will ever think of looking for us here.”
“I bloody hope not,” said Nicole “it’s just occurred to me that out of the three of us, I’m the only human.”
“And your point is?”
“My point is, dear Michael, that these lynch mob guys are pretty heavy. You two don’t have a mortal life to fear for, but I do. I can’t teleport, I can’t fly, and last time I checked I wasn’t Buffy the sodding Vampire Slayer. Don’t look at me like that, it’s a TV show. You and Lucifer can be certain of going back upstairs should anything happen to you here, but can you guarantee the same for me? I mean, I’m not the whore the DIEBEAST guys say I am, but…”
“But you are a sinner?” offered Lucifer.
“Look mate, I’m not the one who’s just lied to a nun.” Michael blushed. “I’m just saying that I didn’t ask for this, but now that I’m here, I hope you’ll both look after me.”
“Of course we will Nicole. We promise.” Lucifer put his arm around her shoulder and gave her a little squeeze. Michael nodded in agreement.
“Promise. We’re in this together.”


The members of the I Love Satan fan club had just discovered that enduring tales about the likes of Oscar Schindler, Florence Nightingale, William Wallace et al were so enduring because of their rarity. The truth was, most human beings, when faced with a threat to their personal safety would, entirely without consideration or hesitation, totally shite it.
When the lynch mob had first arrived at their headquarters, any attempts to hide were soon realised to be belated ones and the Satanists who now wished they’d gone to church like their mothers had told them had surrendered immediately, singing like a veritable army of little yellow birds.
“So, they wouldn’t stay here because it was too obvious a choice?”
“Y-y-yes sir.”
“I see. Well then, we shall just have to continue our searches in the less obvious places. Places people, we’re moving on!”
The last thing the members of the I Love Satan fan club were aware of was the smell of petrol.


Nicole had managed to smuggle some soup from the kitchen for Lucifer. She thought that as far as places went, this one wasn’t too bad. Ok, it was no five star hotel and the residents weren’t exactly a laugh a minute, but given the circumstances it would do nicely. It struck her that she was in Israel. And Denmark before that. If she was going to get lynched, then at least she’d finally gotten to do some travelling beforehand. She wondered if she could persuade her angelic companions to hide in St Barts for a couple of weeks. Or maybe Tahiti.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a young nun bursting through the door. Michael had, for obvious reasons, asked for the utmost privacy, but Sister Candida was so overcome with joy at the thought of a real, live archangel within those very walls that she could not stop herself for tearing through the halls and up the stairs to meet him.
“Oh, praise be, praise be! It is such…YOU!” Sister Candida fixed her gaze on the startled Lucifer. “We were given pictures of you. We were warned!” And at that she promptly fell into a dead faint on the rug beneath her (which was probably just as well given the look on Michael's face).
Michael made to reach for Nicole's wrist just as Lucifer held out a hand to stop him.
“No, Michael, enough running. I have to at least try to explain things to people. Maybe if I can reach even a few with the truth, it’ll be enough to call off the mob.”
Michael shook his head.
“Luce, have you lost your mind? If you go out there in public, the last thing anyone is going to do is listen to you. You know what they’re like once they’ve made up their minds – if they even suspect you of even thinking about saying something that could prove them wrong, they’ll kill you before you get a chance to form your first syllable. Besides, what about Nicole? This is hardly the way to keep her safe.”
“So, what, we just keep her running for the rest of her life? We have no idea how long we’re supposed to be here for – we could even be called home tomorrow. But Nicole won’t be forgotten about by this lot in hurry. We have to take some kind of action now Michael. I don’t see any other way about it.”
Nicole looked at Michael and sighed.
“He’s got a point, you know.”


Israel wasn’t exactly the world’s most popular tourist destination, but upon hearing that the Beast himself planned to give a speech atop Mount Zion, people flocked there in their thousands. Michael may have been right in assuming the mob would want to kill Lucifer before he spoke, but he hadn’t banked on that other ubiquitous human trait: curiosity.
Lucifer would be allowed to speak simply because people were desperate to hear what he had to say.
Of course, the lynch mob would be there in force for when he’d finished.


“Ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to thank you all for coming today, I know how hard this must be for some of you.” The silence was deafening. “I want to speak to you today about God’s will.” Even at that the crowd was still and stony. Lucifer felt the Acceptance flow through his eyes and flood every pore of his body. He nodded to Michael to see if he’d noticed it, but Michael was sniffing the air. He knew He was here, but was not feeling it as strongly as Lucifer. He did, however, feel calm – no mean feat for Michael. Both were overwhelmed with homesickness.
Lucifer was talking without so much as a glance at the carefully written script he had worked so hard on. The words were flooding out of him as though he were a vessel built for this very purpose. His voice was not even particularly loud; the audience were rooted like transfixed trees before him. Nobody even coughed.
Nicole, without even realising what she was doing, dropped to her knees. She wasn’t the only one.
Some of the crowd had tears streaming down their faces; the kind of tears that come without noise or effort or sadness. Still Lucifer spoke, never once raising his voice or banging his hand. He explained God’s will, tolerance, charity. He explained love. And the crowd - the majority of whom were raised on a diet of self-help books and daytime chat shows, who were so used to listening to whatever the accepted “wisdom” of the moment was – they heard. For the first time in their lives, they actually heard.
The lynch mob too stood and heard. Many of them were moved to the same silent tears that had overcome the rest of the audience. But they could not bring themselves to feel the peace that had descended upon everyone else. It nudged them gently, like a horse looking for an apple, asked for access in the sweetest of tones. But they refused. Everything they had believed in, everything that had been their reason for waking and their comfort during sleep had just been turned on its head and they were left floating in their own wrongness.
This would not do.
Politicians stood back, also nervously swatting away the peace that threatened to envelope them. They watched as here, here in Israel, people stood together in peace, in tolerance.
This would not do.

Lucifer finished talking.

The crowd bathed in the Glory.

The lynch mob screamed and charged.

The politicians did nothing.


The mob were on top of Lucifer before he had time to register what was happening. Michael instinctively reached for his sword, but something stopped him.
“Michael, don’t just stand there, do something! Help him!” Nicole was screaming, dirt and blood smeared across her face from where she had been kicked to the ground. Michael pushed through the angry mob (was there ever any other kind?) and wrapped her in his wings. She was sobbing uncontrollably, watching helplessly as Lucifer was set upon. They were hacking off his wings as he screamed. Michael stroked her hair.
“Shhh, Nicole, it’s okay. This is was He wants.”
“How could he want this? Look at what they’re doing to him Michael, look!”
“Not him, Nicole – Him. This is what He wants.” He cupped his hands over the top of her skull and applied gentle pressure. “See!” he commanded.
And Nicole saw. She stopped sobbing.


That the Beast should suffer in the same way as Jesus seemed fitting to the lynch mob. They murdered a tree for its wood, nailed it together so that there was one long vertical strip to hold the body, with one horizontal one across the top to take the arms.
And they nailed him to it in the midday sun as Nicole and Michael knelt before him and watched.
Lucifer Accepted his Fate, and cried out only once when the agony became unbearable. One of the mob standing guard heard his terrible howl and saw what they had done. But there could be no going back now. He grabbed a dagger from his pocket and swiftly stabbed Lucifer in the side, thus ending his pain.

Nicole and Michael gently lifted the body from the cross and carried it for what seemed like miles until they came to a cave. They wanted him away from the crowds, the mobs, the curious. They wanted him to rest in peace.
They laid his corpse out in the cave and then Michael pushed a moss covered rock in front of the entrance to keep any wildlife out.

Three days later, the body was gone.


The Church of Our Blessed Lady Nicole welcomed its fellow Lucians with open arms. Each of them wore a small gold cross on a chain around their necks. At the intersection of each cross was a small star. A morning star.
The minister, and myriad more the world over, stood in front of the congregation.
“Let us pray.”

"... Two, Three, Many Vietnams..."

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: , , ,

If God is the God of the Bible,

I declare war.

Assemble the masses, let us rise

to heaven under cover of darkness,

rifles strapped to haggard backs,

grenades slung low round waists

He made.

There, comrade! Fire!

Do angels bleed when their father

lets them die?

If God is the God of the Bible,

I demand an audience.

Our army will burn through heaven,

making a deceiver of the God who promised

no suffering there.

Yes, we can create too.

And when the screaming angels

who have drawn their swords to us

so many times for infractions

their father created us to commit

ask why,

I will reply:

“This is in the name of

The smashed tomb of my Christian

aunt, and the cancer that ate her womb,

the ripped hymen of the four year old, the gold

children dig for at gunpoint aching for water

that isn't there, the hair on my arms that stood

up when I heard the screams from my screen

of the newly homeless because wind and wave,

not sin, but wind and wave had slaughtered

their parents and this is also in the name of

the flesh eating parasite and of the blind

and the paralysed and the free will that

is not possible if God is the God of the Bible.

This is in the name of

the neutron, the atom, the proton,

the hydrogen and carbon that cobble

intricate being never seeing that they

leave no clue as to consciousness,

as to soul, that makes the whole of who we

are; of who the rapist is when he rapes, who

the thief is when he takes; the majesty

of the ocean and the horrors that feast on

tiny shoals who know no other purpose

to this life than to swim away, swim away!

Then die, chewed in the maw of that which

terrified them since birth. This is for mirth

that can only be known through the comparison

of sorrow and comfort that only shows its

sweet relief after fear. You hear me God?

You hear? Face your creation

and tell us it was no mistake. For this is in the name

of all that makes us ache and sob whether we

keep the faith or not.

Take your best shot, Father, take it now”.

And God shows Himself.

And there before him,

I kneel

in spite of myself.

And I weep.

I weep the tears of a million lost souls,

knowing that all are mine.

I see what I can never comprehend

and I know why.

He reaches down to

clasp my face in His hands

and I gaze up at Him,

the tears and the snot and the salt

upon my lips

and I say

“But you knew, you bastard.

All along, you knew”.

I Danced

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: ,

I danced because they told me to.
The steps were clumsy; skirt-rustled trips,
Clouts of indiscretion and the mired hopelessness
That propelled them.
I danced because they told me to
And when I was done I stopped.

That’s a lie.

I danced because I wanted to
And sailed through stages and
I fought with Finn McCoul, fed fire
To masked Greeks. I bruised bone
And tore ligament,
Fell and fell and fell.
I told stories words could never tell,
Shot soldiers stage-left, loved princes stage-right.
They applauded every time.
Stood to clap.
I ate the air and savaged the norm,
Smiled and cried and bled.
Cardboard spires watched me leap
As him, her, him caught me.
I gave life to things that had no name,
Filled all that was empty inside
Just by moving.

I danced because I wanted to
And I stopped long before I was done.

Miss Princesscharmin

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: ,

Miss Princesscharmin got a call,
Her handsome Prince had had a fall.
From a witch he'd eaten food quite rotten
And landed right upon his bottom.

Our Princess set out on her quest,
Making sure she looked her best.
She was in a tizzy and a rather foul mood
How dare he eat another woman's food?

Battling dragons and fearsome creatures,
Stopping to apply touch ups to her features,
She found her Prince upon the floor
And kissed him once, and then once more.

He woke, quite startled and a little shaken
'My Princess! Let's get to some hot love-makin''
(I won't describe the very next part
in case it harms the weak of heart)

Now, I'd like to say they lived Happily Ever After,
Their lives fulfilled with joy and laughter,
But six months later our Miss had fits
When he left her for a Princess with bigger tits.

Snow White

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: ,

Maybe she was at peace,
dimension jumping in dreams,
grateful for the apple and the rest
from endless dishes and tiny stitches in tiny shirts.

Did our Prince stop to consider this?
Would he have if he'd known, could have bitten
into his own enchanted fruit and seen
the years spread out before him
like a wrinkled sky?
Most likely not.

As Snow White slumbered, free from
the tethers of insipid genres,
he kissed her.

What if that kiss had shown her, in
her heightened state, all that would be?
The entireness of it sandwiched between
one glimmer of lips to lips...

could it be that she was awakened
not by the kiss,
but by the horror?

But awake she did.

Perhaps the horror
was better than sleep.

On The Argument That Ensued When Asked About The Saddest Thing That Ever Happened To Me

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: , ,

Ah, you are not a fellow Wordeater I see,
so I do not know how best to explain this to you:
you who thinks only in the tangible world
of your own five senses.
You, who argues this did not happen "to me"
when I can assure you it did.

Try this:

I was buried, ensconced.
snuggled on a bed of enchanted stars
as a tapestry already in existence
weaved itself anew over my hungry flesh.
The heavens engulfed me in a blanket of bliss
as the grasses below bent to the shape of my song
and even the angels fell silent to listen.

And then...

Peter came back
and Wendy was old.

I Am Not The Woman They Write Poems About

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: ,

I am not the woman they write poems about,
Not with honesty,
Not when I cancel out, with green, the rose-tint.
My skin, though pale, is not
The alabaster of words.

I am not the woman they write poems about;
Pablo could never have pictured me still,
Nor could fourteen lines of iambic pentameter
Capture any one metaphor that would leave
No need for others.

Immortalised though my name could be in ink,
Like Beatrice and Helen and Angela,
It would not be me; it would be no more
Than the fleeting thought of a romantic heart,
Sculpted into an approximate impression of
The woman they write poems about.

We are accused of offering up our souls to paper,
But, dyed as our words are with wishes,
These offerings can never not be fiction.
As my imagined personal poet Laureate writes of me,
I change desires myriad times,
Morph images a million more.

I am not the woman they write poems about.

None of us are.

Stained Glass

Author: Anna Russell /

Come away from the window, she says. Put down those damned dolls, she says. She’s always saying. Word after word after word. I’ve stopped saying much, myself. Or listening to her. The window is better, when he’s there.

I hate her fucking lips. She pouts when she wants sex and it looks ridiculous. When she goes down on me, she maintains the pout and forgets to purse. Looks up at me with a pathetic faux porn star gaze. Yummy, she says. You’re such a big boy, she says. Once, I gave one of my miniature soldiers long yellow hair made from a shredded invoice and painted its bottom half to look like her favourite jeans. Then I had it go down on another figure with a bored look in his eyes that took me three hours to get just right. Silly, she said. You’re so silly. I ignored her and called the figures Barbara and Tom because those are the sorts of names people like us have.

She doesn’t like him. He came over once, not long after we’d moved in, and brought a strawberry cheesecake that he’d made from scratch. She said the strawberries were a little tart. Said it right to his face as we sat at the table, surrounded by boxes whose contents said nothing other than we owned some stuff. He was gracious about it. Sure, his eyebrows twitched and there was an inhalation that sucked down displeasure, but all that came out of his mouth was: Yeah, they are a bit. Sorry ‘bout that. I said nothing, then regretted it later. He’d noticed, he told us, the ivy growing over our bedroom window. We should get that seen to; ivy could cause some damage if left unchecked. Besides, it would block out our morning sun. He left after about an hour, telling us not to be strangers. That was the last time I ever spoke to him. She said she didn’t think much of him at all, and who wears sleeveless shirts any more anyway?

I hacked down the ivy the next morning. When it was all gone, I went upstairs to look out of our bedroom window for the first time. He was looking back at me. I was about to wave when he ducked behind his curtains, leaving only the top of his head visible. If he knew I could see him, he’d rather pretend he didn’t. She came up then, and kissed me, rubbing her thigh against my crotch. The curtains twitched. She didn’t notice. Ooh, somebody’s up, she said.

She made me lunch after that and I said I was going to eat it upstairs. She wasn’t happy, but she huffed instead of arguing so I didn’t care. Our bedroom window had a ledge thick enough to sit on and I balanced the plate on my lap and looked out. He was still there, half-hidden behind his curtains. I ate slowly, aware of his eyes on me, and lunch tasted better than it had in a long time.

I moved my figures and paints to the window ledge and took one of the dining room chairs upstairs. He watches every time I paint. I’ve created armies, families, entire villages under his watchful eye. I think he likes them. They’re pointless, she says. A waste of time you could be spending with me, she says. He doesn’t think so. He just watches and appreciates, silently. I do spend time with her, when he’s not there. I’ve helped her to plant a rose bush and watched several movies in her presence. It’s more tolerable now, knowing he’ll be back at his window soon, approving in silence of my life. Or finding it interesting at the very least. She never sees him. I don’t think it occurs to people like her to look out of windows, not properly.

In her opinion, our sex life has improved. I suppose she’s right – mine has, and since hers is the body that’s present while I’m having sex, it follows that hers has too. Oh my, she says. Aren’t you a frisky one tonight? The curtains twitch extra hard on these nights. I’ve taken to doggystyle and am learning to drown out her words.

He’s never had a visitor before, but today he does. A woman with short red hair and a flat ass. He’d been watching me hang up my shirts when I caught a glimpse of her coming up the path. He stopped watching me and left his room pretty abruptly.

I have no idea who she is. I go downstairs, but wherever he’s taken her to, it’s not accessible from any of my windows. Probably his living room. I go back upstairs and decide to wait for him. He won’t stay away for long. It’s likely some Jehovah’s Witness he’s taken pity on. He’s like that. I paint a handsome figure with half his head in shadow.

After a while, his bedroom door opens again. He’s back. But it’s red hair I see come into view, with him following behind. He’s taken her to his room! This is not something I have anticipated. What is his intention here? She sits on the edge of his bed and he stands in front of her, the top of her head coming to about his stomach. Are they…?

Then she’s behind me, wearing the most stupid underwear I’ve ever seen in my life. The faux porn star look is on her face, too. Thought I’d surprise you, she says. Thought we could spice things up a little, she says. Fucking great. I’m trying to see what he’s doing with the redhead, but the woman in my own home has other ideas. Come on, she says. We haven’t christened the spare room yet. She tugs at my arm and I can see I have no choice. So I leave with her. Leave him and his redhead unwatched.

I was thinking about a romantic weekend away, just the two of us, she says, dimpled thighs spilling out of her ridiculous stockings.

I’d like to think I’ll kill her one of these days, but I know I probably won’t. The Barbaras and Toms of this world don’t do these things. They just carry on.


Author: Anna Russell / Labels: ,

“I’m bored of talking about myself” I lie,
my nakedness in flesh only. It is all I need
for now. The night distends and the spilt
moonlight ushers the huddled through sand-dusted
streets. I have not yet decided if I care
where they are headed, or why.
“I want to hear about you.” This may or may not be
another lie.

He runs a finger round my belly button. It feels nice.
I am not ashamed of my nakedness; I have grown into this
imperfect skin and learned, if not to love it exactly,
to accept it. He seems happy enough.
He keeps telling me I’m beautiful. Over and over,
as though the words have staged a coup in his mouth
and will not leave. It’s okay,
I like hearing it.

Names of flowers, the president of Romania, God:
these are some things I do not know.
Him. I know some of him. I know his flesh against mine,
How he feels between my thighs. The rest?
I think it is unnecessary.

“Tell me about…” he begins. I press a finger to his lips
and smirk.
“Come now.” I say, “Come. Now.”
This is all I need
for now.

The Outlaw Jim McGraw

Author: Anna Russell / Labels:

No man is an outlaw when his life is begun
Jim McGraw was born just somebody's son
But his mean ol' daddy made the boy grow tough
Mad at the world for not giving him enough

Only one thing could thaw Jim's icy soul
A gal named Maggie with hair of coal
And eyes made of sky, so it was said
But to the Sheriff she was wed

One night in the bar, the Bug Juice pourin'
Jim's sense of injustice got all a' roarin'
The Sheriff was foolin' with a two bit whore
Jim's six shooter blew him straight out the door

'I'm the big, bad outlaw Jim McGraw
Meanest son of a gun y'all ever saw
But I did it for Maggie 'n' I'd do it again
The Outlaw Jim McGraw is my name.'

Maggie wept when she heard the news
Teardrops spilling on her shoes
But a pocket of her heart that she kept well hid
Thought it the sweetest thing any man ever did

Jim had to get runnin', and went for his steed
But found only cut rope, the beast had been freed
He heard the mob, began to panic
He hollered out, his voice turned manic

'I'm the big, bad outlaw Jim McGraw
Meanest son of a gun y'all ever saw
But I did it for Maggie 'n' I'd do it again
The outlaw Jim McGraw is my name.'

To the Deputy the news had been delivered
A man tired of being called lily-livered
While the mob went left, the Dep' turned right
Faced Jim McGraw in the dead of night

While Jim was dreaming of Maggie's fair face
The Deputy pulled his rifle out of its case
And gunned Jim down, right down to Hell
Maggie's name on his lips as he fell

Maggie rushed to the body in the mud
Tried in vain to stem the blood
Her eyes of sky opened and cried
And in her arms, Jim McGraw died.

And twice grieved Maggie, so sweet and fair
Heard a voice surround the air

'I'm the big, bad outlaw Jim McGraw
Meanest son of a gun y'all ever saw
But I did it for Maggie and I'd do it again
The Outlaw Jim McGraw is my name.'

A Bheil A Gháidhlig Agaibh?

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: ,

A bheil a Gháidhlig agaibh?
Do you speak Gaelic?
Speckles of it only, generic
chit-chit. Not enough,
not nearly enough.
Translations are always tricky,
hear it again, hear it literally:
A bheil a Gháidhlig agaibh?
Do you have the Gaelic?
Yes, oh yes.
It flows through my veins, sings
up past the bent grasses, bellows
from the peat bogs, flutters past my ear
as the sídhe sprinkle it on my skin.
This land knows her mistress, will answer
no other commands - and why should she?
She has suffered for this, has earned the right
to her pride. She will retain her integrity though
fewer and fewer can speak with her
as time passes and apathy remains.
This strange tongue of my ancestors, impenetrable
to folk from other places, is beautiful to me.
When I speak the little I can, it nestles on the
roof of my mouth and sits like Home on my tongue.
A bheil a Gháidhlig agaibh?
Not enough, not nearly enough.
Tha mi ag ionnsachadh.
I'm learning.

Mr. Elbows

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: ,

My father is dead, I should get the armrest. The space my feet should be in is encroached upon by the luggage of the mother and child opposite. Not even a “Do you mind?” first. Hunched knees and a dead father should make that armrest mine.
I can’t make out what he’s reading. He’s bent back the cover to spill the book’s innards, casing concealed. Whatever it is, it seems to require rest for his elbows and half of his arms.
In lieu of the position I want, I hang towards the window and survey scenery I’ve seen so many times before it no longer registers. A tree’s a tree.
Mr Elbows shifts again and what is left of the armrest is swallowed by his forearm. I try nudging my own, smaller arm into some nook, but he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

When the phonecall came, I was dyeing my hair. Sunset red. I wanted a change. My mother was indecipherable. I knew my dad was dead, nothing else could be awful enough to throttle my mother’s words that way. I left the receiver lying beside the rest of the phone then washed off the hair dye. It had been on for a while. Once I’d dried my hair and got dressed, I decided to have some toast. On discovering the butter had run out, I pulled every plate from the cupboard and smashed each one against the kitchen walls. When the woman downstairs banged on the ceiling, I went to her door and slapped her when she answered. Then I booked my train ticket home.

Mr Elbows gets up to go to the toilet. I slide down in the hard seat and casually allow my arm to land on the armrest. Bliss. Even not being able to unfold my legs past ninety degrees seems bearable now. Then Luggage Mother’s child somehow manages to catapult her teddy bear in my direction. It lands at my feet. Right side. Armrest side. I see Mr Elbows swaying towards his seat. Luggage Mother’s child’s lip begins to shudder in a way that can only mean noise is coming. Luggage Mother looks at me. I try to grab the teddy with my left hand, but the angle is wrong. I’m going to have to use my right one. I peel it off the armrest and swiftly swoop up the stuffed bear, handing it to the grateful mother, then… he’s back in his seat, arm on the armrest. Bastard.

I never imagined my father as the suicidal type. He always seemed perfectly happy to me. Still, it’s not like I’m shocked by it. I’ve got secrets of my own, I understand. He needed something and he took control. I almost admire him for it. Almost. It’s worse for my mother. She’s not the suicidal type. Not even the hidden kind, like my father obviously is. Was. She just doesn’t think like that. Suicide requires a certain imagination. The thought projections that will conjure up images of a life so unbearable that the only way up is the way out. My mother is too literal for all that. So she’ll live with this until she dies a natural death, whatever one of those is. She’ll live with the knowledge her husband chose to leave her and never said goodbye, reading his note over and over because the proof that he did this is the only comfort that’s left.
He took some pills. Her death will be much slower.

Mr Elbows has fallen asleep. A triangle has been formed by the top of his arm, the back of the seat and the tiny piece of armrest he hasn’t claimed. It’s a bewitching little niche. I don’t even care that my arm would end up touching his if I put it there. Gently does it, just slide right in and he won’t even notice. He grunts, turns his head and slams his arm into the back of the chair, almost catching my skin on his way. The triangle is gone. Damn it.

I had a friend at school whose brother murdered someone. I worked with a man whose mother had a sex-change operation and became Dennis instead of Denise. There was the family I read about in the newspaper who ran a jewel smuggling operation with their neighbours none the wiser till the son got caught at customs with diamonds in his boxer shorts.
My family doesn’t even have a belligerent old auntie to talk about. I used to be embarrassed to take friends home for tea. The sheer normalcy of life in our house seemed wrong. No drunken rows, no criminal records. Not even a weird birthmark between us. It wasn’t shame I felt exactly, more a sense of exclusion. Myriad missed opportunities to share in knowing smirks and head-nods when conversations about family came up. Our level of normal wasn’t normal at all.
Well, we’re normal now alright. My place amongst the smirkers and nodders has been assured. Alcoholic mother? My dad killed himself. I win.

Now I’m crying. Now. On the bloody train. Not a single tear this far, and then they decide to all come at once while I have nowhere to put my right elbow.
I try putting my hands over my face and pretending to rub tired eyes, but it’s not very convincing and Luggage Mother is looking dangerously close to asking me if I’m okay. I don’t trust myself to say excuse me so I stand and look at Mr Elbows until he gets up to let me pass.
The toilet stinks. There is no lid on the loo seat so I prop myself in the corner between the sink and the window and try not to inhale too much. I cry till it hurts. Hurts more. My father would have hugged me if he’d seen me.
I have no idea how much time passes. The train jerks to a halt and my leg bashes against the toilet. I make my way back to my seat in time to notice this is my stop.
Mr Elbows and Luggage Mother are pulling on coats and shunting cases. They must be getting off here. My coat is crumpled on my seat. I knew I’d regret sitting on it instead of putting it in the overhead compartment.
Mr Elbows helps Luggage Mother with her cases and they leave the train. My stop. I should be getting off here. But there is space under the table for my feet now. The armrest is free. One more stop to the end of the line.
I sit back down and put my feet up on the empty seat opposite. Then I sprawl my right arm across the armrest. Nobody else gets on. Nobody can take this armrest from me, not for one whole stop. I close my eyes and the train pulls away. I’ve never seen the scenery here before. I might open my eyes for it. But my arm is staying where it is.

The Perfect Tear

Author: Anna Russell / Labels:

My father stands in the kithchen
His fingertips dusted with creosote stains -
The council hasn't done the fence
So he has taken on the task himself
And, oh, how I love that smell
That intoxicating aroma of cut grass and wood protector.

He and my mother have argued about money,
I heard them.
Hush-hush rasps of comfortable disdain
Seeping through the heating vent
They would be horrified if they knew.

His father fought for this country you know,
His mother worked instead of mothering
And he, utterly unaware of his role as my Superman
Believes he is failing.
This is his Kryptonite.

He is the Scottish Working Class Male,
Hands calloused from providing,
Maybe not cars and holidays and designer clothes

His arms are full of embraces
He is not sure how to give
(Later, I will learn to ask and will be rewarded every time
With a sarcastic comment, to mask the schmaltz
And then, the only hug that kills the Bogeyman.)

I go to my Secret Box Of Treasures
And remove all that I have saved in my six years -
Two pounds and twenty six pence (count it)
This will save the day and pay the bills
And then my father will be happy.

I fold the shiny fortune in white paper
On which I write a note
(Plees tak this muney, I luv you Daddy)
And make my way to the kitchen
Where I place it in his hands, bursting with pride.

And my father does something I have never seen him do before
He runs to the bathroom so I won't see, but I catch it -
The saltwater diamond on his right cheek
Glistening as it catches the light,
Is perfect in its beauty.

Anna Russell

Tao Te

Author: Anna Russell / Labels:

He is like a coupling of words,
Separate in definition and diction
Yet striving to meet and mate,
To hinge one onto the other and
Feast there till each word in its Crone-phase
Becomes new through union.

Like milk thistle.

The white tears of soft
Wet milk nourish as the
Harsh emerald prick of
Thorn bleeds you while
You drink.

He is me.
He is she.
He is you.

The Self-Proclaimed Snow Queen

Author: Anna Russell / Labels:

The ice smears the cobweb smothered walls,
Jack Frost on crystal meth,
daubing away with bitter emulsion
as she snort, snort, sniggers.
Oh, her kingdom for an Estella!
Hers would have let nothing in, nothing.
There have been men,
chasing skirts and dragons,
as she sat by,
berating, fellating, breaking.
Those days are past now,
a wry footnote that serve -
When accidently piercing her mind,
as they do more often than
she cares to admit -
only as a reminder
to numb the would-be escapees
of her lore
before they do any more damage.
Be vigilant,
she needs no invitation:
the first toe dip into unnecessary compunction
is her summons.
Should you spy her,
light your hottest fire.

Anna Russell


Author: Anna Russell / Labels: , ,

They bled into each other,
slithering as they shed
the skins of Before.
He ripped the top from a mountain
and scooped out its innards,
handing them to her
as she summoned the skies
to their feet and bade them
to do as he wished.
'All' he said.
'Infinite' she replied.
They could ask for nothing more.

Anna Russell

Backwards Glance

Author: Anna Russell / Labels:

Innocence cannot be recognised
by the innocent.
Only those who mourn its passing
are rendered wistful in its presence.

Anna Russell

Imploding Aphrodite

Author: Anna Russell / Labels: ,

She screams for More;
this is her battle-cry, this Boudicea
adrift from her chariot, tearing through
unfamiliar land, always crying

Her shield is a battering ram,
her sword an axe. Give to her,
helpless as you will find yourself to
withold. Give to her
and she will take,
she will take before snarling the torn-lipped
snarl of the ravenous.

She wants to wear your skin
like spoils of war, tear through your ribcage
and feast upon your heart, wailing for
your soul as she dines. Adorning her head
with your eyes, her throat with your voice,
again it comes:


Wordless and sightless you hear it,
snatched from your own larynx and
uttered in your timbre yet saturated
in the void she exists in.

She wants you to love her,
love her more than anyone has or can.
Hurt her and she shines,
cut yourself on the blade of her hunger
and watch her smile.

Still, she wants more,
consumed with battered reflections
of images she cannot bear to see,
yet unable to cease. Unable to admit she must.

You cannot win.

And nor can she

Anna Russell

(this is a re-working of a poem that was intended as a companion piece to one called Exploding Aphrodite, which can also be found on this blog).