Russell Thornton

Russell Thornton Poems

The card you gave me, your small handwriting
on the back - is gone. But the deep black ink
of the artist's drawing pen stayed with me,
and the ancient couplets became the dark

They're driftwood, or worn buoys -
now as they stand up out of the water
and stare towards the shore, they're living mineral,
like people with only rudimentary eyes.

It had come down into the city
out of the mountains in the night
and gotten lost, had sensed the dawn,
heard car noises at the corner,

The late sun burning close, and slow waves coming in -
the sea's mysterious lit wine of touch
on the sand, slipping away glittering
in scattered glasslike grains for an instant,

All I could do while I stood there
dazed in the dim bare room
was wonder why the price of one
was five dollars more than the others.

I threw away your letters.
Years ago, just like that.
The tight black swirls,
circles and strokes

Waking suddenly in the island room,
the balcony curtain blowing aside
and flaring as if ablaze in the sun,
I heard a woman singing unaccompanied,


I find webpages and see the faces
of two of your now forty-something siblings,


When they put tablets on each other’s tongues,
knowing it was time, and the young woman
gave a tablet to their child, saying to him

The horizon a burnt-out eye socket,
the sea a throng of mouths wounding themselves against sand -
the only shelter was inside the car,
so we drove down the peninsula just to drive,

The boxcars couple, they shunt into the railyard,
their wheels cry all night, they play. The late work
at the dry dock beneath the hull-filled vault,
at the grain elevator, at the shipping terminal

She will build a nest of the swan's bones...
- Robinson Jeffers, 'Shiva'

When he pulls up in a truck and hefts new beds
into the house to replace our camp cots,
we see the dark in a metal's dull sheen
is the dark displayed in his beard. The sound

The cries come sharp, deep as the night and bright;
they tear the dark in my ear. It is the gulls
that have come up from the inlet through the still air,
the first proprietors of the daylight. The cries

Fresh corpse of a baby gull
splayed against a shore rock.
Feathers, guts, skin case, stain,
the sections of the skeleton

Here are amphoras on display, and maps of sea routes
to and from all parts of the ancient world.

You like the Greek ones best,


A murder of crows stands along a power-line,
and I hear nothing all morning but the cawing,
and see nothing but the shapes of blackness -
the sires who deal out death, and find and eat the dead -

Evening sunlight and just-cut lawn -

a lamb shorn for the first time,
and slapped back into the field


Fire engines, police cars, ambulances -
they go by day and night near where we live
up the lane from the corner triangle
of fire hall, police station, hospital.


Everywhere: Open, Open. Stores, banks. Stores, banks.
Gas stations. Open, Open Later, Open.
For as long as I can remember, I have thought about stealing.

Russell Thornton Biography

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The card you gave me, your small handwriting
on the back - is gone. But the deep black ink
of the artist's drawing pen stayed with me,
and the ancient couplets became the dark
that holds the living organs, the same dark
through which the deer runs, giving off thin smoke
as it seeks the stream. I enter that dark
now in sleep, and I hear you: What you bear,
I will like my own body bear and tend.
I will be the breath in the animal
that pants and whose heart chants through it,
that burns like the one fire in a night camp,
and that departs from the night where it thirsts
to find the waters when the sun appears.

All this time you have been the one in me
who arrives and stands with me at the stream,
where I seem to sleep instantly, my breath
unseen rungs that lower me down. The wound
in the deer is memory of waters
and allows the deer to bow, drink. Ripples
in the quick flowing melt me. Whatever
my desire is, here it finds change. I wake
burning but becoming dark and more dark
and moving through the touch of water. Wake
within pure explanation: I am what
I come to, and always I come to you -
to know you is to want like fire, water,
to remember the first fire, first waters.

Russell Thornton Comments

Latrice Thompson thompson 12 January 2022

Mr Thornton hope all is well and you are in wonderful spirit I have been looking for your book ?? The Fifth Window, House built on Rain, I really need to read this book

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WB 27 February 2022

Also see the Harbour Publishing website.

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WB 27 February 2022

Latrice: See the Thistledown Press website for ordering.

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