as portraiture a pair of

3 New Poems by Rusty Morrison

November 2, 2016  By Rusty Morrison

Like Warhol or Stein, Rusty Morrison is a creator obsessed with the formalism of repetition. Stein may seem the more appropriate comparison, not only of course because Morrison’s mic check makes visible here below Stein’s own name and phrasing within the poem’s flow. Morrison’s medium, as language, is something our fiercest modernist knew how to take apart: Stein, if nothing else, spent a life maximizing the semantically emptiest of repetitions in her assaulted use and reuse of combinatory whirling out of orbit (articles, prepositions, conjunctions in particular). Yet Morrison is a different type of poet, related yet divergent: her patterned breaks exist as much in spacing and silhouette as the very words or phrasings. And like Warhol, there is a diabolic nonchalance in how titles, especially poem titles, recur; soon an armature of inextricable sequencing complicates the simplest naming operation. Throughout her career, Morrison has proven adeptly slippery and deceptively affable in her simple repetition of titles, again and again. “Everyone is Noah” belongs to which utterance finally, the first or second poem, both of them together, apart? As ornery or droll as repetitions can be, here, they turn again lyrical, if silently disconcerting then only silently.

—Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor




you lie in the yard by a    fence leaning over so far

its last planks are hidden by     tall grass as if it marked a

path down to where cavers feel       panic but sea divers sense


elation it’s past dusk as     stars come on out-sizing their

invisibility here       are poppies your arm didn’t

intend to crush when held in   your palm petals don’t release


a scent of soreness as if       air might bruise in sympathy

it’s so easy to hold things       in the pliability

of your fictions which you must     stay vigilant not to use


to outsize the limit of     what is visible in your   hand




you envy cyclists’ careen       through gridlock chrome-spokes flash they

defy damage you’re afraid      this enthrall is disloyal

to the halo you’d have to     X out on your portrait to


risk what Stein calls masterpiece         which can’t be staged with the small

figurines you keep in your     sleeve though they’re numerous &

well-armed with meanings they just     perform when you tell them to


only further obscuring       what won’t be discovered by

praying to gods who adjust      like suspenders which you could

shred & use as your background       colors that’s when cyclists might


dismount they’ve brought fresh apples         still cold but dare you ask for       one




bleach trees down to one tree down     to a single inward leaf

dropped anywhere it’s written        to marry the echo in

walls you thought solid you have       a page-a-day nostalgia


for embedded things that perch     for you deep in branches hide

in plaster where a chirrup       and stem is pronounced but no

bird between them write further       into abandonment carve


away what you volunteer     as portraiture a pair of

spectacles with bright orange      construction paper glued on

for eyes injures what’s seeking       anonymity in your


granulated sugar poured

slow from a bucket onto




Rusty Morrison
Rusty Morrison
Rusty Morrison is the author of five books, including Beyond the Chainlink (Ahsahta), After Urgency (Tupelo’s Dorset Prize), the true keeps calm biding its story (Ahsahta) which won The Sawtooth Prize, Academy of American Poet’s Laughlin Award, Northern California Book Award, DiCastagnola Award. Recent poems have appeared or will appear in A Public Space, Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, PEN Poetry Series, Talisman, The Volta, VOLT. She’s Omnidawn’s co-publisher, Her website:

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