issue 8poetry

Traffick for Miles

Tyler James Russell

If you laid them out 
fingertip to fingertip
like rows of paper dolls
the girls would cover the lower half
of Manhattan
so you try it, you lay them out
in a place where there are no city blocks, 
only fields

forgetting if you are supposed to count the hair
beehives, ponytails, never cut perhaps,
hair like deep space.
To keep the estimate conservative,
you comb it down, lay them 
that way, pretty as a picture,
the bluish toenails of one against
the scalp of another.
Now you stroll the borders, maybe
push a measure wheel, but
measuring is not the same as reckoning.

Instead, climb the silo in
the neighbor’s yard.
Frame the dead, 
it’s the second floor
before you see uncovered earth. 

Or, kneel, bury 
your hands in the earth
take it to your lips
pick one girl and lay her 
in the hole that you’ve created.

Like you, I’m standing in that field,
which should be fragrant, marked
with sedge, wisteria, 
but holds instead a crop of loam and flesh,
as if just woken in the middle,
eyes locked on the skating clouds,
and I can’t look down for fear
of what is in my hands.


Tyler James Russell is the author of To Drown a Man (2020), a poetry collection, and When Fire Splits the Sky (2022), a novel, both from Unsolicited Press. A high school English teacher and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of British Columbia, he now lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Cat and their children. His work has been nominated for the Rhysling and Best of the Net, and has appeared or is forthcoming in F(r)iction, 365 Tomorrows, and Sepia, among others. You can find him at Tylerjamesrussell.com, or on Twitter at @TJamesRussell.