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Wyvern Lit

Three Poems

Poetry by Ezekiel Russell



The roads here are not idle;

they do not sit on their beds of flattened dirt.

They hunt, and catch, and kill.

When they’re hungry enough, they’ll take anything:

the family man driving hard

through the ice

to get home before the sitter leaves,

The nurse on leaving a 19-hour shift,

eyes sinking closed.


They’ll take that,

if it walks into their jaws,

but what they like best is youth.

Fat with life and promise,

bursting out of its constraints;

blossoming into some new thing.

That is their meat.


If you don’t run while you can,

with the cap still on your head,

the gown still on your back—

if you linger—

they will wrap their asphalt

or ungraded gravel coils around you

and squeeze and squeeze

until you shatter.


When Mike came back

from college

by way of rehab

and stayed in his parents house

past the safety of August,

we knew he would be marked.


He built up his grades

at community college,

got a job,

got his license back.

It almost seemed like he would make it.


He was on his motorcycle

at a four way.

The girl driving the car

had had her license for four days.

She was left-handed

and as she approached the stop sign,

she put her foot down on the wrong pedal.

The funeral was closed-casket.


I didn’t go,

stuck at my own out-of-state job,

my out-of-state life.

I wondered if the girl went,

if she stood in the back, the way they do

in the movies. If she did,

if I had been there,

I would have leaned over and told her:


It wasn’t you.

This place always gets

what it wants.

You go now,

get out

while they will still

let you.




Every ten weeks or so, my roommate

tells me he's quitting drinking.

Within a few days, I find beer bottles

in the trash. By the third week, he's back

to a half gallon of vodka a day.


His girlfriend has hep C,

she tries to keep up with him.

I can hear them screaming.

Sometimes I hear what sounds

like fists on flesh.

She has assured me that it is nothing.

Sometimes, she tells me

she likes it this way,

that this is part of their thing.


I have stopped calling the police,

she tells them the same.

It is all killing her.

I see her blood

in the shower in the mornings.


I used to think about my mother,

my stepfather,

about how to save her,

about taking him to a meeting.


Now, I think about

making enough money

so that I don't need roommates,

about arranging my time

so that I can best live life

in their absence.


The other day I was on the subway,

the train was stopped. They told us

there was a medical emergency

at one of the transfer stations.

The man across from me,

all going-out cologne

and slick black shoes


said ugh

why why why

medical emergency? what is that?

somebody fall down

or something?


the boy next to him,

not quite sixteen, said

no, no

he jumped.

I saw it.


He had walked back to our station

in the hopes of avoiding delay

in the hopes of pushing things

down the line. Minutes later,

we did start moving.


When our ghosts come home to us,

we will not know what to do with them.

There will be no room for all the figures

who cram into our tiny houses,

blocking the TV, filling the doorways,

jamming into the corners

and sitting on the backs of couches.


When we are forced out

through the back door,

we will look back at that place,

we now see never had any space for us.




There is an old Christmas tradition

I would like to bring back:

the Victorian custom

of sitting up on Christmas Eve

and telling ghost stories.

Not just fiction or fairy tale,

no, the authentic article.

Even if it happened to the cousin

of a friend's mother.


Maybe it's some connection

to the old pagan sentiment

of celebrating

the longest darkness of the year.

The slow progression back

into light and warmth.


The idea that on this holiest of nights,

whatever creature of blood and terror

might be called up by hearing its own

name and story spoken aloud

would be rendered harmless.


If you and I could light a fire

this year, three great burning logs,

the ends turning to the soft glow of coals.


We would tell each other the same tale,

the darkest one either one of us knows:

the story of a house,

and a monster,

and a child,

of secrets kept,

and not kept,

of evil done in the dark.


When we get to the end,

the part where the truth of the specter

is revealed, we will lean into each other

and whisper through our teeth the awful truth:


that the monster is still here,

walking the floors of this house.

We will turn quiet, listening

to see if the spell has worked,

if the horror summoned

by the telling has indeed been bound tight.


Here on the one night that every person,

no matter how many shackled spirits

they drag behind them, can steal home,

tell a ghost story—one true tale

to anyone who will listen,

and then fall safely asleep.