Nine years ago today, Matt Russo was murdered and I’m still here

Photo Credit: A. Delfine, 2010

Matt Russo was murdered by his mother at Red Lobster, who then took her own life on this day in 2011. Russo and I had lived together at St. Vincent College in Latrobe for three semesters up to that point. And I’m still here.

After his death, a friend took the above image and wrote a poem across the top, cropping me out. I’m on the right. That old post with the poem was popular in our circle, among those close to Russo — both then and every annum when I see it shared again. The absence stings. Yet, nine…

a picture poem

Photo by Jess Aston via Unsplash

wait for me
by the lake
frozen in fact
in time
it might make sense
if you wait
said soft piles of snow
burning ankles
freezing toes
coating benches and motives
all shapeless like i am
frozen in fact
in time
you might see
superstitious branches
icy crows
scribbled-on messages
where once hung hope
now below
chilled backs turned so
it might make sense
if you wait
to wade into frames where
dead thoughts turned blue
frozen in fact
in time
covered in snow
now shapeless like i am
waiting for you to come home

a grieving poem

this old haze takes me back to
cold days and all the ways
fall glazed over long gazes at
tall trees, brown breeze, and
distant trumpet sounds you took for
cymbals all symbols
begging for the gong
in the heat, beat, triplet, repeat
drums that wear us down
only lazy autumn
could raise kids so numb so now
all hollowed out
we drink to christmas songs
remaking lyrics as if you could sing along
wasting countless tiny worlds
and yet the band still marches on
til we submit
til we admit
the arrangement still magnificent

and yet

i want doused in the same rain i was
the summer that you died
so i could feel clean
just one more time

Photo by Marco Secchi via Unsplash

Rainy Night Poetry

The hill sloped so you
could not see the fall
or creek below
the grass bending
under feet,
weary of dark,
bound by lightning moving,
across your eyes.

I could not look or lie,
but dumbfounded,
we stared on high purple,
and honest, so you could not see the fall.

Down on the grass,
as though we could hide,
in the earth from time to time,
I wake up there, no, that’s wrong,
it exists in the minutes,
between sleep and panic,
how restless these hands,
empty, grasping at rhymes,
imagine falling into the sky,
purple and black,
so you could not see the fall,
or what…

a very little poem

Superstition Mtn., AZ 2019

daughter once asked the sky
why can’t you speak plain
she of course understands the rain
bending our days
looking for praise
in the desert it’s otherwise haze and
sun that speaks cloudless forever on fire
blue nothing inside of the frame of
her hands held high by her head
just to see was meant
by the heat before covering eyes

a goodbye poem

Juneau, AK 2011

how about
i need to think
to swirl, like poison, in a drink


you poured it on so strong, hands could barely sing along

wintry lights, distant eyeing
hoping, over-analyzing
know that everything you said — strung up like lights inside my head, i

cross my heart, if you asked, i’d say
i promise to take it all the wrong way and
never let you know

how about
i need to lie
to dance like snowflakes in your hair
of course they’d never let it show they’re jealous of everything below
that is
until they hit the ground —

a river poem

feels like rain
cool crystals
and again
hands frozen — gentle spin a
boots on the docks dance
as memories
are melodies
that bring the mood from me to blue and
ice, sleet in the canyon of your
shirt and neck
shivering at the thought — a wreck
a washed-up world outside
damp on the deck
a city on the coast reflects:
how cold preserves
the scent of frozen mittens trapped on hands
shocked in an empty river bed
a flurry of soft yellow light
all crystals now
and one gets in your eye

a dark poem

wading through darkness on
mental shores i— ignored
the way you
walked up to the gates
demanding entry for yourself
and seven friends and
how you looked when it worked
you saved a life
just in time to see how
midnights here are all the same
hot hypnotic
you hung it in a frame
above your desk
next to
seashells, a flag, and flowers from
way back you
saved to save a life
it didn’t work that time
midnights here are all the same
without the music you played
for climbing in windows — neighbors asleep
soothing beat so
we didn’t hear the
tow truck singing
along the road and only
one thing on your mind was
saving us by midnight
a controlling exercise…

an honest poem

desert isn’t cinematic
not enough change
it’s constant barrage on
eyes, feet, fake grass and
sand that gets
a nod to classics no one would ever
live in well
maybe we come to
avoid change
hold still this only
hurts me more than
it hurts
you: we’re caught under an angry sun’s
and the nerve we have to ignore it — sell it
instead as dry-heat and other lies told to
calm down
ourselves or Earth’s anguish at dying leaves
rather than deal, she
pain better than we do
refusing to bathe or drink most of the year
until parched she weeps for autumns past
we dare call it monsoon; basking in its
glory maybe
she comes here…

a nostalgic poem

to you, from
the lake wondering
how long before they reach the bottom
plastic, rocks, and penny wishes
measured in minutes or years and
does that make a difference
whether you write as well as
forget our empty
paradigm that wasted rhymes
toss one in it almost
makes you
how long
it’s been since rings,
looking thin around the eyes
behind: a glittering sea birds don’t hesitate to die in. weigh in —
a blanket or a scarf? …

a. r. b. kushner

“some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh”

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