“Gravity in Jerusalem” by Arthur Russell

Arthur Russell


I wanted to grow up to be a raincloud over an upstate reservoir during a draught.
Then it was my ambition to become a slender woman, or a book cover cut from a grocery bag,
or a trumpet, or a garden rake, or a handkerchief embroidered with a strawberry heart.
The evenings were much longer then. I wanted to be a satchel with latches that slid sideways
to open, a cutting board bearing the wounds of nutrition on my back, the scratchy absolution
of a dollar bill passing through the coin slot of a charity tin at the cashier of a candy store.
Like the colors in comic books when comic books were printed on foolscap, my irises
would dilate for the dishwasher light in the darkened kitchen, and contract at the open
refrigerator door. The brass drain in the kitchen sink, scrubbed with persistence
to a low brass glimmer was my art school; it whispered, we are brass kin, and you are me
in human form. I wanted to grow up to be the lavender soap in a lingerie drawer
or the handgun under the cable knit tennis sweater on the top shelf of the hall closet.
I envied the moldings around doorways, and wanted, more than friendship, to crawl
inside a mezuzah, to read its scrolls in seclusion, and to emerge from my cell
like morning in Manhattan with muted light on the brick façade of an apartment house.
I wanted to marry a book of matches once, to have children like misaligned wallpaper seams,
and teach them how to blow their noses and spit up phlegm, and how to fit a square god
in a round soul, and how to see all fathers as bags of donated clothing waiting by the door.
There is more light in a glass doorknob than gravity in Jerusalem.

from Poets Respond
December 10, 2023


Arthur Russell: “I have been preoccupied since October 7th with the tragic events in Israel and Gaza, preoccupied, sometimes embattled, and sometimes collapsing into a conflicted form of despair. I hear little bits of news and my emotions swing one way, and then other news, not necessarily conflicting new, that urges my heart and my rage and my despair in a new direction. Often, too, I feel disqualified by my distance from the reality, from having any feelings at all, and retreat to the emblems of my own spirit, my own morality, and my inheritance.” (web)

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