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Poet of the Week: Lauren Russell

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Transitive

Helen was never in Troy. She had been transposed or translated from Greece into Egypt. … The Greeks and Trojans alike fought for an illusion. —H.D.

I am always the woman in red.
I am always huddling in some round room.
Even when I am not wearing red, I am still the woman in red.
To be forever single is like wearing a flag to a funeral.
“It is always more satisfying to harbor a secret crush,” Helen
warned Paris, but neither he nor the thousand ships was listening.
Helen in Egypt’s identity crisis is attributed to the author’s:
“Did you see H.D. in Borderline? She looked like a heroin
addict before heroin was even a thing.” Opted instead
for mediums, furniture rattling, Freud.
“I hear James Franco is playing H.D. in a new bioflick
from Focus Features.” I am confusing the story of H.D.’s death
with the story of Gertrude Stein’s, Bryher a stand-in
for Alice B. Toklas, gender expression reversed.
Q: What is the answer? A: In that case, what is the question?
I feel least black around those who are confident
of their blackness. I feel least queer when told
I can’t be a butch so I must be a femme.
I am I because I will never learn to drive.
Life structured toward a pedestrian mobility.
I take a bus. Passing under numerous bridges.
And stop outside a museum. Beside a statue of Helen.
In Egypt or Troy? (Do I wear my skin like a costume
or a uniform? Do I wear my hair like a fountain?)

 

“Transitive” and “Hair” have previously appeared in The Brooklyn Rail online, September 2013.:http://www.brooklynrail.org/2013/09/poetry/russell

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