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Russell, Lauren

Russell, Lauren


Lauren Russell’s first full-length book, What’s Hanging on the Hush, is forthcoming from Ahsahta Press in 2017. She is the author of the chapbook Dream-Clung, Gone (Brooklyn Arts Press), about which Joanna Fuhrman has said, “Lauren Russell’s poems remind us what authenticity might mean and be. Simultaneously raw and crafted, these poems bubble and boil with life.” Edmund Berrigan has written, “Russell favors a singing absence, where each detail is a transitional truth, and each word a temporary home.” Lauren’s poems have appeared or are forthcomingin Better, boundary 2, Eleven Eleven, jubilat, PingPong, and Tarpaulin Sky, among others, and her reviews may be found in Aster(ix), The Volta and Jacket2.. She holds an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh, where she received a Distinguished Teaching Award and co-edited Hot Metal Bridge. She has received a fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and will be the 2016 VIDA Fellow at The Home School Miami.


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?)


Her huffy histrionics take no heckling, that
uppity puffed-up pastiche mishmash.
The hellion half-breed’s
hussyfooted a harvest, a windfall
ensnarled in her miscegenated sassy nappery.

Kink cringes at crumpling brush.
Friar, fire up that fryer! Boinging
sexcapades sink disheveled, so fortune’s
whorled the witching wheel for cover.

Weird women’s wires cork
a screw, spin a spell to squiggle through.
Bubbling over braided babble, trouble
frizzes furies. Frenzies scramble.

______ than Cake

Do you ever …

Don’t you want …

Do you experience difficulty in …

Were you traumatized by …

Are you sure this is not the result of …

Why don’t you have a …

Are you on the spectrum of …

Is this a choice or …

How can you live without …


little duchess bakeshop

petite praline sweet spot

red velvet forest frost

vanilla pudding muffin stud

gilded chocolate cherry bundt

This year’s fundraiser cake contest will celebrate the birth of our 5000th baby! For the first time in the event’s history, MOVING PARTS will be a component of decorated cakes.


Aunt: How are you going to get a man

if you don’t know how to cook?


Niece: Oh, you’re supposed to cook them?

The last time was two years before, when apartment-hunting in a city she would inhabit eventually. One day, after it had rained (which it does quite often, with sudden ferocity, in this new city), she left her umbrella to dry in S’s hall. On the bus home, she got a text: “You left your red umbrella.” Months later, after she had moved and long after it had ended, Sgave her a new umbrella—bigger, stronger, and redder than the one she’d left. (By way of explanation): “I broke the other one,” S said.

kitty tickler dance

catnip mouse and lunging cat

chocolate crumbs and fresh-licked pan

white wine woozy on Friday night

and damn that track!—singing

consonantal bounce

Studies fail to differentiate between choice and circumstance, though nearly a third of non-cohabitating women between the ages of eighteen and sixty

butter browning whipped puff

beaten, creamed, and almost crushed

sugar petal pinched a blush

honey, soften up your dates

toothpicks testing half-baked cakes

Chrissy and Daphne are trying out a new thigh harness. That is the entire premise. Has Chrissy’s thigh fallen asleep under the sustained vigor of Daphne’s grind? Daphne’s mouth falls open, an exaggerated O.

cracked and yolked

that slippery trope

crusty crumble

filling’s poked

The umbrella that once withstood torrents is older now and full of angles—its barbs could take an eye out if you weren’t looking up.

Seriously Sexy

We are looking for 16 heterosexual couples who:

  • Have been monogamous longer than six months
  • Are willing to be sexually active as part of this study
  • Are available for up to 14 weeks

sated, baited, or sublimated

wedge or linchpin, obfuscated

one toothbrush

one frying pan

one packed lunch

one radio blaring Fresh Air

one magazine on one nightstand

one stack of Christmas cards

one Frida Kahlo wall

one calendar riddled with asterisks

one cat bounding from the window ledge


alliance      allegiance       a law       a license      a limit      elicit      alone      defiance


Out (on a date?)—pumpkin soup! crème brûlée!—she looks across a table at someone’s face

gooey, fruity, and bourbon boozy

hot, sauced, and dressed up juic

The last time she left her umbrella (by way of explanation) after it had ended (which it does quite often). She left it (by way of explanation) after it had rained, with sudden ferocity, stronger than before, in this new city.

For a caramelized flavor,

substitute brown sugar.

Olive oil is more versatile

than butter—

Intimate or Intimation: which cannot be replicated


It all comes down to chemistry

(calculation, not improvisation)


what acceptance desires

_______________________ =

what desire accepts

one umbrella, a solitary red


“Transitive” and “Hair” have previously appeared in The Brooklyn Rail online, September 2013.: in Tarpaulin Sky Magazine, “In Utero,”June 2015:


“______ than Cake” has previously appeared in “EK • PHRA • SIS, September 2015:


“______ than Cake” has several influences, but the most prominent is the 2011 documentary (A)Sexual directed by Angela Tucker. About 25 minutes in, an asexual-identified individual named Cole explains, “The idea of asexuals and cake came about because somebody posed the question ‘What’s better than sex?’ and everybody seems to universally agree that cake is just fantastic. Jokingly, cake would be the asexual sex.” In revision, I also used assorted found material, including flyers and ads. When shopping for language to play with, I consulted Jude Schell’s lesbian sex guide Her Sweet Spot(yes, it’s actually called that!) and the desserts chapter of Mark Bittman’sHow to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

What’s Hanging on the Hush (Ahsahta Press, forthcoming 2017)

Dream-Clung Gone (Brooklyn Arts Press 2012)

The Empty-Handed Messenger (Goodbye Better 2009)

Nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net anthologies.