Lee Rossi


Richard Russell

Mantis in Spring

It is always spring for the mantis,
hope gushing from some pheromone fountain
inside its tiny brain. I found two
of them decorating my picket fence
like one of those wire sculptures
of hillbilly fiddlers you buy at Stuckey’s
to hand to your sister-in-law
along with a pound of peanut brittle.
All afternoon they stood there,
tiny he mounting giant her,
like a boy trying out a new jungle gym.
I returned every hour and still
they were locked in embrace, consumed
with propagating their matchstick race.
But at what price? In late afternoon,
I saw his head was gone, her mandibles
clenching. They say he keeps on living,
his racing heart pumping sperm
with extra force. She dismembered him,
top down, like a child unbuilding a robot.
So this is one kind of love, a death
sentence with every declaration
of undying passion. I know it’s just
instinct, and we’re better than that,
but I can’t help seeing myself in this tableau
mordant, disappearing like a saint
into the leonine maw of my first wife,
what started as something Rubenesque whittled
to a Giacometti tangle after years of gnawing.
And then I see that I’m the midget carnosaur,
blankly jawing my own small life.

from Wheelchair Samurai

First Wife

There was nothing spooky about her
even though we called her ‘the old haint’.

She visited at odd times, during cleanup
after mussels and chardonnay,

or in those brief, sweet moments after sex.
In her cashmere sweaters,

reeking of a sensimilla brushfire,
she knew how to spoil any party.

It wasn’t the active hostility
of her glare or even the odd word choice.

She’d always known how to “masticate”
the scenery when it served her ends.

It was the heaviness, the great orb
of flesh she carried, as if she were drowning

in her own body, that weighed on us.
Over time she grew bigger than the room,

until finally we could only intuit her
presence lumbering in the leaf strewn dark,

until finally she seemed as large
as the body of the planet itself.

How could we bury her, this insistent ghost,
determined at last to swallow us both?

The Witch of Swords

My lesbian neighbor sports a Tarot card
tattoo above her Achilles tendon.
In spring I watch her putter in her yard,
digging, planting, watering the alien

seeds and bulbs and wonder which of Shakespeare’s
odder sprites she is, which fairy or weird
sister, this priestess of camping and beers
in midnight hot tubs, showing off her scars.

The tattoo limns the witch of swords, a dour
goddess, the scourge, it seems, of engineers
like me, who scour the world’s dimples and dells
until they’re mastectomy flat, like boards.

We always smile, and never say a word,
keeping our distance as if circling a turd.

Stalking Horse

The gelding that readies a filly
For the stallion – the surly, high-strung
Stallion, easily spooked –

He’s eager but small and reaches
Her high haunches with difficulty,
Nuzzling her fragrant withers.

How different am I, the fellow
Who sets parasol drinks on a table
For some young thing and her breasty friend,

Motioning with head toss where his boss,
The tabloid star, sits in obscurity,
Occluded by interstellar smoke?

Lee Rossi’s latest book is Wheelchair Samurai.  His poems, reviews and interviews have appeared in The Harvard Review, The Sun, Poetry Northwest, Chelsea, The Beloit Poetry Journal, andThe Southern Poetry Review. He is a staff reviewer and interviewer for the online magazine Pedestal.  He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lee Rossi at Plain View Press

Lee Rossi at The Pedestal Magazine