Dead Poets Who Visit Jim Harrison

Russell Thorburn

Russell Thorburn

was accepted as part of the MSU Library Short Edition call for work on the theme of “recovery,” in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum's exhibit of Beverly Fishman's art, also called Recovery. Russell Thorburn is a recipient of a National Endowment Fellowship and the first poet laureate of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He lives in Marquette, where he sometimes performs with his sextet Radio On. His one-act play of a retro-alternate reality, Gimme Shelter, was set for a premiere at the Black Box Theatre but was cancelled by the pandemic.

After his stew of suckling pig, slow cooked
in a red-wine sauce, his one eye of an Inuit hunter
observes through his window of deceit
the dead poet Lorca coming back.
Seventy-some-years old, Jim Harrison,
not wearing a shirt and underwear,
with his cock unfettered, downs
one more vodka, his beloved Stolichnaya.
He watches Federico stop at his door,
as if looking for those loves he won't ever meet again.
Tapping on the double-glazed window
to get the poet's attention, he lifts his vodka
bottle up for all dead poets to drink.
His blood's gorged on cheese, desserts,
beluga spooned from a half-pound jar.
He didn't live alone in Patagonia but more
than anybody he understood how to die.
A dead bird falls from the roof. One more
casualty of the heat. And the articulate desert
wind plays on its five-stringed guitar.
Letters from his editor balled up on the floor,
a cluttered desk of greasy plates and cheese
wheels that have rolled on inside his gut:
Pacifico beer bottles empty like late October.
Back in Montana he wrote on a yellow page
it's zero and 80 mph winds. Now he's pouring Lorca
his first drink from a coffee cup with coffee
still in it, and talking about hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias. A rattlesnake
that bit his favorite dog he had to shoot.
Come on in, Jim says, knowing Yesenin
somewhere in the yard waits with his rope.

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