notes from the understory (layer 34, direction one) by Rusty Morrison

notes from the understory (layer 34, direction one) by Rusty Morrison 

Blue mountain, black cloven hoof, red tint at the rupture of 

temporality, green tint on hidden immoralities, 


a naked knowable, a virginal myth, an iris of the owl’s eye focuses 

on the direction of an iambic laugh, 


a secret I hear myself whisper and I feel the secret’s hands 

surround me.


Beside me in bed is Yi-Fu Tuan’s text “when we stand steadfast 

before an idea, regardless of its strangeness, then the mind frees 

itself and roams.” 


I put the book down and slide under the covers. Heat washes over 

me in waves luring me deeper than I want to go. 


I will not think the thing about death. The thing that I see has 

vanished from my husband’s face when he talks to me. 


My husband Ken, more sure-minded than I, knows he won’t die 

from cancer today. The doctor’s clinical language a raft that Ken 

expertly guides. 


Ken tells me a dream: he found a thousand dollars, but the trouble 

it caused made him glad to wake up here in our bed. 


The idea of this life we are living is so alive in his eyes that my mind 

finds itself free to roam.

Rusty Morrison co-publishes Omnidawn. Her five books include After Urgency (won Tupelo’s Dorset Prize) and the true keeps calm biding its story (won Ahsahta’s Sawtooth Prize, James Laughlin Award, N.California Book Award, & DiCastagnola Award). Her recent Beyond the Chainlink was a finalist for the NCIB Award & NCB Award. Her poems have recently been published in or accepted by American Poetry Review, Oversound, and elsewhere. She’s a recipient of a Civitella Ranieri fellowship as well as recipient of other artist retreat fellowships. She was awarded a fellowship by UC Berkeley Art Research Center’s Poetry & the Senses Program in their inaugural year (2020). She teaches and gives writing consultations. Find out more on her website: