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Bemidji State University
The Red Envelope

College of Arts and Letters
Department of English
Rivers Meeting: Literary Magazine


The Red Envelope

University Presses of Florida, Florida
ISBN 0 - 8130 - 0828 - X

...set against the salvational force of memory and of art: in this first collection, CarolAnn Russell sings a sadly familar elegy with unfamiliar eloquence.
---Jonathan Holden

One of the finest first books of poetry I've seen in years is CarolAnn Russell's The Red Envelope. Both intensely personal and impersonal, her poems are broad and profound, with uncanny vision. Life and language are finely tuned together throughout her work.
---Charles Guenther, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The warmest waters beckon
and blind. Once I believed
time could be owned, returned to,
that I could find my childhood
the way I find a grave.

A fishes all day beneath the sun.
He could be my father leaving
the river, body like a tree,
the root invisible, come to rest
in the sparse farmyard remembered
as it was before the burial.
No name to touch him, his face
becomes a star
and three white horses follow.

I consider the peril of any relation, hooks
caught in the lip of the eyeless
trout, living off its entrails.

In the tea-colored afternoon,
a man walks toward dusk.
He carries a basket, three
silver fish, their open mouths
pools of milk in the dark.
It might be August
or Christmas, the toothed faces
of the aster, blooming,
the tide of the man
flooding an acre of tamarack.
He sees only the light leaving
the valley. In the absence,
his soul like a bell.

Fishing demands belief:
the line cast out
reeled back again.

Goodbye was all my father said
for years. People knew it mattered
when he'd pump their hands, shifting
weight like a wounded buck.
He'd look right through them to the sun
the slow smile of a man who kept his friends,
eyes blue behind the squint. Like some fall
gone irrevocably by, so long, he'd say
and they knew they could leave.

Family, sometimes a friend from the war.
It was always summer. He'd stroll
to the curb and lean heavy
on the car while they started up.
We'd stand with Mom like tulips
against the wooden porch and wave.

Those days my cousins and I talked sex
and God and bragged about our Dads.
We'd hang around, holding up the family name.
Sometimes our folks would all sit down
together over World War II, all eyes
turned inside and far away. You kids,
almost without speaking.
We'd be scared when they'd talk tha way.
Tell us, we'd beg, wanting to know
some horrible secret that made them old.

One August we grew tragic, walked
along the beach kicking sand
pretending it was the sea. We'd all
fallen for love, got drunk, gone
all the way. We knew
we'd fallen short so long it mattered now.

Uncle Adolph died and the one collecting
junk in Flasher. Mom felt bad
she wouldn't drink his coffee.
Suitcase shabby, Jenny Rose came out
and Uncle Roland lost it again
flying the same plane as '44.
Dave drove down his cycle and weeks
after I wished I was a hood. Dad
looked older, less hair and wouldn't talk
about his brother writing the weird book
to save the world. Mom was appalled
at the relatives and Dad smoked alone,
said goodbye less and less. So long now
it seems all one summer.

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Italian Poems
Poets of the Cimitero Acattolico
The Way to Villa D'Amore
Gypsy Taxi
Silver Dollar
The Red Envelope
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