2023 Frontier OPEN Finalist: Halved Sonnets: A Diagram of Distances by Georgio Russell

Join us in celebrating this poem by Georgio Russell, one of our finalists of the 2023 Frontier OPEN!

Please stay tuned as we publish the rest of the finalists throughout the month of December.

Halved Sonnets: A Diagram of Distances

…all friendships capable of night, he understood

the empty house, the shadow in the eye…the crescent nail

scabbing away old loves..

—Dennis Scott 


There on the vacant coast, a stone’s throw

from our stove, my father mastered his motion

for loneliness, pacing as he played his jazz

for divided prints, bodiless on the blaring sand—

my mother’s loneliness borrowed the face

of my father’s back (and forth) or the aimless

rides with radio tuned to remove our tongues,


brothers in the backjeep who couldn’t yet tell

where one’s life ended, and the other’s mortal

brown began — older, I noticed it reached far beyond

the yards we knew by sandal step, smearing the era

and moving thick as the loom of a hurricane,

through the archipelago, anthill cities abroad,

pill-numb pubs and muted Ubers. We did all possible


to guard our days from the gale, the room’s

gridded window from shatter, our Self ceilings

from collapse: and yet we kept the body’s door ajar

in case some streaming face peered in, craving

haven from the rain — how many of us became

that walker caught in downpour, looking for a house

whose mouth shouted here — I saw it in the queer


cousin crawling nights into the warmth

of his abuser’s bed, in all my peers performing

to reel their love online — I confessed it with a carousel

sex life, so much of me working to fill my valleys,

storming sweat as if to bridge the inch between

all touch — I heard a distance when my wife wheezed

her faith away on the final cot, the God she swore


would plumb her lung just a bubble in the IV bag.

I found it in our daughter, sleeping always

on her back to face their marshmallow heaven,

how she begged her mama’s mercy in the mornings

to learn she turned away. My own mother phones

either living son to say how shadowlike she feels,

the longing caustic in her creole, a slow stampede


pinging by her duplex panes, none of the herd

unstrange — she wants to know when we will we fly

home again, that it might cure the recurring dream

in which she hoards our lives inside her body like Russian

Dolls, a reverse birth bringing the house back to when

we brothers shared our borders, and none of these chats

ever seized a small fee. Our father gone for good still clings


to her till old jokes ooze — she’d padlock her ribs to keep

him in the cage, the ever-isle of herself,  in which

my father, forever pendulum, paces post-divorce.

He believes that belonging is a sense. He believes

the lot of us impaired, opaque, unable to be entered —

Our lives collide, he claims, and say amen, that is all

they do, since even the absences result in wreck.

Georgio Russell

Georgio Russell is a Bahamian writer and an alumnus of the University of the West Indies, Jamaica. He is a past winner of the Peepal Tree Press Prize (2019), the Mervyn Morris Prize (2020), and The Editors’ Prize for Magma Poetry (2022/23). He was shortlisted for the Frontier OPEN Prize 2022, and long-listed for the National Poetry Competition (2022) held by the Poetry Society. Russell was a featured poet for the British Council’s project, “Unwritten Poems: Exploring Caribbean Engagement in WW1.” His work has been published in Yolk Literary Magazine, PREE magazine, Frontier Poetry, The London Magazine, Magma and elsewhere. He currently lives in Brampton, Ontario, where he teaches English for Educate Academy. Some of his favourite poets include Derek Walcott, Lorna Goodison, Ocean Vuong, Jane Hirshfield, and Roger Reeves.

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