The Poetry of Erin Belieu, Part 1
Legend of the Albino FarmOmaha, Nebraska They do not sleep nights
but stand between
rows of glowing corn and
cabbages grown on acres past
the edge of the city.
their nightgowns furl and
unfurl around their legs.
Only women could be this
white. Like mules,
they are sterile
and it appears that
their mouths are always
open. Because they are thin
as weeds, the albinos
look hungry. If you drive out
to the farm, tree branches will
point the way. No map will show
where, no phone is listed.
It will seem that the moon, plump
above their shoulders, is constant,
orange as harvest all year
long. We say, when a mother
gives birth to an albino girl,
she feigns sleep after
labor while an Asian
man steals in, spirits
the pale baby away.
Part of the Effect of the PublicFOR EXAMPLE:
Scene Is to Importune the
walking past the Ritz a girl may be sitting on the last step crying
as if alone and you notice, even in this cocktail-hour light, the
little rips and shreds of her chapped lips and that she has no
Kleenex and no one stops to offer one and you feel damned if you
do or don't, not wanting to intrude, as a man is standing maybe
only three feet away, his profile approximating a little shame,
some discomfort, but mostly a sphinx-like composure, or
boredom, perhaps, indicating they are together, together in that
way you're not completely sure you'll ever want to know about
again and you're ashamed, too, with nothing to offer but to gaze
intently at the fascinating street lamp as you walk by.
PROBABLY YOU'VE CAUSED A SCENE YOURSELF:
public or private, at a bar or in a strange apartment, when
suddenly you became conscious of the drama, of the real pleasure
in your tears, the catharsis of the wail and rage, the screams, the
"trashing of the joint," because that's what's next, snipping up
his Liberty of London ties, ripping off her nightgown, pushing
her out naked on the patio for the neighbors' judgment who are
there, to be sure, either by accident or rubbernecked design,
keeping score or scared for their own property. Or instead you've
been the impetus, unfaithful, deceitful, maybe only the hapless
object of some other person's desire thinking that, for all their
protestations of love, you might as well be a bathroom fixture or
bookend. in either case.
IT'S HARD TO MAKE A GRACEFUL EXIT:
as all scenes peter out in awkward ways. Someone's left thinking
of the perfect remark, a remark that'll sink like an ax blade, the
kind that are never on hand when needed, so that you end up
shouting, spluttering Oh yeah?! Oh yeah?! Oh Yeah?! like a moron,
like a damn fool, crying on the last step, in front of strangers,
without a Kleenex.
Georgic on MemoryMake your daily monument the Ego,
use a masochist's epistemology
of shame and dog-eared certainty
that others less exacting might forgo.
If memory's an elephant, then feed
the animal. Resist revision: the stand
of feral raspberry, contraband
fruit the crows stole, ferrying seed
for miles ... No. It was a broken hedge,
not beautiful, sunlight tacking
its leafy gut in loose sutures. Lacking
imagination, you'll take the pledge
to remember - not the sexy, new
idea of history, each moment
swamped in legend, liable to judgment
and erosion; still, an appealing view,
to draft our lives, a series of vignettes
where endings could be substituted -
your father, unconvoluted
by desire, not grown bonsai in regret,
the bedroom of blue flowers left intact.
The room was nearly dark, the streetlight
a sentinel at the white curtain, its night
face implicated. Do not retract
this. Something did happen. You recall,
can feel a stumbling over wet ground,
the cave the needled branches made around
your body, the creature you couldn't console.
All DistanceWriting from Boston, where sky is simply
property, a flourish topping crowds
of condos and historic real estate,
I'm trying to imagine blue sky:
the first time, where it happened,
what I was becoming. Being taken there
by car, from a town so newly born that grass
still accounted all distance, an explanation
drawn in measureless yellows, a tone
stubbling the whole world, ten minutes away.
Consider now how the single pussy willow
edging a cattle pond in winter becomes
a wind-shivered monument to what this mean
a placid loneliness asking nothing, nothing?...
Not knowing then the proper name for things
green chubs of milo, the husbandry of soy,
bovine patience, the rhythm of the cud,
sea green foam washing round
a cow's mouth, its tender udders,
the surprise of an animal's dignity...
but something comes beforeYes. There was a time before.
Before car or cow, before
That sky, I mean, disregarded
as buried memory ...
Remember when the tiny sightless hand
could not know, not say hand, but knew it
in its straying, knew it in the cool
condensation steaming the station wagon windows,
thrums of heat blowing a brand of idiot's safety
over the brightly-wrapped package
that was then your body, well-loved?
This must have been you, looking out at that world
of flat, buttered fields and blackbirds ascending... '
But what was sky then?Today, I receive a postcard of
a blue guitar. Here, snow falls with wings,
tumbling in its feathered body, melting
on the window glass. How each evening becomes
another beautiful woman holding
the color of expensive sapphires
against her throat, I'll never know.
It is an ordinary clarity.
So then was it music?How soon the sky and I have grown apart.
Something like love or
words, a sentimental moment once
years ago, that blue sky?
On the postcard, an old man hangs
half-dead, strung over his instrument, and what
I have imagined is half-dead, too. Our bones
end hollow, sky blue; the flute comes untuned.
Rondeau at the Train StopIt bothers me: the genital smell of the bay
drifting toward me on the T stop, the train
circling the city like a dingy, year-round
Christmas display. The Puritans were right! Sin
is everywhere in Massachusetts, hell-bound
in the population. it bothers me
because it's summer now and sticky - no rain
to cool things down; heat like a wound
that will not close. Too hot, these shameful
percolations of the body that bloom
between strangers on a train. It bothers me
now that I'm alone and singles foam
around the city, bothered by the lather, the rings
of sweat. Know this bay's a watery animal, hind-end
perpetually raised: a wanting posture, pain
so apparent, wanting so much that it bothers me.