Poetry from Web Del Sol

The Poetry of Erin Belieu, Part 3


When first described imperfectly
by my shy mother, I tried to leap

from the moving
car. A response,

I suspect, of not
just terror (although

a kind of terror continues to play
its part), but also a mimetic gesture,

the expression equal
to a body's system of absurd

jokes and dirty stories.
With cockeyed breasts

peculiar as distant cousins,
and already the butt of the body's

frat-boy humor,
I'd begun to pack

a bag, would set off
soon for my separate

country. Now, sometimes,
I admire the surprised engineering:

how a man's body can rise,
squaring off with the weight

of gravity, single-minded,
exposed as the blind

in traffic. It's the body leaping
that I praise, vulnerable

in empty space.
It's mapping the empty

space; a man's life driving
down a foreign road.

Rose Red

She never wanted the troll,

though, when freeing his beard
trapped in the bill of a circling bird,
when sliding her scissors through the soft
hairs at the nub of his chin, she did
think the shadow dropping from the gull's
wings lent his face a certain ugly interest.

She never wanted the prince's brother,

second prize to the elder, but just as vain,
with a woman's soft hips and hands,
surrounding himself with mirrors and liking
her sister better anyway, her indiscriminate
sweetness: an ordinary fruit ripening
in a bowl displayed on a public table.

And she did not want the bear

their mother invited next to the fire,
though his stinking fur could make
her eyes and mouth water. Once, she devised
a way to lie beside him, innocently
at first, then not so, curled behind him,
running her thumbnail down his spine.

What she wanted, of course, was her own place in the forest,

where she would take the flowering trees
that grew outside her mother's bedroom window -
one white, buxom with albino blossoms,

one red, smaller, with delicate, hooked thorns -
and plant them on opposite sides of her cottage,
watching each bloom fall as summer spoiled them.

Prayer for Men

I will not praise your body after sex
naked on the small, white bed

as prayer is sent to gods, and you,
thin-boned and sleeping,

vulnerable to my hands and mouth,
are too humane for ancient games.

if you had come a whirl of smoke, deified
exhausted fire, turned inside me

burning till my tongue learned flames,
then I might praise you.

If you had put on feathers and descended,

pulled me into sky or water, hung me

weightless, pinned inside your beating wing,
then I might praise you.

But you entered the way a man is made to
enter, asked mv name, then waited

for an answer the way men do. It's praise
to watch you listen in your sleep, to fit

the curve your body questions; praise enough
to guard you until morning. Then gods will

lie down on mountaintops and dream their human
dreams of prayer, of women, of love.

The Problem of Fidelity

It's the gamble, of course -
the way a shot slips down when sent
by a stranger; the conversation

which, in itself, says nothing
but all that isn't said; watching
how a man takes off his shirt,

unbuttons either collar
or cuffs first or pulls the whole
affair over, not careful about

anything. How exciting was it?
Hiding in the closet, that humiliated
voice, raging, at the door;

the other man, stunned and lying
for you? Even now memory
makes you shake, reminds you

how you almost lost, how
one small breath, the tingle
of a hanger, might have changed

three lives for worse
or better. Never knowing.
That's the way games work:

one outcome, one life. A bet
concludes, another's placed
as someone flips a card. Face up.

A Sleeping Man Must
Be Awakened to Be Killed

All afternoon I thought the decision must fall
between two abstractions:

what is merciful
what is honorable;

whether to wake the sleeping man before
they kill him, or not. I confess

my interest wasn't
noble. The morning news
unfolded in details which,

unfortunately, fascinate: a tiny camera hidden
in a teapot he'd requested,

by which they saw him count
his many sticks of dynamite,
booby-trap the entryways

then fall into an agitated sleep; the dilemma
of children as hostages. What got to me, finally,

was how young the kids were,
only three and four. I pictured
them in a yellow schoolroom,

looking lost, helplessly cranky,
a piano on wheels in one corner.

This day passes. We make dinner,
love; you escape into your own dreams.
It occurs to me, now studying your shut

eyed flutters, your left hand gripping and releasing
the humid sheet, that what is planned

is practical, must be, directed
by those with practical concerns.
I wonder what they are? I wonder

who decides to wake the sleeping man, maybe dreaming,
maybe lost in the white space between dreams.

What reason to shake him back to where he's gotten
now: this yellow schoolroom, a piano on
wheels? I watch you sleep. You don't answer.

The Sadness of Infidels

That which illuminates is sometimes only sad;
this full moon's rule, titular

at best, and each decision
we come to beneath her, obscured,

vague as the myth inside a constellation.

We're more comfortable with vanishing,
the partial beliefs of a bedside lamp,

and only trust in what we must
keep hidden. We make love our euphemism.

I've observed each part of me eclipse
as your body passes over mine,

your mouth moving then replacing nipple and clit,

desire circling a single point, unanchored,
incapable of resting or sinking in.

We're sad as glaciers are, who cannot feel this,

propelled by the engine of their frozen weight,
natural machines made completely of mirrors,

we put out the light, moving forward and blind.

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