Erin Belieu

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Erin Belieu was born and grown up in Nebraska and educated at the University of Nebraska, The Ohio State University, and Boston University. She received a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska — Omaha in 1989, is the author of two collections of poetry. The first, Infanta (Copper Canyon Press, 1995), was selected by Hayden Carruth for the National Poetry Series and was named one of the ten best books of 1995 by Library Journal, the National Book Critics' Circle, and Washington Post Book World. Her second collection, One Above and One Below (Copper Canyon Press, 2000), won the Ohioana Award and the Society of Midland Authors Award.


All Distance by Erin Belieu

Writing 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 before
Before car or cow, before
sky becomes...

That sky, I mean, disregarded
as buried memory ...

Yes. There was a time before.
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?
Something like love or
words, a sentimental moment once
years ago, that blue sky?

How soon the sky and I have grown apart.
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.



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