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Poems reprinted from One Above & One Below, copyright © by Erin Belieu. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press www.coppercanyonpress.org
Erin Belieu Erin Belieu


On Being Fired Again

I've known the pleasures of being
fired at least eleven times—

most notably by Larry who found my snood
unsuitable, another time by Jack,
whom I was sleeping with. Poor attitude,
tardiness, a contagious lack
of team spirit; I have been unmotivated

squirting perfume onto little cards,
while stocking salad bars, when stripping
covers from romance novels, their heroines
slaving on the chain gang of obsessive love—

and always the same hard candy
of shame dissolving in my throat;

handing in my apron, returning the cash-
register key. And yet, how fine it feels,
the perversity of freedom which never signs
a rent check or explains anything to one's family.

I've arrived again, taking one more last
walk through another door, thinking “I am
what is wrong with America,“” while outside
in the emptied, post-rushhour street,

the sun slouches in a tulip tree and the sound
of a neighborhood pool floats up on the heat.

Plainsong

He lived in a sod house,
a formal nest of grass
that wove green thread
around his soul, a bed
of mud and cellulose.

And she was small. She
never grew; the empty
wind that blew and reared
had bent her to the plains she cared
so little for. But he,

he didn't seem to mind
her size, he'd found
a shape to love there;
and she was spare where
he was generous as sand, the kind

of man who drifted
like the yellow hills that lifted
their sloping shoulders to the bad
lands. For her his mud
heart tumbled like the tufted
weeds that wheel along the plains,
that sea of mammoth bones,
that state all made of sky—
they married in July.
Her thin bouquet of corn

flowers remains the brightest thing
he'd ever see. I have her ring
now, a silver band so little
it won't budge over the knuckle
on my pinky. How long

ago, a man gave his grass
soul to her in her brown dress—
and she was always stern,
too small, and learned
to keep inside a sod house.


Brown Recluse

Spirit of the ratio
one above and one below,
she takes figures in a script
that haunts the cryptic willow.

Spoken in the dialect
known to every architect,
her cathedrals made of string
hold the stirring circumspect.

The web, a clock stitched from will,
chronologs which hours to kill;
when she rests, it's just a clause
in her gauzy codicil.

And when readying her bed,
she feels a pulse down the thread
current through the leaving weave,
she pins her sleeve to the dead.