Erin Belieu is the author of three poetry collections, all from Copper Canyon Press—Infanta, which was chosen for the National Poetry Series in 1995; One Above & One Below (2000), and her recent collection, Black Box, which was a finalist for the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in places such as The New York Times, Slate, Tin House, Ploughshares, The Virginia Quarterly Review and Best American Poetry. Belieu is also the co-editor of The Extraordinary Tide (Columbia University Press, 2001), the only non-thematic anthology of contemporary poetry written by American women. Belieu lives in Tallahassee, Florida where she teaches in The Creative Writing Program at Florida State University.

Erin's My Space

Three Poems by Erin Belieu

The Last Of The Gentlemen Heartbreakers

Southern romantic that you always
were, what fallacy recalls you better

than the pathetic one?

If lightning fried a single swampy
pine anywhere south of Cincinnati,

you were gassing up the bagpipe and
drinking to your fallen comrade

before it hit the ground.

You had the knack I admire for self-
satisfaction, a gift for the dubious

backward—your cask of port in every
port and a woman in every storm.

Oh, True Love and Subject of My Late
Juvenilia, there wasn't a ribald

particular I didn't come to know:

the yoga instructress on Valentine's Eve,
the xeroxed erotica files

arranged by body part. Did you think you
were the only mastermind with

a stoned cat purring on your lap, a loyal
death squad on retainer? Count it

a child's Christmas miracle that I let
you live. Sources report you're still

irresistible, a waltz-step elegy
with a showy limp, the same

theme-park pirate in a soiled black
patch, but why did you insist on

covering your good eye?

You know I don't mean this,
as some girls say, in the bad way.

To be fair, you were generous with
a camellia and were born knowing

when to offer a lady your handkerchief.

[first appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review (Summer 2005)]

In Ecstasy
                     —at the altarpiece of Saint Teresa

No need to be coy—
you know what
she’s doing.

And so did Bernini,
when he found Teresa
in the full-throttle of
her divine vision,
          caught her at it,

carving this surrender
so fluidly you expect
the impossible:

for her tang to swell up, ripe
as seafoam, from the gulf
of her flushed and falling
figure. Perhaps this is how

God comes to us,
or should come to us, all:

the bluntly and
beautifully corporeal at
prayers in the Sunday
school of pleasure. Why

shouldn’t He come to us
as he did to Teresa? A saint

on her back—
a girl tearing open
the gift He gave her?

Of The Poet’s Youth

When the man behind the counter said, "You pay
by the orifice," what could we do but purchase them all?

Ah, Sandy, you were clearly the deluxe doll, modish and pert
in your plastic nurse whites, official hostess to our halcyon days,

where you bobbed in the doorway of our dishabille apartment,
a block downwind from the stockyards. Holding court on

the corroded balcony, K. and I passed hash brownies, collecting
change for the building’s monthly pool to predict which balcony

would fall off next. That’s when K. was fucking M. and M. was
fucking J., and even B. and I threw down once on the glass-speckled

lawn, adrift in the headlights of his El Camino. Those were immortal
times, Sandy! Coke wasn’t addictive yet, condoms prevented herpes

and men were only a form of practice for the Russian novel
we foolishly hoped our lives would become. Now it’s a Friday night,
sixteen years from there. Don’t the best characters know better

than to live too long? My estranged husband house-sits for a spoiled
cockatoo while saving to buy his own place. My lover’s gone back to

his gin and the farm-team fiancée he keeps in New York. What else
to do but read Frank O’Hara to my tired three year old? When I put him

to bed, he mutters "more sorry" as he turns into sleep. Tonight,
I find you in a box I once marked "The Past." Well, therapy’s good

for some things, Sandy, but who’d want to forgive a girl like that?
Frank says Destroy yourself if you don’t know! Deflated,

you’re simply the smile that surrounds a hole.
I don’t know anything.

[first appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review (Summer 2005)]