Of the Poet’s Youth

By Erin Belieu b. 1965 Erin Belieu
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.

Erin Belieu, “Of the Poet’s Youth” from Black Box. Copyright © 2006 by Erin Belieu. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. www.coppercanyonpress.org

Source: Black Box (Copper Canyon Press, 2006)

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Poet Erin Belieu b. 1965

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Youth, Love, Desire, Realistic & Complicated, Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

 Erin  Belieu


Born in Nebraska, Erin Belieu earned an MA from Boston University and an MFA from Ohio State University. Belieu’s work focuses on gender, love, and history, filtering wide-ranging subject matter through a variety of theoretical frameworks. She often addresses feminist issues and uses poetic conventions and street talk. Belieu is the author of four books of poetry: Infanta (1995), selected by Hayden Carruth for the National . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Youth, Love, Desire, Realistic & Complicated, Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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