Poetry Throw Back: Steve Bellin-Oka

A former guest poet/mentor turned Artist-in-Residence, Steve Bellin-Oka, shared the following piece with El Portal on November 11, 2016. We always knew he was bound for great things and are deeply honored to say, with a full heart, “we knew him when.”

Still Life with the Plague of Darkness
            — for my daughter

I woke this morning before dawn
to find the nation’s hearts had hardened.
Something stretched out its hand—a darkness
so thick it felt like gauze.
It seemed it would last for days.
Even the pavement cracks were wider:
more thick weeds forcing up
through the ridged concrete.
Overnight, someone stepped on them
and now we think our backs are broken.

But they’re not—I think of you
in another time zone, just turned thirteen,
the same sun rising from the far end
of the city. We’d wanted a land
less dangerous for you. To find
our questions answered. To wipe layers
away from the cocoon you struggle
to break free of. Forgive us.

But the November branches define
themselves against the slow sunrise.
Brown and red leaves still cling to them.
Inside the house now, I’ve pulled
the curtains back. Already so much
light pours in—nothing can keep it out.


A previous assistant professor at ENMU, Steve Bellin-Oka  is the 2019 Poets in Parks artist-in-residence for The National Parks Arts Foundation (NPAF), the Poetry Foundation, the National Parks Service, and the Gettysburg Foundation. He is the author of two chapbooks, The Frankenstein Poems (2014) and Dead Letter Office at North Atlantic Station (forthcoming in 2017). His work has appeared in Cream City Review, Mississippi Review, William and Mary Review and Yalobusha Review, among other journals, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets prize and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Hambidge Center for the Arts, and was shortlisted for the Key West Literary Seminar’s Scotti Merrill Memorial Award.

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