The Northway (book excerpt)

These poems by Lisa Bellamy appear in her forthcoming poetry collection, The Northwayfrom Terrapin Books. More about the book below the poems. The four poems featured here are: Wild Pansy // My Sweet Little Pigeons // Obit // Black-Eyed Susan.


Wild Pansy

As a seed, I was shot out the back end of a blue jay
when, heedless, she flew over the meadow.
She had swallowed me in my homeland when she spied me
lying easy under the sun—briefly, I called her Mother
before I passed through her gullet like a ghost.
In a blink of God’s eye, I was an orphan.  I trembled
where I fell, alone in the dirt.  That first night
was a long night, early May and chilly, and I remember
rain filled my furrow.  I called out for mercy—
only a wolverine wandered by.  I cursed my luck,
I cursed the happenstance of this world, I smelled
his hot stink, but he nosed me deep into the mud—
this was the gift of obscurity.  I germinated, hidden
from the giants of earth, the jostling stalks,
the various, boisterous bloomers, and this was my salvation.
After seven days and nights I pushed through—
yes.  Here I am, kissable: your tiny, purple profusion.


My Sweet Little Pigeons

At the Buddhist party, I help Nyima-la,
the monk who loves Volvos as if
they were ponies, hang scarlet banners
from elms until I hear shouts:
exhausted meditators colliding
at volleyball. They need red meat,
says Tenzin, resident lama,
flipping his cigarette butt into the grass.
Jesus, someone says, I thought Tibetans
were supposed to be, like, spiritual?
Tenzin laughs, his face a brown wrinkled moon,
and I remember Byron Putnam,
my Chippewa uncle, belly swollen
with Hamm’s, smoked trout and beef stew,
lying with his friends on Sheboygan’s
courthouse lawn, smoking and singing,
I am ready, my sweet little pigeons,
I am ready for love
; how he held me,
hands soft on my shoulders,
when I was scared, before he collapsed
from decades of drinking, dying silently
at the VA Hospital. The breeze flutters
white prayer flags, releasing 27,000 invitations
into the ghost realm. A white feral cat
crouches under the magnolias,
tracks birds overhead. May she be happy.
May the bacteria in my strawberry yogurt
be happy, cruising down my river,
digested peacefully, before
my colon’s spasmodic turbulence
induces vertigo or hysteria.
May the gnats biting me take rebirth
as neonatal nurses, soothe me
the first hours of my next life—
may they be happy, free from fear.
May the elderly alligator sunbathing
on the golf course next to my mother’s condo
loosen his Leviathan jaws,
allow the visiting pug
from Brooklyn to wiggle free.
May they both be happy—so may my mother,
binoculars raised, although I’m not
100% sure which one she’s cheering for.
May she, too, be happy.
Tonight, Tibetans will empty
glasses and bowls to keep lonely
circling spirits from drowning.
May they be happy, free from fear.
Uncle, may you quench your unquenchable
thirst. May we shelter under
the refuge tree, free from all fear.
May I sleep, and sway in bunting,
the beloved undevoured lamb.



She died after a short illness; she died after a long, difficult illness while daydreaming and watching cartoons; she died after a lingering, lovely paralysis, a fading; she died tumbling onto a crosswalk, where she had the right of way; she died in her sleep; she died in an MRI blissfully insulated from further harassment; she died singing Mercy, she died with nary a sound; she died forgiving no one, she died forgiving everyone; she died, a splendid nude, dancing in moonlight; she died at daybreak, observed by a cat; she died speaking in tongues—some called it mumbling.


Black-Eyed Susan

I just cannot bloom endlessly, you know—
this is November, I’m pale, a dry stalk—
I can barely stand, I’m shaking, I need Me time,
I need to center myself—this summer was horrific:
it was all about the aphids, crawling,
depositing God knows what without permission,
from who knows what hollows of slime;
it was all about the jays—“by mistake”
they smashed into me, to grab the crickets—
I had to hear the swallowing, see the bulging gullets.
This summer was all about the bees, their selfishness,
overall lack of tenderness. Oh, bees are sly.
They say they buzz for beauty, for splendor;
they preen, like frilly-hatted debutantes—a racket,
people, a con job—they trampled on my privates,
scurried back and forth, mobsters with booty
(my pollen!), to their dank clubs, their little “hives.”
This summer was all about the deer, the nibbling,
the slobbering, ticks crawling in and out of their noses—
sweet Jesus, a sight no one should have to endure—
and who, in the meadow, thought to kiss my petals?
People, I’m on my own here. I need T-L-C.
Look, dormant does not mean down for the count.
I will re-seed myself, re-invent myself—hardiest
of the hardy perennials—but I need to be pumped
from below, long and slow, with cool water brimming
under the meadow. I need the slathering,
mud pack sliding in my flowerets,
wet leaves—dammit someone needs to soothe my pistil.


Lisa Bellamy’s forthcoming poetry collection, The Northway, from Terrapin Books, is available for pre-order now, and will be available for purchase in September, 2018.

The poems appear with permission of Terrapin Books. Copyright 2018 Lisa Bellamy.


About the Author


Lisa Bellamy is author of the forthcoming full-length collection, The Northway (Terrapin Books). Her chapbook Nectar won The Aurorean chapbook prize in 2011. Her poems and prose have appeared in TriQuarterly, Massachusetts Review, New Ohio Review, Hotel Amerika, The Southern Review, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. She has received a Pushcart Special Mention, the Fugue Poetry Prize, and honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She is on the faculty of The Writers Studio in NYC.

Appears In

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