Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change by Steve Bellin-Oka

Not having to pedal
permits you to concentrate. Taking
tea with Hitler, club soda

with white rum from Puerto Rico.
Centuries of song

in her garage, Anita Bryant
uncorked a misogynist genie,
forty-eight snappy sayings in Russian.

The most horrifying complication
is infection. Brought a Thermos

to avoid communal
drinking. Other children
she knew—

contagion theory. Blood
root. A restaurant with a seasonal

vegetarian menu. One effeminate person
makes others effeminate—
halfway houses to return them

to normal. Never the right size.
We simplify at our peril. The answer:
a minibus, a refusal to make

too grand or final a claim.

 

Source: Articles and advertisements from September 1977 Ms.

Method: In the advanced poetry workshop I teach, we devote one class meeting to found poems and erasure poems. I participate in the exercise I give the students, from which this poem emerged. A variety of book or magazine-length source texts are chosen at random and numbered, and each of us picks a number without any indication of what the source texts are. We are then required to create a found poem out of snippets (phrases, but not whole sentences) from the corresponding source text without any alterations or additions. Order, lineation, stanza structure, capitalization, and punctuation are all open.

Steve Bellin-Oka’s chapbook, Dead Letter Office at North Atlantic Station, was recently published by Seven Kitchens Press. Recent work appears in Worcester Review and Unbroken, among other journals. He has received poetry fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. He lives in Portales, NM.