SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: OKLA ELLIOTT

By Okla Elliott:

THE IDIOT’S FAITH

Three lanterns floated in the dream she told him, but he didn’t want to hear about lanterns. He wanted factories unbuilt, windows smashed open. He wanted libertine wailings. She denied being a builder of factories, but he knew her reputation. A wind blew in from Montreal, or she said it was from Montreal, said she could smell the bars of Rue St Laurent. He was skeptical but didn’t want to argue. What good are arguments on a Saturday night? What good are arguments at all? She told him again about her love of the French language, and he thought maybe they were getting somewhere. The modern sunset outside her window was spilled wine tinged with pollution. They went down the mountain to town, found the trouble she had decided they wanted. She called a homeless man a fallen Chinese god, and they mourned his sad descent, forgetting (almost) their own. That is the power of generosity, one use of our idiot faith in human love.

 

THE LIGHT HERE

It sets a mood
of clownish tragedy,
of ecstatic failure waiting to happen.

It is not a static blue light
nor the throb of a strobe.

It is not a light to read by
nor to be naked in,
unless you are desperate
or barbarously horny.

I would use it to look for you
in a cave or catacomb
or an ossuary crowded by the famous dead–
that is, if you were in such a place,
I would use this light to find you.

It is a light that yellows the periphery.
It is not a light that brightens the center.

It is mixed from an overcast morning
and the electric urban dusk.

It is a light I could live in
if I came to terms with certain failings
in my character
and the character of others.

I know you have light where you are,
better light even,
but I wanted you to know
about the light here.

 
Okla Elliott is currently the Illinois Distinguished Fellow at the University of Illinois, where he studies comparative literature and cultural theory. He also holds an MFA from Ohio State University. For the academic year 2008-09, he was a visiting assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. His drama, non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Another Chicago Magazine, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Natural Bridge, New Letters, North Dakota Quarterly, A Public Space, and The Southeast Review, among others. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks–The Mutable Wheel and Lucid Bodies and Other Poems–and he co-edited (with Kyle Minor) The Other Chekhov.

Editor’s Note: Today I am honored to present to you the work of As It Ought To Be‘s managing editor. His work speaks for itself, as does the significant body of publications in which his work has appeared. Okla is an impressive scholar, a fearless leader, and a wonderful person to know in the writing world. He believes strongly in the idea of building and sustaining a community of writers, and I am honored to be a member of that community. Regarding today’s pieces I will say that Mr. Elliott effortlessly combines vignettes of straightforward narrative with crisp images and moments of simple yet brilliant language such as “What good are arguments on a Saturday night? What good are arguments at all,” “if you were in such a place, I would use this light to find you,” and this kicker of an ending, “It is a light I could live in / if I came to terms with certain failings / in my character / and the character of others. / I know you have light where you are, / better light even, / but I wanted you to know / about the light here.” Simple. Elegant. Stunning.

Buy Okla Elliott’s new book, A Vulgar Geography.

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Contributing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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5 Responses to SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: OKLA ELLIOTT

  1. John Halle says:

    Beautiful work, Okla, albeit very subtle-it made me think. The latter reaction derives, of course, from my brute force, weaponized literary perspective (displayed further down the page).

    Thank God that’s not the only function of the written word-and there are those who know how to deal with it as an aesthetic object, as you show here.

  2. Deborah says:

    Over the past year, or however long, I have come to look forward to your Saturday finds. It’s a sweet part of the weekend. I love this piece and was going to point to the same lines that you did as ones that really grabbed me and felt like home. Thanks for sharing this, it’s really outstanding and I can’t help but think of it in relation to Michael Kwett’s piece, Light, a few weeks ago – great juxtaposition.

  3. Sivan says:

    Deborah, I completely agree. When choosing today’s poems I could not help but think of Michael Kwett’s recent piece. It is amazing to see the same subject tackled by two different artists in two very different, yet incredibly well-crafted ways!

  4. oklaelliott says:

    Thank you very much, Sivan, for posting these poems and the link to buy the new chapbook. And thank you for the kinds words as well. I love the brief analysis you put at the end of your posts each week — and it’s nice to have that analysis focused on my work, just to see what things stand out to you. So, thanks yet again.

  5. Again, thank you Sivian. Like Deborah (above) I have come to really look forward to your Saturday posts. Regarding the poet you have selected for this week: I was impressed with Okla before, but now I’m *really* impressed. I am eagerly looking forward to the chapbook.

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