How We Count in the South

by Erin Belieu


rrrrrrrrrrAdd one
tonight, when the barred owl
calls her tent revival, the cortege
trailing a mosquito truck’s
deodorant breeze.
rrrrrrrrrrPlus two, the night
before, where they inject one more
black man up the road in Georgia.
The Supreme Court tweets his final
rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrWhich leads to three:
Dear Jesus, The Reason
For Each Season, of course we’re
exhausted by our soul’s litigation,
the old ones still milling at the polling
place, the recently deceased sweating
their subpoenas in feckless hands.
rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRequired to appear,
we wait. We nurse ourselves and take
a number. We lean against the sneeze
guards at the country buffet until our
ankles swell.
rrrrrrrrrrrrrrPlease. Don’t tell us
history. Nobody hearts a cemetery
like we do,
rrrrrrrrrrwhere re-enactors bite
their bullets between headstones,
and ancient belles in neck-high silk
prepare for the previously fought war.
Every day is a day before.
rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrThough we do hear the news.
Oh sure. It gets to us.
Story is, up north, people shit
crushed pineapple and rest stop
whores give change with paper
money. Story is inscribed, fixed as
the roulette wheels clacking inside
casinos, where party boats freak
like viscous bath toys in this electric gulf.
rrrrrrrrrCertainly, we’ve learned
our numbers. We build a church for
anyone who owns a pair of knees.
But still, the old disease is catching,
rrrrrrrrrrso pray with us—
rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrUnplug the power, Lord.
rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrIlluminate the devils. Degrease
rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrthe righteous man’s eye.



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, all on Copper Canyon Press: “Infanta” (1995), selected by Hayden Carruth for the National Poetry Series; “One Above, One Below” (2000); “Black Box” (2006), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and “Slant Six” (2014). Her fifth book, “Come Hither, Honeycomb,” will be released in 2021.