Three Poems by Elizabeth Willis

BOMB 112 Summer 2010
112 20Cover

Home of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company

A Species is an Idea

This vine is just a vine
a substitute for nothing:
little mitten
bellwether friend

Or you, my landscape
a sensory derangement
next to Ireland’s forgeries

The dream of her gigantic ear
on the poem’s longest coastline
The poem that is America
America a prophecy
like reason in atomic winter

We think its magic wheel
is but a dress
that calls this city home
Unpeopled, architectural


Yesness Park

A horse or a turnip
Your Wealth is on the stove

by the National Institutes of
the earth at night

As for Baudelaire
a picture of half your face

is all the world, like a new democracy
by Henry Adams

To thumb the wave
to get awakened

My verse, my vernissage
sinking to the hand

as green against the snow
or a pretty paragraph

foreshortened in pink
going through the season

from apples to oranges
a task I will accomplish

with all the dirt I came from
What did I expect

to break into the sun?
So begins our legislation


You’ve Lost Your Card

Or it lost you before it hit the floor
Not everyone’s thinking about how to dress
for evolution, it’s not even our show
who barely speak as a species
Edges dissolve like a parade
with Florida looking like a gun
and Texas like a gun
And Oklahoma like a flag that pops out of a gun
on an episode of F Troop in my Oklahoma phase
before I knew what a military transport plane sounds like
touching down, its wheels bounce back with a little cry
or so they did before my brother was called up
That was another war
before we knew what we know
And before we forgot what we knew:
the appearance of another flag
the appearance of a continent with handles
as if it could be lifted by a rhetorical gesture
above the big round heat of the rest of our lives

Elizabeth Willis’s new collection of poems is forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press in 2011. Other works include Meteoric Flowers (2006), Turneresque (2003), The Human Abstract (1995), Second Law (1993), and the Belladonna chapbook All the Paintings of Giorgione (2006). She teaches at Wesleyan University.

This issue of First Proof is sponsored in part by the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation.

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Originally published in

BOMB 112, Summer 2010

Featuring interviews with Dan Asher, Elizabeth Streb and A.M Homes, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Sebastiaan Bremer and Shoshana Dentz, Alain Mabanckou and Binyavanga Wainaina, Jennifer Egan, Edward Droste, Cynthia Hopkins, and Joan Jonas. 

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