You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
and a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
of a windy night, it brushes the wall
and sweeps away the day till we sleep.
A child said it, and it seemed true:
"Things that are lost are all equal."
But it isn't true. If I lost you,
the air wouldn't move, nor the tree grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
The quiet wouldn't be yours. If I lost you,
I'd have to ask the grass to let me sleep.
Marvin Bell has been called "an insider who thinks like an outsider," and his writing has been called "ambitious without pretension." He was for many years the Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and served two terms as the state of Iowa's first Poet Laureate. He has collaborated with composers, musicians, dancers and other writers, and is the originator of a form known as the "Dead Man" poem. His 23 books of poetry and essays include three books released in 2011: Vertigo: The Living Dead Man Poems, from Copper Canyon Press; Whiteout, a collaboration with the photographer Nathan Lyons, from Lodima Press; and a children's picture book from Candlewick Press (illustrations by Chris Raschka) based on the poem, "A Primer about the Flag." A CD is forthcoming of a song cycle, "The Animals," commissioned by the composer, David Gompper, which premiered in 2009. Mr. Bell lives mainly in Iowa City, Iowa, and Port Townsend, Washington. One can see a brief interview with him about writing in the "On the Fly" series at: YouTube.