Okla Elliott


Okla Elliott is currently an Illinois Distinguished Fellow at the University of Illinois, where he works in the fields of comparative literature and trauma studies. He also holds an MFA from Ohio State University. His nonfiction, poetry, short fiction, and translations have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Harvard Review, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, The Los Angeles Review, Prairie Schooner, A Public Space, and Subtropics, among others. He is the author of From the Crooked Timber (short fiction), The Cartographer’s Ink (poetry), and The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (a novel co-authored with Raul Clement). His book of translation, Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press.


We Translate the Blood

Shaded landscape, black sun. We agree
but don’t know what agreeing means.

The roots are cracking their way
into the dark cellar—roots, yes,
but without a tree.
……………………..Green wheat
in a field too wide to measure sways
like waves of lust along the surface
of the Earth.
…………Black sun, strong winds.
Our minds are consonant, are sweet
echoing depths. The cellar dirt mends
itself around the roots’ penetrations.
We confound each other,
translating cellar blood between our skin.


Thrown: Toward an Ontology of Infatuation

In infatuation
our bullets carry their targets,
obeying a cartoon physics,
piercing chests that will heave again.

And me,
mere belly,
want of worship, of nutrient, of—
mere belly,
all want and storage of renewed want.

Those photos of you,
who took them? I try not to imagine
a man more handsome, more charming
than I, me,
turning you into this ossified angel
pixelized and perfect.

Can you forgive
the thought-thither and the unholy-hither
of my infatuation?

But I am more than mere
organ of more, mere
consumption organ. I am liver and pancreas,
brain and skin.
I am sweaty hand and swelling heart.

Human mood prefigures Being, making things
other things…
The couch’s possibilities are made by thoughts of you;
my bed angles under different shadows in this mood.

Trust me, I doubt,
though doubt is just the necessary
that gives infatuation its essential buoyancy.



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