Lisa Bellamy

Use Your Words

These days, we only get drunk on 

whimsy, so yesterday we drove to 

Peter's hometown—we tramped 

through St. Matthew's Glebe, as he 

tramped as a boy, although we did 

not set the woods on fire, as he also 

did as a boy, nor did we run through 

St. Matthew’s Parish House, 

scrawling graffiti, Jesus Hates You 

All on Sunday School chalkboards, 

as I did as a girl in my own 

hometown, yelling, trespassing 

through the Lutheran church with 

Phyllis, my best friend—


use your words, use your words now, 

I said to Theo this weekend after he 

yelled—or rather, really screamed—

his body a trumpet, reaching for high 

notes, and he flung himself on the 

floor, worked up to wailing, the 

drama, when Emily did not let him 

turn the page as I read the most 

thrilling part in Creepy Carrots.


This is what we say now to children: 

use your words. I guess it is good. 

Theo is not even three. Who has 

words at that age, or any age, for my 

life is over, the bleak, black 

awfulness of a life I feel right now, t

his is my favorite book, my sister is 

a crushing monster, her weight is on 

me, I can’t breathe the only way I c

an escape her tyranny is to go to the 

moon or Mars, and that is why 

increasingly I pretend I am an 

astronaut but I also love, love and 

love her, and she protects me, and I 

draw almost all my green crayon 

pictures for her, my favorite color—

she has always been here, and when 

someone asks, who is your best 

friend, I always say Emily—


As for me, the “grown-up” in this 

scene, I was a numb rocket. My 

mother and father had zero interest in 

my words. I was tongue-tied, until I 

discovered alcohol, deceptive fuel. 

It’s the drink talking, people say. 

Exactly, it’s not you, plus the next 

morning, you rarely remember what 

you said. Peter had words, straight 

from The Book of Common Prayer

contrition, so clever, when he had the 

idea to knock on his father’s study 

and say, I am sorry I set the woods 

on fire, I have turned from my 

wickedness, and thus he evaded 

punishment—


Peter and I both came later in life to 

spoken words; even now, we are 

mimes: we grimace, we clown, we 

gesture, we laugh, the long silences. 

We are late bloomers—my beloved, 

the effervescent Emily, has all the 

words: she is a popcorn popper 

someone forgot to cover. Her words 

shoot out everywhere, she feels this, 

she feels that, I am so often in awe, 

also envy—Theo I say Theo I get 

down and look him in the eye let’s 

breathe, and he’s sobbing and he’s 

hiccupping. Yes, yes, that lower lip, 

the quivering, you can talk Theo you 

can talk I’m listening


Delight

What is Your Delight?

New York Thruway Billboard


A jarring, even outrageous, question,

given our current apocalypses yet,

despite everything, spring still 

delights—blossoming bluets, colts 

foot, trout lilies, and so forth, even 

though the process, i.e., the budding, 

the greening, seems increasingly 

tenuous. Also, the rooster down the 

road. If there is a god, I vote for a 

pushy god, a Bantam Leghorn god—

Sleepers awake, rise up, before it is 

too late. Emily’s process delights—

she relies on magic. Make a wish

she said, inviting me into E. 

Suzanne’s Exclusive Clubhouse, i.e. 

her bedroom, and shut the door. 

When I said, I want everyone to love 

each other, she replied, That’s not a 

wish. She has her criteria. I said, 

Fine, I want a brown dog, and she 

asked, What is his name? I had to 

think fast: Jack. She wrinkled her 

nose—these days, only names like 

Rainbow Sparkly Glittery Lady Pony 

delight her, but she generously 

granted the boon. Indeed, dogs are 

my delight, especially dachshunds, 

noisy, flop-eared emblems of 

assertive mind. Tonight, red borscht 

is my delight: beets, the hearty 

bulwark; also, outspoken vinegar, 

sour cream; also, hard maple 

candies, baked as tiny leaves—white 

flaking or shaving, sugar? Burst, 

burst in the mouth, from Black 

Rooster Farm in Keene. Despite our 

inanities, the human voice delights: 

its fabrications, its frail songs—first 

poetry, ecstatic utterance, the 

flowing, etc., then stories: fables, but 

calorie-rich, like loaded baked 

potatoes, stuffed with sour cream, 

chives, basil; not celery—I just 

realized I can chop beets for fables, 

forget the celery, did I mention 

Milwaukee, delightful pickled beets, 

sweet and sour? I loved to pucker, 

and spoon it in, yum, baby, yum—

what brings me delight? Of course, 

Theo’s dreamy face, a cool 

customer, until his mother brings hot 

pancakes to the table, and he stands 

in his chair, and head-to-toe

he shrieks, Syrup! Maple syrup!

How long will we be here—

Lisa Bellamy teaches at The Writers Studio, where she also studies with Philip Schultz, the director. She is author of The Northway, a poetry collection (Terrapin Books: 2018) and Nectar, a chapbook (Encircle chapbook prize, 2011), and has received a Pushcart Prize, a Pushcart Special Mention, and a Fugue Poetry Prize. She lives in Brooklyn and the Adirondacks.