3 poems — Okla Elliott

Imaginings in the Garden

i. The Preparation

Plow and I turn
up the bone-dust and skin-rot
of my own dead kin.

Like breathing
the theft of air in my lungs and

On the tilling blades
the muck and blood of earth-
worms; kicking it with my boot

metal tool on metal to clean
away the dirt.

ii. The Planting

These seeds so like homunculi (smaller
drier of course), not
even similar when seen by eyes.

They don’t seem to mind manure burial dress.

Deeper I drive my forefinger,
middle-finger, ring
to make a wider hole for seedling and

Light pat of foot; sprinkle
of water; quiet

iii. The Picking

Down in my garden I twist
a ripe and red-skinned tomato
free from its green scaffolding.
Smooth sun-warmed skin; firm and full.

I play a child’s game of placing a tomato
in front of my eye to block
all but a trim of sun.

Yellow-glowing, bright-red prize.


The Entire City

From this distance no more
than a pock-marked plateau,
the city lays itself horizontal
and lost to us.

At the proper height rich fields
seem desert-like, geometrically unwelcoming.
On the outskirts, through a subterranean view,
the strange foliage becomes the needling
teeth of dark green reptiles.

I want the warm pavement
at my feet again,
the feather’s touch of an October city,
the passersby who care that I’m there
only so they don’t have to walk the street alone.

-After the Max Ernst painting of the same title.


The Dead

will not accept us
                       into their cold and soon
forgotten ranks.
                       The off-white escape
of our death (breathless, moveless)
                       from matter and form will be noticed
only in isolated reveries.

They themselves were never accepted
                       and no longer care for national borders:
                                              here dead, there living country.

Let us then remember them
—their quirks and vanished traits—
                       say a shadow’s name that it may know
                       where thicker to lay its thin body down.

Remember them that they might recognize
                       our thoughts as we fly sightless by
                                              on our way not to join them.


Okla Elliott is an assistant professor at Misericordia University. He holds a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Illinois and an MFA in creative writing from Ohio State University. His work has appeared in Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, New York Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, A Public Space, Subtropics, and elsewhere. His books include From the Crooked Timber (short fiction), The Cartographer’s Ink (poetry), The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (a coauthored novel), and Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker (translation).