poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Born in Venice Beach, California, Elana Bell received a bachelor of arts from Sarah Lawrence College in 1999. She returned to Sarah Lawrence for graduate study and received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2008.

Her manuscript, Eyes, Stones, was selected by Fanny Howe as the winner of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award, and will be published by Louisiana State University Press in 2012.

She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, and the Drisha Institute.

Bell has conducted poetry workshops for educators, women in prison, teenagers across the country and abroad, as well as for the Arab Jewish Peace Organization.

She currently serves as the writer-in-residence for the Bronx Academy of Letters and resides in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, writer Jai Chakrabarti.

Naming the land

Elana Bell
Because we named the land in blood and ink
and everything held by the land
to our use     we named—
                                        dirty with the name—

because we bought this land
when ash became sky
and the smell of burning
                              drifted

because my grandmother dreamed it
instead of eating death
and now new trees 
grow over the graves

because the ruined promise
because two pounds of shrapnel drawn from Noams back
because Salim's house forced open like a jaw
a bag of pita scattered where the kitchen was

because we can survive in any soil
like rats
because until the end of the world
we will scratch out the name

Copyright © 2011 by Elana Bell. Used by permission of the author.

Copyright © 2011 by Elana Bell. Used by permission of the author.

Elana Bell

Elana Bell

The grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Elana Bell was selected by Fanny Howe to receive the 2011 Walt Whitman Award for her manuscript Eyes, Stones

by this poet

poem
                                We have put up many flags,
                                they have put up many flags.
                                To make us think that they are happy.
                                To make them think that we are happy.
poem

To hold the bird and not to crush her, that is the secret. Sand turned too quickly to cement and who cares if the builders lose their arms? The musk of smoldered rats on sticks that trailed their tails through tunnels underground. Trickster of light, I walk your cobbled alleys all night long and drink your salt.

poem

In the rebuilt café where the bride exploded with the glass, we order cappuccino to sip with our cigarettes. Across the invisible line, only Arabic coffee. In Gaza they make rockets from lead pipe and nails. We say animals. Is a body worth a body? What if it has wept in the rain? Whispered the ninety-nine names of