Featured Poet: Paula Billups

You know how some weeks the news cycle is just so wretched you stop listening for a while? Me too. Here’s to a better next week.

 

***

 

Page From a Modern Foxhole

 

Not that it keeps me lying awake, but are we laughing yet?
And what if there’s just that
unexpected way of laughing we used to have, before
so much went wrong and life roared up lashing its tail
ready to eat our happiness, our joy?
No, it’s all right – the world was always in the midst of
screaming off the rails, that’s not new,
But now we occupy a higher tower, we have to choose.
We have to tend to our own wounded day by day
And one of the things to do is to touch and smile
Just let someone see our eyes.
Isn’t it something when someone says “It’s okay”
And it isn’t and you know it’s just because they wish it?
Don’t you love them for that frail reed they offer you to hold?
Then wish it
Drop your coin into the mouth of the mask of the cipher,
the only armor ever devised for the child-sage —
behind it are these eyes without spite or pain
Peering through the mask prepared to speak this —
It’s okay
or nothing at all just as you like.

 

***

 

Paula Billups is an artist living and working between Boston and Berlin. She has most recently exhibited Berlin and Quedlinburg in Germany and at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, where she collaborated with the poet Agnes Marton.

Ms. Billups has won top creative writing awards from the University of Texas and Texas Tech University. She holds an MFA in Creative Practice from the Transart Institute in Berlin, a BFA in Painting from the Lyme Academy in Connecticut, and a BA in English from UT Austin.

To learn more, visit her website at www.paulabillups.com (art) and tumblr at paulabillups.tumblr.com (poetry).

Featured Poet: Paula Billups

Tonight’s poem comes to us from Paula Billups, an artist who (other than my children) is responsible for most of the paintings hanging in my house.  She’s a very dear friend of mine, too, and when we were in our 20s, she wrote a novel and let me read it, and it was the first novel I’d ever read that wasn’t published yet.  (It was also quite enjoyable to read, if I remember correctly!)  Paula can do most, if not all, artistic things well and even writes poetry sometimes.  Here’s a link to her Tumblr.

Here’s her official bio:

Paula Billups is an artist living and working between Boston and Berlin. Her focus is painting the portrait and the still life and interior and developing paintings in conceptual series, as well as collaborating on contemporary projects with her peers. Most recently Ms. Billups has exhibited in Berlin, worked with the Tunisian Collaborative Painters in the United States, and collaborated with fire performers in the Boston area.

***

Die Schöne Lebende

 

That was your skeleton
your blood and veins
your muscle and guts
Beside me, pushing through your skin
Your hands like bony machines
blind grasping
We
two
pressing to find
Eyes wide staring under lids
and lashes sweep
You lightly drunk and wasted with sleep

That was my skeleton
Shining wet with life
Pushing back too
Pushing into you
The wet red presence
The mistake of our being
The urgency of breath below leagues
our lungs confounded
Voiceless in the relays
Your hands talked instead
Muscle bone machines grasped
And pressed
Grappled me as my breath failed
As you broke and drifted
Soundlessly alone
The gap of hope entails
Demands its due
I sink fast down
Lastly look up to the sapphire light
and ascending You

 

— October 2013