Three Poems
by Elizabeth Ellen

Untitled love poem/bumfuck Michigan

It’s impossible to write a love poem
Without sounding like a dick
Without sounding like you’ve had a lobotomy
Without sounding like cliché words written on mediocre art at a small midwestern art festival
Somewhere in bumfuck Michigan

The unspecificity of your own stupid romance
The general uninterestingness of happiness

It’s so much easier to write about abandonment
Disillusionment, self-harm, separateness

The specificity of getting fucked three times in one night
By a stranger from Bumble who wants you to be his girl
Who thinks it sounds glamorous or exotic to date a writer
Who can’t possibly know the loneliness of said endeavor
Until the fourth time he asks if he can come over, the fourth time you tell him no

Has anyone ever written a truly great poem about love?
If so, I haven’t read it
Better to wait til after the disappointment seeps in, honey:
My (unsolicited) advice to you.

Disappointment in yourself, I mean
For all the times you insecurely hid your phone (from yourself)
All the times you drove right past him on your way to a reading
All the times and ways you failed to be the right woman (for him/for yourself)

Failure is so much more interesting, honey

The irony of coming so many times in one night for this stranger
When you couldn’t come for him
When you wouldn’t allow yourself that vulnerability
When standing next to him because you loved him too much
Because you admired him
Because you’re a fucking coward and scared and afraid

Is this a love poem, honey?
I wrote it in ten minutes
Without anyone editing it for me

This is my greatest failure (as a woman): my independence
My self-alienation, my inability or unwillingness to
Let go my own hand/throat/heart
In order to hold someone else’s.

My unwillingness to come for a man I love (dependence!)
And instead to come for a man I never will (freedom!)

My unwantingness
My wanting and unwanting and wanting again

My stupidity
And my

My liberation
And my defeat.

I can only kill things in with my poems. (I told you love poems are stupid)

You’re welcome. (this poem is my gift to you)



for Colson

I felt dead inside all the time
Unless I was looking at Machine Gun Kelly online
And then I felt alive

(Alive in the way that makes you want to get a bunch of tattoos, I mean)

I did everything in life backwards
I figured getting tattoos was just one more example of this

(getting tattoos underground during quarantine, I mean)

I felt dead inside
Reading other ppl’s poems
Abt leaves and the sky and rain and mammals who roam the earth
Idgaf abt nature
Like that
Idgaf abt nature in general
I couldn’t imagine writing a poem
Abt nature

I only felt alive watching MGK videos
While drunk in my basement
Sitting on my basement floor

I only felt alive reading poems that didn’t fuck w

I went for a walk
I was listening to the new song by
Megan thee Stallion and Beyonce
I saw someone (a feminist) had tweeted something about Beyonce’s rapping skills
I heard on the radio Jay Z and The-Dream had helped Beyonce write her rap lyrics
I wanted to believe Beyonce could write her own lyrics
I misheard one of the lyrics as “now watch me sweep up these earrings”
I liked the line so much I was going to use it as an epigraph
Until I got home and googled it and it wasn’t anything abt
Sweeping up earrings at all

I only feel alive reading/listening to
Ppl from Ohio
I googled MGK and saw he did an annual concert
In the small town in Ohio where I’d grown up surrounded by
Amish ppl and regular ppl who had icicles in their bedrooms in winter

I only felt alive while thinking abt
Driving around the rural Ohio shitholes where I’d grown up
All the hills and streams and cows and manure …
Shit, man, I just wrote a poem abt nature

Fuck, I don’t know how to not feel dead inside
I guess this is why/when ppl start getting tatted up
I guess this is why/when ppl start listening to/fucking w MGK

I guess this is my life now

Drinking in my basement
And thinking of what new tattoo I’ll get next
While fucking w MGK


A few days after our first date you sent me a text
You were the first guy I’d dated in eighteen years

who wasn’t a writer

The text said, “I just read one of your poems on the internet
And I liked it!!!”

You sent me another text after that one that said, “I don’t know why you didn’t want me to read your writing on the internet!!”

(Later, you confessed to being very conscious of using proper punctuation, of spelling all words out, in texts to me, on account of my being a writer)

Earlier I’d sent you a picture of my picture on the back of one of my books
And you’d said, “I’m going to need a lot more pictures like that!!”

I liked you because you weren’t a writer
Or I liked a lot of things about you and one was that you weren’t a writer

(another was you gave good head)

I didn’t like to think too much about writing anymore
I didn’t like feeling like a member of a cult anymore

(I didn’t use proper punctuation or spell words all the way out in my texts to you
or anyone else anymore)

I said I’d write a poem for you
So you could google me and read about yourself

I said I’d wear the fishnets like in the author photo
The next time you came over
I told you I had a leather jacket,
Leather motorcycle boots,
The wholeshebang.

(I didn’t really say shebang.)

You said, “Hot, you’ll look like Kelly Bundy.”

I liked how easy it was to please you;
How easily you fucked me –
How easy it was to come.

I didn’t have to wait and wait and wait.
Weeks or months or years.

I said the poem I’m writing about you is going to be called
Kelly Bundy.

Some people didn’t like to be written about
But you didn’t seem to mind

You seemed to think it was cool or glamorous

— or some shit

Dating a writer

Mostly we watched videos on YouTube of exotic animals –
the insane tatted men who bought and sold them –
Between fucking

Sometimes we stood on my balcony watching the deer
you’d be behind me
you’d wrap your arm around me
Cover my mouth with your hand
“Shhhhhh,” you’d tell me

and I’d laugh and ask, “Did you just shhhhhush me?”
and you’d nod and say, “Shhuuuush.”
And cover my mouth back up again with your hand

I really liked this about you most
How you weren’t afraid to shush me
How you covered my mouth with your hand.

I liked this and I liked how you fucked me;
Even though I kept forgetting to wear the damn fishnets.
Even though I didn’t look anything like Kelly Bundy.
Even though, even though.

Elizabeth Ellen is the author of a new story collection, Her Lesser Work, and a new play, Exit, Carefully (both SF/LD books), among other titles. She has a short story in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine.

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