By Okla Elliott:
THE IDIOT’S FAITH
Three lanterns floated in the dream she told him, but he didn’t want to hear about lanterns. He wanted factories unbuilt, windows smashed open. He wanted libertine wailings. She denied being a builder of factories, but he knew her reputation. A wind blew in from Montreal, or she said it was from Montreal, said she could smell the bars of Rue St Laurent. He was skeptical but didn’t want to argue. What good are arguments on a Saturday night? What good are arguments at all? She told him again about her love of the French language, and he thought maybe they were getting somewhere. The modern sunset outside her window was spilled wine tinged with pollution. They went down the mountain to town, found the trouble she had decided they wanted. She called a homeless man a fallen Chinese god, and they mourned his sad descent, forgetting (almost) their own. That is the power of generosity, one use of our idiot faith in human love.
THE LIGHT HERE
It sets a mood
of clownish tragedy,
of ecstatic failure waiting to happen.
It is not a static blue light
nor the throb of a strobe.
It is not a light to read by
nor to be naked in,
unless you are desperate
or barbarously horny.
I would use it to look for you
in a cave or catacomb
or an ossuary crowded by the famous dead–
that is, if you were in such a place,
I would use this light to find you.
It is a light that yellows the periphery.
It is not a light that brightens the center.
It is mixed from an overcast morning
and the electric urban dusk.
It is a light I could live in
if I came to terms with certain failings
in my character
and the character of others.
I know you have light where you are,
better light even,
but I wanted you to know
about the light here.
Okla Elliott is currently the Illinois Distinguished Fellow at the University of Illinois, where he studies comparative literature and cultural theory. He also holds an MFA from Ohio State University. For the academic year 2008-09, he was a visiting assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. His drama, non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Another Chicago Magazine, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Natural Bridge, New Letters, North Dakota Quarterly, A Public Space, and The Southeast Review, among others. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks–The Mutable Wheel and Lucid Bodies and Other Poems–and he co-edited (with Kyle Minor) The Other Chekhov.
Editor’s Note: Today I am honored to present to you the work of As It Ought To Be‘s managing editor. His work speaks for itself, as does the significant body of publications in which his work has appeared. Okla is an impressive scholar, a fearless leader, and a wonderful person to know in the writing world. He believes strongly in the idea of building and sustaining a community of writers, and I am honored to be a member of that community. Regarding today’s pieces I will say that Mr. Elliott effortlessly combines vignettes of straightforward narrative with crisp images and moments of simple yet brilliant language such as “What good are arguments on a Saturday night? What good are arguments at all,” “if you were in such a place, I would use this light to find you,” and this kicker of an ending, “It is a light I could live in / if I came to terms with certain failings / in my character / and the character of others. / I know you have light where you are, / better light even, / but I wanted you to know / about the light here.” Simple. Elegant. Stunning.