Issue 8 — 

Mel Belin

Mel Belin

Featured on

Barco Negro
—from a Portuguese song

She lay beside him on the sand,
worried about when he'd awaken
and see her in the first
stirrings of day: would he find her
plain, or worse?

Later, he'd left in a dark boat with a cross . . .
But oh, how she'd been wrong,
had half-laughed, cried that way he looked
at her, flush in morning's sun.

Let the old hags gossip: it's what people do
who have nothing
left. When they say he won't return,
she thinks, they're crazy.
And though the years that pass leave her

stooped, frail . . . she's ready, lies
back one night, eyes closed,
for that space, precious,
when God-willing, after an in-breath,

the barco negro slips up to the pier
for her, pauses . . .
and, before any out-, moves off,
sails billowing: a spectral glide
to the horizon—like a dip into sleep, gone!

Copyright © 2006 by Mel Belin.
Barco Negro was previously published by The Legal Studies Forum 2005 (West Virginia University).


He, she,
narcissus blooms and Bach in the room.
Moonlight through screen and blinds.

They coil and twine. Shadows
slash a fine net grid across limbs, an arching
back. Though his parents look

away, silent, he hears a wail
that cuts like a dagger, draws spouts
of blood, each others' over

the gentile. Her father murmurs,
O my daughter! between
the mumbled words of his prayer, miserere

and nobis. A nightmare
become tribal memory: archetypal
pogrom, crusade—looting,

burning, piercing by the sword
in places interchangeable
as their names, Speyer, Worms, Cologne . . .

She whispers, Now! urgently, legs upraised.
Their analysts hover with pen and pad
getting it all down.

Copyright © 2006 by Mel Belin.


You place your hand in mine
at this sound and light show in Uxmal,
and I wish I could carry you off . . .

as, we are told, the great dark Lord of Chichen‑Itza
did Princess Sac‑Nicté here on her wedding day
in the month of Moan. After war

and centuries, the Nunnery quadrangle is deserted now,
its reds, yellows, and blues gleaming
mysteriously on a limestone facade, Puuc‑style,

a mosaic of intertwined serpents with masks of Chac.
Suddenly, the Magician's Palace bursts
into light‑‑can't believe we climbed it today,

hanging to that chain from such a terrifying height.
And I forgive you‑‑excuse my presuming‑‑
everything, even your departure all‑too‑soon

for New York for a year or more.
If a dwarf could have built this palace
in a night, as the legend says, to win a wager

with the King and save his own life,
in the hours left all that you or I could have wanted
remains . . . Perhaps, a context had made

the yeses seem nos. You'd grit your teeth if I called
you, like Sac‑Nicté, a white flower, or dove
to make my woodland sigh. I wish I could carry you off . . .

Copyright © 2006 by Mel Belin.
Mayaland was previously published in Blue Unicorn in 2006.


Mel Belin's first book of poetry, Flesh That Was Chrysalis, was published by The Word Works, Inc., in September 1999. He was a winner of Potomac Review's third annual poetry competition, and a runner-up in an Antietam Review competition. He has read from his work on the Theme & Variations Program distributed by National Public Radio. A graduate of Dartmouth College, and George Washington University Law School, he is a retired lawyer, who currently resides in Arlington, Virginia.

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