Responding to What We Read, guest post by Peter Damian Bellis

This is Peter and his wife, somewhere in North Carolina

Peter Damian Bellis has become a great friend to Billtown Blue Lit.  This is the first of his series of posts that will go live Tuesdays.  These describe his process as a writer and as a reader or consumer of literature and literary experiences. 

For the last several months I have been on the road taking The Conjure Man to Blues Festivals and bookstores and interacting with readers and potential readers because that’s what every writer needs, the affirmation of readers. But I want more than that. I want my readers to interact with me in a creative, intellectual manner. I am greedy in that way. But then I realized that if I wanted readers to respond to me with that kind of energy, I needed to do the same to the writers I read, and so that’s what I will focus on for the next several months. The writers I read have always inspired me, and this is just one way to demonstrate the depth of that inspiration.

I would like to offer up two sonnets. The first, Ode to Pasternack’s Sky, was written to honor the Soviet poet Boris Pasternack. The second, God’s Anvil, was written to honor the novelist Paul Bowles, for we both shared the same agent for a time.

Ode to Pasternack’s Sky

I have been far too long surrounded by
the vacuum of the world’s indifference,
except in moments when I can peel back
the layers of the sky and see behind,
but not the sky of unhealed lacerations
which swell like boils on my brain, or maybe,
yes, it is the same, the rusty purple
streaks give way to eyeless night, my memories
seed-scattered on the ground below like fresh
cut hay, the heavy, heaving wagons rolling
slowly towards the black black woods, the black black
sky, the smell of dead and dying grass a
too hot smell and wet and punctured by the
weaving blur of years. Yes, it is the same.

God’s Anvil

Today I am spread thin across God’s anvil,
my soul withering in the bellows of his breath,
my body melting, merging, the dust of
my purpose mixing with the desert of
my hope until I am one of the many
obsidian-like shards half-buried, hiltless,
in the blood-dry carcass of this once fertile,
crescent earth, mirror to the shimmering,
sweltering winds of my beliefs, yet also the dark-
heaving ripple of the camels as they settle
into the sand, indifferent, unimpatient,
unwashed, impervious; and the stench of their
dung-heavy breath washes clean this mirror,
leaving now a cloudless, distant, sheltering sky.


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