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The Idea of Beauty


by Joelle Biele


You were on the porch, I was on the steps,
and we were waiting for the boat to take
us back. We spent the day walking
by the hulls of rusted cars, grass that caught
the ocean wind, a play-house, it was
a real house, and twenty-four tabby chimneys,
oyster shells crushed to lime and hard
as cement. Later we talked, and I remember
wondering if time could take the island back
to what it was before Robert Stafford took
Elizabeth Bernardey as his slave, if the island
could just be a beautiful ruin, if we could see
egrets in the trees, vines draped over palmetto
under moss like slow rivers, if we could
look down the sandy lane, what was
Grande Avenue, the work of three-hundred
and fifty slaves, and find salt drifting
through leaves, oaks twisting through the dark,
as if in the patterns of this world we could
see the hand of God and wet air hanging
in the heat winding through new woods
that was cotton billowing out to sea
before the boat came and you helped me
on board and the boat pulled away, if we
could reconcile the beauty of this world
to what we know happened here.





Joelle Biele is the author of White Summer, winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry
First Book Award. New poems are appearing in Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, Notre
Dame Review,
and Poetry Northwest.