Instructions for the Hostage

You must accept the door is never shut.
You're always free to leave at any time,
though the hostage will remain, no matter what.

The damage could be managed, so you thought.
Essential to the theory of your crime:
you must accept the door is never shut.

Soon, you'll need to choose which parts to cut
for proof of life, then settle on your spine—
though the hostage will remain, no matter what.

Buried with a straw, it's the weak who start
considering their price. You're no great sum.
You must accept the door was never shut

and make a half-life there, aware, apart,
afraid your captor's lost you, so far down,
though the hostage you'll remain, no matter what.

Blink once for yes, and twice for yes—the heart
makes a signal for the willing, its purity sublime.
You must accept the door is never shut,
though the hostage will remain, no matter what.

In Airports

It was the season for
weeping   in airports  for walking

and bleeding   in airports—  

the white corridors         their rocking
chairs         the ghosts   and trains   and strangers
all overcast   the windows

and buzzing         of people   and
earbuds         always the weather    in airports

a stranger season    she never knew—

It was the season    for these and    (what?)
the lady said   standing behind
the long white counter

and hives     and sores

what left their     weeping   nettled prints
below her clothes

red   like the ghost    of  maple
leaves  raked wet    from the sidewalk—

It was the season      of storm delays

and lightning clocks
of . . . shame      and ghosts   on trains   hanging

from   the vinyl straps   clinging to   the stainless
poles   or buzzing in    the long white rows   of rocking
chairs   in airports—

a stranger season   she never knew

what was gone   and where    and buzzing
how it walked   and wailing    like

a ghost   . . .   a shame   was something   the lady said
standing behind    the long white counter

. . . a shame   she said   and looked concerned—

She heard her   (what?)   a stranger said
and never knew—

it was    always the weather    in airports
the season   the weeping         a wet buzzing
sore      she walked    on board   . . .    a shame

a lady   gone—      a stranger    flew

Erin Belieu is the author of five collections of poetry, all from Copper Canyon Press, as well as the soon forthcoming anthology Personal Best: Makers On Their Poems That Matter Most (co edited with Carl Phillips). Belieu's poems have appeared in places such as the New Yorker, Poetry, the New York Times, Best American Poetry, and the Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day. She teaches in the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.

These poems are from Come-Hither Honeycomb, Copper Canyon Press.