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About this poet

Born in Venice Beach, California, Elana Bell received a bachelor of arts from Sarah Lawrence College in 1999. She returned to Sarah Lawrence for graduate study and received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2008.

Her manuscript, Eyes, Stones, was selected by Fanny Howe as the winner of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award, and will be published by Louisiana State University Press in 2012.

She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, and the Drisha Institute.

Bell has conducted poetry workshops for educators, women in prison, teenagers across the country and abroad, as well as for the Arab Jewish Peace Organization.

She currently serves as the writer-in-residence for the Bronx Academy of Letters and resides in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, writer Jai Chakrabarti.

Flags

Elana Bell
                                We have put up many flags,
                                they have put up many flags.
                                To make us think that they are happy.
                                To make them think that we are happy.
                                                                     —Yehuda Amichai

Everywhere, in the fertile soil of this land, 
we've planted flags. Flags sprout like the hair
from an old man's nostrils. Blue and white 
or red, black, green and white, they shroud 
windows, standing in for a family 
you can't see: a flag instead of the mother 
who hums and spices the lentils, a flag 
for father, who runs the blade against his cheek
each morning with the rooster's kukuku. 
Later, in the dark, he holds his wife 
while the children sleep wrapped in flags. 
Flags grow in the garden, flags from the beaks
of muted birds. Shredded flags drape phone wires, 
flags hang from the pines like dead hands—

Copyright © 2011 by Elana Bell. Used by permission of the author.

Copyright © 2011 by Elana Bell. Used by permission of the author.

Elana Bell

Elana Bell

The grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Elana Bell was selected by Fanny Howe to receive the 2011 Walt Whitman Award for her manuscript Eyes, Stones

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In the rebuilt café where the bride exploded with the glass, we order cappuccino to sip with our cigarettes. Across the invisible line, only Arabic coffee. In Gaza they make rockets from lead pipe and nails. We say animals. Is a body worth a body? What if it has wept in the rain? Whispered the ninety-nine names of

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Because we named the land in blood and ink
and everything held by the land
to our use     we named—
                                        dirty with the name—

because we bought this land
when ash became sky
and the smell of burning
                              drifted

because my grandmother dreamed it