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Michelle Detorie: from «Bellum Letters»

a note on the poems:

BellumLetters is a play on the term belles-lettres, which means “beautiful” or “fine” writing. Bellum is the Latin word for war, thus “bellumletters” is meant to suggest “war writing.” The BellumLetters were written one poem per day throughout the month of April. The poems were written as daily acts of protest against the war in Iraq. I posted the poems, day by day, at my blog ( The poems were therefore composed for an online environment and contain hyperlinks to news stories, photographs, graphics, statistics, blogs, videos, government documents, and databases about the war. For the presentation of these poems on paper, I’ve underlined the words that are also links in the online versions. Since I could not possibly include the contents of the links in a hard copy, the addresses and a brief description of the various web sites are included in a notes section at the end of the text. In some cases, the links have expired; thus, the poems are also documents in which a sort of digital disintegration is an integral feature of their underpinning.

Sunday, April 01, 2007
BellumLetters #1


Today I drew marks
in the sand; they
reminded me of letters
or bones or teeth . Perhaps
you would call them vulgar .
The light pulls back
as an arm draws the arrow.
Bow, the bough breaking .
Rope and pulley singing
as wind throws birds
from the cliffs . It isn’t even
ours — this sand. We are
so stupid sometimes.

Friday, April 06, 2007
BellumLetters #6

_all the kings horses_

Body puzzle, where to begin
to put you back together again?
Sun-yolk spilt, my split heart
plump with thieving (even
that isn’t mine)
a pencil the missile moves
over the city; outline of streets
and houses traced and tensile .
Soldier, isotope, when you
report the green sunset
and how the halos bloomed
and the ash clouds bundled
one thousand shovels ,
the budding pacers
made from prosthetic
transplants , silk lantern
engines fit for larceny, become
sails knit together with
shrapnel , a place for roofs
to grow if it finally rains.

Thursday, April 26, 2007
BellumLetters # 26


It’s true: we’re all for making blame
disappear. But when it comes
to linking, those choke-chains
tear at skins and walls as if pinned
with eyelash glass and hollow
marrow tubes. The organs tune
their keys, devour clues. The scum
rules under the gun , under un-
believable yellows and blues, sour
as soap rubbed in fur. Aorta, a cannon
inferred, spare spears in the swallow
___________________(in tombs).

drew marks : CRS report “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11”
reminded me: CRS report “Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan: Effects and Countermeasures”
teeth : walter reed medical center graphic
you : “Army general tried to warn Bush on Tillman death: Report”
vulgar : “changes to the marines tattoo policy”
back: UNSCOM and Iraqi Chemical Weapons
arm draws : Tsunami strands thousands
bough breaking : image of American flag draped coffins
rope :
singing : image of American flag draped coffins
the cliffs :Iraq links cancers to uranium weapons / U.S. likely to use arms again in war
sand : military looking into civilian deaths in Iraq

you back together : “Violence Empties Schools in Iraq”
a pencil : “Worth Contemplating”
houses traced and tensile : “Citizens Hearing on the Legality of US Actions in Iraq”
how the halos : “Horror of USA’s Depleted Uranium Threatens the World”
thousand shovels : “Pity the Sick of Iraq”
prosthetic transplants : “Former Wal-Mart Worker Blows Whistle on Company Surveillance Operation”
together with shrapnel : Multi-National Force Iraq video blog
finally rains : image of anti-war protest—32/anti-iraq-war-protest-4.jpg

disappear: “US officials exclude car bombs in touting drop in Iraq violence”
choke-chains : “Iraq refuse to provide civilian casualty figures to the U.N.”
under the gun : “Iraqi Civilians Believed Dead in US-strike Military”
sour : # of dead

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Michelle Detorie

Michelle Detorie

Michelle Detorie lives in Goleta, California where she edits Womb Poetry and Hex Presse. Her poems have appeared in How2, Foursquare, Typo, and elsewhere. She has published two chapbooks in addition to Bellum Letters. Daphnomancy was published by Peter Ganick’s Small Chapbook Project and A Coincidence of Wants was published by Dos Press. In 2007 she was a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Fellow.

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