poems by

Angele Ellis

Poetry chapbook, 40 pages, cover price $10

($8 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-277-4

Release date: 2011




AEllis_PxAngele Ellis’s poetry has appeared on a theatre marquee (after winning Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ G-20 Haiku Contest in 2009), and in journals, periodicals, and anthologies. The author of a previous book of poems, Arab on Radar (Six Gallery Press), she was a 2008 recipient of an Individual Creative Artist Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and a prizewinner in the 2007 RAWI Competition for Creative Prose. Her longtime peace and community activism has included civil disobedience, and led to co-authorship of the diversity workbook Dealing With Differences (Corwin Press). Born in Syracuse, NY to a first-generation Lebanese American father and Italian American mother, she makes her home in the Friendship neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

In Spared, Angele Ellis tells us: We must name, describe, explain each other as we live. In these thoughtful, desire-driven narratives, Ellis does just that–honoring those who came before her. Whether it’s paying homage to a loved Italian grandmother, mourning the victims of the Haitian earthquake, or celebrating the body and its inevitable limitations, Ellis names the longing in all of it–simultaneously raging and calling upon mortality in these robust, spirited poems.

–Jan Beatty

Angele Ellis’s poems entertain powerful dreams and visions with eyes and heart wide open. The lovely and the unsettling alike are given the same full unflinching scrutiny in what is an exercise in balance. When the poet is spared, it is only so that she can see what is painful to see: loss, violence, injustice. “Watching as shadows changed our faces” seems as necessary as facing the “unnerving blue” of the terror-threatened sky. This is a world of mirrors whose surfaces need to be pared off to allow for the rain, a world where the “illusion of walking forever” is a matter of faith and perspective. In such a world, each poem is a center, a lyric-image beating its heart against the bone of its own fragility.

–Ellen McGrath Smith

Angele Ellis moulds memory into tenderness and loss, but a loss that spares from effacement and embraces all identities and possibilities; she is as much Italian American, Central American, as she is Arab American, where “every window on the world/ is slowly melting, in plain sight.”


in memory of my grandmother, “Josie” Ventiquattro

this is what your father told you
to ask for at the company store
mauches, the cracked English word
(one of the few he ever knew)
paired with the gesture of striking
live match to dead cigarette
mauches, mauches, mauches
you repeated to yourself, skirting
the tobacco-colored street
the leafless trees stinking of sulfur
the smokestack at your back
a cigar with a poisoned plume

mauches, you asked the man
in the apron dark with stains
he refused to understand you, refused
the buffalo nickel burning your palm
filthy wops need to learn to talk
and you knew one more word, slapping
your hot face all the way home, each
slap a lit match against your skin
like the cross they set ablaze one night
on the hill above your tenement, terrifying
as a man bursting into flame from rage

I never learned la bella lingua except
to write you one letter in schoolgirl Italian
from college, a letter you loved so much
it fell into sharp creases like the paper
used to roll a poor man’s cigarette–
I learned to burn at protest marches, heart
incandescent as a Buddhist monk alight–
I learned to make our stepmother tongue,
barbed like the wire at our borders,
say the things you never could never forget

Strike Sparks

Two weeks ago I felt an egg, small as a pearl of roe,
roll down the old scarred string, pain striking like a lit
cigarette along my left side. They are tough, this cluster
of possibilities I was born with, like the lovely bunch
of coconuts ripening in the fronds this morning, as I hid
in my Costa Rican lookout. Not raw umber, burnt sienna–
crayon colors spilling to the sky blue sea beyond.

Below a steam of coffee, whiff of iron between my legs,
ache of unused blood beading, redder than the inside
of your mouth. Aching everywhere in my bruised body
desire has sparked–breasts, tongue, womb–beating
there like a second heart. Recalling your scorched
voice in my ear before I went…thrusting harder
and harder inside you, until we can’t stand it anymore…

Do you wonder why I tease you against wet lips,
wanting you unsheathed, stripping lust to this primary
gate? My love, my unexpected mate, our poems are
generations our hot matched bodies never will make.
Awake now, we trade stories like Scheherazades,
a thousand and one nights of calligraphic twinings,
flares of maroon narrative along forest green veins.

Haitian Wedding
after the Haitian earthquake, January 2010

This painting’s daubs of sunlight
(the art dealer said)
were made at night
under fluorescent tubes.

Now Port-au-Prince is in darkness
slashed by searchlight
crumpled walls
chalk-white bones.

Against my wall
a pink patchwork cathedral
and palm trees
flaunting sea anemone fronds.

Twelve crosses in an acrylic sky.

The pale bride towers
over her dark groom.
Somber priests
stare like icons from perfect arches.

The couple’s golden getaway car
floats above running saltwater
a miracle

like Christ striding toward his astonished fishermen.

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