Dan Bellm: “Practice”

Dan Bellm is the author of the poetry collections One Hand on the Wheel (Roundhouse Press, 1999), Buried Treasure (Cleveland State University Press, 1999), and Practice: A book of midrash (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2008). His work has appeared in several anthologies, including Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry (Talisman House Publications, 2000) and The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004 (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). He has kindly given me permission to reprint the title poem from his new book below. I discovered Bellm through Image Update, the e-newsletter of the literary journal Image, which has an excellent review of Practice here.


Every seventh year you shall practice remission of debts.
Deuteronomy 15:1
How simple it ought to be, to practice compassion
on someone gone, even love him, long as he’s not
right there in front of me, for I turned to address him,
as I do, and saw that no one’s lived in that spot
for quite some time. O turner-away of prayer—
not much of a God, but he was never meant to be.
For the seventh time I light him a candle; an entire
evening and morning it burns; not a light to see
by, more a reminder of light, a remainder, in a glass
with a prayer on the label and a bar code from the store.
How can he go on? He can’t. Then let him pass
away; he gave what light he could. What more
will I claim, what debt of grace he doesn’t owe?
If I forgive him, he is free to go.

Re’eh, Deuteronomy 11:16–16:17

Read more of Dan Bellm’s poetry online at PoetryMagazine.com.

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