By Okla Elliott

My arrogance is perfect—
I want everything I say taken down
in italics. I want
footnotes longer than the original text.
Every woman and many men
will want to look into the green almond eye
of my perversion.
They will thank me
for the privilege of disinterested touch.

I claim to be made of starstuff
brought here across a million million miles.

I claim to be happy
in the inevitable loneliness.

The sanctified blade is perfect.

The colossal slowness of dying is perfect.

Everything is exactly as it should be
here where a goat’s shit glistens with the water
of an idyllic river
he drank at hours ago,
hydrating his living (and dying) cells.

I have become a mystic
a perfect destiny
after all these years
of studied incredulity.

The unsanctified flesh is perfect,
I tell you,
because it always-already knew
every kind of love
our holy pornographers pretend
they invented.

The slick tongue of metaphysics
flicks between stained teeth.

A tongue that could wet
dry lips or give a lecture
on Wittgenstein or lick the needy
flesh we hide (stupidly)
most of the enormous time we have.

The spindle pricks the thumb wants
the needle.

A vest of goldthread
should be buried
with the dead.

Everything will rhyme
in the afterlife
as it does in the beforedeath.
It’s as I’ve
said: perfection permeates
the sound fundament
and the cracked firmament.

It’s as I’ve said, tsk tsk,
it’s perfect
just as it is.

The feast prepares itself.


(“On Perfection” previously appeared in Zone 3 and in the poet’s latest chapbook, A Vulgar Geography, and is reprinted here today with permission from the poet.)

Okla Elliott is currently the Illinois Distinguished Fellow at the University of Illinois, where he studies comparative literature and cultural theory. He also holds an MFA from Ohio State University. For the academic year 2008-09, he was a visiting assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. His drama, non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Another Chicago Magazine, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Natural Bridge, New Letters, North Dakota Quarterly, A Public Space, and The Southeast Review, among others. He is the author of three poetry chapbooks–The Mutable Wheel, Lucid Bodies and Other Poems, and A Vulgar Geography–and he co-edited (with Kyle Minor) The Other Chekhov.

Editor’s Note: Okla Elliot is the Co-Creator and Webmaster of As It Ought To Be. But today’s post is not about nepotism. Today’s post is about excellent poetry and the fact that you ought to be reading it. Recently Okla sent me a copy of his latest chapbook, A Vulgar Geography, at my behest. The first night I read it cover to cover, something I am almost never able to do with books of poetry. There were moments I literally had to put the book down and exclaim out loud to myself with amazement at the brilliance of a line, a moment, an idea. The second night I re-read the book, cover to cover, this time aloud. My mouth took to the words like a finely crafted dessert. The way one consonant rolled into another, the words were tangible morsels on my tongue.

I say this not because Okla is my Editor here at As It Ought To Be. Not because he is my friend, nor because he is an inspiration, though he is these things. I say this because it is true: A Vulgar Geography is a near-perfect book of poetry. From its outward appearance (a simple clean design with a lone, intricate image that reflects the book’s title) to the types of poems chosen (ranging from left-aligned to prose to experimental) to–most importantly–the poems themselves, which are finely crafted masterpieces of thought, idea, story, and word. I highly recommend you don’t take my word for it, but rather, read A Vulgar Geography and find out for yourself.

Want to read more by and about Okla Elliot?
Buy Okla Elliott’s new book, A Vulgar Geography.

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Managing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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  1. Deborah says:

    “A tongue that could wet
    dry lips or give a lecture
    on Wittgenstein or lick the needy
    flesh we hide (stupidly)
    most of the enormous time we have.”

    The enormous time. Fucking brilliant.

  2. Maya Elashi says:

    I agree with Debra, … “the enormous time we have,” is fucking brilliant!

  3. lezliemayers says:

    Jesus, Okla. Do you sing and dance, too? Wonderful poem!

  4. Sivan Butler-Rotholz says:

    @ Deborah and Maya – I couldn’t agree more! The book is filled with brilliant moments like that. And it costs $7. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s soooo good!

    @ Lezlie – Right?!

  5. John Allen says:

    Excellent work–Everything will rhyme/in the afterlife/as it does in the beforedeath.” Makes me think of Franz Wright there.

    • Okla Elliott says:

      He has that book, Beforelife, right? Is that what you’re referencing? I haven’t read it, but when I saw the title, I thought: “Hey! Wait a minute, that sounds familiar…” And then it dawned on me why. Not quite the same, but I have made the same connection you do here. Is the book good? I plan to grab his new one, Kindertotenwald when it comes out.

  6. John Thomas Allen says:

    The Beforelife is an incredible, sparse collection of short shorts a few lengthy poems. Franz Wright revealed himself, even in his early early work, to be a wordsmith of the first order. The best collection in my opinion is “God’s Silence”, which is a realization of all the best in his work in my opinion. Kintertotenwald I own but have not had a chance to read quite yet. I really like his poetry.

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