Josh Bell – Sleeping with Julia Roberts

One day a few years back I walked into my local indy bookstore, and Josh Bell’s first book No Planets Strike was on the employee suggestion shelf with a very pursuasive shelf-talker saying this book was an absolute must-read. So I went with it, and bought it, and they were quite correct. The book is full of funny, scary, dizzying, moving poems that jump around with broken hearts, pop culture references, a mysterious character named Ramona who appears throughout, and 8 poems with the words Zombie Sunday in the title. Even the “Note on the Type” page is really a long, hilarious prose poem. I had the opportunity to see Josh Bell read from this book soon after, and it was one of the best readings I’ve ever seen. I post the following poem for many reasons, the best being that he signed my book Stay Away From Julia: That’s My Heat.

Sleeping with Julia Roberts

She smelled like plastic fruit and Pablo
Neruda was her favorite poet. Her thoughts,
stoked with speed and Nietzsche
and wired by Paramount, brought out
the secret patterns of the bedroom
wallpaper: shuddering valences of time,
blue daisies, a frozen horse against which
I spread my legs, and read myself

my rights. She was crazy about pasta salad.
She never called me Ace, she never lied.
It sounded like bourgeois when she sneezed
and each time she came into a room
where I already was, she’d click her tongue
and snap, you’re not supposed to be
in this picture, boy
, but it was me who bought
the custom-made dental pick she wore

around her neck on a silver chain,
it was me who tilted back that giant head
and worked the plaque until she screamed.
I engraved messages for archaeologists
below the gum-line. I flossed up the hot,
chalky remains of a battleship lost against
the icy floes of her crenellated teeth.
Once it was her birthday. She swallowed
the room, the room slipped into her mouth

backwards, like a car reeled into a garage,
and I realized, then, that love had evolved,
and no longer should I be concerned
with God, who tossed his dice across
her stomach, who bet her museum quality
bones against his own, then timed
her record quarter mile, and when we
felt her hit his holy bloodstream like
a B-grade nightingale, it was the death

of man. On bad nights I’d find her, adding
freakish columns of numbers on the bathroom tile,
shivering, barefoot, shit-faced on mescal,
her moon in Virgo, her father’s rusty, six-hole
leather punch a souvenir bulge in the front
pocket of her unzipped purple jeans. Alice,
I’d say (she made me call her Alice),
Alice, come back to bed, the worst
is over now. Your pink mitten lung is a perfect

fit tonight, and I can already feel
your prescription-dry tongue popping
like a match down my spine. This always
worked. Her scars turned into wine. I prayed
our babies would have her beautiful,
beautiful round head, the flotsam eyes,
her webbed tongue coiled in each drawbridge
mouth, and on each tongue her god-awful name.
I was in love with her when she was played
by time. No one else can say the same.

Josh Bell

Joshua Bell’s first book is No Planets Strike, Zoo Press/University of Nebraska Press, 2005. He received his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was a Teaching-Writing Fellow and Paul Engle Postgraduate Fellow. He was the Diane Middlebrook Fellow at the University of Wisconsin’s Creative Writing Institute, 2003-04, and in the Summer of 2006 was a Walter Dakin Fellow at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference. His poems have appeared in such magazines as 9th Letter, Boston Review, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, Triquarterly, Verse, and Volt. His poems have been reprinted in such recent anthologies as Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (Sarabande) and Imaginary Poets: 22 Master Poets Create 22 Master Poets (Tupelo Press). New poems are forthcoming in the anthologies The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (St. Martin’s) and Third Rail: Rock and Roll Poetry (MTV Books).

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4 Responses to “Josh Bell – Sleeping with Julia Roberts”

  1. Great poem, made me laugh. I think you read this one to me once. The line about the dental pick is my favorite and the visuals evoked in this are bizarrow.

    “I engraved messages for archaeologists
    below the gum-line. I flossed up the hot,
    chalky remains of a battleship lost against
    the icy floes of her crenellated teeth.”

  2. Alison (blueraven95) Says:

    Good Morning!

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