Ekphrastic Poetry: “breath left in you”

At the Colby Museum’s event, Art&: The Poetics of Atmosphere, Dominic Bellido ’24 read his new poem, “Thinking Of The Key.” Bellido wrote this poem in response to Lorna Simpson’s Cloudscape, a video on view in the exhibition The Poetics of Atmosphere: Lorna Simpson’s Cloudscape and Other Works from the Collection. You can watch a recording of the event, which includes a reading of this poem by Bellido, here. “Thinking Of The Key,” along with Bellido’s poem, “Son of Amauta,” can also be read below. 


Thinking Of The Key

Inspired by Lorna Simpson’s video installation, Cloudscape

Why do men on silk screens

remind me of prayer? 

Why do the voices ring 

around my mind in 


scattered circles, like skipping 

stones on slack rivers? 

What of the waves 

from that forbidden sea? 


Notice his eyes are 

always closed; straight 

legs sprouting from shadows 

like black flowers. Petals 


curling their edges at 

penumbras; but, this light 

is not dull enough 

to dungeon me. It’s not 


enough to cage the sound 

of my mother’s song, or 

those spirits of Sunday 

mornings clung to her 


tongue. Her whistles pierce 

even the toughest of God’s 

rain. She rejects the myth 

of time. Like, how we used 


to wipe wooden floors 

to Eddie Santiago, when

I knew her arms as warmth

rather than words. She 


always let me ask questions

I couldn’t yet answer. 

Like, is sound only alive

when it touches us? Like stars 


projecting into the midnight

curtain above me? 

Or does it stack 

itself in patient squares 


when we refuse 

to listen? Like water, it runs

down the ceramic tub, 

splashing at hair curling 


into question marks 

my mother wipes. She whistles,

and the notes carry 

the lullaby she stowed 


next to my ribs. The cut

of sleep she promised 

each night, that if I prayed

and if I thanked my 


Angel de la guarda, 

dulce compañía, no 

me dejes solo ni de 

noche ni de día, I 


would be saved. Can you

save the disappeared, God?

Or are you still not

listening? Even when the fog


envelops us, we return

with our hands intact.

Our lips open 

and plump. The thread 


between us kept 

winding around the lungs

of this Earth. Because to be

loud means there is breath 


left in you. There is time

to let her take your hand,

and cup your head, 

whispering into your hair


Sana sana, 

colita de rana. 

Si no sanas 

       hoy,      sanarás      mañana

Lorna Simpson, Cloudscape (still), 2004. Video, sound. Museum purchase by the Colby Museum Board of Governors in support of the New Media Arts Consortium, a collaboration of the art museums at Bowdoin College, Brandeis University, Colby College, Middlebury College, Mount Holyoke College, and Skidmore College, 2019.038


Son of Amauta

Click on the text to enlarge this poem.