Four Poems by Dan Beachy-Quick

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Is it enough to say

     I’ve seen light hit

green leaf’s flat

     so that it glows

with a mirror’s sheen?—


heard the music that is

     music only here?—

a gnat nears the ear

     louder than centuries

as they fall apart?—


It’s when I stand behind the glass

     a fly intervenes,

pausing, as it climbs

     up the mountain and over

a cloud, to clean from its eye

    a speck of dust.


A speck of dust—

     that music, too—

innermost note, source

     syllable, cloud’s

prayer that hides the head

     of the mountain

and rising, leaves a

      shadow for a crown—.


I walked through my face.

     I mean I walked

past it. I left it on the pane,

     another speck of dust.

Absence takes presence

     away. That’s an equation

I keep dear in my heart—

     heart’s own chant.

It chants its law inside me:

     yes-no, yes-no


faster the faster I run

     away to where I run:

diminishment’s altar.

      Imagine the law:

a drab moth lives

     within the drab flower

unseen, its wings are

     these petals on which

it feeds—and so I live


in me. The song won’t sing

     itself by itself—

thinking won’t think.

     The stark mob

of gnats plays its own

     lyre in the air—

never mind each string

     is by the same air

broken. Walk through it—

     even as it plays—


there is no other remedy

     for memory.

The glacial lake turns

    the mountain over

but doubles its height—

     mirror and eye—

is it enough to see

     what I’ve said?—


Lake of melted ice, keep

     whole inside yourself

this image you destroy—

     the ice-fall falls down

the mountainside, entire

      edge in unearthly,

unerring blue. Ice carries


     stones. Ice heaves

apart the stone it carries.

     Ice melts and a stone



     the eye’s momentum—

all I want to say is complete

      or true—


but it breaks itself.


it could be otherwise

     than unseen:

Pile of unknowable broken

     depth: these stones

dismantle the




through the mountain

     and break


     just a stone


     the whole


world or is it

     worry—an image


the far mirror trembles,

      then it reassembles—


mountain, glacier—


leapt beyond,

     but not far enough.



in song take no part     this

voice’s single all heaven

all hell both only are     the

the syllable      soul

feeling itself until itself is   

almost deniable almost real



Once, I was a child. When did that horizon

Preface history by saying the center wanders?

Once, I was a child; I built a little boat.

By saying center, it wanders, it wanders—

Blown by breath caught in a sail, toy breath,

Toy sail, out into the unbreathable reach

The center goes, goes wandering, toy boat.


Now I’m an adult with children of my own.

Absence keeps leaking in

Between syllables; I like to think

Of experience as nothing’s parable—

I like to think I built this craft to hold

This emptiness imperfectly inside it—

A crisis growing ever more gentle

Asks fewer questions, adrift in itself,

And the song within it sings a little tune:

Ocean above and ocean below,

Gravity and undertow, vast forms of darkness

Where one cannot go. Depths are no one’s

Business. My one idea, like a candle’s light,

Is light enough to see: less, less, less certainty.

That’s why I’m singing you this song.

You who are. Who are with me. Who I love.


I drifted into the middle ages. Some current

Pushed my little craft into this room

I cannot leave. The same current pushed open

A door floating on an ocean. A leaky door.

Caught in the drift out went the golden age,

Out the silver and out the bronze. Out iron

And out irony. Out went the bright eye’s gleam.

Out went the theory of the world as machine.

Out went the candle, and out went the ghost.

The surface deepened when I needed it most.

Deepened, what I needed most. You—


You see it with me. What the center holds.

Light without sun, but light. Some breath,

Some air. A song like a battered spar

Can’t guide but shares our situation—

Where door opens only onto other door,

Life’s ongoingness of doors, such

Improbable doors, we’ve drifted in on

To the threshold-condition.



Seldom so still

     at night, listen



silence don’t shine.

     “Up,” the moon

minds, reminds:


was there the loon?

     Ever? Prayer

Lays bare none—


Revels in no one. “There”

     says the sun.

“There, there.” Share


the secret. What’s undone

     endures. That dark

lake laughs, listen.


Dan Beachy-Quick is the author, most recently, of An Impenetrable Screen of Purest Sky (novel) and A Brighter Word Than Bright: Keats at Work (literary criticism). He is a Monfort Professor at Colorado State University where he teaches in the MFA Writing Program.