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Category archive for: Dan Beachy-Quick

Elegy

refuses the absence it names; but nothing exists.

Like when I remember I’ve forgotten a word

and I walk through my day where the trees exist

saying over to myself inv- inv- so sure the word begins

with the letter i, a word that means something

about ice and how light reflects heat off of it.

When I say intaglio I know that is wrong

but in my mouth there is no other word to say.

That is not forgetting; but forgetting exists.

I read many poems in a day and after many

I simply say, I don’t know. I don’t know

what it is or how it works. I don’t know

what it means if it means anything at all,

or if that desire is some nostalgia for what

no longer exists. I tell myself to grow up;

I am grown up. I feel it in my need to confess.

When I look at my life I see I’ve entered

into equivalency. So many forms of likeness

to struggle with—now I am one more example

of Philip Guston’s later paintings. Not

those early works of subtle abstraction

where difference maintains an almost classical

sense of shame, but where a cartoon arm

holds a cartoon hammer and it must knock

down the brick wall the same hand built.

I know I’ve grown out of touch

when I tell a group of people gathered around

that I feel as if I’ve let Mr. John Keats down

and they all laugh as if—

as if I’d made a joke. This poem is an elegy.

I tried to make that clear in the title.

I see I’ve wasted my life in distractions

when all along I felt so focused, so diligent,

so “at work.” I don’t have consumption

nor do I want it. I’ve read enough about wasting

diseases to harbor any romantic notions.

But wouldn’t it be nice to say, “I’m wasting away”

and have this proof of the skin pulled away from the bone

and never springing back? I can say it, but

I have no proof. I think there’s a word for this condition.

I walk through my day in which clouds exist,

and so do birds; birds exist, and so do children;

children exist, and their teeth; pillows exist,

and so does sorrow; and sleep. I walk through the day

half-asleep saying to myself sch- sch-

shaking my head, no, that’s not it, cho- cho-

and when as a child with the whip of a willow stick

I swept off the heads of the dandelions while I walked,

I say school. School. No, chorus. But that’s not it.

from Poetry Northwest 09.1 Summer & Fall 2014More by Dan Beachy-Quick from the library

Copyright © Dan Beachy-Quick
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.