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E. Louise Beach



BEDDING

The river cuts a chasm through the bone,
centuries of carving, fluvial fiord,
witness to will, witness to water.

Scrapes through granite rock and shale,
leaves in its wake the colored canyons,
rising like a sun in pinks and grays.

Dark heart of desire cleaves to the land,
liquid penitence scratches through remorse.
Or so we imagine, standing at the edge.

Looking down, we make the world
our own: riparian symbol of persistence,
the snaking glen a metaphoric mind.

Our yearning flows, slow lava, to the sea.
Distant thalassic trough, internal trench.
Pines whisper like thin children on the rim.


FARM FIRE

All winter,
as they used to do,
Mother clears brush
and gathers limbs.
The pile grows high
in an open space
behind the barn.

It is spring.
He's been dead a year.

With her hoe,
she cuts a trench,
flings oil on the pyre,
then stands nearby
while flames brand the land,
blaze a hole
in the dry, blue sky.


AFTER THE WAKE

We ate breakfast at an all-night diner,
making small-talk with the waiter.

The yolk of eggs congealed on our plates
like blood around a wound.

Though morning woke as blue as eyes,
my sky was gray. Back home,

I picked among the brawl of trash,
whisker of breeze at my back,

hoping to find you in last year's jumble.
Nothing in the shed but rusted

nails and wire, bent shovels and worn
rakes, toothless and scattered.

You are not there,
not anywhere near breathing.

Your dogs slink by like shadows,
sniffing air.


NOCTURNE

Retiring, day turned her back to the sun,
puffed at candles, cuffed the smoking whorl
of wick with her hand. Divested, she fell to bed
and soon was sleeping. But the owl unhinged
its gleaming feathers from the night. Mice ran
like runnels in the silent house. The moon blinked,
silver sickle harvesting stars. And there was
no concatenation in the dark,
only dreaming: fermented flight of moths,
like yeast; old lives, resurfaced out of time;
young girl in a vestibule, waiting.
Grass slept, too, and the busy air relaxed
its hold, rocked in a nodding hammock, wore
morning, like a sequin, in its hair.


CYGNE

From childhood, she practiced a career
of sweat and yearning.
Years of plies and entrechats,
arabesques en pointe and assembles.
At eighteen, in Detroit's Corps de Ballet
lost among a dozen others
she danced Swan Lake, tulle
fluttering like a handkerchief.
Leaving the stage,
she bowed, small
steps back, back, back
behind the curtain.

Employment was uncertain.
Her life took on the muddle of depression,
then a baby.
Now, an exotic dancer in a two-bit bar:
her long neck, an undulation,
hair pulled back tight against her skull,
her eyes clear blue.

Regal, she glides out as if on water,
shedding feathers to wild catcalls.





E. Louise Beach
Dr. Beach is a teacher of languages and literature. Her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Big City Lit, The Bitter Oleander, descant, Ellipsis, Poem, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Wisconsin Review, and elsewhere. Her song cycle, Death of the Virgins, was performed in Princeton last year. She will be in residence at The Anderson Center this fall to work on an opera libretto based on Rilke's play, The White Princess.




                                    

 

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