Four Poems by Dan Beachy-Quick

“Sideways” by Jona Fine

A Late Exam at the River Lethe

doing math in the sum light
kept misspelling good as god minus 1 point
me did this minus 1 point not I minus

confused adams with atoms the eternal
table of adams hydrogen
lighter than air is the first element the second
is hydrangea a heavy blue heavier

than the sky hidden behind the garden walls
called minus 2 points paradise
then helium and thus the yellow balloon on fire
that is the sun and hiding inside

the sun is a grid the eye must become
so patient to see the darker
orange separate from the brighter so patient
seeing is minus 1 point going blind

in the architecture of morning light my head is
hands and feet considering a simple square
a floor with a door and a bed with a hook
a mosquito in the air misquoting homer

wrath and wandering in her high-pitched
blood-thirsty minus 1 point no-mercy hum
the mind does move it is a damselfly eclectic blue
from reed to thought to memory

of what’s been read a poem
no one’s mouth wrote one thousand years ago
earthe toc of earthe earthe with woh syllables
that make the self sayable minus 2 points I

came into the world by climbing out the cave
minus 1 point the cave I think it was of
my mouth a soul is like a breath or is it like
wind minus

another always leaving behind the fact
as if it didn’t matter of the wound the mouth is
another myth ajar minus 1 point word a jar
for breath and breath’s scent: twine, thyme, time


What words can I say that take away the words
I said, when the nothing I fear is also the nothing
I want. That strange word, I. Lattice of the dark
grape vine. Afraid of and afraid for. Disquiet of the
Lynx asleep in the olive grove is my death sleeping
Underneath the trees. One must bear the question
Blindly. It’s not a question to ask but to carry
As one carries on back a burden—the bundle of sticks
Or the book-bag. Both are fuel enough for a pyre.
But who will place you on the fire? Time’s hands
Grasp the body entire but cannot lift it an inch.
“He is the being who has to grasp his being,”
The philosopher says—a man is a jug with a handle
Inside. How pick yourself up and pour out all
Within you? Water, or oil, or wine. Or olives
All eaten, the leftover brine. How lift yourself up
On the pyre? The heart keeps playing its prank
On the heart. A daisy wounds the mind it is so
Unthinkable. And is yours like mine? Placed an inch
Or two behind the eyes, the voice of the gods
In the gap between two halves, blood brain barrier,
Electric equations, silence of the synapse, chant
Of immortal numbers, and a horse running in a circle
Forming memory where no memory was before—
Helen in the temple, Helen walking back and forth
Between the pulsing temples, weaving her theory
Of the mind all day long, changing her mind each night.
“Every question is a demand, is a prayer,” the reader
Reads what the philosopher writes. Waiting for
Time’s more-than-mortal blow but only an hour
Arrives. Followed by another hour. Eternity
So patient inside those hours, more fragile than our
Mouths breaking open to breathe, breaking open
In astonishment—it rains, so different than there
is rain—breaking open to speak that strangest
Speech of un-speaking: You were not there, you
never stepped down into those long, wooden boats.
The lynx opens one green eye it closes again.
Is this the dust on the olives the dust of the road
Or some other dust? White powder centuries
Wafts through the air, the remnant volcano,
Balustrade of the ruined stairs, or the unguent
Perfume falling off in flakes when in distress
She runs the disaster of her hand through her hair…
Afraid of fire; afraid for myself, ashes and dust…
Or is it Helen, saying forever to no one: It’s you
you poet in your chair. It’s you who are not there.


slow gold, everlasting
forsythia behind the eyes it’s spring
spare no arrows, sparrows
empty the quiver of song
swallows quick allow the earth
a slow life never touched
hyacinth with his head wound never healing
a purple wound in the long spring behind the eyes
owl loud in the old dark wood
who darkens the night and how
in the galingale a lonely hour
the nightingale keeps awake all night
cassandra burns her hand on the cornerstone
the widow looks out the window
pulling apart her grief an empty loom
in the fig trees that fringe the field warblers
sing the dust that blurs the war
the crow puts on another crow’s armor, borrows
a crown, limps away to battle
how surrender but not submit is this the ethic
arms around the knees of whom, who’s there the air
the thrush from distant epochs hushes
the fatherless epic where the child cries
a jar on a hill fills with darkness, the nightjar
sucks milk from a sleeping goat
the logic of dew in the morning is not the logic of noon
a heedful retreat in the face of being
what dampens the blade dampens the root
the earth’s bitter turn, the wind blows west
and the wheat bends, but not the bittern
once again the robin woke me at dawn…
once again the robin woke me…
the cloud is a rock spiritually magnified
the mind is a cloud condensed truth forgets itself
what is narcissus doing now still looking down
into the pool so long ago become air what is the rain


] & the want to be eaten by what eats no flesh
] light for grass and leaves
] grass for deer

] & to be eaten by the deer
] to be inside the darkness of the eyes that stare out
] to be in the blood’s glowing lamp listening, their sunlit ears

] & in shadow of ponderosa eyes closed not sleeping
] how in the mind-cave the word echoes
] the thought-in-the-bone; or, the-brooding-eye-full-of-thought

] & the deer dreams of Homer a man of perfect faith
] Homer who leaves his lover’s bed and leaves eons of leaves
] & leaves the dough beneath white sheets rising

] & the want to eat what may be eaten, what is permitted
] the sun, the air, the iron in the stone that turns blood red
] Jupiter’s eye, cicada shell, the hydrogen bomb

] took notes in the margins
] death a question death answers by asking what is death
] what is more intimate than intimacy

] hunger bites a path through the strange woods
] the feet follow the mouth as it has always been it is now
] time borrows more time from my open mouth


Dan Beachy-Quick (2)Dan Beachy-Quick is a poet, essayist, and translator, author most recently of Arrows (Tupelo) and a translation from the Ancient Greek, Stone-Garland (Milkweed Editions). Recently long-listed for the National Book Award in Poetry, his work has been supported by the Monfort, Lannan, and Guggenheim Foundations. He teaches at Colorado State University, where he is an University Distinguished Teaching Scholar.

Jona FineJona Fine is a non-binary photographer, poet, and performance artist. Jona uses the gender neutral They pronouns. Please respect that! Jona’s artistic endeavors as of late involve photographing lots of eggs, and sometimes potatoes. They have also been nurturing Open Circle, a they body who is so full of trauma they rarely leave the underside of their coffee table. Jona currently works the graveyard shifts as a crisis worker for a LGBTQ youth suicide hotline.