Poetry: Dan Beachy-Quick

You Must Speak if Echo is Who You Love

I’m just one of many suitors, maybe
     the least, maybe the one who speaks
the smallest words—“yes” and “no”—
     as if each were a knob in the air
          that turned returns us home.

It’s hard to knock on the door
     when the house is made of air—
hard to see her face behind these centuries
     of falling ice. I thought it

as I wandered through the fireweed’s plumes,
     not exactly her silence, but the mimic
fly whose stingless, bee-like, diligence
     flowers this whole field, I thought it

in these words, “yes” or “no.” A line divides
     the green-rock from the limestone
so far above my head, and those who know
     how to see inside the mountain-side

suffer visions that lead them within to dig
     out chambers light must light
to see within stone what metal gleams—
     but what I hear is the singing:

gnat’s mantic drone that mazes the heart,
     and water falling through itself—
it sounds like weeping but it is not—
     the veil as it pulls itself (I want

to say eternally) apart. It’s not much to say.
     Those others carry stones, they carry
copper, they carry wire wound on giant spools
     whose whole length will crowd with voices,

spark, and the generator’s bee-like hum
     that lights the filament’s pollen
when in the night a sleepless wife pushes
     down a button to shatter the senseless

dark and read her book about men who live
     in tunnels writing letters
to send home. What I carried, I put down—
     maybe years ago. I think it was

a chair I carried, a chair that had a pulse,
     a chair that was a kind of heart—
strange I know to say—a chair like a mind
     or a heart—I put it down

but still feel its weight in my arms. Yes,
     it’s missing, what I thought and felt.
No, I do not miss it. Like the stingless bee,
     all my work is mimicry.

Anything that keeps still can be a mirror.
     This is why the heart’s no good
for reflection, but a stone will do,
     pebbles, even dust, even dust blown

by the wind up into the air for one moment
     will serve, will suffice, for a self-
portrait. Who doesn’t arrive bearing
     these meager gifts? Breath

to break the surface sheen of the glacial lake,
     Echo’s patient, melting veil—
but before that breath, before any one word,
     is it an error to bend over the edge

and ask the eyes I see if they are my own?—
     Don’t blink.
The would-be bride picks apart a mountain
     while she waits. Just to hear a stone
          echo off a stone. Bend down
               and ask. Yes or no.


noise_32_tDan Beachy-Quick’s most recent books are Circle’s Apprentice (poetry, Tupelo) and Wonderful Investigations (prose, Milkweed). He lives in Fort Collins with his wife and two daughters—and their dog, Carlo.

(The photo is a symbolic portrait, Duchamp’s WITH HIDDEN NOISE.)