Prayer (beginning with a line from Leibniz)

Not only pains and effort but also prayers,
Also prayer-work, and dull muscle ache
Of lifting worry into world and world
Into point, but also density that makes
Ideas surrender to limit and limit
Sorrows, limit keens, limit wants the stars
In burlap sacks seized and wants a stick
To drag across the dirt a line—

Maybe I’ve forgotten the right way to talk:
Inside my head like a lion the concept
Prowls, hungering after edges
That can’t be found, edge fury might find,
Dirt’s underside or sky’s ground, sedgegrass
Into nothing bound, that leapt over, leapt across,
That driven hungermad by toothblind need
The lion leaps and leaping becomes
The sparrow it chased from the weeds—

This thought of the other world, put it away
In the drawer: maybe in the dark it will grow
Acheless, “like the moon,” I want to say,
“Acheless like the moon,” and then I remember
The moon is what teaches us aching—
Coinbright thief who cannot steal herself
Away from her condition, pulling tides
Around her shoulders but the aqueous shawl
Shatters when lifted—only when it’s fallen

Is it whole. Faith floods the little room
Where I practice faith, time cannot save
This thought, airless tending, God heard
Each prayer before the praying spoke
Urgent in collapse, mind’s diamondmine
Gives coal and pressure, counsels patience,
The prayer answers itself, a single Adam
Forever with the fruit in his mouth, not

Swallowed, not sparrowed, not thrushed,
Not warbled, ongoing instant where song
Need not catch up to the fact already of
Being sung, sung, sung, as the moon
By the earth for eternity has been spun,
Past perfect, tense needless of belief,
It has been all of it as it has been, I am
That I am, logic of the ceaseless orbit,
Lion that learns to devour itself, mind

That learns to think, prayer predicts pain
So pain predicts prayer, maybe I forgot
The grammar that’s right, I mean just,
A poem only of marks that remind the mind
“Breathe here, and here; breathe here, and here,”
Page missing words like room missing walls
Like field missing grass like a simile all
By itself saying as its prayer, as is as is—
Deafen the echo that might say “azaleas.”

No one is saying that word here: azaleas.
No one says nightshade, bindweed, mandrake
Nettle, forget-me-not, morning glory. No one
Says nothing. This field, plait by plait,
Unbinds tendril from trellis, petal from light,
Root from stone, eye from sight.
Silence: give each word
Fair warning. The prayer is about to begin:
“            ,                        ;            ,                   .”


The New World

Push in the push-pin right here in this blank
This blank a little effort mars
Emptiness into something more empty
Empty as the air when the drone ceases
A single note thrills nothing’s whole system
A kind of star-map before any stars existed
Don’t sigh it’s just a hole in a page
A hole in a page just a kind of beginning
Before time begins again its infinite counting
On infinite fingers of infinite stars
Departure on every side yes I read the report
On abandonment while in my office eating lunch
Every point departs ever faster from every point
Nothing verges into nothingness even now forever
Absent territories grow forever more vast


Data suggests the angelic hierarchies
Drone ceaselessly a single note
The x-ray telescopes record as endless beige
Endless as the low-cost carpet of a state
Education years ago I complained
Memory no longer works no poet wanders
Into a city and begins to sing that song
That includes us among the dust bereft
Now that the Tamer of Horses has died
I’ve never forgotten what I was told
A nameless man sits at a desk in a nameless city
Reading forever the same book
To keep near it despite its desire to disappear
Give him a push-pin and he can push it in
Push it in any page as deep as strength
Page as deep as strength allows
And by memory the nameless man recites
Each letter the pin he pushed pushed through
I know I’ve seen the book
I’ve seen the book every page of it every letter of
Every page is a hole


Once upon a time my wife told me to stop
Writing poems about writing poems
And for a present she gave me a box of pins
Happy birthday she said may this new year
Pierce you with anxieties more legible
Time will tell
Time will tell the ice to melt
Ice caves to melt and fog the pleasure-dome’s glass
So the threshers flail in mist the doubtful grain
In mist the chaffy grain in the sacred grove
Hasn’t exactly turned rotten yet
Some offering left long ago on some altar
Some prayer no one thought to teach me
The prayer motion no one taught me how
To build from nothing an altar
An empty page pinned to a desk I’m waiting
Pinned to the desk just waiting a page
Of instructions and a set of tools
Of tools kept high on a shelf in the air
Just waiting for the tools to fall


What do you see through the little hole
When you look through it
Is it what they see when they open their eyes
The animals when they open their eyes on the
Open the denial of the
Open that devours that gnaws
Distance swallowing itself to grow immense
Unable to run faster then what runs always
Faster run away but
Running away only runs closer to the—
Or do you see as I see when I hold the pin-hole
Up a field of gravel stands
Tractor treads trailing like tresses behind
A field of flowers no not flowers
Field where the test-blast blew the houses down
Radiation a glowing gown the wind wears
The wind wears the poppies’ radiant glow
When over the graveyard it too grievously blows
Keening it cuts away the margins
Keening it cuts as does the passing plow cut
One more petal from the petal-less whole
A bare stem looks like a
Looks like a thread holding up a hole
A hole instead of a head just a thread holds up
The hole don’t sigh
What do you see through the little hole
When you look through it what do you see


Ignore almost
The drone of the man reciting
By memory the page
He holds up the sun
Pours through each hole
Letter by letter the
Sun on his desk the whole
Alphabet a thousand suns
On his desk ignore
Almost the drone of the
Man by memory reciting
The sun


Then friend will you see as I see
Past the described fields all inviting you in
Across the graveyards and over the aviaries
Beyond the chalk cliffs where swallows
Where swallows nest in holes
Nest in holes the sun never quite fills
Past the always filling never full sea
There where three men and a woman gather
They gather in their robes
In their robes before a stone
And two of the men watch intently anxiously
As the third bends down to trace his fingers
On the letters carved in the stone
Traces his fingers on the letters he cannot read
Friend so he remains forever silent
And don’t sigh forever the woman looks
Looks away looks down as if she sees
In the field a hole no one else can see
A flaw only her own little pin-hole
A little tear in the canvas and without a tear
She spends eternity watching
Watching disappear what all it is that
All it is that disappears




[Dan Beachy-Quick is the author of Circle's Apprentice (poetry), An Impenetrable Screen of Purest Sky (novel), and A Brighter Word Than Bright: Keats at Work (criticism). He is currently a Monfort Professor at Colorado State University where he teaches in the MFA Writing Program]

Copyright © 2013 by Dan Beachy-Quick, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.