Dan Beachy-Quick teaches in the MFA Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has published three books of poetry: North True South Bright, Spell, and most recently, Mulberry. His essays and reviews appear variously. He is the recent recipient of a Lannan Foundation Residency.

Four Poems by Dan Beachy-Quick

Antique Foundation

Here       I built the ruin in
My voice on either side of me
In the temple the ocean could
Not be a crowd       I mined
The shore with fog the sun dries
These bricks       I built the vision in
The cinder block that is the city
Wall this grave
Tone I speak with a picture
Of myself in my wallet


Don’t be fooled by grass and these words
Grass whispers
Because they are real they are
Ruinous       Here, the gossip is in the dust
Not the sea cloud enters the open
Child’s window dimming the silver
Flute’s sheen       Where is he
Who hears inside the brick those notes?
There is a rumor in the city we’ll exist
If he plays his song no one knows


Follow that shadow don’t tell me it’s mine
Here there is no being alone
Here are my hands which tore the leaves so
Quietly in the temple the god
Emerging from marble points at the chisel
At the base of his stone       Did I tell you
Where I’m going?       To the old man
Who sings the margin
Where on wave-tip swords turn edge over edge
Wound us and the shore with foam


My face on either side of my face I tore
My picture in half to show the gate
You must climb inside your breath to leave
As fog the wind will bear you—
If you’re lovely—away       In the spare clouds
The children’s chorus       Do you hear?—
Where were you, and where are you going?
Here I built the ruin in the stone-crushed
Sage leaves my hands scented as long ago
When I liked to press the desert against my head to think


The minute gears mutely whir. To put your ear
Against it is to put your ear inside it.
It does not tick. It isn’t a heart.
It has no pulse. It isn’t a clock or a wrist.
Scrutiny can coax no secret from it.
There is no hearse with one flat tire
In endless circuit, headlights dispersed
In fog like sunset behind a veil.
A paving stone extends a grave through iron
Gate to a door at home. To knock
Your hand against it puts your hand inside it,
As in a cloud at night the pale moon
Gathers itself outside itself its own light
And glows dimly behind the dust that outshines it.
It has no heat. It isn’t the sun.
It isn’t uncertain. It does not think
About the sun or the distant balls of dirt
And ice that circle closer to the star
With each circuit done. Comet tails
Darkly flowing back as the horse leaps
Forward, straining against the catafalque
All November, predict disaster as grammar
Predicts breath, the need to breathe, or the mind
Must rest. It is its own edgeless disaster.
It is there as if it were not there. Vague
Repetitions haunt the circumference.
To walk out the door is to place your foot
On a stone worn away by another’s foot.
Rumor has it that the sun sends heat in form
Of sight. Watch the ice as it melts
For proof: water pools, darkens on a stone,
Becomes as a shadow on a stone,
A horse’s hoof as it rises off a stone,
Except it rises forever, and the shadow is gone.
Such processes turn the minute gears.
It is not a note in the margin. The margin is
Covered with snow. When the winter fog
Disperses a black horse stands on ice
And cannot move. It is as if a breathless song
Hovered like a veil in the air. The black
Horse’s breath spirals upward like smoke.
Pyre-smoke like a thumbprint as a cloud.
Similes sing mutely in it, likening the unlike.
Mourners name the peace they find and walk
Away. To step into it is to find it missing.
The footprints are before you as you go.

Landscape #2

The field was blank. Then the body lay down.
The body lay down on the grain.
When the body grew blank the grain grew blossomed.
The blossoms made an absence of the body
Among them. The blossoms could not be counted
So the body was one. The flowering grain was gray.

Pressure on a stone creates a mountain. Less
Pressure creates a mountain in fog. The body
Supine in the field sees from an angle the pines
Hover over the mountains. The body
Bears a weight. The weight is blank.
Trees and mountains echo in the field.
The sky is cloudless. The echo is in the eye.


People draw shapes on paper
Then build the shapes in brick.
Shapes occupy shapes others deny.
Winter is a form of weather
Occurring outside a box. One
Wrote peace on the doorframe lintel.
Inside their shapes, people breathe.


People hang shades on walls;
Ancestors occupy frames.
Winter is a form of sun
Obscuring a face behind its glare.
People ask a pane of light for advice.
Carve the oracle on the window
Frame. The tree has no leaves but snow.


Gnothi Seatoun. Winter is a form
Of logic blank behind the eye:
The photograph’s underside, the plank
Within the mind. A child learns
To count by touching one hand
To the fingers of the other. Ten
Leaves on a tree. Nothing is older.


The child infers from shades
A number she cannot count.
The tree reflected on a pane
Through which a face stares out.
A shadow offers shadow as advice.
Winter is a formal law that cools
A finger when it touches glass.


A child sees a shape she draws.
A circle is the sun in the corner.
One writes peace on a page
Then tears the page out. A child
Breathes on a pane and draws
A shape called home. Winter is
A formal thought. People live in stones.