Blackbox Manifold

Issue 11: Dan Beachy-Quick

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.