Essay on Love and Fate

Somewhere beside the sea a woman sings
A song about the sea, a song that knows
Words contain waves as music contains
Melody. Somewhere the sea sings a song.
As a footprint in sand fills with water
So the sea sings about a woman singing
At the edge of the sea: the music fills her in.
Mostly the songs sound the same, like
A mother hushing a child who hushes her
In fear or insolence. It’s hard to tell

From foam formed by wave’s collapse
Love herself once stepped naked,
Her yet uncombed hair covering one breast.
But I’ve never seen her. I’ve never
Heard those songs sing one inside the other.
Just heard that both exist, just heard the rumors
That whisper in the labyrinthine ear
Those myths the monster most wants to hear.
And by monster I mean mind.

Any head will do for example, even mine.
Remnants from other lives I never lived
Wander through the unlit
Room the ancients called the undergloom
But it’s all within. Even the mossy ground.
Even the moon-lit cloud. Even the shroud.
There a monster with two heads stares
Into its own eyes. Its gaze is its chain.
One mouth says, I think. The other says,
I am. It’s a conversation that doesn’t end.

When I mean to sing sometimes I drone,
Sometimes I replace words with stones
Waves worried flat as fate. Note
The flatness of my voice when I find
The startle of history disables feeling.
I haven’t yet been liberated into feeling.
One remedy is love. One remedy is fate.
I thought that if I went back to Homer
And wrote down every line
That used those words I’d understand
How love drifts into fate, or fate
Drifts into love, as on a day suddenly
Without wind, the clouds still move
Far above. Like that I’d understand:

     & that same night a fatal dream
     brought home a lovely woman
     but you lay down to make love to dust
     & did make love, while Menelaus roamed the ranks.
     In the undergloom I worked against my fate.
     Aphrodite, lover of smiling eyes,
     cut her lovely hand. So I learned
     no mortal can escape his fate—
     if they are now to meet hard fate—
     if they are now to meet hard fate and die.
     But in my heart I loved.
     Death’s shadow fell from my child: her fate was not
     lovelier than return, not lovelier than sailing.
     Even she could not give hard fate the slip.
     O Aphrodite, lover of smiling eyes
     and all these charms of love.

But I gave up. I took too many liberties.
Rescuing lines into narrative sense
Just to prove true what I wanted to be true:
Loves succumbs to fate and then fate
Liberates love. But there’s no proof.
Just this wanting it to be true
That lets me add words, switch order,
Delete what I want not to exist,
Ignore the facts that break apart wonder—
But none of it makes it true.

And now I realize I’ve forgotten to sing.
I meant to be singing this whole time
About time: that must be why the ocean cries—
Why the gulls on the ocean cry from so far
Away. Must be why my mouth is so dry.
So dry I’d put in it anything for just a drop.
Again there are those children. I read
In a book I’ve been trying to forget—
I’ve been trying to forget—about children
So hunger-struck, so desperate,
They ate the cardboard tag
On which a soldier wrote their names.
No one knew what to call them
When they wandered through the camps.
Maybe just “child.”

Child, listen. Here is no charm of love.
Here some kind of fate recites in the air
Words long lamented: black milk of daybreak
We drink it at sundown at morning at night
We drink it digging graves in breezes.
Tell me, if you know, why
When the singing ended and we turned
Toward town, my own child spoke:

     Does ‘sea’ rhyme with ‘free’?
     Yes.
     Does ‘lip’ rhyme with ‘ship’?
     Yes, it does.
     Does ‘lake’ rhyme with ‘snake’?
     Yes.
     Does ‘fence’ rhyme with ‘bence’?
     “Bence” isn’t a word.
     Yes it is.
     No it’s not.
     Then what rhymes with fence?

Silence. Silence does.
Silence rhymes with silence.
Love rhymes with love.
Fate with fate.
The ocean eats up the dirt
That makes the field deliberate.
Not a rhyme lovelier then sailing.
Not a rhyme lovelier then return.
Just a fact.
Just a fact missing a mouth to sing it.
Just a fact patient and alone in the air.


Essay on Love and Fate

Ache of my tooth in another’s mouth or another’s
ache in mine. A form of pain to bear
The riddle of the moral life, the “moral life,”
The skeptical speak with scare quotes in the air,
The “moral life,” a kind of idea, or nostalgia,
By which they mean something that isn’t there—
Forever, forevermore, but forever ever more
A symptom of the poet’s fever or is it what
The poet fears, that word “pain,” that word “love,”
Patient in the mouth waiting for pain to arrive,
But it doesn’t; waiting for love; or those words
Waiting like patients for the drip to administer
The drug, the impatiens pink and white, white
And pink, small circles in a pot above the sink.

Desire bound chaos to night and then the stars
Began their consideration of influences, light
That pricks the eye but gives the earth no sheen,
Like a breath meant for another’s mouth to breathe,
But breath is what shines its bright points in mind,
Small dreams, or constellations, or once upon a time—
A young woman prayed to the lit lamp for love
Nightly the wind blew through her open window
A force she could not see, but could feel, her limbs
Loosening the little knot of nerves called thought
Into darkness, element of the soul’s old pleasure,
Where reason dismantles its pride into a pulse
That like a god works itself all by itself, a kind of
Idea like an arrow in the blood, or the magnet’s needle.

To pierce the heart’s architecture, doubt’s sacred
Penetralium. Grammar also possesses the wound
Of which this song speaks, song that is no song,
That rights no wrong, that refuses the object’s
Indifference and makes it ask to what it belongs,
Gravity or some other subject, the void, the moon,
Or the man with his hand in his pocket stroking
His instrument while humming a country tune.
An ant carries a seed as large as itself back home—.
The rams sleep in the shadows of the brush—.
A sparrow sings to no one who is not alone—.
Still the lovelorn god scatters blind his poppies
Giving sleep if not oblivion. Some speak in dreams;
Others wake in pain from the wound never given.


Dan Beachy-Quick is a poet and essayist, author most recently of gentlessness (Tupelo, 2015). A new collection of essays, fragments, and poem, Of Silence & Song, will be published by Milkweed Editions in Winter 2017. He teaches in the MFA Writing Program at Colorado State University.