Author: Dan Beachy-Quick & Srikanth Reddy

Dan Beach-Quick is the author of four books of poetry, most recently This Nest, Swift Passerine. He has also written a series of inter-linked essays on Moby-Dick titled A Whaler’s Dictionary. He teaches in the MFA Writing Program at Colorado State University.

Srikanth Reddy’s first collection, Facts for Visitors, received the Asian American Literary Award for Poetry in 2005. His second book, Voyager, is forthcoming from the University of California Press in 2011. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the doctoral program in English at Harvard University, Reddy is currently an assistant professor at the University of Chicago.

from Canto


Figure one. The spiral. The one figure
Smithson built of counter-clockwise rock
In the Great Salt Lake. Its coil beggars

Description. Figure two. Same rocks
Unseen in water. Figure three. Tourist
Looks down at map. I made a mistake.

I kept the time. I clocked the miles west.
The car door open like a hurt bird’s wing,
She scratches her head, wherein nests a forest

Deep dark down of deduction and thing,
Wherein she flies in spiral from tree to ground
To gather the wild grass for her weaving

In which the eggs will sit, pages unbound,
The manuscript on the car seat. Working draft.
Please do not circulate. Return if found

To the following address. The pleasure-craft
Pivot on the spindles of their masts
And motor home. Figure three-and-a-half:

The child in the crow’s nest cries and laughs
As the wind carries the origami bird
From his hand, a boy’s invention miscast

As real, thrust up among gulls, awkward
Dive into the sea. See? It unfolds
Into Cook’s 1811 nautical map of the world,

I have seen some with a ring fixed in the hole
Of the ear, but not hanging to it, also some
With rings made of some elastick substance roled

Up like the Spring of a Watch. Kingdom, come.


The grass leans down into the culvert
And breaks the surface: whirlpool
Spirals on surface, a leaf in a physics report

By which the student demonstrates for all
How the ancient trader’s ship sunk
With coins and cloth and spices in its hull.

Deep dark down the bathysphere blinks,
Homunculus curled up inside the oculus,
An I within the eye. Bubbles in the ink.

I saw a horse’s bones, a thing most curious
To see, laid out like a lesson in anatomy
On the bottom of the sea. Femur, pelvis,

Vertebrae, cranium. Skeletal litany
The current passes through to speak
As breath claims a fact about astronomy

As it passes through the teeth. A weak
Light from a dim star, or the atmosphere
Is thick, marks a point. The trick

Is to draw the line and not tear
The mind in two, to draw the lines
Between the stars, to etch the ligature

To lay out the bones in the signs
Every night. Somehow I always liked Libra.
A broken-off scorpion’s claw by design,

It now weighs oblivion: moznayim in Hebrew,
Tula in Sanskrit, the youngest sign by birth,
Thus most abstract. Thou art a dreaming thing; a fever

Of thyself said the goddess. Think of the Earth.


I woke up and let the war sleep in my bed
Dreaming of garlands and a bride
Displaying her diamond garishly mounted

On a grenade’s ring. The hole in her face lied:
It was no mouth, it was no eye.
I took my vows when I testified,

Right hand held up, pointing at the sky.
The balances will never level, ever.
You can utter the ultimate digit of pi,

You can discover the source of all rivers,
You can marry war, father peace,
Climb the corkscrew rock steps lining a tower

To the top, where, looking out to the East
You can see a brass band marching home
Too far away to hear over the breeze,

One fat little man coiled up in his sousaphone
Bringing up the rear, the war is over,
The war is over, everybody come,

But the balances will never level, ever.
For some people leverage is a philosophy.
They use propositions as levers.

Anything can be a fulcrum. An eye-
Lash or a bullet-casing or Blake’s tiger
Smiling. Why does he smile? Try

Writing a line in which sense bolsters rigor,
A memory, say of iodine yellow on skin,
Say of a pin, or the scent of vinegar

Diffusing through the sunlit kitchen,
And when you’re a child, when childhood
Returns, put your head under the line,

Beneath the object to lift place the last word,
And wait, wait. Infinitely far away,
Where you or someone wrote the first word,

Wait for someone or something to wander by
And push down on it. Then the tower
Will topple, then the field where the band plays

Will lift upward, the music will stop, but the river
Rushing back to its source will be a new music,
No melody but wildness, no finalé but forever.