Ode on a Mountain

Dan Beachy-Quick
| poetry


Caught in the thought-tangled thicket

The ram by its horns grows weary:

How begin to die? A child no longer

A child asks his question to the stone

He sat on waiting. He throws in time.

He throws in the wary mind grown

Weary: watchfulness has its weight:

Astonishments patience dulls into facts

Sourceless and tame: wonder

Followed by a shadow called shame.


What first stuns later causes sleep:

The sun, the absent sun:

At the end of the equation, the sum.

How begin to add it up? A man

Only a man says age overcame me:

Not as hound, an hind—

Not as fear, the eye:

But as a sparrow overcomes a crumb

Or as a sparrow settles on the egg she broods:

The answer feels larger than the question.


Look down. Those ashes are my shadow

Left on the stone where I did not exactly

Sleep. All those centuries I thought

The work required needs only these few years:

Gentle drift of pronouns, each into each,

Where gradually I wake to the question

How was the night? and say, “It dreamed.”

It dreamed. And the next day it went to work.

It fed the children, and it read a book.

At night it washed its face without a look


In the mirror. Some vision harms the eye

That sees it. Some song hurts the ears—

Out the rags of the clouds was it a voice

Spoke those red words? Behold, it said.

Take who you love most and go, it said,

To the mountains. I carry now

What I carried then: some rope, a bunch

Of sticks tied to my back: a body

Can bear wood enough for the fire

That consumes it. Not much is needed:


Just a hand, just a spark. Then I carried

What I carry now: now

It can’t be seen, the wood: now

The wood’s invisible: the rope a thin line

Coiled around the mind

To hold together what falls apart:

Thought, thought, I thought—

And throat, throat, and some heart

Loose and astray that wants to, but cannot

Mend its way, its prayer: bind me

Tighter. Tighter. Be violent. Give repair.





Dan Beachy-Quick is a poet, essayist, and novelist, author most recently of A Brighter Word Than Bright: Keats at Work and An Impenetrable Screen of Purest Sky. He is a Monfort Professor at Colorado State University, where he teaches in the MFA Writing Program.

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