Dan Beachy-Quick's "&co."
The androgynous chorus bitterly laments
No one found me, and now I don't exist.
Now my navel is this ruin, now my nipples are
No one's heaven. Now my temple is
Disregard. My temple is neglect.
That great deeds have been done none doubt.
Look at the ditch's dark line still shining
Within the miasma. Are the vapors still leaking
Out of my mouth, out of my mouth, even
As I sing this very song? My I aches and aches
Right here in the brick in this red wall, aches
Here in this very stoop's top step, aches
This wooden bell too dumb to know how to ring.
Missing a line. Corrupt the structure. The soul
That says over and over again this and this,
Vague unintentional flourish toward the horizon
Gone missing. Starless night. The old ruins
Crumble and no one knows the sound is not
Thunder in the night. And so of other darknesses—
Those evenings in the brain. Debtor moon, o
Restrict yourself as I restrict myself, borrow,
Borrow, don't own
I am alone we all say it alone
At once we say it at once all
Of us say it I am alone When
The horizon goes missing
Every line breaks
I shore these ruins against
My fragment o, that? that
I like how this voice performs itself inside my mouth
This voice everyone speaks inside my mouth as me
As I speak inside their mouths Great deeds
Undo the mind into a gentle dance called witness.
Witness the eye that blinks
Witness the night-lid, the shadow-lid, witness that eye
All white, blind eye, prophet's rubble
Closing once a month only to open once a month
Gravity inters a question not a grave, nervous stone
Mute eye, mutable eye, dumb
Witness none witness
Always falling into the world it never reaches
…you believe this dust
we walk on this dust, a dance
grinds finer the fine grit
rising into the air unseen
coating our tongues
as we sing, Can you believe
this dust we walk on
this dust a dance grinds finer
the fine grit rising into
the air unseen coating our
tongues as we sing, Can you
believe this dust we…
This little hole right here in my head?
I touch it when I feel confused
And every other cloth-draped arm gestures
Just the same. This little hole
In my head? This dandelion's bloom—
No sound but the breath that blew it
Apart in the brain it enters so some wish
Takes root. Speak to me. Find me. Touch me
So I know this little door in my chest
Keeps closing me out of myself. This little
Panic's furious weed—remember
One flower is an anchor in the drift of the world
Oh, no. There is no flower. I keep
Touching my head and find it missing.
This rigorous music some call thinking
We call anonymity
We forget the words to sing the song
Erotic threshold these thousand threads
These thousand threads we call our hands
Up up to our faces when from one another
We wish what we wish to hide
In that exact place where each one can
Describe the shape of a cloud and step in
Borrow mist as we borrow light step in
Step in in order to be found
On & co.
For a number of years—and I suppose still—I've felt somewhat helplessly concerned with the figure of the Greek Chorus. I'd written a number of poems revolving around the Chorus before this one: a sonnet once, and another poem based on Eurpides's Herakles. I thought perhaps I'd written myself out of the obsession. But then I taught Oppen's Of Being Numerous, and the "Chorus (Androgynous)" caught me again in some consideration that, over the course of a month or so, resulted in this poem.
I suppose what grabs me so is the way in which identity, personality, self are undermined in the figure of the Chorus. There is a sense in which each "I" speaks more profoundly as a "we," and I find myself suspecting, maybe hoping, perhaps needing, for the same to be true when I say "I"—at least when I do so in a poem. There lurks some strange power in a poem that the poet opens him or herself to by the mere act of writing a line. I like to think the poet suffers into a kind of anonymity that is a truer voicing than any other. The awful fact is that one must step through the threshold of one's own life in order to be possessed of that voice that is more legion than one's mere self.
But it never feels to me that anything in the poem remains pure. The choral "we" depends upon the very self-same "I" it denies. I love the place where contradictions embrace and cannot cancel each other out. The very act of writing down the song, which feels at the time so private, implicates me as a member of the Chorus, and so involved in a process that confirms not my individuality, but the loss of the very same. It's a place in which not only each member of the Chorus moves as one and speaks as one, but is a place that is also a song, and that singing includes in its repertoire every other loved song. It is, I guess, a curious form of the erotic—one in which the other makes an other of the self, and the self makes a self of the other, and so Dickinson, and Bronk, and Oppen sing here in this song not as an act of post-modern appropriation, but rather as a discovery in the voice of what has always already resided in the voice, and which cannot be heard save by writing the poem itself.
And I suppose that is this poem's persisting wish: to sing so as to be found, but to be found only to be more deeply lost in that other reality poetry keeps open and available, that cloud of otherness one steps into with one's voice alone, only to find a voice is never alone, but spoken simultaneously by all.