Roy Beckemeyer is a retired aeronautical engineer who edits a scientific journal. His poems have appeared in a variety of periodicals including Beecher’s, The Midwest Quarterly, Kansas City Voices, The North Dakota Review, Straylight, Mikrokosmos, Coal City Review and The Bluest Aye, as well as in anthologies such as Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, (Woodley Memorial Press, 2011) and To the Stars through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga, (Mammoth Press, 2012). He has also participated in multi-media art projects such as artist Jennifer Rivera’s “Between the Lines” exhibit of abstract paintings inspired by poems (Albrecht-Kemper Museum, 2013). He was the Kansas Authors Club poet of the year for 2013, and won first place in the Beecher’s 2014 Poetry Contest. His debut collection of poems, Music I Once Could Dance To, is newly issued by Coal City Review and Press (2014). For more information, visit his author’s web page.
Excerpts from Music I Once Could Dance To
Coal City Review and Press
© Roy J. Beckemeyer 2014
At Night in the Southern Rockies
Near midnight, the Milky Way crescendos.
Its tsunami of stars flings
light across the sky
until the glow becomes so bright
I can read the dreams
traversing your hushed face.
What unified theory accounts
for this patterning, this soft
radiance, the billions of light years,
the tens of thousands of stars
and galaxies that caress the curves
and symmetries of your sleeping face
with these ancient, countless, distant fires?
To the west, peaks sharp
as glass shards cut into the galaxy
of pinpricks, shear the blanket
of light so that it falls, shimmering,
into the water-filled cirque below us,
while, to the east, the front range diminishes
to a flatness that bounds the far end
of the sky with blackness.
I look back at your face just
as a smile floats there, briefly –
the light billowing, billowing,
blanketing us both in the
luminous spindrift, the gleaming
clarity of this universe,
“I’ve known rivers…” – Langston Hughes
“…the muddy river of endless regret…” – Dave Etter
I’ve known rivers
into memory like
it was a flood plain;
rivers that hid what they
had stolen in gravel
the way we hide
secrets in closets;
to light the shadiest places
in cut-banks and to
illuminate our darkest sins;
rivers cutting away what
faith we and sycamores
had relied upon; rivers
muddy with regret,
murky as unfulfilled dreams;
rivers that forgot their
like us, no longer cared
Once, the wings of this dead goose
would have provided quills
for writing poems and prose
about how geese live and how they die.
How many stories are there
in the anthology of tales being written
by skeins of skyward geese?
The birds, kanji characters stroked boldly
across a rice paper sky,
create chapters that constantly change
as their wings weave them northward,
advancing their plot lines toward
the surprises of their endings.
They are building a library,
a legend and lore of geese,
for those who can comprehend,
those who can interpret,
those who can translate the languages
of flapping wings —
or of broken wings.
These shattered remains are runes
that record the schemes of eagles
perched in the diagrammed sentences
of starkly bare tree branches.
Here, take this goose quill.
Use it to ornament this manifestation,
to illuminate this manuscript,
according to the Geese.
Winter in a New Place
I remember when there was no need
for friction between the earth and me.
Winters when I would slide down
those long patches of icy pavement,
knees slightly bent, arms out
like wings, a snowy owl gliding
after a mouse, a Frost King glissading
down the Alps. I had confidence.
I was ready to go into low earth-orbit,
nothing but the drag of cold air
to slow me down. Now I peer
out the doorway at the newspaper
lying on the sidewalk, wince
at the wind chill, pick up a bag
of rock salt, and scatter it, like alms
to the god of winter, before me as I go.
No more flying, just creeping over
crunching salt, thoughts of fragile
bones driving this need to stay
anchored, to be pulled along
by the earth as it turns, inexorably,
toward that final and most intimate
connection we will all share,
one day, with the ground that
twirls beneath our feet.