Posterity, this me is Now-
Record this Now. Virginia, 1705
Not always settled. I am settled
Over history’s yellow pages, blank
Pages, must I write my old dark
Thoughts: Does time mask or unmask
Mind? This sweet almond now, now
In my mouth as in their mouths
Then, sweet in its rind, but silent
I think: I am blood at oak, my hand
A blood petal unfurled over oak,
My desk, my wooded den, a pistil,
A pen. Believe me: I speak honest
Economy ravishing and jealous
In woods, the virgin woods.
Sap is sweet so sap quarrels
On the tongue. What is worth
Worth? Sap sweet so sap ambers;
In the virgin woods none can cut
The profit from the tongue. Amber
Gold so gold whispers at the edge
Of each, our minds. The Natives
Wear skins on skin; the women
Bare their breasts and do not
Blush. Was she a King’s daughter?
She walked below the branches;
The sun thin in silken lines
The sated spiders left. Her brothers
Showed us what seeds to sow.
Glass beads contain light, a miracle
To trade. Her skin a syrup
Tone, the beads gold against her
Wrist glowed. Midnight her crown
Of hair plaited with one strand
Of gold, thin as day’s edge when dusk
Both dulls and hones that glow.
“We’ll barter it.” Her brother feels
Cheated when we offer a bolt
Less of wool than he asks. Write it
Down. Profit in black ink. They close
Their eyes, quick as bark blinks
Down dark on axe’s silver bite,
When the deal is done. The ledger’s
Honest, “I am a liar. Be aware.”
Pluck the withered gold at hand,
The pumpkin leaves yellow,
Sere and dust. Neglect the acre.
Let the green aphids multiply
And suck. We teethed our eyes:
A yellow sort of isinglass dust,
Sunlit in silt, under the water
Of our stream. The squash blossom
Closed its eye; we squinted to see
Beneath the stream. That summer
We fed our hearts on dust. We grew
Dust in gardens. We grew rich
Until the gold sheen disclosed
It was but gilded dust. We lived
Some time on mussel, crab, berry,
Those fruits of the wild earth. No one
Spoke the word “starving.” We were
Forced to be content with what fell
Just in our mouths.
Earlier Than First.
Thought in the forest speaks
A wooden chorus. My own voice
Multiplied the almond by the pine.
Roanoke, 1588. Repaired the houses
Now grown up with weeds.
We make wooden houses. How quiet
One voice, mumbling verses out
The wilderness, by the fire
In the corner. Bibles clothed in skin
As the Natives come clothed. Exodus
A comfort: to be chosen, safe,
God spoke in smoke by day, in light
By night. A manna faith-of manna.
When Mr. White arrived, late August
1590, he went to search for us. Found
Weeds grown among the wood
Homes. He found us removed
From this land. He heard us whisper.
He never heard from us again.
Notes we pinned to the trees told
We moved to another
Island that forms the sound
(But we were not there).
We live in the sound. He found
Our voices pinned to the trees.
Dan Beachy-Quick teaches in the Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His first book, North True South Bright, is out from Alice James Books. His second book, Spell, will be published in the Spring of 2004 from Ahsahta Press.