Here is one hand, and here is another; therefore I know at least two external things exist. — G. E. Moore
I’ve been to the Bone Church in Sedlec, Moravia—
the infamous old ossuary near Kutná Hora—
and I understand this impulse
to decorate vaulted ceilings
and chandeliers with femurs and skulls.
What better way to show
that legs and heads were once extant?
Monstrances and piers flank the altar.
At the entrance, a calciferous coat of arms.
Said Socrates: All knowledge is recognition of one’s ignorance.
This moment, southing geese—
gray phalanges pulsing in the ether—
herald the vast unknown. Death is near, they signal, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
After the Black Death and the Hussite Wars,
pile upon pile of white.
See how the air trembles and how it tears—
present, external, real!
I look down, aware of my hands—
their transient heat, their wishbone fragility.
Listen to E. Louise Beach read "The Condition of Snow:"
The Condition of Snow
No trace of their names:
Maple and Juniper, Dogwood
and Elm, Crepe Myrtle, Poplar,
Sycamore, Ash. They loom,
cowls draped over faces,
necklines and sleeves. Indefinite
specters, bending, bent—
silent mendicants soliciting alms.
The world is stained
white. Erased—the outlines
of houses, the lineaments
of walkways and paths.
I think of Shackleton and his crew,
courageous intruders in the Antarctic
wilds. Ship-wrecked and starving,
they shot their huskies—
one by one—behind hummocks
of razor-back ice.
From blurred windows,
I witness a pair of lean foxes
at a refectory of overturned
garbage bins. Within minutes,
ellipses—their tracks—have filled in.
Listen to E. Louise Beach read "Suicide:"
After Tacitus’ Annals of Imperial Rome
It is possible the anserine missiles we’ve amassed—
country by country, year by year—
will annihilate us,
and all life’s wanton sortilège
diminish like the stars of their brightness. Exitus illustrium virorum.
Then, though earth and sky turn cold,
we will show no hint of fear,
no timorous griping at our last doom,
but greet the news with a steady step,
sundering, like Seneca, one by one
the arteries of arms, and legs, and knees
with cool, indifferent daggers.
Corpses, we’ll burn without obsequies.
E. Louise Beach's second chapbook, Sine nomine, will be published this year by Finishing Line Press. Three of Louise's song cycles will be performed in 2011 at various venues, including the Women in Music Festival at the Eastman School of Music.