Chain Reaction, The Sleep of Reason, Desire Path

by E. Louise Beach

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Chain Reaction

Par ung seul clou perd on ung bon cheval.
John Gower, Confessio Amantis c. 1390

A single lapse
can create cascading

failure: falling
dominoes, slippery

slope, camel’s nose
in the tent.

These acts
of inexorable

are better seen

in hindsight.
When I lied, I took

my first false step.
A self-sustaining


and rancor—
ensued apace.


by lightning.         

after fission
of the nucleus. 


The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters


  After Goya
  The poet sleeps; pen and paper
  idle on the table.

  Inky cats, owls, and bats menace his mind.
  El sueño de la razón.

  Nocturnal fable.
Natives flee from shattered villages,

  seeking respite from war—
  its amputation, annihilation, grief.

  Black fowl feed
  on gutted wounds.

      The temper of end times:
  Thyestian feasts.

      Capricious torture, pillage, rape
  make beasts of us all.


  Desire Path
  “I am just going outside and I may be some time.”
  Lawrence Oates, the Scott expedition to the Pole, 1912

The meadow is lush with winter grass
  and leavings where the cows have been.

  I am secretly off-path, through the gate,
over the stile.  No one can find me,

hidden by the furze-covered hill. 
Insignificant, I call the creek,

Creek, the field, Field, wind, Wind,
and think of another who strayed:

the explorer who sacrificed himself
to save three starving companions. 

Ill, having slowed the progress of the group,
he left the tent, bootless in a blizzard.

No sun to guide him, spatial compass awry,
he moved into unseen land and sky. 

He wandered his self-hewn way
to alight on whiteness.

A lyric poet, critic and translator, E. Louise Beach also creates libretti.  Her song cycles, The White Princess and Ophelia’s Flowers will be performed in 2011 in Manhattan and at the Festival for Women in Music at the Eastman School of Music, respectively. She has recently been published in The Evansville Review , DMQ Review (Pushcart Nominee), and Rosebud , among others. Her first collection of poems, Blue Eyes, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2006.

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