Thursday, October 20, 2005

Eric Beeny in 32 Poems

You would be doing yourself a favor if you get a copy of the current issue of 32 Poems. I keep going back to it and rereading. Great stuff.

This one is by Eric Beeny and is on page 14:

Graveyard Pharmaceuticals

the world is a bottle
of pills.

once night's cap is unscrewed,
the clouds must be

headstones become chewable
tablets, like
the kind commandments
were chiseled into.

Eric Beeny

A bottle of pills as a metaphor for the world at night--funny thing is, I read it first as the world at night as a metaphor for a bottle of pills, although the first line makes it clear that "the world" is the subject. The phrase "night's cap" is wonderful--the top lifted off of night, also the allusion to a "nightcap," the ritual of a final drink before bedtime.

"[H]eadstones become chewable / tablets, like / the kind commandments / were chiseled into." "Chewable" brings to mind headstones that have been weather-beaten, and which are bound to disintegrate just like the bodies underneath them. They have words "chiseled into" them, like commandments--the birth and death dates are unchangeable, stated facts. Pills also have those little letters or numbers bevelled into them, identifying what they are.

The connection here between pills and death is striking to me. People take pharmaceuticals in an effort to live longer or in some way make their lives more manageable. But there is something about the necessity of the daily ritual of taking a pill that that reminds you of your own mortality.


MB said...

I find it interesting the way he starts with the world as bottle of pills, but in the third stanza he speaks of the bottle of pills as world -- and back! It's a kind of backing-and-forthing through play on words that reinforces the equation.

Nice one!

Zoe said...

The clouds must be removed what a beautiful line, I always get mad at trying to take ouf the fluff from pill bottles will have to remember that line next time :-)

Amy said...


Yes, the metaphor is much more complicated than it first appears. And I was just thinking about the headstone part--the idea of the commandments having to be "swallowed" like medicine.


Just think of all the wasted cotton. :-)

Danny said...

"headstones become chewable tablets..." is like telling us that life is like a funeral that we take toward our own burial ground.

MB said...

Oh, I don't think the commandments just get swallowed -- I think they have to be chewed on, thought through thoroughly. And that how we live (how we chew them, those tablets of commandments) is how we'll be remembered (via headstones).

I wonder if he thought all this through when he wrote it or whether the writing process was more intuitive. Sometimes poems just "arrive" and we interpret them more closely after the fact.

Doofus said...

it's really good. Amy your prac crit always amazes me. But somehow i feel that the metaphors and allusions are a bit overwhelming. =) Anyway, i'm still doing up my song. working up on the intro and a hopefully a bridge. =)

Billy said...

cool poems.

SilverMOON said...

The simplicity of his writing style appeals to me. It's going on my (long) list of must reads. Thx, Amy!