Tim Beech

The Wood of the Suicides
A loose re-telling of part of the thirteenth canto of Dante’s Inferno

It is the first thoughts on waking that are the blackest
despair – when the will to endure is at its weakest.

Consider then the fate of those who would pre-empt Fate.

In the seventh circle of Hell we will dwell
as tangled trees, smudged with lichen tears,
in a dark valley
where Harpies, creatures with claws like scimitars
and the pale faces of ravenous women,
will tear at our bark and our branches.
And we will bleed
and we will groan in agony
far greater than that we sought to escape.

And on the last day, when the last trump is called
we shall return to the wood
and the Harpies, in the guise of Great Grey Shrikes,
arrayed in black and grey like
sisters of some ancient and terrible order,
will impale our empty bodies
on the long thorns of the scrub in the dark valley.
And where not even the white blossom,
March pure,
can offer us the hope of redemption.

The Ontological Argument
(For Judith)

I cannot seem to get beyond Descartes’
Mechanical universe that frames the mind
As ball-bearings on Hooke’s Law rubber bands;

Reducing it to that which can be said;
And seeks to fix, once and for all, our souls
As chemical reactions on a wheel of flesh;

Neglecting the inherent uncertainties,
The counterintuitive life and death
Of Schrödinger’s cat; the paradox of spin.

Time Beech © 2014
poems taken from the forthcoming Triptych (Waterloo Press, 2014)


A boy of twelve
Is sent to tend sheep
On a remote moor in Jutland.
It is raining
Merciless horizontal sheets.
He knows nothing but hunger,
Grinding hardship and duty.
He climbs to the top of a small hill;
Looking upward, his vision
Obliterated, he curses God.

Like a sea-fret erasing
Memory with doubt,
His son wears the inheritance.
He tries to bury guilt under the smooth
Alabaster of pure thought;
To inch along the frozen lake
Of melancholy towards the ever-
Retreating horizon, the rare
Moon-pearl of absolute bliss.

25th June 1998

Here, in the small octagonal room -
Overburdened with flowers -
Dahlias, pinks, carnations, lilies -
The book is open to the exact page,
One day after the feast of St. John.

Amongst the abstract lettering,
The carefully scripted names,
A singular illumination, yellow,
Drop-head cowslip, its smooth, pale leaf
Beside your name.

Over the mantle-piece three white roses
Barbed with the roar of argument,
Their leaves darkened with coal dust
And the thick accent I can mimic in seconds
And which will never be mine.

Here is the utterly misunderstood
One blood contending with itself
Into the clash of opposites.
Here is the pale rider folded in soft petals.
Here, too, the tears that will not flow.

Tim Beech © 2014
poems taken from the forthcoming Triptych (Waterloo Press, 2014)