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


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