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Jan Beatty

On Leaving the 5th Funeral in 15 Weeks

I watch the alarm system at night from my bed.
I keep the rows of yellow/green lights in order: 5 down/4 across.
I count them again, and then I check them.
This way I will keep my heart beating and the hearts of everyone I love.
Now everything’s a way to flee from death.
My shrink said no need to free your enemies:
Carrying around anger won’t hurt you, that’s propaganda.
Hate is a natural emotion, he said.
But 5 people dead this year & the ground no longer ground.
Now I’m loving so hard until love’s a wooden statue of love,
running from its own fires. Some people say,
Live like you’ll never die, a prayer for idiots. 
Instead, I will chant: Love is only fear of death. Love is only fear of death.
I don’t believe that either.
The house is waterproofed and the foundation’s secure.
I want my illusions to arrange the cardboard people,
perched on the edge of a scene looking forward, not down.
Forward, not down.
The red light’s on: 5 dead in a row.
The system of manholes was checked last week, but there’s fire
under the sleeping city.



Notes on a Flood          Lake Tahoe, 2009
                                                                           for Don

There’s a mountain outside my window & and a lake full
with glacial water & it’s
flooding in my heart—chamber by chamber—
I’m a woman in the middle
of my life running backwards towards the center
of love, the master flood.
Piles of sandbags, holding back
the washing of the gone dreams.
So many things miles off—my husband at home
with his brilliant sweetness—(what luck
to have him!)
There’s a mountain outside my window &
a dark blue lake full—
and close to here, on an old forest road,
a woman is walking to get her mail—
she will hear today that
& I am thinking of her loveliness, her wondrous
life on the edges—
Who will write her story—where does her life go—
all the lives above—the swirling below.
There’s a mountain outside my window
but all I want:
the flood of heart in a closed room with you—
your arm flung sloppily across me,
hitting my face, your other hand playing guitar
in deep sleep.
Oh, wild dreaming one—if you were here,
what would you say to me?
That I’m swirling towards death in my own
eddying ideas?
No, you would say, go to sleep, are you okay?
(the only blessing I need tonight)
Goodnight to everyone alive—
Wherever I am, I’m filled with sediment:
with tough, dirty Pittsburgh
where the mountains of black rock &
half mills are carapaces.
Night coming now,
& the hills mounding up as we get closer
to the continental divide of you & I —of death—
Almost pristine in the quiet night, but we know better:
no stopping the water