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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 12: March 2022
Poem: 213 words
By Roy J. Beckemeyer


Every noun is a stump with its roots showing...
—Derek Walcott, from The Prodigal
I scan Merriam-Webster, find: 
“...from Latin gravare to burden, oppress, 
from gravis heavy, grave... 
First Known Use: 13th century,” 
and wonder in what hard scrabble root ball, 
below what scorched field’s sun-blasted, 
fire-blackened, dead trunk the antecedents 
of this word “grieve” sucked enough moisture 
to wither some other father’s soul 
as mourners assembled to give mouth 
to a loss they could not imagine, 
but had come to shoulder, 
to carry away some small share. 

They, too, would have gathered 
to envelop one another with arms 
and hands, with doldrums of words. 
“Aye,” they would have mumbled, 
“grave is thy burden, and we and thee 
much oppressed,” or “We cannot know 
the weight of thy load, but may we take 
a small portion from your bent and aching 
back to our own?” 

Or they might, tongue-tied, mute, 
have simply embraced the heave and spasm 
of the one among them engulfed 
in this black storm’s surge and gust, held 
on, dug their feet into the sodden earth, 
tried to keep the crumbling clods and clogging 
clumps from burying him, burying them all, 
in whatever words they had for it: 
this grave, this gravitas, this grief. 



Note: Epigraph is from Section 11:1 of Derek Walcott’s book-length poem The Prodigal (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004).

Roy J. Beckemeyer’s
Issue 12, March 2022

latest poetry collection is Mouth Brimming Over (Blue Cedar Press, 2019). Stage Whispers (Meadowlark Books, 2018) won the 2019 Nelson Poetry Book Award. Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) comprises ekphrastic poems inspired by modern artists’ depictions of angels. His first book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014), was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited (with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg) Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017). His poetry has been nominated for Pushcart (2015 and 2020) and Best of the Net (2018) awards, and was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2019.

Beckemeyer serves on the editorial boards of Konza Journal and River City Poetry. A retired engineer and scientific journal editor, he is also a nature photographer who, in his spare time, researches the mechanics of insect flight and the Paleozoic insect fauna of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama. He lives in Wichita, Kansas, where he and his wife recently celebrated their 60th anniversary.

Please visit author’s website for more information about his books, as well as links to interviews and readings (scroll down his About page for the link-list).

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

The Color of Blessings in MacQ (Issue 5, October 2020)

Featured Artist in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019); showcasing Beckemeyer’s poetry, prose poetry, and insect photography

Words for Snow, a prose poem in KYSO Flash (Issue 9, Spring 2018), which was selected for reprinting in The Best Small Fictions 2019

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