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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 5: October 2020
Poem: 257 words
Author’s Notes: 125 words
By Roy Beckemeyer

Barbara Hamby Embraces
the Swedish Word Mångata

 
...the Swedish word mångata...is the trail moonlight makes in water.
We can say it in English but it takes six words.

—Barbara Hamby

 

Each letter bobs and floats on the almost 
imperceptible undulations of her poem’s 
scintillating surface, alternately mirrors 
the moon’s second-hand opulence 
or basks in the rhinestone tawdriness 
of the Milky Way, a trailing t trailing twin-a 
trailing g trailing n trailing å, a train of barges 
tugged by pilot-boat m so unerringly that you 
must plumb the riverine depths of the word. 

Mångata, you sing, vibrato bearing the sounds 
from your mouth the way oxygen molecules, 
whisked by protons, ride the curls 
of the solar wind. Your lips poised, 
you say the word again, set the phonemes 
twisting into each line’s gravity-wave ripple; 
the word morphs into the poem in its entirety. 

Your face is bathed by the high-altitude-
neutron-smitten charged red-particles 
of oxygen molecules colliding; your cheeks 
glow like a Swede’s frost-bitten mug, 
and you hold up your nubbe of Akvavit.Skål!” you shout, but the word that is 
lambency skating the sea is mångata, 
and the surface-tension glint of each brilliant 
letter alternately turns toward and away 
from the moon, tremulous, light-waveringly 
alive, wave and particle doing a couple’s 
routine, a white-light wake skittering along, 
a trail of your days laid behind you all the way back 
to your beginning, documenting, in phosphorescent 
shimmers, the moon’s simultaneous revelations 
of where you have already glimmered, of where 
you have always known you were bound to gleam.

 

 

Author’s Notes:

1. Mångata (pronounced “moun-ga-ta”): literally “moon road,” from the Swedish Måne (moon) [pronounced “mouh-uh-neh”] and gata (street) [pronounced “goh-ah-ta”]

2. The quotation by Barbara Hamby is from “Craft Tip #5: Choosing Your Words” (pp. 40-42) in The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics by Diane Lockward (Terrapin Books, 2018). The poem referenced by Hamby is “The Dream of the Dacha,” from her book Bird Odyssey (Pitt Poetry Series, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018).

3. å (pronounced “oo-ah”)

4. nubbe (pronounced “new-beh”): schnapps, and the glass used to drink it

5. Akvavit (pronounced “awk-kwa-veet”): a Scandinavian spirit distilled from potatoes and grain

6. Skål (pronounced “sko-awl”): a bowl, and, from the tradition of passing a bowl of beer around at gatherings, a toast—“Cheers”

Roy Beckemeyer’s
Issue 5, October 2020

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 and Best of the Net 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 will celebrate their 59th anniversary soon.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

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

Legacy’s Sunset, a climate-crisis photo-poem in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019)

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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