Upon the Place Beneath

Poem by Gary Beaumier


During an intense shelling
I heard
the sergeant recite:
“The quality of mercy
is not strained.
It droppeth as a gentle rain …”
until he took a direct hit
and the pages
of Shakespeare
fluttered down like a dove
blown out of the sky.

Given half a chance
they will bayonet the
Mona Lisa;
crush her smile into
the mud and rubble;
pulverize Venus de Milo
into pebbles and dust
or machine gun
Van Gogh’s quiet bedroom;
the canvas holed beyond
any recognition.

So

we obliterated their
concert halls
with our aerial bombs,
pianos turned to kindling,
strings burst on cellos and violins;
woodwind and brass
mangled.

Play your Beethoven now,
barbarians!

But the cruelest thing
I ever saw was
a captured soldier’s
copy of Rilke taken and
propped against a tree
to use for target practice.
Each poem reduced to confetti
as he watched
each shot;
his face dropping lower
and lower.

GARY BEAUMIER, in his later years, has become something of a beachcomber and has self-diagnosed with “compulsive walking disorder.” On a number of occasions, he has cobbled together a wooden sailboat. He is a finalist and semifinalist for the Luminaire Award for several of his poems, and formally taught poetry in a women’s prison.