In the Distance, Robert Beveridge

Gillian Sargeant, Pale Peony in progress, 40″ X 40,” oil on canvas



In the Distance


The attendant comes
in to announce visiting
hours have concluded
for the day. We say our
hails and farewells, vow
to return in the morning
with the requested bone
broth, budget DVDs, stuffed
otter. A ghost of lilac,
cough drop, and Pine-Sol
chases us into the corridor.
We wonder, again, if this
time will be the last, if this is
the impossibly rare malady
that will put you in the ground.
The future as always unpredictable.
We stand on the shoulders
of centipedes yet the mist
in the valley gets no clearer.

Robert Beveridge


Review by Keith Dunlap

Startling (and beautiful) turns of phrase kick the windows out and elevate each of these poems to what I love best in poetry. The first flare is the word “hail” in In the Distance. Oddly formal and old-fashioned, the word surprises and prepares the reader for more surprise. My favorite moment is the enjambment “stuffed/otter,” followed closely by “a ghost of lilac, cough drop, and Pine Sol.” What saves these touches from being mere pyrothechnics is the fact that each is down-to-earth at the same time as being unexpected and each also rings true. Beveridge does not indulge in mere surrealism or ‘poetic’ language for language’s sake. His creative use of language reflects what I think is the sense of the poem: that death is both simultaneously bizarre and mundane, pedestrian and mysterious, “stuffed/otter.”


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