Nicky Beer’s “Post-Mortem”


To me, you have bequeathed
a half-dissolved
apple, a spider,
and three crescents
of your fingernails.

A large Y of black stitches
has split your trunk into thirds—
a child’s rendition
of a bird migrating
towards your feet.

The arc of the scar
on your right calf
reminds me of a hooked trout
I once saw leaping
from the surge of a stream,

a curve of light shaped
by the moment between life
and the infinite space
just above it.

Smoke-browned fish on a white plate,
dawn-grey body on a silver table—
we do not like to linger
on how the dead may still nourish us.

Later, I will tell your family
what no one ever knew,
but you may have suspected:

you had two exquisite,
plum-colored kidneys,
lustrous and faultless
as the surface of a yolk.

Nicky Beer


Before I took Intro to Creative Writing my first semester here at Geneseo, I had no opinion about poetry, except that it “wasn’t for me.” All of the poems I had been introduced to until that point were so flowery, so dolled up with poet-y language that, at the time, seemed out of date and out of touch with humanity in the now. “I guess I like Robert Frost,” I’d say when asked about poets and poetry (which is still true, I really do love Frost), mostly because I didn’t know what to say, and I’d read some Frost before. I’d never read any contemporary poetry—I’d never explored a poem beyond its rhythm and rhyme, its metaphors and similes. However, when introduced to Beer’s “Post-Mortem,” along with a lot of new perspective about what poetry could be, I realized maybe poetry was “for me,” after all. Maybe poetry is for all of us. The simplicity in Beer’s language, the domesticity and everyday-ness of the images—“a child’s rendition of a bird in flight,” “a hooked trout I once saw leaping from the surge of a stream,” “the surface of a yolk,”—grounded me, and helped me understand that poetry, I think, is something that is accessible to everyone. You don’t need to be a writer, a reader, someone who can profess about the significance of Keats’ Eremite (not a jab at Frost or Keats—I love that poem and that allusion) to access and even, dare I say, understand poetry. This isn’t to say this single poem made me love poetry. I don’t wholly love poetry. Sometimes I love poetry so much that I just stare at the page and cry. Sometimes I hate it so much that it actually makes me physically ill—nausea, dizziness, the works. But for so many reasons, this poem remains one of my absolute favorites. Has anyone else experienced a poem or a moment like this? I consider myself sort of a “late bloomer” when it comes to poetry, did anyone else have a similar delayed experience? Also, what do you think of “Post-Mortem”?

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