Amy Beeder’s Leviathan reminds us that some of our most powerful enemies find their source in daily routine. In the poem, the speaker’s aging father suffers a fall, forcing him into assisted living. The fall portends the speaker’s uneasy relationship with their own ability– “Can you…?” and of the father’s future,“Will he…?” –as questions are raised from the trivialities of mail and elderly stubbornness to larger, existential concerns of mortality and time. However, what drives the poem forward are the speaker’s insatiable loneliness and a self-comforting desire for solace. In these moments of tragic and inevitable veracities, looking squarely into the face of a parent’s declining health, we come to realize we are truly alone. –Justin Balog, Michigan Quarterly Review Editorial Intern
“Leviathan,” by Amy Beeder, appeared in the Fall 2018 – Caregiving Issue of MQR.
Can you coax him from his house after the worst fall
and keep him for weeks in rehab?
2Can you put him in a nursing home they now call
3Will he sign those papers with a shaky hand but nevertheless joke with the admissions director
so that she says he’s spunky?
4So that she says o he’s a character and there’s life in him yet—
5Will he demand to visit his house? And rage about mail you threw away?
6Will he rattle his walker? Will he shout about the lost receipts
and catalogues, the free address labels, appeals from the GOP?
Bright nickels taped to paper?
7If you lay a hand on his mail, you will remember the battle;
you will not do it again.
8Any hope of subduing him is false. Who can make him wear hearing
9Who can make him stick to his diet? Who can keep him from driving?
10I will not keep silence concerning his distended belly,
all his limbs grown spindly,
his terrible feet.
11Who can keep him from drinking? His breath sets coals ablaze;
phlegm erupts from his throat. His undersides are jagged potshards.
12Against him neither poison ivy nor oak nor AARP could avail.
13With what road in our vast & savaged west, with what town, what find,
what basin was he not acquainted?
14What old deal did he not know the use of?
15Behind him he leaves a shimmering wake of iron
bronze, spirits, tin, brushstrokes, Waterpiks & Q-tips
expired medications, Hawaiian shirts, ammunition
silver, earth, paper, ashes—
16What stone could you bring him that he did not know the name of?
17Nothing on earth was his equal.