Of Silence and Song by Dan Beachy-Quick

Dan Beachy-Quick reads three sections from his new essay collection, Of Silence and Song, published in December by Milkweed Editions. 


On our walk my youngest daughter asked me, “What are the songs you don’t know.”

“That’s a hard question,” I said.

“Tell me the songs you don’t know.”


Silence was the best description.


On the same walk we found a bird lying dead on the ground. It had a long, dark, slightly curved beak. Streaks of white not quite white on the head, a color I might call dry wheat. “Not a woodpecker,” I said. Iris said, “Nope, not a woodpecker.” Not the right markings. The shafts of the feathers had no bright colors. I couldn’t identify the bird. A plover? A snipe?

Later I asked Iris if the dead bird scared her.

“No,” she said. “It gave me an idea.”


You can turn no into time by adding w to the end, but you haven’t won anything. You can’t live in now. The o looks so like a home, the mouth of a burrow, or circle of safety, is the zero that describes the void into which the future pours so it can sift back out as the past. No, no—don’t try. Now says no inside itself. When the w on its wings gathers with those others twittering in the sky, then time returns to its own absence, long ago predicted, sometimes feared, sometimes loved, westward drift far past the red shift, where now the sun says once again begin or be gone.


A morning run through Lake View Cemetery in east Cleveland.

The sun erases the names on the stones before I can read them. Erases the names with light.

Rounding a bend, a grassy hill with no graves, just tractor tread printed in mud in the ground, leading to a copse of trees. A wrought iron sign, black with white letters, reads: “Future Development.”

So that’s where the future grows.


Excerpted from Of Silence and Song by Dan Beachy-Quick. Copyright © Dan Beachy-Quick, 2017. Used by permission of Milkweed Editions. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.