Dead Beats : A Series by Andrea Becker and Andrew Byrds

Autumn

Dear A,

I lost this poem two days ago, and here it is in bed with me again.

Let me recount it

and go on

I gave up sleep last night for an un-enameled verse,

crude as the pot drinking its own tea,

I called myself the void

rustled all night parkway whining

round the asphalt corner.

When you come, we’ll share this bed,

and in the morning walk the yellow knolls

clipping cedar boughs and prairie sage,

cursing the old men who decapitated the ridge

and built opulent boxes

looking down upon the earth as if they owned it

as if meadow, goshawk, titian trees

were their charges… as if 

goldenrod seeded

land for their pleasure

and not because it longs to live.

Yes, come, it’s time for you

take your reprieve from the city

where you drink your solitude

barter thoughts for mine—here’s one:


How is it that we feel so lost

wearing heels of rust, blood

along the obdurate lines of the old

familiar grid,

and home when we emaciate ourselves

in labyrinths of hemlock?

This morning I went to the Island on a wire

palpated last in spring,

watched my friends have a drink in their night

now I am filled with longing:

how I long to dress and lounge upon these poems,

to unearth cognizance from the rich soil

of another tongue I hear and taste each day.

I lost everything and came to rest on this plateau

ready to eviscerate my skull

and find poems gleaming among my flesh.

When you come, there’ll be no need for letters—

we’ll walk the twilit market streets

with something shining in our pockets

laughter will swallow

longing, as if 

the world was built for our pleasure

but it wasn’t

it simply wanted to be what it is.

Oh—with love,

A

Dear A,

The other day Emma and I drove down 81, jewels pointed 

At the gasoline-coloured sky, pulling triggers on old and current lays

Beyond the crown of trees made asterisms with the fleeing crows, spurning. 

We spent the day in Iowa City hemming septic pasts and wounds, 

But a few dollars a full stomach fix anything nowadays it seems, rain 

Came and went in spates, all the while I told every story notched in the cornerstones

Of coffeeshops and thrifts, the one semester I spent at Iowa and the faces I bled. 

Later we went home and validated our soft pockets, wasted showers on sex 

Gleaning something we could never call love from our teeth and tongues. 

And then nothing happened for several days until you asked me for a poem so 

Here it is without any of the bullshit.

At this time it’s almost Halloween—I’ll see you for the first time outside 

Iowa and hopefully making our way through the dead-leaf streets of Denver 

Looking for a joyous fix, drunk on the altitudes Sky warned me about.

You know by now my friend’s sister lies brain-dead in a hospital,

Jones’d on heroin this morning. I had no idea what to say but be angry

As hell and confused, drag nails against the eyes of the world until you understand. 

I want to see him before I leave, but who knows when he’ll get back—

Listen, listen, listen, listen. This all feels so important and I have no idea why. 

The last few months I nearly died by my own hand or at the choke of disease. 

And I can’t believe I’m finally leaving, and I’ll see you as you are. 

Maybe when I return everything will have gone to shit and nothing changed.

Maybe we live a few days, preen or fuck about these haunts 

Surefire in star-stitched glances, ambient thaw from lungs blistered through 

Nested swathes of bastards and sad cons. 

But I maintain the idea that a bastinado means nothing to the vagabond whose soles are

Already calloused, sheathed in old flesh working towards distant cities. 

I’m coming for you, and I have no idea what will come next. 

Love, A

Dear A, 

This airport has an art installation that reminds me of those rose petal candles you’d find near the porcelain sink at grandma’s house, all stitched up and pale from the ceiling in a skeletal corkscrew. Must have looked brilliant on paper. My eyes feel propped open by barbed stones, this Kerouac novel is simply decoration, calming me from security who might mistake anxiety for domestic terrorism. 

My bags full of seventies chic and flannel, hustled from the abandoned closet of my old bedroom, each with a different scent from another time, scratching through the pried fabrics, remembering the cedar or amber of last year.

In three hours I’ll goose-step into Denver, buzzed on anticongestants & sore from polythene seats, fixed toward an unknown city, anchored clear by your face. No fear, rather lush fascination with what’s to come—I’ve no idea. And nor do you, I believe, which makes it even better. 

I have some sutured paperbacks by old white men and a player full of Bebop & spectre for you. 

Let’s maunder awhile, shall we?

Whatever the soundtrack is it can’t possibly keep up with us.

Be jazz

Be cool

Be the new school, 

Etc etc 

Xoxo,

A

Dear A,

I’ve reassembled
the bed since your departure. You are somewhere 

an hour from the river. 

There’s nothing really to say, except

there’s no one now to share my spiced porridge with.

wish/glad you were here

I hadn’t heard someone sing so close

in a millennium of wakeful nights

and cracked yellow dawns.

the place still smells of cinnamon

no echoes but those of cinnamon & you.

missing you already, 

A

Process Note:

These three exchanges are from a manuscript that my longtime friend Andrew and I wrote together in 2017. We hadn’t seen each other in some time and decided to engage in poetic correspondence until we could get together again. This experimental exchange began in a Messenger conversation when I returned to Naropa to finish my degree after a three year adventure/hiatus: we wanted to satirize our own correspondence in the Beat lineage, so we gave each other nicknames (both “A”) and wrote these “letters” for the better part of a year. They ultimately culminated in two beautiful visits and a lot of really bad jokes about Boulder’s poetic history. Incidentally, only one reference to an obscure string of jokes appears in this selection.

Andrea Becker is a poet, photographer and full-time snack-eater living in Boulder, CO.

Andrew Byrds lives in Portland, OR and is a writer, actor, and the interviews editor for Entropy.