Heidi Beck grew up in a small New Hampshire town – emigrating to the UK in 1998, where she now lives in Bristol. She holds an MA in English Literature from the University of Chicago, and an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Her poems have been published in The Rialto, Magma, Poetry Ireland Review, The North, Butcher's Dog, Finished Creatures, Under the Radar and The Alchemy Spoon. Heidi also has poems with The Friday Poem and And Other Poems. She was longlisted in the 2020 UK National Poetry Competition.
A girl steps from a yellow bus
at Loon Pond Road, anticipating
a long walk home—down the hill,
around the pond, past the swamp
with the beaver dam, the final stretch
just woods—with her heavy bag of books.
It’s hunting season, and the men
are out in pick-up trucks, stalking
through the woods with ammo, scopes
and shotguns, dressed in their camo,
carrying coolers stuffed with cans
of Budweiser, Coors, Tuborg Gold.
The girl puts on a safety vest, flimsy
fabric in fluorescent orange, begins
to sing—Supertramp, Fleetwood Mac,
all the lyrics to Evita—loud and long,
so they hear she is not a deer, so loud
she does not hear the pick-up truck slow
behind her. It pulls ahead, stops,
just past the swamp. Hello, Honey,
where you heading to? She smells
the beer as they corral her. Let us help,
all smiles and hands. The book bag drops,
the vest falls off, she’s on her knees,
white rump to the air, trying to keep
her tail down. She shakes her head,
now fuzzy and furred, nose dark as dirt,
everything narrowed. Her ears stretch,
eyes widen, gaze becomes fixed,
the world slows. She remains still,
their laughter like an echo, then lifts
herself on spindly legs, fragile bones
at risk as she attempts to kick, hooves
flailing. She tries to buck and punch,
awkward in these limbs. Flanks damp,
she spins, all panting ribs, spins again, falls.
A girl steps out of the forest, arriving
for dinner, late. They glare at her clothes,
her hair, her wet, evasive face. She tries
to describe how she was a deer. Stop!
they cry, stop with your lies, your make-
believe tales. Don’t bring this trouble here.
All the Things Flying
Even here, which feels like home, I need to be ready
for the planes, the sucking sound and roar,
the possible explosion—
I’m mapping the trajectory
of falling and flame
while trying to track the flamingos,
their splayed-out necks,
the pink under wings as they jockey and speed,
then they’ve gone too far and a flash
of godwits whistling past, turning white turning black
left white right black white black and he shouts
You’re missing the spoonbill, just over your head!
Didn’t you get it? and I swing my lens
and there’s only an egret flapping to splash
too late but then storks, Shit, my settings are all
wrong, wheeling higher and higher, keep calm,
find the pattern,
pull them into the frame
and keep on walking
past the mountain of salt
to Iberian magpies in the pine tree shade and don’t startle
the hoopoe on the manicured grass, then the bright
yellow spot of a weaver bird calling from the reeds by the lake,
but look up, maybe an osprey or eagle, how the gulls squawk
and lift in a tangle and a pintail duck
crash-lands by an ibis, startling a grebe and everything’s flying
and the crack of a golf ball and I flinch,
remembering that man and the blood
pouring out from under his hands.
On the first day I watched The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Sylvester and Tweety. I created sculptures from slices of American Cheese. I climbed up my slide and saw that it was good.
And so 2.6 million men were sent to Vietnam; another 40,000 fled to Canada.
The Law said birthdates should be placed in capsules, mixed in a shoebox, transferred to a glass jar.
The birthdates of three of my uncles were chosen.
He raised his hand when they asked who could type, and stayed behind the lines, tapping out words like defoliation. He didn’t know about the truce between Agent Orange and his chromosomes until he was nearly sixty, when we learned how acute lymphocytic leukaemia could kill you, and how quickly.
He remained in combat, first with ‘the Gooks,’ who took out part of his intestine, and then with Benedictine and brandy and blackouts, with nicotine and nightmares. The hemochromatosis turned his skin grey, the liver cancer waited for the lung cancer to get him first. He died on the bathroom floor, haemorrhaging from a shot of chemotherapy.
He once kept a pet duck and ordered a crocodile by mail. He could recite the statistics of every attack by a Great White Shark. He met the love of his life over there, Heroin. He married her, became a panhandler, settled down to a lifetime’s free access to methadone.
He sits in a classroom of medical students at Yale, Exhibit A, a shrunken, shivery gnome in a beanie, insisting that everyone would be happier with Heroin.
Katheryn and Antoinette.
On Christmas Day my father is on his seventh mission, flying cargo out of Okinawa, with seven Vietcong shooting at his tail. I visit Santa on his Throne in the belly of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, the seventh child to sit on his knee. I beg him please could he bring me a Barbie. He gives me this Bible, full of Good News, instead.
Hunting Season: Live Canon Anthology 2020 (Live Canon)
All the Things Flying are Overwhelming: Finished Creatures
Family Bible: The North (Issue 63)