Heidi Beck

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the poet

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.

the poems

Hunting Season

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                        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
are Overwhelming

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            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.

Family Bible

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GENESIS

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.


EXODUS

And so 2.6 million men were sent to Vietnam; another 40,000 fled to Canada.


LOTTERY

The Law said birthdates should be placed in capsules, mixed in a shoebox, transferred to a glass jar.


NUMBERS

The birthdates of three of my uncles were chosen.


GEORGE

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.


HARRY

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.


1 PETER

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.


2 PETER

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.


WIDOWS

Katheryn and Antoinette.


REVELATION

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.

Publishing credits

Hunting Season: Live Canon Anthology 2020 (Live Canon)

All the Things Flying are Overwhelming: Finished Creatures

  (Issue 6)

Family Bible: The North (Issue 63)