I’m not sure whether it’s my ear or my thwarted Romantic that’s more provoked by Amy Beeder’s “Dear Drought.”

The use of assonance is downright heady—posy/goathead; sharp/garland; weed/cheat; legged/neglected—and pairs with Beeder’s drumming trochees (‘bitter zinnias fell to bits’ and ‘dream of hidden stables’) to craft a hamlet of thought that is nothing short of sumptuous. A rather pointed contrast, isn’t it, to the speaker’s poetic mise en scèce—the product we truck in is a devastated sort, ‘goatheads’ (smart: reads as both a spiny weed and a skull), ‘sharp garlands of thistle,’ ‘squash bugs strung on blighted stems,’ ‘egg cluster[s] that I scraped away with knife/or twig or thumbnail.’

You see: I can’t help but quote the poem at length.

The romance in “Dear Drought” is the romance of language (for those won by it), and then the strange drowning bitterness of being riven from a partner of some sort—man, woman, world. You can see the speaker has given herself over to consumption: a majestic (linguistic) prostration. The image that best encapsulates the speaker’s draw to feast and famine is her dream:

[. . .]Wake me sweat-laced
from a dream of hidden stables: the gentle foals

atremble, stem-legged, long-neglected.

Beeder sets this happy snare by using the loving, sweet care of ‘dream,’ ‘hidden,’ and ‘gentle’ first, and finishing the scene with fear, lost flesh, and desertion. The enjambment of ‘Dear/drought’ is also laid with real intelligence, since we come upon it like an old friend; ‘weed & cheat’ and ‘lattice & husk’ are pairings just spicy enough to mete out her tension in boxes.

Indeed, when that ‘yearling’ surfaces—almost yanked from the ‘dream of hidden stables’—Beeder’s delivery expands far beyond whatever local hurt might have forced this poem into being. One assumes the year-old animal will process the contents of this scene all his life.