Duties of the Heart – a Verse Memoir by Bea Opengart


“A closely connected sequence of poems that revisit the geographical and experiential landscapes of Bea Opengart’s youth in the desert southwest.”


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 70
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: December, 2016
  • ISBN: 978-1-939929-69-3


“The necessities and impossibilities of home are continually present in Bea Opengart’s powerful and moving Duties of the Heart; from a parakeet’s grave to oven clocks, linens, and Melmac dishes, this poet traces all those ghosts we enfold in the ghost-holdings of words and continually discovers that ‘The heart will not / be a mollusk, opening, /nor will the large rooms / of childhood contain it.’ Her searching poems generate an eerie and vagabond beauty.”    —Mark Irwin, American Urn: Selected Poems (1987-2014)

“How will I know myself?” asks Bea Opengart in this searching, insistent archaeology of familial remembrance, separation, distance, and connection. Her quiet new volume investigates remnants —some haunted, all infused with story; all inviting reverent and painstaking interrogation. These are grief poems, but they are both dry-eyed and clear-eyed. Their objectivity is infused with a tenderness that not only knows its place, but occupies it dead-center, with uncomplicated certainty. — Frannie Lindsay, author of If Mercy


Driving at Night

Here’s the road through fields,
across gullies, up mountains
new lovers drive to expose
their kisses to moonlight.
Public where no one can see them,
they wrap themselves in excess,
immodesty, failure of love
for the common day,
for streets laid out in a grid,
identical houses, lives
like socks in a drawer, in fists,
in hidden knots of fabric,
linen stacked in closets,
dishes cleared away.
Tables gleam like water
over depths, shadows
through windows, breath
an act of stealth
from room to room.

Too fast up the mountain,
we laugh to rise without wings,
park and the lovers curse us,
sit up and start their cars
and the city is ours, the desert,
stretching its rocky skin. We might
be alone for good. Night opens.
A large bird dips to the windshield,
veers. Night closes us in.


Bea OpengartBea Opengart’s poems have appeared in a number of journals and in three previous collections, including In the Land (Dos Madres Press 2011), This Day (Finishing Line Press, 2011), and Erotica (Owl Creek Press, 1995. Duties of the Heart, her fourth collection, represents a return to geographical and experiential landscapes of her youth. Bea has received grants in support of her work from The Kentucky Arts Council, The Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Ohio Arts Council. She teaches in the English Department at The University of Cincinnati.

Additional information

Weight 7 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in