Quincy R. Lehr, ‘Heimat’ (short excerpt, ‘Observation’)

It’s in the observation, not the action–
asymmetries of night, the fractured day,
the bum note sung, the slightly tawdry way
the chiaroscuro plays against a curtain,
a moment of condescending satisfaction.
The problem’s hardly certain

except in observation, not the move
to rectify the flaws, to seek the feeling
but not offend or end up too revealing–
the phrase that’s blurted out, the sense of shame,
the passion, and the point one has to prove.
The love for one’s own name

is lost in observation, disconnected
from anything but this–a set of scenes,
possible debate on what it means,
and details of what may as well be fact
in present time or vaguely recollected.
It never is an act

but only observation that suffuses
this sense of permanence, a thing that’s set
not in the vapors trailing from a jet,
but in an observer’s blank and steady eye
that searches, not for things that have their uses,
but for the subtle lie

that even observation can’t dispel
but only note in hope of preservation
of something that will outlast a vacation
or office trauma. Shadows of a wraith
fall across the prosody and swell
to what resembles faith.

I’m just observing, as I said before.
Talk to the prophets hanging out next door.


Quincy R.Lehr writes: “As for ‘Heimat‘ more generally, it was a reflection on the nation-state, its pull on one’s basic sense of self, even while it obscures other, more materially important things such as class and colonialism. I had been back in the U.S. for about a year after a two-year stint in Ireland when I started writing that poem, and being a foreigner for a time turbocharged my interest in nation and nationalism as political phenomena.

“I wrote ‘Heimat‘ over a roughly three-month period, fueled by chain-smoking and reckless levels of coffee consumption. I doubt I’m unhealthy enough to pull off a project of that scale and ambition these days. 2009 really was the summer of ‘Heimat‘ for me.”

Born in Oklahoma, Quincy R. Lehr is the author of several books of poetry, and his poems and criticism appear widely in venues in North America, Europe, and Australia. His book-length poem ‘Heimat‘ was published in 2014. His most recent books are ‘The Dark Lord of the Tiki Bar‘ (2015) and ‘Near Hits and Lost Classics‘ (2021), a selection of early poems. He lives in Los Angeles.


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