May 21, 2008

You say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too



Alice Neel, Kenneth Fearing, 1935


The World War Speaks
-- by Sandra Beasley

When I was born, two incisors
had already come through the gum.
They gave me a silver bell to chew on,
brought me home in a wicker basket,
and kept me by the stove's coal heat.
Every morning my mother boiled
a huge vat of mustard greens,
steam drifting over to my crib and
after a few hours, souring into a gas.
I breathed it all in. I began to walk
so they fitted me with braces.
I began to run, so they fitted me
with books: Mars, hydrogen, Mongolia.
I learned to dig a deeper kind of ditch.
I learned to start a fire in three minutes.
I learned to sharpen a pencil into
a bayonet. Sometimes at night
I'd sneak into the house of our neighbors,
into the hall outside their bedroom,
and watch as they moved over each
other like slow, moonlit fish.
Sometimes my mother would comb
my father's hair with her fingertips,
but that was it. They wanted an only
child: the child to end all children.


Love Poem for College
-- by Sandra Beasley

You hit on me. You hit on everyone.
You pour gallons of lightning punch
into a trash bag, explaining that sobriety
is just a 2 AM Waffle House away.
You are always under construction.
The earth shall be inherited by your trucks.
Every semester brings new commandments.
Your blackboards are suspiciously green.
You pop your collar. You roll your skirt.
You tell me you don’t care, then you
sneak off to the stall on the third floor
and throw up. You hit me, once.
You hit everyone, once. You
streak the Chancellor’s house.
You steal beakers from Chem class.
When you say you are sorry,
you mean you’ve left your heart out
on the train tracks again. Later
we will all wonder if you were
the best of us, but you were probably
just the most frantic. We swarmed
like fireflies in our jar before someone
lifted the lid off. We pierced the sky
with our panting, involuntary light.


Portrait
-- by Sandra Beasley

I woke and you were weeping
as a child does, hot and senseless
from the dream. You refused
to be touched, shielding your face
from a bad sun, which was me,
or the camera, which was me.
You hate the body’s sweat
and hangnails, its pump and fade,
rubbing at your turnpike veins
as if to stop their thick traffic.
The first time we touched I felt
horses penned under your skin—
their restless breath, the push
of their hooves. I love you
for not running but understand,
I would love you for running.

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