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Sandra Beasley: Two Poems

Becoming | Self Portrait One Year From Now



Peanut, my dad calls me
but it isnít until years later
I see the sonogram:

two orbed halves, all suck and kick,
little drawn bow of body
within the shell of white shadows.


When I am small
and hungry,
salt and pepper in a bowl of tap-water
becomes soup;

small and lonely,
the snap and curl
of a roly-poly bug
becomes the language of corners;

small and lovely,
scraped knees pulled tight
beneath a nightgown
become strawberries blooming
in a field of cotton;

small and secret
so even the bones are mine,
even the chapped lips,
even the hips still fluttering
within skin
in shades of blue and cellophane.


Rikki Tikki Tavi was a good mongoose who kept the garden clean —
he knew not to bite the boy when he fed Tavi bits of milk-sop bread
and rubbed the ruff beneath his chin. When Tavi heard the great viper Nag
plot to kill the boy, he chittered in rage and danced on the pads of his four feet.
Just past midnight Nag curled at the bottom of the deep stone jug to wait
for the morning wash. Rikki Tikki Taviís jaw loosened and popped
like a steel trap in anticipation —
                                              Again, Daddy
                                                                      The mother pulled her boy
from the breakfast table; the father hollered as from his closet he drew
a great clatter and aimed. Tavi took Naginaís last egg into his mouth
and she cried out — First her husband, now her children — Her coils
rose up like April dusts — She hissed and struck —
Rikki Tikki Tavi was a good mongoose who kept the garden clean
                                                                      Tell me about the fatherís gun.
Both barrels. Tell me about Taviís fur in the moonlight.


Stars luminous and cruel,
crocodile teeth snaring flesh of night
to pull, pull it tight.

This is the year of mouths
too cluttered with dark
to speak. Love.

I never know who
owns that sulfurous word first.
I own it last.


Dumb brilliant hands,
fumbling, breath
unrepentant with sourdough.
Space between classes, seconds
clasped against a cold locker.
Spring promises choir practices
and late buses. No one knows.
His collar pinks with my blush.
After one rain my skirt crawls up
four inches, plaid puckers of lycra.
I walk back to school and stand
for ten minutes in the girlsí room,
hot hand dryers aimed at my thighs.
I reclaim my hemline so he can claim
Mom, meet my friend
and I can say itís so nice to meet you,
reach for her saffron-scented palm,
meet his eyes.


This one —
An open jar
of peanut butter
left on the floor
for a week straight.

When I beg
he digs the knife out
and runs it under a sponge.

We read Nietzsche in bed
and hold it as a chick
to the warmth of our chests,
thinking it needs us.

Sex something
to make the walls suffer,
to leave proud bruises
on the back of our hands.

Showers are broth
of something better and boiling over.

In the morning I always trip over the blanket or bottle or guitar.

When I beg
he digs the knife out
and stops calling.


You buy books
for children we might have,
thick cardboard and satin bindings:
goodnight bunny, goodnight moon,
goodnight mongoose in the creeping vines.

Beneath your arm I nest in sleep.
We take turns breathing.
The walls flutter with maps
you tacked loosely to the plaster,
Adriatic wings and boot-leather islands.

This heart flexes and burns
within my ribfingerfist:
here the church of bone,
here the steeple of sternum,
open the door and they are all
dressed in red, they are all waving
toward you.

Self Portrait One Year From Now

Snake farming will turn out easier than I thought,
Florida cheaper, and my tangled lakefront will have
one lone sentry, a flamingo
white, unmotivated, preferring fish
to courtship. And I will wear hats. Straw ones.

I will not recall the Viking bounty,
the cotton incarcerations of the Salvation Army,
the girl, the mewling girl,
and how you shed us all like a tired skin when you left.

There will be two moons:
mine, ever and gladed
and yours, cold and above,
watched from a quiet bed,
kept awake — as you always are —
by bites from small, dedicated mouths.

Poet's Biography:
sandra beasley Sandra Beasley lives in Washington D.C., where she earned her MFA and served as Editor-in-Chief of Folio, A Literary Journal at American University; other past editing stints include working on Meridian and as the Poetry Editor of IRIS: A Journal About Women. She received fellowships for Vermont Studio Center, the Indiana University Writerís Conference, and Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her manuscript of poetry, Materfamilias, was named a finalist for the 2004 Kore Press First Book Prize. Her poetry can be found in recent or forthcoming issues of Rosebud, New Zoo Poetry Review, Reed, Cimarron Review and Rhino.

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