Little bastards of vine. Little demons by the pint. Red eggs that never hatch, just collapse and rot. When my mom told me to gather their grubby bodies into my skirt, I'd cry. You and your father, she'd chide— the way, each time I kicked and wailed against sailing, my dad shook his head, said You and your
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In the nearby plaza, musicians would often gather. The eternal flame was fueled by propane tank. An old man sold chive dumplings from a rolling cart, while another grilled skewers of paprika beef. Male turtledoves would puff their breasts, woo-ing, and for a few coins, we each bought an hour with the grief puppet. It had two eyes, enough teeth, a black tangle of something like hair or fur, a flexible spine that ran the length of your arm. Flick your wrist, and at the end of long rods it raised its hands as if conducting the weather. Tilt the other wrist, and it nodded. No effort was ever lost on its waiting face. It never needed a nap or was too hungry to think straight. You could have your conversation over and over, past dusk when old men doused their charcoal, into rising day when they warmed their skillets. The puppet only asked what we could answer. Some towns had their wall, others their well; we never gave the stupid thing a name, nor asked the name of the woman who took our coins. But later, we could all remember that dank felt, and how the last of grief’s flock lifted from our chests.
Sandra Beasley is the author of three poetry collections: Count the Waves (W. W. Norton, 2015); I Was the Jukebox (W. W. Norton, 2010), winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize; and Theories of Falling (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2008), winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize. In 2015 she received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Washington, D.C., and is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA program at the University of Tampa.