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About this poet

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.

 

The Sword Swallower's Valentine

You had me at that martini. I saw
you thread the olive’s red pimento throat
with your plastic swizzle stick, a deft act
at once delicate and greedy. A man
paid to taste the blade knows his match.
The pleasure. The brine. I wish we had time,
I said—you stopped me—There’s always time.
That’s when they called me to the stage. I saw
your mouth’s angle change as you made a match
of my name and Noted Gullet! Steel Throat!
Ramo Swami, the Sword-Swallowing Man.
I want to assure you it’s just an act,
but since age seven it’s the only act
I know. My mother recalls that first time
she caught my butter-knife trick: a real man
might not cry, but the real boy wept. She saw
my resolve to build a tunnel from throat
to feet. A dark that deep could go unmatched,
she warned. Your smile is the strike of a match,
the hope of an inner spelunking act.
Facing the crowd, the sight of your pale throat
tightens mine at the worst possible time—
that fickle tic of desire. Yeah, I saw
his last show, you’ll say. Lost focus, poor man.
Funny how women make and break their men,
how martinis both break and make a match.
The best magician will hang up his saw,
release his doves, if the right woman acts
to un-straitjacket his body in time.
If lips meet, the hint of gin in your throat
will mingle with camellia in my throat,
same oil used by any samurai man.
I trained against touch once upon a time,
not knowing a rigid pharynx would match
a rigid heart. I’m ready to react,
to bleed. As any alchemist can see,
to fill a throat with raw steel is no match
for love. Don’t clap for these inhuman acts.
Cut me in two. Time, time: the oldest saw.

Copyright © 2015 Sandra Beasley. This poem originally appeared in Count the Waves (W. W. Norton, 2015). Used with permission of the author.

 

Copyright © 2015 Sandra Beasley. This poem originally appeared in Count the Waves (W. W. Norton, 2015). Used with permission of the author.

 

Sandra Beasley

Sandra Beasley

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.

 

by this poet

poem

            Marion “Shepilov” Barry, Jr. (1936-2014)

Marionberry:   jams of Washington                                                 
state. I thought they were mocking this city.
Take a mayor and boil his sugar down—                                          
spoon-

poem
For six months I dealt Baccarat in a casino. 
For six months I played Brahms in a mall. 
For six months I arranged museum dioramas;
my hands were too small for the Paleolithic
and when they reassigned me to lichens, I quit. 
I type ninety-one words per minute, all of them 
Help. Yes, I speak Dewey Decimal
poem
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