Featured Poet

Sandra Beasley


( Washington, D.C. )


Two years ago the tree was a spruce monster, refusing to fit—
so my father decapitated it in our driveway with a handsaw.
We gathered in the living room, draping the body with tinsel.  
Every year he weaves in the bulbs, their white and steady light.
Then my mother leaves to make coffee and he sneaks in blinkers,

his beloved epileptics in blue and green.  This year there are strikes: 
my sister refuses to open her advent calendar until he sees a doctor;
my father refuses to see the doctor, popping Excedrin and Sudafed.   
My mother suggests a cruise, her sister’s house, anywhere warm, 
anywhere a thousand ornament hooks will not pierce her fingers. 

We thumb through her clippings.  We map.  We even reach
for our bags but it’s that familiar silver that fills our palms, 
strings of tinsel we’ll be picking from the carpet until May.
On the Eve we open one gift, a tease, make one toast, then feast: 
root vegetables in curry, bacon and onion over the green beans,

white wine and more white wine, always a knife sharp enough 
to cut the roast of our hearts into neat, luscious slices.  A lover said
I’ve never seen people trying so hard to make each other happy
manage to make each other so miserable.  Clearly, I said,
you do not understand the true meaning of Christmas.  Tonight 

we’ll stay up until dawn wrapping gifts, alone in our many rooms.
The house quiet except for my father’s cough, galloping; except 
for the rattle of twenty-five chocolates foiled behind twenty-five
untouched windows; except for my sister, stringing up her angels,
in one hand their tiny napes of neck, in the other hand a hook.

Love Poem for Los Angeles

Two hundred years ago, we set out west one 
mouth at a time, a long game of Telephone: you 
are our strangest echo, the promise of Great American 

Self-Storage.  Los Angeles, I love your red and white 
strip joints, your car dealerships, your Bob Hope Hall 
of Patriotism.  I love the graze of your fingernails,  

your slow sparklers of palm trees, your buildings silver 
and inscrutable, this constant haze as if a battle just 
ended and your bloodied asking Did we win?  Did we win? 

Los Angeles, take off your sunglasses, roll your window 
down; I like it when you let your hair whip into knots.
Los Angeles, even your salads glisten with fish and 

though I know you dream of living forever, cancer 
looks good on you.  Los Angeles, I love the ways 
you misunderstand me: Jew for blue, erosion for ocean.

I am rushing your Russians, I am cold for your gold.
When I tell you I’m married, all you say is I do.
When I say Don’t get hurt you hear Flirt harder.

Love Poem for College

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.

In Which No One Gets Hurt

A tasseled girl holds an ace over her heart.  My sister covers her eyes.

A spit of lead splits the card.  Cameras zoom in on her smile—Ta-da.  

For TV, my sister says, they rim the barrel with powder for a big spark. 

Give over the gun.  Give over the girl.  The boy gives over the gun.

My sister tapes bags of ketchup under her arm.  She loads the blank.

She waves her hand so fast through flame that it does not singe her.

As the magician lowers his circular saw, she flops her legs for show.

My sister says she knows what she’s doing.  The boy waits in the car.

Officer, the lucky rabbit’s foot must have stopped this bullet.

In green light of 3 A.M. my sister asks You are single, right?  Look:

Nothing up his sleeve.  But a dove that will suffocate if he holds her.


Before he would leave he’d empty his pockets
onto the dresser and she’d seen it, that last night, 

every coin landing face down.  Don’t go, she’d said.  
And he’d laughed like he always did at her signs: 

crows on the lawn, a hang-up call, salt on the floor.    
He’d left quietly that morning, to let her sleep.  

She should have known as soon as she broke eggs 
for an omelet and the pink embryos came sliding out;

she should have cleared out her freezer, knowing 
the casseroles would come.  With all her signs,

why did she put on the cheap bra that morning?
She remembers the chaplain at her door,

holding his hat like an apology.  How he’d 
placed his hands on her shoulders and she’d said 

God.  Under his hands, her flesh welling past 
nylon straps: that dumb beast in harness, that hope.

I - Thrum of Wings
II - Eclipsed by the Whirr and Squeak
III - Raw Silk in the Mouth
IV - The Parenthetical Body

Review - Suzanne Frischkorn
Review - Nicole Cartwright Denison
Essay - C.E. Chaffin

Current Issue - Summer 2007