After you've surrendered to pillows 
and I, that second whiskey, 
on the way to bed I trace my fingers 
over a thermostat we dare not turn up.
You have stolen what we call the green thing—
too thick to be a blanket, too soft to be a rug—
turned away, mid-dream. Yet your legs
still reach for my legs, folding them quick 
to your accumulated heat.
                              These days
only a word can earn overtime. 
Economy: once a net, now a handful of holes. 
Economy: what a man moves with 
when, even in sleep, he is trying to save
all there is left to save.

More by Sandra Beasley

Cherry Tomatoes

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 mother. 

Now, a city girl, I ease one 
loose from its siblings,
from its clear plastic coffin,
place it on my tongue.

Just to try. The smooth
surface resists, resists,
and erupts in my mouth: 
seeds, juice, acid, blood

of a perfect household.
The way, when I finally 
went sailing, my stomach 
was rocked from inside

out. Little boat, big sea.
Handful of skinned sunsets.

Vocation

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.
I speak Russian, Latin, a smattering of Tlingit. 
I can balance seven dinner plates on my arm.
All I want to do is sit on a veranda while 
a hard rain falls around me. I'll file your 1099s. 
I'll make love to strangers of your choice. 
I'll do whatever you want, as long as I can do it 
on that veranda. If it calls you, it's your calling, 
right? Once I asked a broker what he loved 
about his job, and he said Making a killing. 
Once I asked a serial killer what made him 
get up in the morning, and he said The people.

Grief Puppet

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.

Related Poems

Zero

Now that legal tender has
              lost its tenderness,
and its very legality
          is so often in question,
it may be time to consider
the zero—
          long rows of them,
    empty, black circles in clumps
                          of three,
presided over by a numeral
                       or two.
Admired, even revered,
these zeros
          of imaginary money
capture
   the open gaze of innocents

like a vision of earthly paradise.

Now the zero has
a new name:
               The Economy.

As for that earthly
                paradise—well...