Perhaps as a countercurrent to the disintegration constantly threatening its speakers, Jukebox is filled with efforts to catch and clench. A woman presses her hand against her lover’s back “as if he were a child / who needed catching.” In another poem, someone who has miscarried muses, “she has always known her fingers to be a net / she could not lace tight enough.” In “Osiris Speaks,” the god—scattered into his component organs—prays: “Isis, every fish in that river is a child / of mine. You are my net. Hold me.” Beasley’s poems express the desire not only to be needed, but also netted, held together as oneself—often by someone else.
Or, in the case of her rhythmic, wrenching “The Translator,” to be held together with someone else, as someone else. This poem about fusion nests one dramatic monologue within another: Beasley speaks as a translator, whose job is to transmit the words of still another writer. In a sly way, “The Translator” is a love poem, first winking toward prostitution (“He paid me . . . / To give him please. / To give him thank you”) and then hinting at domestic intimacy (“I ate at his table. / I moved into his basement”). Since it’s a love poem by Beasley, it’s also an elegy:
I can’t breathe, he said, so I said
I can’t breathe. My heart, he said,
so I said My heart. It was my wrist
the nurse held, my chest
under the stethoscope. I’m sorry,
said the doctor, and my throat
became a coffin
they could not open.
His failure to breathe becomes hers; his heart becomes hers; he becomes her—and all the while, the act of merging itself merges with dying.
Causes Sandra Beasley Supports
Virginia Center for Creative Arts, The Writer's Center, Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, Food Allergy Initiative.