Sandra Beasley

The Translator

He paid me to carry his words
in my mouth—
to give him the cut of sky,
the color of beef.
To give him please.
To give him thank you.
To give him tea kettle, spider, tango.
I ate at his table.
I moved into his basement.
I made a dictionary of sighs—
when to order takeout,
when to play Stravinsky, when
to tell the woman to take her clothes
and go. Soon he was dying.
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.

Sandra Beasley
“The Translator” is from I Was the Jukebox (W.W. Norton, 2010).