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.



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