A practical gift for moving to the city:
good cherry squared around black vinyl,
four long legs that fold within itself
as a greyhound does, disappearing into a nap.
Just big enough for a bridge match
if I’d ever had four people willing to kiss knees.
Just big enough to let me call a corner
of that S-Street studio my breakfast nook,
stacked with a week’s worth of newspapers
while I ate cereal cross-legged on my futon.
Just big enough to pull out every few years
and complain how small the table was,
too crowded as a desk, too low for my chairs.
In January, we stared at the strange space
wedged between two kitchen doorways.
Might as well try the card table.
We stacked onions there, then potatoes,
then tomatoes and peaches, and it became
the chopping table; stirring table; serving table.
Now, the first morning she is gone,
I see a swipe in the vinyl where a hot dish
burned through, and realize I forgot
to ask for anything—a ring, her sheet music—
so what I have is this reminder
that she, too, was once a girl in a city,
and that she knew I’d always need a table.
The cat flops and swims along the carpet,
ecstatic in her clawing, because I am alive,
despite the three days’ absence that she took as
my death. She could vomit in sheer joy,
and later she will, but for now
it’s head-butts and pantomime of mewing
with her jaw that ached and ran dry of sound
after my first night gone. Though I know
each of us would be better off
if she did not care quite so much, if
she displayed the feline diffidence promised—
water, kibble, company, she’ll be fine—
I confess to delighting in this small miracle
I perform in her eyes, this
resurrection. After a brief pause
to lovingly tend to her own asshole,
the cat resumes her yawp and purr.
Could I learn to greet the world this way,
to take nothing for granted? First
I’d have to think you all had died, of course,
but death would be temporary.
Truth is, I’ve tried odder routes to ecstasy.
SANDRA BEASLEY is the author of Made to Explode (forthcoming 2021); Count the Waves; I Was the Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize; Theories of Falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize; and Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, a disability memoir. She also edited Vinegar and Char: Verse from the Southern Foodways Alliance. She lives in Washington, D.C.