~This poem first appeared in an issue of Black Warrior Review (2008), as part of a chapbook called Bitch and Brew: Sestinas.
Editor’s Note: Sandra Beasley was on the inaugural Editorial Board of Redux.
Secrets of Small Machines
Dialysis units can taste the blood.
The boy watches as tubes giggle and twitch
in his skin. They are like pretty, cruel girls
who wave from the swing set. They are lean wolves
chasing him through the purifying woods.
Be still. The nurse hands him his Speak & Spell,
then wipes her hands. Spell island, it says. Spell
sandwich. The boy keeps watching as his blood
loops out. He decides to be made of wood,
to be a boat that cannot cry or twitch.
He rides the waves past the jaws of ten wolves,
and the wake from his prow douses the girls.
Be still. He sails to a shore safe from girls
and docks, armed with only the Speak & Spell.
He changes the language setting to “Wolves.”
He joins a pack who love him like he’s blood,
who bed down around him, sighing, twitching
through a common dream. Beyond shore are woods
brambled and poison-ivied. Be still. The woods
teem with mechanized deer. Don’t be a girl,
he thinks. Their rusted breath scares him, the twitch
of each perfect, telescopic eye. (Spell
telescope.) They pulse oil instead of blood
and they’re the only creatures feared by wolves,
who fear nothing. Be still, he begs the wolves,
but they’re out of sandwiches and the woods
hold rabbits. They leave him to chase for blood
and the deer come, their eyes soft as a girl’s,
their teeth sharpened and rotored. Time to spell
run, one says, beginning to spark and twitch.
He was good, says the nurse. Hardly a twitch.
On his sister’s shirt winks a small, stitched wolf.
Her Chrysler sounds just like his Speak & Spell:
Fasten your seatbelt. She pats its fake wood.
The whole way home she’ll ask him about girls.
You’re at that age, she says. Girls in your blood.
It is May, ’83. Spell twitch. Spell would.
The boy knows there’s a deer inside each girl—
and for every spell cast, they’ll need more blood.