Tamiko Beyer

Tamiko Beyer


           Tell all the Truth but tell it slant
                                   — Emily Dickinson

In telling A, I've lost the key,
I say B to B to
bumble bee. Repeat, “Boys believe
in bombs.” All around Christian
church bells chime
and chime and chime and chime.

                                   At seven in green uniform and beret,                          On my honor
                                   my badge reads “TOFS”                                            I will try
                                   for Troops On Foreign Soil.                                       to serve
                                   At Mt. Fuji's foot, we girls from everywhere             God and
                                   —say Afghanistan, say Bolivia, say the Republic     my country
                                   of China — we girls sing camp songs, make             and to live
                                   S'mores that sound like, taste like America.               by the Girl
                                   Voices raised high, we pledge. . .                              Scout Law.

Whose country? I come to A, skin rough as silk. My face ambiguous morning
streets before the stagger of tourists. In telling B I've lost the key. Bulldozer
caterpillars run roughshod. Crush houses. Crush bones.

                                   When American soldiers throw
                                   white phosphorus bombs into Iraqi homes, they are rooting
                                   out the terrorists. Walls erupt in flames. Tell all
                                   the truth: Here,
                                   a couple once fought and made love.
                                   Here, a child once refused to eat
                                   bamya and after sanctions
                                   dreamt wildly of crisp okra, tomato's tang.
                                   Here, poems scrawled at midnight and songs sung in
                                   the kitchen erupt into flames, cling
                                   to the skin of the man, of the woman, of the grown
                                   child. Burn skin down to bone.

Tell it slant.
B to B to bumble bee,
we all believe
in bombs.
Disbelieve atrocities,
attack, attack, defend,
defend. In the beginning
God created
troops bleeding foreign
soil. Cross
yourself, enter chilled
church air.

           A: My body wakes under the weight of my lover's arm. B: Some would kill
           us too for loving each other. C: There are no words
           for what we are about to commit. Help us find our slanted tongues.

As Brutal As any Electrician

You drop in like a quarter.

My lightbulbs zing, bells tremble, my gates arch         open
             tin whistle tin whistle tin
you       whistle as brutal as any electrician.
I'm wired to your circuitry.
             In jouled four four time we pulse          we pulse we
jukebox waltz                   bite booze like rabid dogs
             fuck in neon                flashing on formica countertops. Drag
                          hard        cigarette exhale
swirl us up and over city's crosshatch           ragged trees.

                          Wisps. Breath. Cough.
Cumulous clouds garish in zealot headlights.

                          You orbit elliptical
             false star                         light fluttering against
my chain link fence. Fuse short
circuiting, you call      to the night watchman
in me.              Your skin I flashlight,
your skin bruised in diamond patterns.
With ivory handled switchblade care, I cut you                       delicately
             away. I whistle
as brutal
                         as any electrician.

Appellation, Hana

She tells this story again and
never again. Keeps it close.

This                 a flower
A cloud
                        a sharpened skyscraper.
There a train
                                     densha. A bicycle, the precise display of carrots.
And there        a stone
                        a raindrop
That                 a puddle of mud.

The day was gray. And she lingered. She knew there was a there to where the trains went. Silk and blood—old favorites, all silk. It wasn't companionship she speared through the delicate petals. She had lost her lover against the sky. The handkerchief bled, nostalgia. In the tall glass, summer afternoons swam.

She swam trailing her four names, trailing her handsome burden. The wires hummed and hummed. Hot desert and wind counted to one hundred. In a tongue not its own. She forgot to travel as she lit her cigarette. The trains sauntered into the ending and were lonely.

They were all lonely. Matchbooks, mushrooms. And, likely, stockings slipped to the floor in long afternoons of revenge. She cracked the word peripatetic. Sometimes, now, walking, and the brink of (what?). The waves: too strong. She was often buried in sex, she was often buried.

Time, a dandy. Eucalyptus, just the ticket.

            This home she chooses:
            train's rumble

She collects fog
at the Pacific's edge.

Pelicans wing south.

In cities all across the world, pelicans wing south.

Hana Writes a Love Poem

You, ocean curved.
Exhale—I'm the wave-washed
shell at your throat. You
remember as thoughtlessly
as sand.

And yes             you loosen my knees' cartilage             and yes
I swirl in the whorl of your fingertips
            and no
I want to swallow whole your scallop-laden hair, your whole pink carnations,
want to slide
                                    my blistered self home

I've forgotten how to say what I need in the language of my mother's mother's mother.
Glaciers melt somewhere north and north of us.
Touch my tongue. And
yes, touch my tongue. And no, touch the small
of my back. Scarred. Lovely.

Between the sheets—
seaweed and doorways.
You shed your shirt.
We gasp, our breasts
brim. Listen,
the tracks we lay
across each other's skin —
cut summer grass, evaporating
salt, driftwood.

Discuss: hormones and sand castles.
The difference is
closing the space between
our bodies
is holding your head
on my lap, is saying the right thing to translate
the untangling of your hair.