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The Natives Are Restless

Read by Steve Mueske

Of course you invited them in: faces painted
like trick-or-treaters, carrying pointy spears.

The youngest clutched his goat, the tallest
her stack of bowls, and you had rooms to spare.

They fill the house with song and drums;
they show you the dance for morning, the dance

for evening, the dance for mowing the lawn.
They yank the dust covers off your heart.

Now you have sheets to iron, skirts to mend.
You wish your husband was here to see this:

You are useful. You are adored. They want
marrow for breakfast, pancakes for supper.

They like to watch you work the griddle.
You try to teach the youngest to play checkers,

but he wants to play Tied to the Stake, Capture
the Blonde. Some nights they get a little loud

in their chanting, and you worry where the cats
disappeared to. But then they show some

unexpected kindness: a vertebrae necklace,
a cool compress, a broth of leeks and onion.

They need your gentle hand, your quick stitch.
They need for you to live, at least until they need

to kill you. Some nights the house rises up
on chicken legs and turns in circles around you.

You are their egg — their center, the warmth
and flutter. They will wait as long as they can.

Sandra Beasley won the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize for her book Theories of Falling, selected by Marie Howe. Her poems have also been featured in Verse Daily and Best New Poets, and in journals such as SLATE, 32 Poems, AGNI online, Blackbird, and Barrow Street. Awards for her work include the 2008 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award, the 2006 Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize, and fellowships to Vermont Studio Center, VCCA, and the Millay Colony. She lives in Washington, D.C., where she serves on the editorial staff of The American Scholar.