Robert Beveridge

Short Lives

Only the margin left
allows play at all.
Sixteen ex-lovers
left you stranded
without even a cell phone
to call your bachelorette party
in the middle of Wal-Mart.

You felt rugs,
appliances, traced
for crinkles in a bag
of dog food.
white CD covers glared
disapproval; you wondered
if you, perhaps, had been Mormon
in a previous life.

The security camera
stared down,
you stared back
until escorted from the store
by two Chippendale dancers,
your purse devoid
of quarters with which
to share the news.

Witch’s Cradle

I fell in love with a demon with a woodwind name,*
tongue trained in Enochian embouchure, fingers
dexterous as Houdini’s. She sang Lady Day
and Angela Gossow with equal abandon
but her greatest skill, of course, was Paganini,
who she claimed her lover after his refusal
of the final sacrament.
She sings for me
with eager readiness whenever the mood strikes.
Her breath holds only the faintest trace
of brimstone; more telling the flames
of her hair, which she swears is natural.
My belief reflected in the seat
of every embrace.
Kiss me, gentle
manticore, best fiend, with your voice:
velvet temptation, concrete beneath.
Cover me in syllables whose presence
leaves the most delicious blisters. Play
the mill girl with reckless abandon.
I’ll come along for the ride every time.

* first line by Sonya Taaffe


Desert community.
Main street. No trees.
Houses, shells.
Dummies, perhaps a father
and son, seated
at a table. Mannequins
with no face,
no expression.

No future.

The camera rolls
behind lead shields miles away
white-lab-coated Oppenheimer
taps one fingernail against
the panel, near
the red button exposed
its clear shell flipped back.
There is a countdown, a voice
sexless over an intercom.
A drone, distraction.
His eyes are focused on the screen,
the house. Bead of sweat
drips past his eye,
magnifies: he can see
the outlines of the family
dummies in the kitchen.

Jams his thumb d
own on the button
screen goes the white
of burnt plutonium

Desert community.
Maim street. No tree.
No houses, shells.
No father. No son.
No holy spirit.

No future.

July 16, 1997
52 years ago today

Robert Beveridge makes noise ( and writes poetry just outside Cleveland, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Chiron Review, Zombie Logic Review, and The Literateur, among others.