Shaindel Beers is the author of two full-length poetry collections, A Brief History of Time (2009) and The Children's War and Other Poems (2013), both from Salt Publishing. She is the Poetry Editor of Contrary Magazine and teaches at Blue Mountain Community College in the desert town of Pendleton, Oregon. Find more online at shaindelbeers.com
Sometimes I’m inspired to write poems on the same subject. Here are two fairy tale inspired poems, and a circus poem. You can find some other circus-inspired poems here and here.
What is your #1 pet peeve?
I’m going to have to go with bad grammar. Some errors just make me wince. One of the worst is when people use “that” instead of “who” to refer to a person. It’s “The girl WHO lives next door,” not “The girl THAT lives next door.” Let’s stop dehumanizing people through grammar, okay?
What is your favorite article of clothing?
Boots. All superheroes wear boots.
What book have you read from beginning to end more times than any other?
Other than Danny and the Dinosaur, which I read over and over for obvious reasons, I’m going to go with Dracula. I read it several times for my Master’s thesis, and I’m currently listening to it while running because the Alan Cumming/Tim Curry version on Audible.com is delicious.
The Sword Swallower and the Fire Eater Make Love
The sword swallower’s survival
hinges on making room—
becoming an opening.
Drinking a large carafe
before her act
so her stomach
She guides the sword
down her gullet slowly.
The fire-eater’s life
is a constant slow exhale
to keep from accidentally
A quick clasp
of the mouth
over the torch
to close off
In their small trailer
after the show,
Lock and key.
When I Was Bluebeard’s Wife
I didn’t fear the murder room, didn’t loathe the bristle
of blue whiskers on my neck, my breasts. I didn’t even
flinch at the knife. I feared his finding a wife who
would be his equal. Her azure hair, her lily skin.
The love they would make. I practiced first cutting
on myself—my white thighs. Willed the servant girl
to hold the mirror so I could draw a knife across
my buttock. The blood was quite beautiful;
it looked like berry-stain I remembered from when
I was a girl. But when I held kittens, rabbits, piglets,
I knew I could never make the cut on someone other
than myself. He would find a girl to marry who was
not quite human. A selkie, a changeling. He would
make her a gold key to wear on a chain hidden
between her breasts. She would be able to slice
anyone’s throat while still smiling, looking them
in the eyes. She would be the one to put my head
on the wall.
Little Red Cap Understands At Last
“So here I find you, you old sinner,” he said.
“I have been hunting you for a long time.”
—from “Little Red Cap” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
The wolf’s stomach is a gentle cocoon.
Never since you were born have you felt
so safe. So cradled. Here is Grandmother.
Here is the cake and the wine. You eat a piece.
Take a sip. You are a stomach within a stomach
within the womb of the world. All the earth
dependent on a cabin in the woods. Suddenly,
voices booming. A cry. Bright slice of light.
You realize it was the hunter, not the wolf
you needed to fear.