Kiss Me Kate
Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits in the nineteenth row of my heart while onstage, a woman has been
conscribed to the shape of a shrew. The actress has sparkling blue eyes, an aquiline nose; her
shoulders slight, her waist small enough. She is being spanked over our hero’s knee and I am
laughing because everyone is laughing except the conductor, who must steady his baton, and
the house manager, who has seen it before, and the actors—directed instead to be aghast,
agape, gawking, agog, whatever Cole Porter rhymes with dismayed—and Ginsburg, who
adjusts the pearl clipped to her ear. She curls the program in her lap. This is tiring, attending
theaters of the heart. She doesn’t relish it as Sandra Day O’Connor did, sipping champagne
during the intermission of Porgy & Bess. The gangsters soft shoe, reminding us to brush up on
our Shakespeare. The actress sings “I am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple.” Our chests
hurt from laughing. Kate must be tamed, of course. That’s how we’ll know the ending is
Marion “Shepilov” Barry, Jr. (1936-2014)
Marionberry: jams of Washington
state. I thought they were mocking you, city.
Take a mayor and boil his sugar down—
spoon-spreadable, sweet. You take presidents
and run them in a game’s fourth-inning stretch.
You take Bullets and turn them to Sea Dogs.
Do you remember that ballot? Sea Dogs
Dragons Stallions Express. The Washington
Wizards was no more or less of a stretch.
You wave gavels like wands in this city.
You’re the small town in which a president
can plant some roses. Each time I sit down
to say goodbye, all I ever write down
is Dear City. My neighbor walks his dogs
past a monument to a president’s
terrier, forever bronzed. Washington
has no J Street, no Z, yet the city
maps attend to fifty states and a stretch
of five blocks NE Metro track, a stretch
named Puerto Rico Avenue. Bow down
to the unmapped names: Chocolate City,
Simple. Ben Ali served up chili dogs
through a riot, and Walter Washington
was the first and last time a president
picked your mayor. The truth is, presidents
come and go, four or eight years at a stretch.
Barry said, I’m yours for life, Washington—
Emperor Marion, who could get down
with Chuck Brown. Later, reporters will dog
his Bitch set me up, his graft. Dear City,
you’ve never agreed to be my city.
To love you is to deny precedent.
Your quadrants hustle like a pack of dogs
around the hydrant Capitol. They stretch
and paw, they yap and will not settle down.
Traffic: the berry to Washington’s jam.
For city miles, Barry’s motorcade stretched.
You laid him among vice presidents; down
where dogs play, by the banks of Washington.
SANDRA BEASLEY is the author of three poetry collections: Count the Waves; I Was the Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize; and Theories of Falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize. Honors for her work include a 2015 NEA Literature Fellowship, the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, and two DCCAH Artist Fellowships. She is also the author of the memoir Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life. She lives in Washington, DC and is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA program at the University of Tampa. Read our interview with Sandra here.
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Issue 10 Playlist