A Useful Anyone

A Very Long Engagement (2004)

Cast of Thousands
by Sandra Beasley, from I Was the Jukebox

When they make a movie of this war
I am minute ninety-seven, soot tears
applied with a Q-tip, the one whose roof
collapses on her head before
her pie is done. Look how I look at you—
the apple and the apple’s knife still rolled
into my skirt, eyes wide as gin. The blast,
then ash. The director cried Cut!
More ash, he said, and they bombed me again.
My death is the clip they send to the Academy;
later they will kill me in Spanish, then French.
I will die on mute, on airplanes, row after row
of my tiny, touchscreened dying. My love,
I have joined the cast of thousands: me
and the plucky urchin, the scared infantryman,
me and the woman whose laminated beauty
sells gyros on every Greek storefront—
a useful anyone who advances the story,
then drops away. In your dream
six months from now I’ll make a cameo
as the customer with an unfocused smile,
offering a twenty as the register
begins to shake and smolder under your hands.
The coins will rise and spit silver into the air.
The coins will rise and spit silver into the air.
They buried my village a house at a time,
unable to sort a body holding from a body held,
and in minute ninety-six you can see me raise
my arms as if to keep the sky from falling.

Kirstin O'Carroll in Public Enemies (2009)