To Whoever Moves in Next
We’ll leave our ghosts
In the garden
And our love
In the sunlight
... The holidays arrive on time, but, again—
We are late in becoming...
There are compensations, though:
Trees—wonderful Christmas trees, like assorted pills—
They come in all shapes & sizes,
as if truly therapeutic...
O See how blankly they stare, standing stiffly
in corners, as awkward as some youngster stuffed
into his Sunday best... But—yes—
There are compensations...
Our talk, our frivolous trinkets... It happens
every year: Christmas trees...
We coax them first with axes, then haul them off
to smoke-filled parlors as hijacked, unwilling
guests; we then prop them up on stools
where they blink at us politely across tables...
Christmas trees, recurring visitors who beam, nod
at all we say, question nothing
& still appear to be alive:
They beam at us through windows,
cheery & dangerous. Yes—Every year it happens:
We assume the Christmas spirit, Christmas colors—
Our hands turn red from wrapping, while our friends
grow enviously green...They know that
the biggest tree & most extravagant gifts prove
the most prosperous life (or—so
we are taught from childhood).
Yes... Christmas guests, Christmas trees...
Each year we prostrate ourselves at their feet,
our feelings pre-packaged, stale—
in our stresses
& ribbons of blood:
Are we ashamed by how little we have to offer?
No, the trappings are showy enough, & we
pop up through laughter
like rabbits out of hats, bold Punchinellos
—some Jack-in-the-box item.
We are armed with our amusements:
They have not failed us yet, though now, an inner voice
seems to ring out far-too-clearly, proclaiming
like a herald its prodigious warning: that
it’s the road-not-taken
which leads to Bethlehem….
This sweater keeps saving me
whenever I might lose it
but go to the hotel lobby instead
where it’s chilly at 2am, while others sleep beside,
I take Rexroth’s old century
down with me—imagine just walking
my city, kicking out my K’s, not a care
what they think or see, or if they’re even
there, at all. But he, he just settles in
with nuts and a magazine, and takes
not to drop off and streak the floor
on gorgeous wings. Not yet anyway. Just sits
and keeps blasting
time and its people and even his own
family as their imagined tragic victims. But he’s a nature
poet, peripatetic, I’m told—rich
in dusk and vagrancy—some box car Willie
to take my tokes for me and the
Gallimimus, who lived as he did: rapturous,
fired, and would have had
feathers. Either way, that rain was hard
and your haunches felt it
from that aerie. I feel
it now with you, but that is
one wide country you’re pelting
from this next new one I’m in—hell
we’re all in it. The night watch
is Indian with a limp, joins family on his Apple—live
from Mumbai or Goa. I hear them
running the halls, stacking plates,
turning down the TV. “Daddy”
they yell, “happy Father’s Day,” while the mother murmurs
a daily love song in Marathi. “Time After Time”
plays on the speakers, soft, since he turned it
down for me. Then gave me some water. Now he yawns
while for us—us
it is a holy awakening.
My parents died. My house burnt down. I have no money. I asked Donald Trump, former President and “Apprentice” for a loan. No word yet. After leaving quarantine with dangerous Alzheimer’s Disease residents in emergency housing I am tired. I’m almost 50 years old and my ex-husband and I have been separated over 10 years. He’s been in chronic care resulting from several heart attacks. I have two undergraduate degrees and am finishing my MFA in Museum Studies. I have been to several marriage agencies that offer only retired creepy scientists. Looking for the right man...a writer perhaps. Need your advice.
When riding these days I kick my heels
Back into the passenger pegs
And pretend you are hanging on
Your legs tucked under mine
As I press my heels harder into the pegs
And move into the broad fast curve
Giving the bike that low and fluid moan
Your arms come round me holding tight
Into the turn not my body but yours mine
Leaning low into the flow the two of us
And the bike and the curve leaning smooth
Like the night itself pouring through the turn
The throttle opens and I duck my head in low
Behind the windscreen
And you lean low into the wind with me
Murmuring little glad yelps in your helmet
Tucked tight and close against my shoulder
Whoosh and we are gone
—Vernon Benjamin (1945-2022)
These days I moan
Oh to ride
Straddled onto you again
My hands resting low
Against your thighs
Inevitably sliding up, beckoned
Under your open leather jacket
To your chest
Or your T-shirt
Finds my fingertips slipped in
Under its sleeves
And tracing down your arms
Moving, pushing over the hills and curves
You want me closer
You reach back
“Let me know you’re there”
I press into you deeper
Our hearts are latched
We are one body
Alone under the blanket of rev
In the din we let go of
What’s been left behind
You know the road but not
Where it takes us
The twilight gives chase
When we stop
We’re sticky with the night’s
Hot humid weight
You kill the engine
I rest quiet now
My breasts pressed against you
We breathe soft in time
I can still feel the cool on my cheek
Of your smooth black jacket
With the body I love inside
Why did I ever get off
Bind me to your altar.
The ropes that bruised.
The others who nestled
their hung heads in the basin.
I want to feel my wrists shape
the same holy purple that wears you.
Enshrine me in reds and pinks.
Preserve me the moment my lips
taste worship as honeyed as mead
and as warm as clove.
Then brand me in the swallowing
black mass of sky and share what
terrible gods I can affront to stay
me in this cowering prayer.
A second story
A door on it seen only from the back
No staircase led to it
We shared it with another family
We were both on vacation
It was a small lake
I met a summer friend there
His name was Angel
We played Magic: The Gathering
We watched “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
I asked why it took almost a week to meet
He said his family was in the back of the house
I asked how he got in
He said the front door
I asked why it took almost a week to meet again
He said his family is from Mexico
I didn’t notice his accent until that second
I didn’t think about it after that second
He said our families just have different schedules
His family and mine met for dinner
It was delicious
We made burgers, dogs and potato salad
They were surprised how much we liked their cooking
We were shocked when they enjoyed ours back
We both said it’s just easy summertime food
We didn’t know it was both our last day there
Angel and I had a sleepover that night
We slept in the same bed
In the morning we hugged and said see ya
We were seven
I don’t care how old I am now
Town on the Skids
It’s a sorry town, a sad Main Street,
when even the bar is shuttered.
Folks still have reason to get plastered
but there’s just not enough of them
for good old Charlie to stay in business.
The mine closed and most people left
and now those that stayed
have to drive twenty miles if they want
to get drunk on a Saturday night.
Empty hardware store, abandoned diner,
movie theater that’s a flea market
on every second Sunday—
that’s only half the story.
For the rest, it’s a road
through no man’s land
in the middle of the night,
a bunch of old cars
and every one of them weaving.
Peace by the Sea
Meditating by the beach,
I hear the music of the sea,
Imagination playing around,
Peace here is what I found.
Look out to the horizon!
Ships are floating on air,
Never before have I seen such a sight,
The sky is full of colors so bright.
My mind is seeking, my eyes just stare,
The water is clear of colors so rare,
A layer of blue, a layer of green,
A layer of both in between.
If you want to sort things out in your mind,
Go to the sea, it’s there you will find,
You may not have found the answers you seek,
But at least you’ll have found peace by the sea.
The Picture of Her in Her Prime
(the dashing cameraman)
She has taps on her shoes and a tube for later
but that shouldn’t deter you from getting to know
her dress, her sex, her titular seam.
She won’t give you a yes or no about the tube
but she was never keen on annotation.
Besides that’s her kick for later.
But she did get the taps from an Italian down the street
a few years back when such things were in fashion and
she flirted w/the dashing cameraman
who took this picture of her in her prime.