Traffic stops in both directions. I cross, past the stem of a truck, a sign of uprootedness. Outside the house where I once lived. Where a truck ponied through thick stems. Now the deprived porch has the power to stop lights, crushes before its crushed, writes drafts of swear words in its spare time. I walk past a man pushing a baby carriage, unbroken eyes, unbroken mouth. I’ve moved across town to another city where I don’t have to re-grow survival, yet listen for the howl. And back here, I smell the rust of the truck, hear the windows exploding. Close my eyes, almost fall on the new sidewalk they just made, a swerved shape to avoid sycamore roots.
You’re crushed into millefiori too far to see swooshes of who you see.
Blue, orange, red, the way a pool of eyes disappears. You’re unworried for the next square where children kick the soccer ball, screams pulsating. You’re a bowl of oranges. Cut off the eyes, unworry the nubbed surface, unsquare the courtyard tiles. Your a canal running shallow. You’re a pastry shop where they sell almonds ground and frothed into heaven. A girl working at the bookstore said, when your cat dies, you’ll return. Sometimes you wonder if it was just time, not some prediction. You’ll never learn but you made it.
Yesterday, I swear I could write dialogue, performance where we acted in each other’s short plays. Hats we took from the defunded drama department. Mine a priest talking to a nun, as far as I could get from Jewish. Fractured glasses hitting the ground when they went out for a smoke. Intermission a habit. A pool of blood on stage. That was fifteen years ago. Now I keep wondering if I wrote a different play, would I not have married, would I have completed a Ph.D., would I have opened a lasagna and chocolate cake restaurant like my brother wanted. I wonder if the genesis of poetry sits outside a broken house. If a porch light would grant a different wish.
Laurel Benjamin is a San Francisco Bay Area native, where she invented a secret language with her brother. She has work in Lily Poetry Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Sky Island Journal, The Midway Journal. Affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and her own group Ekphrastic Writers, she holds an MFA from Mills College. She is a reader for Common Ground Review and has featured in the Lily Poetry Review Salon. She was nominated for Best of the Net by Flapper Press in fall 2022.