by Jesse Benjamin

Dear Professor

You know so much more of the world than I,
Even though you lack the simplest sophistications,
Born as you were, in the fine dust of the piedmont,
Reared in staggering steps, between comic battles,
You wrestled yourself for language, fought for it over years,
Applied techniques and squares.
Now you are the preeminent
rural phenomenologist in the world,
Expert in the application of force.
Scenes from your yellow past
Hold dominion over the whole, gray world.
I live in limbo between your world of myths and
The myths of your world.
I wither in the shadows cast from your
Outstretched limbs.

Use the table to measure the ruler

He had no model for how to navigate these streams
Of paper banks and veneered surfaces.
He tried to apply the force of the soil
Towards a problem of intelligence,
Tried to operate as a local agent
In a monopolized land
And fell short by either measure.
Not forceful enough to plow his way through the rural
Gauntlets of rocky manhood
Not refined enough for the domes of prestige
Or the avenues of influence.
No matter. One may make a way
In the world of the artist, in the company of misfits.
Speaking in ironic native tongues, with satirical dialects,
Remaking the world through a new language, rigging the game
To be won, no matter the outcome.

Impoverished poultry

Even after the chickens quit laying
she kept on giving them the layer feed,
In hope, perhaps.
Or impotence.
Walking though winter shadows where momentum stops but life hangs on and on,
With no reward,
with no idea how to end it,
not sure what she would even do with that knowledge.
They squawk and scratch and demand of her, but do not distract from what is coming,
Do not provide sustenance against another ageing winter.

Early winter

The inconsolable snow may fall in time to cover the bare dirt of what is supposed to be a yard
Supposed to be green and lush but has been scratched and clawed into an obscenity.
But by mid day she no longer cares about the lack of fertility,
the shame of poverty written out
For neighbors to read.
The last leaves, silently on the trees, red but dry.
Mid day is as quiet as one can imagine,
as dry as one can imagine,
and the seawater she drinks only makes it worse.
If the snow does fall, she knows what it covers,
and the snow is no consolation.

A good Scottish reel

If you and I roamed around those mountains
And watched the river for hours
even in the dry winters when it froze
In its tracks and stopped time along with it–
If we ever really stepped foot on the rocky soil
And wandered along the edges–
Those memories would echo across the valley now
And roll down the graded soft landscaping
Across the highways
to spill out
Onto a street of service vehicles and work shirts
And single mothers.

One morning we went to see a play about a mortgage signing
With sweaty lawyers and fat agents.
It made no sense to my mind or yours.
After it was over, we watched ourselves get into a car and drive away.

If we had really roamed those mountains, music would be playing around us,
dancing at our feet.
It does not.
But how else could it be
That we are here–
if not for those mountains,
if not for our roaming?

About the Author:

Jesse Benjamin (Jason Boone) lives in Raleigh, NC. His poetry has appeared in Adirondack Review.