By: Julie Benesh
SILVER LINED APOCALYPSE
If you and I were the last people on earth,
I could, I would, make you love me.
I’d set every standard and norm:
write my name in the sand on the beach,
unless Instagram still worked, in which case
I’d do that.
I’d be an influencer, one of the top two;
share my fish with you; watch staggering insects
to find the best fermented berries.
I’d let you save me from whatever killed
everyone else, and if you needed some appendage
severed, I’d reluctantly assist. I’d tell you stories
and try to help us remember all the words
we each had ever heard.
For various reasons, we would not propagate the species.
But we would adopt a bird, or something,
depending on what was available.
You might call it settling,
but I would call it nesting.
PSYCHE GOES TO THE FARMER'S MARKET
When your jealous sisters
goad you into spilling hot wax
on your sleeping husband’s
heaving pecs, to see if he’s a secret monster
─back story: you were the weirdo beauty queen
who couldn’t get a prom date
and finally bagged your prince─
when clearly you’re the psycho,
so he leaves and your mother-in-law
who never liked you, sends you off on a series
of impossible tasks to earn back her son:
seeds, fleece, samples, and hell
as other people plus some mystery ointment
there's no place
like the dreaded Farmer's Market
for 1) stalls of seeds pre-sorted sprouted into green leaves you can trust
2) sheepish shoppers ramming before mid-day naps extruding DNA
3) that little bag that holds so much less than you need to purchase eagling your eye
and 4) so many people for you NOT to help this time despite their pleas:
housing-challenged fellow citizens, neighborhood urchins selling “Word’s Best” chocolate
for soccer teams, the lady who needs just five dollars to get her train back to Indiana.
Sun-blocked, goggled, agog, overstimulated, jostled, cat-called, the cost is clear, the benefits
dubious, but done, done, done and done; evidence bought and bagged with wearying,
Is discipline a muscle, developing, or well depleted?
Because that bogus, bonus jar you are supposed
to bring back to her unopened:
whatever it is have you not earned it?
Don't you deserve it?
ON THE CUSP OF THE POSE
Because it was the 70s, and I was a teenager,
I used to hang my low cut, button fly
jeans on the backyard clothesline,
exposed to the sun and rain
to get the perfect fade;
wear them with a white knit peasant top
which my friend’s friend’s boyfriend
once soiled with distinct handprints my mother
laughed about because it was the 70s, and I
was a teenager. My ears remain/ed unpierced virgins.
I wore a blush from a thick stick that changed color on my face,
bought from a fluorescent store that smelled of industrial peonies,
hairspray, and cold compressed air, and sounded like instrumental versions
of 60s hits. I’ve never binge-vomited any alcohol nor food;
kept it, keep it, all inside, instead. My mom’s friend
insisted all teenagers in the 70s were on drugs
but I wasn’t then and I’m not now: no weed, coke, or psychedelics
then; no statins, bone boosters, psychotropics, or hormones today,
though my hair keeps getting lighter and I still read too much. Had a series
of boyfriends with red cars, and my compulsion to repeat defeat: replete.
So, while times have changed, I haven’t, really; I’m a tree
adding rings and frosting leaves, still a budding column of sap
rooted and reaching.
Julie Benesh has published stories, poems, and essays in Tin House, Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Another Chicago Magazine (forthcoming) Hobart, JMWW, Cleaver, Sky Island Journal (forthcoming) and many other places. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Creative Writing and the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Grant. Read more at juliebenesh.com.
"Silver-Lined" came to me during hot yoga, a practice I find both profoundly compelling and distinctly uncomfortable, much like unrequited love and survivalist dystopias. A trove of tropes tumbled into my imagination which brought me to the bird, settling and nesting. I giggled out loud as I composed it in my head.
"Psyche Goes to the Farmer's Market" started out as a somewhat longer poem, encompassing the whole myth, until I received and applied the excellent advice to cut it off at the moment of the heroine's crucial decision. (Spoiler alert: she wins!)
"On the Cusp of the Pose" is a comment on the fashionable view that individuals have no fixed identity. On the one hand, I am sympathetic to this position. Yet I also see time and history as one big, inextricable moment of now. As we continually fade, weather, gesture, become besmirched, remain intact, expand, contract, blossom, and unfurl, we live "on the cusp" forever, dynamic and constant.