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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press


By: Julie Benesh


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.


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,

exhilarating transactions.

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?


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

"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.


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