Friday 8 April 2022

Five Poems by Laurel Benjamin


Called Out of the Wood


I have no other way to leave the wild

where human forms shake, an attempt

to emerge as my stems


shore onto tile. Some call us prisoners

sashes tied to trees until we

become trees ourselves. If a body


can be buried standing up                                                    

like a ship’s mast headed for a wharf

then panicked waves can speak a language


of kelp. I’ve tried keeping time

with lightening strikes, driven others

to down shift


then pushed them away

open throttle. I collect words

like oxygen, mouth engraved.



From unseen fingernails


after Albert Watson’s "Loch Fada, Isle of Skye, Scotland" (USA) 2013



                        of the wind

            in the four measures

of the door


                        in the four corners

            then another

I hear a knock


                        but texture has barred entrance.

            I've knocked on this door before

like praise


                        quiet surprise

            in the shape of a tree.

A cloud erupts


                        shoots up in B minor.

            Reverse glitter--

a portal appears


                        if I look closely

            dropped orange-tinged shells

until low notes screen me in.


                        I've dropped the blue horizontal

            with an apple in its mouth

can't see the gull


                        or my wet boots

            and can't see the shore

as sky glitters down.



Choir for Doves


I breathe in the grit that comes loose

if we don't sing the right ballad in a minor key.


Fail to hit the perfect note. And I’ve foregone

the crib like an orchestra conductor


unable to connect all instruments together

or like an astronomer who carries the planets


but drops Pluto into Mars. In my head

a recipe for stardust begins—


beyond brittle brick. Some call it

bitterness, but the gowns


made from shimmer enclose dreams

in the seams, doves hidden


in each headdress, their slender beaks,

their webbed feet, the cooing.



Shedding Her Skin


When I reached the West coast of Ireland

limestone cliffs, edge of land green with the dolmen


a kind of burial, I tipped onto a boat for the island

limestone reappearing.


I searched for a selkie every time a seal raised her head, saw her

where they caught seaweed in cages and near the clochan, beehive huts.


What I could see from this shore, all my hopes in spring flowers

and wondered would they bloom next year


reverie more familiar like the back of a claw—

no, softer, the idea of returning home where I buried my mother


I thought, all done, no blur, father’s plot one up and one over

Veteran’s plaque and fifteen years settled.


Then home again, as I look for a selkie in my garden, the solo fox sparrow

speckled lines along her breast, scuffs against the leaves—


she could be my mother, mouth open for a minute, eyes alert.

She could be a dream landing on our shores.



Emperor of the Forest


I was without my father after the forest

took him and then without the sticks,

floor littered, asking the stones


for answers. I traced the veins

of sycamore leaves in my hands,

like my father’s except mine had hours


to blue. From trees grown full

some fifty years, button balls

with their spikes tossed from branches


scattered the ground where seeds would spread

new lives in spring, while logs

nursed the fallen.


Country of paper sounds

underfoot and acorn whistles

needed no passport


the path an open drawbridge

where wind and birds shed their voices

in this city of rustles.


He was much more than his twigs,

eyebrows overgrown—

they could not compete with broken corpuscles,


his nose blowing like an emperor of the forest

punching open

the stuck silence,


a man who gave up trying to rule us

with breakfast. My brother and I were not his patients,

would not be counselled, suffering his


thorny stares, and on those

a ladybug. As he scratched his head

a number two pencil appeared


then back into the recess of his full

head of hair. No, we didn’t use our ears to listen

to his whiskers, how they blew


while his fingers branched out. In the end we had nothing

to keep except the photos of his square lips

hidden by the leaves.

Laurel Benjamin is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, where she invented a secret language with her brother. She has work forthcoming or published in Lily Poetry Review, Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women's PoetrySouth Florida Poetry Journal, Trouvaille Review, One Art, Ekphrastic Review, among others. Affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers, she holds an MFA from Mills College. She is a reader for Common Ground Review. 


1 comment:

  1. These are beautiful poems. They stilled my day, put me into a new headspace. I particularly loved these lines,

    "I traced the veins

    of sycamore leaves in my hands,

    like my father’s except mine had hours

    to blue."


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