Julie Benesh ~ How to be it

These are the first days of spring. The breeze at dawn
pumps pet­ri­chor to the tune of birds chirp­ing relent­less cheer;
that gap between pound­ing heart and slug­gish mind. A woman
and cat lie in bed, wait­ing for the day to begin.

The cat says let’s eat break­fast then come back to bed,
snug­gle up togeth­er and go back to sleep again, full-bellied.
That is how cats process a change of seasons.

Woman and cat get up and head for the kitchen.
The cat wants a spe­cial treat this morning,
but con­sid­er­ing the end of win­ter, the woman
can’t help but think about her panniculus,
long swad­dled like a beloved infant
too soon exposed and forced to learn to walk
and talk, as befit­ting spring.

The cat says as long as we can jump and run, our bits
are fine to swing as much as they need to for balance.
Let’s get us up some­where high and look on down
at every­thing like the queens we are. But the woman
is hum­bled by tax­es due before she knows it, the torture
of details fol­lowed by the imag­i­na­tion of judgment
fol­lowed by the pain of pay­ment: insult com­pound­ing injury.

The cat says there’s always cat­nip and laser point­ers and Netflix.
And the woman thinks about the three things she always thinks
about: clothes degrad­ing into rags, indeli­ble and undesirable
mem­o­ries, errors of omis­sion and com­mis­sion. Outside,
day is bright­en­ing like an inter­ro­ga­tion dur­ing a strip search.

The cat says brunch is a civ­i­lized rit­u­al that will put us right.
But the woman looks at her book­cas­es: so many words;
so few of them hers. She remem­bers how, as a girl,
she set out to read the whole ency­clo­pe­dia, believing
there was a secret mes­sage there­in, meant for her alone.

The cat says maybe we can just drink some water.
So they drink some water which is, after all, one of the few
things they need, and of the many of which they are made.

After Stephen Dobyns


Julie Benesh is author of the chap­book About Time and the forth­com­ing full-length poet­ry col­lec­tion Sensitive Dependence and has pub­lished work in Tin House, Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Another Chicago Magazine, JMWW, Maudlin House, and else­where. She is a grad­u­ate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program and recip­i­ent of an Illinois Arts Council Grant. Read more at juliebenesh.com.