Julie Benesh ~ Unsuitable Things 2024 (after Sei Shonagon)

Wearing the hot pink faux fur coat yet receiv­ing com­pli­ments only on the hot pink sequined sneak­ers one intend­ed as mere complement.

Eating a food, the ingre­di­ents of which one can­not iden­ti­fy; it scarce­ly mat­ters if the food is deli­cious, mediocre or repug­nant. One seeks ori­en­ta­tion to max­i­mize ful­fill­ment: to play up what res­onates, com­pare it to mem­o­ries and ide­al stan­dards, min­i­mize less savored aspects, use the imag­i­na­tion to per­fect its recipe, adjust the sea­son­ing. But with­out knowl­edge of what is in it, one flails; unset­tled, dis­ori­ent­ed, unsat­is­fied, motion-sick and nauseated.

Sweating beneath the hot pink faux fur coat on a cold win­ter day: simul­ta­ne­ous burn and freeze, clam­my stick­i­ness; impos­si­ble to reg­u­late one’s inter­nal thermostat.

Going to a con­cert and per­ceiv­ing the songs as per­formed in the wrong order: the order could be that which appear on one’s record­ing or one’s own sense of what makes the most appro­pri­ate mix were one to make a mix­tape for some­one one wish­es to impress: the arc of lyrics that tell a sto­ry of ris­ing and falling nar­ra­tive, the rhythm of a work­out or a ses­sion of love­mak­ing. One’s mind rat­tles to reorder the songs, detract­ing from the present expe­ri­ence and cre­at­ing a long­ing to be home, lis­ten­ing prop­er­ly and bit­ter­sweet­ly dream­ing of the live music expe­ri­ence denied.

The win­ter day that melts and releas­es too many smells all at once: dog feces and urine, but also rot­ting veg­e­ta­tion and a mélange of garbage. What dis­si­pates in warm months over­whelm­ing­ly asserts itself in the cold.

Unsuitable peo­ple who find unsuit­able what one also finds unsuit­able: where is the error?


Julie Benesh is author of the chap­book About Time and the forth­com­ing full-length poet­ry col­lec­tion Initial Conditions 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.