She gives me holy hell when I trim Elvis’ whiskers. That’s how
they fit through things. Potatoes for breakfast & whatever else she
feels like eating, skinny, you’re falling away to a ton, ha ha, I total
the bike, Dr. Litvak cleans the pebbles from my knee, stitches the
skin closed over the bone, holy Mary mother of god, we’re Jewish
but that’s what we say, that’s what the Garibaldis say, holy Mary,
mother of god & it sounds just right when the poodle chases the
delivery truck, chases it down Waukeena, where Duke Schneider
lives, but I look it up and it’s Snider, the silver fox, the duke of
Flatbush, the dog, the dog, her name sounds like our mother’s
name, sister grows fat, her toes are bent, she might cut off a bump.
Little sister shouldn’t give advice, should, should, should, what is
all that, you maimed the cat, the cat.
Under the kitchen table she crouches. Her father owns the factory—he can
talk on the phone whenever he wants, but he doesn’t want. She tries to
keep him talking until her mother comes home. Probably there are errands.
She never returns until the boy is finished with his scout meeting. Elvis
the cat jumps down from the sink. The refrigerator whirs, heat blows.
Three houses down, Bobbie Donnelly beeps twice and rolls her Cadillac
into the driveway. The night is black as ice, black as the crack of it falling.
Inside her knee, the knee the bone saw will slice in one billion eight
hundred seconds, the spider spins close, spinning the clicking hours of
night. No one comes to the river she thinks she made up the name for: Nile.
No one has told her this name existed before history. It will be a shock to
read her word on a map at school.
The waters will part the house of Bobbie Donnelly and the house of Elvis
the cat, it will tumble and flow backwards, its children, cats and spiders
forever counting numbers in a kitchen under the table, the moist air
chilling the window glass now, the ground where the chicks and ducks lie,
the rabbit buried in his toy chest
in the dirt that was Peace’s Farm, where the farmer planted and sprayed,
and the corn grew as tall as the swings she pumps so high, her mother
looking up from her lilies and waving her brown arms.
Jayne Benjulian’s poems appear in Zone 3, Verdad, Sequoia, Spillway, and The Seattle Review and are forthcoming in Barrow Street. Her essays are published in The Atlanta Journal and HowlRound and are forthcoming in the Los Angeles Review of Books. She was Director of New Play Development at Magic Theatre in San Francisco and Fulbright Lecturer in American Language & Literature in Lyon, France. In another life, she was chief speechwriter for Apple. She lives in Western Massachusetts.