The Songs We Know Not to Talk Over

Rosebud Ben-Oni

After a funeral, something wrestles from the wind,
Flutters haphazardly close to your aching chest.
Most likely it will fall to the cracked sidewalk.
Stop walking. Consider it. You won’t understand
What you are looking at, this sort of green would-be
Katydid with dragonfly wings and limbs like a praying
Mantis. It’s incapable of anything
But beginning. It won’t sense your grief
For someone it has been. Walk away first.
You won’t see it again. Because now it’s a bird.
Not very scientific, but I have seen this. Not the transformation,
But how often have I asked the sky
What comes after death and then two birds
Pass over my head. I couldn’t tell you why
I awaken at times to a pecking
At my eyes. I don’t know why some birds return
To haunt us. I have felt thin, small talons
Dig into my wrist. We tangle in the darkness,
Porous as loess. No trail of marigolds and copal incense.
No falconers in the boot hills. Where we go, I feel still
But never remember. In the morning a sparrow steals
A half-eaten donut from a pack of feral cats,
And I promise to spare the life of all that is winged.
I watch where I step and still a wasp stings.
I’m sorry. The only promises I’ve kept are those
Scientifically proven. I have no ion-infrared
Evidence, no delicate microphones to catch
When I check the closets and drains
During a thunderstorm, when I’ve said,
Sitting at a deathbed, it’s gonna be okay.
I’ve told my own husband not to pull the plug
Even if my body says when
Bury me standing, bury me
Three times. No one really drops dead
From eating just one steak
Or seeing your gaunt, flitting shape in the mirror.
Not mirror but grace. Forgive me for covering
My eyes, for cowering under the blanket, for swatting
At you when I passed a flower garden,
When I shut my windows and chased you
From park benches and fruit trees. I didn’t know
There are people I’m not willing to ever let go,
And I won’t. I haven’t.


Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez

Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish mother, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a CantoMundo Fellow. She is the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013), a contributor to The Conversant, and an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Arts & Letters, among others. She writes weekly for The Kenyon Review blog.

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