Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Libation

                                                             The Libation
                                                            by J.A. Bennett


I’m thirsty.

Seth pondered these words as he paused in the shade of Beloved’s weeping stone angel. His muscles strained to trim a clean edge along the marker’s grass line.

I’m thirsty.

Beneath the St. Augustine, the earth was a parched mosaic of tiny fissures. Seth couldn’t remember when it had rained last. Despite Heavenly Meadows’ state-of-the-art sprinkler system, the ground stayed dry.

I’m thirsty.

 There was something in the words Seth couldn’t quantify, couldn’t explain even to himself, but it had been growing in him – a kind of darkness that constricted his airways.

“I’m thirsty.”

Seth’s dad said this every night when he came home from work. The old man would roll into the house, slow and quiet as fading daylight, and prop his shoulder against the stainless steel refrigerator. The words would rumble out of him, a storm he’d been holding inside all day long, and then he’d pause. Seth’s mom might be stirring a pot of spaghetti noodles over the stove, or maybe she’d be bent over the kitchen table reading a Harlequin romance and pulling at a Virginia Slim while Oprah filled in the blanks with white noise. But never once in as long as Seth could remember did she respond to his dad’s statement. Instead, his dad would quietly open the refrigerator door and fondle a cold Samuel Adams before disappearing into the den to watch the evening news. There, with the exception of the occasional rise and fall of his drinking arm, the man became motionless; a ghost with mirror eyes reflecting white lights and smiling faces. The day Seth realized his dad was becoming invisible, a man quietly wasting in bits and pieces, was the same day Seth began slamming every door he walked through. It was also the day Seth began to feel a dryness at the back of his throat.

I’m thirsty.

The sun was high over Heavenly Meadows when Seth saw Mrs. Nutt slowly making her away across the lawn. She wore a powder-blue dress suit and a wide brim straw hat with a cluster of blue rosebuds fastened to the base of the crown. With one mottled and blue-veined fist, she gripped the handle of a huge yellow handbag. He couldn’t see her eyes beneath that straw brim, only a few wisps of curling white hair, but he felt fairly certain when he switched off the whacker and took a deep swig from his Gatorade bottle that old Mrs. Nutt hadn’t noticed him noticing her.

The whole affair made Seth feel guilty, like he was spying on his grandmother and not his former fifth grade teacher, but his boss, Mr. Meadows, was passionate about the lawn’s aesthetics. When the grass around Mr. Nutt’s grave began to discolor, Mr. Meadows ordered Seth to keep an eye on the old widow.

Seth laid the whacker on the ground and eased his way behind the thick trunk of a maple standing just beyond the stone bench over which Mrs. Nutt was draping a red and white checkered cloth. She tugged at the cloth’s corners, moved it a bit to the right and then to the left, and when she’d deemed the unsightly bird droppings sufficiently covered she took a seat and pulled off her hat.

“Hello Jim,” she said. “How are you doing today?” She spoke to a gravestone standing a few feet beyond the bench. The name James Nutt had been engraved into the marble on one side. The other side was blank. Waiting.

Seth remembered Mr. Nutt. He had been a World War II veteran, a ruddy and wiry old man never without his Texas Ranger’s base-ball cap. When Seth’s fifth grade class had begun studying the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mrs. Nutt had invited her husband in to talk to the kids about his war experiences. Mr. Nutt had some pretty interesting stories, but when he got to the really good stuff, the glorious details about shooting guns and people dying, his face tightened, his eyes glazed over, and his hands began to shake. He’d looked wraith-white. Mrs. Nutt interrupted him with some silly and boring question. But, as she spoke, her arms encircled his shoulders like a puzzle piece snapping into place around its match, and Mr. Nutt came, from some faraway place, back to himself.

“I’ve been all right mostly,” she went on. “Amy-Lynn had me over to their house for dinner last night. Little Hudson, he turned four last month, remember I told you? Well, that boy stuffed a handful of Bing cherries into his mouth, every last one… pits, stems, and all. They were in there so tight, and I was trying to figure out how to pull one out without pushing any down into his throat. That boy was laughing so loud that Amy-Lynn thought he was choking and ran behind him. She slapped her palm on his back so hard he must have thought she was whipping him. Poor little Hudson was so startled he actually did start to choke. His face turned as red as one of those cherries.”

Seth watched as Mrs. Nutt picked up the straw hat by its crown and began to fan herself. Her thin hair wisped around her head like a smoky halo.

“I shouted for Percy to come quick, and he gave the boy the Heimlich. Bing cherries spraying all over the dinner table – ‘bout gave me a heart attack and definitely put me off my appetite, let me tell you what. But it made me happy to think that all that sacrifice to put our Percy through medical school was really worth it. He’s grown into a good man, our Percy.”

Seth leaned his shoulder up against the tree trunk. He’d forgotten that old Mrs. Nutt had a special kind of quality in her way of speaking. Her cadence rose and fell like she was always singing a song. And she did like to sing. In the fifth grade she had made him learn songs to memorize the names of all the Presidents, all the continents and all fifty of the United States. Mrs. Nutt might have been old even back then, but she had a way of teaching that wasn’t half bad.

“Pastor Hayes stopped by for coffee this morning,” she continued. “He’s still an odd one. Young and full of strange notions. He told me he read online that seventy percent of wives outlive their husbands. Can you believe that? What a thing to say.” She paused for a moment and turned her head to examine something in the distance. “But, I’m glad you went on before me,” she said and then she fell quiet.

Seth leaned outward from the maple’s trunk and followed her gaze across the top of Mr. Nutt’s marker to sunny patch surrounded by tree-shade. In the center, a pair of white butterflies hovered. They swirled with each other, dancing, then, like some strange miracle, collided and joined into one fluttering and trembling creature. Seth watched them for a moment and then closed his eyes and thought of his girlfriend, Phoebe. She had a butterfly tattoo just at the base of her neck, a pair of tiny purple wings with the word wicked drawn in black script just beneath. He’d spent a night at her house the previous weekend, and they’d had a hell of a time passing the bottle of vodka her mother kept hidden in the freezer, and touching each other while a Firefly reruns played in the background. The next morning Seth had woken before dawn and, for a brief and terrifying moment, was certain he’d come undone, fallen through the world in lonely fragments and awaken in a nightmare. He’d stood at Phoebe’s bedroom window staring at his pale reflection and shaking. When he heard her stir he called her name and said, “I’m thirsty, Phoebe. Aren’t you thirsty?” She had responded, “Whatever Seth. You know where the kitchen is.” Then she pulled the sheet over her head and rolled over. At that moment, it dawned on Seth that he’d never much liked purple. At that moment, it dawned on Seth that maybe nothing was connected and maybe everything was connected because he was exactly like his father – broken and entirely alone.

Seth opened his eyes.

 “Well now. I think it’s late enough, what do you think? Shall we have a drink?” Mrs. Nutt reached into her handbag and pulled out a small bottle of scotch and a clear glass tumbler. She unscrewed the bottle’s gold metal cap and poured until the glass was half full of amber light. Then she rose from the bench and took a step forward to the foot of Mr. Nutt’s grave and lifted up the glass.

“To you, James Franklin Nutt,” she said. “And to me, the perfect pair. To us and the long winding road we travelled together.” She lifted the glass to her lips and took a sip. Then, with measured grace, she extended her arm and poured the glass’s remnants over the grass.

As Seth watched, wide-eyed and still, something hopeful flickered inside him. 

The amber light fell in one smooth stream, catching in sun-filled droplets along blades of grass. And, beneath, the earth drank.

Thursday, March 21, 2013



My mind is swollen
With atomic bits of possibility,
Charged to coalesce and expand.

Air pulled close then exhaled;
Dispersion into the great vastness
Of this thing and that thing.

Each idea sweeps through
Like a heated wind, solar in nature,
Illuminating particles that
Pool into whirling birthplaces.

Fingers ripe and ready for shaping,
What star-light will I, goddess
Of my own imagination,
Ignite from this chaotic dust.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Scents of Home

Scents of Home
Sometimes, in the early morning

My daughter climbs into our bed

And presses her head into the

Curve of my shoulder. The searching

Of her long hair between my lips

Smells like honey and salt, warm bread

Pulled, perfectly, from the oven.


When I was a child, sometimes I

would awake in the sterile hours

of midnight to the sound of my

mother’s fingers plucking at the

bronze and steel strings of her guitar

in a distant room while voices

sang songs of young girls and soldiers,

of autumn mist and loneliness.


They say that scent makes memory.

I think of this as I slice through

The white meat of a green apple

To the small, timid seeds inside.

Sage, red onion and roasting broth,

Ginger, corn bread and cinnamon

Glaze the rise and fall of laughter

Drifting from the room just beyond.

Man and children to seed the breadth

of my arms, making scents of home.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Turning Point

Turning Point

The moment my life changed forever
was not the result of scholastic inspiration,
was not a philosophical turn bordering over clever
or a Sunday sermon leading to soulful contemplation.

The moment my life changed for the better
came not in a pretty pattern ending with zeros,
nor with a day offering the fairest of weather,
nor a gift of gold, diamonds and a long stemmed rose.

The moment my life changed in the blink of an eye
came after pain's pushing and agony's scowl.
The moment my life changed came with the cry
of my firstborn's angry, vital, precious howl.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Love

My love begins to play.
His fingers curl to pluck and move across strings
that bend to his will. He pulls from them
a melody so rich and melancholy that
it drains my intention and leaves me entraced.

My love begins to sing
of our younger days - when glances
filled with timid heat and
stumbling words snagged in shared whispers
defined our days in moments of shining clarity.

My love begins to sigh
and lament the cruel rush of age
and the aching reminder of muscle and memory.
Softly smiling, he touches my face, "the same as then,"
and I feel loved.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Exercise in the erotically mundane

I reach out, the cool smoothness
unrelenting as I grip; anticipation sends
a tiny shiver coursing up my spine.
I lick my lips, fluid pools, and I pull,
pull harder towards my chest the weight of it,
breathing in an indescribably sweet scent;
the scent of fragile, pliable warmth.
Stepping forward to the glass I blink;
my reflection, flushed with pleasure, blinks back at me.
Beyond, plump red nestles in a silky bed of cream;
smooth golden flesh drizzled with glistening wetness.
Amber and chocolate intertwine, merging in their dance
to become as one, and enthralled I
reach out, quivering with need,
fingertips press, breath quickens,
lashes flutter and sweep against rose blushed cheeks.
And I watch as a pair of flawless hands
dart in to cup the delicate treat I have chosen
and deliver it into my hands.
I bring it to my mouth,
where, with the soft caress of my tongue,
it explodes in the ecstasy of confection's perfection.

. . . . .

AKA - a trip to the french bakery

. . . . .

This was a product of another school exercise. Those college professors!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Nightmare

Another old experiment for a writing class. Rather silly, but we were prompted to write something scary sooo .....

The Nightmare

When slumber calls at the witching hour
they creep and crawl as the tolling bell
grants them by a necromantic power,
like master reaching from icy hell.

I walk alone through the garden of stone,
the damp grass cushions my tentative steps.
At first unknown, this, a garden of bone,
till a cold hand clasps from the dirty depths.

Dusty bits of earthy decay
shower around the creature's form.
Stinking stench clothed molding array
from its slumber by evil torn.

A soundless scream; a powerless cry,
skeletal maw grins a wicked gleam.
Horror bound my mind grasps for the lie -
Is it only a dream? ... It was only a dream.