Kate Bernadette Benedict


It rises in the gorge, yes, it sticks in the craw
and you can’t hawk it up, however much it chokes you.
So you live with it,
the gobbet that no enzyme will dissolve,
the sour reflux that no gargling refreshes.
You pencil on a pleasant morning smile,
you squirt a drop of luster in your eyes,
but how do you mask a tenacious nausea?
"What's wrong?" a girl asks, when she sees that smile;
"Are you sick?" asks another.
It's effrontery, that "concern"; they have appalled you.
Just as your boss appalls you: he is second-rate.
Just as the priest appalls you, with his sanctimony,
and the president, with his falsity, hogging the nightly news.

Every day, the gobbet grows larger.
You didn't think you were this elastic.
Perhaps it is having to be elastic that spawned it in the first place?
All that capitulating on the job,
the catapulting drudgeries,
all that bending to another's will?
Or is it a more general buckling—
to compromise, inequity, iniquity, disappointment?
Ach, it is all sourdough,
all gristle, gibbous gelcap lodging in the throat,
gross mass, gross manifestation,
sticking there, in your scuffed craw,
and you can't hawk it up however much you cough
and it clogs the gorge and it chokes you.

Kate Bernadette Benedict lives in New York City where she edits the online journal Umbrella.  Her poetry collection Here from Away (CustomWords 2003) was an Editor's  Pick in the Philadelphia Inquirer.



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