Elvira Bennet



Imparting the huge news in superstitious whispers,

smiling, serenely self-satisfied yet somehow sad,

fingers involuntarily feeling for quickening wombs,

declaring themselves officially ecstatic to be enceinte,

anything but ambivalent, husbands tumid with conceit,

yet underneath the paeans a hushed note of defeat. 


They swell, consuming space and food, their gravity

growing ever more gravid like planetary giants

freezing in orbit devoted Ganymedes waiting on

their hankerings, mammoth goddesses of nonce-cults

processing through trimesters like stately fraught

argosies, doing everything the books say they ought.


Some sail into harbor, plus-size panoplies like

topgallants unfurled, of admiration sure, vaunting

and mansion-stolid, immune to all mischance;

others, like cats, seem driven to occult themselves

until the deed's done, turned inward as if seeing

some pristine way to love some pristine being.


Indulgence, sympathy, supportively mewing

over vanished ankles and multiplying chins,

never asking about the deep, the endodermic fear:

my duties are contradictory yet clear,

to admire without resentment, envy without disgust,

to feign sorority  while they bear what they must.


Certainty's the clothesline on which we pin

the wash of our unmentionable doubt;

the dubious laundry we take in to make

believe we're sure of what we're sure about.


Men love football and absolutes; they relish

games with the absurdest rules, disputes

furnishing their chief fun; what one gaily

asserts another merrily refutes


until they come convivially to blows

and end the evening bloody, arm-in-arm,

still wrangling over whether he was in

or out of bounds, fair or foul, right or wrong.


Men boast they need just the facts and the law

to transfix the truth and fill the jails,

to know who's responsible and what for—

but we women always need more details.


Men guillotine the past and future, shoot

snapshots; for us events are not discrete

like eggs lined up or artillery shells

but spill into a story; life's not neat.


Was it to lunch or dinner he asked her

out?  Was it for Friday or Saturday?

Did she aim to wound him by choosing that

dress, not phoning before she went away?


How did he feel about the man he shot

in the stomach, and did his mother love

him less than cigarettes, truck drivers, beer?

Did he mean it?  What can laws and facts prove?


You shouldn't be too quick to judge, my dear,

especially when you're sure you've all the facts.

Bear in mind that cut flowers must be arranged

and how the bird's tale differs from the cat's.


Elvira Bennet is an archivist living north of Boston.  She has published fiction and poems in a variety of journals as well as an essay called "Kafka and Girls."



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