The 2River View 27.1 (Fall 2022)

Blair Benjamin

‘Life gone forth is wide open’

—from the Mahāsaccaka Sutta

Life held back still opens,
but only when it hungers,
like the tiny polyp hydra,
coy gorger of shrimp,
that tears itself a new mouth each meal,
and re-seals the broken skin
when the mouth’s work is done.

I too have tried to pry a hole in my head
when I sensed a thought nearby,
and I know the urge
to disappear the doors.

We who hold back are also kin
to the tulip, tuned to temperature,
more bewitching
doctor of cautious openings
and closings—our brief season
of loveliness a thing to be guarded,
never wantonly spent.

‘Pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese’

—from the Book of Job

I don’t pine for my fluid past.
I want to know I’ve entered
my designated time of ripening,
when I will at last achieve
my destined flavor, texture, and solid
personality. Age me in a cave,
deep underground, where pre-humans
learned to paint before they died,
where ancients went to inspire
their allegories.

dazzle my eyes, beguile me
with what I now call unrealities.
I won’t recoil from the long murk
of my lower-life’s world.
Chain my mind to illusion;
feed it comforting shadow-stories
cooked from the statues of cows—
beasts of skin, of tail, of blood,
transformed to objects of wood
and stone, then further transformed
to fire-thrown shapes on a wall—
amid fading memories of all I thought
I once knew: the unimaginable sun
that warmed the mythical cows
and curdled the milk of me.

Blair Benjamin is the Founder and Director of the Studios at MASS MoCA, a residency for artists and writers at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. His writing has appeared in Atticus Review, Bluestem Magazine, North American Review, Pithead Chapel, Sugar House Review, and The Threepenny Review.

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