Kate Bernadette Benedict – Four Poems
This Day in Wine Country
. . . the vintner wakes to light rain splashing on full vines.
Haze, a tincture of dawnlight.
He lingers over coffee. Panoramas undim.
Persimmon, pomegranate, marigold—
these are the colors he sees,
dispersed in his measure of green valley.
Languidly he walks to the winery,
languidly he opens the cathedral doors.
He shows them the cooperage, the gauges and vessels.
For them he uncorks the mature sauternes.
He presides over lunch on the portico—
seven courses, each with a harmonizing wine.
Breezes rustle the tablecloths.
Hills are a mirage, swaying into view, vanishing.
The afternoon vanishes.
Horizons evaporate, edges blur.
Then, a starry night, a whiff of civet,
an uprush of mammalian wings.
The vintner lies motionless under a down duvet.
Fastened shutters filter the galactic light.
He breathes, he breathes; he is being breathed.
Let us sleep, as he sleeps,
let us dream the vintage dream.
Tomorrow we will waken to a fragrance of sage or bay,
completely rested. Then may we open shutters, slowly,
and rub our dream-confounded eyes
and look out over hillocks, plush and green,
and the gold and carnelian blossoms scattered there,
and sniff the tang of luscious fruit,
thriving on the vine, this day, in wine country.
Around the Reservoir
. . . and the path still unpeopled
but for this one early riser,
running its illimitable ellipsis.
She notes how the city’s grids
appear to have warped and sphered.
Skyscrapers at the periphery
then trees, then the track,
then the lake with its motionless teals—
it’s cozy almost, an enclosure
not unlike that of a snow globe’s,
the sky’s pellucid aspect
a thermoplastic’s, after all.
Turn the whole thing over,
give it a good flip.
See her there, frozen in place,
silhouetted in glittering amnion.
So wee. So: we.
To be kept waiting this way, in spite of reservations!
Were we not to dine at ten?
All day, I have kept hungry
to savor more perfectly the heralded cassoulet.
Just entering the vestibule made my pulse accelerate.
Uprush of Samsara and Fracas!
A diva left a sable with the checker.
A man in tails was greeted with a bow.
Behind the Maitre d’, a velvet curtain fluttered,
and beyond it there sounded a Sprechgesang,
part mockery, part purr.
It could only have been Eartha.
No room for waiting even at the bar
and the name of every roué slouching there
appears before ours in the ledger.
Monsieur . . .! Monsieur . . .!
We touch his sleeve, we grovel and implore.
Due course, the master tells us, due course.
Here then, our finest knits—
the crone’s coat enveloping my coat,
her gray glove tucked in my yellow muff.
Yes, ticket them together.
Yes, the garments are colorfast.
They are made from our untinctured hair,
salvaged from drains and brushes.
We spin the yarn.
We wind it.
We click our needles deftly as we craft.
When I lift a wayward thread,
she nods, expressionless;
Steam from the cauldron, hovering.
Infusions of alkanet.
Time, as if pinned in place,
a nun’s wimple.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty, for me, is a charged and not altogether pleasant concept. Standards of beauty–the tall, slender body, the chiseled cheekbone, dramatic hair–all but ruined my younger years, making me feel inadequate. Beautiful writing is sometimes flowery writing; beautiful thoughts can be a way of evading unbeautiful truths.
To fulfill this task, I looked up the definition of beauty, hoping to find a nuance I could embrace. And I did. It’s this one: “A quality or feature that is most effective, gratifying, or telling.” In poetry, the effective image–even if it’s piercing, even if it describes something eerie or ugly—can be a beautiful image. And when I think about it, this is the type of image I strive for in my poetry. The exacting image. The specific image. The ringing image. The stinging image, sometimes “cooked” and sometimes “raw.” Let’s call it beautiful.
Kate Bernadette Benedict, of Riverdale, New York, is the author of Earthly Use: New and Selected Poems, published in 2015. Her previous collections were Here From Away and In Company, and she has just put the finishing touches on Night Queue, a book of archetypal dream poems, including the poems published here. Kate edited the erstwhile poetry journals Umbrella and Tilt-a-Whirl; the archives remain online and are linked from her home page at katebenedict.com.