Bruce Bennett


You start a poem. You don't know where it's going;
it could go anywhere. It makes a choice.
A course is set. You follow in its flowing,
content to trust its vision and its voice.
Pattern emerges. This will be a sonnet.
It ambles with a clean and easy gait.
You're easy too, though much is riding on it;
you sense significance, a touch of fate.
You start a love affair. Your heart's uncertain.
You don't know where it's leading; nothing's sure.
The stage is set, and life has raised the curtain.
A drama's just beginning. What it's for
is still unclear; the future lies in doubt.
But you sense joy, content to ride it out.


It kills me not to see you, though
what would I say⎯What would I do⎯
Sometimes it's better not to know

What's going on. Like where you go
with him. Are things okay with you?
It kills me not to see you, though

To see you now would be to throw
light on a horror! Better view
our past together than to know

Truths I couldn't bear. Best watch a show
that's known and features nothing new.
It kills me not to see you, though

I'm learning that will help me grow
away from you, and, since that's true,
I've finally chosen not to know

What only would destroy me. So
I tell myself⎯to make it through⎯
it kills me not to see you, though
I know it's better not to know!


They seek me out; I know their stories well.
The desperate plea. The paralyzing woe.
Deaf ears. Stone hearts. The strategies they know
will get them nowhere; how, and where, they fell,
but never why, that why that could reveal
why they are in distress; why they must show
themselves to be so helpless. Then they go
back to repeat it all again, to tell
these same tales over. Yes, I hear them. Yes,
their pain is real, their suffering stark and true.
Yes, it is true it helps them to confess;
to see clear for that moment; to renew
their faith that somehow, somewhere, there's a way.
I hear them out. I don't know what to say.


I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met
a man who had no feet. So I said, Got any shoes
you're not using?
                                ⎯Steven Wright

He hands them over.

They're pretty scuzzy,
but they'll do, you know,
in a pinch.

So then I wonder.

"How'd you get here anyway?"

He's sprawled in the dirt
under this scabby tree.

He smiles a huge smile.

The guy's practically toothless too.
I mean, talk about luck.

So then he pulls out these crutches
he's got tucked away under him.

Handmade; good wood.
A neat job.

Whoa! I'm thinkin'.
I know what they'll go for.

My throat's startin' to feel
awful parched.

So I says, real-nice-like,
I says to him:

"What's a guy like you
wanna leave a spot like this for?
Where would you go,

Why don'cha give me
them too?"


There is a wiser self below
the actor we and others know
performing in our daily show;

The fool who takes the falls; the clown
who lets himself and others down;
the personage who sports a gown;

That crowd of them the actor plays.
They fool us as they fill our days
with acts and antics that amaze,

Until it's easy to forget
how we are camped out on a set;
how there are folks we've never met

Who yet may come to play a role.
We have illusions of control.
At times we think we see our whole

Production clear, and what it means.
Meanwhile, below, behind the scenes,
that one, unknown, bemused, remains.

Bruce Bennett
Bruce Bennett is the author of seven books of poetry and twenty poetry chapbooks. His most recent books are Funny Signals (FootHills Publishing, 2003), a collection of political poems and fables, and The Deserted Campus (Clandestine Press, 2003), satirical poems about college life with illustrations by David Grossvogel. His most recent chapbooks are Grief and Love (FootHills Publishing, 2004), and Web-Watching, which won the Bright Hill Poetry Chapbook Competition and was published in April 2005. His New and Selected Poems, Navigating The Distances (Orchises Press), was chosen by Booklist as "One Of The Top Ten Poetry Books Of 1999." Bennett co-founded and served as an editor of two poetry magazines, Field: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, and Ploughshares, and, during the 1980's and 90's, served as an Associate Editor for State Street Press. He has reviewed contemporary poetry books in The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, Harvard Review, and elsewhere, and his poems have appeared widely in literary journals, as well as numerous textbooks and anthologies. Volume XXX of Paintbrush, entitled "The World of Bruce Bennett," was devoted to his work. He teaches literature and creative writing at Wells College, where he is Professor and Chair of English and Director of Creative Writing.



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Contributors' Notes

Deborah Ager

Karren Alenier

John Allman

Anne Becker

Mel Belin

Bruce Bennett

Doraine Bennett

Cliff Bernier

Doris Brody

Trina Carter

Grace Cavalieri

Norma Chapman

Maritza Rivera Cohen

Yoko Danno

Barbara DeCesare

Donna Denizé

Julie Enszer

Colin Flanigan

Roger Fogelman

Martin Galvin

Barbara Goldberg

JoAnne Growney

Sarita Hartz

James C. Hopkins

John Hoppenthaler

Laurie Hurvitz

Donald Illich

W. Luther Jett

J. Ladin

Diane Lockward

Jason Maffettone

Judith McCombs

Louis McKee

Larry Moffi

Miles David Moore

Yvette Neisser

Brent Pallas

Lee Patton

Hilary Tham

Rosemary Winslow

Kathi Wolfe

Ernie Wormwood










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