Posts Tagged ‘Maria Benet’


July 5, 2006 6 comments

After flying for hours buoyed by a natural compulsion to follow the light, 400 warblers hit a net of wires holding up a communications tower in Madison, Wisconsin. The sea of night, like an expert fisher, corralled their falling bodies, while above them in the tower below the clouds our disembodied chatter went on without cease.

by Maria Benet of Alembic

Categories: Short Shorts Tags:


March 30, 2006 7 comments

In another valley, the root
of nostalgia, even now
from this distance,
flowers open

to pearls of blood,
the heart about to turn
hard, like the knob
of a door left ajar.

Written by Maria Benet, of Alembic.

Categories: Lies and Hiding Tags:


January 31, 2006 4 comments

History is the bridge over the past
tense, an arc of illuminated dust,
the light from the projectionist’s booth
that makes motes of your mother’s tears—
It’s the movies without the rain of stars,
Casablanca, without the grainy mist,
a nostalgia, and the flicker for what never was,
the lost, the lost….

and here you are, in the supporting role—
waiting for a visa, the inked
permission to exit the country you know only
too well, beyond the reach of roots.

You are packed:
the clothes of your new life
folded and stashed in your mind—

and again you rehearse:
the border, customs, forms
to fill. Again you write:
nothing to declare,
nothing worth currency.

Written by Maria Benet of Alembic.

Categories: Lies and Hiding Tags:

Egged On

September 29, 2005 11 comments

Close to dinnertime, during her second or third hour of playing Mah Jong on the computer in the quiet family room, she thinks she smells a gas leak. The signature sulfuric odor is wafting from the general direction of the kitchen. Her immaculate kitchen. Not that she is a fanatic about cleaning. Motherhood has been a long-term cure, if not balm, for any illusion she might have nursed that a clean house is a house in order, and that a house in order is the nucleus of one’s peaceful place in the universe.

Lately the kitchen has been become, well, her kitchen. She hasn’t been sure how to take full possession of it yet. She started with the stove. She cleaned the stovetop carefully, lovingly almost, hoping to restore its original deep black shine. Then, she moved on to the fridge. She culled bottles of condiments and a variety of soda cans from every shelf and recess. She arranged the remaining bottles and jars into neat rows on a single shelf inside the fridge door.

She wiped down the glass shelves and segregated dairy products, lining them up on one shelf, leftovers on another. This left the bottom shelf for miscellaneous items. She went through two cartons of eggs, neither one full, taking each egg out carefully and placing it in the plastic egg tray that came originally with the fridge. She found it amusing that the plastic egg carton had room for only sixteen eggs, as if a different set of apportioning rules held sway when it came to suspending the lives of perishables.

She went through the vegetable bin, too, throwing out lettuce laced with pink rust and carrots softened by the growth of frail shoots. She washed the vegetable bin thoroughly before she slid it back in its place.

She hasn’t started on the cupboards yet. For now, it was plenty enough to have only the surfaces clean and ready, but she is not sure for what. That next act, she would have said, had anyone asked her. For now, she is between acts. Even so, even with the curtains down, it is good to have everything in place. Somewhere offstage, in a shabby green room, the cast is ready to burst forth with their given lines bearing news of the world or with their acts born of need — all of which could set the kitchen on fire. Well, not literally, but aglow.

The sulfuric smell is unmistakable to her now. Gas leak. She will have to interrupt her Mah Jong game to go investigate. It couldn’t be one of the stove elements. She hasn’t cooked for days, preferring to eat out.

She gets up from her desk and heads for the kitchen. As the smell grows stronger, she has quick visions of the house in tatters, her arms, legs, and head blown apart, shredded and falling in a rain of blood. She sees her two sons in the noisy haze of music in dorm rooms at their respective colleges. She watches them getting the terrible news and she hears the deep-bladed silence after they turn off their loud music in shock. She sees her boys standing in the men’s store awkward and paled by the dense black of suits that hang on them as armor or alien skin.

At the kitchen door, she changes her mind about going in. She yells out to her husband who had gone into the bedroom hours before, about the time she herself had set down to the computer to play Mah Jong. Summoned, he comes into the kitchen, bleary-eyed from his nap. She watches him from her perch in the door. He sniffs the range and declares it okay. He sniffs the garbage, and there is nothing that smells like sulfur in there, he tells her.

Well, then, she thinks, I might as well see for myself. She strides into the kitchen, as if with purpose. She pours herself a glass of wine from the bottle she got at Trader Joe’s thinking herself so clever for paying less than four bucks for it. Yesterday, the wine tasted like wet paper, but today, in the grip of sulfur in her nostrils, the wine tastes good enough to make her want to keep drinking. Fortified with the wine, she goes to the sink and roots around in the garbage disposal, looking for the source of the rotten smell in there.

“It’s the radishes you had,” she says as she pulls out and holds up discarded bits of radish peels. But, when she brings the peels up to her nose, they smell of nothing in particular. He is about to say something, perhaps to defend himself, for lately she is always giving it to him about the radishes and the kohlrabi skins in the garbage disposal. What is he supposed to eat anyway, now that she has stopped cooking?

They both look at each other, about to speak, when the sound fills the kitchen. At first, it comes to them as if from afar, muffled by distance, which makes it almost gentle, but not less violent. When the sound reaches them fully, it is beautiful, like the aching echo of crystal shattering in a vain attempt to match a gifted singer’s perfect pitch.

Her husband runs to the source: the dead space in the cabinet near the fridge, concealed by an ordinary cabinet door. This is where she used hide her sons’ noise-powered toys for days on end, to give herself a break from the dissonance that ripped the silence she constantly craved.

They stand by the door, she with her wine glass and he puzzled. “Open it,” she tells him, and he does. On the rough floor, three eggs in a nest of shells from one that burst, as if whatever it had sheltered in the dark finally hatched.

Written by Maria M. Benet of Alembic.

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