Poems

Milk Fever

You, my Inuit mother – those
low-slung cheeks, watery eyes hidden
inside a fur-lined hood, breasts you
couldn’t unpack in time for your milk

to be supped unfrozen. You strapped
me to a sled, wrapped tight in pelts,
a matted fleece, some buckskin
stretched and dried that summer

you grew me inside you. A reek
of hunt and meat, a thick blood
pulsing the air with each numb thud
of your snow boots kicking up ice,

glittering my hair. North you trekked,
the sled ropes tied to your waist
as you grunted, sweat and chapped.
All I wanted was for you to stop,

hold me still a moment, not leave
me tethered to a lumber pole
as you hacked pale blue blocks, stacked
them to build a snow-dome shelter.

You lit a fire in its pit, heated meltwater
in a wide, silver bowl and held it
steaming wildly to my lips. Head dipped,
you left me in a darkness of sniffing

bear and fox, like a dream, a fear
I wake from: drifts of white linen, you
asleep nose-to-nose with me, almost
invisible, mere breath on my face.

 Kaddy Benyon 2010

 

Maman
(i.m. Louise Bourgeois)

Your veined hands slap marble
Buttocks, cup stone scrotums smooth
As eggs. You fondle a jacaranda pod

Trace its cleft as you speak of the dead
Husband, son, faithless father.
The bent spiders of your fingers work skeins

That span a near-century of rage.
You catch the watery eye of the camera
And say: It is difficult to be a woman

And be likeable. Beneath sapped breasts
You sigh, as though this whole grown world
Is but a memory in red. A wound left open.

A wound left open, Maman.

 Kaddy Benyon 2010

 

Touchstone

Held on the map of my palm
I have a sense of a different ending.
Each threaded vein of it reaching
beyond the pebble’s edge
connects to the carved pink leys
and channels of my skin. Here –
a heartline not stopping at loss,

but breaking free to ramble now
in search of finer trails: scents, traces
of life unsevered by my other hand.
There – a new passage overlays
a violet twist of hate and shame, wipes
out a fatal double-helix long enough
to let your gift’s bright tributaries

reroute the past and navigate a
continent of trust. My heart’s needle
shivers and spins, settling for
a true north where this wander lust
must begin, must end, each new
territory crossed taking me further
from your touchstone: closer to myself.

 Kaddy Benyon 2014

 

Bone Houses

Settlers long-dead, their chattels gulped
deep inside the mire with every saline tide.
They rise; awaken that fear in you:

being held for centuries, your bonetight leathers
preserved and warped in layered darkness.
You stumble across reed sumps and sand

piles where shy birds hide and flies seek dun,
low-bellied cows hard at their indolent munching.
You stagger the sunken coast road, its salt-

crusted brinks, its mounds of broken harvests,
smatterings of shattered scapulae. You lurch
in a ditch, let a milk-haired farmer speed by

hauling a trailer of mulched peat at the back
of a clapped-out silver Maestro. You spy inside,
on the blanketed back seat: a metal detector,

samphire, the blue carcass of a saltmarsh lamb.
Imagine him bent at a kitchen table, sifting
his darkened haul through cracked black fingers,

culling out the bones of a new work – the unfastened
bones, black bones, dried and unfastened –
licking his lips as the lamb fat crackles, spits.

 Kaddy Benyon 2015

 

Roses
(after ‘Mary’, 2016 by Miranda Boulton)

Desire: as though flesh
and bone could ever grow

here once more.
A wastepaper basket

brimful of discarded drafts:
fuel for the long night’s

fire – fuel
for a burgeoning.

Later, trying to describe
what’s imprinted itself

on my mind overnight
I glance at the pages

opening in the flames
see briefly, again, the roses.

 Kaddy Benyon 2017