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About this poet

Joshua Bennett is the author of Owed, forthcoming in 2020 from Penguin, and The Sobbing School (Penguin, 2016), winner of the 2015 National Poetry Series. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. He is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College.

Owed to the Plastic on Your Grandmother's Couch

Which could almost be said
to glisten, or glow,
like the weaponry
in heaven.
Frictionless.
As if slickened
with some Pentecost
-al auntie’s last bottle
of anointing oil, an ark
of no covenant
one might easily name,
apart from the promise
to preserve all small
& distinctly mortal forms
of loveliness
any elder
African American
woman makes
the day she sees sixty.
Consider the garden
of collards & heirloom
tomatoes only,
her long, single braid
streaked with gray
like a gathering
of weather,
the child popped
in church for not
sitting still, how even that,
they say, can become an omen
if you aren’t careful,
if you don’t act like you know
all Newton’s laws
don’t apply to us
the same. Ain’t no equal
& opposite reaction
to the everyday brawl
race in America is,
no body so beloved
it cannot be destroyed.
So we hold on to what
we cannot hold.
Adorn it
in Vaseline, or gold,
or polyurethane wrapping.
Call it ours
& don’t
mean owned.
Call it just
like new,
mean alive.

Copyright © 2018 Joshua Bennett. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2018.

Copyright © 2018 Joshua Bennett. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2018.

Joshua Bennett

Joshua Bennett

Joshua Bennett is the author of Owed, forthcoming in 2020 from Penguin. He teaches at Dartmouth College.

by this poet

poem

Not every trauma has a price
point. You & I are special
that way. No doubt, there is good
money to be made in the rehearsal of
a father’s rage, an empty crate,
whatever instrument ushered us into
lives of impure repetition. Years on
end, you replayed

poem

she says & it’s the first time
the word doesn’t hurt. I respond
by citing something age-inappropriate
from Aristotle, drawing mostly
from his idea that hands are what make us
human, every gesture the embodiment
of our desire for invention or care & I’m not
sure about that

poem

Which I spell that way because that’s the way it was spelled
on all the clear plastic packets I grew up buying for no more
than two dollars, two fifty max, unless I was at Duane Reade
or some likewise corporatized venue but who buys
the majority of their durags at Duane Reade anyway,
who