[Table of Contents]



Benjamin Aleshire



Immaculate expanse of manicured lawn—
     where the fates of entire continents
are decided by a hair's-breadth,
     by the lay of the land—by something
as capricious as an ill-wind’s direction
     or velocity. Billions of lives
hang on the balance of your scales,
     O great compassionate arbiter
     O gentle club-wielding paladin
We can only carry your weapons so far
     till we rip up the sod
     & turn them against you




Inside le caracól of tu oreille,
    escuchas les murmurations
of los waves licking l’arena—
    Quand you giras, le map
tú traced avec tes bare footprints
    desparece comme las mots
d’una letter écrit con disappearing ink.
    Y maintenant, finally aprendes-toi
how to navegar como un sailor,
    avec los new constelaciones
    formándose above toi, tú, you.




for Alex Zaitchik, New Orleans

The End of the World is a bar,
     a bookshop, a brand of Québécois beer,          
a strip of unsubsided Ninth Ward silt
     being licked away. We name our fear
so the fear subsides. Someday,
     if there is still what we call day,
alien archeologists might interpret
     our word for 'coffee' as dread
our daily cup of it. Mistranslation
     of our relics will be the only way
to reckon our grief—all the street signs
     spelling out ELEGIAC FIELDS.
But let’s not speak of that. Poems
     aren’t for reading, not anymore.
They’re what we use to twist
     into a fuse—                      
                                             a balm—






All three poems were composed in approximately ten minutes, in exchange for a voluntary donation from a passerby in the street. 'Golf' was for an aristocratic tourist in New Orleans who wanted an ode to his leisure sport of choice; I was worried he would be offended that I wrote about beating him to death with his own golf clubs, but he loved it, and said he would frame it at his country club. 'El Océan' was written in a patois of Spanish, French, and English for a tri-lingual Québécoise woman I met on an airplane when I was 19 and later made love to while we whispered feverish unkeepable promises to one another in three languages. Ten years later, she happened upon me in Union Sq, with her fiancé and his father, and asked for a poem about the sea. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I would have refused to do it, but was so desperately poor at the time that I had no choice but to force myself to write it, through tears behind my sunglasses. 'Elegiac Fields Avenue' refers to Elysian Fields, the New Orleans boulevard named for the heroic Greek afterlife. The End of the World, too, is an actual location in New Orleans.