Penny Falls and Other Poems by Daniel Bennett

Penny Falls

Burnt sugar, breezy heat. White pollen 
and the carsick feeling 
of newly minted shame. 
It was gambling’s first twitch,
in a summer amusement park,
as I kept pace with a friend 
who cast away guilt money
with easy prodigality. 

                                  The arcade pumped 
like an airbrushed heart. A blue note 
minced easily into change. I let coins slide 
onto the reef of copper

thinking, variously, of my mother
how she had pressed money into my hand, 

and her tender faith against profligacy,
and the beckoning heat of summer 
and the smell of hot fat and ketchup

                                  but essentially I was lost 
to the beat of the mechanism:
the wobble of each penny

offering a universe of possibilities 
while the stubborn tide of money
stank as rich as guilty blood.

                                  On the coach ride home, 
I learned that my friend 
had taken a girl into the woods.
He laughed on the back seat
while I sat with the girl

and on the long ride home 
we had time to consider 
how both of us had fallen
and become the prizes of his day.

Swimming In The India Ocean

Maybe we should give into it 
and simply die like this,
balancing on emptiness,
dangling on the rim of a tear.
Easy to hyperventilate
from the drift and rise
of this worldly exhale,
plucked at by the moon
and its patient fiddling, twin strings
hammered by white fists,
glibly happy about the pull
of the current on our limbs,
the suction and space beneath.
Earlier, we had broken out the map
traced the path we had taken
and couldn’t help noticing
the finality of the fall
beyond it all, what would happen 
if we simply pushed off
and plummeted southwards
without catching the ledge
of any country, island, archipelago,
spinning like seed pods 
until we plinked off the Antarctic mass.
Maybe we should just stay here
hand in hand, under the sun,
drifting until life, well, stops
and we’re discovered
by the people of some far off time
who will prize us for our incongruity:
two perfect impurities
sealed inside a stone. 


Here is our empire:
the punchy chlorophyll 
of new grass, utterly loud, 

the remains of summer,
which someone left out 
to wilt on the branches

and no one remarks 
on the quiet words
by the washed out fence

where a girl plays alone, 
with slow worms 
and sand buckets

although you might hear 
of the flies unsheathing
their slick maggot skin

of blood purring in the bulb
of inner-shell translucency
at the base of a cat’s claw

of the cherry tree dripping
with heavy white flowers, 
the thudding of fat pollen 

of the moon, still bright
and visible in the pale
the palest of blue skies

Such a sad conversation
she said
for a beautiful day

One Morning, The Perfect City

In the beginning, she placed the river,
tracing it onto oilcloth, gluing silver foil. 
She carved out streets from plywood, 
balsa, created building fronts
from acrylic and grey cardboard.

She recorded these stages in photographs,
walked the boulevards and memorials: 
a horse in bronze commemorating
her poorly knee, a marble plinth 
doubling for an absent father.

And she dreamed all the spires, the angles
of skyscrapers and public buildings, 
cleaved the business district
from the cultural quarter, considered
lighting, transport, growth into a new century. 

There were bad days, of course: 
where the exigencies of power affected her
and she struggled to win influence. 
She woke to find murals
painted on her walls: slogans, caricatures.

She resigned herself, at times,
to being an unpopular visionary 
but her victory was achieved
by the reality of the working city. The life
and exchanges. The streets of memory and love. 

Only then did she spin a foreign coin
across the living map of it
and when it teetered and fell
she pointed at a distant street
and said, yes, I will call this home. 

Find West South North North South East by Daniel Bennett here

About the contributor

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