“It’s October,” “Professin’” and “Fitting In”

It's October

Photo by KYLE CUT MEDIA on Unsplash

It’s October

and, just back from the Farmer’s Market, the last of the year,

I’m wearing a summer sweatshirt the amber and aubergine of falling leaves.

The cats mill expectantly, for what I know not. Behind the white and indigo clouds

the moon wanes. Because it’s October, the saddle-colored boots I donned, first time since April,

have birthed a florid blood blister, like a plump strawberry, on my left inner foot,

so I wince-wobble, hydraulically suspended on a tender cushion of fluid shock

absorption I beg to break: in the shower, the soak, in my sleep.

It was October when I was eleven and my blisters got infected with yellow pus

and Dr. Reed lanced and drained them in his office, which my mother cleaned,

and he asked me, “Are you stupid?” Confused, thinking I was one of the smartest

kids in my grade, but if I really were stupid, mightn’t I be wrong about that and not know?

My mother always asked me to examine her minor wounds, her cleaning lady bruises

and scrapes, and I would hurt her further by wrinkling my nose and saying “gross!” lacking

even my current level of ability to feign more empathic emotions. Stupid. One October a tumor burst forth from her skin and we read the mind of her home health nurse and my mother

replied, don’t worry, my daughter is so much smarter than I.

It’s the October of my life, mathematically, actuarially; my mother died in her own October

and I have outlived her scarcely, so far. So, I pop my strawberry with a pin,

blotting away what looks like a nice vin rosé, leaving a hard callous.

It’s October and at no time is it more obvious, even to the stupid, that there are three

seasons: past/present/future within each one,

but, how to bear a winter so barely begun?


When I grow up I want to be a department chair,

said pretty much no one ever.

Nor any middle management job but especially that:

those who can't profess, mother other professors. But

every woman wants to be a mother, said the tall, Nordic man

after I mentioned that while I worked, back then, in a hospital,

I'd never stayed in one as an inpatient.

But you said you'd been married, is what he'd said right before

and I'd stared at him, confused, thinking he thought every wife

(or at least every divorcee) had not just eyes blackened

and arms broken but internal bleeding, concussions, hematomas,

when he only meant labor, delivery, and recovery. But

maybe I wanted but couldn't, or I got my baby not at the hospital

but from China or Russia, although actually I never did. (Have or want.)

Not to mention (though I am just about to) the remoter possibility of home

(or cab or ambulance) birth. And what did being married have to do with it?

(I ask, rhetorically.)

Because nowadays we all agree it is fine to be a single mother and/or for that matter lesbian, trans, bi, etc. (Those latter not even considered 'choices,' but identities.) It's all good...so long

as a woman is a mother or wants or wanted to be.

I don't owe anyone an explanation. But I never wanted children or to be a department chair.

And yet, here I am: a department chair with no children, explaining.

Fitting In

Sorry I didn't regret that I did it! Leading sweet

with fuchsia penuche, crashing the slumber

party in my modest lingerie; semicolons askew,

dreaming D-listers spooning me to sleep,

massaging my shoulders to salsa.

Sorry not sorry I am not a fan of football;

I will never understand the droning roar;

the roaring drone. It must require beer−

is that it? In my next life I will be normal,

like Miami, sinking slow mojitos bonitos.

About the Author

Julie Benesh


Julie Benesh is author of the chapbook ABOUT TIME published by Cathexis Northwest Press. Her poetry collection INITIAL CONDITIONS is forthcoming in March 2024 from Saddle Road Press. She has been published in Tin House, Another Chicago Magazine, Florida Review, and many other places. She earned an MFA from The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and received an Illinois Arts Council Grant. She teaches writing craft workshops at the Newberry Library and has day jobs as a professor, department chair, and management consultant. She holds a PhD in human and organizational systems. Read more at juliebenesh.com.