“wakeup,” “Popular,” and “Landlocked Lament”


Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

wake up

with a hodgepodge pile of stuff

to make a bouillabaisse or salad of leaves

build a mansion or lean-to shack

protect from elements and enemies

fashion a tiara or a sassy sash

so as not to scare the children

[and by the way, this test is timed

and no one knows its individually specific duration

between 0 and 48,000 wakes]

who wake up with some of your stuff

and some stuff left by someone

who saw yours or wore their shiny tiara

in a coffee shop or database

reflecting righteous shelter/land/crops

to keep it all going                  to leave

something better

in your wake

may the next waking make a bit

more sense or next to none.


The forest is popular with the trees

who populate it, some of which are trembling poplars,

singing in the wind.

Song is popular with singers

who, without it, would be doomed

to mere speaking or utter silence;

and dance popular with dancers

otherwise confined to stillness,

trembling, or the pedestrian.

Singers and dancers are popular with fans

and this regard is, mostly mutual, if not equal; symbiotic.

Singing birds are popular with dancing cats,

but not fans; cats, with birds of prey: ditto.

It is popular for people

to consider their popularity

and judge it lacking or feel its burden

or limits as a currency and to consider

themselves the standard, the dividing line

between those or that designated as popular

or not.

Popular is uncommonly commonly esteemed

or just plain common, i.e., “basic.”

At some point whatever is popular recedes into nothingness

becoming the status quo, de rigeur, anything Latinate or French,

or a Germanic thesis swallowed up in synthesis,

but may also come back as a stubborn Victorian ghost

also known as "Vintage."

I want to be popular like air and water;

sky and sea; blues that hold infinite variations

but never disappear; transparent,

taken for granted but frequently shocking;

a tonic made much of in small, potent doses;

ignored, overlooked in its vastness.

After “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye

Landlocked Lament

Glad animal

sujet and fabula

Speak to me of me

allegorical amphibia

of Iowa

no golden sea nor silver lake

but bronze pond, murky and manageable

pristine pools, lightly scented with chlorine

cold creek, once nameless and generic

gentrified, upgraded to trout stream

wear me out                like a spangled dress

melusine          lounging in indifferent arms

of evolution's acedia

the glacier's daughter's

gleaming dream


2/3 of the world

is water

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.