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Oliver Baez Bendorf

Oliver Baez Bendorf BA in English Literature from the University of Iowa, and an MFA in Poetry and MA in Library & Information from University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of The Spectral Wilderness (Kent State University Press, 2015), selected by Mark Doty for the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize, and Advantages of Being Evergreen (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2019), winner of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Open Book Poetry Competition. A CantoMudo fellow, Bendorf was the 2017–2018 Halls Emerging Artist Fellow at the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Creative Writing. He is currently an assistant professor of poetry at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

 

By This Poet

1

Evergreen

What still grows in winter?
Fingernails of witches and femmes,
green moss on river rocks,
lit with secrets... I let myself
go near the river but not
the railroad: this is my bargain.
Water boils in a kettle in the woods
and I can hear the train grow louder
but I also can’t, you know?
Then I’m shaving in front of an
unbreakable mirror while a nurse
watches over my shoulder.
Damn. What still grows in winter?
Lynda brought me basil I crushed
with my finger and thumb just to
smell the inside of a thing. So
I go to the river but not the rail-
road, think I’ll live another year.
The river rock dig into my shoulders
like a lover who knows I don’t want
power. I release every muscle against
the rock and I give it all my warmth.
                              Snow shakes
onto my chest quick as table salt.
Branches above me full of pine needle
whips: when the river rock is done
with me, I could belong to the evergreen.
Safety is a rock I throw into the river.
My body, ready. Don’t even think
a train run through this town anymore.