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Rosebud Ben-Oni

Rosebud Ben-Oni is the author of If This Is the Age We End Discovery, winner of the 2019 Alice James Award and forthcoming in 2021; turn around, BRXGHT XYXS (Get Fresh Books, 2019); and Solecism (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013). Ben-Oni writes for The Kenyon Review blog and teaches at Catapult, University of California, Los Angeles, and the Speakeasy Project. She is the recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, CantoMundo, and lives in Queens, New York.

By This Poet


Poet Wrestling with Atonement

So I turn you into a horse but you are jealous of that horse.

& so you’ve chosen to die.

                                                      Or rather: the horse will not
not be skinned. There. {There.} Feel better. Next year
I’ll teach you to swim & you’ll carry us north
for wintertime.

                                            So I turn you into
a horse, a water horse, with sealskin & steely
fins that never tire, but still you are jealous
of some distant & parched mire
                 wanting to bury me
                              in a rusted flask.

                                  Wanting all my bare skin
                                                   skunned in wineflesh.

                                                                                      As proof

                       of first horse-&-human debt,
                                                                           unborn seed
                                       far away from smokeless winter
                                                      chimney & singed


                                                to the curb.

                                                                               & even if we’d return
                                                   {minutes} before the world’s end, still

I’d turn you into a horse who would die
             dying for the music.

                                    Underneath ivory
                        tabernacle, under holy child.

                                                      & still you lament the tusk
                                             warped into wings,

                       the horns hammered for organ keys.

& now you’re a songless thing tearing through
the middle of this horse, who(m) if I don’t finish,
will be left swimming
            in loose folds of ocean
                         for eternity

                              —so I turn you into a horse

& you say the ice is not a place for sacrifice.

So I turn you into {a horse} & you say: turn me

into a drop of rain & I swear by the skun

of our sins you& I

           will never see land again. 

So They Say— They Finally Nailed— the Proton’s Size— & Hope— Dies—

but love does not, Menelle Sebastien.
Of all the afflictions
& luck,
all the sums & paradoxes,
& gravitons that add up
to more minus
than plus,
I promise that love
is often as inconsiderate as it is just
because actual love,
I imagine,
is a wave function
that isn’t restricted
to being
in any one place
at one time.
No, love must
be a superposition
with a measurement problem,
but don’t worry,
I won’t get into alternative
realities & how a single judgement
from one can so easily
or what,
she’s sizing up—                & yet,

                              when experts speak of capturing
vastness at such a small scale,
I can only see the passenger
flitting into living
sequoia trees,
& every blue whale
sinking into the great
& all the threats each are facing,
all these gigantic things
that beat
within the size
of a subatomic being
that is the proton,
which is not fundamental
as love
ought to be—

                            & maybe it does all
add up
to a single hush.
Like how we try to escape
what makes us human by trying
to make sense of what made us
These days,
when I think on the proton,
I only observe love
as entanglement
in which we bias & sway & touch
over great,
But like I said,
I won’t get into it
like the quark’s fate
& all the possible quantum trickery
out there,
lying in wait.
I don’t believe hope dies
just because old measurements got it
wrong & there are no secret lives
between protons & muons
that cause the former to change
in size,
silencing all the music
that drives us
toward mystery
rather than discovery.
Maybe just thank
electronic hydrogen,
since, for now, there’s an answer,
even if it feels like a dead end—

                                                       because I’d bet everything,
                                                       that at least something began
                                                       over this:                         jounce,
                                                       butterfly & cower ::
                                                       over & oeuvre,
                                                       greedy, hunger,
                                                       & sour

                 until aching
                 each other’s spoils,
                 stripping bare
                 their delicate
                 & deadly