Poet Wrestling with Unpopular Opinion

by Rosebud Ben-Oni

Not every conversation is worth having.

The heart makes us a regressive species.

Intelligence isn’t as easy as learning

things. Thing is often the most accurate

word in my vocabulary. Accuracy is not

the same as being exact, nor is it precise

in judgement. I flirt quite carelessly

with meaning. When I read Hebrew,

I feel trapped by God. God & I are best

friends. God & I trust in each other.

When I was not old enough

to ask questions I learned

Hebrew words are boys and girls— shalom is brotherly

guardian of the fields while milchama, all the beasts

& broken seals. Now I believe

bitter herbs are best eaten

by the spoonful.

Language is a solitary pursuit

when you’re trying


only. Dirt before the egg and the chicken while elegies

        must’ve come before odes,

                 though both reveal the teeth & bones

                          of what made a thing a thing.

                                   Flossing regularly

                          feels as lavish

                 as sowing early fields

        & getting to the bottom

of things never gets to what’s really

eating you. Eggs won’t ever expire

if you boil them long enough. That kind of time

tires me. Truth tires out the best of us,

like waiting longer for the sun to go down

on a summer Sabbath. Not every

conversion will turn sinners

toward God. I don’t mind if I never leave

        this galaxy, given the rate

                 space is expanding.

Head-banging is the best way to kill a headache.

Hair metal ballads are better than folk ones since

you just died in my arms tonight

& it could be something

I said & I don’t stop believing

that nothing’s gonna stop me now.

Give me Black Velvet

over John Henry. But I’ll keep

Annabel Lee. It’s the best worst ballad about she.

I don’t covet male pronouns. I know who I am

                 exactly. Won’t say

        where I’m going. Hi. When I say shalom,

I don’t mean peace. Even if I don’t know you,

        I’ll share my food

                 because I get full fast.

                          It’s still a sort of giving.

Avocado toast is not as good as peeling

        the skin & getting in there

                 savage & messy

with my hands. In public. On public transit.

I save the pits & plant them. It’s still a sort of

grieving. Because dirt before the chicken & eggs

                 eventually dry

        up & that’s why time

is always trying me. Misogyny is not a misunderstanding

of culture. There is awareness. Of which

I am suspicious. Of the real men

who’ve almost raped me. I had to fight them off

alone. There was light, there was dirt, there was darkness.

I’m suspicious of that timeline. I’d like to bury them

in what they couldn’t me. Watch them blight

& go to seed. Let them heal

        by becoming

nothing. Repeat.


You said the Hebrew word for war is female.

I say bitter herbs are best eaten for eternity.

I like the turn this poem has taken.

Not everything is a conversation.

Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a 2013 CantoMundo Fellow; her most recent collection of poems, turn around, BRXGHT XYXS, was selected as Agape Editions’ EDITORS’ CHOICE, and will be published in 2019. She writes weekly for The Kenyon Review blog and is an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her work is forthcoming or appears in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, The Poetry Review (UK), Tin House, Guernica, Black Warrior Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Arts & Letters, among others; recently, her poem “Poet Wrestling with Angels in the Dark” was commissioned by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, and published by The Kenyon Review Online. She teaches creative writing at UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program and The Speakeasy Project. Find her at 7TrainLove.org