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Poem: Dappled Things

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Poet Jenny Benjamin reflects on writing poetry, spotted dogs, and the 'dappled things' that make up an average day. 

Glory be to God for dappled things… All things counter, original, spare, strange… - From “Pied Beauty” Gerard Manley Hopkins

White and tawny, spotty belly
chocolate eyes outlined with sometimes
fear, sometimes courage to venture
out. Down the driveway, tail high,
ready for anything, except maybe,
no, not now, time to curl up, surrender,
give in and retreat, where the sun splays
strips of calling-to on a wood floor,
sawdust casts smoky fibers into the air.
The smell of work and tenderness.
She has adopted her first dog,
who would have told her this love
existed? The full heart opening wider to brown-white-
orange baby, dappled tummy for rolling
down into the dirty things that
announce the pup like an overture:
This song cannot be missed.
The dog-mom has spent her life
in search of purity.

That’s why she writes poetry.

She notes ink splotches on white paper,
freckles, scraped shins, stretch marks,
psoriasis marks, rivulets of veins under
the skin, fingers typing fonts, paint smears,
blurred lights after eye drops,
whirls of smoke on the air.

She’s read the dog is protecting
her when it rests on her feet.
Splotchy belly, warm and breathing,
on her toes, as she writes
nothing but da-da-da-da
hoping to hit the right notes this
time. Like love and the men
who have not made her feel so
since maybe the rugby player’s
endless arms around her.
Silly, a dog, who rises with the
cough of the littlest daughter,
the mumbling of the middle one,
the worries of the oldest,
in the night, beside her.
She has a companion, finally,
to survey the perimeter,
test the locks,
watch for even the slightest
change in smell or breath.
Everything all right?

She marvels at the scattered toys
on the wrong carpeting;
she faked it was the one she picked
out in the store. Because who in her
right mind wouldn’t recognize the
difference during installation?
Someone with too much
sight for other things,
like manners, pie making,
the correct use of pronouns and
commas.

How she loves the speckled dots
of dot to dots,
the page after page of scribbled
panda pictures from the littlest
daughter who started a panda club
at school, under the mom’s unknown
signals to love all things roly-poly,
black and white masses of wonder,
the here and there of contrary colors,
taking the eyes ping-ponging,
the quiet of leaves flickering in the
breeze, splaying shadow and light
dances on the chalked-in hopscotch.

And the hoola-hoop sparkle, rain specks on
cracked cement, giraffe hugs,
adolescent pimples plus cover-up,
braced teeth, leaked-on sheets,
this go-between when she feels so lost,
a sun ray searching in bruised clouds,
then she tells the daughters to go out there
and flub. It shows that they are living.

She knows to embrace the clay shards
smudged with oil, all those broken pots,
and the things she is handed as a mother:
chewed gum, bandaides with dried blood,
cupcake-crumb apple juice,
mottled flower-petal tangles of sweaters.

Looking down she sees dog paws,
cooling in puddles,
and then the making of step stones
on the patio that is Miss Havisham-ing weeds
between the cracks. Here she sits watching
crabapple blossoms twirl, listening
to the growly hum of beginnings.

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Jenny Benjamin is an award-winning poet and novelist. Over 30 of her poems have appeared in journals, including DIAGRAM, South Carolina Review, Fulcrum, Baltimore Review, Chelsea, and the Crab Orchard Review. Her first novel, This Most Amazing, was published in 2013 by Armida Books in Nicosia, Cyprus. Her poetry chapbook, More Than a Box of Crayons, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.