Trash

Joshua Bennett

All the men I loved were dead-beats by birthright or so the legendwent. The ledger said threeout of every four of us wasdestined for a cell or leadshells flitting like cometsthrough our heads. As a boy,my mother made me write& sign contracts to expressthe worthlessness of a man'sword. Just like your father,she said, whenever I would lieor otherwise warp the historicalrecord to get my way. Even then,I knew the link between me& the old man was purenegation, bad habits, some awfulhyphen filled with blood.I have half my father's face& not a measure of his flairfor the dramatic. Never oncehave I prayed & had another man's wifewail in return. Both burden & blessing alike,it seemed, this beauty he carriedlike a dead doe. No one called himFather of the year. But comewinter time, he would wash & cocoabutter us until our curls shone like lodestone,bodies wrapped in three layersof cloth just to keep December's ironbite at bay. And who would have thoughtto thank him then? Or else turn& expunge the record, given all we knownow of war & and its unquantifiable cost,the way living through everyonearound you dying killssomething elemental, ancient.At a certain point, it all comes backto survival, is what I'm saying.There are men he destroyedto become this man. The humanbrain is a soft, gray cage.He doesn't know what elsehe can do with his hands.

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Dr. Joshua Bennett is the Mellon Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth. He is the author of The Sobbing School (Penguin, 2016)—which was a National Poetry Series winner and a finalist for an NAACP Image Award—Owed (Penguin, 2020), and Being Property Once Myself (Harvard University Press, 2020), winner of the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize. 
 
Bennett earned his Ph.D. in English from Princeton University, and an M.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Warwick, where he was a Marshall Scholar. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, MIT, and the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. His first work of narrative nonfiction, Spoken Word: A Cultural History, is forthcoming from Knopf. 

July/August 2019

Gambier, Ohio

Kenyon College

Editor
David H. Lynn

Managing Editor
Abigail Wadsworth Serfass

Associate Editor
Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky

Poetry Editor
David Baker

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