Shelter Island



The sail flutters and hulls rock

Casts of fishermen whistle their lit lures into the kissing lips of black

In the public lot, an RV encrusted in the style of a Mughal elephant

Who knew the egret could make such noise?

Intrusions without pattern, malsynchronous waves crashing together—

The acrid-sweet sip and the mellow strum of the Polynesian

Dead dog foaming and the girl too frantic to notice her nakedness

A photograph, the lingering scent of the photographer

The ocean smells of lovesickness at night

More and more, gulls gathering for baubles—

Helen’s cheeks: the ass of a woman draped across the bow of the Saudi’s yacht

Glass across the bay, at the appointed hour, imitates lighthouses

Shifting pitches as the Navy helicopters go from far to near to far

Circling around an anchored point

I submerge and am nulled by water—

And for a moment the senses are

Toys strewn about a child’s chest.



Joseph Byron Bennett


Sol and Luna


Why is Sol weeping

his hurricane tears—And

at August’s end when

his burning circles pace—

Sol’s adoration would cinder

Were he not chasing her around


Our Earth


Were she not fleeing him around

Luna’s yearning could dissolve

her firefly pond pregnant—

at February’s end when

her month keens—But

Why is Luna weeping


Joseph Byron Bennett



Even our tall grandfathers may be entrusted to strangers;

for each hound that graces us,

primal wisdom compels us

to rise in the heatless dark of morning

and shovel earth for a grave.


Joseph Byron Bennett

Exodus 20:6


In this freckled dark I confide

to sending moon to arch your tide.

I am not bothered if my light

is only one in constellation’s night.

So long as mine is the one

that to the stars, is the Sun.


Joseph Byron Bennett

For J.B.


Catalpa leaves are gone.

Found worms in the piled dirt because

Cold wasn’t enough for the lake to freeze

It was morning and I did not catch a thing.


His hounds know and bray as it comes:


It is night now and I do not sleep a wink.

Night isn’t enough for train whistles to stop

Around the hole in the earth where

Black geese huddle.


Joseph Byron Bennett



How my ears are vexed by the ticking clock;

That two-faced smiling toll a wind-up trick.

Face the first which all human deeds does mock,

Face the second: heavenly hope turned sick.


Once around His hands offer every gift;

Again around His hands demand the cost:

For eager Spring that seed to fruit does lift,

Winter plucks blossoms with fingers of frost.


And His stiffest drink He serves to sip

From a cup ever filling to the top,

As an ejected tire’s rounding trip,

Till I am stomach sick and beg it stop.


Yet I confess on still, dark nights I fear

The climax of the clocks will someday near.


Joseph Byron Bennett

Barnacled hulls passing that clouded night


Barnacled hulls passing that clouded night

Illuminated only in the passing fire of broadsides;

The incoherenced barks of men;

The wet solidarity of our drowned.


In the yards, coarse stevedores remake us

Board by board, wounded and weathered alike replaced:

The captain as well as the cooper,

The surgeon as well as the cook.


If we mates spied each other again today

It would be as fellow admirers of admirals’ monuments;

As port-bound whalers rowing to a gam;

As a squadron in the commodore’s harbor parade.


Joseph Byron Bennett

Summer Rain


The wood murmurs

receives forceful kisses

and her bashful moans are the river in

Absentia. Afterwards,

they speak of Rain.


Sky’s prolonged rend.

Burning Manzanita:

“Some supersonic machine come to gift

us our Bomb,” knowingly

to Cotton-tail.


The striking of

the towhees, the wild sage,

the quail hen hurrying her brood, furtive

Coyote, black bugs; All

us tiny drums.


Joseph Byron Bennett