Poet Wrestling With Tonic Immobility

Rosebud Ben-Oni

for Diane

& she cries: & I won’t let you die

on the street. & again

it’s a child wheezing
on a lover’s stone

& it’s you

& stench
of wine that will never pucker
& wrench. & only it springs
from texas mountain laurels. & toxic seeds
after blossoms drop
& mirage. & he says
it was all your ancestors
could seize.
& to drown pungent
pleas. & what
absence left you
a sweetness
so potent everything
roused a tonic sleep.
& drunken
trust. & drunken
teased. & you
a weed
& scattered in that garden. & that

garden. & sand verbena. & seedless
sultanas. & painted tongues rarely
flowering more than a few buds. & two
crows caught at the gate.
& caw-stilled
as he lied & lies
in wait. & they could not
shoo him away
as he cups purple peaks
& inhales you
both so deep.
& afternoon
turns four year
leap. & they
only escape
when he poisons
the gate. & four-tiers
of lotus swarm a fountain,
amid dragonfly
& parasite
& maggot
& a child
flung like lucky
penny. & over &
over you keen
slack water

into a frenzy—
but today

but today


it’s you


what’s left

in burning arms. but concrete stings
but sirens like crows who never
alight peace—

but so

she does. but so she

eats at the trees & shrubs
like a moth. but so webbing
& relentless saw. but so striking
down in unseen awe. but so garden
has no more home. but see sickly
fruit & rotten loam. but she leaves
the laurels to blaze & burst on stone.

& when sweetness still tries to escape

she closes the windows.

& you say but

it helps me sleep.

& she says no,

no, she

won’t let you die on the street.





Editor’s Note: VIDA Review would like to apologize to Rosebud Ben-Oni and our readers for publishing an incorrect version at initial publication. This is the corrected version made at 2:30 p.m., January 5, 2021, roughly 3.5 hours after initial publication.

Rosebud Ben-Oni headshot

Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is the winner of 2019 Alice James Award for If This Is the Age We End Discovery, forthcoming in 2021, and the author of turn around, BRXGHT XYXS (Get Fresh Books, 2019). Her chapbook 20 Atomic Sonnets, which appears in Black Warrior Review (2020), is part of a larger future project called The Atomic Sonnets, which she began in 2019, in honor of the Periodic Table’s 150th Birthday. She is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a 2013 CantoMundo Fellow. Her work appears in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Poetry Society of America (PSA), The Poetry Review (UK), Tin House, Guernica, Black Warrior Review, among others. In 2017, her poem “Poet Wrestling with Angels in the Dark” was commissioned by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in NYC and published by The Kenyon Review Online. Recently, her poem “Dancing with Kiko on the Moon” was featured in Tracy K. Smith’s The Slowdown. She writes weekly for The Kenyon Review blog.