/a bensel

[suburbs]

An open door becomes a closed door.

The cocaine drains his bank account. You miss the robbery by minutes.

A woman marries him despite what she knows he has done.

He destroys mailboxes with baseball bats. The entire block is crushed metal bins, except for the mailbox in front of your house, the box painted with cardinals and winter pinecones.

The police report. The leaving. The miscarriage. 

He closes doors on girls who take their shoes off by the door, who do not leave any trace.

He dictates space. Who can consume, who can touch.

The suburb is a dichotomy: who belongs and who does not.

The bare lines from grubs and voles are blight. The grass cannot grow higher than six inches. You cannot touch the grass after it has been treated for pest control.

He belongs until he is caught. He is not caught for everything.

This is what does not happen behind the closed door. This is exactly what you think will happen behind the closed door.

You live with the hypothetical for the rest of your life.

The television murmurs. The videogame is on pause.

You are the warning, the canary smothered by gas. The pills warm your body. You don’t feel a thing.

You are queen of pretend. A girl should be liked. He will not like you if you run.

The mailboxes never stood a chance, rooted to the ground like that.


[audience]

You are a spectacle to the story. You speculate. You avoid becoming the spectacle.

A boy you once loved collects semiautomatic weapons. Who has the right to kill.

The future is grammatical, a diagrammable sentence.

You try one: subject, verb, direct object. The subject is raping the direct object.

You were an object, an objection.

This is the moment for audience participation. The audience has bystander syndrome.

Guilty until proven guilty.

You fill in the blank, the moral of the sentence.

When a friend says, oh to be sixteen again, you rewrite the sentence with an interjection.

The audience is/not a direct participant on the other side of a closed door.

Like the way you observe a play. You clap then exit the building. For all you know, the actors remain, rehearsing their mistakes for the next performance.


Alyse Bensel is the author of Rare Wondrous Things, a poetic biography of Maria Sibylla Merian (Green Writers Press, 2020), and three chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Poetry International, and West Branch. She teaches at Brevard College, where she directs the Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference.