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Jayne Benjulian

About the Poet

Jayne Benjulian’s poems are part of a longer series called Jefferson’s Boots.

Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, most recently Agni, Barrow Street, Poet Lore and Nimrod International.

More work is forthcoming in Women’s Review of Books, Shadowgraph and the anthology Writing Fire.

Her essays about poetry and theater appear in The California Journal of Women Writers and HowlRound.

She holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers.


Spring 2015 Poems ~
His Boots

Jefferson’s boots
stand against the wall, they are small
for a man who shaved off the top
of a mountain for a view: Blue
Ridge and one thousand yards of mud

In the cellar,
kitchen, beer production, stables,
carriage bays, wash house, two privies—
a pit under the seat connects
to a sink hole in the blue hills

Hours, minutes,
days his clock weighted with cannon
balls, a small miscalculation
left six in the hall (Saturday
beneath the floor), everywhere bells

Atop the dome
a Chinese bell, its ringing finds
the quiet mind, bang nails, plant seeds,
spin, iron, fold, Monticello
rings its perimeter with sound

The morning she
died, Martha placed in Sally’s hands
a silver bell, the timbre of
desire, Martha wants, Sally
runs, always Sally runs. Paris:

Sally rings it
when she is alone in her room,
sick for home. So like his voice, this
bell, wanting, wanting. He calls her
name as if it were a question.




Mid-day: polished boots
against the sides
of a spotless gelding

the master’s pants
as thin as skin he
can feel the bay’s

muscle flex he can
feel heat that’s how
close that’s how one

creature they are
one sweats one combs
back his pale red hair

does not the hero
ride into the forest
is it not enchanted

who will say what
happened here he
rode past on Wildair



From a Glass Case at Monticello:
Three items found in the possession of Sally Hemings

Thomas Jefferson’s shoe buckle,
steely jewel hidden in her apron pocket,

the master had a bright new one,
she kept this buckle for his son.

Inkwell, held black to shade the downward strokes,
absent abrasions and indentations,

even when he was ill, could barely hold the quill,
he asked about Washington.

Spectacles, rolled in breakfast linen—
six o’clock, fire lit,

coffee in its porcelain pot—
she saved hard facts, they would not rot.



Stone in a Tree

The Sed is placed
at the head
of my dear affectionate wife
Pricilla Hemings
departed this life on Fri
day the 7th of May 1830 age 54

- John Hemings


Look under the mirror, John:
black cravat, crepe hat band,

lock of her hair
find there.

Look in the tree:

slate lodged in a branch,
under leaves

the ground sinks
where bones lie;

this word has so far
defied interpretation

as for a while, stele,

gravestone in Greek
stem tissue

in a plant


Jayne Benjulian ~


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