Emily Benson

I Lift My Chin

I lift my chin as I walk down the pier against wind that whips up the Earl Grey-with-a-splash-of-milk river into sharp fins. I lift my chin because I am sober; because my heels bounce up at every step, and the air smells like dry leaves and muddy water and late roses; because a gull stands stoically on the pilon six inches away as I walk by and does not fly off. It lifts its chin and I nod slightly, murmuring bird to acknowledge its boldness. I lift my chin because I feel pain in my hips, reminding me I’m human and alive, and my spine extends, my skull floating toward the clouds, my pubic bone yearning down toward the big brown rocks under the pier; because wavelets splash up the big brown rocks where loosestrife and scrub poplar and cobwebs cling; because an old fisherman pulls up a large perch in front of a small crowd and, at the end of the pier, the brown river and the blue-green shallows and the indigo lake all swirl together like paint on a palette.

On the way home, two men put up snow fencing along the beach with black Zip Ties. I lift my chin in greeting, ask that time already? That time already one of them says, acknowledging that, though the wind is still warm, soon it will try to suck the sand from the shore in great gusty frigid breaths. Soon it will freeze the waves into stiff peaks like meringue and push cold into every corner of me. Now, though, there are still roses in bloom; now honeysuckle perfumes the lot with the roll-off Dumpster across from the pizza place on the corner; now rose of Sharon bushes bloom blue whorls and the wind pushes soft white clouds so fast across the blue sky. We live, all together, in this liminal season, phase, era, breath – fish flopping in the bucket. Now I lift my chin to the wind, feigning bravery for what’s to come. 

Emily Benson (she/her) lives in Western New York with her husband and two sons. Ms. Benson’s previous publications include Blue River Review, Five Minute Lit, Hecate Magazine, Hey, I’m Alive Magazine, High Shelf Press, Moist Poetry Journal, Other Worldly Women Press, Sad Girls Club Literary Blog, and Unstamatic. Her work can be found at www.emilybensonpoet.com.