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Benedict Arnold

Mike Silverton

Drink the paint, Benedict. The color suits you.
In your special kind of moonlight,
how difficult to parse your treachery
with your shirt pulled over your face. Even so,
imagine rocks everywhere, rocks, rocks and more rocks.
And over there, a restive cavalry
as black as your heart.

On May 10, 1869, some years after the traitor’s passing (June 14, 1801),
a golden spike is driven home at Promontory Point, Utah.
In era-appropriate attire, draped on and around their locomotives,
the railroad men bask in satisfaction.
(The tricorn is long passé.)

Benedict’s carotid artery throbs.
There follows a snow that masks a fraught moment.

If your attention wanders but for an instant,
Benedict will rearrange your belongings.
A man of taste withal, Benedict’s wallpaper
features garnet-stuffed squirrels.

Benedict stops at the door and collapses, exhausted.
His mother mistakes him for a dog she hates.
“Open, sesame! Look, I’m smiling! I have soapy eyes
and a cracked flat nose.”

Benedict’s epaulettes dangle and swing,
embroidered pendulums, now here, now there.
He walks his stallion past mounds of swooned ladies.

Benedict’s treachery flows from a hole in his head.
He fosters an illusion of a drawbridge in the fog.
Even dragons decline to attack.

As do we, Benedict displaces a measure of emptiness
with a presence he’s been cultivating since birth.

Benedict is folding money. A little dog seems interested
in the hat Benedict wears for shady events.
And now comes third-cousin Otto returning Benedict’s lawn mower.

Yes, reader, we fritter away a life—and poof!
Ha! Wouldn’t it be something if Otto rose up from the grave and said,
“I don’t like it here!” Benedict weeps. He burns with treachery and hate
yet we see him striding to the defense of whatever requires defending.
Similarly, surveying a fairyland, Otto dies again.
Otto seems, newly dead, Mr. Peanut’s twin.
The tears that Benedict sheds taste like mayonnaise.

Mourners cluster at a pier, all chatty froth and bubbles.
They look like a shampoo. Flying squirrels inspire Benedict,
taking his leisure under lindens, to emerge with plans
for an aircraft to bust the foe’s cajones.
How like a movie! Invisible trombones pump and chomp!
Benedict: “Just now, rodents, I steeped you in my genius and added propellers.”

Benedict, what does Chairman Mao say regarding your expensive blond father?
Benedict’s batman is lost somewhere in the flower flops.

Think of it, Benedict! A mighty fleet of men o’ war,
some as long as boring poems!

Like fescue on Benedict’s manhood, Fortuna embraces a lime-green personage,
palace protocols, this how-do-you-call-it, to terrorize the irresolute
with brains in the fatuous acorn pattern.

As mama used to say, think before you roll yourself into a ball and throw yourself away.
Ich bin der geist von Madame Blavatsky! Give the money to the monkey! Phew!
It’s only Benedict’s mama coming out of the closet.

Benedict shouts, “Promise you won’t forget me!”
He gathers flowers for his hair, wakes the birds, grabs one, is airborne,
is known soon after as the singing traitor,
in and out of view.

Mike Central Park 05.jpg

Mike Silverton