The Friend I Want When the Dead Walk

Miles away you spot the plastic duck, the huntsman’s

bluff, and the blood you’d spill

you spare not a drop

in letters sealed in wax and signet

ring. In plans to rebuild cities

and bridges, you’d tag without ceremony

the poems of Walt Whitman and Hart Crane.

You drive everywhere in a city that goes against

the natural laws of the city itself, always on time

except one cold Thanksgiving where you couldn’t find

that last stop

Flushing hole-in-the-wall.

Under a canopy of plastic tarp, shivering

on plastic stools around a charcoal-heated table,

we spoke of this world ending, and you listed your abilities

to fight off viruses, volcanoes, tsunamis

even yourself

if bitten by monkey, mosquito,

your own mother.

Eat well, she says for the many things

we over-say. Eat well, I’d offer

my bones for soup and what little flesh I have,

lest the infection unleashes

the kind of hell that leaves

but an unkindness

of ravens

playing in fresh snow.

One more night we knew

we’d see tomorrow. One more night

drunk and alive in the depths of Queens,

carousing with cooks in open-air kitchens,

how we swore our lives on those

ducks strung up in their windows

in which we will gather our sorrows,

those last days

of cloth napkin and unsullied blade

readied at the long, long table. Eat well,

dear friend. Eat well,

my blood brother.


first published in Dialogues 2


Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a CantoMundo Fellow. She was a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan, and a Horace Goldsmith Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013), a contributor to The Conversant, and an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Arts & Letters, Hunger Mountain, among others. She writes weekly for The Kenyon Review blog. Find her at