Bear With Me

I like my coffee black,

like my father

likes his coffee black, black,

like I like my thoughts—coiled,

shine of a coral snake black

and red and yellow, red and black

friend of jack: jack the bear?

Yes, but the king snake fools you. Bear

with me, I know this is a bad joke, but,

sometimes, I am a bad joke.

Red and yellow kills


a fellow like my plagues    black

jjjjjjjjjjjlike my Fridays      black

jjjjjjjjjjjlike my mambas, my little dresses.


Can’t you consider yourself as anything more

than a hot beverage? Against alabaster and marble

and orchids of stone shining quiet as snow—

“Are there many black students at your school?”

Asked an old sandstone woman, and it seemed


I should have known how many. I shrugged. Lighten up.

When the BSU found me that first week of school,

they had a flyer with my name on it and an extra


for my roommate. They said, “you don’t have to be black

to be down,” said, “you don’t have to be black to be

down.” But it helps, I think, it never hurts, I want to say.


Layla Benitez-James’s work can be found at Acentos Review, The San Antonio Express-News, The San Antonio Current and Gulf Coast. She lives in Houston where she recently received her masters in poetry and will be moving to Spain in the fall to finish a translation project.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Issue Eight, July 2014 | Matter

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