RICK BENJAMIN is the 2013 Rhode Island Poet Laureate. Dr Benjamin is a Professor at Brown University. His book of poetry, Floating World, is due out this Spring. Poems on Authors’ Page ©

Beneath a Fig Tree on a Hot Afternoon in August

Moths hover over
rotting figs as if scent
were light.

Last night hummingbirds
nested on the inside
of one branch’s

Rats scree trash heaps
in the alley.

My brother searches
my face for something
to do.

I am still afraid
of what comes next.

Several Sprigs of Basil
(for Linda)

My sister’s garden was full of it,
leaves so pungent I thought,
pesto even as I picked them.

Later, when we pushed back
from the table, full of pasta
I had made from what she’d

grown, we talked softly
about some suffering we’d
known, her cancer, how we

might live lives without anger
eating away at us, how simply
having dinner together made

us hungry for more joy,
laughter, for years reaching
like green things into a certain

future. She closed the door
so skunks wouldn’t get in, &
all night long they walked

in her garden carrying
their own powerful scents
like nostalgia for a next meal.


Son of a
Nymph &
Satyr, he tried
to rape a goddess
& was, by the gods,
turned into a flower
we call, orchid.

In the original
Greek, it means,
testicle, though at
first glance it is hard
to see why. Turns out
that’s what its roots look
like dropping their way

down. Well, perhaps
all of us want also
to be so rooted
to our desires,
finding our
names in