Squirrel Hill
Poetry Workshop
Eyes of the author.

Jamie Benjamin

PHOTO: Jamie Benjamin
Jamie Benjamin is a member of the Informal Madwomen Workshop. She is a retired addictions counselor in private practice. She writes and draws. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published nine of her poems.


On the Monday before Passover
God hung out with me in the kitchen.
While I marinated my brisket in gravy,
I took the opportunity to share. I said, God
I donít know what in heaven I will do without my body.
I mean, how will I sautť garlic for pasta and broccoli, sprinkle parmesan
or roast a brisket all day at 300 for that matter?

I looked up at God and noticed dark clouds crossing His face.
More importantly, I said, how will I talk to the hearts and souls of the children
if I canít get their attention? And how will they know Iím listening?
And whatís life without sex? How will I draw? How will I choose
colors for my living room? My God, I wonít even have a house to paint!
Why bother with the real estate section on Sunday mornings?

When I finally shut up God spoke to me,
And I told God, Iíll be honest with you,
I just canít picture it.

Dear Mrs. Romney

I, too, chose to raise children.
And like you, I had so much help
I didnít have to raise my voice.

As your husbandís family
built wealth in Mexico,
my husbandís family
built wealth in the Dominican Republic.

We owned the village,
farms, slaughter house, dairy, sausage factory,
pharmacy, super market, school.

Our nanny took care of the children
while I took a bath, took a nap, took a trip.

The cook boiled plantains, yucca,
squeezed limes, made soup, stew,
fried fish, caught and delivered
still flopping around.

The gardener planted flowers,
trimmed bougainvillea,
picked papaya and mangoes.

On Passover we had a community Seder.
On Thanksgiving I stuffed
an American turkey.

The housekeeper washed floors every day.
You have to, when you live at the beach.

The children and I
jumped the waves,
floated in the pool.
I read them stories.

As is probably true for you,
our privacy was not invaded.
The workers lived in houses
on our property.
So, when the children
finished painting and playing with clay,
I just called one of the girls,
to come in and help them
clean up.

As I hope your family does,
we gave financial help
to anyone on our household staff
who wanted to go to college.

Like you, I did not just sit around.
I had our school painted
the colors of a Fisher Price toy,
blue and yellow with a silver roof.
My husband and I renovated
our historic synagogue.

I, myself, painted the stained glass windows,
the seven days of creation.

I stayed physically fit,
rode my bike, swam for exercise.

And best of all, my children,
the most important people in the world to me,
were invited to every birthday party.

Mrs. Romney,
letís be honest,
being a woman of privilege
makes raising childrenó-easy.
Mothers Like Me

I ask you to imagine
that your son
is seen as inferior
and treated as if
he is dangerous

every day in some way

from pre-school
until he walks down the street
drives his own car
and into middle age

no matter what he wears
or how he speaks
or where he went to school

or if like my son
he works to make the world
a better place

mothers like me
of African-haired
brown-skinned men

stand by
holding our breath