Layla Benitez-James


I speak almost

no Portuguese.

He speaks almost

no English but he sees

I’m reading a book,

and he asks if I can

understand. I think so.

I say, I’ve read it in

English so many times.

He points to a word, this

one, like this, what is it?

I smile and say flowers,

he frowns and we have

to talk with our hands.

He makes a loose fist

and the other hand blooms

through and I say yes, flowers,

flores, I try in Spanish, but no.

He was putting on a glove.

In Portuguese, Mrs. Dalloway said

she would buy the gloves herself.

I say no, it should be flowers,

and he asks why it matters. 

So I talk about her party,

about wanting something right.

But flowers, do we need them?

When they wilt will we see them

thrown way? I cannot answer.

Gloves or Flowers, any errand,

just to see her walk across a street.

Who, I wonder, buys gloves in June?

La Costurera

Estoy caminando bajo la lluvia fea:

de gris sucio en la mañana.

¿Recuerdas cuando nos encontramos

en la piscina cerrada

y llovía mucho?  ¿Te acuerdas?

Cuando por fin pienses en mí,

seguro estaré muy lejos.

Pero la lluvia modesta puede adentrarse

en la ropa más recatada.

La lluvia cose la ropa a la piel.

Es difícil decir dónde estás.

No quiero ser preciosa para ti.

La lluvia desfigura tus bordes y te

estás desdibujando en todo excepto en mí.



Layla Benitez-James is a current MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. She was born and raised in Austin and received her BA in English, Spanish and Creative Writing at Trinity University in San Antonio. Her writing has appeared in the San Antonio Express-News and the San Antonio Current. She is interested in translation. 

Something Right

I'm walking through this ugly rain:
a gross gray in my morning.
Remember when we met
outside the pool but it was closed
and it rained a lot? Do you remember?

When you finally think of me,
I’m sure I'll be very far from you.
But the modest rain can find its

way inside the most chaste clothing.
The rain sews the clothes to the skin.
It’s difficult to say where you are.

I don’t want to be precious to you.
This rain blurs your edges and you are

blurring into everything except me.

The Seamstress