Layla Benitez-James


Layla Benitez-James (Austin, 1989) is a poet, translator, and artist living in Alicante, Spain. Her writing has appeared in The San Antonio Express-News, Acentos Review, Matter, Guernica, and Autostraddle, among other places. Translations can be found in Waxwing and Anomaly. Poems translated into Spanish are published in Revista Kokoro, La Caja de Resistencia and La Galla Ciencia Numero IV with bilingual presentations in Spain including El Tren de los Poetas in Cuenca, Los Lunes Literarios, La Galla Ciencia, Café Zalacaín in Murcia, and La poesía es noticia: Moth & Rust / Óxido y polilla, una sesión de poemas en inglés y español in Alicante. Audio essays about translation can be found at Asymptote JournalPodcast. She currently works with the Unamuno Author Series in Madrid as their Director of Literary Outreach. Her first chapbook, God Suspected My Heart Was a Geode But He Had to Make Sure was selected by Major Jackson for the 2017 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize and published by Jai-Alai Books in Miami, April 2018.

Utility & Return 

In Jalisco there is a house made of doors.
Only one will open. What is a door
if it will not open?

What is a house if it cannot close? 
And the mind? Is synapse 
welded onto synapse, pidgin- 
dust closings shocked open?  

A door is made of a million 
splinters: what is a splinter 
if it has not pierced 
your flesh? And the heart?  

I begin making notches 
until I forget what it was
I was ferreting away in my pockets. 

Pockets made of the idea
of emptiness and return. I collect celery-young
sticks until I decide what to build. Little
bridge over water? A fort 
in the woods? It feels

To build a place 
I will never live, I have 
collected celery splinter after 
feather after feather after hollow
long log, stone hinge, muñeca,
grace, the torso of the arrow:
each dull thing
shocked open.



Any desire which can be satisfied is no desire
           at all.
                      Parched tributaries of creeks,
                                 stuffed with tall, dry grasses who covet the dark-hearted
                                 cloud which gives not a glance of wetness,
                      are the true monuments of longing.
You have compromised the structural integrity of my days.
                      Though you left me for dead,
           the vultures knew the difference 
           and the vultures kept their distance.
                      This is not my first rust thought for you.
Any desire which cannot be
           is no desire at all. Very well then,
                                            nothing ever was built in a day
                                                                     except a day.

© The Acentos Review 2018