Poetry by Victoria Leigh Bennett: “The Nature of the Offense”

Winning Writers subscriber Victoria Leigh Bennett recently made my acquaintance online to announce her forthcoming collection, Poems from the Northeast (Olympia Publishing). She is a fellow Massachusetts poet, though born in West Virginia. Victoria says, “A poet’s spiritual homeland is oftentimes not exactly the same as his or her homeland by birth. This book is a book of poems composed over a lifetime lived entirely in the northeastern United States and Toronto, Canada.”

Victoria has kindly allowed me to share this new poem of hers, which appealed to me because of its wordplay and gentle but pointed repartee.

The Nature of the Offense

Well, the most you can say for him is that he’s inoffensive,
Fairly inoffensive,
Pretty much noncommittal, and
Well, just inoffensive,
You said.

That’s a hell of a lot to say,
Say I,
And after all,
Think of how everyone in our world
Who’s parleyed and had to negotiate
For a cessation of the offenses
Committed against them
In perpetuity from the past, at least,
It seems,
Would like him,
Find him a valuable asset
As a companion.

Oh, yeah, you say,
He’s pretty wishy-washy,
And everyone complaining these days
About everything ever done to them
Whether on purpose or not,
Maybe just in a moment of inattention
Or thoughtlessness,
Yeah, I can see how they might value him.

Well, say I,
As to the “wishy” part,
I think he wishes a lot for others
To be comfortable and happy
In his presence,
And for the “washy” part,
He’s continually washing
His own soul hands
Against the washing away
Of others’ vital differences,
Which are important to them.
He wouldn’t give offense,
Is the issue.

Maybe not, you say,
Maybe not.
Though some would prefer
An outright enemy
To a halfway committer.

But he’s not falsely committed
To anything,
Say I,
And anyway, people
Really don’t want enemies.

Some people just like to quarrel,
You decide.
Anyway,
You say,
I’ll just bet you’re tired of him
In a year, or a month,
Or a fortnight.
I can still call it a fortnight,
Can’t I,
Without giving offense
To your peace-loving friends?
I have no idea, I say,
No one’s ever told me anything
Different from that yet.

Yeah, I’ll bet you’re tired of him
Before long.
Where’s the passion,
Where’s the thrust of sexual contention?

Where’s the love,
Where’s the melting-togetherness
Of passionate agreement? Say I.

You’ll get tired of him, I’ll just bet.
I’ll take that bet, I say,
All in one breath,
See you and raise you,
As maybe your parents
Should’ve seen you
And raised you better,
To be more inoffensive.

2 comments on “Poetry by Victoria Leigh Bennett: “The Nature of the Offense”

  1. Dear Jendi, Thanks for featuring me in your blog post. It’s a time of great disorganization and pressure for me right now, as you know, due to the possibility of having to relocate soon, and I can’t tell you how much it helps having a friend to aid in marking milestones. At 64, I’m still learning things about how not to cross other people up with various presuppositions and assumptions, and this poem describes some of the sorts of dialogue that can pop up, even with friends who don’t value the struggle towards peace and understanding as much. Kudos to you, for your site, and as Spock would have said, “Live long, prosper, and spread the kind feelings.” Victoria (Vicki). P.S. Everyone be looking for a post about Jendi’s book of short stories, “An Incomplete List of My Wishes,” up on my website soon!

  2. Dear Jendi, If you get a repetition of this remark, please just delete whichever you find the most inarticulate: I kept getting a notice from my iPad that I had already published that remark! I just wanted to thank you for putting up my poem, and I wanted also to let your readers know that I will be posting a review of your book of short stories, “An Incomplete List of My Wishes,” soon, on my website. As to my poem, even at the age of 64, I am still learning how not to be offensive to my neighbors and friends, and I would say that one can always learn more in that way. As we go forward in the march of time, it becomes even more crucial to take on the role of apologist for those who really don’t require an apology to others who aren’t tolerant people, even when one feels like simply dismissing the second category of person as morally imbecilic and simply prejudiced. And one can always learn more; at least that’s been my experience. All the best, keep writing, Victoria (Vicki)

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