Margaret Withers, his influence was tasteless but perceptible, 2012, watercolor/ink, 22" x 30"



Friday after 4:00 cars scoot down Route 78, then gleam red astonishment, cutting in and out like minnows in a slender net.

Beside a gleaming grey van, angled harshly into the eastbound breakdown, a man in a long black robe bows below the waist, arms outstretched. 

Coming up even each car pauses, waits a beat, watching, wanting something more.  Then spurts forth as if from the mouth of a bottle. 

The westbounders, lacking their own Muslim acolyte, appropriate ours, gazing across the median, lingering there, before they too feel loosen whatever holds them. 

Someone’s hit the yield sign by Newark’s Lincoln Park again, bending it over backwards .  On its back,  scrawled in black marker:  “Ain’t not crack in Newark at all!  Stop.”

A scrawny white cat crosses the street, one trembling paw upraised, its thigh bone snapped just above the joint.  My dog' watches with cold curiosity.

A man whose pant waist clings to his upper thigh slouches toward a group of women at an apartment door.  What?” he says.  “I told you.  What?

Before the same locked apartment door a chubby adolescent weeps uncontrollably.   I push the bell for him.  “Are you okay?  Are you okay?”  He doesn’t answer.

Someone comes across the corner.  “He live here.  I got this.”  Then, “We good?”

It takes a long moment but I answer.  “Sure.  We good.  I guess.”



Peter Benson lives in Newark, NJ, and teaches African literature, American literature, and writing full time at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey.  He lived and taught previously in Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Senegal, and was recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Visiting Research Fellowship and two Fulbright Fellowships.  His poetry and poetic translations have appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, The Literary Review, North American Review, Pearl, and Poetrybay.  

Margaret Withers is a visual artist who lives and works in New York city.  Her paintings are fragments of stories found in an imaginary landscape that capture in the abstract the conflicting ideas of joy and melancholy, as well as community and aloneness in regards to the concept of home and communication.  Her web based transliteration project is based on cultural shifts in the 50 United States. Originally from Texas, Withers has exhibited her work throughout the country and internationally in Brussels, Australia, Berlin, China, Vienna and Russia. Her artwork is included in multiple private and corporate collections and has won numerous awards including a 2013/2015 resident fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center, a fellowship to the Millay Colony, and a 2013 USA Project Grant.