In a Certain Light As After Rain
In a certain light
as after rain,
I can see you descending
as from the next world.
You ask how the last novel
was by Maeve Binchy,
whether I still have Oprah's
choice book, the romance.
At times you are angry,
at times you step just on the toes
of your shoes like a faery.
What you seem to say to me
is that we can't change the past.
We can change our footing
in the dance,
give back what we get.
I see you far away from me sometimes,
getting out of a car,
as if you are ready to yell at me.
I want to stop you,
close myself to the rain
that lets you in,
so thin, like horses doing dressage,
touching the earth with only
the fine points of their hooves
as I dabble with cleaning
solution, Tide for the laundry,
in the same house you left me in,
us not the same,
myself unable to let go of you
in that certain haloed light
that keeps us here.
What comes through
on days waiting to be diagnosed
with a serious illness,
the windshield wiper breaking
under the sheeted rain,
almost like summers
when I went swimming
at the sound—wondering
why it is called sound
as if the compressed hush
of waves can be loud
enough to disturb the ear;
and the flowers in the garden
my neighbor planted
and again I am underwater
running through the present time I have
like rolls of paper towels
over a spill,
knowing the future may
not bring the rain and the sound again,
but water still pours
even in the kitchen sink,
with its sound of metal and housework.
Leaning on the Windowsill
I've been up all night
leaning on the windowsill.
In the dark sound carries,
the questioning of an owl,
the punching chatter of raccoons.
I cannot move, ask,
what if things could be different?
I would sleep the blessed sleep
Odysseus slept on returning home,
the color green for spring always
brightening my dreams. But now
it is garden-dry August,
the leaves slice off aquamarine
and pink, and I cannot move,
thinking of your ghost,
how you swam in late August,
giving away nothing
with your slow movement, everything
so supple and connected.
These Are the Seasons Persephone Promised
A winter like no other,
the gray fangs of snow in the street
as you leave me,
going in your green khaki coat
out the door and to the train,
home to your family.
Easter comes early this year.
I go out to dinner with my parents,
but the spring seems underground.
There are a few green forsythia vines,
but the season will not come till later on
and the goddess will not dance madly
as she once did, to see the earth change
as she returns to it.
Once even the dandelions
were flowers to me,
but now the spring does not come easily,
though I have the taste of buds
jealous for the heavy summer
on my lips,
and the big-bellied robin
sings of years ago
when she pressed forward,
her beak open for song
of the crudeness of branches,
of lilac bushes opening their stiff buds
into those seasons Persephone promised.
In Your Denim Skirt With Coffee
I still seem to find you,
sitting in your denim skirt with coffee,
a salami and olive sandwich.
It is so hard to see you here again
when I know you have been a year dead,
the winter earth
has taken a toll on me headlong.
Even though it's winter I think
about the birds returning on the northern currents—
Easter coming with its resurrection.
So many symphonies yet to come,
and as I know, as you were dying,
you looked for the spring to lift you up again.
In the Kitchen
In the kitchen
when her handwriting was still
neat like horses doing dressage
across the page,
Mother would stand
cooking beans and salsa.
I could hear the pots being scraped
from the other room.
There was little left
for her to do,
now that she couldn't go out,
and used a cane. I watched
her sleep in the upstairs bedroom
under the white blankets.
There was a hush and canopy
of snow this winter.
I left early to take the dog out
and he dragged me over
the bracket of snow round the house,
then back to Mother.
I think if all I can do
is my daily chores
then the days are a mix
of joy and sorrow,
like feeling winter's death breath
leave, the grass become uncovered,
the map of the lawn turn green.
And birdsong starts from I do not know where,
my no longer listening so closely
for mistakes in the dance
of feet and cane upstairs.
My back can't stand it anymore,
he said about shoveling,
but I had to guide my parents
through the storms, stop my mother
from driving, make long grocery lists
in case we were shut in.
What god sent this strange weather?
I don't remember a god of winter
just that Persephone stayed in the underworld,
and her mother no longer loved the spinning earth.
And Pluto, her brother, reigned over
her daughter, and punished the dead
because they could no longer be alive.
I think of this kind of death
this winter—and of Dickinson, who
heard a fly buzz when she died.
This small enigma interposing
between her and death.
The room where I sit and read this
is quiet—but something is wrong,
something common and interfering
in the middle of mystery. I think
of her as I sit in the basement
listening to the turning earth
capture fragments of snow,
furry in its whiteness
as a newborn lamb,
and I think of how you died
unexpectedly this winter.
The last letter I sent
never reached you—all
about what I was doing
one day, reading, writing.
And no one expected you to die
after celebrating your birthday,
or for the snows to last,
as though you couldn't bring
the spring back, as you must have
other years, the startling of green,
the sleep of earth ending,
Demeter's daughter returning
to creation to briefly transform
it—as you briefly
transformed me through your love,
although for now I only see
a veil of disappearing things,
and slow-rending snow.
The titles "In a Certain Light As After Rain" and "These Are the Seasons Persephone Promised" are borrowed, respectively, from the poems "The Lightkeeper" by Carolyn Forche, and "Chain of Women" by Annie Finch.
Linda Benninghoff: In a Certain Light As After Rain
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.
I am in tears. They are all so beautifully tragic. "Snow" reminds me of the loss of my Grandmother 2 days after Christmas 2 years go. She was my best friend, surrogate mother, and soul mate. I am in awe of your talent and can only hope to one day ever write something to evoke such visceral emotion as these poems have for me. Thank you for writing.