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Linda Benninghoff: Hunger Artist
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.
  • Hunger Artist

    A wounded jay
    had hobbled onto the dogwood branch,
    a red hole in its side
    as if he had been punctured
    by bullets,
    and he was singing,
    lost and loud.

    I wanted to go out and lift him,
    try to heal the mark,
    but he was wild,
    singing of the dangers of entrapment,
    of the cubed rooms in my house
    feet away,
    as if he could always lift himself
    off the branch, into air
    where wild wings flap in free mornings.


    The Mare

    The autumn droops down,
    its colors fading,
    and the wet banks of leaves
    lie not to be touched
    except by worms.
    The spring is growing,
    like a pilose head of hair,
    and the infusoria incubate
    from the edges of flowers,
    fronds of leaves.
    I wanted to live to see
    this one more spring,
    to follow the serpentine trail
    between the two green willows
    to the mare's pasture.
    She, with her short sweaty coiling coat,
    has been running through pale days,
    remembering the winter
    when she bore what was
    on her back upwards—skywards—
    always with that sizzle of attention
    to the length of the pastures,
    the long ongoing line of the fields.



    Night fell inside me this winter,
    with the dreaming elms,
    the sycamore sainted with knowing
    all was not well and kind,
    and it seemed to me,
    this had always been so.

    I breathed darkness,
    and the forsythia
    did not rise,
    no rose resurrected
    in the spring.

    I was like this then, but others
    went through their lives this way,
    transporting their sore and unflinching selves
    from dusk to dusk.


    The Poor

    They were the first to smile
    and say, "I will give you this,"
    sharing their clothes,
    their hamburger from the diner,
    their black-haired dog who greets and smothers
    with fur.

    Now no one lifts them
    from the spare, bare
    apartment without a kitchen.
    It is as if what they own and loved
    disappears from them
    like roses that only leave a red residue
    in the garden
    after the first frost.

    A merciful justice
    seems to await them,
    and they hear its promises
    in the loud winter wind,
    but its sword is harsh,
    a milky, unfair justice,
    like dreams that seem to eat up the daylight.

    The sun rises in the east
    and is breathtaking,
    but those that know no joy are perched
    where darkness mixes with light.


    For Leonard Peltier, Leader of the American Indian Movement

    You wanted the land,
    the coiling snakes in the mute forest,
    the rapids alternating in the stream,
    the sun whose glare never made
    you blind, as you put a tong
    in your chest, linked yourself to what you worshipped.

    The old lived out of their cars,
    and never wanted houses, money.
    You chose the land over the money
    the government offered for the land,
    and the land seemed to answer you back,
    without greed, without hurting you,
    the young doe flicking her ears
    beside her mother,
    the rabbit, and the spirit of the rabbit
    following with gentleness,
    the lumbering raccoon,
    with squall in his night-sound,
    your having the knowledge that the land
    contained peace, and it
    came from the ancestors,
    like descending snow,
    and was for the descendants, on.



    The day we walked through
    the park the Native Americans called Caumsett,
    we wore no socks, just shorts
    and shoes not made for walking.
    You stopped halfway, where there
    is a mound of woodchips now;
    my dog climbs through, but I do not.
    I got a sense of your frailty,
    the asthma that made you need
    an inhaler. The next day at the beach
    you walked lightly, your breath back,
    holding hands with Tom, and I got
    a sense that life might go on.

    Now I am on an imaginary journey
    to where you live—near Kansas City,
    seeing the weighted clouds,
    the snow blossoms portending spring,
    the clouds ready to leave me in peace,
    so I can see you, not sure
    which of us is dying, as if we die
    in pieces, and sometimes together,
    in pieces of the earth we walked on
    years ago, the Native tongues
    and Spanish in our mouths—
    a piece of the train with me
    always, as if in perpetual motion.


    The Moon Is Backing Away From Us

       -D. Laux

    We have not valued the field,
    have not taken care of our gardens.
    We have drilled for oil
    in the white home of the polar bear,
    and shot the deer in the park
    that abuts our backyard.
    The moon is backing away from us
    with her yellow arms
    held open. I want to stretch my hands
    back to her, but
    she does not know me
    or the ruined earth.
  • Linda Benninghoff has an MA in  English with an emphasis on creative writing.  She most recently published in the Wallace Stevens Journal, Agenda, Lodestone, and Aleola.
  1. Dave Rendle
    Particularly enjoyed the one about Leonard Peltier. Powerful poem about a powerful man, surely it is time that he was pardoned, and the gross injustice of his continuing imprisonment was overturned. Many thanks.
  2. Obed Ladiny
    Good accessible poems.
  3. J.S. Jones
    Oooo, "Darkness" is very good.  Lovely.  Absolutely lovely.
  4. Isabelle M. Chasse
  5. Julia Schott
  6. Linda Benninghoff
  7. Cheryl.Leverette
    Linda, I've been enjoying both your showcase items.  Will revisit often.  Thanks so much for sharing these with us.
  8. Linda Benninghoff
    Thanks, Mike and Trish.
  9. TrishSaunders
    That last poem is especially fine, Linda! Breathtaking work here.
  10. Michael Ashley
    Lovely dark collection Linda, very well done!