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Linda Benninghoff: In a Certain Light As After Rain
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.
  • 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.


    Recollected Emotion

    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
    like fingers
    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 has an MA in English with an emphasis on creative writing. She most recently published in the Wallace Stevens Journal, Agenda, Lodestone, and Aleola.
Lyndon Hughes likes this.
  1. I agree with J Marie about "Recollected Emotion". I was there for so long too.
  2. 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.
  3. J Marie Newton
    Beautiful work. Recollected Emotion grabbed me. "and again I am underwater
    running through the present time I have like rolls of paper towels over a spill..."
    I am there.
    JesseHaydnHyde likes this.
  4. Linda Benninghoff
  5. Cheryl.Leverette
    Really love the seasons poem.  I don't know tho, I love them all.  Glad I don't have to pick a favorite.
  6. Bethany Lim
  7. Linda Benninghoff
    Thanks Trish, Jenn.
  8. Jenn Zed
    Yes, indeed .. you do have a way with descriptive writing I very much like.

    Congratz on the Showcase!
  9. TrishSaunders
    This is a wonderful collection. Well done!