LINDA BENNINGHOFF


Linda Benninghoff has published about 50 poems in 25 magazines,
including The Journal, Red Owl and Hidden Oak. She recently translated
The Seafarer from the Old English. Poems here are from The Street
Where I Was A Child
, published by Finishing Line Press.







Spiders

When I was a child,
my father would catch spiders
and wrap them up in his
pocket handkerchief,
then throw them out into the yard
where dead leaves stood in piles
and were not collected
till the end of November.

When I was 20,
I wanted to join the University's intramural softball team.
He played with me in the backyard,
smiling, as if some happiness
always hung around him.
In the evenings,
he told me stories of the Indiana town
where he grew up,
of bear-fur left on trees,
he had found in the mornings,
walking out
in the woods, alone.

Yesterday night,
he sat in his favorite chair,
his eyes quiet, his motions
slowed down. He was reading
a newspaper and staring into some darkness
in the corner
of the small room.

The spiders he let go
when I was a child,
disappeared into the dark,
and the tall, heavy trees
of an Indiana town,
became an indistinguishable color,
at nightfall.
Mothers and fathers
long dead now,
who made preserves in summer,
lifted up their faces into the sky at evening
and talked of what they would do the following day.
As I sat near him he slept, woke,
returned to reading.
I left after eating,
past the unkempt lawn,
the leaves still not gathered in January.






The Moose

The day the moose
broke the silence
of the wood
where we had walked all day,
I was twelve,
stood next to my father,
his eyebrows thick and soft,
face strange and cold.

Crows drifted in
and out of the trees.
The mountains ran humpbacked.
When we left the tent,
he pointed out the sky, fields,
and mosquitoes. I looked away
down the path where moths fluttered,
and would not answer him.

Then the moose swung,
its dark back lifted
against the cold sky,
leaves and brittle twigs trembling -
our fingers stationed so closely together.
It did not see us,
went past the path,
its whole weight
forward,
eastward.






Snow Falling

Once I walked out,
thinking it would be hard
to find a day like this:
outside of the house
snow falling,
the lines in the rhododendron leaves gone white.
Five birds, chilled, silent,
stretched their necks
toward food under the covered lawn.
And I was like them,
seeking in this place
something hard to come by -
a world swollen with snow,
the spaces between things lessened,
and change coming,
overnight, in quiet,
change once so hard to believe in.







Five Leaves

Soon I will need all the silence
of this morning to shield me:
snow falling through emptiness,
the last five leaves on a tree, abrupt in the sky,
like five flat hands, gathering whiteness.
I am growing very patient inside,
and I am going far
over some shaking emptiness,
till I can come back,
needing this silent morning.



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