Poems by Linda Benninghoff

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For Leonard Peltier*

by Linda Benninghoff

From Canary Summer 2015

Linda lives in the Northern Long Island Watershed in back of Caumsett State Park and less than a mile from the Long Island Sound.

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 and the sacred

in his night-sound,
your knowing the land
contained peace, and it
came from the ancestors,
descending like rain,
and was for the descendants, on.

*Peltier was a leader of the American Indian Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. After a desperate shootout with the FBI in 1977, he was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison. He is 70 years old now.


by Linda Benninghoff

From Canary Fall 2010

In that moment
when the fires of the stars die
before the next fire comes,
the gulls rise,
filling the sky like numberless dreams,
pale and careless, floating on air.
And I think how hard it has been
to say a word
when I know I will hear it echo
from one galaxy to the next,
and even to stoop, lift someone
softly out of pain,
takes patience
and a heart like stone to bear
the incompleteness of that action.

Their wings hang like hands,
their motions reassure me.
before the light.

Not Being Able To Speak

by Linda Benninghoff

From Canary Fall 2011

The worse tragedy was being born,
then not being able to speak about
the life of fish
sun shining on scales
life of pelicans,
wings coated with whiteness.
If the ocean took
these lives together and
held them
like a mother,
the sun might tick
with eagerness to shine.
Night sky would bring peace.
But because I cannot speak
and someone did not value them,
all these lives are going,
silent shining fish,
yellow fin tuna, crab, pale pelican.
Grasses undulate beneath waves.

Previously published in Poets for Living Waters.


by Linda Benninghoff

From Canary Fall 2012

The dreams of the earth are my dreams,
under the unspeaking trees.
Lakes of silence under the oaks' branches,
and small birds on their limbs
sing only in the morning.

These flowers have all died with
the frost,  but an orange glow remains,
crysanthemums brighter than last night’s stars.

I want to grow up to overhear
the speech of flowers,
of birds hidden by trees,
of geese and the vast sky they talk to--


by Linda Benninghoff

From Canary Fall 2017

What's the solace of sunset,
the snaky, cathartic path of the Yuba,
that runs into the dark?

I have glutted myself with these scenes,
but the deer lift their wings
only to be shot,
the river perch wear blood red fins
on their sides, as if to mark
the deterioration of all things natural.
At the end of summer, things yellow.
The air is yellow to breathe,
and telephone wires
slice through the state park's forest,
our active enthusiasm
for building beyond our capacity.
The black-throated chickadee
sings a song of sorrow,
and as we pick lettuce
from our dry garden
we think her song is for us.

The Lake, the Quiet

by Linda Benninghoff

From Canary Summer 2014

The lake, the quiet
the kneeling sofa and chairs,
then my dog barking at planes,
and the patriotic fireworks.
I find myself in simple things,
pouring you tea
when you have injured your back,
the weight of groceries in the bag,
the sticks in the yard
that I throw
and the brown leaves
melting under them.
Underneath everything
there is silence
as underneath the soil
the worms are always there
providing air.

The Moon Is Backing Away From Us

by Linda Benninghoff

From Canary Summer 2013

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.

The Seasons Persephone Promised


by Linda Benninghoff

From Canary Winter 2014-15

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.

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