Linda Benninghoff


The rooms shone clean and had
large floor-length mirrors. It
was not the sort of place to
be abandoned in, forgotten by friends
and family. They dropped you off
on the bus each day, and you climbed
down, disabled, carrying coffee
and cigarettes, a jug of water,
and the songs you would sing to us
all day: God Bless America, I'm In love.
I bought snacks,
orange juice, yogurt. It was not
a woods where I could be lost,
never found. Yet they deserted
you because you could not keep
up your cheer, your health went.
They abandoned me when I
showed signs of cancer. These
woods closed about me, even here
in the clean treatment building,
dark and deep as a mouth,
like a Grimm fairy tale,
without endings,
the vines playing sore on the trees,
the flowers without sun-dimmed halos.

* * *


I still have the letters you wrote
from Missouri
before you were faced

with an operation
or going into a wheelchair at age 58.
How much each paper showed.

The ink veers beyond
the margins,
your handwriting neat

as if you had never fallen
broken your arm, crumpled your hand,
Despite the mishaps

you stay cheerful, as if
from halcyon days, when you saw
young deer in the forest near your brother's,

played with your pet cat,
lived with Tom your husband,
as if from a steeled cheerfulness
ready for the days to come.


Linda Benninghoff attended Johns Hopkins University where she was an English major. She got a Masters in English with an emphasis on creative writing. While living in Baltimore, she trained to be an advocate for the disabled, and used this skill when she worked as a journalist. Her first full-length book, Whose Cries Are Not Music, has a section in it on disability.