Betty J. Benner


This morning, winter frost lies thick on bent grasses.
Nothing but pine needles could survive
this frigid granular whiteness covering like snow.

Winters past hover.
I dunk toast into steaming creamed coffee.
Butter makes little oily circles on the brown fragrance.
My hand curves still and warm around the mug.
My robe pulls tight about my knees.

My father made toast each cold morning,
A whole loaf of bread,
arranged buttered slices (margarine it was—
you pinched a color capsule and squeezed the yellow through)
row on row on top of the brown enamel heating stove,
enough for seven children’s breakfast.
Milk for the little kids, coffee for the rest.
Coals glowed through rainbowed isinglass squares
there in the center, downstairs,
and crust edges curled up,
forming little boats,
crisp little boats. Sometimes one was still there
when I came home for lunch, or after school.

I never thanked my father for the toast until this morning, decades later…(him gone now fifty some years and childhood’s pain a dusty memory). My thank yous rise full blown out of nowhere. Out of a need to bridge the years and because I never thanked my father for anything.

Betty J. Benner, 83, of Austin, is a retired teacher and human services worker. She is active in local writing groups and participates in regional open mic readings. Her poetry has been published in the Rochester, Minnesota Post Bulletin and numerous literary journals. Her collection of poems entitled From Scratch was published in 2010. She has three daughters and six grandchildren. Betty’s sign is Pisces.