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Posted by on Feb 26, 2013 in Poetry | 11 comments

Laura Benua

My old, dear friend, soul buddy, partner in crime, best friend Laura Benua has died. She died in her sleep of a heart attack. She was about 50 years old. I have so many memories. She bought my children winter coats when I had no money. She drove beautifully. Laura was brilliant, funny, sweet, sad with a wicked temper and razor sense of humor. She was kind and hard boiled, a friend, a loving friend, when I was more alone than I could bear or imagine.  This is a poem I wrote for her 1992. Some people might think it’s a little harsh, but I don’t think so. Laura, I will miss you always.

Bad Medicine for Laura

No one waits for this, it comes;
amidst the dumpsters and the parking lot
THIS STINKS sprayed across the blistered paint.
Power lines reflected on the half frozen puddles
cut the clouds to diamonds and ducks
step through the motor parts and grass
nibbling at mud.  Every part of this world lives,
I think, and then you come stumbling from your house
looking guilty, as always, of something
someone says you did but you don’t know.
Past the gas station shut by blue laws
along the creek, not pausing to check
your face out in the water, not
looking at the shopping cart
or the plastic bag caught in a bush
jerking in the wind.  Down the sidewalk
in your practiced stagger and long leather coat
you go looking for frozen waffles and a milkshake
to tide you over later when you stop
to light a cigarette, lips and skin like paper,
and lean your head against a telephone pole
to gently heave in the street.

First Morning in March for Laura

The birds fly in and I lift my head
to sun broken skies of iron and pearl
trees drawn in a darker lead
icicles hanging from wires uncurl
into old slush slumped in the gutter
the dropping water stutters.

Comes a cry overhead
in a bright dash of red
a cardinal whistling for his mate
where are you where are you
he lays out his bait
and says I am your lover true.

A blue jay hops down and sings
too late too late; a lone
mourning dove turning a ring
mutters too soon too soon
and the crow coughs in his craw
and asks how how?

The cardinal cries to the blue
crack of sky but I see you see you
as all that is left of her sweeps
through the woods and the sun
hides his face and weeps
winter returns and song is done.



  1. Sorry to hear this Jon. 50? God man, so young. Kind and hard-boiled? The best kind of people!

  2. i knew laura through linguistics, especially in the 90s, but hadn’t seen her in over 10 years. wonderful woman, and very, very sad news. condolences. to all of us.

  3. Thank you Curt. I knew Laura in high school, but we became close when she was at Cornell starting her PhD.
    Daurade, I wish you had met! she was absolutely the best kind of person. From the home planet.

  4. Love this. Hadn’t seen Laura since late 1990s when she was at Maryland (I was a grad student there at the time). Never had her as a prof, and wasn’t really interested in her work,… But we had some Fun via shared downtime interests in live music and all manner of altered states. Laura was just Bad-Ass. I hope some of her general attitude towards life rubbed off on me. I admired her very much. A sad loss.

  5. So very sad to hear this news. I loved Laura. Just heard the news. Am in shock. What happened?

  6. Hi Su. Laura had 3 blocked arteries and died of a heart attack in her sleep. Heart disease ran in the family. A brother died 3 years ago at the age of 53 of a heart attack, and so did her father.

  7. Thank you for sharing that. I’m sorry to hear that she was ill. She’s totally the best kind of person, and even though I’m one of those geeky linguists friends from UMass I always felt cool and special when I was with her. Brilliant, witty, generous and a wicked driver. Did you guys hang out in Nyack?

  8. No, I wish we had. Time. We kept promising each other we’d visit. I knew her in high school but we became close friends in Ithaca where she started her PhD in linguistics. Then after that we’d hang out in NYC. She wasn’t technically ill. She did havfe the flu, but the heart condition was silent. I guess she could have known, but that’s not how she lived.

  9. Thanks. Me too, I wanted to hang out in Nyack with her, but never made it. I just realized that Joe Strummer also passed away in his sleep of an undiagnosed heart condition, at the age of 50.

  10. It is by sheer coincidence that I learn of Laura’s death, and I feel shocked and saddened! Once upon a time we even wrote a paper together (her last stab at syntax, alas), and I liked her very much! We haven’t kept in touch, and I find, now that she is gone, that I know so little about how she lived…

  11. Dear Jon,

    I just read your poem Bad Medicine on Laura and you have touched her on the spot. Thank you for this. My condolences on your loss.

    Best regards,

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