Carolyn Benson

Arriving back in western Massachusetts in the late 1990’s after 30 years writing, volunteering and raising two children in New York City, Carolyn Benson co-founded and co-directed Voices from Inside, a program of creative writing workshops and public readings and performances that empower women who have been incarcerated to make changes in their lives and to engage positively with the communities to which they return. In 2005 Voices from Inside put on a standing-room-only performance in Weinstein Auditorium as an offering of the Poetry Center at Smith College.


Carolyn Benson '63


Her Breath

I remember her swimming the sidestroke,
one arm stretched out like an arrow,
white rubber cap paralleling the beach.
Pond water enters and exits pursed lips,
laps her chin.  She looks our way,
but all my cavorting can’t get her to wave.


They called the family
when her heart began to let go.
In the hospital she was curled on one side,
heaving her shoulders to drag in air,
gliding on each exhalation
as fluid rose in her lungs.

She swam like she couldn’t see shore.

Why have I withheld so much?

You’re doing great, I whisper,

not a moment too soon.