The dishes crash and clatter
as her husband unloads
the dishwasher. The cereal sings,
the children bicker,
and her husband herds
the pets through the morning routine.
She sinks into the car
hoping for some solitude
during her solitary sojourn
to the office. Instead, noise surrounds
her: horns honk, brakes squeal,
and the thumping
bass beat never relents.
At the office, the secretary slams
file drawers while the supervisor shouts
into the speakerphone.
Two offices down, her colleague curses
at his computer. Students stomp
through the hallways, shouting
into their cellphones.
She closes her office door,
but she can still hear
the noise of working life,
like distant whalesong.
She thinks of those poor creatures
who once had the sea to themselves,
but now prefer to beach
themselves, rather than listen
to the noise of ships and Navy sonar.
Kristin Berkey-Abbott earned a Ph.D. in British Literature from the University of South Carolina. Her poems have appeared in many journals, and Pudding House Publications published her first chapbook, Whistling Past the Graveyard, in 2004. Finishing Line Press will publish her second chapbook, I Stand Here Shredding Documents. She currently serves as Chair of the General Education department at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Her website, which has connections to the blogs that she keeps, is kristinberkey-abbott.com.
We gathered twelve baskets of leftovers,
and then we confronted a new crisis:
what do with all the food left behind?
We slapped together fish sandwiches for all the weary
travelers. We made to-go bags
for everyone with hungry
families at home. We made sure the boy
got his investment back and then some.
We still had several baskets.
We made a picnic for ourselves.
And then Martha stepped forward.
With her old family recipe, she baked
pan after pan of bread pudding.
Some people gathered to talk mystical
theology. The rest of us helped
Martha clean up the kitchen. We wallowed
in dessert and fellowship. We celebrated
sweetness, the important life lesson.
Kristin Berkey-Abbott earned a Ph.D. in British Literature from the University of South Carolina. She has published in many journals, and Pudding House Publications published her chapbook, Whistling Past the Graveyard, in 2004. She currently serves as Chair of the General Education department at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Her website, which has connections to the blogs that she keeps, is kristinberkey-abbott.com.
She spent her childhood surrounded
by the missing.
Kidnapped children peered out from milk
cartons, heiresses vanished, then reappeared
in shaky surveillance tapes. Shadowy
foreign governments seized civilians
and held them for years, and terrorists
of all stripes did the same.
She thinks of those Iranian hostages,
held in their workplace, walled
up for over a year. Some evenings,
she feels like a captive
herself, although no scruffy terrorist
holds her at gunpoint, just the shapeless
terrors of bankruptcy and a job hunt at midlife.
She spent half her life expecting to be seized,
but she did not expect so many selves
to be sacrificed. She used to greet
the dawn by logging long runs.
Now she watches the sun rise over jammed cars
on the morning commute.
She used to plant a garden large enough to feed
her family for a season.
Now she picks up a quick meal where she can
or settles for microwaved popcorn.
She used to paint sprawling canvases
that dreamt visions of a new world,
but now she tends to files and forms.
She used to hike through strange parts of the globe.
Now her vacation days, unused, evaporate
at the end of the fiscal year.
At first his requests seem
reasonable. He wants to learn
to sew. He wants no stain
of sweatshops on his clothes.
He wants a seamless
ethical life, no frayed
edges of hypocrisy.
At first, we have fun.
Of course, I’d always dreamed
of doing this with a daughter,
but I’ll settle for sewing with my son.
He’s been a bit adrift.
It’s good to see him settle
into a hobby.
But then he wants to know
who made the cloth,
and all our efforts unravel.
So hard to live an upright life
with all one’s values in alignment.
He decides there’s nothing to be
done but to raise his own goats and sheep,
and soon he attracts like-minded pilgrims.
They’ve moved out to the country
where they raise organic vegetables.
There’s a homebaked bread collective
and a vineyard and winery,
and, of course, cruelty-free cloth
and clothes of Christian design.
They weave, and break bread together,
and pray without ceasing.