Kristin Berkey-Abbott - "Progress," "Middle Passage of Marriage," and "Lessons of the Rocking Chair."



The statue, a tribute to Confederate

Womanhood, keeps her bronze eyes fixed

on the statehouse, while her metal

children clutch her skirts.  Inside,

women throng into the chambers, this once male

bastion of legislative power.

The current law states a husband

cannot be charged with the rape of his wife;

a wife is property, to do with as a man pleases.

Females of all ages bear witness, testify

to the violated sanctity of home and hearth.

Only one senator remains unswayed

by their pleas for a twentieth century view.

He doesn’t approve of racial integration either.




Middle Passage of Marriage


Our younger selves—those feckless

European adventurers—fettered

us together.  Marriage, a brilliant capitalist

scheme to make money

or at least to collect presents,

and we are left to cope

with the decisions of our younger selves,

decisions made with callous

disregard for the human flesh involved.


Shackled below the decks, we make our perilous

way across the Atlantic of our lives together.

We have spent most of our days

on this journey staring at each other’s skin,

knowing the other’s every habit.

We have kept each other alive and sane,

in part because the alternative is so grisly.


If I let you go, watched you slide

into the abyss, I still wouldn’t be free.

It would be worse to be chained

to your corpse, so I settle

into this Middle Passage.


I yearn for the freedom of our youth,

those carefree days when we didn’t know

the boredom of these watery vistas,

the endless irritations in the hold of this ship.


Ignorant of the horrors

that await us, the indignities we shall suffer

as we slave on the plantation

of aging, I hold tight to the hope

of a New World, a continent to call my own.



Lessons of the Rocking Chair


Don’t always rush forward.

Don’t turn your face to the past.

Rock on your heels as you consider your options.

You can’t even think for moving so fast.


Let the ones you love hold you.

Enjoy the sheen of well-loved skin.

Remember the thrill of rocking a baby.

Keep connections to your kith and kin.


Recollect your roots; the women who endured.

Celebrate your wood; I was made of pine,

a tree that some dismiss as trash.

But look around:  the countryside is mine.


I’m a collection of replacement parts.

Likewise, let go of what needs to leave.

Embrace the new, make yourself whole.

Sometimes the kindest cut is the cleave.


Kristin Berkey-Abbott earned a Ph.D. in British Literature from the University of South Carolina.  She has published in many journals, like The Beloit Poetry Journal, The North American Review, and The South Carolina Review.  She was one of the top ten finalists in the National Looking Glass Poetry Chapbook Competition.  Pudding House Publications published her chapbook, Whistling Past the Graveyard, in 2004.  Currently, she teaches English and Creative Writing at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale and serves as Assistant Chair of the General Education department.  Her website, which has connections to the blogs that she keeps, is

Posted on December 7, 2013 .