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
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 www.kristinberkey-abbott.com.