Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Versatility of Benches

—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

Planted at the bus stop, she spills far past
the sack of her body: all boundaries

are missing.  Long, loose hair melts
into looser clothes, and children dangle

from here and there on the comfortable
heap of her, climbing goat-like over

her crags and crannies.  Even her attention
spreads wide, stopping to laugh mid-

scold.  A huge purse sprawls
sideways over the bench: a hairbrush

tries to crawl away from its impossible
job.  If she died right here,

careful cops would chalk around
the mound of her, but the real outline

would stretch far into the universe. . .



track tiny traces all over
the yard:  footprints make
pointy stars on the bonsai
shelf, the wooden benches. . .
My watering can spills

out a frog:  blushing brown
to match the wood, he
stares, non-plussed, in
the sudden light. . .  Titmice
are less reclusive:  cheeky

before breakfast, they pick
through spiderwebs, trail
dew all over the sidewalk,
stamp tiny pitchforks
onto the handles of tools. . .

—Kathy Kieth


—Kathy Kieth

Steady rain has drawn a gray curtain
around the cedars.  The trees themselves
gather branch-loads of raindrops, then

let them go in sudden waterfalls of
surprise.  A few brave and hungry
juncos skitter around in the corn

on the deck, dodging the ricochet
of raindrops.  Implacable, the stone
Buddha sits, elevated on his

little wooden bench.  And under him,
out of the cedar-showers, the corn
remains dry, and one junco waits…


—Kathy Kieth

Summer mornings when I was little, my mother
and I would head downtown, past the hop fields
and railroad tracks into Sacramento.  We’d park
in the city lot, then walk to Hale’s to shop
for shirts or slips or sandals.  But there was a price

for this adventure: we had to cross the park,
where old men sat in clouds of smoke and flannel,
bragging like conquistadors at checkerboards,
smelling of stale cigars and dirty laundry.  I doubt
they even noticed another haus frau towing

a skinny kid with glasses, but we’d tuck our heads
just the same and sail through the bushes and
benches and strange accents, relieved to finally
arrive at the crosswalk.  After our spree at Hale’s,
we’d stop at the deli across from the park and buy

cold ravioli pillows lined up in grids under
filmy clouds of flour, their tidy boxes safely tied
with string. Then, parcels clutched close, we’d plow
through the park again, past all the smoky old men
nodding in the sun.

My mother and I never did figure out the punch-
line to the cosmic joke that hooked us together. 
But for a few years we agreed on some things,
like Hale’s, and ravioli, and scary old men. . .


Today's LittleNip:

We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.

—Henry James



 St. James Park in London
with Buckingham Palace in the background