Kristin Berkey-Abbott



Some monk once said that we should return

to our cells, that our cells

would teach us everything we need to know. 


She thinks of that monk

every time a cell phone interrupts

her class, that jarring, reproduction

of a ring tone, the student's rush

to return to the hall to take a call,

leaving the class behind to try to gather

the fragments of their scattered attention

to return to the task at hand. 


She thinks of that monk

as she tries to declutter.

She chooses a different closet

each month.  She tries to be ruthless

as she sorts, but she lapses

into sentimentality and maudlin tears.  


She thinks of that monk

each month as she returns

to the doctor to do battle

against her own traitorous cells.


The doctor shows her scans of her invisible

insides.  She sees the clumps that will kill

her.  She thinks of terrorists plotting

their dark revenge, of a coven practicing

dark arts, of all the ways a cell

can go bad and destroy all it touches.  


She returns to the church lit by candles.

The smell of wax and chant

of Psalms sends her back to childhood,

that original cell, still so much to learn.


Kristin Berkey-Abbott has published widely in literary journals, but her happiest publication moment came in 2004, when Pudding House Press published her chapbook, Whistling Past the Graveyard.  She teaches English and Creative Writing at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, where she also serves as Assistant Chair of General Education.  Additional information can be found at her website at



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