–after a line from Nabokov

Father, deep in workshop thoughts, heaves a neutral sigh


Daddy’s at the workbench.  He sighs in resignation.

Pa’s bent over his tools biting his tongue.

Hey Dad, cat got your tongue? Talk to me.  No.

Papa’s thinking.  Let him work. He doesn’t hear.


Leave your dad alone, can’t you see he wants

to work?  Don’t you hear the power

saw? A man’s work, power, keeps him

here, in now, no future, no past, here, now, present


in one-gone-home-bliss-now.  If he lets me I’ll sit

sit on the stool and watch.  I’ll bite my tongue and click

the wooden ruler-one two three four ‘til he stops

me, watch the bubble float on the level.  I used


his best screwdrivers for test stakes damn he was

mad.  He doesn’t like damn but at least its not talking

the Lord’s name


I like the way the board looks with the tools drawn

in black–the outline of the saw, hammer shape,

wrenches going downhill sizes around the little

hook holes rows. I’m gonna make one just like that


when I grow up.  Make one in the kitchen, hang,

like my mother hangs her copper bottom pots

all shined every time she uses ‘em.  It’s vain, you know,

showing how proud you are of a pot.  Me, I don’t want


to ever be called Mother.  They should say Ma.

Not MaMa, Mommy, maybe Mom OK but I’d like

Ma, if I have to be called anything but my name. I’m vain

about my name.  It’s from Gramma, my mother’s


Gramma with the white white skin blue veined

hands.  Oldest person in the world sitting in a dark

room and Uncle Otto some kind of son, son-

in-law–sits out in the garage door all day

by a work bench.  Like my dad’s only he don’t put

his tools away so neat


by Kelley Jean White


Kelley’s writing has been widely published since 2000 in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Friends Journal, Nimrod, Poet Lore, Rattle, the Journal of the American Medical Association and in a number of chapbooks and full-length collections, most recently Toxic Environment from Boston Poet Press, Two Birds in Flame, poems related to the Shaker Community at Canterbury, NH, from Beech River Books, and “In Memory of the Body Donors,” Covert Press. She have received several honors, including a 2008 grant for poetry from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

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