Kristin Berkey-Abbott


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Lara Scarr

Life in the Holocene Extinction

I complete the day’s tasks
of e-mails and reports and other paperwork.
I think about which species
have gone extinct
in the amount of time it takes
to troll the Internet.
I squash a mosquito.

He drives to the grocery store
to pick up the few items he needs
for dinner: shark from a distant
sea, wine redolent of minerals from a foreign
soil. He avoids the berries
from a tropical country with lax
control of chemicals.

As she packs up her office,
she thinks about habitat loss,
those orphaned animals stranded
in a world of heat and pavement.
She wishes she had saved
more money while she had a job.
She knows she will lose the house.
She wonders what possessions
will fit into her car.

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Book of the Dead

Even though her mother lives,
she writes her mother’s name
in the monks’ book of the dead.

She writes her mother’s name
in this giant book and steps
away before her tears
can blur the ink.

She walks to the bank
of the river and watches
the mist dance its last
movements. A runaway
slave or a Native American
soon to be slaughtered
would not be a surprise.

She drives back to the hospital
and slices the fruitcake
bought in the gift shop, baked
by monks in a far away monastery.

Her mother, who used to mock
fruitcake, who used to count
each calorie, this stranger gobbles
every last crumb. On the window sill,
seabirds eye the scene. She tries
to remember the smell of salt.

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Fixed Hour Prayers

Her father’s inner life, closed
to her, and now, to him, a distant
monastery, a vow of silence
required for visitation.

Still, she makes her pilgrimage. She brings
baskets of goodies: the pistachio nuts
he loves, the puzzle books,
some warm socks. She leaves
her offering on his dresser.

She listens to the Gregorian chant
of her father’s wheezing lungs,
a language at once both familiar
and strange. The nurses, with their Psalmody
of medications, appear throughout the day,
a liturgy of the hours.

Before she leaves, she reads
the books of her childhood
out loud to him: the otter
making his journey home, the children
finding their way through a dark forest,
families forging a life on a prairie.

She reads these bedtime stories,
a compline of comfort
that asserts the possibility
of safe passage through the night.

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When God Switched Fabrics

On the third day, God switched
fabrics. At first, God had followed
respectfully the lessons of the elders:
which fabrics could be used,
which fabrics couldn’t go together,
which decorative objects were suitable.
God stuck to the established patterns:
Flying Geese, Star of Bethlehem, and Log Cabin.

But on the third day, God declared,
“Enough.” God created the universe
with leftover scraps of velvet,
silk, leather, and denim. God stitched
it all tightly together with ribbon and lace.

When God created foliage,
God decided to design new patterns.
Even the elders exclaimed over God’s
grand visions.

When God began the creation of the animals,
God discovered the dimensions offered
by fabric dyes. God played with pigments
and new patterns appeared.

By the time God created humans,
God claimed the title of fabric artist.
God didn’t waste time
in the age-old debate of craft versus art.
God blazed new trails mixing fabric,
paint, clay, and metals to create
new forms yet again.
Kristin Berkey-Abbott_at_Piccolo_Spoleto, photo credit Ger EschKristin Berkey-Abbott earned a Ph.D. in British Literature from the University of South Carolina. She has published two chapbooks: Whistling Past the Graveyard (Pudding House Publications) and I Stand Here Shredding Documents (Finishing Line Press). She serves as Coordinator of Humanities and Communication at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott’s Website

Kristin Berkey-Abbott’s Creativity Blog

Kristin Berkey-Abbott’s Theology Blog

Kristin Berkey-Abbott at The Writer’s Almanac

Author Photo Credit: Ger Esch




  • Maureen

    Wonderful to see Kristin featured. I follow her blog. And, as always, the perfect artwork.