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Three poems by Kelley Jean White

Oak Bench

Seat and back each a single 2” thick board,

curved armrests at ends and mid-bench, Enfield, NH,

c. 1830, 40″ at back, 33″ seat width, 18’ l. $16,800

I remember the tree. As a child I played

beneath it with acorns I fashioned into cups

and saucers on a mossy root. I might have been ten

the year it fell, lightning stuck, into the small pond

beneath it. Nine men came with oxen

and long saws. We children watched. And clapped

as the great trunk was pulled to the sawmill.

Flat boards nearly as wide as I was tall.

A year to make the bench. And seven men

to carry it. Now I have lived long enough to see it

worn with age, curved as our souls shape it

with the weight of our doubts and unbelief.

I am the last to remember sunlight

through the shadows of this once living thing.

Shaker Carrier

Cherry, original natural finish, steel hoop handle

with applied carved wood interior, dovetailed construction,

9 3/4″ h, 14 3/4″ h (to top of handle), 21″ l, 12″ d. $1500

What shall I bring when Mother calls me

to live forever by her side?

Shall I bring her wreaths I’ve woven

from blooms about her mountainside?

Shall I bring fruits I’ve gathered in a basket

of branches from Her tree of life?

Beauteous balms of eternal healing

emblems to the end of strife

Dearest Mother, what can I give you?

who hadst given all to me.

I must take your world and from its gifts

fashion goods, use hands in harmony

A cheerful heart and pleasant visage

kindness to our People here

These are things our Mother treasures

when she calls to hold us near

Mother dearest, you have given

all that I need use to make

A life of use to live in giving

from your gifts more than I take

Fireplace Tools, matching wrought steel

tongs and long handled shovel, small ball tops, flattened petal shaped

log holders, 21″ l; made by a master Shaker craftsman. Provenance: Shovel purchased from the Antique Shop at Canterbury in 1951 for $3.00; Illustrated: Religion in Wood, Andrews, Edward Deming and Faith,

Exhibited:Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, 1964 $2,950.00

Our hard will yet can be shaped by the fire of Faith in our

dance. We are held above the flames by Mother’s hands,

refined, hammered against the anvil of Truth, turned

again and again, stretched, plunged into the cool waters

of Communion. Mother’s eyes shine fire and ice. Her breath

is like a cool wind in summer, her heart opens into a furnace

of refining fierce Delight. Who shall doubt her wisdom?

Who, if she asks us for all, shall keep anything back?


Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner-city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

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