Listening to Bessie Smith

In the garden, she treads softly between rows
of lettuce, beans, sunflowers, and corn.

She thinks about what she might cook tonight,
with onions, garlic, olive oil. She’s not a woman

who shares her life on Facebook. “Did you ever
notice,” she asks, “how people who have one

bumper sticker on their car, end up filling every
available space?” She never owned a fishing rod

or gun. Long ago she got locked in a park
when it closed for the night with a terrified boy

she had to help to climb the fence. In her purse
she carries neither mints nor gum. She eats slowly, 

as if her mind were occupied by long and complex
strings of thought; she speaks in paragraphs

and her hands are never still. In college, once,
she caught a bat that had gotten in the dorm,

held it by its wings and released it into the night
as other girls cowered and screamed. Then she

slipped off her winter gloves, washed her hands
and spent an hour listening to Bessie Smith

as if she too had stumbled in the dark while watching
dreary rain, and caught those hard Saint Louis Blues.

Steve Klepetar

If you have any comments on this poem, Steve Klepetar  would be pleased to hear from you.