Persephone Abbott

Keith Abbott reading his poems in 1975

Posted on September 26, 2023

I was recently reading some of my father’s poems that were published in a collection called Putty.  And today I found a video on YouTube of Keith reading from this book in 1975.

I happen to own the copy that he dedicated to his parents-in-law, Hannah and Lloyd Hansen, in 1971, the year we were living in Bellingham, Washington not far from Tacoma.

Keith, recollections from his daughter

Posted on September 16, 2023

Keith Abbott, Poet and Writer
Recollections from his Daughter

I am unable to remember when I met my father.
He told me he recalled the moment even though
The nurse thrust a substance upon his person
To keep him (well mustached at 23 years of age) from fainting
And falling on the hospital floor in a heap.
He admitted he liked both:
The baby and the intervention.
It was a good day.

I remember my father busy in the mornings writing something important.
Then he’d come out of his lair for coffee.
He was adored and admired for his charm and wit but he also drank coffee.
He ground the beans first.
It’s not a secret to making good coffee.

When I was a young girl, my father sometimes invited me
To go with him to the municipal dump.
I thought it was very exciting and I always said yes.
I also hung around him and his buddy Richard, who bought me
Steamed clams in Chinatown, but only occasionally so I
Didn’t miss too much school. But I
Tended not to go to school before lunchtime anyway.

My father and I enjoyed Amtrak together.
Multiple times.

My father taught me the best way to collect money at a golf club.
He’d never taken a short iron rod in a brown paper bag to a golf course,
But he thought I should know about golfers’ kneecaps
As part of my education.

When I was fourteen my father bought me a piano,
And, circumventing the school system, he found me private
French lessons. Following up on these two notions later:
I moved to Paris and studied music. Simple as that.

I once asked him what he thought about reincarnation.
He stared at me and did not utter a single word.
I believe he had a point.

The last thing he wrote me was a postcard of a stone frog. It said:
“Persephone I’ve got a place in the CHOIR!”
“I can’t wait!!” he added along with a large splat of ink at the end.
Then he croaked.

Tears ran into my coffee
Feeling salty, I took the dog to the park.
She likes the park and I do too.
She’s slow, selective of hearing, bow legged,
Benefits from poor eyesight and just like my premonition
I watched her slide from behind a favored tree down the slope
Enacting the part of a slow motion replay
Plonk into the canal, panic registering in her cloudy eyes.
It figures, I thought, that I end up jumping into an Amsterdam canal
The day my father is cremated,
Separate elements, each of us chasing a dog.

Keith Abbott, poet and writer

We’ve been missing you

Posted on September 4, 2023

We’ve been missing you

The pews weren’t even half full –

“My mother,” HR said to me
her youthful words dancing forth
from between her painted lips,
“Finally saw the light.” 

I had been on the job one week
and listened carefully about
a series of step-fathers
next to the office aquarium 

HR again, this time about an interviewee
“It’s not that she is too old,” she explained
as we stood in front of the dishwasher
also seriously in need of an update

It reminded me -  
the congregation trying their hardest
to sing the tune, mouths stumbling
across the words in the hymn book
Here I am Lord

My new boss strolled casually behind my chair
“We’ve been missing you,” she murmured low
“Really?” I thought, considering the summing-up 
that had begun the exit count down on day one

uncomfortable in my best gray suit 
I watched a single sheet of paper passed 
to-hand, from-hand along the row of desks
as specified by the boss: this one's for her

a letter of termination 
to be scanned and dispatched
so get ready Ms. A

Cobalt, a poem by Persephone Abbott

Posted on July 24, 2023


Twenty kilometers south
They closed the factory 
In 1898


I knew it was the farm
As soon as I saw it
On my left
Even though the place didn’t 
Look like the photographs
From 1904

A switch flipped in my mind
I turned into the driveway
On automatic pilot


I don’t suppose my great-uncle
Would have ever worked 
In the cobalt factory
or the saw mill or the grain mill
Even if the mines 
and the factories hadn’t closed
Even if he, at age fifteen, 
Hadn’t left for america 
Along with a lot of other
Local teenagers holding
Tickets to board the Celtic.

He wasn’t the type to work in a mine.
Yet I still can’t find what he did 
For work between the ages 
Of fifteen and twenty-six
But eventually he did leave 
Us a rather extensive library.


When I drove out of the driveway
I knew I couldn’t look back
Too much traffic and a haunting feeling
My great great grandmother’s parting
To join her son and never return 
to her Norwegian home.

This poem was written during a trip to Norway when I visited the farm where my great great grandparents lived before they immigrated to America. I rented a car and just as I arrived at the nearest town to the farm, the navigation stopped working. I consulted my phone and drove in the direction that was most logical. After my visit with the current owner of the property, I went off to an old cobalt factory that wasn’t too far away. The cobalt factory was by a waterfall which had equally powered a saw mill and a grain mill. The process of producing the beautiful color of cobalt from mined ore/rocks for color pigmentation was lengthly and hazardous. This poem explores the unknown, the known and the things that happened and didn’t happen, things that haunt the family members who did or did not immigrate to America.

A Short Story and an Excerpt from Rhino Ritz

Posted on March 22, 2023

“Rhino Ritz is an American Mystery: The Classic American Authors are immortal and living happily ever after in Paris recently relocated in San Francisco – when Sherwood Anderson disappears. Ernest (Rhino) Hemingway & F. Scott (Ritz) Fitzgerald open RHINO RITZ DETECTIVE AGENCY to find him. The plot heats up when Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas are abducted by Japanese terrorists , who force Ms. Stein to write their communique – which no one can understand. Finally, our heroes stumble onto a sinister conspiracy involving the future of American Literature.”

Castor & Pollux

Posted on March 10, 2023

I went to a masterclass
the woman said loudly.
Do you know that the singers
 - beautiful voices -
didn’t have a clue 
what they were singing about?

The stranger across the table from me
frowned in irritation
the pages for the synopsis 
for Act Two of Rameau's
Castor et Pollux open in his hand.

The woman repeated
what she had already said
a little differently this tme
but with the same emphasis.
Her friends muted friends listened on,
holding their drinks and unsure
how to change the topic.

I stirred sugar into 
my Concertgebouw cappuccino,
a cup small enough to finish
in time for the second bell.

It’s hard to understand the words
the woman said loudly.
Just think if a French singer
is singing in English
or a Dutch singer
is singing in German

Across the table from me
the stranger sighed
his mind half grapsing 
a story about twins
and different fates 
and a libretto in
antiquated French.

I played the flute and piano
the woman said loudly.
When I was three I sang a song
oh, I liked that song 
I sang it along to the record player.
I still have that record.

I finished my coffee and sat
waiting for the next assault
on my sensibilities

But my mind wandered off
remembering the man in head to toe 
black leather trousers, jacket and cap
pushing his bike up the bike ramp 
his silver chain glinting in the sun
as I made my way down the steps
I noted the fresh green leek 
sticking out of his bike basket.

Summer Poems

Posted on August 8, 2022

Wee a.m. 

the cat sitting on
my right hip bone
kneading my side

heavy voice outside
drunk, in a language
I can’t make out

pierces the night

dull thumping
shirt on shirt

half asleep I
egg on the fight
atta, go at ‘em go

my organs 
under the cat’s 

I hear

Jog my memories: Eight Stops on the Train from Amsterdam Amstel to Gouda


My first year in Holland: I was told that I’d save money if I got off at Amstel and took the metro to the opera house and I can still remember the round face and blues eyes of the person giving me that advice in the Utrecht Conservatory canteen in between sips of bad coffee.


My accountant, who chose not to humor me when I insisted I would buy real estate in Amsterdam’s city center, sitting in his office taking in my next new artistic plan and calculating in his head how much of a tax break that might make me and curious as to how much longer I would insist on keeping up this parade of losses.


The night when Beyoncé nearly blew my eardrums out and I struggled back home, elated to have gone and relieved to be allowed to regain my senses in peace.

The day, thirty-five euros richer, I climbed out of an econo-vehicle after a performance in the polder.


Where I always wonder what it would be like to have to go to that… what is it – a village- a suburban hell – a jolly place to be inside on a rainy day with an option to muck out a horse stall always on hand – out on some errand/social call/pretense. What on earth will possibly take me there? Of course, I would never resist the invitationwhenever it comes.


Gamely pushing my old dog in a red stroller over the loose gravel and mud, getting picked up by an econo-vehicle for a rehearsal out in the polder.


The birthday party for a singing student who was an official government squatter, occupying a whole floor or hundreds of potential cubbyhole spaces, in a 1970’s building on an industrial terrain. Admittedly a tough home to decorate.


Yes, look, on the left there’s the house where a friend’s husband physically and emotionally repeatedly attacked her and, on the other side of the tracks, the woods where I took my old dog one day for a treat away from the city and we both ended up peeing in the bushes.


A place where I hardly recognize who I once was and don’t know what to feel anymore, but it is a nice town and my friends tell me they are never going to make it out of there.