Persephone Abbott

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.

The Professor’s Apples

Posted on May 14, 2022

On my wall there was a modest space available, large enough for a mirror, but then I thought, no, not a new mirror, better find a secondhand mirror, maybe oval or maybe rectangular. I felt there was an element missing between the paintings hanging on my wall and, besides, the middle part of my studio, the part between the front windows and the back balcony was a bit dark at times. A mirror might help. Did I, and I asked myself this while standing on the Keizersgracht one evening with a small object between my hands, favor this little mirror, poorly wedged into an old chipped frame? Someone had put it out on the street. I thought not.

Months later, I passed by a pile of picture frames and whynotstuff set out on the street for grabs and I thought, hold on, that mirror is exactly what I am looking for. The mirror was vintage, held in place by a painted wooden frame, a color of green that is an old green, favored back in the 1920’s and the frame was unremarkable, made of heavy wood with the heavy piece of glass set into it. The wire attached to the back was sturdy, sensibly placed and ready to use, and the mirror, all in all, was well made and preserved. Turning it over, the top of the frame touched my nose. I noted the wood had a faint odor of chimney smoke. It must have been a very nice little mirror for a hovel back in the day.

Wait, I thought looking down, what’s this between the empty picture frames? A painting. Apples that looked like they, too, were from the 1920’s, encased in a bronze-colored frame that looked like it was from the 1920’s. Maybe 1930’s. Did I like those apples? I decided I did. I took it home and inspected the signature. SPRENGER it said on the bottom. APPELS it said, in Dutch, on the top. (A friend later told me that he thought one of the apples looked more like a quince.) In total, six whole apples and one quarter of an apple are depicted in the painting, an oil painting set behind glass.

Five of the apples are displayed in a grey colored dish and the background is typically Dutch, namely that of an oriental rug, the kind people used to put on top of their tables. I often think it was so citizens could inspect the prized object better than had the rug been used, father down, on the floor. It’s an old-fashioned habit that I rarely see in homes today.

Just who was this apple painter, this Sprenger? A pomologist, a professor of apples who had wanted to become an artist and, unsurprisingly, his 19th century parents did not approve. Instead, the man became a horticultural champion at a university down in the southern region of the Netherlands, a recognized cultivator of fruit, and the hero of apple crops before he was forgotten. He politely named two of his apples after the young royal princesses and further spent a significant amount of time researching economical ways of processing and promoting a thick fruit juice that undoubtedly could be an improvement to any diet (as prescribed by important doctors and then surely all the medical profession at large). Thus, was born of Professor Sprenger a line of juice drinks named Zoete Most that, pre-war, competed with the groundbreaking Swiss products already sold on the European market.

In the weekends Professor A.M. Sprenger painted apples, shutting himself up in his attic. I have no idea how these Appels came to be put out to pasture on a small street in the city center of Amsterdam, but I am charmed to see them now hanging on my wall.

Two Today

Posted on May 13, 2022

Poems in the Car

I imagine you waiting
in a parking lot for something to happen
for the signal to go, go, go and
you reach down for your phone
mentally spin out off the road 
read a poem by Simon

I imagine your blond head bent
in concentration, trying to find 
something to report as you anticipate
a familiar occurrence appearing 
above the horizon of your dashboard
meanwhile Simon’s slow words, 
searching fingers tips, enter your sightline
and explain to you it already happened
sometime ago and you are free


Give me a bottom I want to say
a motherfucking smack the fanny
nectar bleeding pimpled dumpling
doughy dog-haired bruised apple
gooey cheesy pink crackly frosty
yes, the best one on the menu
what I am yakking about here and
hey the futurette is not looking too good, 
in a glass.

Do you ever….

Posted on May 5, 2022

Do you ever think of sex, Bathilde?

I know you’re spayed.

I paid for it, and I am sorry

about the sloppy stitching

they must have assigned

the task to the trainee

almost gone though, the rough edge —

your belly skin and the stumpy suture work

has relaxed and anyway,

because of your eczema

you don’t like being petted much


when I scratch the fleshy fold of your abdomen,

the saggy sterilized pouch that

merges with your hind legs, you respond by

stretching out your limbs and spreading your toes

until it’s too much good stuff to handle and

show time for your alter ego

Ms. Fangs & Claws

I know you’re limited, I just thought

you might have more to tell me

I try to imagine from time to time,

what else enters the receiver section between

your ears other than the chore of shaking down

the automatic food dispenser the way you

used to harass me every morning by

sticking your paw into any exposed orifice and

swatting at my temples, maybe

I shouldn’t have bought the model with

the little window displaying all that potential

Fame Comes Knocking

Posted on February 15, 2022

My doorbell doesn’t work and nor does the buzzer. Hasn’t worked for ages, and I like it that way. People ask me how do you….? For a short while my downstairs neighbor was very obliging. But then she went, like so many have gone before, and now I have a downstairs neighbor who won’t open the street door. I don’t know his first name, but I noticed from the mail in his box that he is the owner of a bike delivery service. Maybe he’ll stick around more than five months. But back to the story, some time ago my downstairs neighbor, then a young exuberant Italian woman with a nose ring, buzzed open the street door.


A man stomped up two flights of stairs and started knocking on my door. I heard the knocking, and I asked myself, “Is that someone knocking on my front door?” I happen to live in an area that isn’t really a typical residential area and the residents, the handful of us who are long term, are not out to impress each other. In any way. My area is the kind of area that’s a flow through place. Of course the day I moved in signaled to everyone that artists were and are still a commodity. And most likely this neighborhood will be going upscale, but hopefully not before I hit sixty-five when I will stop singing classical music and merely concentrate on playing my grand piano.


What I learned the day I finally opened my door, after a young man determinedly continued knocking, was that it can take some time before artists get the gentrified groove going someplace. It turns out that Herman Brood once lived in my little studio. A photographer had just written a book about his time following Brood around Amsterdam and wanted to film a little promo piece.  The photographer and the reporter were amazed at my little studio, a real artist’s studio! It was like Herman was still in situ! They were glad that the place was still in the hands of a Bohemian.  It was karma. Herman had celebrated his honeymoon in my flat back in the 80’s and for years now, I’ve celebrated my divorce in my minuscule apartment. All mine, I don’t have to share space, and the neighbors never last.

Herman Brood by Gerard Wessel

Four Poems

Posted on November 7, 2021

 on the floor
 recovering from yoga 
 I listen to the marbled glass ceiling light
 the waves playing a soundtrack 
 from a 1980’s cult movie 
 old world Baba Cool – 
 Only a handful of people I know 
 would probably remember that film
 and today on 
 The Other Side of the World
 my friend 
 buried her son.

Biking Mater Nostrae 
 Plump mound of Venus
 Orange lace legs
 Toffee colored saddle
 Thrusting nose
 Denim mini dress
 Pregnant belly

High heels pumping

 The Time When I Brought Chengdu Peaches to Singapore
 Between my fingers
 this poem
 not so distant from a peach
 Peel it
 hang it below one nostril
 wok fragrance in other nostril 
 Have you ever tasted 
 the swollen peaches of Chengdu?
 so much more flavor
 than the muzzled fruit of the West
 Packed carefully 
 lucky red box 
 ready for Singapore landing
 friends and family 
 urgently feast
 But at our table
 untouched fruit and
 your withering question,
 “How was China?”
 rot then, my gift 
  It’s a Bagel
 Some concept, poem or bagel
 garlic versus sesame, makes me
 worry openly about longevity.
 But I know for either one
 the road is a short, seasoned trail.

Copyright Persephone Abbott November 2021

Leaving the USA Sept 2021

Posted on October 24, 2021

The pedestrian lobbed
A thick gob of spit at the taxi
We were on 3rd, up a bit, almost at 34th
“Fucking dickhead,” the walker yelled
The taxi driver didn’t flinch
Twenty six years driving
A cab around New York City,
His career move from Russia,
Some guy in a tee-shirt screaming
Profanities at him in the middle
Of the street just as he was
Heading towards JFK
About to get some country air….so….
Behind the wheel the Russian perked up
Seeing that cute white Nissan sportscar
Even accelerated a bit, switching lanes
To follow a little closer maybe
Already forgetting about the traffic ticket
He got on Hudson after I climbed in
Tardy seat belt maneuver and the cops
Watching, nodding at me “Ma’am”
As they approached the taxi
Pulled over on top of a bunch of white lines,
Pretty bracelet around the curb,
Requesting a card to charge and the
Happy Dragon Early Intervention Center
Direct off the Horace Harding Expressway
Promising easy access for families
The taxi and the Russian
In moderate traffic rattling
Along the highway
Past the miracle churches and
Wooden houses with barred windows
An hombre in a sombrero on the steps
While Grandpa’s Bus Company claimed
It had already checked for sleeping children,
The sign suckered onto the dirty window.

Three Poems

Posted on August 27, 2021

Germany in August

Listen now

In the meadow near

Old sheep stalls

Musicians performing

Mosquitos dancing

Take up knitting

The suggestion came

For the singer songwriter

Less rhyming,

More sequence.

Out of touch

I ordered

A whatever schnapps.

Last week 

I inherited
music from Larry Fishkind.

He was
a one of a kind
tuba player.

Unknown to him
he graciously
bequeathed to me
a short stack of scores
folksongs, Christmas carols
Copeland Americana

All without words.
It's time
For new ones
A binary orbit
Star adventure
One foot in tune
With the other

Bad Bellini

Posted on December 25, 2019

Jules Deelder, the poet, died. It reminds me.

I was called up one day, one day back in the day when I lived in Rotterdam. The voice on the phone asked me if I would sing in Amsterdam and represent Rotterdam. As the Rotterdammers say “Amsterdam where is that then?” It nearly rhymes in Dutch too.

I was not an obvious representative for Rotterdam. As in I wasn’t born in Rotterdam. Or anywhere near Rotterdam. The voice on the phone told me that I was recommended by the organization of a local opera festival.

I felt flattered. It was paid. The voice on the phone wanted to show the people Amsterdam that Rotterdam had real culture by supporting a student of opera to sing something, anything, on a national holiday. Rotterdam is not known for opera singing.

The voice on the phone was from a radio station.

So I found myself in a van with two radio presenters from Rotterdam, Jules Deelder and my boyfriend, a born and bred Rotterdammer, who couldn’t believe what was happening. We drove to Amsterdam. Jules Deelder was not enthusiastic, he was pretty stoned. The radio presenters were having a blast.

We were dropped off at the Dam. “You think this will do?” The woman presenter asked me waving at the enormous stage with thousands of people cheering and yelling in front of the stage. My pianist met us at the cafe being used as a green room.

We stepped onto the stage and the woman presenter enthusiastically introduced me as Rotterdam culture and erroneously pronounced the name of my pianist as a potato chip snack. We were the warm-up act for Deelder.