john middlebrook


Unlike their tufted cousins, easy chairs and sofas,
I like how benches clearly state their business:

how piano and prayer benches hold us,
instill good posture from the backbone to the hands
      as they shepherd their messages
      to the ears of the ceiling;

how patiently the benches in museums wait
      for the undiscerning to pass them,
knowing someone worthy of their opposing art
      will one day sit and absorb it.

On a courtside, I first felt
the stomach punch of failure
      in the eyes of my father and coaches.
That bench was as firm as the floor
      on which my feet were planted;
it made me look down
into my salty palms
      to find the hard bones I needed.

The workbenches that have tightened my grip
      yield more than song-less toil:
they are the stations where the tools
      are less heavy than solid;

unvarnished, like those holding open
tired and wistful eyes as they wait
      for passage on buses and trains;
or those outside jury rooms and surgical suites–
      benches worn smooth from thinking.

They’re with me as I lean on
      fallen limbs in shrinking woods,
and I’m reminded these are not for resting.
They are as hard as the work that is needed.
      They turn me to the light,
serve to shape me inside-out, like a tree.
Here I draw from the sun to the loam
      under the bench that carries me.

John Middlebrook‘s home on the web is He places the most trust in poems that come to him in his dreams.