Bethesda’s Poetry Benches

There is one form of public art that you might have never noticed in Bethesda—poetry benches. These wooden and handmade benches surround most of the downtown. You can see the benches at each Bethesda Circulator stop. The idea behind poetry benches was to bring public art to downtown Bethesda and encourage residents and visitors to use public transportation.

The benches were produced by Bodil Meleney, a Norwegian-born artist who lived in Bethesda for 24 years before moving to Takoma Park. Each bench features poetry from local poets, who competed to participate in the project. The installation of the benches began in November 2002 and there is one at each stop, bringing their total number to 20.

So next time you are in downtown Bethesda, stop and look around for poetry benches.

Here are some of my favorite ones:

Missing person found, 

Unharmed, deep in a chair, 

Returned from a good book.

(Poet: S. Sove Ney)

Earth teach me to remember

As the owl remembers

The moon.

(Poet: Sean Sapin Peacock)

The moon is like a doorknob,

Says my daughter,

And waits for me to open up the sky. 

(Poet: Martin Galvin)

Let rainforests bloom,

You who work in skyscrapers,

You need their sweet breath.

(Poet: Judy Neri)

Watch the day float by,

Subtle and mysterious,

As a fretless bass.

(Poet: Sunil Freeman)

If I had electric wheels for feet,

Cameras for eyes,

And a job roving Mars,

I’d give away my shoes.

(Poet: Nancy Allison)

Hear how the wind rides,

Her horse into the leaves,

Lighting the wick of the moon.

(Poet: Elizabeth Rees)

I am young and filled with glee,

I have ideas, but nobody will listen,

I am small, but that does not mean you should ignore me.

(Poet: Alexa April)

In a puddle by the trolley stop,

The sky lies deep, the street

Flush with the surface of clouds.

(Poet: John Peacock)

There is reason to sit on cold roots

To wait trees are making color

and the sounds are small.

(Poet: Elizabeth Rees)

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