Poems by Barbara Crooker

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And Now Itís October

by Barbara Crooker

From Canary Fall 2011

Barbara lives near the Little Jordan, a branch of the Jordan Creek, part of the Lehigh Watershed in rural northeastern Pennsylvania.

AND NOW IT’S OCTOBER, the golden hour of the clock of the year. Everything that can run
to fruit has already done so: round apples, oval plums, bottom-heavy
pears, black walnuts and hickory nuts annealed in their shells,
the woodchuck with his overcoat of fat. Flowers that were once bright
as a box of crayons are now seed heads and thistle down. All the feathery
grasses shine in the slanted light. It’s time to bring in the lawn chairs
and wind chimes, time to draw the drapes against the wind, time to hunker
down. Summer’s fruits are preserved in syrup, but nothing can stopper time.
No way to seal it in wax or amber; it slides though our hands like a rope
of silk. At night, the moon’s restless searchlight sweeps across the sky.




Field of Thistles

by Barbara Crooker

From Canary August/September 2009

"When rich speculators prosper
while farmers lose their land. . ."
                                        Lao-tzu

Row on row, as orderly as if they were sown, thistles spike
     to the sky.
Each year, more farmland is left fallow, no rustle of corn,
     no murmur of wheat.
So these thistles march in, take over the field, wave their
     spiny arms
to the sun, bloom into flowerheads, brushes dipped in new
     wine, these crowns of thorns,
rising from stones in the tares and chaff, crowned by a charm
     of goldfinches, their undulant song rising,
grace notes to the sun.


Originally Published in Borderlands - Spring/Summer 2007



Game Day

by Barbara Crooker

From Canary Spring 2015

A crow, big as a linebacker, lands on the feeding table,
muscles in on the blue jays, redwings, and white throats
huddled there in this late March snowfall—Virginia,
where it really should be spring. The field is covered
with a white tarp, and every twig, branch, and limb
is outlined in white, a muscular filigree. Out
of nowhere, the cardinal blows his red whistle.


Previously appeared in Switched-On Guterberg



Late August

by Barbara Crooker

From Canary Summer 2012

So already, everythingís starting to turn,
grackles crocheting their raggedy
scarves that trail for miles, snap beans
rusting and brown, tomatoes still pulsing
yellow stars in the hope that theyíll swell
round and red before frost shuts down
their production lines. Right now, we can still dry
them in the sun, pack them in oil, or slowly
roast them with garlic and thyme.
But nothing beats this sweetness in August,
hot and heavy with juice and seeds. Slice
them into rounds, shuffle with mozzarella,
add basilís anise nip, drizzle with the kiss
of olio di oliva, a dark splash of balsamic,
the sprinkled grit of sea salt. The circles ring the plate,
diminishing Oís. We know the partyís almost over,
the sunís packing up its bags. Listen to the crows
outside the cold window: gone gone gone.




Loafing

by Barbara Crooker

From Canary Summer 2014

All right, Iíll admit it, I have just spent the afternoon
watching a street gang of mockingbirds chase each other
in and out of the redbud tree, the walnut,
and all the low lying hedges, the winner challenging
the losers to an acapella sing-off, a braggadocio mix
of cardinal, chickadee, rusty gate, old muffler,
far-off train. They fly low, modified dragsters;
you can almost see the flames stenciled on their sides.
The subtext is me! me! All about me! In the bushes,
the girls are unimpressed. They yawn, flick
their gray and white fans, and are gone.




Taking Down The Locust

by Barbara Crooker

From Canary Fall 2016

If the builder hadn’t
planted it there
in the first place—
too close to the house
and right over
a terra cotta
sewer line—
we wouldn’t be doing
this today, deconstructing
the locust limb
by limb, but we are—

Paul Bunyan with
a chainsaw has just scaled
its height, and is lopping
off arms, legs, letting
them drop to the drive
where his buddy
feeds them to the shredder,
turns them into mulch.
When only the trunk is left,
he slices thick segments,
tosses them in the truck.
Maybe they’ll warm
someone’s February nights.

But now what remains
is what’s not there—
the double-compound leaves
that filtered July suns,
the shower of gold
on the driveway each October.
The pool of shade.
What remains
is a tree of air,
where no wrens scold and scold
in the highest branches
that the wind doesn’t toss,
where the sun doesn’t set

down its burden of light,
where there is no black net
to snatch the moon
as it flutters by.


From Small Rain (Purple Flag Press, 2014).



Winter Light

by Barbara Crooker

From Canary Winter 2014-15

It's a milkiness poured from
a great glass bottle,
a carafe of blanc de blanc, iced,
a light shot with pale gold,
opalescent blue,
the distillation of pearl . . . .
In this icy light, the ghostly fronds
of ice ferns cover the glass,
as the sky descends,
erasing first the far blue hills,
the cornfield hatch-marked with stubble,
coming to our street-
the sky flinging itself
down to the ground.
And the earth, like a feather bed,
accumulates layer on layer. . . .
The snow bees are released from their hive,
jive and jitter, sting at the blinds.
Down here, under this glazed china cup,
the minor fracas of our little lives
is still under the falling flakes.
And the great abalone shell of the sky
contains us, bits of muscle, tiny mollusks.
These winter nights
are never black and dense,
but white, starlight
dancing off the land.
And then the luminous dawns,
the pearled skies full of hope
no matter what else we know.


First published in Yarrow



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