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Since 1996 Volume XXI

2013 & 2018

Barbara Crooker


Barbara Crooker's poems have appeared in journals such as The Hollins Critic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, and Poet Lore and anthologies including The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Her newest book is Gold (Cascade Books, 2013), and her poetry has been read many times on The Writer's Almanac.




On the boulevard, the Bradford pears

release their petals; they spill like salt

on the ground.  My grandmother would

have pinched up the granules, thrown them over

her shoulder to fool the evil eye. My mother

would have said Don't cry over what's spilled.

When we were in Brittany, we saw les artisan

paludiers harvest it by hand, marketed as fleur de sel,

the flower of salt.  When we poured my mother's ashes

in the ocean, they ran through my hands like grains

from a silver spout.  On the blue canister in my kitchen,

there's a little girl standing in the rain in a yellow dress,

the same can of salt under her arm, open, running out,

like those Dutch interiors repeating themselves in convex

mirrors.  Repeating like the bits of DNA in molecules

that become the coins in our ovaries' purse, doled out month

by month, drawn by the moon.  Long ago, someone tipped

some salt on a black skillet, and decided to call that spillage 'stars.'


first published in 5 AM, then Gold (Cascade Books, 2013)



Barbara Crooker




Barbara Crooker is the author of eight books of poetry; Les Fauves is the most recent.  Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse.

--after a painting by Edward Hopper
The window display is the only light
in this murky painting, shadows
casting isosceles triangles from
the lamp post on the corner, the dark
doorways, and then the street beyond,
lost in the umbra of a time before neon,
before streetlights that always burned,
keeping the city awash in daylight.
And I'm thrown back to my own
home town, the recurrent dream
of walking the mile and a half past
the Bogardus General Store,
the Busy Bee, the White House Bar,
Karl Ehmer's Meats, Van Wyck Hall,
to my long-gone parents' house,
the cracked sidewalks of my childhood.
Did I mention that I'm not wearing

any clothes?
  That there are no cars,
no other pedestrians?
  It's just me
and my bare feet on the uneven pavement.
Is this the land of the dead?
The journey between the stores
and the outskirts, where the tract homes lie,
seems important, but although I cast my
net in the dark waters, it comes up empty.
I shiver as I keep walking, my feet cut

and bleeding.
  Sunrise and the yellow light
of my mother's kitchen, coffee and cinnamon
cake, seem to be a fathomless distance away.
First there is an ocean of darkness to row across,
and I only have one oar.
  I keep paddling anyway.

published in Poet Lore




Copyright, Barbara Crooker.
All Rights Reserved.