Word Poetry

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Sample Poems by Barbara Crooker


Blues for Karen

God does not leave us comfortless.--Jane Kenyon

The season of your death, morning glories trailed
along the wire fence, one tone deeper than the sky.
I still go to the telephone to call you,
but the lines don't stretch to heaven--
the title of a bad country & western song.
How could you die? We weren't done talking yet.
So I am trying to call you using the morning glories,
whose blue mouths are open to the sky,
whose throats are white stars,
thinking those tendrils could trellis upward,
hand over little green hand, so tenacious,
they hang on in any storm,
forgetting that the quick slap of frost
will put out those blue lights,
that the seasons will snap shut like a purse,
that this old blue world will keep on spinning,
without you.


The Knot Garden

For David

In my son's brain, sounds travel on a difficult
journey through cortex and cerebellum, arrive
with distortions, different clusters of word
associations, as if they were travelers hacking
their way through a hedge or a thicket
in unknown territory. We're never certain
that what we say arrives at the station on time,
the train screeching its brakes, discharging
passengers. Autism's a labyrinth of false twists
and turns, blind passageways, spirals that lead
nowhere. Here, chevrons of geese wedge
their way across the sky each autumn; they know
where they are going, have purchased tickets
marked "South." Our route is more circuitous:
two steps forward, one step back, a knot garden
where the possibilities diminish as the years
branch on. Too soon, we'll arrive at the alpine
altitudes where the vegetation's scarce, the flowers
tiny but exquisite, the foliage barely visible.


Les Effets de Neige:
Impressionists in Winter


Exhibit at The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

When they tired of painting sun and wind,
they turned to fog, ice, and snow, tried to find
some other way to catch the light, to pin it down,
a brooch on a dress or a nail in a barn.
How many different tubes of paint
are there for white?

Camille Monet glances at us over her shoulder,
framed by the gauzy curtains, shrouded in snow.
Caillebotte's chimneys exhale, like glamorous
women in a cafe. Pissarro piled snow
on his rooftops, slabs of cake thick with fondant.
Sisley fell in love with shadows, all those cool
blue notes, while Gauguin forsook the hot light
of Tahiti for thatched huts in Brittany, snow slipping from the eaves.

Soon, another cold front will move in
from the west, turning the air crystalline,
and they will go at it again: a flurry of brush
strokes, a snow squall of new paintings
shivering on their easels.


The Slate Grey Junco

with his immaculate bib, sooty jacket,
bobs in the snow for sunflower seeds.
Caught between two needs, hunger and shelter,
he keeps coming back, even as the arctic wind
shuttles him like the cock in a badminton game,
wind that rattles the windows, shakes the house,
and blows the snow in great sheets across the yard.
But here he is again, charcoal wings beating hard,
as he skids off the barbecue lid, comes in
for another landing. What comes back? Memory
and desire, my grandmother, long gone, the empty
rooms in my parents' house, voices of friends
beyond the reach of wires,
white thread in a bobbin, a chain of stitching,
the line of waves along the shore.
Fugue and variations, the wind's refrain.
Snow, folding back
on itself, warping and woofing
the scarf of the storm.