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Sample Poems by Barbara Crooker
All That Is Glorious Around Us
(title of an exhibit on The Hudson River School)
is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,
sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn’s bright parade. And I think
of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over rock. It is the nature
of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around
us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain’s
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.
I’m sitting here doing nothing, soaking up
the late fall sunlight as if my life depended on it,
which, maybe it does, the end of a difficult year,
horror after horror on the news, my mother’s life
decreasing breath by suffering breath. Too much death
for anyone to take in, and what comes next? The borders
of the world constrict, tighten. France now seems
like an impossible dream, as far away as the stars—
Over there, Renoir’s villagers are still dazzled and dappled
by the sun at the Moulin de la Galette, and petit déjeuner
in a garden of irises or an aperatif of vin rouge and a bowl
of olives under dusty plane trees are encore paradis.
Somewhere in Normandy, apple trees bloom, pink and white.
In Provence, hills of ochre are balanced by a sky
of saturated blue. Monet’s waterlilies open
and close in the pond at Giverny. I want to step out
of my life into a painting, perhaps Van Gogh’s Café
de la Nuit. There I’ll sit with my glass of absinthe
and a Gaulois bleu, until sweet forgetfulness takes me,
and the troubles of this world dissolve into daubs
of paint, a blizzard of color and light.
The Irrational Numbers of Longing, The Infinite Mathematics of Desire
This day could be reduced to three elements:
green grass, blue hills, yellow fields of mustard,
solid in its planes as any late Cézanne. It makes me think
of the curves your hips and back make when you are sleeping,
the way my fingers travel the back road of your spine,
the landscape of our bodies under the quilt.
I want to relearn the language of plane geometry,
the relationship of curves in space, the friction
between positive and negative numbers, improper
fractions, your lovely smooth surface, the angle
of intersection, where we come together in the dark.
Some October, when the leaves turn gold, ask
me if I’ve done enough to deserve this life
I’ve been given. A pile of sorrows, yes, but joy
enough to unbalance the equation.
When the sky turns blue as the robes of heaven,
ask me if I’ve made a difference.
The road winds through the copper-colored woods;
no one sees around the bend.
Today, the wind poured out of Canada,
a river in flood, bringing down the brilliant leaves,
broken sticks and twigs, deserted nests.
Go where the current takes you.
Some twilight, when the clouds stream in from the west
like the breath of God, ask me again.