AFTER THE HOLIDAYS,
by Barbara Crooker
the house settles back into itself,
wrapped up in silence, a robe
around its shoulders. Nothing
is roasting in the oven or cooling
on the countertops. No presents
are waiting to be wrapped, no cards
fill the mouth of the mailbox.
All is calm, all is bright, sunlight
glinting off snow. No eggnog, no yule
log, no letters to be licked
and stamped. No more butter
cookies, no more fudge, just miles
to go on the treadmill, another round
plate added to the weight machine.
All our good intentions pave the road.
We stride out into the new year,
resolute to become firm, to define
our muscles, to tighten our borders.
The thin tinsel of the new moon
hangs in the dark sky, a comma
dividing the sentence between
last year’s troubles and this year’s
hopes. The calendar ruffles her pages,
a deck of shiny cards, deals out
a fresh new hand.
~ from Small Rain (Purple Flag Press, 2014)
* * *
Happy New Year!
It’s nice to be back after a relaxing holiday break, and I can’t think of a better way to welcome 2015 than with two lovely poems by the inimitable Barbara Crooker.
As a longtime fan, I’ve shared more of her poems here than of those by any other poet. And with good reason: time and again, I am stunned by the lyrical beauty and emotional resonance of her work, its reassuring accessibility and seamless architecture.
A new Barbara book is always cause for celebration, so imagine my delight when I learned she has not one, but TWO new books out — Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems (Future Cycle Press, 2015) and Small Rain (Purple Flag Press, 2014), which includes today’s poems.
The 50+ poems in Small Rain explore the cycle of the seasons: Corvid (Winter), Passerine (Spring), Tangerine (Summer), and Amaryllis (Fall). Each beautifully crafted gem brims with Barbara’s keen observations of the natural world. Intimate glimpses of bird, flower, tree and sky elucidate the heartening aspects of wonder and reverence in the presence of loss, regret, and aging. I especially appreciate the gentle reminders to stop, look, and love our world despite what we are doing to it, and to strengthen our resolve to embrace joy.
I thought of my own mother when I read “Dianthus.” She showed me my first Sweet Williams, and I’ve liked them every since. Enjoy today’s poignant bouquet. May the fragrance of sweet remembrances and renewal grace your days this new year.
My mother comes back as a dianthus,
only this time, she’s happy, smelling like cloves,
fringed and candy-striped with a ring of deep rose
that bleeds into the outer petals. She dances
in the wind without her walker, nods pinkly
to the bluebells. She breathes easily, untethered
to oxygen’s snaking vines. Lacking bones,
there’s nothing left to crumble; she’s supple,
stem and leaf. No meals to plan, shop for, prepare;
everything she needs is at her feet, more rich and moist
than a chocolate cake. How much simpler
it would have been to be a flower in the first place,
with nothing to do but sit in the sun and shine.
~first published in Louisiana Literature
* * *
Barbara on “Dianthus”:
Someone (Mom was a little foggy towards the end) brought her a pot of Sweet Williams when she was in the nursing home (it was probably one of her hospice visitors), and she wanted me to take them home and enjoy them. With some trepidation, I planted them outside, and the fact that they’ve come back every summer for the past six years makes me feel (irrationally) like this is keeping her alive, which, of course, she is, in my heart.
About the first poem:
‘After the Holidays’ was written some years ago, but I think I feel the same way every New Year — I love the holidays, but by January first, enough is enough, and I also love getting back to clean living and a healthier lifestyle, plus I love putting my house back in order. It’s all good.
♥ Thank you, Barbara, for granting me permission to post your poems. I’m looking forward to reading and sharing something from Selected Poems too!
* * *
Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.