Barbara Crooker: poems from Slow Wreckage


The past is never dead. 
It’s not even past. 
William Faulkner

Oak leaves stamped against a chicory sky
swirled with clouds, like a marble I once had
and lost.  It’s probably still there, caught in a dry
puddle, a tree root, or one of those cracked

pavements of childhood that we walked
on going to school.  We roamed the neighborhood
in feral packs, marked up the curb with chalk:
hopscotch, marbles, kickball, only going in for food

or band-aids.  No sunscreen, helmets, fancy bikes.
Once, we rode to the creek to swim, dead deer
resting in the shallows.  We didn’t think alike:
was it safe to swim, or not?  I can still hear

my mother calling my name as darkness fell
and fireflies sent messages that only they could spell.


and how can you train the body 
to be the body? 
Carrie Addington, “Waist Training”

How can I train this body,
with its baggage, the freight
load of dinners in France, plates
gleaming with sauce and cream,
sauté pans sizzling, a glass of rosé
at the start of the meal that’s raised
to the setting sun? Breakfast: an array
of croissants in a basket, display
of confitures, especially les fraises
des bois, wild strawberries. Cushioned
in a chair, I’m sedentary: at my keyboard
writing essays or reading a roman à clef.
The days when I ran before dawn, gone.
Praise be to my left knee; the right one says
mercy going down stairs. The pain in places
I never knew existed. Ahead, there’s a station,
and I’m slowly chugging towards it.
No weight training at the gym
or miles on the exercycle can stay this decline.
In the passenger car, a conductor sways,
pushing his clicker, punching tickets: sprays
of confetti, little o’s litter the aisles, ricochet.


           Whoever can see through all fear
            Will always be safe
                 Lao Tsu, The Tao Te Ching

It’s a day of brilliant blue, lightly smudged
with chalky clouds. In the larger world, there’s
fracking, climate change, industrial sludge.
But here, none of this can reach us. Who cares

about the news? I’m in this lawn chair,
secure in its embrace. In the distance,

the surf of traffic, the hum of bees. Chances
are, none of us gets to live forever.
The shadow of the vulture on the lawn
cannot dispel this blue euphoria.

Barbara Crooker is author of twelve chapbooks and ten full-length books of poetry, including  Some Glad Morning, Pitt Poetry Series, University of Pittsburgh Poetry Press, longlisted for the Julie Suk award from Jacar Press, The Book of Kells, which won the Best Poetry Book of 2019 Award from Poetry by the Sea, and Slow Wreckage, forthcoming from Grayson Books. Her other awards include: Grammy Spoken Word Finalist, the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council fellowships in literature.  Her work appears in literary journals and anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature.

Two of Barbara’s books can be purchased on the links below, including Slow Wreckage, from which these poems were selected.