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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Six Nov-Dec 2023.
Winter, poems by Barbara Crooker.
I’m glad that the heart, too, is seasonal.
Outside, it’s dipped, not just below zero, but with a wind-chill
of minus ten. The pond outside this window is skinned
with ice. The winter sun glints off is surface, fails
to warm. An absence of birds. And you’re gone, too,
putting my heart in hibernation. Unlike my sister,
the shaggy bear, I doubt it will wake up in spring.
I’m learning that grief is a river, that it sluggishly
flows in the blood. Still, ready or not, spring will come,
with armfuls of lilacs, bleeding hearts, violets.
Green grass. Soft air. How will my heart,
that frozen glacier, be able to bear it?
It’s two years later, and I’m
cycling again through the layers
of trauma: you, yelling in pain
on our bathroom floor; your heart
stopping when the paramedics
arrived; the eleven-hour surgery
to repair your aorta, and then
the aftermath—hospitals, rehabs,
no visits due to Covid.
Again, I have to wonder, was there
any point at which I could have
saved you? The dark skies don’t answer,
and neither do the trees, bare black limbs
stripped of their leaves. There’s only
the wind, its constant susurrus, pushing
in from the west, undoing the raked
pile by the street, sending them
on their way.
Grief is an onion
you peel it layer by layer:
papery skin, translucent
flesh, tender heart.
And then you weep.
© Barbara Crooker
Barbara Crooker is the author of ten full-length books of poetry, including Some Glad Morning (Pitt Poetry Series), which was long-listed for the Julie Suk award and Slow Wreckage (Grayson Books, forthcoming in 2024. Radiance, her first book, won the 2005 Word Press First Book Award and was finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance, her second book, won the 2009 Paterson Award for Excellence in Literature; and The Book of Kells won the Best Poetry Book of 2019 Award from Writing by the Sea. Her writing has received a number of awards, including the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. Her work appears in literary journals and anthologies, including Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania and The Bedford Introduction to Literature. She has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Moulin à Nef, Auvillar, France, and The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland. Garrison Keillor has read her poems on The Writer’s Almanac, and she has read her poetry all over the country, including The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and the Library of Congress.