Barbara Crooker


Cedric Morris, 1922, Paris

Still Life

     I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but to me,
     that French bread sums up everything
     that is delicious about Paris.
Philip Mould, Art in Isolation


Baguette—even its name is crisp in the mouth,
the crust that shatters the tender center,
begging for butter, for confiture rouge.
The air in the boulangerie is the fragrance
of heaven. And we cannot think about bread
alone—it requires the companionship of coffee,
bitter and dark. This petit déjeuner, after
walking at night by the river, streetlights
turned to watery stars, burnished sycamore
leaves in the gutter, your hand in mine,
warm and solid, our long marriage—how we fit
together, were made for each other.


Grief Can Be Both a Particle and a Wave

Some days, it’s a ripple. Others, a tsunami.
It’s the pebble in my shoe, the one I can’t dislodge.

It’s standing in the shallows as the waves paddle in. One minute,
solid ground; the next, the sand shifts out from under my feet.

It’s the color red at a stop sign. The unknown trigger.
What’s stuck in my throat so I can’t swallow.

The grit in my eye, the salt that trickles down.
The ocean so vast, and my boat so small.


The Difficult Declension of Loss

Use the past perfect when speaking of love.

Strive to construct all sentences using the simple present.

Avoid, at all costs, the future, which is no longer possible.


Mon Coeur

          In French, you don’t say “I miss you,” you say “tu me manques,”

          which is closer to “you are missing from me.”


Like an organ, a limb, or blood itself, how essential you were
to my body— In hospice, it wasn’t a metaphor when I said
you were taking half my heart with you. What’s left of it
is still beating, but faintly, faintly.


Many people wished me joy at Christmas this year.
How could they not know that joy is far away,
inhabits another country, one where my passport
isn’t any good?


Whenever one of us traveled, we would try to look
at the moon at the same time each night,
its pearly light, a strand that tied us together.
Now it’s just a cold stone.


One part of me still thinks you’re on a business trip
and will be home soon. Mais c’est impossible.
Tu me manques. Every day, I get out of my empty
bed and put on my game face, go to the grocery store,
pay bills.


Which is difficult to do, with only half a heart
that goes on beating anyway, lub a dub. Lub a dub.


Cloud Cover

I do understand, as George Harrison told us, that
all things must pass: the clouds moving past
my window, the whirring hummingbirds, the wheeling
seasons, you. But. I get it. I should be grateful
this won’t last forever, as my body enters the years
of slow failures. This world without you in it, though—
it’s as if the sun failed to make its dawn appearance
after tucking down last night behind the blue hills.
And I am now in a climate of constant cloud cover:
some days are darker than others, but it’s always overcast.
Cirrus Stratus Cumulus Nimbus Thick and threatening.
Thin and feathery. It’s the weather of without.
And the forecast: more of the same.

Barbara Crooker is author of twelve chapbooks and nine full-length books of poetry. Some Glad Morning, Pitt Poetry Series, University of Pittsburgh Poetry Press, is her latest. Her previous collection, The Book of Kellls, won the Best Poetry Book of 2019 Award from Poetry by the Sea. 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 a wide variety of literary journals and anthologies, including: Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, and The Bedford Introduction to Literature. She has been the recipient of residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; the Moulin à Nef in Auvillar, France; and The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, in Annamaghkerrig, Co. Monaghan, Ireland.

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