So, here I am at a colony, feeling lonely
as a kid at camp for the first time—homesick,
I don’t fit in, and nothing I’ve done is any good.
I think of all the ways I don’t measure up; they’re
as countless as the stars flashing their Morse codes
in the night sky. I tell my heart, toughen up, kiddo,
everyone’s not going to love you, and that’s a fact.
Heart doesn’t want to listen. She wants to put on
lipstick, go out with the gang for a beer. I know
that hope, that dumb dove, will return if I practice
patience, a green sprig in her beak. Heart shrugs,
buttons up her sweater. It’s going to be a long night.
The sky’s as low as an old white shirt
someone’s tossed on the line, and the snow’s
been stuttering down all day, white virgules,
even though the daffodils are burning,
hot little suns, and the calendar’s saying April
in just a few days. This close to seventy,
how many springs are left on my ticket?
But up pops a cardinal, bright as a lipstick,
and he’s singing something about cheer, even
as the snow comes down, erases the lawn.
The sky hangs up its starry pictures: a swan,
a crab, a horse. And even though you’re
three hundred miles away, I know you see
them, too. Right now, my side
of the bed is empty, a clear blue lake
of flannel. The distance yawns and stretches.
It’s hard to remember we swim in an ocean
of great love, so easy to fall into bickering
like little birds at the feeder fighting over proso
and millet, unaware of how large the bag of grain is,
a river of golden seeds, that the harvest was plentiful,
the corn is in the barn, and whenever we’re hungry,
a dipperful of just what we need will be spilled. . . .
Barbara Crooker’s work has been read many times by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. Her books are Radiance (Word Press), Line Dance (Word Press), More (C&R Press), and, most recently, Gold (Cascade Books). She was a finalist for the 2012 Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize, and her work appears in The Bedford Introduction to Literature.