Menopause

The Mothers: A Poem and a Book Giveaway

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A poem by Barbara Crooker

THE MOTHERS

We gathered to give a baby shower

in absentia for the yet-to-be-born,

two-thousand-miles-away first grandson

of a friend whose youngest child died

binge drinking. Grief, the uninvited guest,

squeezed in, sat down on the sofa. But we oohed

and aahed at the tiny sweaters, booties, rattles, bonnets.

We know the end of the story,

but we love the beginning anyway.

We filled our china plates with shrimp,

broccoli quiche, cream puffs, lemon squares,

talked about our grown children

and the one who wasn’t there.

II

Later, at the art museum,

two Vietnamese children from the family

sponsored by our church were chosen

for the Emerging Masters’ Recital,

Paul on cello, Angela on violin.

I sat next to my friend Kathy,

and we remembered our work—

me teaching English as a Second Language,

she negotiating Social Services—and how if we knew

how hard it was going to be, we’d have never signed up.

But aren’t we all refugees, searching for our lives,

and don’t we all become orphans in the end?

III

And now I’m at the university, seeing

The Vagina Monologues,” where my red-

headed middle daughter is playing a black

homeless lesbian, and where I am so lost

in the power of the words, for a short while

I forget who she is, shining in her cherry taffeta

prom dress from Goodwill. At the end, the play shifts

from the sexual to the sacred, the opening between

two worlds, the way we all came in, part of the wheel,

the hoop, the great turning.

Barbara writes about “The Mothers: “This poem ties together some of the themes in Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems: the mother/child connection, the poems in the last section on the loss of a child (echoing back to poems in the beginning of the book, the loss of my first daughter shortly before birth), the poems in Obbligato (one of the chapbooks that make up the Selected) about teaching ESL to Vietnamese refugees, and some poems not in this collection about my red-haired daughter, who had a traumatic brain injury/horse accident at 18, and who nearly didn’t get to go to college (she’s the one acting in the Vagina Monologues in stanza III).

 

Barbara Crooker Selected Poems

“The Mothers” is featured in Barbara’s latest book, Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems. The publisher, FutureCycle Press writes, “This collection brings together 102 poems from Barbara Crooker’s previous ten chapbooks of poetry, two of which won national prizes, with a handful of uncollected poems at the end.”  Here’s the Amazon link.

Giveaway: For a chance to win a copy of Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems, simply enter a comment by May 20 saying you’d like to win. U.S. only. Thanks! Comment link can be found at the bottom of the post.

Barbara Crooker’s poems have appeared in magazines such as The Green Mountains Review, Poet Lore, The Hollins Critic, The Christian Science Monitor, and Nimrod, and anthologies such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature.

Her awards include the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships; fifteen residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; a residency at the Moulin à Nef, Auvillar, France; and a residency at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland.

Barbara’s books are Radiance, which won the 2005 Word Press First Book competition and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance (Word Press 2008), which won the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; More (C&R Press 2010); Gold (Cascade Books, 2013); Small Rain (Purple Flag Press, 2014); and Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2015).

Her poetry has been read on the BBC, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company), and by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, and she’s read in the Poetry at  Noon series at the Library of Congress. Learn more about Barbara at her website.

Photo: Barbara, her daughter Becky, and grandson Reilly.

Menopause

A Secret Wish: Morphing into Gidget!

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A post by poet Barbara Crooker:

Barbara writes:

This poem came from a prompt, which was to imagine that you were suddenly an expert in anything you wanted, that this talent magically was yours. 

I’d always loved those Gidget movies (and books), and so this was (and still is) my desire. Even when younger, I wasn’t very athletic, so this has been my secret wish for years and years. Think “transformation into Cameron Diaz!”  Of course, I’m referencing Keats’s epitaph at the end.

 

SURFER GIRL

I’m walking on the beach this brisk November morning,

the bleached sea grass bending in the wind, when there,

up ahead, in the pewter waves, I see a surfer in his wet suit,

sleek as a seal, cutting in and out of the curl, shining in the light.

I’m on the far side of sixty, athletic as a sofa, but this is where

the longing starts, the yearning for another life, the one

where I’m lithe and long-limbed, tanned California gold,

short tousled hair full of sunshine.  The life where I shoulder my board,

stride into the waves, dive under the breakers, and rise; my head shaking

off water like a golden retriever.  I am waiting for that perfect wave to come,

so I can crouch up and catch it, my arms out like wings, slicing back

and forth in the froth, wind at my back, sea’s slick metal polished

before me.  Nothing more important now than this balance between

water and air, the rhythm of in and out, staying ahead of the break,

choosing my line like I choose these words, writing my name

on water, writing my name on air.

~Barbara Crooker (More, C&R Press, 2010)

flowers

 

Barbara Crooker’s poems  have appeared in magazines such as The Green Mountains ReviewPoet Lore, The Hollins CriticThe Christian Science MonitorNimrod and anthologies such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature.  Her awards include the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, fifteen residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a residency at the Moulin à Nef, Auvillar, France; and a residency at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland.

Her books are Radiance, which won the 2005 Word Press First Book competition and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance (Word Press 2008), which won the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; More (C&R Press 2010), and Gold (Cascade Books, 2013). Her poetry has been read on the BBC, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company), and by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, and she’s read in the Poetry at Noon series at the Library of Congress.

“Surfer Girl” is from Barbara’s collection, More. Here’s the Amazon link.

 

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Check out Barbara’s website here.

And here are links to two more posts featuring Barbara’s poems Peeps and Nearing Menopause, I run into Elvis at Shoprite.

Gidget! The character first came to life in a novel by Frederick Kohner. Gidget is based on the author’s daughter.

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The Gidget you see above is Sandra Dee, standing with Cliff Robertson and James Darren in the 1959 film.

And of course, Sally Field played the part with gusto in the 1960s television show.

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Losing a Parent, Menopause

Losing My Mom: A Peeps Poem (and a Book Giveaway)

Barbara's Mom

A post by poet Barbara Crooker:

When my mother decided she needed Assisted Living, we moved her down here to be closer to us, and I became her caregiver, although she lived in a senior residence (and then a nursing home at the end).

I went over daily, and always brought Peeps.

She’d loved them before, but I live in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, and Peeps are made in Bethlehem, so we have more varieties than you see in other parts of the country.

We have things like Peeps cooking contests (chefs from area restaurants competing for “best dessert made with Peeps”), Peeps Easter Hat decorating contests, Peeps Diorama contests, and–the biggie–on New Year’s Eve, a giant Peeps comes down at midnight!

Peeps

Peeps, though, are seasonal creatures (why no red, white and blue Peeps for Memorial Day and 4th of July, I ask?), and so when they disappeared after Easter, I mail-ordered a case, so that she’d always have them.

After she passed, I mailed packets of Peeps to family and friends who weren’t able to be with us at the end.

Packages of Bunnies

You’ll notice I’d mentioned hospice; initially, our plans were to take Mom’s ashes back to her home church in upstate NY for a memorial. But by the time she died, at ninety, not only were all of her friends gone, but the minister was gone as well. So we held her services in my garden, which she loved, with the hospice chaplain. I can’t say enough good words about hospice. . . .

PEEPS

In those last few months my mother didn’t want to eat, this woman

who made everything from scratch, and who said of her appetite,

I eat like a bricklayer.  Now she listlessly stirred the food

around her plate, sometimes picking up a piece of chicken,

then looking at it as if to say, What is this?  Wouldn’t put

it in her mouth.  But Peeps!  Marshmallow Peeps!  Spun sugar

and air, molded in clever forms:  a row of ghosts, a line

of pumpkins, a bevy of bunnies, a flock of tiny chicks,

sometimes in improbable colors like purple and blue. . . .

One day, she turned over her tray, closed her mouth, looked up

at me like a defiant child, and said, I’m not eating this stuff. 

Where’s my Peeps?

***************************************************

When it was over, the hospice chaplain said some words

in my back yard, under the wisteria arch.  The air was full

of twinkling white butterflies, in love with the wild oregano.

Blue-green fronds of Russian sage waved in front of the Star

Gazer lilies, and a single finch lit on a pink coneflower, and stayed.

When there were no more words or tears, I ripped open

the last packet of Peeps, tore their little marshmallow bodies,

their sugary blood on my hands, and gave a piece to each

of us.  It melted, grainy fluff on our tongues, and it was good.

Pumpin Peeps

Giveaway!  Barbara’s latest book is  Gold, a collection of poems about losing her mother. For a chance to win a copy, simply leave a comment on this post saying that you’d like to be the winner. Comments must be posted by April 15.

gold

Barbara Crooker’s poems  have appeared in magazines such as The Green Mountains ReviewPoet Lore, The Hollins CriticThe Christian Science MonitorNimrod and anthologies such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature.  Her awards include the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, fifteen residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a residency at the Moulin à Nef, Auvillar, France; and a residency at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland.

Her books are Radiance, which won the 2005 Word Press First Book competition and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance (Word Press 2008), which won the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; More (C&R Press 2010), and Gold (Cascade Books, 2013). Her poetry has been read on the BBC, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company), and by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, and she’s read in the Poetry at Noon series at the Library of Congress.

flowers

To learn more about Barbara and her work, visit her website at http://www.barbaracrooker.com/

And to learn more about Peeps, visit the Just Born website. There are even career opportunities. Job switch, anyone?

images

Menopause

Nearing Menopause, I Run into Elvis at Shoprite

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A poem by poet Barbara Crooker:

near the peanut butter.  He calls me ma’am, like the sweet

southern mother’s boy he was.  This is the young Elvis,

slim-hipped, dressed in leather, black hair swirled

like a duck’s backside.  I’m in the middle of my life,

the start of the body’s cruel betrayals, the skin beginning

to break in lines and creases, the thickening midline.

I feel my temperature rising, as a hot flash washes over,

the thermostat broken down.  The first time I heard Elvis

on the radio, I was poised between girlhood and what comes next.

My parents were appalled, in the Eisenhower fifties, by rock

and roll and all it stood for, let me only buy one record,

“Love Me Tender,” and I did.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have on a tight orlon sweater, circle skirt,

eight layers of rolled-up net petticoats, all bound

together by a woven straw cinch belt.  Now I’ve come

full circle, hate the music my daughter loves, Nine

Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Crash Test Dummies.

Elvis looks embarrassed for me.  His soft full lips

are like moon pies, his eyelids half-mast, pulled

down bedroom shades.  He mumbles, “Treat me nice.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Now, poised between menopause and what comes next, the last

dance, I find myself in tears by the toilet paper rolls,

hearing “Unchained Melody” on the sound system.  “That’s all

right now, Mama,” Elvis says, “Anyway you do is fine.”  The bass

line thumps and grinds, the honky tonk piano moves like an ivory

river, full of swampy delta blues.  And Elvis’s voice wails above

it all, the purr and growl, the snarl and twang, above the chains

of flesh and time.

                                                      Karamu

Lovemetenderelvissingle

Barbara Crooker’s poems  have appeared in magazines such as The Green Mountains Review, Poet Lore, The Hollins Critic, The Christian Science Monitor, Nimrod and anthologies such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature.  Her awards include the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, fifteen residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a residency at the Moulin à Nef, Auvillar, France; and a residency at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland.

Her books are Radiance, which won the 2005 Word Press First Book competition and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance (Word Press 2008), which won the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; More (C&R Press 2010), and Gold (Cascade Books, 2013). Her poetry has been read on the BBC, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company), and by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, and she’s read in the Poetry at Noon series at the Library of Congress.

flowers

Barbara’s latest book is  Gold, a collection of poems about losing her mother.  Look for one of the poems and a giveaway on Friend for the Ride next month!

gold

To learn more about Barbara and her work, visit her website at http://www.barbaracrooker.com/