A poem by Barbara Crooker
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.
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?
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).
“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.