I live and write in rural northeastern Pennsylvania (and where I await spring which doesn't seem to be coming). The three poems below are from my first book, Radiance (Word Press, 2005). I welcome readers to my website: www.barbaracrooker.com.
Rectangles of light fall on Mount Sainte-Victoire,
as the colors shift, and evening’s violet cashmere
softens the landscape. I’d like to edit out
the industrial world, keep only the ochre hills, the dark
umbrella pines, the cold blues of the mountain and sky.
Give me life without newspapers, e-mail, and faxes,
TV, DVD, video, radio; let me sit in the sun like a cat
while patches of shadow move over my arms
as the day wears on. Where breakfast is a flaky
roll that shatters when I bite it, that sings like the sun
in my mouth. Where lunch is a ripe pear, slab
of melting cheese, baton of bread, all crust;
and dinner, with its dark wine, white china, heavy silver,
waits like an orchestra tuning up in the wings. And the mountain
turns lilac, gold, rose; colors the air around it, falls on my hair,
my crêpe de Chine dress, and, for a while, erases time’s tiny lines,
restores the smooth planes of my face, puts me back in my younger skin.
On the last day of my life, I’d like to be working, like Cézanne,
even if it means being pulled home in a laundry cart and dying of pneumonia.
I want to be out there, singing, as the rain comes down, solid blocks of purple, blue.
All there is to Say
Onions and Bottle
“A painter can say all he wants to with fruit . . . .” (Edouard Manet)
or even vegetables, these crinkly-skinned onions
on a kitchen table, painted by Cézanne.
What did he want to tell us about their many layers,
their astringent flesh, pungent breath, thin skins?
Was it the way they could fill a plate, nestle in a table
cloth, look like they belonged there, eggs
in a nest? Or how they add depth to a stew
or a bouillabaisse without becoming the thing itself,
like the notes in a chord, or the blue wash that’s part
of the undercoat, part of the shadow. Unlike other
still lifes, these onions are living: green shoots burst
out their tops, electric, wired, a green dance
of new growth. Green flames singing in the hearth.
Green fingers shooting for the sun. What else
could he want to say, except that every thing
on this small blue ball is alive, these papery globes,
the throat of the wine bottle, the billions of molecules
that make up my skin and yours, the air between our lips,
charged with energy, the cells that slough off
when they touch, when we love.
Nature Morte au Plat et Pommes
still life by Cézanne (literally, “Dead Nature”)
These apples fill the silver bowl
with their roundness, plump globes
of red, yellow, green; you can feel them
fit in the palm of your hand, even though
they’re huile sur toile, oil on canvas,
imagination, pigment, and air. But
think about apples themselves, all that juice
and sweet flesh, springing from black seeds,
rain and dirt, the first transubstantiation, stemming
from Eden. Who was the first gardener, the one
before Adam, who planted winesap pips
and waited, then pruned suckers and water shoots,
thinned the blossoms, defruited and deadheaded,
hoping for a good harvest? No wonder Eve was bedazzled;
they shone like jewels on a velvet tray. The rosy skin,
the satisfying crunch, each succulent bite. And then she cut
slices, fed them to her lover, wedge by dripping wedge,
licked the sugar from his fingers. It wasn’t the knowledge
of good and evil after all that opened their eyes, but the hunger
of the body that argues against still life, that says, “I am alive
on this green earth, and I want more.”
©2015 Barbara Crooker