Barbara Crooker: "Oriental Poppies"



     Georgia O'Keeffe, 1928


           —for my mother


Lit matches struck in the dark, road-flares

burning, these poppies smolder by the bird bath

where we brought my mother’s ashes

when her life wicked out. Each flower

is splotched with black, night at the heart

of burning day.   Light shines through the petals,

translucent as skin.  At the end, her bones shone through,

the skeleton wanting to dance.  The poppies’ orange tango,

a wild fandango with the wind.  Nothing in English rhymes

with this color, not porridge, not ordinary, not original.

We only have one mother.  Reach for a blossom,

twirl it in your fingers, a dancer on an unlit stage. 

Every gardener knows about loss: thinning, pruning,

the appetite of rabbits, how frost waits in the wings,

sharpening his shears. 



Barbara Crooker has had poems published widely in magazines such as Beloit Poetry Journal, Christian Century, Christian Science Monitor, Denver Quarterly, Nimrod, Poetry International, Smartish Pace, and Tampa Review. She is the author of ten chapbooks, two of which won prizes in national competitions: Ordinary Life won the ByLine Chapbook competition in 2001 and Impressionism won the Grayson Books Chapbook competition in 2004. Radiance, her first full-length book, won the 2005 Word Press First Book competition and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her other full-length books are Line Dance (Word Press) and More (C&R Press).