Barbara Crooker: “The Flowering Orchard, 1888”


     Nature here is extraordinarily beautiful. Everywhere and over all
     the vault of the sky is a marvelous blue, and the sun sheds a radiance
     of pale sulfur that is soft and lovely. What a country!

          —letter to Theo, Vincent Van Gogh

There’s a rake resting against a tree,
and it looks like its teeth have combed
the landscape, straightened out the unruly
grass, the wildflowers, the trees in the distance,
making orderly parallel lines. But the orchard
itself is in the middle ground: wild diagonals,
flailing limbs, branches this way and that. A metaphor,
perhaps, for how nature resists pruning, trimming,
reverts to the old ways. In the canopy, the foliage,
tender shades of early spring, refuses to be delineated,
goes for the blur. A scythe is wedged in the crotch
of the largest tree, pointing toward earth. The sky’s
pale luminescence, like butter, spreads over everything,
the eternal sunshine of an April day. What a country
indeed. I want to be bathed in this radiance,
live here in a corner of the picture, raise
my face to the glow like the overhead light
in my mother’s kitchen, and never grow old.

Barbara Crooker is the author of eight books of poetry, including Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017) and The Book of Kells (Cascade Books, forthcoming).  Radiance, her first book, won the 2005 Word Press First Book Award and was finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance ( 2008), her second book, won the 2009 Paterson Award for Excellence in Literature. Her writing has received a number of awards, including the 2004 WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the 2003 Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships.

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