Barbara Crooker: “The River”


I wish I had a river
I could skate away on.
—Joni Mitchell

I wish I had a river, a frozen creek of ice
one leading back to where each stroke
of my skate could take me back
and you’d be there, tall and steady
on your Hans Brinker skates,
those thin long-distance blades. Mine
were white leather figure skates, the only
choice for girls in the fifties, with notched
picks for twirling. I never had lessons,
taught myself, only mastered a simple spin
and how to skate backwards. But mostly
I liked to play pick-up hockey with
the neighborhood boys on a small pond
just over the railroad tracks. In my girlie
skates with pink pom poms, I could hit
and check with the best of them.
You, though, were meant to go
the distance. If I had a river, I could
skate back to you, arms crossed
as we glided. You would hold me up.
Our breath would form a single cloud.
The icy air, snowflakes in my eyelashes
and hair. Later, hot chocolate before the fire.
Oh, Joni, send me a river. I would
surely skate away on it.

Barbara Crooker is the author of twelve chapbooks and ten full-length books of poetry. Her many awards include the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council fellowships in literature.

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