The Bossy Letter R
(phrase from my son, David, who has autism)
The bossy letter R will turn you crooked,
just when you were sure your goose
was merely cooked. Rouse you
from sleep, ramp up the music, rev
the engine. Sentence you
to hard labor. Dice your zucchini
into ratatouille. Reductive.
Not afraid to be ridiculous.
It can turn picks to pricks, pigs
to prigs, bees to beers. Don't look
for recompense. Recreational
drugs optional. Add rum.
Relax and roll with it. But
beware; on some dark night, it'll
hot wire your cat, tuning its motor,
start it turning: rrrrrrrrrrrr.
or Evil, Rats or Star
What happened when you renamed meander?
Did the sauce fail to thicken in the kitchen?
I thought if I refused to abridge my grievance,
the brigade would come for me. You may think
there are no taxes in Texas, but you're
I'd trade all my atlases for one small sack
of sea salt. Who rates
The more I grieved, the more my life diverged.
Hush. Slow owls are sleeping in trees.
Who doesn't have a hatred of dearth?
I use a slate to write my tales,
while spores of mildew scatter widely. Do
you know Rye, New York? If you juggle
you'll get scared. Deal
can lead to lade or dale. Or end up
dead as lead. It's all in the toss,
the tumble: straw or warts, pins
peek or keep. The tide can
in the blink of an eye. Which
will you choose: heart or earth?
The Paper Clip
Two u's, standing at attention.
A couple of mouths
with a jones for paper.
A thin slip of twisted
wire. A bend in the
brass, or candy striped creek.
like the staple,
the brisk click
one sheet to another,
the paper clip's more
for dating, casual
one night stands.
sometimes a mark
remains, a faint scar,
a thumb nail indentation,
of what once was,
and now is, no more.
The Last Painting
Arshile Gorky Retrospective, Philadelphia Museum of
I'd always seen his name wrong, Ashile, not Arshile,
missed the "r completely, didn't see the demarcation
of its black arc breaking up the greasy softness of "ah"
I didn't know about the studio fire that destroyed ten years'
the cancer that smoldered in his gut, the marriage that went
in flames. So he did a painting called "Agony,"
into browns, then a series of smudged grisailles: "Charred
About art, he said, "I don't like the word "finish,"
painted "The Limit"
just before he reached it, took the rope, its oval mouth like
of his biomorphic shapes, placed it around his neck, stepped
off the chair.
Barbara Crooker's books are Radiance,
winner of the 2005 Word Press First Book Award and finalist for the 2006
Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance (Word Press, 2008), winner of the 2009
Paterson Award for Excellence in Literature; and More (C&R Press,
2010). Her poems appear in a variety of literary journals and many anthologies,
including Good Poems for Hard Times (Garrison Keillor, editor)(Viking
Penguin) and the Bedford Introduction to Literature.