Barbara Crooker


Country: United States
Language(s): English

The Gyre

Last night, the owl woke me; I heard him ask the moon in his rising tremolo, who who who? Unable to sleep, I thought of Monet at eighty, painting waterlilies, pond and sky over 250 times. He said, “These landscapes of water  and reflections have become an obsession for me.” And my compulsive son asks questions without answers ad infinitum in an endless loop: “What time is 12 o’clock midnight? When is it Saturday? Will you marry me all the time? Where is Hurricane  Floyd now? (What does become of a storm once it’s veered out to sea?) Over and over, he pinches,  face, arms, and chest. Monet said, “Each day, I discover things I didn’t see before,” but I lie here wondering how I can get through another day of this. I ask the owl why why why? but he doesn’t reply, and the full moon, that great blank disk in the sky, keeps on shining.

In The Camargue 

there are flamingoes everywhere—les roses flamants, literally, pink flames—
wading in the shallows, dabbling in the reeds. Their supercilious beaks, Roman noses,
give them an air of haughty disdain as they stalk the marshes, straining small mollusks
through their soupspoon bills, which are half pink, half black, the colors
of a sixties Cadillac. Their loopy necks curve in question marks,
their skinny stilty legs, hot pink exclamations under the wide black vee
of their opened wings. You’d think Rube Goldberg designed these birds—
their improbable gawky take-off, running on water, jerky as puppets—
this will never fly-but then, they do, these pink blossoms,
these sunsets on the wing, these rose flames in the sky.

Nice
after “La Promenade des Anglais à Nice,”  Raoul Dufy

The row of palm trees curved along the Baie des Anges
like a strand of beads on the long white neck
of a beautiful woman, and the blue Mediterranean
filled the windows of our small hotel.  At night,
the waves rattled the stones like someone washing
chain mail, or a woman searching

for something she’d lost.
Blue, blue, everywhere blue—Maritime Alpes
off in the distance, paint on this table, trim
on the walls.  At the market in the vielle ville,
blue shellfish, crabs and mussels displayed
like needlepoint, and sea holly and lavender
in buckets in the flower stalls.

We had never been
so far from home, without our daughters
and damaged son.  Blue, blue, missing
their voices.  But not-blue, this new freedom,
like slipping into a dress of silk sky, believing
I could speak another language, wear perfume
behind my ears, spend the days wandering
museums, streets with flower boxes
on every window, cobblestoned alleys,

then nights with you in restaurants
with gilt-backed chairs, damask napkins, ruby wines.
The world of travel had licked its multicolored stamps,
pasted them all over my skin.