Barbara Crooker

FAITH So, here I am at a colony, feeling lonelyas a kid at camp for the first time—homesick,I don’t fit in, and nothing I’ve done is any good.I think of all the ways I don’t measure up; they’reas countless as the stars flashing their Morse codesin the night sky. I tell my heart, toughen up, kiddo,everyone’s not going to love you, and that’s a fact. Heart doesn’t want to listen. She wants to put onlipstick, go out with the gang for a beer. I knowthat hope, that dumb dove, will return if I practicepatience, a green sprig in her beak. Heart shrugs,buttons up her sweater. It’s going to be a long night. MONDAY The sky’s as low as an old white shirtsomeone’s tossed on the line, and the snow’sbeen stuttering down all day, white virgules,even though the daffodils are burning,hot little suns, and the calendar’s saying Aprilin just a few days. This close to seventy,how many springs are left on my ticket?But up pops a cardinal, bright as a lipstick,and he’s singing something about cheer, evenas the snow comes down, erases the lawn. SUSTENANCE The sky hangs up its starry pictures: a swan,a crab, a horse. And even though you’rethree hundred miles away, I know you seethem, too. Right now, my sideof the bed is empty, a clear blue lakeof flannel. The distance yawns and stretches. It’s hard to remember we swim in an oceanof great love, so easy to fall into bickeringlike little birds at the feeder fighting over prosoand millet, unaware of how large the bag of grain is,a river of golden seeds, that the harvest was plentiful,the corn is in the barn, and whenever we’re hungry,a dipperful of just what we need will be spilled. . . . Barbara Crooker’s work has been read many times by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. Her books are Radiance (Word Press), Line Dance (Word Press), More (C&R Press), and, most recently, Gold (Cascade Books). She was a finalist for the 2012 Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize, and her work appears in The Bedford Introduction to Literature.