2011 String Poet Prize Honorable Mention

A Woman Is Her Mother, That’s The Main Thing

a semi-glosa with lines in italics,
by Anne Sexton, Dylan Thomas, Sharon Olds

A woman is her mother, that’s the only thing.
After the first death, there is no other.
It’s April, and loss is in the air.
Trees lose their blossoms in this weather.

After the first death, no other
grief matters. April, loss everywhere,
trees let their blossoms fall.
I want you back, I want you here,

even though April’s loss brings on the flowers,
trees forming new buds along each branch.
But there’s no turning back for us,
whose calyx, pistil, ovary blooms in flesh.

And each tree has a different seed: wings, pods, cones.
It’s an old story, . . .replacement, a way back
as a grandchild wears your eyes, your chin, your mouth.
But it’s not you, to whom I need to talk.

The only way back is to go forward.
It’s April, grief everywhere.
I want to call you on the telephone.
A woman is her mother, but alone.


for my mother

the sky’s a flawless blue, as if someone from Sherman
Williams had dumped a bucket of Dazzle (#6962)
over the naked clear dome. That blue. The maples
let go their seeds, samaras whirlygigging in the breeze.
One more letter, and it’s samsara, the Sanskrit word
for suffering. I hear the 4:45 to Lynchburg rumble
under the trestle cut in the kudzu-covered hillside;
its whistle the lonesomest sound around. Sometimes,
I feel like a motherless child, and now I am.
The sky is heartless as well as cloudless.
I turn and look, but she’s not there.

9 thoughts on “Barbara Crooker

  1. The cruelest month, indeed! “Today” gave me a lump in my throat. Such telling images – the maple seeds, the kudzu, the train whistle. Barbara’s poems make a perfect pair with their message of loss amid nature’s beauty.

  2. Barbara’s poems have captured the essence, the gut-wrenching feeling of loss and grief, contrasted beautifully with the rebirth of life and spring’s awakening. Life goes on but with a void that blossoms cannot fill; April is indeed the cruelest month.

  3. Ouch! What a pull on my heart strings. From where ever my mind is wandering, this brings me right back to home, to HERE.

  4. As always, Barbara’s poems enter with flowers and earth and sky and leave me breathless and feeling such grief–everything is tinged with it. Lovely.

  5. Why is it even hard to type around the rising lump in my throat and the tears that want to come? Once again, you’ve turned pain and loss into meaning and beauty. And yet, the pain remains, real and poignant. Again this year, Barb, my heartfelt condolences.

  6. Two memorable poems of grief, Barbara, both beautifully made. I admire those very subtle slant-rhymes in “A woman IS. . .”– and the emotion in “Today” is so well expressed, and not one bit sentimental! You continue to amaze me.

Comments are closed.