Mobirise Web Generator

Fall, 2007

Barbara Crooker

Five Poems

The Mother of a Handicapped Child Dreams of Respite

I want to drive away from all of this,

go clear to California, buzz out on the freeway

in a white Toyota, put on mirrored sunglasses,

cut off my hair, feel the hot desert air

on my bare arms, see a different moon, starker,

floating in the huge blue ether.

I will stop when I want to, visit a friend from college,

drink green tea by a koi pond under wisteria,

talk until our throats hurt about our complicated lives,

shopping in thrift shops, Thai cooking, about

how fucked-up men are, the many pathways to God.

I will sleep for an entire night, unbroken,

wake in light the color of chablis,

see Anna's hummingbirds at the nectar feeder,

eat granola and peaches for breakfast, eat avocados,

fresh figs, eat this entire edible state of California.

I will shower without having to arrange for child care,

let the steady ache between my shoulders melt away,

I will fall in love with my almond shampoo.

I will learn transcendental meditation,

spend a whole morning in a gallery,

hike in Yosemite where we watch Stellar's jays

in the pinons, surprise a coyote crunching bones.

Then instead of dinner, I will eat ice cream.

I will dance until dawn in the jimsonweed,

I will dance in satin slippers at my broken boy's wedding,

I will drive clear to the Pacific and never come back.

The Autistic Boy and His Mother

A lusty, lively son

was what she wanted, not

this dear Mr. Dopey, still

blissfully filling his diapers

at four, mute, except for

gleeful babbling at

rays of sun, random

clouds, the wind riffl-

ing through his hair,

but a joy of a boy who could

have smacked a hard ball, climbed

trees, stolen apples, yet

in this deep silence,

certain hearts have been won,

lost to the football heroes,

the Rhodes scholars,

the might-have-beens

she's his, forever.

Grating Parmesan

A winter evening,

sky, the color of cobalt,

the night coming down like the lid on a pot.

On the stove, the ghosts of summer simmer:

tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano.

Steam from the kettle rises,

wreathes the windows.

You come running when I reach for the grater,

"Help me?" you ask, reversing the pronouns,

part of your mind's disordered scramble.

Together, we hold the rind of the cheese,

scrape our knuckles on the metal teeth.

A fresh pungency enters the room.

You put your fingers in the fallen crumbs:

"Snow," you proudly exclaim, and look at me.

Three years old, nearly mute,

but the master of metaphor.

Most of the time, we speak without words.

Outside, the icy stones in the sky

glitter in their random order.

It's a night so cold, the very air freezes flesh,

a knife in the lungs, wind rushing

over the coil of the planet

straight from Siberia,

a high howl from the wolves of the steppes.

As we grate and grate, the drift rises higher.

When the family gathers together,

puts pasta in their bowls,

ladles on the simmered sauce,

you will bless each one

with a wave of your spoon:

"Snowflakes falling

all around."

You're the weatherman

of the kitchen table.

And, light as feathers,

the parmesan sprinkles down,

its newly fallen snow

gracing each plate.

The Children of the Challenger League Enter Paradise

(The Challenger League is the

handicapped division of Little League, USA)

Here in Little League heaven,

there will be no strikes against you

before you're up at bat,

no standards and regulations

to struggle against, no segregation,

no special education.

All the empty wheelchairs, braces, walkers.

No seat belts, head supports, drool bibs.

The crooked, straight. The rough places, plains.

No toy bats, wobbly tees, wiffle balls,


These are the Major Leagues, stadium packed,

bases loaded, and the lights are on in the firmament.

Samantha winds up to pitch. David hits

a hard line drive deep to center. Adam

throws to Trevor, straight and true.

But here comes Jodie, stealing second,

then third, no longer held aloft by her dad,

while her legs windmill in the dust, no,

she's faster than the ink on a new contract,

she's sliding into home,

her smile bright enough

to power Detroit

Visiting the Pumpkin Farm

The retarded children visit the pumpkin farm,

ride on a haywagon out to the fields

past acres of corn shocks dried and rustling,

the pale flax of a young girl's hair,

ready for silage, money in the till;

past stretches of dried weeds:

chicory, goldenrod, good for absolutely nothing,

but, set against the late October sky

of darkened pewter, their golden seed-heads

shining, beautiful unto themselves.

These poems by Barbara have not previously been published online, and though they were published in print, when Barbara sent them we felt them to be beautiful and important to the experience of many people,  and decided that they should be made available to an online audience. The Autistic Boy and His Mother previously appeared in print in Footwork; The Children of the Challenger League Enter Paradise previously appeared in print in Mindprints; The Mother of a Handicapped Child Dreams of Respite previously appeared in print in The Pennsylvania Review; Grating Parmesan previously appeared in print in The Denver Quarterly; Visiting the Pumpkin Farm previously appeared in print in Potato Eyes.