What's the point of this
comet anyway if you don't
know when you've seen it?
    —Becky Crooker, age 7


Winter starsAll day long, the wind has etched
an icy scrimshaw on the glass;
riding this northeaster,
the house creaks and sways.
At 10° and falling, we go out
into a world so cold, it could be
the last place on earth, Antarctica.
Our boots chink on the frozen lawn;
the backyard is transformed
in this mid-winter night.
On a summer day, our eyes are drawn
to islands of flowers shimmering in light,
but now the frozen lily beds
are hard as a cold kiln,
even the mulch has turned to rock.
The perennial gardens are shadowy patches;
bushes, hazards lurking in the dark.
Our eyes are drawn nowhere but up
to the taffeta canopy, starlight leaking
through warp and woof.
We're at the other end of the scope,
reduced, two small specks under an onyx dome.


We are not just mother and child,
but two star searchers voyaging through this night.
Light from suns long dead shines on us,
black holes swallow and yawn.
We read the star charts, parkas billowing,
the ship of the world careering in the vast black sea.
Up in the canopy, with no dotted lines,
the patterns are lost to us,
constellations unreadable.
But we manage to find Jupiter, clear & steady
in the southwest sky,
sight a fist at arm's length up,
then one star to the left,
and we think that we see Halley.
This comet does not come in glory,
trailing a tail as long as the Dipper,
making us gasp and point.
Instead, it's a frosty smudge in the glass,
a dirty snowball, the thumbprint of God—
And though we're disappointed
by our own expectations, the media razzle,
we're taken in by the blaze & glitter of the icy stars.
We turn in the dark and sail toward home,
the slanted yellow light reeling us in.
How vast this starry starry night,
how far and wide the ports between the stars.

First published in Anima
Copyright © Barbara Crooker

Image Credit: Tomas Radzevicius, some rights reserved

The author of more than 650 poems published in over 2000 anthologies, books, and magazines such as Yankee, The Christian Science Monitor, Smartish Pace, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Nimrod, The Denver Quarterly, The Tampa Review, Poetry International, The Christian Century, and America, Barbara Crooker is the recipient of the 2007 Pen and Brush Poetry Prize, the 2006 Ekphrastic Poetry Award from Rosebud, the 2004 WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the 2004 Pennsylvania Center for the Book Poetry in Public Places Poster Competition, the 2003 Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, the 2003 "April Is the Cruelest Month" Award from Poets & Writers, the 2000 New Millenium Writing's Y2K competition, the 1997 Karamu Poetry Award, and others, including three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, twelve residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a prize from the NEA. A twenty-six time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, she was nominated for the 1997 Grammy Awards for her part in the audio version of the popular anthology, Grow Old Along With Me—The Best is Yet to Be (Papier Mache Press). She is the author of ten chapbooks, two of which won prizes in national competitions: Ordinary Life won the ByLine Chapbook competition in 2001 and Impressionism won the Grayson Books Chapbook competition in 2004. Radiance, her first full-length book, won the 2005 Word Press First Book competition, and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize. Line Dance, her second book, is newly out from Word. Her books are Radiance, which won the 2005 Word Press First Book competition and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize, Line Dance (Word Press, 2008) which won the 2009 Paterson Prize for Literary Excellence, and More, forthcoming from C&R Press in 2010. Garrison Keillor has read seventeen of her poems on The Writer's Almanac, National Public Radio.