Comet Hale BoppPeepers, tiny tree frogs, punctuate the night,
their small song a promise of spring's return.
Overhead, the stars tap out their ancient stories,
and a comet appears, out of the darkest
reaches of space, from somewhere past Pluto.
The last time it came by, the Great Pyramids
were being built at Giza, Rome and Athens
were still centuries away, hunter-gatherers
roamed the Illinois Valley, and the Inuit
followed the rhythms of musk ox and caribou.

Now, in the new millennium,
we are bombarded daily with more information
than we can process, the endless
noise of television, more bad news
than the human heart can stand.

Standing here alone, under the blackboard
of night, away from any ambient light,
everything I know falls away,
and I'm back around the campfire, looking up at sparks
flying in the dark, seeing the comet every night
for weeks, its glowing heat, the luminous tail
thirty million miles long streaming and pulsing
like smoke from a single candle, a diaphanous scarf,
the breath of God. I am standing alone in this black night,
feet on the ground, mouth open, breathing in stars.

First published in Windhover
Copyright © Barbara Crooker

Image Credit: Philipp Salzgeber, some rights reserved

The author of more than 600 poems published in over 1775 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. Garrison Keillor has read fifteen of her poems on The Writer's Almanac, National Public Radio.