It Was Like This:
after the poem of the same name by Jane Hirshfield
First you were normal,
then you were not.
A healthy baby, then
a label, disabled
Life went on. You
were innocent; I
was not guilty.
You were my youngest;
I had two others. I knew
I was not a
Your first smile, at two
weeks. It wasn’t
gas. Your brown eyes
steady, into mine. Later,
a cast, a caul,
as your gaze glazed
you had language,
then you did not.
I kept a journal.
Then the pages
First you connected.
Then you detached.
Who could we blame?
Was it the water,
was it the shots?
Something I ate?
Something I did not?
Was it the mercury?
Particles in the air?
Beware, my sisters,
beware, beware, beware.
First it was one
in twenty thousand.
in one twenty-five.
Who gets to decide?
The AMA, CDC, FDA
that makes no sense.
Why not study
the Amish? Those
who say no
to the needle?
with these shots
in the dark?
All I know is,
you had a spark,
you do not.
Triolet in Black and White
The crows are smoking dark cigars,
their ashes spill upon the ground,
the snow’s white gauze hides burns and scars.
Those crows who smoke their black cigars—
you’d think they came in hired cars,
the way they throw their weight around.
The crows draw deep their cheap cigars,
their ashes trash the snowy ground.
Against Understatement: A Ghazal
for Mary Meriam
Too much of a good thing is wonderful
She said, pile it on, like a schmear on a bagel,
sky-high Nova lox, a lite beer on the table.
Forget understatement, nuance, shades of gray.
Be over-the-top, like faux cashmere or sable.
Go strut what you’ve got, be like Cher, Beyoncé,
though your bony rear isn’t perfect as Grable’s.
Don’t match it, but mix it, then try on moiré;
do denim and hang chandeliers in your stable.
Drip glitz, then add glamour, create a display:
red carpet, tiara, a premiere on cable.
Be hot, well, why not, kind of ultra risqué.
Go on, gild the lily, no Anne of Green Gables.
So fling on the bling, and then flaunt diamanté.
Here’s more, pour it on, use a Staffordshire ladle.
Mae West crooks her finger, wears silk décolleté.
Croons, “Flattery will get you in everywhere, Mable.”
—Barbara Crooker, Fogelsville, PA