Tell me, she asked, how is your heart? Without being maudlin
or falsely sentimental, I tell her mine cracked apart fifty years ago,
the day my first daughter was born, still as a quiet pond. No breath
to ruffle the surface. They thought they were being kind when they
whisked her away before I could memorize her face. I was certain
I could hear her faint cry, but that was only in my dreams. I wanted
to wrap her in flannel, hold her in my arms. But they stayed empty.
So my heart has a scar, the railroad ties of a silver zipper. Some days,
it’s closed tight, clenching its metal teeth. Some days, the slider
slips the tracks, and my heart is opened to the sky, the random clouds,
the small fine music of the rain. Sometimes it burns, hot as molten lava.
Sometimes it brims with unshed tears. Sometimes it unravels, needs
to be sewn up again, embroidered with satin floss. This scar is invisible;
nobody has ever seen it. It’s prominent as Hester Prynne’s scarlet A.
Some losses you never get over. You think sorrow is the only tune
your heart can sing. Sometimes what’s broken makes you stronger,
flint on granite, carried in your chest. Nothing can enter this stone cave.
And that’s when you realize you’re also holding your heart in your hand,
translucent glass, refractive and iridescent. Hold it to the light; you can
see right through it. Toss it on the ground, and surely it will break.


Because every night the news reports get worse
Because the economy teeters on the brink
Because we know the Earth is warming and do nothing
Because our heads are full of sand
Because the rain is corrosive
Because we eat glyphosates with our daily bread
Because our milk is creamy with hormones
Because our native corn is born in a laboratory
Because intolerance is winning
Because everyone is armed
Because our ground waters are ruined by fracking
Because particulates fill the air
Because even the oceans fail to sustain us
Because we don’t believe in the wind and the sun
Because we can no longer recognize ourselves
Because because because . . . .

Barbara Crooker is author of nine full-length books of poetry. Some Glad Morning, Pitt Poetry Series, University of Pittsburgh Poetry Press, longlisted for the Julie Suk award from Jacar Press, is her latest. Her previous collection, The Book of Kells, won the Best Poetry Book of 2019 Award from Poetry by the Sea..