Barbara Buckman Strasko
poet • writer • teacher
I’ve Carried Rain
I’ve freed birds caught in traps
small hearts all
a rumble. “All cry,” the crows
say, black and blue and bitten --
their confessions come now
I’ve carried lilacs through rain
broken their branches and hoped
they would not wither. And now I watch
starlings on the wire
one by one drop into unknown
As clouds darken down
another notch, the smell
of ferns seep into me.
A day to stroll into,
to measure shadows,
to measure light, and it’s only
after night falls that I understand.
The fern uncurls,
the rain still on its leaves,
as if wanting to throw
itself away in summer.
The Summerset Review( 2010)
Ode to the Berrigans
I owe to you my son, whose father would
have gone to war, maybe never returning.
His fate was set by you that day in New
Brunswick, a Sunday spent ripping files,
pouring blood, as priests you marred records.
You saved my husband, his number low but never called.
Will there be others to take your place? This
generation too stunned by the last? You saved
my husband, his number low but
never called. Instead, we had a son,
his eyes dark brown. Now he writes poems,
one about a war he dreads and one about
a war I know he could never have understood.
He is opposed to all violence, and seems to have come
into this world speaking in long sentences
about love. Your son as much as ours.
Catholic New Times (2003) and Poets Against the War (2002)
In a Silent Way
Put your body inside that cut
of Miles, where the hand comes out of the ocean
painted with the world, and the blue
heron flies to the marsh
scraping its wing against slow
wind and sky. It’s the one
right before the slow train
heading toward Europe. One blue-black
crow stands low in the tree where thick limbs
separate and the white sycamore lights
a backdrop of differences. The whole time,
the guitar sounds like Jimi playing to a flag
where the stars are the multiplication table
and the stripes reach out for more. Notes lift us
when the light diminishes a field, and a bird
soars right through the center of another
silent horizon. Early morning, everything is
possible until you remember your life is still yours
and all you want comes slowly, never what you want
by the time it gets to you.
Ninth Letter (2008)
When the hawk flies from the sunset on the other side of the sky
to the grove of trees by the river, my throat tightens, my eyes
rest not on the hawk
but on its shadow, on rock,
all belief suspended and the bruise of light wavering
on rims of bark. I recall the yellow light
of the sun starting to descend and the way
the neighbors sit
on their side porches to watch.
What is it these people yearn for?
My own desires
so strong they are written
on my skin, but in a foreign language deciphered
when the shadow of the hawk in this remaining
light takes flight
curving the hill in silence cut from ruins.
Tar River Poetry Review (2007)
“The poems offer us the twin gifts of consciousness and conscience in the compassion they bear outward, refusing to insulate themselves from the world. The voice in these poems is that of a world citizen even in the most private of her meditations.’’
- Leslie Ullman