These are dark times. Rumors of war
rise like smoke in the east. Drought
widens its misery. In the west, glittering towers
collapse in a pillar of ash and dust. Peace,
a small white bird, flies off in the clouds.
And this is the shortest day of the year.
Still, in almost every window,
a single candle burns,
there are tiny white lights
on evergreens and pines,
and the darkness is not complete.
First published in Time of Singing, in 2001.
Barbara Crooker is the author of eight books of poetry, including Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017) and The Book of Kells (Cascade Books, 2019). Radiance, her first book, won the 2005 Word Press First Book Award and was finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance, her second book, won the 2009 Paterson Award for Excellence in Literature. Her writing has received a number of awards, including the 2004 WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the 2003 Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. Her work appears in a variety of literary journals and anthologies, including Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania and The Bedford Introduction to Literature and is collected in Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems. Crooker has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts seventeen times since 1990 and twice at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland and was a resident at the Moulin à Nef, Auvillar, France. Garrison Keillor has read 31 of her poems on The Writer’s Almanac, and she’s read her poetry all over the country, from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, including The Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing, The Austin International Poetry Festival, Poetry at Round top, The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, Glory Days: A Bruce Springsteen Symposium, and the Library of Congress.
This poem was written in 2001, still in disbelief over what we witnessed on September 11th. And with incredible sadness over what humans are capable of doing to each other. I’m in a similar state of shock and mourning now after the recent election and the spate of hate speech and hate crimes. Still, with Anne Frank, I believe “In spite of everything . . . that people are really good at heart,” and that we need to be the light in what seems to be a very dark hour.