Sometimes, I am Startled Out of Myself by Barbara Crooker


like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

Sometimes, I am Startled Out of Myself

I am often drawn to the work of this poet, something about her quiet way of speaking about the ordinary world, bringing it to my attention. Even the title captures that sudden sense of being called out of myself to something else, like the wild geese, flapping their rusty hinges. This, she says, makes her think about her life, the places / of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief / has strung me out to dry. We all have these places and unexpected moments that bring them to mind.

The way the geese take turns as the leader tires gives her a sense of hope borne on wings. And the trees, how they turn gold in the autumn then lose it all in November, then stand through the bitter cold of winter until spring when they put out shy green leaves. She finds hope in these noisy creatures, representing that optimistic expectation that the world will continue, even when things don’t go exactly as planned. Seasons change and the geese glide over the cornfields, returning each year as they do.

You do not have to be wise, she reminds us, just pay attention. Be aware, the way even a goose knows how to find / shelter, to find late winter corn for nourishment. All we do is pass through here, much the way the geese pass overhead, briefly here then gone. They stitch up the sky, such a magical image, until it is whole again. When we are startled out of ourselves, we can remember that we are just passing through, the best way we can, a simple wisdom.

12 thoughts on “Sometimes, I am Startled Out of Myself by Barbara Crooker

  1. Ah, Jan. A poem that brings tears of gratitude for that oft-forgotten blessing of hope. Simple wisdom, yes, and deeply nourishing. Thank you! Love, Mary Lou

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  2. Hi Jan

    I wonder if you know Barbara Crooker’s poem Praise Song – its a winner for this time of year…here it is and happy thanksgiving…

    So grateful for your postings….

    Claire

    Praise Song

    Praise the light of late November,

    the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.

    Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;

    though they are clothed in night, they do not

    despair. Praise what little there’s left:

    the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,

    shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow

    of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,

    the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky

    that hasn’t cracked yet. Praise the sun slipping down

    behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves

    that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,

    Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazyfallen world;

    it’s all we have, and it’s never enough.

    Barbara Crooker

    >

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  3. Thank you Claire, so kind of you to share this. I confess I had forgotten that I posted this way back in November of 2018! such a beautiful praise poem for this time of year as you say. Happy Thanksgiving to you. Janice

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