Saturday, November 25, 2023

A Pilgrimage of Churches by Ron Starbuck


A PILGRIMAGE OF CHURCHES, Ron Starbuck. Saint Julian Press, 2053 Cortlandt, Suite 200, Houston, Texas 77008, 2023, 60 pages, $18 paperback,


A Pilgrimage of Churches is a collection of Ron Starbuck’s black and white photographs of primarily church buildings, with some schoolhouses, farms, and landscapes, counterpointed with meditative verse in liturgical style, commemorating the heritage of people and place in and around Easton Township, Leavenworth County, Kansas, and in his current residence of Houston, Texas. In his own words, the project is “one person’s answer to the landscape of the Great Plains, flowing from Canada to the Coastal Plains of Texas, and the people who live there, who work the land, and who worship together in community on the Sabbath” (the Sabbath being a common euphemism for Sunday in the religious tradition of many rural church denominations).

Actually, the book devotes three-fourths of its footprint to the “Great Plains”—The Smokey Hills, The Glacial Hills of Kansas, The Flint Hills of Kansas, and one-fourth to The Coastal Plains of Texas (Houston). In those terms and in other ways, this collection is a soaring success. The striking photos document a life that was common after the Civil War until the latter half of the 20th century—every town and municipality not only in the Great Plains, but in, dare I say, in most rural places where people worked the land and lived in community with a common heritage, mythos, and practice about and at home, school, and church.

The author makes it clear from his introduction that the point of view of his photographs and written verse, although open to other traditions (particularly Buddhism), view the world from inside the walls of liturgical Christianity. And yet, this work is much more than its title, A Pilgrimage of Churches, might suggest. Once art is created, it no longer belongs to the creator. Viewers and readers will see and hear narratives other than the ones intended by words such as these in answer to the Olsburg Bell Tower with an epigraph from Psalm 118 that ends with Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his mercy endures forever.

            Honoring those who conceived

            A church laid with shingles

            And a sapling once planted

            Grown taller now brushes softly

            Against aged wood to cast shadows

            Where peeling paint and light

            Reflecting from russet autumn

            Leaves catch and enter our eyes

            So that our mind turns gently

            Towards the light where waiting

            In thoughtful simplicity of heart

            The pure stillness and silence

            Of our modest mortal flesh

            Signals an imminent prophet

            Envisioning our healing

            Beyond the ruined places

            Of our human hearts

            Where voices raised in reverence

            Welcome this holy mystery

            Cherished long since childhood


Although “open to [all] voices raised in reverence [that] welcome this holy mystery,” this work of image and text, like the builders and congregants of the churches and other edifices photographed, is expressed in ritual—a ritual meaningful to the people of its era and a ritual that held—and still holds—them together, the cultural glue that has loosened in modern and postmodern times. Between photographs, each page begins with a title the author has given the preceding photograph, then a Biblical reference of book and chapter, the liturgical name for the Psalm or passage of scripture, and the key, selected verses. The writer then transmogrifies the scripture to verses that act as an ekphrastic expression of not only the images photographed, but truths that well up from the land and its people. The opening photograph is of the United Methodist Church of Beverly, Kansas. What follows is example of the form of the entire book:



PSALM 51       Miserere mei, Deus [Have mercy on me, O God]

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God;

            and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from thy presence;

            and take not thy holy spirit from me.


                        We must imagine, beyond                              A divine presence dwelling

                           All our visions—in every                               Within all flesh – as humanity’s

                        Holy House of God                                         Sons and daughters prophesy


                        An indwelling, a settling                                In a reconciliation and

                           Of the Holy Spirit – shekinah                         redemption within the world

                        An abundance of light                                    In a name given and exalted


                        That rises up                                                   Above every name in heaven

                           As the last darkness                                        Upon and under the earth

                        Passes over humankind                                  Confessed on every tongue


                        And transforms all things                               So that we might too

                           Pouring out a radiance                                    Become servants emptied

                        A great reverence                                            Of all presumptions and desires


This page opens up not only the book, but the first of four sections: The Great Plains, Smoky Hills of Kansas. The next two sections begin with the same title, The Great Plains, with subtitles of Glacial Hills of Kansas and The Flint Hills of Kansas. Section Two, The Glacial Hills, is noteworthy because it not only contains photos from Easton Township, Kansas, where Starbuck’s ancestors settled, but it also contains, in addition to photos the county’s churches, an intimate look into his heritage with photographs of possibly a distant relatives’ marriage ceremony, the “Family Homestead,” and automobiles of the era, similar to the silver blue 1940s model with whitewall tires where Starbuck rode shotgun while his grandfather drove in the poem, “Marvelous Remembrance”—

            …smell[ing] of aftershave

            Lotion and fresh cigar smoke

            The hood and fenders shimmer[ing]

            And polished with light

            From freshly applied car wax

            Brightly buffed to shine and glow

            As we glowed inside whenever

            We kept company together

            This is the wonderous thing

            About all grandparents

            And aunts and uncles too

            We spoil children in their earliest

            Years—showing them in flashes

            The marvelous wonders

            Of a world without end

            Creating a wonder inside them

            Lasting a lifetime and beyond

            To share with the next

            Generations to be born.


            Section IV ends this collection with photos and text commemorating the author’s current location in Houston, Texas: The Great Plains: Houston—Coastal Plains. The first image is of a massive, vaulted archway in the Trinity Episcopal Church, with its cruciform architectural plan, common in Roman Catholic churches in medieval times. The text that follows it is appropriately one of thanksgiving:

“THANKSGIVING PRAISES / PSALM 95 Venite, exultemus (Come let us praise): Come, let us sing to the Lord; / let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation. // Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving / and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.


The center of this mixed-media work, is not merely the visual narrative supplied by the photographs and the lyrical responses of the author, following the liturgical rubrics from The Bible, but it is also tied up with the very structure of the edifice of the book itself—a study in darkness and in light, both in the subject of the photos and in the text of mostly lines with three accents, mostly in two columns over two pages, a massive amount of white surrounding them—an analogue of the aspirational and memetic nature of the portrayal of the spiritual milieu of times when these churches were built.

There are no stronger images and text than the ones found on pages 104-107, closing this collection. The image of the interior of Live Oak Friends Meeting [Place], a study in light and shadow of empty pews turned at ninety degrees, facing four windows and doors with light bled out to a brilliant white, showing only faint images outside left to the imagination, opens this series. What I consider to be one of the strongest passages written by Starbuck follows this image. Placed after this, is an image of the same interior of the Live Oak Friends, but from a different angle, followed by the exterior of the building, with clouds, trees, and ground all flowing together to form one organic whole, one body with many parts that all work together—“all work[ing] together for good, to them who love God…” (Romans 8:28), an apt text to describe the structure of this unique work. Here are words taken from the center of Starbuck’s final text:

We do not always know

Until we embrace this calm

            In the absence of dogma and doctrine

            When we step away from ancient

            Creeds and councils cluttering the mind

            The ritual of such reticence becomes

            A sacrament of faith and mercy

            We cannot and may never name

            And yet something unexpected

            Arises from the tranquility resting

            Between and within us now

            On the razor’s edge of light

            We hold with a gentle hope

            Waiting in suspense

            Balanced delicately between


            Our binary observations

            And timid choices

            So often obscure[d] now

            In dichotomies of false choices


A Pilgrimage of Churches is more than a tour of church buildings of the great plains with text added, it is a catalyst for making sure that we as individuals, communities, and nations, renew our vows, to make the right choices for the sake of our present lives and our future heritage. And it is a gesture of reconciliation between two worlds, the present world with its disintegrating common mythos and values, and the world that Starbuck records in vivid images and stunning diction—a world that not only deserves re-examining, but a world that still offers a mythos and values that this post-modern culture would do well to incorporate into its life. Thus, A Pilgrimage of Churches becomes a necessary book to view and read again and again.

RON STARBUCK is a poet, writer, and the Publisher/CEO/Executive Editor of Saint Julian Press, Inc., in Houston, Texas. Ron’s four poetry collections are There Is Something About Being An Episcopalian, When Angels Are Born, Wheels Turning Inward and, most recently, A Pilgrimage of Churches, a mythic, spiritual journey in verse and photos that crosses onto the paths of many contemplative traditions. 

 His work has appeared in numerous national and international publications, including Parabola Magazine, Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature, The Criterion: An Online International Journal in English, The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, ONE, Pirene's Fountain, Glass Lyre Press, Levure Littéraire, La Piccioletta Barca, and The Tulane Review.  A collection of essays, poems, short stories, and audio recordings are available on the Saint Julian Press, Inc., website under Interconnections.

​Forming an independent literary press to work with emerging and established writers and poets, and tendering new introductions to the world at large in the framework of an interfaith and cross-cultural literary dialogue has been a long-time dream. Ron is a former Vice President with JP Morgan Chase and public sector Information Technology — Executive Program Manager with Harris County, Texas. 

Shards of Time by Maryam Hiradfar


SHARDS OF TIME, Maryam Hiradfar. Saint Julian Press, 2053 Cortlandt, Suite 200, Houston, Texas 77008, 2023, 52 pages, $18 paperback,


Every once in a while, a poet comes along whose poetry teaches one how to read it. I find Maryam Hiradfar’s “Shards of Time” to be in that category. Language that appears on the surface as familiar and with too healthy a dose of abstraction for contemporary American poetry, in reality becomes devotional, contemplative, dare I say liturgical when given a close reading—preferably aloud. “Dawn is loved forever,” from section I (“Torrents at Dawn”), in which the title is repeated as the final line to each of the four stanzas, is emblematic of this description. “Dawn is loved forever”—the line—is composed of three trochaic feet with each of the three stressed syllables an open “ah” or “eh” vowel, giving an acapella, choral effect to its reading. This “ah” vowel sound is echoed throughout the first stanza:

Day is offering

lighthearted as a dove

and plain as the blanket

of morning mist

Dawn is loved forever.



The language in stanza two enacts its theme of “never-ending” / “forever” with the “eh” vowel providing ample assonance of the middle vowel of “forever” in words scattered throughout: “Quenching,” “moments,” “engulf,” “ever-stretching,” and “ends”:

            Quenching our thirst

            as we revolve

            in the never-ending cycles

            and moments that engulf us

            in their ever-stretching fabric

            pinned between the two ends

            of the revolving horizon

            Dawn is loved forever.


The third stanza begins with a line of layered meaning, due to the multiple uses of “passage” as “trip,” “passageway,” and a section of (sacred) “text,” to name a few. The stanza incorporates a blending of the vowel sounds found in the first two stanzas, offering a change of tone, juxtaposed against the stable final line:


Yet the passage

            of this beloved orb

            against the infinite landscape

            decorate with time

            prefers now [italics mine] over all history

            and gently puts to rest

            all hopes of juxtaposed dance

            of now and infinity

            Dawn is loved forever.


Heavy use is made once again of assonance in the final stanza, along with the half-rhymes or chimes, both at the ends and in the middle of lines (“eclipsed” / “wished,” “stars” / “darkness, “reveal / secrets,” “cold” / “stone,” “falls” / “longs,” “light” / “dives” / “silence,” and “awe” / “Dawn”:


            And in its embracing warmth

            moments are eclipsed

            washed out like sand

            the stars wish

            for daytime darkness

            to momentarily reveal

            their long-held secrets

            when the shadow

            of a cold stone falls

            on all that ever longs for light

            and the world dives into silence

            in awe

            Dawn is loved forever.


A second poem in section I, (“Fragments of a Breath”) moves the repetition from lines to words and has even more musicality, particularly in its long lyrical passage that makes up the middle two-thirds of the poem, ending in an anaphoric passage enacting our being “…dispersed / through the river currents / ….”

            After the edges of papers

            have turned yellow

            yellow corners curled up

            cover covered with dust

            sheets wrinkled like our skin

            skin turned into dust

            when the ink is dissolved

            and so is our blood

            when the soft flesh is gone

            crows’ sunset feast adjourned

            when we are dispersed

            through the river currents

            on the wings of the wind

            on yellow pollens a bee carries

            in the body of a flower vase

            in the warm blood

            of an albatross flying free

            in the deep blue of a heron’s wings

            in the azure of eyes born anew

            in the breath of a singing robin


Even though these lines have no more than 3 accents each, they find room for anaphora, assonance, consonance, simile, imagery, narrative and lyricism. But Hiradfar’s diction does not get stuck in one syntactical mode. In the next poem, “Shards,” we find lines enacting the title with short lyrical narrative thrusts of two strong beats each (“Shards pierce / the flesh of reason / and the mind bleeds”).

            If the reader tires of lyricism and music in Hiradfar’s poems, she only has to keep turning pages and imagistic, narrative poems will appear. “Lunulata” (a venomous, blue-ringed octopus), “The Silent Saxaul Tree,” “Arrow of Time,” “Neowise,” “Violet Night,” Red-Tailed Hawk,” “The Fourteenth,” and “Coyotes” all focus their energy on a narrative that does not compromise their lyrical, musicality—a balance that enacts the center message of this book: a balance between inner / outer; things cosmological / things human; the supernatural / the quotidian; and the abstract / the concrete.




            Light as a leaf

            stretched as a new canvas

            her body rests on the water

            that has made an offer

            to bear it all


            The weight

            and the compression

            the dust and the old scars

            all that there ever was


            What remains is a clear frame

            for unfinished brushstrokes

            and half-written words

            buoyant and asleep it floats

            bridging the dark ocean rocks

            and the exploding hearts

            of ancient stars


In this compact (52 page) yet capacious first full-length collection, a reader can find a broad range of poems: free-verse, formal, organic, even nonce-forms—those invented forms that convince the reader they have been around forever. “The Quiet Corner” (with an ABAC rhyme scheme) evokes Dickinson (“Come to the quiet corner / where meaning lies bare at rest / come to the center of disguise / to the kingdom of essence, undressed); “The Eternal Companion” personifies doubt (“Walking down below the shadows / looking far across the mind / voice of doubt kneeled and whispered: ‘say it clearly, say it loud’”); and “The Pilgrim” is an incantatory meditation that, after four lines of anaphora resolves into an echo of the early poem of repetition, “Dawn is Loved Forever,” coming full circle like a snake swallowing its tail:

            The Pilgrim


            Streams may flow

            ice may grow

            but when let free

            a stone gently

            sinks to the bedrock

            where Peace is still

            where Peace is sane

            where Peace belongs

            where Peace came from


            “All seek the Origin”

            All return to Tranquility

            Through torrents at dawn.


            Shards of Time defies precise classification in the world of contemporary American poetry. It declares itself out of time and must be read on its own terms—written from a Rumi-esque perspective about life, death, time, eternity, and writing as spiritual practice rather than a memetic art. At the center of Shards of Time is the moment, the continual now, now, now that is meant to be lived, not analyzed, enjoyed, not explained, celebrated, not regretted or anxious about. And yet, a critical analysis of Hiradfar’s work through the lens of Richard Hugo’s maxim about two kinds of poets, leans toward placing her in the category favored by Hugo. In chapter one of The Triggering Town, he states:

            When you start to write, you carry to the page one of two

            attitudes, though you may not be aware of it. One is that all

            music must conform to truth. The other, that all truth must

            conform to music. If you believe the first, you are making your

            job very difficult, and you are not only limiting the writing of

            poems to something done only by the very witty and clever,

            such as Auden…so you can take that attitude if you want…

            but you are jeopardizing your chances of writing a good poem.


With many of these poems obviously leaning into their music, rather than into pre-determined truths arrived at independently of the actual writing of the poems, I believe that Hugo would say that Hiradfar has made the correct choice. And her poems are a testimony to that. As readers enjoy the musicality and lyricism of this collection, they will not be able to refrain from looking forward to the evolution of this young poet, to see where the shards of time will lead her.  

Maryam Hiradfar is a poet and writer whose roots can be traced back to the literary landscapes of classical Persian literature. Growing up encircled by the rhythmic verses of classic Persian poets like Rumi and Hafez, plus modern luminaries such as Sohrab Sepehri and Ahmad Shamlou, Maryam became infused with the essence of Persian poetry from an early age.

Amidst her academic pursuits at Harvard, Maryam found a nurturing haven within the Lowell House Poemical Society, where her passion for poetry flourished. This creative sanctuary became the birthplace of her original works and a space to refine her unique voice. Her poetry, which bears the visual imprints of her love for illustration and photography, offers a fusion of imagery and language that resonates deeply.

Roadside, Maryam's first poetry collection, marked a milestone in her artistic journey. She invites readers into her world through her verses and camera lens, offering an intimate glimpse of her perspective. Maryam embarks on a new chapter with her latest creation, Shards of Time (Saint Julian Press, 2023). This collection marries minimalistic graphics with poetic narratives, crafting a mosaic of feelings and moments that transcend the boundaries of traditional expression.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Watching Sky by Judy Brackett Crowe

THE WATCHING SKY, Judy Brackett Crowe. Cornerstone Press, Room 486 CCC, 1801 Fourth Avenue, Stevens Point, WI 54481, 2024, 107 pages, paperback,


            Judy Crowes forthcoming The Watching Sky is a capacious collection, touching on a wide range of subjects with striking lyrical narrative poems. Mathematics, ornithology, multiple species of oak trees (including Quercus lobata and Quercus suber), Eudora Welty, visual art, Kyiv, syzygy, and scores more arcane objects and esoteric ideas make their way into a variety of forms. Free-verse, prose poems, sonnets, contrapuntals, and various nonce forms populate this collection. Writing within this wide of a bandwidth, lesser poets might fly off into abstractions, begin repeating themselves or making predictable gestures for lack of diction, but Crowe remains fresh and challenging in each poem by habituating the concrete, sensorial level of language, even when pointing toward the ineffable. Inside the Pearl” is an example that creates multiple levels of meaning, providing abstract truths within a metaphorical sensibility:

            She swallows the pearl           uncultured it is

            so is she           inside the pearl

            sleeps mustard seed or

                                                        a babes clipped nail or

            a kittens eyelash or

                                                        something else alive and

            spinning warm

                                      she walks toward

            the far distant middleness

            with a pebble in

            her shoe           she put it there

            to remember   always

            that shes of this earth

                                                            not of the air

            she cannot fly     doesnt want

            to fly   all that air swishing

            as she swings ever higher

            toward the moon

            tonight barely one night

            past full

                          she swallows the moon        


The remaining lines of this ars poetica are as emblematic of every poem in The Watching Sky as is this opening for remaining of this earth” while pointing towards the moon,” the poet’s language having swallowed” poetrys familiar images [i.e. the moon], allowing in the end, the pebble, / the spinning night / to save her.” And in some poems, the poet states this mission outright as in The Dirt”—“Youll find the truth in the dirt / damp black honest dirt / Yes the truth and the lies and the silences / The orchid begins in green hush needing / no soil and giving up fragrance / for improbable beauty.” Even when using some abstractions as in this passage, Crowe gestures toward the lyricism that permeates this collection, always balancing the abstract with the concrete.

            Poems are organized into eight sections that remind this reviewer of Gustav Freytags narrative progression from introduction (She” and Words and Pictures, Song”); to rising action (What Matters,” The Doing and the Having Done,” “The Girl,” and Some Others”); to the climax (What Happens); and finally, denouement (This Day Again”).

            Most poems from section one (SHE) contain she” in the first line—“She swallows the pearl…” “Is she dreaming this life or some other?” “Once on a long-ago winters day she drew” “The year she had the breakdown” “She cant hear them falling,” and She wakes up dreaming, goes through the day somewhere”—so that by the end of this introductory section, we have come to know quite a bit about her, as well as the direction this book may take. Dreaming Awake” begins with these lines:

            She wakes up dreaming, goes through the day somewhere

            else, traipses through sleet and wind, cold sun now

            and then, climbs up scree slopes,

            over and around lichen-painted boulders

            skyward to the saints aerie,

            sheep and dogs musical notes

            in the fields far below


After a circuitous route that structurally alternates between narratives including spread[ing]


cardboard, leaves, woodchips / between berry rows” and a foreshadow of berry scent in the


breeze,” a walk to Mary Ardens farm, a wade through high grasslands, where a black-haired


boy on horseback…pleads, / Come along, I can show you a cavern,” and on and on, interspersed

with stanzas about turn[ing] pages eyes skimming word through memorys fog / cant remember what shes read / reads page nine / nine times”—all creating tension both structurally and ideationally—the poem culminates in this final stanza:

                        Some days are like this, forth and back,

                        neither there nor here, al confusion, fatigue,

                        and desultory verve. What else to do by brew

                        passionfruit tea, sigh, pick up the book,

                        turn to page ten.


As within this poem, it is language that drives the organization of the collection, making for delicious side trips and delightful messiness along the way. The poets truth often conforms to music, as in the gorgeous poems, among others Black and Red and Blue on White, 2022,” “Eudora Welty Writes a Story,” “Listening,” and Art & Mathematics” with its concision, repetition, and crafted syntax that minimizes prepositions, particularly in the latter half of the poem, and in the title poem, Watching the Sky” that effectively utilizes prepositions as repeated anaphora, enacting the first two lines and lines later in the poem that articulate a both / and” ideation, rather than an either / or” in a kind of negative capability of simultaneously holding diametrically opposed ideas 

                        Watching the Sky


                           All at once he is no longer young / with his handful of flowers…

                                                W.S. Merwin, Young Man Picking Flowers”


                        All at once he is no longer

                        and yet he will be always

in the beginning and in the forgetting

                        in the young man picking flowers

                        frangipani perhaps whose scent calls up

                        whats been forgotten but not forgotten

                        and in his dreams of wood thrushes

                        of swallows blackbirds

                        of morning sparrows

                        of the garden at dawn and the watching sky

                        he sees his grandmother watching the sky

                        and his mother always looking back wondering

                        and he wanders down the small roads

                        following the dog following the sounds

                        hymns for his father

                        bells and bleating dying sheep

                        the old voices and the new

                        wandering always in wonder

                        at the trees without names

                        at these green hills

                        these sun-hit fields

                        these dark mountains on these blessed days

                        at the vespers hush in the gloaming

                        at the imperfect that remains perfectly imperfect

                        at the unfinished that now is finished


In the midmorning” of the book (in section three—WHAT MATTERS—with action rising and tension increasing between the fulsome present and a future with certain death, a poem appears that is as musical as any poem in the collection. Read aloud, One Early-Summer Day, Looking Back” becomes a tutorial for sound work from the opening to the final stanza, and an analysis of its images teaches readers how to read Crowes work and poets how to show” rather than tell.

What begins in this first stanza with the opening phrase Lying on my cot…” reminds one of the famous poem by James Wright, Lying in a Hammock at William Duffys Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota.” However, instead of ending with a chicken hawk flying over the farm and the poets reminiscing ending with the realization that his life has been wasted, Crowes poem ends with an awakening to a red-shouldered hawks keening…as he gyres up / above the pines and swoops down, his early morning survey complete,” and the poets assessment that It will be a good day.” 

In this poem, as well as in the entire collection, there is a virtuosic handling of images that demonstrates a progression and recapitulation of lifes truths through its various stages from the perspective of early mid-life (Early-Summer Day”) looking backwards from the end After dinner” to the beginning. These images both celebrate life and give encouragement to move forward as in this first stanza (plenty of stars / to follow, and planes and satellites criss-crossing”), as well as foreshadowing lifes end (dwindling patch of sky…blotted out more and more…”). In the remainder of the poem, these images of both life and death de-intensify as is appropriate for the reversal of the day. In stanza two, “…an October Glory, her leaves / shimmery-green now, but… / come October, will wear her glorious red coat.” In stanza three, a cat yowling when she runs / out of steps, out of sunlight”). In stanza four, gray squirrels that strip / dead branches from the lindens,” and in the penultimate stanza, tomato plants with a few yellowing leaves.”

            One Early-Summer Day, Looking Back

            Lying on my cot on the deck, I scan my dwindling patch of sky.

            Its shrunk over the years as the oaks and cedars and pines

            have blotted out more and more blue. Still, there are plenty of stars

            to follow, and planes and satellites criss-crossing. A hawk screeches

            from across the creek. A few bats scurry-fly under the eaves and one

            by one settle upside down.


            The day quiets and shrivels to shadows and soft light.


            After dinner—arugula and watermelon salad, balsamic-glazed grilled

            chicken breasts, bread and wine—we hear the usual two deer curl up

            on the Shasta daisy bed under the maple, an October Glory, her leaves

            shimmery-green now, but she is already pulling back sugars and,

            come October, will wear her glorious red coat.



Mid-afternoon, inside, ceiling fans try to move the air. Alice the old cat

            creeps up the stairs with the sun, one at a time, stretches, and climbs

            again, cat-napping her way up the thirteen steps, yowling when she runs

            out of steps, out of sunlight. I think about where well plant her, near Fritz,

            near Flynn, when she dies. It wont be long.


            Noontime, the jays and crows—they are cousins—fluster and chase and

            carry on their endless raucous conversations. Three gray squirrels strip

            dead branches from the lindens, filling their mouths with bark, ends

            sticking out every which way looking like handlebar mustaches

            gone wild (nest materials, I assume), and they scramble and chatter

            their way up into the branches of the tallest linden.


            Midmorning, I tidy the tomato plants that are trying to escape their cages,

            tie tendrils to wire, pinch off a few yellowing leaves, pull weeds

            along the berry rows, check the few hard small nectarines for bird pecks.

            This year I swear Ill get the fruit before the birds do.


            I wake to the red-shouldered hawks keening and watch as he gyres up

            above the pines and swoops down, his early morning survey complete,

            to perch atop the bar of the swing or on a fencepost or on a low branch

            of a particular ponderosa. The hawk has been here every day for a week

            or so. He will soon move on. It will be hot. It will be a good day.


And then Crowe moves on into the remainder of this collection that feels like a new and selected,” each section seeming like a gathering of best poems from another prize-winning collection, all tied together by craft and voice and tension and resolution and form that enhances and embellishes necessary content. Whether you are a poet or merely a reader of poetry, any day you dip anywhere into Judy Brackett Crowes The Watching Sky “…will be a good day.” 

Judy Brackett Crowe's stories and poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. She has taught Creative Writing, English Literature, and Composition at Sierra College, in Grass Valley, California. She is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.

She believes that the right words in the right places are worth a thousand pictures, and, as other writers have said, she writes to discover what she thinks.

Born in Nebraska, she has lived in the small town of Nevada City, in California's northern Sierra Nevada foothills for many years. She is married to photographer Gene Crowe, and they have 3 children and 4 grandchildren.