By g emil reutter
This had brewed for twenty years, gurgling, steaming until this voice called out from Southern Missouri. The poet tells us in the introduction, “…I am, thus very careful with anything that truly angers me. No irritates. Not annoys. Angers. Infuriates. I will not be careful this time “. When I was a Girl Like Me by Margaret Bazzell Crocker is a reflection of the heartland of America. Crocker captures the economic struggles, earned trust, love and yes the anger of the heartland.
The last stanza of The Wrench, Crocker captures the struggles of women in America:
You hold my green card,
you hold my countenance,
you hold my rights, decisions and future sight,
you hold my agency,
my reproductive rights
and my freedom to move within your regions,
you hold my paycheck, my promotions and my wherewithal,
and you held my tongue.
The repetition is powerful capturing the ongoing struggles for equality with a stark warning, simply stated in the last line to misogynists, Unit now.
In the poem Döstädning, (Swedish for death cleaning), captures the everyday struggle to survive that not only exists in the heartland but from coast to coast.
We grew up poor,
raised children poor,
went to school poor,
had three jobs apiece,
sold things at the pawn shops and bought them back,
only to sell them again for food,
We had bills we chose to pay,
and bills that haunt us still.
We ate things from a can that should never be canned,
When our lives were Döstädning, morning to night
and morning again.
We are only beginning to understand possession
and the pride of it
when you tell me that minimalism
is all the rage.
Tell a stray cat
about all you discovered during your Döstädning.
Tell a worn backpack on the highway,
a shoe on a high wire,
my pawn shop receipt.
Tell my W.I.C. vouchers about how decluttering my life,
and realizing how close to death we really are
will make me
and my children
In the poem, The Duck at the Park, about a forty two year old metal spring duck Crocker offers up crisp images and metaphor. The duck at the park/is a carnival on dead trees. In this one line one can see the kids springing back and forth above the mulchy ground. Crocker is descriptive as in 2nd stanza, Forty-two years of young riders/have taken layers of the duck’s skin and seat/home on their pants,/ revealing like and Everlasting Gobstopper/ uneven rings of primer and touch-up/ beneath still,/ as gaudy greasepaint/ in sun and wind,/like a flower that smells better as it rots.
Then there is this in the 4th stanza, of great metaphor and realism:
Today I have sketched the duck in the park,
the duck that with living ducks flying on my perspective,
seems more alive by color and movement,
and I’ve drawn it to remind me
that living is not fading,
and living is not sitting on a rusty coil in rocks
and waiting for anything to move you,
it’s being dangerous sometimes
to those who least expect it
and myself, too,
and living is bending a little more
and exposing myself to come-what-may.
And so Crocker has much to say in this collection of poems, capturing images and life as she knows them, in fact so very well. The poems are presented in a fashion that will stay with you long after reading them.
I leave you with the opening stanza of For Carrie:
I am of an age,
many things do not astound me.
I am in the new bracket,
mine eyes have been opened.
I drive the gray car to a cream office
work a tan day
and dream in taupe and robin’s-egg blue
I speak 1-dog 2-kid small-town big-fence talk,
and I forget
there were ever girls like me
that saw girls like me