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Elizabeth Crowell

How Was Your Delivery?

My mother’s pale arms waved us home

in the firefly dusk up other steps

of another house with a screened-in porch.

There, my parents read their books

and offered loose comments so infrequently,

I should have held their words the way

you have kept this picture-proof.

In your thick-belted and brown uniform,

your camouflage of ordinary,

you ran up the weed-bearded walk,

dropped the package and took the picture,

evidence of having been there,

before returning to your own country

of stacked boxes and long routes.

I stood out back in the amber autumn light,

taking a whiff of dying mums and acorn dust.

You have done an excellent job, beyond refute,

whereas I delivered my children and now

they are wordless and prone on their beds upstairs

waiting for the rest of their lives.

They are perfect, lost in their transit, delayed,

fragile, not to be bent, containing the usual hazards.

I rip this package open; in it is a book

I don’t remember ordering about our fraying earth.

Painting the Barn Red

I like how the barn takes the color.

The black weathervane above grows darker

spinning its compass, cocky rooster.

The barn brightens my white house.

Then, one by one, our children leave

the house as it will someday leave them,

They go out to the newly-painted barn

and spend their hours there,

as if something on the inside has

changed hue as well. I can see

their cell phones glow in the dark barn

as lanterns must have flushed the frontier plain.

When they come in, finally, they are unfamiliar.

Their eyes hide, their hands sink in pockets.

What? they ask, their voices deeper yet.

I wonder too, and I ask, What?


Elizabeth Crowell grew up in northern New Jersey and has a B.A. from Smith College in English Literature and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing/Poetry from Columbia University. She taught college and high school English for many years. She lives outside of Boston with her wife and teenage children.


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