The Dead Do Not Return: Featured Poetry by Barbara Crooker

November 12, 2019 | 1 book mentioned

Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem from Some Glad Morning, the new collection by Barbara Crooker. “No one gets excited when they see sparrows,” the narrator writes—an apt metaphor for how Crooker looks at human bodies aging and worn, in fear of being forgotten. Crooker’s lines are often steeped in melancholy, but her sense is powerfully redemptive: Those gone from us are still part of the fabric of this world, woven into our longing and our memories.


Sparrows for sorrow. One for everyone you’ve loved,
the missing. Count them under the feeder: one two three
four five. Mostly whitethroats, singing O Canada or
Old Sam Peabody, depending on where you come from.
Drab at a distance, but boldly striped when you get close,
bodies of tan and brown, stark white throats, a splotch of sun
between eye and bill.

No one gets excited when they see sparrows, although
the rusty cap of a chipping sparrow signals spring
when they come back. The dead, though, do not return.
Spring brings splashes of color: orioles, indigo buntings,
rose-breasted grosbeaks, all back from the tropics.
But my interior weather is winter, where the missing
gather by the fire, then vanish like smoke. The bare
tree limbs, the black and white landscape punctuated
by the muted palette of brown. And below the feeder.
juncos in their gray and white vests, house finches
drab as Wednesday mornings, goldfinches still
in their dull winter garb. And sparrows. And sorrow.
Come back, we shout, into the wind that scatters them.
But they’re gone.

“Absence” from Some Glad Morning by Barbara Crooker, © 2019. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University Pittsburgh Press.

is a contributing editor for The Millions. He is the culture editor for Image Journal, and a contributor to the Catholic Herald (UK). He has written for Rolling Stone, GQ, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Esquire, and the Kenyon Review. He is the author of Longing for an Absent God and Wild Belief. Follow him at @nickripatrazone and find more of his writing at

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