They’re everywhere in the Book of Kells,
eating grapes with lions, perched on the heads
of snakes, contorted in roundels, crammed
inside letters: languidly draped on an H
or painfully squashed in a U. The pale host
appears on their tails instead of extravagant
blue/gold/red eyes. The monks thought their flesh
incorruptible, symbol of the resurrected Christ.
Sometimes their feet are twined in grapevines
growing from chalices. Sometimes, the cup’s
upside down, and flowing vines spill over.
Sometimes, we’re startled into beauty:
the flare of blue fire when they open their fans.
Once, driving back north from Florida,
the world returned to black and white,
we were forced off the interstate by an accident.
A foot of snow on the ground, and more still falling.
Suddenly, as if conjured, a peacock flew
across the road in front of us, its exclamation
of blue-green iridescence all the more startling
in this colourless world. Did we really just see that?
we asked each other, but then the road turned
and we were back on the highway,
safely delivered, on our way home.
This poem is from Barbara Crooker's recent book, The Book of Kells (Poeima Poetry, Cascade Books).
Barbara Crooker is the author of eight books of poetry; The Book of Kells is the most recent. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse. www.barbaracrooker.com
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