Refuge by Barbara Lydecker Crane

—Revere Beach, Massachusetts

I’m one of just a handful of walkers
on this bright but cool June day;
the ocean’s at sixty degrees, if that.
I nod to the young man sitting, watching
the only swimmer paddling around.
Can you tell that she’s Ukrainian?
he pipes out of the clear blue sky,
and he continues, She’s my mother.
Two weeks ago I flew to Ukraine
to rescue her and bring her here.
That stops me in my tracks; I ask
what that was like. Complicated
and hairy, he says. I nod, picture
chaos, and ask if she will she stay
in this country. Yes, she’ll go on
living with me, he says with pride
spread across his sunburned face.
I wish him the best of luck, then turn
to glance at the woman again. Wading
in to shore, she’s in her underwear,
and grins as she returns my wave.
I’m guessing if you flee your war-torn
land, the last thing that you’d think
to take would be your bathing suit.

by Barbara Lydecker Crane

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem somehow manages to convey joy via the contrast with war with a skillful and delicate touch.

Poet’s Note: This poem is 100% true. You never know what stories you will hear from a stranger, just by nodding and smiling to someone at the beach.

Secret Adages by Barbara Lydecker Crane

Secret Adages
“Write nothing down in ink” is the secret’s first rule;
“You promise not to tell?” said the secret’s first fool.
A secret’s likely safe if entrusted to a stranger;
one who knows no English will further lessen danger.
Secrets may be sweet, too delicious not to share.
To savor them together might double tempting fare.
Don’t hide a guilty secret no other person knows;
like mold behind a ceiling, a spreading fester shows.
Revealing every secret, a link to each regret,
will drain away a soul to an empty fishing net.
“Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.”
(But more about the bodies, Ben Franklin never said.)

by Barbara Lydecker Crane

Editor’s Note: This clever poem uses rhyme and meter to effortlessly lull the reader with amusing advice right up until the killer last line.

Scandal by Barbara Lydecker Crane

Madame X, by John Singer Sargent, Paris, 1843-4

At last, when she allowed me to depict her,
this married beauty linked to love affairs,
the critics brayed I’d broken every stricture–
her brazen stance, décolleté, her air
aloof–as if with scorn, her head is turned
aside. She flaunts herself and yet withdraws,
a self-preservation I have learned.
Beyond this daring portrait, did I cause
reproof for what in me I must conceal?
Despite the furor, I did not take this out
of public view. The work is vital, real–
and over time, its scandal gave me clout:
what once made Paris critics blanch and fret
now flaunts its beauty at the New York Met.

by Barbara Lydecker Crane, first published in Think

Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic sonnet gives voice to the artist and art history simultaneously, with impressively rhymed lines. Also, if you’ve never seen this painting at the Met, I highly recommend it. It’s luminous in person.

Overhearing Candy Hart by Barbara Lydecker Crane

Overhearing Candy Hart

TRUE LOVE, the cloying little candies bray.
If I could write those slogans, I would say
RUE LOVE and throw in KILL ME NOW.
I’d switch each KISS to DIS. That U R COOL
just fuels a bloated ego. I wouldn’t hide
the brutal truth: I’d print U R A FOOL.

But call me candid Candy: I confide
that I might be the bigger fool, the Hart
who can’t say no. When a guy gives me the eye…
he’ll promise me the world but then depart
at dawn. Good-looking dudes like you might lie.
I’m Candy, sugar and spice–but salty, too.
I think nice is boring. HOW ’BOUT U?

by Barbara Lydecker Crane

Editor’s Note: Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this silly sonnet amuses us as it imagines a girl who dares to be spicy and salty instead of merely sweet.

Circling by Barbara Lydecker Crane


My mind circles and dives as I await the test.
Tomorrow looms, the date of the test.

I’ve cleaned my nest, done mindless chores,
trying not to concentrate on the test.

I knit and mend, as if my hands could forfend
a need to operate post-test.

But thoughts pierce the sultry, summer sky
to illuminate and equate the test

with dire news. I wish that I could wing it.
I wish I didn’t have to cultivate another test:

will I do my best to deal with fate?
With flying colors, Crane, you state that test.

by Barbara Lydecker Crane

Editor’s Note: This ghazal uses the repetitive form to highlight the obsessive worry we all feel when awaiting news of medical testing and possible illness. The emotional stress is haunting.

Announcement:  CLOSED to submissions until August 20, 2015. I will resume reading on August 20, 2015. Daily poems will resume on August 24. Thank you!

At a Cemetery Door by Barbara Lydecker Crane

At a Cemetery Door

Her father said that she could go explore
the other graves while he sat down to rest
at Grandpa’s. Shedding Sunday shoes she wore,

she searched for recent dates, short spans–her test
designed to prove that modern-day children
rarely die. Subtracting brought success.

Then at a little tombstone house, her skin
prickled at her peek through the door.
She shrieked to glimpse the specter just within:

two ashen feet faced her on that floor.
She leapt and fled through gravel and cold grass
and blurted what she’d seen to Dad. In a roar

of laughter he reminded her that glass
reflects the looker. That girl of nine tried
to laugh and let it go. But it would last,

her cemetery sight–white feet inside
within a chain of days or decades more.
That vision stood and could not be denied.

by Barbara Lydecker Crane

Editor’s Note: This amusing terza rima doesn’t fall prey to its form. The story and characters are as important as the rhyme, and give us a glimpse of life and the memories that stay with us longer than we ever expect.