Three Poems by James Crews

Small, Good Things

Tonight, the fireflies blinking on
and off as light leaves the sky
are the synapses of my skin
firing as a breeze blows across me.
I sit on the porch steps doing nothing
for the few minutes I allow myself,
letting all the small, good things
from the day gather and hover
like mosquitoes landing with a
tremble among the hairs of my arms.

What if this is all we get of heaven,
little moments of joy sending out
their sharp scent like the basil plant
standing guard by the back door,
its leaves wanting nothing more
than to be torn, their essence released
to the night air. I can still make out
the jewel-like blooms of the purple
crown vetch crowding the flowerbed
around the stone, its vines once thought
to be invasive, though now we know
they nourish and restore even
the most depleted soil in the brief
time they come alive each summer.


How to Meet a Moment

To embrace a moment fully,
surrender your thoughts to the grass
between your toes, let droplets
of dew kiss your bare feet
with innocence, like children.

Walk the path to the apple tree
planted a hundred years ago,
now supporting the graft of a few
leafed-out branches that hold
the sunshine like a basket.

Hold sorrow too, let it rise in you
like yeasty sourdough left alone
in a warm place on the table,
and relish this necessary grief,
the bread of which also feeds you.

But once you’re finished feeling it,
be done. Find some other wondrous
thing to give your whole self to—
blue twine woven in a warbler’s nest,
the seedheads of rye grass waving
in wind, the blades suddenly parting
like the sea for you to enter.


The Call

We think of caterpillars as gladly
munching bitter leaves, marching
toward metamorphosis, and obeying
the silent inner command, which comes
when it’s time to spin the chrysalis,
slip on the wings of that new life.
Yet some decide to wait: they hear
the call to change and simply say no—
too afraid of the days of darkness,
the pain of a body turned inside-
out to become another. Next year,
they tell themselves, then inch on,
unable to imagine the freedom
of floating from one sweetness
to another, stopping on a stone
in the middle of a raging river
to drink and flex the wings they
once thought a figment of some
dream that would never come true.


James Crews is the editor of the best-selling anthology, How to Love the World, which has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, as well as in The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post. He is the author of four prize-winning collections of poetry: The Book of What Stays, Telling My Father, Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment, and his poems have been reprinted in the New York Times Magazine, Ploughshares, The New Republic, and The Christian Century. Crews teaches poetry at the University at Albany and lives with his husband in Shaftsbury, Vermont.