Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nothing Happened

There are times when the end of a workday is long in coming. Saturday was one of those days and from early morning to late afternoon I was captive to a paint bucket and brush. Community spirit at the beach today. By this point I’ve seen enough green paint and flaking doors to last me awhile. But at least painting somewhere off by oneself allows time for the mind to wander and now and then to dwell on comfortable thoughts. Somewhere between the twenty-third and forty-sixth front door my mind turned to a poem by Barbara Crooker I happened upon earlier this week. It wasn’t the first occasion for me to come back to the poem, since the poet’s lines have been in and out of my thoughts off and on throughout the week. The first time was the day I read the poem to Jewel, my 94 year-old friend. When I read the poem and reached the last line, her immediate comment was, “Why, that’s beautiful!” My guess is that most would agree.

The poem comes from a 2001 collection by Barbara Crooker, “Ordinary Life” and is a plain narrative in unadorned language of the joy that can be found in the prosaic movements of an ordinary day. The poet uses words of daily expression to narrate the uneventful happenings in a day that passes unmarked by anything other than quiet joy and contentment.

Crooker’s book, Ordinary Life is currently unavailable through major booksellers, is out of print and likely hard to find, but the poem “Ordinary Life” is part of the Garrison Keillor compilation, Good Poems for Hard Times.


This was a day when nothing happened,

the children went off to school
without a murmur, remembering
their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch's little scraps.
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow,
preened and flashed his jeweled head.
Now a chicken roasts in the pan,
and the children return,
the murmur of their stories dappling the air.
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb.
We listen together for your wheels on the drive.
Grace before bread.
And at the table, actual conversation,
no bickering or pokes.
And then, the drift into homework.
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa's ridges and hills.
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss,
tasting of coffee and cream.
The chicken's diminished to skin & skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard cold knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
order themselves
into the winter night.


  1. "Ordinary Life" is a powerful poem. It reminds me that beauty can be found if only I open my eyes and see. Thank you.

  2. I have a fat notebook full of poems I've found on the Internet, many from Garrison's Writer's Almanac. Finally the notebook would hold no more, and I started a new one. Have been waiting for a special poem to come along and be number one in it.
    Thank you for sharing this one with us.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America