To celebrate the last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month, I’d like to introduce you to Henry Crawford.
This fall, Henry was a featured reader at Wilde Readings — the local literary series I co-host with poets Ann Bracken and Linda Joy Burke.
I was intrigued by the way Henry’s work as a lawyer and software developer impacts the form, content, and rhythm of his writing. More than anything else, though, what draws me into Henry’s poems is his attention to the vivid, precise details that tell a story, or bring a person to life in a few words.
Today, I’m sharing Henry’s poem “Off-hours” from his collection American Software. I’ll link to another poem at the end of this post.
By Henry Crawford
After the late shift
the cops will drop by.
Shots and a beer.
Nightsticks on the bar.
In a back booth
I dream my mother laughing
and there she is — laughing.
Her smudged mouth wide,
“We gotta go now
little guy,” her breath
wet and pine tree
sweet, her boiled eyes
looking hard to see.
The jukebox is dark.
A tired jumble of moths
circle the bald bar light.
Even the cops are gone.
These streets belong to us now.
The radio knows this hour well.
My mother is singing to the wheel.
I’m in the backseat
pretending to sleep, tracing
the roads in my mind
just minutes before morning
on that slow roll home.
“Off-hours” was first published in Scryptic magazine (December 2017 issue). It is shared here with the author’s permission.
If you enjoyed this poem, please check out Henry’s poem “Every Morning Maddie.”
Thank you for sharing this, Laura! Several of the Alabama poets I know best are also attorneys… it’s interesting, the subject matter they tackle in their poems, and interesting also that I would describe their work as “precise.” (a lawyer thing???) I enjoyed this poem as well and could especially relate to the “Every Morning Maddie,” having weathered a child’s addiction. Tough tough thing, and a lonely place for parents. This poem can help! Happy National Poetry Month to you, my friend! xo
Thank you for sharing that response, Irene. You’re right. Henry’s powers of observation somehow make the experience of dealing with addiction (as the addict’s child or parent) feel less lonely.
Wonderful poet. So matter-of-fact, with vivid, intimate imagery.
What an unexpected poem…sadly real.
So great to celebrate the fact that poets are a pretty varied bunch – there’s no one right way to be a poet, and poets can come from any background! Our diverse lives bring all sorts of ideas and elements and inspiration to our poetry.
Thank you for introducing Henry and his poetry. The one you share is beautiful and heartbreaking.
These are heart-wrenching poems, especially “Every Morning Maddie.” So conversational, as if he’s standing by you and relating the happening to you. Difficult but good poems to spread around, thanks Laura.
Wow! These poems touch a deep place. Every Morning Maddie left me in tears.
Thank you for sharing Henry’s work. This poem is intensely moving and I am already reading some of his others. Had to come back here to comment before I got caught up completely.
Thanks for the introduction. I love the idea of dreaming of mom and then she appears. I reread it a couple of time.
Sometimes I read poems like these and call them “bruised” poems, poems that roll up the sleeves that show the bruises few others ever see. Sometimes it is lonely while parenting, or even lonelier remembering growing up, & poems like these ease the burden, don’t they? At least I think they do for some. Thanks, Laura, for sharing.
Thanks for introducing us to Henry’s work. His precise details and vivid images pull us right into the scene, giving us a chance to ponder the larger story.
Good Sunday Morning, a teen-centric weekend has me catching up when they are sleeping 😉
I really like how Linda Baie uses the phrase “bruised poems.” so true. Sadly, I know quite a few kids that could write poems such as this. Instead of writing they are acting out their bruises.
Some of my favorite authors are lawyers. Kathey Erskine, Gae Polisner, Ellen Oh all have backgrounds in the law. I wonder just what there is about that? I imagine the desire to escape the rigid lines of law has something to do with it.
This is one of those posts that is as rich in the comments as the post itself. Thank you for introducing us to this inspiring poet, writing about hard topics (“bruised poems”) with a lawyer’s keen eye.
Beautiful bittersweet lines, unrolled from a life lived with words. Lawyers are unblinking observers, always anticipating. Makes for deep thought and a patient precision.