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Michelle Beth Cronk: Halfway to the Dark
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.
  • Reading Michelle Beth Cronk’s poetry, one senses a soul that has experienced its share of “rock-heavy” moments and that seeks solace where it can find it: in water, in the rustling of bamboo, in tea, in coming home. What’s the relationship between that solace and what’s to come later?

    Skipping Stones

    “Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear?”
    —Tao Te Ching

    I have been dredging deep
    water for years,

    gathering once quiet stones,
    unsettling the bottom of the river.

    My pockets are rock-heavy.

    It’s time to give them back.
    Skip them through the surface

    one by one, wait to see
    what happens.


    Reading Levertov in the Mountains

    If you were here
    you would tell me

    how cold lives
    below mountains
    on the lake

    how the creek
    passes over
    tumbling stones

    and the perfect branch
    hangs somewhere in
    a hillside of pine.


    Dragging the Woods

    Evaporated oceans
    gather heavy
    in the sky.

    The trees will
    tell you
    what you need

    to know. Look
    for a torn piece
    of cloth on

    the lowest branch
    and the ground
    will whisper to

    your eyes. Find
    the flat rock
    dropped in pine

    needles near your

    Head east until
    you cannot hear

    If you lay the rock
    down in ripples,

    the lake will
    never be
    still again.



    Sometimes at night
    I hear

    imagine prayers
    for rain.



    Streetlights burn on—
    rows of fireflies
    in narrow jars.


    Thin Tea

    The day brews and then—
    the moon,

    ghost of
    an empty cup.


    Dim Sum

    There was a steep impression
    of tea, the distinct taste of

    lotus leaf and rice among
    the blossoming street lights.



    Somewhere among the unseeded rows of dirt:
    my hands sift and search and the sun is never
    brighter than right after days of rain,

    highlighting the saturated ground which has not
    yet lost its swell. So I see now that the loss
    of this weight is like any other loss—it requires grief

    and a relief from ending, a path which leads to
    the next beginning. My hands press randomly
    against abandoned roots as if loss could

    be quenched by a touch and held back even
    as the water drains, evaporates. However it
    disappears. There will be more before it is done

    and I will continue to knead, to brace for the loss
    of heaviness, to turn among the emptiness
    of all this waiting.


    Coming Home

    In the spilled porch light—
    a snail, halfway to the dark.



    Your voice, released,
    comes to find me on long flights—

    lands near and imagines that
    I listen.


    Constant North

    (for Richard)

    In my hands, your head
    feels heavy
    with what we have had:
    the weight of those
    we have lost.

    I have loved you so long
    that our pathways are worn, smooth with
    the fullness
    of our tragedy and joy.

    Life, once overgrown,
    snapped through until
    this wilderness became
    home. Back and forth

    we walked, trading burdens,
    throwing sparks to make fire.
    Wearing ashes, traveling by
    starlight whenever

    we lost the moon. I still
    stand, hands out,
    and wait for you.

    So we live our joys,
    lay our sorrows down together.
  • Michelle Beth Cronk is a past editor and contributor to PoetryCircle. Her current whereabouts are unknown.
  1. J.S. Jones
    "Skipping Stones" and "Constant North" are absolutely wonderful.  Refined without feeling ambiguous/empty.  Really, really love those two.  Kudos.
  2. David Belcher
    Thought every one of these was wonderful. Every line here is considered, reduced to its essentials. At no point did I pause and doubt.
    This is how I would like to write.
  3. TrishSaunders
    There is a quiet loveliness in these poems. Each one excellent.
  4. brendan christopher
    i  really enjoyed this collection and will return to it.  i especially like the very short pieces here, which reminded me of work from the ancients. in particular, i found "thin tea" and "luminaries" quite striking.  also the line from coming home--halfway to the dark--is a title that perfectly encapsulates this collection.
  5. Dragging the Woods is a fave among these but all are gentle reads I enjoyed the time I took to feel them
    Jay Dougherty likes this.