The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Maureen Micus Crisick

The Pear Garden


The name of this moment is May, ten o’clock, a gentle light spills

over him, like a glance from a dream. Noor’s hands are root-strong,

sane as scrub pine. The welt of African sun doesn’t disturb him as he

sings Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques, the black curls flying. Morning bells

are ringing.

Noor, whose name means “light,” designs his life with color and

earth. Yesterday, he built a pear-shaped garden with stones painted

blue. Now the planting of peach, plum, apricot and palm bought at

the souk market, and the strange African carob tree with messages of

cocoa and locust beans. Bougainvillea claims its place on the wire

fence, a trail of small orange rags. How do you explain the sparrow’s


Noor lugs buckets weighted with well water, to the olive trees, once

gaunt things, now alive with silver and sprig. With a hammer made

from stone, he stakes the saplings, then showers black dirt under

each tree. You can tell the character of a man the way he tamps the


To bring Irish luck, I throw dried marigolds, wheels of wealth, over

my shoulder, soon to nudge their way through pebbles in the

widow’s yard. Basil, dill, garlic around the house to banish evil.

Let me be in slow motion to plant Cheryl’s salvia seeds. Because she’s

Japanese, they will bloom to red kimono sleeves. Ellen’s snapdragons
will purse their lips in yellow and Turner orange. Brightness, like her,

comes from inside.

Today brings yesterday and I meet myself on the Iowa farm where
once I had a mother who surrounded herself with the Latinate names
of flowers, a lovely voice still in the ear: geranium, nasturtium, columbine,
rosa multiflora
. Pink gladiolas, too, with their small stabs of happiness.

In September when the sun holds nothing back and hangs out fire
to chisel a neck, to mock the blood, before the thieving birds come
flapping from the mountain, before their wings shadow the fruit,
when the fig leaves are as large as a crow’s foot, he will harvest.

But now, he waits for the migrant rain.



Maureen Micus Crisick



At the end of Rue Hassan where clouds disintegrate
over the Atlantic, in a cemetery

littered with plastic bags and ghosts
of hands that once carried them from the souk,

you leave a note at her tomb.
Nearby, three lilies honor the dust.

Some days, even weeds bloom brutal here.
When the world hurts, you visit her:

she stays alive for an hour or so,
still veiled and white, she purifies you,

a mother-voice in the ear: Where are you going
Home through the same maze of streets, cold

as snakes, past the beggar with the flesh-filled eye,
where once again wind stings the face.




MAUREEN MICUS CRISICK's poetry has appeared in American Scholar, Poetry, The Sun, The Minnesota Review, Journal of American Medicine (JAMA), River Styx, The Gettysburg Review as well as fifty other journals. Her collection of poems, Night Train to Budapest, won the Middle Tennessee State chapbook contest. She taught poetry and American literature in Morocco under a Fulbright Fellowship and now resides both in Morocco and in California.



Previous | Next