Poems by

Steven Croft

The Truth of a Thing Can Come In a Flash

After a phantom ride through miles

of green Yucata̒n jungle, the hotel van moves

under a white stuccoed arch, enters the hum

of Valladolid, passes blocks of row buildings

painted lime, yellow, burnt red. Ushered

out downtown, given "three hours to explore,"

I head for the twin cathedral towers

that watch over the town's narrow streets.

The tremolo sounds of Spanish guitar played

under the lush green leaves of trees reel me

into a plaza where a girl, barely a teen,

sits beside the guitarist, perhaps her father.

Her feet dirty under tasseled fringe of a brown

blanket poncho, I hesitate, hesitate

to be taken in by beggars, wonder if a man

who plays so elegantly can really be dirt poor.

I decide to move on but the girl's "Señor" stops

me, grief the most riveting language.  I finger

out two fifty pesos coins in my pocket -- one

for the girl's hand, and one for the open

guitar case -- this afternoon's price for beauty --

and sit on the bench next to them.


On a day of high sun and bird songs in trees at Chiche̒n-Itza̒

I am at the edge of the Well of Sacrifice, a lake in a crevice

of limestone hills, wait by it as the guide's voice fades,

moving the group down the central plaza -- set to dreaming

by her strange story of crop failure, drought, war, how living

bodies fell here, their blood released by priests, clouding

an underworld of blue water so the carved stone hands

of gods might lift to grace again an anxious people.

I wonder at the death-walk slap of sandals up to the end

of life, on a day like today, the drip drip feeding of souls

to water, lulled maybe by the rhythm of priests' chants,

bowls of drugged liquid from the hands of fervid servants,

how in their steps the chosen dream the rains have come,

the war against the city ended, mid-step, how they might

lift eyes in a shuffling line that idles at the murmured news,

how they are let go, running for the kiss of family with hearts

burning like the liquor from agave plants.

Steven Croft is the author of New World Poems (Alien Buddha Press, 2020). His poems have appeared in Willawaw Journal, San Pedro River Review, So It Goes, North of Oxford, Quaci Press Magazine, and other places, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net

The Green Children of Woolpit

In the village of Woolpit in the county of Suthfolke

in the time of the harvest, on a day of good cheer,

two children found wandering, skins green as young cabbage,

were stopped by some villagers, and what did they hear?

"Zu mireke Sedana?" asked the girl, "Ev baragi dikeet,"

the boy did say.  A woman asked, "From where did you come?

Show us the way."  The children did nothing but still repeat

a strange tongue, palms to their eyes to block out the sun.

In the village they ate nothing, neither meat, porridge, nor bread,

until, in a thatched-roof house, beans were shelled where they lay.

Up jumped the girl who came running, and the boy raised his head up.

They ate raw beans faster than the women could shell them that day.

Taken by the local lord to his manor, the boy pined and faded.

The young girl learned Inglish, did not die like her sibling.

Her story made a fabric spun out of fable: in a land with no sun

both tended sheep when sweet bells they heard ringing.

They followed the sounds to a cavemouth, and through the caverns

to Ingland.  This story is written in the Historia rerum Anglicarum,

how the girl left the land of a Green King to be subject of King Stephen.

So this tale of orphans goes.  Today, Woolpit Village has them as emblem.

Hope's Dissection

"if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid

beneath everything, what would life be but despair?"

--Soren Kierkegaard

The cutaway view of a soul shows it threatened

by plasmic dread of past and future catastrophes:

wide, public, shared by many, or felt alone or by a few;

but a tiny kernel needing zoom, minute focus, is there,

its measurement taking breath away with energy –

while the soul's projector casts holograms, people

laughing, crying, mugging for the camera, some broken

by a despair that lifts a hand to stop the filming, the

reel to reels turn on: humans, carrying this medicinal,

this seed, passing it through generations like iron

in the blood as a prayer against the overwhelming,

its promise a shen ring emanating protective

Van Allen belts around the whole soul, carrying us

on, whispering, "life is a garden where things

always grow again," soothing, its half-life eternal.