Young girl in field of flower mustard

One Poem by Craig Van Rooyen

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Mustard: On Turning 55

Mornings like this, when
              the sky vacuums
                           the back of my neck
                           and the hills

keep their secrets so smugly,
              I think the wind is trying
                           to set me straight.

And here I am
              ducking behind mustard—head-high,
then some—like I can hide from God
                           or a bum knee.

To look up
              is to peek through a galaxy
shape-shifting too fast               to connect the dots.

It’s the kind of breezy dawn
              a Bell’s sparrow can ring in
              just by holding on
                           to a bend of yellow.

What has the morning awakened?

              My mouthful of years.

Nose-down, the dog disappears
              then turns up anointed,
black back petal-spangled.

I’ve walked with three dogs on this hill
              and scattered the ashes of two.

My lines             fail

              the sky suddenly too bright.
I am out of season,
              a husk among husks.

Where are we going with us?
              my daughter asked, at two.

To see the lupine’s many mouths, I said.

Here is hummingbird sage, the bruised trumpets
              of morning glory.

Now she is off
              learning the things
I was not brave enough to tell her.

There are days we live
              as if death were everywhere.

Where are we going with us?

Down this path worn smooth
              by our ten thousand steps,
around this hill we have circled for years,

              like leashed pilgrims,

until just now, slipping suddenly

              into yellow.




Craig van RooyenCraig van Rooyen is a poet and judge who lives on California’s Central Coast. His poems have appeared in 32 Poems, Best New Poets, Narrative, New Ohio Review, Ploughshares, Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere. He is a past winner of the Rattle Poetry Prize and was recently shortlisted for The Moth Poetry Prize.

Read two poems by Craig van Rooyen previously published in

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