If Barbara were sitting here watching me write this, she’d scratch every sad, soggy, sentimental word, so in respect for her memory and our friendship I will keep it light.
It took no time for Barbara to become a close friend of mine. Poet, writer, community activist, artist, entrepreneur, and most important, friend, her independent spirit and strong character left an imprint on my life.
I met Barbara at my first poetry workshop in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. I was entranced the moment I first walked into her home, which I called the Museum, in her beloved enclave of Druim Moir. I found myself surrounded with art–sculptures made from whalebone, a gilded grand piano, a two-foot stuffed diamondback rattler, a large painting of her son as a boy sitting on a slate roof at sunset watching geese fly south hung above the mantle. Barbara’s original needlepoint, which was her passion as well as her business, filled her home. I’d sink into her sofa with pillows under either arm sporting needlepoint designs of her two Dandie Dinmont Terriors, Baxter and Fiona.
Barbara welcomed me into her life with openness and humility. In the short time we were friends I learned more about her than I know about people I’ve known my entire life. She shared with me stories of growing up on a farm in New Jersey and settling in Philadelphia, her activism during racial tensions of the 1960s, her travels, business experiences, her extensive social connections. Barbara invited my wife Joanne and I to a jazz concert at the Woodmere Museum one Friday night. She knew the band leader and at intermission over a glass of red wine she introduced us to the Museum Director. I shook my head and said to Joanne, Barbara knows everyone.
I would always tell Joanne about Barbara’s home, and one night after a poetry reading Barbara invited us in for a glass of wine and showed Joanne around her Museum while Baxter and Fiona sniffed our ankles and played.
I’m going to miss the rides we’d take to West Philly for readings and workshops–our conversations about poetry, life, the memoir she was writing. My Jeep will be quiet for a little while, but I have a sense it won’t be long before I hear her hearty laugh again, and I’ll ask her to steady my writing hand from the other side.
One of the conversations we’d have driving to and from West Philly was about putting our poetry collections together. I went back and read poems that Barbara had submitted to be workshopped with our group, and am taking taking the liberty to publish the first poem from Barbara’s collection. This poem makes me smile because it is based on a poetry reading we coordinated in Fairmont Park on Forbidden Drive at the historic Vally Green Inn. It was the first week of April and we had a blizzard.
Modest inn for travelers
on Forbidden Drive
in colonial times
on open front porch
laughter of children playing near ducks
down surrounding embankments
meet creek water
Snowflakes in April
Large flat-laced flakes
delicacy undone by gravity
Bare trees silhouetted behind
white patterned curtain
ghost beauty still wanting to be seen
to give words
as fox tilts his head to listen