They had collapsed into an empty cave of nowness, replacing a past of empyrean wonder with the unceasing presence of burning flesh, condemning the contagious and aliferous joy of birds to smoke-filled air hanging heavy over stone landscapes that had lost all green. What they called life, the promise of continuity, was at an impasse.
They had forgotten to build an ark.
They had forgotten to build an ark, and so they were left standing between a raging wall of flame and an infestation of endlessly rising waters. A fierce susurrus rose from the spirits of the ancestors–an oddly wordless murmur riding on the howling wind, carrying the silent but distinct rattle of bones.
what happens when where we were going is gone?–crows seize the winter sky
For earthweal, where Brendan asked us to fill your poem’s sails with a blast of something akin to the hurl of atmospheric plumes, and dVerse, where Mish has given us a list of uncommon words to incorporate in our poem. I’ve also taken inspiration from Jane’s Oracle 2 wordlist.
I had just finished this monostich postcard when I saw Ingrid’s prompt at dVerse for a poem about a member of the Corvid family. I’ve written drawn painted and collaged many times about crow–not just here, but on memadtwo as well.
My word collage postcards are not always monostich, but many of them are.
That’s an old one, above, entitled, “Crow Says…”, inspired by Van Gogh.
And here’s a recent one done in Poetry Partnership with David, at The Skeptic’s Kaddish. This one is an American Sentence.
arise to witching hour, the moon eclipsing the sun– in afterlight crow echoes his own call
gathered clouds, a bower of reflected light returned, unwrapping into daylight from its pall
orbits overlapping, crossing time as well as space– a hush that parallels the day’s forestall
twin umbras pause, passing– opposites in brief embrace– Aurora wakes, released to fly withal
Another kerf poem, for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday, where Gwen Plano has provided the words Dawn & Twilight. My apartment doesn’t face east at all, but the eclipsed sunrise felt very different yesterday, veiled and stilled, and the crows had a lot to say about it.
1 Did you know? Was it you who sent Crow? Black wings swallowed by the sky—
2 I had time and seasons rising to meet me like trembling in my bones,
3 like Icarus ascending on beautiful foolish arms.
4 Crow and I are not one– but we are together in this cosmos, on this earth.
5 I do not know myself and yet I know of the intersections of that unknown self with the call to attention that is Crow.
6 My mind is busy with trivial things. The shadow of a cry spills everything out empty waiting for the return of listening, watching.
7 O ragged soul— why do you take flight? Do you not see the trees? They are returning from the dead again and again.
8 I know many words and the images that accompany them. But I know too that Crow lives deeper and wider than what I know.
9 Diving diving diving diving. There is no bottom no top no inside or out.
10 At the sight of Crow resounding the light the layers reveal their chorded songs.
11 I walk these streets in oblivion, trying to escape the fear of the known by making up stories that rearrange my life.
12 I hear my fate turn turn turn— how many crows?
13 Always standing in the doorway like Janus—neither and both– cursed and charmed— Crow laughs—he knows I have a dream to fly.
Brendan at earthweal asks us this week to think about the nature of poetry. I first encountered Wallace Stevens and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” in high school and it remains my poetic touchpoint more than 50 years later. But equally important to my connection with poetry was music–first, traditional folk music, and then the whole crop of singer-songwriters that emerged from the folk revival. I love Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”, but “Hejira” has always resonated with me most of all. The form of this poem is based on Stevens, but the spirit and italicized words are taken from Joni and from my own encounters with Crow, a master shaman.
I have not been posting much, and will probably be mostly absent for the next month or 6 weeks–I’m moving (again). But this is good news! I will have a dedicated work space once again, and a real kitchen. I knew the last 2 moves were temporary, but I thought both moves before that would be the last one–so I’m making no predictions. But I’m planning to be there for awhile.
Crow calls to me from above–
“Crowman are you stalking me?”
There he is—on that roof.
Call to attention–
harsh, always interrupting
the pause between the lines.
“Do you want me to look up?”
He extends the invitation again and again.
“I’m telling stories,” shape-shifting in the interlude–
“remaking the recent past.”
how to release and how to begin–
but that part’s invisible,
stark with intention.
“…or do you hear it?” unseen voices echo across the gap,
“and are you laughing at me?”
an interior bathed in blue–
“OK—I’m leaving that world—” memories circle round and round–
“I’m here now, present.” thoughts hang in the air–
“I’m unfolding those regrets.”
Crow flies over my shadow.
“Are you happy now?” the clash of silence, unbound
Crow has been following me around for about 15 years now. I notice birds all the time, but I don’t always know what they are saying to me. I have a tendency to space out, especially when walking. Crow’s message has always been clear: get outside yourself, pay attention.
A message that’s more important than ever. For Earthweal, messages from the wild, hosted by Sherry, a revision of one of my many poems about Crow.
There are robins. Everywhere. When I wake, early with the sun, I hear them over the street sounds of Broadway. When I walk along the path of Riverside Park they stop in front of me, deliberately, waiting to look me in the eye before I’m allowed to continue on my way. Even as I pass dozens all over the grasses on either side of the path, I hear others singing in the surrounding trees.
My daughter suspects a nest in a nearby window to her apartment—she sends a text with a recording—“day and night,” she says.
As she sits by her window working from home, she tells me she sees starlings on the window ledge across the street—“they leap off and let themselves fall a few feet before opening their wings”—we both wonder if this is normal.
I hear a whistle and turn to look—two starlings take off right in front of me and fly towards the river. I see a fledgling by the park wall. The only thing it moves as I approach cautiously is its head—with the bright yellow beak against the grey feathers, it too must be a starling—can it fly?—where are its parents? I snap a photo and walk on. When I pass the same spot, returning home, it is gone.
In the mornings the gulls swoop in groups, weaving patterns around the piece of moon that still sits ghostly in the blueing sky. They cry like cats suspended in mid-air, echoing off the buildings into my window.
A mockingbird moves just ahead of me as I cross the bridge to the park. It never stops singing, going through its repertoire while waiting for me to almost catch up as it hurries ahead again. Another day, I am walking uptown instead of down, and a mockingbird lands on the iron fence just ahead of me. It too is deliberate in meeting my gaze, making sure I stop, nod my head in greeting. Further on a catbird does exactly the same thing. A cardinal swoops down into the grass by a nearby tree, a flash of red that pauses with me before it returns to the top of the tree. I hear more cardinals, blue jays and flickers. Sparrows chatter and cover the grass and path, the bushes and trees; pigeons share the stone walkway, and once, also, a morning dove. Sometimes the pigeons visit my window ledge.
And crow. Crow has been following me around for years. Now he teases me, calling, in front, behind, from nowhere and everywhere. Every once in awhile I am the winner in this game of hide and seek, but I know it’s only because he wants me to see him, to acknowledge his appearance as well as his voice. A murder of crows appears ahead of me on one of my earliest walks, when I was still fearful of going out at all.
I’ve always walked, never having owned a car. But it was with a purpose, to get from one placed to another. Now I just walk. And I have always been aware of birds while walking. But since the lockdown they seem to be multiplying by the day, boldly communicating—something, what?
Many of the world’s cultures see birds as mediators, messengers between the human and the divine. I know what crow is telling me. He knows I need reminding of it, too: pay attention. Get out of that inner conversation you keep having with yourself and look around, listen, be where you are. Robins are symbols everywhere of new beginnings, transformation, tenacity, hope. Birds show us the power of community, the power of voices, the symbiotic relationship between the earth and all living creatures.
These are the days of Covid-19 in the city of New York. Humans are hiding; birds are out in force.
In fairy tales, those who understand the language of birds have magical powers.
places of between
no time exists
carry us home
I’ve been doing Draw-a-Bird Day on the 8th of the month for a few years now at MethodTwoMadness, accumulating most of these illustrations in the process.