shadow work

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.

Another collage from the archives.

Thirteen Ways (after Wallace Stevens and Joni Mitchell)

crow #2s

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
.

There's a crow flying # if I flew

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.

apolcalyptic crow 2s

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.

crow tree close up s

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.

spiral crows 2s

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 blackbirds s

13
Always standing in the doorway
like Janus—neither and both–
cursed and charmed
Crow laughs—he knows
I have a dream to fly.

crow #1s

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.

Appellations

Will you reply when called?
What is your name?  The sky
refuses to say why
you hold the tree.

Why have you conscripted
this perch among the dead?
Abide with me instead
amidst the green.

Have my ghosts entrusted
your wings with messages–
voices of presages
destined for me?

Immovable, silent,
a silhouette distilled–
I seek but am unfilled–
inside stripped clean.

For Sue Vincent’s photo prompt above, and Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday, where she has introduced the poetic form Abhanga. I like it, but I think I need to experiment more with it to get the rhythm right.

Also linking to earthweal Open Link Weekend.

As you may know, Crow and I are old friends.

The Local Crow (revised)

crow 3s

Crow calls to me from above–
“Crowman are you stalking me?”
There he is—on that roof.

Call to attention–
the question
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 1s

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.

crow 4s

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.

The Language of Birds

am robin drawing s

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.

painted starling s

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.

fledgling s

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.

mockingbird open wings s

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.

house sparrow drawing 1s

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.

crow 2s

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?

neocolor cardinal s

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.

seagull 3s

In fairy tales, those who understand the language of birds have magical powers.

days
collapse expand
places of between

between
material spiritual
no time exists

wings
open to
carry us home

corvus s

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.

For the earthweal challenge Vast Particulars.

Another Thirteen Days

apolcalyptic crow 2s

1
Crow sits
in the back
of my mind,

2
insistent call
searching
for the source.

3
Crow exists as a continuation–
night overlapping with day.

printed geese 2s

4
Dark shapes,
constant motion.
Behind my eyes,
constant motion.

5
I do not know which to prefer,
black branches
or the hint of green,
the waiting
or the surprise.

6
Wings cross the sky
of my isolation,
weaving through wind
rattling the glass,
suspended
between my longing
and the possibility of flight.

There's a crow flying # if I flew

7
Am I rising or setting?
Can light return
me to my rhythms,
or will only darkness come
to fulfill my desires?

8
I send messages
by breathing,
by listening
through the silences
of birds.

9
I mark the edges
with the songs
of memory.

crow #1s

10
The sky reflects
on the questions
that weave my solitude
with songs.

11
I walk the landscapes
of the unseen,
holding the fear
of endings
in the shadows
of glittering eyes.

spiral crows 2s

12
The sun rises above the roof.
Crow calls me to attention.

13
The days remain
undivided,
uncalendared.
Like the blackbird,
unknown.

13 blackbirds s

The NaPoWriMo Day 14 prompt asks for a poem that “deals with the poems, poets, and other people who inspired you to write poems” .  I return often to Wallace Stevens’ poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”.  Every time it opens new doors.  And Joni…

I have done numerous poems and works of art involving crows, and a selection of the art appears amidst the stanzas above.

napo2020button1-1

this is the place s

Acquainted With the Night (after Robert Frost)

acquainted with the night s

The day was grey, dying, losing its grip. Silhouettes of broken promises cut the distance into unrelated pieces.  The landscape was confined, restless, waiting on the edge of night.

She was unoccupied, absorbed in her solitude, when far away an interrupted cry broke the spell she had unconsciously cast. The stitches fell into the long gone as she tried to gather in the few remaining threads of meaning.  Crow, she said, Crow.  The iridescent blackness echoed and magnified the emptiness of her voice.  She was nothing now, surrounded by the remains of what had almost been.

Wings sounded, pouring into her mind from everywhere. What had been hidden now emerged.  What had been lifeless grew roots and branches and leaves.  The air glittered with possibility.  The intangible multiplied and divided.  The spiral awakened and uncoiled.

She was no longer alone.

acquainted with the night close up shear s

Bjorn at dVerse introduced a new form, prosery, which merges a line from a poem (in this case “when far away an interrupted cry” from a poem by Robert Frost) into flash fiction of 44-144 words.  I am not a fiction writer and I’m not sure this is actually fiction.  But I enjoyed writing it.  I was inspired by finding one of my collage crows while (still) searching for the birdlings.  They’re here somewhere.