Saturday, December 12, 2015


A mad crow as depicted by Diane Moore
In both places that I live, Sewanee, Tennessee and New Iberia Louisiana, I’ve always enjoyed the company of crows – those black, glossy bodies flapping, then gliding across the sky, landing on trees in my yards. They usually recognize me, and lately I’ve missed their strident conversations when I walk outdoors. I’ve begun to wonder if the felling of the pines in my front yard had anything to do with their disappearance. Or they could have become ill with West Nile Virus since the mosquitoes in my neighborhood have been breeding apace. Whatever the reason, I strain to hear their familiar caws and hear only a few cardinals singing “cheer, cheer, cheer” near the backyard coulee.

I’ve read that crows have real family values. Their offspring stick around to help with younger siblings, often feed Mama Crow and the siblings, and defend their home territory against invaders. Families can include step-parents, nephews, brothers, and even orphaned crows, and in New York some crow roosts boasting as many as a million birds disappear in March when breeding season begins.

Since breeding season hasn’t begun, I don’t know why my crow families have disappeared, but I suspect that their absence has something to do with the murder of the three large pine trees, which had often been their perches. The sound of those trees falling was like a bomb dropping on the street and frightened several neighbors who came out of their houses to see if we’d been victims of an ISIS attack. Usually, the crows had responded to the whisking sound of my broom as I swept off the leaf-strewn patio and drive — a futile exercise that invited their raucous laughter.

I’m including in this blog a new crow poem from a book of poetry that I’m working on entitled Street Sketches — one that will have a cover photograph of a glass piece based on one of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings and rendered by the master glass artist, Karen Bourque, of Church Point, Louisiana.


They circled overhead
like buzzards on the desert
waiting for us to tip the ladder
as we cleared overflowing gutters,
streets they perceived to be theirs,
landing fields closest to the empty house,
streaked windows they had peered in
and seen unlit lamps.

Was I only deceiving myself
about the intent of dark birds
others feel are dressed in misfortune,
thinking they’re heavenly agents,
creatures that speak in parable
strutting in the garden
and bringing messages of good will
directly from the angels?

When they left their roost in a dead pine
and soared into the sky
it was laden with the raucous noise
of a new language they had created
because we had gone away
leaving their streets untended,
the defiant sound of prophecies
we struggled to interpret.


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