The Shadow Cage
Can I write poetry of crows,
with their black crude oil sheen,
or is this bird too large for verse?
Too much empty lore to find rhythm on my page.
Still a bird, crows are lost in the pages of prose.
Prose where sky's the limit.
There are no stories of crows.
Stories with crows.
Crows in the corn field at dawn,
undaunted by a farmers old dungarees
stretched over a hay stuffed stick man.
Crows eyeing the gravedigger
whose hip flask chains him to his job,
to his duty of digging holes and planting people,
a crop he'll never reap.
The crow old Maggie Gerhardt's cat once stalked,
only to find a challenge that her feline heritage
hadn't prepared her for,
claws and beak ripped red into the soft fur.
Stories where crows fly in and out of peoples' lives.
But always stories of peoples' lives, not of crows.
Can I cage some crows on my page,
nudge them in, head first wings tucked?
Or is the cage of poetry made of bars too thin,
bars that bend and snap when crows are near.
Then they fly from the cage and perch on street lights
watching me as I pass below.
not chirping songs of song birds,
Calling with that ancient brittle sound,
that bone dust rattle,
that grating call like a fever,
like a plague.
And craning my neck,
I glance up to the top of the light pole
where the crows have been sitting, waiting, watching,
watching me as I walk below,
their black eyes bulging with cold shadows.
They watched me when I was a boy
standing by my older brother
as he took pot shots with his BB gun.
All that ammo expended and I never once saw a crow fall.
Through the years they have always been there,
A winged spot of midnight on warm sunny days.
A black feathered sky rider in misty evenings.
Living shades of darkness on mornings when white fog
swallows the trees and roof tops and light standards.
Through the fog I hear them calling,
that sound like something being strangled.
How can I possibly fit them into verse?
These guardians of I don't know what.
How can I write them?
Their black hidden meaning.
How can I do this thing when I don't know why?
Why the crows watch.
Why the crows call.
Why the crows call to me.
Are they calling me home?
Taunting with sounds that touch off
memories of places and times to which I can not return.
A reminder that I can never go home again.
I do not know their dark secret,
dark as this night that has grown long.
So I put down my pen
three hours past midnight,
three hours until dawn,
three hours until the crows call to me again.