It’s Murder; or, On Some Crow Poems

It’s been a funny couple of weeks of running into crows. My encounters started with this one:

The Crow from Home

David Graham

It is the crow from home 
that cawed above the immense 
gaunt bear eating sweet pea vines
and wild strawberries.
                  —Jim Harrison, “Time Suite”

In morning’s maple it is the crow
from home, hunched cackling
on a bare branch as usual,
all disdain and dismissal
just as in 1963, when I labored
up the drive in my snow suit,
a laughable puff of nothing
yet utterly earthbound, sweaty
and pale.  And silhouetted
atop a flagless pole as dusk rose
like a river over the deserted
playing fields of Hanover, NH
in 1974, where I walked
and walked my mind blank
as the snowy streets.  I knew
that crow also.  Same shape
perched on a nearby tombstone
when I poured ashes into
a fresh hole in 2001—not even
an omen, just a torn-off scrap
of night on morning’s lawn.
That black shape also crossed
in front of my car when I drove
down Switzer Hill one last time,
fishtailing, going too fast
in the freezing rain, yet it seems
we both made it from dark
to dark.  Whether bent over
road kill, picking scraps from
the dumpster, flying alone
at twilight over a bare corn field,
that crow from home finally
has nothing in its beak
but the sound of a rusty
door-hinge in the wind, and
nothing to do but swoop low
over me as if in attack,
then up to a roadside pine
landing light as a shadow.

Which led me to pursue the Jim Harrison source, which turned out to be quite a meandering poem, but here are some crow-relevant moments and some other stuff to give you something of the sense of the thing:

Time Suite

Jim Harrison

Just seven weeks ago in Paris
I read Chuang Tzu in my dreams
and remembered once again
we are only here for a moment,
not very wild mushrooms…

In this cold cellar we see light
without knowing it is out of reach;
not to be owned but earned
moment by moment.
But still at dawn
in the middle of Paris’s heart
there was a crow I spoke to
on the cornice far above my window.
It is the crow from home
that cawed above the immense
gaunt bear eating sweet-pea vines
and wild strawberries…

On my newly devised calendar
there are only three days a month.
All the rest is space
so that night and day
don’t feel uncomfortable
within my confines.
I’m not pushing them around,
making them do this and that.

Just this once
cows are shuffling over the hard rock
of the creek bed.
Two ravens in the black oak
purling whistles, coos, croaks,
raven-talk for the dead wild cow’s
hindquarter in the grass,
the reddest of reds,
hips crushed when lassoed…

O lachrymae sonorense.
From the ground
paced the stars through the ribs
of ocotillo, thin and black
each o’clock till dawn,
rosy but no fingers except
these black thin stalks
directing a billion bright stars,
captured time swelling outward
for us if we are blessed
to be here on the ground,
night sky shot with measured stars,
night sky without end
amen.

Then it so happened that I attended a concert of Schubert’s Winterreise, in which Schubert gorgeously sets poems by Wilhelm Müller, and low and behold:

Die Krähe

Eine Krähe ist mit mir
Aus der Stadt gezogen,
Ist bis heute für und für
Um mein Haupt geflogen.

Krähe, wunderliches Thier,
Willst mich nicht verlassen?
Meinst wohl bald als Beute hier
Meinen Leib zu fassen?

Nun, es wird nicht weit mehr gehn
An dem Wanderstabe.
Krähe, laß mich endlich sehn
Treue bis zum Grabe!

(My translation:)

A crow was with me
drawn out of town,
and to this day ’round and ’round
my head is flying.

Crow, whimsical thing,
will you not leave me?
Will you claim me
soon as prey?

Well, it won’t go much farther,
this walking stick.
Crow, finally see me faithful
to the grave.

And in this sudden quick thaw of February, indeed the crows are active and whirling.

References:

The song:

David Graham’s poem is from:

https://www.terrapinbooks.com/newmdashthe-honey-of-earth-by-david-graham.html

Jim Harrison’s poem is from:

The Shape of the Journey by Jim Harrison

 

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