Saturday, October 18, 2003

The White Crow 

A white crow sat on a low tree branch
and watched us plow in the April sun.
There was ancient hunger in his stance
but he fled at the sight of Billy’s gun.
In a week,
the seed hands found their scarecrow dead,
stuffing wept from the holes in his head.
We heard, come May,
the gap-toothed rows of corn field say
that crow had stolen much of the seed.

My father said it wasn’t him,
that “white crows are a sign of luck,”
and planting deep was our true sin,
but I knew he was wrong.

The white crow preened with the bride and groom
as if hand picked for the wedding party.
A kick from the priest and away he flew
but the chill that he’d brought would not depart.
Soon enough,
new parents found their baby dead,
his face a pallor like molten lead.
They cried for his soul
as we lowered the box in a fresh-dug hole
and damned that crow to the fires of hell.

The doctor said it wasn’t him,
“the whitest crow can’t cause crib death.”
He surely thought us all quite dim
but I knew he was wrong.

The white crow lit on the window sill
to watch my mother die. I stared
at him and wondered why we fill
our lives with grief and fear, then dare
in facile theories
to shape the world with hate. The crow
and I, we waited for her slow
breathing to stop,
for the quiet hum of monitors
to give way to alarmed furor.

My sister called to say her lines,
the bird was a sign and mom, “God,
she went before her time,”
but I knew she was wrong.

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