At Dusk (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Just before dark, the dark shapes come,
winging between apartment blocks,
rasping in discordant keys 
between the naked maples, flocks
of formlessness, each flapping from
some further tracery of trees.

The rabble shriek, as if in battle,
en route to their roost to sleep away
the cold. Swooping across each lawn
and rooftop, ravenous for prey,
winter’s talons aim to rattle
hollow bones until the dawn.

Most head southeast, some head northwest,
or ensconce themselves in the little stand
of hardwoods beyond my windows. The gale
whistles its airs across the land,
testing all creatures, however dressed—
in fur or feathers. Some will fail,

even those with coats like night.
While on my walk today, I found
three frozen in an empty lot.
Those coal-black snowflakes ranging around
the city through the slanting light
don’t give their fallen any thought.

Or, if they do, how might it show?
They stain the sky, flying, crying,
champions at not colliding—
murderous birds not keen on dying—
with a cryptic script I’ll never know,
streaking, scribbling, heaven-writing.


(Appeared in The Road Not Taken.)