Étude in the Form of a Crow

Crows punctuate my life   pierce   slice
swoop   dive   origami folded   enter
my dreams   disrupt   subvert from within
cardinals   magpies   jays   the whole
extended corvid clan   anthracite feathers
rouge feathers   blue-speckled and barred
camouflaged by pinons   junipers
madronas   more cousins than my wife’s
family   the few I have I don’t even know
my sole aunt childless   three sisters
childless   only my daughter   just the one
now moving her nest away to another part
of this city where I migrated west decades ago
receded   diminished   and will vanish

Stars of their own film noir   a murder of
a mob of   a chaos of   cacophony of
aggravational alarm clocks set too early
strewn across the sky   pointillistic contrast
with overcast   creeping onshore flow
perch on trees   chimneys   roof tile ridges
eaves   light poles   powerlines   gather
nonchalant on scarecrows in gardens
under the gazes of inflatable owls   they
settle   fret   hunch   huddle   somber morticians
that don’t even sing   just raunchy   raspy
gravelly fado   duende blues riffs looped
tricksters   thieves   remorseless voyeurs
bad luck omens   shadow ninja stealth
tattoos   Odin’s snitches and drones   baby
desert tortoise gobblers   shell crackers
squatters on dumpsters   squabble over
fast food bags in the middle of the street
refuse to move for oncoming cars
until the last possible moment then
hop right back   you cannot kill them
or try   they remember your face and
will give you no peace after that

An avian black hole coalesces
absorbs all light   they mass   congeal
congregate   cluster for the night among
cemetery eucalyptus torches far down-
canyon in a different drought-stricken
county in which my parents are buried
they overwhelm superstructures   overhead
mesh   criss-crossed limbs   dangling
peeling bark   pointed leaves with deckled
edges   narrow desiccated daggers that
twist in the slightest breeze

Charcoal sketches   kinetic sculptures
hardwired to go for the eyes   blind you
steal shiny buttons   coins   bits of foil
your soul   a surreptitious photo taken
underexposed   murky   dim   bird-shaped
landmines define the perimeter   the barbed
the chain link fringe   mounds of black powder
fuses primed   await a spark   any spark
psychotic babble in bushes   most definitely
off their meds   swirl   converge   intercept
harry me airborne like I was a hawk

Oblique cock of head   iridescent as
oil slick   crude   blued as a gun   cunning
jet beads take sidelong measure
watch   twitch   ruffle   worry   prune twigs
with rock-paper-scissors lacquered
clacking   bristled beaks   hyper-alert
algorithms assimilate   scavenge griefs
memories   regrets   process   intuit
more than I presume to know   they’re
laughing at me   these cruelest mocking-birds
malevolent Iagos   gracking not whispering
as if there were an alternative   a secret
velvet VIP exit   reprieve or plea bargain
commutation   loophole evasion of Corvidae
justice   natural law   the steep decline
spiraling nosedive   inevitable hard landing
how to see past   make sense of it
with all those wings in the way





Jim Natal is the author of three books of lyric poems: Memory and Rain, Talking Back to the Rocks, and In the Bee Trees, as well as two collections written in contemporary haibun form – 52 Views: The Haibun Variations and Spare Room. A former NFL executive, multi-year Pushcart Prize nominee, literary presenter, and co-founder of indie publishing house Conflux Press, his work has appeared in many journals and anthologies.

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