Roost

by Janice N. Harrington

Featured Art: Crows in a Tree by Charles François Daubigny

Circling above bare limbs, like Dalí’s wild and articulate capes,
black wings undulate. Raucous hundreds settle and splat
their stench. A murder of crows, a give-a-fuck mob,
stirs the air above ash and oak and hackberry, milling
and loud with news: day heralds, unwelcomed Cassandras.
Dawn light pinched by a crow’s beak, pieces of light falling
everywhere, bright meat that the crow pecks, strips away.

The crows know my neighbor’s face. Knowledgeable birds,
they know the way I hurry each morning, the way my eyes try
to read their dark signs: articulate smoke, curtains
of a confession booth. Blessing? Pardon? Mercy?
The stories say that crows suffer scorched wings, that they
are cursed for stealing from the gods. But the stories, as always, err,
wind-running, wings wide, a-glide on a slide of air,
black bodies, bituminous-black, cosmos-black rising to soar.
There is no damnation in their dizzying speed, the break-wing
improvisations of their flight. God–blessed and black,
their sharp notes strike my skull like hailstones or chunks
of sky, dark bodies that lift my eyes and scorn gravity, a lesser law.


Originally appeared in NOR 25

Janice N. Harrington is the author of the collections: Even the Hollow My Body
Made Is Gone, The Hands of Strangers, and the newly released Primitive: The
Art and Life of Horace H. Pippin. She curates “A Space for Image,” a blog on
poetic imagery, and teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois.

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