Thirty-Six Crows

Steve Klepetar


One crow sails from branch to branch, black

slash in the morning sky.  Four crows perch

on a wire, regard me with the scars of their

ancient eyes.  I am drunk on the sight

of crows weaving their snaky patterns

through leafless trees, sharp beaks gouging

deep at memory’s core.  For three days

now, I have longed to follow crows on a

broken journey to the surging sea.  Black

waves along the river, black clouds tumbling

in the tremulous sky.  I have worried crows

with my frozen breath and gathered sticks

on silvery ground, twisted clever talons on

spindly legs of fragile birds.  Twelve crows

troop across the frozen lawn, beaks needling

at the leaf-strewn earth.  I count them on

the knuckles of my bloody fist.  Six crows

slash and nibble at a carcass in the road,

black and red and a dull sheen of lifeless

fur. My hunger grows, I pick at my meat

and feel the anger in my stomach surge. 

I feel the phantom pain of severed wings.

Sometimes my hands are crows, weaving

shadow plays where fire stabs the cold flesh

of night.  Two crows live behind my eyes –

I dreamed of crows, oily feathers 

in a dance of black flame.  I tasted crow’s

scent in  bitter air, sailed along the seam

of candle smoke and rain.  Somewhere

crows fill the air, flutter and alight,

startling at rough sounds of barking dogs.

Exploding from the tallest trees, thirty-six

crows flood the desperate well of moon,

dabble dark new stains on astringent faces

of stars.  Their bodies are cold and their raw

voices shatter in shards and sting the western light. 



Steve Klepetar teaches literature and writing at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota.  His work has appeared in many journals and has received nominations for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web.