“Crow-Magnon” by Howard Price

Howard Price


Everybody’s dying this week,
and for no good reason, that is, no money in it,
and suddenly second opinions are like men wearing
tiaras and women at the gym 4 days a week building huge
arms so they can both look better in a dress. For sure,
third and fourth opinions at a minimum now, since it occurs
to us that the real money’s not in dying but living, and doing
whatever, to hide the forty years of duct tape that holds
us together, is not such an unreasonable ploy. The new plan is to
benefit the whole time we’re alive, make out like undertakers,
even as we prolong the agony of playing second banana
to our bodies, as if playing second fiddle is too respectable,
as if the timbered glow of maple, spruce and willow
played by horsehair on sheep guts, is. It’s impossible to stop
people from watching a crow and its chosen profession
of turning a wrapper over and over in the street for an hour
until it’s found whatever isn’t inside wasn’t worth the effort.
Crows live in neither one of two moments of contemplation.
The transparent thoughts of their starless lifetimes
have yet to cross the endless reach of their one contiguous mind,
and before we count every step we’ve never taken back to home,
they’ll pull each day from our thinning hair as needed,
while we watch amused, happy we’re not so stupid.
Very often one crow gets what another crow wants.
Same goes for people. God can’t tell us apart either.
Just watching the trick, the magic,
the reveal of how many ways the same thing
may be done to great or little effect, we, who are
so easily drawn to any mindless exhibition, end up
postponing strategies that could cure or move the world.
After a while, if we’ve lost our way and have deferred
the objective that we’d promised to commit to fully
for a crow’s age, and another crow’s age, and another
and another, we turn around and paste the blame
on the odd habits of a clever bird with fifty billion twins
that seems so happy unearthing a useless treasure
from a paper bag, and then shamefully admit
that watching its never-ending gig
is no less interesting to us, the very same,
who threw the bag on the street,
in the first place.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
Rattle Poetry Prize Honorable Mention


Howard Price: “My wife of many years passed away and I began to write. And she will always be gone. And I will always be writing. Sometimes you go with a choice not made—one of those imperfections of life.”

Rattle Logo