Keen Caw

by Jacquelyn Shah


* We made tangible feathers from intangible thoughts

     stuck beaks to our mouths using ampersand glue

* I work quietly, wheeling over myself

     a crow over death, a crow in mourning

  * . . . broken-tongued . . . now I can caw, understood

  * This crow knows starlight comes from his own voice

  [Clark Moore, Pablo Neruda, Sujata Bhatt, Alice Notley]



Crow-creating in this crepuscular period of gloom––weary nights  weak mutter

lament––when I am moved to make crone new  grow claw & wing 

stick beak to lip  spark beady eye from eye bedight with feet

tests the flap of inspiration, bringing risk of work precipitate

from frangible feather-thought  I seek to find starlight in keen & caw


So I caution cranium: keep weathered brain from strain to slow  down  development

that devil not devolve wild thought into warring elements until too-open beak

should bludgeon with bleak shrieks  or slur with mere insinuation   

Highlight with discretion, be blatant but sleek

sly sophisticate of somewhat-sorcery & recherché accretion

Be cagey, I counsel inky-self, in your uncaged ascension



Hatched then as Crow, black smattering

of plumage  eye-tongue-heart gleamy jet & filmed in mystery

I’ll raise colossal wing till raven-like tip points

to rampant pig-grunt cupidity & penury across our spacious plain


Huge Crows, shivering with horror

are wheeling over   alighting on, mobbing mourner-me 

Nothing can escape this crone-as-Crow now, prone to look-note-craft, pulling

words & ampersands to crop, digesting then divesting, pressing black blaze 

into veil of verse  No chintzy chirp, Crow’s cardinal Caw! Caw! denouncing suns   

as reckless white-white-white  blinding streams of minus-light scorching fruit & amber grain

Bird-tweet is pinchbeck  With breakneck pace Crow grows riposte, arcane



Will I die soon?

Leave behind all keening, corvine brickbats?

Soon see before that death, a death . . . a death–a death–a death–a death . . .

collapse that marks the growth of a world distorted, no longer solid

but cracked & sordid?   Darkness there   nothing more   forevermore

where someone always lies  This time flies black flag of too-white self 

posturing as pilot  more pygmy than giant   old It–Guy with swag & swat   

sounds unsound   steerings   stoppings   skullduggery 



Do not ask the world what is it, what doesn’t only visit 

but revisits revisits revisits:  iniquity of unimagined gross

stupidity       Human plight is 

redblackbrownyellowwhite   inscrutable & durable   absurd & risible


Let Crow disambiguate a bit, gravitate to one clear bit (write it!): loss = disaster



Mislaid crowns on cretin-crook & cronies?  Dismayed, crone begins to gag & diss . . .

then stops . . . keeps hope & bird-hop   From loss reforms   flapping faster   furtively, furiously      

Crow flaps faster-faster-faster!   Crone, revivified, unveils in verse from head-light 

new voice, keen strain––Caw! Caw!  What risk?––aster-minus-dis may multiply, accrue to–– 

                             *  *   S  T  A  R  L  I  G  H  T  *   *