Interesting how one event follows another. Yesterday afternoon as I was driving past the dump, the sun was so blinding that the resident ravens, perhaps thirteen of them, went crazy flying in a circle overhead, shifting back and forth between clockwise and counter-clockwise. I thought of Wallace Steven’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and how when I was a middle school teacher that poem had inspired me to write one about a student, a lonely black-haired girl who ate lunch in my room each day to avoid the horror of being rejected by her peers.

And then this morning, as I was reading comments on a post I published yesterday, I found the following from *jdawg, a fine writer and one of my former middle school colleagues.

“So many ways of being present–reminds of Wallace Stevens and those blackbirds.”

This old poem’s for you, jd.


Under endless indigo clouds,
shines a ray of hope
in Raven’s new gold lip-ring.

She feels fractured,
as if Gorky
had painted her as a raven.

Raven on a bike darts through
puddles mirroring leafless branches.

Two cat-eared girls in the hallway
are one.
A girl and a girl and Raven
are none.

She does not know which to prefer,
the confusion of connections,
or the safety of silence,
a raven mimicking crows,
or only imagining.

Rain slams against the classroom window,
like tiny birds crashing into glass.
Raven’s lip-ring flickers
like the lone candle on a cake
she is drawing.                                                                                                                     Her inaudible voice
hums happy birthday.

O crowing kids of Fairhaven,
why do you imagine you are the only birds?
Do you not see a raven
waiting in the shadows
for even the tiniest bits of your garbage?

She hears whispers
and vulgar, undeniable rumors;
but she knows, too,
that ravens can mimic every bird,
or choose not to.

Raven sits
at the edge of a circle,
she is invisible.

At the sight of her ravens
reading Twilight under florescent lights,
the librarian, an old bird herself,

She flies to the sick room.
Once, when fear pierced her
like a glass knife
the nurse mistook it for indigestion
and sent Raven back to class.

The bell is ringing.
Raven must be thirteen.

It is a cloudy afternoon.
It is raining
and it is going to rain.
Raven stretches her nimble limbs
across the seat of her bike
and pedals home.

Painting: The Raven (Composition #3) Arshile Gorky, 1931, Cubism.       http://www.wikiart.org/en/arshile-gorky/the-raven-composition-no-3

Some consider Steven’s poem to be an an example of cubist poetry because it is concerned with multiple perspectives.

*jdawg blogs at https://jdawgsrunningblog.wordpress.com/

12 thoughts on “Raven Turns Thirteen

  1. I remember writing poetry in my teens, but because it had no form I could see (Haiku is different) I never knew if i was done and never knew how others could tell when they were done and never knew why so many admired poets who I could not connect with. Other than liking it or resonating with it myself, as with art, there was no way to tell (for me) when it was good. Does any of this make sense? I don’t think I’ve ever said that out loud (sorta kinda, in writing here.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It makes perfect sense, Katie and it’s nice that you were able to verbalize that thought. I don’t really see poetry as different from other art forms. The poet just knows when she’s done, though that often takes a very long time and many revisions, but not always. Sometime poems arrive intact and one simply accepts them.

      As for resonating with poetry, well, like with visual art, it’s impossible to connect or even appreciate everything. Some art just doesn’t work, or is ugly, or not engaging, or even boring. Same with some poems. But, of course, what one loves in art or poetry is not the same as what dazzles another. Sometimes, it takes forever to find an artist or poet who absolutely consumes you, like Mary Oliver or Pablo Neruda or … well don’t get me started … but once you do, they’ve got you forever. Where I live, our sweet town is absolutely swarming with talented poets and visual artists (as well as musicians, dancers, etc.). It’s quite amazing, like waking up in a perfect, poet’s dream.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mary Oliver, yes. Kenneth Patchen (I can even recite some I’ve read them so often.) Alistair McLean. People ask how you know when a piece of art is done. I feel it is done. As I mature I know that feeling and stop fussing. Possibly that is the same?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We have Mary Oliver in common. I just bought her new book, Blue Horses, which is magnificent. She still walks and writes each day, which is great for the rest of us.

    As far as knowing when something is done, that’s incredibly hard for any artist, but for writers it’s especially difficult because the heart of good writing is revision and the potential for that is unending, unlike with watercolor or pen and ink. Contrary to what most people think, most writers love revision because that’s where they polish, even with poems, of course. But with longer works, like novels, it can take years. I’m talking about literary fiction or creative non-fiction. Trade are often more formulaic and certainly lend themselves to a faster process. As far as knowing when to stop, I guess it’s the same for writers and artists though, personally I find visual arts far less stressful. Don’t know why. You’re right, at some point you just recognize the “feeling,” and you’re done.


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