Crowfare by Ian Hall

Some only know them by their crew

cut feathering, plumage

kept to

a martial taper. Or how clinically

they chart the human

ruckus, those prodigies

of decomposition. But so unlike

the buzzard, though, who gorges

mongrel on any old haunch

of carrion—a plebe for rot—the crow

dines with propriety, pecks

the forage off its bill

on a littered tampon. The talon always

so fussily kempt

afterward in a bird

bath—the owl, that well

studied miserabilist, watching on

judicially. My father once guaranteed to me

that a crow knows

the GDP of the neighborhood

it circles. They certainly don’t

patrol the holler, he said.

Now your mother’s neck

of the woods, northern Ohio of the industrial

strength carcinogen, funereal quiche, & gore

capitalist, that’s a crow

kind of outfit. We’ve only got buzzards

& no-gumption vultures. Don’t even mention

a raven. Anymore, they’re only in stuffy

old Europe & stories

written by candlelight. They beg

the monocled. A Dukedom comes

with its very own gross

of ravens nowadays. Like a sinecure,

I say, & toe over the turpentine. Well shit.

We are housepainting in a subdivision

three hours from home. Above us, crows

read the newspaper

with their noses—getting up to speed

on breakfast: something shot

less than sportingly in the yard

next us. I watch my father

watch their skyful of dark

reveille & imagine he must think O

to be propertied, solvent, to be enough

of a bonafide that a crow might drink

the pupil rheum from a thing I have

enough dominion over to decide when

it should die. & to be spared even

their prim digestion. Again, unlike the lifetime

of buzzards he’s seen halfwittedly

chawing the easymeat

from roadside spoilage, then chucking

up the surplus founder. He wants

to unwitness the slack

gizzard plumping like a colostomy bag. Tea had,

the crows will browse the high literature

of limb & shingle & power

line—tar-papered dilettantes—until their dinner

cedes to the quick hospice

of a drainage culvert or spice

garden. & beneath them I’ll continue

avoiding my father’s

toilsome eye, the ultramarine

sore as a gash. But the white

paint on his wrist

is on mine too. We are

togethered. It’s tribal, this paint

unthinned by rustwater, iodine,

or elsewise. & in the fungal silence

of the truck, plugging home hours later, we are still

ligatured—my father, ornery in his hunger

to have, and me woebegone with this cold

savvy: being monied is like being in love

or heaven, you never get out

what you put into it.

Ian Hall was born and reared in Eastern Kentucky. He has an MFA in poetry from the University of Tennessee, where he served as assistant poetry editor for Grist: a Journal of the Literary Arts. His work is featured or forthcoming in Narrative, Tar River Poetry, The Journal, and The American Journal of Poetry, among others.

return to poetry                 home