Beginning With Crows
They have so much on their minds;
as they cast their eyes across the darkness
the moon shines like the Holy Ghost.
The wind makes the trees forget their leaves,
the trees no longer trees, as stars swarm like gnats
in the arms of the Madrone.
There’s the spring of the branch
as the crows take wing,
and the Coleman lantern shuts down
with a last breathing sigh,
a sudden hiss.
All morning the splattering of rain
bruising the sidewalk, streams of water
trickling over the hardscrabble. I’m here again
by the kitchen window, dark clouds rising in the West.
There’s no one else; just yesterday’s dishes
left by the sink, the white porcelain cups
half filled with coffee, the broken umbrella
by the front door casement. Suddenly the sun,
a flight of sparkling starlings, all turning at the same time,
their shadows flickering along the garden fence.
We can’t see them,
but we know they’re there,
playing their oboes off tune---
a relentless melancholy,
they careen through the fog,
one after the other,
breaking into the neighbor’s field,
a sequence of rolling wingbeats,
as they drift to the earth,
flaring their wings, easing into the fallow rows.
We know we are blessed
by their simplicity, their innocence,
the way they crouch,
looking at one another,
looking sideways at the winter corn,
bristling their feathers,
tucking their heads under their wings,
metallic purple-green necks,
perfection of form,
pure emeralds in the early light,
soft gray thunder when they rise.
It doesn’t make any difference
if seven mallards break away
from the treeline, that the broken
moon drifts aimlessly
to the East. These things happen
every day. I know if I wait
long enough another star will appear
on the horizon, a bright thought
that no one comprehends.
That’s why I keep walking, though
you are not at my side; shadows
reaching out like arms
from the cedars, the wind carrying
words we can’t remember, brushing
the needles on the firs. It’s starting
THOMAS MITCHELL received an MA from Cal State University, Sacramento, where he studied with the poet Dennis Schmitz. He received an MFA from the University of Montana where he worked with Richard Hugo and Madeline DeFrees. His writing has appeared in a number of journals including The New England Review, New Letters, Quarterly West, Chariton Review, The New Orleans Review, and Cloudbank. His new collection of poetry, The Way Summer Ends, was released in October by Lost Horse Press.