Wings so black they look green. If a raven hears gunshots,
it flies over, happy. Crow-killer, bark-peeler, spike-billed
ego river. In the parking lot the raven walks leaning forward,
hands back, like a clerk keeping his coattails out of the mud.
Is it true they will eat your dreams down to the fingers?
No, not really, because they would eat those too.
How ravens got so smart:
they open up each other’s heads, take out the brains,
put them back.
Hey Raven, Polar Bear said, while you were away
I made love to your wife.
Raven said, Hey Polar Bear,
when you weren’t home I ate all the seals you had hidden in the snow.
I found your den and filled it up with shit. Hey Polar Bear,
when your wife walks around in circles like she’s drunk,
ask her who ate both her eyes
and then sat on her shoulders
Watch and wait: if Magpie eats something
and doesn’t die, drive him off, bogart
the rest. A raven knows it will not live forever,
but unlike us doesn’t complain about it.
Edgar Allen Poe thought he was writing about ravens
when it was only some crows. A raven can open a baby
abalone with a rock, can open the locked lids
of dumpsters, open an account in your name
and clean you out faster than a con pulling
the world’s fastest con job. In Nazi Germany,
extermination vans were called Black Ravens.
Who is smarter, people or God? We invented
a way to play Mendelssohn on the violin;
God invented ravens. Most ravens can speak
English, German, Dutch, Norse—
but only to Odin. His names for them:
Thought and Mind. And in Paiute, Ah’-dah.
For the Washo, Kah’-gehk. Shoshone, Hih.
In German, der Rabe. Adjective: rabenschwarz
black as Ravensbrück.
If like the raven you could be the king of all the murdered people
what would you say to their children?
Silly people, I set out lumps of fat for you to eat
in the crook arms of birch trees. You spit it out
and said it tasted bitter gall. I gave you sunlight
and you preferred drain hole and peepshow.
Culverts attract you, iron bars, new ways
to kill things. I may eat the dead deer’s
entrails splayed beside the car-killed
carcass, but remember, people,
when done, I can fly away.
For you, small and on all
fours, where will you go,
what black sky will
ever take you
Ravens rest on black volcanic rock
where gray sea flows into the horizon
of darkening sky. Each has pulled into
himself, listening in the caverns
of mind to the god’s call.
There is no good news to carry home.
Valkyrie have busied themselves
over bleeding earth. Raven eyes
have seen beating wings, horses
mad and wild, snorting their steamy
breath over a hundred fields where men
fight and groan and die. Women watch
fires burn all night, too many bodies
for grave mounds or graceful ships
filled with gold and gear, too many starving
children, too many angry dogs. The ravens
rustle black wings and rise, seeking
currents that will carry them back to the tree
and the god with a single eye, blinded with smoky tears.
Hugin and Munin fly each day
over the spacious earth.
I fear for Hugin, that he come not back,
yet more anxious am I for Munin
Mind and Memory fly
the end is here
not near but here
the machine goes on
but Mind and Memory will not return
not this time
strong men shuffle
there is no regret in this now
there is peace for some
stillness and simplicity
others fight till they understand
the ravens will not return
Mind and Memory
in this hateful now