Ornithology - Poem by Ronald Koertge
Walking toward the library, I pass three children
staring down at a dead crow and daring each other
to poke it with a stick.
I stop, too, because I know a little about crows -
how, for instance, they are different from ravens.
I could tell these well-dressed children that:
ravens are black a with purple tint while crows
are denied that royal hue. A crow's tale is squared-off
like the crew-cut on the boy at Menchie's who hands
them the expensive frozen yogurt
while a raven's tale is triangular, a shape discovered
by the Persians and beloved by the 17th century
mathematician Blaise Pascal. Furthermore, ravens
love solitude and prefer remote hills and woods
while a crow will perch on a stop sign and brag
about it endlessly.
But that isn't what they are concerned about.
They want to know about Death. And for that
I would have to fetch the skull from my desktop
and ask the sun to hide its face behind a dark,
galleon-shaped cloud and then -
Oh, wait. They're offering me the stick. All
they really want to know is will I poke the corpse.
Of course. And when I do and it moves, they
run away shrieking and delighted. More alive,
if possible, than before.
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