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Ronald Koertge

(1940 / Illinois / United States)

Ornithology


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.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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  • Rookie - 0 Points Colleen Courtney (3/19/2014 8:59:00 AM)

    Great poem! Informative as well as delightful to read. Kept me interested til the closing. Love this! (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,486 Points Anthony Di''anno (3/19/2014 5:02:00 AM)

    Clever. I love poking things with sticks. There is a lot to be said in praise of curiosity, though cats may not agree. I love the way you ended your poem. (Report) Reply

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