Photo by Alice Popkorn
Crows on the North Slope
When the Gentle were dead these inherited their coats
Now they gather in late autumn and quarrel over the air
Demanding something for their shadows that are naked
And silent and learning
W. S. Merwin
The mystery is here - who, for instance, are the Gentle - and over 45 years later followers of Merwin know he tills the same soul, while Nature calls the tune. This time of year, as the sun has edged over the horizon I can see for the entire two miles, and beyond, that I walk home from work, the evening movement of, I'm told, up to 16,000 crows every evening across the greater Pittsburgh environs.
If you've never been to Pittsburgh, it is startling to realize how perfectly integrated this mid-size American city is with the natural environment. It would take a lot shorter period of time than most American cities to revert back to its original condition if, for instance, the much lauded Pittsburgh zombie apocalypse ever came to be.
I ran across this poem in an early volume of Merwin's work, entitled Animae, which I found in one of great local used and rare booksellers, Caliban Books. A volume full of wonder.
with our gods out of town
they raise a ruckus...