“The Culture of Crows” by Lynn McGee

The Culture of Crows

Crows keep their enemies close,
roosting deep within borders of human
habitat, peppering landfills, buzzing
traffic and dropping acorns, waiting
curbside, bustling with pedestrians,
claiming their snack.

The old maple’s branches are beaded
with crows, street lamp guarding
their sleep, and at sunup, young crows
tease rubber strips from windshield
wipers, their mother’s hot belly lowered
onto pulsing eggs, relatives bringing
French fries, popcorn and a snake soaked
in a bird feeder, head wagging like a toy.

Hunters leave crows’ corpses scabbing
the fields, and owls deliver swift
decapitation. Blue-black against an icy lake,
an old crow poaches fishing holes; beak
pulling, foot holding, cleverness charted
by researchers sweating behind ski masks,
crows known to pick a tormentor’s eyes,
nose and mouth from the crowd; diving,
shrieking, bringing back-up to shadow
their target’s miserable foray into the open—
or maybe it’s one of their own evoking
judgment, and sent tumbling from the sky,
community showing its other face
to the weak, the awkwardly
flapping, as the joyful, lethal
cloud descends.

Lynn McGee’s poems are in forthcoming or current issues of The American Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, 2 Bridges Review, Hawai’i Review, Bluestem, and The Same. Her poems also appear in recent issues of Tilt-a-Whirl, Big City Lit, Literary Mama and The New Guard; one poem a finalist and one a semi-finalist in the Knightville contest judged by former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall. She was a 2011 Finalist with Honorable Mention in the Winning Writers War Poetry Contest, and a 2010
semi-finalist for the Dana Award. Her poetry chapbook, Bonanza, won the Slapering Hol national manuscript contest; she earned an MFA from Columbia, and lives in Brooklyn.