Dear Readers, as you know I love corvids of all varieties for their playful nature and for their intelligence. I was delighted to find this poem in the London Review of Books this week: it is a long time since I read a rhyming poem that seemed quite so dextrous and unforced. And I love the final stanza. It gave me goosebumps.
A.E.Stallings is an American poet now living in Athens, and she has this to say about her work:
“The ancients taught me how to sound modern,” she told Forbes magazine. “They showed me that technique was not the enemy of urgency, but the instrument.”
And yes, the bird in the photo is a raven rather than a hooded crow, but the point still applies, though if any of you live near Portland Bill in Dorset, I would recommend a trip to watch the ravens cavorting and tumbling in the wind off the cliff. And if you don’t, and you’re on Facebook, can I point you in the direction of ‘In the Company of Corvids‘ for some truly wonderful photographs?
And now, the poem. See what you think.
Hooded Crow: Corvus cornix
On windy days the crows cavort
Down slides of air for autumn sport.
They dive and spiral, twirl and spin,
Then levitate to ride again.
That wind that makes their airy slide
Comes tumbling down the mountainside,
Tousles the heads of trees and drops
To the sea beyond the cypress tops,
And drinking at the sea’s blue lips
Makes paper sailboats out of ships,
Whose distant swiftness seems repose
Compared to capers of the crows.
Their calligraphic loops concur
In copperplate of signature,
Or in formation they prepare,
Drilling at dogfights with thin air.
Watching them, I want to say
They are intelligence at play
And in their breath-defying flight,
Daredevils of a deep delight.
Of course, who would not rather be
An aerobat of ecstasy?
But it takes grounding to observe
Their every barrel roll and swerve
Against the sky, the way their skill
Makes the unseen visible
With two unlikely forces twinned:
Their turn of mind, the wanton wind.