The Birds of Ancient Battlefields Visit the Suburbs

In the nodding midday,    a murder of crows.
So loud they haul you    from a lulled house
where news of a war    nests in the walls.
You stare to the end    of the street, where they roost
not in the maples   on mowed lawns,
carefully straight-edged,  calm, but the stripped
crown of an elm    dying of canker:
The flapping rags   of their funeral clothes.
The air-wrung cries.    The creature they rail at
(you think, squinting    at its backlit squat)
is a cat, hunched hard  against the havoc,
harried. But how,   so improbably high,
has it ghosted there   to that grim resistance?
Your neck hairs bristle   in a thin breeze.
Your shoulders rise.   Now, from the riot
of mobbed clamor,   the muddying cat-shape
grows great wings.   It glides away,
owl after all,  soundless, awful,
a soul departing   the place of slaughter.
The din dies down.   Occasional cawing.
Quiet. The carrion    far away.


by Maryann Corbett