The Crows

(a block from my childhood house ran the tracks; a nut-canning factory sat beside them, with a groundcover of crushed nutshells. I used to dream the trains got off the tracks and ran through the streets at night–)

We are the crows.
We stroll between railroad tracks,
trading brown coins.
We rise to the wires
when a train blows by
it storms and sucks at our feet
that are like stolen twigs
rasping their scales together,

In the morning
warehouses pile
just inside our vision.
The grey lights switch all day
and we shake from our feathers
broken dust and walnut shells.
We peck between steel thighs.

Once one of us
jabbed his beak in tar. Gravel stuck to it,
he slowly starved.
His fish-roe eye was desperate; he clung
to a glittering telephone pole.
When he fell through the dusk
we were the crows
watching the train-light slice him
like a dust-filled egg.

on the wires at night
our heads are filled
with our dreams,
that thunder through the streets
swollen huge and runaway,
soot slapping the trees.

Riverside, Calif. 1969