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Two Poems

How to Tell the Difference Between a Raven and a Crow

One. For sorrow or joy, crows are the abacus of the common people. Two. The Tlingit know a duality of Ravens: creator and thieving trickster. They don’t always differentiate. Three. If you are asking, it’s a crow. Both birds are bigger than you think they should be, but a raven causes your chest to thump like a rabbit. Four. Both are harbingers, carrion-chasers. But ravens croak and crows sound perpetually startled by the rain their smudged calls presage. Five. The Tower of London closely tallies only the curved bills (with feathers all the way down the bridges of their beaks). Six. Both make good spies. Seven. Both tuck prophecies between their pinions but—Eight—are not to be trusted. Nine. I love them. Ten. In air, the raven’s tail is a wedge. Eleven. And the crow’s is almost as straight as his flight. Twelve. The only trinkets crows have given me are a head-tilt hop and that picked-clean piece of my own rib, which—Thirteen—I wear like a ring on a chain.


The Heron’s Gift

St. Columba had a vision of a visitor
from his native Ireland, and so he sent
his monks to the shore
to collect the wounded bird.

This great blue heron
steals from me. It’s not my brain fog
getting worse. No, for three days,
I see him, and for three days,
time spins from my hands, I forget promises
and priorities. I know
my hawks from my hernshaws
(and my windfuckers from my shiterows—
being one myself), but his pinions wipe clean
my chalkboard mind. I am left with only
a child’s awe at creatures that go up
while I stay down.
The heron does not understand
what he takes from me. He lives
in two times: alive and too late.
Right now, he is alive.
Right now, my hours are in his beak,
my thoughts caught on his silent
swooping rise.

On the third day, when Columba’s bird
had rested, he returned
to the sky, leaving nothing behind
but an ellipsis of a story,
ruffling my thoughts like
four wing beats. . . .

Bethany F. Brengan is a freelance writer and editor who cares too much about birds and comic books. She also enjoys stereotypical writer activities like drinking tea, skulking around libraries, and conversing with cats.