Clarinda Harriss




As a rule it's just a raucous chat of crows.

Today, no:

it's appropriate to call it "murder," so


loud the noise—like irons hinges, rusty

rasp with iron's bloody

taste—this slate-gray late-fall Sunday.


I ran outside in the rain. Mouth agape,

l stared up

the way they say a turkey drowns.  Abruptly


the cawing stopped. Sober crows surrounded

the house.  Brown

trees grew new black leaves, it seemed.


We watched each other, silent, crows and I,

a little while.

It was cold.  I turned away to go inside.


In a burst of brutal swoop and squawk

the birds took off.

I turned again to face their awful


show.  Again they settled meekly

in the naked trees.

I said to myself (or hardly breathed)


under the discord of their pitch-black pitch

I'm still a witch

mother crow, crow-meat, crow-bitch.



If the bike thief Christmas morning

If the burglar who took only a shower

If the tomato-gobbling garden vandals

If the guy who dropped

            face-down in vomited wine


had knocked at my door and told me

I'm hungry I'm dirty I'm bored

I've been ignored by Santa

Claus for forty years I'm dying

            of cancer and my aorta's blown


I'd have said Welcome take eat

this is my house your wishes

            are about to come shiny true

            I'll make like I love you

            for as long as it takes you


Wait.  This is perjury.  I'm a person

like her, like him, I'm a human

whose third word was No

whose fourth word was Bad

whose fifth word was Mine.

Clarinda Harriss teaches poetry and editing at Towson University (near Baltimore, Maryland), where she chaired the English Department for a decade.  Her most recent poetry collections are Mortmain, Dirty Blue Voice, and Air Travel, all from Half Moon Editions, Atlanta, GA.  Her collection entitled The Night Parrot was published by Salmon Publishing, Galway, Ireland, and a number of her poems are anthologized in the recently published volume Salmon: A Journey in Poetry   Her poems and short fiction have won numerous awards.   Professor Harriss is the longtime editor/director of BrickHouse Books, Inc., Maryland's oldest literary press.   She has worked with prison writers for many years



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