Monday, January 24, 2011

the one where I dip into old files

I have been reading Mary Oliver again, checked out Thirst from the library last week. This book is about her faith, which I didn't know, but that's fine. I sometimes find it hard to express my own faith. When a poet has the ability to do this without making me cringe, I am grateful.

She really is like a poetry course in a single collection. Her work makes me want to write poems but convinces me I have so far to go that I'll die before I get there.


This winter we are having is a bit more cold than I can bear these days. Last year, I was "secretly" happy to be in the middle of winter. This year...well, it's felt like too much. Today the temperatures climbed back up into double digits, and we only had flurries.

Still, I feel frozen even though my typing hands are hot.

I feel old and unsettled these days. Mostly, I am tired, I suppose. Today, when I should have driven the 40 minutes to the good auto body shop for an estimate on the damage my garage did to my car's front fender when my 16-year-old misjudged distances as she backed out, I didn't. I stayed home, rested, prayed, wrote. I'll do it tomorrow.


I have been thinking about crows a lot. Murders of crows are plentiful in my little neighborhood. I find crows, fat crows big as my cat, making little dents in my yard with their fat beaks. They perch in my maple and fir and laugh at me.

I have a minor history with crows, slightly unhappy. I'm suspicious of crows. They are not a good omen in my experience.

Still, I have a ... what? A hook? I have a hook that will pull me back into more creative work.


I drafted the following poem in a poetry class I took with Roy B. more than a decade ago (the first draft was hideous and I'm sorry to say dear Roy mocked me until I stormed out of the classroom and drove home to hug my child. He told me it was an "alt delete." He was almost right. I rewrote it to prove him wrong).

I thought after writing this poem, I would be well shod of crows. Guess not. I think there's either another poem brewing in my bubbling brain or crows will make a symbolic appearance in a novel I'm writing.


The afternoon the thug-like crows
invade my back yard, I have
a half hour reprieve while husband
and daughter go out for groceries.
It is two days before our anniversary.
Eleven years married.

I could pack my tote bag
with my journal, my three-inch high Buddha,
my little bronze Shiva, my blue and white
painted rock, a gift from a friend's child,
now a grown woman with man troubles of her own.
I could dash off a note, Gone fishing,
climb into my red Honda Accord
and run for it.

But I don't. Fear of flight, I suppose.
Instead, I sit on my patio
and pretend the faux naturel setting
of my back yard calms me. I listen
to the blue jay hatchlings chirp.
They are just old enough to hop
in their nest and flap their untried wings.

What have I done in eleven years?
Quit a job, lost a mother, borne a child,
moved cross country, lost a father, saved
a marriage. Eleven years.

When the adult jays begin to screech,
I look up into the tree where
they've left their chicks. A crow perches
about two feet from the nest. I push
out of the faded deck chair, a wedding
gift from my husband's brother,
and run to the tree, clapping my hands.

The crow looks down at me. It side-steps
toward the babies and dips its head
into the nest, as if bobbing for apples.
I holler at it in my asthma hoarse voice.
Up it comes with a tiny, twittering,
fluttering bird in its beak. I feel it crush
those delicate bones: snap, snap,
twig-like. Feathers drift down like angel hair.

Elizabeth Christy, 2000


  1. well, this is just beautiful. like reading angel hair. i like mary oliver, too (i mean, really, who doesn't?), and i like crows. but then i don't have to live with them denting my car and all.

  2. oh, and hey: i see you keep good company. i enjoy most of those blogs, too. and the poet laureate of kansas? she's a friend and was my 2nd semester advisor and 2nd reader for my thesis in grad school. way talented, that one.

  3. Oh god, that last stanza is crushing. You build up to it well.