Monday, February 2, 2009

Jack McGuane's "Bones of a Crow"/from Come Together

Bones of a Crow

Home from the Navy after the war,
out in the woods one day I shot a crow.
He fell straight down
a shapeless heap of blood,
beak, black feathers,
one baleful eye.

In that unexpected instant
another predator died too.
I wished I could take back
the 00 buckshot
that tore him apart.
I couldn’t bring myself
to touch his body.

As I float down now
into the old neighborhood
fifty years later,
I notice at first that I’ve outlived
three sugar maples my father planted
the year I was born.

Someone vinyl-sided our house.
My parents saved for years
to afford asbestos shingles
from Johns Manville,
the latest thing in 1937.
We were the second house
to have them I remember.

A new subdivision crowds out
the sassafras and wild huckleberry
in those woods across the road.
Down by the railroad trestle,
a huge concrete pipe lies
where we used to skinny-dip
in Doxey’s Brook.

Four blocks up DuBois Av.
a Seven-Eleven
displaces Warnken’s Grocery,
where I landed my first job at fourteen
delivering phoned-in orders.
I saved tips for two years
to buy that shotgun.
After the crow died
I would have given back the gun
if he could still be alive.

But, the neighborhood moved on
and so did I, eventually,
and the bones of the crow
are buried now
under one of the new houses.

Still—I sometimes wonder—
lying out there in the woods like that
how long does it take for time
and seasons and the patient rain
to carry off a tortured memory?

Here are a few words on peace:

Jack McGuane


Bones of a Crow

This crow has come to represent, for me, the antithesis of an entire galaxy of violence and un-peace which many of us live with these days. While crows donʼt usually typify peaceful creatures, the sudden death of one crow at my hands somehow created in me a stronger impulse to wage predatory peace in place of predatory violence. It has occurred to me that peace and violence travel parallel pathways in opposite directions, and it is incumbent on those of us on the peace path to do whatever we can to coax those going the wrong way to jump the track and head back. Despite the common conviction that violence remains the status quo, when enough of us become persuasive that peace is achievable, it will become endless. Imagine, endless peace.


Due to my physical condition Iʼve had to drop out of the organizations I was part of. About all I can do these days is continue to write about the peacefulness and non-violence Iʼve long been devoted to. Iʼm also devoted to the idea that drops on the ocean can change the ocean and while this isnʼt a downpour Iʼm still here throwing tears of peace at the water.

Peace and Blessings



John Burroughs said...

Good poem! Thanks for sharing it here!

Lyle Daggett said...

I've been dropping by here since I discovered Behind the Lines sometime last month, enjoying what I'm reading here. Especially appreciated the deeply vulnerable and moving poem and paragraphs here by Jack McGuane, with whom I wasn't familiar.

Also the recent poem you posted by Tomas Transtromer, whose work I've loved since I first read him (in Robert Bly's translations) in the mid-1970's. And, certainly, very much, the ongoing exploration you've been making of the events and history in Palestine and Israel.

Thanks for what you're doing here.

Philip Metres said...

Thanks, John and Lyle, for checking in. It's strange how these little communities develop, across thousands of miles, and sometimes closer, from these isolato blogs.