Two Poems


Ben Corvo


In your experience, it is best to look at wild animals
From the corner of the eye.  A turn of the head, a direct stare
Will be seen as challenge, predation even.  Best to make yourself

Tucked-in, nugatory, a small stone or egg, but hyper-aware,
The way you register, walking, alone, in the woods at night,
Minute gradations of motion, light.  You are ready to disappear,

Make yourself another tiny night-thing, watching the silvered light
Fill with what you fear, but you’ve also learned to abdicate fear,
Haven’t you, walking home through the woods beyond the back gate

Of the university, loose-limbed, silent, half-predator
Yourself, lightless, reading ground finding path through boot-soles, duff, twig, ice,
Terror is for well-lit rooms, the old persistent scritch-scratch, but here

It has become the chilly ichor running through your veins, the face,
Yours, ranging like a second moon through the trees, it is best to look
At wild animals from the corner of the eye, you’ve learned to seduce

Crows, snaring them in your peripheral vision, an entire flock
Has encircled you, you theatrically place bits of your meal
At wide angles, ever closer, the crows eye you, hop forward, jump back,

Until you leave one morsel on your extended hand, just behind, feel
A dry peck-peck-peck on your palm, you have never been happier,
You remain perfectly still, the crows too have stopped their usual

Backtalk and shabby strut, when you raise your eyes (just slightly)
They are almost solemn, staring, days or weeks later a crow (yours?)
Slams into a plate-glass window at the National Library,

The security guard cordons off a little space for him (or her?)
With the red velvet ropes used for visiting dignitaries
Where he (or she) lies semi-rigid, suffering the stares of researchers,

And your own, it is best to make yourself tucked-in, nugatory,
A small stone or egg, breaking for your usual lunch on the yard,
From a distance the crow is a little damp bundle, another

Keeps vigil from the parapet, you are watching too, from the corner
Of your eye, something like a cry building in you, all hour, all hour.


Even in the wrong season,
the ground must be turned.

Even if I’ve made a late start,
even in the day’s heat and congestion,
even in my more-than-perennial distraction,
the ground must be turned.

The crows have taken shelter
wherever crows take shelter,
chameleons scuttle away
at the absolute last moment,
tiny grass snakes stretch themselves
full length in the leaf litter,
and the leaf litter itself
does not stir.

The ground breaks iron tools.
Weeds suck uselessly
at its paps, and tears
roll uselessly away.

Here are the tracks
they make in the dust,
a thin dark line at first
then a fossil groove
shallow but unmistakable.

In this late season, the ground
becomes a reliquary
of tiny marks, to be read blind,
with fingertips,
the way a cheek, yours, is caressed
in old age.

My hands know
the language of each
fold and furrow,
rehearse the ancients tracks
over hard-baked ground
turn skyward.

B’sha-ah tova,
the old women say. The rain
will come “in a good hour.”
Even now
in this late season
(say it!) the ground holds so much
and must be turned.