By Keith Michael
In the dark, alarm clocks ring-a-ling, Millie’s tags upon her jingling,
Interrupt my pulling clothes on, as she’s likely thinking, sore,
“Hey, it’s way too early morning. You just woke me without warning.
I dreamt marrow bones were warming, asked for, yapping, something more.
Let me go back happ’ly napping, oh, so sound upon the floor—
Sprawled out on the bedroom floor.”
This, since last week (though eyes bleary), my routine’s been (not so dreary),
After hearing tips about—a Raven pair—I’d not ignored:
“Washington, near Westbeth, early! If seen once, they’d come back, surely!”
Studied field guides that night thoroughly, set two clocks for waking, sure;
Dreamt anon of seeing Ravens—Ravens on tomorrow’s tour,
Ravens on the next day’s tour!
That day started dark and dreary; Sparrows, though, were loud and cheery.
‘Fore the dawn, that August morning, solo, I slipped out the door.
Songs of Robin, Blue Jay, Starling, high above the streets were quarrelling.
Mockingbirds were shameless, borrowing; Mourning Doves mourned o’er and o’er.
Circling ‘round were flocking pigeons, wing beats for this avian score—
Common birds, and nothing more.
Perry, ‘leventh, Bank, Bethune Streets—thus began my dawn caprice, yes!
Passing Bank, the sky was streaking; pink through waning clouds did bore.
Mid-block. Stopping, listening, straining. Just familiar sounds. Hope’s waning.
Next at Bethune, sunrise gaining, waiting on the corner for:
Wedge-shaped tails, black-ragged throats, rough-croaking voices—these, not more—
Merely these and nothing more.
Dawn dog walkers asked, “Where’s Millie?” (In these streets she’s known—no, really.)
“I confess that she’s still napping, curled against the foyer door.”
One dear friend (not seen in years) out at that hour, smiling, nears,
“Where’s your dog: a Corgi—big ears? Names escape me,” she implores.
“Too, too long it’s been, assured, her name was Grace Leigh (not Lenore),
One more Corgi I adored.”
Scanning cornice lines and towers, rows of scaffold, ivy bowers,
Standing, listening, looking, waiting: This I’m up so early for?
Trees still dripped from mid-night’s shower. Streetlights blinked off at that hour.
Was that croaking from a tower? Could it be? How ‘bout once more?
Was it just a window opening? (Wishful thinking at the fore?)
Or the wind and nothing more?
From the damp backyards of Bank Street, there it was, no doubt, a repeat:
One voice, rasping, scraping; then a second rasped right back—for sure!
Next, as told me: Oh, so dimly, up around the Westbeth chimney,
One black gainly bird soared nimbly, and soon after, one bird more.
Wedge-shaped tails and croakings clinched it: Huginn, Muninn—birds of yore?
Ravens! Couldn’t have asked for more.
With my camera I was rushing, as that pair with wingtips brushing
Circled once then soared right o’er. “Damn,” down Washington I swore,
Still though, smiling, laughing, (puffing). Hundredth Village Bird (not bluffing)!
Hubris? No. Not bird list fluffing; not just wishing as before.
I had seen them clearly, nearly, merely walked out my front door—
Out my door and little more.
Then at Charles, just one lone Raven, silhouette like image graven,
On The Memphis’ tow’r he perched. Ha! (Not upon the pallid bust of Pallas ‘bove that chamber door.)
Snapping, snapping with my camera, for to catch that wry ephemera,
Might that bird have perched (etcetera) ‘bove a brownstone’s lofty door?
But, alas, that Raven neither perched above a brownstone’s door,
Nor upon yon tow’r—no more.
Now, this morning: Rising early. Today, Ravens, once more, surely!
Still, this morning: Millie’s napping, once again sprawled on the floor.
Tie my shoes. Don hat and jacket. Keys in pocket. Backpack—pack it.
Tiptoe ‘round with little racket. Millie snores, then rouses for:
Stretching, standing, bowing, shaking; waiting by the foyer door—
Waiting to bound out the door.
Out we go, out through the hallway, out past elevator, doorways,
Out to cobblestones’ worn pathways, Millie rounds her blocks once more.
All this week I’ve gone out hunting. All this week I’ve come back wanting.
Looking, listening—still’s not daunting: “To see Ravens!” I wish for,
Lest my sighting of those Ravens be not once, but more and more,
Not just once and nevermore.