The Bluegill garbles her words. Noisy water
cheering for her descent with whitewater pom-poms.
Dusk. Overcast with the low-slung light that leaves
everything feeling touched. The river calls
with raised arms, asking for embrace.
Caws caws caws—Crows flare in
a sharp sound, an alert louder than the river.
Racket rents the day wide. Mary tosses screams
like pennies. She’s angry at being born.
She’s never seen the river’s cousin, never walked
alone in the woods, never tasted a pomegranate.
She comes to the banks a Gretel.
Across the bridge, the most unremarkable tree
an unsightly, gangly tree is ravaged by noise.
December tree, nude as trees go.
Sycamore or ash? Leafless but that it teems
with crow, screaming and reasonless.
Black winged leaves beat the air
aggrieved. The wood bleeds sound.
The river sprays coloring the stones orange, red, blue.
One crow on the ground staggers, wobbling in half-circle steps
wing raised in a baggy flutter. The river beckons Mary at the bridge Come home to me. Beautiful compliment spewn on sand, wasted river.
Wobble crow makes no caw. Its kin push it up up, get up—
Beaks as rests, as crutches. Mary remembers laughter, mockery.
The salt of it. Why bother? Mary sways to the song,
begins to dance, turn. Crows blister the air with cries.
A comrade’s swarm wails, keens as the crow turns and twists.
The fighter is exhausted.
Bare feet on mud banks, Mary’s erratic, ecstatic, turn and turn.
List and roll, arms out, she’s dancing now.
She believes she will fly before she sinks.
Crow lays prone. An indignant finale.
Staccato, the wing rises, falls in waves.
These moments are the best of her life.
She will lick them from the stones.
The black leaves twist
back and forth, wring the air.
The tree bows under the weight of a thousand crows.
Mary rises up on her toes, pirouettes, and leaps.
Silence but for the river.
The wing arrests at half-staff.
A thousand black leaves volley.
Cheyenne L. Black serves as the editor-in-chief for Hayden's Ferry Review at Arizona State University where she is an MFA candidate and Virginia G. Piper global fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies We Will be Shelter and In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration, as well as the journals 45th Parallel, Bacopa Review, Wordgathering, the American Journal of Poetry, and New Mobility among others.