Elegy for a Crow

by James K. Zimmerman

you’ve got a sick crow in your yard
                       the neighbor said
but I know this: crows don’t get sick and
            sit around on the grass
they sit around on the grass to die

I looked at it closely
primordial raptor beak an elevator
            caught between the first floor
                       and the basement
nictitating membrane still a candle
            stuttering to say its name
                       in hovering darkness

I agreed to come back later

we don’t come get dead crows
            the USDA hotline said
just shovel it into a bag and
                       throw it in the garbage

I came back later

my crow was belly up
                       wings splayed unthinkably
a ship’s hulk in a dusky harbor
            flies hoping to salvage the eyes

I picked it up gently
            the stiffening black body
with a plastic bag and put it in another
            a pine box for an unmarked grave

tied the bags shut
            threw my crow away
and with a last breath
            whispered goodbye