What to Learn from a Murder of Crows?

Photo courtesy of free downloads from Pixabay.com.

The crows woke me up this morning, yelling at each other from trees in my yard to those skimming the branches in the next door neighbor’s yard. It came to me, in that moment while I was waking, that this must be why a group of them is called “a murder.” I was certain they were in the midst of committing such an atrocity and for a fleeting moment, I worried that the victim was the big orange cat.

My husband was away golfing, having left very early on a lovely Father’s Day to enjoy time with other men. With two daughters in the house, both sleeping, I got up to investigate both the noise outside the house and the quiet within and then started the ritual of streaming through Facebook to see what I have missed.

The name Philando Castile came up in my feed, as it had through the last two very busy days, and murder came up in my face for the second time on this very lazy morning.

Murder isn’t always noisy, like those crows. Sometimes murder is loud like the bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang of shots being fired into a young black body. But sometimes, sometimes murder is quiet, the low tones of a cat, sluicing through the tall grass, capturing the mole or the vole or the tiny baby rabbit. Or the quiet of the single voice saying “not guilty.”

I don’t know murder. I’m a middle-aged white lady who was zipping down the Interstate last night and saw a white Trooper with his gun drawn on a car, stopped, with one black arm stretching out of the driver’s window, fingers splayed. It didn’t register what we were seeing until we were beyond the blue car with the black arm. The white arms steady, with a squared off rod at the end of it.

I don’t know what happened there, but I assume there was no murder because when I search the interwebs, there’s still nothing there. And yet, there was something there. And perhaps the man in the blue car attached to that black arm was a bad man who did something beyond driving fast while black. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

But the murder of crows called me out of my sleep this morning, wondering what’s all the fuss, while the Baptists gather in the church behind my house, and a food truck waves a blue lives matter flag and I work in a place where there are signs that tell people how to dress for respect (read: white) and a white man walks in with a t-shirt with the confederate flag and the words “it’s heritage not hate” and it is okay because it has sleeves but I think you can’t have heritage without knowing history, and the history may not be hate, but it sure isn’t about respecting black lives.

Crows are symbols of prophecy, I read on the google. What prophecy did they bring me this morning in their insistent call to wake up?

67. Another death, another poem

Empty hands reach for
the sky as ordered, still
not enough to live

51. Aiming

“Aim for the target
you wish to destroy,”
said the voice in my
head that sometimes
wakes me up
both figuratively
AND literally.

But I don’t shoot.
And I don’t think
I’m the kind who
likes to destroy.

So I “unpack” the
phrase that clunked
around in my brain
and breast for a
couple of days.

Aim for the target
you want to destroy.

How simple is that.

So … watch out
judges who can’t
seem to send white boys
to jail,
institutional racism,
underfunded and test-based education,
elected officials so
hell-bent on being right
you’ve forgotten how
to do the work
of the people.

But where to aim

I’m sure the voice
will return.

Photo found at http://ecmpostreview.com/2016/01/11/develop-or-enhance-public-archery-ranges-through-dnr-grant/

36. If We Could?

I am not owed

I recognize the
depth of what I owe
just for being
in America

We tried to wash
away the history
of our founding
and the building of
“our” wealth, of “our”

We told ourselves
slavery was a
necessary blip,
Jim Crow a hangover
of rebel holdouts,
redlining and segregation
promoted harmony through
separate but equal
(when it was neither)

We ignore
Sundown Towns,
mass incarceration,
criminalization of
blackness, where a bullet
becomes due process
for the one holding
the gun

If we could
face the story
head on
and remember
who is actually owed

Would we?

(In remembrance of Michael Brown, killed today two years ago.)

photo credit: http://bay-journal.com/maps/civilwar-maps.html


35. Flipping Tables

Dear God,

I looked around today
and wondered at the loss
of you
in the name of you

How some
say they love you
but have no grace
for the hard lives
of others

Remember that time
you sent your son
and he flipped
some tables?

I think you liked that.
I think you like
when we stop being
complacent about
cruelty either in
private, quiet settings
or in the public

I see you showing
yourself in the courage
and the words of
black and brown women
who say “Enough”
when their sons and
daughters die
at the hands of
the keepers of
the peace
worn down by the
body count
and the wearisome
living in a world
made easy for
whiteness alone

I see you blooming
out of fingertips
reached out for
each other to hold
us all up to a
higher standard
nothing ambiguous
nothing multi-syllabic

be good
do good
love each other
as yourself
carry on
with righteous
where applicable

But now
i think you are
not commanding.

28. Slanted

So what, you ask,
if slaves built
the White House
What about
the union laborers?

And this is where
I want to turn into
your mama and take
you by the ear and sit
you in a corner
with history books
written by and
for Native Americans
and African Americans
and Mexican Americans

or novels written
from a perspective
that isn’t white,
straight and slanted

and tell you not to
step out until
you have learned

Or at least not
to get mad when
someone else
lays claim to

It ain’t all about
friend. It just
ain’t always
about you.

Photo by Stephan Krahn: http://orig11.deviantart.net/5f4f/f/2012/243/e/5/the_chair_in_the_corner_by_stephankrahn-d5d32ma.jpg

21. Promises

What promise did
you fulfill today

and what one
did you walk back?

I promised myself
I would write
of the tenacity
of the human
spirit and its drive
to surround
itself with
hope and beauty

And that I
would not
watch politics

Which promise
did I keep
and which
did I walk back?

I broke one
which makes
the other one
nearly impossible.

But I have
faith in our
innate drive
to do good,
to be good,
and to search
for beauty
and truth.

And if
that ain’t tenacious
hope right now,
I’m not sure what is.

9. Conspiracy of Love

The conspiracy theorist in me,
the trait I inherited from my dad,
says either ISIS or some white
supremacy group planted
those snipers there
to either ignite
a low-burning civil war
or to change back the narrative
no longer in dispute
because of cell phone footage.

That is how I name the unnamable
that is, as I write, also unknowable.

We all have our ways
to deal with what seems
completely incongruent
with the world we thought
we understood.

Let us understand each other now.
I pray we unite against
the slaughter of ourselves
by any gun
by any dogma
by any rigidity
that stops us from seeing
the humanity
we are all so desperate for
right now. Today,
July 8, 2016, on the heels
of a week that is not quite over.
But, God, we hope it is.

Let there be a new conspiracy,
one of love, one that recognizes
400 years is not over yet and
white people sincerely look within
and to history
for answers to the questions
they expect their black and
brown friend to explain.

The world ain’t fair,
but that doesn’t mean
it can’t work toward being

I pray, God. I pray,
for the peace
we let elude us,
when we don’t listen,
really, when we ask
the question “Why?”

Photo Credit: http://cdn.rsvlts.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MLK-header.jpg

8. Keep that Trope In Your Bag

If you are going to respond
“All lives matter!”
I have only one question for you,
but, as usual, I will take twenty
questions to ask it.

Do all lives matter?

Does a black man’s life matter,
only if it is compliant and
quiet when he is stopped
for no reason,
or does respectful silence
become threatening

And what of the brown, queer life?
Does it matter only when it
passes for tan and straight,
not dancing in a safe space
made by them, for them?

And what of the girl, no matter
her color, unconscious,
violated, unwilling to consent
but liquor made him do it, the
white male athlete, whose
father tears up when he
can no longer eat steak?

And, what of the life of the woman
who falls asleep in her car
after the third job of the day
has rendered her exhausted
so exhausted she never wakes up
at the side of the road.

Until all lives matter,
like, for real,
keep that trope in your bag,
darlin. Keep that trope in your bag.

photo credit: http://s3-origin-images.politico.com/2015/08/05/150805_black_lives_matter_gty_1160.jpg

7. No Pretty Words Today

I tried. I sat in a waiting room
looking at two beautiful babies
and wrote a bad poem
but in the back of my mind
all I could think was
and what if they weren’t pale?

Would their grandmother
be able to protect them
from the protectors like
she does from that door that opens
wide and quick with no
sight line from the other side.

There are no pretty words today.

There are jagged words
that could rupture the
bubble of whiteness in America
blast through the blue wall
both of which keep us from
each other in beautiful
humane ways

but they never seem
to penetrate

and another black
family mourns
while we say “No More!”
and chorus in “Enough!”
knowing that no change
is possible until
we all see that change
is required