The Crows

by Melanie Carter

As if born to make jewels
of themselves—onyx, say, or ebony,
the word my mother used for black
to name a piano’s enchanting
breed—twelve birds slide like baubles
along a coiled scrap of fencing wire.
Risky treasures. Wretched
as the barbs they step between. They caw
and caw until they’ve swallowed
their shiny chatter and left
only the quiet clacking of their tail feathers.
These, when they turn
to one another, swing back and forth
like a dozen clocks’ blunt hour-hands
asking, What time? What time?
What time?
And what should we make
of this ground’s damp leaves?
The gold in another kind of light
might be scraps of fabric from a college girl’s
recital gown this bowed wire
could form the hoops of.
If crows would listen, I’d tell them
any time divisible by twelve cannot be
counted on. Year or minute, it will fracture
and fracture like a flawed gem, leaving
only the meager anguish pearls are made from.
Or crows, this earth’s necklace,
whose crude feet might divine one moment,
polished, almost whole.