Thursday, September 27, 2012


Four Crows 

It is January and there are crows like black flowers on the snow.                                        (1)
The temple where crow worships walks forward in tall, black grass                                    (2)
God, disgusted with man turned towards heaven, and man, disgusted with God, 
turned towards Eve, but Crow ........Crow nailed them together,                                         (3)
never plaintive nor appealing, quite at home when ..stealing,
"I kill where I please because it is all mine. There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads."                                                                                     (4)

So man cried, but with God's voice
And God bled with man's voice.
Crow grinned crying "This is my Creation" Flying the black flag of himself.                           (5)

And comes that other fall we name the fall. The bird would cease and be
as other birds, but that he knows in singing not to sing.                                                         (6)
The question that he frames in all but words is what to make of a diminished thing.                (7)
The free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream
till the current ends and dips his wings in the orange sun rays and dares to claim
the sky. (8) Among twenty snowy mountains, the only moving thing .. the eye of the
blackbird. A man and a woman are one, a man and a woman and a blackbird
are one. (9)  And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?                                      (10)
Splashes of pepper
        Spice an empty blue bowl--                                                                                           (11)
                     How the crows dream of you, caught at last in their black beaks. Dream of you
leaking your life away. Your wings crumbling like old bark. Feathers falling from your breast 
like leaves, and your eyes two bolts of lightning gone to sleep.The litany of lonesomeness leaves 
nothing left for the crow's rosary to be counted on.  In the weepdusk, he cries in a deafening 
"Carry on waiting, carrion.  Carrion waiting!"                                                                          (12)
Wings dark as midnight glittering on snow ...harsh crude mocking cries...faint whispers
of ..knotty sheen..ever ...wait -- patiently in darkened clefts of ...gray green yews.                   (13)
Finally, just under the clouds...streaming across the sky, its feet like black leaves                     (14)
            When the blackbird flies out of sight, It marks the edge 
                                                                                         of one of many circles.                    (9)

A Cento for FormForAll hosted today by the illustrious Sam Peralta @dVersePoets Pub 
Compiled by Gay Reiser Cannon * 9/27/2012

(1)   Crows, 1990 © Mary Oliver
(2)   Crow Law, 1993 © Linda Hogan
(3)   Crow Blacker Than Ever © Ted Hughes
(4)   Hawk Roosting © Ted Hughes
(5)   Crows © Ted Hughes
(6)   The Crow © John Burroughs
(7)   The Oven Bird © Robert Frost
(8)   I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings © Maya Angelou
(9)   Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird I, IV, IX © Wallace Stevens
(10)  Crow's Rosary, 1987, Scott Edward Anderson
(11)  The Blackbird © John Clare
(12)  In The Pine Woods Crow & Owl, © Mary Oliver
(13)  Crows, 1998 © Michael Collings
(14)  The Swan © Mary Oliver


  1. What a wonderful subject for your cento. I love that opening line.

    Crows are such fascinating birds, and it's clear they are for poets, and artists, too. The marvelous printmaker Leonard Baskin (I'm privileged to have met him and own some of his work) illustrated Hughes's "Crows"; those prints and those poems are haunting.

    1. It was the Hughes poems that caused me to settle on the subject and eventually the title. I knew a group of grows had been called "a murder" since the middle ages. Seemed appropriate as nearly all of the reference poems had the name crow or blackbird in the title except for one -- The Swan. I meant to use the Shakespeare references as well but they didn't add anything. These covered the conceit I wanted to explore which verged on a kind of American Indian mythology.

  2. bam...that was the sound of me hitting the is spectacular gay...all the different references....the mood of the whole piece is rather haunting honestly but that was so cool....the turning the back on god...and god and the

  3. This is amazing, Gay. So much philosophy contained in this Cento. You worked your lines very well!

  4. I love any references to Crow. Your 14 sources are testament to research and creativity; really enjoyed this dark ride. I thought my (12) sources were ambitious, but reading others illustrates that Centos can go any direction; so cool.

  5. Oh my word - this is WONDERFUL! Absolutely breathtaking - Kathleen

  6. What a lovely weaving of lines about crows Gay ~ My fav lines start with (11) ~

    I wish I had more time to look for other poems, but you showed me how well this is done ~

  7. Oh that was clever, finding all those poems about crows...and I adore the poem. I love crows... Absolutely wonderful!

  8. Very well done, Gay. I loved to find the Stevens in there! Such an interesting mix of stuff; all flowing together with beating wings. Great close. k.

  9. 'Crow' is such a pregnant concept, and what a wonder it is to see how you managed to find lines that fit your verse mythology from so many authors. An exceptional example of a cento.

  10. oh so beautiful. I love crows and find these lines ringing familiarly and newly for me at once. Deeply studied and mystical, this piece buzzes with life.

  11. Brilliant, so deftly woven, with the polyphony creating a harmonic!

  12. oh wow...this gave me shivers along the way...great job in creating an atmosphere gay...mystical and magical...

  13. Reads very well aloud and clever wearing of the crow lines.

  14. Oh wow, what a dark, atmospheric piece...beautifully crafted.

  15. This cento is amazing. The mood you set weaving crows with man/woman relationships and God's take on it is brilliant. You've re-used poetic lines to say a whole new mysterious thing and re-defined the edge of another circle. Gorgeous.

  16. Awed!
    I used to think of crows/ravens/blackbirds as simply bullies until I read that, like swans, they mate for life, the male also helps raise their young and they remain with their young until the young bird/s are totally independent. To me, that is their beauty.
    This is a fabulous rise to the prompt challenge Gay. It is truly a stunning piece of work.

  17. What a glorious cento! I love the form and really appreciate the amount of research that went into this one ... it's artfully arranged and just beautifully presented - all of a piece as it were as if it were written that way to begin with - so congrats, well done, one of the best I've read. And I love that it's centred around a specific topic ... really, a stellar poem.

  18. Gay, we obviously love the same poets. Mary Oliver is at the top of my list and I should have know what to expect when I saw your title. I would have liked to have used only her work but that might have bordered on plaigarism! This is brilliant.

  19. Beautifully constructed theme piece...You have weaved the work of so many into it. Whenever I hear crows I think of growing up in the country and seeing them covering the corn fields after harvest.

  20. Gay - love this poem - do you also do the illustrations? Wonderful. K.

  21. K I sometimes do...and I have the tools to do this. These crows are "brushes" on gimp. But I found this one already made and it worked for me. It wasn't signed or attributed so I used it..but I recognized the gimp tools it used. It may have been a "how to" illustration by gimp people.

  22. You'll like 'SubliminalZealotry', girl. Meet me in Heaven and we'll tok for hours --- GREETINGS, EARTHLING!! While I can only stay in this existence finite for a while (gotta run back to the Elysian Fields soon), take anything and everything you wanna from our wonderfull, plethora-of-thot to write the next, great masterpeace -if- I can but kiss your gorgeous, adorable feets and/or cohesively cuddle withe greatest, ex-mortal-girly-ever to arrive in Seventh Heaven!! Think about it. Do it! Get back with me Upstairs, k? God bless you, doll: pleasure-beyond-measure is waiting in the Great Beyond for you and eye. Love you proFUSEly, girl (the name of Lenin’s newspaper, the FUSE). Thus, if you can read-between-the-lines, the musical term MORENDO means ‘dying-away in tone-and-time’. How very apropos for U.S. …

  23. Monumental, unafraid and unapologetic. Right, am going to try one now for myself.