An ode to crows …

I feel sorry for the crows around our way. It’s the summer holidays and the local school is empty of kids – there’re no rubbish bins to scavenge from for the odd Vegemite sandwiches or half-eaten bananas. So the resident flock of noisy crows have gone off on their own little holiday somewhere where the pickings are better.
We city folk have an almost universal opinion about crows – noisy, ugly, dirty, creepy … the list goes on in many languages. It’s probably the same in the bush too.
Some civilisations recognise the status of a crow … whether from the grandeur of a winged mystical being or the depths of an efficient garbage disposal unit. Imagine a world where the rubbish and rotting, smelly things weren’t eaten by crows.
So in this countdown to the New Year, I thought I’d post a little verse I wrote as a tribute to a bird who’s scraping the bottom of the popularity barrel.

Glossy black, green & purple sheen,
piercing pale eyes see all.
Pariah of city, suburb and street.
Scavenger of schoolyard waste,
your only threat walks upright
as shanghai, rock & bullet you taste.

Intelligent, clever & bold, old crow,
you alone know how to eat cane toad
and survive.        Sheryl Gwyther – 2011

Here’s a poem by Anthony Lawrence, award-winning Australian poet. Once read, never forgotten. 

Anthony Lawrence


We had this stuff that Wayne found in the shed:
a tin of white powder called CRO-KILL.
It had POISON in big red letters on the label.
Wayne said his dad used it for killing crows.

Pissy Paul the overseer had shot a bullock
and left it out in the horse paddock,
so we went out on our bikes, and the crows
took off as soon as we came through the gate.

The bullock’s guts had burst, its intestines
coiling like blue shaving cream in the grass.
The crows had already removed its eyes,
and the blowies were spawning their busy line.

Wayne used his knife to lift the lid off the tin,
then sprinkled some of the powder
into the red cave of the animal’s stomach.
Then we rode off and hid behind a wind-break.

Crows are suspicious things, and it took
a long time before they came back.
You can walk out with a rifle over your arm,
and the crows will fly away.

If you walk out with a long stick,
they just throw their black laugh at you.
Anyway, finally one came down: a mean bastard;
a surgeon with a mortician’s grin. It settled

on the swollen stomach and lifted out a length of gut.
Then two more decided things were safe.
Then twelve birds were cutting and fighting over the carcass.
We waited. Nothing was happening.

Then one of the crows fell over
and flapped about on its side in the grass.
Soon they were all dancing and jumping around
as if they were drunk.

Two of them managed to get off the ground.
They were like sick black planes, their undercarriages
blown away. They sat down in a nearby tree
and began to cry.

It was terrible. Smoke began pouring
out of their beaks before they fell, their eyes melting,
their wings on fire, and we just stood around
and laughed at the death of crows.     Anthony Lawrence – University of Qld Press 1998



9 thoughts on “An ode to crows …

  1. Thank you for your thoughts, Norah. It’s sad to think how many humans have lost their feeling for the suffering of animals – even sadder to see the complete disregard many in our country have for humans in need too on Manus and Nauru Islands. I despair for the state of our so-called civilisation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, sadly. I think the most chilling aspect of Anthony’s poem is the clarity of description in an almost run-of-the-mill way, not so much cruel as in an inability to feel.


  3. I love to hear the birds – every one – crows and all. When I was in Beijing there were no birds singing or talking or cawing. The environment was not healthy enough for birds. I’m pleased ours is. I like your tribute to the crow, but found Anthony’s very raw and distressing. I guess we do the same to many animals. Cruelty is all too common. Seeing bad things on the news tonight, and every night, makes me think we treat humans no better than these crows. Thanks for sharing this poem and post again.


  4. Some people seem to enjoy cruelty. Unfortunately I don’t think that will ever change.


  5. I agree, Dale. Magpies have the most beautiful warble.
    What did you link of Anthony’s poem? I lived out in the bush for years and remember similar cruel things that people did to animals. And of course, it happens in the city too. 😦


  6. Thanks for sharing your poem. Even the name crow is harsh. Raven sounds much gentler yet I suspect it is the same bird known by a different name in other countries. Someone once made a similar negative comment about magpies, yet I think they are a beautiful and regal looking bird and love to hear them warble.


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