Ode to crows … and poetry

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. corbeaux-03
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. Here’s 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

crow book cover
my artist book on crows

Discussing powerful poetry with my son, David. He’s been reading Banjo Patterson’s The White Cockatoos. I’ve sent him Anthony Lawrence’s powerful and raw poem, Cro-kill.
Anthony Lawrence, award-winning Australian poet. This peom – once read, never forgotten. 

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.