The Crow’s Orbit

My youth and my old age
are spent in boxes.
Centuries of falling in
and climbing out of holes.
The whole of me together and lost,
one soul trying to keep
one pain at a time,
one loss at a time,
yet many scattered hopes all at once
sticking to the steady movement of decay.

And what has my flesh gained
but something to wash off,
different color dirts,
a variety of burial gowns,
a multitude of faces burrowing into chests
(and even some who smile at my departures).

And why of all the hopes I’ve built
is the tombstone the only thing named after me?

I ask, no I beg, over and over
inside a box and out,
how can I lift and throw away
this many heavy stones
whose cool marbles wink
in both sunlight and rain,
making my name hard to read
and even harder to remember?

In what life will I sit on a dozen eggs
without crushing one?
In what year do I resculpt these shells
and fly off into some answer
that goes beyond the nearest stars,
goes further into the black hole of truth,
there to be, and not becoming.

Yet I have always been a bird afraid of heights.
Years of limping around in different corpses,
not knowing in which grave
or which heaven I belong.
But none of them keeps me.
I pop, re-pop out of tombs and wombs,
a cuckoo clock, a senseless jack-in-the-box,
coming out with the stump of one black wing on my back,
coming out mad and crying,
spitting and spitting dirt
that a child by nature must learn to eat.

Yes, I come out with my mouth
still in the same shape of its last pain.
I cry for brighter mirrors,
but my lips round into a circle
and my words bellow forth
from the deepest holes I’ve known.

On every tombstone
is a crow,
a black braggart
who has flown through the dark ages,
found nothing else
to land on.

The Gravedigger’s Workday

Not every moment is death.
Some seconds are firsts:
the chocolate-lip child giving
me advice on waking the dead,
a butterfly landing on my shovel,
decorating the deadliest day.

Sometimes firsts are second thoughts,
the child handing me a sweet,
the butterfly lifting
on a faint breath,
lifting with it a shadow
of rainbow, a streak
of quickening light only a child
or a soul can see.

Robert S. King has been writing and publishing since the 1970s.
His work has appeared in hundreds of magazines, including The
Kenyon Review, Southern Poetry Review, Lullwater Review, Chariton
Review, Main Street Rag, and others. He is currently Director
of FutureCycle Poetry, www.futurecycle.org.

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