Listen to Peter Cooley read his poem, My Crow, Your Crow.
Crow light: I call it that at dawn
when one wing, then this other, bursts in flame,
catching the sun’s rising. The stupid bird,
dipping his hunk of bread into the water,
doesn’t know the Mississippi is my friend:
it disgorges in the gulf the frozen states I came from.
Mississippi! She was a grade school spelling word
in Detroit for me. I spelled well. Now, forty years later
I jog beside her interchange of gold and silver lustres,
always too much in love with any surface of the world.
But the crow: I know it’s not the same bird
morning after morning. Still, the dipping of his beak
into this water, softening a breakfast for his gullet
demanding, like mine, daily satisfactions
lets me pretend every day’s the same.
On one chunk of that bread some day up ahead
my last day is written, clear as the printing
on my birth certificate on file in Michigan.
Crows dip their bread. Daily, I run for breath,
hoping to extend my distance, even a little.
The Mississippi muddies, clears, according to the factories
up North, the local, snarled measures against its dying.
Slowly, even the river is passing from us while I run.
Peter Cooley has lived over half his life in New Orleans and was professor of English and director of Creative Writing at Tulane University from 1975 – 2018. He has published ten books of poetry, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Republic and in over one hundred anthologies. He is the Poetry Editor of Christianity and Literature, and former Louisiana Poet Laureate. “My Crow, Your Crow” was originally published in The Nation on October 26, 2000.