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The Questions Poems Ask


ISSUE:  Summer 1999

Watching a couple of crows
playing around in the woods, swooping
in low after each other, I wonder
if they ever slam into the trees.

There’s an answer here, unlike
most questions in poems,
which are left up in the air.
Was it a vision or a waking dream?

You decide, says the poet.
You do some of this work,
but think carefully.
Some people want to believe

poetry is anything
they happen to feel. That way
they’re never wrong. Others yearn
for the difficult:

insoluble problems, secret codes
not meant to be broken.
Nobody, they’ve discovered,
ever means what he says.

But rarely does a crow
hit a tree, though other, clumsier birds
bang into them all the time, and we say
these birds have not adapted well

to the forest environment.
Frequently stunned, they become
easy prey for the wily fox,
who’s learned how to listen

for that snapping of branches
and collapsing of wings,
who knows where to go
and what to do when he gets there.

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