Smart Bird

it swooped down past my left shoulder
the shiny black raven did
with wings outstretched
it coasted on pillows of air
and corkscrewed upward
to fall in again with its mate

and I wondered
if they ever forget
I wondered
if they take for granted
the glowing blue madness of flight
the regal nature
of their relationship to landscape
I wondered if the breezy freedom
of riding the invisible
ever slips their mind

but ravens are smart birds
maybe more than any other
they bolt out on the wildest of days
and with their smiling Roman noses
they dip and dog and tumble and zip
they frolic at heights
that render their wingspan
faint as the punctuation on this page
they claim the sky and the wind
and the satin switch blades of their wings
they squeeze each and every drop
out of that power which makes them gods

they make prayer
they make play
they make from even the craziest
winter bluster
a feast of remembrance
caw caw caw
we can fly
this is cool
let’s not forget

By Rich Mertes 2017

two raven perched on a ledge by Bryce Canyon

Rich Mertes is me, and sometimes I write poems as a kind of time machine to help me slip back into and inhabit the space of a sacred moment. This particular poem–“Smart Bird”–is based on a recent encounter with a raven up at Tennessee Valley, a jewel of open space near where I live in Marin County, CA. I’d say the slow, quiet walks I enjoy there and at other places are my primary spiritual practice these days. Birds and bears are favored companions. Meanwhile, I’ve been writing poetry for a few decades–also teaching elementary school, and most recently working as a somatic counselor.

Photo of ravens at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA, by andamanse

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