Crow, why did you have to strut across the road, swaggering your tail feathers at me, one beady eye twitching?

I only meant to ruffle your skirts, take some of the smug off your bold face—call your bluff

but I was impatient, eager to get home, and didn’t see the scree of gravel on the road

for a blustering fellow, you made such a small thump and crunch under the wheels of the car

I winced, smiled reassuringly at the child in the rear view mirror, his face turned out the window looking for damage

inside, the sinking feeling, the consequence of misplaced emotions embedding in my gut

ever since that moment the bone china jumps out of my hands, slippery as wet soap, and spangles the kitchen floor with a cymbal of sound

milkjugs of seafoam green and eggcups by the dozen—tiny smithereens the lot of them

I want to blame you crow for putting the evil eye on me, make you carry the burden of my guilt

but how ridiculous is that. This morning it was the teapot—my grandmother’s—and I vowed it was the last shard

to unwind a spell you must pick at the knots, teasing with your fingers, like unraveling an old sweater

each knot an undoing, paying back the threads, unlearning you crow and asking forgiveness.


23 thoughts on “TO UNDO A SPELL

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      And a very powerful one! I’m going to look our for the crow in your work. Thanks for reading Laurent.

  1. Sunshine Jansen

    This had me fidgeting in my chair it is so good! Somehow nothing can embody memories and consequences in our minds like ravens and crows.

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Perhaps its the striking intelligence that seems to emanate from them, or that cocky strut. They certainly reek of an all-knowing smugness. Thanks for the nice compliment, Sunshine.

  2. Argus

    Hey, hey … there’s no burden in unearned guilt~!

    One could (but won’t) almost say that the crow holds all the blame for flying into your car. Suicide, in effect—?

    Yet there’s something almost magical about crows. I don’t think we have any in New Zealand, we have to rely on bunnies and possums for our own unearned guilts … but even entirely innocent, it doesn’t stop my undeserved remorse.
    I try to stop for them whenever I can, but I will not swerve. Swerve could well be suicide— feathers can be washed off and dents beaten out …

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Sorry to hear you don’t have crows. They’re fascinating creatures with a strong communal life. Actually most crows are way too smart to get hit by a car. The crow in the poem obviously had suicidal tendencies.

      1. Argus

        Spouse and I rented a small cottage on a wee estate at Artrochie, Scotland. In just one brief summer wee bowled thirteen pheasants—they lie in wait until they can’t possibly miss then kamikaze you out of nowhere … 🙂

  3. Roger Baker-Utah

    Skillfully crafted poem. Careful use of line to communicate multiple thoughts and meanings with single lines and line groupings. Strong emotionality without sentimentality. Truly excellent.

  4. teacupsandtyrants

    Oh, you really capture the feeling of guilt that comes from accidentally killing a creature, especially something like a crow. They always seem so human-like in their actions. You can almost hear them thinking.

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Thanks, Adele. Crows do seem to show up all over the place, from Aesop’s Fables to Native American tales. It would be interesting to do a study of the crow in cultural myths from around the world.

  5. Murtagh's Meadow

    Wonderful imagery, great poem and how it brought back memories too – mine not a crow but a little rabbit and yes the guilt. Your new header is amazing too!

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Thanks, Karina. Glad you like the new header. My daughter Nyssa painted it for me. A talented young woman!

  6. charissagrace

    Ahh…crow. Ima make a crow spell ta help…but mine will grind bones, burn feathers, pull claws, and talk crow words backwards to chase away the storm-birds, watch them rise in fear of Storm-Charissa and her lightening brow furrowed at those messengers of madness…

    Loved this. Truly.

    and the new pic for the blog is perf…right in the oeuvre of some of your gardening type poems

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Crow words backwards–love it! I really like your idea of undoing spells. Think you may have a touch of the good witch in you.
      Yup, loving my new header too, thanks to my lovely daughter!

  7. peakperspective

    Ooh, a gut twisty tale. I’m still feeling all a twitter reading it the second time through. I have a hard time shaking experiences like this off too, but I love how you deftly explained the recipe for relief. Your words, as usual, are magical, Melissa.

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      I always think of Rex the dino in the first Toy Story movie when my conscience is pricked. “Great, now I have guilt!”
      Thank you so much for reading and appreciating, Shelley.


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