Poet's Notebook: My poem, 'The life expectancy of a homeless person is 50 years,' followed by comments
The life expectancy of a homeless person is 50 years
A crow will never peck out the eyes of another crow.
Perhaps that is why they live longer than men.
(Paraphrase from a poem by Shukrulla.)
I am a crow.
Shukrulla is right,
I would never peck out the eyes of another.
We fight each other and sometimes we are rough
But mostly we stick to language.
“Hey, Garbage Wing, can’t you share?
You be the lookout for a change, I’ll work the field!”
But we watch some of you combing the dumps
To feed your families
And we watch some of you living high above each other
In gleaming towers with blue water on every floor
That you rarely go in and never drink
But lounge beside in the sun
Covering your eyes with dark scales,
Blaring annoying sounds that seem to make you happy.
What am I saying?
I am saying,
We know you
Better than you know yourselves.
We have watched you very closely
For a very long time!
You should watch us
And learn something.
I will never peck out the eye of my kin!
And that includes every crow everywhere.
We are one people, one nation.
What am I saying now?
You haven’t learned very much
With your big heads.
No, you haven’t learned a thing.
I am saying:
You should take turns
Being the lookout and working the field
And take care of each other.
Listen to each other,
And stop pecking out each other’s eyes!
Do crows live longer than us? Technically the answer is no, but I think Shukrulla is trying to get us to see something that transcends the literal.
The bottom line is, crows do not trust us and they do not respect us, and there may be any number of reasons for that if we try to see ourselves through their eyes. We humans don’t seem to work well together and we don’t take care of each other. Some of us live high up and hoard food and water and shiny things, while others of us scrape and forage below in the shadows of towers, while no one stands look-out to warn of danger. If crows lived this way, they would not last long or live as long as they do. One more thing: One of the greatest poets of all time was Homer and he was technically blind. But if we don’t “see” we might have eyes but we might as well be blind. And if we don’t listen to our poets, for example, by judging what they say with a literal yardstick, that is a little like pecking out each other’s eyes. This may sound extreme, but if anyone is shocked or blind-sided by what the human race has been doing to the biosphere, it isn't the poet. Poets have been reading the writing on the wall for at least the last 90 years, with their eyes wide open.