Crows do not have Retirement   Harbour Publishing    2011  

Crows do not have Retirement Harbour Publishing 2011 

Crows Do Not Have Retirement

"There are no words to capture the infinite depth of crowiness 
in the crow's flight."
Ted Hughes, Winter Pollen

Crows do not have retirement
homes to go to when finally
their wings break down

No one takes them in
with a sigh and says
sit here for a bit

while I bring you
a cup of raw worm
to help keep your head

swivelling, on the lookout
for fledglings or the dead,
the eagle making you

flock and dive
that white untouchable pate
No one guides them gently

into their last years,
takes account of their
final movements or hears

their calls, their stout beaks
opening without sound
as if thirsting,

their inky heads against
the starchy white linen,
constant television nearby

They fold up in the curb
in the August heat,
the sheen gone from wings

they no longer lift
out of the heap
no other crow will touch

nor even admit,
passing by without
an exploratory peck

leaving their own kind
to gulls, rats, worms, the municipality
To keep the black

ideal of ravenousness
alive, they hop and lift off
and cruise past windows

where old men catch their flash
and are sent off dreaming
of their own unequalled speed and grace

the guns they once held
in their long arms and the damage
they shook from the air


David Zieroth's sixth book of poetry, Crows Do Not Have Retirement, is full of poems sensitive at once to the physicality of their anecdotal circumstances and to the larger topological questions they provoke. Moving from events and places such as the childhood killing of animals, to encounters with ghosts, to the ravine in his neighbourhood, Zieroth demonstrates his skill at being able to unearth startling estrangements and affirmations in intimate and quotidian affairs. Many of these poems shift remarkably from concrete, innocuous settings to questions of belief, beauty and obligation: "Is my soul a cup of milk/ that once taken/ spreads into every capillary/ giving me a personality/ to fit Friday/ or Monday with all its moods?" ("Question"). Similarly, the speaker observes in "The Gulf of Heaven" that "I have begun to believe/ in the breast stroke and the butterfly stroke/ because of their beautiful names/ and because heaven must be/ perfectly conjured and framed."

The book is divided up into five sections with its middle section, "Ravine: I," consisting of three ambitious and well-crafted long poems that operate as poetic walking tours through the anxious, dream-ridden and spirited grounds of family life and neighbourhood. For all the anxiety and despair that is an important part of many of the poems in the collection, however, there is also a generous amount of humour and fun.

The imaginative leaps in Zieroth's poems and the often musical measure of his lines transport one to the places and emotions he explores. However, the ontological questions that are continuously raised in poems such as "Sounds Like," remind us that "presence is enough/ while we wait." The poems in this book, among Zieroth's strongest work, are an excellent resting place. 

Adam Dickinson, Canadian Literature

Poems like "Letting Myself Go," about a mundane errand returning videos and being suddenly reduced to tears by the scent of an old love's perfume on the air, demonstrate that the anecdotal style, drawn from small everyday events, can produce great poems once the poet has lived long enough to have something to say.

John Moore, The Vancouver Sun