The Crow Road

(On the crow road

There is a river of sound

That sails from thought to memory

A prophecy

Of provision

Guiding battles through the flood)

This poem and series of illustrations are part of a collaborative academic performance which I created with Iain Biggs for the AISLE-UKI & LAND2 Conference at Sheffield Hallam University, September 2017.  More information on how this project was created can be found on my blog here

After the delivery, I was asked where the poem itself could be found - so here it is, with some of the accompanying images (although they lose their narrative coherency when in this static form), supported by music from Omnia, which influenced the initial idea.

Once upon a time

A tale was told to me

Of a road lined with echoes

On which a song is sung by crows

On the outside reach of hearing…

A storytelling of light

Playing to the tide

Haunted by an absence

Pecking at words

We hide

Behind a masquerade

Seeking

The lonely mountain ways

Our tail a fringe of forgetting

(On the crow road

There is a myth that has no name

But everybody knows

A girl and a bird

Weaving magic

Out of fear)

"I am made of nothing,” the crow said

“When night tires it sheds a void

Of down into hungry trees,

The shrapnel of dreams

Catching on branches,

Where nothingness settles and becomes fragmented

Flying on borrowed wings.

 

The crow turned on her shoulder

As if expecting somebody else to speak.

She noted how his eyes wrapped cloud

Reflecting things she only wished were there,

His beak as straight as the roads he took

Cloaked in a coal-sheen skin

And brighter than a midnight pyre.

"I carry this darkness upon my back

And my eye is broad of vision

To see the footprints left behind

And the secrets sunshine tries to hide.

My nest the margin

I hear the curses from centuries gone

And the muttering of madmen in the breeze.”

(On the crow road

There is a girl with feathers in her hair

She dreams of friends and firesides

And when she flies

Revelations rain in the half-notes

Guiding waymakers through the door)

“I am made of thinking,” the girl replied.

“When other minds stop at the boundary of their way,

I rise a little higher

To view the wall from the other side.

Sometimes, I rest upon it's head

Watching other travellers turning past,

Frightened, obedient to the grey edges of their cage.

“I too have learned how to follow pathways in the sky

And to see with my eyes tight closed.

I have learned to listen to the speakers

Who have no sound

And to read the weather

In a pattern of cattle

Who do not lie like sentences.”

The girl paused

As if unaccustomed to being heard

The crow noted that she was sat on stone

Which may once have cut a glen in two.

Her clothes were those from an earlier weft

And her hair was longer

Than the years she wore.

(On the crow road

There is a girl with a bird at her side

Together they are as still as a tree

That leans with the wind

But never falls

Marking direction with the turn of a thought)

 

The now familiar pair moved on

Into the hinterlands

Collecting those who fell

With a dark grace

Undertaking the unwanted tasks

Of men who zigzag

Around the silent spaces.

 

Hefty was their burden

Unafraid to stand before the edge

Rooted in the making of hiraeth

Maent yn mynd am dro

Rhwng tirlun a thirwedd
Yn ôl eu cynefin

A'u dychymyg blaenorol

“I am not blind,” the crow agreed

For I have the eyes of every soldier

And the long-forgotten flock

Tell me their woes

Although you may think me cruel

It is a gift I share

To go beyond horizon’s glare.

(On the crow road

There is a forest of shadows

Some who saw the bird at their cradle

Some who heard twa corbies

On the mended wall

Tidying the ground)

"Many a one for him makes mane,
But nane sall ken whar he is gane;
Oer his white banes, whan they are bare,
The wind sall blaw for evermair."

With kith and kin and heft and haw

The spectre of both crow and girl

Caught at the crossing with a superstitious air

 

“To the queens of war:

Nemean, Morrigan, Babh Catha

Three crows fly like ghosts from another time.”

The girl with a beak and the crow with long hair

The girl with a beak

The crow with long hair

The mother who watches in streams

They are the recollections of childhood

The isolation of a calling

Digging in the ruins of your belief

Once upon a time

This tale was told to me

From a girl who cast no shadow

And a corbie with a child’s shawl

On the crow road

Where there is a river of sound

That sails from thought to memory

- For in the morning sun we come

And like the wind

We go

“It’s the same story the crow told me

It’s the only one he knows

Like the morning sun you come

And like the wind you go.”

 And like the wind we go

Chasing melodies

Dancing in notation

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