September 24 Theodore Roethke: Night Crow

I think that this is a good Halloween poem. It has sort of a scary undertone to it. The real thing, the clumsy crow, is just there out on his wire tooling about, but the one that lives in his brain seems to have a mushroomed into something voluminous and ethereal.

It’s strange how the mind creates such phantoms. A small spider skittering across a counter top turns ten feet tall. The dark becomes a place filled ghosts and evil spirits. A night in the woods is filled with will o’ wisps, creeping and crawling creatures and ax murderers on the rampage. Some people are afraid of the number 13. But what creates that fear? Sometimes it’s just the suggestion of something wrong with that number followed by a number of coincidences that the brain has been sensitized to notice occurring around the number 13. But is actually unlucky?

Science isn’t a practice or a religion (as much as those who fear it insist that it is), it a way of understanding: the act of observing a phenomenon as objectively as possible. This is why science can never be one percent accurate, because pure objectivity is impossible. We can have someone else observe the bird, we can have a machine measure its movements, but another point of view is another subjective perspective and we always have to interpret the machines findings with our subjective minds.

So, the bird exists in two places, in reality as an object, a living object, that we will never quite fully know and in our minds as a phantom of midnight with powers that we fear and wonder at. Tom Waits wrote it and I think that it’s true, “the heart is heaven, but the mind is hell.”

Night Crow

by Theodore Roethke

When I saw that clumsy crow
Flap from a wasted tree,
A shape in the mind rose up:
Over the gulfs of dream
Flew a tremendous bird
Further and further away
Into a moonless black,
Deep in the brain, far back.


About penneloppe

I like to write horror, dark fantasy and crime fiction. Sometimes, I'll write science fiction, but usually I like to write science fact. I also write screenplays and stage plays. My day job is office work. I live in Seattle and I have a cat.
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