Poetry Project

Wild Animals I Have Known

by Susan Somers-Willett


1: Three Ways to Begin a Story

How to know a wild animal?

I do not mean have one in a cage

but to really know its story.

The story, while it is wild,

is so much like another.

We cannot be sure

that it really is the same

next time we meet.

But once in awhile

there arises an animal.

Once or twice,

while it is wild,

a story is a crow.


2: Story in Which the Words are Crows

The life of a wild animal may be far more

exciting than that of many human beings.

Such a terrific story, silvery like a nickel.

Our most intelligent birds

rave on the edge of the city

on and on, doggedly

so little crows

with a language wonderfully

human echo

Be on your guard!

and venture to fly.

Danger repeated the cry,

alighted on a tree close by, and stayed.


3: Story in Which Leaves Make a Burning Sound

I found that sometimes a little difference in

sound makes a great difference in meaning.

Thus anger, whose root idea is danger.

O crows. Pairs and trios

chasing each other

with a sound like distant thunder.

They were making love

and pairing off, their voices

stealing gently through the woods,

so that no rustle made

a smart blow, a pair

of crows, a wife.


4: The Origins of Pleasure

O shiny things.

He could not explain why he enjoyed them—

why he collects postage stamps,

why he prefers pearls—

he saw at once so many little adventures.

Not that these did him harm, but they were

cruel tricks:

to eat the new laid eggs,

what we ourselves do to the hens in the barnyard

with soft wings and falsetto voice:

Here. Begin again.


5: Story in Which the Crows Talk

In a row, nervous darlings

sometimes seem to make speech.

The rabble of silly little crows:

An umbrella is not a gun.

Rows begin to plume.

They know how to worry a fox into giving up

half his dinner.

They have never tasted horses’ eyes.

In full feather

all the signals and words command

pleasure, clamor.




Form line!

The cry turned

pines to rage.


6: Two Facts About Crows

There is only one time when a crow is a fool.

There are no hospitals for sick crows.


7: Story in Which the Story Eats Crow

I saw remains, then

all was clear—

the bones

had not lied.

All around were signs of struggle.

Alas! So many hundreds of crows

to beware of

the wind in which

they had lived.

A palimpsest of Ernest Thompson Seton’s story “Silverspot: The Story of a Crow”

and in response to David Ellis’s motion painting Animal