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
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
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
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—
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