Forget the Comma
Forget the comma, the crow said, darting
onto another branch, random joy being his,
being mine, being yours, depending on how
you look at a branch, which is, after all,
something essential for him, for you, for me,
his wings no more no less than the wings
of his fellow travelers, his curious, forlorn
pecking at what—a pecking for what is new.
And isn’t that what we want, to be taken
out of a sentence into the air, where conversation
blossoms into speechlessness, the bosom
of belonging, being in rather than on, in being here.
But the comma said, how dare you abandon
the curl that tells how distinctly different
one iota is from another, lifting a note a little
higher or lower, casting a shadow over whatever
may follow, or making a sudden clearing
for the future, letting it tremble, hesitate, sing,
announcing how each thing depends on another,
touching, resting, going on, dying and ferreting
too, yes, that too, did you think it impossible to do
another thing after arriving, did you forget the
moment awakening after a dark dry dot,
that jab of ending, a minuscule well sounding
no less no more than a drop of the sap
asleep in winter trees, did you believe for a split
second you could breeze on by or pass
such a point without calling out to its source?
O, said the crow,
but didn’t you know:
am a drop
of the bottomless well,
you are a mark in the snow.
When Phillis Levin was editing some by John Donne for a Norton Anthology, she stood her ground on including what she thought was a more accurate representation of how he used commas. At around the same time of her comma dilemma, she was crossing a real field, with real crows in it, when the first lines to this poem came to her: “Forget the comma, the crow said, darting.”
Crow doesn’t need commas. He is full on, full out, every day, 24/7/365. He is exhausting. If he texted, every message would be in ALL CAPS ALL OUT ALL DAY.
Something in his essence is eternal: “I / am a drop / of the bottomless well.” We feel that when we see him in an open field or by a Dumpster or on a bare branch.
And us? On this earth we are only “a mark in the snow” — made and soon gone.