Take It in Stride
You don’t want my heart?
Fine. I will climb a hill
where the sky is wide.
The sun will be setting
and the wet grass will drag at my feet.
I will crouch there
as darkness wraps me in its arms,
and watch the lights wink on below:
highways, bridges, stars,
places I’ll go without you.
There will be a dog with me,
a soft one,
and she will whine, lick my ear,
and knock against my legs.
When I begin to shiver
I will learn into her, but hers
is not the warmth
I will be thinking of.
I’ll throw a few stones
into the belly of the night,
shout to flush the brooding crows,
and I will stride
This poem comes from a book of poetry for children titled What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings, which I’ll be reviewing next month at Tweetspeak Poetry for the Children’s Book Club. I’ve read several collections by Joyce Sidman, and they are all excellent. “Heartless” acknowledges that crows often accompany us in sadness. Sometimes they have something to do with it, although not in this poem. Sometimes grief stops us, and we notice the crows.
In this poem they are brooding. It’s a great word choice because it means more than one thing and in this poem, I think it means both simultaneously. In the bird sense, to brood means to incubate eggs. These crows are on the nest. But in the human sense, to brood means to ponder, to meditate. The speaker is brooding over separation from someone. She will climb a hill and watch darkness come, accompanied by an affectionate dog providing “warmth” but not “not the warmth / I will be thinking of.”
Our speaker is not doing well. She is “heartless,” like the title. She throws stones and shouts at the brooding crows. But she is also heartless because someone doesn’t want her heart. She is empty “without you.”
The poem’s illustration by Pamela Zagarenski shows crows holding a red string in their beaks, as if it is the heart tie between these two estranged people. The crows wear crowns. There is also a pale gray shadow of a bird on a branch, and it is not connected to the string. Perhaps it is grief, not personified, but birdified.
If you are lamenting, go outside. Bring a dog if you have one. Sit on your hands, if need be, so you don’t hurt any creatures of the earth or sky. Soon enough, you’ll see crows. Look for their crowns.