Song of the Two Crows

By Hayden Carruth 1921–2008 Hayden Carruth
I sing of Morrisville   
(if you call this cry
      a song). I
(if you call this painful

voice by that great name)   
sing the poverty of my
      region and of
the wrong end of Morrisville.

You summer people will say   
that all its ends are wrong,   
      but there, right there,
the very end of the wrong end—

a house with windows sagging,   
leaning roadward as in defense   
      or maybe defiance
next to the granite ledge,

our cliff of broken stone
that shoulders our dilapidated
        one-lane iron bridge.   
Who lives here? I don’t know.

But they (Hermes reward them)   
made this extraordinary garden,   
petunias and nasturtiums

planted in every crevice and all   
the footholds of the cliff.
        And then
they painted the cliff-face,

painted the old stone; no design,   
just swatches of color, bold
        rough splashes   
irregularly, garish orange

and livid blue. Is it
fluorescent, do these stones   
        glow in the dark?
Maybe. I only know

they glow in the day, so   
vivid I stopped my car,
        whereupon two others   
came inquiring also, two

crows in the broken spars
of the white pine tree, cawing   
        above the house.
Why had those who inhabited

this corner of poverty
painted the stones? Was it   
        that the flowers
in living bravery nevertheless

made too meager a show
for the ruined cliff? Or did they   
        think to bring art
to nature, somehow to improve

this corner of ugliness?
For my part I thought how   
        these colors
were beautiful and yet strange

in their beauty, ugly colors,   
garish orange, livid blue;   
        they reminded me
of those Spanish cemeteries

I saw in New Mexico, tin   
mirrors and plastic flowers   
        in the desert. Then
I knew why the stones

had been painted: to make   
reparation, such as the poor
      might make, whose sorrow   
had been done here, this

desecration. Is not this
the burden of all poor lands   
the basis of poverty?

A spoiled land makes spoiled   
people. The poor know this.   
        I guess
the crows know too, because off

they flew, cawing above
the bridge and the slashed hills   
        surrounding Morrisville.   
I started my car and drove

out on the iron bridge   
which rumbled its sullen   
And I sang as I sing now

(if you care to call it song)   
my people of Morrisville   
        who live
where all the ends are wrong.

Hayden Carruth, “Song of the Two Crows” from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991. Copyright © 1992 by Hayden Carruth. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 (Copper Canyon Press, 1992)

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Poet Hayden Carruth 1921–2008

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Social Commentaries, Nature, Money & Economics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Hayden  Carruth


"Now and then a poet comes along whose work ranges across wide and diverse territories of form, attitude, and emotion—yet with the necessary intelligence that belies a deep, lifelong engagement with tradition—so that variance never seems mere experimentation or digression, but improvisation," wrote Midwest Quarterly contributor Matthew Miller. "Hayden Carruth is such an artist."

The National Book Award won by Carruth in 1996 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Nature, Money & Economics

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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