Averted, staring past my busy day,
I watched my feeding station for the birds,
Was startled by a darkness come my way,
Presenting me a greeting without words.

It landed ten feet from my window sill,
Unfurling wings that wide and velvet-black.
This close it looked intense, as if to kill,
As if it were all ready to attack.

Well, now it started feeding; first it ate,
But then it stuffed its beak with bits of bread
And just flew off to feed its brooding mate
That patiently was waiting to be fed.

Where’s now the roguish rascal from of old?
He plays the loving partner, taking care
Of brooding matey, simply in the mold
Of a good husband, quite without compare.

That crow, he wasn’t dumb, but played it safe;
He knew what would befall him if he left
To go off with the boys, leave her a waif…
‘t Would stoke the fires of hell with her bereft!

Caw, caw!



Leo Zoutewelle was born in 1935 in The Netherlands and was raised there until at age twenty he emigrated to the United States.  After retiring in 2012  he has written an autobiography and two novels (unpublished).

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19 Responses

  1. Peter Hartley

    Leo – Excellent, but then I would expect you to do a good poem about animals, and it starts off with Evan’s sublime choice of paintings as usual(?). I particularly like the last line. Isn’t it fortunate that all birds learn a bit of self-restraint when they have to feed their young and perpetuate their genes, and they don’t even know they’re doing that. They certainly don’t know it’s their biggest imperative.

    • Leo Zoutewelle

      You’re so right, Peter, sometimes birds do it better than some people! Thanks for your comment.

    • Leo Zoutewelle

      Thank you for your comment, Norma. Of course, crows’ language is not always that silent!

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    What an ideal husband this wonderfully depicted, attentive crow makes. Obviously that shrieking murder of sinister crows will have to wait until the chicks have fledged. I love this alternative view of daddy crow through the eyes of the poet. I particularly like ” Where’s now the roguish rascal from of old?” – a pertinent question which you answer beautifully. I love birds. The crow has never been top of my list… but, he’s on the way up after reading your fine poem, Leo. Thank you.

    • Leo Zoutewelle

      Thank you, Susan, for your very kind comments. Yes, I think crows are especially interesting and it was exciting to see them that close-up!

    • Jan Darling

      Susan and Leo – thank you for your poems and comments. I am particularly fond of crows and we have many where I live – I include here a couple of stanzas from a rhyming narrative I wrote featuring Crows, Cats, Ducks and Dolphins. (It was an alphabetical 26-poem series.)

      He’s chatty and clever, our friend the Crow
      He lives with his family, together they grow;
      He may stay for years in his parents’ nest
      In his glossy black suit, he’s always well-dressed.
      His mum he helps care for seasons of siblings
      An actual fact that – not idle dribblings.

      It surprises one, then, that when found in a group
      It’s a Murder of Crows, not a coop, troop or swoop.
      Crows will only attack to protect the whole nest
      They’re caring as parents, among the best.
      Their label ‘a Murder’ refers to history
      Hundreds of years of gossip and mystery.
      I do enjoy reading your contributions.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Jan, I love your poem and the mention of the collective noun. The closing couplet is wonderful! We have a lot of magpies and crows in England. They’re attracted to all things shiny and used to rip the silver tops from milk bottles delivered to doorsteps in yester-year. They’re highly amusing creatures and your poem and Leo’s poem have given crows a much higher place in the pecking order.

      • Leo Zoutewelle

        Thank you, Jan, for posting that very interesting piece about crows!

  3. C.B. Anderson

    Metaphorically speaking, I’ve eaten crow on many an occasion. I don’t know what it’s like to eat Raven, though. On a technical note, the fourth line of the last full stanza (according to precedent you established throughout the poem) should begin “‘Twould” because if the initial letters of lines are to be capitalized, then they must be capitalized in every case. I can see that you must have thought that a contracted word did not deserve this honor.

  4. Monty

    I’ve got two minor quibbles with L6, Leo. To me, the line makes no sense unless the word ‘were’ was added. Thus: ‘Unfurling wings that were wide and velvet-black’.

    Also, when a bird lands (as it did near your window-sill) it FURLS its wings, not UNFURLS them.

    • Joe Tessitore

      I picked up on your first quibble, Monty, and thought that “t’were” was a possible solution, until I read your second quibble –
      well done!

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        “Unfurling wings that wide and velvet-black.” ~ I imagined the crow to have landed and then unfurled its wings to scare any would-be feeders away, while he took the lion’s share. As for the wings “that” wide. I imagined, like a fisherman, the poet is gesticulating as he is telling his tale. Since the word “that” is ambiguous, unless one sees the poem performed, perhaps “so” would be more appropriate for a reader… although, I love it as it is.

    • Leo Zoutewelle

      Actually, Monty, it furls its wings after it has landed. It unfurls its wings big-time during the act of landing, to reduce its speed. Anyway, that’s what I was thinking at the time. Thanks, though, for commenting.

      • Monty

        I realised that the addition of the word ‘were’ in L6 would’ve disrupted the metre; but I was only showing how the line should read in a ‘correct diction’ sense. Another commenter suggested replacing ‘that’ with ‘so’, which would go a long way to tidying up the line (although it still feels slightly awkward to me; the ‘so’ still seems redundant). But regardless, the ‘that’ is a no-no!

        Regarding the ‘unfurling’: I thought you were referring to after the crow had landed near your window. I now realise that you were referring to the actual act of landing. But (and you’ll think I’m just being officious here) strictly speaking, when a bird comes in to land, it doesn’t unfurl its wings; they’re already unfurled . . and have been so since it took-off. They fly with wings unfurled and flapping. And upon the act of landing, the wings REMAIN unfurled, but simply stop flapping! Wings only unfurl in the act of taking-off.

        In which case, the line could read better as follows (and in a way that the word ‘so’ is less awkward):
        ‘It landed ten feet from my window-sill
        With wings unfurled so wide and velvet-black.’

    • C.B. Anderson


      Perhaps in line six Leo meant “that” to be an intensifier. “[T]hat wide and velvet-black.” If he had written “so wide and velvet-black” I don’t think you would have had a problem with it. But I think you are right about “furl” — unless that crow of his decided to show off after it landed.

      • Monty

        You’re right, CB. If Leo had used ‘so’ instead of ‘that’, I wouldn’t ‘ave had a problem with it. I would still’ve felt it was a tad awkward and filler-ish, but I wouldn’t ‘ave felt impelled to comment upon it.

        You’ve used the perfect word for Leo’s use of the word ‘that’: “an intesifier”. That’s how I initially interpreted it; but that doesn’t escape the fact that it’s incorrectly used in the context of the line it’s in. The line as it stands would only make sense in speech, if the speaker – while speaking – was able to physically demonstrate with their hands how wide it was (in the same way that another commenter above perfectly analogised a fisherman demonstrating the lenghth of a fish). That’s the difference between speech and the written word.

        But, regardless, if one wanted to be pedantic, one could question whether the words ‘that wide’ have any place at all in that line; given that we’re talking about a crow, and not an eagle or an albatross!

  5. Leo Zoutewelle

    Mr. Mantyk, I am grateful to Peter Hartley for pointing out the beauty of the painting you have allotted my poem. When I went back to review it I saw that it had more excellence from several points of view than my poem, a good-natured, casual piece, and a pertinence to the poem acute enough to make the reader come away smiling. An outstanding introduction to “The Crow”! Thank you very much, Sir.


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