Urban Crows

by Ieuan ap Hywel
The Writer's Block
Third Place, November 2015
Judged by Barbara Siegel Carlson


“The swans will sing when the jackdaws are silent.”
                    — Roman and Greek Adage told by Erasmus

They rock and loll in plane copse tops
weep wind lullabies in feathered roosts
Keep late hours courtesy of neon and fluorescence
lights from the shopping centre and motorway
Look down onto the wide screen of the Indian Balti
Avid watchers of news and weather bulletins

Measure our mundane lives, note our passing
to the: Coop-shop, Italian Café, Post Office
and William Hill’s betting booty. They know me
after half a lifetime and give the ‘good-human’ caw

Visit our garden, drive out smaller birds
shake up the seagulls on the prowl, for us
gifts: a pebble shining smooth from the brook
a Pepsi Cola bottle top bright with colour

They feather their nests with our detritus
their chicks not unfamiliar with the face of
the Queen, a blue windswept find from the
park, woven into the fabric of their rest

A law unto themselves, black harbingers
of death, forecasters of rain, storm and tempest
They assemble in murders when funerals pass
to line up on the telephone cables

They knew when Egbert would die, surmising
his demise from the sweet smell of his decay
Followed him home, perched on his roof until the day
the cortège picked him up for the drive to the Crem

Urban crows, not inferior in their eyes to us
peck with nonchalance, move unhurriedly away
when checked – we live in their territory
Mob cats – a daily pleasure, torment dogs
just because they can – and strut their stuff

They eat well, have a penchant for curried
dinners, cast-aways from restaurants opposite:
curry rice, fish, chips, Rees’ Pies all speckled
with alcohol-induced vomit – all the same to them
They wade through the mess, leaving swathes of
chips wrapping-paper around the kiddie’s playground

When the apocalypse strikes and the skies burn red
and black with dust, when Geiger increases its count
crows will take over the world
Their intelligence will rule
they will speak of us with fondness
yet glad we have passed on

Swans sing when crows grow weary of their caw


This poem travels a great distance in its catalogue about city crows. It begins playfully describing them that ‘rock and loll’ in tree tops. Sweeping in vision, it moves through several landscapes in rhythms and images that capture their nonchalant takeover. The list of foods they eat is carefully chosen and described with verve creating a tension that leads to the growing irony and import as is the juxtaposition of kiddie’s playground to the apocalypse. The casual tone depicting the end of humanity at the end is chilling. --Barbara Siegel Carlson

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