Thursday December 4, 2014   4:30pm


In the parking lot gloom of the Superstore

I had to stop

and become very still,

heart, breath, soul

all of me

perfectly quiet.

There, on the snow covered roof

of an old rusted red car

a large and mighty raven sat,

weather-worn and disheveled

wings slightly askew

neck feathers slightly ruffled

as though it had just returned

from some long night of misadventure

in the high mountain passes

where the storms and the gales

can blow one so swiftly off course

that home seems like such a far away thing

more bless-ed than breath.

And it knew it was in trouble, this Raven;

Knew it was in trouble

with the little pretty eyed girl

in a faded blue parka

with white fur trim

who stood in front of the car,

hands around her waist,

hugging herself tightly

and looking at the bird with a frozen expression

intent and silent.

And I thought to myself: How can one listen and scream at the same time?

It seemed to me,

that their gazes were so solidly locked

so permanently fixed upon the other

that nothing in this universe,

or this parking lot

was allowed to exist,

or intrude

upon this private moment

of perfect grace.

And yet, in spite of myself, I felt my hand slowly reaching into my pocket for my cell…

The bird looked  somewhat angry

nesting there, in its exhaustion,

or maybe it was sadness I saw,

in its cloudy eyes,

or defiance, or remorse,

some mixture

in that bird’s disposition;

as though circumstance did not allow

for one gently expressed emotion at a time

the little girl

on the other hand,

looked like all little girls do,

when immersed in a childhood world,

where stuffed bears and misbehaving bunnies

do something bad,

and must answer for it;

Listen to me now, pleaded the Raven.

But the girl was insistent:

“It’s ok to be angry or sad, she says,

but never go to bed mad…”

I have so very much to tell you, replied the Raven,

and so little time for telling,

But the girl would have none of it:

“Just say that you’re sorry, and you

won’t do it again, and

know that I will love you, for more than forever…”

I know that, said the Raven, its heart breaking,

just a little bit more,

But now you must listen very carefully!

The world,

is a beautiful place.

It has an infinite capacity for kindness,

You can see it in the way a scary old house will leave a nook or cranny for spring swallows to have their babies;

or the way a beautiful flower will suddenly grow in the hottest, driest, hardest  place,

or the way a friend will wrap her arms around you,

knowing without being told,

that your tears are about to flow.

you can see it each morning when the sun rises and warms the earth

sweeping away all the nightmares and the monsters;

you can feel it each evening, when mother tucks you into bed

and tells you she loves you like no one else in this world will ever love you –

aside from me.

“But I don’t understand!” said the pretty eyed girl.

Your words

are way, way too big for me!”

But someday they won’t be, answered the Raven. Someday, you will be bigger than these words. Trust me.

The little girl looked unconvinced.  But the Raven pressed on:

And I must tell you as well,

as kind as this world can be,

as big, blue, and beautiful as it can be,

it can also sometimes, be very sad.

“Like now,” whispered the little girl.

Yes, replied the Raven.

Just

        like

                now.

Sometimes, continued the Raven,

this world will tell you one thing,

and then do something altogether different;

Sometimes, this world,

will do things that seem unfair and just plain wrong.

“Like now?”

Yes, replied the Raven.

just

        like

                now

And sometimes, this world

will tempt you

with gifts and expectations and opportunities

that will fill your heart with joy

but, in the end, turn out to be nothing more than

little

        broken

                hearts.

scattered on your bedroom floor.

and what will you do then? asked the Raven.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m just a little girl. What shall I do?”

Well, then you will “Laugh!” replied the Raven.

“Why?”

“Because you have a super power.”

And what super power could I possibly have?” asked the little girl.

And here the Raven seemed to steady itself

straighten up

and with some new found strength

declared:

“Me!”

in a voice

so powerful,

and so certain,

and so bursting with love,

that even the Gods

upon their marble thrones

shuddered,

and quaked,

bowed their heads

in shame

at the folly they had done!

and the little girl suddenly felt her new super power

and began to shiver

uncontrollably,

as though this new thing

were a thousand points of hot brilliant light

fiery eyes

thrown down by heaven’s hand

that embraced her very soul,

coursed through her blood

laid a thousand angelic kisses upon her cheek

furiously wrapped her little broken heart

in layers upon layers

of sparkling, golden threads

kiln fired

in certainty of love

that it seemed to me,

the twilight gloom of this parking lot

was blasted into a shimmering crystal palace

Know that I am always behind you, continued the Raven.

applauding all that you’ve done!

Know that I am always beside you

urging you onward,

filling your lungs with the breath

                                        that is my breath;

And know that I am always in front of  you

sweeping aside all doubt and insecurity

swooping you up in my strong feathered wings

as you collapse into the arms of triumph.

Always!

The Raven flapped its wings once, as though testing itself

for flight.

Soon I will be of the air

upon the winds

soaring

lofting

over high mountain passes

sweeping low and fast

over steep river valleys

where the waters run deep and swift

like blue sapphire,

exulting

rejoicing

In every thing you do!

And know this one last thing to be absolutely true, said the Raven,

that I will leave tiny pieces of me everywhere

for you to find in the most unexpected places…

“Like a game! exclaimed the girl, now with the brightest of smiles on her face.

Like clues to a  sacred bond, between you and me,

that can never be broken, no matter how far it is stretched, or tested

Not even if I circled the earth a thousand times

this bond would only pull tighter

and bring you closer to me!

I felt my hand let go of my cell phone then.

no need for proof

of this sparkling memory palace

that the bird and the girl had built

for themselves

No need for distraction.

I was told once:

that if you stare at a mountain,

for even a while,

then look away, look back,

it will have changed.

But

stare with intent

with appreciation

at this same mountain,

for even just a little while,

then it will change you.

And so intent was I

upon this Raven,

that I did not see

the young girl’s mother

take her daughter’s hand

And then so quickly

The Raven

hoisted itself into the air

on powerful wings

found a current,

lofted itself

higher and higher,

over the rooftops

till it pierced the low cloud banks

like an arrow shot straight and true

through the very heart of sadness

into eternal sunlight.

And the mother

hugged her daughter tightly

kissed the top of her head and

whispered something in her ear

that made the young girl smile

And as they walked away,

A perfect expression of love,

I thought,

        or I imagined

                but I believe to this day:

that I saw

        in the little girl’s hand

                                        a long sleek black feather.


This poem was written in memory of our beloved FH Collins Grade Eight teacher Chris McNeill, who passed away in December of  last year after a brief battle with Cancer.  Annie is Chris’s young daughter.

(Matthew Brown    December 10, 2014)