We have long esteemed the work of Kimberly Johnson and so we are thrilled that she agreed to let us post this incredibly appropriate (and lovely) poem.
On Divination by Birds
I don’t need that black
wind of crows kicking up from flax to tell
heavy weather coming, white days to drop
barricades across the interstate,
against two hundred miles of trackless white.
(The crows so obvious then against the miles
of trackless white!) More tricky the magpies
flicker and croak at the sunken carcass
of a roadkill deer, raveling with beaks
the rubbery guts, picking gravel
from scant meat: there must be in their turn-taking
some pattern, some elegant design
beyond need, something in the raw trouble
of jays, the ragged braying geese flown south.
I gaze at their weightless wingbeats daylong
working to discern whether V might stand
for valediction, or vigilance, or
the blank indifference of velocity.
This poem first appeared in the Harvard Review and later was in her book A Metaphorical God (Persea Books, Inc. New York, NY 2008).
Kimberly Johnson is a poet, translator, and Renaissance scholar. She is the author of a previous collection, Leviathan with a Hook, and a translation of Virgil’s Georgics. Her poems appear widely in such publications as The New Yorker, Slate, and The Iowa Review. Johnson has received prizes from the Merton Foundation and the Utah Arts Council, and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Salt Lake City.