Though I Speak in Tongues of Ravens

by Peter Munro


The tide withdraws from garbage
strewn below Front Street,
exposing barnacles cemented along fissures
in transmission casings. Mussels self-
shackle to a cast-off refrigerator.
From within a thicket of drizzle,
crows trade insults and harvest
discard. Ravens plunder refuse, chuckling.
Wind ruffles their shiny hackles
when they plump themselves against the chill.


Does the pot say to the potter,
“Love, Love,
I must teach you about love,”
after being broken
and scattered on the trash heap?


Scavengers claw after scraps,
peck at bones and fractured clam shells,
scrabble among stones slick with algae.
Laws of beak and talon,
the clap of black wings, are subsumed
in the whorl of weather,
in the jostle of molecules,
in the charges electrons bring to bear.


The charges:
From a mortar crater
the seasoned rifleman’s sights
lead the moving target
who staggers four strides beyond
the squeeze of a trigger.

My brother, two years younger
than I, still hunts Sitka black tails
with my father’s thirty-ought-six,
a weapon several years older than I.

I tried to learn to shoot.
It turned out that I am a flincher.


Take me to the Hill of the Skull.
Hear Genesis
in a crow’s raucousness,
rumors of a covenant.

I have tasted salt at high water.
I have heard ravens gossip
in a language I believe
I knew as a child.
I have seen a tide flat divide the waters
and deer cross like the tribes of Israel,
silent in the shining rain.


Guide my skiff down to the tide flat.
Lead my sights to the well-fed doe,
my bead fixing the curve of her neck.
Hold her life in the cup of my eye;
I will not cause fire to leap at her.
Her entrails shall drape no refuse heap.

Let my father’s rifling
tumble through twenty fathoms and settle in the mud.
Let tube-worms crust the crow-blue barrel.
Let polychaetes ripple over the bolt,
the bullet heavy in its chamber.

Photo credit

About Peter Munro

By day Peter Munro works as a fisheries scientist, on deck in the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands, or chained to a computer in Seattle. By night, Munro makes poems. Some have been published or are forthcoming in Poetry, the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Iowa Review, and elsewhere. More are forthcoming in the Birmingham Poetry Review, Passages North, The Cortland Review, The Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Rattle. Listen further at

Peter Munro

Peter Munro is online at