Archival Features, Poems

W. S. Di Piero: “Raven”

To end the year we’re featuring W.S. Di Piero’s “Raven,” which appears in the current issue of Poetry Northwest. “Years ago I read the opening phrase in a field guide’s description of a raven,” says Di Piero, ” and it stuck with me:  ‘Big black bird.’ I see ravens out my window every day and appreciate their don’t-mess-with-me posture and gliding maneuvers. (Crows don’t glide.) Apparent monochromatic blackness with endless flashing inflections — that’s one definition of good style. They have no songfulness, just a marvelous variety of noises and calls, which recommends them to poetry but not to pretty poetry.

“Most of my books contain a poem about a bird, none from a birdbrain’s consciousness, though:  they all in some way are about hunger, appetite, or aspiration that sounds like fury.”


Ratso pigeons
strictly for the birds.

Morning vocalizing
to settle one’s nerves.

Practice makes perfect.
Hello high wire art,

and come back O
red-tail youth. Upstart.

Hair bulbs down there.
Feed and need.

Sunshine so justified
upon my wings and

I sing for my supper.
Puppy litter. Woof.

Kittykats. Chickees.
Big black bird indeed.

Red-tail now
agh family-size.

Bring it on! Heart
of stone gold carved,

Big Bad Daddy
of Plumage Ebony,

back in the day
I was already me.


W. S. Di Piero’s latest book is Chinese Apples: New and Selected Poems. His essay “Fathead’s Hard Times” is in Best American Essays 2007. He lives in San Francisco and writes about art for the San Diego Reader.

“Raven” appears in the Fall-Winter 2008-09 v3.n2 issue of  Poetry Northwest Subscribe today