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Poetry Friday: Corvids In The Time Of COVID

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The Spring Equinox quietly came and went last month as the COVID-19 outbreak dominated everything, shutting-down businesses, and sending people indoors for safety. But KNAU’s “seasonal” poet, Rob Bettaso, acknowledged the moment by writing something new for our Poetry Friday series. Rob lives in the White Mountains and is an avid bird watcher. In his poem A Raven at the Gate, he celebrates spring, plays with language, and juxtaposes the exuberance of spring with the seriousness of the times we’re in.

Rob Bettaso: This poem has its origins in three different fevers: there was cabin fever in February. I was chomping at the bit to get outdoors and do some hiking. And then spring came, so it was spring fever. And then we had the coronavirus which became more and more of an issue with each passing day. So, I kind of look at this poem as being inspired by three different kinds of fever.

Part of the thought process in writing this poem was in the early days when they were saying “COVID-19” all the time, I’m a bird watcher, so when you hear “COVID”, a bird watcher’s mind turns to “corvid,” which is the family of jays, magpies, crows and ravens. So, every time I would hear “COVID-19” I would think “corvid”, which is partly why the inspiration resulted in a raven being part of the subject matter for the poem. A mix of reality and positivity, but not ignoring what’s going on in the world around us in terms of the coronavirus.

The name I’ve settled on for the poem is A Raven at the Gate:

After a few weeks of tug-o-war,

I declared Spring the victor;

Told Winter to shove-off,

Flung open the door.

My solitary walks were safe

During those bluest days.

No contrails traced the sky;

Bunched yellow daffodils bloomed.

I welcomed the World to my

Way of living:

Idle, wary, detached,

Careful to the point of paranoia.

I had cleaned-up my life,

But the air became dirty;

Afar, a non-living life form

As content with a rat, or a bat.

Though, before long,

It was men,

Riding horses,

Four, from distant lands.

Where they had died on their knees,

We would stand.

Brave like a cur,

Defending a bone.

Upon return,

My quiet home,

A big, blue-black corvid,

Hops down, his ladder of limbs.

Greets me near the gate,

Croaking his gurgling call.

Close enough now to count

The bristles around his bill.

An ominous bird, near my door?

In days like none, we've seen before?

The nature of life is to survive.

I step lightly, up the drive.

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at Gillian.Ferris@nau.edu. 

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