Ann Keiffer

Call in the Crows

May it not be so…

But if death comes for

my husband, my love, first,

I pray a flock of giant crows

will be quick to come to me.


I pray the crows will rush in like a fierce wind,

beating the air in their fury,

landing in the trees, on the rooftop,

on the porch,

beside me,

stalking in my darkened door,

entering the house without knocking.


I pray the crows will come to me

with all their black wings

spread like capes,

their ragged feathers

dragging the ground

like tattered mourning clothes.


I pray the dark birds will encircle me,

call out of me my crow-self,

urging me to






spurring me to

thrust out my neck,


strain forward,


making the cacophonous,

outraged sounds

spew out,

my beaky mouth

my only tool or weapon

to give expression to my grief.


May it not be so…

But if death comes for

my husband, my dearest friend first,

I pray that all the widows,

all the childless mothers,

all my tribal sisters of the world,

will come to me in spirit,

drawn by the primordial sound of

another human’s death-watch weeping.


I pray my sisters will persuade me

to give my body to my grief,

so I pound the ground,

tear my clothes,

throw dust on my head,

clasp my arms around myself

and rock my empty frame.


I pray they will be my midwives,

calling out of me

all my wailing grief,

urging me to pant with the pain,

helping me to bring to birth

the fullness of my sorrow.


I pray my sisters will draw me down

to fall on my knees among them,

all of us leaning into one another,

our arms locked around each other,

our tongues untied,

ululating together

in that piercing,

harrowing vocalization

of unbearable sorrow…

the sorrow

we forget

we risk

at every moment

we love

with all our heart and soul


so fatally mortal.


May it not be so…

But if death comes for

the other half of my heart first,

I will call in the crows.

I will call in my tribal sisters.

But I warn all others:

If my loving man

dies before me,

don’t come near me

if emotionality unnerves you.


For I will not take his death well.

… I will grieve down the house.


I will not pull myself together.

…I will fall apart in a thousand

    scrambled, jig-saw pieces.


I will not bear up with quiet courage.

…I will make loud, unseemly scenes

    and embarrass the family.


I will not wanly dab my eyes with Kleenex.

…I will soak the songbooks and

   drown the carpets with my tears.


And I will not find comfort in any of your

trite-and-true and tried-and-true condolences.

…I will choke on your words if you try to

talk to me then of God’s plan or how my

love is in a better place. Wait.


If death comes for this man I love first,

I will not exhibit

any sugar-coated, over-rated, funereal virtues.

 …I will be inconsolable.

 …I will scorch the pews with my passion.

 …I will weep over what is left of his body:         

just a shoeboxful of ashes.

…I will believe I can’t go on without him.


And there will be nothing anyone can do.

So let me go to live

among the crows

for a time.

The crows will let me be.

They will let me tell all my stories

about this prince of a man

and the life we had together,

let me tell the same stories

over and over,

as many times as I need to,

until I don’t need to tell them anymore,


until finally I discover the Love

I thought I’d lost,

still alive,

in the deepest center of my Self,


and I can come back into the world

to love it all again

…for both of us.


July, 2002

Ann L. Keiffer



About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

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