1. The Raven

    The Angel of Death rises up in the land
    His eyes are like iron, his wings drifting sand
    And the Ravens who race to the Ark see him stand
    On the peaks of two stormclouds, at Settlement Strand
    And waters, dark waters, pour out of his hand.

    The gush from his right gathers black as a well
    Beneath his right foot stands a mountainous swell
    But his left hand makes brittle bright flows to congeal.
    The Ravens arrive, and Ja-Pheth rings the bell
    Oh, the sound of that bell in the silence is fell.

    To the family within it says, “Fall to your prayers!”
    The forsaken without feel the roots of their hairs
    It troubles the cats and the twitchety hares
    But the raven-wife stops at the door and declares
    That she’s fallen in love with the bell unawares.

    He sees her in shadow, the bell bright as flame
    Then the Angel leans down, shuts the door in God’s name.
    So the Raven is never quite sure who to blame
    That he sails for six weeks, bereft of his dame
    He weeps so, Ham almost regrets that he came.

    He beats at the door by night and by day
    He shouts till his voice is as hoarse as a jay
    The Prophet serene hears himself shout, “Belay!”
    But the Raven just answers in curses risqué
    For his wife is the one he is used to obey

    Then can it surprise that as soon as the cruise
    swamps in the carboniferous ooze,
    postdiluvian ooze, the Prophet should choose
    to commission the bird he is longing to lose?
    (And what of that ill-judged inebriate snooze?)

    The Raven flies out and the Raven flies back
    He scans the seethed country, both crevice and crack
    The oily black waters, the rotted sea wrack
    And he flies past the Angel, who stands with his back
    to the long hallowed ship – Oh what whirring black

    Winged nestling thing huddles under his chin?
    Now the Raven forgets how distraught he has been
    While he feasts with his mate on the wages of sin
    And he fancies himself a small feathered kin
    To the Angel – and croaks when he sees him again.

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    • I’m printing this so I can carry it around for a while, maybe take it to the gym with me where I do some decent thinking. I’m going to Los Angeles next week to see my six-year-old twin grandchildren. Well see how they react.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Later: nope, I’m not taking it to the gym. No need to think; it’s a story, a funny story. The only part that slowed me down was “Oh what whirring black / Winged nestling thing huddles under his chin?” Great image by the way!

      I needed only the next to lines to confirm my suspicion. It is his “mate,” who, having “fallen in love with the bell” (what?) gets locked out of the ark but is somehow saved by the Angel of Death.so the two birds can eat s–t, . . . I mean, sin. And then dies.(“croaks”? How unpoetic. But very funny, in keeping with the bell thing.)

      Surprise! I was not tempted to find deep meaning here. It reminded me of Lewis Carroll. Not the jabberwocky-type poems, but more just the word play and enjoyably crazy story. And I didn’t have trouble with the names. I have a brother named Ham. We used to joke about where Japheth and Shem were. (Where is Shem, by the way?}

      Favorite parts: “brittle bright flows . . . congeal”. “Twitchety hares”. “Ill-judged inebriate snooze” (who is that?) That whole stanza actually, especially the sounds and of course “the carboniferous ooze, / postdiluvian ooze”

      Problem parts: (1) how can a swell stand, mountaneous or not? (2) I stumbled join the line that begins “The forsaken without…” I kept s seeing “without” as a preposition. (3) I’m used to thinking of “seethe” as an action with no end (I.e., no object, therefore no past participle/ descriptive adjective). (4) That’s it — small things. In no way do they detract from the poem. I just thought you’d be disappointed if I didn’t find anything wrong. 🙂

      Way to go!


        • This question was really meant as a compliment, I think, but I wanted to address it seriously anyhow. I think rhyming is like weaving. As you go along, you are constantly bringing in convenient new elements that then – and only then – become part of the design. The important thing is not to design the poem too exactly ahead of time – because the available rhymes will always defeat your designs. It’s better not to determine any one aspect of the poem, whether the storyline, the phrasing, or the form, before beginning. The more the poem is determined going in, the fewer rhyming possibilities you have.

          For instance, I am pretty sure that one of my favorite poems will forever remain unfinished due to the lack of words rhyming with “blot.” You see I need the phrase “bright blots” and it has to be an imperfect rhyme – and, well this is probably the worst use of ‘slot’ ever in a poem. Sigh.


          Go and rape your genius crying,
          lying in some lot;
          Catch the money falling, mingling,
          jingling, from her slot ;
          Grind it up, in liquor sink it,
          drink it till you rot;
          Preach, then: ban the faultless failing,
          railing on bright blots.

          People will tell you that you should never change a word or phrase or any intention in your poem just to fit a rhyming word in. If you do that, they tell you, it will seem forced and unnatural. I do know what they are talking about because you do see that in poems sometimes – the awkward or empty phrase that’s only there because it rhymes. But those people are mistaken to blame rhyming for that. The real problem is inflexibility.

          To put it another way, words want to be organized. We already impose form on our language by speaking in sentences. Yet we don’t consider that unnatural – simply because we are adept and flexible enough to instantaneously change every part of a sentence in order to accommodate that one word or tense or voice or style that we are about to use. (We language-users are tremendously intelligent – it staggers the comprehension, which makes all the “don’t try this, you’ll fail” rules just silly and contemptuous.)

          In other words, we don’t really compose language linearly – we compose sentences whole. You start off using the right tense, voice, case and person from the very beginning – the words at the end of the sentence limit the words at the beginning of the sentence, before they are even chosen.

          And every time one choice constrains another choice, it also bestows an opportunity for specificity. And delight lies in the specific.

          Well, rhyme is just another formal consideration like person or tense or voice or case. It’s just another ball to juggle. And if you can juggle five balls, you can juggle six.

          So for instance, I knew when I began the poem that in general I wanted to tell the story of the raven in a sort of “Byron’s Sennacherib” kind of way, and I wanted to get across generally some metaphysical point or other about the raven, which I have now forgotten. The Byronic style stuck around but turned a little farcical; the metaphysical point was completely lost. In the meantime, my need to use the word “swell” to convey the image that came as I wrote – of the water building up but not yet let loose – well this word has only so many rhymes and one of them is ‘bell.’ And that suggested the storyline with one of the ravens falling in love with the bell – which I loved. The closer I got to the end, the more I began to understand what the end would have to be and the more that consideration, in turn, constrained my storyline choices, which in turn constrained my rhyming choices. Near the end, I was careful to begin each stanza with a line ending in a word with a very large entry in the rhyming dictionary.

          The form was suggested entirely by the way the first stanza went. I just kept writing rhyming lines until my initial thought/vision was completely communicated. Then all the other stanzas had to follow suit.

          So the key to making it look unforced is to force it a little, you see. 🙂


          • Sigh. . . . cough . . . chuckle . . .

            But seriously (chuckle ) No, seriously. This is quite interesting, I mean the whole issue of how forms grow. You’ve done a lot of thinking on the topic. It is good for me to hear; I’ve been sailing along blissfully using dead reckoning .(Some say it’s really “dede” but I like the dark humor in the other word. There have been times when my poems collapse for lack of direction)


      • It really is an achievement. I keep rereading it in happy admiration and with much enjoyment! In addition to it’s many virtues of sound and skillfully employed language, it is just a great, original story! It’s an entrancing combination of humorous, ominous, and slightly macabre. Linking Raven and the Angel of Death = brilliant. It feels very natural and in balance while being unlike anything else I’ve read.

        “Postdiluvian ooze” was a favorite phrase of mine too. Albert, I think falling in love with the bell might have something to the do with the fact that crows (and maybe ravens too?) are attracted to bright, shiny objects.

        “Ill judged inebriat snooze” is a reference to Noah’s drunken slumber after the flood. Blaming that on Raven cracks me up! 🙂

        Thanks for putting the challenge to such good use, Alana!

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        • Oh, you’re welcome! And thank you for bringing us such a rich theme.

          You’re right about the bright shiny objects folk meme. Also, as I told Albert, the bell was a voice of doom kind of thing which helped with the attraction.

          You are also right about the ill-judged inebriate snooze – well spotted!

          The link between the Angel and the Raven was came to me about the middle of the poem. I breathed a sigh of relief when it occurred to me, because otherwise the appearance of the angel in the first stanza would be a loose end. And then it just made sense.

          To augment my comments about form and rhyming above, I wanted to add the following. Once a poem is written, I always like to reflect that that very poem – that exact combination of words with all their meaning and arrangement – was always possible. It always already existed in potentiality. This makes writing complex stuff far less intimidating. Each choice one makes is like taking a turn down a road. Most roads lead to more roads. There’s always a possibility waiting to find that works with the turn you’ve just taken. When you occasionally come on a dead end, you can always retrace your steps and try a new path.


      • I should have reread this comment thoughtfully. I would have cleaned up the typos, but more than that I wouldn’t have characterized your poem as “funny” only. It is more than that. Far more. Humorous in parts. Delightfully inventive. Clever. Surprising in its plot twists. Dramatically presented. Vivid. All things that make for a memorable reading experience. More cheers!

        (And apologies if I misread “croaks.” Except for the frog connection, I could hear it as the Raven’s expression of surprise, gratitude, or possibly fear at the sight of the Angel. After all, Leah helped remove what I saw as a nonsensical plot twist involving the bell. So, i’m starting to think again.)


        • I was fine with “funny” but I’ll also take inventive, clever and the rest. Hah I’m being cheeky but really I’m terribly pleased with this and you’ve made me feel very good about it.

          As far as ‘croaks’ I think if you look in the Oxford dictionary and some of the more complete ones you will see Ravens and well as frogs mentioned among animals whose voice can be called a ‘croak.’ Here’s an interesting story about it. See, we don’t just do poetry here – a little dollop of philology and etymology every now and then enriches the whole.


          Anyhow, there are two significances to the Raven’s croak in this poem. First, in traditional literature, primeval events often permanently alter certain characteristics in certain animals. (The early version of punctuated-equilibrium evolution I guess.) Besides the whole serpent crawling on his belly thing in Genesis, a famous example of this is the story by Kipling about how the elephant’s trunk (O Best Beloved) got so long.


          Anyhow, at one point in the poem, the Raven is shouting so loudly and constantly that his voice becomes “as hoarse as a jay.” So his ‘croak’ is now simply his voice – which has changed to become what it now is.

          I thought the clues were there, given the tradition, but I guess it’s a little obscure.

          There’s another aspect to this. Whenever he sees the angel he croaks (utters his voice) specifically because he considers the angel to be “kin.” Since that is the reason he does it, I hoped it would be clear that the ‘croak’ is a greeting. And in keeping with the primeval tale-of-origins tradition, this would explain why people see the Raven’s croak as an omen of death. Because if he croaks, he might just be doing it as a greeting to the angel of death – who would of course only be there to escort someone to the other side.

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      • Thanks, Albert! I know that some of my ways of saying things were less than direct! I do feel justified in doing that if the answer can be found in literature commonly considered as central to our cultural heritage. So Leah is correct, folk-literature ravens would be interested in bright shiny objects. I was thinking that was sufficient; but it also made sense that the raven-wife would fall in love with the bell, because it was kind of a voice-of-doom thing, and one theme was that the ravens found this affinity with death. Which works because they are carrion-eaters, and in folk literature (and Edgar Allen Poe) can be omens of death as well.

        “The wages of sin” is, of course death, as per the Apostle Paul. And ravens can’t literally eat death but of course they eat dead flesh.

        I’m so glad that you liked the “ooze” stanza! I do think it’s just on the edge of being too Dr. Seuss, lol. But if it passed muster that’s good enough for me.

        1) A swell of water cannot stand, except miraculously. Since it happens in Exodus, I figure why not in Genesis? The image is meant to convey impending judgment. It’s ready, but being withheld just until the ark door can be shut.

        2) ‘Without’ is now more commonly used as a preposition than an adverb. However, you know my rule – if it can be understood, it’s still English! Actually I felt that the ‘within’ in the previous line should have set it up enough. However, I stumbled over it myself a few times in re-reading so I do recognize that it doesn’t generate the smoothest read.

        3) To seethe (as in anger) is an intransitive verb, you are right. (Or is it sort of in the middle voice?) However, that usage is actually derived from a more original one – ‘to seethe’ is a cooking term. You can seethe meat for instance. It’s kind of like stewing it. You can see the same thing happened to the verb “to stew” which is interesting.

        Great questions, thanks for the chance to clarify.


  2. Well, I have a poem, but I think it is not done. Although I’ve tried writing it up in an number of different ways, it is still reading like a draft to me and I feel a little stuck with it. But here it is! Suggestions welcome.

    “A Dove to Two Ravens”

    What floats is foul; the waters of the deluge reek
    and restless flits the raven.
    His confined haven loathe to seek,
    on bloated bellies he drops his feet.

    (Restless like Noah’s raven
    I flit through my soul to and fro
    and my thoughts light only on carrion
    rising from blackness below.)


    In waters of judgement receding,
    there’s more than an ark for the soul,
    for earth is alive and is keeping
    though tides of the tempest may roll.

    Stay yet awhile,
    cease from striving,
    though now hope is known by it’s ache,
    a twig from a tree of the olive
    is waiting in my beak to break.

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    • You have some good images; you have a couple of flashes of concrete unprejudiced vision (“on bloated bellies he drops his feet”) that I’m such a fan of these days. You have the central idea of contrast: the raven as the first witness of the earth’s seeming death; the dove as the witness to the astounding return of the earth to life.

      You seem to be doing two things here: wanting to reveal this vision, and wanting to draw an allegory between the vision and the persona’s inner landscape.

      Maybe it’s just where you’re at right now, but I think the better images and expressions are coming from the vision, while the allegorical aspects are calling forth a less poetic response.

      There could be a few reasons for that. Possibly you are forcing the allegory on your muse when she just wants to revel in the ephemera of darkness and rot. You are trying to be nicer than you are, perhaps – or to make the subject nicer than it is. (Although there is nothing weak about the resurgence of life from such devastation.) The other possibility I see is that you haven’t fully realized that you are trying to do two separate things, and so you have given a little focus and energy to each, but not really enough. So the vision and the allegory are each partly formed but not fully.

      That’s why, even though it leaves out some things I like (I agree with Albert about “more than an ark for the soul”) I feel that the second poem, below, is better in literary quality. Basically because it’s less allegorical and focuses on the vision more – so that the latter comes out stronger.

      How to proceed?

      I think you may get some good results from trying to strengthen your phrases and lose some weak spots.

      Perhaps go through your verbs one by one and look for a more striking verb where needed. (waiting, rising, turns and flies – these make little impression, while “the earth is alive and is keeping” and “reek,” “drops his feet” – these are specific and reverberant enough to keep the reader going.)

      You might also think about something that is harder to describe – unity might be a good word, or perhaps fitness. What I mean is that when words are added together, their total effect is different than their individual effect. Like mixing colors. Some words when put together make nothing but muddy brown. I think “confined haven,” is like that – especially in the shadow of “loath.” It’s easy to pass that kind of thing off as “contrast” but contrast only works when two very strong items are put side by side, both fully understood. Their effect on one another is then subtle enough to call up the most rare feelings.

      “Confined haven” is a term. It is two words combining to act like a single word. The words mix, rather than contrasting. So ‘haven’ – a place of shelter and rest and retreat, and ‘confined’ – a place of frustration and loss of power – the feeling is just not coming clear. I would find a replacement for ‘haven.’ Something similar happens with the juxtaposition of ‘hope’ and ‘break’ that spun Albert so.

      I really like the places where you have a soft imperfect rhyme (reek/feet; receding/keeping.) I’m not sure why this strikes me so favorably. It may be a passing mood. Or maybe it reminds me of Emily Dickenson who did so with abandon. I simply like the music of it and it seems to create a more shadowy effect round-cornered effect which suits the poem that is emerging here. At any rate I encourage you to find your strongest, fittest, leanest phrase in each instance, and let some of the easier, more perfect rhymes go. Such as flow and blow, or roll and soul. (I like the nice round sounds of these words, by the way, for reflecting the turgid fulsome behavior of water. The way you pair them could be the difference between Philip Bliss and Charles Wesley.)

      To sum up: I think you might need to unloose and set free your real vision, which you may be restraining in some way. In order to do that, you might try to forget about complete sentences and perfect rhymes, drop the phrases that you think you need but don’t inspire. Rewrite without looking at what you already have – from scratch, and don’t try for rhyme or meter. Let each successive phrase be your strongest. (When I do this, I find that my strongest phrases from the original come back to me in the rewrite, while the others just drop by the wayside.)

      When you have a collection of very strong phrases and insights to work with, that is like having some good strong mixed colors on your pallet.

      Then go back and tie it together with form and sound effects – whatever is suggested by what you have. It is not bad to be a painstaking writer, but word- and phrase-substitutions can be your friend when you need a rhyme.

      I hope that’s not too impertinent. I am really interested in the health of this poem!


    • Leah, may I ask what you were intending with the meter/rhythm? I’m wondering if it simply followed the needs of the lines willy-nilly, or whether it was a reflection of surges of feelings, or whether you had thought through the length of lines and the syllable count.


    • I’ve been dense. The central intent of the poem is that the raven needs to dove to tell him that what he can see is not the whole story. The raven can only see death; the dove alone can bring the message of stirring and returning life. In the biblical narrative this is also true, but each bird brings Noah its own kind of “message” and that’s that. In your poem, the dove and the raven are viewpoints in the soul (in addition to being themselves.) The dove has the last word because she can see more than the raven can. So with her gentle insight, she must somehow master the darkness that the raven reports. In a way, she tames death. Her voice sounds like Christ in the end.

      That’s what this poem adds to the lore, and that’s a treasure. No, don’t abandon this.

      I agree that this could be clearer. Right now it depends on the title, I think – which I have a tendency to skip over. (My bad.)

      If I were your editor instead of a critique partner, I think I would tell you to simplify. Have two “Raven speaks” stanzas and two “dove speaks” stanzas. Label them as such, and have both speaking in first person. Have it clear in your own mind who each bird is addressing.

      If I could suggest a new rhyme, “scroll” or “unscroll” have a lot of potential as a rhyme for the “ark for the soul” line. And I’m still curious what you are intending with the meter.


      • Thanks for taking a look at this again!

        ‘The central intent of the poem is that the raven needs to dove to tell him that what he can see is not the whole story. The raven can only see death; the dove alone can bring the message of stirring and returning life. In the biblical narrative this is also true, but each bird brings Noah its own kind of “message” and that’s that. In your poem, the dove and the raven are viewpoints in the soul (in addition to being themselves.) The dove has the last word because she can see more than the raven can. So with her gentle insight, she must somehow master the darkness that the raven reports. In a way, she tames death. Her voice sounds like Christ in the end.’

        This is all true to my intent, although I didn’t realize before now that you had missed it. 🙂 Yes, the title is crucial to the reading. Perhaps you are right that clearer labeling would help. I also like scroll or unscroll as a possible rhyme for “ark of the soul”. Thanks for the suggestion!

        Good question about the meter. I was trying to do something here a little different than what I have done in recent challenges (or maybe ever) which was to play it a little more by ear. I’m not sure if it works yet or simply reads as verse that doesn’t scan properly, which is one reason I felt the poem wasn’t done.

        Basically, the first stanza is supposed to sound grim and intense, the second stanza reflective, but also intense, and the final two stanzas are supposed to have a more mild and removed sing song of their own. It actually does work in my head and as I read it, but I’m not sure if that’s because I know what I want from the lines and if they may simply sound off when taken up by a fresh reader. I kind of marked out feet after I was “done” rather than frequently as I went, and I noted that some lines of similar value replicated eachother in stresses, which seemed all to the good, and that the occasional anapest followed by a stressed syllable might (lol) be somewhat in keeping with a choppily rolling sea (as Albert, I believe, noted about our Seabird to the Wave poems).


          • I don’t know about twangy. I think what I’m realizing is that it sounds like it’s halfway to being a hymn. And because that’s the style, I expect it to be quite strict in its metricality, like hymns have to be.

            I found a great article about the literary value of hymns recently. I think I’ll post the link as it was helpful for me to fill out that part of my experience with some sound opinion.

            As far as varied line length, I sometimes do that but I usually try to incorporate a pattern, such as a longer or shorter last line to each stanza, or every third, or what have you.

            If it’s blank verse you can just group the iambs in lines of five, with enjambment.

            If you really just want a looser arrangement I guess it depends how you handle it.


  3. This is one of the alternate versions.

    “Raven and Dove”

    What floats is foul; the waters of the deluge reek
    and restless flits the raven.
    His confined haven loathe to seek,
    on bloated bellies he drops his feet.

    He drops and feeds, then turns and flies,
    sweeping the skies, to and fro,
    and his eye lights only on carrion
    rising on black tides below.

    Yet in the dark water receding
    beneath the troubled sea flow
    the earth is alive and is keeping
    as winds from the tempest yet blow.

    Rooted far deeper than seeming
    is form for a fresh hope to take:
    a twig from a tree of the olive
    is waiting
    in my beak to break.

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    • I think it’s interesting we both used this vision of how dark the waters are – some relation to the darkness of the raven’s color.

      I also had the vision of the bloated forms rising from the water, so I feel I know what you are seeing in your mind’s eye. I didn’t end up using it in my poem because it didn’t fit the mood that emerged. I’m glad you have it because I think it’s very affecting from the Raven’s-eye point of view.


  4. After reading and rereading, I am still haunted by the first version, with the line, “there’s more than an ark for the soul,” and with the italicized stanza which leaps out of hiding while seeming to hide. Also the departure in the first two lines of the final stanza (same version) from the previous pattern awakens a reader who might have been lulled by the echoing end sounds and wave-like rhythm above. It makes him think about the meaning and importance of the last word, “break.” He’s aso thinking about the title. It implies something that is somewhat hidden in the poem.

    For example, I imagine that the dove is the speaker who is addressing, or more likely describing, at least one of the ravens, but then I wonder if the other raven is speaking in the second stanza, or is it really the dove speaking there and the narrator is neither dove nor raven, but if so who is speaking in the final stanza? My own interpretation is that it’s the dove all the way through, and the italicized part is the deeper dove, revealing her unexpected identity with the behaviors of ravens in general, or at least of this one: the darker side of nature, and by poetic extension, of human nature.

    Uh-oh. See what happens to me? I start finding things that maybe aren’t there, reading INTO poems instead of just reading. Forgive me, I could say, but I can’t stop, so . . .

    if you don’t want the ambiguity –“compexity” might be a better description — surrounding the word “break” {which I rather like}, that part could be developed. For me, the key is contained in these striking lines:
    “. . . my thoughts light only on carrion / rising from blackness below”


  5. sea nested in sky
    trees, rocks, grass, now all water
    too many heartbeats
    imprisoned for two egg roosts
    dull feathers aching
    glimpse of glory, blue and gold
    soaring, breath over the waters
    sea retreats and sky recovers
    my young cry, now they will eat

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome, Ryan! I’m so glad you’ve joined us.

      I think this little web of words is really quite respectable. I’ve been pondering it and re-reading it. It’s a little different than what we usually get and that’s great too. We three have gotten to know one another’s styles and tendencies pretty well and we’ve become supporters and fans of one another’s work. I think we would be glad to admit another (hopefully regular) contributor.

      So, that first image, or concept really – sea nested in sky. This was very surprising to me. It made me imagine the raven’s flight differently. Previously I was seeing it like a map. Now I’m seeing it like… the earth disappears, instead of the sea nestling in a hollow in the land it comes right up to the brim of the sky… well there’s really not a better way to say it (that I can think of) than you have, right here. So I’m loving that already.

      “trees, rocks, grass, now all water,” I think that’s the right progression from the previous thought, completing the picture of the change that the flood works on the world. What I don’t feel easy about is the choice of the three nouns. They seem like the first things you would think of, and are very general. I’m not getting a picture in my mind. You might want to mine the thought further.

      “too many heartbeats” – this is ambiguous, which is not necessarily bad. My leaning is to take it that this is the raven’s viewpoint so you are using language that might represent how he “thinks.” He doesn’t measure time by ticks of a clock or by sundials – time is simply heartbeat. It’s too long – but you said it better. Excellent. (My other possible interpretation was that he found the ark too crowded – too many other heartbeats were stuffed into it and he needed to fly.)

      “dull feathers aching” – Again it made me think. If his feathers were dull, either there wasn’t enough to eat or he’s stopped grooming himself. Perhaps so. Some believe the animals were put to sleep by God on the ride. I don’t know why feathers would ache though…

      “Imprisoned for two egg roosts” – So I looked it up and sure enough, a raven’s gestation period is exactly 40 days. How clever of you to get that in! If I remember correctly, Noah’s crew sails for 40 days and then rest on the mountain for 40 days, before Noah sends the raven out?

      “glimpse of glory blue and gold” – Oh, very nice alliteration here!This would even work beautifully in an Anglo-Saxon poem. I assume this is when the Raven is finally let out. One thing this makes me realize is that you’ve represented his thoughts as fragments – and that’s quite poetic. It’s kind of daring to me that there’s no break between the ‘imprisoned’ line and the ‘glory’ line – although that’s where the poem “turns.” Did you try it with a stanza break there? Or even a single word of transition?

      “Soaring, breath over the waters” – Another though you might mine a little deeper and cut a little clearer. An emotional climax of the piece, and yet I find ‘soaring’ a bit predictable and ‘breath over the waters’ difficult. (But perhaps the others will disagree with me.)

      “sea retreats and sky recovers” – same… I feel the want of less tame verbs here. Good composition, though – the right thought at the right place.

      “my young cry, now they will eat” – I think that’s perfect.

      Overall effect: engaging with the poem was mentally satisfying. Aesthetically, it has a lot going for it but wants a little more. And some indefinable quality was suggested – the raveny mind. That was good.

      Thanks for participating! Feel free to give your honest impressions of the other poems. We all enjoy – well, just having readers for one thing, lol! But having readers that interact and tell us their reactions, is wonderful. It helps make the next poem better.


      • Thank you so much for your feedback. You have rightly identified a few things I was going for.

        This largely grew from the inside-out. The haiku-ish section
        “dull feathers aching
        glimpse of glory, blue and gold
        soaring, breath over the waters”

        I was aiming for the Raven’s perspective. At first, I was working with wings aching and dull feathers, thinking that being cooped up and unable to fly would be tortuous to a bird. I combined, almost accidentally the aching and the feathers, and fell in love with it. I often try to compose out loud as I drive.

        I like your comments on the specifics tameness of verbs and general nouns. I’m going to go at them again.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I was realizing something as I read this poem and reflected on my readings of a couple of Alana’s from recent challenges which is– I haven’t been sure how to read, and how to like, poetry without traditional punctuation and sentence structure. I can feel the appeal but haven’t been sure how to approach it. (Most of my poetry reading has been limited to my favorite era. . . Victorian. . . and a handful of contemporary poets that aren’t particularly innovative in these aspects. Others I went over briefly in school but what I learned, if anything, hasn’t stayed with me.)

          So, for me, this comment of Alana’s was instructive as it gets at the essence of what this kind of poem does that others cannot, at least in the same way– provides a series of flashes of impressions in a more unmediated fashion. The success depends all on the skillful selection and arrangement of words that make up the impressions, and conformity to the conventions of prose is irrelevant.

          Thus armed, I returned to your poem with greater appreciation, although even before that I was drawn to it. (My favorite lines were “dull feathers aching” and “glimpse of glory blue and gold”– pitch perfect and memorable!) I didn’t understand “sea nested sky” at first, but now that I do I find it striking as well.

          I agree that probably “soaring breath over waters” is the weakest line. I didn’t have a problem with “sea retreats and sky recovers”. I think the first three syllables of the line have a nice little springy beat to them, with the repetitive long e sound, a suitable start to the optimism of the rest of the line and poem.

          “My young cry, now they will eat” sounds vaguely familiar, in an allusive way. Is there something in a psalm some where about the ravens crying out to God for their food, or is my mind playing tricks on me? If so, nice working that in!

          Thank you for participating!

          Liked by 1 person

          • There are two allusions intended.
            1. Breath on the water is from Gen 1. “Spirit” carries the meaning of breath, as does the etymology of “soar.” But I need to hammer on that one a bit more.
            2. The feeding of raven’s young is from Job 38:41, Psalm 146 (Hebrew 147) and to a certain extent Luke 12:24.

            Liked by 1 person

          • So Leah, I wanted to share something I read somewhere that made a difference for me about the punctuation thing. I read an interview with an older experienced poet who stated baldly that the poetry written by the poet laureate is not poetry at all. Most of the time I hate when people say that, because I think that you can’t say, A doesn’t equal B unless you have examined the definition of B and find that A is definitely excluded. And there are a lot of logical hoops to jump through to be able to do that. But anyway, this time I found that I agreed. Because apparently the poet laureate writes poetry that is just paragraphs, made of sentences, without any kind of verse arrangement. It looks exactly like prose and is in fact prose except in intention.

            Well, this poet said flatly, “That’s not poetry because the basic unit of a poem is not a sentence. It’s a line.”

            Well, after I read that I suddenly found myself less interested in the punctuation, which I used to be quite rigid about. As I think about, I originally learned that each line should end in a comma. I don’t do that any more but it is an example of how poetic punctuation can, even traditionally, differ from prose punctuation.


        • Ryan, I think it ended up that the whole poem is from the Raven’s perspective. If you are going to revise a little, it will help to keep that in mind. It’s how it should be, I think. If you perspective-hop in a work as short as this, it gets confusing unless you clearly label the speakers as they change. In this case, with the fragmentary style, that would interrupt the flow a lot.

          The reason I had a problem with feathers aching is that, like hair, feathers have no nerve endings in them. They cannot feel anything. The place where the feather attaches to the skin is called a “store” apparently.


  6. Thanks, Albert! I appreciate, as always, the careful reading and comments.

    I meant the two ravens as the original raven from the story and the speaker from part one of the poem, reflecting on latent symbolism in the story and drawing a parallel to his inner life. The reply of the dove (the narrator in the second part) is addressed to both. I’m not sure if what I have going on with the changing speakers is too confusing. I tried to fix that with the italics and parentheses, as well as via the title and marking the last two stanzas as part two, but it may still need some smoothing of diction in that regard as well as others.

    I think I like the first version best too, except I feel it’s too abstract and weak in areas and that the narrator’s reflection may be a little overly self involved and self pitying. The second version doesn’t have the same flaws but it seems a bit. . . campy? And lacking in complexity.

    Basically what I have here is an idea that like, and I like the two last lines of the poem, the first stanza, and a couple other lines, but I haven’t fleshed it out yet in a way that satisfies. I’m going to see if I can improve it with some of Alana’s suggestions. It helps to know what parts are working for you! 🙂


    • So, Leah, I wasn’t too far off, except for mistaking speakers–which must have brought a smile when you puzzled over my comment.* It was the “latent symbolism” and the “parallel to [one’s] inner life” that made the poem work for me. In that light I don’t think it is too abstract at all. So any reworking would involve paying attention to words or phrases that you think enhance your tone; likewise to rhythm and rhyme patterns that work against that tone. Thus, “loathe to seek” has a clear meaning, but it doesn’t feel right, considering the strong direct language in the rest of the poem. And do consider Alana’s comments about sound effects (e.g.,”let some of the easier, more perfect rhymes go”).

      I think my confusion might be cleared up by dropping the word “to” from the title and reversing the order; e.g., “Two Ravens and a Dove.” But even with that adjustment, there is still the issue of an objective narrator or speaker (1st stanza of each section) followed by a personal commenter (2nd stanzas). The way I read the poem –as the dove’s expression– there was no inconsistency. I often think of italicized lines as thoughts, either of the poem’s speaker or of a kind of after ego of the speaker, challenging what came before,or questioning it, or simply probing beneath the surface. That’s probably why I missed the second raven. I thought the italics were the inner voce of (as I interpreted it, incorrectly) the dove.


      • Ah, I see what you are saying about the speakers, and the reading you suggest where the dove is the one having the italicized thoughts is definitely smoother and simpler (maybe even obvious given the construction of the poem, although I hadn’t thought of it that way.) Only, I can’t fortuitously take that possible reading and run with it, because the dove in Noah’s ark symbolizes peace and/or the Holy Spirit. He can’t be secretly having dark thoughts or everything is ruined. 😦 So I’ll have to think, although I feel like I’ve mentally beat this one to death today.

        How soporific, sluggishly, the ark slides on.
        The tired sea
        laps her sides
        while in the lulling of decay
        the raven feeds
        on lifeless prey.


        Liked by 3 people

        • Of course you are right about the Genesis story and the dove (no dark thoughts for him). Overlooking your instructions in the “challenge”post, I just started off thinking about the two types of birds and then I was fascinated by the strange things in the water and “the blackness below.” By the time I got to the olive branch I was prepared to interpret it without a specific reference to the biblical story, even though you flagged it in the first line with the word “deluge.” Not a good way to read a poem. I should have kept the challenge in mind. But as is often the case, I was in a hurry. I picked up some clues, but dismissed the main one. Hence my bizarre “deeper dove” comment about “the darker side of nature.” That might work for birds that are seen as innocent, hopeful, spiritual–but it doesnt work for Noah’s dove.

          I wanted to react to the poem before any other comments were made, so I wouldn’t be influenced by them. You can see where that got me.

          P.S. I like that last little poem!


        • Oh, I like that poem! That’s… the word was super trendy a few years ago, but it feels authentic. Has energy. It puts the words together for a total effect of a single feeling, that creates an atmosphere in the mind. Good art.


          • Yay! Glad it suits. It sort of formed itself while I was scribbling ideas for revision of my prior poem. I decided to share it in my comment to Albert as a kind of joke— it is “latently symbolic” of how I felt about my writing process at the time! (meta, that), but I’ve grown to like it increasingly as well. In fact, I think it might be my Noah’s raven poem and that I will give up on trying to revise the other. I think you were right about something restraining it– I felt a kind of moral obligation to work in a redemptive ending, but it wasn’t coming organically. Maybe that kind of scope is beyond me for now, maybe it just “isn’t my gift”, idk.

            At any rate, this little one needs a title. 🙂 I’m thinking “Languid”.


            • Oh I did totally get that you were seeing it as a joke sort of, and that it referred to your authorial frustrations in the first instance. But why can’t there be a poetry of authorial frustration? It works both ways really, which answers the question of whether allegorical meaning is natural for you as a poet: it seems yes.


  7. This is for Alana.

    A Bible-like Story in Which God is Hidden, Almost

    As heaven emptied out
    My cart became a boat.

    I got my sons, my wife,
    My pets, some food, and left.

    A thought told me to leave
    Without thought, just believe

    We had to get away
    Fast, no plan, now! Today

    We would at last survive
    On life itself. A live

    Dream cancels even death.
    I mean, the fear of death.

    So we sit, birds in nest,
    Hunkered, as the storms last

    And last, it seems for good.
    No, bad. But then one bird

    Flutters, lifts a dark hood,
    Bobs up as if he’d heard

    A message in the wind
    Or simply lost his mind.

    From lack of exercise.
    Now I see its form rise

    Through mist, through awful rain
    And dissolve. Back again

    He comes, hours later,
    wild-eyed, somewhat fatter.

    “Out, Carrion Eater!
    Find life beyond the water!”

    He leaves, returns, we die
    Almost–until we try

    A different bird, our dove:
    we’d kept him in, like love.

    He flies back with green leaves!
    Now everyone believes

    Though none could ever prove
    That life is from above.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh – yes indeed. A para-myth to Noah’s. And so moving. And so artistic. I’m – wonder struck. I felt this. Really did. You were present in the poem, you put yourself in it. More later.

      And thank you. I accept the gift.


    • Yay! I kept checking back here hoping you’d have posted a poem, and so glad you didn’t disappoint. 🙂 This is very touching and gripping. It reminds me of “East of Eden” in what it is doing (though on a miniature scale!)– putting a Biblical story, all but unaltered, in a contemporary setting in a way that successfully maintains the biblical-mythical feel while simultaneously evoking a present day mood, situation, and style of reflecting (the last three lines especially encapsulate that latter item).

      Slight critique– I’m a little fuzzy on why they released the dove, and on what “we’d kept him in, like love” means. Doesn’t love flow outward? Feels a leetle like a forced rhyme, but I might be misreading.


      • Briefly, I read it that they sent out the less lovely bird because they felt they could spare him better. But all the raven could bring was carrion, if anything. When they released the dove, it brought back green leaves which they could eat to survive.

        So it’s like love, which must be sent out before it can nourish us. This “releasing the dove” is a moment we all must reach in our spiritual maturity.

        Meanwhile there are all these realistic details in the story whereby it fascinates in its own right. The hooded head of the raven and the fact that he was the first to realize he could leave the cart, that was my favorite.

        O don’t see anything contemporary here, and some important details differ from Noah’s story – like his not having enough warning to build anything. It reminds me of some of those other flood myths from around the world.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Leah, for “checking back here” and for your thoughts about the poem

        Yes, I was locked up until I printed out Alana’s poem and carried it around the house (too late to go to the gym). You see, I’ve never tried anything like this. I mean, I didn’t take any creative writing classes, so I always thought of poetry as coming from inside. Or coming from brilliant artists, which left me out of the game until someone said to me, “If you like reading and talking about poems, why don’t you try writing some? So I did, but they were always personal, like letters to God, or to myself, or sometimes to dear persons. But the delight I took from Alana’s poem sort of freed me to play with a story that had meant very little to me until now. (I didn’t grow up with Bible stories.) I’m glad that my first attempt didn’t flop, as I had feared.

        About love, I considered using the word “safe” but in the interests of economy as well as description, I decided that “in” would do better because it includes the picture (keeping the bird inside the cart), but also it suggests keeping something–in this case its human love, family love, not the Divine love that does go out (the persons in the poem don’t live by that, yet) –keeping that something inside because it is delicate, innocent, almost too precious to risk losing by exposure to danger (in the case of intimate relationships) or to its being weakened by perfunctory expressions.

        Did I really think about all that? Perhaps in a flash, but certainly not in so many words. I probably should stick to the economy an magic of poetry. Thinking often gets me in trouble.


        • In critique circles they don’t let you explain your own work. I really disagree with that because I learn so much from a poet’s explanation. I sometimes think that the reason they don’t allow explanations is because, when they are reading poems in a book they can get away with saying whatever they want about poems, but if they are applying their rigid critical methods to the poem of a poet who is present, he has the potential to reveal the flaws in their method. So they stop his mouth to prevent that from happening.

          Unlike “them” we have a deep interest in correcting our critical methods.

          Anyhow, for that reason and others I like to hear your thoughts about what happens in your own poems. Yes, the magical economy of poetry (did I say that right) does often contain riches that were not clearly thought out. I like that too. But I also appreciate the attempt to mine it for articulate meaning.

          Liked by 1 person

          • “. . . a deep interest in correcting our critical methods” – yes, and I have an interest in reading carefully, which is more likely to happen when I know the background, or tradition, out of which the poem developed. These conversations are very useful in that regard.

            Liked by 1 person

    • 1) I was taken aback by the bald brief statements with which the poem began. I waited to see how this effect would resolve, and I think it resolved very well. Somehow those statements stacked up like a stairway, and then new views opened up. When it counted you brought in descriptive or feeling words, and they stood out more from the very strictness or aridity of their verbal surroundings. I think this is the explanation for the feeling of wonder and admiration I felt as I “exited the theater” so to speak. It felt like my experience itself had been crafted.

      2) The conscious word-play is so characteristic of you. “Death/I mean fear of death.” and “And last, it seems, for good/no, bad”.

      3) I didn’t immediately notice the rhyme scheme, but when I did I admired it very much. Mostly couplets, but those two stanzas that mix-and-match, right at a critical “turn” in the poem. That was fortunate. Or artistic.

      4) “Now I see its form rise
      Through mist, through awful rain
      And dissolve.”

      My favorite lines. Very atmospheric. Great use of “awful.” Visually, well-observed. It was one of those moments where I felt like I’d seen what you are describing before.

      5) “We’d kept him in, like love.” I really liked that.

      6) The dramatic content of the poem is quite replete given how few words it uses. The essential component of drama is event in tension and that’s what we have here.

      7) Like Leah I appreciated what use you made and didn’t make of the biblical story. And where God comes in. More like our own experience.

      8) I appreciate the masculine voice of this poem. It shines most clearly in the commanding report of “Out, carrion eater!” and in the tense “did what we had to do” responsible attitude of the persona, and in the previously mentioned verbal economy or austerity.

      All in all, an excellent work.

      I think you want to correct the punctuation at:

      lost his mind/ from lack of exercise.

      The period after ‘mind’ makes it more difficult to connect it to the next line.

      Liked by 1 person

        • And thanks for your observations. Reading them is like looking at a photograph of yourself taken without being aware. You think, “Who is that guy?” And then, “Not bad, Dude.”

          But I fear the conscious word play may be calling attention to oneself, a bit too bright a necktie (my generation) or a belt with a gleaming buckle. On the other hand if it doesn’t upset the party, why not?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Heh, exactly. Although that word play always struck me as something more mellow, like a reflective careful turning over of the words to inspect the undersides.


  8. Apologies for the late submission and the minuscule format.


    Ark sprung soar I, dread
    wings sounding flesh love, death love.
    Holy dove save me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No apologies necessary, Nabi. Thank you for participating. If Ryan’s poem is a web, yours is a gem.

      Although I’m sort of a purist about haiku – in the sense that I don’t believe it’s possible to write a real one in English – I think the 575 format has already become an English language convention of its own.

      This one has many virtues.

      “Ark sprung” is both musical and ingenuous. Well done!

      “Soar I” – I love the inversion of subject and verb – the rhythm you get, the rounded or arcing line, and the pacing suggestion of sublimity. The consonance is also nice. But was ‘soar’ the best word? The music is right but the semantics I’m not sure about. It doesn’t set one up for ‘dread’ and what follows, so it dims the effect of the excellent ultimate line.

      ‘Dread’ seems to take me out of the raven’s perspective – unless he knows his wings are dread to others. But if so that’s not developed or confirmed by anything else. And the rest is so interior. I think you should consider replacing ‘dread.’ Though it’s an excellent word in its own right.

      “Wings sounding flesh love, death love.” Very ascetic. And a sound theme to draw from the raven’s nature.

      “Holy Dove, save me.” Turns, completes the transition to allegory, and transforms the tradition of prayer into imaginative literature. I feel this line is earned – as the presence of something so profound in such a short poem ought to be. My feelings rise with it. Again, the music is good – the consonance, the sounds being made at the front of the mouth, all are supplicatory and sincere. I like it very much.

      I’m glad to have hosted this poem.


  9. Thank you, Leah, for this challenge. It has proven very enriching.

    Thank you, Alana for your kind comments. I too felt that ‘soar’ was the weak point. It is too sublime a word.
    I have changed ‘soar’ to ‘rove’. There is a battle in my heart between ‘roam’ and ‘rove’, the former sounding more musical in this context. But I have settled on ‘rove’ because I feel it has a bit more of a empty feeling to it in this line and it quietly hints at ‘raven’, ‘love’, and ‘dove’.

    I had not thought of the problem with ‘dread’. My intention was to evoke the fear one has of his own feet — where they have been known to take him. Where ‘dread’ is undone, I think, is with the word ‘sounding’. The two words together change the perspective and put it briefly outside the raven. Thank you for pointing this out to me.

    I have replaced ‘dread’ with ‘dark’. My instinct from the beginning has been to shy away from ‘dark wings’ because it felt cheap, easy, almost clichéd. But in this case it seems right, large and heavy with meaning.

    I hope to participate as I can in the future, but fear it will be infrequent. Please pray for my wife. She is 34 weeks pregnant with our third child. Pray that she will not be afraid.


    Ark sprung rove I, dark
    wings sounding flesh love, death love.
    Holy Dove save me.

    Liked by 2 people

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