Quince & The Crows

May 25, 2018

Today’s poem is “Quince & the Crows” by Gretchen Berg. Gretchen is a performance artist, educator and writer. She is the lead teaching artist for Portland’s Side x Side, works in rural Maine schools through the Local Stories Project, and teaches performance courses at Bates College.

She writes, “I wrote (this poem) a month after we spread Quince’s ashes. She was one of my dearest pals. She lived with ALS for 5 years before it finally got her. (I had) been wanting write about her and got thinking about my dad's death. He died at home in his favorite chair after eating a bowl of ice cream. I REALLY wanted to call him afterward and congratulate him on his wonderfully classy exit. I had the same urge after I saw the crows flowing overhead. I wanted to call Quince and tell her all about it.”

Quince & the Crows
by Gretchen Berg

Dear Quince, three days after your birthday
you stopped breathing.
Three days after that
they cremated you.

You were going up in smoke in Connecticut
as I walked across the campus in Maine
to meet my students in the hard December dusk.
I cut across empty playing fields, heard voices

and looked up to see crows.
Hundreds of crows flying in a long skinny mob.
No vee, just a determined black procession.
For nearly an hour I stood and looked up

as they kept flowing from south to north
from New Haven to South Paris
where we had learned to love each other.
Where later on a perfect August afternoon

your pals spread you on the knoll behind the barn.
But not all of you – we’d saved out some of you
to float that morning in a flower wreath in Brigham’s Cove.
We took turns on the knoll. Our hands got white

and we almost had the energy to make cocaine jokes.
I licked you off my fingers with a swig
of OK champagne as we stood around
looking in different directions.

The last time we lay around in your sickbed,
I told you about when I was in college
cutting across my Ohio campus at dusk.
I watched a dog chase a cat

up a tree and then run to another tree
and start barking UP THE WRONG TREE.
I so wanted someone else to see it, but no one was around.
But I got to tell you and you laughed hard.

Poem copyright ©2017 Gretchen Berg.