Two Poems by Martin Elster

At Dusk (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Just before dark, the dark shapes come,
winging between apartment blocks,
rasping in discordant keys
between the naked maples, flocks
of formlessness, each flapping from
some further tracery of trees.

The rabble shriek, as if in battle,
en route to their roost to sleep away
the cold. Swooping across each lawn
and rooftop, ravenous for prey,
winter’s talons aim to rattle
hollow bones until the dawn.

Most head southeast, some head northwest,
or ensconce themselves in the little stand
of hardwoods beyond my windows. The gale
whistles its airs across the land,
testing all creatures, however dressed—
in fur or feathers. Some will fail,

even those with coats like night.
While on my walk today, I found
three frozen in an empty lot.
Those coal-black snowflakes ranging around
the city through the slanting light
don’t give their fallen any thought.

Or, if they do, how might it show?
They stain the sky, flying, crying,
champions at not colliding—
murderous birds not keen on dying—
with a cryptic script I’ll never know,
streaking, scribbling, heaven-writing.

“At Dusk (Corvus brachyrhynchos)” first appeared in The Road Not Taken.

That Bitter Night

We could have driven but hiked to the drugstore—
for a lark — on the bitterest night
spring ever whipped up. You held my hand
the whole way. A skin of ice as slick
as Teflon shellacked the streets and sidewalks.

In a coat as heavy and huge as a house,
you led the way as I helped you along.
As for myself, I felt as light
as a snowflake, for our bond seemed strong,
way stronger than this Baltic weather!

Did the old pharmacist assume
we were homeless when our noses were dripping?
The cashier, too, acted toffee-nosed,
seeing us so bundled up.

Elated we’d made it back alive,
we’d cuddled on the couch and laughed
about that bumptious bloke, lulled
by the whimseys of the wind, our shivers
melting away like frost in May.

Now it’s summer. We laugh no longer.
You’re the glaze that glassed the roads,
and I’m the heavy coat you bore
that bitter night you held my hand.

“That Bitter Night” first appeared in The Wild Word.

Martin Elster, who never misses a beat, was for many years a percussionist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. In addition to playing and composing music, Martin finds contentment in long walks in the woods or the city and in writing poetry, which often alludes to creatures and plants he encounters on his walks. Martin’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies in the U.S. and abroad. His honors include Rhymezone’s poetry contest (2016) co-winner, the Thomas Gray Anniversary Poetry Competition (2014) winner, the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s poetry contest (2015) third place, five Pushcart nominations, and a Best of the Net nomination. A full-length collection, Celestial Euphony, was published by Plum White Press in 2019.