Rain Crow
Bobby C. Rogers

Rain Crow

++++++rain•bird (rān´bûrd´), n. any of several birds, esp. the black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus
++++++erythropthalmus) and the yellow-billed cuckoo (C. americanus), that are said to call
++++++frequently before a rainstorm. [1910-15; RAIN + BIRD]

++++++++++++Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd Ed., Unabridged

Until I learned better, the song of a mourning dove could make me homesick. I might be walking
++++++to breakfast down Melrose Avenue
in Knoxville, my first weeks up at school, and a wind-slurred call would startle me homeward. I
++++++must have still believed
the town I’d forsaken was the only place that could produce a sad sound. Why shouldn’t the rest of
++++++the world harbor a wild bird or two
with mournful songs to sing? That fall whenever the phone rang, some voice from home came on
++++++the line to describe the circumstances surrounding
the death of another high school classmate. A dangerous time, those first stridings into the world,
++++++not knowing what you’ll need to fear or even the name

it went by. More than one suicide that fall. And then Kirby was killed driving home at 3:00 in the
++++++morning after playing bass guitar
in a nameless bar band. I had almost stopped thinking about it every single second when The
++++++McKenzie Banner arrived with its hometown news
and gossip. There above the fold on page one was a picture of a volunteer fireman pointing a hose
++++++at the burning car to cool it down
so he and his help might get at it with the hydraulic cutter, in no particular hurry. People who care
++++++more about these things will tell you
the rain crow is a species of cuckoo, secretive and rarely seen save in the heat before a storm hits,
++++++but where I come from

the rain crow was the mourning dove, its coo-coo-coo heard as plaintive whether it is or not.
++++++Outside of hunting season, one was perched
on every fencepost, flocks of them evenly spaced along sagging power lines. When the sky grew
++++++cloudy and made ready to rain the birds would take wing
to dart and converse with added urgency as the wind kicked up. Their fair weather singing had
++++++been so much practice: now they dared us to write
consolation onto the notes of their song. I could love the folk wisdom handed me even if I couldn’t
++++++believe it was true. The world doesn’t need a bird’s singing
to make it any sadder, but what harm trying to match a few words to the dove’s breathy triplets?
++++++The rain will come—if not just now, then soon enough.

Bobby C. Rogers

is Professor of English and Writer-in-Residence at Union University. His first book, Paper Anniversary, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. In 2015, he was named a Witter Bynner Fellow at the Library of Congress by Poet Laureate Charles Wright. His new book, Social History, has just been released by LSU Press in their Southern Messenger Poets series.