The Raven Mockers

In the rooms of the dying,11 Becker_.Raven
they hover,
eager to take the heart
and leave the body
You pray against this force
and it is exhausting
At the moment of death
there is a great gathering of energy
that some mistake for peace
You have been too much with the dying
Your own spirit grows thin and frayed
Your own heart is in danger
Even photographs of bones contaminate
All the defilement of graves:
it is not enough to repatriate
We don’t like to gaze at death like white people do
You confronted it once: dark mass, pushing against your back,
taller than a human, black as shadows’ shadows
Another time cat on porch tried to look benign,
but you recognized it
Same with crow that fussed and gazed too long
Violent dreams from which you woke with deep scratches
You let them know you knew their name
You declined to feed their power through fear
You and your elder patient pray in Cherokee
Your mistakes make her laugh, positive force mocking negative
When she finally sleeps, you keep vigil as long as you can

— Kimberly L. Becker

“The Raven Mockers”: In Cherokee tradition, malevolent forces that prey on the vulnerable dying. Strong prayers and medicine are needed to counteract their power.


Kimberly L. Becker, Cherokee/Celtic/Teutonic descent, is author of Words Facing East and The Dividings. A member of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, her poems appear in journals such as Drunken Boat and Fulcrum and in anthologies such as Indigenous Message on Water and Bared.
Editor’s notes: This haunting poem is complemented with several artwrok pieces. “Man’s Shadow in Water” (Static Flickr), which is reminiscent of the shadow of Death, is collaged with a stock image of crows and a Creative Commons image of “A Murder of Crows at Disneyland” using varying degrees of transparency and coloration in PPT and subsequently processed in iPhoto.